Genealogy Trails


  MARION COUNTY   

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

Slave Narratives

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A. District #6
Marion County Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana

FOLKLORE
MRS. MITTIE BLAKELEY—EX-SLAVE
2055 Columbia Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana

Mrs. Blakeley was born, in Oxford, Missouri, in 1858.

Her mother died when Mittie was a baby, and she was taken into the "big house" and brought up with the white children. She was always treated very kindly.

Her duties were the light chores, which had to be well done, or she was chided, the same as the white children would have been.

Every evening the children had to collect the eggs. The child, who brought in the most eggs, would get a ginger cake. Mittie most always got the cake.

Her older brothers and sisters were treated very rough, whipped often and hard. She said she hated to think, much less talk about their awful treatment.

When she was old enough, she would have to spin the wool for her mistress, who wove the cloth to make the family clothes.

She also learned to knit, and after supper would knit until bedtime.

She remembers once an old woman slave had displeased her master about something. He had a pit dug, and boards placed over the hole. The woman was made to lie on the boards, face down, and she was beaten until the blood gushed from her body; she was left there and bled to death.

She also remembers how the slaves would go to some cabin at night for their dances; if one went without a pass, which often they did, they would be beaten severely.

The slaves could hear the overseers, riding toward the cabin. Those, who had come without a pass, would take the boards up from the floor, get under the cabin floor, and stay there until the overseers had gone.

Interviewer's Comment

Mrs. Blakeley is very serious and said she felt so sorry for those, who were treated so such worse than any human would treat a beast.

She lives in a very comfortable clean house, and said she was doing "very well."

Submitted January 24, 1938 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A. District #6
Marion County Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana


FOLKLORE
MRS. JULIA BOWMAN—EX-SLAVE
1210 North West Street, Indianapolis, Indiana

Mrs. Bowman was born in Woodford County, Kentucky in 1859.

Her master, Joel W. Twyman was kind and generous to all of his slaves, and he had many of them.

The Twyman slaves were always spoken of, as the Twyman "Kinfolks."

All slaves worked hard on the large farm, as every kind of vegetation was raised. They were given some of everything that grew on the farm, therefore there was no stealing to get food.

The master had his own slaves, and the mistress had her own slaves, and all were treated very kindly.

Mrs. Bowman was taken into the Twyman "big house," at the age of six, to help the mistress in any way she could. She stayed in the house until slavery was abolished.

After freedom, the old master was taken very sick and some of the former slaves were sent for, as he wanted some of his "Kinfolks" around him when he died.


Interviewer's Comment

Mrs. Bowman was given the Twyman family bible where her birth is recorded with the rest of the Twyman family. She shows it with pride.

Mrs. Bowman said she never knew want in slave times, as she has known it in these times of depression.

Submitted January 10, 1938 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana


FOLKLORE
MRS. CALLIE BRACEY—DAUGHTER [of Louise Terrell]
414 Blake Street

Mrs. Callie Bracey's mother, Louise Terrell, was bought, when a child, by Andy Ramblet, a farmer, near Jackson, Miss. She had to work very hard in the fields from early morning until as late in the evening, as they could possibly see.

No matter how hard she had worked all day after coming in from the field, she would have to cook for the next day, packing the lunch buckets for the field hands. It made no difference how tired she was, when the horn was blown at 4 a.m., she had to go into the field for another day of hard work.

The women had to split rails all day long, just like the men. Once she got so cold, her feet seemed to be frozen; when they warmed a little, they had swollen so, she could not wear her shoes. She had to wrap her foot in burlap, so she would be able to go into the field the next day.

The Ramblets were known for their good butter. They always had more than they could use. The master wanted the slaves to have some, but the mistress wanted to sell it, she did not believe in giving good butter to slaves and always let it get strong before she would let them have any.

No slaves from neighboring farms were allowed on the Ramblet farm, they would get whipped off as Mr. Ramblet did not want anyone to put ideas in his slave's heads.

On special occasions, the older slaves were allowed to go to the church of their master, they had to sit in the back of the church, and take no part in the service.

Louise was given two dresses a year; her old dress from last year, she wore as an underskirt. She never had a hat, always wore a rag tied over her head.

Interviewer's Comment

Mrs. Bracey is a widow and has a grandchild living with her. She feels she is doing very well, her parents had so little, and she does own her own home.

Submitted December 10, 1937 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
MRS. BELLE BUTLER—DAUGHTER [of Chaney Mayer]
829 North Capitol Avenue

Interviewer's Comment

Belle Butler, the daughter of Chaney Mayer, tells of the hardships her mother endured during her days of slavery.

Interview

Chaney was owned by Jesse Coffer, "a mean old devil." He would whip his slaves for the slightest misdemeanor, and many times for nothing at all—just enjoyed seeing them suffer. Many a time Jesse would whip a slave, throw him down, and gouge his eyes out. Such a cruel act!

Chaney's sister was also a slave on the Coffer plantation. One day their master decided to whip them both. After whipping them very hard, he started to throw them down, to go after their eyes. Chaney grabbed one of his hands, her sister grabbed his other hand, each girl bit a finger entirely off of each hand of their master. This, of course, hurt him so very bad he had to stop their punishment and never attempted to whip them again. He told them he would surely put them in his pocket (sell them) if they ever dared to try *anthing like that again in life.

Not so long after their fight, Chaney was given to a daughter of their master, and her sister was given to another daughter and taken to Passaic County, N.C.

On the next farm to the Coffer farm, the overseers would tie the slaves to the joists by their thumbs, whip them unmercifully, then salt their backs to make them very sore.

When a slave slowed down on his corn hoeing, no matter if he were sick, or just very tired, he would get many lashes and a salted back.

One woman left the plantation without a pass. The overseer caught her and whipped her to death.

No slave was ever allowed to look at a book, for fear he might learn to read. One day the old mistress caught a slave boy with a book, she cursed him and asked him what he meant, and what he thought he could do with a book. She said he looked like a black dog with a breast pin on, and forbade him to ever look into a book again.

All slaves on the Coffer plantation were treated in a most inhuman manner, scarcely having enough to eat, unless they would steal it, running the risk of being caught and receiving a severe beating for the theft.

Interviewer's Comment

Mrs. Butler lives with her daughters, has worked very hard in "her days."

She has had to give up almost everything in the last few years, because her eyesight has failed. However, she is very cheerful and enjoys telling the "tales" her mother would tell her.

Submitted December 28, 1937 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #8
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
MRS. HARRIET CHEATAM—EX-SLAVE
816 Darnell Street

Interviewer's Comment

Incidents in the life of Mrs. Cheatam as she told them to me.

Interview

"I was born, in 1843, in Gallatin, Tennessee, 94 years ago this coming (1937) Christmas day."

"Our master, Martin Henley, a farmer, was hard on us slaves, but we were happy in spite of our lack."

"When I was a child, I didn't have it as hard as some of the children in the quarters. I always stayed in the "big house," slept on the floor, right near the fireplace, with one quilt for my bed and one quilt to cover me. Then when I growed up, I was in the quarters."

"After the Civil war, I went to Ohio to cook for General Payne. We had a nice life in the general's house."

"I remember one night, way back before the Civil war, we wanted a goose. I went out to steal one as that was the only way we slaves would have one. I crept very quiet-like, put my hand in where they was and grabbed, and what do you suppose I had? A great big pole cat. Well, I dropped him quick, went back, took off all my clothes, dug a hole, and buried them. The next night I went to the right place, grabbed me a nice big goose, held his neck and feet so he couldn't holler, put him under my arm, and ran with him, and did we eat?"

"We often had prayer meeting out in the quarters, and to keep the folks in the "big house" from hearing us, we would take pots, turn them down, put something under them, that let the sound go in the pots, put them in a row by the door, then our voices would not go out, and we could sing and pray to our heart's content."

"At Thanksgiving time we would have pound cake. That was fine. We would take our hands and beat and beat our cake dough, put the dough in a skillet, cover it with the lid and put it in the fireplace. (The covered skillet would act our ovens of today.) It would take all day to bake, but it sure would be good; not like the cakes you have today."

"When we cooked our regular meals, we would put our food in pots, slide them on an iron rod that hooked into the fireplace. (They were called pot hooks.) The pots hung right over the open fire and would boil until the food was done."

"We often made ash cake. (That is made of biscuit dough.) When the dough was ready, we swept a clean place on the floor of the fireplace, smoothed the dough out with our hands, took some ashes, put them on top of the dough, then put some hot coals on top of the ashes, and just left it. When it was done, we brushed off the coals, took out the bread, brushed off the ashes, child, that was bread."

"When we roasted a chicken, we got it all nice and clean, stuffed him with dressing, greased him all over good, put a cabbage leaf on the floor of the fireplace, put the chicken on the cabbage leaf, then covered him good with another cabbage leaf, and put hot coals all over and around him, and left him to roast. That is the best way to cook chicken."

Mrs. Cheatam lives with a daughter, Mrs. Jones. She is a very small old lady, pleasant to talk with, has a very happy disposition. Her eyes, as she said, "have gotten very dim," and she can't piece her quilts anymore. That was the way she spent her spare time.

Interviewer's Comment

She has beautiful white hair and is very proud of it.

Submitted December 1, 1937 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
MRS. SARAH COLBERT—EX-SLAVE
1505 North Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana

Mrs. Sarah Carpenter Colbert was born in Allen County, Kentucky in 1855. She was owned by Leige Carpenter, a farmer.

Her father, Isaac Carpenter was the grandson of his master, Leige Carpenter, who was very kind to him. Isaac worked on the farm until the old master's death. He was then sold to Jim McFarland in Frankfort Kentucky. Jim's wife was very mean to the slaves, whipped them regularly every morning to start the day right.

One morning after a severe beating, Isaac met an old slave, who asked him why he let his mistress beat him so much. Isaac laughed and asked him what he could do about it. The old man told him if he would bite her foot, the next time she knocked him down, she would stop beating him and perhaps sell him.

The next morning he was getting his regular beating, he willingly fell to the floor, grabbed his mistress' foot, bit her very hard. She tried very hard to pull away from him, he held on still biting, she ran around in the room, Isaac still holding on. Finally, she stopped beating him and never attempted to strike him again.

The next week he was put on the block, being a very good worker and a very strong man, the bids were high.

His young master, Leige Jr., outbid everyone and bought him for $1200.00.

His young mistress was very mean to him. He went again to his old friend for advice. This time he told him to get some yellow dust, sprinkle it around in his mistress' room and if possible, got some in her shoes. This he did and in a short time he was sold again to Johnson Carpenter in the same county. He was not really treated any better there. By this time he was very tired of being mistreated. He remembered his old master telling him to never let anyone be mean to him. He ran away to his old mistress, told her of his many hardships, and told her what the old master had told him, so she sent him back. At the next sale she bought him, and he lived there until slavery was abolished.

Her grandfather, Bat Carpenter, was an ambitious slave; he dug ore and bought his freedom, then bought his wife by paying $50.00 a year to her master for her. She continued to work on the farm of her own master for a very small wage.

Bat's wife, Matilda, lived on the farm not far from him, he was allowed to visit her every Sunday. One Sunday, it looked like rain, his master told him to gather in the oats, he refused to do this and was beaten with a raw hide. He was so angry, he went to one of the witch-crafters for a charm so he could fix his old master.

The witch doctor told him to get five new nails, as there were five members in his master's family, walk to the barn, then walk backwards a few steps, pound one nail in the ground, giving each nail the name of each member of the family, starting with the master, then the mistress, and so on through the family. Each time one nail was pounded down in the ground, walk backwards and nail the next one in until all were pounded deep in the ground. He did as instructed and was never beaten again.

Jane Garmen was the village witch. She disturbed the slaves with her cat. Always at milking time the cat would appear, and at night would go from one cabin to another, putting out the grease lamps with his paw. No matter how they tried to kill the cat, it just could not be done.

An old witch doctor told them to melt a dime, form a bullet with the silver, and shoot the cat. He said a lead bullet would never kill a bewitched animal. The silver bullet fixed the cat.

Jane also bewitched the chickens. They were dying so fast anything they did seemed useless. Finally a big fire was built and the dead chickens thrown into the fire, that burned the charm, and no more chickens died.

Interviewer's Comment

Mrs. Colbert lives with her daughter in a very comfortable home. She seems very happy and was glad to talk of her early days. How she would laugh when telling of the experiences of her family.

She has reared a large family of her own, and feels very proud of them.

Submitted December 1, 1937 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
JOHN HENRY GIBSON—EX-SLAVE
Colton Street

John Henry Gibson was born a slave, many years ago, in Scott County, N.C.

His old master, John Henry Bidding, was a wealthy farmer; he also owned the hotel, or rooming house.

When court was in session the "higher ups" would come to this house, and stay until the court affairs were settled.

Mr. Bidding, who was very kind to his slaves, died when John Gibson was very young. All slaves and other property passed on to the son, Joseph Bidding, who in turn was as kind as his father had been.

Gibson's father belonged to General Lee Gibson, who was a neighboring farmer. He saw and met Miss Elizabeth Bidding's maid; they liked each other so very much, Miss Elizabeth bought him from General Gibson, and let him have her maid as his wife. The wife lived only a short time, leaving a little boy.

After the Civil war, a white man, by the name of Luster, was comming to Ohio, brought John Gibson with him. They came to Indianapolis, and Gibson liked it so well, he decided to remain; Mr. Luster told him if he ever became dissatisfied to come on to Ohio to him, but he remained in Indianapolis until 1872, then went back south, married, came back, and made Indianapolis his home.

Interviewer's Comment

Mr. Gibson is very old, but does not know his exact age. He fought in the Civil war, and said he could not be very young to have done that.

His sight is very nearly gone, can only distinguish light and dark.

He is very proud of his name, having been named for his old master.

Submitted January 24, 1938 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
ROBERT HOWARD—EX-SLAVE
1840 Boulevard Place

Robert Howard, an ex-slave, was born in 1852, in Clara County, Kentucky.

His master, Chelton Howard, was very kind to him.

The mother, with her five children, lived on the Howard farm in peace and harmony.

His father, Beverly Howard, was owned by Bill Anderson, who kept a saloon on the river front.

Beverly was "hired out" in the house of Bill Anderson. He was allowed to go to the Howard farm every Saturday night to visit with his wife and children. This visit was always looked forward to with great joy, as they were devoted to the father.

The Howard family was sold only once, being owned first by Dr. Page in Henry County, Kentucky. The family was not separated; the entire family was bought and kept together until slavery was abolished.

Interviewer's Comment

Mr. Howard seems to be a very kind old man, lives in the house for aged colored people (The Alpha Home).

He has no relatives, except a brother. He seems well satisfied living in the home.

Submitted January 10, 1938 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A. District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
MRS. LIZZIE JOHNSON
706 North Senate Avenue, Apt. 1

Mrs. Johnson's father, Arthur Locklear, was born in Wilmington, N.C. in 1822. He lived in the South and endured many hardships until 1852. He was very fortunate in having a white man befriend him in many ways. This man taught him to read and write. Many nights after a hard days work, he would lie on the floor in front of the fireplace, trying to study by the light from the blazing wood, so he might improve his reading and writing.

He married very young, and as his family increased, he became ambitious for them. Knowing their future would be very dark if they remained South.

He then started a movement to come north. There were about twenty-six or twenty-eight men and women, who had the same thoughts about their children, banded together, and in 1852 they started for somewhere, North.

The people selected, had to be loyal to the cause of their children's future lives, morally clean, truthful, and hard-working.

Some had oxen, some had carts. They pooled all of their scant belongings, and started on their long hard journey.

The women and children rode in the ox-carts, the men walked. They would travel a few days, then stop on the roadside to rest. The women would wash their few clothes, cook enough food to last a few days more, then they would start out again. They were six weeks making the trip.

Some settled in Madison, Indiana. Two brothers and their families went on to Ohio, and the rest came to Indianapolis.

John Scott, one of their number was a hod carrier. He earned $2.50 a day, knowing that would not accumulate fast enough, he was strong and thrifty. After he had worked hard all day, he would spend his evenings putting new bottoms in chairs, and knitting gloves for anyone who wanted that kind of work. In the summer he made a garden, sold his vegetables. He worked very hard, day and night, and was able to save some money.

He could not read or write, but he taught his children the value of truthfulness, cleanliness of mind and body, loyalty, and thrift. The father and his sons all worked together and bought some ground, built a little house where the family lived many years.

Before old Mr. Scott died, he had saved enough money to give each son $200.00. His bank was tin cans hidden around in his house.

Will Scott, the artist, is a grandson of this John Scott.

The thing these early settlers wanted most, was for their children to learn to read and write. So many of them had been caught trying to learn to write, and had had their thumbs mashed, so they would not be able to hold a pencil.

Interviewer's Comment

Mrs. Johnson is a very interesting old woman and remembers so well the things her parents told her. She deplores the "loose living," as she calls it of this generation.

She is very deliberate, but seems very sure of the story of her early life.

Submitted December 9, 1937 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
NATHAN JONES—EX-SLAVE
409 Blake Street

Nathan Jones was born in Gibson County, Tennessee in 1858, the son of Caroline Powell, one of Parker Crimm's slaves.

Master Crimm was very abusive and cruel to his slaves. He would beat them for any little offense. He took pleasure in taking little children from their mothers and selling them, sending them as far away as possible.

Nathan's stepfather, Willis Jones, was a very strong man, a very good worker, and knew just enough to be resentful of his master's cruel treatment, decided to run away, living in the woods for days. His master sent out searchers for him, who always came in without him. The day of the sale, Willis made his appearance and was the first slave to be put on the block.

His new master, a Mr. Jones of Tipton, Tennessee, was very kind to him. He said it was a real pleasure to work for Mr. Jones as he had such a kind heart and respected his slaves.

Nathan remembers seeing slaves, both men and women, with their hands and feet staked to the ground, their faces down, giving them no chance to resist the overseers, whipped with cow hides until the blood gushed from their backs. "A very cruel way to treat human beings."

Nathan married very young, worked very hard, started buying a small orchard, but was "figgered" out of it, and lost all he had put into it. He then went to Missouri, stayed there until the death of his wife. He then came to Indiana, bringing his six children with him.

Forty-five years ago he married the second time; to that union were four children. He is very proud of his ten children and one stepchild.

His children have all been very helpful to him until times "got bad" with them, and could barely exist themselves.

Interviewer's Comment

Mr. and Mrs. Jones room with a family by the name of James; they have a comfortable, clean room and are content.

They are both members of the Free Will Baptist Church; get the old age pension, and "do very well."

Submitted December 15, 1937 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A. District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
MRS. SARAH H. LOCKE—DAUGHTER [of Wm. A. and Priscilla Taylor]

Mrs. Locke, the daughter of Wm. A. and Priscilla Taylor, was born in Woodford County, Kentucky in 1859. She went over her early days with great interest.

Jacob Keephart, her master, was very kind to his slaves, would never sell them to "nigger traders." His family was very large, so they bought and sold their slaves within the families and neighbors.

Mrs. Locke's father, brothers, and grandmother belonged to the same master in Henry County, Kentucky. Her mother and the two sisters belonged to another branch of the Keephart family, about seven miles away.

Her father came to see her mother on Wednesday and Saturday nights. They would have big dinners on these nights in their cabin.

Her father cradled all the grain for the neighborhood. He was a very high tempered man and would do no work when angry; therefore, every effort was made to keep him in a good humor when the work was heavy.

Her mother died when the children were very young. Sarah was given to the Keephart daughter as a wedding present and taken to her new home. She was always treated like the others in the family.

After the abolition of slavery, Mr Keephart gave Wm. a horse and rations to last for six months, so the children would not starve.

Charles and Lydia French, fellow workers with the Taylors, went to Cincinnatti and in 1867 sent for the Mrs. Locke and her sister, so they could go to school, as there were no schools in Kentucky then. The girls stayed one year with the French family; that is the longest time they ever went to school. After that, they would go to school for three months at different times. Mrs. Locke reads and writes very well.

The master worked right along with the slaves, shearing the sheep.

The women milk ten or twelve cows and knit a whole sock in one day. They also wove the material for their dresses; it was called "linsey."

She remembers one night the slaves were having a dance in one of the cabins, a band of Ku Kluxers came, took all firearms they could find, but no one was hurt, all wondered why, however, it did not take long for them to find out why. Another night when the Kluxers were riding, the slaves recognised the voice of their young master. That was the reason why the Keephart slaves were never molested.

Christmas was a jolly time for the Keephart slaves. They would have a whole week to celebrate, eating, dancing, and making merry.

"Free born niggers" were not allowed to associate with the slaves, as they were supposed to have no sense, and would contaminate the slaves.


Interviewer's Comment

Mrs. Locke is an intelligent old lady, has been a good dressmaker, and served for a great number of the "first families" of Indianapolis.

She has been married twice; her first husband died shortly after their marriage, and she was a widow for twenty-five years before she took her second "venture."

She gets the old age pension and is very happy.

Submitted December 17, 1937
Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A. District #6
Marion County Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana


FOLKLORE
ROBERT MCKINLEY—EX-SLAVE
1664 Columbia Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana

Robert McKinley was born in Stanley County, N.C., in 1849, a slave of Arnold Parker.

His master was a very cruel man, but was always kind to him, because he had given him (Bob) as a present to his favorite daughter, Jane Alice, and she would never permit anyone to mistreat Bob.

Miss Jane Alice was very fond of little Bob, and taught him to read and write.

His master owned a large farm, but Jane Alice would not let little Bob work on the farm. Instead, he helped his master in the blacksmith shop.

His master always prepared himself to whip his slaves by drinking a large glass of whiskey to give him strength to beat his slaves.

Robert remembers seeing his master beat his mother until she would fall to the ground, and he was helpless to protect her. He would just have to stand and watch.

He has seen slaves tied to trees and beaten until the master could beat no longer; then he would salt and pepper their backs.

Once when the Confederate soldiers came to their farm, Robert told them where the liquor was kept and where the stock had been hidden. For this the soldiers gave him a handful of money, but it did him no good for his master took it away from him.

The McKinley family, of course, were Parkers and after the Civil war, they took the name of their father who was a slave of John McKinley.

A neighbor farmer, Jesse Hayden, was very kind to his slaves, gave them anything they wanted to eat, because he said they had worked hard, and made it possible for him to have all he had, and it was part theirs.

The Parker slaves were not allowed to associate with the Hayden slaves. They were known as the "rich niggers, who could eat meat without stealing it."

When the "nigger traders" came to the Parker farm, the old mistress would take meat skins and grease the mouths of the slave children to make it appear she had given them meat to eat.

Interviewer's Comment

Mr. McKinley is an "herb doctor" and lives very poorly in a dirty little house; he was very glad to tell of his early life.

He thinks people live too fast these days, and don't remember there is a stopping place.

Submitted January 10, 1938 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
RICHARD MILLER—AN OLD SOLDIER
1109 North West Street

Richard Miller was born January 12, 1843 in Danville, Kentucky. His mother was an English subject, born in Bombay, India and was brought into America by a group of people who did not want to be under the English government. They landed in Canada, came on to Detroit, stayed there a short time, then went to Danville, Kentucky. There she married a slave named Miller. They were the parents of five children.

After slavery was abolished, they bought a little farm a few miles from Danville, Kentucky.

The mother was very ambitious for her children, and sent them to the country school.

One day, when the children came home from school, their mother was gone; they knew not where.

It was learned, she was sending her children to school, and that was not wanted. She was taken to Texas, and nothing, was heard from her until 1871.

She wrote her brother she was comming to see them, and try to find her children, if any of them were left.

The boy, Richard, was in the army. He was so anxious to see his mother, to see what she would look like. The last time he saw her, she was washing clothes at the branch, and was wearing a blue cotton dress. All he could remember about her was her beautiful black hair, and the cotton dress. When he saw her, he didnot recognize her, but she told him of things he could remember that had happened, and that made him think she was his mother.

Richard was told who had taken the mother from the children, went to the man, shot and killed him; nothing was done to him for his deed.

He remembers a slave by the name of Brown, in Texas, who was chained hand and feet to a woodpile, oil thrown over him, and the wood, then fire set to the wood, and he was burned to death.

After the fire smoldered down, the white women and children took his ashes for souvenirs.

When slavery was abolished, a group of them started down to the far south, to buy farms, to try for themselves, got as far as Madison County, Kentucky and were told if they went any farther south, they would be made slaves again, not knowing if that was the truth or not, they stayed there, and worked on the Madison County farms for a very small wage. This separated families, and they never heard from each other ever again.

These separations are the cause of so many of the slave race not being able to trace families back for generations, as do the white families.

George Band was a very powerful slave, always ready to fight, never losing a fight, always able to defend himself until one night a band of Ku Kluxers came to his house, took his wife, hung her to a tree, hacked her to death with knives. Then went to the house, got George, took him to see what they had done to his wife. He asked them to let him go back to the house to get something to wrap his wife in, thinking he was sincere in his request, they allowed him to go. Instead of getting a wrapping for his wife, he got his Winchester rifle, shot and killed fourteen of the Kluxers. The county was never bothered with the Klan again. However, George left immediately for the North.

The first Monday of the month was sale day. The slaves were chained together and sent down in Miss., often separating mothers from children, husbands from wives, never to hear of each other again.


Interviewer's Comment

Mr. Miller lives with his family in a very comfortable home.

He has only one eye, wears a patch over the bad one.

He does not like to talk of his early life as he said it was such a "nightmare" to him; however he answered all questions very pleasantly.

Submitted December 9, 1937 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
MRS. AMERICA MORGAN—EX-SLAVE
816 Camp Street

America Morgan was born in a log house, daubed with dirt, in Ballard County, Kentucky, in 1852, the daughter of Manda and Jordon Rudd. She remembers very clearly the happenings of her early life.

Her mother, Manda Rudd, was owned by Clark Rudd, and the "devil has sure got him."

Her father was owned by Mr. Willingham, who was very kind to his slaves. Jordon became a Rudd, because he was married to Manda on the Rudd plantation.

There were six children in the family, and all went well until the death of the mother; Clark Rudd whipped her to death when America was five years old.

Six little children were left motherless to face a "frowning world."

America was given to her master's daughter, Miss Meda, to wait on her, as her personal property. She lived with her for one year, then was sold for $600.00 to Mr. and Mrs. Utterback stayed with them until the end of the Civil war.

The new mistress was not so kind. Miss Meda, who knew her reputation, told her if she abused America, she would come for her, and she would loose the $600.00 she had paid for her. Therefore, America was treated very kindly.

Aunt Catherine, who looked after all the children on the plantation, was very unruly, no one could whip her. Once America was sent for two men to come and tie Aunt Catherine. She fought so hard, it was as much as the men could do to tie her. They tied her hands, then hung her to the joist and lashed her with a cow hide. It "was awful to hear her screams."

In 1865 her father came and took her into Paduca, Kentucky, "a land of freedom."

When thirteen years old, America did not know A from B, then "glory to God," a Mr. Greeleaf, a white man, from the north, came down to Kentucky and opened a school for Negro children. That was America's first chance to learn. He was very kind and very sympathetic. She went to school for a very short while.

Her father was very poor, had nothing at all to give his children.

America's mistress would not give her any of her clothes. "All she had in this world, was what she had on her back." Then she was "hired out" for $1.00 a week.

The white people for whom she worked were very kind to her and would try to teach her when her work was done. She was given an old fashioned spelling book and a first reader. She was then "taught much and began to know life."

She was sent regularly to church and Sunday school. That was when she began to "wake up" to her duty as a free girl.

The Rev. D.W. Dupee was her Sunday school teacher, from him she learned much she had never known before.

At seventeen years of age, she married and "faced a frowning world right." She had a good husband and ten children, three of whom are living today, one son and two daughters.

She remembers one slave, who had been given five hundred lashes on his back, thrown in his cabin to die. He laid on the floor all night, at dawn he came to himself, and there were blood hounds licking his back.

When the overseers lashed a slave to death, they would turn the bloodhounds out to smell the blood, so they would know "nigger blood," that would help trace runaway slaves.

Aunt Jane Stringer was given five hundred lashes and thrown in her cabin. The next morning when the overseer came, he kicked her and told her to get up, and wanted to know if she was going to sleep there all day. When she did not answer him, he rolled her over and the poor woman was dead, leaving several motherless children.

When the slaves were preparing to run away, they would put hot pepper on their feet; this would cause the hounds to be thrown off their trail.

Aunt Margaret ran off, but the hounds traced her to a tree; she stayed up in the tree for two days and would not come down until they promised not to whip her any more, and they kept their promise.

Old mistress' mother was sick a long time, and little America had to keep the flies off of her by waving a paper fly brush over her bed. She was so mean, America was afraid to go too near the bed for fear she might try to grab her and shake her. After she died, she haunted America. Anytime she would go into the room, she could hear her knocking on the wall with her cane. Some nights they would hear her walking up and down the stairs for long periods at a time.

Aunt Catherine ran off, because "ole missie" haunted her so bad.

The old master came back after his death and would ride his favorite horse, old Pomp, all night long, once every week. When the boy would go in to feed the horses, old Pomp would have his ears hanging down, and he would be "just worn out," after his night ride.

Interviewer's Comment

America believes firmly in haunts, and said she had lived in several haunted houses since coming up north.

Mrs. Morgan lives with her baby boy and his wife. She is rather inteligent, reads and writes, and tries to do all she can to help those who are less fortunate than she.

Submitted December 27, 1937 Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana


FOLKLORE
JOSEPH MOSLEY, EX-SLAVE
2637 Boulevard Place

[TR: Also reported as Moseley in text of interview.]

Joseph Mosley, one of twelve children, was born March 15, 1853, fourteen miles from Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

His master, Tim Mosley, was a slave trader. He was supposed to have bought and sold 10,000 slaves. He would go from one state to another buying slaves, bringing in as many as 75 or 80 slaves at one time.

The slaves would be handcuffed to a chain, each chain would link 16 slaves. The slaves would walk from Virginia to Kentucky, and some from Mississippi to Virginia.

In front of the chained slaves would be an overseer on horseback with a gun and dogs. In back of the chained slaves would be another overseer on horseback with a gun and dogs. They would see that no slave escaped.

Joseph's father was the shoemaker for all the farm hands and all adult workers. He would start in September making shoes for the year. First the shoes for the folks in the house, then the workers.

No slave child ever wore shoes, summer or winter.

The father, mother, and all the children were slaves in the same family, but not in the same house. Some with the daughters, some with the sons, and so on. No one brother or sister would be allowed to visit with the others.

After the death of Tim Moseley, little Joseph was given to a daughter. He was seven years old; he had to pick up chips, tend the cows, and do small jobs around the house; he wore no clothing except a shirt.

Little Joseph did not see his mother after he was taken to the home of the daughter until he was set free at the age of 13.

The master was very unkind to the slaves; they sometimes would have nothing to eat, and would eat from the garbage.

On Christmas morning Joseph was told he could go see his mother; he did not know he was free, and couldn't understand why he was given the first suit of clothes he had ever owned, and a pair of shoes. He dressed in his new finery and was started out on his six mile journey to his mother.

He was so proud of his new shoes; after he had gotten out of sight, he stopped and took his shoes off as he did not want them dirty before his mother had seen them, and walked the rest of the way in his bare feet.

After their freedom, the family came to Indiana.

The mother died here, in Indianapolis, at the age of 105.


Interviewer's Comment

Mr. Moseley, who has been in Indianapolis for 35 years, has been paralyzed for the last four years. He and a daughter room with a Mrs. Turner.

He has a very nice clean room; a very pleasant old man was very glad to talk of his past life.

He gets a pension of $18.00 a month, and said it was not easy to get along on that little amount, and wondered if the government was ever going to increase his pension.

Submitted December 1, 1937
Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Harry Jackson


WILLIAM M. QUINN (EX-SLAVE)
431 Bright Street, Indianapolis, Ind.

William M. Quinn, 431 Bright street, was a slave up to ten years of age—"when the soldiers come back home, and the war was over, and we wasn't slaves anymore". Mr. Quinn was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, on a farm belonging to Steve Stone. He and a brother and his mother were slaves of "Old Master Stone", but his father was owned by another man, Mr. Quinn, who had an adjoining farm. When they were all freed, they took the surname of Quinn.

Mr. Quinn said that they were what was called "gift slaves". They were never to be sold from the Stone farm and were given to Stone's daughter as a gift with that understanding. He said that his "Old master paid him and his brother ten cents a day for cutting down corn and shucking it."

It was very unusual for a slave to receive any money whatsoever for working. He said that his master had a son about his age, and the son and he and his brother worked around the farm together, and "Master Stone" gave all three of them ten cents a day when they worked. Sometimes they wouldn't, they would play instead. And whenever "Master Stone" would catch them playing when they ought to have been at work, he would whip them—"and that meant his own boy would get a licking too."

"Old Master Stone was a good man to all us colored folks, we loved him. He wasn't one of those mean devils that was always beating up his slaves like some of the rest of them." He had a colored overseer and one day this overseer ran off and hid for two days "cause he whipped one of old Mas' Stone's slaves and he heard that Mas' Stone was mad and he didn't like it."

"We didn't know that we were slaves, hardly. Well, my brother and I didn't know anyhow 'cause we were too young to know, but we knew that we had been when we got older."

"After emancipation we stayed at the Stone family for some time, 'cause they were good to us and we had no place to go." Mr. Quinn meant by emancipation that his master freed his slaves, and, as he said, "emancipated them a year before Lincoln did."

Mr. Quinn said that his father was not freed when his mother and he and his brother were freed, because his father's master "didn't think the North would win the war." Stone's slaves fared well and ate good food and "his own children didn't treat us like we were slaves." He said some of the slaves on surrounding plantations and farms had it "awful hard and bad." Some times slaves would run away during the night, and he said that "we would give them something to eat." He said his mother did the cooking for the Stone family and that she was good to runaway slaves.

Submitted September 9, 1937
Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A. District #6
Marion County Harry Jackson


EX SLAVE STORY
MRS. CANDUS RICHARDSON
[HW: Personal Interview]

Mrs. Candus Richardson, of 2710 Boulevard Place, was 18 years of age when the Civil War was over. She was borned a slave on Jim Scott's plantation on the "Homer Chitter river" in Franklin county, Mississippi. Scott was the heir of "Old Jake Scott". "Old Jim Scott" had about fifty slaves, who raised crops, cotton, tobacco, and hogs. Candus cooked for Scott and his wife, Miss Elizabeth. They were both cruel, according to Mrs. Richardson. She said that at one time her Master struck her over the head with the butt end of a cowhide, that made a hole in her head, the scar of which she still carries. He struck her down because he caught her giving a hungry slave something to eat at the back door of the "big house". The "big house" was Scott's house.

Scott beat her husband a lot of times because he caught him praying. But "beatings didn't stop my husband from praying. He just kept on praying. He'd steal off to the woods and pray, but he prayed so loud that anybody close around could hear, 'cause he had such a loud voice. I prayed too, but I always prayed to myself." One time, Jim Scott beat her husband so unmerciful for praying that his shirt was as red from blood stain "as if you'd paint it with, a brush". Her husband was very religious, and she claimed that it was his prayers and "a whole lot of other slaves' that cause you young folks to be free today".

They didn't have any Bible on the Scott plantation she said, for it meant a beating or "a killing if you'd be caught with one". But there were a lot of good slaves and they knew how to pray and some of the white folks loved to hear than pray too, "'cause there was no put-on about it. That's why we folks know how to sing and pray, 'cause we have gone through so much, but the Lord is with us, the Lord's with us, he is".

Mrs. Richardson said that the slaves, that worked in the Master's house, ate the same food that the master and his family ate, but those out on the plantation didn't fare so well; they ate fat meats and parts of the hog that the folks at the "big house" didn't eat. All the slaves had to call Scott and his wife "Master and Miss Elizabeth", or they would get punished if they didn't.

Whenever the slaves would leave the plantation, they ware supposed to have a permit from Scott, and if they were caught out by the "padyrollers", they would whip them if they did not have a note from their master. When the slaves went to church, they went to a Baptist church that the Scotts belonged to and sat in the rear of the church. The sermon was never preached to the slaves. "They never preached the Lord to us," Mrs. Richardson said, "They would just tell us to not steal, don't steal from your master". A week's ration of food was given each slave, but if he ate it up before the week, he had to eat salt pork until the next rations. He couldn't eat much of it, because it was too salty to eat any quanity of it. "We had to make our own clothes out of a cloth like you use, called canvass". "We walked to church with our shoes on our arms to keep from wearing them out".

They walked six miles to reach the church, and had to wade across a stream of water. The women were carried across on the men's backs. They did all of this to hear the minister tell them "don't steal from your Master".

They didn't have an overseer to whip the slaves on the Scott plantation, Scott did the whipping himself. Mrs. Richardson said he knocked her down once just before she gave birth to a daughter, all because she didn't pick cotton as fast as he thought she should have.

Her husband went to the war to be "what you call a valet for Master Jim's son, Sam". After the war, he "came to me and my daughter". "Then in July, we could tell by the crops and other things grown, old Master Jim told us everyone we was free, and that was almost a year after the other slaves on the other plantations around were freed". She said Scott, in freeing (?) then said that "he didn't have to give us any thing to eat and that he didn't have to give us a place to stay, but we could stay and work for him and he would pay us. But we left that night and walked for miles through the rain to my husban's brother and then told them that they all were free. Then we all came up to Kentucky in a wagon and lived there. Then I came up North when my husband died".

Mrs. Richardson says that she is "so happy to know that I have lived to see the day when you young people can serve God without slipping around to serve him like we old folks had to do". "You see that pencil that you have In your hand there, why, that would cost me my life 'if old Mas' Jim would see me with a pencil in my hand. But I lived to see both him and Miss Elizabeth die a hard death. They both hated to die, although they belonged to church. Thank God for his mercy! Thank God!" "My mother prayed for me and I am praying for you young folks".

Mrs. Richardson, despite her 90 years of age, can walk a distance of a mile and a half to her church.

Submitted August 31, 1937
Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
JOE ROBINSON—EX-SLAVE
1132 Cornell Avenue

Joe Robinson was born in Mason County, Kentucky in 1854.

His master, Gus Hargill, was very kind to him and all his slaves. He owned a large farm and raised every kind of vegetation. He always gave his slaves plenty to eat. They never had to steal food. He said his slaves had worked hard to permit him to have plenty, therefore they should have their share.

Joe, his mother, a brother, and a sister were all on the same plantation. They were never sold, lived with the same master until they were set free.

Joe's father was owned by Rube Black, who was very cruel to his slaves, beat them severely for the least offense. One day he tried to beat Joe's father, who was a large strong man; he resisted his master and tried to kill him. After that he never tried to whip him again. However, at the first opportunity, Rube sold him.

The Robinson family learned the father had been sold to someone down in Louisiana. They never heard from, or of him, again.


Interviewer's Comment

Mr. Robinson lives with his wife; he receives a pension, which he said was barely enough for them to live on, and hoped it would be increased.

He attends one of the W.P.A. classes, trying to learn to read and write.

They have two children who live in Chicago.

Submitted January 24, 1938
Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana


FOLKLORE
MRS. ROSALINE ROGERS—EX-SLAVE—110 YEARS OLD
910 North Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana

Mrs. Rogers was born in South Carolina, in 1827, a slave of Dr. Rice Rogers, "Mas. Rogers," we called him, was the youngest son of a family of eleven children. He was so very mean.

Mrs. Rogers was sold and taken to Tennessee at the age of eleven for $900.00 to a man by the name of Carter. Soon after her arrival at the Carter plantation, she was resold to a man by the name of Belby Moore with whom she lived until the beginning of the Civil war.

Men and women were herded into a single cabin, no matter how many there were. She remembers a time when there were twenty slaves in a small cabin. There were holes between the logs of the cabin, large enough for dogs and cats to crawl through. The only means of heat, being a wood fireplace, which, of course, was used for cooking their food.

The slaves' food was corn cakes, side pork, and beans; seldom any sweets except molasses.

The slaves were given a pair of shoes at Christmas time and if they were worn out before summer, they were forced to go barefoot.

Her second master would not buy shoes for his slaves. When they had to plow, their feet would crack and bleed from walking on the hard clods, and if one complained, they would be whipped; therefore, very few complaints were made.

The slaves were allowed to go to their master's church, and allowed to sit in the seven back benches; should those benches be filled, they were not allowed to sit in any other benches.

The wealthy slave owner never allowed his slaves to pay any attention to the poor "white folks," as he knew they had been free all their lives and should be slave owners themselves. The poor whites were hired by those who didnot believe in slavery, or could not afford slaves.

At the beginning of the Civil war, I had a family of fourteen children. At the close of the war, I was given my choice of staying on the same plantation, working on shares, or taking my family away, letting them out for their food and clothes. I decided to stay on that way; I could have my children with me. They were not allowed to go to school, they were taught only to work.

Slave mothers were allowed to stay in bed only two or three days after childbirth; then were forced to go into the fields to work, as if nothing had happened.

The saddest moment of my life was when I was sold away from my family. I often wonder what happened to them, I haven't seen or heard from them since. I only hope God was as good to them as He has been to me.

"I am 110 years old; my birth is recorded in the slave book. I have good health, fairly good eyesight, and a good memory, all of which I say is because of my love for God."


Interviewer's Comment

Mrs. Rogers is certainly a very old woman, very pleasant, and seems very fond of her granddaughters, with whom she lives.

Submitted December 29, 1937
Indianapolis, Indiana

Federal writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue


FOLKLORE
MRS. PARTHENA ROLLINS
848 Camp Street (Rear)

Mrs. Parthena Rollins was born in Scott County, Kentucky, in 1853, a slave of Ed Duvalle, who was always very kind to all of his slaves, never whipping any of the adults, but often whipped the children to correct them, never beating them. They all had to work, but never overwork, and always had plenty to eat.

She remembers so many slaves, who were not as fortunate as they were.

Once when the "nigger traders" came through, there was a girl, the mother of a young baby; the traders wanted the girl, but would not buy her because she had the child. Her owner took her away, took the baby from her, and beat it to death right before the mother's eyes, then brought the girl back to the sale without the baby, and she was bought immediately.

Her new master was so pleased to get such a strong girl who could work so well and so fast.

The thoughts of the cruel way of putting her baby to death preyed on her mind to such an extent, she developed epilepsy. This angered her new master, and he sent her back to her old master, and forced him to refund the money he had paid for her.

Another slave had displeased his master for some reason, he was taken to the barn and killed, and was buried right in the barn. No one knew of this until they were set free, as the slaves who knew about it were afraid to tell for fear of the same fate befalling on them.

Parthena also remembers slaves being beaten until their backs were blistered. The overseers would then open the blisters and sprinkle salt and pepper in the open blisters, so their backs would smart and hurt all the more.

Many times, slaves would be beaten to death, thrown into sink holes, and left for the buzzards to swarm and feast on their bodies.

So many of the slaves she knew were half fed and half clothed, and treated so cruelly, that it "would make your hair stand on ends."


Interviewer's Comment

Mrs. Rollins is in poor health all broken up with "rheumatiz."

She lives with a daughter and grandson, and said she could hardly talk of the happenings of the early days, because of the awful things her folks had to go through

Submitted December 21, 1937
Anatolia, Indiana

Federal Writers' Project
of the W.P.A.
District #6
Marion County
Anna Pritchett
1200 Kentucky Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana


FOLKLORE
AMANDA ELIZABETH SAMUELS
1721 Park Avenue

Lizzie was a child in the home of grandma and grandpa McMurry. They were farmers in Robinson County, Tennessee.

Her mother, a slave hand, worked on the farm until her young master, Robert McMurry was married. She was then sold to Rev. Carter Plaster and taken to Logan County, Kentucky.

The child, Lizzie was given to young Robert. She lived in the house to help the young mistress who was not so kind to her. Lizzie was forced to eat chicken heads, fish heads, pig tails, and parsnips. The child disliked this very much, and was very unhappy with her young mistress, because in Robert's father's home all slave children were treated just like his own children. They had plenty of good substantial food, and were protected in every way.

The old master felt they were the hands of the next generation and if they were strong and healthy, they would bring in a larger amount of money when sold.

Lizzie's hardships did not last long as they were set free soon after young Robert's marriage. He took her in a wagon to Keysburg, Kentucky to be with her mother.

Lizzie learned this song from the soldiers.

Old Saul Crawford is dead,
And the last word is said.
They were fond of looking back
Till they heard the bushes crack
And sent them to their happy home
In Cannan.
Some wears worsted
Some wears lawn
What they gonna do
When that's all gone.

Interviewer's Comment

Mrs. Samuels is an amusing little woman, she must be about 80 years old, but holds to the age of 60. Had she given her right age, the people for whom she works would have helped her to get her pension.

They are amused, yet provoked because Lizzie wants to be younger than she really is.

Submitted December 1, 1937
Indianapolis, Indiana


(Source: Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves, North Carolina Narratives, Vol. XI, Part 2. Vol. XI, Publ. 1941. The Federal Writer’s Project, 1936-1938. Library of Congress. Contributed by Kim Paterson)
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