The descendants of Hairston slaves still keep in touch, and back in the 1990s a researcher was able to interview several old folks who preserved family stories about slave life:
Daniel Hairston was an elderly descendant of Oak Hill slaves visited by the author. Hairston was born in 1920 with three of his grandparents having been slaves. Both his grandfathers, Gus Hairston and Jube Adams, had been slaves at Oak Hill. Gus used to cut ice on the river for the icehouse at Oak Hill. Daniel recounts a story of Gus working in the garden and getting himself some butter that he shouldn’t have. He was “whupped” for an unrelated offense causing the butter to fall out from under his hat where he’d hidden it. This discovery caused him to be beaten again. Daniel relates that his grandfather told it as a joke but it was a reminder that they had to take whatever was dished out just to survive.
Daniel recalled another story of how Oak Hill’s enslaved people would sometimes gather at night to kill a hog and take it off into the woods to cook. They would use fence rails for firewood and burn up all of the inedible remains to hide them before dawn. Similarly, if the enslaved population wished to worship together they would gather in the woods at night, placing a large cauldron upside down to supposedly muffle the sound.
A great aunt of Daniel’s who was enslaved at Oak Hill was once slapped in the face by “Ol’ Miss,” or the wife of the plantation owner. His great aunt was so enraged that she stuck her long fingernails into the mistress’s satin dress, tearing it. The aunt was so terrified at what she’d done that she left the plantation and went into hiding for two years. The oral history indicates that when she returned she was left unpunished for her absence. This tale was passed down through the family to show that the great aunt’s faith in God gave her the strength to return home and helped her evade punishment.
The last story is a very interesting example of a common practice in slave societies. Enslaved people sometimes just left after fights or other incidents and stayed away until they were given assurances that they would be welcomed back. Only a few "runaways" tried to make it to freedom; many more hung around the neighborhood until they were caught or made arrangements for their return, and some were just trying to visit spouses, children, or other relations from whom they had been separated.
Archaeologists expect, or hope, that the artifacts in the pit were used by the people who lived in the house. Usually, we are right, but not always. Sometimes people fill in holes with dirt from somewhere else. An old archaeologist I knew in Delaware many years ago swore to me that he once saw a guy back a pickup truck up to an old cellar hole and shovel in a truckload of trash, then drive away. So if you ever want to flummox a young archaeologist nervously reading a paper, ask him or her where the dirt in the hole came from. (There is even a name for the study of where the dirt came from, Taphonomy. So if you really wanted to be an obnoxious questioner you could ask, "I wonder if you could elucidate the taphonomic processes at work here for me.")