The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project
Age 79 Years
23 East Choctaw,
I was born near what is now Marlin, Texas, Falls County. My father robert Maynard and my mother Chanie Maynard, both born slaves. Our master, Gerard Branum, was a very old man and wore long white whiskers. He sho' was a fine built man, and walked straight and tall like a young man.
I was too little to do much work so my job was to carry the key basket for old Mistress. I sho' was proud of that job. The basket help the keys to the pantry, the kitchen, the linen closet, and extra keys to the rooms and smokehouse. When old Mistress started out on her rounds every morning she'd call to me to get de basket and away we'd go. I'd run errands for all the house help too, so I was kept purty busy.
The "big house" was a fine one. It was a big two-story white house made of pine lumber. There was a big porch or veranda across the front and wings on the east and west. The house faced south. There was big round white posts that went clean up to the roof and there was a big porch upstairs too. I believe the house was what you'd call colonial style. There was twelve or fifteen rooms and a big wide stairway. It was a purty place, with a yard and big trees and the house that set in a walnut and pecan grove. They was gravelled walks and driveways and all along by the driveway was cedar. There was a hedge close to the house and a flower garden with purty roses, holly hocks and a lot of others I don't know the name of.
Back to the right of the house was the smokehouse, kept full of meat, and further back was the big barns. Old Master kept a spanking pair of carriage horses and several fine riding horses. He kept several pairs of mule, too, to pull the plow. He had some ox teams too.
To the left and back of the "big house" was the quarters. He owned about two thousand acres of land and three hundred slaves. He kept a white overseer and the colored overlooker was my uncle. He sho' saw that the gang worked. He saw to it that the cotton was took to the gin. they used oxen to pull the wagons full of cotton. There was two gins on the plantation. ad to have two for it was slow work to gin a bale of cotton as it was run by horse power.
Old Master raised hundreds of hongs; he raised practically all the food we et. He gave the food out to each family and they done their own cooking except during harvest. The harm hands was fed at the "big house." They was called in from the farm by a big bell.
Sunday was our only day for recreation. We went to church at our own church and we could sing and shout jest as loud as we pleased and it didn't disturb anybody.
During the week after supper we would all set round the doors outside and sing or play music. The only musical instruments we had was a jug or big bottle, a skillet lid or frying pan that thy'd hit with a stick or a bone. We had a flute too, made out of reed cane and it'd make good music. Sometimes we'd sing and dance so long and loud old Master'd have to make us stop and go to bed.
The Patrollers, Ku Kluxers or night riders come by sometimes at night to scare the niggers and make em' behave. sometimes the slaves would run off and the Patroller would catch 'em and have 'em whipped. I've seen that done lots of times. They was some wooden stocks, a sort of trough, and they'd put the darkies in this and strap him down, take off his cloths and give him 25 to 50 licks, 'cording to what he had done.
I reckon old Master had everything his heart could wish for at this time. Old Mistress was a fine lady and she always went dressed up. She wore long trains on her skirts and I'd walk behind her and hold her train up when she made de rounds. She was awful good to me. I slept on the floor in her little boy's room, and she gave me apples and candy just like she did him. Old Master gave ever chick and child good warm clothes for winter. We had store boughten shoes but the women made our clothes. For underwear we all wore "lowers" but no shirts.
After the war started old Master took a lot of his slaves and went to Natchez, Mississippi. He thought he'd have a better chance of keeping us there I guess, and he was afraid we'd be freed and he started running with us. I remember when General Grant blowed up Vicksburg. I had a free born Uncle and Aunt who sometimes visited in the North and they'd tell us how easy it was up there and it sho' made us all want to be free.
I think Abe Lincoln was nest to de Lawd. He done all he could for de slaves; he set 'em free. People in the South knowed they'd lose their slaves when he was elected president. 'Fore the election he traveled all over the South and he come to our house and slept in old Mistress' bed. Didn't nobody know who he was. It was a custom to take strangers in and put them up for one night or longer, so he come to our house and he watched close. He seen how the niggers come in on Saturday and drawed four pounds of meat and a peck of meal for a week's rations. He also saw 'em whipped and sold. When he got back up north he writ old Master a letter and told him he was going to have to free his slaves, that everybody was going to have to, that the North was going to see to it. He also told him that he had visited at his house and if he doubted it to go in the same room he slept in and look on the bedstead at the head and he'd see where he'd writ his name. Sho' nuff, there was his name: A. Lincoln.
Didn't none of us like Jeff Davis. We all liked Robert E. Lee, but we was glad that Grant whipped him.
When the War was over, old Master called all the darkies in and lined 'em up in a row. He told 'em they was free to go and do as they pleased. It was six months before any of us left him.
Darkies could vote in Mississippi. Fred Douglas, a colored man, came to Natchez and made political speeches for General Grant.
After the war they was a big steam boat line on the Mississippi River known as the Robert E. Lee Line. They sho' was fine boats too.
We used to have lots of Confederate money. Five cent pieces, two bit pieces, half dollar bills and half dimes. During the war old Master dug a long trench and buried all de silver, fine cloths, jewelery and a lot of money. I guess he dug it up, but I don't remember.
Master died three years after the War. He took it purty good, losing his niggers and all. Lots of men killed theirselves. Old Master was a good old man.
I'm getting old, I reckon. I've been married twice and am the father of 19 chillun. The oldest is 57 and my youngest is two boys, ten and twelve. I had great granchillun older than them two boys.
Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03