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Title: Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States - From Interviews with Former Slaves - Florida Narratives
Author: Work Projects Administration
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States - From Interviews with Former Slaves - Florida Narratives" ***

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[TR: ***] = Transcriber Note
[HW: ***] = Handwritten Note


A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
From Interviews with Former Slaves





the Federal Writers' Project of
the Works Progress Administration
for the State of Florida


Anderson, Josephine
Andrews, Samuel Simeon
Austin, Bill

Berry, Frank
Biddie, Mary Minus
Boyd, Rev. Eli
Boynton, Rivana
Brooks, Matilda
Bynes, Titus

Campbell, Patience
Clayton, Florida
Coates, Charles
Coates, Irene
Coker, Neil

Davis, Rev. Young Winston
Dorsey, Douglas
Douglass, Ambrose
Duck, Mama
Dukes, Willis

Everett, Sam and Louisa

Gaines, Duncan
Gantling, Clayborn
Gragston, Arnold
Gresham, Harriett

Hall, Bolden
Hooks, Rebecca

Jackson, Rev. Squires

Kemp, John Henry (Prophet)
Kinsey, Cindy

Lee, Randall
Lycurgas, Edward

McCray, Amanda
Maxwell, Henry
Mitchell, Christine
Moore, Lindsey
Mullen, Mack

Napoleon, Louis
Nickerson, Margrett

Parish, Douglas
Pretty, George

Scott, Anna
Sherman, William
Smalls, Samuel

Taswell, Salena
Taylor, Dave
Thomas, Acie
Thomas, Shack
Towns, Luke

Williams, Willis
Wilson, Claude Augusta

COMBINED INTERVIEWS [TR: County names added]

  Charley Roberts
  Jennie Colder
  Banana Williams
  Frank Bates
  William Neighten
  Rivana Boynton [TR: Riviana in text]
  Salena Taswell

  Annie Trip
  Millie Sampson
  Annie Gail
  Jessie Rowell
  Margaret White
  Priscilla Mitchell
  Fannie McCay
  Hattie Thomas
  David Lee

Jules A. Frost
Tampa, Florida
October 20, 1937



"I kaint tell nothin bout slavery times cept what I heared folks talk
about. I was too young to remember much but I recleck seein my granma
milk de cows an do de washin. Granpa was old, an dey let him do light
work, mosly fish an hunt.

"I doan member nothin bout my daddy. He died when I was a baby. My
stepfather was Stephen Anderson, an my mammy's name was Dorcas. He come
fum Vajinny, but my mammy was borned an raised in Wilmington. My name
was Josephine Anderson fore I married Willie Jones. I had two
half-brothers youngern me, John Henry an Ed, an a half-sister, Elsie. De
boys had to mind de calves an sheeps, an Elsie nursed de missus' baby. I
done de cookin, mosly, an helped my mammy spin.

"I was ony five year old when dey brung me to Sanderson, in Baker
County, Florida. My stepfather went to work for a turpentine man, makin
barrels, an he work at dat job till he drop dead in de camp. I reckon he
musta had heart disease.

"I doan recleck ever seein my mammy wear shoes. Even in de winter she go
barefoot, an I reckon cold didn't hurt her feet no moran her hands an
face. We all wore dresses made o' homespun. De thread was spun an de
cloth wove right in our own home. My mamy an granmamy an me done it in
spare time.

"My weddin dress was blue--blue for true. I thought it was de prettiest
dress I ever see. We was married in de court-house, an dat be a mighty
happy day for me. Mos folks dem days got married by layin a broom on de
floor an jumpin over it. Dat seals de marriage, an at de same time
brings em good luck.

"Ya see brooms keeps hants away. When mean folks dies, de old debbil
sometimes doan want em down dere in da bad place, so he makes witches
out of em, an sends em back. One thing bout witches, dey gotta count
everthing fore dey can git acrosst it. You put a broom acrosst your door
at night an old witches gotta count ever straw in dat broom fore she can
come in.

"Some folks can jes nachly see hants bettern others. Teeny, my gal can.
I reckon das cause she been borned wid a veil--you know, a caul, sumpum
what be over some babies' faces when dey is borned. Folks borned wid a
caul can see sperrits, an tell whas gonna happen fore it comes true.

"Use to worry Teeny right smart, seein sperrits day an night. My husban
say he gonna cure her, so he taken a grain o' corn an put it in a bottle
in Teeny's bedroom over night. Den he planted it in de yard, an driv
plenty sticks roun da place. When it was growin good, he put leaf-mold
roun de stalk, an watch it ever day, an tell us don't _nobody_ touch de
stalk. It raise three big ears o' corn, an when dey was good roastin
size he pick em off an cook em an tell Teeny eat ever grain offn all
three cobs. He watch her while she done it, an she ain never been
worried wid hants no more. She sees em jes the same, but dey doan bother
her none.

"Fust time I ever knowed a hant to come into our quarters was when I was
jes big nough to go out to parties. De game what we use to play was spin
de plate. Ever time I think on dat game it gives me de shivers. One time
there was a strange young man come to a party where I was. Said he name
Richard Green, an he been takin keer o' horses for a rich man what was
gonna buy a plantation in dat county. He look kinda slick an
dressed-up--diffunt from de rest. All de gals begin to cast sheep's eyes
at him, an hope he gonna choose dem when day start playin games.

"Pretty soon dey begin to play spin de plate an it come my turn fust
thing. I spin it an call out 'Mister Green!' He jumps to de middle o' de
ring to grab de plate an 'Bang'--bout four guns go off all at oncet, an
Mister Green fall to de floor plum dead shot through de head.

"Fore we knowed who done it, de sheriff an some more men jump down from
de loft, where dey bean hidin an tell us quit hollerin an doan be
scairt. Dis man be a bad deeper--you know, one o' them outlaws what
kills folks. He some kinda foreigner, an jes tryin make blieve he a
niggah, so's they don't find him.

"Wall we didn't feel like playin no more games, an f'ever after dat you
coundn't git no niggahs to pass dat house alone atter dark. Dey say da
place was hanted, an if you look through de winder any dark night you
could see a man in dere spinnin de plate.

"I sho didn't never look in, cause I done seen more hants aready dan I
ever wants to see agin. One night I was goin to my granny's house. It
was jes comin dark, an when I got to de crick an start across on de
foot-log, dere on de other end o' dat log was a man wid his haid cut off
an layin plum over on his shoulder. He look at me, kinda pitiful, an
don't say a word--but I closely never waited to see what he gonna talk
about. I pure flew back home. I was so scairt I couldn't tell de folks
what done happened till I set down an get my breath.

"Nother time, not so long ago, when I live down in Gary, I be walkin
down de railroad track soon in de mornin an fore I knowed it, dere was a
white man walkin long side o' me. I jes thought it were somebody, but I
wadn't sho, so I turn off at de fust street to git way from dere. De nex
mawnin I be boin[TR: goin?] to work at de same time. It were kinda foggy
an dark, so I never seen nobody till I mighty nigh run into dis same
man, an dere he goes, bout half a step ahead o' me, his two hands restin
on his be-hind.

"I was so close up to him I could see him plain as I see you. He had
fingernails dat long, all cleaned an polished. He was tull, an had on a
derby hat, an stylish black clothes. When I walk slow he slow down, an
when I stop, he stop, never oncet lookin roun. My feets make a noise on
de cinders tween de rails, but he doan make a mite o' noise. Dat was de
fust thing got me scairt, but I figger I better find out for sho ifen he
be a sperrit; so I say, gook an loud: 'Lookee here, Mister, I jez an old
colored woman, an I knows my place, an I wisht you wouldn't walk wid me
counta what folks might say.'

"He never looked roun no moren if I wan't there, an I cut my eyes roun
to see if there is somebody I can holler to for help. When I looked back
he was gone; gone, like dat, without makin a sound. Den I knowed he be a
hant, an de nex day when I tell somebody bout it dey say he be de genman
what got killed at de crossin a spell back, an other folks has seen him
jus like I did. Dey say dey can hear babies cryin at de trestle right
near dere, an ain't nobody yit ever found em.

"Dat ain de ony hant I ever seen. One day I go out to de smokehouse to
git a mess o' taters. It was after sundown, but still purty light. When
I gits dere de door be unlocked an a big man standin half inside. 'What
you doin stealin our taters!' I hollers at him, an pow! He gone, jes
like dat. Did I git back to dat house! We mighty glad to eat grits an
cornbread dat night.

"When we livin at Titusville, I see my old mammy comin up de road jus as
plain as day. I stan on de porch, fixin to run an meet her, when all of
a sudden she be gone. I begin to cry an tell de folks I ain't gonna see
my mammy agin. An sho nuff, I never did. She die at Sanderson, back in
West Florida, fore I got to see her.

"Does I blieve in witches? S-a-a-y, I knows more bout em den to jes
'blieve'--I been _rid_ by em. Right here in dis house. You ain never
been rid by a witch? Well, you mighty lucky. Dey come in de night,
ginnerly soon after you drop off to sleep. Dey put a bridle on your
head, an a bit in your mouth, an a saddle on your back. Den dey take off
their skin an hang it up on de wall. Den dey git on you an some nights
dey like to ride you to death. You try to holler but you kaint, counta
the iron bit in your mouth, an you feel like somebody holdin you down.
Den dey ride you back home an into your bed. When you hit de bed you
jump an grab de kivers, an de witch be gone, like dat. But you know you
been rid mighty hard, cause you all wet wid sweat, an you feel plum
tired out.

"Some folks say you jus been dreamin, counta de blood stop circulatin in
yaur back. Shucks! Dey ain never been rid by a witch, or dey ain sayin

"Old witch docter, he want ten dollers for a piece of string, what he
say some kinda charm words over. Tells me to make a image o' dat old
witch outa dough, an tie dat string roun its neck; den when I bake it in
de oven, it swell up an de magic string shet off her breath. I didn't
have no ten dollar, so he say ifen I git up five dollar he make me a
hand--you know, what collored folks cals a jack. Dat be a charm what
will keep de witches away. I knows how to make em, but day doan do no
good thout de magic words, an I doan know dem. You take a little pinch
o' dried snake skin an some graveyard dirt, an some red pepper an a
lock o' your hair wrapped roun some black rooster feathers. Den you spit
whiskey on em an wrap em in red flannel an sew if into a ball bout dat
big. Den you hang it under your right armpit, an ever week you give it a
drink o' whiskey, to keep it strong an powful.

"Dat keep de witches fum ridin you; but nary one o' dese charms work wid
dis old witch. I got a purty good idee who she is, an she got a charm
powfuller dan both of dem. But she kaint git acrosst flaxseed, not till
she count ever seed. You doan blieve dat? Huh! I reckon I knows--I done
tried it out. I gits me a lil bag o' pure fresh flaxseed, an I sprinkle
it all roun de bed; den I put some on top of da mattress, an under de
sheet. Den I goes to bed an sleeps like a baby, an dat old witch doan
bother me no more.

"Ony oncet. Soon's I wake up, I light me a lamp an look on de floor an
dere, side o' my bed was my dress, layin right over dat flaxseed, so's
she could walk over on de dress, big as life. I snatch up de dress an
throw it an de bed; den I go to sleep, an I ain _never_ been bothered no

"Some folks reads de Bible backwards to keep witches fum ridin em, but
dat doan do me no good, cause I kaint read. But flaxseed work so good I
doan be studyin night-ridin witches no more."

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Rachel A. Austin, Field Worker
John A. Simms, Editor
Jacksonville, Florida
October 27, 1936


For almost 30 years Edward Waters College, an African Methodist
Episcopal School, located on the north side of Kings Road in the western
section of Jacksonville, has employed as watchman, Samuel Simeon Andrews
(affectionately called "Parson"), a former slave of A.J. Lane of
Georgia, Lewis Ripley of Beaufort, South Carolina, Ed Tillman of Dallas,
Texas, and John Troy of Union Springs, Alabama.

"Parson" was born November 18, 1850 in Macon, Georgia, at a place called
Tatum Square, where slaves were held, housed and sold. "Speculators"
(persons who traveled from place to place with slaves for sale) had
housed 84 slaves there--many of whom were pregnant women. Besides
"Parson," two other slave-children, Ed Jones who now lives in Sparta,
Georgia, and George Bailey were born in Tatum Square that night. The
morning after their births, a woman was sent from the nearby A.J. Lane
plantation to take care of the three mothers; this nurse proved to be
"Parson's" grandmother. His mother told him afterwards that the meeting
of mother and daughter was very jubilant, but silent and pathetic,
because neither could with safety show her pleasure in finding the
other. At the auction which was held a few days later, his mother,
Rachel, and her two sons, Solomon Augustus and her infant who was later
to be known as "Parson," were purchased by A.J. Lane who had previously
bought "Parson's" father, Willis, from a man named Dolphus of Albany,
Georgia; thus were husband and wife re-united. They were taken to Lane's
plantation three miles out of Sparta, Georgia, in Hancock County. Mr.
Lane owned 85 slaves and was known to be very kind and considerate.

"Parson" lived on the Lane plantation until he was eight years old, when
he was sold to Lewis Ripley of Beaufort, South Carolina, with whom he
lived for two years; he was then sold to Ed Tillman of Dallas, Texas; he
stayed on the Tillman plantation for about a year and until he was
purchased by John Troy of Union Springs, Alabama--the richest
slave-holder in Union Springs, Alabama; he remained with him until
Emancipation. He recalls that during one of these sales about $800.00
was paid for him.

He describes A.J. Lane as being a kind slave-holder who fed his slaves
well and whipped them but little. All of his other masters, he states,
were nice to children, but lashed and whipped the grown-ups.

Mr. Lane's family was comprised of his wife, Fannie (who also was very
kind to the slaves) five children, Harriett Ann, Jennie, Jeff, Frankie
and Mae Roxie, a brother (whose name he does not recall) who owned a few
slaves but was kind to those that he did own. Although very young during
slavery, "Parson" remembers many plantation activities and customs,
among which are the following: That the master's children and those of
the slaves on the plantation played together; the farm crops consisted
of corn, cotton, peas, wheat and oats; that the food for the slaves was
cooked in pots which were hung over a fire; that the iron ovens used by
the slaves had tops for baking; how during the Civil War, wheat, corn
and dried potatoes were parched and used as substitutes for coffee; that
his mother was given a peck of flour every two weeks; that a mixture of
salt and sand was dug from the earthern floor of the smokehouse and
water poured over it to get the salt drippings for seasoning; that most
medicine consisted of boiled roots; when thread and cloth were dyed with
the dye obtained from maple bark; when shoes were made on a wooden last
and soles and uppers fastened together with maple pegs; when the white
preachers preached "obey your masters"; that the first buggy that he saw
was owned by his master, A.J. Lane; it had a seat at the rear with rest
which was usually occupied by a man who was called the "waiter"; there
was no top to the seat and the "waiter" was exposed to the weather. He
recalls when wooden slats and tightened ropes were used for bed springs;
also the patience of "Aunt Letha" an old woman slave who took care of
the children in the neighborhood while their parents worked, and how
they enjoyed watching "Uncle Umphrey" tan cow and pig hides.

"Parson" describes himself as being very frisky as a boy and states that
he did but very little work and got but very few whippings. Twice he ran
away to escape being whipped and hid in asparagus beds in Sparta,
Georgia until nightfall; when he returned the master would not whip him
because he was apprehensive that he might run away again and be stolen
by poorer whites and thus cause trouble. The richer whites, he relates,
were afraid of the poorer whites; if the latter were made angry they
would round up the owners' sheep and turn them loose into their cotton
fields and the sheep would eat the cotton, row by row.

He compares the relationship between the rich and poor whites during
slavery with that of the white and Negro people of today.

With a face full of frowns, "Parson" tells of a white man persuading his
mother to let him tie her to show that he was master, promising not to
whip her, and she believed him. When he had placed her in a buck (hands
tied on a stick so that the stick would turn her in any direction) he
whipped her until the blood ran down her back.

With changed expression he told of an incident during the Civil War:
Slaves, he explained had to have passes to go from one plantation to
another and if one were found without a pass the "patrollers" would pick
him up, return him to his master and receive pay for their service. The
"patrollers" were guards for runaway slaves. One night they came to Aunt
Rhoda's house where a crowd of slaves had gathered and were going to
return them to their masters; Uncle Umphrey the tanner, quickly spaded
up some hot ashes and pitched it on them; all of the slaves escaped
unharmed, while all of the "patrollers" were badly injured; no one ever
told on Uncle Umphrey and when Aunt Rhoda was questioned by her master
she stated that she knew nothing about it but told them that the
"patrollers" had brought another "nigger" with them; her master took it
for granted that she spoke the truth since none of the other Negroes
were hurt. He remembers seeing this but does not remember how he, as a
little boy, was prevented from telling about it.

Asked about his remembrance or knowledge of the slaves' belief in magic
and spells he said: "I remember this and can just see the dogs running
around now. My mother's brother, "Uncle Dick" and "Uncle July" swore
they would not work longer for masters; so they ran away and lived in
the woods. In winter they would put cotton seed in the fields to rot for
fertilizer and lay in it for warmth. They would kill hogs and slip the
meat to some slave to cook for food. When their owners looked for them,
"Bob Amos" who raised "nigger hounds" (hounds raised solely to track
Negro slaves) was summoned and the dogs located them and surrounded them
in their hide-out; one went one way and one the other and escaped in the
swamps; they would run until they came to a fence--each kept some
"graveyard dust and a few lightwood splinters" with which they smoked
their feet and jumped the fence and the dogs turned back and could track
no further. Thus, they stayed in the woods until freedom, when they came
out and worked for pay. Now, you know "Uncle Dick" just died a few years
ago in Sparta, Georgia."

When the Civil War came he remembers hearing one night "Sherman is
coming." It was said that Wheeler's Cavalry of the Confederates was
always "running and fighting." Lane had moved the family to Macon,
Georgia, and they lived on a place called "Dunlap's Hill." That night
four preachers were preaching "Fellow soldiers, the enemy is just here
to Bolden's Brook, sixteen miles away and you may be carried into
judgment; prepare to meet your God." While they were preaching, bombs
began to fly because Wheeler's Cavalry was only six miles away instead
of 16 miles; women screamed and children ran. Wheeler kept wagons ahead
of him so that when one was crippled the other would replace it. He says
he imagines he hears the voice of Sherman now, saying: "Tell Wheeler to
go on to South Carolina; we will mow it down with grape shot and plow it
in with bombshell."

Emancipation came and with it great rejoicing. He recalls that
Republicans were called "Radicals" just after the close of the Civil

Mr. Lane was able to save all of his meat, silver, and other valuables
during the war by having a cave dug in the hog pasture; the hogs
trampled over it daily.

"Parson" states that among the papers in his trunk he has a piece of
money called "shin plasters" which was used during the Civil War.

The slaves were not allowed to attend schools of any kind; and school
facilities immediately following Emancipation were very poor; when the
first teacher, Miss Smith, a Yankee, came to Sparta, Georgia and began
teaching Sunday School, all of the children were given testaments or
catechisms which their parents were afraid for them to keep lest their
masters whip them, but the teacher called on the parents and explained
to them that they were as free as their former masters.

"Parson" states that when he was born, his master named him "Monk." His
grandfather, Willis Andrews, who was a free man of Pittsburg,
Pennsylvania, purchased the freedom of his wife Lizzie, but was never
able to purchase their four children; his father, also named Willis,
died a slave, was driven in an ox-cart to a hole that had been dug, put
in it and covered up; his mother nor children could stop work to attend
the funeral, but after the Emancipation, he and a brother returned,
found "Uncle Bob" who helped bury him and located his grave. Soon after
he had been given his freedom, "Parson" walked from Union Springs,
Alabama where his last master had taken him--back to Macon, Georgia, and
rejoined his mother, Rachel, his brothers, Samuel Augustus, San
Francisco, Simon Peter, Lewis, Carter, Powell Wendell and sisters,
Lizzie and Ann; they all dropped the name of their master, Lane, and
took the name of their grandfather, Andrews.

"Parson" possesses an almost uncanny memory and attributes it to his
inability to write things down and therefore being entirely dependent
upon his memory. He had passed 30 years of age and had two children who
could read and write before he could. His connection with Edward Waters
College has given him a decided advantage for education and there are
few things that he cannot discuss intelligently. He has come in contact
with thousands of students and all of the ministers connected with the
African Methodist Episcopal Church in the State of Florida and has
attended all of the State and General Conferences of this Church for the
past half century. He has lived to be 85 years of age and says he will
live until he is 106. This he will do because he claims: "Your life is
in your hand" and tells these narratives as proof:

"In 1886 when the present Atlantic Coast Line Railroad was called the
S.F.W. and I was coming from Savannah to Florida, some tramps intent
upon robbery had removed spikes from the bridge and just as the alarm
was given and the train about to be thrown from the track, I raised the
window and jumped to safety. I then walked back two miles to report it.
More than 70 were killed who might have been saved had they jumped as I
did. As a result, the S.F. and W. gave me a free pass for life with
which I rode all over the United States and once into Canada." He
proudly displays this pass and states that he would like to travel over
the United States again but that the school keeps him too close.

"I had been very sick but took no medicine; my wife went out to visit
Sister Nancy--shortly afterwards I heard what sounded like walking, and
in my imagination saw death entering, push the door open and draw back
to leap on me; I jumped through the window, my shirt hung, but I pulled
it out. Mr. Hodges, a Baptist preacher was hoeing in his garden next
door, looked at me and laughed. A woman yelled 'there goes Reverend
Andrews, and death is on him.' I said 'no he isn't on me but he's down
there.' Pretty soon news came that Reverend Hodges had dropped dead.
Death had come for someone and would not leave without them. I was weak
and he tried me first. Reverend Hodges wasn't looking, so he slipped up
on him."

"Parson" came to Umatilla, Florida, in 1882 from Georgia with a Mr.
Rogers brought him and six other men, their wives and children, to work
on the railroad; he was made the section "boss" which job he held until
a white man threatened to "dock" him because he was wearing a stiff
shirt and "setting over a white man" when he should have a shovel. This
was the opinion of a man in the vicinity, but another white friend,
named Javis warned him and advised him not to leave Umatilla, but
persuaded him to work for him cutting cord wood; although "Parson" had
never seen wood corded, he accepted the job and was soon given a pass to
Macon, Georgia, to get other men; he brought 13 men back and soon became
their "boss" and bought a house and decided to do a little hunting. When
he left this job he did some hotel work, cooked and served as train
porter. In 1892 he was ordained to preach and has preached and pastored
regularly from that time up to two years ago.

He is of medium size and build and partially bald-headed; what little
hair he has is very grey; he has keen eyes; his eyesight is very good;
he has never had to wear glasses. He is as supple as one half his age;
it is readily demonstrated as he runs, jumps and yells while attending
the games of his favorite pastimes, baseball and football. Wherever the
Edward Waters College football team goes, there "Parson" wants to go
also. Whenever the crowd at a game hears the scream "Come on boys,"
everyone knows it is "Parson" Andrews.

"Parson" has had two wives, both of whom are dead, and is the father of
eight children: Willis (deceased) Johnny, Sebron Reece of Martin,
Tennessee, Annie Lee, of Macon, Georgia, Hattie of Jacksonville, Ella
(deceased) Mary Lou Rivers of Macon, Georgia, and Augustus

"Parson" does not believe in taking medicine, but makes a liniment with
which he rubs himself. He attributes his long life to his sense of
"having quitting sense" and not allowing death to catch him unawares. He
asserts that if he reaches the bedside of a kindred in time, he will
keep him from dying by telling him: "Come on now, don't be crazy and

He states that he enjoyed his slavery life and since that time life has
been very sweet. He knows and remembers most of the incidents connected
with members of the several Conferences of the African Methodist
Episcopal Church in Florida and can tell you in what minutes you may
find any of the important happenings of the past 30 or 40 years.


1. Personal interview with Samuel Simeon Andrews in the dormitory of
Edward Waters college Kings Road, Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Martin Richardson, Field Worker
Greenwood, Florida
March 18, 1937


Bill Austin--he says his name is NOT Williams--is an ex-slave who gained
his freedom because his mistress found it more advantageous to free him
than to watch him.

Austin lives near Greenwood, Jackson County, Florida, on a small farm
that he and his children operate. He says that he does not know his age,
does not remember ever having heard it. But he must be pretty old, he
says, "'cause I was a right smart size when Mistuh Smith went off to
fight." He thinks he may be over a hundred--and he looks it--but he is
not sure.

Austin was born between Greene and Hancock Counties, on the Oconee
River, in Georgia. He uses the names of the counties interchangeably; he
cannot be definite as to just which one was his birthplace. "The line
between 'em was right there by us," he says.

His father was Jack; for want of a surname of his own he took that of
his father and called himself Jack Smith. During a temporary shortage of
funds on his master's part, Jack and Bill's mother was sold to a planter
in the northern part of the state. It was not until long after his
emancipation that Bill ever saw either of them again.

Bill's father Jack was regarded as a fairly good carpenter, mason and
bricklayer; at times his master would let him do small jobs of repairing
of building for neighboring planters. These jobs sometimes netted him
hams, bits of cornmeal, cloth for dresses for his wife and children, and
other small gifts; these he either used for his small family or
bartered with the other slaves. Sometimes he sold them to the slaves for
money; cash was not altogether unknown among the slaves on the Smith

Austin gives an interesting description of his master, Thomas Smith. He
says that "sumptimes he was real rich and all of us had a good time. The
wuk wasn't hard then, cause if we had big crops he would borrow some
he'p from the other white folks. He used to give us meat every day, and
plenty of other things. One time he bought all of us shoes, and on
Sunday night would let us go to wherever the preacher was holdin'
meeting. He used to give my papa money sumptimes, too.

"But they used to whisper that he would gamble a lot. We used to see a
whole lot of men come up to the house sumptimes and stay up most of the
night. Sumptimes they would stay three or four days. And once in a while
after one of these big doings Mistuh Smith would look worried, and we
wouldn't get no meat and vary little of anything else for a long time.
He would be crabby and beat us for any little thing. He used to tell my
papa that he wouldn't have a d--- cent until he made some crops."

A few years before he left to enter the war the slave owner came into
possession of a store near his plantation. This store was in Greensboro.
Either because the business paid or because of another of his economic
'bad spells', ownership of his plantation passed to a man named Kimball
and most of the slaves, with the exception of Bill Austin and one or two
women--either transferred with the plantation or sold. Bill was kept to
do errands and general work around the store.

Bill learned much about the operation of the store, with the result that
when Mr. Smith left with the Southern Army he left his wife and Bill to
continue its operation. By this time there used to be frequent stories
whispered among the slaves in the neighborhood--and who came with their
masters into the country store--of how this or that slave ran away, and
with the white man-power of the section engaged in war, remained at
large for long periods or escaped altogether.

These stories always interested Austin, with the result that one morning
he was absent when Mrs. Smith opened the store. He remained away 'eight
or nine days, I guess', before a friend of the Smiths found him near
Macon and threatened that he would 'half kill him' if he didn't return

Either the threat--or the fact that in Macon there were no readily
available foodstuffs to be eaten all day as in the store--caused Austin
to return. He was roundly berated by his mistress, but finally forgiven
by the worried woman who needed his help around the store more than she
needed the contrite promises and effusive declarations that he would
'behave alright for the rest of his life.'

And he did behave; for several whole months. But by this tine he was 'a
great big boy', and he had caught sight of a young woman who took his
fancy on his trip to Macon. She was free herself; her father had bought
her freedom with that of her mother a few years before, and did odd jobs
for the white people in the city for a livelihood. Bill had thoughts of
going back to Macon, marrying her, and bringing her back 'to work for
Missus with me.' He asked permission to go, and was refused on the
grounds that his help was too badly needed at the store. Shortly
afterward he had again disappeared.

'Missus', however, knew too much of his plans by this time, and it was
no difficult task to have him apprehended in Macon. Bill may not have
had such great objections to the apprehension, either, he says, because
by this time he had learned that the young woman in Macon had no
slightest intention to give up her freedom to join him at Greensboro.

A relative of Mrs. Smith gave Austin a sound beating on his return; for
a time it had the desired effect, and he stayed at the store and gave no
further trouble. Mrs. Smith, however, thought of a surer plan of keeping
him in Greensboro; she called him and told him he might have his
freedom. Bill never attempted to again leave the place--although he did
not receive a cent for his work--until his master had died, the store
passed into the hands of one of Mr. Smith's sons, and the emancipation
of all the slaves was a matter of eight or ten years' history!

When he finally left Greene and Hancock Counties--about fifty-five years
ago, Austin settled in Jackson County. He married and began the raising
of a family. At present he has nineteen living children, more
grandchildren than he can accurately tell, and is living with his third
wife, a woman in her thirties.


1. Henry Harvey, old resident of Jackson County; Greenwood-Malone Road,
about 2-1/2 miles N.W. of Greenwood, Florida

2. Interview with subject, near Greenwood, Florida, (Rural Route 2,

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Pearl Randolph, Field Worker
John A. Simms, Editor
Jacksonville, Florida
August 18, 1936


Frank Berry, living at 1614 west Twenty-Second street, Jacksonville,
Florida, claims to be a grandson of Osceola, last fighting chief of the
Seminole tribe. Born in 1858 of a mother who was part of the human
chattel belonging to one of the Hearnses of Alachua County in Florida,
he served variously during his life as a State and Federal Government
contractor, United States Marshal (1881), Registration Inspector (1879).

Being only eight years of age when the Emancipation Proclamation was
issued, he remembers little of his life as a slave. The master was kind
in an impersonal way but made no provision for his freedmen as did many
other Southerners--usually in the form of land grants--although he gave
them their freedom as soon as the proclamation was issued. Berry learned
from his elders that their master was a noted duelist and owned several
fine pistols some of which have very bloody histories.

It was during the hectic days that followed the Civil War that Berry
served in the afore-mentioned offices. He held his marshalship under a
Judge King of Jacksonville, Florida. As State and Federal Government
Contractor he built many public structures, a few of which are still in
use, among them the jetties at Mayport, Florida which he helped to build
and a jail at High Springs, Florida.

It was during the war between the Indians and settlers that Berry's
grandmother, serving as a nurse at Tampa Bay was captured by the Indians
and carried away to become the squaw of their chief; she was later
re-captured by her owners. This was a common procedure, according to
Berry's statements. Indians often captured slaves, particularly the
women, or aided in their escape and almost always intermarried with
them. The red men were credited with inciting many uprisings and
wholesale escapes among the slaves.

Country frolics (dances) were quite often attended by Indians, whose
main reason for going was to obtain whiskey, for which they had a very
strong fondness. Berry describes an intoxicated Indian as a "tornado mad
man" and recalls a hair raising incident that ended in tragedy for the

A group of Indians were attending one of these frolics at Fort Myers
and everything went well until one of the number became intoxicated,
terrorizing the Negroes with bullying, and fighting anyone with whom he
could "pick" a quarrel. "Big Charlie" an uncle of the narrator was
present and when the red man challenged him to a fight made a quick end
of him by breaking his neck at one blow.

For two years he was hounded by revengeful Indians, who had an uncanny
way of ferreting out his whereabouts no matter where he went. Often he
sighted them while working in the fields and would be forced to flee to
some other place. This continued with many hairbreadth escapes, until he
was forced to move several states away.

Berry recalls the old days of black aristocracy when Negroes held high
political offices in the state of Florida, when Negro tradesmen and
professionals competed successfully and unmolested with the whites. Many
fortunes were made by men who are now little more than beggars. To this
group belongs the man who in spite of reduced circumstances manages
still to make one think of top hats and state affairs. Although small of
stature and almost disabled by rheumatism, he has the fiery dignity and
straight back that we associate with men who have ruled others. At the
same time he might also be characterized as a sweet old person, with all
the tender reminiscences of the old days and the and childish
prejudices against all things new. As might be expected, he lives in the
past and always is delighted whenever he is asked to tell about the only
life that he has ever really lived. Together with his aged wife he lives
with his children and is known to local relief agencies who supplement
the very small income he now derives from what is left of what was at
one time a considerable fortune.


Personal interview with subject, Frank Berry, 1614 West Twenty-Second
Street, Jacksonville, Florida



Mary Minus Biddie, age one hundred five was born in Pensacola, Florida,
1833, and raised in Columbia County. She is married, and has several
children. For her age she is exceptionally active, being able to wash
and do her house work. With optimism she looks forward to many more
years of life. Her health is excellent.

Having spent thirty-two years of her life as a slave she relates vividly
some of her experiences.

Her master Lancaster Jamison was a very kind man and never mistreated
his slaves. He was a man of mediocre means, and instead of having a
large plantation as was usual in those days, he ran a boarding house,
the revenue therefrom furnishing him substance for a livelihood. He had
a small farm from which fresh produce was obtained to supply the needs
of his lodgers. Mary's family were his only slaves. The family consisted
of her mother, father, brother and a sister. The children called the old
master "Fa" and their father "Pappy." The master never resented this
appellation, and took it in good humor. Many travelers stopped at his
boarding house; Mary's mother did the cooking, her father "tended" the
farm, and Mary, her brother and sister, did chores about the place.
There was a large one-room house built in the yard in which the family
lived. Her father had a separate garden in which he raised his produce,
also a smokehouse where the family meats were kept. Meats were smoked
in order to preserve them.

During the day Mary's father was kept so busy attending his master's
farm that there was no time for him to attend to a little farm that he
was allowed to have. He overcame this handicap, however, by setting up
huge scaffolds in the field which he burned and from the flames that
this fire emitted he could see well enough to do what was necessary to
his farm.

The master's first wife was a very kind woman; at her death Mary's
master moved from Pensacola to Columbia County.

Mary was very active with the plow, she could handle it with the agility
of a man. This prowess gained her the title of "plow girl."


Stoves were unknown and cooking was done in a fireplace that was built
of clay, a large iron rod was built in across the opening of the
fireplace on which were hung pots that had special handles that fitted
about the rod holding them in place over the blazing fire as the food
cooking was done in a moveable oven which was placed in the fireplace
over hot coals or corn cobs. Potatoes were roasted in ashes. Oft' times
Mary's father would sit in front of the fireplace until a late hour in
the night and on arising in the morning the children would find in a
corner a number of roasted potatoes which their father had thoughtfully
roasted and which the children readily consumed.


Matches were unknown; a flint rock and a file provided the fire. This
occured by striking a file against a flint rock which threw off sparks
that fell into a wad of dry cotton used for the purpose. This cotton, as
a rule, readily caught fire. This was fire and all the fire needed to
start any blaze.


The white folk wove the cloth on regular looms which were made into
dresses for the slaves. For various colors of cloth the thread was dyed.
The dye was made by digging up red shank and wild indigo roots which
were boiled. The substance obtained being some of the best dye to be


Bread was made from flour and wheat. The meat used was pork, beef,
mutton and goat. For preservation it was smoked and kept in the
smokehouse. Coffee was used as a beverage and when this ran out as oft'
times happened, parched peanuts were used for the purpose.

Mary and family arose before daybreak and prepared breakfast for the
master and his family, after which they ate in the same dining room.
When this was over the dishes were washed by Mary, her brother and
sister. The children then played about until meals were served again.


Washing was done in home-made wooden tubs, and boiling in iron pots
similar to those of today. Soap was made from fat and lye.


The only amusement to be had was a big candy pulling, or hog killing and
chicken cooking. The slaves from the surrounding plantations were
allowed to come together on these occasions. A big time was had.


The slaves went to the "white folks" church on Sundays. They were seated
in the rear of the church. The white minister would arise and exhort the
slaves to 'mind your masters, you owe them your respect.' An old
Christian slave who perceived things differently could sometimes be
heard to mumble, "Yeah, wese jest as good as deys is only deys white and
we's black, huh." She dare not let the whites hear this. At times
meetin's were held in a slave cabin where some "inspired" slave led the

In the course of years Mr. Jamison married again. His second wife was a
veritable terror. She was always ready and anxious to whip a slave for
the least misdemeanor. The master told Mary and her mother that before
he would take the chance of them running away on account of her meanness
he would leave her. As soon as he would leave the house this was a
signal for his wife to start on a slave. One day, with a kettle of hot
water in her hand, she chased Mary, who ran to another plantation and
hid there until the good master returned. She then poured out her
troubles to him. He was very indignant and remonstrated with his wife
for being so cruel. She met her fate in later years; her son-in-law
becoming angry at some of her doings in regard to him shot her, which
resulted in her death. Instead of mourning, everybody seemed to rejoice,
for the menace to well being had been removed. Twice a year Mary's
father and master went to Cedar Keys, Florida to get salt. Ocean water
was obtained and boiled, salt resulting. They always returned with about
three barrels of salt.

The greatest event in the life of a slave was about to occur, and the
most sorrowful in the life of a master, FREEDOM was at hand. A Negro was
seen coming in the distance, mounted upon a mule, approaching Mr.
Jamison who stood upon the porch. He told him of the liberation of the
slaves. Mr. Jamison had never before been heard to curse, but this was
one day that he let go a torrent of words that are unworthy to appear in
print. He then broke down and cried like a slave who was being lashed by
his cruel master. He called Mary's mother and father, Phyliss and Sandy,
"I ain't got no more to do with you, you are free," he said, "if you
want to stay with me you may and I'll give you one-third of what you
raise." They decided to stay. When the crop was harvested the master did
not do as he had promised. He gave them nothing. Mary slipped away,
mounted the old mule "Mustang" and galloped away at a mules snail speed
to Newnansville where she related what had happened to a Union captain.
He gave her a letter to give to Mr. Jamison. In it he reminded him that
if he didn't give Mary's family what he had promised he would be put in
jail. Without hesitation the old master complied with these pungent

After this incident Mary and her family left the good old boss to seek a
new abode in other parts. This was the first time that the master had in
any way displayed any kind of unfairness toward them, perhaps it was the
reaction to having to liberate them.


There was no marriage during slavery according to civil or religious
custom among the slaves. If a slave saw a woman whom he desired he told
his master. If the woman in question belonged on another plantation, the
master would consult her master: "one of my boys wants to marry one of
your gals," he would say. As a rule it was agreeable that they should
live together as man and wife. This was encouraged for it increased the
slave population by new borns, hence, being an asset to the masters.
The two slaves thus joined were allowed to see one another at intervals
upon special permission from the master. He must have a pass to leave
the plantation. Any slave caught without one while off the plantation
was subject to be caught by the "paderollers" (a low class of white who
roved the country to molest a slave at the least opportunity. Some of
them were hired by the masters to guard against slaves running away or
to apprehend them in the event that they did) who would beat them
unmercifully, and send them back to the plantation from whence they

As a result of this form of matrimony at emancipation there were no
slaves lawfully married. Orders were given that if they preferred to
live together as man and wife they must marry according to law. They
were given nine months to decide this question, after which if they
continued to live together they were arrested for adultery. A Mr. Fryer,
Justice of the Peace at Gainesville, was assigned to deal with the
situation around the plantation where Mary and her family lived. A big
supper was given, it was early, about twenty-five slave couples
attended. There was gaiety and laughter. A barrel of lemonade was
served. A big time was had by all, then those couples who desired to
remain together were joined in wedlock according to civil custom. The
party broke up in the early hours of the morning.

Mary Biddie, cognizant of the progress that science and invention has
made in the intervening years from Emancipation and the present time,
could not help but remark of the vast improvement of the lighting system
of today and that of slavery. There were no lamps or kerosene. The first
thread that shearer spun was for a wick to be used in a candle, the only
means of light. Beef tallow was used to make the candle; this was placed
in a candle mould while hot. The wick was then placed in the center of
the tallow as it rest in the mould; this was allowed to cool. When this
chemical process occured there was a regular sized candle to be used
for lighting.

Mary now past the century mark, her lean bronze body resting in a
rocker, her head wrapped in a white 'kerchief, and puffing slowly on her
clay pipe, expressed herself in regard to presidents: "Roosevelt has
don' mo' than any other president, why you know ever since freedom they
been talkin' 'bout dis pension, talkin' 'bout it tha's all, but you see
Mr. Roosevelt he don' com' an' gived it tu us. What? I'll say he's a
good rightus man, an' um sho' go' vot' fo' him."

Residing in her little cabin in Eatonville, Florida, she is able to
smile because she has some means of security, the Old Age Pension.



Reverend Eli Boyd was born May 29, 1864, four miles from Somerville,
South Carolina on John Murray's plantation. It was a large plantation
with perhaps one hundred slaves and their families. As he was only a
tiny baby when freedom came, he had no "recomembrance" of the real
slavery days, but he lived on the same plantation for many years until
his father and mother died in 1888.

"I worked on the plantation just like they did in the real slavery days,
only I received a small wage. I picked cotton and thinned rice. I always
did just what they told me to do and didn't ever get into any trouble,
except once and that was my own fault.

"You see it was this way. They gave me a bucket of thick clabber to take
to the hogs. I was hungry and took the bucket and sat down behind the
barn and ate every bit of it. I didn't know it would make me sick, but
was I sick? I swelled up so that I all but bust. They had to doctor on
me. They took soot out of the chimney and mixed it with salt and made me
take that. I guess they saved my life, for I was awful sick.

"I never learned to read until I was 26 years old. That was after I left
the plantation. I was staying at a place washing dishes for Goodyear's
at Sapville, Georgia, six miles from Waycross. I found a Webster's
spelling book that had been thrown away, and I learned to read from

"I wasn't converted until I went to work in a turpentine still and five
years later I was called to preach. I am one of thirteen children and
none of us has ever been arrested. We were taught right.

"I kept on preaching until I came to Miami. I have been assistant pastor
at Bethel African Methodist Church for the past ten years.

"I belong to a class of Negroes called Geechees. My grandfather was
brought directly from Africa to Port Royal, South Carolina. My
grandmother used to hold up her hand and look at it and sing out of her
hand. She'd make them up as she would look at her hand. She sang in
Geechee and also made rhymes and songs in English."

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Cora Taylor
Frances H. Miner, Editor
Miami, Florida

RIVANA BOYNTON [TR: also reported as Riviana.]

1. Where, and about when, were you born?

Some time in 1850 on John and Mollie Hoover's plantation between
Savannah and Charleston near the Georgia line.

2. If you were born on a plantation or farm, what sort of farming
section was it in?

They raised rice, corn wheat, and lots of cotton, raised everything they
et--vegetables, taters and all that.

3. How did you pass the time as a child? What sort of chores did you do
and what did you play?

I had to thin cotton in the fields and mind the flies at the table. I
chased them with a fly bush, sometimes a limb from a tree and sometimes
wid a fancy bush.

4. Was your master kind to you?

Yes, I was favored by being with my massy.

5. How many slaves were there on the same plantation and farm?

I don't know. There was plenty o' dem up in de hundreds, I reckon.

6. Do you remember what kind of cooking utensils your mother used?

Yes, dey had spiders an' big iron kettles that dey hung in de chimney by
a long chain. When dey wanted to cook fast dey lowered de chain and when
dey wanted to bake in the spiders, they's put them under de kettle can
cover with coals until dey was hot. Dey'd put de pones in does double
concerned spiders and turn them around when dey was done on one side.

7. What were your main foods and how were they cooked?

We had everything you could think of to eat.

8. Do you remember making imitation or substitute coffee by grinding up
corn or peanuts?

No. We had real coffee.

9. Do you remember ever having, when you were young, any other kind of
bread besides corn bread?

Yes, batter and white bread.

10. Do you remember evaporating sea water to get salt?

[TR: word illegible] did hit dat way.

11. When you were a child, what sort of stove do you remember your
mother having? Did they have a hanging pot in the fire place, and did
they make their candles of their own tallow?

Always had fireplaces or open fires on the plantation, but after a long
time while my massy had hearth stoves to cook on. De would give us
slaves pot liquor to cook green in sometimes. Dey lit de fires with
flint and steel, when it would go out. We all ate with wooden paddles
for spoons. We made dem taller candles out of beef and mutton tallow,
den we'd shoog 'em down into the candle sticks made of tin pans wid a
handle on and a holder for the candle in the center. You know how.

12. Did you use an open well or pump to get the water?

We had a well with two buckets on a pulley to draw the water.

13. Do you remember when you first saw ice in regular form?

No. Ice would freeze in winter in our place.

14. Did your family work in the rice fields or in the cotton on the
farm, or what sort of work did they do?

They did all kinds of work in the fields.

15. If they worked in the house or about the place, what sort of work
did they do?

I was house maid and did everything they told me to do. Sometimes I'd
sweep and work around all the time.

16. Do you remember ever helping tan and cure hides and pig hides?

This was done on the plantation. I took no part in it.

17. As a young person what sort of work did you do? If you helped your
mother around the house or cut firewood or swept the yard, say so.

I helped do the housework and did what the mistress told me do.

18. When you were a child do you remember how people wove cloth, or spun
thread, or picked out cotton seed, or weighed cotton or what sort of bag
was used on the cotton bales?


19. Do you remember what sort of soap they used? How did they get the
lye for making the soap?

Yes, I'd help to make the ash lye and soft soap. Never seed and cake
soap until I came here.

20. What did they use for dyeing thread and cloth and how did they dye

They used indigo for blue, copperas for yellow, and red oak chips for

21. Did your mother use big, wooden washtubs with cut-out holes on each
side for the fingers?

Yes, and dey had smaller wooden keels. Never seed any tin tubs up there.

22. Do you remember the way they made shoes by hand in the country?

Yes, they made all our shoes on the plantation.

23. Do you remember saving the chicken feathers and goose feathers
always for your featherbeds?


23. Do you remember when women wore hoop [TR: illegible] in their skirts
and when they stopped wearing them and wore narrow skirts?

Yes. My missus, she made me a pair of hoops, or I guess she bought it,
but some of the slaves took thin limbs from trees and made their hoops.
Others made them out of stiff paper and others would starch their skirts
stiff with rice starch to make their skirts stand way out. We thought
those hoops were just the thing for style.

25. Do you remember when you first saw your first windmill?

Yes. They didn't have them there.

26. Do you remember when you first saw bed springs instead of bed ropes?

I slept in a gunny bunk. My missus had a rope bed and she covered the
ropes with a cow hide. We made hay and corn shuck mattresses for her.
We'd cut the hay and shucks up fine and stuff the ticks with them. The
cow hides were placed on top of the mattresses to protect them.

27. When did you see the first buggy and what did it look like?

It was a buggy like you see.

28. Do you remember your grandparents?

No. My mother was sold from me when I was small. I stayed in my uncle's
shed at night.

29. Do you remember the money called "shin-plasters"?


30. What interesting historical events happened during your youth, such
as Sherman's army passing through your section? Did you witness the
happenings and what was the reaction of the other Negroes to them?

I remember well when de war was on. I used to turn the big corn sheller
and sack the shelled corn for the Confederate soldiers. They used to
sell some of the corn and they gave some of it to the soldiers. Anyway
the Yankees got some and they did not expect them to get it. It was this
way: The Wheeler boys came through there ahead of Sherman's Army. Now,
we thought the Wheeler boys were Confederates. They came down the road
as happy as could be, a-singin'

  "Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah
  Hurrah for the Broke Book Boys
  Hurrah for the Broke Brook Boys of South Carolina."

So of course we thought they were our soldiers a-singin' our songs.
Well, they came an' tol' our boss that Sherman's soldiers were coming'
and we'd better hide all our food and valuable things, for they'd take
everything they wanted. So we "hoped" our Massy hide the tings. They dug
holes and buried the potatoes and covered them with cotton seed and all
that. Then our ma say give dem food and thanked them for their kindness
and he set out wid two of the girls to tote them to safety, but before
he got back after the missus the Yanks were on us.

Our missus had od[TR:?] led us together and told us what to say. "Now
you beg for me. If they ask you whether I've been good to you, you tell
'em 'yes'. If they ask you if we give you meat, you say 'yes'." Now de
res' didn't git any meat, but I did, 'cause I worked in the house. So I
didn't tell a lie, for I did git meat.

So we begged, an' we say, "Our missus is good. Don't you kill her. Don't
you take our meat away from us. Don't you hurt her. Don't you burn her
house down." So they burned the stable and some of the other buildings,
but they did not burn the house nor hurt us any. We saw the rest of the
Yanks comin'. They never stopped for nothin'. Their horses would jump
the worn rail fences and they come 'cross fields 'n everything. They
bound our missus upstairs so she couldn't get away, then they came to
the sheds and we begged and begged for her. Then they loosed her, but
they took some of us for refugees and some of the slaves went off with
them of their own will. They took all the things that were buried all
the hams and everything they wanted. But they did not burn the house and
our missus was saved.

31. Did you know any Negroes who enlisted or joined the northern army?

32. Did you know any Negroes who enlisted in the southern army?


33. Did your master join the confederacy? What do you remember of his
return from the war? Or was he wounded and killed?

Yes. Two boys went. One was killed and one came back.

34. Did you live in Savannah when Sherman and the Northern forces
marched through the state, and do you remember the excitement in your
town or around the plantation where you lived?

We lived north of Savannah. I don't know how far it was, but it was in
South Carolina.

35. Did your master's house get robbed or burned during the time of
Sherman's march?

We were robbed, but the house was not burned. We saved it for them.

36. What kind of uniforms did they wear during the civil war?

Blue and gray

37. What sort of medicine was used in the days just after the war?
Describe a Negro doctor of that period.

She used to make tea out of the Devil's Shoe String that grew along on
the ground. We used oil and turpentine. Put turpentine on sores.

38. What do you remember about northern people or outside people moving
into the community after the war?

Yes. Mrs. Dermont, she taught white folks. I didn't go to school.

39. How did your family's life compare after Emancipation with it

I had it better and so did the rest.

40. Do you know anything about political meetings and clubs formed after
the war?

You had to have a ticket to go to church or the paddle rollers.

41. Do you know anything regarding the letters and stories from Negroes
who migrated north after the war?


42. Were there any Negroes of your acquaintance who were skilled
[TR: illegible] particular line of work?

Yes. In making shoes and furniture, they had to do most everything well
or get paddled.

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Alfred Farrell, Field Worker
Monticello, Florida
January 12, 1937



Matilda Brooks, 79, who lives in Monticello, Fla., was once a slave of a
South Carolina governor.

Mrs. Brooks was born in 1857 or 1858 in Edgefield, S.C. Her parents were
Hawkins and Harriet Knox, and at the time of the birth of their daughter
were slaves on a large plantation belonging to Governor Frank Pickens.
On this plantation were raised cotton, corn, potatoes, tobacco, peas,
wheat and truck products. As soon as Matilda was large enough to go into
the fields she helped her parents with the farming.

The former slave describes Governor Pickens as being 'very good' to his
slaves. He supervised them personally, although official duties often
made this difficult. He saw to it that their quarters were comfortable
and that they always had sufficient food. When they became ill he would
himself doctor on them with pills, castor oil, turpentine other
remedies. Their diet consisted largely of potatoes, corn bread, syrup,
greens, peas, and occasionally ham, fowl and other meats or poultry.
Their chief beverage was coffee made from parched corn.

Since there were no stoves during slavery, they cooked their foods in
large iron pots suspended from racks built into the fireplaces. Fried
foods were prepared in iron 'spiders', large frying pans with legs.
These pans were placed over hot coals, and the seasoning was done with
salt which they secured from evaporated sea-water. After the food was
fried and while the coals were still glowing the fat of oxen and sheep
was melted to make candles. Any grease left over was put into a large
box, to be used later for soap-making.

Lye for the soap was obtained by putting oak ashes in a barrel and
pouring water over them. After standing for several days--until the
ashes had decayed--holes were drilled into the bottom of the barrell
and the liquid drained off. This liquid was the lye, and it was then
trickled into the pot into which the fat had been placed. The two were
then boiled, and after cooling cut into squares of soap.

Water for cooking and other purposes was obtained from a well, which
also served as a refrigerator at times. Matilda does not recall seeing
ice until many years later.

In the evenings Matilda's mother would weave cloth on her spinning-jenny
and an improvised loom. This cloth was sometimes dyed in various colors:
blue from the indigo plant; yellow from the crocus and brown from the
bark of the red oak. Other colors were obtained from berries and other

In seasons other than picking-time for the cotton the children were
usually allowed to play in the evenings, when cotton crops were large,
however, they spent their evenings picking out seeds from the cotton
bolls, in order that their parents might work uninterruptedly in the
fields during the day. The cotton, after being picked and separated,
would be weighed in balances and packed tightly in 'crocus' bags.

Chicken and goose feathers were jealously saved during these days. They
were used for the mattresses that rested on the beds of wooden slats
that were built in corners against the walls. Hoop skirts were worn at
the time, but for how long afterward Matilda does not remember. She only
recalls that they were disappearing 'about the time I saw a windmill for
the first time'.

The coming of the Yankee soldiers created much excitement among the
slaves on the Pickens plantation. The slaves were in ignorance of
activities going on, and of their approach, but when the first one was
sighted the news spread 'just like dry grass burning up a hill'. Despite
the kindness of Governor Pickens the slaves were happy to claim their
new-found freedom. Some of them even ran away to join the Northern
armies before they were officially freed. Some attempted to show their
loyalty to their old owners by joining the southern armies, but in this
section they were not permitted to do so.

After she was released from slavery Matilda came with her parents to the
Monticello section, where the Knoxes became paid house servants. The
parents took an active part in politics in the section, and Matilda was
sent to school. White teachers operated the schools at first, and were
later replaced by Negro teachers. Churches were opened with Negro
ministers in the pulpits, and other necessities of community life
eventually came to the vicinity.

Matilda still lives in one of the earlier homes of her parents in the
area, now described as 'Rooster-Town' by its residents. The section is
in the eastern part of Monticello.


Interview with subject, Matilda Brooks; "Rooster-Town", eastern part of
city, Monticello, Jefferson County, Fla.

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Alfred Farrell, Field Worker
John A. Simms, Editor
Titusville, Florida
September 25, 1936


Titus B. [TR: Titus I. above] Bynes, affectionately known as "Daddy
Bynes", is reminiscent of Harriet Beecher Stowe's immortal "Uncle Tom"
and Joel Chandler Harris' inimitable 'Uncle Remus' with his white beard
and hair surrounding a smiling black face. He was born in November 1846
in what is now Clarendon County, South Carolina. Both his father, Cuffy,
and mother, Diana, belonged to Gabriel Flowden who owned 75 or 80 slaves
and was noted for his kindness to them.

Bynes' father was a common laborer, and his mother acted in the capacity
of chambermaid and spinner. They had 12 children, seven boys--Abraham,
Tutus[TR:?], Reese, Lawrence, Thomas, Billie, and Hamlet--and five
girls--Charity, Chrissy, Fannie, Charlotte, and Violet.

When Titus was five or six years of age he was given to Flowden's wife
who groomed him for the job of houseboy. Although he never received any
education, Bynes was quick to learn. He could tell the time of day and
could distinguish one newspaper from another. He recalled an incident
which happened when he was about eight years of age which led him to
conceal his precociousness. One day while writing on the ground, he
heard his mistress' little daughter tell her mother that he was writing
about water. Mistress Flowden called him and told him that if he were
caught writing again his right arm would be cut off. From then on his
precociousness vanished. In regards to religion, Bynes can recall the
Sunday services very vividly; and he tells how the Negroes who were
seated in the gallery first heard a sermon by the white minister and
then after these services they would gather on the main floor and hear a
sermon by a Negro preacher.

Bynes served in the Civil War with his boss, and he can remember the
regiment camp between Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.
His mistress would not permit Bynes to accompany his master to Virginia
to join the Hampton Legion on the grounds that it was too cold for him.
And thus ended his war days! When he was 20 years of age, his father
turned him loose. Young Bynes rented 14 acres of land from Arthur Harven
and began farming.

In 1868 he left South Carolina and came to Florida. He settled in
Enterprise (now Benson Springs), Velusia County where he worked for J.C.
Hayes, a farmer, for one year, after which he homesteaded. He next
became a carpenter and, as he says himself, "a jack of all trades and
master of none." He married shortly after coming to Florida and is the
father of three sons--"as my wife told me," he adds with a twinkle in
his eyes. His wife is now dead. He was prevailed upon while very ill to
enter the Titusville Poor Farm where he has been for almost two years.

Della Bess Hilyard ("Aunt Bess")

Della Bess Hilyard, or "Aunt Bess" as she is better known, was born in
Darlington, South Carolina in 1858, the daughter of Resier and Zilphy
Hart, slaves of Gus Hiwards. Both her parents were cotton pickers and as
a little girl Della often went with her parents into the fields. One day
she stated that the Yankees came through South Carolina with Knapsacks
on their shoulders. It wasn't until later that she learned the reason.

When asked if she received any educational training, "Aunt Bess" replied
in the negative, but stated that the slaves on the Hiwards plantation
were permitted to pick up what education they could without fear of
being molested. No one bothered, however, to teach them anything.

In regards to religion, "Aunt Bess" said that the slaves were not told
about heaven; they were told to honor their masters and mistresses and
of the damnation which awaited them for disobedience.

After slavery the Hart family moved to Georgia where Della grew into
womanhood and at an early age married Caleb Bess by whom she had two
children. After the death of Bess, about fifteen years ago, "Aunt Bess"
moved to Fort Pierce, Florida. While there she married Lonny Hilyard
who brought her to Titusville where she now resides, a relic of bygone
days. (3)

Taylor Gilbert

Taylor Gilbert was born in Shellman, Georgia, 91 years ago, of a colored
mother and a white father, "which is why I am so white", he adds. He has
never been known to have passed as white, however, in spite of the fact
that he could do so without detection. David Ferguson bought Jacob
Gilbert from Dr. Gilbert as a husband for Emily, Taylor's mother. Emily
had nine children, two by a white man, Frances and Taylor, and seven by
Jacob, only three of whom Gilbert remembers--Gettie, Rena, and Annis.
Two of these children were sent to school while the others were obliged
to work on the plantation. Emily, the mother, was the cook and washwoman
while Jacob was the Butler.

Gilbert, a good sized lad when slavery was at its height, recalls
vividly the cruel lashings and other punishments meted out to those who
disobeyed their master or attempted to run away. It was the custom of
slaves who wished to go from one plantation to another to carry passes
in case they were stopped as suspected runaways. Frequently slaves would
visit without benefit of passes, and as result they suffered severe
torturing. Often the sons of the slaves' owners would go "nigger
hunting" and nothing--not even murder was too horrible for them to do to
slaves caught without passes. They justified their fiendish acts by
saying the "nigger tried to run away when told to stop."

Gilbert cannot remember when he came to Florida, but he claims that it
was many years ago. Like the majority of Negroes after slavery, he
became a farmer which occupation he still pursues. He married once but
"my wife got to messin' around with another man so I sent her home to
her mother." He can be found in Miami, Florida, where he may be seen
daily hobbling around on his cane. (4)


1. Personal interview of field worker with subject.

2. Personal interview with subject.

3. Personal interview with subject.

4. Personal interview of field worker with subject.

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

James Johnson, Field Worker
Monticello, Florida
December 15, 1936


Patience Campbell, blind for 26 years, was-born in Jackson County, near
Marianna, Florida about 1883[TR: incorrect date?], on a farm of George
Bullock. Her mother Tempy, belonged to Bullock, while her father Arnold
Merritt, belonged to Edward Merritt, a large plantation owner. According
to Patience, her mother's owner was very kind, her father's very cruel.
Bullock had very few slaves, but Merritt had a great many of them, not a
few of whom he sold at the slave markets.

Patience spent most of her time playing in the sand when she was a
child, while her parents toiled in the fields for their respective
owners. Her grandparents on her mother's side belonged to Bullock, but
of her father's people she knew nothing as "they didn't come to this
country." When asked where they lived, she replied "in South Carolina."

Since she lived with her mother, Patience fared much better than had she
lived with her father. Her main foods included meats, greens, rice, corn
bread which was replaced by biscuits on Sunday morning. Coffee was made
from parched corn or meal and was the chief drink. The food was cooked
in large iron pots and pans in an open fireplace and seasoned with salt
obtained by evaporating sea water.

Water for all purposes was drawn from a well. In order to get soap to
wash with, the cook would save all the grease left from the cooking. Lye
was obtained by mixing oak ashes with water and allowing them to decay;
Tubs were made from large barrels.

When she was about seven or eight, Patience assisted other children
about her age and older in picking out cotton seeds from the picked
cotton. After the cotton was weighed on improved scales, it was bound in
bags made of hemp.

Spinning and weaving were taught Patience when she was about ten.
Although the cloth and thread were dyed various colors, she knows only
how blue was obtained by allowing the indigo plant to rot in water and
straining the result.

Patience's father was not only a capable field worker but also a
finished shoemaker. After tanning and curing his hides by placing them
in water with oak bark for several days and then exposing them to the
sun to dry, he would cut out the uppers and the soles after measuring
the foot to be shod. There would be an inside sole as well as an outside
sole tacked together by means of small tacks made of maple wood. Sewing
was done on the shoes by means of flax thread.

Patience remembers saving the feathers from all the fowl to make feather
beds. She doesn't remember when women stopped wearing hoops in their
skirts nor when bed springs replaced bed ropes. She does remember,
however, that these things were used.

She saw her first windmill about 36 years ago, ten years before she went
blind. She remembers seeing buggies during slavery time, little light
carriages, some with two wheels and some with four. She never heard of
any money called "shin-plasters," and she became money-conscious during
the war when Confederate currency was introduced. When the slaves were
sick, they were given castor oil, turpentine and medicines made from
various roots and herbs.

Patience's master joined the confederacy, but her father's master did
not. [Although Negroes could enlist in the Southern army if they
desired,] none of them wished to do so but preferred to join northern
forces and fight for the thing they desired most, freedom. When freedom
was no longer a dream, but a reality, the Merritts started life on their
own as farmers. Twelve-year old Patience entered one of the schools
established by the Freedmen's Bureau. She recalls the gradual growth of
Negro settlements, the churches and the rise and fall of the Negroes


1. Personal interview with Patience Campbell, 910 Cherry Street,
Monticello, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Rachel A. Austin, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
November 20, 1936


The life of Florida Clayton is interesting in that it illustrates the
miscegenation prevalent during the days of slavery. Interesting also is
the fact that Florida was not a slave even though she was a product
of those turbulent days. Many years before her birth--March 1,
1854--Florida's great grandfather, a white man, came to Tallahassee,
Florida from Washington, District of Columbia, with his children whom he
had by his Negro slave. On coming to Florida, he set all of his children
free except one boy, Amos, who was sold to a Major Ward. For what reason
this was done, no one knew. Florida, named for the state in which she
was born, was one of seven children born to Charlotte Morris (colored)
whose father was a white man and David Clayton (white).

Florida, in a retrogressive mood, can recall the "nigger hunters" and
"nigger stealers" of her childhood days. Mr. Nimrod and Mr. Shehee, both
white, specialized in catching runaway slaves with their trained
bloodhounds. Her parents always warned her and her brothers and sisters
to go in someone's yard whenever they saw these men with their dogs lest
the ferocious animals tear them to pieces. In regards to the "nigger
stealers," Florida tells of a covered wagon which used to come to
Tallahassee at regular intervals and camp in some secluded spot. The
children, attracted by the old wagon, would be eager to go near it, but
they were always told that "Dry Head and Bloody Bones," a ghost who
didn't like children, was in that wagon. It was not until later years
that Florida and the other children learned that the driver of the wagon
was a "nigger stealer" who stole children and took them to Georgia to
sell at the slave markets.

When she was 11 years old, Florida saw the surrender of Tallahassee to
the Yankees. Three years later she came to Jacksonville to live with her
sister. She married but is now divorced after 12 years of marriage.

Three years ago she entered the Old Folks Home at 1627 Franklin Street
to live.

1. Personal Interview with Florida Clayton, 1627 Franklin Street,
Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Viola B. Muse, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
December 3, 1936


"Father" Charles Coates, as he is called by all who know him, was born a
slave, 108 years ago at Richmond, Virginia, on the plantation of a man
named L'Angle. His early boyhood days was spent on the L'Angle place
filled with duties such as minding hogs, cows, bringing in wood and such
light work. His wearing apparel consisted of one garment, a shirt made
to reach below the knees and with three-quarter sleeves. He wore no
shoes until he was a man past 20 years of age.

The single garment was worn summer and winter alike and the change in
the weather did not cause an extra amount of clothes to be furnished for
the slaves. They were required to move about so fast at work that the
heat from the body was sufficient to keep them warm.

When Charles was still a young man Mr. L'Angle sold him on time payment
to W.B. Hall; who several years before the Civil War moved from Richmond
to Washington County, Georgia, carrying 135 grown slaves and many
children. Mr. Hall made Charles his carriage driver, which kept him from
hard labor. Other slaves on the plantation performed such duties as rail
splitting, digging up trees by the roots and other hard work.

Charles Coates remembers vividly the cruelties practiced on the Hall
plantation. His duty was to see that all the slaves reported to work on
time. The bell was rung at 5:30 a.m. by one of the slaves. Charles had
the ringing of the bell for three years; this was in addition to the
carriage driving. He tells with laughter how the slaves would "grab a
piece of meat and bread and run to the field" as no time was allowed to
sit and eat breakfast. This was a very different way from that of the
master he had before, as Mr. L'Angle was much better to his slaves.

Mr. Hall was different in many ways from Mr. L'Angle, "He was always
pretending" says Charles that he did not want his slaves beaten
unmercifully. Charles being close to Mr. Hall during work hours had
opportunity to see and hear much about what was going on at the
plantation. And he believes that Mr. Hall knew just how the overseer
dealt with the slaves.

On the Hall plantation there was a contraption, similar to a gallows,
where the slaves were suspended and whipped. At the top of this device
were blocks of wood with chains run through holes and high enough that a
slave when tied to the chains by his fingers would barely touch the
ground with his toes. This was done so that the slave could not shout or
twist his body while being whipped. The whipping was prolonged until the
body of the slave covered with welts and blood trickled down his naked
body. Women were treated in the same manner, and a pregnant woman
received no more leniency than did a man. Very often after a severe
flogging a slave's body was treated to a bath of water containing salt
and pepper so that the pain would be more lasting and aggravated. The
whipping was done with sticks and a whip called the "cat o' nine tails,"
meaning every lick meant nine. The "cat o' nine tails" was a whip of
nine straps attached to a stick; the straps were perforated so that
everywhere the hole in the strap fell on the flesh a blister was left.

The treatment given by the overseer was very terrifying. He relates how
a slave was put in a room and locked up for two and three days at a time
without water or food, because the overseer thought he hadn't done
enough work in a given time.

Another offense which brought forth severe punishment was that of
crossing the road to another plantation. A whipping was given and very
often a slave was put on starvation for a few days.

One privilege given slaves on the plantation was appreciated by all and
that was the opportunity to hear the word of God. The white people
gathered in log and sometimes frame churches and the slaves were
permitted to sit about the church yard on wagons and on the ground and
listen to the preaching. When the slaves wanted to hold church they had
to get special permission from the master, and at that time a slave hut
was used. A white Preacher was called in and he would preach to them not
to steal, lie or run away and "be sure and git all dem weeds outen dat
corn in de field and your master will think a heap of you." Charles does
not remember anything else the preacher told them about God. They
learned more about God when they sat outside the church waiting to drive
their masters and family back home.

Charles relates an incident of a slave named Sambo who thought himself
very smart and who courted the favor of the master. The neighboring
slaves screamed so loudly while being whipped that Sambo told his master
that he knew how to make a contraption which, if a slave was put into
while being whipped would prevent him from making a noise. The device
was made of two blocks of wood cut to fit the head and could be fastened
around the neck tightly. When the head was put in, the upper and lower
parts were clamped together around the neck so that the slave could not
scream. The same effect as choking. The stomach of the victim was placed
over a barrel which allowed freedom of movement. When the lash was
administered and the slave wiggled, the barrel moved.

Now it so happened that Sambo was the first to be put into his own
invention for a whipping. The overseer applied the lash rather heavily,
and Sambo was compelled to wiggle his body to relieve his feelings. In
wiggling the barrel under his stomach rolled a bit straining Sambo's
neck and breaking it. After Sambo died from his neck being broken the
master discontinued the use of the device, as he saw the loss of
property in the death of slaves.

Charles was still a carriage driver when freedom came. He had
opportunity to see and hear many things about the master's private life.
When the news of the advance of the Union Army came, Mr. Hall carried
his money to a secluded spot and buried it in an iron pot so that the
soldiers who were confiscating all the property and money they could,
would not get his money. The slave owners were required to notify the
slaves that they were free so Mr. Hall sent his son Sherard to the
cabins to notify all the slaves to come into his presence and there he
had his son to tell them that they were free. The Union soldiers took
much of the slave owners' property and gave to the slaves telling them
that if the owners' took the property back to write and tell them about
it; the owners only laughed because they knew the slaves could not read
nor write. After the soldiers had gone the timid and scared slaves gave
up most of the land; some few however, fenced in a bit of land while the
soldiers remained in the vicinity and they managed to keep a little of
the land.

Many of the slaves remained with the owners. There they worked for small
monthly wages and took whatever was left of cast off clothing and food
and whatever the "old missus" gave them. A pair of old pants of the
master was highly prized by them.

Charles Coates was glad to be free. He had been well taken care of and
looked younger than 37 years of age at the close of slavery. He had not
been married; had been put upon the block twice to be sold after
belonging to Mr. Hall. Each time he was offered for sale, his master
wanted so much for him, and refusing to sell him on time payments, he
was always left on his master's hands. His master said "being tall,
healthy and robust, he was well worth much money."

After slavery, Charles was rated as a good worker. He at once began
working and saving his money and in a short time he had accumulated
"around $200."

The first sight of a certain young woman caused him to fall in love. He
says the love was mutual and after a courtship of three weeks they were
married. The girl's mother told Charles that she had always been very
frail, but he did not know that she had consumption. Within three days
after they were married she died and her death caused much grief for

He was reluctant to bury her and wanted to continue to stand and look at
her face. A white doctor and a school teacher whose names he does not
remember, told him to put his wife's body in alcohol to preserve it and
he could look at it all the time. At that time white people who had
plenty of money and wanted to see the faces of their deceased used this

A glass casket was used and the dressed body of the deceased was placed
in alcohol inside the casket. Another casket made of wood held the glass
casket and the whole was placed in a vault made of stone or brick. The
walls of the vault were left about four feet above the ground and a
window and ledge were placed in front, so when the casket was placed
inside of the vault the bereaved could lean upon the ledge and look in
at the face of the deceased. The wooden casket was provided with a glass
top part of the way so that the face could easily be seen.

Although the process of preserving the body in alcohol cost $160,
Charles did not regret the expense saying, "I had plenty of money at
that time."

After the death of his wife, Charles left with his mother and father,
Henrietta and Spencer Coates and went to Savannah, Georgia. He said they
were so glad to go, that they walked to within 30 miles of Savannah,
when they saw a man driving a horse and wagon who picked them up and
carried them into Savannah. It was in that city that he met his present
wife, Irene, and they were married about 1876.

There are nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren living and in
March of 1936, when a party was given in honor of Father Coates' 108th
birthday, one of each of the four generations of his family were

The party was given at the Clara White Mission, 615 West Ashley Street
by Ertha M.M. White. Father Coates and his wife were very much honored
and each spoke encouraging words to those present. On the occasion he
said that the cause for his long life was due to living close to nature,
rising early, going to bed early and not dissipating in any way.

He can "shout" (jumping about a foot and a half from the floor and
knocking his heels together.) He does chores about his yard; looks years
younger than he really is and enjoys good health. His hair is partly
white; his memory very good and his chief delight is talking about God
and his goodness. He has preached the gospel in his humble way for a
number of years, thereby gaining the name of "Father" Coates.


1. Personal interview with Charles Coates--2015 Windle Street,
Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Viola B. Muse, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
December 16, 1936


Immediately after slavery in the United States, the southern white
people found themselves without servants. Women who were accustomed to
having a nurse, maid, cook and laundress found themselves without
sufficient money to pay wages to all these. There was a great amount of
work to be done and the great problem confronting married women who had
not been taught to work and who thought it beneath their standing to
soil their hands, found it very difficult.

There were on the other hand many Negro women who needed work and young
girls who needed guidance and training.

The home and guidance of the aristocratic white people offered the best
opportunity for the dependent un-schooled freed women; and it was in
this kind of home that the ex-slave child of this story was reared.

Irene Coates of 2015 Windle Street, Jacksonville, Florida, was born in
Georgia about 1859. She was close to six years of age when freedom was

She was one among the many Negro children who had the advantage of
living under the direct supervision of kind whites and receiving the
care which could only be excelled by an educated mother.

Jimmie and Lou Bedell were the names of the man and wife who saw the
need of having a Negro girl come into their home as one in the family
and at the same time be assured of a good and efficient servant in years
to come.

When Irene was old enough, she became the nurse of the Bedell baby and
when the family left Savannah, Georgia to come to Jacksonville, they
brought Irene with them.

Although Irene was just about six years old when the Civil War ended,
she has vivid recollection of happenings during slavery. Some of the
incidents which happened were told her by her slave associates after
slavery ended and some of them she remembers herself.

Two incidents which she considers caused respect for slaves by their
masters and finally the Emancipation by Abraham Lincoln she tells in
this order.

The first event tells of a young, strong healthy Negro woman who
knew her work and did it well. "She would grab up two bags of
guana (fertilizer) and tote 'em at one time," said Irene, and was never
found shirking her work. The overseer on the plantation, was very hard
on the slaves and practiced striking them across the back with a whip
when he wanted to spur them on to do more work.

Irene says, one day a crowd of women were hoeing in the field and the
overseer rode along and struck one of the women across the back with the
whip, and the one nearest her spoke and said that if he ever struck her
like that, it would be the day he or she would die. The overseer heard
the remark and the first opportunity he got, he rode by the woman and
struck her with the whip and started to ride on. The woman was hoeing at
the time, she whirled around, struck the overseer on his head with the
hoe, knocking him from his horse, she then pounced upon him and chopped
his head off. She went mad for a few seconds and proceeded to chop and
mutilate his body; that done to her satisfaction, she then killed his
horse. She then calmly went to tell the master of the murder, saying
"I've done killed de overseer," the master replied--"Do you mean to say
you've killed the overseer?" she answered yes, and that she had killed
the horse also. Without hesitating, the master pointing to one of his
small cabins on the plantation said--"You see that house over there?"
she answered yes--at the same time looking--"Well" said he, "take all
your belongings and move into that house and you are free from this day
and if the mistress wants you to do anything for her, do it if you want
to." Irene related with much warmth the effect that incident had upon
the future treatment of the slaves.

The other incident occured in Virginia. It was upon an occasion when
Mrs. Abraham Lincoln was visiting in Richmond. A woman slaveowner had
one of her slaves whipped in the presence of Mrs. Lincoln. It was
easily noticed that the woman was an expectant mother. Mrs. Lincoln was
horrified at the situation and expressed herself as being so, saying
that she was going to tell the President as soon as she returned to the
White House. Whether this incident had any bearing upon Mr. Lincoln's
actions or not, those slaves who were present and Irene says that they
all believed it to be the beginning of the President's activities to end

Besides these incidents, Irene remembers that women who were not strong
and robust were given such work as sewing, weaving and minding babies.
The cloth from which the Sunday clothes of the slaves was made was
called _ausenburg_ and the slave women were very proud of this. The
older women were required to do most of the weaving of cloth and making
shirts for the male slaves.

When an old woman who had been sick, regained her strength, she was sent
to the fields the same as the younger ones. The ones who could cook and
tickle the palates of her mistress and master were highly prized and
were seldon if ever offered for sale at the auction block.

The slaves were given fat meat and bread made of husk of corn and wheat.
This caused them to steal food and when caught they were severely

Irene recalls the practice of blowing a horn whenever a sudden rain
came. The overseer had a certain Negro to blow three times and if
shelter could be found, the slaves were expected to seek it until the
rain ceased.

The master had sheds built at intervals on the plantation. These
accomodated a goodly number; if no shed was available the slaves stood
under trees. If neither was handy and the slaves got wet, they could not
go to the cabins to change clothes for fear of losing time from work.
This was often the case; she says that slaves were more neglected than
the cattle.

Another custom which impressed the child-mind of Irene was the tieing of
slaves by their thumbs to a tree limb and whipping them. Women and young
girls were treated the same as were men.

After the Bedells took Irene to live in their home they traveled a deal.
After bringing her to Jacksonville, when Jacksonville was only a small
port, they then went to Camden County, Georgia.

Irene married while in Georgia and came back to Jacksonville with her
husband Charles, the year of the earthquake at Charleston, South
Carolina, about 1888.

Irene and Charles Coates have lived in Jacksonville since that time. She
relates many tales of happenings during the time that this city grew
from a town of about four acres to its present status.

Irene is the mother of five children. She has nine grandchildren and
eight great-grandchildren. Her health is fair, but her eyesight is poor.
It is her delight to entertain visitors and is conversant upon matters
pertaining to slavery and reconstruction days.


1. Irene Coates, 2015 Windle Street, Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Martin D. Richardson, Field Worker
Grandin, Florida


Interesting tales of the changes that came to the section of Florida
that is situated along the Putnam-Clay County lines are told by Neil
Coker, old former slave who lives two miles south of McRae on the road

Coker is the son of a slave mother and a half-Negro. His father, he
states, was Senator John Wall, who held a seat in the senate for sixteen
years. He was born in Virginia, and received his family name from an old
family bearing the same in that state. He was born, as nearly as he can
remember, about 1857.

One of Coker's first reminiscences is of the road on which he still
lives. During his childhood it was known as the 'Bellamy Road,' so
called because it was built, some 132 years ago, by a man of that name
who hailed from West Florida.

The 'Bellamy Road' was at one time the main route of traffic between
Tallahassee and St. Augustine. (Interestingly enough, the road is at
least 30 miles southwest of St. Augustine where it passes through
Grandin; the reason for cutting it in such a wide circle, Coker says was
because of the ferocity of the Seminoles in the swamps north and west of
St. Augustine.)

Wagons, carriages and stages passed along this road in the days before
the War Between the States, Coker says. In addition to these he claims
to have seen many travellers by foot, and not infrequently furtive
escaped slaves, the latter usually under cover of an appropriate
background of darkness.

The road again came into considerable use during the late days of the
War. It was during these days that the Federal troops, both whites and
Negroes, passed in seemingly endless procession on their way to or from
encounters. On one occasion the former slave recounts having seen a
procession of soldiers that took nearly two days to pass; they travelled
on horse and afoot.

Several amusing incidents are related by the ex-slave of the events of
this period. Dozens of the Negro soldiers, he says, discarded their
uniforms for the gaudier clothing that had belonged to their masters in
former days, and could be identified as soldiers as they passed only
with difficulty. Others would pause on their trip at some plantation,
ascertain the name of the 'meanest' overseer on the place, then tie him
backward on a horse and force him to accompany them. Particularly
retributive were the punishments visited upon Messrs. Mays and
Prevatt--generally recognized as the most vicious slave drivers of the

Bellamy, Coker says built the road with slave labor and as an
investment, realizing much money on tolls on it for many years. A
remarkable feature of the road is that despite its age and the fact that
County authorities have permitted its former good grading to deterierate
to an almost impassable sand at some seasons, there is no mistaking the
fact that this was once a major thoroughfare.

The region that stretches from Green Cove Springs in the Northeast to
Grandin in the Southwest, the former slave claims, was once dotted with
lakes, creeks, and even a river; few of the lakes and none of the other
bodies still exist, however.

Among the more notable of the bodies of water was a stream--he does not
now remember its name--that ran for about 20 miles in an easterly
direction from Starke. This stream was one of the fastest that the
former slave can remember having seen in Florida; its power was utilised
for the turning of a power mill which he believes ground corn or other
grain. The falls in the river that turned the water mill, he states, was
at least five or six feet high, and at one point under the Falls a man
named (or possibly nicknamed) "Yankee" operated a sawmill. Coker
believes that this mill, too, derived its power from the little stream.
He says that the stream has been extinct since he reached manhood. It
ended in 'Scrub Pond,' beyond Grandin and Starke.

Some of the names of the old lakes of the section were these: "Brooklyn
Lake; Magnolia Lake; Soldier Pond (near Keystone); Half-Moon Pond, near
Putnam Hall; Hick's Lake" and others. On one of them was the large grist
mill of Dr. McCray; Coker suggests that this might be the origin of the
town of McRae of the present period.

To add to its natural water facilities, Coker points out, Bradford
County also had a canal. This canal ran from the interior of the county
to the St. John's River near Green Cove Springs, and with Mandarin on
the other side of the river still a major shipping point, the canal
handled much of the commerce of Bradford and Clay Counties.

Coker recalls vividly the Indians of the area in the days before 1870.
These, he claims to have been friendly, but reserved, fellows; he does
not recall any of the Indian women.

Negro slaves from the region around St. Augustine and what is now
Hastings used to escape and use Bellamy's Road on their way to the area
about Micanopy. It was considered equivalent to freedom to reach that
section, with its friendly Indians and impenetrable forests and swamps.

The little town of Melrose probably had the most unusual name of all the
strange ones prevalent at the time. It was call, very simply,
"Shake-Rag." Coker makes no effort to explain the appelation.


1. Interview with subject, Neil Coker, Grandin, Putnam County

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Rachel Austin, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida


Young Winston Davis states that he was born in Ozark, Alabama, June 28,
1855 on the plantation of Charles Davis who owned about seven hundred
slaves and was considered very wealthy. Kindness and consideration for
his slaves, made them love him.

Reverend Davis was rather young during his years in slavery but when he
was asked to tell something about the days of slavery, replied: "I
remember many things about slavery, but know they will not come to me
now; anyway, I'll tell what I can think of."

He tells of the use of iron pots, fireplaces with rods used to hold the
pots above the fire for cooking peas, rice, vegetables, meats, etc.; the
home-made coffee from meal, spring and well water, tanning rawhide for
leather, spinning of thread from cotton and the weaving looms.

"There was no difference," he states, "in the treatment of men and women
for work; my parents worked very hard and women did some jobs that we
would think them crazy for trying now; why my mother helped build a
railroad before she was married to my father. My mother's first husband
was sold away from her; shucks, some of the masters didn't care how they
treated husbands, wives, parents and children; any of them might be
separated from the other. A good price for a 'nigger' was $1500 on down
and if one was what was called a stallion (healthy), able to get plenty
children he would bring about $2500.

"They had what was called legal money--I did have some of it but guess
it was burned when I lost my house by fire a few years ago.

"Now, my master had three boys and two girls; his wife, Elizabeth, was
about like the ordinary missus; Master Davis was good, but positive; he
didn't allow other whites to bother his slaves.

"When the war came, his two boys went first, finally Master Davis went;
he and one son never returned.

"The Yankees killed cows, etc., as they went along but did not destroy
any property 'round where I was.

"We had preachers and doctors, but no schools; the white preachers told
us to obey and would read the Bible (which we could not understand) and
told us not to steal eggs. Most of the doctors used herbs from the woods
and "Aunt Jane" and "Uncle Bob" were known for using "Samson's Snake
Root," "Devil's shoe-string" for stomach troubles and "low-bud Myrtle"
for fevers; that's good now, chile, if you can get it.

"The 'nigger' didn't have a chance to git in politics during slavery,
but after Emancipation, he went immediately into the Republican Party; a
few into the Democratic Party; there were many other parties, too.

"The religions were Methodist and Baptist; my master was Baptist and
that's what I am; we could attend church but dare not try to get any
education, less we punished with straps.

"There are many things I remember just like it was yesterday--the
general punishment was with straps--some of the slaves suffered terribly
on the plantations; if the master was poor and had few slaves he was
mean--the more wealthy or more slaves he had, the better he was. In some
cases it was the general law that made some of the masters as they were;
as, the law required them to have an overseer or foreman (he was called
"boss man") by the 'niggers' and usually came from the lower or poorer
classes of whites; he didn't like 'niggers' usually, and took authority
to do as he pleased with them at times. Some plantations preferred and
did have 'nigger riders' that were next to the overseer or foreman, but
they were liked better than the foreman and in many instances were
treated like foremen but the law would not let them be called "foremen."
Some of the masters stood between the 'nigger riders' and foremen and
some cases, the 'nigger' was really boss.

"The punishments, as I said were cruel--some masters would hang the
slaves up by both thumbs so that their toes just touched the floor,
women and men, alike. Many slaves ran away; others were forced by their
treatment to do all kinds of mean things. Some slaves would dig deep
holes along the route of the "Patrollers" and their horses would fall in
sometimes breaking the leg of the horse, arm or leg of the rider; some
slaves took advantage of the protection their masters would give them
with the overseer or other plantation owners, would do their devilment
and "fly" to their masters who did not allow a man from another
plantation to bother his slaves. I have known pregnant women to go ten
miles to help do some devilment. My mother was a very strong woman (as I
told you she helped build a railroad), and felt that she could whip any
ordinary man, would not get a passport unless she felt like it; once
when caught on another plantation without a passport, she had all of us
with her, made all of the children run, but wouldn't run
herself--somehow she went upstream, one of the men's horse's legs was
broken and she told him "come and get me" but she knew the master
allowed no one to come on his place to punish his slaves.

"My father was a blacksmith and made the chains used for stocks, (like
handcuffs), used on legs and hands. The slaves were forced to lay flat
on their backs and were chained down to the board made for that purpose;
they were left there for hours, sometimes through rain and cold; he
might 'holler' and groan but that did not always get him released.

"The Race became badly mixed then; some Negro women were forced into
association, some were beaten almost to death because they refused. The
Negro men dare not bother or even speak to some of their women.

"In one instance an owner of a plantation threatened a Negro rider's
sweetheart; she told him and he went crying to this owner who in turned
threatened him and probably did hit the woman; straight to his master
this sweetheart went and when he finished his story, his master
immediately took his team and drove to the other plantation--drove so
fast that one of his horses' dropped dead; when the owner came out he
levelled his double-barrel shotgun at him and shot him dead. No, suh;
some masters did not allow you to bother their slaves.

"A peculiar case was that of Old Jim who lived on another plantation was
left to look out for the fires and do other chores around the house
while 'marster' was at war. A bad rumor spread, and do you know those
mean devils, overseers of nearby plantations came out and got her dug a
deep hole, and despite her cries, buried her up to her neck--nothing was
left out but her head and hair. A crowd of young 'nigger boys' saw it
all and I was one among the crowd that helped dig her out.

"Oh, there's a lots more I know but just cant get it together. My
mother's name was Caroline and my father Patrick; all took the name of
Davis from our master. There were thirteen children--I am the only one

Mr. Davis appears well preserved for his age; he has most of his teeth
and is slightly gray; his health seems to be good, although he is a
cripple and uses a cane for walking always; this condition he believes
is the result of an attack of rheumatism.

He is a preacher and has pastored in Alabama, Texas and Florida. He has
had several years of training in public schools and under ministers.

He has lived in Jacksonville since 1918 coming here from Waycross,

He was married for the first and only time during his 62 years of life
to Mrs. Lizzie P. Brown, November 19, 1935. There are no children. He
gives no reason for remaining single, but his reason for marrying was
"to give some lady the privilege and see how it feels to be called


1. Interview with Young Winston Davis, 742 W. 10th Street, Jacksonville,

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

James Johnson, Field Worker
South Jacksonville, Florida
January 11, 1937


In South Jacksonville, on the Spring Glen Road lives Douglas Dorsey, an
ex-slave, born in Suwannee County, Florida in 1851, fourteen years prior
to freedom. His parents Charlie and Anna Dorsey were natives of Maryland
and free people. In those days, Dorsey relates there were people known
as "Nigger Traders" who used any subterfuge to catch Negroes and sell
them into slavery. There was one Jeff Davis who was known as a
professional "Nigger Trader," his slave boat docked in the slip at
Maryland and Jeff Davis and his henchmen went out looking for their
victims. Unfortunately, his mother Anna and his father were caught one
night and were bound and gagged and taken to Jeff Davis' boat which was
waiting in the harbor, and there they were put into stocks. The boat
stayed in port until it was loaded with Negroes, then sailed for Florida
where Davis disposed of his human cargo.

Douglas Dorsey's parents were sold to Colonel Louis Matair, who had a
large plantation that was cultivated by 85 slaves. Colonel Matair's
house was of the pretentious southern colonial type which was quite
prevalent during that period. The colonel had won his title because of
his participation in the Indian War in Florida. He was the typical
wealthy southern gentleman, and was very kind to his slaves. His wife,
however was just the opposite. She was exceedingly mean and could easily
be termed a tyrant.

There were several children in the Matair family and their home and
plantation were located in Suwannee County, Florida.

Douglas' parents were assigned to their tasks, his mother was house-maid
and his father was the mechanic, having learned this trade in Maryland
as a free man. Charlie and Anna had several children and Douglas was
among them. When he became large enough he was kept in the Matair home
to build fires, assist in serving meals and other chores.

Mrs. Matair being a very cruel woman, would whip the slaves herself for
any misdemeanor. Dorsey recalls an incident that is hard to obliterate
from his mind, it is as follows: Dorsey's mother was called by Mrs.
Matair, not hearing her, she continued with her duties, suddenly Mrs.
Matair burst out in a frenzy of anger over the woman not answering. Anna
explained that she did not hear her call, thereupon Mrs. Matair seized a
large butcher knife and struck at Anna, attempting to ward off the blow,
Anna received a long gash on the arm that laid her up for for some
time. Young Douglas was a witness to this brutal treatment of his mother
and he at that moment made up his mind to kill his mistress. He intended
to put strychnine that was used to kill rats into her coffee that he
usually served her. Fortunately freedom came and saved him of this act
which would have resulted in his death.

He relates another incident in regard to his mistress as follows: To his
mother and father was born a little baby boy, whose complexion was
rather light. Mrs. Matair at once began accusing Colonel Matair as being
the father of the child. Naturally the colonel denied, but Mrs. Matair
kept harassing him about it until he finally agreed to his wife's desire
and sold the child. It was taken from its mother's breast at the age of
eight months and auctioned off on the first day of January to the
highest bidder. The child was bought by a Captain Ross and taken across
the Suwannee River into Hamilton County. Twenty years later he was
located by his family, he was a grown man, married and farming.

Young Douglas had the task each morning of carrying the Matair
children's books to school. Willie, a boy of eight would teach Douglas
what he learned in school, finally Douglas learned the alphabet and
numbers. In some way Mrs. Matair learned that Douglas was learning to
read and write. One morning after breakfast she called her son Willie to
the dining room where she was seated and then sent for Douglas to come
there too. She then took a quill pen the kind used at that time, and
began writing the alphabet and numerals as far as ten. Holding the paper
up to Douglas, she asked him if he knew what they were; he proudly
answered in the affirmative, not suspecting anything. She then asked him
to name the letters and numerals, which he did, she then asked him to
write them, which he did. When he reached the number ten, very proud of
his learning, she struck him a heavy blow across the face, saying to him
"If I ever catch you making another figure anywhere I'll cut off your
right arm." Naturally Douglas and also her son Willie were much
surprised as each thought what had been done was quite an achievement.
She then called Mariah, the cook to bring a rope and tying the two of
them to the old colonial post on the front porch, she took a chair and
sat between the two, whipping them on their naked backs for such a time,
that for two weeks their clothes stuck to their backs on the lacerated

To ease the soreness, Willie would steal grease from the house and
together they would slip into the barn and grease each other's backs.

As to plantation life, Dorsey said that the slaves lived in quarters
especially built for them on the plantation. They would leave for the
fields at "sun up" and remain until "sun-down," stopping only for a meal
which they took along with them.

Instead of having an overseer they had what was called a "driver" by
the name of Januray[TR:?]. His duties were to get the slaves together in
the morning and see that they went to the fields and assigned them to
their tasks. He worked as the other slaves, though, he had more
priveliges. He would stop work at any time he pleased and go around to
inspect the work of the others, and thus rest himself. Most of the
orders from the master were issued to him. The crops consisted of
cotton, corn, cane and peas, which was raised in abundance.

When the slaves left the fields, they returned to their cabins and after
preparing and eating of their evening meal they gathered around a cabin
to sing and moan songs seasoned with African melody. Then to the tune of
an old fiddle they danced a dance called the "Green Corn Dance" and "Cut
the Pigeon wing." Sometimes the young men on the plantation would slip
away to visit a girl on another plantation. If they were caught by the
"Patrols" while on these visits they would be lashed on the bare backs
as a penalty for this offense.

A whipping post was used for this purpose. As soon as one slave was
whipped, he was given the whip to whip his brother slave. Very often the
lashes would bring blood very soon from the already lacerated skin, but
this did not stop the lashing until one had received their due number of

Occasionally the slaves were ordered to church to hear a white
minister, they were seated in the front pews of the master's church,
while the whites sat in the rear. The minister's admonition to them to
honor their masters and mistresses, and to have no other God but them,
as "we cannot see the other God, but you can see your master and
mistress." After the services the driver's wife who could read and write
a little would tell them that what the minister said "was all lies."

Douglas says that he will never forget when he was a lad 14 years of
age, when one evening he was told to go and tell the driver to have all
the slaves come up to the house; soon the entire host of about 85 slaves
were gathered there all sitting around on stumps, some standing. The
colonel's son was visibly moved as he told them they were free. Saying
they could go anywhere they wanted to for he had no more to do with
them, or that they could remain with him and have half of what was
raised on the plantation.

The slaves were happy at this news, as they had hardly been aware that
there had been a war going on. None of them accepted the offer of the
colonel to remain, as they were only too glad to leaver the cruelties of
the Matair plantation.

Dorsey's father got a job with Judge Carraway of Suwannee where he
worked for one year. He later homesteaded 40 acres of land that he
received from the government and began farming. Dorsey's father died in
Suwannee County, Florida when Douglas was a young man and then he and
his mother moved to Arlington, Florida. His mother died several years
ago at a ripe old age.

Douglas Dorsey, aged but with a clear mind lives with his daughter in
Spring Glen.


1. Interview with Douglas Dorsey, living on Spring Glen Road, South
Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Martin D. Richardson, Field Worker
Brooksville, Florida


In 1861, when he was 16 years old, Ambrose Hilliard Douglass was given a
sound beating by his North Carolina master because he attempted to
refuse the mate that had been given to him--with the instructions to
produce a healthy boy-child by her--and a long argument on the value of
having good, strong, healthy children. In 1937, at the age of 92,
Ambrose Douglass welcomed his 38th child into the world.

The near-centenarian lives near Brooksville, in Hernando County, on a
run-down farm that he no longer attempts to tend now that most of his 38
children have deserted the farm for the more lucrative employment of the
cities of the phosphate camps.

Douglass was born free in Detroit in 1845. His parents returned South to
visit relatives still in slavery, and were soon reenslaved themselves,
with their children. Ambrose was one of these.

For 21 years he remained in slavery; sometimes at the plantation of his
original master in North Carolina, sometimes in other sections after he
had been sold to different masters.

"Yassuh, I been sold a lot of times", the old man states. "Our master
didn't believe in keeping a house, a horse or a darky after he had a
chance to make some money on him. Mostly, though, I was sold when I cut

"I was a young man", he continues, "and didn't see why I should be
anybody's slave. I'd run away every chance I got. Sometimes they near
killed me, but mostly they just sold me. I guess I was pretty husky, at

"They never did get their money's worth out of me, though. I worked as
long as they stood over me, then I ran around with the gals or sneaked
off to the woods. Sometimes they used to put dogs on me to get me back.

"When they finally sold me to a man up in Suwannee County--his name was
Harris--I thought it would be the end of the world. We had heard about
him all the way up in Virginia. They said he beat you, starved you and
tied you up when you didn't work, and killed you if you ran away.

"But I never had a better master. He never beat me, and always fed all
of us. 'Course, we didn't get too much to eat; corn meal, a little piece
of fat meat now and then, cabbages, greens, potatoes, and plenty of
molasses. When I worked up at 'the house' I et just what the master et;
sometimes he would give it to me his-self. When he didn't, I et it

"He was so good, and I was so scared of him, till I didn't ever run away
from his place", Ambrose reminisces; "I had somebody there that I liked,
anyway. When he finally went to the war, he sold me back to a man in
North Carolina, in Hornett County. But the war was near over then; I
soon was as free as I am now.

"I guess we musta celebrated 'Mancipation about twelve times in Hornett
County. Every time a bunch of No'thern sojers would come through they
would tell us we was free and we'd begin celebratin'. Before we would
get through somebody else would tell us to go back to work, and we would
go. Some of us wanted to jine up with the army, but didn't know who was
goin' to win and didn't take no chances.

"I was 21 when freedom finally came, and that time I didn't take no
chances on 'em taking it back again. I lit out for Florida and wound up
in Madison County. I had a nice time there; I got married, got a plenty
of work, and made me a little money. I fixed houses, built 'em, worked
around the yards, and did everything. My first child was already born; I
didn't know there was goin' to be 37 more, though. I guess I would have
stopped right there....

"I stayed in Madison County until they started to working concrete rock
down here. I heard about it and thought that would be a good way for me
to feed all them two dozen children I had. So I came down this side.
That was about 20 years ago.

"I got married again after I got here; right soon after. My wife now is
30 years old; we already had 13 children together. (His wife is a
slight, girlish-looking woman; she says she was 13 when she married
Douglass, had her first child that year. Eleven of her thirteen are
still living.)

"Yossuh, I ain't long stopped work. I worked here in the phosphate mine
until last year, when they started to paying pensions. I thought I
would get one, but all I got was some PWA work, and this year they told
me I was too old for that. I told 'em I wasn't but 91, but they didn't
give nothin' else. I guess I'll get my pension soon, though. My oldest
boy ought to get it, too; he's sixty-five."


Jules A. Frost
Tampa, Florida
May 19, 1937


"Who is the oldest person, white or colored, that you know of in Tampa?"

"See Mama Duck," the grinning Negro elevator boy told me. "She bout a
hunnert years old."

So down into the "scrub" I went and found the old woman hustling about
from washpot to pump. "I'm mighty busy now, cookin breakfast," she said,
"but if you come back in bout an hour I'll tell you what I can bout old
times in Tampa."

On the return visit, her skinny dog met me with elaborate demonstrations
of welcome.

"Guan way fum here Spot. Dat gemmen ain gwine feed you nothin. You keep
your dirty paws offen his clothes."

Mama duck sat down on a rickety box, motioning me to another one on the
shaky old porch. "Take keer you doan fall thoo dat old floor," she
cautioned. "It's bout ready to fall to pieces, but I way behind in the
rent, so I kaint ask em to have it fixed."

"I see you have no glass in the windows--doesn't it get you wet when it

"Not me. I gits over on de other side of de room. It didn't have no door
neither when I moved in. De young folks frum here useta use it for a

"A what?"

"Courtin-house. Dey kept a-comin after I moved in, an I had to shoo em
away. Dat young rascal comin yonder--he one of em. I clare to
goodness--" and Mama Duck raised her voice for the trespasser's benefit,
"I wisht I had me a fence to keep folks outa my yard."

"Qua-a-ck, quack, quack," the young Negro mocked, and passed on

"Dat doan worry me none; I doan let _nothin_ worry me. Worry makes folks
gray-headed." She scratched her head where three gray braids, about the
length and thickness of a flapper's eyebrow, stuck out at odd angles.

"I sho got plenty chancet to worry ifen I wants to," she mused, as she
sipped water from a fruit-jar foul with fingermarks. "Relief folks got
me on dey black list. Dey won't give me rations--dey give rations to
young folks whas workin, but won't give me nary a mouthful."

"Why is that?"

"Well, dey wanted me to go to de poor house. I was willin to go, but I
wanted to take my trunk along an dey wouldn't let me. I got some things
in dere I been havin nigh onta a hunnert years. Got my old blue-back
Webster, onliest book I ever had, scusin my Bible. Think I wanna throw
dat stuff away? No-o, suh!" Mama Duck pushed the dog away from a
cracked pitcher on the floor and refilled her fruit-jar. "So day black
list me, cause I won't kiss dey feets. I ain kissin _nobody's_
feets--wouldn't kiss my own mammy's."

"Well, we'd all do lots of things for our mothers that we wouldn't do
for anyone else."

"Maybe you would, but not me. My mammy put me in a hickry basket when I
was a day an a half old, with nothin on but my belly band an diaper.
Took me down in de cotton patch an sot me on a stump in de bilin sun."

"What in the world did she do that for?"

"Cause I was black. All de other younguns was bright. My granmammy done
hear me bawlin an go fotch me to my mammy's house. 'Dat you mammy?' she
ask, sweet as pie, when granmammy pound on de door.

"'Doan you never call me mammy no more,' granmammy say. 'Any woman
what'd leave a poor lil mite like dis to perish to death ain fitten to
be no datter o' mine.'

"So granmammy took me to raise. I ain never seen my mammy sincet, an I
ain never wanted to."

"What did your father think of the way she treated you?"

"Never knew who my daddy was, an I reckon she didn't either."

"Do you remember anything about the Civil War?"

"What dat?"

"The Civil War, when they set the slaves free."

"Oh, you mean de fust war. I reckon I does--had three chillern, boys,
borned fore de war. When I was old enough to work I was taken to Pelman,
Jawja. Dey let me nust de chillern. Den I got married. We jus got
married in de kitchen and went to our log house.

"I never got no beatins fum my master when I was a slave. But I seen
collored men on de Bradley plantation git frammed out plenty. De whippin
boss was Joe Sylvester. He had pets amongst de women folks, an let some
of em off light when they deserved good beatins."

"How did he punish his 'pets'?"

"Sometimes he jus bop em crosst de ear wid a battlin stick."

"A what?"

"Battlin stick, like dis. You doan know what a battlin stick is? Well,
dis here is one. Use it for washin clothes. You lift em outa de wash pot
wid de battlin stick; den you lay em on de battlin block, dis here
stump. Den you beat de dirt out wid de battlin stick."

"A stick like that would knock a horse down!"

"Wan't nigh as bad as what some of de others got. Some of his pets
amongst de mens got it wusser dan de womens. He strap em crosst de sharp
side of a barrel an give em a few right smart licks wid a bull whip."

"And what did he do to the bad ones?"

"He make em cross dere hands, den he tie a rope roun dey wrists an throw
it over a tree limb. Den he pull em up so dey toes jus touch de ground
an smack em on da back an rump wid a heavy wooden paddle, fixed full o'
holes. Den he make em lie down on de ground while he bust all dem
blisters wid a raw-hide whip."

"Didn't that kill them?"

"Some couldn't work for a day or two. Sometimes dey throw salt brine on
dey backs, or smear on turputine to make it git well quicker."

"I suppose you're glad those days are over."

"Not me. I was a heap better off den as I is now. Allus had sumpun to
eat an a place to stay. No sich thing as gittin on a black list. Mighty
hard on a pusson old as me not to git no rations an not have no reglar

"How old are you?"

"I doun know, zackly. Wait a minnit, I didn't show you my pitcher what
was in de paper, did I? I kaint read, but somebody say dey put how old I
is under my pitcher in dat paper."

Mama Duck rummaged through a cigar box and brought out a page of a
Pittsburgh newspaper, dated in 1936. It was so badly worn that it was
almost illegible, but it showed a picture of Mama Duck and below it was
given her age, 109.


Jules Abner Frost
May 19, 1937


1. Name and address of informant, Mama Duck, Governor & India Sts.,
Tampa, Florida.

2. Date and time of interview, May 19, 1937, 9:30 A.M.

3. Place of interview, her home, above address.

4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with
informant, J.D. Davis (elevator operator), 1623 Jefferson St., Tampa,

5. Name and address of person, if any accompanying you (none).

6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.

Two-room unpainted shack, leaky roof, most window panes missing, porch
dangerous to walk on. House standing high on concrete blocks. Located in
alley, behind other Negro shacks.

NOTE: Letter of Feb. 17, 1939, from Mr. B.A. Botkin to Dr. Corse states
that my ex-slave story, "Mama Duck" is marred by use of the question and
answer method. In order to make this material of use as American Folk
Stuff material, I have rewritten it, using the first person, as related
by the informant.

Personal History of Informant

[TR: Repetitive information removed.]

1. Ancestry: Negro.

2. Place and date of birth: Richard (probably Richmond), Va., about

3. Family: unknown.

4. Places lived in, with dates: Has lived in Tampa since about 1870.

5. Education, with dates: Illiterate.

6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates: None. Informant was a
slave, and has always performed common labor.

7. Special skills and interests: none.

8. Community and religious activities: none.

9. Description of informant: Small, emaciated, slightly graying, very
thin kinky hair, tightly braided in small pigtails. Somewhat wrinkled,
toothless. Active for her age, does washing for a living.

10. Other points gained in interview: Strange inability of local Old Age
Pension officials to establish right of claimants to benefits.
Inexplainable causes of refusal of direct relief.


Gwan away f'm here, Po'-Boy; dat gemmen ain't gwine feed you nuthin. You
keep yo' dirty paws offen his close.

Come in, suh. Take care you don't fall thoo dat ol' po'ch flo'; hit
'bout ready to go t' pieces, but I 'way behind on rent, so I cain't ask
'em to have hit fixed. Dis ol' house aint fitten fer nobody t' live in;
winder glass gone an' roof leaks. Young folks in dese parts done be'n
usin' it fer a co't house 'fore I come; you know--a place to do dey
courtin' in. Kep' a-comin' atter I done move in, an' I had to shoo 'em

Dat young rascal comin' yondah, he one of 'em. I claiah to goodness, I
wisht I had a fence to keep folks outa my yahd. Reckon you don't know
what he be quackin' lak dat fer. Dat's 'cause my name's "Mama Duck." He
doin' it jus' t' pester me. But dat don't worry me none; I done quit

I sho' had plenty chance to worry, though. Relief folks got me on dey
black list. Dey give rashuns to young folks what's wukkin' an' don't
give me nary a mouthful. Reason fer dat be 'cause dey wanted me t' go t'
de porehouse. I wanted t' take my trunk 'long, an' dey wouldn't lemme. I
got some things in dere I be'n havin' nigh onto a hunnert years. Got my
ol' blue-back Webster, onliest book I evah had, 'scusin' mah Bible.
Think I wanna th'ow dat away? No-o suh!

So dey black-list me, 'cause I won't kiss dey feets. I ain't kissin
_nobody's_, wouldn't kiss my own mammy's.

I nevah see my mammy. She put me in a hick'ry basket when I on'y a day
and a half old, with nuthin' on but mah belly band an' di'per. Took me
down in de cotton patch an' sot de basket on a stump in de bilin sun.
Didn't want me, 'cause I be black. All de otha youngins o' hers be

Gran'mammy done tol' me, many a time, how she heah me bawlin' an' go an'
git me, an' fotch me to mammy's house; but my own mammy, she say, tu'n
me down cold.

"Dat you, Mammy" she say, sweet as pie, when gran'mammy knock on de do'.

"Dont you _nevah_ call me 'Mammy' no mo'," gran'mammy tol' 'er. "Any
woman what'd leave a po' li'l mite lak dat to perish to death ain't
fitten t' be no dotter o' mine."

So gran'mammy tuk me to raise, an' I ain't nevah wanted no mammy but
her. Nevah knowed who my daddy was, an' I reckon my mammy didn't know,
neithah. I bawn at Richard, Vahjinny. My sistah an' brothah be'n dead
too many years to count; I de las' o' de fam'ly.

I kin remember 'fore de fust war start. I had three chillen, boys,
taller'n me when freedom come. Mah fust mastah didn't make de li'l
chillen wuk none. All I done was play. W'en I be ol' enough t' wuk, dey
tuk us to Pelman, Jawjah. I never wukked in de fiel's none, not den. Dey
allus le me nuss de chillens.

Den I got married. Hit wa'nt no church weddin'; we got married in
gran'mammy's kitchen, den we go to our own log house. By an' by mah
mahster sol' me an' mah baby to de man what had de plantation nex' to
ours. His name was John Lee. He was good to me, an' let me see my

I nevah got no beatin's. Onliest thing I evah got was a li'l slap on de
han', lak dat. Didn't hurt none. But I'se seen cullud men on de Bradley
plantation git tur'ble beatin's. De whippin' boss was Joe Sylvester, a
white man. He had pets mongst de wimmen folks, an' used t' let 'em off
easy, w'en dey desarved a good beatin'. Sometimes 'e jes' bop 'em crost
de ear wid a battlin' stick, or kick 'em in de beehind.

You don't know what's a battlin' stick? Well, dis here be one. You use
it fer washin' close. You lif's de close outa de wash pot wid dis here
battlin' stick; den you tote 'em to de battlin' block--dis here stump.
Den you beat de dirt out wid de battlin' stick.

De whippin' boss got pets 'mongst de mens, too, but dey got it a li'l
wusser'n de wimmens. Effen dey wan't _too_ mean, he jes' strap 'em
'crost de sharp side of a bar'l an' give 'em a few right smaht licks wid
a bull whip.

But dey be some niggahs he whip good an' hard. If dey sass back, er try
t' run away, he mek 'em cross dey han's lak dis; den he pull 'em up, so
dey toes jes' tetch de ground'; den he smack 'em crost de back an' rump
wid a big wood paddle, fixed full o' holes. Know what dem holes be for?
Ev'y hole mek a blister. Den he mek 'em lay down on de groun', whilst he
bus' all dem blisters wid a rawhide whip.

I nevah heard o' nobody dyin' f'm gittin' a beatin'. Some couldn't wuk
fer a day or so. Sometimes de whippin' boss th'ow salt brine on dey
backs, or smear on turpentine, to mek it well quicker.

I don't know, 'zackly, how old I is. Mebbe--wait a minute, I didn't show
you my pitcher what was in de paper. I cain't read, but somebody say dey
put down how old I is undah mah pitcher. Dar hit--don't dat say a
hunndrt an' nine? I reckon dat be right, seein' I had three growed-up
boys when freedom come.

Dey be on'y one sto' here when I come to Tampa. Hit b'long t' ol' man
Mugge. Dey be a big cotton patch where Plant City is now. I picked some
cotton dere, den I come to Tampa, an' atter a while I got a job nussin'
Mister Perry Wall's chillen. Cullud folks jes' mek out de bes' dey
could. Some of 'em lived in tents, till dey c'd cut logs an' build
houses wid stick-an'-dirt chimbleys.

Lotta folks ask me how I come to be called "Mama Duck." Dat be jes' a
devil-ment o' mine. I named my own se'f dat. One day when I be 'bout
twelve year old, I come home an' say, "Well, gran'mammy, here come yo'
li'l ducky home again." She hug me an' say, "Bress mah li'l ducky." Den
she keep on callin' me dat, an' when I growed up, folks jes' put de
"Mama" on.

I reckon I a heap bettah off dem days as I is now. Allus had sumpin t'
eat an' a place t' stay. No sech thing ez gittin' on a black list dem
days. Mighty hard on a pusson ol' az me not t' git no rashuns an' not
have no reg'lar job.

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Pearl Randolph, Field Worker
Madison, Florida
January 30, 1937


Born in Brooks County, Georgia, 83 years ago on February 24th,
Willie[TR:?] Dukes jovially declares that he is "on the high road to
livin' a hund'ed years."

He was one of 40 slaves belonging to one John Dukes, who was only in
moderate circumstances. His parents were Amos and Mariah Dukes, both
born on this plantation, he thinks. As they were a healthy pair they
were required to work long hours in the fields, although the master was
not actually cruel to them.

On this plantation a variety of products was grown, cotton, corn,
potatoes, peas, rice and sugar cane. Nothing was thrown away and the
slaves had only coarse foods such as corn bread, collard greens, peas
and occasionally a little rice or white bread. Even the potatoes were
reserved for the white folk and "house niggers."

As a child Willis was required to "tote water and wood, help at milking
time and run errands." His clothing consisted of only a homespun shirt
that was made on the plantation. Nearly everything used was grown or
manufactured on the plantation. Candles were made in the big house by
the cook and a batch of slaves from the quarters, all of them being
required to bring fat and tallow that had been saved for this purpose.
These candles were for the use of the master and mistress, as the slaves
used fat lightwood torches for lighting purposes. Cotton was used for
making clothes, and it was spun and woven into cloth by the slave women,
then stored in the commisary for future use. Broggan shoes were made of
tanned leather held together by tacks made of maple wood. Lye soap was
made in large pots, cut into chunks and issued from the smoke house.
Potash was secured from the ashes of burnt oak wood and allowed to set
in a quantity of grease that had also been saved for the purpose, then
boiled into soap.

The cotton was gathered in bags of bear grass and deposited in baskets
woven with strips of white oak that had been dried in the sun.

Willis remembers the time when a slave on the plantation escaped and
went north to live. This man managed to communicate with his family
somehow, and it was whispered about that he was "living very high" and
actually saving money with which to buy his family. He was even going to
school. This fired all the slaves with an ambition to go north and this
made them more than usually interested in the outcome of the war between
the states. He was too young to fully understand the meaning of freedom
but wanted very much to go away to some place where he could earn
enough money to buy his mother a real silk dress. He confided this
information to her and she was very proud of him but gave him a good
spanking for fear he expressed this desire for freedom to his young
master or mistress.

Prayer meetings were very frequent during the days of the war and very
often the slaves were called in from the fields and excused from their
labors so they could hold these prayer meetings, always praying God for
the safe return of their master.

The master did not return after the war and when the soldiers in blue
came through that section the frightened women were greatly dependent
upon their slaves for protection and livelihood. Many of these black man
chose loyalty to their dead masters to freedom and shouldered the burden
of the support of their former mistresses cheerfully.

After the war Willis' father was one of those to remain with his widowed
mistress. Other members of his family left as soon as they were freed,
even his wife. They thus remained separated until her death.

Willis saw his first bedspring about 50 years ago and he still thinks a
feather mattress superior to the store-bought variety. He recalls a
humorous incident which occurred when he was a child and had been
introduced for the first time to the task of picking a goose.

After demonstrating how it was done to a group of slave children, the
person in charge had gone about his way leaving them busily engaged in
picking the goose. They had been told that the one gathering the most
feathers would receive a piece of money. Sometimes later the overseer
returned to find a dozen geese that had been stripped of all the
feathers. They had been told to pick only the pin feathers beneath the
wings and about the bodies of the geese. Need we guess what happened to
the over ambitious children?

He had heard of ice long before he looked upon it and he only thought of
it as another wild experiment. Why buy ice, when watermelons and butter
could be ley down into the well to keep cool?

One of Willis' happiest moments was when he earned enough money to buy
his first pair of patern leather shoes. To possess a paid of store
bought shoes had been his ambition since he was a child, when he had to
shine the shoes of his master and those of the master's children.

He next owned a horse and buggy of which he was very proud. This
increased his popularity with the girls and bye and bye he was married
to Mary, a girl with whom he had been reared. Nobody was surprised but
Mary, explained Mr. Dukes. "Me and everybody else knowed us ud get
married some day. We didn't jump over no broom neither. We was married
like white folks wid flowers and cake and everything."

Willis Dukes has been in Florida for "Lawd knows how long" and prefers
this state to his home state. He still has a few relatives there but has
never returned since leaving so long ago.


1. Personal Interview with Willis Dukes, Valdosta Road, near Jeslamb
Church, Madison, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Pearl Randolph, Field Worker
John A. Simms, Editor
Mulberry, Florida
October 8, 1936


Sam and Louise Everett, 86 and 90 years of age respectively, have
weathered together some of the worst experiences of slavery, and as they
look back over the years, can relate these experiences as clearly as if
they had happened only yesterday.

Both were born near Norfolk, Virginia and sold as slaves several times
on nearby plantations. It was on the plantation of "Big Jim" McClain
that they met as slave-children and departed after Emancipation to live
the lives of free people.

Sam was the son of Peter and Betsy Everett, field hands who spent long
back-breaking hours in the cotton fields and came home at nightfall to
cultivate their small garden. They lived in constant fear that their
master would confiscate most of their vegetables; he so often did.

Louisa remembers little about her parents and thinks that she was sold
at an early age to a separate master. Her name as nearly as she could
remember was Norfolk Virginia. Everyone called her "Nor." It was not
until after she was freed and had sent her children to school that she
changed her name to Louisa.

Sam and Norfolk spent part of their childhood on the plantation of "Big
Jim" who was very cruel; often he would whip his slaves into
insensibility for minor offences. He sometimes hung them up by their
thumbs whenever they were caught attempting to escape--"er fer no reason

On this plantation were more than 100 slaves who were mated
indiscriminately and without any regard for family unions. If their
master thought that a certain man and woman might have strong, healthy
offspring, he forced them to have sexual relation, even though they were
married to other slaves. If there seemed to be any slight reluctance on
the part of either of the unfortunate ones "Big Jim" would make them
consummate this relationship in his presence. He used the same procedure
if he thought a certain couple was not producing children fast enough.
He enjoyed these orgies very much and often entertained his friends in
this manner; quite often he and his guests would engage in these
debaucheries, choosing for themselves the prettiest of the young women.
Sometimes they forced the unhappy husbands and lovers of their victims
to look on.

Louisa and Sam were married in a very revolting manner. To quote the

"Marse Jim called me and Sam ter him and ordered Sam to pull off his
shirt--that was all the McClain niggers wore--and he said to me: 'Nor,
do you think you can stand this big nigger?' He had that old bull whip
flung acrost his shoulder, and Lawd, that man could hit so hard! So I
jes said 'yassur, I guess so,' and tried to hide my face so I couldn't
see Sam's nakedness, but he made me look at him anyhow."

"Well, he told us what we must git busy and do in his presence, and we
had to do it. After that we were considered man and wife. Me and Sam was
a healthy pair and had fine, big babies, so I never had another man
forced on me, thank God. Sam was kind to me and I learnt to love him."

Life on the McClain plantation was a steady grind of work from morning
until night. Slaves had to rise in the dark of the morning at the
ringing of the "Big House" bell. After eating a hasty breakfast of fried
fat pork and corn pone, they worked in the fields until the bell rang
again at noon; at which time they ate boiled vegetables, roasted sweet
potatoes and black molasses. This food was cooked in iron pots which had
legs attached to their bottoms in order to keep them from resting
directly on the fire. These utensils were either hung over a fire or set
atop a mound of hot coals. Biscuits were a luxury but whenever they had
white bread it was cooked in another thick pan called a "spider". This
pan had a top which was covered with hot embers to insure the browning
of the bread on top.

Slave women had no time for their children. These were cared for by an
old woman who called them twice a day and fed them "pot likker"
(vegetable broth) and skimmed milk. Each child was provided with a
wooden laddle which he dipped into a wooden trough and fed himself. The
older children fed those who were too young to hold a laddle.

So exacting was "Big Jim" that slaves were forced to work even when
sick. Expectant mothers toiled in the fields until they felt their labor
pains. It was not uncommon for babies to be born in the fields.

There was little time for play on his plantation. Even the very small
children were assigned tasks. They hunted hen's eggs, gathered poke
berries for dyeing, shelled corn and drove the cows home in the evening.
Little girls knitted stockings.

There was no church on this plantation and itinerant ministers avoided
going there because of the owner's cruelty. Very seldom were the slaves
allowed to attend neighboring churches and still rarer were the
opportunities to hold meetings among themselves. Often when they were in
the middle of a song or prayer they would be forced to halt and run to
the "Big House." Woe to any slave who ignored the ringing of the bell
that summoned him to work and told him when he might "knock off" from
his labors.

Louisa and Sam last heard the ringing of this bell in the fall of 1865.
All the slaves gathered in front of the "Big House" to be told that they
were free for the time being. They had heard whisperings of the War but
did not understand the meaning of it all. Now "Big Jim" stood weeping on
the piazza and cursing the fate that had been so cruel to him by robbing
him of all his "niggers." He inquired if any wanted to remain until all
the crops were harvested and when no one consented to do so, he flew
into a rage; seizing his pistol, he began firing into the crowd of
frightened Negroes. Some were _killed_ outright and others were maimed
for life. Finally he was prevailed upon to stop. He then attempted to
take his own life. A few frightened slaves promised to remain with him
another year; this placated him. It was necessary for Union soldiers to
make another visit to the plantation before "Big Jim" would allow his
former slaves to depart.

Sam and Louisa moved to Boston, Georgia, where they sharecropped for
several years; they later bought a small farm when their two sons became
old enough to help. They continued to live on this homestead until a few
years ago, when their advancing ages made it necessary that they live
with the children. Both of the children had settled in Florida several
years previous and wanted their parents to come to them. They now live
in Mulberry, Florida with the younger son. Both are pitifully infirm but
can still remember the horrors they experienced under very cruel owners.
It was with difficulty that they were prevailed upon to relate some of
the gruesome details recorded here.


1. Personal interview with Sam and Louisa Everett, P.O. Box 535 c/o
E.P.J. Everett, Mulberry, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Pearl Randolph, Field Worker
Madison, Florida
November 24, 1936


Duncan Gaines, the son of George and Martha Gaines was born on a
plantation in Virginia on March 12, 1853. He was one of four children,
all fortunate enough to remain with their parents until maturity. They
were sold many times, but Duncan Gaines best remembers the master who
was known as "old man Beever."

On this plantation were about 50 slaves, who toiled all day in the
cotton and tobacco fields and came home at dusk to cook their meals of
corn pone, collards and sweet potatoes on the hearths of their one room
cabins. Biscuits were baked on special occasions by placing hot coals
atop the iron tops of long legged frying pans called spiders, and the
potatoes were roasted in the ashes, likewise the corn pone. Their
masters being more or less kind, there was pork, chicken, syrup and
other foodstuffs that they were allowed to raise as their own on a small
scale. This work was often done by the light of a torch at night as they
had little time of their own. In this way slaves earned money for small
luxuries and the more ambitious sometimes saved enough money to buy
their freedom, although this was not encouraged very much.

The early life of Duncan was carefree and happy. With the exception of
carrying water to the laborers and running errands, he had little to do.
Most of the time of the slave children was spent in playing ball and
wrestling and foraging the woods for berries and fruits and playing
games as other children. They were often joined in their play by the
master's children, who taught them to read and write and fired Duncan
with the ambition to be free, so that he could "wear a frill on his
colar and own a pair of shoes that did not have brass caps on the toes"
and require the application of fat to make them shine.

Wearing his shoes shined as explained above and a coarse homespun suit
dyed with oak bark, indigo or poke berries, he went to church on Sunday
afternoons after the whites had had their services and listened to
sermons delivered by white ministers who taught obedience to their
masters. After the services, most of the slaves would remove their shoes
and carry them in their hands, as they were unaccustomed to wearing
shoes except in winter.

The women were given Saturday afternoons off to launder their clothes
and prepare for Sunday's services. All slaves were required to appear on
Monday mornings as clean as possible with their clothing mended and
heads combed.

Lye soap was used both for laundering and bathing. It was made from
fragments of fat meat and skins that were carefully saved for that
purpose. Potash was secured from oak ashes. This mixture was allowed to
set for a certain period of time, then cooked to a jelly-like
consistency. After cooling, the soap was cut into square bars and
"lowanced out" (allowance) to the slaves according to the number in each
family. Once Duncan was given a bar of "sweet" soap by his mistress for
doing a particularly nice piece of work of polishing the harness of her
favorite mare and so proud was he of the gift that he put it among his
Sunday clothes to make them smell sweet. It was the first piece of
toilet sopa that he had ever seen; and it caused quite a bit of envy
among the other slave children.

Duncan Gaines does not remember his grandparents but thinks they were
both living on some nearby plantation. His father was the plantation
blacksmith and Duncan liked to look on as plowshares, single trees,
horse shoes, etc were turned out or sharpened. His mother was strong and
healthy, so she toiled all day in the fields. Duncan always listened for
his mother's return from the field, which was heraled by a song, no
matter how tired she was. She was very fond of her children and did not
share the attitude of many slave mother who thought of their children as
belonging solely to the masters. She lived in constant fear that "old
marse Seever" would meet with some adversity and be forced to sell them
separately. She always whispered to them about "de war" and fanned to a
flame their desire to be free.

At that time Negro children listened to the tales of _Raw Head and
Bloody Bones_, various animal stories and such childish ditties as:

  "Little Boy, Little Boy who made your breeches?
  Mamma cut 'em out and pappa sewed de stitches."

Children were told that babies were dug out of tree stumps and were
generally made to "shut up" if they questioned their elders about such

Children with long or large heads were thought to be marked to become
"wise men." Everyone believed in ghosts and entertained all the
superstitions that have been handed down to the present generation.
There was much talk of "hoodooism" and anyone ill for a long time
without getting relief from herb medicines was thought to be "fixed" or
suffering from some sin that his father had committed.

Duncan was 12 years of age when freedom was declared and remembers the
hectic times which followed. He and other slave children attended
schools provided by the Freedmen' Aid and other social organizations
fostered by Northerners. Most of the instructors were whites sent to the
South for that purpose.

The Gaines were industrious and soon owned a prosperous farm. They
seldom had any money but had plenty of foodstuffs and clothing and a
fairly comfortable home. All of the children secured enough learning to
enable them to read and write, which was regarded as very unusual in
those days. Slaves had been taught that their brain was inferior to the
whites who owned them and for this reason, many parents refused to send
their children to school, thinking it a waste of time and that too much
learning might cause some injury to the brain of their supposedly
weak-minded children.

Of the various changes, Duncan remembers very little, so gradual did
they occur in his section. Water was secured from the spring or well.
Perishable foodstuffs were let down into the well to keep cool. Shoes
were made from leather tanned by setting in a solution of red oak bark
and water; laundering was done in wooden tubs, made from barrels cut in
halves. Candles were used for lighting and were made from sheep and beef
tallow. Lightwood torches were used by those not able to afford candles.
Stockings were knitted by the women during cold or rainy weather.
Weaving and spinning done by special slave women who were too old to
work in the fields; others made the cloth into garments. Everything was
done by hand except the luxuries imported by the wealthy.

Duncan Gaines is now a widower and fast becoming infirm. He looks upon
this "new fangled" age with bare tolerance and feels that the happiest
age of mankind has passed with the discarding of the simple, old
fashioned way of doing things.


1. Personal interview with Duncan Gaines, Second Street near Madison
Training School for Negroes, Madison, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Rachel Austin, Secretary
Jacksonville, Florida
April 16, 1937


Clayborn Gantling was born in Dawson, Georgia, Terrell County, January
20, 1848 on the plantation of Judge Williams.

Judge Williams owned 102 heads of slaves and was known to be "tolable
nice to 'em in some way and pretty rough on 'em in other ways" says Mr.
Gantling. "He would'nt gi' us no coffee, 'cept on Sunday Mornings when
we would have shorts or seconds of wheat, which is de leavins' of flour
at mills, yu' know, but we had plenty bacon, corn bread, taters and

"As a child I uster have to tote water to de old people on de farm and
tend de cows an' feed de sheep. Now, I can' say right 'zackly how things
wuz during slavery 'cause its been a long time ago but we had cotton and
corn fields and de hands plowed hard, picked cotton grabbled penders,
gathered peas and done all the other hard work to be done on de
plantations. I wuz not big 'nuff to do all of dem things but I seed
plenty of it done.

"Dey made lye soap on de farms and used indigo from wood for dye. We
niggers slept on hay piled on top of planks but de white folks had
better beds.

"I don't 'member my grandparents but my mas was called Harriet Williams
and my pa was called Henry Williams; dey wuz called Williams after my
master. My mas and pa worked very hard and got some beatings but I don't
know what for. Dey wuz all kinds of money, five and ten dollar bills,
and so on then, but I didn't ever see them with any.

"When war came along and Sherman came through the old people wuz very
skeered on account of the white owners but there was no fighting close
to me. My master's sons Leo and Fletcher joined the army and lots of de
other masters went; de servants wuz sent along to wait on de young white
men. Guess you'd like to know if any were killed. 'I should smile,' two
I know were killed.

"During those days for medicine, the old people used such things as
butterfly root and butterfly tea, sage tea, red oak bark,
hippecat--something that grow--was used for fevers and bathing children.
They wuz white doctors and plenty of colored grannies.

"When de Yankees came they acted diffunt and was naturally better to
servants than our masters had been; we colored folks done the best we
could but that was not so good right after freedom. Still it growed on
and growed on getting better.

"Before freedom we always went to white churches on Sundays with passes
but they never mentioned God; they always told us to be "good niggers
and mind our missus and masters".

"Judge Williams had ten or twelve heads of children but I can' 'member
the names of 'em now; his wife was called Mis' 'Manda and she was jes'
'bout lak Marse Williams. I had 'bout eighteen head of boys and five
girls myself; dere was so many, I can' 'member all of dem."

Mr. Gantling was asked to relate some incidents that he could remember
of the lives of slaves, and he continued:

"Well the horn would blow every morning for you to git up and go right
to work; when the sun ris' if you were not in the field working, you
would be whipped with whips and leather strops. I 'member Aunt Beaty was
beat until she could hardly get along but I can' 'member what for but do
you know she had to work along till she got better. My ma had to work
pretty hard but my oldest sister, Judy, was too young to work much.

"A heap of de slaves would run away and hide in de woods to keep from
working so hard but the white folks to keep them from running away so
that they could not ketch 'em would put a chain around the neck which
would hang down the back and be fastened on to another 'round the waist
and another 'round the feet so they could not run, still they had to
work and sleep in 'em, too; sometimes they would wear these chains for
three or four months.

"When a slave would die they had wooden boxes to put 'em in and dug
holes and just put then in. A slave might go to a sister or brother's

"My recollection is very bad and so much is forgotten, but I have seen
slaves sold in droves like cows; they called 'em 'ruffigees,' and white
men wuz drivin' 'em like hogs and cows for sale. Mothers and fathers
were sold and parted from their chillun; they wuz sold to white people
in diffunt states. I tell you chile, it was pitiful, but God did not let
it last always. I have heard slaves morning and night pray for
deliverance. Some of 'em would stand up in de fields or bend over cotton
and corn and pray out loud for God to help 'em and in time you see, He

"They had whut you call "pattyrollers" who would catch you from home and
'wear you out' and send you back to your master. If a master had slaves
he jes' could not rule (some of 'em wuz hard and jes' would not mind de
boss), he would ask him if he wanted to go to another plantation and if
he said he did, then, he would give him a pass and that pass would read:
"Give this nigger hell." Of course whan the "pattyrollers" or other
plantation boss would read the pass he would beat him nearly to death
and send him back. Of course the nigger could not read and did not know
what the pass said. You see, day did not 'low no nigger to have a book
or piece of paper of any kind and you know dey wuz not go teach any of
'em to read.

"De women had it hard too; women with little babies would have to go to
work in de mornings with the rest, come back, nurse their chillun and go
back to the field, stay two or three hours then go back and eat dinner;
after dinner dey would have to go to de field and stay two or three more
hours then go and nurse the chillun again, go back to the field and stay
till night. One or maybe two old women would stay in a big house and
keep all de chillun while their mothers worked in de fields.

"Now dey is a heap more I could tell maybe but I don't think of no more

Mr. Gantling came to Florida to Jennings Plantation near Lake Park and
stayed two years, then went to Everett's Plantation and stayed one year.
From there he went to a place called High Hill and stayed two or three
years. He left there and went to Jasper, farmed and stayed until he
moved his family to Jacksonville. Here he worked on public works until
he started raising hogs and chickens which he continued up to about
fourteen years ago. Now, he is too old to do anything but just "sit
around and talk and eat."

He lives with his daughter, Mrs. Minnie Holly and her husband, Mr. Dany
Holly on Lee Street.

Mr. Gantling cannot read or write, but is very interesting.

He has been a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church for more
than fifty years.

He has a very good appetite and although has lost his teeth, he has
never worn a plate or had any dental work done. He is never sick and has
had but little medical attention during his lifetime. His form is bent
and he walks with a cane; although his going is confined to his home, it
is from choice as he seldom wears shoes on account of bad feet. His
eyesight is very good and his hobby is sewing. He threads his own
needles without assistance of glasses as he has never worn them.

Mr. Gantling celebrated his 89th birthday on the 20th day of November

He is very small, also very short; quite active for his age and of a
very genial disposition, always smiling.


1. Interview with Mr. Clayborn Gantling, 1950 Lee Street, Jacksonville,

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Martin Richardson, Field Worker
Eatonville, Florida


(Verbatim Interview with Arnold Gragston, 97-year-old ex-slave whose
early life was spent helping slaves to freedom across the Ohio River,
while he, himself, remained in bondage. As he puts it, he guesses he
could be called a 'conductor' on the underground railway, "only we didn't
call it that then. I don't know as we called it anything--we just knew
there was a lot of slaves always a-wantin' to get free, and I had to
help 'em.")

"Most of the slaves didn't know when they was born, but I did. You see,
I was born on a Christmas mornin'--it was in 1840; I was a full grown
man when I finally got my freedom."

"Before I got it, though, I helped a lot of others get theirs. Lawd only
knows how many; might have been as much as two-three hundred. It was
'way more than a hundred, I know.

"But that all came after I was a young man--'grown' enough to know a
pretty girl when I saw one, and to go chasing after her, too. I was born
on a plantation that b'longed to Mr. Jack Tabb in Mason County, just
across the river in Kentucky."

"Mr. Tabb was a pretty good man. He used to beat us, sure; but not
nearly so much as others did, some of his own kin people, even. But he
was kinda funny sometimes; he used to have a special slave who didn't
have nothin' to do but teach the rest of us--we had about ten on the
plantation, and a lot on the other plantations near us--how to read and
write and figger. Mr. Tabb liked us to know how to figger. But sometimes
when he would send for us and we would be a long time comin', he would
ask us where we had been. If we told him we had been learnin' to read,
he would near beat the daylights out of us--after gettin' somebody to
teach us; I think he did some of that so that the other owners wouldn't
say he was spoilin' his slaves."

"He was funny about us marryin', too. He would let us go a-courtin' on
the other plantations near anytime we liked, if we were good, and if we
found somebody we wanted to marry, and she was on a plantation that
b'longed to one of his kin folks or a friend, he would swap a slave so
that the husband and wife could be together. Sometimes, when he couldn't
do this, he would let a slave work all day on his plantation, and live
with his wife at night on her plantation. Some of the other owners was
always talking about his spoilin' us."

"He wasn't a Dimmacrat like the rest of 'em in the county; he belonged
to the 'know-nothin' party' and he was a real leader in it. He used to
always be makin' speeches, and sometimes his best friends wouldn't be
speaking to him for days at a time."

"Mr. Tabb was always specially good to me. He used to let me go all
about--I guess he had to; couldn't get too much work out of me even when
he kept me right under his eyes. I learned fast, too, and I think he
kinda liked that. He used to call Sandy Davis, the slave who taught me,
'the smartest Nigger in Kentucky.'

"It was 'cause he used to let me go around in the day and night so much
that I came to be the one who carried the runnin' away slaves over the
river. It was funny the way I started it too."

"I didn't have no idea of ever gettin' mixed up in any sort of business
like that until one special night. I hadn't even thought of rowing
across the river myself."

"But one night I had gone on another plantation 'courtin,' and the old
woman whose house I went to told me she had a real pretty girl there who
wanted to go across the river and would I take her? I was scared and
backed out in a hurry. But then I saw the girl, and she was such a
pretty little thing, brown-skinned and kinda rosy, and looking as scared
as I was feelin', so it wasn't long before I was listenin' to the old
woman tell me when to take her and where to leave her on the other

"I didn't have nerve enough to do it that night, though, and I told them
to wait for me until tomorrow night. All the next day I kept seeing
Mister Tabb laying a rawhide across my back, or shootin' me, and kept
seeing that scared little brown girl back at the house, looking at me
with her big eyes and asking me if I wouldn't just row her across to
Ripley. Me and Mr. Tabb lost, and soon as dust settled that night, I was
at the old lady's house."

"I don't know how I ever rowed the boat across the river the current
was strong and I was trembling. I couldn't see a thing there in the
dark, but I felt that girl's eyes. We didn't dare to whisper, so I
couldn't tell her how sure I was that Mr. Tabb or some of the others
owners would 'tear me up' when they found out what I had done. I just
knew they would find out."

"I was worried, too, about where to put her out of the boat. I couldn't
ride her across the river all night, and I didn't know a thing about the
other side. I had heard a lot about it from other slaves but I thought
it was just about like Mason County, with slaves and masters, overseers
and rawhides; and so, I just knew that if I pulled the boat up and went
to asking people where to take her I would get a beating or get killed."

"I don't know whether it seemed like a long time or a short time,
now--it's so long ago; I know it was a long time rowing there in the
cold and worryin'. But it was short, too, 'cause as soon as I did get on
the other side the big-eyed, brown-skin girl would be gone. Well, pretty
soon I saw a tall light and I remembered what the old lady had told me
about looking for that light and rowing to it. I did; and when I got up
to it, two men reached down and grabbed her; I started tremblin' all
over again, and prayin'. Then, one of the men took my arm and I just
felt down inside of me that the Lord had got ready for me. 'You hungry,
Boy?' is what he asked me, and if he hadn't been holdin' me I think I
would have fell backward into the river."

"That was my first trip; it took me a long time to get over my scared
feelin', but I finally did, and I soon found myself goin' back across
the river, with two and three people, and sometimes a whole boatload. I
got so I used to make three and four trips a month.

"What did my passengers look like? I can't tell you any more about it
than you can, and you wasn't there. After that first girl--no, I never
did see her again--I never saw my passengers. I would have to be the
"black nights" of the moon when I would carry them, and I would meet 'em
out in the open or in a house without a single light. The only way I
knew who they were was to ask them; "What you say?" And they would
answer, "Menare." I don't know what that word meant--it came from the
Bible. I only know that that was the password I used, and all of them
that I took over told it to me before I took them.

"I guess you wonder what I did with them after I got them over the
river. Well, there in Ripley was a man named Mr. Rankins; I think the
rest of his name was John. He had a regular station there on his place
for escaping slaves. You see, Ohio was a free state and once they got
over the river from Kentucky or Virginia. Mr. Rankins could strut them
all around town, and nobody would bother 'em. The only reason we used to
land quietly at night was so that whoever brought 'em could go back for
more, and because we had to be careful that none of the owners had
followed us. Every once in a while they would follow a boat and catch
their slaves back. Sometimes they would shoot at whoever was trying to
save the poor devils.

"Mr. Rankins had a regular 'station' for the slaves. He had a big
lighthouse in his yard, about thirty feet high and he kept it burnin'
all night. It always meant freedom for slave if he could get to this

"Sometimes Mr. Rankins would have twenty or thirty slaves that had run
away on his place at the time. It must have cost him a whole lots to
keep them and feed 'em, but I think some of his friends helped him.

"Those who wanted to stay around that part of Ohio could stay, but
didn't many of 'em do it, because there was too much danger that you
would be walking along free one night, feel a hand over your mouth, and
be back across the river and in slavery again in the morning. And nobody
in the world ever got a chance to know as much misery as a slave that
had escaped and been caught.

"So a whole lot of 'em went on North to other parts of Ohio, or to New
York, Chicago or Canada; Canada was popular then because all of the
slaves thought it was the last gate before you got all the way _inside_
of heaven. I don't think there was much chance for a slave to make a
living in Canada, but didn't many of 'em come back. They seem like they
rather starve up there in the cold than to be back in slavery.

"The Army soon started taking a lot of 'em, too. They could enlist in
the Union Army and get good wages, more food than they ever had, and
have all the little gals wavin' at 'em when they passed. Them blue
uniforms was a nice change, too.

"No, I never got anything from a single one of the people I carried over
the river to freedom. I didn't want anything; after had made a few trips
I got to like it, and even though I could have been free any night
myself, I figgered I wasn't getting along so bad so I would stay on Mr.
Tabb's place and help the others get free. I did it for four years.

"I don't know to this day how he never knew what I was doing; I used to
take some awful chances, and he knew I must have been up to something; I
wouldn't do much work in the day, would never be in my house at night,
and when he would happen to visit the plantation where I had said I was
goin' I wouldn't be there. Sometimes I think he did know and wanted me
to get the slaves away that way so he wouldn't have to cause hard
feelins' by freein 'em.

"I think Mr. Tabb used to talk a lot to Mr. John Fee; Mr. Fee was a man
who lived in Kentucky, but Lord! how that man hated slavery! He used to
always tell us (we never let our owners see us listenin' to him, though)
that God didn't intend for some men to be free and some men be in
slavery. He used to talk to the owners, too, when they would listen to
him, but mostly they hated the sight of John Fee.

"In the night, though, he was a different man, for every slave who came
through his place going across the river he had a good word, something
to eat and some kind of rags, too, if it was cold. He always knew just
what to tell you to do if anything went wrong, and sometimes I think he
kept slaves there on his place 'till they could be rowed across the
river. Helped us a lot.

"I almost ran the business in the ground after I had been carrying the
slaves across for nearly four years. It was in 1863, and one night I
carried across about twelve on the same night. Somebody must have seen
us, because they set out after me as soon as I stepped out of the boat
back on the Kentucky side; from that time on they were after me.
Sometimes they would almost catch me; I had to run away from Mr. Tabb's
plantation and live in the fields and in the woods. I didn't know what a
bed was from one week to another. I would sleep in a cornfield tonight,
up in the branches of a tree tomorrow night, and buried in a haypile the
next night; the River, where I had carried so many across myself, was no
good to me; it was watched too close.

"Finally, I saw that I could never do any more good in Mason County, so
I decided to take my freedom, too. I had a wife by this time, and one
night we quietly slipped across and headed for Mr. Rankin's bell and
light. It looked like we had to go almost to China to get across that
river: I could hear the bell and see the light on Mr. Rankin's place,
but the harder I rowed, the farther away it got, and I knew if I didn't
make it I'd get killed. But finally, I pulled up by the lighthouse, and
went on to my freedom--just a few months before all of the slaves got
their's. I didn't stay in Ripley, though; I wasn't taking no chances. I
went on to Detroit and still live there with most of 10 children and 31

"The bigger ones don't care so much about hearin' it now, but the little
ones never get tired of hearin' how their grandpa brought Emancipation
to loads of slaves he could touch and feel, but never could see."


1. Interview with subject, Arnold Gragston, present address, Robert
Hungerford College Campus, Eatonville (P.O. Maitland) Florida

(Subject is relative of President of Hungerford College and stays
several months in Eatonville at frequent intervals. His home is Detroit,

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Pearl Randolph, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
December 18, 1936


Born on December 6, 1838, Harriett Gresham can recall quite clearly the
major events of her life as a slave, also the Civil War as it affected
the slaves of Charleston and Barnwell, South Carolina.

She was one of a, group of mulattoes belonging to Edmond Bellinger, a
wealthy plantation owner of Barnwell. With her mother, the plantation
seamstress and her father, a driver, she lived in the "big house"
quarters, and was known as a "house nigger." She played with the
children of her mistress and seldom mixed with the other slaves on the

To quote some of her quaint expressions: "Honey I aint know I was any
diffrunt fum de chillen o' me mistress twel atter de war. We played and
et and fit togetter lak chillen is bound ter do all over der world.
Somethin allus happened though to remind me dat I was jist a piece of

"I heard der gun aboomin' away at Fort Sumpter and fer de firs' time in
my life I knowed what it was ter fear anythin' cept a sperrit. No, I
aint never seed one myself but--"

"By der goodness o'God I done lived ter waltz on der citadel green and
march down a ile o' soldiers in blue, in der arms o' me husban', and
over me haid de bay'nets shined."

"I done lived up all my days and some o' dem whut mighta b'longed ter
somebody else is dey'd done right in der sight o' God." "How I know I so
old?" "I got documents ter prove it." The documents is a yellow sheet of
paper that appears to be stationery that is crudely decorated at the top
with crissed crossed lines done in ink. Its contents in ink are as

Harriett Pinckney, born September 25, 1790. Adeline, her daughter, born
October 1, 1809. Betsy, her daughter, born September 11, 1811. Belinda,
her daughter, born October 4, 1813. Deborah, her daughter, born December
1, 1815. Stephen, her son, born September 1, 1818.

Harriett's Grandchildren

Bella, the daughter of Adeline born July 5, 1827. Albert, son of Belinda
born August 19, 1833. Laurence, son of Betsy born March 1, 1835. Sarah
Ann Elizabeth, daughter of Belinda born January 3, 1836. Harriett,
daughter of Belinda born December 6, 1838. (This record was given
Harriett by Mrs. Harriett Bellinger, her mistress. Each slave received a
similar one on being freed.)

As a child Harriett played about the premises of the Bellinger estate,
leading a very carefree life as did all the slave children belonging to
Edmond Bellinger. When she was about twelve years old she was given
small tasks to do such as knitting a pair of stockings or dusting the
furniture and ample time was given for each of these assignments.

This was a very large plantation and there was always something for the
score of slaves to do. There were the wide acres of cotton that must be
planted, hoed and gathered by hand. A special batch of slave women did
the spinning and weaving, while those who had been taught to sew, made
most of the clothing worn by slaves at that time.

Other products grown here were rice, corn, sugarcane, fruits and
vegetables. Much of the food grown on the plantation was reserved to
feed the slaves. While they must work hard to complete their tasks in a
given time, no one was allowed to go hungry or forced to work if the
least ill.

Very little had to be bought here. Candles ware made in the kitchen of
the "big house," usually by the cook who was helped by other slaves.
These were made of beeswax gathered on the plantation. Shoes were made
of tanned dried leather and re-inforced with brass caps; the large herds
of cattle, hogs and poultry furnished sufficient meat. Syrup and sugar
were made from the cane that was carried to a neighboring mill.

Harriett remembers her master as being exceptionally kind but very
severe when his patience was tried too far. Mrs. Bellinger was dearly
loved by all her slaves because she was very thoughtful of them.
Whenever there was a wedding, frolic or holiday or quilting bee, she
was sure to provide some extra "goody" and so dear to the hearts of the
women were the cast off clothes she so often bestowed upon them on these

The slaves were free to invite those from the neighboring plantations to
join in their social gatherings. A Negro preacher delivered sermons on
the plantation. Services being held in the church used by whites after
their services on Sunday. The preacher must always act as a peacemaker
and mouthpiece for the master, so they were told to be subservient to
their masters in order to enter the Kingdom of God. But the slaves held
secret meetings and had praying grounds where they met a few at a time
to pray for better things.

Harriett remembers little about the selling of slaves because this was
never done on the Bellinger plantation. All slaves were considered a
part of the estate and to sell one, meant that it was no longer intact.

There were rumors of the war but the slaves on the Bellinger place did
not grasp the import of the war until their master went to fight on the
side of the Rebel army. Many of them gathered about their mistress and
wept as he left the home to which he would never return. Soon after that
it was whispered among the slaves that they would be free, but no one
ran away.

After living in plenty all their lives, they were forced to do without
coffee, sugar salt and beef. Everything available was bundled off to
the army by Mrs. Bellinger who shared the popular belief that the
soldiers must have the best in the way of food and clothing.

Harriett still remembers very clearly the storming of Fort Sumpter. The
whole countryside was thrown into confusion and many slaves were mad
with fear. There were few men left to establish order and many women
loaded their slaves into wagons and gathered such belongings as they
could and fled. Mrs. Bellinger was one of those who held their ground.

When the Union soldiers visited her plantation they found the plantation
in perfect order. The slaves going about their tasks as if nothing
unusual had happened. It was necessary to summon them from the fields to
give them the message of their freedom.

Harriett recalls that her mistress was very frightened but walked
upright and held a trembling lip between her teeth as they waited for
her to sound for the last time the horn that had summoned several
generations of human chattel to and from work.

Some left the plantation; others remained to harvest the crops. One and
all they remembered to thank God for their freedom. They immediately
began to hold meetings, singing soul stirring spirituals. Harriett
recalls one of these songs. It is as follows:

  T'ank ye Marster Jesus, t'ank ye,
  T'ank ye Marster Jesus, t'ank ye,
  T'ank ye Marster Jesus, t'ank ye
  Da Heben gwinter be my home.
  No slav'ry chains to tie me down,
  And no mo' driver's ho'n to blow fer me
  No mo' stocks to fasten me down
  Jesus break slav'ry chain, Lord
  Break slav'ry chain Lord,
  Break slav'ry chain Lord,
  Da Heben gwinter be my home.

Harriett's parents remained with the widowed woman for a while. Had they
not remained, she might not have met Gaylord Jeannette, the knight in
Blue, who later became her husband. He was a member of Company "I", 35th
Regiment. She is still a bit breathless when she relates the details of
the military wedding that followed a whirlwind courtship which had its
beginning on the citadel green, where the soldiers stationed there held
their dress parade. After these parades there was dancing by the
soldiers and belles who had bedecked themselves in their Sunday best and
come out to be wooed by a soldier in blue.

Music was furnished by the military band which offered many patriotic
numbers that awakened in the newly freed Negroes that had long been
dead--patriotism. Harriett recalls snatches of one of these songs to
which she danced when she was 20 years of age. It is as follows:

  Don't you see the lightning flashing in the cane brakes,
  Looks like we gonna have a storm
  Although you're mistaken its the Yankee soldiers
  Going to fight for Uncle Sam.
  Old master was a colonel in the Rebel army
  Just before he had to run away--
  Look out the battle is a-falling
  The darkies gonna occupy the land.

Harriett believes the two officers who tendered congratulations shortly
after her marriage to have been Generals Gates and Beecher. This was an
added thrill to her.

As she lived a rather secluded life, Harriett Gresham can tell very
little about the superstitions of her people during slavery, but knew
them to be very reverent of various signs and omens. In one she places
much credence herself. Prior to the Civil War, there were hordes of ants
and everyone said this was an omen of war, and there was a war.

She was married when schools were set up for Negroes, but had no time
for school. Her master was adamant on one point and that was the danger
of teaching a slave to read and write, so Harriett received little "book

Harriett Gresham is the mother of several children, grandchildren and
great grandchildren. Many of them are dead. She lives at 1305 west 31st
Street, Jacksonville, Florida with a grand daughter. Her second husband
is also dead. She sits on the porch of her shabby cottage and sews the
stitches that were taught her by her mistress, who is also dead. She
embroiders, crochets, knits and quilts without the aid of glasses. She
likes to show her handiwork to passersby who will find themselves
listening to some of her reminiscences if they linger long enough to
engage her in conversation--for she loves to talk of the past.

She still corresponds with one of the children of her mistress, now an
old woman living on what is left of a once vast estate at Barnwell,
South Carolina. The two old women are very much attached to each other
and each in her letters helps to keep alive the memories of the life
they shared together as mistress and slave.


1. Personal interview with Harriett Gresham, 1305 West 31st, Street,
Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Alfred Farrell, Field Worker
John A. Simms, Editor
Dive Oak, Florida
August 30, 1936


Bolden Hall was born in Walkino, Florida, a little town in Jefferson
County, on February 13, 1853, the son of Alfred and Tina Hall. The Halls
who were the slaves of Thomas Lenton, owner of seventy-five or a hundred
slaves, were the parents of twenty-one children. The Halls, who were
born before slavery worked on the large plantation of Lenton which was
devoted primarily to the growing of cotton and corn and secondarily to
the growing of tobacco and pumpkins. Lenton was very good to his slaves
and never whipped them unless it was absolutely necessary--which was
seldom! He provided them with plenty of food and clothing, and always
saw to it that their cabins were liveable. He was careful, however, to
see that they received no educational training, but did not interfere
with their religious quest. The slaves were permitted to attend church
with their masters to hear the white preacher, and occasionally the
master--supposedly un-beknown to the slaves--would have an itinerant
colored minister preach to the slaves, instructing them to obey their
master and mistress at all times. Although freedom came to the slaves in
January, Master Lenton kept them until May in order to help him with his
crops. When actual freedom was granted to the slaves, only a few of the
young ones left the Lenton plantation. In 1882 Bolden Hall came to Live
Oak where he has resided ever since. He married but his wife is now
dead, and to that union one child was born.

Charlotte Martin

Charlotte Mitchell Martin, one of twenty children born to Shepherd and
Lucinda Mitchell, eighty-two years ago, was a slave of Judge Wilkerson
on a large plantation in Sixteen, Florida, a little town near Madison.
Shepherd Mitchell was a wagoner who hauled whiskey from Newport News,
Virginia for his owner. Wilkerson was very cruel and held them in
constant fear of him. He would not permit them to hold religious
meetings or any other kinds of meetings, but they frequently met in
secret to conduct religious services. When they were caught, the
"instigators"--known or suspected--were severely flogged. Charlotte
recalls how her oldest brother was whipped to death for taking part in
one of the religious ceremonies. This cruel act halted the secret
religious services.

Wilkerson found it very profitable to raise and sell slaves. He
selected the strongest and best male and female slaves and mated them
exclusively for breeding. The huskiest babies were given the best of
attention in order that they might grow into sturdy youths, for it was
those who brought the highest prices at the slave markets. Sometimes the
master himself had sexual relations with his female slaves, for the
products of miscegenation were very remunerative. These offsprings were
in demand as house servants.

After slavery the Mitchells began to separate. A few of the children
remained with their parents and eked out their living from the soil.
During this period Charlotte began to attract attention with her herb
cures. Doctors sought her out when they were stumped by difficult cases.
She came to Live Oak to care for an old colored woman and upon whose
death she was given the woman's house and property. For many years she
has resided in the old shack, farming, making quilts, and practicing her
herb doctoring. She has outlived her husband for whom she bore two
children. Her daughter is feebleminded--her herb remedies can't cure

Sarah Ross

Born in Benton County, Mississippi nearly eighty years ago, Sarah is the
daughter of Harriet Elmore and William Donaldson, her white owner.
Donaldson was a very cruel man and frequently beat Sarah's mother
because she would not have sexual relations with the overseer, a colored
man by the name of Randall. Sarah relates that the slaves did not marry,
but were forced--in many cases against their will--to live together as
man and wife. It was not until after slavery that they learned about the
holy bonds of matrimony, and many of them actually married.

Cotton, corn, and rice were the chief products grown on the Donaldson
plantation. Okra also was grown, and from this product coffee was made.
The slaves arose with the sun to begin their tasks in the fields and
worked until dusk. They were beaten by the overseer if they dared to
rest themselves. No kind of punishment was too cruel or severe to be
inflicted upon these souls in bondage. Frequently the thighs of the male
slaves were gashed with a saw and salt put in the wound as a means of
punishment for some misdemeanor. The female slaves often had their hair
cut off, especially those who had long beautiful hair. If a female slave
was pregnant and had to be punished, she was whipped about the
shoulders, not so much in pity as for the protection of the unborn
child. Donaldson's wife committed suicide because of the cruelty not
only to the slaves but to her as well.

The slaves were not permitted to hold any sort of meeting, not even to
worship God. Their work consumed so much of their time that they had
little opportunity to congregate. They had to wash their clothes on
Sunday, the only day which they could call their own. On Sunday
afternoon some of the slaves were sent for to entertain the family and
its guests.

Sarah remembers the coming of the Yankees and the destruction wrought by
their appearance. The soldiers stripped the plantation owners of their
meats, vegetables, poultry and the like. Many plantation owners took
their own lives in desperation. Donaldson kept his slaves several months
after liberation and defied them to mention freedom to him. When he did
give them freedom, they lost no time in leaving his plantation which
held for them only unpleasant memories. Sarah came to Florida
thirty-five years ago. She has been married twice, and is the mother of
ten children, eight of whom are living.


1. Personal interview with Bolden Hall, living near the Masonic Hall, in
the Eastern section of Live Oak, Florida

2. Personal interview with Charlotte Martin, living near Greater Bethel
African Methodist Episcopal Church, in the Eastern section of Live Oak,

3. Sarah Ross, living near Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal
church, Live Oak, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Pearl Randolph, Field Worker
Lake City, Florida
January 14, 1937


Rebecca Hooks, age 90 years, is one of the few among the fast-thinning
ranks of ex-slaves who can give a clear picture of life "befo' de wah."

She was born in Jones County, Georgia of Martha and Pleasant Lowe, who
were slaves of William Lowe. The mother was the mulatto offspring of
William Lowe and a slave woman who was half Cherokee. The father was
also a mulatto, purchased from a nearby plantation.

Because of this blood mixture Rebecca's parents were known as "house
niggers," and lived on quarters located in the rear of the "big house."
A "house nigger" was a servant whose duties consisted of chores around
the big house, such as butler, maid, cook, stableman, gardner and
personal attendant to the man who owned him.

These slaves were often held in high esteem by their masters and of
course fared much better than the other slaves on the plantation. Quite
often they were mulattoes as in the case of Rebecca's parents. There
seemed to be a general belief among slave owners that mulattoes could
not stand as much laborious work as pure blooded Negro slaves. This
accounts probably for the fact that the majority of ex-slaves now alive
are mulattoes.

The Lowes were originally of Virginia and did not own as much property
in Georgia as they had in Virginia. Rebecca estimates the number of
slaves on this plantation as numbering no more than 25.

They were treated kindly and cruelly by turns, according to the whims of
a master and mistress who were none too stable in their dispositions.
There was no "driver" or overseer on this plantation, as "Old Tom was
devil enough himself when he wanted to be," observes Rebecca. While she
never felt the full force of his cruelties, she often felt sorry for the
other slaves who were given a task too heavy to be completed in the
given time; this deliberately, so that the master might have some excuse
to vent his pentup feelings. Punishment was always in the form of a
severe whipping or revocation of a slave's privilege, such as visiting
other plantations etc.

The Lowes were not wealthy and it was necessary for them to raise and
manufacture as many things on the plantation as possible. Slaves toiled
from early morning until night in the corn, cotton sugar cane and
tobacco fields. Others tended the large herds of cattle from which milk,
butter, meat and leather was produced. The leather was tanned and made
into crude shoes for the slaves for the short winter months. No one wore
shoes except during cold weather and on Sundays. Fruit orchards and
vegetables were also grown, but not given as much attention as the
cotton and corn, as these were the main money crops.

As a child Rebecca learned to ape the ways of her mistress. At first
this was considered very amusing. Whenever she had not knitted her
required number of socks during the week, she simply informed them that
she had not done it because she had not wanted to--besides she was not a
"nigger." This stubbornness accompanied by hysterical tantrums continued
to cause Rebecca to receive many stiff punishments that might have been
avoided. Her master had given orders that no one was ever to whip her,
so devious methods were employed to punish her, such as marching her
down the road with hands tied behind her back, or locking her in a dark
room for several hours with only bread and water.

Rebecca resembled very much a daughter of William Lowe. The girl was
really her aunt, and very conscious of the resemblance. Both had brown
eyes and long dark hair. They were about the same height and the clothes
of the young mistress fitted Rebecca "like a glove." To offset this
likeness, Rebecca's hair was always cut very short. Finally Rebecca
rebelled at having her hair all cut off and blankly refused to submit to
the treatment any longer. After this happening, the girls formed a
dislike for each other, and Rebecca was guilty of doing every mean act
of which she was capable to torment the white girl. Rebecca's mother
aided and abetted her in this, often telling her things to do. Rebecca
did not fear the form of punishment administered her and she had the
cunning to keep "on the good side of the master" who had a fondness for
her "because she was so much like the Lowes." The mistress' demand that
she be sold or beaten was always turned aside with "Dear, you know the
child can't help it; its that cursed Cherokee blood in her."

There seemed to be no very strong opposition to a slave's learning to
read and write on the plantation, so Rebecca learned along with the
white children. Her father purchased books for her with money he was
allowed to earn from the sale of corn whiskey which he made, or from
work done on some other plantation during his time off. He was not
permitted to buy his freedom, however.

On Sundays Rebecca attended church along with the other slaves. Services
were held in the white churches after their services were over. They
were taught to obey their masters and work hard, and that they should be
very thankful for the institution of slavery which brought them from
darkest Africa.

On the plantation, the doctor was not nearly as popular as the "granny"
or midwife, who brewed medicines for every ailment. Each plantation had
its own "granny" who also served the mistress during confinement. Some
of her remedies follows:

For colds: Horehound tea, pinetop tea, lightwood drippings on sugar.
For fever: A tea made of pomegranate seeds and crushed mint. For
whooping cough: A tea made of sheep shandy (manure); catnip tea. For
spasms: garlic; burning a garment next to the skin of the patient having
the fit.

Shortly before the war, Rebecca was married to Solomon, her husband.
This ceremony consisted of simply jumping over a broom and having some
one read a few words from a book, which may or may not have been the
Bible. After the war, many couples were remarried because of this

Rebecca had learned of the war long before it ended and knew its import.
She had confided this information to other slaves who could read and
write. She read the small newspaper that her master received at
irregular intervals. The two sons of William Lowe had gone to fight with
the Confederate soldiers (One never returned) and everywhere was felt
the tension caused by wild speculation as to the outcome of the war.

Certain commodities were very scarce Rebecca remembers drinking coffee
made of okra seed, that had been dried and parched. There was no silk,
except that secured by "running the blockade," and this was very
expensive. The smokehouse floors were carefully scraped for any morsel
of salt that might be gotten. Salt had to be evaporated from sea water
and this was a slow process.

There were no disorders in that section as far as Rebecca remembers,
but she thinks that the slaves were kept on the Lowe plantation a long
time after they had been freed. It was only when rumors came that Union
soldiers were patrolling the countryside for such offenders, that they
were hastily told of their freedom. Their former master predicted that
they would fare much worse as freemen, and so many of them were afraid
to venture into the world for themselves, remaining in virtual slavery
for many years afterward.

Rebecca and her husband were among those who left the plantation. They
share-cropped on various plantations until they came to Florida, which
is more than fifty years ago. Rebecca's husband died several years ago
and she now lives with two daughters, who are very proud of her.


Personal interview with Rebecca Hooks, 1604 North Marion Street, Lake
City, Florida.

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Samuel Johnson
September 11, 1937


Lying comfortably in a bed encased with white sheets, Rev. Squires
Jackson, former slave and minister of the gospel living at 706 Third
Street cheerfully related the story of his life.

Born in a weather-beaten shanty in Madison, Fla. September 14, 1841 of a
large family, he moved to Jacksonville at the age of three with the
"Master" and his mother.

Very devoted to his mother, he would follow her into the cotton field as
she picked or hoed cotton, urged by the thrashing of the overseer's
lash. His master, a prominent political figure of that time was very
kind to his slaves, but would not permit them to read and write.
Relating an incident after having learned to read and write, one day as
he was reading a newspaper, the master walked upon him unexpectingly and
demanded to know what he was doing with a newspaper. He immediately
turned the paper upside down and declared "Confederates done won the
war." The master laughed and walked away without punishing him. It la
interesting to know that slaves on this plantation were not allowed to
sing when they were at work, but with all the vigilance of the
overseers, nothing could stop those silent songs of labor and prayers
for freedom.

On Sundays the boys on the plantation would play home ball and shoot
marbles until church time. After church a hearty meal consisting of
rice and salt picked pork was the usual Sunday fare cooked in large iron
pots hung over indoor hearths. Sometimes coffee, made out of parched
corn meal, was added as an extra treat.

He remembers the start of the Civil war with the laying of the Atlantic
Cable by the "Great Eastern" being nineteen years of age at the time.
Hearing threats of the War which was about to begin, he ran away with
his brother to Lake City, many times hiding in trees and groves from the
posse that was looking for him. At night he would cover up his face and
body with spanish moss to sleep. One night he hid in a tree near a
creek, over-slept himself, in the morning a group of white women fishing
near the creek saw him and ran to tell the men, fortunately however he

After four days of wearied travelling being guided by the north star and
the Indian instinct inherited from his Indian grandmother, he finally
reached Lake City. Later reporting to General Scott, he was informed
that he was to act as orderly until further ordered. On Saturday
morning, February 20, 1861, General Scott called him to his tent and
said "Squire; I have just had you appraised for $1000 and you are to
report to Col. Guist in Alachua County for service immediately." That
very night he ran away to Wellborn where the Federals were camping.
There in a horse stable were wounded colored soldiers stretched out on
the filthy ground. The sight of these wounded men and the feeble medical
attention given them by the Federals was so repulsive to him, that he
decided that he didn't want to join the Federal Army. In the silent
hours of the evening he stole away to Tallahassee, throughly convinced
that War wasn't the place for him. While in the horse shed make-shift
hospital, a white soldier asked one of the wounded colored soldiers to
what regiment he belonged, the negro replied "54th Regiment,

At that time, the only railroad was between Lake City and Tallahassee
which he had worked on for awhile. At the close of the war he returned
to Jacksonville to begin work as a bricklayer. During this period, Negro
skilled help was very much in demand.

The first time he saw ice was in 1857 when a ship brought some into this
port. Mr. Moody, a white man, opened an icehouse at the foot of Julia
Street. This was the only icehouse in the city at that time.

On Sundays he would attend church. One day he thought he heard the call
of God beseeching him to preach. He began to preach in 1868, and was
ordained an elder in 1874.

Some of the interesting facts obtained from this slave of the fourth
generation were: (1) Salt was obtained by evaporating sea water, (2)
there were no regular stoves, (3) cooking was done by hanging iron pots
on rails in the fireplaces, (4) an open well was used to obtain water,
(5) flour was sold at $12.00 a barrell, (6) "shin-plasters" was used for
money, (7) the first buggy was called "rockaways" due to the elasticity
of the leather-springs, (8) Rev. Jackson saw his first buggy as
described, in 1851.

During the Civil War, cloth as well as all other commodities were very
high. Slaves were required to weave the cloth. The women would delight
in dancing as they marched to and fro in weaving the cloth by hand. This
was one kind of work the slaves enjoyed doing. Even Cotton seeds was
picked by hand, hulling the seeds out with the fingers, there was no way
of ginning it by machine at that time. Rev. Jackson vividly recalls the
croker-sacks being used around bales of the finer cotton, known as short
cotton. During this same period he made all of the shoes he wore by hand
from cow hides. The women slaves at that time wore grass shirts woven
very closely with hoops around on the inside to keep from contacting the

Gleefully he told of the Saturday night baths in big wooden washtubs
with cut out holes for the fingers during his boyhood, of the castor
oil, old fashion paragoric, calomel, and burmo chops used for medicine
at that time. The herb doctors went from home to home during times of
illness. Until many years after the Civil War there were no practicing
Negro physicians. Soap was made by mixing bones and lard together,
heating and then straining into a bucket containing alum, turpentine,
and rosin. Lye soap was made by placing burnt ashes into straw with corn
shucks placed into harper, water is poured over this mixture and a
trough is used to sieze the liquid that drips into the tub and let stand
for a day. Very little moss was used for mattresses, chicken feathers
and goose feathers were the principal constituents during his boyhood.
Soot mixed with water was the best medicine one could use for the
stomach ache at that time.

Rev. Jackson married in 1882 and has seven sons and seven daughters.
Owns his own home and plenty of other property around the neighborhood.
Ninety-six years of age and still feels as spry as a man of fifty, keen
of wit, with a memory as good can be expected. This handsome bronze
piece of humanity with snow-white beard over his beaming face ended the
interview saying, "I am waiting now to hear the call of God to the
promise land." He once was considered as a candidate for senator after
the Civil war but declined to run. He says that the treatment during the
time of slavery was very tough at times, but gathering himself up he
said, "no storm lasts forever" and I had the faith and courage of Jesus
to carry me on, continuing, "even the best masters in slavery couldn't
be as good as the worst person in freedom, Oh, God, it is good to be
free, and I am thankful."


Personal interview with subject, Rev. Squires Jackson, 706 Third Street,
Jacksonville, Florida.

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

L. Rebecca Baker, Field Worker
Daytona Beach, Florida
January 11, 1937


A long grey beard, a pair of piercing owl-like eyes and large bare feet,
mark "Prophet" Kemp among the citizenry of Daytona Beach, Florida. The
"Prophet", christened John Henry--as nearly as he can remember--is an 80
year old ex-slave whose remininiscences of the past, delight all those
who can prevail upon him to talk of his early life on the plantation of
the section.

"Prophet" Kemp does not talk only of the past, however, his conversation
turns to the future; he believes himself to be equally competent to talk
of the future, and talks more of the latter if permitted.

Oketibbeha County, Mississippi was the birthplace of the "Prophet". The
first master he can remember was John Gay, owner of a plantation of some
2,700 acres and over 100 slaves and a heavy drinker. The "Prophet" calls
Gay "father", and becomes very vague when asked if this title is a blood
tie or a name of which he is generally known.

According to Kemp--Gay was one of the meanest plantation owners in the
entire section, and frequently voiced his pride in being able to employ
the cruelest overseers that could be found in all Mississippi. Among
these were such men as G.T. Turner, Nels T. Thompson, Billy Hole, Andrew
Winston and other men with statewide reputations for brutality. When all
of the cruelties of one overseer had been felt by the slaves on the Gay
plantation and another meaner man's reputation was heard of on the Gay
plantation, the master would delight in telling his slaves that if they
did not behave, he would send for this man. "Behaving"--the "Prophet"
says, meant living on less food than one should have; mating only at his
command and for purposes purely of breeding more and stronger slaves on
his plantation for sale. In some cases with women--subjecting to his
every demand if they would escape hanging by the wrists for half a day
or being beaten with a cowhide whip.

About these whippings, the "Prophet" tells many a blood-curdling tale.

"One day when an old woman was plowing in the field, an overseer came by
and reprimanded her for being so slow--she gave him some back talk, he
took out a long closely woven whip and lashed her severely. The woman
became sore and took her hoe and chopped him right across his head, and
child you should have seen how she chopped this man to a bloody death."

"Prophet" Kemp will tell you that he hates to tell these things to any
investigator, because he hates for people to know just how mean his
"fahter" really was.

So great was the fear in which Gay was held that when Kemp's mother,
Arnette Young, complained to Mrs. Gay, that her husband was constantly
seeking her for a mistress and threatening her with death if she did not
submit, even Mrs. Gay had to advise the slaves to do as Gay demanded,
saying--"My husband is a dirty man and will find some reason to kill you
if you don't." "I can't do a thing with him." Since Arnette worked at
the "big house" there was no alternative, and it was believed that out
of the union with her master, Henry was born. A young slave by the name
of Broxton Kemp was given to the woman as husband at the time John Kemp
was born, it is from this man that "Prophet" took his name.

Life on the plantation held nothing but misery for the slaves of John
Gay. A week's allowance of groceries for the average small family
consisted of a package of about ten pounds containing crudely ground
meal, a slab of bacon--called side-meat and from a pint to a quart of
syrup made from sorghum, depending upon the season.

All slaves reported for work a 5 o'clock in the morning, except those
who cared for the overseer, who began their work an hour earlier to
enable the overseer to be present at the morning checkup. This checkup
determined which slaves were late or who had committed some offense late
on the day before or during the night. These were singled out and before
the rest of the slaves began their work they were treated to the sight
of these delinquents being stripped and beaten until blood flowed; women
were no exception to the rule.

The possible loss of his slaves upon the declaration of freedom on
January 1, 1866 caused Gay considerable concern. His liquor-ridden mind
was not long in finding a solution, however, he barred all visitors from
his plantation and insisted that his overseers see to the carrying out
of this detail. They did, with such efficiency that it was not until May
8, when the government finally learned of the condition and sent a
marshall to the plantation, that freedom came to Gay's slaves. May 8, is
still celebrated in this section of Mississippi, as the official
emancipation day.

Relief for the hundreds of slaves of Gay came at last with the
declaration of freedom for them. The government officials divided the
grown and growing crops; and some land was parcelled out to the former

Kemp may have gained the name "Prophet" from his constant reference to
the future and to his religion. He says he believes on one faith, one
Lord and one religion, and preaches this belief constantly. He claims to
have turned his back on all religions that "do not do as the Lord says."

In keeping this belief he says he represents the "True Primitive Baptist
Church", but does not have any connection with that church, because he
believes it has not lived exactly up to what the Lord expects of him.

Kemp claims the ability to read the future with ease; even to help
determine what it will bring in some cases. He reads it in the palms of
those who will believe in him; he determines the good and bad luck;
freedom from sickness; success in love and other benefits it will bring
from the use of charms, roots, herbs and magical incantations and
formulae. He has recently celebrated what he believes to be his 80th
birthday, and says he expects to live at least another quarter of a


1. Personal interview with John Henry Kemp, Daytona Beach, Florida

Barbara Darsey
About 86 Years of Age

"Yes maam, chile, I aint suah ezackly, but I think I bout 85 mebby 86
yeah old. Yes maam, I wus suah bahn in de slavery times, an I bahn right
neah de Little Rock in Arkansas, an dere I stay twell I comed right from
dere to heah in Floridy bout foah yeah gone.

"Yes maam, my people de liv on a big plantation neah de Little Rock an
we all hoe cotton. My Ma? Lawzy me, chile, she name Zola Young an my
pappy he name Nelson Young. I had broddehs Danel, Freeman, George, Will,
and Henry. Yes maam, Freeman he de younges an bahn after we done got
free. An I had sistehs by de name ob Isabella, Mary, Nora,--dat aint all
yet, you want I should name em all? Well then they was too Celie, Sally,
and me Cindy but I aint my own sisteh is I, hee, hee, hee.

"My Ole Massa, he name Marse Louis Stuart, an my Ole Missy, dat de real
ole one you know, she name,--now--let-me-see, does--I--ricollek, lawzy
me, chile, I suah fin it hard to member some things. O! yes,--her name
hit war Missy Nancy, an her chilluns dey name Little Marse Sammie an
Little Missy Fanny. I don know huccum my pappy he go by de name Young
when Ole Massa he name Marse Stuart lessen my pappy he be raised by
nother Massa fore Marse Louis got him, but I disrememba does I eber
heerd him say.

"Yes maam, chile I suah like dem days. We had lot ob fun an nothin to
worrify about, suah wish dem days wus now, chile, us niggahs heaps
better off den as now. Us always had plenty eat and plenty wearin close
too, which us aint nevah got no more. We had plenty cahn pone, baked in
de ashes too, hee, hee, hee, it shore wus good, an we had side meat, an
we had other eatin too, what ever de Ole Marse had, but I like de side
meat bes. I had a good dress for Sunday too but aint got none dese days,
jes looky, chile, dese ole rags de bes I got. My Sunday dress? Lawzy me,
chile, hit were alway a bright red cotton. I suah member dat color, us
dye de cotton right on de plantation mostly. Other close I dont ezackly
ricollek, but de mostly dark, no colahs.

"My ma, she boss all de funerls ob de niggahs on de plantation an she
got a long white veil for wearin, lawzy me, chile, she suah look
bootiful, jes lak a bride she did when she boss dem funerls in dat veil.
She not much skeered nether fo dat veil hit suah keep de hants away.
Wisht I had me dat veil right now, mout hep cure dis remutizics in ma
knee what ailin me so bad. I disrememba, but I sposen she got buried in
dat veil, chile. She hoe de cotton so Ole Marse Louis he always let her
off fo de buryings cause she know how to manage de other niggahs and
keep dem quiet at de funerls.

"No maam, chile, we didn't hab no Preacher-mans much, hit too fah away
to git one when de niggah die. We sung songs and my ma she say a Bible
vurs what Ole Missy don lernt her. Be vurs, lawsy me, chile, suah wish I
could member hit for you. Dem songs? I don jes recollek, but hit seem
lak de called 'Gimme Dem Golden Slippahs', an a nother one hit wah 'Ise
Goin To Heben In De Charot Ob Fiah', suah do wish I could recollek de
words an sing em foh you, chile, but I caint no more, my min, hit aint
no good lak what it uster be.

"Yes maam, chile, I suah heerd ob Mr. Lincoln but not so much. What
dat mans wanter free us niggahs when we so happy an not nothin to
worrify us. No, maam, I didn't see none dem Yankee sojers but I heerd
od[TR: of?] dem an we alwy skeerd dey come. Us all cotch us rabbits an
weah de lef hine foots roun our nek wif a bag ob akkerfedity, yessum I
guess dat what I mean, an hit shore smell bad an hit keep off de fevah
too, an if a Yankee cotch you wif dat rabbit foots an dat akkerfedity
bag roun youh nek, he suah turn you loose right now.

"Yes maam, chile, Ise a Baptis and sho proud ob it. Praise de Lord and
go to Church, dat de onliest way to keep de debbil offen youh trail and
den sometime he almos kotch up wif you. Lawsy me, chile, when de
Preacher-mans baptiz me he had duck me under de wateh twell I mos dron,
de debbil he got such a holt on me an jes wont let go, but de
Preacher-mans he kep a duckin me an he finaly shuck de debbil loose an
he aint bother me much sence, dat is not very much, an dat am a long
time ago.

"Yes maam, chile, some ob de niggahs dey run off from Ole Marse Louis,
but de alway come back bout stahved, hee, hee, hee, an do dey eat, an
Ole Marse, he alway take em back an give em plenty eatins. Yes maam, he
alway good to us and he suah give us niggahs plenty eatins all de time.
When Crismus come, you know chile, hit be so cole, and Old Marse, he let
us make a big fiah, a big big fiah in de yahd roun which us live, an us
all dance rounde fiah, and Ole Missy she brang us Crismus Giff. What war
de giff? Lawzy me, chile, de mostly red woolen stockings and some times
a pair of shoeses, an my wus we proud. An Ole Marse Louis, he giv de
real old niggahs, both de mens an de owmans, a hot toddy, hee, hee, hee.
Lawzy me, chile, dem wus de good days, who give an ole niggah like me a
hot toddy dese days? an talkin you bout dem days, chile, sho mek me wish
dey was now."

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Viola B. Muse, Field Worker
Palatka, Florida


Randall Lee of 500 Branson Street, Palatka, Florida, was born at Camden,
South Carolina about seventy-seven years ago, maybe longer.

He was the son of Robert and Delhia Lee, who during slavery were Robert
and Delhia Miller, taking the name of their master, as was the custom.

His master was Doctor Miller and his mistress was Mrs. Camilla Miller.
He does not know his master's given name as no other name was ever heard
around the plantation except Doctor Miller.

Randall was a small boy when the war between the states broke out, but
judging from what he remembers he must have been a boy around six or
seven years of age.

During the few years he spent in slavery, Randall had many experiences
which made such deep impressions upon his brain that the memory of them
still remains clear.

The one thing that causes one to believe that he must have been around
seven years of age is the statement that he was not old enough to have
tasks of any importance placed upon him, yet he was trusted along with
another boy about his own age, to carry butter from the plantation dairy
two miles to the 'big house.' No one would trust a child younger than
six years of age to handle butter for fear of it being dropped into the
dirt. He must have at least reached the age when he was sent two miles
with a package and was expected to deliver the package intact. He must
have understood the necessity of not playing on the way. He stated that
he knew not to stop on the two-mile journey and not to let the butter
get dirty.

Randall had the pleasure of catching the pig for his father for Doctor
Miller gave each of his best Negro men a pig to raise for himself and
family. He was allowed to build a pen for it and raise and fatten it for
killing. When killing time came he was given time to butcher it and
grind all the sausage he could make to feed his family. By that method
it helped to solve the feeding problem and also satisfied the slaves.

It was more like so many families living around a big house with a boss
looking over them, for they were allowed a privilege that very few
masters gave their slaves.

On the Miller plantation there was a cotton gin. Doctor Miller owned the
gin and it was operated by his slaves. He grew the cotton, picked it,
ginned it and wove it right there. He also had a baler and made the
bagging to bale it with. He only had to buy the iron bands that held the
bales intact.

Doctor Miller was a rich man and had a far reaching sight into how to
work slaves to the best advantage. He was kind to them and knew that the
best way to get the best out of men was to keep them well and happy. His
arrangement was very much the general way in that he allowed the young
men and women to work in the fields and the old women and a few old men
to work around the house, in the gin and at the loom. The old women
mostly did the spinning of thread and weaving of cloth although in some
instances Doctor Miller found a man who was better adapted to weaving
than any of his women slaves.

Everyone kept his plantation under fence and men who were old but strong
and who had some knowledge of carpentry were sent out to keep the fence
in repair and often to build new ones. The fences were not like those of
today. They were built of horizontal rails about six or seven feet long,
running zig-zag fashion. Instead of having straight line fences and
posts at regular points they did not use posts at all. The bottom rails
rested upon the ground and the zig-zag fashion in which they were laid
gave strength to the fence. No nails were used to hold the rails in
place. If stock was to be let in or out of the places the planks were
unlocked so to speak, and the stock allowed to enter after which they
were laid back as before.

Boys and girls under ten years of age were never sent into the field to
work on the Miller plantation but were required to mind the smaller
children of the family and do chores around the "big house" for the
mistress and her children. Such work as mending was taught the
domestic-minded children and tending food on the pots was alloted others
with inborn ability to cook. They were treated well and taught 'manners'
and later was used as dining room girls and nurses.

Randall's father and mother were considered lucky. His father was
overseer and his mother was a waitress.

Doctor Miller was a kind and considerate owner; never believed in
punishing slaves unless in extreme cases. No overseer, white or colored
could whip his slaves without first bringing the slave before him and
having a full understanding as to what the offense was. If it warranted
whipping them it had to be given in his presence so he could see that it
was not given unmercifully. He indeed was a doctor and practised his
profession in the keeping of his slaves from bodily harm as well as
keeping them well. He gave them medicine when they did not feel well and
saw to it that they took needed rest if they were sick and tired.

Now, Robert Lee, Randall's father, was brought from Virginia and sold to
Doctor Miller when he was a young man. The one who sold him told Doctor
Miller, "Here's a nigger who wont take a whipping. He knows his work and
will do it and all you will need to do is tell him what you want and its
as good as done." Robert Lee never varied from the recommendation his
former master gave when he sold him.

The old tale of corn bread baked on the hearth covered with ashes and
sweet potatoes cooked in like manner are vivid memories upon the mind of
Randall. Syrup water and plenty of sweet and butter milk, rice and
crackling bread are other foods which were plentiful around the cabin of
Randall's parents.

Cows were numerous and the family of Doctor Miller did not need much for
their consumption. While they sold milk to neighboring plantations, the
Negroes were not denied the amount necessary to keep all strong and
healthy. None of the children on the plantation were thin and scrawny
nor did they ever complain of being hungry.

The tanning yard was not far from the house Doctor Miller. His own
butcher shop was nearby. He had his cows butchered at intervals and when
one died of unnatural causes it was skinned and the hide tanned on the

Randall as a child delighted in stopping around the tanning yard and
watching the men salt the hide. They, after salting it dug holes and
buried it for a number of days. After the salting process was finished
it was treated with a solution of water and oak bark. When the oak bark
solution had done its work it was ready for use. Shoes made of leather
were not dyed at that time but the natural color of the finished hide
was thought very beautiful and those who were lucky enough to possess a
pair were glad to get them in their natural color. To dye shoes various
colors is a new thing when the number of years leather has been dyed is
compared with the hundreds of years people knew nothing about it,
especially American people.

Randall's paternal grandparents were also owned by Doctor Miller and
were not sold after he bought them. Levi Lee was his grandfather's name.
He was a fine worker in the field but was taken out of it to be taught
the shoe-makers trade. The master placed him under a white shoemaker who
taught him all the fine points. If there were any, he knew about the
trade. Dr. Miller had an eye for business who could make shoes was a
great saving to him. Levi made all the shoes and boots the master,
mistress and the Miller family wore. Besides, he made shoes for the
slaves who wore them. Not all slaves owned a pair of shoes. Boys and
girls under eighteen went bare-footed except in winter. Doctor Miller
had compassion for them and did not allow them to suffer from the cold
by going bare-footed in winter.

Another good thing to be remembered was the large number of chickens,
ducks and geese which the slaves raised for the doctor. Every slave
family could rest his tired body upon a feather bed for it was allowed
him after the members of the master's family were supplied. Moss
mattresses also were used under the feather beds and slaves did not need
to have as thick a feather bed on that account. They were comfortable
though and Randall remembers how he and the other children used to fall
down in the middle of the bed and become hidden from view, so soft was
the feather mattress. It was especially good to get in bed in winter but
not so pleasant to get up unless 'pappy' had made the fire early enough
for the large one-room cabin to get warm. The children called their own
parents 'pappy' and 'mammy' in slavery time.

Randall remembers how after a foot-washing in the old wooden tub,
(which, by the way, was simply a barrel cut in half and holes cut in the
two sides for fingers to catch a hold) he would sit a few minutes with
his feet held to the fire so they could dry. He also said his 'mammy'
would rub grease under the soles of his feet to keep him from taking

It seemed to the child that he had just gone to bed when the old tallow
candle was lighted and his 'pappy' arose and fell upon his knees and
prayed aloud for God's blessings and thanked him for another day. The
field hands were to be in the field by five o'clock and it meant to rise
before day, summer and winter. Not so bad in summer for it was soon day
but in winter the weather was cold and darkness was longer passing away.
When daylight came field hands had been working an hour or more. Robert
Lee, Randall's father was an overseer and it meant for him to be up and
out with the rest of the men so he could see if things were going

The Randall children were not forced up early because they did not eat
breakfast with their 'pappy'. Their mother was dining-room girl in her
mistress' house, so fed the children right from the Miller table. There
was no objection offered to this.

Doctor Miller was kind but he did not want his slaves enlightened too
much. Therefore, he did not allow much preaching in the church. They
could have prayer meeting all they wanted to, but instructions from the
Bible were thought dangerous for the slaves. He did not wish them to
become too wise and get it into their heads to ran away and get free.

There was talk about freedom and Doctor Miller knew it would be only a
matter of time when he would loose all his slaves. He said to Randall's
mother one day, "Delhia you'll soon be as free as I am." She said. "Sho'
nuf massy?" and he answered. "You sure will." Nothing more was said to
any of the slaves until Sherman's army came through notifying the
slaves they were free.

The presence of the soldiers caused such a comotion around the
plantation that Randall's mind was indelibly impressed with their

The northern soldiers took all the food they could get their hands on
and took possession of the cattle and horses and mules. Levi, the
brother of Randall, and who was named after his paternal grandfather,
was put on a mule and the mule loaded with provisions and sent two miles
to the soldier's camp. Levi liked that, for beside being well treated he
received several pieces of money. The federal soldiers played with him
and gave him all the food he wanted, although the Miller slaves and
their children were fed and there was no reason for the child to be

Levi Lee, the grandfather of young Levi and Randall, had a dream while
the soldiers were encamped round about the place. He dreamed that a pot
of money was buried in a certain place; the person who showed it to him
told him to go dig for it on the first rainy night. He kept the dream a
secret and on the first rainy night he went, dug, and found the pot of
money right where his dream had told him it would be. He took the pot of
money to his cabin and told no one anything about it. He hid it as
securely as possible, but when the soldiers were searching for gold and
silver money they did not leave the Negro's cabin out of the search.
When they found the money they thought Levi's master had given him the
money to hide as they took it from him. Levi mourned a long time about
the loss of his money and often told his grandchildren that he would
have been well fixed when freedom came if he had not been robbed of his

"Paddyroles" as the men were called who were sent by the Rebels to watch
the slaves to prevent their escaping during war times, were very active
after freedom. They intimidated the Negroes and threatened them with
loss of life if they did not stay and work for their former masters.
Doctor Miller did not want any of his slaves treated in such manner. He
told them they were free and could take whatever name they desired.

Robert Lee, during slavery was Robert Miller, as were all of the
doctor's slaves. After slavery was ended he chose the name Lee. His
brother Aaron took the name Alexander not thinking how it looked for two
brothers of the same parents to have different surnames. There are sons
of each brother living in Palatka now, one set Lees and the others,

Randall, as was formerly stated, spent a very little time in slavery.
Most of his knowledge concerning customs which long ago have been
abandoned and replaced by more modern ones, is of early reconstruction
days. Just after the Civil War, when his father began farming on his own
plantation, his mother remained home and cared for her house and
children. She was of fair complexion, having been the daughter of a
half-breed Indian and Negro mother. Her father was white. Her native
state was Virginia and she bore some of the aristocratic traits so
common among those born in that state of such parentage. She often
boasted of her "blue blood Virginia stock."

Robert Lee, Randall's father was very prosperous in early reconstruction
days. He owned horses, mules and a plow. The plow was made of point iron
with a wooden handle, not like plows of today for they are of cast iron
and steel.

Chickens, ducks and geese were raised in abundance and money began
accumulating rapidly for Robert and Delhia Lee. They began improving
their property and trying to give their children some education. It was
very hard for those living in small towns and out in the country to go
to school even though they had money to pay for their education. The
north sent teachers down but not every hamlet was favored with such. (1)

Randall was taught to farm and he learned well. He saved his money as he
worked and grew to manhood. Years after freedom he left South Carolina
and went to Palatka, Florida, where he is today. He bought some land
and although most of it is hammock land and not much good he has at
intervals been offered good prices for it. Some white people during the
"boom" of 1925-26 offered him a few dollars an acre for it but he
refused to sell thinking a better price would be offered if he held on.

Today finds Randall Lee, an old man with fairly good health; he stated
that he had not had a doctor for years and his thinking faculties are in
good order. His eyesight is failing but he does not allow that to
handicap him in getting about. He talks fluently about what he remembers
concerning slavery and that which his parents told him. He is between a
mulatto and brown skin with good, mixed gray and black hair. His
features are regular, not showing much Negro blood. He is tall and looks
to weigh about one hundred and sixty-five pounds. His wife lives with
him in their two-story frame house which shows that they have had better
days financially. The man and wife both show interest in the progress of
the Negro race and possess some books about the history of the Negro.
One book of particular interest, and of which the wife of Randall Lee
thinks a great deal, was written, according to her story, by John Brown.
It is called "The History of the Colored Race in America." She could not
find but a few pages of it when interviewed but declared she had owned
the entire book for years. The pages she had and showed with such pride
were 415 to 449 inclusive. The book was written in the year 1836 and the
few pages produced by her gave information concerning the Negro, Lovejoy
of St. Louis, Missouri. It is the same man for whom the city of Lovejoy,
Illinois is named. The other book she holds with pride and guards
jealously is "The College of Life" by Henry Davenport Northrop D.D.,
Honorable Joseph R. Gay and Professor I. Garland Penn. It was entered,
according to the Act of Congress in the year 1900 by Horace C. Fry, in
the office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D.C. (3)


1. Randall Lee, 600 Brunson Street, Palatka, Florida

2. Mrs. Bessie Bates, 412 South Eleventh Street, Palatka, Florida

3. Observation of Field Worker

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Pearl Randolph, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
December 5, 1936


"Pap tell us 'nother story 'bout do war--and 'bout de fust time you saw

It has been almost 60 years since a group of children gathered about
their father's knee, clamoring for another story. They listened
round-eyed to stories they already knew because "pap" had told them so
many times before. These narratives along with the great changes he has
seen, were carefully recorded in the mind of Edward, the only one of
this group now alive.

"Pap" was always ready to oblige with the story they never tired of. He
could always be depended upon to begin at the beginning, for he loved to
tell it.

"It all begun with our ship being took off the coast of Newport News,
Virginia. We wuz runnin' the blockade--sellin' guns and what-not to them
Northerners. We aint had nothin' to do wid de war, unnerstand, we
English folks was at'ter de money. Whose War? The North and South's, of
course. I hear my captain say many a time as how they was playin' ball
wid the poor niggers. One side says 'You can't keep your niggers lessen
you pay em and treat em like other folks.' Mind you dat wasn't de rale
reason, they was mad at de South but it was one of de ways dey could be
hurted--to free de niggers."

"De South says 'Dese is our niggers and we'll do dum as we please,' and
so de rumpus got wuss dan it was afore. The North had all do money, and
called itself de Gov'ment. The South aint had nothin', but a termination
not to be out-did, so we dealt wid de North. De South was called de

"So when dey see a ship off they coast, they hailed it and when we kep
goin', they fired at us. 'Twan't long afore we was being unloaded and
marched off to the lousiest jail I ever been in. My captain kep tellin'
em we was English subjects and could not be helt. Me, I was a scairt
man, cause I was always free, and over here dey took it for granted dat
all black men should be slaves."

"The jailer felt of my muscles one day, when he had marched me out at
the point of his musket to fill de watering troughs for de horses. He
wanted to know who I blong ter, and offered to buy me. When nobody
claimed me, they was forced to let me go long wid de other Britishers
and as our ship had been destroyed, we had to git back home best we
could. Dey didn't dare hold us no longer."

"As de war was still being fit, we was forced to separate, cause a lot
of us would cause spicion, traipsing 'bout do country. Me--I took off
southward and way from de war belt, traveling as far as Saint Augustine.
It was a dangerous journey, as anybody was liable to pick me off for a
runaway slave. I was forced to hide in de day time if I was near a
settlement and travel at night. I met many runaway slaves. Some was
trying to get North and fight for de freeing of they people; others was
jes runnin' way cause dey could. Many of dem didn't had no idea where
dey was goin' and told of havin' good marsters. But one and all dey had
a good strong notion ter see what it was like to own your own body."

"I felt worlds better when I reached Saint Augustine. Many ships landed
there and I knowed I could get my way back at least to de West Indies,
where I come frum. I showed my papers to everybody dat mounted ter
anything and dey knowed I was a free nigger. I had plenty of money on me
and I made a big ter do mong de other free men I met. One day I went to
the slave market and watched em barter off po niggers lake dey was hogs.
Whole families sold together and some was split--mother gone to one
marster and father and children gone to others."

"They'd bring a slave out on the flatform and open his mouth, pound his
chest, make him harden his muscles so the buyer could see what he was
gittin'. Young men was called 'bucks' and young women 'wenches'. The
person that offered the best price was de buyer. And dey shore did git
rid uf some pretty gals. Dey always looked so shame and pitiful up on
dat stand wid all dem men standin' dere lookin' at em wid what dey had
on dey minds shinin' in they eyes One little gal walked up and left her
mammy mourning so pitiful cause she had to be sold. Seems like dey all
belong in a family where nobody ever was sold. My she was a pretty gal."

"And dats why your mamma's named Julia stead of Mary Jane or Hannah or
somethin' else--She cost me $950.00 and den my own freedom. But she was
worth it--every bit of it!"

"After that I put off my trip back home and made her home my home for
three years. Den with our two young children we left Floridy and went to
the West Indies to live. We traveled bout a bit gettin as far as
England. We got letters from your ma's folks and dey jes had to see her
or else somebody would'er died, so we sailed back into de war."

"Freedom was declared soon after we got back to dis country and de whole
country was turned upside down. De po niggers went mad. Some refused to
work and dey didn't stay in one place long 'nough to do a thing. De
crops suffered and soon we had starvation times for 'bout two years.
After dat everybody lernt to think of a rainy day and things got

Edward recalls of hearing his father tell of eating wild hog salad and
cabbage palms. It was a common occurence to see whole families
subsisting on any wild plant not known to be poisonous if it contained
the least food value. The freedmen helped those who were newly liberated
to gain a footing. Prior to Emancipation they had not been allowed to
associate with slaves for fear they might engender in them the desire to
be free. The freedmen bore the brunt of the white man's suspicion
whenever there was a slave uprising. They were always accusing them of
being instigators. Edward often heard his mother tell of the
"patter-rollers", a group of white men who caught and administered
severe whippings to these unfortunate slaves. They also corraled slaves
back to their masters if they were caught out after nine o'clock at
night without a pass from their masters.

George Lycurgas was born at Liverpool, England and became a seaman at an
early age. Edward thinks he might have had a fair education if he had
had the chance. The mother, Julia Gray, Lycurgas, was the daughter of
Barbara and David Gray, slaves of the Flemings of Clay County, Florida.

These slaves were inherited from generation to generation and no one
ever thought to sell one except for punishment or in dire necessity.
They were treated kindly and like most slaves of the wealthy, had no
knowledge of the real cruelties of slavery, but upon the death of their
owner it became necessary to parcel the slaves out to different heirs,
some of whom did not believe in holding these unfortunates. These
would-be abolitionists were not averse to placing at auction their share
of the slaves, however.

It was on this occasion that George Lycurgas saw and bought the girl who
was to become his wife. Both are now dead, also all of the several
children except Edward who tells their story here.

Edward Lycurgas was born on October 28, 1872, at Saint Augustine,
Florida shortly after the return of the family from the West Indies. He
lived on his father's farm sharing at an early age the hard work that
seemed always in abundance, and listening in awe to the stories of the
recent war. He heard his elders give thanks for their freedom when they
attended church and wondered what it was all about.

No one failed to attend church on Sundays and all work ceased in a
vicinity where a camp meeting was held. Farmers flocked to the meeting
from all parts of Saint Johns County. They brought food in their large
baskets. Some owned buggies but most of them hauled their families in
wagons or walked. The camp meetings would sometimes last for several
days according to the spiritual fervor exhibited by those attending.

Lycurgas recalls the stirring sermons and spirituals that rang through
the woods and could be heard for several miles on a clear day. And the
river baptisms! These climaxed the meetings and were attended by large
crowds of whites in the neighborhood. All candidates were dressed in
white gowns, stockings and towels would about their heads bandana
fashion. Tow by two they marched to the river from the spot where they
had dressed. There was always some stiring song to accompany their slow
march to the river. "Take me to the water to be baptized" was the
favorite spiritual for this occasion.

As in all things, some attended camp meetings for the opportunity it
afforded them to indulge in illicit love making. Others went to show
their finery and there was plenty of it according to Lycurgas'
statement. There seemed to be beautiful clothing, fine teams and buggies
everywhere--a sort of reaction from the restraint upon them in slavery.
Many wore clothing they could not afford.

There seemed to be a deeper interest in politics during these times.
Mass meetings, engineered by "carpet baggers" were often held and
largely attended, although the father of Edward did not hold with these
activities very much. He often heard the preacher point out Negroes who
attended the meetings and attained prominence in politics as an example
for members of his flock to follow. He believes he recalls hearing the
name of Joseph Gibbs.

Next to the preacher, the Negro school teacher was held in greatest
respect. Until the year of the "shake" (earthquake of 1886) there were
no Negro school teachers on Saint John's County and no school buildings.
They attended classes at the fort and were taught by a white woman who
had come from "up nawth" for this purpose. Edward was able to learn very
little from his blue back Webster because his help was needed on the

He was a lover of home, very shy and did not care much for courting. He
remained with his parents until their deaths and did not leave the
vicinity for many years. He is still unmarried and resides at the Clara
White Mission, Jacksonville, Florida, where he receives a email salary
for the piddling jobs about the place that he is able to do.


1. Personal interview with Edward Lycurgas, 611 West Ashley Street,
Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Pearl Randolph, Field Worker
Madison, Florida
November 13, 1936


Mrs. McCray was sitting on her porch crooning softly to herself and
rocking so gently that one might easily have thought the wind was
swaying her chair. Her eyes were closed, her hands incredibly old and
workworn were slowly folding and unfolding on her lap.

She listened quietly to the interviewer's request for some of the "high
lights" of her life and finally exclaimed: "Chile, why'ny you look among
the living fer the high lights?"

There was nothing resentful in this expression; only the patient
weariness of one who has been dragged through the boundaries of a
yesterday from which he was inseparable and catapulted into a present
with which he has nothing in common. After being assured that her life
story was of real interest to some one she warmed up and talked quite
freely of the life and times as they existed in her day.

How old was she? She confessed quite frankly that she never "knowed" her
age. She was a grownup during the Civil War when she was commandered by
Union soldiers invading the country and employed as a cook. Her owner,
one Redding Pamell, possessed a hundred or more slaves and was,
according to her statement very kind to them. It was on his plantation
that she was born. Amanda McCray is one of several children born to
Jacob and Mary Williams, the latter being blind since Amanda could

Children on the Pamell plantation led a carefree existence until they
were about 12 years of age, when they were put to light chores like
carrying water and food, picking seed from cotton lint (there were no
cotton gins), and minding the smaller children. They were duly schooled
in all the current superstitions and listened to the tales of ghosts and
animals that talked and reasoned, tales common to the Negro today.
Little Mandy believes to this day that hogs can see the wind and that
all animals talk like men on Christmas morning at a certain time.
Children wore moles feet and pearl buttons around their necks to insure
easy teething and had their legs bathed in a concoction of wasp nest and
vinegar if they were slow about learning to walk. This was supposed to
strengthen the weak limbs. It was a common occurence to see a child of
two or three years still nursing at the mother's breast. Their masters
encouraged the slaves to do this, thinking it made strong bones and

At Christmas time the slave children all trouped to "de big house" and
stood outside crying "Christmas gift" to their master and mistress. They
were never disappointed. Gifts consisted mostly of candies, nuts and
fruits but there was always some useful article of clothing included,
something they were not accustomed to having. Once little Mandy received
a beautiful silk dress from her young mistress, who knew how much she
liked beautiful clothes. She was a very happy child and loved the dress
so much that she never wore it except on some special occasion.

Amanda was trained to be a house servant, learning to cook and knit from
the blind mother who refused to let this handicap affect her usefulness.
She liked best to sew the fine muslins and silks of her mistress, making
beautiful hooped dresses that required eight and ten yards of cloth and
sometimes as many as seven petticoats to enhance their fullness.

Hoops for these dresses were made of grape-vines that were shaped while
green and cured in the sun before using. Beautiful imported laces were
used to trim the petticoats and pantaloons of the wealthy.

The Pamell slaves had a Negro minister who could hold services any time
he chose, so long as he did not interfere with the work of the other
slaves. He was not obliged to do hard menial labors and went about the
plantation "all dressed up" in a frock coat and store-bought shoes. He
was more than a little conscious of this and was held in awe by the
others. He often visited neighboring plantations to hold his services.
It was from this minister that they first heard of the Civil War. He
held whispered prayers for the success of the Union soldiers, not
because freedom was so desirable to them, but for other slaves who were
treated so cruelly. There was a praying ground where "the grass never
had a chancet ter grow fer the troubled knees that kept it crushed

Amanda was an exceptionally good cook and so widespread was this
knowledge that the Union soldiers employed her as a cook in their camp
for a short while. She does not remember any of their officers and
thinks they were no better nor worse than the others. These soldiers
committed no depredations in her section except to confiscate whatever
they wanted in the way of food and clothing. Some married southern

Mr. Pamell made land grants to all slaves who wanted to remain with him;
few left, so kind had he been to them all.

Life went on in much the same manner for Amanda's family except that the
children attended school where a white teacher instructed them from a
"blue back Webster." Amanda was a young woman but she managed to learn
to read a little. Later they had colored teachers who followed much the
same routine as the whites had. They were held in awe by the other
Negroes and every little girl yearned to be a teacher, as this was about
the only professional field open to Negro women at that time.

"After de war Negroes blossomed out with fine phaetons (buggies) and
ceiled houses, and clothes--oh my!"

Mrs. McCray did not keep up with the politics of her time but remembers
hearing about Joe Gibbs, member of the Florida Legislature. There was
much talk then of Booker T. Washington, and many thought him a fool for
trying to start a school in Alabama for Negroes. She recalls the Negro
post master who served two or three terms at Madison. She could not give
his name.

There have been three widespread "panics" (depressions) during her
lifetime but Mrs. McCray thinks this is the worst one. During the Civil
War, coffee was so dear that meal was parched and used as a substitute
but now, she remarked, "you can't hardly git the meal for the bread."

Her husband and children are all dead and she lives with a niece who is
no longer young herself. Circumstances are poor here. The niece earns
her living as laundress and domestic worker, receiving a very poor wage.
Mrs. McCray is now quite infirm and almost blind. She seems happiest
talking of the past that was a bit kinder to her.

At present she lives on the northeast corner of First and Macon Streets.
The postoffice address is #11, Madison, Florida.


1. Personal interview with Amanda McCray, First and Macon Streets,
Madison, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Alfred Farrell, Field Worker
John A. Simms, Editor
Titusville, Florida
September 25, 1936


"Up from Slavery" might well be called this short biographical sketch of
Henry Maxwell, who first saw the light of day on October 17, 1859 in
Lownes County, Georgia. His mother Ann, was born in Virginia, and his
father, Robert, was born in South Carolina. Captain Peters, Ann's owner,
bought Robert Maxwell from Charles Howell as a husband for Ann. To this
union were born seven children, two girls--Elizabeth and Rosetta--and
five boys--Richard, Henry, Simms, Solomon and Sonnie. After the death of
Captain Peters in 1863, Elizabeth and Richard were sold to the Gaines
family. Rosetta and Robert (the father) were purchased from the Peters'
estate by Isham Peters, Captain Peters' son, and Henry and Simms were
bought by James Bamburg, husband of Izzy Peters, daughter of Captain
Peters. (Solomon and Sonnie were born after slavery.)

Just a tot when the Civil War gave him and his people freedom, Maxwell's
memories of bondage-days are vivid through the experiences related by
older Negroes. He relates the story of the plantation owner who trained
his dogs to hunt escaped slaves. He had a Negro youth hide in a tree
some distance away, and then he turned the pack loose to follow him. One
day he released the bloodhounds too soon, and they soon overtook the boy
and tore him to pieces. When the youth's mother heard of the atrocity,
she burst into tears which were only silenced by the threats of her
owner to set the dogs on her. Maxwell also relates tales of the terrible
beatings that the slaves received for being caught with a book or for
trying to run away.

After the Civil War the Maxwell family was united for a short while, and
later they drifted apart to go their various ways. Henry and his parents
resided for a while longer in Lownes County, and in 1880 they came to
Titusville, with the two younger children, Solomon and Sonnie. Here
Henry secured work with a farmer for whom he worked for $12 a month. In
1894 he purchased a small orange grove and began to cultivate oranges.
Today he owns over 30 acres of orange groves and controls nearly 200
more acres. He is said to be worth around $250,000 and is Titusville's
most influential and respected colored citizen. He is married but has no

[TR: Interview of Titus Bynes, including sections about Della Bess
Hilyard ("Aunt Bess") and Taylor Gilbert repeated here. References to
them deleted below.]


1. Personal interview of field worker with subject

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Martin Richardson, Field Worker
Saint Augustine, Florida
November 10, 1936


An interesting description of the slave days just prior to the War
Between the States is given by Christine Mitchell, of Saint Augustine.

Christine was born in slavery at Saint Augustine, remaining on the
plantation until she was about 10 years old.

During her slave days she knew many of the slaves on plantations in the
Saint Augustine vicinity. Several of these plantations, she says, were
very large, and some of them had as many as 100 slaves.

The ex-slave, who is now 84 years old, recalls that at least three of
the plantations in the vicinity were owned or operated by Minorcans. She
says that the Minorcans were popularly referred to in the section as
"Turnbull's Darkies," a name they apparently resented. This caused many
of them, she claims, to drop or change their names to Spanish or
American surnames.

Christine moved to Fernandina a few years after her freedom, and there
lived near the southern tip of Amelia Island, where Negro ex-slaves
lived in a small settlement all their own. This settlement still exists,
although many of its former residents are either dead or have moved

Christine describes the little Amelia Island community as practically
self-sustaining, its residents raising their own food, meats, and other
commodities. Fishing was a favorite vocation with them, and some of then
established themselves as small merchants of sea foods.

Several of the families of Amelia Island, according to the ex-slave,
were large ones, and her own relatives, the Drummonds, were among the
largest of these.

Christine Mitchell regards herself as one of the oldest remaining
ex-slaves in the Saint Augustine section, and is very well known in the
neighborhood of her home at St. Francis and Oneida Streets.


1. Interview with subject, Christine Drummond Mitchell, Oneida street
corner Saint Francis, Saint Augustine, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Unit)

Martin Richardson, Field Worker
Palatka, Florida
January 13, 1937



In a little blacksmith shop at 1114 Madison Street, Palatka, is a busy
little horse-shoer who was born in slavery eighty-seven years ago.
_Lindsey Moore_, blacksmith, leather-tanner ex-marble shooting champion
and a number of other things, represents one of the most resourceful
former slaves yet found in the state.

Moore was born in 1850 on the plantation of John B. Overtree, in
Forsythe County, Georgia. He was one of the six children of Eliza Moore;
all of them remained the property of Overtree until freed.

On the Overtree plantation the slave children were allowed considerable
time for play until their tenth or twelfth years; Lindsey took full
advantage of this opportunity and became very skillful at
marble-shooting. It was here that he first learned to utilize his
talents profitably. 'Massa Overtree' discovered the ability of Lindsey
and another urchin to shoot marbles, and began taking them into town to
compete with the little slaves of other owners. There would be betting
on the winners.

Mr. Overtree won some money in this manner, Lindsey and his companion
being consistent winners. But Lindsey saw possibilities other than the
glory of his victories in this new game; with pennies that some of the
spectators tossed him he began making small wagers of his own with his
competitors, and soon had amassed quite a small pile of silver for those

Although shoes were unheard-of in Lindsey's youth, he used to watch
carefully whenever a cow was skinned and its hide tanned to make shoes
for the women and the 'folks in the big house'. Through his attention to
the tanning operations he learned everything about tanning except one
solution that he could not discover. It was not until years later that
he learned that the jealously-guarded ingredient was plain salt and
water. By the time he had learned it, however, he had so mastered the
tanning operations that he at once added it to his sources of

Lindsey escaped much of the farm work on the Overtree place by learning
to skillfully assist the women who made cloth out of the cotton from the
fields. He grew very fast at cleaning 'rods', clearing the looms and
other operations; when, at thirteen, it became time for him to pick
cotton he had become so fast at helping with spinning and weighing the
cotton that others had picked that he almost entirely escaped the
picking himself.

Soap-making was another of the plantation arts that Lindsey mastered
early. His ability to save every possible ounce of grease from the meats
he cooked added many choice bits of pork to his otherwise meatless fare;
he was able to spend many hours in the shade pouring water over oak
ashes that other young slaves were passing picking cotton or hoeing
potatoes in the burning sun.

Lindsey's first knowledge of the approach of freedom came when he heard
a loud brass band coming down the road toward the plantation playing a
strange, lively tune while a number of soldiers in blue uniforms marched
behind. He ran to the front gate and was ordered to take charge of the
horse of one of the officers in such an abrupt tone until he 'begin to
shaking in my bare feet! There followed much talk between the officers
and Lindsey's mistress, with the soldiers finally going into encampment
a short distance away from the plantation.

The soldiers took command of the spring that was used for a water supply
for the plantation, giving Lindsey another opportunity to make money. He
would be sent from the plantation to the spring for water, and on the
way back would pass through the camp of the soldiers. These would be
happy to pay a few pennies for a cup of water rather than take the long
hike to the Spring themselves; Lindsey would empty bucket after bucket
before finally returning to the plantation. Out of his profits he bought
his first pair of shoes--though nearly a grown man.

The soldiers finally departed, with all but five of the Overtree slaves
joyously trooping behind them. Before leaving, however, they tore up the
railroad and its station, burning the ties and heating the rails until
red then twisting them around tree-trunks. Wheat fields were trampled by
their horses, and devastation left on all sides.

Lindsey and his mother were among those who stayed at the plantation.
When freedom became general his father began farming on a tract that was
later turned over to Lindsey. Lindsey operated the farm for a while, but
later desired to learn horseshoeing, and apprenticed himself to a
blacksmith. At the end of three years he had become so proficient that
his former master rewarded him with a five-dollar bonus for shoeing one

Possessing now the trades of blacksmithing, tanning and
weaving-and-spinning, Lindsey was tempted to follow some of his former
associates to the North, but was discouraged from doing so by a few who
returned, complaining bitterly about the unaccustomed cold and the
difficulty of making a living. He moved South instead and settled in the
area around Palatka.

He is still in the section, being recognized as an excellent blacksmith
despite his more than four-score years.


Interview with subject, Lindsey Moore, 1114 Madison Street, Palatka,

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

J.M. Johnson, Field Worker
John A. Simms, Editor
Jacksonville, Florida
September 18, 1936


Mack Mullen, a former slave who now lives at 521 W. First Street,
Jacksonville, Florida, was born in Americus, Georgia in 1857, eight
years before Emancipation, on a plantation which covered an area of
approximately five miles. Upon this expansive plantation about 200
slaves lived and labored. At its main entrance stood a large white
colonial mansion.

In this abode lived Dick Snellings, the master, and his family. The
Snellings plantation produced cotton, corn, oats, wheat, peanuts,
potatoes, cane and other commodities. The live stock consisted primarily
of hogs and cattle. There was on the plantation what was known as a
"crib," where oats, corn and wheat were stored, and a "smoke house" for
pork and beef. The slaves received their rations weekly, it was
apportioned according to the number in the family.

Mack Mullen's mother was named Ellen and his father Sam. Ellen was
"house woman" and Sam did the blacksmithing, Ellen personally attended
Mrs. Snellings, the master's wife. Mack being quite young did not have
any particular duties assigned to him, but stayed around the Snellings
mansion and played. Sometimes "marster" Snellings would take him on his
knee and talk to him. Mack remembers that he often told him that some
day he was going to be a noble man. He said that he was going to make
him the head overseer. He would often give him candy and money and take
him in his buggy for a ride.

Plantation Life: The slaves lived in cabins called quarters, which were
constructed of lumber and logs. A white man was their overseer, he
assigned the slaves their respective tasks. There was also a slave known
as a "caller." He came around to the slave cabins every morning at four
o'clock and blew a "cow-horn" which was the signal for the slaves to get
up and prepare themselves for work in the fields.

All of them on hearing this horn would arise and prepare their meal; by
six o'clock they were on their way to the fields. They would work all
day, stopping only for a brief period at midday to eat. Mack Mullen
says that some of the most beautiful spirituals were sung while they

The women wore towels wrapped around their heads for protection from the
sun, and most of them smoked pipes. The overseer often took Mack with
him astride his horse as he made his "rounds" to inspect the work being
done. About sundown, the "cow-horn" of the caller was blown and all
hands stopped work, and made their way back to their cabins. One behind
the other they marched singing "I'm gonna wait 'til Jesus Comes." After
arriving at their cabins they would prepare their meals; after eating
they would sometimes gather in front of a cabin and dance to the tunes
played on the fiddle and the drum. The popular dance at that time was
known as the "figure dance." At nine p.m. the overseer would come
around; everything was supposed to be quiet at that hour. Some of the
slaves would "turn in" for the night while others would remain up as
long as they wished or as long as they were quiet.

The slaves were sometimes given special holidays and on those days they
would give "quilting" parties (quilt making) and dances. These parties
were sometimes held on their own plantation and sometimes on a
neighboring one. Slaves who ordinarily wanted to visit another
plantation had to get a permit from the master. If they were caught
going off the plantation without a permit, they were severely whipped by
the "patrolmen" (white men especially assigned to patrol duty around the
plantation to prevent promiscuous wandering from plantations and

Whipping: There was a white man assigned only to whip the slaves when
they were insubordinate; however, they were not allowed to whip them
too severely as "Marster" Snellings would not permit it. He would say "a
slave is of no use to me beaten to death."

Marriage: When one slave fell in love with another and wanted to marry
they were given a license and the matrimony was "sealed." There was no
marriage ceremony performed. A license was all that was necessary to be
considered married. In the event that the lovers lived on separate
plantations the master of one of them would buy the other lover or
wedded one so that they would be together. When this could not be
arranged they would have to visit one another, but live on their
respective plantations.

Religion: The slaves had a regular church house, which was a small size
building constructed of boards. Preaching was conducted by a colored
minister especially assigned to this duty. On Tuesday evenings prayer
meeting was held; on Thursday evenings, preaching; and on Sundays both
morning and evening preaching. At these services the slaves would "get
happy" and shout excitedly. Those desiring to accept Christ were
admitted for baptism.

Baptism: On baptismal day, the candidates attired in white robes which
they had made, marched down to the river where they were immersed by the
minister. Slaves from neighboring plantations would come to witness
this sacred ceremony. Mack Mullen recalls that many times his "marster"
on going to view a baptism took him along in his buggy. It was a happy
scene, he relates. The slaves would be there in great numbers scattered
about over the banks of the river. Much shouting and singing went on.
Some of the "sisters" and "brothers" would get so "happy" that they
would lose control of themselves and "fall out." It was then said that
the Holy Ghost had "struck 'em." The other slaves would view this
phenomena with awe and reverence, and wait for them to "come out of it."
"Those were happy days and that was real religion," Mack Mullen said.

Education: The slaves were not given any formal education, however,
Mullen's master was not as rigid as some of the slave-holders in
prohibiting the slaves from learning to read and write. Mrs. Snellings,
the mistress, taught Mack's mother to read and write a little, and Mr.
Snellings also taught Mack's father how to read, write and figure.
Having learned a little they would in turn impart their knowledge to
their fellow slaves.

Freedom: Mullen vividly recalls the day that they heard of their
emancipation; loud reports from guns were heard echoing through the
woods and plantations; after awhile "Yankee" soldiers came and informed
them that they were free. Mr. Snellings showed no resistance and he was
not harmed. The slaves on hearing this good news of freedom burst out in
song and praises to God: it was a gala day. No work was done for a week;
the time was spent in celebrating. The master told his slaves that they
were free and could go wherever they wanted to, or they could remain
with him if they wished. Most of his 200 slaves refused to leave him
because he was considered a good master.

They were thereafter given individual farms, mules and farm implements
with which to cultivate the land; their former master got a share out of
what was raised. There was no more whipping, no more forced labor and
hours were less drastic.

Mack Mullen's parents were among those slaves who remained; they lived
there until Mr. Snellings died, and then moved to Isonvillen, near
Americus, Georgia, where his father opened a black-smith shop, and made
enough money to buy some property. Another child was added to the
family, a girl named Mariah. By this time Mack had become a young man
with a strong desire to travel, so he bade his parents farewell and
headed for Tampa, Florida. After living there awhile he came to
Jacksonville, Florida. At the time of his arrival in Jacksonville, Bay
Street was paved with blocks and there were no hard surfaced streets in
the city.

He was one of the construction, foremen of the Windsor Hotel. Mack
Mullen is tall, grey haired, sharp featured and of Caucasian strain (his
mother was a mulatto) with a keen mind and an appearance that belies his
75 years. He laments that he was freed because his master was good to
his slaves; he says "we had everything we wanted; never did I think I'd
come to this--got to get relief." (1)


1. From an interview with Mack Mullen, a former slave at his residence,
521 West First Street, Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

J.M. Johnson, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
November 17, 1936


About three miles from South Jacksonville proper down the old Saint
Augustine Road lives one Louis Napoleon an ex-slave, born in
Tallahassee, Florida about 1857, eight years prior to Emancipation.

His parents were Scipio and Edith Napoleon, being originally owned by
Colonel John S. Sammis of Arlington, Florida and the Floyd family of
Saint Marys, Georgia, respectively.

Scipio and Edith were sold to Arthur Randolph, a physician and large
plantation owner of Fort Louis, about five miles from the capital at
Tallahassee. On this large plantation that covered and area of about
eight miles and composed approximately of 90 slaves is where Louis
Napoleon first saw the light of day.

Louis' father was known as the wagoner. His duties were to haul the
commodities raised on the plantation and other things that required a
wagon. His mother Edith, was known as a "breeder" and was kept in the
palatial Randolph mansion to loom cloth for the Randolph family and
slaves. The cloth was made from the cotton raised on the plantation's
fertile fields. As Louis was so young, he had no particular duties, only
to look for hen nests, gather eggs and play with the master's three
young boys. There were seven children in the Randolph family, three
young boys, two "missy" girls and two grown sons. Louis would go fishing
and hunting with the three younger boys and otherwise engage with them
in their childish pranks.

He says that his master and mistress were very kind to the slaves and
would never whip them, nor would he allow the "driver" who was a white
man named Barton to do so. Barton lived in a home especially built for
him on the plantation. If the "driver" whipped any of them, all that was
necessary for the slave who had been whipped was to report it to the
master and the "driver" was dismissed, as he was a salaried man.

Plantation Life. The slaves lived in log cabins especially built for
them. They were ceiled and arranged in such a manner as to retain the
heat in winter from the large fireplaces constructed therein.

Just before the dawn of day, the slaves were aroused from their slumber
by a loud blast from a cow-horn that was blown by the "driver" as a
signal to prepare themselves for the fields. The plantation being so
expansive, those who had to go a long distance to the area where they
worked, were taken in wagons, those working nearby walked. They took
their meals along with them and had their breakfast and dinner on the
fields. An hour was allowed for this purpose. The slaves worked while
they sang spirituals to break the monotony of long hours of work. At the
setting of the sun, with their day's work all done, they returned to
their cabins and prepared their evening's meal. Having finished this,
the religious among them would gather at one of the cabin doors and give
thanks to God in the form of long supplications and old fashioned songs.
Many of them being highly emotional would respond in shouts of
hallelujahs sometimes causing the entire group to become "happy"
concluding in shouting and praise to God. The wicked slaves expended
their pent up emotions in song and dance. Gathering at one of the cabin
doors they would sing and dance to the tunes of a fife, banjo or fiddle
that was played by one of their number. Finished with this diversion
they would retire to await the dawn of a new day which indicated more
work. The various plantations had white men employed as "patrols" whose
duties were to see that the slaves remained on their own plantations,
and if they were caught going off without a permit from the master, they
were whipped with a "raw hide" by the "driver." There was an exception
to this rule, however, on Sundays the religious slaves were allowed to
visit other plantations where religious services were being held without
having to go through the matter of having a permit.

Religion. There was a free colored man who was called "Father James
Page," owned by a family of Parkers of Tallahassee. He was freed by them
to go and preach to his own people. He could read and write and would
visit all the plantations in Tallahassee, preaching the gospel. Each
plantation would get a visit from him one Sunday of each month. The
slaves on the Randolph plantation would congregate in one of the cabins
to receive him where he would read the Bible and preach and sing. Many
times the services were punctuated by much shouting from the "happy
ones." At these services the sacrament was served to those who had
accepted Christ, those who had not, and were willing to accept Him were
received and prepared for baptism on the next visit of "Father Page."

On the day of baptism, the candidates were attired in long white flowing
robes, which had been made by one of the slaves. Amidst singing and
praises they marched, being flanked on each side by other believers, to
a pond or lake on the plantation and after the usual ceremony they were
"ducked" into the water. This was a day of much shouting and praying.

Education. The two "missy" girls of the Randolph family were dutiful
each Sunday morning to teach the slaves their catechism or Sunday School
lesson. Aside from this there was no other training.

The War and Freedom. Mr. Napoleon relates that the doctor's two oldest
sons went to the war with the Confederate army, also the white "driver,"
Barton. His place was filled by one of the slaves, named Peter Parker.

At the closing of the war, word was sent around among the slaves that if
they heard the report of a gun, it was the Yankees and that they were

It was in May, in the middle of the day, cotton and corn being planted,
plowing going on, and slaves busily engaged in their usual activities,
when suddenly the loud report of a gun resounded, then could be heard
the slaves crying almost en-masse, "dems de Yankees." Straightway they
dropped the plows, hoes and other farm implements and hurried to their
cabins. They put on their best clothes "to go see the Yankees." Through
the countryside to the town of Tallahassee they went. The roads were
quickly filled with these happy souls. The streets of Tallahassee were
clustered with these jubilant people going here and there to get a
glimpse of the Yankees, their liberators. Napoleon says it was a joyous
and un-forgetable occasion.

When the Randolph slaves returned to their plantation, Dr. Randolph told
them that they were free, and if they wanted to go away, they could, and
if not, they could remain with him and he would give them half of what
was raised on the farms. Some of them left, however, some remained,
having no place to go, they decided it was best to remain until the
crops came off, thus earning enough to help them in their new venture in
home seeking. Those slaves who were too old and not physically able to
work, remained on the plantation and were cared for by Dr. Randolph
until their death.

Napoleon's father, Scipio, got a transfer from the government to his
former master, Colonel Sammis of Arlington, and there he lived for
awhile. He soon got employment with a Mr. Hatee of the town and after
earning enough money, bought a tract of land from him there and farmed.
There his family lived and increased. Louis being the oldest of the
children obtained odd jobs with the various settlers, among them being
Governor Reid of Florida who lived in South Jacksonville. Governor Reid
raised cattle for market and Napoleon's job was to bring them across the
Saint Johns River on a litter to Jacksonville, where they were

Louis Napoleon is now aged and infirm, his father and mother having died
many years ago. He now lives with one of his younger brothers who has a
fair sized orange grove on the south side of Jacksonville. He retains
the property that his father first bought after freedom and on which
they lived in Arlington. His hair white and he is bent with age and ill
health but his mental faculties are exceptionally keen for one of his
age. He proudly tells you that his master was good to his "niggers" and
cannot recall but one time that he saw him whip one of them and that
when one tried to run away to the Yankees. Only memories of a kind
master in his days of servitude remain with him as he recalls the dark
days of slavery.


Personal interview with Louis Napoleon, South Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Rachel A. Austin, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
December 5, 1936


In her own vernacular, Margrett Nickerson was "born to William A. Carr,
on his plantation near Jackson, Leon County, many years ago."

When questioned concerning her life on this plantation, she continues:
"Now honey, its been so long ago, I don' 'member ev'ything, but I will
tell you whut I kin as near right as possible; I kin 'member five uf
Marse Carr's chillun; Florida, Susan, 'Lijah, Willie and Tom; cose Carr
never 'lowed us to have a piece uf paper in our hands."

"Mr. Kilgo was de fust overseer I 'member; I was big enough to tote meat
an' stuff frum de smokehouse to de kitchen and to tote water in and git
wood for granny to cook de dinner and fur de sucklers who nu'sed de
babies, an' I carried dinners back to de hands."

"On dis plantation dere was 'bout a hunnerd head; cookin' was done in de
fireplace in iron pots and de meals was plenty of peas, greens,
cornbread burnt co'n for coffee--often de marster bought some coffee fur
us; we got water frum de open well. Jes 'fore de big gun fiahed dey
fotched my pa frum de bay whar he was makin' salt; he had heerd dam say
'de Yankees is coming and wuz so glad."

"Dere wuz rice, cotton, co'n, tater fields to be tended to and cowhides
to be tanned, thread to be spinned, and thread wuz made into ropes for
plow lines."

"Ole Marse Carr fed us, but he did not care what an' whar, jes so you
made dat money and when yo' made five and six bales o' cotton, said:
'Yo' ain don' nuthin'."

"When de big gun fiahed on a Sattidy me and Cabe and Minnie Howard wuz
settin' up co'n fur de plowers to come 'long and put dirt to 'em; Carr
read de free papers to us on Sunday and de co'n and cotton had to be
tended to--he tole us he wuz goin' to gi' us de net proceeds (here she
chuckles), what turned out to be de co'n and cotton stalks. Den he asked
dem whut would stay wid him to step off on de right and dem dat wuz
leavin' to step off on da left."

"My pa made soap frum ashes when cleaning new ground--he took a hopper
to put de ashes in, made a little stool side de house put de ashes in
and po'red water on it to drip; at night after gittin' off frum work
he'd put in de grease and make de soap--I made it sometime and I make it
now, myself."

"My step-pa useter make shoes frum cowhides fur de farm han's on de
plantation and fur eve'body on de plantation 'cept ole Marse and his
fambly; dey's wuz diffunt, fine."

"My grandma wus Pheobie Austin--my mother wuz name Rachel Jackson and my
pa wus name Edmund Jackson; my mother and uncle Robert and Joe wus stol'
frum Virginia and fetched here. I don' know no niggers dat 'listed in de
war; I don' 'member much 'bout de war only when de started talking 'bout
drillin' men fur de war, Joe Sanders was a lieutenant. Marse Carr's
sons, Tom and Willie went to de war."

"We didn' had no doctors, only de grannies; we mos'ly used hippecat
(ipecac) fur medicine."

"As I said, Kilgo was de fust overseer I ricollec', then Sanders wuz
nex' and Joe Sanders after him; John C. Haywood came in after Sanders
and when de big gun fiahed old man Brockington wus dere. I never saw a
nigger sold, but dey carried dem frum our house and I never seen 'em no

"We had church wid de white preachers and dey tole us to mind our
masters and missus and we would be saved; if not, dey said we wouldn'.
Dey never tole us nothin' 'bout Jesus. On Sunday after workin' hard all
de week dey would lay down to sleep and be so tired; soon ez yo' git
sleep, de overseer would come an' wake you up an' make you go to

"When de big gun fiahed old man Carr had six sacks uf confederate money
whut he wuz carrying wid him to Athens Georgia an' all de time if any uf
us gals whar he wuz an' ax him 'Marse please gi us some money' (here she
raises her voice to a high, pitiful tone) he says' I aint got a cent'
and right den he would have a chis so full it would take a whol' passle
uv slaves to move it. He had plenty corn, taters, pum'kins, hogs, cows
ev'ything, but he didn' gi us nuthin but strong plain close and plenty
to eat; we slept in ole common beds and my pa made up little cribs and
put hay in dem fur de chillun."

"Now ef you wanted to keep in wid Marster Carr don' drap you shoes in de
field an' leave 'em--he'd beat you; you mus' tote you' shoes frum one
field to de tother, didn' a dog ud be bettern you. He'd say 'You
gun-haided devil, drappin' you' shoes and eve'thin' over de field'."

"Now jes lis'en, I wanna tell you all I kin, but I wants to tell it
right; wait now, I don' wanna make no mistakes and I don' wanna lie on
nobody--I ain' mad now and I know taint no use to lie, I takin' my time.
I done prayed an' got all de malice out o' my heart and I ain' gonna
tell no lie fer um and I ain' gonna tell no lie on um. I ain' never seed
no slaves sold by Marster Carr, he wuz allus tellin' me he wuz gonna
sell me but he never did--he sold my pa's fust wife though."

"Dere wuz Uncle George Bull, he could read and write and, chile, de
white folks didn't lak no nigger whut could read and write. Carr's wife
Miss Jane useter teach us Sunday School but she did not 'low us to tech
a book wid us hands. So dey useter jes take uncle George Bull and beat
him fur nothin; dey would beat him and take him to de lake and put him
on a log and shev him in de lake, but he always swimmed out. When dey
didn' do dat dey would beat him tel de blood run outen him and den trow
him in de ditch in de field and kivver him up wid dirt, head and years
and den stick a stick up at his haid. I wuz a water toter and had stood
and seen um do him dat way more'n once and I stood and looked at um tel
dey went 'way to de other rows and den I grabbed de dirt ofen him and
he'd bresh de dirt off and say 'tank yo', git his hoe and go on back to
work. Dey beat him lak dat and he didn' do a thin' to git dat sort uf

"I had a sister name Lytie Holly who didn' stand back on non' uv em;
when dey'd git behin' her, she'd git behin' dem; she wuz dat stubbo'n
and when dey would beat her she wouldn' holler and jes take it and go
on. I got some whuppin's wid strops but I wanter tell you why I am
cripple today:

"I had to tote tater vines on my haid, me and Fred' rick and de han's
would be a callin fur em all over de field but you know honey, de two uv
us could' git to all uvum at once, so Joe Sanders would hurry us up by
beatin' us with strops and sticks and run us all over de tater ridge; he
cripple us both up and den we couldn' git to all uv em. At night my pa
would try to fix me up cose I had to go back to work nex' day. I never
walked straight frum dat day to dis and I have to set here in dis chair
now, but I don' feel mad none now. I feels good and wants to go to
he'ven--I ain' gonna tel no lie on white nor black cose taint no use."

"Some uv de slaves run away, lots uv um. Some would be cot and when dey
ketched em dey put bells on em; fust dey would put a iron ban' 'round
dey neck and anuder one 'round de waist and rivet um tegether down de
back; de bell would hang on de ban' round de neck so dat it would ring
when de slave walked and den dey wouldn' git 'way. Some uv dem wore dese
bells three and four mont'n and when dey time wuz up dey would take em
off 'em. Jake Overstreet, George Bull, John Green, Ruben Golder, Jim
Bradley and a hos' uv others wore dem bells. Dis is whut I know, not
whut somebody else say. I seen dis myself. En missus, when de big gun
fiahed, de runerway slaves comed out de woods frum all directions. We
wuz in de field when it fiahed, but I 'members dey wuz all very glad."

"After de war, we worked but we got pay fur it."

"Ole man Pierce and others would call some kin' of a perlitical
(political) meetin' but I could never understan' whut dey wuz talkin'
'bout. We didn' had no kin' uv schools and all I knows but dem is dat I
sent my chillums in Leon and Gadsden Counties."

"I had lots uv sisters and brothers but I can't 'member de names of none
by Lytie, Mary, Patsy and Ella; my brothers, is Edmond and Cornelius
Jackson. Cornelius is livin' now somewhere I think but I don' never see

"When de big gun fiahed I was a young missy totin' cotton to de scales
at de ginhouse; ef de ginhouse wuz close by, you had to tote de cotton
to it, but ef it wuz fur 'way wagins ud come to de fields and weigh it
up and take it to de ginhouse. I was still livin' near Lake Jackson and
we went to Abram Bailey's place near Tallahassee. Carr turned us out
without nuthin and Bailey gi'd us his hammoc' and we went dere fur a
home. Fust we cut down saplin's fur we didn' had no house, and took de
tops uv pines and put on de top; den we put dirt on top uv dese saplin's
and slep' under dem. When de rain would come, it would wash all de dirt
right down in our face and we'd hafter buil' us a house all over ag'in.
We didn' had no body to buil' a house fur us, cose pa was gone and ma
jes had us gals and we cut de saplin's fer de man who would buil' de
house fer us. We live on Bailey's place a long time and fin'lly buil' us
a log cabin and den we went frum dis cabin to Gadsden County to a place
name Concord and dere I stay tel I come here 'fore de fiah."

"I had twelve chillun but right now missus, I can only 'member dese
names: Robert, 'Lijah, Edward, Cornelius, Littie, Rachel and Sophie."

"I was converted in Leon County and after freedom I joined de Methodist
church and my membership is now in Mount Zion A.M.E. Church in
Jacksonville, Florida."

"My fust husban was Nelson Walker and de las' one was name Dave
Nickerson. I don' think I was 20 years old when de big gun fiahed, but I
was more' 17--I reckon I wuz a little older den Flossie May (a niece who
is 17 years of age) is now." (1)

Mrs. Nickerson, according to her information must be about 89 or 90
years of age, sees without glasses having never used them; she does not
read or write but speaks in a convincing manner. She has most of her
teeth and a splendid appetite. She spends her time sitting in a
wheel-chair sewing on quilts. She has several quilts that she has
pieced, some from very small scraps which she has cut without the use of
any particular pattern. She has a full head of beautiful snowy white
hair and has the use of her limbs, except her legs, and is able to do
most things for herself. (2)

She lives with her daughter at 1600 Myrtle Avenue, Jacksonville,


1. Personal interview with Margrett Nickerson, 1600 Myrtle Avenue,
Jacksonville, Florida

2. Sophia Nickerson Starke, 1600 Myrtle Avenue, daughter of Margrett
Nickerson, Jacksonville, Florida

[TR: References moved from beginning of interview.]

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Rachel A. Austin, Field Worker
Monticello, Florida
November 10, 1936


Douglas Parish was born in Monticello, Florida, May 7, 1850, to Charles
and Fannie Parish, slaves of Jim Parish. Fannie had been bought from a
family by the name of Palmer to be a "breeder", that is a bearer of
strong children who could bring high prices at the slave markets. A
"breeder" always fared better than the majority of female slaves, and
Fannie Parish was no exception. All she had to do was raise children.
Charles Parish labored in the cotton fields, the chief product of the
Parish plantation.

As a small boy Douglas used to spend his time shooting marbles, playing
ball, racing and wrestling with the other boys. The marbles were made
from lumps of clay hardened in the fireplace. He was a very good runner,
and as it was a custom in those days for one plantation owner to match
his "nigger" against that of his neighbor, he was a favorite with Parish
because he seldom failed to win the race. Parish trained his runners by
having them race to the boundary of his plantation and back again. He
would reward the winner with a jack-knife or a bag of marbles.

Just to be first was an honor in itself, for the fastest runner
represented his master in the Fourth of July races when runners from all
over the country competed for top honors, and the winner earned a bag of
silver for his master. If Parish didn't win the prize, he was hard to
get along with for several days, but gradually he would accept his
defeat with resolution. Prizes in less important races ranged from a
pair of fighting cocks to a slave, depending upon the seriousness of the

Douglas' first job was picking cotton seed from the cotton. When he was
about 12 years of age, he became the stable boy, and soon learned about
the care and grooming of horses from an old slave who had charge of the
Parish stables. He was also required to keep the buggies, surreys, and
spring-wagons clean. The buggies were light four-wheeled carriages drawn
by one horse. The surreys were covered four-wheeled carriages, open at
the sides, but having curtains that may be rolled down. He liked this
job very much because it gave him an opportunity to ride on the horses,
the desire of all the boys on the plantation. They had to be content
with chopping wood, running errands, cleaning up the plantation, and
similar tasks. Because of his knowledge of horses, Douglas was permitted
to travel to the coast with his boss and other slaves for the purpose of
securing salt from the sea water. It was cheaper to secure salt by this
method than it was to purchase it otherwise.

Life in slavery was not all bad, according to Douglas. Parish fed his
slaves well, gave them comfortable quarters in which to live, looked
after them when they were sick, and worked them very moderately. The
food was cooked in the fireplace in large iron pots, pans and ovens. The
slaves had greens, potatoes, corn, rice, meat, peas, and corn bread to
eat. Occasionally the corn bread was replaced by flour bread. The slaves
drank an imitation coffee made from parched corn or meal. Since there
was no ice to preserve the left-over food, only enough for each meal was

Parish seldom punished his slaves, and never did he permit his overseer
to do so. If the slaves failed to do their work, they were reported to
him. He would warn them and show his black whip which was usually
sufficient. He had seen overseers beat slaves to death, and he did not
want to risk losing the money he had invested in his. After his death,
his son managed the plantation in much the same manner as his father.

But the war was destined to make the Parishes lose all their slaves by
giving them their freedom. Even though they were free to go, many of the
slaves elected to remain with their mistress who had always been kind to
them. The war swept away much of the money which her husband had left
her; and although she would liked to have kept all of her slaves, she
found it impossible to do so. She allowed the real old slaves to remain
on the premises and kept a few of the younger ones to work about the
plantation. Douglas and his parents were among those who remained on the
plantation. His father was a skilled bricklayer and carpenter, and he
was employed to make repairs to the property. His mother cooked for the

Many of the Negroes migrated North, and they wrote back stories of the
"new country" where "de white folks let you do jes as you please." These
stories influenced a great number of other Negroes to go North and begin
life anew as servants, waiters, laborers and cooks. The Negroes who
remained in the South were forced to make their own living. At the end
of the war, foods and commodities had gone up to prices that were
impossible for the Negro to pay. Ham, for example, cost 40¢ and 50¢ a
pound; lard was 25¢; cotton was two dollars a bushel.

Douglas' father taught him all that he knew about carpentry and
bricklaying, and the two were in demand to repair, remodel, or build
houses for the white people. Although he never attended school, Charles
Parish could calculate very rapidly the number of bricks that it would
take to build a house. After the establishing of schools by the
Freedmen's Bureau, Douglas' father made him go, but he did not like the
confinement of school and soon dropped out. The teachers for the most
part, were white, who were concerned only with teaching the ex-slaves
reading, writing, and arithmetic. The few colored teachers went into
the community in an effort to elevate the standards of living. They went
into the churches where they were certain to reach the greatest number
of people and spoke to them of their mission. The Negro teachers were
cordially received by the ex-slaves who were glad to welcome some
"Yankee niggers" into their midst.

Whereas the white teachers did not bother with the Negroes except in the
classroom, other white men came who showed a decided interest in them.
They were called "carpetbaggers" because of the type of traveling bag
which they usually carried, and this term later became synonymous with
"political adventurer." These men sought to advance their political
schemes by getting the Negroes to vote for certain men who would be
favorable to them. They bought the Negro votes or put a Negro in some
unimportant office to obtain the goodwill of the ex-slaves. They used
the ignorant colored minister to further their plans, and he was their
willing tool. The Negro's unwise use of his ballot plunged the South
further and further into debt and as a result the South was compelled to
restrict his privileges.


1. Personal interview with Douglas Parish, Monticello, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Viola B. Muse, Field Worker
Palatka, Florida
November 9, 1936


George Pretty of Vero Beach and Gifford, Florida, was born a free man,
at Altoona, Pennsylvania, January 30, 1852. His father Isaac Pretty was
also free born. His maternal grand-father Alec McCoy and his paternal
grand-father George Pretty were born slaves who lived in the southern
part of Pennsylvania.

He does not know how his father came to be born free but knows that he
was told that from early childhood.

In Altoona, according to George, there were no slaves during his life
there but in southern Pennsylvania slavery existed for a time. His
grand-parents moved from southern Pennsylvania during slavery but
whether they bought their freedom or ran away from their masters was
never known to George.

As in most of the southland, the customs of the Negro in Altoona
abounded in superstition and ignorance. They had about the same beliefs
and looked upon life with about the same degree of intelligence as
Negroes in the south.

The north being much colder than the south naturally had long ago used
coal for fuel. Open grates were used for cooking just as open fireplaces
were used in the south. Iron skillets or spiders as they called them,
were used for cooking many foods, meats, vegetables, pies puddings and
even cakes were baked over the fire.

The old familiar, often referred to as southern ash cake, was cooked on
the hearth under the grate, right in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The north
because of its rapid advance in the use of modern ways of cooking and
doing many other things has been thought by many people to have escaped
the crude methods of cooking, but not so. George told how a piece of
thick paper was placed on the hearth under the grate and corn dough put
upon it to bake. Hot ashes were raked over it and it was left to cook
and brown. When it had remained a long enough time, the ashes were
shaken off, the cake brushed clean with a cloth and no grit was
encountered when it was eaten.

Isaac Pretty, George's father owned a large harness shop at Altoona and
made and sold hundreds of dollars worth of saddles and harness to both
northern and southern plantation owners. (1)

There was a constant going and coming of northern and southern owners;
southern ones seeking places to buy implements for farming and other
inventions as well as trying to locate runaway slaves.

Abolitionists were active in the north and there were those who
assisted slaves across the boundary lines between free and slave states.

Negroes in the north who were free and had intelligence enough saw the
gravity in assisting their slave brothers in the south. Some risked
their lives in spreading propaganda which they thought would aid the
enslaved Negroes in becoming free.

In and around Altoona, Negroes were very progressive and appreciated
their freedom, and had a great deal of sympathy for their fellows and
did all they could to demonstrate their attitude toward the slave
traffic. Money was solicited and freely given to help abolitionists
spread propaganda about freedom.

It is striking to note the similarity of living conditions in
Pennsylvania and Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas. Ex-slaves who live
in Florida now but who came here since the Emancipation of the Negro
tell of living conditions of their respective states; they are very
similar to the modes of living in Altoona, during slavery. (2)

Soap was made from grease and lye just as it was made in the south.
Shin-plaster (paper money similar to green back, which represented
amounts less than a dollar) were very plentiful and after the Civil War
confederate money of all kinds was as so much trash.

Food stuffs which were raised on the farm at Altoona were: corn,
peanuts, white potatoes and peas. Enough peas were raised to feed the
stock and take care of the family for 18 months. Potatoes were raised in
large quantities and after they were dug they were banked for the
winter. By banked, it is meant, large holes were dug in the cellar of
the house or under the house or inside of an outhouse; pine straw was
put into this pit and the potatoes piled in; more straw was laid on and
more potatoes piled in until all were in the pit. Dirt was shoveled over
the lot and it was left until for using them. Northern people used and
still use a large amount of white, or Irish potatoes.

In curing hides of cows for making leather the same method was employed
as that used in the south. Hides were first salted and water was poured
over them. They were covered with dirt and left to soak a few days. A
solution of red oak bark was made by soaking the bark in water and this
solution was poured over the hides. After it soaked a few days the hair
was scraped off with a stiff brush and when it dried leather was ready
for making shoes and harness.

George's father dealt extensively in leather and when he could not get
enough cured himself, he bought of others who could supply him.

Now George's mother was very handy at the spinning wheel and loom. He
remembers how the bunch of cotton was combed in preparation for
spinning. Cards with teeth were arranged on the spinning wheel and the
mass of cotton was combed through it to separate it into fibers. The
fibers were rolled between the fingers and then put upon the spinning
wheel to be spun into thread. As it was spun, it was wound upon spools.
After the spools were filled they were taken off and put on the loom.
Threads were strung across the loom some above others and the shuttle
running back and forth through the threads would make cloth. All that
was done by hand power. A person working at the loom regularly soon
became proficient and George's mother was one who bore the name of being
a very good weaver of cloth. Most of the clothes the family wore were
home spun.

Underwear and sleeping garments were made of the natural colored
homespun cloth. When colored cloth was wanted a dye was made to dip them
in so as to get the desired color. Dyes were made by soaking red oak
bark in water. Another was made of elder berries and when a real blood
red was desired polk berries were used. Polk berries made a blood red
dye and was considered very beautiful. Walnut hulls were used to make
brown dye and it was lasting in its effects.

In making dye hold its color, the cloth and dye were boiled together.
After it had "taken" well, the cloth was removed from the dye and rinsed
well, the rinse water was salted so as to set the color.

Tubs for washing clothes and bathing purposes were made of wood. Some
were made from barrels out in tew parts. In cutting a stay was left
longer on each side and holes were cut length wise in it so there would
be sufficient room for all of the fingers to fit. That was for lifting
the tub about.

A very interesting side of George's life was depicted in his statement
of the longevity of his innocence. We may call it ignorance but it seems
to be more innocence when compared to the incident of Adam and Eve as
told in the Holy Bible in the book of Genesis. He was 33 years of age
before he knew he was a grown man, or how life was given humans. In
plain words he did not know where babies came from, nor how they were

Whenever George's mother was expecting to be confined with a baby's
birth, his father would say to all the children together, large and
small alike, "your mother has gone to New York, Baltimore, Buffalo" or
any place he would think of at the time. There was an upstairs room in
their home and she would stay there six weeks. She would go up as soon
as signs of the coming child would present themselves. A midwife came,
cooked three meals a day, fed the children and helped keep the place in

In older times people taught their children to respect older persons.
They obeyed everyone older than themselves. The large children were just
as obedient as the small ones so that it was not hard to maintain peace
and order within any home.

The midwife in this case simply told all of the children that she did
not want any of them to go upstairs, as she had important papers spread
out all over the floor and did not want them disturbed. No questions
were asked, she was obeyed.

George does not remember having heard a single cry the whole time they
were being born in that upper room, and he said many a baby was born
there. Decorum reigned throughout the household for six weeks or until
their mother was ready to come down. When the time was up for mother to
come down, his father would casually say, "children your ma is coming
home today and what do you recon, someone has given her another baby."
The children would say, almost in concert, "what you say pa, is it a boy
or girl?" He would tell them which it was and nothing more was said nor
any further inquiry made into the happening.

The term "broke her leg" was used to convey the meaning of pregnancy.
George relates how his mother told him and his sister not to have any
thing more to do with Mary Jones, "cause she done broke her leg." George
said "Ma taint nothin matter wid Mary; I see her every day when the bell
rings for 12; she works across the street from Pa's shop and she and me
sets on the steps and talks till time fur her to go back to work." His
mother said, "dont spute me George, I know she is broke her leg and I
want yall to stay way frum her." George said, "Ma I aint sputing you,
jes somebody done misinform you dats all. She aint got no broke leg,
she walks as good as me." His mother said "then I'm a lie." George
quickly replied, "no ma, you aint no lie, but somebody done told you

Nothing was said further on the question of Mary Jones until that same
evening when Isaac Pretty came home from the shop. The mother took him
aside and told him of how she had been disputed and called a lie by
George and added that she wanted George whipped for it.

"Come here George," came a commanding voice shortly after the mother and
father had been in conference. George obeyed and his father took him
apart from the family and locked himself and George in a room. He said
"George I know I haven't done right by not telling you, you are grown.
You are 33 years old now and I want to tell you some things you should
know." George was all eyes and ears, for he had been told when
previously asked how old he was, "I'll tell you when you get grown."
That was all he had heard from his parents for years and he was just
waiting for him to tell him. His father told him how babies were born
and about his mother confining herself in the upper room all the
different times when she expected babies. He told him that his mother
had never been out of town to Boston or Baltimore on any of the past
occasions. In fact he told George all he knew to tell him.

Now the startling thing about it all is that when he had finished
giving the information about babies he said, "Now George your mother
told me that you called her a lie today." George at once said, "Pa I
didn't call her a lie, I jes told someone had misinform her 'bout Mary,
that she aint got her leg broke cause I see her every day." His father
said "I know 'taint right to whip you fur that George but your Ma said
she wanted me to whip you and I'll have to do it." That settled it.
George received his first lesson in sex and received the last flogging
his father ever gave him. He was now grown and could take his place as a

Afterwards the mother took all her daughters aside and told them the
same as Isaac had told George. (That is she told the grown girls about
sex life.)

George and his older sister talked the whole plan over after they got a
chance and decided that since they were now grown, they did not have to
give their earnings to their parents any longer. They decided to move
into one of their father's houses on the place and furnish it up. They
were making right good money considering the times related George, and
with both of them pulling together they soon would have sufficient money
saved up to buy a piece of land and start out on a plot of ground of
their own.

George told his father their plans. His father asked how much money he
had. He told him 200 dollars or more. His father said "you've saved 200
dollars out of what I've allowed you?" George answered in the
affirmative. His father said, "do you know how far that will go?" George
said he did not, his father answered "Not far my boy."

A few days after the conversation, Isaac Pretty furnished one of his
houses with the necessary equipment and let George and his sister live
there. They had their own bed-rooms and each bought some food. The girl
and George both cooked the meals and did the main thing they had set out
to do, letting nothing stand in the way of their progress.

When a few months had passed both children had accumulated a nice sum of
money. George was prepared to marry and take care of a wife. His sister
Eliza, who lived with him had saved almost as much money and when she
married she was an asset to the man of her choice rather than a

George had close contact with nature in his early life. The close
contact with his mother for 33 years had done something for George which
was lasting as well as beneficial. She was a close adherent to nature.
She believed in and knew the roots and herbs which cured bodily
ailments. This was handed down to her children and George Pretty claims
to know every root and herb in the woods. He can identify each as they
are presented to him, says he.

Doctors were never used by the ordinary family when George was growing
up and during his stay at Altoona. He was called in to sew up a cut
place which was too much for home treatment. He was also called in to
probe for a bullet but for fever or colds or even child-birth he was
considered an unnecessary expense.

Herbs and roots were widely utilized in olden days and during slavery
and early reconstruction. The old slave has brought his practices to
this era and he is often found gathering and using them upon his friends
and neighbors.

George Pretty knows that black snake root is good for blood trouble for
he has used it on many a person with safety and surety. Sasafras tea is
good for colds; golden rod tea for fever; fig leaves for thrash; red oak
bark for douche; slippery elm for fever and female complaint (when bark
is inserted in the vagina); catnip tea is good for new born babies; sage
tea is good for painful menstruation or slackened flow; fig leaves
bruised and applied to the forehead for fever are very affective; they
are also good to draw boils to a head; okra blossoms when dried are good
for sores (the dried blossoms are soaked in water and applied to the
sore and bound with clean old linen cloth); red shank is good for a
number of diseases; missing link root is for colds and asthma. George
said this is a sure cure for asthma. Fever grass is a purgative when
taken in the form of a tea. The blades are steeped in hot water and a
tea made. Fever grass is a wide blade grass growing straighter than most
grass. It has a blue flower and is found growing wild around many places
in Florida. It is plentiful in certain parts of Palatka, Florida.

Riding vehicles in early days were called buggies. The first one George
remembers was the go cart. It had two wheels and was without a top. Only
two people could ride in a go cart. The equilibrium was kept by buckling
the harness over and under the horse's belly. The strap which ran under
the belly was called the belly girt. There was a side strap which ran
along the horse's side and the belly girt was fastened to this. Loops
were put to vantage points on the side strap and through these the
shafts of the cart were run. The strap going under and over the horse
kept the cart from going too far forward or backward.

During George's early life plows looked very much like they do today.
They had wooden handles but the part which turned the ground was made of
point iron, (he could not describe point iron.) Plows were not made of
cast iron or steel as they are today.

Two kinds of plows were used so far as George remembers. One was called
the skooter plow and the other the turn plow. The skooter plow he
describes as one which broke the ground up which had been previously
planted. When the earth needed loosening up to make more fit for
planting, this plow was used over the earth, leaving it rather smooth
and light. The turn plow was used to turn the ground completely over.
Where grass and weeds had grown, the earth needed turning over so as to
thoroughly uproot the weeds and grass. The ground was usually left a
while so that the weeds could die and rot and then men with hoes would
go over the ground and make it ready for planting.

When freedom came to Negroes in the slave territory, George remembers
that Sherman's army drilled a long time after the Civil War had ended.
He saw them right in Pennsylvania. He was much impressed with their blue
suits and brass buttons and which fitted them so well. Some of the men
wore suits with braid on them and they supposedly were the officers of
the outfit. Negro and white men were in the same companies he saw and
all were manly and walking proudly.

As George was fifteen years of age when freedom came much of which he
related happened after Emancipation. He being out of the slave territory
did not have as much contact with the slaves, but he lived around his
grand parents who had been slaves in the southern part of the state.
After slavery they moved up to Altoona, with George's parents and
brought much in the way of customs to George.

Grandfather McCoy and also grandfather Pretty told of many experiences
that they went through during their enslavement. The Negro and white
over-seer was much in evidence down there and buying and selling of
children from their parents seemed to have left a sad memory with

Isaac Pretty's family was large. He had seven girls and seven boys,
George being the eldest. George remembers how his heart would ache when
his grandfather told of the children who were torn from their mother's
skirts and sold, never to see their parents again. He went into deep
thought over how he would have hated to have been separated from his
mother and father to say nothing of leaving his brothers and sisters.
They were brought up to love each other and the thought of breaking the
family ties seemed to him very cruel.

When George was told that he was grown as formerly related, he saved his
money and when the great earth quake in Charleston occured he went down
there to see what it had done to the place. Before that time in 1882 he
remembered having seen the first block of ice. When he got there, the
Charleston people had been making ice for a few years. It was about that
time that George saw the first pair of bed springs.

George remained in Pennsylvania and other states farther north for a
long time after freedom. His first trip to Florida was made in 1893. He
came direct from Altoona, Pennsylvania, with a white man whose name he
has forgotten as he did not remain in the man's employ very long after
reaching the state.

Since that time he has farmed in and around different parts of Florida,
but now he resides at Tero Beach and Gifford, Florida. He makes regular
trips to Palatka, being as much at home there as in the cities on the
East Coast.

George says that he has never had a doctor attend him in his life,
neither while he was in Altoona, nor since he has been in Florida. He
claims to be able to identify any root or herb that grows in the woods
in the State of Florida having studied them constantly since his arrival
here. Before coming to this state he knew all the roots and herbs around
Altoona and it still acquainted with them as he makes regular visits
there, since he moved away 43 years ago. (1)

George Pretty is a dark complexioned man; about five feet three inches
in heighth; weighs about 135 pounds and looks to be much younger than he
is. When asked how he had maintained his youth, he said that living
close to nature had done it together with his manner of living. He does
not dissipate, neither does he drink strong drink. He is a ready
informant. Having heard that only information of slavery was wanted, he
volunteered information without any formality or urging on the part of
the writer. (1) (2)


1. George Pretty, Vero Beach and Gifford, Florida

2. Observation of Field Worker

American Guide, (Negro Writers Unit)

Viola B. Muse, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Fla.
January 11, 1937



Anna Scott, an ex-slave who now lives in Jacksonville near the
intersection of Moncrief and Edgewood Avenues, was a member of one of
the first colonization groups that went to the West coast of Africa
following the emancipation of the slaves in this country.

The former slave was born at Dove City, South Carolina, on Jan. 28,
1846, of a half-breed Cherokee-and-Negro mother and Anglo-Saxon father.
Her father owned the plantation adjoining that of her master.

When she reached the adolescent age Anna was placed under the direct
care of her mistress, by whom she was given direct charge of the
dining-room and entrusted with the keys to the provisions and supplies
of the household.

A kindred love grew between the slave girl and her mistress; she recalls
that everywhere her mistress went she was taken also. She was kept in
'the big house'. She was not given any education, though, as some of the
slaves on nearby plantations were.

Religion was not denied to the former slave and her fellows. Mrs.
Abigail Dever[TR:?], her owner, permitted the slaves to attend revival
and other services. The slaves were allowed to occupy the balcony of
the church in Dove City, while the whites occupied the main floor. The
slaves were forbidden to sing, talk, or make any other sound, however,
under penalty of severe beatings.

Those of the slaves who 'felt the sperrit' during a service must keep
silence until after the service, when they could 'tell it to the
deacon', a colored man who would listen to the confessions or
professions of religion of the slaves until late into the night. The
Negro deacon would relay his converts to the white minister of the
church, who would meet them in the vestry room at some specified time.

Some of the questions that would be asked at these meetings in the
vestry room would be:

"What did you come up here for?"

"Because I got religion".

"How do you know you got religion?"

"Because I know my sins are forgive".

"How do you know your sins are forgiven?"

"Because I love Jesus and I love everybody".

"Do you want to be baptized?"

"Yes sir."

"Why do you want to be baptized?"

"Cause it will make me like Jesus wants me to be".

When several persons were 'ready', there would be a baptism in a nearby
creek or river. After this, slaves would be permitted to hold occasional
servives of their own in the log house that was sometimes used as a

Mrs. Scott remembers vividly the joy that she felt and other slaves
expressed when first news of their emancipation was brought to them.
Both she and her mistress were fearful, she says; her mistress because
she did not know what she would do without her slaves, and Anna because
she thought the Union soldiers would harm Mrs. Dove. When the chief
officer of the soldiers came to the home of her mistress, she says, he
demanded entrance in a gruff voice. Then he saw a ring upon Mrs. Dove's
finger and asked: "Where did you get this?" When told that the ring
belonged to her husband, who was dead, the officer turned to his
soldiers and told them that they should "get back; she's alright!"

Provisions intended for the Confederate armies were broken open by the
Union soldiers and their followers, and Anna's mother, to protect her
master, organized groups of slaves to 'tote the meat from the box cars
and hide it in dugouts under the mistress' house'. This meat was later
divided between Negroes and whites.

A Provost Judge followed the advance of the army, and he obtained a list
of all of the slaves held by each master. Mrs. Dove gave her list to the
official, who called each slave by name and asked what that slave had
done on the plantation. He asked, also, whether any payment had been
made to them since the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed, and
when answered in the negative told them that 'You are free now and must
be paid for all of the work you have done since the Proclamation was
signed and that you will do in the future. Don't you work for anybody
without pay'.

The Provost Judge also told the slaves that they might leave if they
liked, and Anna was among those who left. She went to visit the husband
of her mother in Charleston. With her mother and five other children,
Anna crossed rivers on log rafts and rode on trains to Charleston.

Elias Mumford was Anna's step-father in Charleston, and after spending a
year there with him the entire family joined a colonizing expedition to
West Africa. There were 650 in the expedition, and it left in 1867.
Transportation was free.

The trip took several weeks, but finally the small ship landed at Grand
Bassa. Mumford did not like the place, however, and continued on to
Monrovia, Liberia. He did not like Monrovia, either, and tried several
other ports before being told that he would have to get off, anyway.
This was at Harper Cape, W. Africa.

Here he almost immediately began an industry that was to prove
lucrative. Oysters were 'large as saucers', according to Anna, and while
the family gathered these he would burn them and extract lime from them.
This he mixed with the native clay and made brick. In addition to his
brick-making Mumford cut trees for lumber, and with his own brick and
lumber would construct houses and structures. One such structure brought
him $1100.00.

Another manner in which Mumford added to his growing wealth was through
the cashing of checks for the Missionaries of the section. Ordinarily
they would have to send these back to the United States to be cashed,
and when he offered to cash them--at a discount--they eagerly utilized
the opportunity to save time; this was a convenience for them and more
wealth for Mumford.

Anna found other things besides happiness in her eight years in Africa.
There were death, sickness, and pestilences. She mentions among the
latter the African ants, some of which reached huge proportions. Most
dreaded were the Mission ants, which infested every house, building and
structure. Sometimes buildings had to be burned to get rid of them. The
bite of these ants was so serious that after sixty years Anna still
exhibits places on her feet where the ants left their indelible traces.
Another of the ant pests was the Driver ant, so large, powerful and
stubborn that even bodies of water did not stop them. They would join
themselves together above the surface of the water and serve as bridges
for the passage of the other ants. The Driver ants moved in swarms and
their approach could be seen at great distances. When they were seen to
be coming toward a settlement the natives would close their doors and
windows and build fires around their homes to avoid them. These fires
had to be kept burning for weeks.

Eight and more persons died a day from the African fever during the
early colonization attempts; three of these in Anna's family alone were
victims of it. It was generally believed that if a victim of the fever
became wet by dew he was sure to die.

After eight years Mumford and the remainder of his family returned to
America, where the accrued checks he possessed for cashing made him
reasonably wealthy. Anna married Robert Scott and moved to Jacksonville,
where she has lived since.

At ninety-one she still occupies the little farm on the outskirts of
Jacksonville that was purchased with the money left to her out of her
mother's inheritance (from the African transactions of Mumford) and
Robert's post-slavery savings, and in front of her picturesque little
cottage spins yarns for the neighbors of her early experiences.


Interview with subject, Mrs. Anna Scott, Edgewood and Moncrief Avenues
(Route 2, Box 911) Jacksonville, Fla.

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

J.M. Johnson, Field Worker
John A. Simms, Editor
Chaseville, Florida
August 28, 1936


In Chaseville, Florida, about twelve miles from Jacksonville on the
south side of the Saint Johns River lives William Sherman (locally
pronounced _Schumann_,) a former slave of Jack Davis, nephew of
President Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy. (1)

William Sherman was born on the plantation of Jack Davis, about five
miles from Robertsville, South Carolina, at a place called "Black
Swamp," June 12, 1842, twenty-three years prior to Emancipation. His
father who was also named William Sherman, was a free man, having bought
his freedom for eighteen hundred dollars from his master, John Jones,
who also lived in the vicinity of the Davis' plantation. William
Sherman, senior, bargained with his master to obtain his freedom,
however, for he did not have the money to readily pay him. He hired
himself out to some of the wealthy plantation owners and applied what he
earned toward the payment for his freedom. He was a skilled blacksmith
and cabinet maker and his services were always in demand. After
procuring his freedom he bought a tract of land from his former master
and built a home and blacksmith shop on it. As was the custom during
slavery, a person who bought his freedom had to have a guardian;
Sherman's former master, John Jones, acted as his guardian. Under this
new order of things Sherman was in reality his own master. He was not
"bossed," had his own hours, earned and kept his money, and was at
liberty to leave the territory if he desired. However, he remained and
married Anna Georgia, the mother of William Sherman, junior. She was
also a slave of Jack Davis. After William Sherman, senior, finished his
day's work he would go to the Davis plantation to visit his wife and
sometimes remain for the night. It was his intention to purchase the
freedom of his wife Anna Georgia, and their son William, but he died
before he had sufficient money to do so, and also before the Civil War,
which he predicted would ensue between the North and South. His son
William says that he remembers well the events that led up to his
father's burial; he states that the white people dug his grave which was
six feet deep. It took them three days in which to dig it on account of
the hardness of the clay; when it was finished he was put sorrowfully
away by the white folk who thought so much of him. William was a boy of
nine at that time, and he remembers that his mother was so grieved that
he tried to console her by telling her not to worry "papa's goin' to
com' back and bring us some more quails" (he had been accustomed to
bringing them quails during his life) but William sorrowingly said "he
never did come back."

Anna Georgia was a cook and general house woman in the Davis' home. She
was a half breed, her mother being a Cherokee Indian. Her husband,
William, was a descendant of the Cheehaw Indians, some of his a forbears
being full-blooded Cheehaws. Their Indian blood was fully evident,
states William junior. The Davis family tree as he knew it was as
follows: three brothers, Sam, Thomas and Jefferson Davis (President of
the Confederacy.) Sam was the eldest of the three and had four children,
viz: Jack, Robert, Richard and Washington. Thomas had four, viz: James,
Richard, Rusha and Minna. Jefferson Davis' family was not known to
William as he lived in Virginia, whereas, the other brothers and their
families lived near each other at "Black Swamp."

Jack Davis, the master of William Sherman, was the son of Sam Davis,
brother of Jefferson Davis. Thomas and Sam Davis were comparatively
large men, while Jefferson was thin and of medium height, resembling to
a great extent the late Henry Flagler of Florida East Coast fame, states
William. Many times he would come to visit his brothers at "Black
Swamp." He would drive up in a two-wheeled buggy, drawn by a horse.
Oft'times he visited his nephew, Jack and they would get together in a
lengthy conversation. Sometimes he would remain with the Davis family
for a few days and then return to Virginia. On these visits William
states that he saw him personally. These visits or sojourns occurred
prior to the Civil War. Jack Davis being a comparatively poor man had
only eight slaves on his plantation; they were housed in log cabins made
of cypress timber notched together in such a way as to give it the
appearance of having been built regular lumber. It was much larger and
of different architecture than the slave cabins, however.

The few slaves that he had arose at 4:00 o'clock in the morning and
prepared themselves for the field. They stopped at noon for a light
lunch which they always took with them and at sun-down they quit work
and went to their respective cabins. Cotton, corn, potatoes and other
commodities were raised. There was no regular "overseer" employed.
Davis, the master acted in that capacity. He was very kind to them and
seldom used the whip. After the outbreak of the Civil War, white men
called "patarollers" were posted around the various plantations to guard
against runaways, and if slaves were caught off their respective
plantations without permits from their masters they were severely
whipped. This was not the routine for Jack Davis' slaves for he gave
the "patarollers" specific orders that if any of them were caught off
the plantation without a permit not to molest them but to let them
proceed where they were bound. Will said that one of the slaves ran away
and when he was caught his master gave him a light whipping and told him
to "go on now and run away if you want to." He said the slave walked
away but never attempted to run away again. Will states that he was
somewhat of a "pet" around the plantation and did almost as he wanted
to. He would go hunting, fishing and swimming with his master's sons who
were about his age. Sometimes he would get into a fight with one of the
boys and many times he would be the victor, his fallen foe would
sometimes exclaim that "that licking that you gave me sure hurt," and
that ended the affair; there was no further ill feeling between them.

Education: The slaves were not allowed to study. The white children
studied a large "Blue Back" Webster Speller and when one had thoroughly
learned its contents he was considered to be educated.

Religion: The slaves had their own church but sometimes went to the
churches of their white masters where they were relegated to the extreme
rear. John Kelley, a white man, often preached to them and would
admonish them as follows; "you must obey your master and missus, you
must be good niggers." After the beginning of the war they held
"meetings" among themselves in their cabins.

Baptism: Those slaves who believed and accepted the Christian Doctrine
were admitted into the church after being baptized in one of the
surrounding ponds.

Cruelties: There was a very wealthy plantation owner who lived near the
Davis plantation; he had eleven plantations, the smallest one was
cultivated by three hundred slaves. Oftimes they would work nearly all
night. Will states that it was not an unusual thing to hear in the early
mornings the echoes of rawhide whips cracking like the report of a gun
against the bare backs of the slaves who were being whipped. They would
moan and groan in agony, but the whipping went on until the master's
wrath was appeased. John Stokes, a white plantation owner who lived near
the Davis' plantation encouraged slaves to steal from their masters and
bring the stolen goods to him; he would purchase the goods for much less
than their value. One time one of the slaves "put it out" that "Massa"
Stokes was buying stolen goods. Stokes heard of this and his wrath was
aroused; he had to find the "nigger" who was circulating this rumor. He
went after him in great fury and finally succeeded in locating him,
whereupon, he gave him a good "lacing" and warned him "if he ever heard
anything like that again from him he was going to kill him." The
accusations were true, however, but the slave desisted in further
discussion of the affair for "old Massa Stokes was a treacherous man."
On another occasion one of the Stokes' slaves ran away and he sent
Steven Kittles, known as the "dog man," to catch the escape. (The dogs
that went in pursuit of the runaway slaves were called "Nigger dogs";
they were used specifically for catching runaway slaves.) This
particular slave had quite a "head start" on the dogs that were trailing
him and he hid among some floating logs in a large pond; the dogs
trailed him to the pond and began howling, indicating that they were
approaching their prey. They entered the pond to get their victim who
was securely hidden from sight; they dissapeared and the next seen of
them was their dead bodies floating upon the water of the pond; they had
been killed by the escape. They were full-blooded hounds, such as were
used in hunting escaped slaves and were about fifty in number. The slave
made his escape and was never seen again. Will relates that it was very
cold and that he does'nt understand how the slave could stand the icy
waters of the pond, but evidently he did survive it.

Civil War: It was rumored that Abraham Lincoln said to Jefferson Davis,
"work the slaves until they are about twenty-five or thirty years of
age, then liberate them." Davis replied: "I'll never do it, before I
will, I'll wade knee deep in blood." The result was that in 1861, the
Civil War, that struggle which was to mark the final emancipation of the
slaves began. Jefferson Davis' brothers, Sam and Tom, joined the
Confederate forces, together with their sons who were old enough to go,
except James, Tom's son, who could not go on account of ill health and
was left behind as overseer on Jack Davis' plantation. Jack Davis joined
the artillery regiment of Captain Razors Company. The war progressed,
Sherman was on his famous march. The "Yankees" had made such sweeping
advances until they were in Robertsville, South Carolina, about five
miles from Black Swamp. The report of gun fire and cannon could be heard
from the plantation. "Truly the Yanks are here" everybody thought. The
only happy folk were, the slaves, the whites were in distress. Jack
Davis returned from the field of battle to his plantation. He was on a
short furlough. His wife, "Missus" Davis asked him excitedly, if he
thought the "Yankees" were going to win. He replied: "No if I did I'd
kill every _damned nigger_ on the place." Will who was then a lad of
nineteen was standing nearby and on hearing his master's remarks, said:
"The Yankees aint gonna kill me cause um goin to Laurel Bay" (a swamp
located on the plantation.) Will says that what he really meant was that
his master was not going to kill him because he intended to run off and
go to the "Yankees." That afternoon Jack Davis returned to the "front"
and that night Will told his mother, Anna Georgia, that he was going to
Robertsville and join the "Yankees." He and his cousin who lived on the
Davis' plantation slipped off and wended their way to all of the
surrounding plantations spreading the news that the "Yankees" were in
Robertsville and exhorting them to follow and join them. Soon the two
had a following of about five hundred slaves who abandoned their
masters' plantations "to meet the Yankees." En masse they marched
breaking down fences that obstructed their passage, carefully avoiding
"Confederate pickets" who were stationed throughout the countryside.
After marching about five miles they reached a bridge that spanned the
Savannah River, a point that the "Yankees" held. There was a Union
soldier standing guard and before he realized it, this group of five
hundred slaves were upon him. Becoming cognizant that someone was upon
him, he wheeled around in the darkness, with gun leveled at the
approaching slaves and cried "Halt!" Will's cousin then spoke up, "Doan
shoot boss we's jes friends." After recognizing who they were, they were
admitted into the camp that was established around the bridge. There
were about seven thousand of General Sherman's soldiers camped there,
having crossed the Savannah River on a pontoon bridge that they had
constructed while enroute from Green Springs Georgia, which they had
taken. The guard who had let these people approach so near to him
without realizing their approach was court martialed that night for
being dilatory in his duties. The Federal officers told the slaves that
they could go along with them or go to Savannah, a place that they had
already captured. Will decided that it was best for him to go to
Savannah. He left, but the majority of the slaves remained with the
troops. They were enroute to Barnswell, South Carolina, to seize Blis
Creek Fort that was held by the Confederates. As the Federal troops
marched ahead, they were followed by the volunteer slaves. Most of these
unfortunate slaves were slain by "bush whackers" (Confederate snipers
who fired upon them from ambush.) After being killed they were
decapitated and their heads placed upon posts that lined the fields so
that they could be seen by other slaves to warn them of what would
befall them if they attempted to escape. The battle at Blis Creek Fort
was one in which both armies displayed great heroism; most of the
Federal troops that made the first attack, were killed as the
Confederates seemed to be irresistible. After rushing up reinforcements,
the Federals were successful in capturing it and a large number of

General Sherman's custom was to march ahead of his army and cut rights
of way for them to pass. At this point of the war, many of the slaves
were escaping from their plantations and joining the "Yankees." All of
those slaves at Black Swamp who did not voluntarily run away and go to
the "Yankees" were now free by right of conquest of the Federals.

Will now found himself in Savannah, Georgia, after refusing to go to
Barnswell, South Carolina, with the Federals. This refusal saved him
from the fate of his unfortunate brothers who went. Savannah was filled
with smoke, the aftermath of a great battle. Lying in the "Broad River"
between Beaufort, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia were two Union
gun boats, the _Wabash_ and _Man O War_, which had taken part in the
battle that resulted in the capture of Savannah. Everything was now
peaceful again; Savannah was now a Union city. Many of the slaves were
joining the Union army. Those slaves who joined were trained about two
days and then sent to the front; due to lack of training they were soon
killed. The weather was cold, it was February, 1862, frost was on the
ground. Will soon left Savannah for Beaufort, South Carolina which had
fallen before the "Yankee" attack. Soldiers and slaves filled the
streets. The slaves were given all of the food and clothes that they
could carry--confiscated goods from the "Rebels." After a bloody
struggle in which both sides lost heavily and which lasted for about
five years, the war finally ended May 15, 1865. Will was then a young
man twenty-three years of age and was still in Beaufort. He says that
day was a gala day. Everybody celebrated (except the Southerners). The
slaves were _free_.

Thousands of Federal soldiers were in evidence. The Union army was
victorious and "Sherman's March" was a success. Sherman states that when
Jefferson Davis was captured he was disguised in women's clothes.

Sherman states that Florida had the reputation of having very cruel
masters. He says that when slaves got very unruly, they were told that
they were going to be sent to Florida so they could be handled. During
the war thousands of slaves fled from Virginia into Connecticut and New
Hampshire. In 1867 William Sherman left Beaufort and went to Mayport,
Florida to live. He remained there until 1890, then moved to Arona,
Florida, living there for awhile; he finally settled in Chaseville,
Florida, where he now lives. During his many years of life he has been
married twice and has been the father of sixteen children, all of whom
are dead. He never received any formal education, but learned to read
and studied taxidermy which he practiced for many years.

He was at one time Inspector of Elections at Mayport during
Reconstruction Days. He recalled an incident that occurred during the
performance of his duties there, which was as follows: Mr. John Doggett
who was running for office on the Democratic ticket brought a number of
colored people to Mayport by boat from Chaseville to vote. Mr. Doggett
demanded that they should vote, but Will Sherman was equally insistent
that they should not vote because they had not registered and were not
qualified. After much arguing Mr. Doggett saw that Sherman could not be
made "to see the light" and left with his prospective voters. William
Sherman once served upon a United States Federal jury during his
colorful life.

In appearance he could easily be regarded as a phenomenon. He is
ninety-four years of age, though he appears to be only about fifty-five.
His hair is black and not grey as would be expected; his face is round
and unlined; he has dark piercing but kindly eyes. He is of medium
stature. He has an exceptionally alert mind and recalls past events with
the ease of a youth. The Indian blood that flows in his veins is plainly
visible in his features, the color of his skin and the texture of his

He gives as his reason for his lengthy life the Indian blood that is in
him and says that he expects to live for nintey-four more years. Today
he lives alone. He raises a few vegetables and is content in the
memories of his past life which has been full. (2)


1. Most of his friends call him SHERMAN, hence he adopted that name.

2. A personal interview with William Sherman, former slave, at home in
Colored quarters, Chaseville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Martin D. Richardson, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
January 27, 1937



The story of a free Negro of Connecticut, who came south to observe
conditions of slavery, found them very distasteful, then voluntarily
entered that slavery for seven years is the interesting tale that Samuel
Smalls, 84 year old ex-slave of 1704 Johnson Street, Jacksonville, tells
of his father Cato Smith.

Smith had been born in Connecticut, son of domestic slaves who were
freed while he was still a child. He grew to young manhood in the
northern state, making a living for himself as a carpenter and builder.
At these trades he is said to have been very efficient.

Still unmarried at the age of about 30, he found in himself a desire to
travel and see how other Negroes in the country lived. This he did,
going from one town to another, working for periods of varying length in
the cities in which he lived, eventually drifting to Florida.

His travels eventually brought him to Suwannee County, where he worked
for a time as overseer on a plantation. On a nearby plantation where he
sometimes visited, he met a young woman for whom he grew to have a great
affection. This plantation is said to have belonged to a family of
Cones, and according to Smalls, still exists as a large farm.

Smith wanted to marry the young woman, but a difficulty developed; he
was free and she was still a slave. He sought her owner. Smith was told
that he might have the woman, but he would have to "work out" her cost.
He was informed that this would amount to seven years of work on the
plantation, naturally without pay.

Within a few days he was back with his belongings, to begin "working
out" the cost of his wife. But his work found favor in his voluntary
master's eyes; within four years he was being paid a small sum for the
work he did, and by the time the seven years was finished, Smith had
enough money to immediately purchase a small farm of his own.

Adversity set in, however, and eventually his children found themselves
back in slavery, and Smith himself practically again enslaved. It was
during this period that Smalls was born.

All of the Florida slaves were soon emancipated, however and the
voluntary slave again became a free man. He lived in the Suwannee County
vicinity for a number of years afterward, raising a large family.


Personal interview with Samuel Smalls, ex-slave, 1704 Johnson Street,
Jacksonville, Florida

The American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Cora N. Taylor
Frances H. Miner, Editor
Miami, Florida
May 14, 1937


Salena Taswell, 364 NW 8th St., Miami, Fla.

1. Where, and about when, were you born?

In Perry, Ga. in 1844.

2. If you were born on a plantation or farm, what sort of farming
section was it in?

Ole Dr. Jameson's plantation near Perry, Ga. north of Macon.

3. How did you pass the time as a child? What sort of chores did you do
and what did you play?

I worked around the table in my Massy's dining room. I didn't play. I
sometimes pulled threads for mother. She was a fine seamstress for the

4. Was your master kind to you?

Yes; I was the pet.

5. How many slaves were there on the same plantation or farm?

He must have had about 400 slaves.

6. Do you remember what kind of cooking utensils your mother used?

We had copper kettles, crocks, and iron kettles. "I waited on de table
when Lincum came dare. That day we had chicken hash and batter cakes and
dried venison."

7. What were your main foods and how were they cooked?

We had everything that was good (I ate in my Massy's kitchen) Sweet
potatoes biscuits, corn bread, pies and everything we eat now.

8. Do you remember making imitation or substitute coffee by grinding up
corn or peanuts?

No, we always had the best of Java coffee. I used to grind it in the
coffee mill for my Massy.

9. Do you remember ever having, when you were young, any other kind of
bread besides corn bread?

Yes. Batter cakes, biscuits and white bread.

10. Do you remember evaporating sea water to get salt?

No. We did not live so far from Macon and the Ole Doctor he was rich and
bought such things. That is how he come to be so rich. He didn't charge
the poor folks when he doctored them, but they would be so glad that he
made them well that they kep' a givin' him things, bed quilts, chickens,
just ever' thing. Then he had such a big plantation about 200 or 300
acres, but I didn't live on the plantation. I worked in his home.

11. When you were a child, what sort of stove do you remember your
mother having. Did they have a hanging pot in the fire place, and did
they make their candles of their own tallow?

My mother did not cook,--she was a special seamstress servant. They had
fireplaces on the plantation and they always used tallow candles at the
doctor's place until after the 'mancipation, then the doctor was one of
the first ones to buy coal oil lamps.

12. Did you use an open well or pump to get the water?

No, we went to the spring to get the water. We toted it in cedar
buckets. The spring was boxed into a well shaped hole, deep enough to
dip the water out of it. It was the best water. They had a town pump at

13. Do you remember when you first saw ice in regular form?

Yes. They had icicles in Georgia.

14. Did your family work in the rice fields or in the cotton fields on
the farm, or what sort of work did they do?

My father was a blacksmith. He did all kinds of blacksmithing. He even
made plows.

15. If they worked in the house or about the place, what sort of work
did they do?

My mother was one of the best seamstresses; she sewed all day long with
her fingers. She made the finest silk dresses and even made tailored

16. Do you remember ever helping tan and cure hides and pig hides?

They did those things on the plantation. They cured goat skins and sheep
skins, too. The sheep skins would dry so slowly that they would let the
slaves lie on them at night to keep them warm and hasten the drying.

17. As a young person what sort of work did you do? If you helped your
mother around the house or cut firewood or swept the yard, say so.

I cleaned and dusted and waited on the table, made beds and put
everything in order, washed dishes, polished silverware and did the most
trusty work.

18. When you were a child do you remember how people wove cloth, or spun
thread, or picked out cotton seed, or weighed cotton, or what sort of
bag was used on the cotton bales?

I did not need to spin but I used to play with the spinning wheels. They
ginned the cotton on the plantation. They used a horse to pull the gin.

They weighed the cotton with a beam and weight. A good slave picked 200
lbs of cotton in a day. Nancy could pick 300 or 400 lbs in a day. She'd
go out early in the day and run in ahead of the sun and no one would
know she had been out. That's how she would get ahead of the rest.

19. Do you remember what sort of soap they used? How did they get the
lye for making the soap?

They made soft soap boiled in a big kettle. They made the lye out of
ashes packed in an old barrel that had a hole in the bottom. They would
make a hollow in the top of the barrel and pour rain water in it. This
would gradually soak through the ashes and seep out of the bottom of the
barrel which they tipped up so that it would drain the lye out into a
vessel. Then they would take the lye and boil it in the kettle with old
grease and meat rinds. The lye was very strong. They had to be careful
not to get any of it on their hands or it would take the skin off. As
they would stir the grease and lye it would foam and cook like a jelly
and when it cooled we had soft soap. It would sure chase the dirt, but
it was hard on the hands.

20. What did they use for dyeing thread and cloth, and how did they dye

They would dig indigo roots and cook the roots and branches for blue
dye. For purple they mixed red and blue. They would pick the berries off
the gallberry bushes for red. The robin's yellow and mixed yellow and
red for orange; and yellow and blue for green.

21. Did your mother use big, wooden washtubs with cut-out holes on each
side for the fingers?

Yes. We made cedar tubs on the plantation. And we had some men who made
large wooden bowls out of juggles cut from logs of the tupla tree. They
would run them through a machine and they would come out round and then
they would smooth them down. They mixed bread in those big bowls.

22. Do you remember the way they made shoes by hand in the country?

Yes, all our shoes were made on the plantation.

23. Do you remember saving the chicken feathers and goose feathers
always for your featherbeds?


24. Do you remember when women wore hoops in their skirts, and when they
stopped wearing them and wore narrow skirts?

Yes. The doctor's folks were so stylish that they would not let the
servants wear hoops, but we could get the old ones that they threw away
and have a big time playing with them and we would go around with them
on when they were gone and couldn't see us.

25. Do you remember when you first saw your first windmill?

Never did see one.

26. Do you remember when you first saw bed springs instead of bed ropes?

Yes. When I was a slave, I slept in a gunny sack bunk with the sacks
nailed against the wall on two sides, in a corner of the room and then
there was a post at the corner of the bed and two poles nailed from the
post to the walls and the gunny sacks were nailed to those poles. My bed
was a two-story bed. There was another gunnysack bed above me with poles
fastened to the same post. We tore old rags and made rag rugs for quilts
to cover us with. I worked in the doctor's house in the daytime but I
had to sleep in the shed at night. Then after I wasn't a slave no more,
I never slept on anything else but a rope bed. When springs come I
wondered what anyone wanted wid 'em. Rope beds was good enough.

27. When did you see the first buggy and what did it look like?

The doctor, he had the best of such things. He had a regular buggy and
sometimes he driv two horses in hit. Uncle Albert, he wuz his driver.
When the doctor wanted to put on great style, and go to the station to
meet some rich company he had one of the fancy cabs with the driver
sittin' up high in front, but when he went to see his patients, he'd
take his feet to go around. He had two saddle packs with a strap that he
would throw over his shoulder. He would have one pack hanging in front
and the other hanging behind.

28. Do you remember your grandparents?

No, my mother's mother was taken from her and sold when she was a baby.
So I never seed my grandmother and I don't know any more about my
grandfather than a _goose about a band box_.

29. Do you remember the money called "shin-plasters?"

I've seen plenty. I guess my master had barrels of them.

30. What interesting historical events happened during your youth,--such
as Sherman's Army passing through your section? Did you witness the
happenings and what was the reaction of the other Negroes to them?

Sherman's army went through Perry but they did not do any damage there.
They expected them to come and buried lots of food and valuable things,
and when they came they took them to the smoke houses and told them to
help themselves. They did not burn any houses there.

31. Did you know any Negros who enlisted or joined the northern army?

Yes, plenty went with their boss, but ran off to Sherman's army when he
came along. One woman's husband I knowed, Mr. Bethel, he stayed with his
master and didn't run off with the Northern army. When he was given his
freedom, his master give him nice house.

32. Did you know any Negroes who enlisted in the Southern Army?

About all I knew.

33. Did your master join the Confederacy? What do you remember of his
return from the war? Or was he wounded or killed?

His two sons joined the army. James was killed, but Bud, he would never
get through telling war stories when he came back.

34. Did you live in Savannah when Sherman and the Northern forces marked
through the state, and do you remember the excitement in your town or
around the plantation where you lived?


35. Did your master's house get robbed or burned during the time of
Sherman's march?


36. What kind of uniforms did they wear during the civil war?

Blue and gray.

37. What sort of medicine was used in the days just after the war?
Describe a Negro doctor of that period.

We never got sick. Sometimes they would give us oil with a drop or two
of turpentine in a big spoonful. They put turpentine on cuts and sores.

38. What do you remember about Northern people or outside people moving
into a community after the war?

Yes, Jake Enos, he was a colored teacher. He was sent down to teach the
colored school. He taught around from Atlanta to Florida. He took yellow
fever and died My brother, he teached school, but I never went to
school. I larned my ABC's from my massy's children. I aint _never_
forgot 'em. I could say 'em now.

39. How did your family's life compare after Emancipation with it

I had it the same. I had it good with my massy, but the rest wuz paid
some little wages. Our plantation was called a free place. Some of the
slaves worked so well and made money for the massy and gained their
freedom even befo' 'mancipashun. I heard one come to him and say I howe
dat man $10 an' he retched down in his pocket an' paid hit.

40. Do you know anything about political meetings and clubs formed after
the war?

I heered about de Kuklux but I never did see none.

41. Do you know anything regarding the letters and stories from Negroes
who migrated north after the war?

I hear talk 'bout some massys goin' arter dem an' bringin' back mor'n
dey had in de fust place.

42. Were there any Negroes of your acquaintance who were skilled in any
particular line of work, if so give details?

The Turners made furniture wid knobs an' bumps on just like that stand
and bed. They made fancy chairs an' put cowhide seats stretch-across

43. What sort of school system was there for the instruction of the
Negro? Were there any Negro teachers in your community?

Yes. My son, he went to Negro school three months a year. The son said
that he studied Webster's Speller, Harvey's Reader, learned his ABC's
and studied some in history, geography and arithmetic.

44. How old were you at the close of the civil war?

21 years.

45. Describe the type of early religious meeting, the preachers, etc.

I went to town to my massy's church. I sat 'long side on 'em and held
the baby. My father, he held meetings on the plantation and prayer
meetings just like they have now.

46. Do your friends believe in charms and conjure bags, and what has
been their experience with magic and spells?

I guess some claim dey believe in sech things, but I don't know whether
they do or not.

47. Did you ever use an ox to plow with? What sort of plow?

Yes, I see 'em plow wid hoxen. Dey used the kind of plows they made on
the plantation. I didn't plow, but I used to have fun a goin' roun' in
the old ox two-wheel wagon cart. I'd go down de hill in it; we'd get in
the dump cart and holler an' have a big time.

48. How much did various foods and drinks and commodities cost just at
the end of the war and afterwards?

I don't know what things cost.

[HW: Negro-Tampa-Slave Interviews]
July 9, 1937

Prepared for Use in Public Schools
by the
Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration

By Jules A. Frost


From a Virginia plantation to Florida, through perils of Indian
war-fare; shanghaied on a Government vessel and carried 'round the
world; shipwrecked and dropped into the lap of romance--these are only a
few of the colorful pages from the unwritten diary of old Uncle Dave,
ex-slave and soldier of fortune.

The reporter found the old man sitting on the porch of his Iber City
shack, thoughtfully chewing tobacco and fingering his home-made cane. At
first he answered in grumpy monosyllables, but by the magic of a good
cigar, he gradually let himself go, disclosing minute details of a most
remarkable series of adventures.

His language is a queer mixture of geechy, sea terms and broad "a's"
acquired by long association with Nassau "conchs." Married to one of
these ample-waisted Bahama women, the erst-while rambler and adventurer
proved that rolling stones sometimes become suitable foundations for
homes--he lived faithfully with the same wife for fifty-one years.

"Shippin' 'fore de mahst ain't no job to make a preacher f'm a
youngster; hit's plenty tough; but I ain't nevah been sorry I went to
sea; effen a boy gwine take to likker an' wimmen, he kin git plenty
o'both at home, same as in for'n ports."

The old man bit off a conservative chew from his small plug, carefully
wrapped the remainder in his handkerchief and chewed thoughtfully for
some time before he continued.

"I wasn't bawn in Florida, but I be'n here so long I reckon hit 'bout de
same thing. I kin jes remember leavin' Norfolk. My daddy an' mammy an'
de odder chillun b'long to a Frenchman named Pinckney. Musta be'n 'bout
1860 or 1861, w'en Mahstah 'gins to worry 'bout what gwine happen effen
war come an' de Vahginny slave-owners git beat."

He proceeded slowly, and in language almost unintelligible at times, as
he talked, smoked and chewed, all at the same time; but here, the
reporter realized, were all the elements of a true story that needed
only notebook and typewriter to transform it into readable form.

Antagonism aroused by the Dred Scott decision, and the further
irritation caused by the Fugitive Slave law were kicking up plenty of
trouble during Buchanan's administration. South Carolina had already
seceded. Major Anderson was keeping the Union flag flying at Fort
Sumter, but latest reports said that there was no immediate danger of
hostilities when Pierre Pinckney, thrifty Virginia planter of French
extraction, went into conference with his neighbors and decided to move
while the getting-out was still good.

With as little publicity as possible, they arranged the disposal of
their real estate. No need to sell their slaves and livestock; they
would need both in the new location. If they could manage to get to
Charleston, they reasoned, surely they could arrange for a boat to St.
Augustine. The Indians might be troublesome there, but by settling near
the fort they should be reasonably safe.

Before the caravan of oxcarts and heavy wagons came within sight of the
old seaport town, it became evident that they had better keep to the
woods. Union soldiers, although still inactive, might at any time decide
to confiscate their belongings, so they pushed on to the southward.

Long weeks dragged by before they finally reached St. Augustine. War
talk, and the possibility of attack by sea again caused them to change
their plans. Pooling their money, they chartered a boat and embarked for
Key West. Surely they would be safe that far south. One of their
Virginia neighbors, Fielding A. Browne, had settled there thirty years
before. Taking advantage of the periodic sales of salvaged goods from
wrecks on the treacherous keys, he had become wealthy and was said to
hold a responsible position with the city.

Everyone was in a cheerful mood as the blue outline of Key West peeped
over the horizon, and all come on deck to catch a glimpse of their new
home. Suddenly dismay clutched at every heart as a Federal man-of-war
swung out of the harbor and steamed out to meet them. The long-feared
crisis had come. They ware prisoners of war.

Pinckney and his neighbors were marched into Fort Taylor. Their wives,
children and slaves were allowed to settle in the city and care for
themselves as best they could.

Pinckney's slaves consisted of one family, David Taylor and wife, with
their family of ten pickaninnies. Colonel Montgomery, Federal recruiting
officer, took advantage of the helplessness of the slave owners to sow
discord among the blacks, and before many days big Dave, father of the
subject of this sketch, had "jined de Yankees" as color sergeant and had
been sent north, where he was killed in the attack on Fort Sumter.

His determined and energetic 260-pound wife served Mrs. Pinckney
faithfully through the war and long afterward. Young Dave, or "Buddy,"
son of big Dave, although only in his early teens, was her chief aid.
When the war was over and Mr. Pinckney walked out of Fort Taylor a free
man, the portly Hannah "pooh-poohed" the announcement that she was a
free citizen. "Y'all done brung me heah," she blustered with emphasis,
"an' heah I'se gwine t' stay."

Some years after the war Pierre Pinckney died. When his good wife became
ill, frantic dismay pervaded the servants' quarters. As her last moments
drew near, Mrs. Pinckney called the weeping Hannah to her bedside and
laid a bag of money in her hand.

"To get you and the children back to old Virginia," she whispered with
her last breath.

When the beloved "Missus" was laid to rest by the side of her husband in
the Catholic cemetery, the bewildered Hannah took the money to a white
man, an old friend of the family, and asked him to buy the tickets back
to Virginia. He advised against it; said that the old home would not be
there to comfort them. Houses had been burned, trees cut down and old
landmarks destroyed. He suggested that they take the hundred dollars in
gold and buy a little home in Key West, which they did.

Reconstruction days were as trying to Key Westers as to others all over
the devastated land of Dixie. Slave owners, stripped of their
possessions, taxed with an immense war debt and with no money or
equipment to begin the slow climb back to normalcy were pathetic figures
as they blistered their hands at toil that they had never known before.
Many of the slaves were more than willing to stay with their former
masters, but with no income, the problem of feeding themselves was the
main issue with the whites, so it was out of the question to try to fill
other mouths, and ex-slaves often had to shift for themselves, a
hopeless task for a race that had never been called upon to exert

Hannah Taylor and her numerous offspring were a fair example of these
irresponsible people. Like a ship adrift without skipper or rudder, they
were at the mercy of every adverse wind of misfortune. Each morning they
went out with frantic energy to earn or in some way procure sustenance
for one more day. Young Dave hounded the sponge fishermen until they
gave him an extra job. He made the rounds of the fishing docks,
continually on the lookout to be of help, anxious to do anything at any
time in exchange for a few articles of food that he could carry proudly
home to his mother.

"Dem was mighty tryin' times," mused the old man, "an' I don't blame my
mammy fer warmin' my pants when she had so much to worry 'bout. She had
a way o' grabbin' me by de years an' shovin' my haid twixt her knees
whilst she wuk on me sumpin' awful. No wonder I was scairt o' dese
frammin's. I reckon dat was de cause o' me goin' t' sea. Ah mas' tell
you 'bout dat.

"One day my mammy gimme fifteen cents an' say 'Go down to de market and
fetch me some fish. Ah' lissen--don't you let no grass grew unda yo'
feet. Go on de run an' come back on de jump. Does you fall down, jes'
keep on a-goin' some-how.'

"Wid dat she turn an' spit on de step. 'You see dat spit,' she say. 'Ef
hit be dry w'en you git back, I gonna beat de meat offen yo' bones. Git
goin', now.'

"Well, I stahted, an I she' wasn't losin' no time. 'Bout hahf way to de
mahket, I meets a couple o' stewards f'm a U.S. navy cutter anchored off
de navy yard.

"Hol' on, dar, boy,' 'dey sing out, 'wha you gwine so fas'? Grab dis
here basket an' tote hit down to de dock.'

"I knowed I couldn't git back home 'fore dat spit dried, an' I be'n
figgerin' how I could peacify my mammy so's to miss dat beatin'. I
figger of I mek a quarter or hahf a dollar an' gin it to 'er, she mebbe
forgit de paddlin'. So I take de bahsket an' foller 'em down to de water
front. W'en we git dere dey was a sailor waitin' fer 'em wid a boat f'm
de cutter. I set de bahsket in de boat an' stood waitin' fo' my money.

"You ain't finished yo' job yit,' dey say. 'Git yo'se'f in dat boat an'
put dat stuff on be'd.'

"W'en I gits on deck a cullud boy 'bout my size say 'Wanna look about a
bit?' So I foller him below an' fo' I knowed it, I feel de boat kinda
shakin.' I run to a porthole an' look out. Dere was Key West too far
away to swim back to.

"I ran up on deck, an' dare was de steward w'at gin me de bahsket to
tote. 'W'at th'ell you doin' on bo'd dis ship,' he ahsk me.

"I tells 'im I ain't wantin' t' stay no mo'n he wants me, an' he takes
me to de cap'm. 'I reckon he b'long to do navy now,' says de cap'm, 'so
dey fix some papers an' I makes my mark on 'em.

"Ahftah a bit I find we bound fo' N'Orleans. 'Fore we got dere, a ship
hove 'longside an' gin us a message to put about. I ahsk a li'l
Irishman, named Jack, wha we gwine, an' he say, 'Outa de worl'.'

"Jesus wep't I say, 'my mammy think I be daid.' I couldn't read nor
write, an' didn't know how to tell noboddy how to back a letter to my
mammy, so I jes' let hit go, an' we staht back de way we come.

"I thought hit be'n stormin' all de time, but w'en we pahs thoo de
Florida straits I see w'at a real storm's like. I didn't know, ontell
we was hahf way down de South American coast, headin fer Cape Horn, dat
we done pahs Key West, but I couldn't got off if I'd wanted to, 'cause
I'd done jined de navy.

"Hit seem lak months 'fore we roun' de Cape an' head back north on de
Pacific, an' hit seem lak a year 'fore we drop anchor in Hong Kong. Dey
tell me de admiral was stationed dere an' de cap'n had to report to him.
W'ile he was doin' dis, we gits shore leave.

"Wen Jack an' me gits on land, we couldn't onnerstan' a word, but we mek
signs, an' a tough-lookin' Chink motion fer us to foller him. We go down
a dark street an' turn thoo an alley, then into a big room lighted with
colored paper lanterns. On de flo' we see some folks sleepin' wit some
li'l footstools 'longside 'em, an some of 'em was smokin' long-stemmed
pipes. I figger mebbe dey goin' put us to sleep an' knock us in de haid.
I look back an' see de do' swingin' shut, slow like, so I run back an'
stick my foot in hit and shove hit back open.

"Jack an me run back de same way we come. Pretty soon we find anotha
sailor an' go wit him to a yaller man dat could speak English. He pin a
li'l yaller flag on our shirts an' say hit de badge o' de Chinese
gov'ment, an' we be safe, cause we b'long to de U.S. navy.

"We go out to see de sights, but nevah hear one mo' word o' English; so
ahftah a time we go back to de ship an' stay ontell we put to sea again.

"Nex' we sails fo' Panama. W'en we ties up dere, Jack an' me goes
ashore. Ah nevah befo' see such pretty high-yaller gals in all my life.
Looks lak dey made o' marble, dey so puffick.

"Me an' Jack gits likkered up de fust thing, an' I done lose 'im. Dat
worry me some, 'cause we need each otha. Wit' his haid an' my arms we
mek one pretty good man. Dat lil Irishman was a fightin' fool. Weighed
only 90 pounds, but strong an' wiry. Co'se he git licked mos' do time,
but he allus ready fer anotha fight.

"Didn't lak for folks to call him Irish. 'He fodder was Irish and he
mudder American,' he say; 'I be'n born aboard a Dutch brig in French
waters. Now you tell me what flag I b'longs undah.'

"Wen we gits back to de ship, de boys tells me some English sailors beat
Jack up in de sportin' house. Sumbuddy sing out 'Beat it--de marines
comin'!, an' dey all run for de ship an leff Jack dere.

"I don't ahsk no mo' questions; jes' start back on a run to find my
buddy. At dat time I weigh 180, an' was pretty husky fer my age. Bein'
likkered plenty, I nevah thought 'bout gittin' beat up mahse'f.

"W'en I gits back, dere was a big Limey stahndin' wid his arms crost de
do'. 'All dem in, stay in, an' all de outs stay out,' he say.

"Now I be'n trained to respec' white folks--what is white folks--ever
sence I bawn; but w'en I think 'bout Jack in dere, hahf dead, mebbe, dat
Limey don't look none too white to me. I take a runnin' staht an' but
'im in de belly wid my haid.

"De nex' do' was locked, an' I bus' hit down. Dere was Jack, 'bout hahf
done f'. Blood all over de fla'. Ev'thing in de room busted up an'
tipped over. I hauls 'im to a back do', but hit locked. I kick out a
winder, heaves 'im onto my shoulder, an' runs back to de ship.

"Wen we comes up, dere was de cap'm standin' at de rail. His blue eyes
look lak he love to kill us.

"'Fall in!' he says, an' we does. 'Go for'd,' he says, an' we goes.

"'Now' he says, wat's all dis about?'

"'Well,' says Jack, 'I didn't staht no fight. I jes' goes into a
saloon, peaceful like, an' a damn Limey says, pointin' to a British
flag on dere own ship, 'You see dat flag?'

"'Aye,' says Jack, 'an' still I don't see nuthin'.'

"'I be'n over de seven seas,' says de Limey, 'an' I see dat ol' flag
mistress of all of 'em.'

"'You be'n around some,' says Jack, 'but I done a li'l sailin' mahse'f.
Fust place I went was to France. Grass look lak hit need rain,' (So he
tells dat Limey what he done fo' hit).

"'Nex' I goes to Germany,' he says; 'ground no good; need fer'lizer.'
(So he tells 'im what he done on German soil).

"Atter dat I ships fo' England,' Jack tells de Limey, lookin' 'im
straight in de eye. 'Fust thing I see w'en we land is dat British flag
w'at you be'n braggin' so loud about.' (So he tells dat Limey w'at 'e
used de flag fer).

"'Fore God, Cap'm,' says Jack, 'dat Limey lan' on me wid bofe feet 'fore
I say anotha word. Nevah got in one lick. Fack is, Cap'm I ain't be'n
doin' _no fightin'_ sence I done lef' dis here ship."

"'Go below,' says de cap'm 'an' clean yo'se'f up. Dis de lahst time you
two gwine git shore leave on dis trip.' He try to look mad, but I see he
wantin' to lahf.

"De nex' day," Uncle Dave finished, with a whimsical smile, "I see de
bos'n readin' in de paper 'bout de war 'twixt America an' England. Hit
was 'bout our li'l war--what _dey_ stahted an' _we_ finished."

The dusky old veteran of many battles unwrapped the small piece of black
tobacco in the soiled handkerchief, decided on conservation, and slowly
wrapped it up again.

"Nex' comes orders from de admiral in Hong Kong to sail fer Rio
Janeiro. W'en we drop anchor, dere was some o' da meanes' lookin' wharf
rats I evah see. Killers, dey was, willin' to knock anybody off, any
time, fer a few cents. We lines up fer shore leave, but dey mek Jack an'
me stay on de ship. Our rucus in Panama done got us in bad wid de cap'm.
But Ah reckon hit was fer de bes'. One of our men come back wid a year
cut off an' a busted nose. 'Nother one neveh come back at all.

"One mornin' I see 'em runnin' up a long pennant an' all de sailors lahf
an dahnce about lak dey crazy. Hit was de signal 'omeward boun'. We
weigh anchor and head fer N'York.

"'Well, Taylor,' da officer say, when he pay me off 'you gwine ship wid
us again?'

"'I gotta go home,' I tells 'im; 'got a job t' finish up in Key West.'

"So dey gin me my discharge an' a Gov'ment pahs on de Mallory liner
_Clyde_. W'en I gits to Key West, fust place I goes was to dat fish
mahket w'ere my mammy done sent me three year an' six months befo'. I
buy fifteen cents wuth o' fish an' go on home.

"W'en I git dere, dey was jes' settin' down to dinner. 'Wait,' Ah say,
'put on one mo' plate.'

"My mammy look at me lak she done see a ghost. Den she run an' 'gin
beatin' on me.

"'Hol' on,' Ah tells 'er, 'you ain't forgot dat beatin' yit? I done got
yo' fish,' an' I gin 'er de pahcel.

"'Mah boy, mah boy,' she say, 'Ah beatin' on yuh kase Ah so proud t' see
yuh. Heah Ah done wear black fer yuh, an' gin yuh up fer daid; an' bress
de Lawd, heah you is, lak come beck f'm de grave.'

"Ah retch down, in m' pocket an' pull a pahcel an' lay hit in her han';
three hunnert sebenty-eight dollahs, all de money I done made wid de
Gov'ment sence Ah left, an' I gin hit all to 'er. She lak t' had a fit;
an Ah she' was de head man o' dat fembly whilst Ah stayed.

"But de salt water stick to me--Ah couldn't stay ashore. So ahftah Ah
visit wid 'em a spell, Ah goes down to de docks an' sign t' ship on a
fo'-mahster tramp. Dat ol' tub tek me all ovah de worl'."

Pressed for details of some of his physical encounters on this second
voyage, Uncle Dave seemed in deep thought, and finally said:

"Well, Ah tell you 'bout de time I fout de bully of de ship. We was
still in Key West, waitin' fer wind. Dis ol' tramp ship, she got a crew
picked up f'm all ovah de worl'. Dere ain't no sich thing as a color
line dere. At mess time, white an' black all git in de same line. As dey
pahs by de table, each one take a knife an' cut off a piece o' meat.

"Dere was a big, high-yeller Haiti higgah, what thought he done own de
ship. 'Trouble wiz 'Merican niggahs,' he say, 'dey ain't got no sperrit.
I be offisaire een my own countree--I don't bow ze knee to nobody, white
or black."

"So when dey line up, dis here Haitian come crowdin' in ahead o' de fust
man in de line, an' he cut off de bes' lean meat 'fore we gits ours.

"What's dis,' Ah say to de man ahead o' me, 'huccome dat white man don't
bus' dat damn yeller swab wide open?'

"'Dat's Rousseau,' 'e says; 'Ain't nobuddy on dis ship big enough to put
'im on de tail end o' de line.'

"I size 'im up good w'ile we eats. He weigh 196, dey tells me, an'
nobuddy be'n lucky 'nuff to lay 'im out. 'Cordin' t' ship rules, dey
couldn't gang up on 'im. Cap'm mek ev'ybuddy fight single. Wan't no sich
thing ez quarrelin'. Effen two sailors gits in a rucus, day pipe 'em up
on de main deck."

"Do what?" the reporter asked.

"Pipe 'em up--de bos'n blow a whistle an' call 'em in t' fight it out,
w'ile de othas watch de fun. Den day gotta shake han's, an' hit done

"Well, Ah see dis here Haiti niggah be a li'l bigger'n me, but Ah figger
I gwine gin 'im a chajnce to staht sump'n de nex' time. So atter I takes
a couple o' drinks, I goes down early an' gits fust in de line. Sho'
'nuff, Rousseau comes up an' crowds in ahead o' me. Ah pushes him to one
side, an' gits ahead o' him. He raises his eyebrows, sorta
suprised-like, an' gits ahead o' me. I be fixin' to knock 'im clean ovah
de rail, but by dat time, de Cap'm had 'is eye on us.

"'Pee-e-e-e-p,' go de whistle; 'Tay-lor-r-r-r' de bos'n sing out.

"'Taylor," I ahnswer.

"'Come to de mahst.'

"I tells 'em how it was, how I fixin' to knock dat niggah so far into de
Gulf we be thoo eatin' 'fore he kin swim back.

"'Pipe 'im up, bos'n,' says de cap'm.

"Rousseau comes in, and de whole crew wid 'im, t' see de fight. 'Pull
off yer shirts,' says de cap'm, an' we done it. 'Wait,' says de bos'n;
'de deck jes' be'n swabbed down--why bloody hit up, Cap'm? How 'bout
lettin' 'em fight on shore?'

"Day was a flatform 'side a buildin' nex' to de water. Dey all line de
rail an' let us go ashore t' scrap hit out. Boy, dat _was_ some fight;
We fout ontell we was lak two game roosters--both tired out, but still
wantin' t' keep goin'. We jes' stan' dere, han's on each otha's
shoulders, lookin' into each otha's eyes, blood runnin' down to our
toes. Pretty soon he back off an' try to rush me. I side steps, an' gits
in a lucky lick below de heart. He draps to his knees, an' rolls ovah
on his back, wallin' his eyes lak he dyin'.

"Dey lay 'im on de deck an' souse 'im wid a bucket o' water, but he
sleeps right on. De res' go back to de mess line, all but me--I wan't
hongry. De nex' day I gits in line early, but dey wan't no Haiti niggah
t' muscle in ahead o' me. He kep' to his bunk mighty nigh a week."

Judging from the appearance of this feeble old man, one would hardly
think that he was once a rollicking scrapper, with ready fists like
rawhide mallets. Old Dave dutifully gives full credit to the law of

"M' daddy was six feet six, an' weighed 248 pounds," he said proudly.
"Nevah done a hahd day's wuk in 'is life."

When pressed for an explanation of this seeming phenomenon, the old man
sniffed disdainfully.

"Does stock breeders wit a $10,000-stallion put 'im on de plow?... Dey
called my daddy de $10,000 niggah."

Uncle Dave sat, stroking his cane for a few minutes, then smiled
faintly. "My mammy was mighty nigh as big, an' nevah seen a sick day in
her life. Wit a staht lak dat, hit ain't no wonder I growed up all
backbone an' muscle."

While there have been many instances of atrocious cruelty to slaves,
Uncle Dave believes that other cases have been unduly magnified. He says
that he was never whipped by his master, but remembers numerous
chastisements at the hands of Miss Jessie, his young owner, daughter of
Pierre Pinckney.

"De young missus used to beat me a right smaht," he recalled with an
amused smile. "I b'longed to her, y'see. She was a couple o' years
younger'n me. I mind I used to be hangin' 'round de kitchen, watchin 'em
cook cakes an' otha good things. W'en dey be done, I'd beg for one, an'
dey take 'em off in de otha room, so's I couldn't steal any.

"Soon as de young missus be gone, I go an' kick ovah her playhouse an'
upset her toys. When she come back, she be hoppin' mad, an staht beatin'

"'Jessie,' her ma'd say, 'you'll kill Buddy, beatin' him dat way.'

"'I don't care,' she say, 'I'll beat him to death, an' git me a bettah

"I'd roll on de flo' an' holler loud, an' preten' she hurt me pow'ful
bad. By'm by, when she git ovah her mad spell, she go off in da otha
room an' come back sid some o' dem good things fo' me." The old man's
eyes twinkled. "Dat be w'at I'se atter all de time," he explained.

The perils of a life at sea are not as great as fiction writers
sometimes indicate, according to this old sea dog. He says that in all
his voyages, he has been in only one serious wreck. That was on a reef
of coral keys off the Bahamas.

"Day say dey ain't no wind so bad but what it blows some good to
somebuddy," observed the old man. "Dat same wind what land us on de
rocks done blow me to de bes' woman in de worl'. Ah reckon."

He chewed slowly, as he gazed out over the dingy housetops toward the
mass of feathery clouds, which must have been floating over the rocky
shoals off Nassau.

"She was de daughter o' de wreckin' mahater, a Nassau niggah by de name
o' Aleck Gator. W'en de crew done got us off de shoal and was towin' de
wreck in, dere she was, stahndin' on de dock, waitin' fer her daddy.
Big, overgrown gal, black an' devilish-lookin', noways handsome; but
somehow I jes' couldn't keep my eyes offen her. I notice she keep eyein'
me, too.

"W'en we gits ashore, I didn't lose no time gittin in a good word f'
mahse'r. 'Fore I knowed it, we was talkin' 'bout wha' we gwine live ...
Fifty-one years is a mighty long time to stick to one woman, 'specially
w'en you be'n lookin' over so many 'fore makin' up yo' mind ... Dis is

Uncle Dave extended a tinted photograph. His gnarled fingers trembled as
he handed it over, and there was a suspicious softness in the lines of
his wrinkled old face, as he looked fondly at the likeness of the
stolid, dark features.

"Hit be'n mighty lonesome since she done lef' dis worl' fo' year ago,"
he said with feeling, as he carefully wrapped up the picture and put it

Uncle Dave has definite ideas of his own regarding domestic economy.
"Trouble wid young folks nowadays is dey don't have no good
unnerstahndin' 'fore dey gits married. 'Fore we ever faces de preacher,
I tells her she ain't gittin' no model man fer a husban'. I lake my
likker, an' I gwine have it w'en I wants it.

"'Now lissen,' I tells 'er, 'effen I comes home drunk, don't you go t'
bressin' ee[TR:?] out. Don't you even _tetch_ me; jes' gimme a li'l
piller an' lemme go lay down on de flo' somewheres. Atter I drop off t'
sleep, you kin tear de house down, and hit don't botha me none. Wen I
wakes up, I be all right.'

"Well, de fust time I come home full o' likker she done ferget w'at I
tell her, an' staht shovin' me. I done bus' 'er on de jaw so pow'ful
hahd hit lif' her feet offen de flo' an' she lan' in de corner on her
haid. W'en I wakes up an' sees w'at I done, I wish I could hit mahse'f
de same way. F'm dat day on, we nevah had no mo' trouble 'bout de
likker question."

The weight of years has at last cooled the hot blood, but a hint of
departed swashbuckling days still glistens in the old eyes as he sits
on his narrow porch and recalls scenes of the old days.

To one interested in the psychology of the Southern negro, this
shriveled old man, with his half-bantering, half-pathetic attitude
offers an interesting study. Borrowed from a page of history, he seems a
curiosity, like a fossil magically restored to life, endowed with the
power of speech, telling of events so deeply buried in the past that
they seem almost unreal.

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Pearl Randolph, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
November 35, 1936


Mr. Thomas was at home today. There are many days when one might pass
and repass the shabby lean-to that is his home without seeing any signs
of life. That is because he spends much of his time foraging about the
streets of Jacksonville for whatever he can get in the way of food or
old clothes, and perhaps a little money.

He is a heavily bearded, bent old man and a familiar figure in the
residential sections of the city, where he earns or begs a very meager
livelihood. Many know his story and marvel at his ability to relate
incidents that must have occured when he was quite small.

Born in Jefferson County, Florida on July 26, 1857, he was one of the
150 slaves belonging to the Folsom brothers, Tom and Bryant. His
parents, Thomas and Mary, and their parents as far as they could
remember, were all a part of the Folsom estate. The Folsoms never sold a
slave except he merited this dire punishment in some way.

Acie heard vague rumors of the cruelties of some slave owners, but it
was unknown among the Folsoms. He thinks this was due to the fact that
certain "po white trash" in the vicinity of their plantation owned
slaves. It was the habit of the Folsoms to buy out these people whenever
they could do so by fair means or foul, according to his statements. And
by and by there were no poor whites living near them. It was, he further
stated like "damning a nigger's soul, if Marse Tom or Marse Bryant
threatened to sell him to some po' white trash. And it allus brung good
results--better than tearing the hide off'n him woulda done."

As a child Acie spent much of his time roaming over the broad acres of
the Folsom plantation with other slave children. They waded in the
streams, fished, chased rabbits and always knew where the choicest wild
berries and nuts grew. He knew all the wood lore common to children of
his time. This he learned mostly from "cousin Ed" who was several years
older than he and quite willing to enlighten a small boy in these

He was taught that hooting owls were very jealous of their night hours
and whenever they hooted near a field of workers they were saying: "Task
done or no done--night's my time--go home!" Whippoorwills flitted about
the woods in cotton picking time chattering about Jack marrying a widow.
He could not remember the story that goes with this. Oppossums were a
"sham faced" tribe who "sometimes wandered onto the wrong side of the
day and got caught." They never overcame this shame as long as they were
in captivity.

All bull rushes and tree stumps were to be carefully searched. One
might find his baby brother there at any time.

When Acie "got up some size" he was required to do small tasks, but the
master was not very exacting. There were the important tasks of
ferreting out the nests of stray hens, turkeys, guineas and geese. These
nests were robbed to prevent the fowls from hatching too far from the
hen house. Quite a number of these eggs got roasted in remote corners of
the plantation by the finders, who built fires and wrapped the eggs in
wet rags and covered them with ashes. When they were done a loud pop
announced that fact to the roaster. Potatoes were cooked in the same
manner and often without the rags. Consequently these two tasks were
never neglected by the slave children. Cotton picking was not a bad job
either--at least to the young.

Then there was the ride to the cotton house at the end of the day atop
the baskets and coarse burlap sheets filled with the day's pickings.
Acie's fondest ambition was to learn to manipulate the scales that told
him who had done a good day's work and who had not. His cousin Ed did
this envied task whenever the overseer could not find the time.

Many other things were grown here. Corn for the cattle and "roasting
ears," peanuts, tobacco and sugar cane. The cane was ground on the
plantation and converted into barrels of syrup and brown sugar. The cane
grinding season was always a gala one. There was always plenty of juice,
with the skimmings and fresh syrup for all. Other industries were the
blacksmith shop where horses and slaves were shod. The smoke houses
where scores of hogs and cows were prepared and hung for future use. The
sewing was presided over by the mistress. Clothing were made during the
summer and stored away for the cool winters. Young slave girls were kept
busy at knitting cotton and woolen stockings. Candles were made in the
"big house" kitchen and only for consumption by the household of the
master. Slaves used fat lightwood knots or their open fireplaces for
lighting purposes.

There was always plenty of everything to eat for the slaves. They had
white bread that had been made on the place. Corn meal, rice, potatoes,
syrup vegetables and home-cured meat. Food was cooked in iron pots hung
over the fireplace by rings made of the same metal. Bread and pastries
were made in the "skillet" and "spider."

Much work was needed to supply the demands of so large a plantation but
the slaves were often given time off for frolics (dances),
(quilting-weddings). These gatherings were attended by old and young
from neighboring plantations. There was always plenty of food, masters
vying with another for the honor of giving his slaves the finest

There was dancing and music. On the Folsom plantation Bryant, the
youngest of the masters furnished the music. He played the fiddle and
liked to see the slaves dance "cutting the pigeon wing."

Many matches were made at these affairs. The women came "all rigged out
in their best" which was not bad at all, as the mistresses often gave
them their cast off clothes. Some of these were very fine indeed with
their frills and hoops and many petticoats. Those who had no finery
contented themselves with scenting their hair and bodies with sweet
herbs, which they also chewed. Quite often they were rewarded by the
attention of some swain from a distant plantation. In this case it was
necessary for their respective owners to consent to a union. Slaves on
the Folsom plantation were always married properly and quite often had a
"sizeable" wedding, the master and mistress often came and made merry
with their slaves.

Acie knew about the war because he was one of the slaves commandeered by
the Confederate army for hauling food and ammunition to different points
between Tallahassee and a city in Virginia that he is unable to
remember. It was a common occurrence for the soldiers to visit the
plantation owners and command a certain number of horses and slaves for
services such as Acie did.

He thinks that he might have been about 15 years old when he was freed.
A soldier in blue came to the plantation and brought a "document" that
Tom, their master read to all the slaves who had been summoned to the
"big house" for that purpose. About half of them consented to remain
with him. The others went away, glad of their new freedom. Few had made
any plans and were content to wander about the country, living as they
could. Some were more sober minded, and Acie's father was among the
latter. He remained on the Folsom place for a short while; he then
settled down to share-croping in Jefferson County. Their first year was
the hardest, because of the many adjustments that had to be made. Then
things became better. By means of hard work and the co-operation of
friendly whites the slaves in the section soon learned to shift for

Northerners came South "in swarms" and opened schools for the ex-slaves,
but Acie was not fortunate enough to get very far in his "blue back
Webster." There was too much work to be done and his father trying to
buy the land. Nor did he take an interest in the political meetings held
in the neighborhood. His parents shared with him the common belief that
such things were not to be shared by the humble. Some believed that "too
much book learning made the brain weak."

Acie met and married Keziah Wright, who was the daughter of a woman his
mother had known in slavery. Strangely enough they had never met as
children. With his wife he remained in Jefferson County, where nine of
their thirteen children were born.

With his family he moved to Jacksonville and had been living here "a
right good while" when the fire occurred in 1903. He was employed as a
city laborer and helped to build street car lines and pave streets. He
also helped with the installation of electric wiring in many parts of
the city. He was injured while working for the City of Jacksonville, but
claims that he was never in any manner remunerated for this injury.

Acie worked hard and accumulated land in the Moncrief section and lives
within a few feet of the spot where his house burned many years ago. He
was very sad as he pointed out this spot to his visitor. A few scraggly
hedges and an apple tree, a charred bit of fence, a chimney foundation
are the only markers of the home he built after years of a hard struggle
to have a home. His land is all gone except the scant five acres upon
which he lives, and this is only an expanse of broom straw. He is no
longer able to cultivate the land, not even having a kitchen garden.

Kaziah, the wife, died several years ago; likewise all the children,
except two. One of these, a girl, is "somewhere up Nawth". The son has
visited him twice in five years and seems never to have anything to give
the old man, who expresses himself as desiring much to "quit die
unfriendly world" since he has nothing to live for except a lot of dead

"All done left me now. Everything I got done gone--all 'cept Keziah. She
comes and visits me and we talk and walk over there where we uster and
set on the porch. She low she gwine steal ole Acie some of dese days in
the near future, and I'll be mighty glad to go ever yonder where all I
got is at."


1. Personal interview with Acie Thomas, Moncrief Road Jacksonville,

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Martin Richardson, Field Worker
South Jacksonville, Florida
December 8, 1936

SHACK THOMAS, Centenarian

Beady-eyed, grey-whiskered, black little Shack Thomas sits in the sun in
front of his hut on the Old Saint Augustine Road about three miles south
of Jacksonville, 102 years old and full of humorous reminiscences about
most of those years. To his frequent visitors he relates tales of his
past, disjointedly sometimes but with a remarkable clearness and

The old ex-slave does not remember the exact time of his birth, except
that it was in the year 1834, "the day after the end of the Indian War."
He does not recall which of the Indian wars, but says that it was while
there were still many Indians in West Florida who were very hard for him
to understand when he got big enough to talk, to them.

He was born, he says on "a great big place that b'longed to Mister Jim
Campbell; I don't know just exactly how big, but there was a lot of us
working on it when I was a little fellow." The place was evidently one
of the plantations near Tallahassee; Thomas remembers that as soon as he
was large enough he helped his parents and others raise "corn, peanuts,
a little bit of cotton and potatoes. Squash just grew wild in the
woods; we used to eat them when we couldn't get anything else much."

The centennarian remembers his parents clearly; his mother was one Nancy
and his father's name was Adam. His father, he says, used to spend hours
after the candles were out telling him and his brothers about his
capture and subsequent slavery.

Adam was a native of the West Coast of Africa, and when quite a young
man was attracted one day to a large ship that had just come near his
home. With many others he was attracted aboard by bright red
handkerchiefs, shawls and other articles in the hands of the seamen.
Shortly afterwards he was securely bound in the hold of the ship, to be
later sold somewhere in America. Thomas does not know exactly where Adam
landed, but knows that his father had been in Florida many years before
his birth. "I guess that's why I can't stand red things now," he says;
"my pa hated the sight of it."

Thomas spent all of his enslaved years on the Campbell plantation, where
he describes pre-emancipation conditions as better than "he used to hear
they was on the other places." Campbell himself is described as
moderate, if not actually kindly. He did not permit his slaves to be
beaten to any great extent. "The most he would give us was a
'switching', and most of the time we could pray out of that."

"But sometimes he would get a hard man working for him, though," the old
man continues. "One of them used to 'buck and gag' us." This he
describes as a punishment used particularly with runaways, where the
slave would be gagged and tied in a squatting position and left in the
sun for hours. He claims to have seen other slaves suspended by their
thumbs for varying periods; he repeats, though, that these were not
Campbell's practices.

During the years before "surrinder", Thomas saw much traffic in slaves,
he says. Each year around New Years, itinerant "speculators" would come
to his vicinity and either hold a public sale, or lead the slaves, tied
together, to the plantation for inspection or sale.

"A whole lot of times they wouldn't sell 'em, they'd just trade 'em like
they did horses. The man (plantation owner) would have a couple of old
women who couldn't do much any more, and he'd swap 'em to the other man
for a young 'un. I seen lots of 'em traded that way, and sold for money

Thomas recalls at least one Indian family that lived in his neighborhood
until he left it after the War. This family, he says, did not work, but
had a little place of their own. "They didn't have much to do with
nobody, though," he adds.

Others of his neighbors during these early years were abolition-minded
white residents of the area. These, he says would take in runaway slaves
and "either work 'em or hide 'em until they could try to get North."
When they'd get caught at it, though, they'd "take 'em to town and beat
'em like they would us, then take their places and run 'em out."

Later he came to know the "pu-trols" and the "refugees." Of the former,
he has only to say that they gave him a lot of trouble every time he
didn't have a pass to leave--"they only give me one twice a week,"--and
of the latter that it was they who induced the slaves of Campbell to
remain and finish their crop after the Emancipation, receiving
one-fourth of it for their share. He states that Campbell exceeded this
amount in the division later.

After 'surrinder' Thomas and his relatives remained on the Campbell
place, working for $5 a month, payable at each Christmas. He recalls how
rich he felt with this money, as compared with the other free Negroes in
the section. All of the children and his mother were paid this amount,
he states.

The old man remembers very clearly the customs that prevailed both
before and after his freedom. On the plantation, he says, they never
faced actual want of food, although his meals were plain. He ate mostly
corn meal and bacon, and squash and potatoes, he adds "and every now and
then we'd eat more than that." He doesn't recall exactly what, but says
it was "Oh, lots of greens and cabbage and syrul, and sometimes plenty
of meat too."

His mother and the other women were given white cotton--he thinks it may
have been duck--dresses "every now and then", he states, but none of the
women really had to confine themselves to white, "cause they'd dye 'em
as soon as they'd get 'em." For dye, he says they would boil wild
indigo, poke berries, walnuts and some tree for which he has an
undecipherable name.

Campbell's slaves did not have to go barefoot--not during the colder
months, anyway. As soon as winter would come, each one of them was given
a pair of bright, untanned leather "brogans," that would be the envy of
the vicinity. Soap for the slaves was made by the women of the
plantation; by burning cockle-burrs, blackjack wood and other materials,
then adding the accumulated fat of the past few weeks. For light they
were given tallow candles. Asked if there was any certain time to put
the candles out at night, Thomas answers that "Mr. Campbell didn't care
how late you stayed up at night, just so you was ready to work at

The ex-slave doesn't remember any feathers in the covering for his
pallet in the corner of his cabin, but says that Mr. Campbell always
provided the slaves with blankets and the women with quilts.

By the time he was given his freedom, Thomas had learned several trades
in addition to farming; one of them was carpentry. When he eventually
left his $5 a month job with his master, he began travelling over the
state, a practice he has not discontinued until the present. He worked,
he says, "in such towns as Perry, Sarasota, Clearwater and every town in
Florida down to where the ocean goes under the bridge." (Probably Key

He came to Jacksonville about what he believes to be half a century ago.
He remembers that it was "ever so long before the fire" (1901) and "way
back there when there wasn't but three families over here in South
Jacksonville: the Sahds, the Hendricks and the Oaks. I worked for all of
them, but I worked for Mr. Bowden the longest."

The reference is to R.L. Bowden, whom Thomas claims as one of his first
employers in this section.

The old man has 22 children, the eldest of those living, looking older
than Thomas himself. This "child" is fifty-odd years. He has been
married three times, and lives now with his 50 year old wife.

In front of his shack is a huge, spreading oak tree. He says that there
were three of them that he and his wife tended when they first moved to
Jacksonville. "That one there was so little that I used to trim it with
my pocket-knife," he states. The tree he mentioned is now about
two-and-a-half feet in diameter.

"Right after my first wife died, one of them trees withered," the old
man tells you. "I did all I could to save the other one, but pretty soon
it was gone too. I guess this other one is waiting for me," he laughs,
and points to the remaining oak.

Thomas protests that his health is excellent, except for "just a little
haze that comes over my eyes, and I can't see so good." He claims that
he has no physical aches and pains. Despite the more than a century his
voice is lively and his hearing fair, and his desire for travel still
very much alive. When interviewed he had just completed a trip to a
daughter in Clearwater, and "would have gone farther than that, but my
son wouldn't send me no fare like he promised!"


1. Interview with subject, Shack Thomas, living on Old Saint Augustine
Road, South Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Rachel A. Austin
Jacksonville, Florida
November 30, 1936

LUKE TOWNS, A Centenarian

Luke Towns, a centenarian, now residing at 1335 West Eighth Street,
Jacksonville, Florida, was the ninth child born to Maria and Like Towns,
slaves, December 34, 1835, in a village in Tolberton County, Georgia.

Mr. Town's parents were owned by Governor Towns, whose name was taken by
all the children born on the plantation; he states that he was placed on
the public blocks for sale, and was purchased by a Mr. Mormon. At the
marriage of Mr. Mormon's daughter, Sarah, according to custom, he was
given to this daughter as a wedding present, and thus became the slave
and took the name of the Gulleys and lived with them until he became a
young man at Smithville, Georgia, in Lee County.

His chief work was that of carrying water, wood and working around the
house when a youngster; often, he states he would hide in the woods to
keep from working.

Because his mother was a child-bearing woman, she did not know the hard
labors of slavery, but had a small patch of cotton and a garden near the
house to care for. "All of the others worked hard," said he "but had
kind masters who fed them well." When asked if his mother were a
christian, he replied "why yes: indeed she was, and believed in prayer;
one day as she traveled from her patch home, just as she was about to
let the 'gap' (this was a fence built to keep the hogs and horses shut
in) down, she knelt to pray and a light appeared before her and from
that time on she did not believe in any fogyism, but in God."

"I cannot remember much now," he says, "of what happened in slavery, but
after slavery we went back to the name of Towns. I know I got some
whippings and during the war my job was that of carrying the master's
luggage." (1)

After the war he went to Albany, Georgia and began working for himself,
hauling salt from Albany to Tallahassee, Florida; this salt was sold to
the stores. His next job was that of sampling cotton.

Just before he was 30 years old he was married to Mary Julia Coats, who
lived near Albany, Georgia. To them were born the following children:
Willie, George, Alexander, Henry Hillsman, Ella Louise, and
twins--Walter Luke and Mary Julia, who were named for the parents.

He was converted to the Baptist faith when his first child was born;
there were no churches, but services were held in the blacksmith shop on
the corner of Jackson and State Streets. Later he became a member of
Mount Zion Baptist Church Albany, Georgia, and served there for 50
years as a deacon.

He remained in Georgia until 1899 when he moved to Tampa, Florida and
there he operated a cafe. He joined Beulah Baptist Church and served as
deacon there until he sold his business and came to Jacksonville, 1917,
to live with his youngest daughter, Mrs. Mary Houston, because he was
too old to operate a business. In Jacksonville he connected himself with
the Bethel Baptist Church, and while too old to serve as an active
deacon, he was placed on the honorary list because of his previous
record of church service.

As a relic of pre-freedom days, Mr. Towns has a piece of paper money and
a one-cent piece which he keeps securely looked in his trunk and allows
no one to open the trunk; he keeps the key.

Mr. Towns, who will celebrate his one-hundred-first birthday, December
24, 1936, is not able to coherently relate incidents of the past; he
hears but little and that with great difficulty.

He says he has his second eyesight; he reads without the use of glasses;
until very recently he has been very active in mind and body, having
registered in the Spring of 1936, signing his own name on the
registration books. He has almost all of his hair, which is thick,
silvery white and of artist length. He has most of his teeth, walks
without a cane except when painful; dresses himself without assistance.

Mr. Towns rises at six o'clock each morning, often earlier. Makes his
bed (he has never allowed anyone to make his bed for him) and because it
is still dark has to lie across the bed to await the breaking of day.
His health is very good and his appetite strong.

Upon the occasion of his one-hundredth birthday, December 24, 1935, his
daughter Mrs. Houston gave him a child's party and invited one hundred
guest; one hundred stockings were made, filled with fruits, nuts and
candies and one given each guest. A huge cake with one hundred candles
adorned the table and during the party, he cut the cake. At this party,
he showed all the joys and pleasures of a child. His other daughter Mrs.
E.L. McMillan, of New York City, and son, Mr. George Towns, for years an
instructor in Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia, were present for the

Mr. Towns has been noted during his lifetime for having a remarkable
memory and has many times publicly delivered orations from many of
Shakespeare's works. His memory began failing him in 1936.

He is very well educated and now spends most of his time sitting on the
porch reading the Bible. (2)


1. Luke Towns, 1225 West Eighth Street, Jacksonville, Florida

2. Mary Houston, daughter of Luke Towns, 1225 West Eighth Street
Jacksonville, Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Viola B. Muse
Jacksonville, Florida
March 20, 1937


Willis Williams of 1025 Iverson Street, Jacksonville, Florida, was born
at Tallahassee, Florida, September 15, 1856. He was the son of Ransom
and Wilhemina Williams, who belonged during the period of slavery to
Thomas Heyward, a rich merchant of Tallahassee. Willis does not know the
names of his paternal grandparents but remembers his maternal
grandmother was Rachel Fitzgiles, who came down to visit the family
after the Civil War.

Thomas Heyward, the master, owned a plantation out in the country from
Tallahassee and kept slaves out there; he also owned a fine home in the
city as well as a large grocery store and produce house.

Willis' mother, Wilhemina, was the cook at the town house and his
father, Williams, did carpentry and other light work around the place.
He does not remember how his father learned the trade, but presumes that
Mr. Heyward put him under a white carpenter until he had learned. The
first he remembers of his father was that he did carpentry work.

At the time Willis was born and during his early life, even rich people
like Mr. Heyward did not have cook stoves. They knew nothing of such.
The only means of cooking was by fireplace, which, as he remembers, was
wide with an iron rod across it. To the rod a large iron pot was
suspended and in it food was cooked. An iron skillet with a lid was used
for baking and it also was used to cook meats and other food. The
common name for the utensil was 'spider' and every home had one.

Willis fared well during the first nine years of his life which were
spent in slavery. To him it was the same as freedom for he was not a
victim of any unpleasant experiences as related by some other ex-slaves.
He played base ball and looked after his younger brothers and sister
while his mother was in the kitchen. He was never flogged but received
chastisement once from the father of Mr. Heyward. That, he related, was
light and not nearly so severe as many parents give their children

Wilhemina, his mother, and the cook, saw to it that her children were
well fed. They were fed right from the master's table, so to speak. They
did not sit to the table with the master and his family, but ate the
same kind of food that was served them.

Cornbread was baked in the Heyward kitchen but biscuits also were baked
twice daily and the Negroes were allowed to eat as many as they wished.
The dishes were made of tin and the drinking vessels were made from
gourds. Few white people had china dishes and when they did possess them
they were highly prized and great care was taken of them.

The few other slaves which Mr. Heyward kept around the town house tended
the garden and the many chickens, ducks and geese on the place. The
garden afforded all of the vegetables necessary for feeding Master
Heyward, his family and slaves. He did not object to the slaves eating
chicken and green vegetables and sent provisions of all kinds from his
store to boot.

Although Mr. Heyward was wealthy there were many things he could not buy
for Tallahassee did not afford them. Willis remembers that candles were
mostly used for light. Home-made tallow was used in making them. The
moulds, which were made of wood, were of the correct size. Cotton string
twisted right from the raw cotton was cut into desired length and placed
in the moulds first, then heated tallow was poured in until they were
filled. The tallow was allowed to set and cool, then they were removed,
ready for use.

In those days coffee was very expensive and a substitute for it was made
from parched corn. The whites used it as well as the slaves.

Willis remembers a man named Pierce who cured cow hides. He used to buy
them and one time Willis skinned a cow and took the hide to him and sold
it. Sixty-five and seventy years ago everyone used horses or mules and
they had to have shoes. The blacksmith wore leather aprons and the
horses and mules wore leather collars. No one knew anything about
composition leather for making shoes so the tanning of hides was a
lucrative business.

Clothing, during Civil War days and early Reconstruction, was simple as
compared to present day togs. Cloth woven from homespun thread was the
only kind Negroes had. Every house of any note could boast of a spinning
wheel and loom. Cotton, picked by slaves, was cleared of the seed and
spun into thread and woven into cloth by them. It was common to know how
to spin and weave. Some of the cloth was dyed afterwards with dye made
from indigo and polk berries. Some was used in its natural color.

Cotton was the main product of most southern plantations and the owner
usually depended upon the income from the sale of his yearly crop to
maintain his home and upkeep of his slaves and cattle. It was necessary
for every farm to yield as much as possible and much energy was directed
toward growing and picking large crops. Although Mr. Heyward was a
successful merchant, he did not lose sight of the fact that his country
property could yield a bountiful supply of cotton, corn and tobacco.

Around the town house Mr. Heyward maintained an atmosphere of home life.
He wanted his family and his servants well cared for and spared no
expense in making life happy.

As Willis remembers the beds were made of Florida moss and feathers.
Boards ware laid across for slats and the mattress placed upon the
boards. On top of the moss mattress a feather one was placed which made
sleeping very comfortable. In summer the feather mattress was often
removed, sunned, aired and replaced in winter. Goose and the downy
feathers of chickens were saved and stored in large bags until enough
were collected for a mattress and it was considered a prize to possess

Every family of note boasted the ownership of a horse and buggy or
several of each. The kind most popular during Willis' boyhood was the
one-seated affair with a short wagon-like bed in the rear of the seat.
Sometimes two seats were used. The seats were removable and could be
used for carrying baggage or other light weights. The brougham, surrey
and landam were unknown to Willis.

Before the Civil War and during the time the great struggle was in full
swing, women wore hoop skirts, very full, held out with metal hoops.
Pantaloons were worn beneath them and around the ankle where they were
gathered very closely, a ruffle edged with a narrow lace, finished them
off. The waist was tight fitting basque and sleeves which could be worn
long or to elbow, were very full. Women also wore their hair high up on
their heads with frills around the face. Negro women, right after
slavery, fell into imitating their former mistresses and many of them
who were fortunate enough to get employment used part of their earnings
for at least one good dress. It was usually made of woolen a yard wide,
or silk.

Money has undergone a change as rapidly as some other commonplace
things. In Willis' early life, money valued at less than one dollar was
made of paper just as the dollar, five dollar or ten dollar bills were.
There was a difference however, in the paper representing 'change' and
not as much care was taken in protecting it from being imitated. The
paper money used for change was called "shin plasters" and much of it
flooded the southland during Civil War days.

Mr. Heyward did not enlist in the army to help protect the south's
demise but his eldest son, Charlie, went. His younger son was not old
enough to go. Willis stated that Mr. Heyward did not go because he was
in business and was needed at home to look after it. It is not known
whether Charlie was killed at war or not, but, Willis said he did not
return home at the close of war.

When the news of freedom came to Thomas Heyward's town slaves it was
brought by McCook's Cavalry. Willis remembers the uniforms worn by the
northerners was dark blue with brass buttons and the Confederates wore
gray. After the cavalry reached Tallahassee, they separated into
sections, each division taking a different part of the town. Negroes of
the household were called together and were informed of their freedom.
It is remembered by Willis that the slaves were jubilant but not

Mr. Heyward was dealt a hard blow during the war; his store was
confiscated and used as a commissary by the northern army. When the war
ended he was deprived of his slaves and a great portion of his former
wealth vanished with their going.

The loss of his wealth and slaves did not bitter Mr. Heyward; to the
contrary, he was as kindhearted as in days past.

McCook's Cavalry did not remain in Tallahassee very long and was
replaced by a colored company; the 99th Infantry. Their duty was to
maintain order within the town. An orchestra was with the outfit and
Willis remembers that they were very good musicians. A Negro who had
been the slave of a man of Tallahassee was a member of the orchestra.
His name was Singleton and his former master invited the orchestra to
come to his house and play for the family. The Negroes were glad to
render service, went, and after that entertained many white families in
their homes.

The southern soldiers who returned after the war appeared to receive
their defeat as good 'sports' and not as much friction between the races
existed as would be imagined. The ex-slave, while he was glad to be
free, wanted to be sheltered under the 'wings' of his former master and
mistress. In most cases they were hired by their former owners and peace
reigned around the home or plantation. This was true of Tallahassee, if
not of other sections of the south.

Soon after the smoke of the cannons had died down and people began
thinking of the future, the Negroes turned their thoughts toward
education. They grasped every opportunity to learn to read and write.
Schools were fostered by northern white capitalists and white women were
sent into the southland to teach the colored boys and girls to read,
write and figure. Any Negro who had been fortunate enough to gain some
knowledge during slavery could get a position as school teacher. As a
result many poorly prepared persons entered the school room as tutor.

William Williams, Willis' father, found work at the old Florida Central
and Peninsular Railroad yards and worked for many years there. He sent
his children to school and Willis advanced rapidly.

During slavery Negroes attended church, sat in the balcony, and very
often log churches were built for them. Meetings were held under "bush
harbors." After the war frame and log churches served them as places of
worship. These buildings were erected by whites who came into the
southland to help the ex-slave. Negro men who claimed God had called
them to preach served as ministers of most of the Negro churches but
often white preachers visited them and instructed them concerning the
Bible and what God wanted them to do. Services were conducted three
times a day on Sunday, morning at eleven, in afternoon about three and
at night at eight o'clock.

The manner of worship was very much in keeping with present day modes.
Preachers appealed to the emotions of the 'flock' and the congregation
responded with "amens," "halleluia," clapping of hands, shouting and
screaming. Willis remarked to one white man during his early life, that
he wondered why the people yelled so loudly and the man replied that in
fifty years hence the Negroes would be educated, know better and would
not do that. He further replied that fifty years ago the white people
screamed and shouted that way. Willis wonders now when he sees both
white and colored people responding to preaching in much the same way as
in his early life if education has made much difference in many cases.

Much superstition and ignorance existed among the Negroes during slavery
and early reconstruction. Some wore bags of sulphur saying they would
keep away disease. Some wore bags of salt and charcoal believing that
evil spirits would be kept away from them. Others wore a silver coin in
their shoes and some made holes in the coin, threaded a string through
it, attached it to the ankle so that no one could conjure them. Some who
thought an enemy might sprinkle "goofer dust" around their door steps
swept very clean around the door step in the evening and allowed no one
to come in afterwards.

The Negro men who spent much time around the "grannies" during slavery
learned much about herbs and roots and how they were used to cure all
manner of ills, the doctor gave practically the same kind of medicine
for most ailments. The white doctors at that time had not been schooled
to a great extent and carried medicine bags around to the sick room
which contained pills and a very few other kinds of medicines which they
had made from herbs and roots. Some of them are used to-day but Willis
said most of their medicines were pills.

Ten years after the Civil War Willis Williams had advanced in his
studies to the extent that he passed the government examination and
became a railway mail clerk. He ran from Tallahassee to Palatka and
River Junction on the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad. There was
no other railroad going into Tallahassee then.

The first Negro railway mail clerk according to Willis' knowledge
running from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, was Benjamin F. Cox. The first
colored mail clerk in the Jacksonville Post Office was Camp Hughes. He
was sent to prison for rifling the mail. Willis Myers succeeded Hughes
and Willis Williams succeeded Myers. Willis received a telegram to come
to Jacksonville to take Myers' place and when he came expected to stay
three or four days, but, after getting here was retained permanently and
remained in the service until his retirement.

His first run from Tallahassee to Palatka and River Junction began in
1875 and lasted until 1879. In 1879 he was called to Jacksonville to
succeed Myers and when he retired forty years later, had filled the
position creditably, therefore was retired on a pension which he will
receive until his death.

Willis Williams is in good health, attends Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal
Church of which he is a member. He possesses all of his faculties and is
able to carry on an intelligent conversation on his fifty years in

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

James Johnson, Field Worker
Lake City, Florida
November 6, 1936


In 1857 on the plantation of Tom Dexter in Lake City, Columbia County,
Florida, was born a Negro, Claude Augusta Wilson, of slave parents. His
master Tom Dexter was very kind to his slaves, and was said to have been
a Yankee. His wife Mary Ann Dexter, a southerner, was the direct
opposite, she was very mean. Claude was eight years old when
Emancipation came.

The Dexter plantation was quite a large place, covering 100 or more
acres. There were about 100 slaves, including children. They had regular
one room quarters built of logs which was quite insignificant in
comparison with the palatial Dexter mansion. The slaves would arise
early each morning, being awakened by a "driver" who was a white man,
and by "sun-up" would be at their respective tasks in the fields. All
day they worked, stopping at noon to get a bite to eat, which they
carried on the fields from their cabins.

At "sun-down" they would quit work and return to their cabins, prepare
their meals and gossip from cabin to cabin. Finally retiring to await
the dawn of a new day which signalled a return to their routine duties.
At Sundays they would gather at a poorly constructed frame building
which was known as the "Meeting House," In this building they would give
praise and thanks to their God. The rest of the day was spent in
relaxation as this was the only day of the week in which they were not
forced to work.

Claude Augusta worked in the fields, his mother and sister worked in the
Dexter mansion. Their duties were general house work, cooking and
sewing. His Mother was very rebellious toward her duties and constantly
harrassed the "Missus" about letting her work in the fields with her
husband until finally she was permitted to make the change from the
house to the fields to be near her man.

The "missus" taught Claude's sister to sew and to the present day most
of her female descendants have some ability in dress making.

The mansion was furnished with the latest furniture of the tine, but the
slave quarters had only the cheapest and barest necessities. His mother
had no stove but cooked in the fire place using a skillet and spider
(skillet, a small metal vessel with handle used for cooking; spider, a
kind of frying pan, Winston's Simplified Dictionary, 1924). The cooking
was not done directly on the coals in the fire place but placed on the
hearth and hot coals pulled around them, more coals being pulled about
until the food was cooked as desired. Corn bread, beans, sweet potatoes
(Irish potatoes being unknown) and collard greens were the principal
foods eaten. Corn bread was made as it is today, only cooked
differently. The corn meal after being mixed was wrapped in tannion
leaves (elephant ears) and placed in hot coals. The leaves would parch
to a crisp and when the bread was removed it was a beautiful brown and
unburned. Sweet potatoes were roasted in the hot coals. Corn was often
roasted in the shucks. There was a substitute for coffee that afforded a
striking similarity in taste. The husks of the grains of corn were
parched, hot water was then poured in this, the result was a pleasant
liquid substitute for coffee. These was another bread used as a desert,
known as potato bread, made by tailing potatoes until done, then
mashing, adding grease and meal, this was baked and then it was ready to
serve. For lights, candles were made of tallow which was poured into a
mould when hot. A cord was run through the center of the candle
impression in the mould in which the tallow was poured, when this cooled
the candle with cord was all ready for lighting.

The only means of obtaining water was from an open well. No ice was
used. The first ice that Claude ever saw in its regular form was in
Jacksonville after Emancipation. This ice was naturally frozen and
shipped from the north to be sold. It was called Lake Ice.

Tanning and curing pig and cow hides was done, but Claude never saw the
process performed during slavery. Claude had no special duties on the
plantation on account of his youth. After cotton was picked from the
fields the seeds were picked out by hand, the cotton was then carded for
further use. The cotton seed was used as fertilizer. In baling cotton
burlap bags were used on the bales. The soap used was made from taking
hickory or oak wood and burning it to ashes. The ashes were placed in a
tub and water poured over them. This was left to set. After setting for
a certain time the water from the ashes was poured into a pot containing
grease. This was boiled for a certain time and then left to cool. The
result was a pot full of soft substance varying in color from white to
yellow, this was called lye soap. This was then cut into bars as desired
for use.

For dyeing thread and cloth, red oak bark, sweet gum bark and shoe make
roots were boiled in water. The wash tubs were large wooden tubs having
one handle with holes in it for the fingers. Chicken and goose feathers
were always carefully saved to make feather mattresses. Claude remembers
when women wore hoop skirts. He was about 20 years of age when narrow
skirts became fashionable for women. During slavery the family only used
slats on the beds, it was after the war that he saw his first spring bed
and at that tine the first buggy. This buggy was driven by ex-governor
Reid of Florida who then lived in South Jacksonville. It was a
four-wheeled affair drawn by a horse and looked sensible and natural as
a vehicle.

The paper money in circulation was called "shin plasters." Claude's
uncle, Mark Clark joined the Northern Army. His master did not go to war
but remained on the plantation. One day at noon during the war the gin
house was seen to be afire, one of the slaves rushed in and found the
master badly burned and writhing in pain. He was taken from the building
and given first aid, but his body being burned in oil and so badly
burned it burst open, thus ended the life of the kindly master of

The soldiers of the southern Army wore gray uniforms with gray caps and
the soldiers of the Northern Army wore blue.

After the war such medicines as castor oil, rhubarb, colomel and blue
mass and salts were generally used. The Civil War raged for some tine
and the slaves on Dexter's plantation prayed for victory of the Northern
Army, though they dared not show their anxiety to Mary Ann Dexter who
was master and mistress since the master's death. Claude and his family
remained with the Dexters until peace was declared. Mrs. Dexter informed
the slaves thay they could stay with her if they so desired and that she
would furnish everything to cultivate the crops and that she would give
them half of what was raised. None of the slaves remained but all were
anxious to see what freedom was like.

Claude recalls that a six-mule team drove up to the house driven by a
colored Union soldier. He helped move the household furniture from their
cabin into the wagon. The family then got in, some in the seat with the
driver, and others in back of the wagon with the furniture. When the
driver pulled off he said to Claude's mother who was sitting on the seat
with him, "Doan you know you is free now?" "Yeh Sir," she answered, "I
been praying for dis a long time." "Come on den les go," he answered,
and drove off. They passed through Olustee, then Sanderson, Macclenny
and finally Baldwin. It was raining and they were about 20 miles from
their destination, Jacksonville, but they drove on. They reached
Jacksonville and were taken to a house that stood on Liberty street,
near Adams. White people had been living there but had left before the
Northern advance. There they unloaded and were told that this would be
their new home. The town was full of colored soldiers all armed with
muskets. Horns and drums could be heard beating and blowing every
morning and evening. The colored soldiers appeared to rule the town.
More slaves were brought in and there they were given food by the
Government which consisted of hard tack (bread reddish in appearance and
extremely hard which had to be soaked in water before eating.) The meat
was known as "salt horse." This looked and tasted somewhat like corned
beef. After being in Jacksonville a short while Claude began to peddle
ginger bread and apples in a little basket, selling most of his wares to
the colored soldiers.

His father got employment with a railroad company in Jacksonville, known
as the Florida Central Railway and received 99¢ a day, which was
considered very good pay. His mother got a job with a family as house
woman at a salary of eight dollars a month. They were thus considered
getting along fine. They remained in the house where the Government
placed them for about a year, then his father bought a piece of land in
town and built a house of straight boards. There they resided until his

By this time many of the white people began to return to their homes
which had been abandoned and in which slaves found shelter. In many
instances the whites had to make monetary or other concessions in order
to get their homes back. It was said that colored people had taken
possession of one of the large white churches of the day, located on
Logon street, between Ashley and Church streets. Claude relates that all
this was when Jacksonville was a mere village, with cow and hog pens in
what was considered as downtown. The principal streets were: Pine (now
Main), Market and Forsyth. The leading stores were Wilson's and Clark's.
These stores handled groceries, dry goods and whisky.

As a means of transportation two-wheeled drays were used, mule or
horse-drawn cars, which was to come into use later were not operating at
that time. To cross the Saint Johns River one had to go in a row boat,
which was the only ferry and was operated by the ex-governor Reid of
Florida. It docked on the north side of the river at the foot of Ocean
Street, and on the south side at the foot of old Kings Road. It ran
between these two points, carrying passengers to and fro.

The leading white families living in Jacksonville at that time were the
Hartridges, Bostwicks, Doggetts, Bayels and L'Engles.

Claude Augusta Wilson, a man along in years has lived to see many
changes take place among his people since The Emancipation which he is
proud of. A peaceful old gentleman he is, still alert mentally and
physically despite his 79 years. His youthful appearance belies his age.


1. Personal interview with Claude Augusta Wilson, Sunbeam, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida
June 30, 1938



Charley Roberts of Perrine, Florida, was born on the Hogg plantation
near Allendale, S.C.

"Yes, sah, I' members de vary day when we first heard that we was free.
I was mindin' the little calf, keepin' it away from the cow while my
mother was milkin'.

"We have to milk the cows and carry the milk to the Confederate soldiers
quartered near us.

"At that time, I can 'member of the soldiers comin' 'cross the Savannah
River. They would go to the plantations and take all the cows, hogs,
sheep, or horses they wanted and "stack" their guns and stay around some
places and kill some of the stock, or use the milk and eat corn and all
the food they wanted as they needed it. They'd take quilts and just
anything they needed.

"I don't know why, but I remember we didn't have salt given to us, so we
went to the smoke house where there were clean boards on the floor where
the salt and grease drippings would fall from the smoked hams hanging
from the rafters. The boards would be soft and soaked with salt and
grease. Well, we took those boards and cooked the salt and fat out of
them, cooked the boards right in the bean soup. That way we got salt and
the soup was good.

"They used to give us rinds off the hams. I was a big boy before I ever
knew there was anything but rinds a pork meat. We went around chewing
away at those rinds of hams, and we sure liked them. We thought that was
the best meat there was.

"I used to go to the Baptist church in the woods, but I never went to
school. I learned to read out of McGuffey's speller. It was a little
book with a blue back. I won't forget that.

"I try to be as good as I know how. I've never given the state any
trouble, nor any of my sons have been arrested. I tries to follow the
Golden Rule and do right.

"I have seven living children. We moved to Miami when our daughter moved
here and took sick. We live at Perrine now, but we want to come to
Miami, 'cause I aint able to work, but my wife, she is younger and able
to work. We don't want to go on charity any more'n we have to."


Jennie Colder was born in Georgia on Blatches' settlement. "Blatches, he
kep's big hotel, too and he kep' "right smart" slaves. By the time I was
old enough to remember anything we was all' free, but we worked hard. My
father and mother died on the settlement.

"I picked cotton, shucked cotton, pulled fodder and corn and done all
dat. I plowed with mules. Dis is Jennie Colder, remember dat. Don't
forget it. I done all dat. I plowed with mules and even then the
overseer whipped me. I dont know exactly how old I am, but I was born
before freedom."


Banana Williams, 1740 N.W. 5th Court, Miami, Florida was born in Grady
County, Georgia, near Cairo in the 16th District.

"The man what I belonged to was name Mr. Sacks. My mother and father
lived there. I was only about three years old when peace came, but I
remember when the paddle rollers came there and whipped a man and woman.

"I was awful 'fraid, for that was somethin' I nevah see before. We
"stayed on" but we left before I was old enough to work, but I did work
in the fields in Mitchell County.

"I came to Miami and raised 5 children. I'm staying with my daughter,
but I'm not able to work much. I'm too done played out with old age."


Frank Bates, 367 N.W. 10th Street, Miami, Florida was born on Hugh Lee
Bates' farm in Alabama in the country not very far from Mulberry Beat.

"My mother and father lived on the same plantation, but I was too little
to do more than tote water to the servants in the fields.

"I saw Old Bates whip my mother once for leaving her finger print in the
pone bread when she patted it down before she put it into the oven.

"I remember seeing Lundra, Oscar and Luke Bates go off to war on three
fine horses. I dont know whether they ever came back or not, for we
moved that same day."


William Neighten gave his address as 60th Street, Liberty City. He was
only a baby when freedom came, but he too, "stayed on" a long time

He did not know his real name, but he was given his Massy's name.

"Don't ask me how much work I had to do. Gracious! I used to plow and
hoed a lot and everything else and then did'nt do enough. I got too many
whippings besides."


Rivana Williams Boynton [TR: as in earlier interview, but Riviana,
above] was born on John and Mollie Hoover's plantation near Ulmers,
S.C., being 15 years of age when the 'Mancipation came.

"Our Boss man, he had "planty" of slaves. We lived in a log houses. My
father was an Indian and he ran away to war, but I don't 'member
anything of my mother. She was sold and taken away 'fore I ever knew
anything of her.

"I 'member that I had to thin cotton in the fields and mind the flies in
the house. I had a leafy branch that was cut from a tree. I'd stand and
wave that branch over the table to keep the flies out of the food.

"I'd work like that in the day time and at night I'd sleep in my uncle's
shed. We had long bunks along the side of the walls. We had no beds,
just gunny sacks nailed to the bunks, no slats, no springs, no nothing
else. You know how these here sortin' trays are made,--these here trays
that they use to sort oranges and 'matoes. Well, we had to sleep on gunn
sack beds.

"They had weavin' looms where they made rugs and things. I used to holp
'em tear rags and sew 'em an' make big balls and then they'd weave those
rugs,--rag rugs, you know. That's what we had to cover ourselves with.
We didn't had no quilts nor sheets not nothin like that."

[TR: The following portion of this interview is a near repeat of a
portion of an earlier interview with this informant; however it is
included here because the transcription varies.]

"I 'member well when the war was on. I used to turn the corn sheller and
sack the shelled corn for the Confederate soldiers. They used to sell
some of the corn, and I guess they gave some of it to the soldiers.
Anyway the Yankees got some that they didn't intend them to get.

"It was this way:

"The Wheeler Boys were Confederates. They came down the road as happy as
could be, a-singin':

  'Hurrah! Hur rah! Hurrah!
  Hurrah! for the Broke Brook boys.
  Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
  Hurrah for the Broke Brook boys of South Car-o-li-ne-ah.'

"So of course, we thought they were our soldiers singin' our songs.
Well, they came and tol' our boss that the Yankees were coming and we
had better hide our food and valuable things for they'd take everything
they wanted.

"So they helped our Massy hide the things. They dug holes and buried the
potatoes and covered them over with cotton seed. Then our Massy gave
them food for their kindness and set out with two of the girls to take
them to a place of safety, and before he could come back for the Missus
The Yankees were upon us.

"But before they got there, our Missus had called us together and told
us what to say.

"Now you beg for us! You can save our lives. If they ask you if we are
good to you, you tell them, 'YES'!

"If they ask you, if we give your meat, you tell them 'YES'!

"Now the rest didn't get any meat, but I did 'cause I worked in the
house, so I didn't tell a lie, for I did get meat, but the rest didn't
get it.

"We saw the Yankees coming. They never stopped for nothing. Their horses
would jump the worn rail fences and they'd come right across the fiel's
an' everything.

"They came to the house first and bound our Missus up stairs so she
couldn't get away, then they came out to the sheds and asked us all kind
of questions.

"We begged for our Missus and we say:

  'Our Missus is good. Don't kill her!
  'Dont take our meat away from us!
  'Dont hurt our Missus!
  'Dont burn the house down!

[TR: The rest of the interview is new information.]

"We begged so hard that they unloosened her, but they took some of the
others for refugees and some of the slaves volunteered and went off with

"They took potatoes and all the hams they wanted, but they left our
Missus, 'cause me save her life.

"The Uncle what I libbed with, he was awful full of all kinds of
devilment. He stole sweet taters out of the bank. He called them "pot"
roots and sometimes he called them "blow horts". You know they wuld blow
up big and fat when they were roasted in the ashes.

"My uncle, he liked those blow horts mighty well, and one day, when he
had some baked in the fireplace, Ole Massy Hoover, he came along and
peeked in through the "hold" in de chimley wall, where the stones didn't
fit too good.

"He stood there and peeked in an' saw my uncle eat in' those blow
horts. He had a big long one shakin' the ashes off on it. He was blowing
it to cool it off so he could eat it and he was a-sayin'

"'Um! does blowhorts is mighty good eatin'. Then Massy, he come in wid
his big whip, and caught him and tied him to a tree and paddled him
until he blistered and then washed his sore back with strong salt water.
You know they used to use salt for all of sores, but it sho' did smart.

"My aunt, she was an Indian woman. She didn't want my uncle to steal,
but he was just full of all kind of devilment.

"My Massy liked him, but one day he played a trick on him.

"My Uncle took sick, he was so sick that when my Massy came to see him,
he asked him to pray that he should die. So Massy Hoover, he went home
and wrapped himself up in a big long sheet and rapped on the door real

"Uncle, he say, 'who's out there? What you want?'

"Massy, he change his voice and say, 'I am Death. I hear that you want
to die, so I've come after your soul. Com with me! Get ready. Quick I am
in a hurry!'

"'Oh, my sakes!' my uncle, he say, 'NO, no I aint ready yet. I aint ready
to meet you. I don't want to die.'

"My Missus whipped me once, but not so very hard. I was under Her
daughter, Miss Mollie. She liked me and always called me "Tinker". When
she heard me crying and goin' on, she called:

"'Tinker, come here. What's the matter? Did you Missus whip you?'

"Then my Missus said, 'Tinker was a bad girl, I told her to sweep the
yard and she went off and hid all day.'

"Mollie, she took me up in her arms and said, 'They mustn't whip
Tinker; she's my little girl.'

"If it hadn't been for Miss Mollie, I don't know where I'd be now. I
married right after freedom. My husband, Alexander Boynton and I stayed
right on the plantation and farmed on the shares.

"We had planty of children,--18 in all.--three sets of twins. They all
grew up, except the twins, they didn't any of them get old enough to get
married, but all the rest lived and raised children.

"They are all scattered around, but my youngest son is only 38 years
old. I have grand-children, 40 years old.

"I don't know just how many, but I have 20 grand-children and I have
three generations of grand-children. Yes, my grand-children, some of
them, have grand-children. That makes five generations.

"I tell them that I am a "gitzy, gitzy" grand-mother."

"I live right here with my daughter. She's my baby girl. I'm not very
strong anymore, but I have a big time telling stories to my
great-grand-children and great-great-grand children".


Salena Taswell, 364 NW 8th St. Miami, Florida, is one of the oldest
ex-slave women in Miami. Like most ex-slaves she is very courteous; she
will talk about the "old times", if she has once gained confidence in
you, but her answers will be so laconic that two or three visits are
necessary in order for an interviewer to gain tangible information
without appearing too proddish.

With short, measured step, bent form, unsteady head, wearing a beaming
smile, Salena takes the floor.

"Ole Dr. Jameson, he wuz my Massy. He had a plantation three mile from
Perry, Georgia. I can 'member whole lots about working for them. Y' see
I was growned up when peace came.

"My mother used to be a seamstress and sewed with her fingers all the
time. She made the finest kind of stitches while I worked around de
table or did any other kind of house work.

"I knowed de time when Ab'ram Linkum come to de plantation. He come
through there on the train and stopped over night oncet. He was known by
Dr. Jameson and he came to Perry to see about the food for the soldiers.

"We all had part in intertainin' him. Some shined his shoes, some cooked
for him, an' I waited on de table, I can't forget that. We had chicken
hash and batter cakes and dried venison that day. You be sure we knowed
he was our friend and we catched what he had t' say. Now, he said this:
(I never forget that 'slong as I live) 'If they free de people, I'll
bring you back into the Union' (To Dr. Jameson) 'If you don't free your
slaves, I'll "whip" you back into the Union. Before I'd allow my wife
an' children to be sold as slaves, I'll wade in blood and water up to my

"Now he said all that, if my mother and father were living, they'd tell
y' the same thing. That's what Linkum said.

"He came through after Freedom and went to the 'Sheds' first. I couldn't
'magine what was going on, but they came runnin' to tell me and what a
time we had.

"Linkum went to the smoke house and opened the door and said 'Help
yourselves; take what you need; cook yourselves a good meall and we sho'
had a celebration!"

"The Dr. didn't care; he was lib'ral. After Freedom, when any of us got
married he'd give us money and send a servant along for us. Sometimes
even he'd carry us himself to our new home."



There is a unique organization in the colored population of Miami known
as the "Ex Slave Club." This club now claims twenty-five members, all
over 65 years of age and all of whom were slaves in this country prior
to the Civil War. The members of this interesting group are shown in the
accompanying photograph. The stories of their lives as given verbatim by
these aged men and women are recorded in the following stories:


"My name's Annie Trip. How my name's Trip, I married a Trip, but I was
borned in Georgia in the country not so very far from Thomasville. I'm
sure you must ha' heard of Thomasville, Georgia. Well, that's where I
was borned, on Captain Hamlin's plantation.

"Captain Hamlin, he was a greatest lawyer. Henry Hamlin, you know he was
the greatest lawyer what ever was, so dey tell me. You see I was small.
My mother and father and four brothers all lived there together. Some of
the rest were too small to remember much, but dey wuz all borned dare
just de samey. Wish I wuz dare right now. I had plenty of food then. I
didn't need to bother about money. Didn't have none. Didn't have no
debts to pay, no bother not like now.

"Now I have rheumatism and everything, but no money. Didn't need any
money on Captain Hamlin's plantation." And Annie walked away complaining
about rheumatism and no money, etc. before her exact age and address
could be obtained.


Millie Sampson, 182 W. 14th St. Miami, Florida, was born in Manning,
S.C. only three years 'bfo' Peace".

"My mother and father were born on the same plantation and I di'n't
have nothin' to do 'sept play with the white children and have plenty to
eat. My mother and father were field han's. I learned to talk from the
white children."


Annie Gail, 1661 NW 6th Court, Miami, Florida, was four years old when
"peace came."

"I was borned on Faggott's place near Greenville, Alabama. My mother,
she worked for Faggott. He wuz her bossman. When she'd go out to de
fiel's, I 'member I used to watch her, for somehow I wuz feared she would
get away from me.

"Now I 'member dat jes ez good as 'twas yesterday. I didn't do anything.
I just runned 'round.

"We just 'stayed on' after de' 'Mancipation'. My mother, she was hired
then. I guess I wuzn't 'fraid ob her leavin' after dat."


Jessie Rowell, 331 NW 19th St., Miami, Florida was born in Mississippi,
between Fossburg and Heidelberg, on the Gaddis plantation.

"My grandmother worked in the house, but my mother worked in the field
hoeing or picking cotton or whatever there was to do. I was too little
to work.

"All that I can 'member is, that I was just a little tot running 'round,
and I would always watch for my mother to come home. I was always glad
to see her, for the day was long and I knew she'd cook something for me
to eat. I can 'member dat es good as 'twas yestiday.

"We 'stayed on' after Freedom. Mother was give wages then, but I don't
know how much."


Margaret White, 6606 18th Ave., Liberty City, Miami. Florida is one of
those happy creatures who doesn't look as if she ever had a care in the
world. She speaks good English:

"I am now 84 years old, for I was 13 when the Emancipation Proclamation
was made. It didn't make much difference to me. I had a good home and
was treated very nicely.

"My master was John Eckels. He owned a large fruit place near Federal,

"My father was a tailor and made the clothes for his master and his
servants. I was never sold. My master just kept me. They liked me and
wouldn't let me be sold. He never whipped me, for I was a slave, you
know, and I had to do just as I was told.

"I worked around the house doing maid's work. I also helped to care for
the children in the home."


Priscilla Mitchell, 1614 NW 5th Ave., was born in Macon County, Alabama,
March 17, 1858.

"Y' see, ah wuz oney 7 years old when ah wuz 'mancipated. I can 'member
pickin' cotton, but I didn't work so hard, ah wuz too young.

"I wuz my Massy's pet. No, no he wouldn't beat me. Whenever ah's bad or
did little things that my mother didn't want me to do and she'd go to
whip me, all I needed to do was to run to my Massy and he'd take me up
and not let my mother git me."

This is a sample of the attitude that very many have toward their


Fannie McCay, 1720 NW 3rd Court, Miami, Florida was born on a plantation
while her father and mother were slaves; she claims her age is 73 years
which would make her too young to remember "mancipation" but
nevertheless she was slave property of her master and could have been
sold or given away even at that tender age. Her parents, too, "stayed
on" quite a while after the "mancipation".

Being one of those who "didn't have too much time to talk too much," her
main statement was:

"'Bout all hi ken 'member is dat hi hused go hout wid de old folks when
dey went out to pick cotton. Hi used to pick a little along.

"I had plenty to eat and when we went away, my Massy had a little calf
that I liked so well. I begged my Massy to give it to me, but he never
gave me none."


Hattie Thomas was six years old when peace was declared. She was
'borned' near Custer, Ga. on Bob Morris' plantation. At the tender age
of five, she can remember of helping to care for the other children,
some of whom were her own brothers and children, for her mother kept her
eight children with her.

Bob Morris' plantation being a large one, the problem of feeding all the
slaves and their children was, in itself, a large one. Hattie can well
remember of 'towing' the milk to the long wooden troughs for the
children. Her mother and the other servants would throw bread crusts and
corn breads into the milk troughs and when they would become
well-soaked, all the little slave-children would line up with their

"So it happened that the ones who could eat the fastest would be the
ones who would get the fattest.

"We had a good plenty to eat and it didn't make much difference how it
was served. We got it just the same and didn 't know any better.

"We stayed on after de 'mancipation an' ah wants t' tell y' ah worked
hard in dose days. Of course, ah worked hardest after Peace wuz

"I wuz on dat plantation when there wuz no matches. Yes, dat wuz befo'
matches wuz made an' many-a time ah started fire in de open fire place
by knookin' two stones together until I'd sen' sparks into a wad
o'cotton until it took fire.

"Now, mind y' this was on Bob Morrison's plantation between Custard and
Cotton Hill, Ga. We had no made brooms; we just bound broom corn tops
together and used them for brooms and brushes. We didn't have no stoves
either. We just cooked in a high pot on a rack. I done all dat.

"Ah haint had no husband for 38 years, but ah raised two sets
o'chilluns, nine in all and now ah has 25 grandchildren and I don't know
how many great gran' chillun."


David Lee, 1006 NW 1st Court, Miami, Fla. is proud of his "missus" and
the training he received on the plantation.

"Ah can't tell y' 'zackkly mah age, but ah knows dat when Freedom was
declared, ah was big 'nough ter drive a haws an' buggy', for ah had nice
folks. Ah could tell u' right smart 'bout 'em.

"Ah libbed near Cusper, Ga. on Barefield's fahm. Dare daughter, Miss Ann
Barefield, she taught a school few miles away, 'round pas' the Post
Hoffice. Ah s'posen ah mus' bee 9 or 10 years hold, for ah' carried Miss
Ann backwards and forwards t' school hev'ry marnin' and den in the
hevenin', ah'd stop 'round fer de mails when ah'd go fer to carry her

"Miss Ann, she used ter gibme money, but hi didn't know what t' do wid
hit. Ah had all de clothes ah could we ah and all ah could eat and
didn't need playthings, couldn't read much, and didn't know where to buy
any books. Ah had hit good.

"When peace wuz signed, dey gib me lots of Confederate bills to play
with. Ah had ten-dollah bills and lots o' twenty-dollah bills, good
bills, but y'know dey wus 't wuth nothing. Ah have a twenty-doll ah bill
'roun som'ers, if hi could evah fin' hit.

"Yes, ah had hit good. My mothah, she stayed on de plantation, too. She
did de churnin' and she run de loom. She wuz a good weaver. Ah used ter
help her run de loom.

"We stayed on a while after Freedom and den our Massy he giv' my mothah
a cow and calf along wid other presents an 'he carried us back to my
father an' we had a little home.

"Ah loved man Missus just as good as ah did my own mothah. She whipped
me a few times but then de whippins wuz honly raps on de head wid her
thimble. Ah spose ah needed hit, for ah "did like sugah"! (Growing more
confidential he explained);

"Now, ah wouldn't steal nothin' else, but--uh--ah,--uh--ah did like

"Missus, she had a big barrel ob lumpy sugah in de pantry. De doo' wuz
ginnerly looked, but sometimes when hit wuz hopen, ah'd go in an' take a
han' fu'.

"Ah 'rembah once, ah crawled in tru de winder and mah Missus she
s'picionated ah wuz in dare eatin' sugah, so she called, "David, you
anser me, you all's in [TR: rest of page cut off.]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States - From Interviews with Former Slaves - Florida Narratives" ***

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