The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project
We strongly recommend that you read the information below from the Library of Congress explaining the language used in these interviews.
William W. Watson
Do I remember slavery? Who could forget these lash prints on my back. Some time I set here and look at my wife and think Lord help me look what I bin through. Me and my wife had a car wreck early last year, that made her lose her mind so she just sings all the time, can't think. Raises chickens and talks like a baby. She is two years older than me, and too she is the mother of thirteen children, had lots of trouble. I am still able to feed the cows and hoses that belong to my son.
My wife has the prettiest name, Betsy Ann Davis, and then she was sold to Doninan, he called her Annie, but I still say Betsy Ann. My wife just weigh 120 pounds, use to weigh one hundred. My mother belonged to the same master that my wife did, old man Davis, Master Tom we calls him.
My mother was Eliza Davis, and my paw was Boler Watson. Father was bought from some place in W. Virginia and sold. I never learned the place. When they was bought they come to Tenn. I do not know the place. Henry Watson owned my father, and Tom Davis owned my mother. Davis lived in Tenn. Watson's plantation joined Davis some place about ten miles below Palaksa. They lived in the deep country. Master Dsavis' children was named Simon, Susie, George, Minnie. Their house I was born in was a one room mud log room. Boy I was born at Master Davis. Master Watson had a big slave house made like a barn, had one room stables, like you put horses in for the slave families. Our beds was made on the wall, each room had a mud fireplace. Master had nice beds, made of cherry, ash, walnut, high tops.
I don't know any thing about any my old grandparents; guess they was left across the water.
During the war and before it I plowed, handled rock, to make building out of, cut logs, cleaned up new ground, thrashed, cut hay, fenced, worked in black smith shops, shoe horses. Done every thing a farmer could do and be alive now. I pressed and loaded and toted cotton a bale at a time on my back. I weighed 280 when I was about grown.
Me and my wife raised our children out of a iron pot and a three leg skellet. I made buckeye wood trays, made bread up in these, didn't have no dishes. We had wood home made bowls. We wasn't fed like we eat now, we eat then like a hog, better not ask Master Watson for no lean meat either. After the first year we was free we had lean hams. Do I remember the bull whip and cat of nine lashed with a hole in each leather lash to draw blod; my back sure did blead.
If you didn't do the work or be a little slow, Master Watson tell you once, but better mind him. Next time the cat of nine tails was salted and boy it hurt. I didn't know what a shoe was until I was grown. Come up all my growing years barefooted.
Henry Watson whipped all the niggers. Old man Davis was a father to me but I was took away from him.
Master Davis had sons named George, Jim, Ben, Billie, Isom, the daughters was Ann, Susie. Master Davis' old lady was named Margarite. Margarite made me tote water and make fires. Henry Watson got me and was gone, then I had to do all the churning for his slaves. He had pappy first, guess he bought me from Master Davis didn't say I sold you. My paw come and said come go with me so I went.
I am the father of thirteen children. Old Watson had 250 acres in his plantation. I heard him tell the overseer, say white man ride the 250 today and watch for any strayed niggers, if so bring them in my house. Master Davis had 600 acres in his plantation, he owned my mother, Martha, Benner, Harret, Bennett, John, that's a few the slaves names I remember. My mother was on the Davis plantation when my paw took me away to Watson's place. My mother and paw married the old way first, then after the war they sure got married, that's the way me and my wife done. After the war we got together, all hired out to plantation owners, got our start at farming but it was hard go.
We got up by a bell and went to bed by a horn. You better get up when you hear that bell. Watson's overseer come to the door to see, little kids and all come out of bed so they could get the ash cake.
At dinner when we come from the field we ate at Watson's back porch for a table. In winter we ate in our own house.
At divis dinner time we ate in his kitchen summer and winter.
After I left Daivs he moved down to the little village of bunker Hill, Tenn. Me and my wife bin married old way before slave time don't know how many years. I got children way over 60 years old. Got one get the old age pension. My living children names are Matilda, Blanch, thomas, Ebnezer, some of the dead sones' names are Mamie, Anne, Baxter, and for the two sets of twins' names, maybe they wasn't named. My wife don't remember.
In slave days after Master Davis brought my wife to me, we set up all night, spin, knit, weave. I done this too, same as she did. Was I alwasy a good boy, never cursed, gambled, or drank. Was always at church. My wife could sew good. I used to get after her. But she hasn't any mind any more since that car from Porter hit our wagon, the mules ran away.
I went to sunday school after the War with domestic breeches on. My wife dye them with milk parsley; it make them purple; she used copperas to dye yellow, walnut bark to dye brown, smart weed for dark purple. I bin married just one time in my days, don't never want another woman, couldn't be like my Anna. When I had my wagon wreak I was unconscious for two days. My wife was knocked out too.
That is all I can remember. I was treated mean in slave times, glad to the Lord I am free and serving the Lord and Abe Lincoln's spirit, that's how much I love that man. I got his picture here too.
Lincoln lived in a log house, and I lived in a one room cellar under the ground. My son lives in a house close, but can't listen to his children; they got about two dozen. One dozen grandchildren, two great grandchildren; you got them in your picture with us. Master Davis was an irish man. Watson was white trash.
When peace was declared I was on the auction block with my mother.
I don't know when, but my mother died and I went to Paw, after the war.
Master Davis when I was free gave me a spotted horse and saddle; this was directly after the war, 1865. I have belonged to the church all my life, was when I was a slave boy. I prayed; I was ten years old first time. I know I prayed.
I come from Bunker Hill to Gipson Station, then Muskogee; bin here ever since for years. Jehovah No 1 first church I belonged to at Gipson Station, then to St. John Baptist, Muskogee, at agency hill. These great grandchildren are named Phyllys and Joe.
Contributed by M. Dawson, May 2002