Part 5 out of 5
attention of some swain from a distant plantation. In this case it was
necessary for their respective owners to consent to a union. Slaves on
the Folsom plantation were always married properly and quite often had a
"sizeable" wedding, the master and mistress often came and made merry
with their slaves.
Acie knew about the war because he was one of the slaves commandeered by
the Confederate army for hauling food and ammunition to different points
between Tallahassee and a city in Virginia that he is unable to
remember. It was a common occurrence for the soldiers to visit the
plantation owners and command a certain number of horses and slaves for
services such as Acie did.
He thinks that he might have been about 15 years old when he was freed.
A soldier in blue came to the plantation and brought a "document" that
Tom, their master read to all the slaves who had been summoned to the
"big house" for that purpose. About half of them consented to remain
with him. The others went away, glad of their new freedom. Few had made
any plans and were content to wander about the country, living as they
could. Some were more sober minded, and Acie's father was among the
latter. He remained on the Folsom place for a short while; he then
settled down to share-croping in Jefferson County. Their first year was
the hardest, because of the many adjustments that had to be made. Then
things became better. By means of hard work and the co-operation of
friendly whites the slaves in the section soon learned to shift for
Northerners came South "in swarms" and opened schools for the ex-slaves,
but Acie was not fortunate enough to get very far in his "blue back
Webster." There was too much work to be done and his father trying to
buy the land. Nor did he take an interest in the political meetings held
in the neighborhood. His parents shared with him the common belief that
such things were not to be shared by the humble. Some believed that "too
much book learning made the brain weak."
Acie met and married Keziah Wright, who was the daughter of a woman his
mother had known in slavery. Strangely enough they had never met as
children. With his wife he remained in Jefferson County, where nine of
their thirteen children were born.
With his family he moved to Jacksonville and had been living here "a
right good while" when the fire occurred in 1903. He was employed as a
city laborer and helped to build street car lines and pave streets. He
also helped with the installation of electric wiring in many parts of
the city. He was injured while working for the City of Jacksonville, but
claims that he was never in any manner remunerated for this injury.
Acie worked hard and accumulated land in the Moncrief section and lives
within a few feet of the spot where his house burned many years ago. He
was very sad as he pointed out this spot to his visitor. A few scraggly
hedges and an apple tree, a charred bit of fence, a chimney foundation
are the only markers of the home he built after years of a hard struggle
to have a home. His land is all gone except the scant five acres upon
which he lives, and this is only an expanse of broom straw. He is no
longer able to cultivate the land, not even having a kitchen garden.
Kaziah, the wife, died several years ago; likewise all the children,
except two. One of these, a girl, is "somewhere up Nawth". The son has
visited him twice in five years and seems never to have anything to give
the old man, who expresses himself as desiring much to "quit die
unfriendly world" since he has nothing to live for except a lot of dead
"All done left me now. Everything I got done gone--all 'cept Keziah. She
comes and visits me and we talk and walk over there where we uster and
set on the porch. She low she gwine steal ole Acie some of dese days in
the near future, and I'll be mighty glad to go ever yonder where all I
got is at."
1. Personal interview with Acie Thomas, Moncrief Road Jacksonville,
FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)
Martin Richardson, Field Worker
South Jacksonville, Florida
December 8, 1936
SHACK THOMAS, Centenarian
Beady-eyed, grey-whiskered, black little Shack Thomas sits in the sun in
front of his hut on the Old Saint Augustine Road about three miles south
of Jacksonville, 102 years old and full of humorous reminiscences about
most of those years. To his frequent visitors he relates tales of his
past, disjointedly sometimes but with a remarkable clearness and
The old ex-slave does not remember the exact time of his birth, except
that it was in the year 1834, "the day after the end of the Indian War."
He does not recall which of the Indian wars, but says that it was while
there were still many Indians in West Florida who were very hard for him
to understand when he got big enough to talk, to them.
He was born, he says on "a great big place that b'longed to Mister Jim
Campbell; I don't know just exactly how big, but there was a lot of us
working on it when I was a little fellow." The place was evidently one
of the plantations near Tallahassee; Thomas remembers that as soon as he
was large enough he helped his parents and others raise "corn, peanuts,
a little bit of cotton and potatoes. Squash just grew wild in the
woods; we used to eat them when we couldn't get anything else much."
The centennarian remembers his parents clearly; his mother was one Nancy
and his father's name was Adam. His father, he says, used to spend hours
after the candles were out telling him and his brothers about his
capture and subsequent slavery.
Adam was a native of the West Coast of Africa, and when quite a young
man was attracted one day to a large ship that had just come near his
home. With many others he was attracted aboard by bright red
handkerchiefs, shawls and other articles in the hands of the seamen.
Shortly afterwards he was securely bound in the hold of the ship, to be
later sold somewhere in America. Thomas does not know exactly where Adam
landed, but knows that his father had been in Florida many years before
his birth. "I guess that's why I can't stand red things now," he says;
"my pa hated the sight of it."
Thomas spent all of his enslaved years on the Campbell plantation, where
he describes pre-emancipation conditions as better than "he used to hear
they was on the other places." Campbell himself is described as
moderate, if not actually kindly. He did not permit his slaves to be
beaten to any great extent. "The most he would give us was a
'switching', and most of the time we could pray out of that."
"But sometimes he would get a hard man working for him, though," the old
man continues. "One of them used to 'buck and gag' us." This he
describes as a punishment used particularly with runaways, where the
slave would be gagged and tied in a squatting position and left in the
sun for hours. He claims to have seen other slaves suspended by their
thumbs for varying periods; he repeats, though, that these were not
During the years before "surrinder", Thomas saw much traffic in slaves,
he says. Each year around New Years, itinerant "speculators" would come
to his vicinity and either hold a public sale, or lead the slaves, tied
together, to the plantation for inspection or sale.
"A whole lot of times they wouldn't sell 'em, they'd just trade 'em like
they did horses. The man (plantation owner) would have a couple of old
women who couldn't do much any more, and he'd swap 'em to the other man
for a young 'un. I seen lots of 'em traded that way, and sold for money
Thomas recalls at least one Indian family that lived in his neighborhood
until he left it after the War. This family, he says, did not work, but
had a little place of their own. "They didn't have much to do with
nobody, though," he adds.
Others of his neighbors during these early years were abolition-minded
white residents of the area. These, he says would take in runaway slaves
and "either work 'em or hide 'em until they could try to get North."
When they'd get caught at it, though, they'd "take 'em to town and beat
'em like they would us, then take their places and run 'em out."
Later he came to know the "pu-trols" and the "refugees." Of the former,
he has only to say that they gave him a lot of trouble every time he
didn't have a pass to leave--"they only give me one twice a week,"--and
of the latter that it was they who induced the slaves of Campbell to
remain and finish their crop after the Emancipation, receiving
one-fourth of it for their share. He states that Campbell exceeded this
amount in the division later.
After 'surrinder' Thomas and his relatives remained on the Campbell
place, working for $5 a month, payable at each Christmas. He recalls how
rich he felt with this money, as compared with the other free Negroes in
the section. All of the children and his mother were paid this amount,
The old man remembers very clearly the customs that prevailed both
before and after his freedom. On the plantation, he says, they never
faced actual want of food, although his meals were plain. He ate mostly
corn meal and bacon, and squash and potatoes, he adds "and every now and
then we'd eat more than that." He doesn't recall exactly what, but says
it was "Oh, lots of greens and cabbage and syrul, and sometimes plenty
of meat too."
His mother and the other women were given white cotton--he thinks it may
have been duck--dresses "every now and then", he states, but none of the
women really had to confine themselves to white, "cause they'd dye 'em
as soon as they'd get 'em." For dye, he says they would boil wild
indigo, poke berries, walnuts and some tree for which he has an
Campbell's slaves did not have to go barefoot--not during the colder
months, anyway. As soon as winter would come, each one of them was given
a pair of bright, untanned leather "brogans," that would be the envy of
the vicinity. Soap for the slaves was made by the women of the
plantation; by burning cockle-burrs, blackjack wood and other materials,
then adding the accumulated fat of the past few weeks. For light they
were given tallow candles. Asked if there was any certain time to put
the candles out at night, Thomas answers that "Mr. Campbell didn't care
how late you stayed up at night, just so you was ready to work at
The ex-slave doesn't remember any feathers in the covering for his
pallet in the corner of his cabin, but says that Mr. Campbell always
provided the slaves with blankets and the women with quilts.
By the time he was given his freedom, Thomas had learned several trades
in addition to farming; one of them was carpentry. When he eventually
left his $5 a month job with his master, he began travelling over the
state, a practice he has not discontinued until the present. He worked,
he says, "in such towns as Perry, Sarasota, Clearwater and every town in
Florida down to where the ocean goes under the bridge." (Probably Key
He came to Jacksonville about what he believes to be half a century ago.
He remembers that it was "ever so long before the fire" (1901) and "way
back there when there wasn't but three families over here in South
Jacksonville: the Sahds, the Hendricks and the Oaks. I worked for all of
them, but I worked for Mr. Bowden the longest."
The reference is to R.L. Bowden, whom Thomas claims as one of his first
employers in this section.
The old man has 22 children, the eldest of those living, looking older
than Thomas himself. This "child" is fifty-odd years. He has been
married three times, and lives now with his 50 year old wife.
In front of his shack is a huge, spreading oak tree. He says that there
were three of them that he and his wife tended when they first moved to
Jacksonville. "That one there was so little that I used to trim it with
my pocket-knife," he states. The tree he mentioned is now about
two-and-a-half feet in diameter.
"Right after my first wife died, one of them trees withered," the old
man tells you. "I did all I could to save the other one, but pretty soon
it was gone too. I guess this other one is waiting for me," he laughs,
and points to the remaining oak.
Thomas protests that his health is excellent, except for "just a little
haze that comes over my eyes, and I can't see so good." He claims that
he has no physical aches and pains. Despite the more than a century his
voice is lively and his hearing fair, and his desire for travel still
very much alive. When interviewed he had just completed a trip to a
daughter in Clearwater, and "would have gone farther than that, but my
son wouldn't send me no fare like he promised!"
1. Interview with subject, Shack Thomas, living on Old Saint Augustine
Road, South Jacksonville, Florida
FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)
Rachel A. Austin
November 30, 1936
LUKE TOWNS, A Centenarian
Luke Towns, a centenarian, now residing at 1335 West Eighth Street,
Jacksonville, Florida, was the ninth child born to Maria and Like Towns,
slaves, December 34, 1835, in a village in Tolberton County, Georgia.
Mr. Town's parents were owned by Governor Towns, whose name was taken by
all the children born on the plantation; he states that he was placed on
the public blocks for sale, and was purchased by a Mr. Mormon. At the
marriage of Mr. Mormon's daughter, Sarah, according to custom, he was
given to this daughter as a wedding present, and thus became the slave
and took the name of the Gulleys and lived with them until he became a
young man at Smithville, Georgia, in Lee County.
His chief work was that of carrying water, wood and working around the
house when a youngster; often, he states he would hide in the woods to
keep from working.
Because his mother was a child-bearing woman, she did not know the hard
labors of slavery, but had a small patch of cotton and a garden near the
house to care for. "All of the others worked hard," said he "but had
kind masters who fed them well." When asked if his mother were a
christian, he replied "why yes: indeed she was, and believed in prayer;
one day as she traveled from her patch home, just as she was about to
let the 'gap' (this was a fence built to keep the hogs and horses shut
in) down, she knelt to pray and a light appeared before her and from
that time on she did not believe in any fogyism, but in God."
"I cannot remember much now," he says, "of what happened in slavery, but
after slavery we went back to the name of Towns. I know I got some
whippings and during the war my job was that of carrying the master's
After the war he went to Albany, Georgia and began working for himself,
hauling salt from Albany to Tallahassee, Florida; this salt was sold to
the stores. His next job was that of sampling cotton.
Just before he was 30 years old he was married to Mary Julia Coats, who
lived near Albany, Georgia. To them were born the following children:
Willie, George, Alexander, Henry Hillsman, Ella Louise, and
twins--Walter Luke and Mary Julia, who were named for the parents.
He was converted to the Baptist faith when his first child was born;
there were no churches, but services were held in the blacksmith shop on
the corner of Jackson and State Streets. Later he became a member of
Mount Zion Baptist Church Albany, Georgia, and served there for 50
years as a deacon.
He remained in Georgia until 1899 when he moved to Tampa, Florida and
there he operated a cafe. He joined Beulah Baptist Church and served as
deacon there until he sold his business and came to Jacksonville, 1917,
to live with his youngest daughter, Mrs. Mary Houston, because he was
too old to operate a business. In Jacksonville he connected himself with
the Bethel Baptist Church, and while too old to serve as an active
deacon, he was placed on the honorary list because of his previous
record of church service.
As a relic of pre-freedom days, Mr. Towns has a piece of paper money and
a one-cent piece which he keeps securely looked in his trunk and allows
no one to open the trunk; he keeps the key.
Mr. Towns, who will celebrate his one-hundred-first birthday, December
24, 1936, is not able to coherently relate incidents of the past; he
hears but little and that with great difficulty.
He says he has his second eyesight; he reads without the use of glasses;
until very recently he has been very active in mind and body, having
registered in the Spring of 1936, signing his own name on the
registration books. He has almost all of his hair, which is thick,
silvery white and of artist length. He has most of his teeth, walks
without a cane except when painful; dresses himself without assistance.
Mr. Towns rises at six o'clock each morning, often earlier. Makes his
bed (he has never allowed anyone to make his bed for him) and because it
is still dark has to lie across the bed to await the breaking of day.
His health is very good and his appetite strong.
Upon the occasion of his one-hundredth birthday, December 24, 1935, his
daughter Mrs. Houston gave him a child's party and invited one hundred
guest; one hundred stockings were made, filled with fruits, nuts and
candies and one given each guest. A huge cake with one hundred candles
adorned the table and during the party, he cut the cake. At this party,
he showed all the joys and pleasures of a child. His other daughter Mrs.
E.L. McMillan, of New York City, and son, Mr. George Towns, for years an
instructor in Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia, were present for the
Mr. Towns has been noted during his lifetime for having a remarkable
memory and has many times publicly delivered orations from many of
Shakespeare's works. His memory began failing him in 1936.
He is very well educated and now spends most of his time sitting on the
porch reading the Bible. (2)
1. Luke Towns, 1225 West Eighth Street, Jacksonville, Florida
2. Mary Houston, daughter of Luke Towns, 1225 West Eighth Street
FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)
Viola B. Muse
March 20, 1937
Willis Williams of 1025 Iverson Street, Jacksonville, Florida, was born
at Tallahassee, Florida, September 15, 1856. He was the son of Ransom
and Wilhemina Williams, who belonged during the period of slavery to
Thomas Heyward, a rich merchant of Tallahassee. Willis does not know the
names of his paternal grandparents but remembers his maternal
grandmother was Rachel Fitzgiles, who came down to visit the family
after the Civil War.
Thomas Heyward, the master, owned a plantation out in the country from
Tallahassee and kept slaves out there; he also owned a fine home in the
city as well as a large grocery store and produce house.
Willis' mother, Wilhemina, was the cook at the town house and his
father, Williams, did carpentry and other light work around the place.
He does not remember how his father learned the trade, but presumes that
Mr. Heyward put him under a white carpenter until he had learned. The
first he remembers of his father was that he did carpentry work.
At the time Willis was born and during his early life, even rich people
like Mr. Heyward did not have cook stoves. They knew nothing of such.
The only means of cooking was by fireplace, which, as he remembers, was
wide with an iron rod across it. To the rod a large iron pot was
suspended and in it food was cooked. An iron skillet with a lid was used
for baking and it also was used to cook meats and other food. The
common name for the utensil was 'spider' and every home had one.
Willis fared well during the first nine years of his life which were
spent in slavery. To him it was the same as freedom for he was not a
victim of any unpleasant experiences as related by some other ex-slaves.
He played base ball and looked after his younger brothers and sister
while his mother was in the kitchen. He was never flogged but received
chastisement once from the father of Mr. Heyward. That, he related, was
light and not nearly so severe as many parents give their children
Wilhemina, his mother, and the cook, saw to it that her children were
well fed. They were fed right from the master's table, so to speak. They
did not sit to the table with the master and his family, but ate the
same kind of food that was served them.
Cornbread was baked in the Heyward kitchen but biscuits also were baked
twice daily and the Negroes were allowed to eat as many as they wished.
The dishes were made of tin and the drinking vessels were made from
gourds. Few white people had china dishes and when they did possess them
they were highly prized and great care was taken of them.
The few other slaves which Mr. Heyward kept around the town house tended
the garden and the many chickens, ducks and geese on the place. The
garden afforded all of the vegetables necessary for feeding Master
Heyward, his family and slaves. He did not object to the slaves eating
chicken and green vegetables and sent provisions of all kinds from his
store to boot.
Although Mr. Heyward was wealthy there were many things he could not buy
for Tallahassee did not afford them. Willis remembers that candles were
mostly used for light. Home-made tallow was used in making them. The
moulds, which were made of wood, were of the correct size. Cotton string
twisted right from the raw cotton was cut into desired length and placed
in the moulds first, then heated tallow was poured in until they were
filled. The tallow was allowed to set and cool, then they were removed,
ready for use.
In those days coffee was very expensive and a substitute for it was made
from parched corn. The whites used it as well as the slaves.
Willis remembers a man named Pierce who cured cow hides. He used to buy
them and one time Willis skinned a cow and took the hide to him and sold
it. Sixty-five and seventy years ago everyone used horses or mules and
they had to have shoes. The blacksmith wore leather aprons and the
horses and mules wore leather collars. No one knew anything about
composition leather for making shoes so the tanning of hides was a
Clothing, during Civil War days and early Reconstruction, was simple as
compared to present day togs. Cloth woven from homespun thread was the
only kind Negroes had. Every house of any note could boast of a spinning
wheel and loom. Cotton, picked by slaves, was cleared of the seed and
spun into thread and woven into cloth by them. It was common to know how
to spin and weave. Some of the cloth was dyed afterwards with dye made
from indigo and polk berries. Some was used in its natural color.
Cotton was the main product of most southern plantations and the owner
usually depended upon the income from the sale of his yearly crop to
maintain his home and upkeep of his slaves and cattle. It was necessary
for every farm to yield as much as possible and much energy was directed
toward growing and picking large crops. Although Mr. Heyward was a
successful merchant, he did not lose sight of the fact that his country
property could yield a bountiful supply of cotton, corn and tobacco.
Around the town house Mr. Heyward maintained an atmosphere of home life.
He wanted his family and his servants well cared for and spared no
expense in making life happy.
As Willis remembers the beds were made of Florida moss and feathers.
Boards ware laid across for slats and the mattress placed upon the
boards. On top of the moss mattress a feather one was placed which made
sleeping very comfortable. In summer the feather mattress was often
removed, sunned, aired and replaced in winter. Goose and the downy
feathers of chickens were saved and stored in large bags until enough
were collected for a mattress and it was considered a prize to possess
Every family of note boasted the ownership of a horse and buggy or
several of each. The kind most popular during Willis' boyhood was the
one-seated affair with a short wagon-like bed in the rear of the seat.
Sometimes two seats were used. The seats were removable and could be
used for carrying baggage or other light weights. The brougham, surrey
and landam were unknown to Willis.
Before the Civil War and during the time the great struggle was in full
swing, women wore hoop skirts, very full, held out with metal hoops.
Pantaloons were worn beneath them and around the ankle where they were
gathered very closely, a ruffle edged with a narrow lace, finished them
off. The waist was tight fitting basque and sleeves which could be worn
long or to elbow, were very full. Women also wore their hair high up on
their heads with frills around the face. Negro women, right after
slavery, fell into imitating their former mistresses and many of them
who were fortunate enough to get employment used part of their earnings
for at least one good dress. It was usually made of woolen a yard wide,
Money has undergone a change as rapidly as some other commonplace
things. In Willis' early life, money valued at less than one dollar was
made of paper just as the dollar, five dollar or ten dollar bills were.
There was a difference however, in the paper representing 'change' and
not as much care was taken in protecting it from being imitated. The
paper money used for change was called "shin plasters" and much of it
flooded the southland during Civil War days.
Mr. Heyward did not enlist in the army to help protect the south's
demise but his eldest son, Charlie, went. His younger son was not old
enough to go. Willis stated that Mr. Heyward did not go because he was
in business and was needed at home to look after it. It is not known
whether Charlie was killed at war or not, but, Willis said he did not
return home at the close of war.
When the news of freedom came to Thomas Heyward's town slaves it was
brought by McCook's Cavalry. Willis remembers the uniforms worn by the
northerners was dark blue with brass buttons and the Confederates wore
gray. After the cavalry reached Tallahassee, they separated into
sections, each division taking a different part of the town. Negroes of
the household were called together and were informed of their freedom.
It is remembered by Willis that the slaves were jubilant but not
Mr. Heyward was dealt a hard blow during the war; his store was
confiscated and used as a commissary by the northern army. When the war
ended he was deprived of his slaves and a great portion of his former
wealth vanished with their going.
The loss of his wealth and slaves did not bitter Mr. Heyward; to the
contrary, he was as kindhearted as in days past.
McCook's Cavalry did not remain in Tallahassee very long and was
replaced by a colored company; the 99th Infantry. Their duty was to
maintain order within the town. An orchestra was with the outfit and
Willis remembers that they were very good musicians. A Negro who had
been the slave of a man of Tallahassee was a member of the orchestra.
His name was Singleton and his former master invited the orchestra to
come to his house and play for the family. The Negroes were glad to
render service, went, and after that entertained many white families in
The southern soldiers who returned after the war appeared to receive
their defeat as good 'sports' and not as much friction between the races
existed as would be imagined. The ex-slave, while he was glad to be
free, wanted to be sheltered under the 'wings' of his former master and
mistress. In most cases they were hired by their former owners and peace
reigned around the home or plantation. This was true of Tallahassee, if
not of other sections of the south.
Soon after the smoke of the cannons had died down and people began
thinking of the future, the Negroes turned their thoughts toward
education. They grasped every opportunity to learn to read and write.
Schools were fostered by northern white capitalists and white women were
sent into the southland to teach the colored boys and girls to read,
write and figure. Any Negro who had been fortunate enough to gain some
knowledge during slavery could get a position as school teacher. As a
result many poorly prepared persons entered the school room as tutor.
William Williams, Willis' father, found work at the old Florida Central
and Peninsular Railroad yards and worked for many years there. He sent
his children to school and Willis advanced rapidly.
During slavery Negroes attended church, sat in the balcony, and very
often log churches were built for them. Meetings were held under "bush
harbors." After the war frame and log churches served them as places of
worship. These buildings were erected by whites who came into the
southland to help the ex-slave. Negro men who claimed God had called
them to preach served as ministers of most of the Negro churches but
often white preachers visited them and instructed them concerning the
Bible and what God wanted them to do. Services were conducted three
times a day on Sunday, morning at eleven, in afternoon about three and
at night at eight o'clock.
The manner of worship was very much in keeping with present day modes.
Preachers appealed to the emotions of the 'flock' and the congregation
responded with "amens," "halleluia," clapping of hands, shouting and
screaming. Willis remarked to one white man during his early life, that
he wondered why the people yelled so loudly and the man replied that in
fifty years hence the Negroes would be educated, know better and would
not do that. He further replied that fifty years ago the white people
screamed and shouted that way. Willis wonders now when he sees both
white and colored people responding to preaching in much the same way as
in his early life if education has made much difference in many cases.
Much superstition and ignorance existed among the Negroes during slavery
and early reconstruction. Some wore bags of sulphur saying they would
keep away disease. Some wore bags of salt and charcoal believing that
evil spirits would be kept away from them. Others wore a silver coin in
their shoes and some made holes in the coin, threaded a string through
it, attached it to the ankle so that no one could conjure them. Some who
thought an enemy might sprinkle "goofer dust" around their door steps
swept very clean around the door step in the evening and allowed no one
to come in afterwards.
The Negro men who spent much time around the "grannies" during slavery
learned much about herbs and roots and how they were used to cure all
manner of ills, the doctor gave practically the same kind of medicine
for most ailments. The white doctors at that time had not been schooled
to a great extent and carried medicine bags around to the sick room
which contained pills and a very few other kinds of medicines which they
had made from herbs and roots. Some of them are used to-day but Willis
said most of their medicines were pills.
Ten years after the Civil War Willis Williams had advanced in his
studies to the extent that he passed the government examination and
became a railway mail clerk. He ran from Tallahassee to Palatka and
River Junction on the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad. There was
no other railroad going into Tallahassee then.
The first Negro railway mail clerk according to Willis' knowledge
running from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, was Benjamin F. Cox. The first
colored mail clerk in the Jacksonville Post Office was Camp Hughes. He
was sent to prison for rifling the mail. Willis Myers succeeded Hughes
and Willis Williams succeeded Myers. Willis received a telegram to come
to Jacksonville to take Myers' place and when he came expected to stay
three or four days, but, after getting here was retained permanently and
remained in the service until his retirement.
His first run from Tallahassee to Palatka and River Junction began in
1875 and lasted until 1879. In 1879 he was called to Jacksonville to
succeed Myers and when he retired forty years later, had filled the
position creditably, therefore was retired on a pension which he will
receive until his death.
Willis Williams is in good health, attends Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal
Church of which he is a member. He possesses all of his faculties and is
able to carry on an intelligent conversation on his fifty years in
FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)
James Johnson, Field Worker
Lake City, Florida
November 6, 1936
CLAUDE AUGUSTA WILSON
In 1857 on the plantation of Tom Dexter in Lake City, Columbia County,
Florida, was born a Negro, Claude Augusta Wilson, of slave parents. His
master Tom Dexter was very kind to his slaves, and was said to have been
a Yankee. His wife Mary Ann Dexter, a southerner, was the direct
opposite, she was very mean. Claude was eight years old when
The Dexter plantation was quite a large place, covering 100 or more
acres. There were about 100 slaves, including children. They had regular
one room quarters built of logs which was quite insignificant in
comparison with the palatial Dexter mansion. The slaves would arise
early each morning, being awakened by a "driver" who was a white man,
and by "sun-up" would be at their respective tasks in the fields. All
day they worked, stopping at noon to get a bite to eat, which they
carried on the fields from their cabins.
At "sun-down" they would quit work and return to their cabins, prepare
their meals and gossip from cabin to cabin. Finally retiring to await
the dawn of a new day which signalled a return to their routine duties.
At Sundays they would gather at a poorly constructed frame building
which was known as the "Meeting House," In this building they would give
praise and thanks to their God. The rest of the day was spent in
relaxation as this was the only day of the week in which they were not
forced to work.
Claude Augusta worked in the fields, his mother and sister worked in the
Dexter mansion. Their duties were general house work, cooking and
sewing. His Mother was very rebellious toward her duties and constantly
harrassed the "Missus" about letting her work in the fields with her
husband until finally she was permitted to make the change from the
house to the fields to be near her man.
The "missus" taught Claude's sister to sew and to the present day most
of her female descendants have some ability in dress making.
The mansion was furnished with the latest furniture of the tine, but the
slave quarters had only the cheapest and barest necessities. His mother
had no stove but cooked in the fire place using a skillet and spider
(skillet, a small metal vessel with handle used for cooking; spider, a
kind of frying pan, Winston's Simplified Dictionary, 1924). The cooking
was not done directly on the coals in the fire place but placed on the
hearth and hot coals pulled around them, more coals being pulled about
until the food was cooked as desired. Corn bread, beans, sweet potatoes
(Irish potatoes being unknown) and collard greens were the principal
foods eaten. Corn bread was made as it is today, only cooked
differently. The corn meal after being mixed was wrapped in tannion
leaves (elephant ears) and placed in hot coals. The leaves would parch
to a crisp and when the bread was removed it was a beautiful brown and
unburned. Sweet potatoes were roasted in the hot coals. Corn was often
roasted in the shucks. There was a substitute for coffee that afforded a
striking similarity in taste. The husks of the grains of corn were
parched, hot water was then poured in this, the result was a pleasant
liquid substitute for coffee. These was another bread used as a desert,
known as potato bread, made by tailing potatoes until done, then
mashing, adding grease and meal, this was baked and then it was ready to
serve. For lights, candles were made of tallow which was poured into a
mould when hot. A cord was run through the center of the candle
impression in the mould in which the tallow was poured, when this cooled
the candle with cord was all ready for lighting.
The only means of obtaining water was from an open well. No ice was
used. The first ice that Claude ever saw in its regular form was in
Jacksonville after Emancipation. This ice was naturally frozen and
shipped from the north to be sold. It was called Lake Ice.
Tanning and curing pig and cow hides was done, but Claude never saw the
process performed during slavery. Claude had no special duties on the
plantation on account of his youth. After cotton was picked from the
fields the seeds were picked out by hand, the cotton was then carded for
further use. The cotton seed was used as fertilizer. In baling cotton
burlap bags were used on the bales. The soap used was made from taking
hickory or oak wood and burning it to ashes. The ashes were placed in a
tub and water poured over them. This was left to set. After setting for
a certain time the water from the ashes was poured into a pot containing
grease. This was boiled for a certain time and then left to cool. The
result was a pot full of soft substance varying in color from white to
yellow, this was called lye soap. This was then cut into bars as desired
For dyeing thread and cloth, red oak bark, sweet gum bark and shoe make
roots were boiled in water. The wash tubs were large wooden tubs having
one handle with holes in it for the fingers. Chicken and goose feathers
were always carefully saved to make feather mattresses. Claude remembers
when women wore hoop skirts. He was about 20 years of age when narrow
skirts became fashionable for women. During slavery the family only used
slats on the beds, it was after the war that he saw his first spring bed
and at that tine the first buggy. This buggy was driven by ex-governor
Reid of Florida who then lived in South Jacksonville. It was a
four-wheeled affair drawn by a horse and looked sensible and natural as
The paper money in circulation was called "shin plasters." Claude's
uncle, Mark Clark joined the Northern Army. His master did not go to war
but remained on the plantation. One day at noon during the war the gin
house was seen to be afire, one of the slaves rushed in and found the
master badly burned and writhing in pain. He was taken from the building
and given first aid, but his body being burned in oil and so badly
burned it burst open, thus ended the life of the kindly master of
The soldiers of the southern Army wore gray uniforms with gray caps and
the soldiers of the Northern Army wore blue.
After the war such medicines as castor oil, rhubarb, colomel and blue
mass and salts were generally used. The Civil War raged for some tine
and the slaves on Dexter's plantation prayed for victory of the Northern
Army, though they dared not show their anxiety to Mary Ann Dexter who
was master and mistress since the master's death. Claude and his family
remained with the Dexters until peace was declared. Mrs. Dexter informed
the slaves thay they could stay with her if they so desired and that she
would furnish everything to cultivate the crops and that she would give
them half of what was raised. None of the slaves remained but all were
anxious to see what freedom was like.
Claude recalls that a six-mule team drove up to the house driven by a
colored Union soldier. He helped move the household furniture from their
cabin into the wagon. The family then got in, some in the seat with the
driver, and others in back of the wagon with the furniture. When the
driver pulled off he said to Claude's mother who was sitting on the seat
with him, "Doan you know you is free now?" "Yeh Sir," she answered, "I
been praying for dis a long time." "Come on den les go," he answered,
and drove off. They passed through Olustee, then Sanderson, Macclenny
and finally Baldwin. It was raining and they were about 20 miles from
their destination, Jacksonville, but they drove on. They reached
Jacksonville and were taken to a house that stood on Liberty street,
near Adams. White people had been living there but had left before the
Northern advance. There they unloaded and were told that this would be
their new home. The town was full of colored soldiers all armed with
muskets. Horns and drums could be heard beating and blowing every
morning and evening. The colored soldiers appeared to rule the town.
More slaves were brought in and there they were given food by the
Government which consisted of hard tack (bread reddish in appearance and
extremely hard which had to be soaked in water before eating.) The meat
was known as "salt horse." This looked and tasted somewhat like corned
beef. After being in Jacksonville a short while Claude began to peddle
ginger bread and apples in a little basket, selling most of his wares to
the colored soldiers.
His father got employment with a railroad company in Jacksonville, known
as the Florida Central Railway and received 99c a day, which was
considered very good pay. His mother got a job with a family as house
woman at a salary of eight dollars a month. They were thus considered
getting along fine. They remained in the house where the Government
placed them for about a year, then his father bought a piece of land in
town and built a house of straight boards. There they resided until his
By this time many of the white people began to return to their homes
which had been abandoned and in which slaves found shelter. In many
instances the whites had to make monetary or other concessions in order
to get their homes back. It was said that colored people had taken
possession of one of the large white churches of the day, located on
Logon street, between Ashley and Church streets. Claude relates that all
this was when Jacksonville was a mere village, with cow and hog pens in
what was considered as downtown. The principal streets were: Pine (now
Main), Market and Forsyth. The leading stores were Wilson's and Clark's.
These stores handled groceries, dry goods and whisky.
As a means of transportation two-wheeled drays were used, mule or
horse-drawn cars, which was to come into use later were not operating at
that time. To cross the Saint Johns River one had to go in a row boat,
which was the only ferry and was operated by the ex-governor Reid of
Florida. It docked on the north side of the river at the foot of Ocean
Street, and on the south side at the foot of old Kings Road. It ran
between these two points, carrying passengers to and fro.
The leading white families living in Jacksonville at that time were the
Hartridges, Bostwicks, Doggetts, Bayels and L'Engles.
Claude Augusta Wilson, a man along in years has lived to see many
changes take place among his people since The Emancipation which he is
proud of. A peaceful old gentleman he is, still alert mentally and
physically despite his 79 years. His youthful appearance belies his age.
1. Personal interview with Claude Augusta Wilson, Sunbeam, Florida
FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
June 30, 1938
DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA EX-SLAVE STORIES
Charley Roberts of Perrine, Florida, was born on the Hogg plantation
near Allendale, S.C.
"Yes, sah, I' members de vary day when we first heard that we was free.
I was mindin' the little calf, keepin' it away from the cow while my
mother was milkin'.
"We have to milk the cows and carry the milk to the Confederate soldiers
quartered near us.
"At that time, I can 'member of the soldiers comin' 'cross the Savannah
River. They would go to the plantations and take all the cows, hogs,
sheep, or horses they wanted and "stack" their guns and stay around some
places and kill some of the stock, or use the milk and eat corn and all
the food they wanted as they needed it. They'd take quilts and just
anything they needed.
"I don't know why, but I remember we didn't have salt given to us, so we
went to the smoke house where there were clean boards on the floor where
the salt and grease drippings would fall from the smoked hams hanging
from the rafters. The boards would be soft and soaked with salt and
grease. Well, we took those boards and cooked the salt and fat out of
them, cooked the boards right in the bean soup. That way we got salt and
the soup was good.
"They used to give us rinds off the hams. I was a big boy before I ever
knew there was anything but rinds a pork meat. We went around chewing
away at those rinds of hams, and we sure liked them. We thought that was
the best meat there was.
"I used to go to the Baptist church in the woods, but I never went to
school. I learned to read out of McGuffey's speller. It was a little
book with a blue back. I won't forget that.
"I try to be as good as I know how. I've never given the state any
trouble, nor any of my sons have been arrested. I tries to follow the
Golden Rule and do right.
"I have seven living children. We moved to Miami when our daughter moved
here and took sick. We live at Perrine now, but we want to come to
Miami, 'cause I aint able to work, but my wife, she is younger and able
to work. We don't want to go on charity any more'n we have to."
Jennie Colder was born in Georgia on Blatches' settlement. "Blatches, he
kep's big hotel, too and he kep' "right smart" slaves. By the time I was
old enough to remember anything we was all' free, but we worked hard. My
father and mother died on the settlement.
"I picked cotton, shucked cotton, pulled fodder and corn and done all
dat. I plowed with mules. Dis is Jennie Colder, remember dat. Don't
forget it. I done all dat. I plowed with mules and even then the
overseer whipped me. I dont know exactly how old I am, but I was born
Banana Williams, 1740 N.W. 5th Court, Miami, Florida was born in Grady
County, Georgia, near Cairo in the 16th District.
"The man what I belonged to was name Mr. Sacks. My mother and father
lived there. I was only about three years old when peace came, but I
remember when the paddle rollers came there and whipped a man and woman.
"I was awful 'fraid, for that was somethin' I nevah see before. We
"stayed on" but we left before I was old enough to work, but I did work
in the fields in Mitchell County.
"I came to Miami and raised 5 children. I'm staying with my daughter,
but I'm not able to work much. I'm too done played out with old age."
Frank Bates, 367 N.W. 10th Street, Miami, Florida was born on Hugh Lee
Bates' farm in Alabama in the country not very far from Mulberry Beat.
"My mother and father lived on the same plantation, but I was too little
to do more than tote water to the servants in the fields.
"I saw Old Bates whip my mother once for leaving her finger print in the
pone bread when she patted it down before she put it into the oven.
"I remember seeing Lundra, Oscar and Luke Bates go off to war on three
fine horses. I dont know whether they ever came back or not, for we
moved that same day."
William Neighten gave his address as 60th Street, Liberty City. He was
only a baby when freedom came, but he too, "stayed on" a long time
He did not know his real name, but he was given his Massy's name.
"Don't ask me how much work I had to do. Gracious! I used to plow and
hoed a lot and everything else and then did'nt do enough. I got too many
Rivana Williams Boynton [TR: as in earlier interview, but Riviana,
above] was born on John and Mollie Hoover's plantation near Ulmers,
S.C., being 15 years of age when the 'Mancipation came.
"Our Boss man, he had "planty" of slaves. We lived in a log houses. My
father was an Indian and he ran away to war, but I don't 'member
anything of my mother. She was sold and taken away 'fore I ever knew
anything of her.
"I 'member that I had to thin cotton in the fields and mind the flies in
the house. I had a leafy branch that was cut from a tree. I'd stand and
wave that branch over the table to keep the flies out of the food.
"I'd work like that in the day time and at night I'd sleep in my uncle's
shed. We had long bunks along the side of the walls. We had no beds,
just gunny sacks nailed to the bunks, no slats, no springs, no nothing
else. You know how these here sortin' trays are made,--these here trays
that they use to sort oranges and 'matoes. Well, we had to sleep on gunn
"They had weavin' looms where they made rugs and things. I used to holp
'em tear rags and sew 'em an' make big balls and then they'd weave those
rugs,--rag rugs, you know. That's what we had to cover ourselves with.
We didn't had no quilts nor sheets not nothin like that."
[TR: The following portion of this interview is a near repeat of a
portion of an earlier interview with this informant; however it is
included here because the transcription varies.]
"I 'member well when the war was on. I used to turn the corn sheller and
sack the shelled corn for the Confederate soldiers. They used to sell
some of the corn, and I guess they gave some of it to the soldiers.
Anyway the Yankees got some that they didn't intend them to get.
"It was this way:
"The Wheeler Boys were Confederates. They came down the road as happy as
could be, a-singin':
'Hurrah! Hur rah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! for the Broke Brook boys.
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah for the Broke Brook boys of South Car-o-li-ne-ah.'
"So of course, we thought they were our soldiers singin' our songs.
Well, they came and tol' our boss that the Yankees were coming and we
had better hide our food and valuable things for they'd take everything
"So they helped our Massy hide the things. They dug holes and buried the
potatoes and covered them over with cotton seed. Then our Massy gave
them food for their kindness and set out with two of the girls to take
them to a place of safety, and before he could come back for the Missus
The Yankees were upon us.
"But before they got there, our Missus had called us together and told
us what to say.
"Now you beg for us! You can save our lives. If they ask you if we are
good to you, you tell them, 'YES'!
"If they ask you, if we give your meat, you tell them 'YES'!
"Now the rest didn't get any meat, but I did 'cause I worked in the
house, so I didn't tell a lie, for I did get meat, but the rest didn't
"We saw the Yankees coming. They never stopped for nothing. Their horses
would jump the worn rail fences and they'd come right across the fiel's
"They came to the house first and bound our Missus up stairs so she
couldn't get away, then they came out to the sheds and asked us all kind
"We begged for our Missus and we say:
'Our Missus is good. Don't kill her!
'Dont take our meat away from us!
'Dont hurt our Missus!
'Dont burn the house down!
[TR: The rest of the interview is new information.]
"We begged so hard that they unloosened her, but they took some of the
others for refugees and some of the slaves volunteered and went off with
"They took potatoes and all the hams they wanted, but they left our
Missus, 'cause me save her life.
"The Uncle what I libbed with, he was awful full of all kinds of
devilment. He stole sweet taters out of the bank. He called them "pot"
roots and sometimes he called them "blow horts". You know they wuld blow
up big and fat when they were roasted in the ashes.
"My uncle, he liked those blow horts mighty well, and one day, when he
had some baked in the fireplace, Ole Massy Hoover, he came along and
peeked in through the "hold" in de chimley wall, where the stones didn't
fit too good.
"He stood there and peeked in an' saw my uncle eat in' those blow
horts. He had a big long one shakin' the ashes off on it. He was blowing
it to cool it off so he could eat it and he was a-sayin'
"'Um! does blowhorts is mighty good eatin'. Then Massy, he come in wid
his big whip, and caught him and tied him to a tree and paddled him
until he blistered and then washed his sore back with strong salt water.
You know they used to use salt for all of sores, but it sho' did smart.
"My aunt, she was an Indian woman. She didn't want my uncle to steal,
but he was just full of all kind of devilment.
"My Massy liked him, but one day he played a trick on him.
"My Uncle took sick, he was so sick that when my Massy came to see him,
he asked him to pray that he should die. So Massy Hoover, he went home
and wrapped himself up in a big long sheet and rapped on the door real
"Uncle, he say, 'who's out there? What you want?'
"Massy, he change his voice and say, 'I am Death. I hear that you want
to die, so I've come after your soul. Com with me! Get ready. Quick I am
in a hurry!'
"'Oh, my sakes!' my uncle, he say, 'NO, no I aint ready yet. I aint ready
to meet you. I don't want to die.'
"My Missus whipped me once, but not so very hard. I was under Her
daughter, Miss Mollie. She liked me and always called me "Tinker". When
she heard me crying and goin' on, she called:
"'Tinker, come here. What's the matter? Did you Missus whip you?'
"Then my Missus said, 'Tinker was a bad girl, I told her to sweep the
yard and she went off and hid all day.'
"Mollie, she took me up in her arms and said, 'They mustn't whip
Tinker; she's my little girl.'
"If it hadn't been for Miss Mollie, I don't know where I'd be now. I
married right after freedom. My husband, Alexander Boynton and I stayed
right on the plantation and farmed on the shares.
"We had planty of children,--18 in all.--three sets of twins. They all
grew up, except the twins, they didn't any of them get old enough to get
married, but all the rest lived and raised children.
"They are all scattered around, but my youngest son is only 38 years
old. I have grand-children, 40 years old.
"I don't know just how many, but I have 20 grand-children and I have
three generations of grand-children. Yes, my grand-children, some of
them, have grand-children. That makes five generations.
"I tell them that I am a "gitzy, gitzy" grand-mother."
"I live right here with my daughter. She's my baby girl. I'm not very
strong anymore, but I have a big time telling stories to my
great-grand-children and great-great-grand children".
Salena Taswell, 364 NW 8th St. Miami, Florida, is one of the oldest
ex-slave women in Miami. Like most ex-slaves she is very courteous; she
will talk about the "old times", if she has once gained confidence in
you, but her answers will be so laconic that two or three visits are
necessary in order for an interviewer to gain tangible information
without appearing too proddish.
With short, measured step, bent form, unsteady head, wearing a beaming
smile, Salena takes the floor.
"Ole Dr. Jameson, he wuz my Massy. He had a plantation three mile from
Perry, Georgia. I can 'member whole lots about working for them. Y' see
I was growned up when peace came.
"My mother used to be a seamstress and sewed with her fingers all the
time. She made the finest kind of stitches while I worked around de
table or did any other kind of house work.
"I knowed de time when Ab'ram Linkum come to de plantation. He come
through there on the train and stopped over night oncet. He was known by
Dr. Jameson and he came to Perry to see about the food for the soldiers.
"We all had part in intertainin' him. Some shined his shoes, some cooked
for him, an' I waited on de table, I can't forget that. We had chicken
hash and batter cakes and dried venison that day. You be sure we knowed
he was our friend and we catched what he had t' say. Now, he said this:
(I never forget that 'slong as I live) 'If they free de people, I'll
bring you back into the Union' (To Dr. Jameson) 'If you don't free your
slaves, I'll "whip" you back into the Union. Before I'd allow my wife
an' children to be sold as slaves, I'll wade in blood and water up to my
"Now he said all that, if my mother and father were living, they'd tell
y' the same thing. That's what Linkum said.
"He came through after Freedom and went to the 'Sheds' first. I couldn't
'magine what was going on, but they came runnin' to tell me and what a
time we had.
"Linkum went to the smoke house and opened the door and said 'Help
yourselves; take what you need; cook yourselves a good meall and we sho'
had a celebration!"
"The Dr. didn't care; he was lib'ral. After Freedom, when any of us got
married he'd give us money and send a servant along for us. Sometimes
even he'd carry us himself to our new home."
DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA, FOLKLORE
There is a unique organization in the colored population of Miami known
as the "Ex Slave Club." This club now claims twenty-five members, all
over 65 years of age and all of whom were slaves in this country prior
to the Civil War. The members of this interesting group are shown in the
accompanying photograph. The stories of their lives as given verbatim by
these aged men and women are recorded in the following stories:
"My name's Annie Trip. How my name's Trip, I married a Trip, but I was
borned in Georgia in the country not so very far from Thomasville. I'm
sure you must ha' heard of Thomasville, Georgia. Well, that's where I
was borned, on Captain Hamlin's plantation.
"Captain Hamlin, he was a greatest lawyer. Henry Hamlin, you know he was
the greatest lawyer what ever was, so dey tell me. You see I was small.
My mother and father and four brothers all lived there together. Some of
the rest were too small to remember much, but dey wuz all borned dare
just de samey. Wish I wuz dare right now. I had plenty of food then. I
didn't need to bother about money. Didn't have none. Didn't have no
debts to pay, no bother not like now.
"Now I have rheumatism and everything, but no money. Didn't need any
money on Captain Hamlin's plantation." And Annie walked away complaining
about rheumatism and no money, etc. before her exact age and address
could be obtained.
Millie Sampson, 182 W. 14th St. Miami, Florida, was born in Manning,
S.C. only three years 'bfo' Peace".
"My mother and father were born on the same plantation and I di'n't
have nothin' to do 'sept play with the white children and have plenty to
eat. My mother and father were field han's. I learned to talk from the
Annie Gail, 1661 NW 6th Court, Miami, Florida, was four years old when
"I was borned on Faggott's place near Greenville, Alabama. My mother,
she worked for Faggott. He wuz her bossman. When she'd go out to de
fiel's, I 'member I used to watch her, for somehow I wuz feared she would
get away from me.
"Now I 'member dat jes ez good as 'twas yesterday. I didn't do anything.
I just runned 'round.
"We just 'stayed on' after de' 'Mancipation'. My mother, she was hired
then. I guess I wuzn't 'fraid ob her leavin' after dat."
Jessie Rowell, 331 NW 19th St., Miami, Florida was born in Mississippi,
between Fossburg and Heidelberg, on the Gaddis plantation.
"My grandmother worked in the house, but my mother worked in the field
hoeing or picking cotton or whatever there was to do. I was too little
"All that I can 'member is, that I was just a little tot running 'round,
and I would always watch for my mother to come home. I was always glad
to see her, for the day was long and I knew she'd cook something for me
to eat. I can 'member dat es good as 'twas yestiday.
"We 'stayed on' after Freedom. Mother was give wages then, but I don't
know how much."
Margaret White, 6606 18th Ave., Liberty City, Miami. Florida is one of
those happy creatures who doesn't look as if she ever had a care in the
world. She speaks good English:
"I am now 84 years old, for I was 13 when the Emancipation Proclamation
was made. It didn't make much difference to me. I had a good home and
was treated very nicely.
"My master was John Eckels. He owned a large fruit place near Federal,
"My father was a tailor and made the clothes for his master and his
servants. I was never sold. My master just kept me. They liked me and
wouldn't let me be sold. He never whipped me, for I was a slave, you
know, and I had to do just as I was told.
"I worked around the house doing maid's work. I also helped to care for
the children in the home."
Priscilla Mitchell, 1614 NW 5th Ave., was born in Macon County, Alabama,
March 17, 1858.
"Y' see, ah wuz oney 7 years old when ah wuz 'mancipated. I can 'member
pickin' cotton, but I didn't work so hard, ah wuz too young.
"I wuz my Massy's pet. No, no he wouldn't beat me. Whenever ah's bad or
did little things that my mother didn't want me to do and she'd go to
whip me, all I needed to do was to run to my Massy and he'd take me up
and not let my mother git me."
This is a sample of the attitude that very many have toward their
Fannie McCay, 1720 NW 3rd Court, Miami, Florida was born on a plantation
while her father and mother were slaves; she claims her age is 73 years
which would make her too young to remember "mancipation" but
nevertheless she was slave property of her master and could have been
sold or given away even at that tender age. Her parents, too, "stayed
on" quite a while after the "mancipation".
Being one of those who "didn't have too much time to talk too much," her
main statement was:
"'Bout all hi ken 'member is dat hi hused go hout wid de old folks when
dey went out to pick cotton. Hi used to pick a little along.
"I had plenty to eat and when we went away, my Massy had a little calf
that I liked so well. I begged my Massy to give it to me, but he never
gave me none."
Hattie Thomas was six years old when peace was declared. She was
'borned' near Custer, Ga. on Bob Morris' plantation. At the tender age
of five, she can remember of helping to care for the other children,
some of whom were her own brothers and children, for her mother kept her
eight children with her.
Bob Morris' plantation being a large one, the problem of feeding all the
slaves and their children was, in itself, a large one. Hattie can well
remember of 'towing' the milk to the long wooden troughs for the
children. Her mother and the other servants would throw bread crusts and
corn breads into the milk troughs and when they would become
well-soaked, all the little slave-children would line up with their
"So it happened that the ones who could eat the fastest would be the
ones who would get the fattest.
"We had a good plenty to eat and it didn't make much difference how it
was served. We got it just the same and didn 't know any better.
"We stayed on after de 'mancipation an' ah wants t' tell y' ah worked
hard in dose days. Of course, ah worked hardest after Peace wuz
"I wuz on dat plantation when there wuz no matches. Yes, dat wuz befo'
matches wuz made an' many-a time ah started fire in de open fire place
by knookin' two stones together until I'd sen' sparks into a wad
o'cotton until it took fire.
"Now, mind y' this was on Bob Morrison's plantation between Custard and
Cotton Hill, Ga. We had no made brooms; we just bound broom corn tops
together and used them for brooms and brushes. We didn't have no stoves
either. We just cooked in a high pot on a rack. I done all dat.
"Ah haint had no husband for 38 years, but ah raised two sets
o'chilluns, nine in all and now ah has 25 grandchildren and I don't know
how many great gran' chillun."
David Lee, 1006 NW 1st Court, Miami, Fla. is proud of his "missus" and
the training he received on the plantation.
"Ah can't tell y' 'zackkly mah age, but ah knows dat when Freedom was
declared, ah was big 'nough ter drive a haws an' buggy', for ah had nice
folks. Ah could tell u' right smart 'bout 'em.
"Ah libbed near Cusper, Ga. on Barefield's fahm. Dare daughter, Miss Ann
Barefield, she taught a school few miles away, 'round pas' the Post
Hoffice. Ah s'posen ah mus' bee 9 or 10 years hold, for ah' carried Miss
Ann backwards and forwards t' school hev'ry marnin' and den in the
hevenin', ah'd stop 'round fer de mails when ah'd go fer to carry her
"Miss Ann, she used ter gibme money, but hi didn't know what t' do wid
hit. Ah had all de clothes ah could we ah and all ah could eat and
didn't need playthings, couldn't read much, and didn't know where to buy
any books. Ah had hit good.
"When peace wuz signed, dey gib me lots of Confederate bills to play
with. Ah had ten-dollah bills and lots o' twenty-dollah bills, good
bills, but y'know dey wus 't wuth nothing. Ah have a twenty-doll ah bill
'roun som'ers, if hi could evah fin' hit.
"Yes, ah had hit good. My mothah, she stayed on de plantation, too. She
did de churnin' and she run de loom. She wuz a good weaver. Ah used ter
help her run de loom.
"We stayed on a while after Freedom and den our Massy he giv' my mothah
a cow and calf along wid other presents an 'he carried us back to my
father an' we had a little home.
"Ah loved man Missus just as good as ah did my own mothah. She whipped
me a few times but then de whippins wuz honly raps on de head wid her
thimble. Ah spose ah needed hit, for ah "did like sugah"! (Growing more
confidential he explained);
"Now, ah wouldn't steal nothin' else, but--uh--ah,--uh--ah did like
"Missus, she had a big barrel ob lumpy sugah in de pantry. De doo' wuz
ginnerly looked, but sometimes when hit wuz hopen, ah'd go in an' take a
"Ah 'rembah once, ah crawled in tru de winder and mah Missus she
s'picionated ah wuz in dare eatin' sugah, so she called, "David, you
anser me, you all's in [TR: rest of page cut off.]