For most of its existence, Chatham had an unchanging rhythm: sow, tend, and harvest, each according to the crop. Most of Chatham's slaves lived out their lives to this seasonal cadence, year after year. More than 50 enslaved workers—sometimes more than 100 tended to Chatham's 1,300 acres.
Slaves in these fields managed huge swaths of wheat or long rows of corn. Some of the crop went to feed the plantation's cattle. The rest was ground into meal at Chatham's mill on nearby Claiborne Run and sold to merchants in town. Slaves received none of it, except in the form of rations.
Instead, slaves received shelter in small cabins, a bundle of clothes each year, and enough food to keep body and soul together. Holidays and Sundays assumed huge importance in the slaves' lives—they were the only days of rest.