Still farming at age 99

by | July 13, 2018 5:00 pm

Last Updated: July 10, 2018 at 3:13 pm

(Information provided by Gar Linder.)

At 99, Samuel Terry is still working the land on his farm near Black Creek. On July 2, he was honored for his lifetime of hard work by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott during Scott’s visit to the Colleton County Museum and Farmers Market.
Born in Jasper County, Terry is the oldest (and last surviving) of nine children of the late Harry Terry and Ella Griffin Terry (later married to the late Lee Bolton.) He credits his mother for instilling in him the values of generosity, integrity and hard work.
He has lived his life by the motto “Anything worth having is worth working for, and any job worth doing is worth doing well,” he said. Growing up, he spent a lot of time with his grandfather, who taught him to plow fields with a mule before he was old enough to reach the handles of the plow. By age 15, he was working for $9 a month at a local farm, and later worked in logging for 50¢ a day. He then loaded log trucks and pulpwood for $5 a week. “Making an honest living and keeping a steady job are less about money and more about building character,” he said.
The year 1942 was a milestone in Terry’s life. He married the love of his life, Jessie Lee Pinckney — they were married for nearly 70 years and had 10 children, 42 grandchildren, 80 great-grandchildren and 45 great-great-grandchildren.
That was also the year he got a job at Big Survey Plantation, where he would work for the next 75 years.
In exchange for plowing the fields with horses, Terry was paid $2.05 a day, provided with a house for his family and allowed to have a personal farm on five acres owned by the plantation.
The work became easier with the introduction of machines, he said. Terry learned to operate tractors, bulldozers and other farm equipment and, despite only a grade-school education, was known as someone who could master any task with a knack for analyzing situations and producing solutions that worked.
He remembers one time when his boss told him to pull logs with the tractor “exactly as I told you to do it.” Terry had already checked out the situation, and expressed his concern with the boss’ plan, but was instructed to do the job the boss’ way. He tried, but the tractor turned over and rolled down the hill, with Terry barely jumping off in time to escape injury. The boss looked at Terry and said, “Well, I guess you were right.”
Through his seven decades on the plantation, Terry held a variety of positions and saw the ownership change numerous times. When he started there, Big Survey was owned by Sol Guggenheim, and one of Terry’s jobs was to drive Guggenheim and his cousin, Lord Castle, around the plantation during hunts. He watched as ownership later passed to Guggenheim’s daughter, Barbara Obre, then to her sons, Michael and Peter, then to their children and grandchildren. He retired in March 2017, making about $450 a week.
But his legacy of hard work and integrity lives on. The love he and Jessie shared with others transcended race or class during a time period when that was an anomaly. And he taught his children (both biological and those who came to call him Dad through association) how to love, work hard, how to laugh in spite of challenges and adversity and how to trust in God.

comments » 2

  1. Comment by Catherine Terry Elstun

    July 14, 2018 at 11:45 am

    Mr. Terry is my x-Father-in-Law. When I first met him back in the early eighties I had married one of his sons. We were both in the military at the time. I was a white woman and it was very rare at that time to be married to a black man. Mr. Terry and his wife were very warm and accepting to me and our son. They showed me on a daily basis how important family was. They welcomed me into their home and their church. I was honored to get to know their family history and how things were so much different for whites and blacks in the south, in this country for that matter. The love and respect that this man showed for everyone he encountered spoke volumes to me and showed me this is the way all of mankind should treat one another.
    Thank you Sen. Scott for honoring this well deserving man.

  2. Comment by Douglas W. Hall

    July 14, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Here is a fine example of a true American farmer. He has done it all from the days of farming with mules to present day farming. He has worked hard his entire life and raised a large family. Congratulations Samuel! On a life well lived! I am a fellow farmer from Kansas and hope I will still be farming at 99 years old!!

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