Ancestor Narratives: Andy Anderson, Texas

ANDY ANDERSON, 94, was born a slave of Jack Haley, who owned a plantation in Williamson Co., Texas. During the Civil War, Andy was sold to W.T. House, of Blanco County, who in less than a year sold Andy to his brother, John House. Andy now lives with his third wife and eight of his children at 301 Armour St., Fort Worth, Texas.

“My name am Andy J. Anderson, and I’s born on Massa Jack Haley’s plantation in Williamson County, Texas, and Massa Haley owned my folks and ’bout twelve other families of niggers. I’s born in 1843 and that makes me 94 year old and 18 year when de war starts. I’s had ‘speriences durin’ dat time.

“Massa Haley am kind to his cullud folks, and him am kind to everybody, and all de folks likes him. De other white folks called we’uns de petted niggers. There am ’bout 30 old and young niggers and ’bout 20 piccaninnies too little to work, and de nuss cares for dem while dey mammies works.

“I’s gwine ‘splain how it am managed on Massa Haley’s plantation. It am sort of like de small town, ’cause everything we uses am made right there. There am de shoemaker and he is de tanner and make de leather from de hides. Den massa has ’bout a thousand sheep and he gits de wool, and de niggers cards and spins and weaves it, and dat makes all de clothes. Den massa have cattle and sich purvide de milk and de butter and beef meat for eatin’. Den massa have de turkeys and chickens and de hawgs and de bees. With all that, us never was hongry.

“De plantation am planted in cotton, mostly, with de corn and de wheat a little, ’cause massa don’t need much of dem. He never sell nothin’ but de cotton.[Pg 15]

“De livin’ for de cullud folks am good. De quarters am built from logs like deys all in dem days. De floor am de dirt but we has de benches and what is made on de place. And we has de big fireplace for to cook and we has plenty to cook in dat fireplace, ’cause massa allus ‘lows plenty good rations, but he watch close for de wastin’ of de food.

“De war breaks and dat make de big change on de massas place. He jines de army and hires a man call’ Delbridge for overseer. After dat, de hell start to pop, ’cause de first thing Delbridge do is cut de rations. He weighs out de meat, three pound for de week, and he measure a peck of meal. And ‘twarn’t enough. He half starve us niggers and he want mo’ work and he start de whippin’s. I guesses he starts to edumacate ’em. I guess dat Delbridge go to hell when he died, but I don’t see how de debbil could stand him.

“We’uns am not use’ to sich and some runs off. When dey am cotched there am a whippin’ at de stake. But dat Delbridge, he sold me to Massa House, in Blanco County. I’s sho’ glad when I’s sold, but it am short gladness, ’cause here am another man what hell am too good for. He gives me de whippin’ and de scars am still on my arms and my back, too. I’ll carry dem to my grave. He sends me for firewood and when I gits it loaded, de wheel hits a stump and de team jerks and dat breaks de whippletree. So he ties me to de stake and every half hour for four hours, dey lays ta lashes on my back. For de first couple hours de pain am awful. I’s never forgot it. Den I’s stood so much pain I not feel so much and when dey takes me loose, I’s jus’ ’bout half dead. I lays in de bunk two days, gittin’ over dat whippin’, gittin’ over it in de body but not de heart. No, suh, I has dat in de heart till dis day.[Pg 16]

“After dat whippin’ I doesn’t have de heart to work for de massa. If I seed de cattle in de cornfield, I turns de back, ‘stead of chasin’ ’em out. I guess dat de reason de massa sold me to his brother, Massa John. And he am good like my first massa, he never whipped me.

“Den surrender am ‘nounced and massa tells us we’s free. When dat takes place, it am ’bout one hour by sun. I says to myself, ‘I won’t be here long.’ But I’s not realise what I’s in for till after I’s started, but I couldn’t turn back. For dat means de whippin’ or danger from de patter rollers. Dere I was and I kep’ on gwine. No nigger am sposed to be off de massa’s place without de pass, so I travels at night and hides durin’ de daylight. I stays in de bresh and gits water from de creeks, but not much to eat. Twice I’s sho’ dem patter rollers am passin’ while I’s hidin’.

“I’s 21 year old den, but it am de first time I’s gone any place, ‘cept to de neighbors, so I’s worried ’bout de right way to Massa Haley’s place. But de mornin’ of de third day I comes to he place and I’s so hongry and tired and scairt for fear Massa Haley not home from de army yit. So I finds my pappy and he hides me in he cabin till a week and den luck comes to me when Massa Haley come home. He come at night and de next mornin’ dat Delbridge am shunt off de place, ’cause Massa Haley seed he niggers was all gaunt and lots am ran off and de fields am not plowed right, and only half de sheep and everything left. So massa say to dat Delbridge, ‘Dere am no words can ‘splain what yous done. Git off my place ‘fore I smashes you.’

“Den I kin come out from my pappy’s cabin and de old massa was glad to see me, and he let me stay till freedom am ordered. Dat’s de happies’ time in my life, when I gits back to Massa Haley.[Pg 17]

Ancestor Narratives: Sarah Allen, El Paso Texas

SARAH ALLEN was born a slave of John and Sally Goodren, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Before the Civil War, her owners came to Texas, locating near a small town then called Freedom. She lives at 3322 Frutas St., El Paso, Texas.

“I was birthed in time of bondage. You know, some people are ashamed to tell it, but I thank God I was ‘llowed to see them times as well as now. It’s a pretty hard story, how cruel some of the marsters was, but I had the luck to be with good white people. But some I knew were put on the block and sold. I ‘member when they’d come to John Goodren’s place to buy, but he not sell any. They’d have certain days when they’d sell off the block and they took chillen ‘way from mothers, screamin’ for dere chillen.

“I was birthed in ole Virginia in de Blue Ridge Mountains. When de white people come to Texas, de cullud people come with them. Dat’s been a long time.

“My maw was named Charlotte, my paw Parks Adams. He’s a white man. I guess I’m about eighty some years ole.

“You know, in slavery times when dey had bad marsters dey’d run away, but we didn’ want to. My missus would see her people had something good to eat every Sunday mornin’. You had to mind your missus and marster and you be treated well. I think I was about twelve when dey freed us and we stayed with marster ’bout a year, then went to John Ecols’ place and rented some lan’. We made two bales of cotton and it was the first money we ever saw.

“Back when we lived with Marster Goodren we had big candy[Pg 13] pullin’s. Invite everybody and play. We had good times. De worst thing, we didn’ never have no schoolin’ till after I married. Den I went to school two weeks. My husban’ was teacher. He never was a slave. His father bought freedom through a blacksmith shop, some way.

“I had a nice weddin’. My dress was white and trimmed with blue ribbon. My second day dress was white with red dots. I had a beautiful veil and a wreath and ’bout two, three waiters for table dat day.

“My mother was nearly white. Brighter than me. We lef’ my father in Virginia. I was jus’ as white as de chillen I played with. I used to be plum bright, but here lately I’m gettin’ awful dark.

“My husban’ was of a mixture, like you call bright ginger-cake color. I don’ know where he got his learnin’. I feel so bad since he’s gone to Glory.

“Now I’m ole, de Lord has taken care of me. He put that spirit in people to look after ole folks and now my chillen look after me. I’ve two sons, one name James Allen, one R.M. Both live in El Paso.

“After we go to sleep, de people will know these things, ’cause if freedom hadn’ come, it would have been so miserable.[Pg 14]

Ancestor Narratives: William M. Adams, Texas

WILLIAM M. ADAMS, spiritualist preacher and healer, who lives at 1404 Illinois Ave., Ft. Worth, Texas, was born a slave on the James Davis plantation, in San Jacinto Co., Texas. After the war he worked in a grocery, punched cattle, farmed and preached. He moved to Ft. Worth in 1902.

“I was bo’n 93 years ago, dat is whut my mother says. We didn’ keep no record like folks does today. All I know is I been yere a long time. My mother, she was Julia Adams and my father he was James Adams. She’s bo’n in Hollis Springs, Mississippi and my father, now den, he was bo’n in Florida. He was a Black Creek Indian. Dere was 12 of us chillen. When I was ’bout seven de missus, she come and gits me for her servant. I lived in de big house till she die. Her and Marster Davis was powerful good to me.

“Marster Davis he was a big lawyer and de owner of a plantation. But all I do was wait on ole missus. I’d light her pipe for her and I helped her wid her knittin’. She give me money all de time. She had a little trunk she keeped money in and lots of times I’d have to pack it down wid my feets.

“I dis’member jus’ how many slaves dere was, but dere was more’n 100. I saw as much as 100 sold at a time. When dey tuk a bunch of slaves to trade, dey put chains on ’em.

“De other slaves lived in log cabins back of de big house. Dey had dirt floors and beds dat was made out of co’n shucks or straw. At nite dey burned de lamps for ’bout an hour, den de overseers,[Pg 10] dey come knock on de door and tell ’em put de light out. Lots of overseers was mean. Sometimes dey’d whip a nigger wid a leather strap ’bout a foot wide and long as your arm and wid a wooden handle at de end.

“On Sat’day and Sunday nites dey’d dance and sing all nite long. Dey didn’ dance like today, dey danced de roun’ dance and jig and do de pigeon wing, and some of dem would jump up and see how many time he could kick his feets ‘fore dey hit de groun’. Dey had an ole fiddle and some of ’em would take two bones in each hand and rattle ’em. Dey sang songs like, ‘Diana had a Wooden Leg,’ and ‘A Hand full of Sugar,’ and ‘Cotton-eyed Joe.’ I dis’member how dey went.

“De slaves didn’ have no church den, but dey’d take a big sugar kettle and turn it top down on de groun’ and put logs roun’ it to kill de soun’. Dey’d pray to be free and sing and dance.

“When war come dey come and got de slaves from all de plantations and tuk ’em to build de breastworks. I saw lots of soldiers. Dey’d sing a song dat go something like dis:

“‘Jeff Davis rode a big white hoss,
Lincoln rode a mule;
Jess Davis is our President,
Lincoln is a fool.’

“I ‘member when de slaves would run away. Ole John Billinger, he had a bunch of dogs and he’d take after runaway niggers. Sometimes de dogs didn’ ketch de nigger. Den ole Billinger, he’d cuss and kick de dogs.

“We didn’ have to have a pass but on other plantations dey did, or de paddlerollers would git you and whip you. Dey was de poor white[Pg 11] folks dat didn’ have no slaves. We didn’ call ’em white folks dem days. No, suh, we called dem’ Buskrys.’

“Jus’ fore de war, a white preacher he come to us slaves and says: ‘Do you wan’ to keep you homes whar you git all to eat, and raise your chillen, or do you wan’ to be free to roam roun’ without a home, like de wil’ animals? If you wan’ to keep you homes you better pray for de South to win. All day wan’s to pray for de South to win, raise the hand.’ We all raised our hands ’cause we was skeered not to, but we sho’ didn’ wan’ de South to win.

“Dat night all de slaves had a meetin’ down in de hollow. Ole Uncle Mack, he gits up and says: ‘One time over in Virginny dere was two ole niggers, Uncle Bob and Uncle Tom. Dey was mad at one ‘nuther and one day dey decided to have a dinner and bury de hatchet. So day sat down, and when Uncle Bob wasn’t lookin’ Uncle Tom put some poison in Uncle Bob’s food, but he saw it and when Uncle Tom wasn’t lookin’, Uncle Bob he turned de tray roun’ on Uncle Tom, and he gits de poison food.’ Uncle Mack, he says: ‘Dat’s what we slaves is gwine do, jus’ turn de tray roun’ and pray for de North to win.’

“After de war dere was a lot of excitement ‘mong de niggers. Dey was rejoicin’ and singin’. Some of ’em looked puzzled, sorter skeered like. But dey danced and had a big jamboree.

“Lots of ’em stayed and worked on de halves. Others hired out. I went to work in a grocery store and he paid me $1.50 a week. I give my mother de dollar and keeped de half. Den I got married and farmed for awhile. Den I come to Fort Worth and I been yere since.