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Cherokee County,
South Carolina

Genealogy and History

Slave Narratives

Source:  Slave Narratives Vol. XIV. South Carolina, Part 1
       A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From
              Interviews with Former Slaves. Contributed to South Carolina, Genealogy Trails
by Kim Paterson.

Project 1885-1
FOLKLORE
Spartanburg, Dist. 4
Aug. 24, 1937
Edited by:
Elmer Turnage

STORIES FROM EX-SLAVES

"Sunday, Aug. 1, was my 82nd [HW: 84th?] birthday; so I was born in 1853. De very day I come into de world I do not know, but soon my marster, Starke Sims, begun to train me. Dr. Bill Sims, Marse Stark's son, was a doctor when I was born. A younger son was called Hal. When Hal was a boy he said he was gwine off, and when he got to be a man, dat is what he done; yes sirree, he got scattered off.

"Dr. Bill had done started to doctoring folks befo' I got into dis world. And first thing dat I recollects is how my marster teached me to address him. He addressed me as 'Elias, Johnny Elias'. I had to answer, 'Sirs', and dat 'S' always had to be dar to please de marster. All of his slaves had to address him de same way. Sometimes we would answer, 'Sirs Marster'.

"All de things my marster teached me are still a great help to me. Dis younger generation does not have de quality dat we old niggers has, because dey refuse to take de teachings of dere parents and de good white folks. De main thing dat Marse teached his slaves was mannerableness. Dat I holds to dis day; 'specially to de white people. I allus tries to be mannerable to dem. Often I looks back on dat, but both white and colored is trying to do away wid dem things. Old training is de best, and I cannot fergit my manners. Never does raal folks fergit dere raising. Dats what shows up de quality in people. I likes quality in everything, and as soon as I sees strangers and hears dem talk and looks at dere action, I can tell how much quality dey got. Dat I sho can. I never is gwine to drap my raising, don't care what de style comes to.
Dat's jest one thing dat my race and de white race, too, wants to do away wid. Dey don't hold up no manners and no ra'al raising.

"De school teachers tells de chilluns to say yes and no to me. Dey tells dem to say de same thing to white folks. Den dey teaches de chilluns to Mr. and Miss de own race and to call white folks by dere names widout any handle to it. Dat ain't gwine to work, and any niggers dat has self-respect jest ain't gwine to call no white folks by dere name. If you doesn't respect other folks, why den other folks ain't gwine to show no respect fer you. Why some of my grand chilluns sets up and says 'yes' and 'no' to me 'stead of 'yes sir' and 'no sir'. But I is right here to tell you dat my own chilluns don't say 'no' and 'yes' to me. I is strived wid dem and dey knows how to answer proper to dere elders and to white folks. I ain't got no time fer dese school teachers dat tells de pupils to answer in no sech insulting ways as dat. I likes manners and widout manners folks ain't quality; don't make no diffuns 'bout what color dey is or how far dey is gone in de reading books. Young'uns saying 'yes' and 'no' is jest plain ugly. It suits me to meet nice folks, and when I finds dat dey ain't got mannerableness about dem, den I concludes dat dey jest ain't nice.

"I gwine to dress up tonight and go to preaching at Mt. Zion. Dey done already started running meeting dar. I used to preach amongst dem at de big meetings, but I is retracting now.

"My old marse low to us, 'You is free now, yes sir, you is sho free niggers now. You is gwine out into de world on your own. Let me tell you dis: If you be's mannerable you will allus come out more dan conqueror.' I was young den, and I did not know what 'more dan conqueror' meant den. I is larn't now what it means. Thank God, I
does, fer his telling me dat. I lays to de fact dat de reason I is never been in jail is dat I allus had manners. Young'uns acts biggety and den dey lands right straight in de first jail dar is.

"I sho never went to no war, but I worked at de house in de corn field a-raising corn fer de war hosses. I been in only two states, North and South Carolina. I travels jest according to common sense: lets other folks be my guide. I met up wid Indians; dey wanted to claim kin wid me, but I wouldn't claim kin wid dem. He tell me bout my high cheeks or something; den he low something 'bout my nose being long. Dey close thinking people, dem Indians is. Dey don't fergit nothing. He say he see I is mixed-up, but I never is knowed jest what he was driving at. I told him I was teached from de old generation, but dat dar wasn't narry drop of Indian blood in me. Cherokee Creek whar dat old Indian place is. Dey has all kinds of things to sell dat dey makes. I ain't no Indian and I does not feel dat way, no sir, not narry bit does I feel like I is a Indian.

"My mother died when I was a wee baby. Never is had no brothers or sisters. She left me wid her marster dat owned her mother, Kissy Sims. Marse Starke helped my granny to raise me. Kissy come from Virginia. Her Pa let a man buy her and three other chilluns. Marse Starke raised dem all up and dats how dey got his name.

"Dis here man standing here by me is Zack Herndon. We is de oldest niggers in Cherokee County dat I knows of. De other old ones is all dead now. Oh, you knows him, does you Zack?

"Never did so awful much work when I was coming up. Dey was priming me and training me. When dey call my name, I allus come. Often I hid myself to see de bad niggers whipped. Never had no 'buse in my life. Marse didn't 'low nobody to look at his niggers when dey was being whipped, kaise he hated to have to let any of dem
be 'bused. Marse Starke sho never whipped no one dat was good. He never let his overseers 'buse nobody neither. I does not 'member much 'bout his overseers. One named a Briggs, one a Bishop, one a Coleman and Alley Cook was de last one; I 'members his name best.

"Marse Starke was a rich man. He had in de Quarter what was know'd as a chilluns' house. A nurse stayed in it all de time to care fer all de plantation chilluns. My granny 'Kissy' acted as nurse dar some. Aunt Peggy and aunt Ciller was two mo'. Ciller was de daughter of a King in Africa, but dat story been traveling ever since she got to dese shores, and it still a-gwine. All dese helped to nurse me. Dey fed us on milk, plenty of it. We had honey, lasses and lots of good things. When I was a little bit-a boy I had a big bowl to eat out of. And us chilluns et like hogs and got fat. We allus had fine food. My marster give me a biscuit sometime from his plate and I wouldn't have tuck 25 fer it. He allus put butter in it or ham and gravy. He would say, 'Dat's de doctrine, Be kind!' Nobody never got no 'borious beating from our master's hands.

"I been toiling here on dis earth fer a long time. De Lawd spared me to bring up a big race of chilluns myself. We is awful po' and ain't none of my chilluns got things as well as I had when my marster give it to me. My daughter and grand-daughter lives wid Mr. Nathan Littlejohn. He is rich. I stay in de house wid dem. Dey 'vides wid me dat what dey has. But dat ain't much. I has great-great-grand chilluns dat I ain't never seed. I have five chilluns living to my knowings. Last time I counted, I had 137 grand and great-grand chilluns. So you see I looks into de fourth generation of my own family.

"Me and Old man Zack went to a hanging one time. Both of us clamed up into a tree so dat we could look down on de transaction from a better angle. De man, I means de sheriff, let us go up dar. He let some mo' niggers clamb up in de same tree wid us. De man dat was being hung was called Alf Walker. He was a mulatto and he had done kil't a preacher, so you see dey was hanging him fer his wickedness, sho as you born dey was.

"While me and Zack up in dat tree a-witnessing dat transaction, peers like we become mo' acquainted wid one another dan we had ever been since us know'd one another.

"Sheriff 'low'd, 'You is got only fifteen minutes to live in. What has you got to say?' Alf got up and talked by giving a lecture to folks about being lawful citizens. He give a lecture also to young folks who he 'low'd dat was not in sech condition as he was. He talking to dem 'bout obeying de parents and staying at home. Me and Zack exchange glances and Zack 'low, 'Alf ain't never stayed at home none since he been big enough to tramp over de country and he up dar fixing to git his neck broke fer his waryness, and trying to tell us good folks young and old how us should act. Now ain't he something to be a-telling us what to do.'

"Finally, Alf had done talked his time out and de sheriff 'low, 'Now you is only got two minutes, what does you want?'

Alf hollered, 'Mr. Sheriff, lemme shake hands wid somebody.' Sheriff say everybody dat wishes to may shake his hand. Me and Zack stayed up in dat tree, but some of de niggers went up and shaked hands wid Alf.

"Time out! You could-a heard a pin drap. I could hear my breath a-coming. I got scared. Zack looked ra'al ashy. Nobody on de ground moved, jest stayed ra'al quiet and
still. Noose drapped over de man's neck and tightened. Some one moved de block from under his foots. Dat jerked him down. Whoop! All dem in de tree fell out 'cept me and Zack, dey was so scared. Alf Walker wasn't no mo'. Me and Zack sot up in dat tree like two cranks. Us sot dar as if it hadn't tuck no 'fect on us a-tall. All de other folks got 'fected. Zack tickled me when he saw me studying. He 'low 'you act awful hard-hearted.' I 'low, 'dat man telling us how to do jest now, and dar he is hanged. Us still a-setting in dis tree, ain't we? We ain't never wanted to see no mo' hangings, is we Zack?' Zack 'low dat we ain't.

"Onc't de guide low'd to de President, 'You raises your hat to a nigger?' President 'low, 'I ain't gwine to let nobody be mo' polite dan I is.' He never let nobody have mo' sense dan he did either. Dat was Washington.

"Me and Zack is gwine to tell you how it is. We is old and ain't no need fer old folks to try and fool. I is too shame to beg. I wants de pension. Is you gwine to tell me 'bout it? Dis de truth, I is took a chip fer food. If I could got to school and write fast as I can shake my fist, I'd be a-giving out dat pension right fast. I likes character and principle. I got a boy turned into 64 years. He got character and principle, and he still do what I say. I never put my mouth amongst old folks when I was young. Me and Zack often talks over old times."

Source: Elias Dawkins (84), Rt. 1, Gaffney, S. C.
Interviewer: Caldwell Sims, Union, S. C. 8/20/37.


Project 1885-1
Spartanburg Dist. 4
Sept. 22, 1937
Edited by:
Elmer Turnage

STORIES FROM EX-SLAVES
[HW: Duke]

"Vinie Wilkins is my daughter's name dat live wid me. My son owns dis house and he keeps it up fer me and his sister. I's born on de bank of Cherokee Creek, but I jest 'members how many years I stayed dar. Atter Freedom had been a long time, we moved to Mr. Chesterfield Scruggs' plantation whar we share cropped. It was on de old Spartanburg road from here to Spartanburg.

"I was purtty good-size chile when de Ku Klux come and tried to git my daddy. Dey whipped him; den he run off and stayed off fer over seven years. Dem Ku Klux was in all kinds of shapes, wid horns and things on dere heads. Dey was so scary looking dat I ain't never fergot dem. Dem's de awfulest 'boogers' I is ever see'd befo' or since. I was in de bed and so was Pa, but dey broke in our do' and got him. I kivvered up my head and did not make narry a sound. Dat's all dat I can recollect now."

Source: Alice Duke (72), 401 Woods St., Gaffney, S. C.
Interviewer: Caldwell Sims, Union, S. C. 9/16/37


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