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Spartanburg County,
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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.
Folk Lore
District No. 4.
May 27, 1937.
Edited by: J. J. Murray.


"Aunt" Mary Adams was swinging easily back and forth in the porch swing as the writer stopped to speak to her. When questioned, she replied that she and her mother were ex-slaves and had belonged to Dr. C. E. Fleming. She was born in Columbia, but they were moved to Glenn Springs where her mother cooked for Dr. Fleming.

She remembers going with a white woman whose husband was in jail, to carry him something to eat. She said that Mr. Jim Milster was in that jail, but he lived to get out, and later kept a tin shop in Spartanburg.

"Yes sir, Dr. Fleming always kept enough for us Niggers to eat during the war. He was good to us. You know he married Miss Dean. Do you know Mrs. Lyles, Mrs. Simpson, Mr. Ed Fleming? Well, dey are my chilluns.

"Some man here told me one day that I was ninety years old, but I do not believe I am quite that old. I don't know how old I am, but I was walking during slavery times. I can't work now, for my feet hurt me and my fingers ain't straight."

She said all of her children were dead but two, that she knew of. She said that she had a room in that house and white people gave her different things. As the writer told her good-bye, she said, "Good-bye, and may the Lord bless you".

Source: "Aunt" Mary Adams, 363 S. Liberty Street, Spartanburg, S. C., Interviewer: F. S. DuPre, Spartanburg, S. C.

Project 1885-1
Spartanburg Dist. 4
June 3, 1937
Edited by:
Elmer Turnage


Upon learning where an ex-slave lived, the writer walked up to a house on Pickenpack street where two old colored men were sitting on the front porch. Asked if one of them was named 'Will Dill', the blacker of the two motioned to himself and said,

"Come here, come in and have a seat," at the same time touching the porch swing beside him.

He acknowledged that he lived in slavery days, "but was a small boy, walking and playing around at that time". His master was Zeek Long, who lived in Anderson County not far from "Three and Twenty Mile Creek' and used to ask him:—what the rooster said, what the cow said, what the pig said; and used to get a great deal of amusement out of his kiddish replies and imitation of each animal and fowl. From his own calculation, he figured he was born in 1862 in the home of his mother who was owned by Zeek Long. His father, also, was owned by the same master, but lived in another house. He remembers when the Yankees came by and asked for something to eat. When they had gotten this, they went to the corn crib, which was chock full of corn, and took the corn out, shucked it, and gave it to their horses. All the good horses had been hidden in the woods and only two or three old poor ones were left in the stables, but the Yankees did not take these for they only wanted good horses. He remembers seeing the patrollers coming around and checking up on the 'niggers'. He had an uncle who used to slip off every night and go to see some colored girl. He had a path that he followed in going to her house.

"One night Uncle Bob, he started to go see his gal, and it was pretty late, but he followed his path. There were some paterollers out looking for him, and t'rectly they saw him. Uncle Bob lit out running and the paterollers started running, too. Here they had it up and down the path. Uncle Bob, he knew there was a big ditch crossing the path, but the paterollers didn't know it; so when Uncle Bob got to the gully, he jumped right over it and run on, but one of the patrollers fell into the gully and broke his neck. After dat, Uncle Bob, he stayed in and kept quiet, for he knew the paterollers had it in for him."

He asked the writer if he had ever heard a chicken talk. He said that he had, and described a scene at the house one day when a preacher was there. The chickens and guineas came around the house as usual to get their feed, but didn't get it. He "quoted" the rooster as saying; "Has the preacher gone yet?" A guinea hen answered, "not yet—not yet".

He said that he often heard turkeys talk. They would ask each other questions, and another fowl would answer. He once heard a mule that was in the barn, say: "Lord! Lord! All I want is corn and fodder."

Being told by the negro who was sitting beside him, that he did not believe animals and fowls could talk, he at once said:

"Sure—roosters and gobblers can talk, one day there was a turkey hen and a lots of little turkeys scratching around a certain place on a hill, the little turkeys were heard to say, 'Please mam, please mam'. An old gobbler standing and strutting near, cried out, 'Get the hell out of here'. The turkey hen then moved to another place to feed."

He said that he gets out in his porch early in the mornings and whistles to the birds, and that soon a large flock of birds are all around him. Offering to demonstrate his ability, he began to whistle in a peculiar way. Soon thereafter, two or three English sparrows flew into the yard from nearby trees.

"See thar! See thar!" he said, pointing to them.

"When the war was over," he continued, "we stayed on at Marster's plantation for some time. I grew up, and was always a fellow who liked hard work. I have railroaded, was a tree doctor, helped dig wells and did a lot of hard work. The white people was always pleased with my work and told me so. I went down a well once to help clean it out. It looked like to me that well was caving in above me; so I hollered for them to pull me out. When I got out, I told them I wasn't going down no wells any more unless somebody threw me in."

He said that he had seen lots of wild turkeys when he was a boy. One day when he was going to get some "bacco" for his aunt, he saw a hen and a lot of little turkeys—

"I run after the little wild turkeys but I never kotched a one. That old mother hen would fly from one limb in a tree to another limb in another tree and call them. They was the runningest things I ever saw. I nearly run myself to death but I never did get one."

Every now and them, he said, one of the men on the plantation would shoot a wild hog and we would have plenty of meat to eat. The hogs ran wild in those days, he said.

"I never saw a ghost," he said, "unless it was one night when we boys was out with our dogs 'possum hunting. The dogs treed a possum in a little scrubby tree. I was
always a good climber; so I went up the tree to shake the 'possum out. I shook and shook but the 'possum would not fall out of the tree. I shook so hard that my hat fell off and I told the niggers not to let the dogs tear my hat. That was no skunk in the tree, 'cause we couldn't smell anything, but when I looked again at the 'possum, or whatever it was, it got bigger and bigger. I scrambled down the tree right away, nearly falling out of it, but I wanted to get away. The dogs acted kinda scared; yet they would run up to the tree and bark. One old dog I had did not bark, he just hollered. We left the thing in the tree. I don't know what it was, but it warn't no 'possum, for I'd shook it out of the tree if it had been."

In further discussing the subject of fowls in talking among themselves, he said that he had often noticed a rooster and some hens standing around in the shade talking.

"The rooster will say something and the hens will listen; then answer him back, 'yes'. One day I heard a turkey hen say, 'we are poor, we are poor'. The old turkey gobbler said, 'well, who in the hell can help it.' Yes sir, they talk just like we do, but 'taint everybody can understand 'em."

He said that he had fifteen children by his first wife. He remained single for thirteen years after his wife's death, and never had any children by his second wife.

"Do you reckon we'll ever get a pension in our old age?" he asked. "It seems to me they would give us old fellows something to live on, for we can't work. How can we live now-a-days? When a man has done good work when he was able, the country ought to take care of him in his old age.

"I was a hand for hard work all my life. I was raised that way; but now, that I can't do nothing, it looks like the state ought to take care of me.

"My father told me when I was sitting up to a gal and I told him I was gwinter marry her, 'Son don't you never cut that woman across the back, for as sure as you do, that cut will be against you on Judgement Day."

"When I was laid up with the misery in my side, my feet swelled up and busted, and I had a awful hurting in my side and back. People wanted me to believe I had been conjured, but I did not believe it, and I told them I would eat all the stuff that a conjure man could bring. Anybody that believes in conjuring is just a liar. God is the only a person who can bring suffering on people. He don't want to do it, but it's because we do something He don't want us to when He makes people suffer. It is the bugger man that does it."

"Uncle" Will said that his father and mother were married by a "jack-leg" preacher who, when told that they wanted to get married, had them both to jump backwards and forwards over a broom. He then told them that they were man and wife.

Source: Will Dill, 555 Pickenpack St., Spartanburg, S. C.
Interviewer: F. S. DuPre, Spartanburg, Dist. 4 5/19/37

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