Texas Genealogy Trails

Slave Narratives - Page 3



PRISCILLA GIBSON is not sure of her age, but thinks she was born about 1856, in Smith County, Mississippi, to Mary Puckett and her Indian husband. They belonged to Jesse Puckett, who owned a plantation on the Strong River. Priscilla now lives in Jasper, Texas.

Priscilla Gibson

"Priscilla Gibson is my name, and I's bo'n in Smith County, way over in Mis'ippi, sometime befo' de War. I figger it was 'bout 1856, 'cause I's old enough to climb de fence and watch dem musterin' in de troops when de war began. Dey tol' me I's nine year ole when de War close, but dey ain' sure of dat, even. My neighbor, Uncle Bud Adams, he 83, and I's clippin' close at he heels.

"Mammy's name was Mary Puckett, but I never seed my father as I knows of. Don' know if he was a whole Injun or part white man. Never seed but one brother and his name was Jake. Dey took him to de War with de white boys, to cook and min' de camp and he took pneumony and die.

"Massa's name was Jesse Puckett, and Missus' name Mis' Katie. Dey hab big fam'ly and dey live in a big wooden-beam house with a big up-stair'. De house was right on de highway from Raleigh to Brandon, with de Strong River jis' below us. Dey took in and 'commadated travelers 'cause dey warn' hotels den.

"Massa have hunner's of acres. You could walk all day and you never git offen his lan'. An' he have gran' furniture and other things in de house. I kin remember dem, 'cause I use' to he'p 'round de house, run errands and fan Mis' Katie and sich. I 'members chairs with silk coverin's on 'em and dere was de gran' lights, big lamps with de roses on de shades. And eve'ywhere de floors with rugs and de rugs was pretty, dey wasn' like dese thin rugs you sees nowadays. No, ma'am, dey has big flowers on 'em and de feets sinks in 'em. I useter lie down on one of dem rugs in Mis' Katie's room when she's asleep and I kin stop fannin.'

"Massa Puckett was tol'able good to de slaves. We has clothes made of homespun what de nigger women weaved, and de little boys wo' long-tail shirts, with no pants till they's grown. Massa raised sheep and dey make us wool clothes for winter, but we has no shoes.

"De white folks didn' larn us read and write but dey was good to us 'cep' when some niggers try to run away and den dey whips 'em hard. We has plenty to eat and has prayer meetin's with singin' and shoutin', and we chilluns played marbles and jump de rope.

"After freedom come all lef' but me 'cause Missus say she have me boun' to her till I git my age. But I's res'less one night and my sister, Georgy Ann, come see me, and I run off with her, but dey never comes after me. I was scart dey would, 'cause I 'membered 'bout our neighbor, ole Means, and his slave, Sylvia, and she run away and was in de woods, and he'd git on de hoss, take de dogs and set 'em on her, and let dem bite her and tear her clothes.


GABRIEL GILBERT was born in slavery on the plantation of Belizare Brassard, in New Iberia Parish, Louisiana. He does not know his age, but appears to be about eighty. He has lived in Beaumont, Texas, for sixteen years.

"My old massa was Belizare Broussard. He was my mom's massa. He had a big log house what he live in. De places 'tween de logs was fill with dirt. De quarters de slaves live in was make out of dirt. Dey put up posties in de ground and bore holes in de posts and put in pickets 'cross from one post to the other. Den dey build up de sides with mud. De floor and everything was dirt. Dey had a schoolhouse built for de white chillen de same way. De cullud chillen didn't have no school.

"Dem was warm healthy houses us grew up in. Dey used to raise better men den in dem houses dan now. My pa name was Joseph Gilbert. He old massa was Belleau Prince.

"I didn't know what a store was when I was growin' up. Us didn't have store things like now. Us had wooden pan and spoon dem times. I never see no iron plow dem days. Nothin' was iron on de plow 'cept de share. I tell dese youngsters, 'You in hebben now from de time I come up.' When a man die dem days, dey use de ox cart to carry de corpse.

"Massa have 'bout four hundred acres and lots of slaves. He raise sugar cane. He have a mill and make brown sugar. He raise cotton and corn, too. He have plenty stock on de place. He give us plenty to eat. He was a nice man. He wasn't brutish. He treat he slaves like hisself. I never 'member see him whip nobody. He didn't 'low no ill treatment. All de folks round he place say he niggers ruint and spoiled.

"De li'l white folks and nigger folks jus' play round like brudder and sister and us all eat at de white table. I slep' in de white folks house, too. My godfather and godmother was rich white folks. I still Cath'lic.

"I seed sojers but I too li'l to know nothin' 'bout dem. Dey didn't worry me a-tall. I didn't git close to de battle.

"My mammy weave cloth out cotton and wool. I 'member de loom. It go 'boom-boom-boom.' Dat de shuttle goin' cross. My daddy, he de smart man. I'll never be like him long as I live in dis world. He make shoes. He build house. He do anything. He and my mammy neither one ever been brutalize'.

"De first work I done was raisin' cotton and sugar cane and sweet and Irish 'taters. I used to cook sugar.

"I marry on twenty-second of February. My wife was Medora Labor. She been dead thirty-five year now. I never marry no second woman. I love my wife so much I never want nobody else. Us had six chillen. Two am livin'.

"Goin' back when I a slave, massa have a store. When de priest come dey hold church in dat store. Old massa have sev'ral boys. Dey went after some de slave gals. Dey have chillen by dem. Dem gals have dere cabins and dere chillen, what am half white.

"After while dem boys marry. But dey allus treat dey chillen by de slave womens good. Dey white wife treat dem good, too, most like dey dere own chillen.

"Old massa have plenty money. Land am only two bits de acre. Some places it cost nothing. Dey did haulin' in ox-carts. A man what had mules had something extra.

"Us have plenty wild game, wild geese and ducks. Fishin' am mighty good. Dey was 'gaters, too. I seed dem bite a man's arm off.

"If a slave feelin' bad dey wouldn't make him work. My uncle and my mammy dey never work nothing to speak of. Dey allus have some kind complaint. Ain't no tellin' what it gwine be, but you could 'low something ailin' dem!

"I 'member dey a white man. He had a gif'. I don't care what kind of animal, a dog or a hoss, dat man he work on it and it never leave you or you house. If anybody have toothache or earache he take a brand new nail what ain't never work befo' and work dat round you tooth or ear. Dat break up de toothache or earache right away. He have li'l prayer he say. I don't know what it was.

"I's seed ghosties. I talk with dem, too. Sometimes dey like people. Sometimes dey like animal, maybe white dog. I allus feel chilly when dey come round me. I talk with my wife after she dead. She tell me, 'Don't you forgit to pray.' She say dis world corrupt and you got to fight it out."


MATTIE GILMORE lives in a little cabin on E. Fifth Avenue, in Corsicana, Texas. A smile came to her lips, as she recalled days when she was a slave in Mobile, Alabama. She has no idea how old she is. Her master, Thomas Barrow, brought his slaves to Athens, Texas, during the Civil War, and Mattie had two children at that time, so she is probably about ninety.

"I's born in Mobile, Alabama, and I don't have no idea when. My white folks never did tell me how old I was. My own dear mammy died 'fore I can remember and my stepma didn't take no time to tell me nothin'. Her name was Mary Barrow and papa's name was Allison Barrow, and I had sisters, Rachel and Lou and Charity, and a brother, Allison.

"My master sold Rachel when she was jus' a girl. I sho' did cry. They put her on a block and sold her off. I heared they got a thousand dollars for her, but I never seed her no more till after freedom. A man named Dick Burdon, from Kaufman County, bought her. After freedom I heared she's sick and brung her home, but she was too far gone.

"We lived in a log house with dirt floors, warm in winter but sho' hot in summer, no screens or nothin', jus' homemade doors. We had homemade beds out of planks they picked up around. Mattresses nothin', we had shuck beds. But, anyway, you takes it, we was better off den dan now.

"I worked in the fields till Rachel was sold, den tooken her place, doin' kitchen work and fannin' flies off de table with a great, long limb. I liked dat. I got plenty to eat and not so hot. We had jus' food to make you stand up and work. It wasn't none the good foolish things we has now. We had cornbread and blackeyed peas and beans and sorghum 'lasses. Old master give us our rations and iffen dat didn't fill us up, we jus' went lank. Sometimes we had possum and rabbits and fish, iffen we cotched dem on Sunday. I seed Old Missy parch coffee in a skittle, and it good coffee, too. We couldn't go to the store and buy things, 'cause they warn't no stores hardly.

"When dey's hoein' cotton or corn, everybody has to keep up with de driver, not hurry so fast, but workin' steady. Some de women what had suckin' babies left dem in de shade while dey worked, and one time a big, bald eagle flew down by one dem babies and picked it up and flew away with it. De mama couldn't git it and we never heared of dat baby 'gain.

"I 'member when we come from Mobile to Texas. By time we heared de Yankees was comin' dey got all dere gold together and Miss Jane called me and give me a whole sack of pure gold and silver, and say bury it in de orchard. I sho' was scart, but I done what she said. Dey was more gold in a big desk, and de Yanks pulled de top of dat desk and got de gold. Miss Jane had a purty gold ring on her finger and de captain yanked it off. I said, 'Miss Jane, is dey gwine give you ring back?' All she said was, 'Shet you mouth,' and dat's what I did.

"Dat night dey digs up de buried gold and we left out. We jus' traveled at night and rested in daytime. We was scart to make a fire. Dat was awful times. All on de way to de Mississip', we seed dead men layin' everywhere, black and white.

"While we's waitin' to go cross de Mississip' a white man come up and asks Marse Barrow how many niggers he has, and counts us all. While we's waitin' de guns 'gins to go boom, boom, and you could hear all dat noise, it so close. When we gits on de boat it flops dis way and dat scart me. I sho' don't want to see no more days like dat one, with war and boats.

"We fixes up a purty good house and quarters and gits settled up round Athens. And it ain't so long 'fore a paper come make us free. Some de slaves laughin' and some cryin' and it a funny place to be. Marse Barrow asks my stepma to stay cook and he'd pay her some money for it. We stayed four or five years. Marse Barrow give each he slaves somethin' when dey's freed. Lots of master put dem out without a thing. But de trouble with most niggers, dey never done no managin' and didn't know how. De niggers suffered from de war, iffen dey did git freedom from it.

"I's already married de slave way in Mobile and had three chillen. My husband died 'fore war am over and I marries Las Gilmore and never has no more chillen. I has no livin' kinfolks I knows of. When we come here Las done any work he could git and bought this li'l house, but I can't pay taxes on it, but, sho', de white folks won't put me out. I done git my leg cut off in a train wreck, so I can't work, and I's too old, noways. I don't has no idea how old I is.


ANDREW GOODMAN, 97, was born a slave of the Goodman family, near Birmingham, Alabama. His master moved to Smith County, Texas, when Andrew was three years old. Andrew is a frail, kindly old man, who lives in his memories. He lives at 2607 Canton St., Dallas, Texas.

Andrew Goodman

"I was born in slavery and I think them days was better for the niggers than the days we see now. One thing was, I never was cold and hongry when my old master lived, and I has been plenty hongry and cold a lot of times since he is gone. But sometimes I think Marse Goodman was the bestes' man Gawd made in a long time.

"My mother, Martha Goodman, 'longed to Marse Bob Goodman when she was born, but my paw come from Tennessee and Marse Bob heired him from some of his kinfolks what died over there. The Goodmans must have been fine folks all-a-way round, 'cause my paw said them that raised him was good to they niggers.

"Old Marse never 'lowed none of his nigger families separated. He 'lowed he thought it right and fittin' that folks stay together, though I heard tell of some that didn't think so.

"My Missus was just as good as Marse Bob. My maw was a puny little woman that wasn't able to do work in the fields, and she puttered round the house for the Missus, doin' little odd jobs. I played round with little Miss Sallie and little Mr. Bob, and I ate with them and slept with them. I used to sweep off the steps and do things, and she'd brag on me and many is the time I'd git to noddin' and go to sleep, and she'd pick me up and put me in bed with her chillun.

"Marse Bob didn't put his little niggers in the fields till they's big 'nough to work, and the mammies was give time off from the fields to come back to the nursin' home to suck the babies. He didn't never put the niggers out in bad weather. He give us something to do, in out of the weather, like shellin' corn and the women could spin and knit. They made us plenty of good clothes. In summer we wore long shirts, split up the sides, made out of lowerings—that's same as cotton sacks was made out of. In winter we had good jeans and knitted sweaters and knitted socks.

"My paw was a shoemaker. He'd take a calfhide and make shoes with the hairy sides turned in, and they was warm and kept your feet dry. My maw spent a lot of time cardin' and spinnin' wool, and I allus had plenty things.

"Life was purty fine with Marse Bob. He was a man of plenty. He had a lot of land and he built him a big log house when he come to Texas. He had sev'ral hundred head of cattle and more than that many hawgs. We raised cotton and grain and chickens and vegetables, and most anything anybody could ask for. Some places the masters give out a peck of meal and so many pounds of meat to a family for them a week's rations, and if they et it up that was all they got. But Marse Bob allus give out plenty, and said, 'If you need more you can have it, 'cause ain't any going to suffer on my place.'

"He built us a church, and a old man, Kenneth Lyons, who was a slave of the Lyon's family nearby, used to git a pass every Sunday mornin' and come preach to us. He was a man of good learnin' and the best preacher I ever heard. He baptised in a little old mudhole down back of our place. Nearly all the boys and gals gits converted when they's 'bout twelve or fifteen year old. Then on Sunday afternoon, Marse Bob larned us to read and write. He told us we oughta git all the learnin' we could.

"Once a week the slaves could have any night they want for a dance or frolic. Mance McQueen was a slave 'longing on the Dewberry place, what could play a fiddle, and his master give him a pass to come play for us. Marse Bob give us chickens or kilt a fresh beef or let us make 'lasses candy. We could choose any night, 'cept in the fall of the year. Then we worked awful hard and didn't have the time. We had a gin run by horsepower and after sundown, when we left the fields, we used to gin a bale of cotton every night. Marse allus give us from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day off, to make up for the hard work in the fall.

"Christmas time everybody got a present and Marse Bob give a big hawg to every four families. We had money to buy whiskey with. In spare time we'd make cornshuck horse collars and all kinds of baskets, and Marse bought them off us. What he couldn't use, he sold for us. We'd take post oak and split it thin with drawin' knives and let it git tough in the sun, and then weave it into cotton baskets and fish baskets and little fancy baskets. The men spent they money on whiskey, 'cause everything else was furnished. We raised our own tobacco and hung it in the barn to season, and a'body could go git it when they wanted it.

"We allus got Saturday afternoons off to fish and hunt. We used to have fish fries and plenty game in them days.

"Course, we used to hear 'bout other places where they had nigger drivers and beat the slaves. But I never did see or hear tell of one of master's slaves gittin' a beatin'. We had a overseer, but didn't know what a nigger driver was. Marse Bob had some nigger dogs like other places, and used to train them for fun. He'd git some the boys to run for a hour or so and then put the dogs on the trail. He'd say, 'If you hear them gittin' near, take to a tree.' But Marse Bob never had no niggers to run off.

"Old man Briscoll, who had a place next to ours, was vicious cruel. He was mean to his own blood, beatin' his chillen. His slaves was afeared all the time and hated him. Old Charlie, a good, old man who 'longed to him, run away and stayed six months in the woods 'fore Briscoll cotched him. The niggers used to help feed him, but one day a nigger 'trayed him, and Briscoe put the dogs on him and cotched him. He made to Charlie like he wasn't goin' to hurt him none, and got him to come peaceful. When he took him home, he tied him and beat him for a turrible long time. Then he took a big, pine torch and let burnin' pitch drop in spots all over him. Old Charlie was sick 'bout four months and then he died.

"Marse Bob knowed me better'n most the slaves, 'cause I was round the house more. One day he called all the slaves to the yard. He only had sixty-six then, 'cause he had 'vided with his son and daughter when they married. He made a little speech. He said, 'I'm going to a war, but I don't think I'll be gone long, and I'm turnin' the overseer off and leavin' Andrew in charge of the place, and I wants everything to go on, just like I was here. Now, you all mind what Andrew says, 'cause if you don't, I'll make it rough on you when I come back home.' He was jokin', though, 'cause he wouldn't have done nothing to them.

"Then he said to me, 'Andrew, you is old 'nough to be a man and look after things. Take care of Missus and see that none the niggers wants, and try to keep the place going.'

"We didn't know what the war was 'bout, but master was gone four years. When Old Missus heard from him, she'd call all the slaves and tell us the news and read us his letters. Little parts of it she wouldn't read. We never heard of him gittin' hurt none, but if he had, Old Missus wouldn't tell us, 'cause the niggers used to cry and pray over him all the time. We never heard tell what the war was 'bout.

"When Marse Bob come home, he sent for all the slaves. He was sittin' in a yard chair, all tuckered out, and shuck hands all round, and said he's glad to see us. Then he said, 'I got something to tell you. You is jus' as free as I is. You don't 'long to nobody but you'selves. We went to the war and fought, but the Yankees done whup us, and they say the niggers is free. You can go where you wants to go, or you can stay here, jus' as you likes.' He couldn't help but cry.

"The niggers cry and don't know much what Marse Bob means. They is sorry 'bout the freedom, 'cause they don't know where to go, and they's allus 'pend on Old Marse to look after them. Three families went to get farms for theyselves, but the rest just stay on for hands on the old place.

"The Federals has been comin' by, even 'fore Old Marse come home. They all come by, carryin' they little budgets, and if they was walkin' they'd look in the stables for a horse or mule, and they jus' took what they wanted of corn or livestock. They done the same after Marse Bob come home. He jus' said, 'Let them go they way, 'cause that's what they're going to do, anyway.' We was scareder of them than we was of the debbil. But they spoke right kindly to us cullud folks. They said, 'If you got a good master and want to stay, well, you can do that, but now you can go where you want to, 'cause ain't nobody going to stop you.'

"The niggers can't hardly git used to the idea. When they wants to leave the place, they still go up to the big house for a pass. They jus' can't understand 'bout the freedom. Old Marse or Missus say, 'You don't need no pass. All you got to do is jus' take you foot in you hand and go.'

"It seem like the war jus' plumb broke Old Marse up. It wasn't long till he moved into Tyler and left my paw runnin' the farm on a halfance with him and the niggers workers. He didn't live long, but I forgits jus' how long. But when Mr. Bob heired the old place, he 'lowed we'd jus' go 'long the way his paw has made the trade with my paw.

"Young Mr. Bob 'parently done the first rascality I ever heard of a Goodman doin'. The first year we worked for him we raised lots of grain and other things and fifty-seven bales of cotton. Cotton was fifty-two cents a pound and he shipped it all away, but all he ever gave us was a box of candy and a sack of store tobacco and a sack of sugar. He said the 'signment done got lost. Paw said to let it go, 'cause we had allus lived by what the Goodman had said.

"I got married and lived on the old place till I was in my late fifties. I had seven chillun, but if I got any livin' now, I don't know where they is now. My paw and maw got to own a little piece of land not far from the old place, and paw lived to be 102 and maw 106. I'm the last one of any of my folks.

"For twenty years my health ain't been so good, and I can't work even now, though my health is better'n in the past. I had hemorraghes. All my folks died on me, and it's purty rough on a old man like me. My white folks is all dead or I wouldn't be 'lowed to go hongry and cold like I do, or have to pay rent.


AUSTIN GRANT came to Texas from Mississippi with his grandfather, father, mother and brother. George Harper owned the family. He raised cotton on Peach Creek, near Gonzales. Austin was hired out by his master and after the war his father hired him out to the Riley Ranch on Seco Creek, above D'hanis. He then bought a farm in the slave settlement north of Hondo. He is 89 or 90 years old.

Austin Grant

"I'm mixed up on my age, I'm 'fraid, for the Bible got burned up that the master's wife had our ages in. She told me my age, which would make me 89, but I believe I come nearer bein' 91, accordin' to the way my mother figured it out.

"I belonged to George Harper, he was Judge Harper. The' was my father, mother and two boys. He brought us from Mississippi, but I don' 'member what part they come from. We settled down here at Gonzeles, on Peach Creek, and he farmed one year there. Then he moved out here to Medina County, right here on Hondo Creek. I dont 'member how many acres he had, but he had a big farm. He had at least eight whole slave families. He sold 'em when he wanted money.

"My mother's name was Mary Harper and my father's name was Ike Harper, and they belonged to the Harpers, too. You know, after they was turned loose they had to name themselves. My father named himself Grant and his brother named himself Glover, and my grandfather was Filmore. They had some kin' of law you had to git away from your boss' name so they named themselves.

"Our house we had to live in, I tell you we had a tough affair, a picket concern, you might say no house a-tall. The beds was one of your own make; if you knowed how to make one, you had one, but of course the chillen slept on the floor, patched up some way.

"We went barefooted in the summer and winter, too. You had to prepare that for yourself, and if you didn' have head enough to prepare for yourself, you went without. I don' see how they done as well as they done, 'cause some winters was awful cold, but I always said the Lawd was with 'em.

[Handwritten Note: 'used']

"We didn' have no little garden, we never had no time to work no garden. When you could see to work, you was workin' for him. Ho! You didn' know what money was. He never paid you anything, you never got to see none. Some of the Germans would give the old ones a little piece of money, but the chillen, pshaw! They never got to see nothin.'

"He was a pretty good boss. You didn' have to work Sunday and part of Saturday and in the evenin', you had that. He fed us good. Sometimes, if you was crowded, you had to work all day Saturday. But usually he give you that, so you could wash and weave cloth or such. He had cullud women there he kep' all the time to weave and spin. They kep' cloth made.

"On Saturday nights, we jes' knocked 'round the place. Christmas? I don' know as I was ever home Christmas. My boss kep' me hired out. The slaves never had no Christmas presents I know of. And big dinners, I never was at nary one. They didn' give us nothin, I tell you, but a grubbin' hoe and axe and the whip. They had co'n shuckin's in them days and co'n shellin's, too. We would shuck so many days and so many days to shell it up.

"We would shoot marbles when we was little. It was all the game the niggers ever knowed, was shootin' marbles.

"After work at nights there wasn't much settin' 'round; you'd fall into bed and go to sleep. On Saturday night they didn' git together, they would jes' sing at their own houses. Oh, yes'm, I 'member 'em singin' 'Run, nigger, run,' but it's too far back for me to 'member those other songs. They would raise up a song when they was pickin' cotton, but I don' 'member much about those songs.

"My old boss, I'm boun' to give him praise, he treated his niggers right. He made 'em work, though, and he whipped 'em, too. But he fed good, too. We had rabbits and possums once in awhile. Hardly ever any game, but you might git a deer sometimes.

"Let 'em ketch you with a gun or a piece of paper with writin' on it and he'd whip you like everything. Some of the slaves, if they ever did git a piece of paper, they would keep it and learn a few words. But they didn' want you to know nothin', that's what, nothin' but work. You would think they was goin' to kill you, he would whip you so if he caught you with a piece of paper. You couldn' have nothin' but a pick and axe and grubbin' hoe.

"We never got to play none. Our boss hired us out lots of times. I don' know what he got for us. We farmed, cut wood, grubbed, anything. I herded sheep and I picked cotton.

"We got up early, you betcha. You would be out there by time you could see and you quit when it was dark. They tasked us. They would give us 200 or 300 pounds of cotton to bring in and you would git it, and if you didn' git it, you better, or you would git it tomorrow, or your back would git it. Or you'd git it from someone else, maybe steal it from their sacks.

"My grandfather, he would tell us things, to keep the whip off our backs. He would say, 'Chillen, work, work and work hard. You know how you hate to be whipped, so work hard!' And of course we chillen tried, but of course we would git careless sometimes.

"The master had a 'black snake'—some called it a 'bull whip,' and he knew how to use it. He whipped, but I don' 'member now whether he brought any blood on me, but he cut the blood outta the grown ones. He didn' tie 'em, he always had a whippin' block or log to make 'em lay down on. They called 500 licks a 'light breshin,' and right on your naked back, too. They said your clothes wouldn' grow but your hide would. From what I heered say, if you run away, then was when they give you a whippin,' prob'bly 1500 or 2000 licks. They'd shore tie you down then, 'cause you couldn' stan' it. Then you'd have to work on top of all that, with your shirt stickin' to your back.

"The overseer woke us up. Sometimes he had a kin' of horn to blow, and when you heered that horn, you'd better git up. He would give you a good whippin' iffen he had to come and wake you up. He was the meanest one on the place, worse'n the boss man.

"The boss man had a nice rock house, and the women didn' work at all.

"I never did see any slaves auctioned off, but I heered of it. My boss he would take 'em there and sell 'em.

"They had a church this side of New Fountain and the boss man 'lowed us to go on Sunday. If any of the slaves did join, they didn' baptize them, as I know of.

"When one of the slaves would die, they would bury 'em on the land there. Reg'lar little cemetery there. Oh, yes, they would have doctors for 'em. If anybody died, they would tell some of the other slaves to dig the grave and take 'em out there and bury 'em. They jes' put 'em in a box, no preachin' or nothin.' But, of course, if it was Sunday the slaves would follow out there and sing. No, if they didn' die on Sunday, you couldn' go; you went to that field.

"If you wanted to go to any other plantation you had to git a pass to go over there, and if you didn' and got caught, you got one of the worst whippins'. If things happened and they wanted to tell 'em on other plantations, they would slip out at night and tell 'em.

"We never heered much about the fightin' or how it was goin.' When the war finally was over, our old boss called us all up and had us to stand in abreast, and he stood on the gallery and he read the verdict to 'em, and said, 'Now, you can jes' work on if you want to, and I'll treat you jes' like I always did.' I guess when he said that they knew what he meant. The' wasn't but one family left with 'im. They stayed about two years. But the rest was just like birds, they jes' flew.

"I went with my father and he hired me out for two years, to a man named Riley, over on the Seco. I did most everythin', worked the field and was house rustler, too. But I had a good time there. After I left 'im, I came to D'Hanis. I worked on a church house they was buildin'. Then I went back to my father and worked for him a long time, freightin' cotton to Eagle Pass. I used horses and mules and hauled cotton and flour and whiskey and things like that.

"I met my wife down on Black Creek, and I freighted two years after we was married. We got married so long ago, but in them days anything would do. You see, these days they are so proud, but we was glad to have anything. I had a black suit to be married in, and a pretty long shirt, and I wore boots. She wore a white dress, but in them days they didn' have black shoes. Yes'm, they had a dance, down here on Black Creek. Danced half the night at her house and two men played the fiddle. Eat? We had everythin' to eat, a barbecued calf and a hog, too, and all kinds of cakes and pies. Drink? Why, the men had whiskey to drink and the women drank coffee. We married about 7 or 8 in the evenin' at her house. My wife's name was Sarah Ann Brackins.

"Did I see a ghost? Well, over yonder on the creek was a ghost. It was a moonlight night and it passed right by me and it never had no head on it a-tall. It almost breshed me. It kep' walkin' right by side of me. I shore saw it and I run like a good fellow. Lots of 'em could see wonnurful sights then and I heered lots of noises, but that's the only ghost I ever seen.

"No, I never knowed nothing 'bout charms. I've seen 'em have a rabbit heel or coon heel for good luck. I seen a woman one time that was tricked, or what I'd call poisoned. A place on her let, it was jes' the shape of these little old striped lizards. It was somethin' they called 'trickin it,' and a person that knowed to trick you would put it there to make you suffer the balance of your days. It would go 'round your leg clear to the hip and be between the skin and the flesh. They called it the devil's work."


JAMES GREEN is half American Indian and half Negro. He was born a slave to John Williams, of Petersburg, Va., became a "free boy", then was kidnapped and sold in a Virginia slave market to a Texas ranchman. He now lives at 323 N. Olive St., San Antonio, Texas.

James Green

"I never knowed my age till after de war, when I's set free de second time, and then marster gits out a big book and it shows I's 25 year old. It shows I's 12 when I is bought and $800 is paid for me. That $800 was stolen money, 'cause I was kidnapped and dis is how it come:

"My mammy was owned by John Williams in Petersburg, in Virginia, and I come born to her on dat plantation. Den my father set 'bout to git me free, 'cause he a full-blooded Indian and done some big favor for a big man high up in de courts, and he gits me set free, and den Marster Williams laughs and calls me 'free boy.'

"Then, one day along come a Friday and that a unlucky star day and I playin' round de house and Marster Williams come up and say, 'Delia, will you 'low Jim walk down de street with me?' My mammy say, 'All right, Jim, you be a good boy,' and dat de las' time I ever heared her speak, or ever see her. We walks down whar de houses grows close together and pretty soon comes to de slave market. I ain't seed it 'fore, but when Marster Williams says, 'Git up on de block,' I got a funny feelin', and I knows what has happened. I's sold to Marster John Pinchback and he had de St. Vitus dance and he likes to make he niggers suffer to make up for his squirmin' and twistin' and he the bigges' debbil on earth.

"We leaves right away for Texas and goes to marster's ranch in Columbus. It was owned by him and a man call Wright, and when we gits there I's put to work without nothin' to eat. Dat night I makes up my mind to run away but de nex' day dey takes me and de other niggers to look at de dogs and chooses me to train de dogs with. I's told I had to play I runnin' away and to run five mile in any way and then climb a tree. One of de niggers tells me kind of nice to climb as high in dat tree as I could if I didn't want my body tore off my legs. So I runs a good five miles and climbs up in de tree whar de branches is gettin' small.

"I sits dere a long time and den sees de dogs comin'. When dey gits under de tree dey sees me and starts barkin'. After dat I never got thinkin' of runnin' away.

"Time goes on and de war come along, but everything goes on like it did. Some niggers dies, but more was born, 'cause old Pinchback sees to dat. He breeds niggers as quick as he can, 'cause dat money for him. No one had no say who he have for wife. But de nigger husbands wasn't de only ones dat keeps up havin' chillen, 'cause de marsters and de drivers takes all de nigger gals dey wants. Den de chillen was brown and I seed one clear white one, but dey slaves jus' de same.

"De end of dat war comes and old Pinchback says, 'You niggers all come to de big house in de mornin'. He tells us we is free and he opens his book and gives us all a name and tells us whar we comes from and how old we is, and says he pay us 40 cents a day to stay with him. I stays 'bout a year and dere's no big change. De same houses and some got whipped but nobody got nailed to a tree by de ears, like dey used to. Finally old Pinchback dies and when he buried de lightnin' come and split de grave and de coffin wide open.

"Well, time goes on some more and den Lizzie and me, we gits together and we marries reg'lar with a real weddin'. We's been together a long time and we is happy.

"I 'members a old song like dis:

"'Old marster eats beef and sucks on de bone,
And give us de gristle—
To make, to make, to make, to make,
To make de nigger whistle.'

"Dat all de song I 'member from dose old days, 'ceptin' one more:

"'I goes to church in early morn,
De birds just a-sittin' on de tree—
Sometimes my clothes gits very much worn—
'Cause I wears 'em out at de knee.

"'I sings and shouts with all my might,
To drive away de cold—
And de bells keep ringin' in gospel light,
Till de story of de Lamb am told.'"



O.W. Green, son of Frank and of Mary Ann Marks, was born in slavery at Bradly Co., Arkansas, June 26, 1859. His owners, the Mobley family, owned a large plantation and two or three thousand slaves. Jack Mobley, Green's young master, was killed in the Civil War, and Green became one of the "orphan chillen." When the Ku Klux Klan became active, the "orphan chillen" were taken to Little Rock, Ark. Later on, Green moved to Del Rio, Texas, where he now lives.

O. W. Green and Granddaughter

"I was bo'ned in Arkansas. Frank Marks was my father and Mary Ann Marks my mother. She was bo'n on the plantation. I had two brothers.

"I don' 'member de quarters, but dey mus' of had plenty, 'cause dey was two, three thousand slaves on de plantation. All my kin people belonged to Massa Mobley. My grandfather was a millman and dey had one de bigges' grist mills in de country.

"Our Massa was good and we had plenty for to eat. Dere was no jail for slaves on our place but not far from dere was a jail.

"De Ku Klux Klan made everything pretty squally, so dey taken de orphan chillen to Little Rock and kep' 'em two, three years. Dere was lots of slaves in dat country 'round Rob Roy and Free Nigger Bend. Old Churchill, who used to be governor, had a plantation in dere.

"When I was nine years ol' dey had de Bruce and Baxter revolution. 'Twas more runnin' dan fightin'. Bruce was 'lected for governor but Baxter said he'd be governor if he had to run Brooks into de sea.

"My young Massa, Jack Mobley, was killed in de war, is how I come to be one of de orphan chillen.

"While us orphan chillen was at Little Rock dere come a terrible soreness of de eyes. I heard tell 'twas caused from de cholera. Every little child had to take turns about sittin' by de babies or totin' them. I was so blind, my eyes was so sore, I couldn't see. The doctor's wife was working with us. She was tryin' to figure up a cure for our sore eyes, first using one remedy and den another. An old herb doctor told her about a herb he had used on de plantations to cure de slaves' sore eyes. Dey boiled de herb and put hit on our eyes, on a white cloth. De doctor's wife had a little boy about my age. He would play with me, and thought I was about hit. He would lead me around, then he would run off and leave me and see if I could see. One day between 'leven and twelve o'clock—I never will fergit hit—he taken me down to de mess room. De lady was not quite ready to dress my eyes. She told me to go on and come back in a little while. When I got outside I tore dat old rag off of my eyes and throwed hit down. I told the little boy, 'O, I can see you!' He grabbed me by de arm and ran yellin' to his mammy, 'Mama, he can see! Mama, Owen can see!' I neva will fo'git dat word. Dey were all in so a rejoicin', excitable way. I was de first one had his eyes cured. Dey sent de lady to New York and she made plenty of money from her remedy.

"Things sure was turrible durin' de war. Dey just driv us in front of de soldiers. Dere was lots of cholera. We was just bedded together lak hogs. The Ku Klux Klan come behind de soldiers, killin' and robbin'.

"After two or three years in de camp with de orphans, my kin found me and took me home.

"My grandfather and uncle was in de fightin'. My grandfather was a wagon man. De las' trip he made, he come home bringin' a load of dead soldiers to be buried. My grandfather told de people all about de war. He said hit sure was terrible.

"When de war was over de people jus' shouted for joy. De men and women jus' shouted for joy. 'Twas only because of de prayers of de cullud people, dey was freed, and de Lawd worked through Lincoln.

"My old masta was a doctor and a surgeon. He trained my grandmother; she worked under him thirty-seven years as a nurse. When old masta wanted grandmother to go on a special case he would whip her so she wouldn't tell none of his secrets. Grandmother used herbs fo' medicine—black snake root, sasparilla, blackberry briar roots—and nearly all de young'uns she fooled with she save from diarrhea.

"My old masta was good, but when he found you shoutin' he burnt your hand. My grandmother said he burnt her hand several times. Masta wouldn't let de cullud folks have meetin', but dey would go out in de woods in secret to pray and preach and shout.

"I jist picked up enough readin' to read my bible and scratch my name. I went to school one mo'ning and didn't git along wid de teacher so I didn't go no mo'.

"I 'member my folks had big times come Christmas. Dey never did work on Sundays, jist set around and rest. Dey never worked in bad weather. Dey never did go to de field till seven o'clock.

"I married in 1919. I have two step-daughters and one step-son. My step-son lives in San Antonio. I have six step-grandchillen. I was a member of de Baptist church befo' you was bo'n, lady.


Dibble, Fred
Beaumont, Jefferson Co. Dist. #3

ROSA GREEN, 85 years old, was born at Ketchi, Louisiana, but as soon as she was old enough became a housegirl on the plantation of Major "Bob" Hollingsworth at Mansfield, Louisiana. To the best of her knowledge, she was about 13 when the "freedom papers" were read. She had had 13 children by her two husbands, both deceased, and lives with her youngest daughter in Beaumont. Their one-room, unpainted house is one of a dozen unprepossessing structures bordering an alleyway leading off Pine Street. Rosa, a spry little figure, crowned with short, snow-white pigtails extending in various directions, spends most of her time tending her small flowerbeds and vegetable garden. She is talkative and her memory seems quite active.

"When de w'ite folks read de freedom paper I was 13 year old. I jes' lean up agin de porch, 'cause I didn' know den what it was all about. I war'nt bo'n in Texas, I was bo'n in Ketchi, but I was rais' in Manfiel'. Law, yes, I 'member de fight at Manfiel'. My ol' marster tuk all he niggers and lef' at night. Lef' us little ones; say de Yankees could git us effen day wan' to, 'cause we no good no way, and I wouldn' care if dey did git us. Dey put us in a sugar hogshead and give us a spoon to scrape out de sugar. 'Bout de ol' plantation, I work a little w'ile in de fiel'. I didn' know den like I see now. Dese chillen bo'n wid mo' sense now dan we was den. Dey was 'bout ten cullud folks on de place. My ol' marster name Bob Hollingsworth, but dey call 'im Major, 'cause he was a major in de war, not de las' one, but de one way back yonder. Ol' missus work de little ones roun' de house and under de house and kep' ev'yt'ing clean as yo' han'. The ol' marster I thought was de meanes' man de Lawd ever made. Look like he cuss ev'y time he open he mouth. De neighbor w'ite folks, some good, some bad. My work was cleanin' up 'roun de house and nussin' de chillen. Only times I went to church when day tuk us long to min' de chillen. When de battle of Manfiel' was, we didn' git out much. When de Yankees was comin' to Gran' Cane, my w'ite folks dig a big pit and put der meat and flour and all in it and cover it over wid dirt and put wagon loads of pine straw over it. It was 'bout five or six mile to Manfield and 'bout 49 or 50 mile to Shreveport. My ol' marster tuk all he niggers and went off somweres, dey called it Texas, but I didn' know where. De ol'er ones farm. Dey rais' ev'yt'ing dey could put in de groun', dey did. My pa was kirrige(carriage) driver for my ol' missus. He was boss nigger fo' de cullud men when marster wan't right dere. My father jis' stay dere. See, dey free our people in July. Dat leave de whole crop stanin' dere in de fiel'. Dey had to stay dere and take care of de crop. After dat dey commence makin' contraks and bargins. I was 22 years ol' when I marry de fus' time. Both my husban's dead. I had 13 chillen in all.

"De fus' time I went to church, missus tuk me and another gal to min' de chillen. I never heared a preacher befo'. I 'member how de preacher word de hymn:

'Come, ye sinners, po' and needy.
Weak and wounded, sick and so'.'

"I couldn' understan' it, but now when I look down on it I sees it now. I bleeve us been here goin' on fo' year' right yere in dis house."



WILLIAM GREEN, or "Reverend Bill", as he is call by the other Negroes, was brought to Texas from Mississippi in 1862. His master was Major John Montgomery. William is 87 years old. He has lived in San Antonio, Texas, for 50 years.

Rev. William (Bill) Green

"I is Reverend Bill, all right, but I is 'fraid dat compliment don't belong to me no more, 'cause I quit preachin' in favor of de young men.

"I kin tell you my 'speriences in savin'—mis'ry dat was, is peace dat is. I tells you dis 'spite of bein' alone in de world with no chillun.

"I is raised a slave and 'mancipated in June, but I 'members de old plantation whar I is born. Massa John Montgomery, he owned me, and he went to de war and git kilt. I knowed 'bout de war, though us slaves wasn't sposed to know nothin' 'bout it. I was livin' in Texas then, 'cause Massa John moved over here from Mis'sippi. In dat place niggers was allus wrong, no matter what, but it was better in dis place. We used to think we was lucky to git over here to Texas, and we used to sing a song 'bout it:

"'Over yonder is de wild-goose nation,
Whar old missus has sugar plantation—
Sugar grows sweet but de plantation's sour,
'cause de nigger jump and run every hour.

"'I has you all to know, you all to know,
Dare's light on de shore,
Says little Bill to big Bill,
There's a li'l nigger to write and cipher.'

"I don't know what de song meant but we thought we'd git free here in Texas, and we'd git eddicated, and dat's de meanin' of de talk about writin' and cipherin'.

"Well, when I is free I isn't free, 'cause de boss wants me and another boy to stay till we's 21 year old. But old Judge Longworth, he come down dere and dere was pretty near a fight, and he 'splains to us we was free.

"'bout five year after dat I takes up preachin' and I preaches for a long time, and I works on a farm, half and half with de owner. I has a good life, but now I's too old to preach.



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