This page contains interviews of seven former slaves all of whom had some kind of connection to the Mabry/Mayberry family. For more about the sources of these interviews, please see the note at the end of this page.
The former slaves whose interviews are found below are:
- "J. W. King of Travis County, Texas
- John Middleton of Madison County, Mississippi
- Charlie Meadow of Rt. 2, Union County, South Carolina
- Elisie Payne, Lee County, Alabama
- Charlie Hudson of Georgia
- Rachal Goings, of Cape Girardeau, Missouri
- Jake Barrens, of Gatesville, Coryell County, Texas
- George Bollinger, of Missouri
- Recollections of J. W. King of Travis County, Texas -- Alfred E. Menn Travis County, Texas District No. 9 (November 2, 1937 -- J. W. King
J. W. King, 83, was born a slave on January 30, 1854 at Wardville, Missouri. He was brought to Texas when only six months old. His father was Egeton Bolton. Bolton was not allowed to come to Texas with his family, when they were purchased by William Mabry, and brought to Travis County. The Mabry plantation was located at what is now the Deaf and Dumb School for negroes, Austin. His mother was known as Susan Mabry. When John was almost five years old, he with the other members of the family was sold to Breen Bouldin of Chappel Hill, Washington County. He was told that Bouldin paid $500 for him. Later his mother married a slave by the name of Rugg Bouldin. Susan had six boys and six girls. John has been married three times. By his second wife he had twelve children, six boys and six girls. His wives were Millie Chappel, Mandy Medearis and Lucy Harrington, who finally became so religious, according to John, that she said the Lord told her to leave him. John lives with his daughter, Mattie Mae King, at 1508 E. 20th Street, Austin. He is blind and receives a monthly pension of $10.00 from the State of Texas.
"One ob my mawsters called me "Wallace" but my real name is J. W. King. I'se eighty-three years old and I was bawn on January 30, 1854, Wardville, Missouri. I couldn't tell yo' nothin' about dem days in Missouri 'cause I was too young. I was about six months old when we was brought to Texas. Fathaw, so I'se told, was Egeton Bolton but I couldn't tell yo' mo'e about him dan yo' kin. Fathaw wasn't bought by de Texas man, and he had to stay up in Missouri. We never did see him again. Susan Bolton Mabry was my mothaw. She was married two times and had twelb chillun, six boys and six girls. Her second husband was Rugg Bouldin.
"William Mabry was de man dat bought us and brought us down to Texas. He had a cotton fahm right where de Deaf and Dumb fo' negroes is now. Mawster William also had a ranch above Georgetown in Williamson County. Mothaw's job was to do de cookin' on de place. She didn't do nothin' but cook, and she was a good one.
"When I was a young boy I was whut dey called a "Lackey boy". I had to run errands all over de community. I rode a sorrel mare, named Julianne.
"Befo' de Civil War we was sold to Mawster Green Bouldin of Chappel Hill, Washington County. Dey tell me dat I was sold fo' $500 before I was five years old. Dat was about $100 fo' each year ob my life. My job now was to tote water to de field hands, and den I done a little cotton pickin'. But I never was a good cotton picker. About de most dat I ever picked was about two hunnert pounds a day. De older folks would pick de cotton and moan out a song:
"Oh, rock along, Susie, Oh, Oh, rock along, Oh, rock me, Susie, rock me, Oh, rock along, Susie, Oh, Oh, rock along."
"Durin' de civil war mawster Green Bouldin went off to de war. His cousin, Ed Bouldin, was now our overseer. Mawster Ed was very nice to us. Mawster Ed was up in years and he was too old to go to de war. He didn't want to go to de war anyhow. I know dat when Mawster Bouldin went off to war everybody cried. Dey drove him in a hack to Chappel Hill, and f'om dere he went by hoss-back to de war. I rode dat hoss f'om de plantation to Chappel Hill. It was a fine lookin' black hoss but I kain't remembah his name. I never see dat hoss no mo'e. He never come back f'om de war. But Mawster Bouldin come back after de war. He had been shot in de leg, in de right leg, by a minnie ball. He died in 1874. I held many a minnie ball in my hand. Dey was shot out ob single-barrel muskets.
"During de war and befo' Mawster Bouldin come back, some of de men on de plantation would slip up to a open winder at de big house at night and try to hear whut was goin' on. Some would be layin' outside de winder and lissen whut was read f'om a letter. Den the talk would be lak dis:
"'Sh-h-h, good news, good news!' one ob de boys would whisper. "'Whut's in de lettah?'
"'It says dat de yankees ain't against de niggers.'
"'I'll bet it says dat one southerner was enough fo' six yankees.'
"'No, dat one yankee was enough fo' a dozen southerners.'
"'I don't believe it.'
"De next day dat's whut de folks would talk about in de fields. Some ob de pickers and workers would say, "I don't believe it."
"If we is to be freed it's a long time a gittin' here."
"Mawster Bouldin nicknamed me Wallace. De last whoopin' dat he give me was fo' stickin' a choppin' ax into another boy's head. His name was Henry Bouldin. We was choppin wood on de wood-pile and a fuss come up. We had a argument. De other boys didn't lak him, 'cause he was de biggest liar down dere. I never struck him too deep, but he sure bled. He got all right. Mawster Bouldin took me to a little stream where some putty persimmon trees growed, and he cut off a couple ob sprouts and whooped me. Den he said, "Wallace, now don't yo' ever do dat again."
"Mawster I won't do it no mo'e," I told him.
"'I been tellin' yo' so much about yo' fightin, now yo' could ob killed Henry."
"Den he talk to me some mo'e and dat was de last whoopin' I ever got f'om him.
"Every man dat had a wife and chillun got a log cabin to live in. If a man lived on one plantation and de girl he loved lived on another place he had to go and ask dat girl's mawster if he could marry her. If he could he would be allowed to come and see her about two or three times a week. But he had to have a pass. If yo' was caught without a pass de patrol would git yo' and whoop yo'.
"Sometimes when us boys got together one ob us would look back and shout, "Here comes a bunch ob men! Dere wasn't no men comin' but we'd watch de boys run jes' fo' de fun. Den one mawnin, before de sun was too high Mawster Bouldin called us all up to de big house. He was sittin' wid his chair leanin' against de shady side ob de house. A big rock was nearby in de shade. His slaves was settin' and layin' on and leanin' against dat rock when he read us de Emancipation paper.
"'Now folks, all ob yo' is free, free as I is. Yo' is free niggers. Yo' is goin' to be turned loose, barefooted and without jobs. Now in de mawnin' I want yo' all to go to Brenham, where dere is goin' to be a big barbecue fo' yo' all. Dere is goin' to be speeches. Yo' all kin go in de wagon and I'll ride my hoss. If some ob yo' want to come back, I'll let yo' all help me gather my crops."
"Mawster Bouldin rode his big black hoss, Larkin, to Brenham. De chillun didn't git to go along wid de older folks. Mothaw didn't go and I stayed hom, and fo' some reason dat was one ob de loneliest days in my life.
"Mothaw, my step-fathaw, Rugg Bouldin, and us stayed on de place and helped gather de crops. About Christmas time Rugg left mothaw. He wanted to marry a white woman, but bless God, he was put in jail. Den he come back but mothaw wouldn't take him back. Den one time he come and saw us chillun, and told us goodbye. A cold, wet nawther was blowin', and him and his hoss fell into a puddle ob water and we had to pull 'em out. Rugg was drunk. Den he left, and we never seen him no mo'e. When I heard ob him again, he was dead. Everybody, white and black called him pap. When pap left, mothaw and us hired out to Elias Elliott. She done de cookin'and we worked in de fields. Dis was de time dat my sistah Caroline picked three hunnert pounds ob cotton a day to de day ob her confinement wid a baby.
"Dere was some mean-dispositioned niggers here at dis time. Dere was Kye. He was a mean yellow nigger. Mawster Bouldin wouldn't allow him on de place. Kye was put in de penitentiary fo' attackin' a white woman. He served ten years and was let out. Den he done about de same thing and he was sent back to de pen. Kye's fathaw, old Sol, was mean too. So was his brothaws, Wylie and Wes. Dey was all killed fo' dere meanness. Dey sure was mean.
"Dere was times after de war when de Klu Klux Klan was on de war path. If yo' done any meanness, dey'd come up to yo' house and take yo' out to whoop yo'. Dere was de time when de Klan come to a grown nigger's house and he was ready fo' 'em. When one ob 'em stepped into de door, he split his head open wid a ax. Den he run away to de Yankees.
"One time de niggers wouldn't vote de Democratic ticket and three ob dem was hung. Jim Holt, a white feller dat was fo' de niggers said dat he would see dat de niggers voted de way dey wanted to vote. De last time dat I heard ob Jim Holt, was when he was shot dead.
"I kain't read or write. Dey didn't show us how to do our A B C's on Mawster Bouldin's plantation. I didn't git to go to school much after slavery. Yo' could go to school only to a certain age, sixteen years was de limit, I believe. Now folks go to school up to de time when dey is twenty-five years or more. Fo' a while I could ob sent, but I didn't lak school. I always rather drive a yoke ob oxen. I would sometimes drive five and six yokes ob oxen at one time. I hauled cotton and freight down in dat paht ob de country, more down in Austin County. Dat was always my life, out in de open. I always thought dat it was a waste ob time to go to school. I never could see no good in it. Now, I know better but de only thing dat I kin write is to make a cross fo' my name.
"I never married until I was about twenty years old. On December 18, 1873, I married Millie Chappel. She was livin' in Chappel Hill. We rode hosses to de preachah's house and got married. Sias Campbell, a Methodist preachah, married us. We never had no chillun. Millie died in 1883. On November 15, 1883, I married Mandy Medearis. She lived at Bluff Springs, Travis County. We didn't have nothin' but twelb chillun, six boys and six girls. Dere is still ten ob 'em livin' and still half and half. Mandy died in 1913. Den three and a half years to a day, I was married to Lucy Harrington. We had no chillun. Lucy den got so much Holy Ghost, dat I couldn't suit her no mo'e. She is a Holy Roller. She said dat de Lawd told her to leave me. I told her dat if de Lawd told her to go, she had better go; but dat she could never come back to me. But I didn't rejoice when she left. She jis' left and I don't know where she is.
- John Middleton of Madison County, Mississippi, from SOURCE MATERIAL FOR MISSISSIPPI HISTORY, Madison County -- from microfilm; Assignment #10, pages 17-19)
John Middleton, colored, age 120 years, who died at the home of his daughter near Middleton Grove Church, six miles northwest of Canton, April 1, 1934, was reputed to be the county's oldest negro.
Funeral services were conducted from Middleton Grove Church, near Way, by Rev. Nathaniel Jackson and others. Interment took place in the Middleton Grove Cemetery. The church and the cemetery were named for Middleton, as he gave the land for both.
Mercer Sneed and Ealon Mabry visited the old negro several days before his death to ascertain whether his physical condition would permit his being entered in the Centennial parade as the county's oldest citizen. They found him confined to his bed with a stiffness of joints but his mind was clear and bright. The old darkey had a presentment that his life would soon end, and said that he would not live longer than March (he died on April 1st).
Mabry interviewed Uncle John, and upon his return to Canton, wrote the following article about the old negro for The Herald:
"About six miles north of Canton lives an old negro man who is called Uncle John by all who know him. He is loved and respected by both white and black, and on March 10, 1934, he was one hundred and twenty years old.
"He was born in Vicksburg in the year 1814, and at the age of two years his mother, brothers and sisters were bought by Isaac Guntley. Mrs. Suzanne Guntley promptly took John Middleton, a two-year-old negro slave, educating and rearing him in her aristocratic Southern home. His father and mother were sold separately; his father going to south Madison County, and his mother, himself and remaining family, settled in north Madison County.
"He was given a much better education than the average negro of today and he lived a happy life on the plantation as a youth. During the War Between the States, when the Yankees came through Madison County, John went to war with Charley Moore, from Selma, Alabama. After the war, John came back to Madison County and worked for Mr. Sneed. Back in those days the negroes had no rations allowed them, and Uncle John says some of the negroes of today would be in a bad fix if they had to shift for themselves, as they did right after the War Between the States.
"Uncle John bought himself a little farm and settled down to a normal Southern negro family life. He is the father of nineteen children; twelve sons and seven daughters. His elder daughter was named Rena, after the wife of Jefferson Davis; Uncle John had the honor of seeing and being spoken to by Jefferson Davis, an honor very few now living men have had. He has seventy-five grandchildren, forty great grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren. During his active lifetime Uncle John was a Baptist minister.
- Charlie Meadow interview -- (Project 1885-1, FOLKLORE, Spartanburg Dist.4, 08 Jul 1937, Edited by: Elmer Turnage, STORIES FROM EX-SLAVES)
"It been so hot today day I jes' setting here on de bank steps a-waiting fer Aaron to come. Aaron work out on de road yonder in front of Dr. Sprat's house. De heat, it still come up out'n dis granite rock like dar was a fire under it somewhars. It feel good to me kaise my blood thin and I has on de thinnest clothes dat I's got, today, Sho' did git dis hot in slavery, but us never had to tramp 'round on no pavement and rock steps like dese. Us tromped on de ground and it take up a lot of heat.
"In dem days. Union had trees along dis Main street like dem dat grows on de forest now, (Forest Creek). Mister, dey never called dis street Main when I was little, dey called it Virgin. It was real narrow and de trees recht plumb over de street in de middle 'till de limbs touched over your head. Here whar we's setting was de opera house. Right dar whar I's a pinting my finger was a stone hitching post, and along dis side de street was whar de surreys driv up fer de folks to git out and go in de do to de Opera.
"I don't want to see no picture shows; ain't never seed none of dem things afo' dey got to talking. It's de devil hisself and dat's all it is. Now dey says dat dey talks in de pictures. Well, dem dat wants to can go and pay dere hard earned money to see sech as dat, but Charlie ain't gwine narry a step. No, if you is got any money to give me. I take it; but I aint gwine to no picture whar de devil hisself bees in de dark. Dat's how come dey has it dark, and dat's what I lows to my grandchilluns but dey is ig'nant and laughs at me. It ain't no good to all sech as dat anyway. I likes to go to picnics and barbecues fer my enjoyment. Befo' my legs give out. I cotch fish and killed birds and went to log rollings and corn-shuckings. Dem things give you something to recall. Dese chilluns comes from de picture show and den dey does not have nothing to recall, kaise dey has to go agin de very next Sad'day. Tain't no merits to no sech as day does.
"Slavery, us wore thin home-made clothes and dey sho' was better dan what I has now, kaise us made dem on de home looms and spinning wheel. and dey was good. Cloth ain't no count, kaise it ain't made good in no mills like dat what us made at home in de time or slavery. 'Course I was too little to make dem, myself. but it was done at home 'till atter I got big enough to card and spin. Ain't never seed no garments as strong as dem we wore back dar. Every thing was made out of plaited cotton and it lasted fer years and years. Winter time, we wore all wool clothes. and when you furs' changed in de fall, how dey did scratch! Make a feller feel like he had de itch. Marster had enough sheep to give his folks wool, and den some fer all de darkies. I's 'bout ten years old when I could card and spin good. and dat was atter de war.
"I live down dar on de Forest (creek) in 'Patterac'. My house ain't fer from McBeth School. De mail box in Mr. Charlie Ray's yard, 'bout fo' miles from Patterac. I walks fer dat mail, dat ain't fer. Not long ago I walked to Union and dat twelve miles. At dat you see I doesn't consider fo' miles fer.
"And Marse Johnny Meadow was my Marse when I was five Years old. From den on. I members fer myself and I does not have to take what old folks say, but as you knows, from dar back it is as I is heard it.
"Yankee Carpetbeggar or something come 'round and 'lowed to our overseers dat us have to come to Union Courthouse on a certain day. Us went in all de wagons. From de winding stairs, a man say, 'you is free; you is free; you is free as your marsters is.' Grandma Julie grab me and say. 'Boy, you is free; you is free; clap your hands.' Dat never meant mach to me and atter us got in de wagon to go home. grandma 'low dat she sorry she so free and footloose. Next day us went to work as usual. Some strange folks and trashy niggers and po' white folks dat ain't never had nothing, would come to see us and tell us to stop work, but dat never meant nothing to us. Us all stayed on and gathered de crops. Next year maw and her maw went to de Mabry Thomas plantation in Santuc to work fer a fourth. My pa stayed at de Meadow plantation. I went wid my maw, but I also stayed wid my pa and his ma some. Atter dat. when ma's maw died she went back to pa and dey worked fer a fourth; and de older boys hired to de big house fer wages. I come up to manhood and I been down dar on de Patterac ever since. I live near Charlie Giles, and dey done tuck his picture kaise he so old and wise.
"Paw name in full, Griffin George Meadow, and ma's is Alice Brice Meadow. She brought from de state of Delaware, and pa was brought from de state of Virginny. I's heard both say dat dere parents was brung all de way from Africa.
Mr. Bonny Trippling fetched both my ma and pa to South Carolina atter dey was married. I 'member my grand-daddy, my ma's daddy. He was furs' George Brice; then Marse Meadow bought him and he was George Meadow.
"My grandpa went to Mississippi on his own expenses atter de Confederate War and took his wife wid him. Her name was Mahala; and her two girls, Sara and Jane, and two sons. Henry and George, went along. Dey went-on a little train. It was new here den, and dey say dat it was de first train dat ever went through de state of Mississippi. De first train dat I ever saw, was de one on de Southern Railroad, from Spartanburg to Union. It run to Columbia den, and my first ride was from Santuc to Union. I set betwist my daddy's legs on de train and dat de best ride dat I ever had and I'll never forget it. It was de fastes thing dat had ever gone through dis country. When it started off. I hollered as I was so scared. Atter it got its speed, I thought de woods was leaving me and I held tight to my daddy's knees. couldn't hardly get my breath. It didn't take any time to get to Union, fact, befo' I got used to it we was at de station and my daddy told me dat we had to get off. When we got off I could get my breath again, but I felt funny all de rest of de day.
"I has a brother, Luke, dat lives near Lockhart, S.C., and another brother, Jimmie, lives in New York. Dat is all dat I has living.
"All de darkies on de plantation lived a good life. De ladies had me to pick up trash for de stove and fireplaces in de winter time. Marse Bee was Miss Lizzie and Marse John's son. All de time I stayed 'round de kitchen and got water and eat from de kitchen and had a good time until Marse and Missus died. Dey give me plenty of food, clothes, a good house and good clean bed. We made our bed clothes on de home looms wid wool from our marster's sheep. De barns was always full and so was de smokehouse.
"For our summer clothes we plaited de hanks to make a mixtry of colors. De winter clothes was heavy. drab and plain. Our dyes was made from bark skinned from de maple trees. Dis was mixed with copperas for a pretty yellow. Green dye was bought from a store in Union, and de filling for de garments was also store-bought. I carded and spun and wove a many a day.
"We slept on straw ticks in summer, made from de wheat, and on feather beds in winter. De quilts was warm and made from many pretty home-made patterns. Lightwood knots give de only light at night. 'Buff' from flint rock give de first sparks. A piece of old iron or hard rock was used to strike de sparks wid, don't know why it was called 'puff'. Fire was kept in de kitchen hearth all de year as a usual thing.
"De overseer would 'hoop us up every morning. but we, didn't work late at night. We went to de white folks' church at Harden's Ferry near de old Jeter graveyard. Church and ferry gone now. We also went to Sunday school. Every two or three afternoons in summer. Marster and Missus call us all on de kitchen porch and read de Bible and pray and tell us 'bout our Sunday school lesson. In winter we went in de kitchen where I built a big fire, to hear de Bible read. We was Methodist. My favorite preacher was a big black African named Williams who come to preach in de darky church for us every now and den. Dat was Jeter Chapel.
"First time dat I went to a baptizing was to see it at de white folks' church, Kelly Chapel. I went wid my ma and pa to see Mr. Cain and some Jones baptized. A box-pool had been built in de branch about half a mile from de church. De people draped in white was taken to dis pool and dipped. although it was a Methodist church. Sheets was hung up for a dressing-room. When dey come out of de pool dey dressed in regular clothes. It was warm weather and lots of folks had to be baptized and a lot of people was dere to see it done.
"Some years later. I went to see some darkies baptized for the first time. I had to walk a long ways. I don't go to church much now because my legs don't low me to walk to church."
Source: Charlie Meadow (col. 83, Rt.2, Union, S.C.) -- Interviewer: Caldwell Sims. Union, S.C.
- Elisie Payne, Lee County, Alabama -- (R.L.D. Interviewer)
"Aunt Elsie" Payne lives with her aged brother near the limekiln on the Mayberry place, about six miles from Opelika. She was sitting on her little porch, darning a sheet, when we drove up to her house - its yard filled with pretty flowers, chiefly of the large shrubs bearing bright red and yellow blossoms. Although strangers, she welcomed us with that grave courtesy inherent in very old former slaves who were raised by cultured Southern families. She readily gave us an account of the past, speaking slowly and, evidently, with satisfaction in recalling old times. "I's 90-odd years old, honey, and I ain't much good now," is the way she describes herself; but her accurate-moving needle and the neatly-kept premises proved domestic activity creditable to one half her age.
"Mammy and Pappy was Rhody Lockhart and Bob Oliver, and dey bofe come from Georgia and dey had four chilluns: Louis, dat's my brother what lives wid me, Mandy Mathews, Winnie Snead and Elsie Payne - dat's me. Us lived in a one room log cabin, but hit was a big room and had a plank floor (symbol of luxury in a slave cabin), and a big fireplace and us kept warm in de wintertime. De beds was nailed to de wall and de corner beds jest had one leg; but de side beds had two legs. Us had slats on our beds, and de white folks beds had ropes wove back and cross. Dere beds was high up fum de floor, and de trundle-beds fer de chillun, was run under de big bed in de day-time.
"I was a big size house-girl before de surrender, and could nuss and milk and iron and do heap of work around de house. I never did work in de fields in slavery time. Dere was lots of hurt sojers at Talladega, and Mistis went dere to nuss 'em and she took me wid her, and I hope nuss de sick ones too. Us had sich good white folks. Marster and Mistis was good to dey slaves, and us house women et at de kitchen table jest as good eating as de white folks had. De udder little niggers et dey meals outen bowls and cups wid handles.
"Dey used to tan leather outen cow hides and make shoes for us to wear in de wintertime. Dem shoes sho was rough and hard, but dey kept your feet dry and warm. Old Mistis lived in a big white house, what was ceiled wid tongue and groove, and de floors was wax so you could most see yourself. Dere was plenty poor white folks too, and some of dem hope Old Marster wid he craps. Everybody got up soon; dey blowed de horn before day.
"Old Mistis tried to learn us to read, and some of de chilluns did learn; but I never did learn much. Old Mistis, she read de Bible to us every Sunday. Us niggers sho had good times Sadday nights. Dey played de banjo and de fiddle and de white folks didn't pay us no mind - dey let us dance all night, if we want to. De patterrollers? Whoopee! Dey sho would git you, if you didn't behave.
"Us all went to de corn-shuckings, and all de mens went to de log-rollings and had one more big time, trying to see which could pull de udder down. When a slave die, us could git off and go, if we know 'em. Dey would have a setting-up party wid de coffin and sing and pray and shout, lak at a meeting.
"Did us chillun play games? Sho, us did! Us played 'base' and 'hiding' and I 'members some more: 'Who's in my sheep-pen' and 'Jack-O-Maringo'.
"Yes, Mam, I sho is seed ghosts! One time I seed five! A doctor lived at our house, and he had a doctor shop in de yard. I opened de door one time and dem ghosts bowed at me and when I runned down de steps, one of 'em come clean out in de yard, and when I look back, he wan't dere!
"Atter freedom, I married Tom Payne, and us move to dis very house and I been here ever since. De good Lord gin us 13 chilluns; four is dead and de udders is scattered about. Tom, he been dead gwine on thirty year. When my brother lose he wife, he come to live wid me. Us had good times in slavery, and us always had plenty to eat and it was good eating; but I been hongry lots of times since den. Us gittin' along putty well now, de garden is fine dis year. Is you going? Come to see me again honey."
- Charlie Hudson of Georgia
"When Marse David changed me f'um calf shepherd to cowboy, he sont three or four of us boys to drive de cows to a good place to graze 'cause de male beast was so mean and bad 'bout gittin' atter chillun, he thought if he sont enough of us ders wouldn't be no trouble. Dem days, dere warn't no fence law, and calves was jus' turned loose in de pastur to graze. De fust time I went by myself to drive de cows off to graze and come back wid 'em, Aunt Vinnie 'ported a bunch of de cows was missin'. 'bout 20 of em, when she done de milkin' dat night, and I had to go back huntin' dem cows. De moon come out, bright and clear, but I couldn't see dem cows nowhar - didn't even hear de bell cow. Atter while I was standin' in de Mayberry field a-lookin' crost Dry Fork Crick and dere was dem cows. De bell was pulled so clost on de bell cow's neck whar she was caught in de bushes, dat it couldn't ring. I looked at dem cows - den I looked at de crick whar I could see snakes as thick as de fingers on your hand, but Iknowed I had to git dem cows back home, so I jus' lit out and loped 'cross dat crick so fast dem snakes never had no chanct to bite me. Dat was de wust racket I ever got in.
"Marse David and Miss Betsey tuk moughty good keer of deir Niggers, 'specially when dey was sick. Dr. Bynam Bell, deir oldest son, was a doctor but Miss Betsey was a powerful good hand at doctoring herself. She looked atter all de slave 'omans. For medicines dey give us asafiddy (asafetida), calomel, and castor oil more dan anything else for our diff'unt ailments.
"Marse David's nephew, Mr. Henry Bell, visited at de big house durin' de war, and he was cut down jus' a few days atter he left us and went back to de battlefield.
"Us had been hearin' fust one thing and another 'bout freedom might come, when one mornin' Mr. Will Bell, a patteroller, come ridin' on his hoss at top speed thoo' de rye field whar us was at wuk. Us made sho' he was atter some pore slave, 'til he yelled out: 'What you Niggers wukkin' for? Don't you know you is free as jay birds?' 'Bout dat time de trumpet blowed for dinner and us fell in line a-marchin' up to de big house. Marse David said: 'You all might jus' as well be free as anybody else.' Den he promised to give us somepin' to eat and wear if us would stay on wid him, and ders us did stay for 'bout three years atter de war. I was burnt up den, 'cause I didn't have de privilege of ridin' 'hind Miss Betsey on old Puss no more when she went to meetin'. "Whar us lived, Ku Kluxers was called 'night thiefs.' Dey stole money and weepons (weapons) f'um Niggers atter de war. Dey tuk $50 in gold f'um me and $50 in Jeff Davis' shinplasters f'um my brother. Pa and Ma had left dat money for us to use when us got big enough. A few Niggers managed somehow to buy a little land. I couldn't rightly say when de school was set up.
"Ms and Carrie Rucker, us ain't been married long. I thinks big weddin's is a foolish waste of time and money. Yessum, I'm moughty proud of all of Carrie's grandchillun and I'm fond of evvyone of dem 24 great-grandchillun of hers.
"Well, it was a God-sent method Mr. Lincoln used to give us our freedom. Mr. Davis didn't want no war, and he 'posed it all he knowed how, but if he hadn't a gone ahead and fit, dere never would have been nothin' done for us. Far as I knows, Booker Washin'ton done some good things in his day and time, but I don't know much 'bout him.
"In a way, I'm satisfied wid what confronts me. A pusson in jail or on de chaingang would ruther be outside and free dan in captivity. Dat's how I feels.
"When dey read dis passage of de Bible to me, I 'cided to jine up wid de church. 'Come ye out f'um amongst dem, and ye shall be my people.' I think evvybody ought to read dat verse, jine de church, and den live 'ligious lifes. I done been changed f'um darkness to light, 'Oh, for a closer walk wid God.'
"Yes Ma'am, Miss, I done been here a long time I done seed many come and go. Lots of change a has tuk place. I done told you 'bout f'um de cradle to de grave, and I enjoyed doin' it. All dat ricollectin' sho' tuk me back over many a rocky road, but dem was de days what ain't never gwine to be no more.
- Rachal Goings, ex-slave, Cape Girardeau, Missouri --- Federal Writers' Project, District #5, Sikeston, Missouri.
My full name wuz Rachal Exelina Mayberry (Mabrey) an' my mammy's name was Cynthy Minerva Jane Logan. You see I carried de name Mayberry cause dat wuz my masta's name. Masta' Josiah Mayberry. [ed. note: this is almost certainly JOSHUA Maberry, who was born about 1804 in TN or GA.] My mammy carried de name Logan 'cause dat wuz de famly she belonged to fo' Masta' bought her down in Buckskull, Arkansas. Masta had three sons, Dosh, his wife wuz Roberta, Alf his wife wuz Malissa and Byrd, his wife wuz Cully. In dem days we called 'em all by dere first name. We honored de ole Masta', but de younger folks, we didden call Masta' Dosh, or Masta' Byrd--or Missus Cully. It wuz jes Dosh, Byrd or Cully, ??didden' know de ole Missus. Dey tole me she went crazy and kilt herself shortly after wuz borned 'cause she though I was white. We wuz de only slave famly Masta' had en ?? wuz good to us. We all liked him, all o' us but cynthy, dat's my mammy I allus called ??or Cynthy till after de war wuz over. Cynthy always called him. "Ole Damn"o-she hated him 'cause he brought her fum Arkansas and left her twins an dey poppy down dere. Cynthy's daddy was a full Cherrokee. She wuz alwys mad and had a mean look in her eye. When she got her Indian up de white folks let her alone. She usta run off to de woods till she git over it. One time she tuk me and went to de woods an' it was nigh a month fore dey found her--and I wuz nigh dead. Dey kept me at de white folks house till I got strong again. Only one time masta' whip me. We made lots o' molasses on our place. OH! lots of molasses en' dey wuz allus some barrels standin' up right wid bungs in close to de bottom so de'lasses run out. One day I seed one o' de men fix him some sweetened tobacey. He had his tobaccy in a box about so big, en he push de bung des way, en dat way--den down, den up den he hol' it jes loose enough so de 'lasses trickle out over his tobaccy. I watched him an thought I'd fix me some, too. I got my box fixed en' I pushed at de bung, I pushed dis way, en dat way like I seed him do when all at once dat bung flew out en' dat lasses flew all over de place. De barrel was full en' it cum out so fast I couldn't get de bung back in. I tried till I wuz wadin' lasses to my knees. Den I run call Masta' and tell him a bung dun bust out. He say how you to dat? I tell him I jes knock again' 'en it flew out. Den he seed my box and he knowed how I done it. Den he laid me on de floor an' he put his foot on my haid. He took his switch and he gave me one good out. Den he kept beatin on de floor. I guess dat wuz to make de others think he wuz giving me a big beatin'. But I didden want that big foot on my haid no more. De big couse stood facing de road. It wuz built like lots o' houses wuz in dem days, de kitchen and dinin' room on one side. Masta's room on de udder with a big open hallway between. cross de front was a big porch. We called it a gallery. Across de road, back a piece ways wuz our cabin. Cynthy did all de cookin, an she wuz a good cook. We allus had plenty good things to eat. De white folks would sit down en eat, enwhen dey's through we'd sit down at de same table. I members de first shoes I ever had. One of de men had got em fo' his little girl, en' dey was too small. So he giv' 'em to my step-daddy for me. Dey uz too big but I wore em en wuz proudof em. They wuz so big fo' me, they went dis way en' dat way en' den de heels went allcrooked. I wore 'em till bout de time de first snow came den I guess I though I'd wore 'em long enuf an' I throwed em away. My step daddy whipped me for dat and made me wear 'em all winter.
I must a been bout eight year old when de war start. Fust I knowed, one day Masta said to me. "Child go out to de gate an see if anyone comin." I went to de gate like he tole me an' dere was men comin down de road. Whew! I never seed so many men in all my life. I went back en' tole him. He didden' say nuthin' but lit out the back way across the fields an we didden see him again fo' some time.
After that we saw lots o' sojers--dey'd stop at our place but dey never bother nuthin. Masta told us allus to have plenty cookin' an bakin' ready when de sojers came. Cynthy'd have de kitchan cupboard piled full o' lightbread and cakes and pies--sometime dey's Rebel sojers an sometimes dey's Reublicans--We called de Northerns Republicans. He cud allus tell 'em. The Rebels wore brown coats and the Northerners wore blue suits wid pretty gold pieces on dey shoulders. My! but dey wuz pretty.
Masta' ud come home once en awhile --an den one day he come home I can see him yet asittin by de kitchen stove. De stove sat back in de big fireplace far enuf so de pipe go up de flue but not too far so you could look in de oven. Dere sat de Masta. Masta' died en if I'd a know'd what I know now I could have saved him. I'd a took ??g elder leaves en boiled em to make a tea--den I'd a poured dat in de sore en it ud got well.
Masta' musta had hundreds a acres--cause he give each o' his boys a big farm-en dey was a dotter Caroline, by his fust wife--I forgit bout her--he give her a farm, too--Des a down in Stoddard County, near Advance. Shortly after dat Dosh died, on de rest sold at en' went to Texas.
We seed Masta' lots a times after he died. I sez it wuz Masta' cause it looked like ?? One day I was standin lookin thru de bars o' de gate wen I seen out in de road de largest dog I ever seed in all my life. He wuz standin' der lookin' at me. I seys to my other, Look! he's got thick sandy red hair like Masta's, on he's got a nose like Masta's, on he's gos eyes like Masta's, an he sho' do like like Masta'--Den I run back mto de gallery where de adder folks is. Dat dog stan' dere lookin at us, de big brush on his tail jes a wavin', den he reach thru de gate wid one paw, en onlatch it, and walked right in. The gate went shut agin but it didden make no noise. Den he cum up de walk en go rite across de gallery in front of us. He jump over de side fence, en run across de field, en go inter de woods. We know'd it wuz Masta', jes cum to look aroun, en it git so he'd cum every day 'bout noon, jes when Masta' always cum in fo' dinner. We ain't never seed him cum outer de grave yard, but he always com frum dat way. En one day I wuz playing in de doorway of our cabin an I looked across to de big house, and dere sat Masta' in his big chair on de gallery. I called Mammy en she says--"If youre lyin', I'll whup you". But she cum en look, en she seed him too, he had his white shirt-sleeve rolled up to his elbow and his red flannel undershit sleeve down to his wrist jes like he uster wear it. Der he sat en while we wus lookin he got up en walked off around the house.
I members one evenin' bout dusk I wuz commimthru de cotton patch, an' I run plum into the man crawlin' along--Dat wuz durin' de war, en der he wuz crawlin' on his hands en knees. he had de biggest hands I ever seed on a human, an his feet wasn't ever touchin de groun'--ley dey wuz jes floppin' one over de udder, dis way. An his face!--I've seed false faces but this wuz de worst I ever seed--dere wuz big red en white stripes all across his face. He rared up an looked at me like a dog rare on his haunces, and jes' dat way he wuz taller den I wuz. I didden stop to look again' but I lit out en run through dat cotton patch. Lawd ha' mercy! how I did run. I jes' knocked dat cotton one way er nother--en dey didden whip me for it when I tole em bout it nuther. Nex' mornin' we went down der to look, move seed de tracks where his knees had made-thru de cotton patch, cross the road, en enter de woods. But no body else never did see him. I often studied, wuz he natchel, or jes a ghost.
When my little brother wuz borned, I members dat day. Mammy and I wuz working out in the corn patch. She wuz coverin corn, an she jes had bout three or four more rows to coverthen she ran to de house. Dey wuz jes one room en she tried to made de udder children go outside but dey wouldn' go, so she ran out side in de chimney corner, en soon dey heard.
- Jake Barrens, ex-slave, Gatesville, Coryell County, Texas.
I married Mary Ann Mayberry of dis place, de daughter of a pioneer fambly, on February 13, 1881, an' lived wid her 'till she died November 7, 1926. As I wasn't a slave when I married, my wedden' was about like mos' of de colored weddens now. I didn' have no fine close, I was workin' for small wages an' I jus' had what I could buy, a suit an' clean shirt, looked de best I could an' dat was all.
We had fourteen chillun five boys an' nine girls. Dere is two boys an' seven girls livin' now. I got one boy in Los Angeles. California; one boy in Tulsa, Oklahoma; an one girl in Italy, Texas. I also got five grand-chillun liven' an' two dead. All my chillun work an git along good, de boys work at common labor an' de girls work about peoples homes doin' de washin' an ironin' an' some of dem cook.
I hab allus lived a good useful live an' have never been convicted or charged wid any crime. I have never been threatened in any way dat I knows of.
No'm I can't read an' write 'cause I had no chance to go to school, since dere was no schools in de days of early youth an' my mother was a widder wid odder chillun dependent on me as I was de first born an' oldest chile my mother had.
'Course all de slaves thought freedom would be better dan slavery but my mother said ef de slaves had a good an' kind marster dat dey was better off in de way of a liven' when dey was slaves. 'Cause ef dey got sick de marster had de same doctor wid dem he had wid his own chillun an' wife.
When I was a chile, back in de days 'fore freedom, we jus' played about de place in de yard wid de white chillun some, dey always did like to play wid us colored or (nigger chillun) as dey called us 'cause we allus humored dem an dey could allus have dere way about what ever we was playin'. We played wid marbles an a lot of singin' games dat we would ring up to do. No'm I don't 'member none of de songs it hav' been so long an' besides de white chillun knowed dem mos' de time an' we jus' listened to dem an' knowed what to do.
On Saturday afternoon an' Sundays if we would get permission from de over-seer we could go to see de slaves on odder farms an' mother would always clean us up an' dress us in our best when she took us to anodder farm to see de slaves dere.
We never did go to church. It seemed like de church was jus foh de white folks.
George Bollinger, ex-slave from Missouri.
"Dey was one man had a-what you call it? A 'vinin' rod. That points to where things is hid. But he didn't find it neither. And then out by de Maberry place, close to Gordenville -- who-e-e - I's sure enough seen things out dere lots of times. You know where dat clump of peach trees is at de corner of de fence? Dey always seems to come from right there. I worked out there for a long time. We'd get out to work early, sometimes 'twasn't good and day.
"One morning I's coming along there, on a hoss I was, and I met a hossman. He looks funny to me and when he asks me something I says, 'Git on. I ain't talking to you!' But he says, 'wait, I wants to talk to you!' As I says, he looks funny to me and I pulls out my pistol. I always carries my gun, and I think if he makes a pass at me I'll git him. But I goes on without looking back. Now just dat one man is all I seen, but when I gets past, dey is lots of talking like dey is six or eight men. But I didn't look back.
"One morning I'd got out there real early, too early to go into de field and I thinks I'll rest awhile under de tree. I had my eyes shut for a while when something bothered me. When I opened up my eyes there was a lot a strange hosses standing 'round me in a ring. I junped up and hollered, 'git out'. Dey turned and ran and dey run right off a steep bank on the other side of de field.
"Did you see them down there?" he was asked.
"Cose I never, nobody else never neither, dey wasn't dere, dat's why," he answered.
"Lord, when I thinks of de way we used to work. Out in de field before day and work till plumb derk. My boss would say, 'George take two men, or maybe three men, and git dat field plowed, or dat woods patch cleared'. And he knowed if he tell me, de work would be done.
"And I worked at anything. One time I steamboated for eight years. But what do dese young folks know 'bout work? Nuthin'l Look at dat grandson of mine, just orossed de porch--why he's fourteen and he can't even use a ax. Too young? Go on with you!
"I tells you dese young folks just don't know how to work.
Dey has too much studying up here (pointing to his head and making motions like wheels going round.) When I's his age I's working at anything I could find. I worked on a farm and on a steemboat, I carried cross ties--just anything where I could earn money. and I saved money, too. When we bought dis house I had $2,400 saved up. And men was stronger in dem days and had better health.
"Dese young folks want too easy living. And dey ain't brung up to show respect to old folks like we is. If I goes down de walk and a bunch young folks is coming along, I knows I's got to step out of de way--'cause dey won't give any. And if some little ones on roller skates is coming down de sidewalk--you better git off or dey'll run right into you.
A note about the source of the Slave Narratives
Description: The collection contains over 20,000 pages of type-scripted interviews with more than 3,500 former slaves, collected over a ten-year period. In 1929, an effort began at Fisk University in Tennessee and Southern University in Louisiana to document the life stories of these former slaves. Kentucky State College continued the work in 1934 and from 1936-1939, the Federal Writer's Project (a federal work project that was a part of The New Deal) launched a coordinated national effort to collect narratives from former slaves.
This database provides a poignant picture of what it was to live as a slave in the American South. This collection is the most complete available picture of the African-American experience with slavery. There is simply no other historical document quite like it.
Source Information: Ancestry.com. Slave Narratives. [database online] Orem, UT: Ancestry, Inc., 2000. Original source: Works Project Administration. Federal Writers Project. Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. Washington, D.C.: n.p.