Texas Genealogy Trails

Slave Narratives - Page 9



Harriet Jones, 93, was born a slave of Martin Fullbright, who owned a large plantation in North Carolina. When he died his daughter, Ellen, became Harriet's owner, and was so kind to Harriet that she looks back on slave years as the happiest time in her life.

Harriet Jones and her Daughter and Granddaughter

"My daddy and mammy was Henry and Zilphy Guest and Marse Martin Fullbright brung dem from North Carolina to Red River County, in Texas, long 'fore freedom, and settled near Clarksville. I was one of dere eight chillen and borned in 1844 and am 93 years old. My folks stayed with Marse Martin and he daughter, Miss Ellen, till dey went to de reward where dey dies no more.

"De plantation raise corn and oats and wheat and cotton and hawgs and cattle and hosses, and de neares' place to ship to market am at Jefferson, Texas, ninety miles from Clarksville, den up river to Shreveport and den to Memphis or New Orleans. Dey send cotton by wagon train to Jefferson but mostly by boat up de bayou.

"When Marse Martin die he 'vide us slaves to he folks and I falls to he daughter, Miss Ellen. Iffen ever dere was a angel on dis earth she was it. I hopes wherever it is, her spirit am in glory.

"When Miss Ellen marry Marse Johnnie Watson, she have me fix her up. She have de white satin dress and pink sash and tight waist and hoop skirt, so she have to go through de door sideways. De long curls I made hang down her shoulders and a bunch of pink roses in de hand. She look like a angel.

"All de fine folks in Clarksville at dat weddin' and dey dances in de big room after de weddin' supper. It was de grand time but it make me cry, 'cause Miss Ellen done growed up. When she was a li'l gal she wore de sweetes' li'l dresses and panties with de lace ruffles what hung down below her skirt, and de jacket button in de back and shoes from soft leather de shoeman tan jus' for her. When she li'l bigger she wear de tucked petticoats, two, three at a time to take place of hoops, but she still wear de white panties with lace ruffles what hang below de skirt 'bout a foot. Where dey gone now? I ain't seed any for sich a long time!

"When de white ladies go to church in dem hoop skirts, dey has to pull dem up in da back to set down. After freedom dey wears de dresses long with de train and has to hold up de train when dey goes in de church, lessen dey has de li'l nigger to go 'long and hold it up for dem.

"All us house women larned to knit de socks and head mufflers, and many is de time I has went to town and traded socks for groceries. I cooked, too, and helped 'fore old Marse died. For everyday cookin' we has corn pone and potlicker and bacon meat and mustard and turnip greens, and good, old sorghum 'lasses. On Sunday we has chicken or turkey or roast pig and pies and cakes and hot, salt-risin' bread.

"When folks visit dem days dey do it right and stays several days, maybe a week or two. When de quality folks comes for dinner, Missie show me how to wait on table. I has to come in when she ring de bell, and hold de waiter for food jus' right. For de breakfas' we has coffee and hot waffles what my mammy make.

"Dere was a old song we used to sing 'bout de hoecake, when we cookin' dem:

"'If you wants to bake a hoecake,
To bake it good and done,
Slap it on a nigger's heel,
And hold it to de sun.

"'My mammy baked a hoecake,
As big as Alabama,
She throwed it 'gainst a nigger's head,
It ring jus' like a hammer.

"'De way you bake a hoecake,
De old Virginny way,
Wrap it round a nigger's stomach,
And hold it dere all day.'

"Dat de life we lives with old and young marse and missie, for dey de quality folks of old Texas.

"'Bout time for de field hands to go to work, it gittin' mighty hot down here, so dey go by daylight when it cooler. Old Marse have a horn and 'long 'bout four o'clock it 'gin to blow, and you turn over and try take 'nother nap, den it goes arguin', blow, how loud dat old horn do blow, but de sweet smell de air and de early breeze blowin' through de trees, and de sun peepin' over de meadow, make you glad to git up in de early mornin'.

"'It's a cool and frosty mornin'
And de niggers goes to work,
With hoes upon dey shoulders,
Without a bit of shirt.'

"'When dey hears de horn blow for dinner it am de race, and dey sings:

"'I goes up on de meatskins,
I comes down on de pone
I hits de corn pone fifty licks,
And makes dat butter moan.'

"De timber am near de river and de bayou and when dey not workin' de hosses or no other work, we rides down and goes huntin' with de boys, for wild turkeys and prairie chickens, but dey like bes' to hunt for coons and possums.

"'Possum up de gum stump,
Raccoon in de hollow
Git him down and twist him out,
And I'll give you a dollar.'

"Come Christmas, Miss Ellen say, 'Harriet, have de Christmas Tree carry in and de holly and evergreens.' Den she puts de candles on de tree and hangs de stockin's up for de white chillen and de black chillen. Nex' mornin', everybody up 'fore day and somethin' for us all, and for de men a keg of cider or wine on de back porch, so dey all have a li'l Christmas spirit.

"De nex' thing am de dinner, serve in de big dinin' room, and dat dinner! De onlies' time what I ever has sich a good dinner am when I gits married and when Miss Ellen marries Mr. Johnnie. After de white folks eats, dey watches de servants have dey dinner.

"Den dey has guitars and banjoes and fiddles and plays old Christmas tunes, den dat night marse and missie brung de chillen to de quarters, to see de niggers have dey dance. 'Fore de dance dey has Christmas supper, on de long table out in de yard in front de cabins, and have wild turkey or chicken and plenty good things to eat. When dey all through eatin', dey has a li'l fire front de main cabins where de dancin' gwine be. Dey moves everything out de cabin 'cept a few chairs. Next come de fiddler and banjo-er and when dey starts, de caller call, 'Heads lead off,' and de first couple gits in middle de floor, and all de couples follow till de cabin full. Next he calls, 'Sashay to de right, and do-si-do.' Round to de right dey go, den he calls, 'Swing you partners, and dey swing dem round twice, and so it go till daylight come, den he sing dis song:

"'Its gittin' mighty late when de Guinea hen squall,
And you better dance now if you gwine dance a-tall
If you don't watch out, you'll sing 'nother tune,
For de sun rise and cotch you, if you don't go soon,
For de stars gittin' paler and de old gray coon
Is sittin' in de grapevine a-watchin' de moon.'

"Den de dance break up with de Virginny Reel, and it de end a happy Christmas day. De old marse lets dem frolic all night and have nex' day to git over it, 'cause its Christmas.

"'Fore freedom de soldiers pass by our house and stop ask mammy to cook dem something to eat, and when de Yankees stop us chillen hides. Once two men stays two, three weeks lookin' round, pretends dey gwine buy land. But when de white folks gits 'spicious, dey leaves right sudden, and it turn out dey's Yankee spies.

"I marries Bill Jones de year after freedom. It a bright, moonlight night and all de white folks and niggers come and de preacher stand under de big elm tree, and I come in with two li'l pickininnies for flower gals and holdin' my train. I has on one Miss Ellen's dresses and red stockin's and a pair brand new shoes and a wide brim hat. De preacher say, 'Bill, does you take dis woman to be you lawful wife?' and Bill say he will. Den he say, 'Harriet, will you take dis nigger to be you lawful boss and do jes' what he say?' Den we signs de book and de preacher say, 'I quotes from de scripture:

"'Dark and stormy may come de weather,
I jines dis man and woman together.
Let none but Him what make de thunder,
Put dis man and woman asunder.'

"Den we goes out in de backyard, where de table sot for supper, a long table made with two planks and de peg legs. Miss Ellen puts on de white tablecloth and some red berries, 'cause it am November and dey is ripe. Den she puts on some red candles, and we has barbecue pig and roast sweet 'taters and dumplin's and pies and cake. Dey all eats dis grand supper till dey full and mammy give me de luck charm for de bride. It am a rabbit toe, and she say:

"'Here, take dis li'l gift,
And place it near you heart;
It keep away dat li'l riff
What causes folks to part.

"'It only jes' a rabbit toe,
But plenty luck it brings,
Its worth a million dimes or more,
More'n all de weddin' rings.'

"Den we goes to Marse Watson's saddleshop to dance and dances all night, and de bride and groom, dat's us, leads de grand march.

"De Yankees never burned de house or nothin', so Young Marse and Missie jes' kep' right on livin' in de old home after freedom, like old Marse done 'fore freedom. He pay de families by de day for work and let dem work land on de halves and furnish dem teams and grub and dey does de work.

"But bye'n-bye times slow commence to change, and first one and 'nother de old folks goes on to de Great Beyon', one by one dey goes, till all I has left am my great grandchild what I lives with now. My sister was livin' at Greenville six years ago. She was a hundred and four years old den. I don't know if she's livin' now or not. How does we live dat long? Way back yonder 'fore I's born was a blessin' handed down from my great, great, grandfather. It de blessin' of long life, and come with a blessin' of good health from livin' de clean, hones' life. When nighttime come, we goes to bed and to sleep, and dat's our blessin'.


Lewis Jones, 86, was born a slave to Fred Tate, who owned a large plantation on the Colorado River in Fayette Co., Texas. Lewis' father was born a slave to H. Jones and was sold to Fred Tate, who used him as a breeder to build up his slave stock. Lewis took his father's name after Emancipation, and worked for twenty-three years in a cotton gin at La Grange. He came to Fort Worth in 1896 and worked for Armour & Co. until 1931. Lewis lives at 3304 Loving Ave., Fort Worth, Texas.

Lewis Jones

"My birth am in de year 1851 on de plantation of Massa Fred Tate, what am on de Colorado River. Yes, suh, dat am in de state of Texas. My mammy am owned by Massa Tate and so am my pappy and all my brudders and sisters. How many brudders and sisters? Lawd A-mighty! I'll tell you 'cause you asks and dis nigger gives de facts as 'tis. Let's see, I can't 'lect de number. My pappy have 12 chillen by my mammy and 12 by anudder nigger name Mary. You keep de count. Den dere am Liza, him have 10 by her, and dere am Mandy, him have 8 by her, and dere am Betty, him have six by her. Now, let me 'lect some more. I can't bring de names to mind, but dere am two or three other what have jus' one or two chillen by my pappy. Dat am right. Close to 50 chillen, 'cause my mammy done told me. It's disaway, my pappy am de breedin' nigger.

"You sees, when I meets a nigger on dat plantation, I's most sho' it am a brudder or sister, so I don't try keep track of 'em.

"Massa Tate didn't give rations to each family like lots of massas, but him have de cookhouse and de cooks, and all de rations cooked by dem and all us niggers sat down to de long tables. Dere am plenty, plenty. I sho' wishes I could have some good rations like dat now. Man, some of dat ham would go fine. Dat was 'Ham, what am.'

"We'uns raise all de food right dere on de place. Hawgs? We'uns have three, four hundred and massa raise de corn and feed dem and cure de meat. We'uns have de cornmeal and de wheat flour and all de milk and butter we wants, 'cause massa have 'bout 30 cows. And dere am de good old 'lasses, too.

"Massa feed powerful good and he am not onreas'ble. He don't whup much and am sho' reas'ble 'bout de pass, and he 'low de parties and have de church on de place. Old Tom am de preacherman and de musician and him play de fiddle and banjo. Sometime dey have jig contest, dat when dey puts de glass of water on de head and see who can jig de hardes' without spillin' de water. Den dere am joyment in de singin'. Preacher Tom set all us niggers in de circle and sing old songs. I jus' can't sing for you, 'cause I's lost my teeth and my voice am raspin', but I'll word some, sich as

"'In de new Jerusalem,
In de year of Jubilee.'

"I done forgit de words. Den did you ever hear dis one:

"'Oh, do, what Sam done, do dat again,
He went to de hambone, bit off de end.'

"When Old Tom am preacherman, him talks from he heartfelt. Den sometime a white preacherman come and he am de Baptist and baptize we'uns.

"Massa have de fine coach and de seat for de driver am up high in front and I's de coachman and he dresses me nice and de hosses am fine, white team. Dere I's sat up high, all dress good, holdin' a tight line 'cause de team am full of spirit and fast. We'uns goes lickity split and it am a purty sight. Man, 'twarnt anyone bigger dan dis nigger.

"I has de bad luck jus' one time with dat team and it am disaway: massa have jus' change de power for de gin from hoss to steam and dey am ginnin' cotton and I's with dat team 'side de house and de hosses am a-prancin' and waitin' for missy to come out. Massa am in de coach. Den, de fool niggers blows de whistle of dat steam engine and de hosses never heered sich befo' and dey starts to run. Dey have de bit in de teeths and I's lucky dat road am purty straight. I thinks of massa bein' inside de coach and wants to save him. I says to myself, 'Dem hosses skeert and I don't want to skeer 'em no more.' I jus' hold de lines steady and keep sayin', 'Steady, boys, whoa boys.' Fin'ly dey begins to slow down and den stops and massa gits out and de hosses am puffin' hard and all foam. He turns to me and say, 'Boy, you's made a wonnerful drive, like a vet'ran.' Now, does dat make me feel fine! It sho' do.

"When surrender come I's been drivin' 'bout a year and it's 'bout 11 o'clock in de mornin', 'cause massa have me ring de bell and all de niggers runs quick to de house and massa say dey am free niggers. It am time for layin' de crops by and he say if dey do dat he pay 'em. Some stays and some goes off, but mammy and pappy and me stays. Dey never left dat plantation, and I stays 'bout 8 years. I guess it dat coachman job what helt me.

"When I quits I goes to work for Ed Mattson in La Grange and I works in dat cotton gin 18 years. Fin'ly I comes here to Fort Worth. Dat am 1896. I works for Armours 20 years but dey let me off six years ago, 'cause I's too old. Since den I works at any little old job, for to make my livin'.

"Sho', I's been married and it to Jane Owen in La Grange, and we'uns have three chillen and dey all dead. She died in 1931.

"It am hard for dis nigger to git by and sometime I don't know for sho' dat I's gwine git anudder meal, but it allus come some way. Yes, suh, dey allus come some way. Some of de time dey is far apart, but dey comes. De Lawd see to dat, I guess.


Liza Jones, 81, was born a slave of Charley Bryant, near Liberty, Texas. She lives in Beaumont, and her little homestead is reached by a devious path through a cemetery and across a ravine on a plank foot-bridge. Liza sat in a backless chair, smoking a pipe, and her elderly son lay on a blanket nearby. Both were resting after a hot day's work in the field. Within the open door could be seen Henry Jones, Liza's husband for sixty years, a tall, gaunt Negro who is helpless. Blind, deaf and almost speechless, he could tell nothing of slavery days, although he was grown when the war ended.

"When de Yankees come to see iffen dey had done turn us a-loose, I am a nine year old nigger gal. That make me about 81 now. Dey promenade up to de gate and de drum say a-dr-um-m-m-m-m, and de man in de blue uniform he git down to open de gate. Old massa he see dem comin' and he runned in de house and grab up de gun. When he come hustlin' down off de gallery, my daddy come runnin'. He seed old massa too mad to know what he a-doin', so quicker dan a chicken could fly he grab dat gun and wrastle it outten old massa's hands. Den he push old massa in de smokehouse and lock de door. He ain't do dat to be mean, but he want to keep old massa outten trouble. Old massa know dat, but he beat on de door and yell, but it ain't git open till dem Yankees done gone.

"I wisht old massa been a-livin' now, I'd git a piece of bread and meat when I want it. Old man Charley Bryant, he de massa, and Felide Bryant de missus. Dey both have a good age when freedom come.

"My daddy he George Price and he boss nigger on de place. Dey all come from Louisiana, somewhere round New Orleans and all dem li'l extra places.

"Liz'beth she my mama and dey's jus' two us chillen, me and my brudder, John. He lives in Beaumont.

"'Bout all de work I did was 'tend to de rooms and sweep. Nobody ever 'low us to see nobody 'bused. I never seed or heared of nobody gittin' cut to pieces with a whip like some. Course, chillen wasn't 'lowed to go everywhere and see everything like dey does now. Dey jump in every corner now.

"Miss Flora and Miss Molly am de only ones of my white folks what am alive now and dey done say dey take me to San Antonio with dem. Course, I couldn't go now and leave Henry, noway. De old Bryant place am in de lawsuit. Dey say de brudder, Mister Benny, he done sharped it 'way from de others befo' he die, but I 'lieve the gals will win dat lawsuit.

"My daddy am de gold pilot on de old place. Dat mean anything he done was right and proper. Way after freedom, when my daddy die in Beaumont, Cade Bryant and Mister Benny both want to see him befo' he buried. Dey ride in and say, 'Better not you bury him befo' us see him. Dat's us young George.' Dey allus call daddy dat, but he old den.

"My mama was de spring back cook and turkey baker. Dey call her dat, she so neat, and cook so nice. I's de expert cook, too. She larnt me.

"Us chillen used to sing

"'Don't steal,
Don't steal my sugar.
Don't steal,
Don't steal my candy.
I's comin' round de mountain.'

"Dey sho' have better church in dem days dan now. Us git happy and shout. Dey too many blind taggers now. Now dey say dey got de key and dey ain't got nothin'. Us used to sing like dis:

"'Adam's fallen race,
Good Lawd, hang down my head and cry.
Help me to trust him,
Help me to trust him,
Help me to trust him,
Gift of Gawd.

"'Help me to trust him,
Help me to trust him,
Help me to trust him,
Eternal Life.

"'Had not been for Adam's race,
I wouldn't been sinnin' today,
Help me to trust him,
Gift of Gawd.'

"Dey 'nother hymn like dis:

"'Heavenly land,
Heavenly land,
I's gwineter beg Gawd,
For dat Heavenly land.

"'Some come cripplin',
Some come lame,
Some come walkin',
In Jesus' name.'

"You know I saw you-all last night in my sleep? I ain't never seed you befo' today, but I seed you last night. Dey's two of you, a man and a woman, and you come crost dat bridge and up here, askin' me iffen I trust in de Lawd. And here you is today.

"Dey had nice parties in slavery time and right afterwards. Dey have candy pullin' and corn shuckin's and de like. Old Massa Day and Massa Bryant, dey used to put dey niggers together and have de prize dances. Massa Day allus lose, 'cause us allus beat he niggers at dancin'. Lawd, when I clean myself up, I sho' could teach dem how to buy a cake-walk in dem days. I could cut de pigeon wing, jes' pull my heels up and clack dem together. Den us do de back step and de banquet, too.

"Us allus have de white tarleton Swiss dress for dances and Sunday. Dem purty good clothes, too and dey make at home. Us knowed how to sew and one de old man's gals, she try teach me readin' and writin'. I didn't have no sense, though, and I cry to go out and play.

"When freedom come old massa he done broke down and cry, so my daddy stay with him. He stay a good many year, till both us chillen was growed. Us have de li'l log house on de place all dat time. Dey 'nother old cullud man what stay, name George Whitehouse. He have de li'l house, too. He stay till he die.

"Dey was tryin' to make a go of it after de war, 'cause times was hard. De white boys, dey go out in de field and work den, and work hard, 'cause dey don't have de slaves no more. I used to see de purty, young white ladies, all dress up, comin' to de front door. I slips out and tell de white boys, and dey workin' in de field, half-naked and dirty, and dey sneak in de back door and clean up to spark dem gals.

"I been marry to dat Henry in dere sixty year, and he was a slave in Little Rock, in Arkansas, for Anderson Jones. Henry knowed de bad, tejous part of de war and he must be 'bout 96 year old. Now he am in pain all de time. Can't see, can't hear and can't talk. Us never has had de squabble. At de weddin' de white folks brung cakes and every li'l thing. I had a white tarleton dress with de white tarleton wig. Dat de hat part what go over de head and drape on de shoulder. Dat de sign you ain't never done no wrong sin and gwinter keep bein' good.

"After us marry I move off de old place, but nothin' must do but I got to keep de house for Mister Benny. I's cleanin' up one time and finds a milk churn of money. I say, 'Mr. Benny, what for you ain't put dat money in de bank?' He say he will. De next time I cleanin' up I finds a pillow sack full of money. I says, 'Mr. Benny, I's gwineter quit. I ain't gwineter be 'sponsible for dis money.' He's sick den and I put de money under he pillow and git ready to go. He say, 'You better stay, or I send Andrew, de sheriff, after you.' I goes and cooks dinner and when I gits back dey has four doctors with Mr. Benny. He wife say to me, 'Liza, you got de sight. Am Benny gwineter git well?' I goes and looks and I knowed he gwine way from dere. I knowed he was gone den. Dey leant on me a heap after dat.

"It some years after dat I leaves dem and Henry and me gits married and us make de livin' farmin'. Us allus stays right round hereabouts and gits dis li'l house. Now my son and me, us work de field and gits 'nough to git through on.


Lizzie Jones, an 86 year old ex-slave of the R.H. Hargrove family, was born in 1861, in Harrison County, Texas. She stayed with her owner until four years after the close of the Civil War. She now lives with Talmadge Buchanan, a grandson, two miles east of Karnack, on the Lee road.

Lizzie Jones

"I was bo'n on the ole Henry Hargrove place. My ole missus was named Elizabeth and mammy called me Lizzie for her. But the Hargroves called me 'Wink' since I was a chile, 'cause I was so black and shiny. Massa Hargrove had four girls and four boys and I helped tend them till I was big enough to cook and keep house. I wagged ole Marse Dr. Hargrove, dat lives in Marshall, round when he was a baby.

"I allus lived in de house with the white folks and ate at their table when they was through, and slep' on the floor. We never had no school or church in slavery time. The niggers couldn' even add. None of us knowed how ole we was, but Massa set our ages down in a big book.

"I 'member playin' peep-squirrel and marbles and keepin' house when I was a chile. Massa 'lowed the boys and girls to cou't but they couldn' marry 'fore they was 20 years ole, and they couldn' marry off the plantation. Slaves warn't married by no Good Book or the law, neither. They'd jes' take up with each other and go up to the Big House and ask massa to let them marry. If they was ole enough, he'd say to the boy, 'Take her and go on home.'

"Mammy lived 'cross the field at the quarters and there was so many nigger shacks it look like a town. The slaves slep' on bunks of homemade boards nailed to de wall with poles for legs and they cooked on the fireplace. I didn' know what a stove was till after de War. Sometime they'd bake co'nbread in the ashes and every bit of the grub they ate come from the white folks and the clothes, too. I run them looms many a night, weavin' cloth. In summer we had lots of turnips and greens and garden stuff to eat. Massa allus put up sev'ral barrels of kraut and a smokehouse full of po'k for winter. We didn' have flour or lard, but huntin' was good 'fore de war and on Sat'day de men could go huntin' and fishin' and catch possum and rabbits and squirrels and coons.

"The overseer was named Wade and he woke the han's up at four in the mornin' and kep' them in the field from then till the sun set. Mos' of de women worked in de fields like de men. They'd wash clothes at night and dry them by the fire. The overseer kep' a long coach whip with him and if they didn' work good, he'd thrash them good. Sometime he's pretty hard on them and strip 'em off and whip 'em till they think he was gonna kill 'em. No nigger ever run off as I 'member.

"We never have no parties till after 'mancipation, and we couldn' go off de place. On Sundays we slep' or visited each other. But the white folks was good to us. Massa Hargrove didn' have no doctor but there wasn' much sickness and seldom anybody die.

"I don' 'member much 'bout de War. Massa went to it, but he come home shortly and say he sick with the 'sumption, but he got well real quick after surrender.

"The white folks didn' let the niggers know they was free till 'bout a year after the war. Massa Hargrove took sick sev'ral months after and 'fore he did he tell the folks not to let the niggers loose till they have to. Finally they foun' out and 'gun to leave.

"My pappy died 'fore I was bo'n and mammy married Caesar Peterson and 'bout a year after de war dey moved to a farm close to Lee, but I kep' on workin' for de Hargroves for four years, helpin' missus cook and keep house.


Toby Jones was born in South Carolina, in 1850, a slave of Felix Jones, who owned a large tobacco plantation. Toby has farmed in Madisonville, Texas, since 1869, and still supports himself, though his age makes it hard for him to work.

"My father's name was Eli Jones and mammy's name was Jessie. They was captured in Africa and brought to this country whilst they was still young folks, and my father was purty hard to realize he was a slave, 'cause he done what he wanted back in Africa.

"Our owner was Massa Felix Jones and he had lots of tobacco planted. He was real hard on us slaves and whipped us, but Missie Janie, she was a real good woman to her black folks. I 'members when their li'l curlyheaded Janie was borned. She jus' loved this old, black nigger and I carried her on my back whole days at a time. She was the sweetes' baby ever borned.

"Massa, he lived in a big, rock house with four rooms and lots of shade trees, and had 'bout fifty slaves. Our livin' quarters wasn't bad. They was rock, too, and beds built in the corners, with straw moss to sleep on.

"We had plenty to eat, 'cause the woods was full of possum and rabbits and all the mud holes full of fish. I sho' likes a good, old, fat possum cooked with sweet 'taters round him. We cooked meat in a old-time pot over the fireplace or on a forked stick. We grated corn by hand for cornbread and made waterpone in the ashes.

"I was borned 'bout 1850, so I was plenty old to 'member lots 'bout slave times. I 'members the loyal clothes, a long shirt what come down below our knees, opened all the way down the front. On Sunday we had white loyal shirts, but no shoes and when it was real cold we'd wrap our feet in wool rags so they wouldn't freeze. I married after freedom and had white loyal breeches. I wouldn't marry 'fore that, 'cause massa wouldn't let me have the woman I wanted.

"The overseer was a mean white man and one day he starts to whip a nigger what am hoein' tobacco, and he whipped him so hard that nigger grabs him and made him holler. Missie come out and made them turn loose and massa whipped that nigger and put him in chains for a whole year. Every night he had to be in jail and couldn't see his folks for that whole year.

"I seed slaves sold, and they'd make them clean up good and grease their hands and face, so they'd look real fat, and sell them off. Of course, most the niggers didn't know their parents or what chillen was theirs. The white folks didn't want them to git 'tached to each other.

"Missie read some Bible to us every Sunday mornin' and taught us to do right and tell the truth. But some them niggers would go off without a pass and the patterrollers would beat them up scand'lous.

"The fun was on Saturday night when massa 'lowed us to dance. There was lots of banjo pickin' and tin pan beatin' and dancin', and everybody would talk 'bout when they lived in Africa and done what they wanted.

"I worked for massa 'bout four years after freedom, 'cause he forced me to, said he couldn't 'ford to let me go. His place was near ruint, the fences burnt and the house would have been but it was rock. There was a battle fought near his place and I taken missie to a hideout in the mountains to where her father was, 'cause there was bullets flyin' everywhere. When the war was over, massa come home and says, 'You son of a gun, you's sposed to be free, but you ain't, 'cause I ain't gwine give you freedom.' So, I goes on workin' for him till I gits the chance to steal a hoss from him. The woman I wanted to marry, Govie, she 'cides to come to Texas with me. Me and Govie, we rides that hoss most a hundred miles, then we turned him a-loose and give him a scare back to his house, and come on foot the rest the way to Texas.

"All we had to eat was what we could beg and sometimes we went three days without a bite to eat. Sometimes we'd pick a few berries. When we got cold we'd crawl in a breshpile and hug up close together to keep warm. Once in awhile we'd come to a farmhouse and the man let us sleep on cottonseed in his barn, but they was far and few between, 'cause they wasn't many houses in the country them days like now.

"When we gits to Texas we gits married, but all they was to our weddin' am we jus' 'grees to live together as man and wife. I settled on some land and we cut some trees and split them open and stood them on end with the tops together for our house. Then we deadened some trees and the land was ready to farm. There was some wild cattle and hawgs and that's the way we got our start, caught some of them and tamed them.

"I don't know as I 'spected nothin' from freedom, but they turned us out like a bunch of stray dogs, no homes, no clothin', no nothin', not 'nough food to last us one meal. After we settles on that place, I never seed man or woman, 'cept Govie, for six years, 'cause it was a long ways to anywhere. All we had to farm with was sharp sticks. We'd stick holes and plant corn and when it come up we'd punch up the dirt round it. We didn't plant cotton, 'cause we couldn't eat that. I made bows and arrows to kill wild game with and we never went to a store for nothin'. We made our clothes out of animal skins.

"We used rabbit foots for good luck, tied round our necks. We'd make medicine out of wood herbs. There is a rabbit foot weed that we mixed with sassafras and made good cough syrup. Then there is cami weed for chills and fever.

"All I ever did was to farm and I made a livin'. I still makes one, though I'm purty old now and its hard for me to keep the work up. I has some chickens and hawgs and a yearling or two to sell every year.


Aunt Pinkie Kelly, whose age is a matter of conjecture, but who says she was "growed up when sot free," was born on a plantation in Brazoria Co., owned by Greenville McNeel, and still lives on what was a part of the McNeel plantation, in a little cabin which she says is much like the old slave quarters.

"De only place I knows 'bout is right here, what was Marse Greenville McNeel's plantation, 'cause I's born here and Marse Greenville and Missy Amelia, what was his wife, is de only ones I ever belonged to. After de war, Marse Huntington come down from up north and took over de place when Marse Greenville die, but de big house burned up and all de papers, too, and I couldn't tell to save my life how old I is, but I's growed up and worked in de fields befo' I's sot free.

"My mammy's name was Harriet Jackson and she was born on de same plantation. My pappy's name was Dan, but folks called him Good Cheer. He druv oxen and one day they show me him and say he my pappy, and so I guess he was, but I can't tell much about him, 'cause chillen then didn't know their pappys like chillen do now.

"Most I 'members 'bout them times is work, 'cause we's put out in de fields befo' day and come back after night. Then we has to shell a bushel of corn befo' we goes to bed and we was so tired we didn't have time for nothin'.

"Old man Jerry Driver watches us in de fields and iffen we didn't work hard he whip us and whip us hard. Then he die and 'nother man call Archer come. He say, 'You niggers now, you don't work good, I beat you,' and we sho' worked hard then.

"Marse Greenville treated us pretty good but he never give us nothin'. Sometime we'd run away and hide in de woods for a spell, but when they cotch us Marse Greenville tie us down and whip us so we don't do it no more.

"We didn't have no clothes like we do now, jes' cotton lowers and rubber shoes. They used to feed us peas and cornbread and hominy, and sometime they threw beef in a pot and bile it, but we never had hawg meat.

"Iffen we took sick, old Aunt Becky was de doctor. They was a building like what they calls a hospital and she put us in there and give us calomel or turpentine, dependin' on what ailed us. They allus kep' the babies there and let de mammies come in and suckle and dry 'em up.

"I never heered much 'bout no war and Marse Greenville never told us we was free. First I knows was one day we gwine to de fields and a man come ridin' up and say, 'Whar you folks gwine?' We say we gwine to de fields and then he say to Marse Greenville, 'You can't work these people, without no pay, 'cause they's as free as you is.' Law, we sho' shout, young folks and old folks too. But we stay there, no place to go, so we jes' stay, but we gits a little pay.

"After 'while I marries. Allen Kelley was de first husban' what I ever owned and he die. Houston Edmond, he the las' husban' I ever owned and he die, too.

"Law me, they used to be a sayin' that chillen born on de dark of de moon ain't gwineter have no luck, and I guess I sho' was born then!"


Sam Kilgore, 92, was born a slave of John Peacock, of Williams County, Tennessee, who owned one of the largest plantations in the south. When he was eight years old, Sam accompanied his master to England for a three-year stay. Sam was in the Confederate Army and also served in the Spanish-American War. He came to Fort Worth in 1889 and learned cement work. In 1917 he started a cement contracting business which he still operates. He lives at 1211 E. Cannon St., Fort Worth, Texas.

Sam Kilgore

"You asks me when I's born and was I born a slave. Well, I's born on July 17, 1845, so I's a slave for twenty years, and had three massas. I's born in Williamson County, near Memphis, in Tennessee. Massa John Peacock owned de plantation and am it de big one! Dere am a thousand acres and 'bout a thousand slaves.

"De slave cabins am in rows, twenty in de first row and eighteen in de second and sixteen in de third. Den dere am house servants quarters near de big house. De cabins am logs and not much in dem but homemade tables and benches and bunks 'side de wall. Each family has dere own cabin and sometimes dere am ten or more in de family, so it am kind of crowded. But massa am good and let dem have de family life, and once each week de rations am measure out by a old darky what have charge de com'sary, and dere am allus plenty to eat.

"But dem eats ain't like nowadays. It am home-cured meat and mostly cornmeal, but plenty veg'tables and 'lasses and brown sugar. Massa raised lots of hawgs, what am Berkshires and Razorbacks. Razorback meat am 'sidered de best and sweetest.

"De work stock am eighty head of mules and fifty head of hosses and fifteen yoke of oxen. It took plenty feed for all dem and massa have de big field of corn, far as we could see. De plantation am run on system and everything clean and in order, not like lots of plantations with tools scattered 'round and dirt piles here and there. De chief overseer am white and de second overseers am black. Stien was nigger overseer in de shoemakin' and harness, and Aunty Darkins am overseer of de spinnin' and weavin'.

"Dat place am so well manage dat whippin's am not nec'sary. Massa have he own way of keepin' de niggers in line. If dey bad he say, 'I 'spect dat nigger driver comin' round tomorrow and I's gwine sell you.' Now, when a nigger git in de hands of de nigger driver it am de big chance he'll git sold to de cruel massa, and dat make de niggers powerful skeert, so dey 'haves. On de next plantation we'd hear de niggers pleadin' when dey's whipped, 'Massa, have mercy,' and sich. Our massa allus say, 'Boys, you hears dat mis'ry and we don't want no sich on dis place and it am up to you.' So us all 'haves ourselves.

"When I's four years old I's took to de big house by young Massa Frank, old massa's son. He have me for de errand boy and, I guess, for de plaything. When I gits bigger I's his valet and he like me and I sho' like him. He am kind and smart, too, and am choosed from nineteen other boys to go to England and study at de mil'tary 'cademy. I's 'bout eight when we starts for Liverpool. We goes from Memphis to Newport and takes de boat, Bessie. It am a sailboat and den de fun starts for sho'. It am summer and not much wind and sometimes we jus' stand still day after day in de fog so thick we can't see from one end de boat to de other.

"I'll never forgit dat trip. When we gits far out on de water, I's dead sho' we'll never git back to land again. First I takes de seasick and dat am something. If there am anything worser it can't be stood! It ain't possible to 'splain it, but I wants to die, and if dey's anything worser dan dat seasick mis'ry, I says de Lawd have mercy on dem. I can't 'lieve dere am so much stuff in one person, but plenty come out of me. I mos' raised de ocean! When dat am over I gits homesick and so do Massa Frank. I cries and he tries to 'sole me and den he gits tears in he eyes. We am weeks on dat water, and good old Tennessee am allus on our mind.

"When we gits to England it am all right, but often we goes down to de wharf and looks over de cotton bales for dat Memphis gin mark. Couple times Massa Frank finds some and he say, 'Here a bale from home, Sam,' with he voice full of joy like a kid what find some candy. We stands round dat bale and wonders if it am raised on de plantation.

"But we has de good time after we gits 'quainted and I seed lots and gits to know some West India niggers. But we's ready to come home and when we gits dere it am plenty war. Massa Frank jines de 'Federate Army and course I's his valet and goes with him, right over to Camp Carpenter, at Mobile. He am de lieutenant under General Gordon and befo' long dey pushes him higher. Fin'ly he gits notice he am to be a colonel and dat sep'rates us, 'cause he has to go to Floridy. 'I's gwine with you,' I says, for I thinks I 'longs to him and he 'longs to me and can't nothing part us. But he say, 'You can't go with me this time. Dey's gwine put you in de army.' Den I cries and he cries.

"I's seventeen years old when I puts my hand on de book and am a sojer. I talks to my captain 'bout Massa Frank and wants to go to see him. But it wasn't more'n two weeks after he leaves dat him was kilt. Dat am de awful shock to me and it am a long time befo' I gits over it. I allus feels if I'd been with him maybe I could save his life.

"My company am moved to Birmingham and builds breastworks. Dey say Gen. Lee am comin' for a battle but he didn't ever come and when I been back to see dem breastworks, dey never been used. We marches north to Lexington, in Kentuck' but am gone befo' de battle to Louisville. We comes back to Salem, in Georgia, but I's never in no big battle, only some skirmishes now and den. We allus fixes for de battles and builds bridges and doesn't fight much.

"I goes back after de war to Memphis. My mammy am on de Kilgore place and Massa Kilgore takes her and my pappy and two hundred other slaves and comes to Texas. Dat how I gits here. He settles at de place called Kilgore, and it was named after him, but in 1867 he moves to Cleburne.

"Befo' we moved to Texas de Klu Kluxers done burn my mammy's house and she lost everything. Dey was 'bout $100 in greenbacks in dat house and a three hundred pound hawg in de pen, what die from de heat. We done run to Massa Rodger's house. De riders gits so bad dey come most any time and run de cullud folks off for no cause, jus' to be orn'ry and plunder de home. But one day I seed Massa Rodgers take a dozen guns out his wagon and he and some white men digs a ditch round de cotton field close to de road. Couple nights after dat de riders come and when dey gits near dat ditch a volley am fired and lots of dem draps off dey hosses. Dat ended de Klux trouble in dat section.

"After I been in Texas a year I jines de Fed'ral Army for de Indian war. I's in de transportation division and drives oxen and mules, haulin' supplies to de forts. We goes to Fort Griffin and Dodge City and Laramie, in Wyoming. Dere am allus two or three hundred sojers with us, to watch for Indian attacks. Dey travels on hosses, 'head, 'side and 'hind de wagon. One day de Sent'nel reports Indians am round so we gits hid in de trees and bresh. On a high ledge off to de west we sees de Indians travelin' north, two abreast. De lieutenant say he counted 'bout seven hundred but dey sho' missed us, or maybe I'd not be here today.

"I stays in de service for seven years and den goes back to Johnson County, farmin' on de Rodgers place, and stays till I comes to Fort Worth in 1889. Den I gits into 'nother war, de Spanish 'merican War. But I's in de com'sary work so don't see much fightin'. In all dem wars I sees most no fightin', 'cause I allus works with de supplies.

"After dat war I goes to work laborin' for buildin' contractors. I works for sev'ral den gits with Mr. Bardon and larns de cement work with him. He am awful good man to work for, dat John Bardon. Fin'ly I starts my own cement business and am still runnin' it. My health am good and I's allus on de job, 'cause dis home I owns has to be kept up. It cost sev'ral thousand dollars and I can't 'ford to neglect it.

"I's married twict. I marries Mattie Norman in 1901 and sep'rates in 1904. She could spend more money den two niggers could shovel it in. Den I marries Lottie Young in 1909, but dere am no chillens. I's never dat lucky.

"I's voted ev'ry 'lection and 'lieves it de duty for ev'ry citizen to vote.

"Now, I's told you everything from Genesis to Rev'lations, and it de truth, as I 'members it.



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