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Florence 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.

Code No.
Project, 1885-(1)
Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis
Place, Marion, S. C.
Date, October 5, 1937
No. Words
Reduced from 覧 words
Rewritten by 覧

SYLVIA CANNON,
Ex-Slave, Age 85

"Yes, mam, I been a little small girl in slavery time. I just can remember when I was sold. Me en Becky en George. Just can remember dat, but I know who bought me. First belong to de old Bill Greggs en dat whe' Miss Earlie Hatchel bought me from. Never did know whe' Becky en George went. Yes, mam, de Bill Greggs had a heap of slaves cause dey had my grandmammy en my granddaddy en dey had a heap of chillun. My mammy, she belong to de Greggs too. She been Mr. Gregg's cook en I de one name after her. I remembers she didn' talk much to we chillun. Mostly, she did sing bout all de time. Most of de old people sing bout;

'O Heaven, sweet Heaven,
When shall I see?
If you get dere fore me,
You tell my Lord I on de way.
O shall I get dere?
If you get dere fore I do,
You tell My Lord I on de way.
O Heaven, sweet Heaven,
When shall I see?
O when shall I get dere?'

"Oh, dat be a old song what my grandmammy used to sing way back dere."

"I don' know exactly how old I is cause de peoples used to wouldn' tell dey chillun how old dey was fore dey was grown. I just ain' able to say bout my right age, but I know my sister was older den me en she de one keep count us chillun age. She told me I be bout 84 or 85 years old, so my sister tell me. She done gone en left me en I try to keep count, but I don' know. Dere been bout 14 head of we chillun en dey all gone but me. I de last one. I can tell you dis much, I was just a little small girl when Miss Earlie Hatchel bought me en she wouldn' let me hold de baby cause she was 'fraid I would drop it. I just set dere on de floor en set de baby 'tween my legs, but my Lord, Miss Hatchel been so good to me dat I stay on dere wid her 8 years after freedom come. Miss Hatchel tell me I better stay on dere whe' I can get flour bread to eat. Yes, mam, never got a whippin in all my life. Miss Hatchel, she shake me by de shoulders once or twice, but never didn' whip me in all my life dat I knows of. Dat de reason, when my parents come after me, I hide under de bed. My mammy, she went in de name of Hatchel en all her chillun went in de name of Hatchel right down dere in de Effingham section."

"No, honey, don' nobody be here wid me. Stays right here by myself. Digs in de garden in de day en comes in de house at night. Yes, mam, I thought dis house been belong to me, but dey tell me dis here place be city property. Rich man up dere in Florence learn bout I was worth over
$1500.00 en he tell me dat I ought to buy a house dat I was gettin old. Say he had a nice place he want to sell me. I been learned dat what white folks tell me, I must settle down on it en I give him de money en tell him give me de place he say he had to sell me. I been trust white folks en he take my money en settle me down here on city property. He say, 'Mom Sylvia, you stay here long as you live cause you ain' gwine be here much longer.' I promise my God right den not to save no more money, child. People back dere didn' spend money like dey do dese days en dat how-come I had dat money. Dey would just spend money once a year in dat day en time. Yes, mam, I pay dat man over $900.00. Been payin on it long time en got it all paid but $187.00 en city find out what dat man had done. City tell me just stay on right here, but don' pay no more money out. Dey give me dat garden en tell me what I make I can have. Courthouse man tell me dat I ought to drop my thanks to de Heavenly Father dat I is free. If de town picks up any sick person, dey bring dem here en tell me do de best I can for dem. Tell me to keep good order so de people won' be shame to come en see bout me. Got two houses dere join together. Dere be four rooms in dis front one en three in de other house. Woman go up north en leave her things here en tell me if she ain' come back, I could have dem en she ain' come back yet. Been gone two years."

"Yes, mam, I been married twice. First husband die en den another sick man come along en ax de city for me. I work on him en make teas for him, but he die in bout two years. I beg de town to let me go out to de poor farm en stay, but dey say I done pay too much to move. Tell me stay on here en keep de house up de best way I can.

"No'um, I ain' able to do no kind of work much. No more den choppin my garden. Can' hardly see nothin on a sunny day. I raise my own seed all right cause sometimes I can' see en find myself is cut up things en dat make me has to plant over another time. City tell me do like I was raise en so I been choppin here bout 20 years."

"Oh, now go way from here. My son born in de year of de earthquake en if he had lived, I would been bless wid plenty grandchillun dese days. Yes, mam, I remember all bout de shake. Dey tell me one man, Mr. Turner, give way his dog two or three days fore de earthquake come en dat dog get loose en come back de night of de shake. Come back wid chain tied round his neck en Mr. Turner been scared most to death, so dey tell me. He say, 'Oh, Mr. Devil, don' put de chain on me, I'll go wid you.' Dat was his dog come back en he thought it was de devil come dere to put de chain on him. Yes, mam, dere was such a cuttin up every which a way cause de people thought it was de Jedgment comin. I went a runnin dere to de white folks house en such a prayin en a hollerin, I ain' never see de like fore den en ain' see it since den neither. Dere was stirrin everywhe' dat night en de water in de well was just a slashin. I tried to pray like de rest of de people. Some say dey was ready to get on de old ship of Zion.
I cut loose from de white folks en went in de woods to pray en see a big snake en I ain' been back since. I know dat ain' been nothin but a omen en I quit off cuttin up. I know it ain' been no need in me gwine on like dat cause I ain' never do no harms dat I knows of."

"Yes, mam, white folks had to whip some of dey niggers in slavery time, dey be so mean. Hear tell bout some of dem would run away en go in de woods en perish to death dere fore dey would come out en take a whippin. Some was mean cause dey tell stories on one another en been swear to it. My mammy tell me don' never tell nothin but de truth en I won' get no whippin. I been raise up wid de white folks en I tell de truth, I can' hardly stand no colored people."

"Oh, honey, dere won' no such thing as cotton mill, train, sawmill or nothin like dat in my day. People had to set dere at night en pick de seed out de cotton wid dey own hands. Didn' hear tell bout no telephone nowhe' in dem days en people never live no closer den three en four miles apart neither. Got old Massa horn right in dat room dere now dat he could talk on to people dat be 16 miles from whe' he was. Come in here, child, en I'll let you see it. See, dis old horn been made out of silver money. You talks in dat little end en what you say runs out dat big end. Man ax me didn' I want to sell it en I tell him I ain' got no mind to get rid of it cause it been belong to old Massa. Den if I get sick, I call on it en somebody come.
Wouldn' take nothin for it, honey."

"Times was sho better long time ago den dey be now. I know it. Yes, mam, I here frettin myself to death after dem dat gone. Colored people never had no debt to pay in slavery time. Never hear tell bout no colored people been put in jail fore freedom. Had more to eat en more to wear den en had good clothes all de time cause white folks furnish everything, everything. Dat is, had plenty to eat such as we had. Had plenty peas en rice en hog meat en rabbit en' fish en such as dat. Colored people sho fare better in slavery time be dat de white folks had to look out for dem. Had dey extra crop what dey had time off to work every Saturday. White folks tell dem what dey made, dey could have. Peoples would have found we colored people rich wid de money we made on de extra crop, if de slaves hadn' never been set free. Us had big rolls of money en den when de Yankees come en change de money, dat what made us poor. It let de white people down en let us down too. Left us all to bout starve to death. Been force to go to de fish pond en de huckleberry patch. Land went down to $1.00 a acre. White people let us clear up new land en make us own money dat way. We bury it in de ground en dat how-come I had money. I dig mine up one day en had over $1500.00 dat I been save. Heap of peoples money down dere yet en dey don' know whe' to find it."

Source: Sylvia Cannon, age 85, ex-slave, Marion St., Florence, S. C.
Personal interview by Annie Ruth Davis, October, 1937.
Code No.
Project, 1885-(1)
Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis
Place, Marion, S. C.
Date, August 4, 1937
No. Words 覧
Reduced from 覧 words
Rewritten by 覧

SYLVIA CANNON
Ex-Slave, Age 85.
Florence, S. C.

"I lives here by myself cause my husband been dead three years. Moved here fore my chillun went to de war. I go to work en buy dis here home en get whe' I can' pay tax en people tell me not to move. Say, rent me bed en catch me a dollar, if it ain' a sin to rent your bed for a dollar. One of de big officers of de town tell me dat last week en he die next day. Government take my house en when dey carry sick peoples from de jail, dey bring em here fore dey die. It ain' but one night journey. Ain' gwine let dem be live enough to run away. Ain' got no kin to leave de house to en dey tell me stay on here. Dey say I work so hard to get dis house dat dey ain' gwine make me leave here."

(Aunt Sylvia has a sign in her front yard. It seems she took the frame of a large picture and inserted a piece of pasteboard into it. She explained that this sign is a warning to evil doers not to molest her. She says that they must not come past this sign. The words on the sign are somewhat illegibly written. The interviewers were able to make out these words: "This is a house of the Lord. Don't go pass. This is a house of the Lord...." Sign is dated March 1, 1937).

"I don' know how old I is, but I remembers I was 8 years old when freedom come. I born down dere in de Effingham section on Mr. Gregg plantation. My half-sister say I must always remember de Christmas day cause dat de day I was born. Father en mother belong to de old Bill Greggs en dat whe' Miss Earlie Hatchel buy me from. After dat, I didn' never live wid my parents any more, but I went back to see dem every two weeks. Got a note en go on a Sunday evenin en come back to Miss Hatchel on Monday. Miss Hatchel want a nurse en dat how-come she buy me. I remembers Miss Hatchel puttin de baby in my lap en tell me don' drop him. Didn' have to do no work much in dem days, but dey didn' allow me to play none neither. When de baby sleep, I sweep de yard en work de garden en pick seed out de cotton to spin. Nursed little while for Miss Hatchel en den get free."

"I see em sell plenty colored peoples away in dem days cause dat de way white folks made heap of dey money. Coase dey ain' never tell us how much dey sell em for. Just stand em up on a block bout three feet high en a speculator bid em off just like dey was horses. Dem what was bid off didn' never say nothin neither. Don' know who bought my brothers, George en Earl. (She cried after this statement). I see em sell some slaves twice fore I was sold en I see de slaves when dey be travelin like hogs to Darlington. Some of dem be women folks lookin like dey gwine to get down dey so heavy."

"We fare good in dat day en time. Everybody round dere fare good. My Massa always was good to his slaves cause all de colored people say he was good man to us. Dey never whip me in all my life. Tell me if I don' know how to do anything to tell dem en dey show me how. I remembers Miss Hatchel caught en shook me one time en when I tell her husband, he tell her to keep his hands off his little Nigger. Dey all was good to me. When I start home to see my mamma, dey cry after me till I come back. Many a time my Missus go work in de field en let me mind de chillun."

"We live in de quarter bout ス mile from de white folks house in a one room pole house what was daubed wid dirt. Dere was bout 20 other colored people house dere in de quarter dat was close together en far apart too. De ground been us floor en us fireplace been down on de ground. Take sticks en make chimney cause dere won' no bricks en won' no saw mills to make lumber when I come along. Oh, my white folks live in a pole house daubed wid dirt too. Us just had some kind of home-made bedstead wid pine straw bed what to sleep on in dem days. Sew croaker sack together en stuff em wid pine straw. Dat how dey make dey mattress. Didn' get much clothes to wear in dat day en time neither. Man never wear no breeches in de summer. Go in his shirt tail dat come down to de knees en a 'oman been glad enough to get one piece homespun frock what was made wid dey hand. Make petticoat out of old dress en patch en patch till couldn' tell which place weave. Always put wash out on a Saturday night
en dry it en put it back on Sunday. Den get oak leaves en make a hat what to wear to church. We didn' never have but one pair of shoes a year en dey was dese here brogans wid thick soles en brass toes. Had shop dere on de plantation whe' white man made all de shoes en plows. Dey would save all de cowhide en soak it in salt two or three weeks to get de hair off it en dey have big trough hewed out whe' dey clean it after dey get de hair off it. After dat, it was turn to de man at de shop."

"I remembers when night come on en we go back to de quarter, we cook bread in de ashes en pick seed from de cotton en my mamma set dere en sew heap of de time. Den I see em when dey have dem hay pullings. Dey tote torch to gather de hay by en after dey pull two or three stacks of hay, dey have a big supper en dance in de road en beat sticks en blow cane. Had to strike fire on cotton wid two rocks cause dey didn' have no match in dem days."

"I tellin you my Missus sho was good to me in dat day en time. She been so good to me dat I stay dere wid her 20 year after I got free. Stay dere till I marry de old man Isenia Cannon. You see my old Massa got killed in de war. She tell me I better stay whe' I can get flour bread to eat cause she make her own flour en bake plenty biscuit in de oven. Den she kill hogs en a cow every Christmas en give us all de egg-nog en liquor we want
dat day. Dig hole in de ground en roast cow over log fire. When I get hard up for meat en couldn' get nothin else, I catch rabbits en birds. Make a death trap wid a lid en bait it wid cabbage en corn en catch em dat way. Den another time, I dig deep hole in de ground en dob it wid clay en fill it up wid water. Rabbits hunt water in de night en fall in dere en drown. I used to set traps heap of times to keep de rabbits from eatin up de people gardens. Folks eat all kind of things durin de war. Eat honeysuckle off de low sweet bush after de flower falls off en pine mass dat dey get out de burr en sour weeds. Wouldn' nobody eat dem things dese days. Coase dey let de slaves have three acres of land to a family to plant for dey garden. Work dem in moonlight nights en on a Saturday evenin."

"Oh, yes, dey have white overseers den. I hear some people say dey was good people. At night de overseer would walk out to see could he catch any of us walkin widout a note en to dis day, I don' want to go nowhe' widout a paper. It just like dis, de overseer didn' have to be right behind you to see dat you work in dem days. Dey have all de fields name en de overseer just had to call on de horn en tell you what field to go work in dat day. Den he come along on a Saturday evenin to see what you done. If you ain' do what he say do, he put de Nigger dog on you en he run you all night till he find you. No matter whe' you hide, he find you en hold you till de overseer get dere. Bite you up if dey get reach of you. When de
overseer come, he carry you to de stables en whip you. Dey dat ain' never got no whipping, you can' do nothin wid dem dese days."

"I got Miss Hatchel horn bout here now dat been through nearly 100 head of people. If you talk on it, dere de 100 head of automobiles to see what it is. I sold old Massa's sword last week for ten cents, but I ain' gwine do away wid his old horn. (4 ft. long, 15 in. cross big end 1 in. from top end. Mouth piece is gone. Catch about 15 in. from top). Can talk to anybody 15 to 16 miles away en dat how-come I don' want to sell it cause if anything happen, I can call people to come. Dis horn ain' no tin, it silver. It de old time phone. Got old Massa maul too en dis here Grandpa oxen bit dat was made at home."

"De white folks didn' never help none of we black people to read en write no time. Dey learn de yellow chillun, but if dey catch we black chillun wid a book, dey nearly bout kill us. Dey was sho better to dem yellow chillun den de black chillun dat be on de plantation. Northern women come dere after de war, but dey didn' let em teach nobody nothin."

"I go to church wid my white folks, but dey never have no church like dey have dese days. De bush was dey shelter en when it rain, dey meet round from one house to another. Ride to church in de ox cart cause I had to carry de baby everywhe' I go. White folks didn' have no horse den.
De peoples sho been blessed wid more religion in dem days den dese days. Didn' never have to lock up nothin den en if you tell a story, you get a whippin. Now de peoples tell me to tell a story. I been cleanin up a lady porch en she tell me to tell anybody what come dere dat she ain' home. A lady come en ax fer her en I tell her she say anybody come here, tell em I ain' home. If you don' believe she here, look in de bedroom. Miss Willcox come out dere en beat me in de back. I tell her don' read de Bible en tell me to tell a story. I ain' gwine tell no story cause my white folks learnt me not to do dat. I knows people was better in dem times den dey is now. Dey teach you how you ought to treat your neighbor en never hear no bad stories nowhe'. Massa en Missus taught me to say a prayer dat go like dis:

"De angels in Heaven love us,
Bless mamma en bless papa,
Bless our Missus,
Bless de man dat feedin us,
For Christ sake."

"De peoples use herb medicines for dey cures in dem days dat dey get out de woods. I make a herb medicine dat good for anything out de roots of three herbs mix together. Couldn' tell you how I make it cause dat would ruin me. Town people try to buy de remedy from me, but Dr. McLeod tell
me not to sell it. Dey offer me $1500.00 for it, but I never take it."

"You want my mind, my heart, de truth en I gwine tell you it just like I see it. Since de colored peoples got de law, dey get in all kind of devilment. Dat how-come if I had to go back, I would go back to slavery en stay wid my white folks."

Source: Sylvia Cannon, ex-slave, age 85, Florence. S. C.

Personal interview by H. Grady Davis and Mrs.
Lucile Young, and written up in question and
answer form. Rewritten in story form by Annie Ruth
Davis.


FUNERAL SONG

Star in de east en star in de west,
I wish de star was in my breast.
Mother is home, sweet home,
Mother is home, sweet home,
Want to join de angel here.
What a blessed home, sweet home,
What a blessed home, sweet home,
Want to join de angel here.

(You can sing bout father, brother, sister en all.)

Sylvia Cannon,

Ex-Slave, age 85,
May 21, 1937,
Florence, S. C.

FUNERAL SONG

Come ye dat love de Lord,
En let your joys be known.
Hark from de tomb,
En hear my tender voice.
By de grace of God I'll meet you
On Canaan Happy Shore.
Oh, mother, where will I meet you on Canaan Happy Shore?
En by de grace of God I'll meet you on Canaan Happy Shore.

(Shaking hands, marching around grave. White en Colored marched from church to graveyard. Old people in de ox cart en young people walking. Didn' have coffins like dey do now. Build de coffin en black it wid smut. Blacksmith make de nails. Could see in de box.)

Sylvia Cannon,
Ex-Slave, age 85,
May 21, 1937,
Florence, S. C.


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