JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS was born in utter poverty in Putnam County in 1848.
Although being poor presented the youngster with many hardships, it imbued
him with a tender shyness -a shyness so extreme that it actually became an
attractive asset and followed him all his life.
Putnam County was a land of cotton, large plantations, slave-holders,
wealth and plenty. Private schooling was the fashion of the day and Joel
Chandler Harris was able to attend school through the generosity of his
neighbors who recognized his potentialities.
One of the young boy's favorite spots was the old Eatonton Post Office,
because the postmaster would give him discarded papers and magazines to
help satisfy his active and hungry mind. On one of his visits to the Post
Office, Joel read an advertisement for a printer's devil in the first issue
of The Countryman, a newspaper published at Turnwold, a local plantation.
He immediately made application and was hired at the age of thirteen.
The publisher of The Countryman, Joseph Addison Turner, was a lawyer,
scholar and planter. His newspaper was the only weekly ever published on a
Turner was quick to recognize the ambition and talent of his young
apprentice. In time, some of Joel's works began appearing in the newspaper.
Turner was a stern taskmaster and he demanded a clear literary style, which
was a tremendous asset to the gifted boy.
At Turnwold, Harris began his lifelong friendship with animals and with the
plantation Negroes, whose folklore would later fill his writings.
Fortunately, the youngster was associated with such aged and colorful
slaves as "Uncle" George Terrell and "Uncle" Bob Capers. They had a gift
for story-telling which Harris was later able to capture.
Harris' apprenticeship ended abruptly in 1864 when awing of Sherman's army
invaded Putnam County. War had suddenly brought poverty to all, including
Turnwold, forcing the ambitious youth to move on and seek his place in the
He worked for newspapers in New Orleans, Macon, Forsyth, Savannah and
finally The Atlanta Constitution. It was under the guidance of Captain Evan
P. Howell, of The Atlanta Constitution, that he began to publish the famous
stories of Uncle Remus. Northern newspapers began to print the fascinating
tales and almost overnight his fame was established.
In Atlanta, he worked with the energetic and farsighted men who rebuilt the
city and the South during reconstruction days following the Civil War. His
associates included Clark Howell, editor of The Atlanta Constitution; Frank
Stanton, famous Georgia poet; and Henry W. Grady, the great Southern
orator. Joel Chandler Harris died at the Wrens Nest, his home in Atlanta in
1908. Today, the Wrens Nest is a shrine devoted to his memory.
The works of Joel Chandler Harris are not limited to the tales of Uncle
Remus. Stories of the old South and Reconstruction Days take their place
among his masterpieces. However, the folk stories, with their inimitable
characterizations of Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox and "all de critters", have
never been equaled.
Source: Uncle Remus Museum, Eatonton, Georgia.
Joel Chandler Harris: "He made the
lowly cabin-fires light the far windows
of the world."
Frank L. Stanton