The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project
Ex-Slave, Aged 83
"Yes Ma'am, Lincoln was a good man. He took us niggers out from under de bull-whup and de patterollers and give us freedom. I think he was de bes' man dat was ever bawn on dis green earth. He was nex' to God I think."
"Well, effen what I'ze heard about Jeff Davis is true he wasn't no good. I don't think he was much punkin.
I remember hearin' a story about how de condederates was about to git whupped and dey was a collud man dat advised him what to do and jest how he could win de battle. Jeff Davis told dis man dat he was goin' to do jest as he say and do an' effen he win de battle he was gin' to set all the culluds folks free. We.. dey fit de battle and won it. Did he do lak he promised? No siree. He jest wasn't a man of his word.
I sho' can rememver dem old times befo' de war and endurin' of de war, too. I had a good time as I was jest a little chile and Old Miss sort o' petten me I reckon.
We lived in Centerville, Leon County, Texas. My mother was Patience Garner and my father was Wesley Garner. Our owner was Squire Garner and our young Massa was Sebastian Stroud.
Old Miss and Squire Garner decided to move into town and run de tavern and livery stable. She didn't need very many slaves so she give 'em all out to her chidlren and her brother. She give my mother and my brother and Aunt Harriet's daughter, Dinah, to Miss Linnie. She told my mother dat she'd keep me cause somebody might run over me. I stayed right in de house wid her so long dat I thought every thing in it belonged to me. I sho' was a spiled youngun.
My main job was to fill and lit Ole Miss's pipe and to keep her room tidy. Ole Massa kept my father and several of de men to do de work around de yard and stables and to take keer o' de horses and de kerriges.
Our house sho' was a nice one. It was a big white house with a long gallery clean across de front of it and it had twenty-four rooms in it. De bedrooms all had a fireplace in 'em and de kitchen set away from de house about twenty feet. Dey was a board walk dat jined it to de house and dis walk was kivered wid a grape arbor.
De funiture was bought in New Orleans. Dey was sofas, lounges and chairs dat was kivered wid red plush wid blue flowers. De carpets was hand woven and kivered de whole flo'.
In de bedrooms was nice furniture, too. Corded beds and chairs and bureaus wid bevelled glasses and marble tops, wash-stands wid purty wash-bowls and pitchers to match. They wasn't no springs on de beds. Dey used rope slats and de biggest feather beds you ever seen. Sheets and pillow-cases, pillow shams and coverlids was all hand made.
Dey cooked in pots dat hung on racks in de fireplace. Dey had racks out in de yard where dey cooked sometimes. When dey cooked in dese big pots dey would take a big middlin' o' meat and cut it in about four pieces and dey would boil it wid greens, collards, peas, turnips or beans. Dey cooked corn-bread in a big oven dat was built in de yard.
We allus had a lot o' good things to eat as Ole Miss set a good table for de travelers. I got to eat jest what de white folks et and we had pie or cake or sometin' sweet to eat every day.
De coffee was made outen rye or corn meal or sweet potatoes that was dried and parched.
When dey made it from sweet potatoes dey would slice 'em and put 'em in de sun to dry lak dey did fruit or corn. When it was plum dry it was put in de oven and parched and den dey would grind it in a little hand mill. It made purty good coffee but Ole Miss and Squire Garner had Lincoln coffee to drink. Dey called it Lincoln coffee because it was real coffee. Dey couldn't afford to serve it on de table as it was to 'spensive.
She had a coffee pot that help four cups o' coffee. Every mornin' I'd git up and make a pot o' coffee then I'd get a tray and put two cups on it. I'd put de cream, sugar bowl and the spoon holder and two napkins. I'd take it to de bed and pour out a cup fer Ole Miss and Squire Garner to drink befo' dey got up. Squire Garner allus drank two cups but de other one was fer me when dey got through with drinkin' theirs. Evven dey went away from home I'd take de Lincoln coffee and de pot and hide 'em. I'd hide 'em under de house on de flo' sills.
Ole Miss's brother married a po' gal and she didn't like it a bit. She say he could a done better'n dat effen he tried. I didn't like her either cause Old Miss didn't. I thought she was po' white trash. Her name was Miss Jane. P played with all de white chillen and I called 'em all by name. Miss Jane didn't like dat but Old Miss say effen I call dem Miss and Massa it would make 'em vain.
I sho' loved Marse Bastain's chillen, Billy and sue. We played together all de time and we got along good. Sometimes we'd dit into a fight and we'd all git spanked. Lots o' white folks wouldn't whup de chillen fer fightin' nigger chillen but Ole Miss an' Marse Bastain sho' would.
Miss Jane told Ole Miss dat whe didn't think it was right to whup her chillen when we had a fight an' Ole Miss say, "I done give you folks some niggers and you all de time whuppin' em'. I kept dis chile fer myself an' I ain't gonna have her run over, I can tell you," So effen us chillen got in a scrap we knowed we'd ever one git spanked good an' proper so we allus managed to have a purty good fight befo' we got kotched up wid.
De town we lived in had a town Square. Our house was on de south side an' de hail an' de court house was right across de square in front of us.
Speclators uster buy up niggers jest lak dey was animals and dey would travel around over de country an' sell em'. I've seen 'em come through there in droves lak cattle. De owners would ride in wagons or buggies. Dey would come into town an' camp over night an' nex' mornin' dey would parade 'em round town an' den take 'em to de town square an' put em' on de block an' sell em'. I've seen emn, wives an' little chillen sold away from each other.
When de sales would be goin' on me an' Billy an' Sue would ride our stick horses up purty close an' watch 'em. I wasn't scared cause I knowed Ole Miss and Square Garner was settin' on de gallery a watchin' it jest lak we was an' I knowed she would keep me safe.
Marse Bastain lived on at de farm after Ole Miss moved into twon. His house was a big two-story white house. Right behind it was de first quarters where de workin' slaves lived. Next was de quarters where de nigger drivers lived. Nigger drivers was de cullud overseers. Dey who' was mean. Dey was so biggety an' such smart-alexs an' dey worked de niggers so hard dat all de hands hated 'em. Dey was a lot harder'n de white overseers.
In de lower quarters was de white overseers' homes. Dey had very nice boxed houses. Dey was right kind to de niggers but dey give 'em to understand dat dey had so much work to do and dey usually managed to do it.
Once Marse Bastain had a cullud overseer dat was allus beatin' on some one and one day all de hands ganged up on him an' beat him till he died.
De cabins where de slaves lived were not very big an' didn't have much furniture in 'em. Dey had jest one room and dirt flo's. Dey would spread ashes over de flo's an' dampen 'em and pack 'em down so it would be shite and smooth.
For bedsteads dey would stick a puncheon in a crack in de wall an' would frive a forked pole in de middle of de flo' to rest de other end o' de pole on. Den dey would put another puncheon in de crack o' de wall on de other side an' rest de end in de fork o' de post. Dey would string ropes across dese an' put de beds on dem. Some had sotten beds an' others jest had straw beds. Dey would be on o' dese beds in all four corner o' de room, each bed had only one leg. Dere was a fireplace an' dey used benches fer chairs.
I recollect that my mother's house had one room an' dey was four beds in it. Ma, Aunt Cindy, Margaret, Dinah, an' seven chillen slept in dis room.
Aunt Luce lived by herself an' had more room den de rest and marse Bastain would let de niggers dance at her house. All de women wore hoop skirts dat come down to de ground. The'd dance an' stir up de dirt an' ashes on de flo' till de dust git in de chillen's eyes an' make 'em cry an' dey'd have to take 'em home an' dis would break up de dance.
We made our own candles. Ole Miss had some tall brass candle sticks. We would polish 'em wid ashes till dey would shine lak gold. She used dese tall ones in de parlor. De ones she used in de bedrooms was short ones.
De black folks used "huzzies." Dat was a saucer like thing wid a lip to it. We'd fill dis wid grease an' take a wick dat was made outen homespun an' plaited. We wet de wick in de grease an' lit it, It made a po' light, too. Old Miss got some little brass kerosene lamps about de beginnin' o' de war.
Didn't none o' de slaves know de A. B. C.'s Squire Garner bought a man dat had his right fore finger cut off. He say he learned to write an' when his master found it out he had his finger cut off.
We all wore red russet shoes. De leather was tanned at home. Dey'd dig a pit lak a barbecue pit in a swampy place an' take rea-oak bark an' beat it till ooze came out. Den they'd take a layer o' bark an' a layer o' leather an' pack in de pit. When de leather became supple it was already tanned. It was den made into shoes. I went barefooted in summer an' winter as I'd ruther do dat dan wear shoes.
De women had two work dresses a year an' two changes o' underwear. De white ladies giv 'em dey old dresses to dress up in. When de everday clo's nearly wore out dey took 'em an' made baby clo's outen em', I guess bbies wasn't as tender as dey are now fer dey has to have de finest o' cloth now to make baby clo's outen.
Dey was a big cane-brake close to Marse Bastain's farm an' de niggers uster slip down in dere to have church an' parties. Dey would git happy an' shout an' somebody would hold a pot over dey moth so de white folks couldn't hear 'em. De patterollers was aftaid to follow 'em into de can-brake. Effen he did de men would hide an' knock him in de head an drag him out an' say they found him hear de can-brake an' no one would a knowed who done it. De niggers sho' hated dem pattrollers cause dey was so mean to 'em. Effen dey caught a nigger off o' his master's plantation dey would beat him lak he had stole a horse.
All de women an' girls could spin an' weave an' nearly all of 'em could sew. We spun blankets durin' de war. We could keep de nappy blankets but had to send de good ones to de army. I was small an' didn't hurt myself at any kind o' work.
sometimes when Ole Miss was gone Ole Margaret, the cook, would give me lumps o' brown sugar to wash an' dry de dishes fer her. She was good to me an' I liked to do things fer her. It would take me all evenin' as dey was so many an' I'd have to climb up in de shelves to put 'em away. Lucy was a kitchen woman, too. She'd try to make me help her an' she'd tell me she'd whup me effen I didn't. I was afraid o' her an' I'd go in de kitchen an' wash de dishes. I wouldn't do 'em good an' I'd always break somethin' so Ole Miss would ask about it an' I could tell her than Luce made me wash de dishes an' I couldn't reach de shelves an' I jest dropped it an' broke. Old Miss git right in after Luce an' she be afraid to make me wash 'em any more fer a long time.
I never knew much about music but I sho' did like to hear Miss Betty play de piano. I never knew what she'd play unless she sung it. I recollect how she played an' sun, "Shoo Fly, Don't You Bother Me," "Granny Will Yo' Dog Bite?" "Dixie," and "Darling Black Mustache." She uster sing good songs too, sech as "Rock Of Ages," "De Lord's A Rock," "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," an' lots o' others.
My father was sold away from us an' his master wouldn't let him come back to see us any more so he married again. He married a woman from de piney woods. My mother never did git married any more.
Ole Squire Garner died durin' de war an' after de war my father come back an' took me to live with some cullud folks close to him. I hated to leave Old Miss an' I couldn't git along with de folks I was livin' with so I run away an' went back to Ole Miss. I had a hard time gittin' back but I made it an' I stayed about six month before he come an' got me again. I run off ever chance I got till finally he took me so far away dat I couldn't come back. I Never saw Old Miss any more but I'll see her when I git to Heaven. I never say my mother any more either.
When I growed up I sho' did like to dance. I'd ruther dance den eat an' I'd go to dances an' dance all night. Father would say, "Git back by daylight an' cook breakfast." I allus did an' den I'd to to de field and chop or pick cotton all day. I could plow or chop wood or do any kind o' work dat a man could do. I don't reckon it hurt me none as I allus felt good.
We'd have log-rollin' an' railsplittin's, hourse-raisin's, corn-shurckin's an' squiltin's. De old women would cook, de young women would burn brush an' de men would roll logs or build de house. After supper we'd dance all night.
The old folks uster scare us wid "Raw Head an' Bloody Bones," I never did see him but it sounded scary enuff to make me want to be good an' quit whatever I was doin'. Lots o' folks carry lucky pieces. It can be a rabbit's foot, a buckeye, corin or even a button. It all depends on how much faith you have in it. For my part I'd ruther trust in de good Lord to keep me safe from harm den in all the lucky pieces in de world. He can take care o' you an' keep yo' safe both here an' in de nex' world whar we will be de came color an' on equal grounds.
Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03