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Slave Narratives
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N.C. District:

No. 2

Worker:

T. Pat Matthews

Subject:

ISAAC JOHNSON

Story teller:

Isaac Johnson

Editor:

Daisy Bailey Waitt

ISAAC JOHNSON
Lillington, North Carolina, Route 1, Harnett County.

"I am feelin' very well this mornin', while I don't feel like I used to. I done so much hard work, I'm 'bout all in. Dey didn't have all dese new fangled things to do work an' go 'bout on when I wus a boy. No, no, you jes' had to git out an' do all de work, most all de work by hand. I wus ten years old when de Yankees come through. I wus born Feb. 12, 1855.

"I belonged to Jack Johnson. My missus' name wus Nancy. My father wus Bunch Matthews; he belonged to old man Drew Matthews, a slave owner. My mother wus named Tilla Johnson. She belonged to Jack Johnson, my marster. De plantation wus near Lillington, on the north side o' de Cape Fear River and ran down to near de Lillington Cross roads one mile from de river. I had one brother and six sisters. My brother wus named Phil and my sisters name Mary, Caroline, Francis and I don't remember de others names right now. Been so long since I saw any of 'em. Dey are all dead. Yes sir, dey are all dead. I do not remember my grandpa and grandma. No sir, I don't.

"I wus too small to work, dey had me to do little things like feedin' de chickens, an' mindin' de table sometimes; but I wus too small to work. Dey didn't let children work much in dem days till dey were thirteen or fourteen years old. I had plenty to eat, good clothes, a nice place to sleep an' a good time. Marster loved his slaves an' other white folks said he loved a nigger more den he did white folks. Our food wus fixed up fine. It wus fixed by a regular cook who didn't do anything but cook. We had gardens, a plenty o' meat, a plenty, an' mo' biscuit den a lot o' white folks had. I kin remember de biscuit. I never hunted any, but I went bird blindin' an' set bird traps. I caught lots o' birds.

"Jack Johnson, my marster never had no children of his own. He had a boy with him by the name of Stephen, a nephew of his, from one of his brothers. Marster Jack had three brothers Willis, Billy, and Matthew. I don' remember any of his sisters. There was 'bout four thousand acres in de plantation an' 'bout 25 slaves. Marster would not have an overseer.

"No sir, de slaves worked very much as they pleased. He whupped a slave now an' then, but not much. I have seen him whup 'em. He had some unruly niggers. Some of 'em were part Indian, an' mean. Dey all loved him doe. I never saw a slave sold. He kept his slaves together. He didn't want to git rid of any of 'em. We went to de white folks church at Neill's Creek a missionary Baptis' Church.

"We played during the Christmas holidays, an' we got 'bout two weeks 4th of July, and lay by time, which wus 'bout the fourth. We had great times at corn shuckin's, log rollin's and cotton pickin's. We had dances. Marster lowed his slaves lots o' freedom. My mother used to say he wus better den other folks. Yes, she said her marster wus better than other folks.

"The white folks didn't teach us to read an' write. I cannot read an' write, but de white folks, only 'bout half or less den half, could read an' write den. Dere were very few pore white folks who could read an' write. I remember de baptizin's at de Reuben Matthews Mill Pond. Sometimes after a big meeting dey would baptize twenty four at one time. No slaves run away from Marster. Dey didn't have any scuse to do so, cause whites and colored fared alike at Marster's. We played base, cat, rolly hole, and a kind of base ball called 'round town.

"Dr. John McNeill looked after us when we were sick. We used a lot of herbs an' things. Drank sassafras tea an' mullen tea. We also used sheep tea for measles, you knows dat. You know how it wus made. Called sheep pill tea. It shore would cuore de measles. 'Bout all dat would cuore measles den. Dey were bad den. Wus den dey is now.

"I saw Wheeler's Cavalry. Dey come through ahead of de Yankees. I saw colored people in de Yankee uniforms. Dey wore blue and had brass buttons on 'em. De Yankees an' Wheeler's Cavalry took everything dey wanted, meat, chickens, an' stock. We stayed on wid Marster after de war. I've never lived out of de state. We lived in de same place ontill old Marster an' Missus died. Den we lived wid deir relations right on an' here. I am now on a place deir heirs own.

"Ole Marster loved his dram, an' he gave it to all his slaves. It sold for ten cents a quart. He made brandy by de barrels, an' at holidays all drank together an' had a good time. I never saw any of 'em drunk. People wan't mean when dey were drinking den. It wus so plentiful nobody notices it much. Marster would tell de children 'bout Raw Head and Bloody Bones an' other things to skeer us. He would call us to de barn to git apples an' run an' hide, an' we would have a time findin' him. He give de one who found him a apple. Sometimes he didn't give de others no apple.

"I married Ellen Johnson May 22, 1865 de year de war went up, an' my wife is livin' as you see, an' able to be about. I'm not able to work, not able to go out anywhere by myself. I know I cain't las' much longer but I'm thankful to de Lord for sparin' me dis long."
AC
(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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