Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
Work Projects Administration
Produced by Andrea Ball and PG Distributed Proofreaders. Produced from
images provided by the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division.
[TR: ***] = Transcriber Note
[HW: ***] = Handwritten Note
A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
From Interviews with Former Slaves
TYPEWRITTEN RECORDS PREPARED BY
THE FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PROJECT
WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
SPONSORED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
the Federal Writers' Project of
the Works Progress Administration
for the State of Maryland
Brooks, Lucy [TR: and Lafayette Brooks]
Deane, James V.
Fayman, Mrs. M.S.
Henson, Annie Young
Jackson, Rev. Silas
James, James Calhart
James, Mary Moriah Anne Susanna
Williams, Rezin (Parson)
[TR: Interviews were stamped at left side with state name, date, and
interviewer's name. These stamps were often partially cut off. Where
month could not be determined [--] substituted. Interviewers' names
reconstructed from other, complete entries.]
AUNT LUCY [HW: BROOKS].
References: Interview with Aunt Lucy and her son, Lafayette Brooks.
Aunt Lucy, an ex-slave, lives with her son, Lafayette Brooks, in a shack
on the Carroll Inn Springs property at Forest Glen, Montgomery County,
To go to her home from Rockville, leave the Court House going east on
Montgomery Ave. and follow US Highway No. 240, otherwise known as the
Rockville Pike, in its southeasterly direction, four and one half miles
to the junction with it on the left (east) of the Garrett Park Road.
This junction is directly opposite the entrance to the Georgetown
Preparatory School, which is on the west of this road. Turn left on the
Garrett Park Road and follow it through that place and crossing Rock
Creek go to Kensington. Here cross the tracks of the B.&O. R.R. and
parallel them onward to Forest Glen. From the railroad station in this
place go onward to Forest Glen. From the railroad station in this place
go onward on the same road to the third lane branching off to the left.
This lane will be identified by the sign "Carroll Springs Inn". Turn
left here and enter the grounds of the inn. But do not go up in front of
the inn itself which is one quarter of a mile from the road. Instead,
where the drive swings to the right to go to the inn, bear to the left
and continue downward fifty yards toward the swimming pool. Lucy's shack
is on the left and one hundred feet west of the pool. It is about eleven
miles from Rockville.
Lucy is an usual type of Negro and most probably is a descendant of less
remotely removed African ancestors than the average plantation Negroes.
She does not appear to be a mixed blood--a good guess would be that she
is pure blooded Senegambian. She is tall and very thin, and considering
her evident great age, very erect, her head is very broad, overhanging
ears, her forehead broad and not so receeding as that of the average.
Her eyes are wide apart and are bright and keen. She has no defect in
Following are some questions and her answers:
"Lucy, did you belong to the Carrolls before the war?" "Nosah, I didne
lib around heah den. Ise born don on de bay".
"How old are you?"
"Dunno sah. Miss Anne, she had it written down in her book, but she said
twas too much trouble for her to be always lookin it up". (Her son,
Lafayette, says he was her eldest child and that he was born on the
Severn River, in Maryland, the 15th day of October, 1872. Supposing the
mother was twenty-five years old then, she would be about ninety now.
Some think she is more than a hundred years old).
"Who did you belong to?"
"I belonged to Missus Ann Garner".
"Did she have many slaves?"
"Yassuh. She had seventy-five left she hadnt sold when the war ended".
"What kind of work did you have to do?"
"O, she would set me to pickin up feathers round de yaird. She had a
powerful lot of geese. Den when I got a little bigger she had me set the
table. I was just a little gal then. Missus used to say that she was
going to make a nurse outen me. Said she was gwine to sen me to Baltimo
to learn to be a nurse".
"And what did you think about that?"
"Oh; I thought that would be fine, but he war came befo I got big enough
to learn to be a nurse".
"I remebers when the soldiers came. I think they were Yankee soldiers.
De never hurt anybody but they took what they could find to eat and they
made us cook for them. I remebers that me and some other lil gals had a
play house, but when they came nigh I got skeered. I just ducked through
a hole in the fence and ran out in the field. One of the soldiers seed
me and he hollers 'look at that rat run'."
"I remebers when the Great Eastern (steamship which laid the Atlantic
cable) came into the bay. Missus Ann, and all the white folks went down
to Fairhaven wharf to see dat big shep".
"I stayed on de plantation awhile after de war and heped de Missus in de
house. Den I went away".
"Ise had eight chillun. Dey all died and thisun and his brother
(referring to Lafayette). Den his brother died too. I said he ought ter
died instid o his brother."
"Because thisun got so skeered when he was little bein carried on a hos
that he los his speech and de wouldt let me see im for two days. It was
a long time befor he learned to talk again". (To this day he has such an
impediment of speech that it is painful to hear him make the effort to
"What did you have to eat down on the plantation, Aunt Lucy?"
"I hab mostly clabber, fish and corn bread. We gets plenty of fish down
on de bay".
"When we cum up here we works in the ole Forest Glen hotel. Mistah
Charley Keys owned the place then. We stayed there after Mr. Cassidy
come. (Mr. Cassidy was the founder of the National Park Seminary, a
school for girls). My son Lafayette worked there for thirty five years.
Then we cum to Carroll Springs Inn".
CHARLES COLES, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Charles Coles at his home,
1106 Sterling St., Baltimore, Md.
"I was born near Pisgah, a small village in the western part of Charles
County, about 1851. I do not know who my parents were nor my relatives.
I was reared on a large farm owned by a man by the name of Silas Dorsey,
a fine Christian gentleman and a member of the Catholic Church.
"Mr. Dorsey was a man of excellent reputation and character, was loved
by all who knew him, black and white, especially his slaves. He was
never known to be harsh or cruel to any of his slaves, of which he had
more than 75.
"The slaves were Mr. Dorsey's family group, he and his wife were very
considerate in all their dealings. In the winter the slaves wore good
heavy clothes and shoes and in summer they were dressed in fine clothes.
"I have been told that the Dorseys' farm contained about 3500 acres, on
which were 75 slaves. We had no overseers. Mr. and Mrs. Dorsey managed
the farm. They required the farm hands to work from 7 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.;
after that their time was their own.
"There were no jails nor was any whipping done on the farm. No one was
bought or sold. Mr. and Mrs. Dorsey conducted regular religious services
of the Catholic church on the farm in a chapel erected for that purpose
and in which the slaves were taught the catechism and some learned how
to read and write and were assisted by some Catholic priests who came to
the farm on church holidays and on Sundays for that purpose. When a
child was born, it was baptised by the priest, and given names and they
were recorded in the Bible. We were taught the rituals of the Catholic
church and when any one died, the funeral was conducted by a priest, the
corpse was buried in the Dorseys' graveyard, a lot of about 1-1/2 acres,
surrounded by cedar trees and well cared for. The only difference in the
graves was that the Dorsey people had marble markers and the slaves had
"I have never heard of any of the Dorseys' slaves running away. We did
not have any trouble with the white people.
"The slaves lived in good quarters, each house was weather-boarded and
stripped to keep out the cold. I do not remember whether the slaves
worked or not on Saturdays, but I know the holidays were their own. Mr.
Dorsey did not have dances and other kinds of antics that you expected
to find on other plantations.
"We had many marbles and toys that poor children had, in that day my
favorite game was marbles.
"When we took sick Mr. and Mrs. Dorsey had a doctor who admistered to
the slaves, giving medical care that they needed. I am still a Catholic
and will always be a member of St. Peter Clavier Church."
Sept. 20, 1937
JAMES V. DEANE, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with James V. Deane, ex-slave,
on Sept. 20, 1937, at his home, 1514 Druid Hill Ave.,
"My name is James V. Deane, son of John and Jane Deane, born at Goose
Bay in Charles County, May 20, 1850. My mother was the daughter of
Vincent Harrison, I do not know about my father's people. I have two
sisters both of whom are living, Sarah and Elizabeth Ford.
"I was born in a log cabin, a typical Charles County log cabin, at Goose
Bay on the Potomac River. The plantation on which I was born fronted
more than three miles on the river. The cabin had two rooms, one up and
one down, very large with two windows, one in each room. There were no
porches, over the door was a wide board to keep the rain and snow from
beating over the top of the door, with a large log chimney on the
outside, plastered between the logs, in which was a fireplace with an
open grate to cook on and to put logs on the fire to heat.
"We slept on a home-made bedstead, on which was a straw mattress and
upon that was a feather mattress, on which we used quilts made by my
mother to cover.
"As a slave I worked on the farm with other small boys thinning corn,
watching watermelon patches and later I worked in wheat and tobacco
fields. The slaves never had nor earned any cash money.
"Our food was very plain, such as fat hog meat, fish and vegetables
raised on the farm and corn bread made up with salt and water.
"Yes, I have hunted o'possums, and coons. The last time I went coon
hunting, we treed something. It fell out of the tree, everybody took to
their heels, white and colored, the white men outran the colored hunter,
leading the gang. I never went hunting afterwards.
"My choice food was fish and crabs cooked in all styles by mother. You
have asked about gardens, yes, some slaves had small garden patches
which they worked by moonlight.
"As for clothes, we all wore home-made clothes, the material woven on
the looms in the clothes house. In the winter we had woolen clothes and
in summer our clothes were made from cast-off clothes and Kentucky
jeans. Our shoes were brogans with brass tips. On Sunday we fed the
stock, after which we did what we wanted.
"I have seen many slave weddings, the master holding a broom handle, the
groom jumping over it as a part of the wedding ceremony. When a slave
married someone from another plantation, the master of the wife owned
all the children. For the wedding the groom wore ordinary clothes,
sometimes you could not tell the original outfit for the patches, and
sometimes Kentucky jeans. The bride's trousseau, she would wear the
cast-off clothes of the mistress, or, at other times the clothes made by
"It was said our plantation contained 10,000 acres. We had a large
number of slaves, I do not know the number. Our work was hard, from
sunup to sundown. The slaves were not whipped.
"There was only one slave ever sold from the plantation, she was my
aunt. The mistress slapped her one day, she struck her back. She was
sold and taken south. We never saw or heard of her afterwards.
"We went to the white Methodist church with slave gallery, only white
preachers. We sang with the white people. The Methodists were christened
and the Baptists were baptised. I have seen many colored funerals with
no service. A graveyard on the place, only a wooden post to show where
you were buried.
"None of the slaves ran away. I have seen and heard many patrollers, but
they never whipped any of Mason's slaves. The method of conveying news,
you tell me and I tell you, but be careful, no troubles between whites
"After work was done, the slaves would smoke, sing, tell ghost stories
and tales, dances, music, home-made fiddles. Saturday was work day like
any other day. We had all legal holidays. Christmas morning we went to
the big house and got presents and had a big time all day.
"At corn shucking all the slaves from other plantations would come to
the barn, the fiddler would sit on top of the highest barrel of corn,
and play all kinds of songs, a barrel of cider, jug of whiskey, one man
to dish out a drink of liquor each hour, cider when wanted. We had
supper at twelve, roast pig for everybody, apple sauce, hominy, and corn
bread. We went back to shucking. The carts from other farms would be
there to haul it to the corn crib, dance would start after the corn was
stored, we danced until daybreak.
"The only games we played were marbles, mumble pegs and ring plays. We
sang London Bridge.
"When we wanted to meet at night we had an old conk, we blew that. We
all would meet on the bank of the Potomac River and sing across the
river to the slaves in Virginia, and they would sing back to us.
"Some people say there are no ghosts, but I saw one and I am satisfied,
I saw an old lady who was dead, she was only five feet from me, I met
her face to face. She was a white woman, I knew her. I liked to tore the
door off the hinges getting away.
"My master's name was Thomas Mason, he was a man of weak mental
disposition, his mother managed the affairs. He was kind. Mrs. Mason had
a good disposition, she never permitted the slaves to be punished. The
main house was very large with porches on three sides. No children, no
"The poor white people in Charles County were worse off than the slaves;
because they could not get any work to do, on the plantation, the slaves
did all the work.
"Some time ago you asked did I ever see slaves sold. I have seen slaves
tied behind buggies going to Washington and some to Baltimore.
"No one was taught to read. We were taught the Lord's Prayer and
"When the slaves took sick Dr. Henry Mudd, the one who gave Booth first
aid, was our doctor. The slaves had herbs of their own, and made their
own salves. The only charms that were worn were made out of bones."
MRS. M.S. FAYMAN.
Reference: Personal interview with Mrs. Fayman,
at her home, Cherry Heights near Baltimore, Md.
"I was born in St. Nazaire Parish in Louisiana, about 60 miles south of
Baton Rouge, in 1850. My father and mother were Creoles, both of them
were people of wealth and prestige in their day and considered very
influential. My father's name was Henri de Sales and mother's maiden
name, Marguerite Sanchez De Haryne. I had two brothers Henri and Jackson
named after General Jackson, both of whom died quite young, leaving me
the only living child. Both mother and father were born and reared in
Louisiana. We lived in a large and spacious house surrounded by flowers
and situated on a farm containing about 750 acres, on which we raised
pelicans for sale in the market at New Orleans.
"When I was about 5 years old I was sent to a private School in Baton
Rouge, conducted by French sisters, where I stayed until I was kidnapped
in 1860. At that time I did not know how to speak English; French was
the language spoken in my household and by the people in the parish.
"Baton Rouge, situated on the Mississippi, was a river port and stopping
place for all large river boats, especially between New Orleans and
large towns and cities north. We children were taken out by the sisters
after school and on Saturdays and holidays to walk. One of the places we
went was the wharf. One day in June and on a Saturday a large boat was
at the wharf going north on the Mississippi River. We children were
there. Somehow, I was separated from the other children. I was taken up
bodily by a white man, carried on the boat, put in a cabin and kept
there until we got to Louisville, Kentucky, where I was taken off.
"After I arrived in Louisville I was taken to a farm near Frankfort and
installed there virturally a slave until 1864, when I escaped through
the kindness of a delightful Episcopalian woman from Cincinnati, Ohio.
As I could not speak English, my chores were to act as a tutor and
companion for the children of Pierce Buckran Haynes, a well known slave
trader and plantation owner in Kentucky. Haynes wanted his children to
speak French and it was my duty to teach them. I was the private
companion of 3 girls and one small boy, each day I had to talk French
and write French for them. They became very proficient in French and I
in the rudiments of the English language.
"I slept in the children's quarters with the Haynes' children, ate and
played with them. I had all the privileges of the household accorded me
with the exception of one, I never was taken off nor permitted to leave
the plantation. While on the plantation I wore good clothes, similar to
those of the white children. Haynes was a merciless brutal tyrant with
his slaves, punishing them severly and cruelly both by the lash and in
the jail on the plantation.
"The name of the plantation where I was held as a slave was called
Beatrice Manor, after the wife of Haynes. It contained 8000 acres, of
which more than 6000 acres were under cultivation, and having about 350
colored slaves and 5 or 6 overseers all of whom were white. The
overseers were the overlords of the manor; as Haynes dealt extensively
in tobacco and trading in slaves, he was away from the plantation nearly
all the time. There was located on the top of the large tobacco
warehouse a large bell, which was rung at sun up, twelve o'clock and at
sundown, the year round. On the farm the slaves were assigned a task to
do each day and In the event it was not finished they were severely
whipped. While I never saw a slave whipped, I did see them afterwards,
they were very badly marked and striped by the overseers who did the
"I have been back to the farm on several occasions, the first time in
1872 when I took my father there to show him the farm. At that time it
was owned by Colonel Hawkins, a Confederate Army officer.
"Let me describe the huts, these buildings were built of stone, each one
about 20 feet wide, 50 feet long, 9 feet high in the rear, about 12 feet
high In front, with a slanting roof of chestnut boards and with a
sliding door, two windows between each door back and front about 2x4
feet, at each end a door and window similar to those on the side. There
were ten such buildings, to each building there was another building
12x15 feet, this was where the cooking was done. At each end of each
building there was a fire place built and used for heating purposes. In
front of each building there were barrels filled with water supplied by
pipes from a large spring, situated about 300 yards on the side of a
hill which was very rocky, where the stones were quarried to build the
buildings on the farm. On the outside near each window and door there
were iron rings firmly attached to the walls, through which an iron rod
was inserted and locked each end every night, making it impossible for
those inside to escape.
"There was one building used as a jail, built of stone about 20x40 feet
with a hip roof about 25 feet high, 2-story. On the ground in each end
was a fire place; in one end a small room, which was used as office;
adjoining, there was another room where the whipping was done. To reach
the second story there was built on the outside, steps leading to a
door, through which the female prisoners were taken to the room. All of
the buildings had dirt floors.
"I do not know much about the Negroes on the plantation who were there
at that time. Slaves were brought and taken away always chained
together, men walking and women in ox carts. I had heard of several
escapes and many were captured. One of the overseers had a pack of 6 or
8 trained blood hounds which were used to trace escaping slaves.
"Before I close let me give you a sketch of my family tree. My
grandmother was a Haitian Negress, grandfather a Frenchman. My father
was a Creole.
"After returning home in 1864, I completed my high school education in
New Orleans in 1870, graduated from Fisk University 1874, taught French
there until 1883, married Prof. Payman, teacher of history and English.
Since then I have lived in Washington, New York, and Louisianna. For
further information, write me c/o Y.W.C.A. (col.), Baltimore, to be
Dec. 16, 1937
THOMAS FOOTE'S STORY, A free Negro.
Reference: Personal interview with Thomas Foote,
at his home, Cockeysville, Md.
"My mother's name was Eliza Foote and my father's name was Thomas Foote.
Father and mother of a large family that was reared on a small farm
about a mile east of Cockeysville, a village situated on the Northern
Central Railroad 15 miles north of Baltimore City.
"My mother's maiden name was Myers, a daughter of a free man of
Baltimore County. In her younger days she was employed by Dr. Ensor, a
homeopathic medical doctor of Cockeysville who was a noted doctor in his
day. Mrs. Ensor, a very refined and cultured woman, taught her to read
and write. My mother's duty along with her other work was to assist Dr.
Ensor in the making of some of his medicine. In gaining practical
experience and knowledge of different herbs and roots that Dr. Ensor
used in the compounding of his medicine, used them for commercial
purposes for herself among the slaves and free colored people of
Baltimore County, especially of the Merrymans, Ridgelys, Roberts,
Cockeys and Mayfields. Her fame reached as far south as Baltimore City
and north of Baltimore as far as the Pennsylvania line and the
surrounding territory. She was styled and called the doctor woman both
by the slaves and the free people. She was suspected by the white people
but confided in by the colored people both for their ills and their
"My mother prescribed for her people and compounded medicine out of the
same leaves, herbs and roots that Dr. Ensor did. Naturally her success
along these lines was good. She also delivered many babies and acted as
a midwife for the poor whites and the slaves and free Negroes of which
there were a number in Baltimore County.
"The colored people have always been religiously inclined, believed in
the power of prayer and whenever she attended anyone she always
preceeded with a prayer. Mother told me and I have heard her tell others
hundreds of times, that one time a slave of old man Cockey was seen
coming from her home early in the morning. He had been there for
treatment of an ailment which Dr. Ensor had failed to cure. After being
treated by my mother for a time, he got well. When this slave was
searched, he had in his possession a small bag in which a stone of a
peculiar shape and several roots were found. He said that mother had
given it to him, and it had the power over all with whom it came in
"There were about this time a number of white people who had been going
through Cockeysville, some trying to find out if there was any concerted
move on the part of the slaves to run away, others contacting the free
people to find out to what extent they had 'grape-vine' news of the
action of the Negroes. The Negro who was seen coming from mother's home
ran away. She was immediately accused of Voodooism by the whites of
Cockeysville, she was taken to Towson jail, there confined and grilled
by the sheriff of Baltimore County--the Cockeys, and several other men,
all demanding that she tell where the escaped slave was. She knowing
that the only way he could have escaped was by the York Road, north or
south, the Northern Central Railroad or by the way of Deer Creek, a
small creek east of Cockeysville. Both the York Road and the railroad
were being watched, she logically thought that the only place was Deer
Creek, so she told the sheriff to search Deer Creek. By accident he was
found about eight miles up Deer Creek in a swamp with several other
colored men who had run away.
"Mother was ordered to leave Baltimore County or to be sold into
slavery. She went to York, Pennsylvania, where she stayed until 1865,
when she returned to her home in Cockeysville; where a great many of her
descendants live, now, on a hill that slopes west to Cockeysville
Station, and is known as Foote's Hill by both white and colored people
of Baltimore County today.
"I was born in Cockeysville in 1867, where I have lived since; reared a
family of five children, three boys and two girls. I am a member of the
A.M.E. Church at Cockeysville. I am a member of the Masonic Lodge and
belong to Odd Fellows at Towson, Maryland. The Foote's descendants still
own five or more homes at Cockeysville, and we are known from one end of
the county to the other."
Sept. 22, 1937
MENELLIS GASSAWAY, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Menellis Gassaway, ex-slave,
on Sept. 22, 1937, at M.E. Home, Carrollton Ave., Baltimore.
"My name is Menellis Gassaway, son of Owing and Annabel Gassaway. I was
born in Freedom District, Carroll County, about 1850 or 52, brother of
Henrietta, Menila and Villa. Our father and mother lived in Carroll
County near Eldersberg in a stone and log cabin, consisting of two
rooms, one up and one down, with four windows, two in each room, on a
small farm situated on a public road, I don't know the name.
"My father worked on a small farm with no other slaves, but our family.
We raised on the farm vegetables and grain, consisting of corn and
wheat. Our farm produced wheat and corn, which was taken to the grist
mill to be ground; besides, we raised hogs and a small number of other
stock for food.
"During the time I was a slave and the short time it was, I can't
remember what we wore or very much about local conditions. The people,
that is the white people, were friendly with our family and other
colored people so far as I can recall.
"I do not recall of seeing slaves sold nor did the man who owned our
family buy or sell slaves. He was a small man.
"As to the farm, I do not know the size, but I know it was small. On the
farm there was no jail, or punishment inflicted on Pap or Ma while they
"There was no church on the farm, but we were members of the old side
Methodist church, having a colored preacher. The church was a long ways
from the farm.
"My father neglected his own education as well as his children. He could
not read himself. He did not teach any of his children to read, of which
we in later years saw the advantage.
"In Carroll County there were so many people who were Union men that it
was dangerous for whites in some places to say they were Rebels. This
made the colored and white people very friendly.
"Pap was given holidays when he wanted. I do not know whether he worked
on Saturdays or not. On Sunday we went to church.
"My father was owned by a man by the name of Mr. Dorsey. My mother was
bound out by Mr. Dorsey to a man by the name of Mr. Morris of Frederick
"I have never heard of many ghost stories. But I believe once, a
conductor on the railroad train was killed and headed (beheaded), and
after that, a ghost would appear on the spot where he was killed. Many
people in the neighborhood saw him and people on the train often saw him
when the train passed the spot where he was killed.
"So far as being sick, we did not have any doctors. The poor white could
not afford to hire one, and the colored doctored themselves with herbs,
teas and salves made by themselves."
[--] 11, 1938
CAROLINE HAMMOND, A fugitive.
Interview at her home, 4710 Falls Road, Baltimore, Md.
"I was born in Anne Arundel County near Davidsonville about 3 miles from
South River in the year 1844. The daughter of a free man and a slave
woman, who was owned by Thomas Davidson, a slave owner and farmer of
Anne Arundel. He had a large farm and about 25 slaves on his farm all of
whom lived in small huts with the exception of several of the household
help who ate and slept in the manor house. My mother being one of the
household slaves, enjoyed certain privileges that the farm slaves did
not. She was the head cook of Mr. Davidson's household.
"Mr. Davidson and his family were considered people of high social
standing in Annapolis and the people in the county. Mr. Davidson
entertained on a large scale, especially many of the officers of the
Naval Academy at Annapolis and his friends from Baltimore. Mrs.
Davidson's dishes were considered the finest, and to receive an
invitation from the Davidsons meant that you would enjoy Maryland's
finest terrapin and chicken besides the best wine and champagne on the
"All of the cooking was supervised by mother, and the table was waited
on by Uncle Billie, dressed in a uniform, decorated with brass buttons,
braid and a fancy Test, his hands incased in white gloves. I can see him
now, standing at the door, after he had rung the bell. When the family
and guests came in he took his position behind Mr. Davidson ready to
serve or to pass the plates, after they had been decorated with meats,
fowl or whatever was to be eaten by the family or guest.
"Mr. Davidson was very good to his slaves, treating them with every
consideration that he could, with the exception of freeing them; but
Mrs. Davidson was hard on all the slaves, whenever she had the
opportunity, driving them at full speed when working, giving different
food of a coarser grade and not much of it. She was the daughter of one
of the Revells of the county, a family whose reputation was known all
over Maryland for their brutality with their slaves.
"Mother with the consent of Mr. Davidson, married George Berry, a free
colored man of Annapolis with the proviso that he was to purchase mother
within three years after marriage for $750 dollars and if any children
were born they were to go with her. My father was a carpenter by trade,
his services were much in demand. This gave him an opportunity to save
money. Father often told me that he could save more than half of his
income. He had plenty of work, doing repair and building, both for the
white people and free colored people. Father paid Mr. Davidson for
mother on the partial payment plan. He had paid up all but $40 on
mother's account, when by accident Mr. Davidson was shot while ducking
on the South River by one of the duck hunters, dying instantly.
"Mrs. Davidson assumed full control of the farm and the slaves. When
father wanted to pay off the balance due, $40.00, Mrs. Davidson refused
to accept it, thus mother and I were to remain in slavery. Being a free
man father had the privilege to go where he wanted to, provided he was
endorsed by a white man who was known to the people and sheriffs,
constables and officials of public conveyances. By bribery of the
sheriff of Anne Arundel County father was given a passage to Baltimore
for mother and me. On arriving in Baltimore, mother, father and I went
to a white family on Ross Street--now Druid Hill Ave., where we were
sheltered by the occupants, who were ardent supporters of the
"A reward of $50.00 each was offered for my father, mother and me, one
by Mrs. Davidson and the other by the Sheriff of Anne Arundel County. At
this time the Hookstown Road was one of the main turnpikes into
Baltimore. A Mr. Coleman whose brother-in-law lived in Pennsylvania,
used a large covered wagon to transport merchandise from Baltimore to
different villages along the turnpike to Hanover, Pa., where he lived.
Mother and father and I were concealed in a large wagon drawn, by six
horses. On our way to Pennsylvania, we never alighted on the ground in
any community or close to any settlement, fearful of being apprehended
by people who were always looking for rewards.
"After arriving at Hanover, Pennsylvania, it was easy for us to get
transportation farther north. They made their way to Scranton,
Pennsylvania, in which place they both secured positions in the same
family. Father and mother's salary combined was $27.50 per month. They
stayed there until 1869. In the meantime I was being taught at a Quaker
mission in Scranton. When we come to Baltimore I entered the 7th grade
grammar school in South Baltimore. After finishing the grammar school, I
followed cooking all my life before and after marriage. My husband James
Berry, who waited at the Howard House, died in 1927--aged 84. On my next
birthday, which will occur on the 22nd of November, I will be 95. I can
see well, have an excellent appetite, but my grandchildren will let me
eat only certain things that they say the doctor ordered I should eat.
On Christmas Day 49 children and grandchildren and some
great-grandchildren gave me a Xmas dinner and one hundred dollars for
Xmas. I am happy with all the comforts of a poor person not dependant on
any one else for tomorrow".
Dec. 13, 1937
PAGE HARRIS, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Page Harris at his home,
Camp Parole, A.A.C. Co., Md.
"I was born in 1858 about 3 miles west of Chicamuxen near the Potomac
River in Charles County on the farm of Burton Stafford, better known as
Blood Hound Manor. This name was applied because Mr. Stafford raised and
trained blood hounds to track runaway slaves and to sell to slaveholders
of Maryland, Virginia and other southern states as far south as
Mississippi and Louisiana.
"My father's name was Sam and mother's Mary, both of whom belonged to
the Staffords and were reared in Charles County. They reared a family of
nine children, I being the oldest and the only one born a slave, the
rest free. I think it was in 1859 or it might be 1860 when the Staffords
liberated my parents, not because he believed in the freedom of slaves
but because of saving the lives of his entire family.
"Mrs. Stafford came from Prince William County, Virginia, a county on
the west side of the Potomac River in Virginia. Mr. and Mrs. Stafford
had a large rowboat that they used on the Potomac as a fishing and
oyster boat as well as a transportation boat across the Potomac River to
Quantico, a small town in Prince William County, Va., and up Quantico
Creek in the same county.
"I have been told by my parents and also by Joshua Stafford, the oldest
son of Mr. Stafford, that one Sunday morning on the date as related in
the story previously Mrs. Stafford and her 3 children were being rowed
across the Potomac River to attend a Baptist church in Virginia of which
she was a member. Suddenly a wind and a thunder storm arose causing the
boat to capsize. My father was fishing from a log raft in the river,
immediately went to their rescue. The wind blew the raft towards the
centre of the stream and in line with the boat. He was able without
assistance to save the whole family, diving into the river to rescue
Mrs. Stafford after she had gone down. He pulled her on the raft and it
was blown ashore with all aboard, but several miles down the stream.
Everybody thought that the Staffords had been drowned as the boat
floated to the shore, bottom upwards.
"As a reward Mr. Stafford took my father to the court house at La Plata,
the county seat of Charles County, signed papers for the emancipation of
him, my mother, and me, besides giving him money to help him to take his
family to Philadelphia.
"I have a vague recollection of the Staffords' family, not enough to
describe. They lived on a large farm situated in Charles County, a part
bounding on the Potomac River and a cove that extends into the farm
property. Much of the farm property was marshy and was suitable for the
purpose of Mr. Stafford's living--raising and training blood hounds. I
have been told by mother and father on many occasions that there were as
many as a hundred dogs on the farm at times. Mr. Stafford had about 50
slaves on his farm. He had an original method in training young blood
hounds, he would make one of the slaves traverse a course, at the end,
the slave would climb a tree. The younger dogs led by an old dog,
sometimes by several older dogs, would trail the slave until they
reached the tree, then they would bark until taken away by the men who
had charge of the dogs.
"Mr. Stafford's dogs were often sought to apprehend runaway slaves. He
would charge according to the value and worth of the slave captured. His
dogs were often taken to Virginia, sometimes to North Carolina, besides
being used in Maryland. I have been told that when a slave was captured,
besides the reward paid in money, that each dog was supposed to bite the
slave to make him anxious to hunt human beings.
"There was a slaveholder in Charles County who had a very valuable
slave, an expert carpenter and bricklayer, whose services were much
sought after by the people in Southern Maryland. This slave could elude
the best blood hounds in the State. It was always said that slaves, when
they ran away, would try to go through a graveyard and if he or she
could get dirt from the grave of some one that had been recently buried,
sprinkle it behind them, the dogs could not follow the fleeing slave,
and would howl and return home.
"Old Pete the mechanic was working on farm near La Plata, he decided to
run away as he had done on several previous occasions. He was known by
some as the herb doctor and healer. He would not be punished on any
condition nor would he work unless he was paid something. It was said
that he would save money and give it to people who wanted to run away.
He was charged with aiding a girl to flee. He was to be whipped by the
sheriff of Charles County for aiding the girl to run away. He heard of
it, left the night before he was to be whipped, he went to the swamp in
the cove or about 5 miles from where his master lived. He eluded the
dogs for several weeks, escaped, got to Boston and no one to this day
has any idea how he did it; but he did.
"In the year of 1866 my father returned to Maryland bringing with him
mother and my brothers and sister. He selected Annapolis for his future
home, where he secured work as a waiter at the Naval Academy, he
continued there for more than 20 years. In the meantime after 1866 or
1868, when schools were opened for colored people, I went to a school
that was established for colored children and taught by white teacher
until I was about 17 years old, then I too worked at the Naval Academy
waiting on the midshipmen. In those days you could make extra money,
sometimes making more than your wages. About 1896 or '97 I purchased a
farm near Camp Parole containing 120 acres, upon which I have lived
since, raising a variety of vegetables for which Anne Arundel County is
noted. I have been a member of Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church,
Annapolis, for more than 40 years. All of my children, 5 in number, have
grown to be men and women, one living home with me, one in New York, two
in Baltimore, and one working in Washington, D.C."
Sept. 27, 1937
ANNIE YOUNG HENSON, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Annie Young Henson, ex-slave,
at African M.E. Home, 207 Aisquith St., Baltimore.
"I was born in Northumberland County, Virginia, 86 years ago. Daughter
of Mina and Tom Miller. I had one brother Feelingchin and two sisters,
Mary and Matilda. Owned by Doctor Pressley Nellum.
"The farm was called Traveler's Rest. The farm so named because a man
once on a dark, cold and dreary night stopped there and asked for
something to eat and lodging for the night; both of which was given and
welcomed by the wayfarer.
"The house being very spacious with porches on each side, situated on a
high hill, with trees on the lawn giving homes to the birds and shade to
the master, mistress and their guests where they could hear the chant of
the lark or the melodious voices of the slaves humming some familiar
tunes that suited their taste, as they worked.
"Nearby was the slave quarters and the log cabin, where we lived, built
about 25 feet from the other quarter. Our cabin was separate and
distinct from the others. It contained two rooms, one up and one down,
with a window in each room. This cabin was about 25 feet from the
kitchen of the manor house, where the cooking was done by the kitchen
help for the master, mistress and their guests, and from which each
slave received his or her weekly ration, about 20 pounds of food each.
"The food consisted of beef, hog meat, and lamb or mutton and of the
kind of vegetables that we raised on the farm.
"My position was second nurse for the doctor's family, or one of the
inner servants of the family, not one of the field hands. In my position
my clothes were made better, and better quality than the others, all
made and arranged to suit the mistress' taste. I got a few things of
femine dainty that was discarded by the mistress, but no money nor did I
have any to spend. During my life as a slave I was whipped only once,
and that was for a lie that was told on me by the first nurse who was
jealous of my looks. I slept in the mistress' room in a bed that we
pushed under the mistress' in the day or after I arose.
"Old Master had special dogs to hunt opossum, rabbit, coons and birds,
and men to go with them on the hunt. When we seined, other slave owners
would send some of their slaves to join ours and we then dividing the
spoils of the catch.
"We had 60 slaves on the plantation, each family housed in a cabin built
by the slaves for Nellums to accommodate the families according to the
number. For clothes we had good clothes, as we raised sheep, we had our
own wool, out of which we weaved our cloth, we called the cloth 'box and
"In the winter the field slaves would shell corn, cut wood and thrash
wheat and take care of the stock. We had our shoes made to order by the
"My mistress was not as well off before she married the doctor as
afterward. I was small or young during my slave days, I always heard my
mistress married for money and social condition. She would tell us how
she used to say before she was married, when she saw the doctor coming,
'here comes old Dr. Nellums'. Another friend she would say 'here comes
"We never had any overseers on the plantation, we had an old colored man
by the name of Peter Taylor. His orders was law, if you wanted to please
Mistress and Master, obey old Peter.
"The farm was very large, the slaves worked from sunup to sundown, no
one was harshly treated or punished. They were punished only when proven
guilty of crime charged.
"Our master never sold any slaves. We had a six-room house, where the
slaves entertained and had them good times at nights and on holidays. We
had no jail on the plantation. We were not taught to read or write, we
were never told our age.
"We went to the white church on Sunday, up in the slave gallery where
the slaves worshipped sometimes. The gallery was overcrowded with ours
and slaves from other plantations. My mistress told me that there was
once an old colored man who attended, taking his seat up in the gallery
directly over the pulpit, he had the habit of saying Amen. A member of
the church said to him, 'John, if you don't stop hollowing Amen you
can't come to church'; he got so full of the Holy Ghost he yelled out
Amen upon a venture, the congregation was so tickled with him and at his
antics that they told him to come when and as often as he wanted.
"During my slave days only one slave ran away, he was my uncle, when the
Yankees came to Virginia, he ran away with them. He was later captured
by the sheriff and taken to the county jail. The Doctor went to the
court house, after which we never heard nor saw my uncle afterwards.
"I have seen and heard white-cappers, they whipped several colored men
of other plantations, just prior to the soldiers drilling to go to war.
"I remember well the day that Dr. Nellum, just as if it were yesterday,
that we went to the court house to be set free. Dr. Nellum walked in
front, 65 of us behind him. When we got there the sheriff asked him if
they were his slaves. The Dr. said they were, but not now, after the
papers were signed we all went back to the plantation. Some stayed
there, others went away. I came to Baltimore and I have never been back
since. I think I was about 17 or 18 years old when I came away. I worked
for Mr. Marshall, a flour merchant, who lived on South Charles Street,
getting $6.00 per month. I have been told by both white and colored
people of Virginia who knew Dr. Nellum, he lost his mind."
Sept. 29, 1937
REV. SILAS JACKSON, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Rev. Silas Jackson, ex-slave,
at his home, 1630 N. Gilmor St., Baltimore.
"I was born at or near Ashbie's Gap in Virginia, either in the year of
1846 or 47. I do not know which, but I will say I am 90 years of age. My
father's name was Sling and mother's Sarah Louis. They were purchased by
my master from a slave trader in Richmond, Virginia. My father was a man
of large stature and my mother was tall and stately. They originally
came from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I think from the Legg estate,
beyond that I do not know. I had three brothers and two sisters. My
brothers older than I, and my sisters younger. Their names were Silas,
Carter, Rap or Raymond, I do not remember; my sisters were Jane and
Susie, both of whom are living in Virginia now. Only one I have ever
seen and he came north with General Sherman, he died in 1925. He was a
Baptist minister like myself.
"The only things I know about my grandparents were: My grandfather ran
away through the aid of Harriet Tubman and went to Philadelphia and
saved $350, and purchased my grandmother through the aid of a Quaker or
an Episcopal minister, I do not know. I have on several occasions tried
to trace this part of my family's past history, but without success.
"I was a large boy for my age, when I was nine years of age my task
began and continued until 1864. You see _I saw and_ I was a slave.
"In Virginia where I was, they raised tobacco, wheat, corn and farm
products. I have had a taste of all the work on the farm, besides of
digging and clearing up new ground to increase the acreage to the farm.
We all had task work to do--men, women and boys. We began work on Monday
and worked until Saturday. That day we were allowed to work for
ourselves and to garden or to do extra work. When we could get work, or
work on some one else's place, we got a pass from the overseer to go off
the plantation, but to be back by nine o'clock on Saturday night or when
cabin inspection was made. Some time we could earn as much as 50 cents a
day, which we used to buy cakes, candies, or clothes.
"On Saturday each slave was given 10 pounds corn meal, a quart of black
strap, 6 pounds of fat back, 3 pounds of flour and vegetables, all of
which were raised on the farm. All of the slaves hunted or those who
wanted, hunted rabbits, opossums or fished. These were our choice food
as we did not get anything special from the overseer.
"Our food was cooked by our mothers or sisters and for those who were
not married by the old women and men assigned for that work.
"Each family was given 3 acres to raise their chickens or vegetables and
if a man raised his own food he was given $10.00 at Christmas time
extra, besides his presents.
"In the summer or when warm weather came each slave was given something,
the women, linsey goods or gingham clothes, the men overalls, muslin
shirts, top and underclothes, two pair of shoes, and a straw hat to work
in. In the cold weather, we wore woolen clothes, all made at the sewing
"My master was named Tom Ashbie, a meaner man was never born in
Virginia--brutal, wicked and hard. He always carried a cowhide with him.
If he saw anyone doing something that did not suit his taste, he would
have the slave tied to a tree, man or woman, and then would cowhide the
victim until he got tired, or sometimes, the slave would faint.
"The Ashbie's home was a large stone mansion, with a porch on three
sides. Wide halls in the center up and down stairs, numerous rooms and a
stone kitchen built on the back connected with dining room.
"Mrs. Ashbie was kind and lovely to her slaves when Mr. Ashbie was out.
The Ashbies did not have any children of their own, but they had boys
and girls of his own sister and they were much like him, they had maids
or private waiter for the young men if they wanted them.
"I have heard it said by people in authority, Tom Ashbie owned 9000
acres of farm land besides of wood land. He was a large slave owner
having more than 100 slaves on his farm. They were awakened by blowing
of the horn before sunrise by the overseer, started work at sunrise and
worked all day to sundown, with not time to go to the cabin for dinner,
you carried your dinner with you. The slaves were driven at top speed
and whipped at the snap of the finger, by the overseers, we had four
overseers on the farm all hired white men.
"I have seen men beaten until they dropped in their tracks or knocked
over by clubs, women stripped down to their waist and cowhided.
"I have heard it said that Tom Ashbie's father went to one of the cabins
late at night, the slaves were having a secret prayer meeting. He heard
one slave ask God to change the heart of his master and deliver him from
slavery so that he may enjoy freedom. Before the next day the man
disappeared, no one ever seeing him again; but after that down in the
swamp at certain times of the moon, you could hear the man who prayed in
the cabin praying. When old man Ashbie died, just before he died he told
the white Baptist minister, that he had killed Zeek for praying and that
he was going to hell.
"There was a stone building on the farm, it is there today. I saw it
this summer while visiting in Virginia. The old jail, it is now used as
a garage. Downstairs there were two rooms, one where some of the
whipping was done, and the other used by the overseer. Upstairs was used
for women and girls. The iron bars have coroded, but you can see where
they were. I have never seen slaves sold on the farm, but I have seen
them taken away, and brought there. Several times I have seen slaves
chained taken away and chained when they came.
"No one on the place was taught to read or write. On Sunday the slaves
who wanted to worship would gather at one of the large cabins with one
of the overseers present and have their church. After which the overseer
would talk. When communion was given the overseer was paid for staying
there with half of the collection taken up, some time he would get 25¢.
No one could read the Bible. Sandy Jasper, Mr. Ashbie's coachman was the
preacher, he would go to the white Baptist church on Sunday with family
and would be better informed because he heard the white preacher.
"Twice each year, after harvest and after New Year's, the slaves would
have their protracted meeting or their revival and after each closing
they would baptize in the creek, sometimes in the winter they would
break the ice singing _Going to the Water_ or some other hymn of that
nature. And at each funeral, the Ashbies would attend the service
conducted in the cabin there the deceased was, from there taken to the
slave graveyard. A lot dedicated for that purpose, situated about 3/4 of
a mile from cabins near a hill.
"There were a number of slaves on our plantation who ran away, some were
captured and sold to a Georgia trader, others who were never captured.
To intimidate the slaves, the overseers were connected with the
patrollers, not only to watch our slaves, but sometimes for the rewards
for other slaves who had run away from other plantations. This feature
caused a great deal of trouble between the whites and blacks. In 1858
two white men were murdered near Warrenton on the road by colored
people, it was never known whether by free people or slaves.
"When work was done the slaves retired to their cabins, some played
games, others cooked or rested or did what they wanted. We did not work
on Saturdays unless harvest times, then Saturdays were days of work. At
other times, on Saturdays you were at leisure to do what you wanted. On
Christmas day Mr. Ashbie would call all the slaves together, give them
presents, money, after which they spent the day as they liked. On New
Year's day we all were scared, that was the time for selling, buying and
trading slaves. We did not know who was to go or come.
"I do not remember of playing any particular game, my sport was fishing.
You see I do not believe in ghost stories nor voodooism, I have nothing
to say. We boys used to take the horns of a dead cow or bull, cut the
end off of it, we could blow it, some having different notes. We could
tell who was blowing and from what plantation.
"When a slave took sick she or he would have to depend on herbs, salves
or other remedies prepared by someone who knew the medicinal value. When
a valuable hand took sick one of the overseers would go to Upper Ville
for a doctor."
JAMES CALHART JAMES, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with James Calhart James, ex-slave,
at his home, 2460 Druid Hill Ave., Baltimore.
"My father's name was Franklin Pearce Randolph of Virginia, a descendant
of the Randolphs of Virginia who migrated to South Carolina and located
near Fort Sumter, the fort that was surrendered to the Confederates in
1851 or the beginning of the Civil War. My mother's name was Lottie
Virginia James, daughter of an Indian and a slave woman, born on the
Rapidan River in Virginia about 1823 or 24, I do not know which; she was
a woman of fine features and very light in complexion with beautiful,
long black hair. She was purchased by her master and taken to South
Carolina when about 15 years old. She was the private maid of Mrs.
Randolph until she died and then continued as housekeeper for her
master, while there and in that capacity I was born on the Randolph's
plantation August 23, 1846. I was a half brother to the children of the
Randolphs, four in number. After I was born mother and I lived in the
servants' quarters of the big house enjoying many pleasures that the
other slaves did not: eating and sleeping in the big house, playing and
associating with my half-brothers and sisters.
"As for my ancestors I have no recollection of them, the history of the
Randolphs in Virginia is my background.
"My father told mother when I became of age, he was going to free me,
send me north to be educated, but instead I was emancipated. During my
slave days my father gave me money and good clothes to wear. I bought
toys and games.
"My clothes were good both winter and summer and according to the
"My master was my father; he was kind to me but hard on the field hands
who worked in the rice fields. My mistress died before I was born. There
were 3 girls and one boy, they treated me fairly good--at first or when
I was small or until they realised their father was my father, then they
hated me. We lived in a large white frame house containing about 15
rooms with every luxury of that day, my father being very rich.
"I have heard the Randolph plantation contained about 4000 acres and
about 300 slaves. We had white overseers on the plantation, they worked
hard producing rice on a very large scale, and late and early. I know
they were severely punished, especially for not producing the amount of
work assigned them or for things that the overseers thought they should
be punished for.
"We had a jail over the rice barn where the slaves were confined,
especially on Sundays, as punishment for things done during the week.
"I could read and write when I was 12 years old. I was taught by. the
teacher who was the governess for the Randolph children. Mother could
also read and write. There was no church on the plantation; the slaves
attended church on the next plantation, where the owner had a large
slave church, he was a Baptist preacher, I attended the white church
with the Randolph children. I was generally known and called Jim
Randolph. I was baptised by the white Baptist minister and christened by
a Methodist minister.
"There was little trouble between the white and blacks, you see I was
one of the children of the house, I never came in contact much with
other slaves. I was told that the slaves had a drink that was made of
corn and rice which they drank. The overseers sometimes themselves drank
it very freely. On holidays and Sundays the slaves had their times, and
I never knew any difference as I was treated well by my father and did
not associate with the other slaves.
"In the year of 1865, I left South Carolina, went to Washington, entered
Howard University 1868, graduated in 1873, taught schools in Virginia,
North Carolina and Maryland, retired 1910. Since then I have been
connected with A.M.E. educational board. Now I am home with my
granddaughter, a life well spent.
"One of the songs sung by the slaves on the plantation I can remember a
part of it. They sang it with great feeling of happiness----
Oh where shall we go when de great day comes
An' de blowing of de trumpets and de bangins of de drums
When General Sherman comes.
No more rice and cotton fields
We will hear no more crying
Old master will be sighing.
"I can't remember the tune, people sang it according to their own tune."
Sept. 23, 1937
MARY MORIAH ANNE SUSANNA JAMES, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Mary James, ex-slave,
Sept. 23, 1937, at her home, 618 Haw St., Baltimore, Md.
"My father's name was Caleb Harris James, and my mother's name was Mary
Moriah. Both of them were owned by Silas Thornton Randorph, a distant
relative of Patrick Henry. I have seen the picture of Patrick Henry many
a time in the home place on the library wall. I had three sisters and
two brothers. Two of my sisters were sold to a slave dealer from
Georgia, one died in 1870. One brother ran away and the other joined the
Union Army; he died in the Soldiers' Home in Washington in 1932 at the
age of 84.
"How let me ask you, who told you about me? I knew that a stranger was
coming, my nose has been itching for several days. How about my home
life in Virginia, we lived on the James River in Virginia, on a farm
containing more than 8,000 acres, fronting 3-1/2 miles on the river,
with a landing where boats used to come to load tobacco and unload goods
for the farm.
"The quarters where we lived on the plantation called Randolph Manor
were built like horse stables that you see on race tracks; they were
1-1/2 story high, about 25 feet wide, and about 75 feet long, with
windows in the sides of the roofs. A long shelter on the front and at
the rear. In front, people would have benches to sit on, and on the back
were nails to hang pots and pans. Each family would have rooms according
to the size of the family. There were 8 such houses, 6 for families and
one for the girls and the other for the boys. In the quarters we had
furniture made by the overseer and colored carpenters; they would make
the tables, benches and beds for everybody. Our beds were ticking filled
with straw and covers made of anything we could get.
"I have a faint recollection of my grandparents. My grandfather was sold
to a man in South Carolina, to work in the rice field. Grandmother
drowned herself in the river when she heard that grand-pap was going
away. I was told that grandpap was sold because he got religious and
prayed that God would set him and grandma free.
"When I was ten years old I was put to work on the farm with other
children, picking weeds, stone up and tobacco worms and to do other
work. We all got new shoes for Christmas, a dress and $2.50 for
Christmas or suits of clothes. We spent our money at Mr. Randorph's
store for things that we wanted, but was punished if the money was spent
at the county seat at other stores.
"We were allowed fat meat, corn meal, black molasses and vegetables,
corn and grain to roast for coffee. Mother cooked my food after stopping
work on the farm for the day, I never ate possum. We would catch rabbits
in guns or traps and as we lived on the rivers, we ate any kind of fish
we caught. The men and everybody would go fishing after work. Each
family had a garden, we raised what we wanted.
"As near as I can recall, we had about 150 sheep on the farm, producing
our own wool. The old women weaved clothes; we had woolen clothes in the
winter and cotton clothes in the summer. On Sunday we wore the clothes
given to us at Christmas time and shoes likewise.
"I was married on the farm 1863 and married my same husband by a Baptist
preacher in 1870 as I was told I had not been legally married. I was
married in the dress given to me at Christmas of 1862. I did not get one
"Old Silas Randolph was a mean man to his slaves, especially when drunk.
He and the overseer would always be together, each of whom carried a
whip, and upon the least provocation would whip his slaves. My mistress
was not as mean as my master, but she was mean There was only one son in
the Randolph family. He went to a military school somewhere in Virginia.
I don't know the name. He was captured by the Union soldiers. I never
saw him until after the war, when he came home with one arm.
"The overseer lived on the farm. He was the brother of Mrs. Randolph. He
would whip men and women and children if he thought they were not
"The plantation house was a large brick house over-looking the river
from a hill, a porch on three sides, two-stories and attic. In the attic
slept the house servants and coachman. We did not come in contact with
the white people very much. Our place was away from the village.
"There were 8,000 acres to the plantation, with more than 150 slaves on
it. I do not know the time slaves woke up, but everybody was at work at
sunrise and worked to sundown. The slaves were whipped for not working
fast or anything that suited the fancy of the master or overseer.
"I have seen slaves sold on the farm and I have seen slaves brought to
the farm. The slaves were brought up the river in boats and unloaded at
the landing, some crying and some seem to be happy.
"No one was taught to read or write. There was no church on the farm. No
one was allowed to read the Bible or anything else.
"I have heard it said that the Randolph's lost more slaves by running
away than anyone in the county. The patrollers were many in the county;
they would whip any colored person caught off the place after night.
Whenever a man wanted to run away he would go with someone else, either
from the farm or from some other farm, hiding in the swamps or along the
river, making their way to some place where they thought would be safe,
sometimes hiding on trains leaving Virginia.
"The slaves, after going to their quarters, cooked, rested or did what
they wanted. Saturdays was no different from Monday.
"On Christmas morning all the slaves would go up to the porch, get the
$2.50, shoes and clothes, go back to the cabins and do what they wanted.
"On New Year's Day everybody was scared as that was the day that slaves
were taken away or brought to the farm.
"You have asked about stories, I will tell you one I know. It is true.
"During the war one day some Union soldiers came to the farm looking for
Rebels. There were a number of them in the woods near the landing; they
had come across the river in boats. At night while the Union soldiers
were at the landing, they were fired on by the Rebels. The Union
soldiers went after them, killed ten, caught I think six and some were
drowned in the river. Among the six was the overseer, and from that
night people have heard shooting and seen soldiers. One night many years
after the Civil War, while visiting a friend who now lives within 500
feet from the landing where the fighting took place, there appeared some
soldiers carrying a man out of the woods whom I recognized as being the
overseer. He had been seen hundreds of times by other people. White
people will tell you the same thing. I will tell you for sure this is
"You must excuse me I wanted to see some friends this evening."
PHILLIP JOHNSON, An Ex-Slave.
Ref: Phillip Johnson, R.F.D. Poolesville, Md.
The subject of this sketch is a pure blooded Negro, whose kinky hair is
now white, likewise his scraggy beard. He is of medium size and somewhat
stooped with age, but still active enough to plant and tend a patch of
corn and the chores about his little place at Sugarlands. His home is a
small cabin with one or two rooms upstairs and three down, including the
kitchen which is a leanto. The cabin is in great disrepair.
Phillip John is above the average in intelligence, has some education
and is quite well versed in the Holy Scriptures, having been for many
years a Methodist preacher among his people. He uses fairly good English
and freely talks in answer to questions. Without giving the questions
put to him by this writer, his remarks given in the first person and as
near his own idiom are as follows:
"I'll be ninety years old next December. I dunno the day. My Missis had
the colored folks ages written in a book but it was destroyed when the
Confederate soldiers came through. But she had a son born two or three
months younger than me and she remember that I was born in December,
1847, but she had forgot the day of the month.
"I was born down on the river bottom about four miles below Edwards'
Ferry, on the Eight Mile Level, between Edwards' Ferry and Seneca. I
belonged to ole Doctah White. He owned a lot o' lan down on de bottom. I
dunno his first name. Everybody called him Doctah White. Yes, he was
related to Doctah Elijah White. All the Whites in Montgomery County is
related. Yes sah, Doctah White was good to his slaves. Yes sah, he had
many slaves. I dunno how many. My Missis took me away from de bottom
when I was a little boy, 'cause de overseer he was so cruel to me. Yes
sah he was _mean_. I promised him a killin if ever I got big enough.
"We all liked the Missis. Everybody in dem days used to ride horseback.
She would come ridin her horse down to de bottom with a great big basket
of biscuits. We thought they were fine. We all glad to see de Missis a
comin. We always had plenty to eat, such as it was. We had coarse food
but there was plenty of it.
"The white folks made our clothes for us. They made linsey for the woman
and woolen cloth for de men. They gave clothes sufficient to keep em
warm. The men had wool clothes with brass buttons that had shanks on em.
They looked good when they were new. They had better clothes then than
most of us have now.
"They raised mostly corn an oats an wheat down on de river bottom in
those days. They didn't raise tobacco. But I've heard say that they used
to raise it long before I was born. They cut grain with cradles in dem
days. They had a lot 'o men and would slay a lot 'o wheat in a day. It
was pretty work to see four or five cradlers in a field and others
following them raking the wheat in bunches and others following binding
them in bundles. The first reapers that came were called Dorsey reapers.
They cut the grain and bunched it. It was then bound by hand.
"When my Missis took me away from the river bottom I lived in
Poolesville where the Kohlhoss home and garage is. I worked around the
house and garden. I remember when the Yankee and Confederate soldiers
both came to Poolesville. Capn Sam White (son of the doctor) he join the
Confederate in Virginia. He come home and say he goin to take me along
back with him for to serve him. But the Yankees came and he left very
sudden and leave me behind. I was glad I didn't have to go with him. I
saw all that fightin around Poolesville. I used to like to watch em
fightin. I saw a Yankee soldier shoot a Confederate and kill him. He
raised his gun twice to shoot but he kept dodgin around the house an he
didn' want to shoot when he might hit someone else. When he ran from the
house he shot him.
"Yes sah, them Confederates done more things around here than the
Yankees did. I remember once during the war they came to town. It was
Sunday morning an I was sittin in the gallery of the ole brick Methodist
church. One of them came to de door and he pointed his pistol right at
that preacher's head. The gallery had an outside stairs then. I ran to
de door to go down de stairs but there was another un there pointing his
gun and they say don't nobody leave dis building. The others they was a
cleanin up all the hosses and wagons round the church. The one who was
guarding de stairs, he kept a lookin to see if dey was done cleaning up
de hosses, and when he wasn't watching I slip half way down de stairs,
an when he turn his back I jump down and run. When he looks he jus
"My father he lived to be eighty nine. He died right here in this house
and he's buried over by the church. His name was Sam. They called my
mother Willie Ann. She died when I was small. I had three brothers and
one sister. My father married again and had seven or eight other
"I've had eleven children; five livin, six dead. I've been preaching for
forty years and I have seen many souls saved. I don't preach regular
anymore but once in a while I do. I have preached in all these little
churches around here. I preached six years at Sugar Loaf Mountain. The
presidin elder he wants me to go there. The man that had left there jus
tore that church up. I went up there one Sunday and I didn't see
anything that I could do. I think I'm not able for this. I said they
needs a more experienced preacher than me. But the presidin elder keeps
after me to go there and I says, well, I go for one year. Next thing it
was the same thing. I stays on another year and so on for six years.
When I left there that church was in pretty good shape.
"I think preaching the gospel is the greatest work in the world. But
folks don't seem to take the interest in church that they used to."
Sept. 30, 1937
GEORGE JONES, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with George Jones, Ex-slave,
at African M.E. Home, 207 Aisquith St., Baltimore.
"I was born in Frederick County, Maryland, 84 years ago or 1853. My
father's name was Henry and mother's Jane; brothers Dave, Joe, Henry,
John and sisters Annie and Josephine. I know my father and mother were
slaves, but I do not recall to whom they belonged. I remember my
"My father used to tell me how he would hide in the hay stacks at night,
because he was whipped and treated badly by his master who was rough and
hard-boiled on his slaves. Many a time the owner of the slaves and farm
would come to the cabins late at night to catch the slaves in their
dingy little hovels, which were constructed in cabin fashion and of
stone and logs with their typical windows and rooms of one room up and
one down with a window in each, the fireplaces built to heat and cook
"The farm was like all other farms in Frederick County, raising grain,
such as corn, wheat and fruit and on which work was seasonable,
depending upon the weather, some seasons producing more and some less.
When the season was good for the crop and crops plentiful, we had a
little money as the plantation owner gave us some to spend.
"When hunting came, especially in the fall and winter, the weather was
cold, I have often heard say father speak of rabbit, opossum and coon
hunting and his dogs. You know in Frederick County there are plenty of
woods, streams and places to hunt, giving homes and hiding places for
"We dressed to meet the weather condition and wore shoes to suit rough
traveling through woods and up and down the hills of the country.
"In my boyhood days, my father never spoke much of my master, only in
the term I have expressed before, or the children, church, the poor
white people in the neighborhood or the farm, their mode of living,
social condition. I will say this in conclusion, the white people of
Frederick County as a whole were kind towards the colored people and are
today, very little race friction one way or the other."
Ellen B. Warfield
May 18, 1937
(Alice Lewis, ex-slave, 84, years old, in charge of sewing-room at
Provident Hospital (Negro), Baltimore. Tall, slender, erect, her head
crowned by abundant snow white wool, with a fine carriage and an air of
poise mud self respect good to behold, Alice belies her 84 years.)
"Yes'm, I was born in slavery, I don't look it, but I was! Way down in
Wilkes County, Georgia, nigh to a little town named Washington which
ain't so far from Augusta. My pappy, he belong to the Alexanders, and my
mammy, she belong to the Wakefiel' plantation and we all live with the
Wakefiel's. No _ma'am_, none of the Wakefiel' niggers ever run away.
They was too well off! They knew who they friends was! _My_ white
folkses was good to their niggers! Them was the days when we had good
food and it didn't cost nothing--chickens and hogs and garden truck.
Saturdays was the day we got our 'lowance for the week, and lemme tell
you, they didn't stint us none. The best in the land was what we had,
jest what the white folkses had.
"Clothes? yes'm. We had two suits of clothes, a winter suit and a summer
suit and two pairs of shoes, a winter pair and a summer pair. Yes'm, my
mammy, she spin the cotton, yes'm picked right on the plantation, yes'm,
cotton picking was fun, believe me! As I was saying, Mammy she spin and
she wears the cloth, and she cut it out and she make our clothes. That's
where I git my taste to sew, I reckon. When I first come to Baltimore, I
done dressmaking, 'deed I did. I sewed for the best fam'lies in this
yere town. I sewed for the Howards and the Slingluffs and the Jenkinses.
Jest the other day, I met Miss C'milla down town and she say. 'Alice,
ain' this you? and I say, 'Law me, Miss C'milla', and 'she say, 'Alice,
why don' you come to see Mother? She ain' been so well--she love to see
"Well, as I was a saying, we didn't work so hard, them days. We got up
early, 'cause the fires had to be lighted to make the house warm for the
white folks, but in them days, dinner was in the middle of the day--the
quality had theirs at twelve o'clock--and they had a light supper at
five and when we was through, we was through, and free to go the
quarters and set around and smoke a pipe and rest.
"Yes'm they taught us to read and write. Sunday afternoons, my young
mistresses used to teach the pickaninnies to read the Bible. Yes'm we
was free to go to see the niggers on other plantations but we had to
have a pass an' we was checked in an' out. No'm, I ain't never seen no
slaves sold, nor none in chains, and I ain't never seen no Ku Kluxers.
"I live with the Wakefiel's till I was 'leven and then Marse Wakefiel'
give me to my young mistress when she married and went to North Carolina
to live. And 'twas in North Carolina that I seed Sherman, 'deed I did!
I seed Sherman and his sojers, gathering up all the hogs and all the
hosses, and all the cows and all the little cullud chillen. Them was
drefful days! These is drefful days, too. Old man Satan, he sure am on
"Yes'm, I believes in ghos'ses. I ain't never seed 'em but I is feel
'em. I live once in a house where a man was killed. I lie in my bed and
they close in on me! No'm, I ain't afraid. The landlord say when I move
out, 'you is stay there longer than anybody I ever had.' 'Nother house
I live in (this was in North Carolina too), it had been a gamblin'
house and it had hants. On rainy nights, I'd lie awake and hear "drip,
drip ... drip, drip...." What was that? Why, that was the blood a
dripping ... Why on rainy night? Why, on rainy nights, the blood gets
a little fresh...!"
Sept. 4, 1937
PERRY LEWIS, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Perry Lewis, ex-slave,
at his home, 1124 E. Lexington St., Baltimore.
"I was born on Kent Island, Md. about 86 years ago. My father's name was
Henry and mother's Louise. I had one brother John, who was killed in the
Civil War at the Deep Bottom, one sister as I can remember. My father
was a freeman and my mother a slave, owned by Thomas Tolson, who owned a
small farm on which I was born in a log cabin, with two rooms, one up
and one down.
"As you know the mother was the owner of the children that she brought
into the world. Mother being a slave made me a slave. She cooked and
worked on the farm, ate whatever was in the farmhouse and did her share
of work to keep and maintain the Tolsons. They being poor, not having a
large place or a number of slaves to increase their wealth, made them
little above the free colored people and with no knowledge, they could
not teach me or any one else to read.
"You know the Eastern Shore of Maryland was in the most productive slave
territory and where farming was done on a large scale; and in that part
of Maryland where there were many poor people and many of whom were
employed as overseers, you naturally heard of patrollers and we had them
and many of them. I have heard that patrollers were on Kent Island and
the colored people would go out in the country on the roads, create a
disturbance to attract the patrollers' attention. They would tie ropes
and grape vines across the roads, so when the patrollers would come to
the scene of the disturbance on horseback and at full tilt, they would
be throwing those who would come in contact with the rope or vine off
the horse; sometimes badly injuring the riders. This would create hatred
between the slaves, the free people, the patrollers and other white
people who were concerned.
"In my childhood days I played marbles, this was the only game I
remember playing. As I was on a small farm, we did not come in contact
much with other children, and heard no children's songs. I therefore do
not recall the songs we sang.
"I do not remember being sick but I have heard mother say, when she or
her children were sick, the white doctor who attended the Tolsons
treated us and the only herbs I can recall were life-everlasting boneset
and woodditney, from each of which a tea could be made.
"This is about all I can recall."
Sept. 7, 1937
RICHARD MACKS, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Richard Macks, ex-slave,
at his home, 541 W. Biddle St., Baltimore.
"I was born in Charles County in Southern Maryland in the year of 1844.
My father's name was William (Bill) and Mother's Harriet Mack, both of
whom were born and reared in Charles County--the county that James
Wilkes Booth took refuge in after the assassination of President Lincoln
in 1865. I had one sister named Jenny and no brothers: let me say right
here it was God's blessing I did not. Near Bryantown, a county center
prior to the Civil War as a market for tobacco, grain and market for
"In Bryantown there were several stores, two or three taverns or inns
which were well known in their days for their hospitality to their
guests and arrangements to house slaves. There were two inns both of
which had long sheds, strongly built with cells downstairs for men and a
large room above for women. At night the slave traders would bring their
charges to the inns, pay for their meals, which were served on a long
table in the shed, then afterwards, they were locked up for the night.
"I lived with my mother, father and sister in a log cabin built of log
and mud, having two rooms; one with a dirt floor and the other above,
each room having two windows, but no glass. On a large farm or
plantation owned by an old maid by the name of Sally McPherson on
"As a small boy and later on, until I was emancipated, I worked on the
farm doing farm work, principally in the tobacco fields and in the woods
cutting timber and firewood. I slept on a home-made bed or bunk, while
my mother and sister slept in a bed made by father on which they had a
mattress made by themselves and filled with straw, while dad slept on a
bench beside the bed and that he used in the day as a work bench,
mending shoes for the slaves and others. I have seen mother going to the
fields each day like other slaves to do her part of the farming. I being
considered as one of the household employees, my work was both in the
field and around the stable, giving me an opportunity to meet people
some of whom gave me a few pennies. By this method I earned some money
which I gave to my mother. I once found a gold dollar, that was the
first dollar I ever had in my life.
"We had nothing to eat but corn bread baked in ashes, fat back and
vegetables raised on the farm; no ham or any other choice meats; and
fish we caught out of the creeks and streams.
"My father had some very fine dogs; we hunted coons, rabbits and
opossum. Our best dog was named Ruler, he would take your hat off. If my
father said: 'Ruler, take his hat off!', he would jump up and grab your
"We had a section of the farm that the slaves were allowed to farm for
themselves, my mistress would let them raise extra food for their own
use at nights. My father was the colored overseer, he had charge of the
entire plantation and continued until he was too old to work, then
mother's brother took it over, his name was Caleb.
"When I was a boy, I saw slaves going through and to Bryansville town.
Some would be chained, some handcuffed, and others not. These slaves
were bought up from time to time to be auctioned off or sold at
Bryantown, to go to other farms, in Maryland, or shipped south.
"The slave traders would buy young and able farm men and well-developed
young girls with fine physiques to barter and sell. They would bring
them to the taverns where there would be the buyers and traders, display
them and offer them for sale. At one of these gatherings a colored girl,
a mulatto of fine stature and good looks, was put on sale. She was of
high spirits and determined disposition. At night she was taken by the
trader to his room to satisfy his bestial nature. She could not be
coerced or forced by him [TR: 'by him' lined out] so she was attacked by
him. In the struggle she grabbed a knife and with it, she
sterilized[HW:?] him and from the result of injury he died the next day.
She was charged with murder. Gen. Butler, hearing of it, sent troops to
Charles County to protect her, they brought her to Baltimore, later she
was taken to Washington where she was set free. She married a Government
employe, reared a family of 3 children, one is a doctor practicing
medicine in Baltimore and the other a retired school teacher, you know
him well if I were to tell you who the doctor is. This attack was the
result of being goodlooking, for which many a poor girl in Charles
County paid the price. There are several cases I could mention, but they
are distasteful to me.
"A certain slave would not permit this owner to whip him, who with
overseer and several others overpowered the slave, tied him, put him
across a hogshead and whipped him severely for three mornings in
succession. Some one notified the magistrate at Bryantown of the
brutality. He interfered in the treatment of this slave, threatening
punishment. He was untied, he ran away, was caught by the constable,
returned to his owner, melted sealing wax was poured over his back on
the wounds inflicted by him, when whipping, the slave ran away again and
never was caught.
"There was a doctor in the neighborhood who bought a girl and installed
her on the place for his own use, his wife hearing of it severely beat
her. One day her little child was playing in the yard. It fell head down
in a post hole filled with water and drowned. His wife left him;
afterward she said it was an affliction put on her husband for his sins.
"During hot weather we wore thin woolen clothes, the material being made
on the farm from the wool of our sheep, in the winter we wore thicker
clothes made on the farm by slaves, and for shoes our measures were
taken of each slave with a stick, they were brought to Baltimore by the
old mistress at the beginning of each season, if she or the one who did
the measuring got the shoe too short or too small you had to wear it or
"We were never taught to read or write by white people.
"We had to go to the white church, sit in the rear, many times on the
floor or stand up. We had a colored preacher, he would walk 10 miles,
then walk back. I was not a member of church. We had no baptising, we
were christened by the white preacher.
"We had a graveyard on the place. Whites were buried inside of railing
and the slaves on the outside. The members of the white family had
tombstones, the colored had headstones and cedar post to show where they
"In Charles County and in fact all of Southern Maryland tobacco was
raised on a large scale. Men, women and children had to work hard to
produce the required crops. The slaves did the work and they were driven
at full speed sometimes by the owners and others by both owner and
overseers. The slaves would run away from the farms whenever they had a
chance, some were returned and others getting away. This made it very
profitable to white men and constables to capture the runaways. This
caused trouble between the colored people and whites, especially the
free people, as some of them would be taken for slaves. I had heard of
several killings resulting from fights at night.
"One time a slave ran away and was seen by a colored man, who was
hunting, sitting on a log eating some food late in the night. He had a
corn knife with him. When his master attempted to hit him with a whip,
he retaliated with the knife, splitting the man's breast open, from
which he died. The slave escaped and was never captured. The white
cappers or patrollers in all of the counties of Southern Maryland
scoured the swamps, rivers and fields without success.
"Let me explain to you very plain without prejudice one way or the
other, I have had many opportunities, a chance to watch white men and
women in my long career, colored women have many hard battles to fight
to protect themselves from assault by employers, white male servants or
by white men, many times not being able to protect, in fear of losing
their positions. Then on the other hand they were subjected to many
impositions by the women of the household through woman's jealousy.
"I remember well when President Buchanan was elected, I was a large boy.
I came to Baltimore when General Grant was elected, worked in a livery
stable for three years, three years with Dr. Owens as a waiter and
coachman, 3 years with Mr. Thomas Winanson Baltimore Street as a butler,
3 years with Mr. Oscar Stillman of Boston, then 11 years with Mr. Robert
Garrett on Mt. Vernon Place as head butler, after which I entered the
catering business and continued until about twelve years ago. In my
career I have had the opportunity to come in contact with the best white
people and the most cultured class in Maryland and those visiting
Baltimore. This class is about gone, now we have a new group, lacking
the refinement, the culture and taste of those that have gone by.
"When I was a small boy I used to run races with other boys, play
marbles and have jumping contests.
"At nights the slaves would go from one cabin to the other, talk, dance
or play the fiddle or sing. Christmas everybody had holidays, our
mistress never gave presents. Saturdays were half-day holidays unless
planting and harvest times, then we worked all day.
"When the slaves took sick or some woman gave birth to a child, herbs,
salves, home liniments were used or a midwife or old mama was the
attendant, unless severe sickness Miss McPherson would send for the
white doctor, that was very seldom."
Dec. 21, 1937
TOM RANDALL, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Tom Randall,
at his home, Oella, Md.
"I was born in Ellicott City, Howard County, Maryland, in 1856, in a
shack on a small street now known as New Cut Road--the name then, I do
not know. My mother's name was Julia Bacon. Why my name was Randall I do
not know, but possibly a man by the name of Randall was my father. I
have never known nor seen my father. Mother was the cook at the Howard
House; she was permitted to keep me with her. When I could remember
things, I remember eating out of the skillets, pots and pans, after she
had fried chicken, game or baked in them, always leaving something for
me. When I grew larger and older I can recall how I used to carry wood
in the kitchen, empty the rinds of potatoes, the leaves of cabbages and
the leaves and tops of other plants.
"There was a colored man by the name of Joe Nick, called Old Nick by a
great many white people of me city. Joe was owned by Rueben Rogers, a
lawyer and farmer of Howard County. The farm was situated about 2-1/2
miles on a road that is the extension of Main Street, the leading street
of Ellicott City. They never called me anything but Tomy or Randy, other
people told me that Thomas Randall, a merchant of Ellicott City, was my
"Mother was owned by a man by the name of O'Brien, a saloon or tavern
keeper of the town. He conducted a saloon in Ellicott City for a long
time until he became manager, or operator, of the Howard House of
Ellicott City, a larger hotel and tavern in the city. Mother was a fine
cook, especially of fowl and game. The Howard House was the gathering
place of the formers, lawyers and business men of Howard and Frederick
Counties and people of Baltimore who had business in the courts of
Howard County and people of western Maryland on their way to Baltimore.
"Joe could read and write and was a good mechanic and wheelright. These
accomplishments made him very valuable to Rogers' farm, as wagons,
buggies, carriages, plows and other vehicles and tools had to be made
"When I was about eight or nine years old Joe ran away, everybody saying
to join the Union Army. Joe Nick drove a pair of horses, hitched to a
covered wagon, to Ellicott City. The horses were found, but no Nick,
Rogers offered a reward of $100.00 for the return of Nick. This offer
drew to Ellicott City a number of people who had bloodhounds that were
trained to hunt Negroes--some coming from Anne Arundel, Baltimore,
Howard and counties of southern Maryland, each owner priding his pack as
being the best pack in the town. They all stopped at the Howard House,
naturally drinking, treating their friends and each other, they all
discussed among themselves the reward and their packs of hounds, each
one saying that his pack was the best. This boasting was backed by cash.
Some cash, plus the reward on their hounds. In the meantime Old Joe was
thinking, not boasting, but was riding the rail.
"Old Joe left Ellicott City on a freight train, going west, which he
hopped when it was stalled on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad a short
distance from the railroad station at Ellicott City. Old Joe could not
leave on the passenger trains, as no Negro would be allowed on the
trains unless he had a pass signed by his master or a free Negro, and
had his papers.
"At dawn the hunters left the Howard House with the packs, accompanied
by many friends and people who joined up for the sport of the chase.
They went to Rogers' farm where the dogs were taken in packs to Nick's
quarters so they could get the odor and scent of Nick. They had a
twofold purpose, one to get the natural scent, the other was, if Old
Nick had run away, he might come back at night to get some personal
belongings, in that way the direction he had taken would be indicated by
the scent and the hounds would soon track him down. The hounds were
unleashed, each hunter going in a different direction without result.
Then they circled the farm, some going 5 miles beyond the farm without
result. After they had hunted all day they returned to the Howard House
where they regaled themselves in pleasures of the hotel for the evening.
"In June of 1865 Old Nick returned to Ellicott City dressed in a uniform
of blue, showing that he had joined the Federal Army. Mr. Rueben Rogers
upon seeing him had him arrested, charging him with being a fugitive
slave. He was confined in the jail there and held until the U.S. Marshal
of Baltimore released him, arresting Rogers and bringing him to
Baltimore City where he was reprimanded by the Federal Judge. This story
is well known by the older people of Howard County and traditionally
known by the younger generation of Ellicott City, and is called 'Old
Nick: Rogers' lemon.'"
Sept. 28, 1937
DENNIS SIMMS, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Dennis Simms, ex-slave,
September 19, 1937, at his home, 629 Mosher St., Baltimore.
Born on a tobacco plantation at Contee, Prince Georges County, Maryland,
June 17, 1841, Dennis Simms, Negro ex-slave, 628 Mosher Street,
Baltimore, Maryland, is still working and expects to live to be a
hundred years old.
He has one brother living, George Simms, of South River, Maryland, who
was born July 18, 1849. Both of them were born on the Contee tobacco
plantation, owned by Richard and Charles Contee, whose forbears were
early settlers in the State.
Simms always carries a rabbit's foot, to which he attributes his good
health and long life. He has been married four times since he gained his
freedom. His fourth wife, Eliza Simms, 67 years old, is now in the
Providence Hospital, suffering from a broken hip she received in a fall.
The aged Negro recalls many interesting and exciting incidents of
slavery days. More than a hundred slaves worked on the plantation, some
continuing to work for the Contee brothers when they were set free. It
was a pretty hard and cruel life for the darkeys, declares the Negro.
Describing the general conditions of Maryland slaves, he said: "We would
work from sunrise to sunset every day except Sundays and on New Year's
Day. Christmas made little difference at Contee, except that we were
given extra rations of food then. We had to toe the mark or be flogged
with a rawhide whip, and almost every day there was from two to ten
thrashings given on the plantations to disobedient Negro slaves.
"When we behaved we were not whipped, but the overseer kept a pretty
close eye on us. We all hated what they called the 'nine ninety-nine',
usually a flogging until fell over unconscious or begged for mercy. We
stuck pretty close to the cabins after dark, for if we were caught
roaming about we would be unmercifully whipped. If a slave was caught
beyond the limits of the plantation where he was employed, without the
company of a white person or without written permit of his master, any
person who apprehended him was permitted to give him 20 lashes across
the bare back.
"If a slave went on another plantation without a written permit from his
master, on lawful business, the owner of the plantation would usually
give the offender 10 lashes. We were never allowed to congregate after
work, never went to church, and could not read or write for we were kept
in ignorance. We were very unhappy.
"Sometimes Negro slave runaways who were apprehended by the patrollers,
who kept a constant watch for escaped slaves, besides being flogged,
would be branded with a hot iron on the cheek with the letter 'R'."
Simms claimed he knew two slaves so branded.
Simms asserted that even as late as 1856 the Constitution of Maryland
enacted that a Negro convicted of murder should have his right hand cut
off, should be hanged in the usual manner, the head severed from the
body, divided into four quarters and set up in the most public places of
the county where the act was committed. He said that the slaves pretty
well knew about this barbarous Maryland law, and that he even heard of
dismemberments for atrocious crimes of Negroes in Maryland.
"We lived in rudely constructed log houses, one story in heighth, with
huge stone chimneys, and slept on beds of straw. Slaves were pretty
tired after their long day's work in the field. Sometimes we would,
unbeknown to our master, assemble in a cabin and sing songs and
spirituals. Our favorite spirituals were--_Bringin' in de sheaves_, _De
Stars am shinin' for us all_, _Hear de Angels callin'_, and _The Debil
has no place here_. The singing was usually to the accompaniment of a
Jew's harp and fiddle, or banjo. In summer the slaves went without shoes
and wore three-quarter checkered baggy pants, some wearing only a long
shirt to cover their body. We wore ox-hide shoes, much too large. In
winter time the shoes were stuffed with paper to keep out the cold. We
called them 'Program' shoes. We had no money to spend, in fact did not
know the value of money.
"Our food consisted of bread, hominy, black strap molasses and a red
herring a day. Sometimes, by special permission from our master or
overseer, we would go hunting and catch a coon or possum and a pot pie
would be a real treat.
"We all thought of running off to Canada or to Washington, but feared
the patrollers. As a rule most slaves were lazy."
Simms' work at Contee was to saddle the horses, cut wood, and make fires
and sometimes work in the field.
He voted for President Lincoln and witnessed the second inauguration of
Lincoln after he was set free.
JIM TAYLOR (UNCLE JIM), Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Jim Taylor,
at his home, 424 E. 23rd St., Baltimore.
"I was born in Talbot County, Eastern Shore, Maryland, near St. Michaels
about 1847. Mr. Mason Shehan's father knew me well as I worked for him
for more than 30 years after the emancipation. My mother and father both
were owned by a Mr. Davis of St. Michaels who had several tugs and small
boats. In the summer, the small boats were used to haul produce while
the tugs were used for towing coal and lumber on the Chesapeake Bay and
the small rivers on the Eastern Shore. Mr. Davis bought able-bodied
colored men for service on the boats. They were sail boats. I would say
about 50 or 60 feet long. On each boat, besides the Captain, there were
from 6 to 10 men used. On the tugs there were more men, besides the mess
boy, than on the sail boats.
"I think a man by the name of Robinson who was in the coal business at
Havre de Grace engaged Mr. Davis to tow several barges of soft coal to
St. Michaels. It was on July 4th when we arrived at Havre de Grace.
Being a holiday, we had to wait until the 5th, before we could start
towards St. Michaels.
"Mr. Tuttle, the captain of the tug, did not sleep on the boat that
night, but went to a cock fight. The colored men decided to escape and
go to Pennsylvania. (I was a small boy). They ran the tug across the bay
to Elk Creek, and upon arriving there they beached the tug on the north
side, followed a stream that Harriett Tubman had told them about. After
traveling about seven miles, they approached a house situated on a large
farm which was occupied by one of the deputy sheriffs of the county. The
sheriff told them they were under arrest. One of the escaping man seized
the sheriff from the rear, after he was thrown they tied him, then they
continued on a road towards Pennsylvania. They reached Pennsylvania
about dawn. After they had gone some distance in Pennsylvania three men
with guns overtook them; but five men and one woman of Pennsylvania with
guns and clubs stopped them. In the meantime the sheriff and two of his
deputies come up. The sheriff said he had to hold them for the
authorities of the county. They were taken by the sheriff from the three
men, carried about 15 miles further in Pennsylvania and then were told
to go to Chester where they would be safe.
"Mr. Davis came to Chester with Mr. Tuttle to claim the escaping slaves.
They were badly beaten, Mr. Tuttle receiving a fractured skull. There
were several white men in Chester who were very much interested in
colored people, they gave us money to go to Philadelphia. After arriving
in Philadelphia, we went to Allen's mission, a colored church that
helped escaping slaves. I stayed in Philadelphia until I was about 19
years old, then all the colored people were free. I returned to Talbot,
there remained until 1904, came to Baltimore where I secured a job with
James Hitchens, a colored man, who had six furniture vans drawn by two
horses each and sometimes by three and four horses. Mr. Hitchens' office
and warehouse were on North Street near Pleasant. I stayed there with
Mr. Hitchens until he sold his business to Mr. O. Farror after he had
"In March I will be 90 years old. I have been sick three times in my
life. I am, and have been a member of North Street Baptist Church for
thirty-three years. I am the father of nine children, have been married
twice and a grandfather of twenty-three granddaughters and grandsons and
forty-five great grand-children.
"While in Philadelphia I attended free school for colored children
conducted at Allen's Mission; when I returned to Talbot county I was in
the sixth grade or the sixth reader. Since then I have always been fond
of reading. My favored books are the _Bible_, Bunyan's _Pilgrim's
Progress_, _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, the lives of Napoleon, Frederick
Douglass and Booker T. Washington, and church magazines and the
JAMES WIGGINS, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with James Wiggins, ex-slave,
at his home, 625 Barre St.
"I was born in Anne Arundel County, on a farm near West River about 1850
or 1851, I do not know which. I do not know my father or mother. Peter
Brooks, one of the oldest colored men in the county, told me that my
father's name was Wiggins. He said that he was one of the Revells'
slaves. He acquired my father at an auction sale held in Baltimore at a
high price from a trader who had an office on Pratt Street about 1845.
He was given a wife by Mr. Revell and as a result of this union I was
born. My father was a carpenter by trade, he was hired out to different
farmers by Mr. Revell to repair and build barns, fences and houses. I
have been told that my father could read and write. Once he was charged
with writing passes for some slaves in the county, as a result of this
he was given 15 lashes by the sheriff of the county, immediately
afterwards he ran away, went to Philadelphia, where he died while
working to save money to purchase mother's freedom, through a white
Baptist minister in Baltimore.
"I was called "Gingerbread" by the Revells. They reared me until I
reached the age of about nine or ten years old. My duty was to put logs
on the fireplaces in the Revells' house and work around the house. I
remember well when I was taken to Annapolis, how I used to dance in the
stores for men and women, they would give me pennies and three cent
pieces, all of which was given to me by the Revells. They bought me
shoes and clothes with the money collected.
"Mr. Revell died in 1861 or 62. The sheriff and men came from Annapolis,
sold the slaves, stock and other chattels. I was purchased by a Mr.
Mayland, who kept a store in Annapolis. I was sold by him to a slave
trader to be shipped to Georgia. I was brought to Baltimore, and was
jailed in a small house on Paca near Lombard. The trader was buying
other slaves to make a load. I escaped through the aid of a German
shoemaker, who sold shoes to owners for slaves.
"The German shoeman had a covered wagon, I was put in the wagon covered
by boxes, taken to a house on South Sharp Street and there kept until a
Mr. George Stone took me to Frederick City where I stayed until 1863,
when Mr. Stone, a member of the Lutheran church, had me christened
giving me the name of James Wiggins. This is how I got the name of
Wiggins, after my father, instead of Gingerbread, through the
investigation and the information given by Mr. Brooks.
"You know the Revells are well known in Anne Arundel County, consisting
of a large family, each family a large property owner. I can't say how
many acres were owned by Jim Revell, he was a general farmer having a
few slaves, you see I was a small boy. I can't answer all the questions
"There were a great many people in Anne Arundel who did not believe in
slavery and many free colored people. These conditions caused conflicts
between the free colored who many times were charged with aiding the
slaves and the whites who were not favorably impressed with slavery and
the others who believed in slavery. As a result, the patrollers were
numerous. I remember of seeing Jim Revell coming home very much battered
and beaten up as a result of an encounter with a number of free people
and white people and those who were members of the patrollers.
"As a child I was very fond of dancing, especially the jig and buck. I
made money as I stated before, I played children's plays of that time,
top, marbles and another game we called skinny. Skinny was a game played
on trees and grape vines.
"As a boy I was very healthy, I never had a doctor until I was over 50
years old. I don't know anything about the medical treatment of that
day, you never need medicine unless you are ailing and I never ailed."
Sept. 27, 1937
"PARSON" REZIN WILLIAMS, ex-slave.
References: Baltimore Morning Sun, December 10, 1928.
Registration Books of Board of Election Supervisors
Baltimore Court House.
Personal interviews with "Parson" Rezin Williams,
on Thursday afternoon, September 18 and 24, 1937,
at his home, 2610 Pierpont Street, Mount Winans,
Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol 1 (1906), p. 56.
Buchholz: _Governors of Maryland_--pp. 57-63, 192-167.
(P.L.G. 28 B 92.)
Oldest living Negro Civil War veteran; now 116 years old.
Oldest registered voter in Maryland and said to be the oldest
"freeman" in the United States.
Said to be oldest member of Negro family in America with sister
and brother still living, more than a century old.
Father worked for George Washington.
In 1864 when the State Constitution abolished slavery and freed about
83,000 Negro slaves in Maryland, there was one, "Parson" Rezin Williams,
already a freeman. He is now living at the age of 116 years, in
Baltimore City, Maryland, credited with being the oldest of his race in
the United States who served in the Civil War.
He was born March 11, 1822, at "Fairview", near Bowie, Prince Georges
County, Maryland--a plantation of 1000 acres, then belonging to Governor
Oden Bowie's father. "Parson" Williams' father, Rezin Williams, a
freeman, was born at "Mattaponi", near Nottingham, Prince Georges
County, the estate of Robert Bowie of Revolutionary War fame, friend of
Washington and twice Governor of Maryland. The elder Rezin Williams
served the father of our country as a hostler at Mount Vernon, where he
worked on Washington's plantation during the stormy days of the
There is perhaps nowhere to be found a more picturesque and interesting
character of the colored race than "Parson" Williams, who, besides
serving as a colored bishop of the Union American Methodist Church
(colored) for more than a half century, is the composer of Negro
spirituals which were popular during their day. He attended President
Lincoln's inauguration and subsequently every Republican and Democratic
presidential inauguration, although he himself is a Republican. Lincoln,
according to Williams, shook hands with him in Washington.
One of Williams' sons, of a family of fourteen children, was named after
George Washington, and another after Abraham Lincoln. The son, George
Washington Williams, died in 1912 at the age of seventy-three years.
"Parson" Williams, serving the Union forces as a teamster, hauled
munitions and supplies for General Grant's army, at Gettysburg. On trips
to the rear, he conveyed wounded soldiers from the line of fire. He also
served under General McClellan and General Hooker.
Although now confined to his home with infirmities of age, he posesses
all his faculties and has a good memory of events since his boyhood
days. Due to the fact that his grandmother was an Indian the daughter of
an Indian chieftan, alleged to be buried in a vault in Baltimore County,
Williams was a freeman like his father and hired himself out.
Williams claims that his father, when a boy, accompanied Robert Bowie,
for whom he was working, to Mount Vernon, where he first met George
Washington. He said that General Washington once became very angry at
his father because he struck an unruly horse, exclaiming: "The brute has
more sense than some slaves. Cease striking the animal."
Robert Bowie, the third son of Capt. William and Margaret (Sprigg)
Bowie, was born at "Mattaponi", near Nottingham, March 1750. As a
captain of a company of militia organized at Nottingham, he accompanied
the Maryland forces when they joined Washington in his early campaign
near New York. He and Washington became friends. In 1791, when Captain
William Bowie died, his son Robert inherited "Mattaponi". He was the
first Democratic governor to be elected, one of the presidential
electors for Madison, and a director of the first bank established at
Williams recalls hearing his father say that when Washington died,
December 14, 1799, many paid reverence by wearing mourning scarfs and
He recalls many interesting incidents during slavery days. He said that
slaves could not buy or sell anything except with the permission of
their master. If a slave was caught ten miles from his master's home,
and had no signed permit, he was arrested as a runaway and harshly
There was a standing reward for the capture of a runaway. The Indians
who caught a runaway slave received a "match coat." The master gave the
slave usually ten to ninety-nine lashes for running off. What slaves
feared most was what they called the "nine ninety-nine" or 99 lashes
with a rawhide whip, and sometimes they were unmercifully flogged until
unconcious. Some cruel masters believed Negroes had no souls. The slaves
at Bowie, however, declared "Parson" Williams, were pretty well treated
and usually respected the overseers. He said that the slaves at Bowie
mostly lived in cabins made of slabs running up and down and crudely
furnished. Working time was from sunrise until sunset. The slaves had no
money to spend and few masters allowed them to indulge in a religious
meeting or even learn about the Bible.
Slaves received medical attention from a physician if they were
seriously ill. When a death occured, a rough box would be made of heavy
slabs and the dead Negro buried the same day on the plantation burying
lot with a brief ceremony, if any. The grieving darkeys, relatives,
after he was "eased" in the ground, would sing a few spirituals and
return to their cabins.
Familiar old spirituals were composed by "Parson" Williams, including
_Roll De Stones Away_, _You'll Rise in De Skies_, and _Ezekiel, He'se
Following is one of Williams' spirituals:
When dat are ole chariot comes,
I'm gwine to lebe you:
I'm bound for de promised land
I'm gwine to lebe you.
I'm sorry I'm gwine to lebe you,
Farewell, oh farewell
But I'll meet you in de mornin
Farewell, oh farewell.
Still another favorite of "Parson" Williams, which he composed on Col.
Bowie's plantation just before the Civil War, a sort of rallying song
expressing what Canada meant to the slaves at that time, runs thus:
I'm now embarked for yonder shore
There a man's a man by law;
The iron horse will bear me o'er
To shake de lion's paw.
Oh, righteous Father, will thou not pity me
And aid me on to Canada, where all the slaves are free.
Oh, I heard Queen Victoria say
That if we would forsake our native land of slavery,
And come across de lake
That she was standin' on de shore
Wid arms extended wide,
To give us all a peaceful home
Beyond de rollin' tide.
Interesting reminiscences are recalled by "Parson" Williams of his early
life. He said that he still remembers when Mr. Oden Bowie (later
governor) left with the army of invasion of Mexico (1846-1848), and of
his being brought home ill after several years was nursed back to health
at "Fairview". Governor Bowie died on his plantation in 1894 and is
buried in the family burying ground there.
He was the first president of the Maryland Jockey Club. Governor Bowie
raised a long string of famous race horses that became known throughout
the country. From the "Fairview" stables went such celebrated horses as
Dickens, Catespy, Crickmore, Commensation, Creknob, who carried the
Bowie colors to the front on many well-contested race courses. After
Governor Bowie's death, the estate became the property of his youngest
son, W. Booth Bowie.
"Fairview" is located in the upper part of what was called the "Forest"
of Prince Georges County, a few miles southwest of Collington Station.
It is a fine type of old Colonial mansion built of brick, the place
having been in the posession of the family for some time previous.
"Fairview" is one of the oldest and finest homes in Maryland. The
mansion contains a wide hall and is a typical Southern home.
Baruch Duckett married Kitty Bean, a granddaughter of John Bowie, Sr.,
the first of his name to come to Prince Georges County. They had but one
daughter, whose name was Kitty Bean Duckett, and she married in 1800
William Bowie of Walter. Baruch Duckett outlived his wife and died in
1810. He devised "Fairview" to his son-in-law and the latter's children,
and it ultimately became the property of his grandson, afterward known
as Col. William B.[TR.?] Bowie, who made it his home until 1880, when he
gave it to his eldest son, Oden, who in 1868 became Governor of
Maryland. Governor Bowie was always identified with the Democratic
"Parson" Williams' wife, Amelia Addison Williams died August 9, 1928, at
the age of 94 years. The aged negro is the father of 14 children, one
still living,--Mrs. Amelia Besley, 67 years old, 2010 Pierpont Street,
Mount Winans, Baltimore, Maryland. His brother, Marcellus Williams, and
a single sister, Amelia Williams, both living, reside on Rubio street,
Philidelphia, Pa. According to "Parson" Williams, they are both more
than a century old and are in fairly good health. Besides his children
and a brother and a sister, Williams has several grandchildren,
great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren living.
President Lincoln, Williams says, was looked upon by many slaves as a
messenger from heaven. Of course, many slave masters were kind and
considerate, but to most slaves they were just a driver and the slaves
were work horses for them. Only once during his lifetime does Williams
recall tasting whisky, when his cousin bought a pint. It cost three
cents in those days. He said his mother used to make beer out of
persimmons and cornhusks, but they don't make it any more, so he doesn't
even drink beer now. He would much rather have a good cigar. He has
since a boy, smoked a pipe.
By special permission of plantation owners in Prince Georges, St. Marys,
Baltimore and other counties in Maryland, he was often permitted to
visit the darkeys and conduct a religious meeting in their cabins. He
usually wore a long-tailed black "Kentucky" suit with baggy trousers and
sported a cane.
Usually when servants or slaves in those days found themselves happy and
contented, it was because they were born under a lucky star. As for
eating, they seldom got chicken, mostly they ate red herring and
molasses--they called black strap molasses. They were allowed a herring
a day as part of their food. Slaves as a rule preferred possums to
rabbits. Some liked fish best. Williams' favorite food was cornpone and
"Once before de wah, I was ridin Lazy, my donkey, a few miles from de
boss' place at Fairview, when along came a dozen or more patrollers. Dey
questioned me and decided I was a runaway slave and dey wuz gwine to
give me a coat of tar and feathers when de boss rode up and ordered my
release. He told dem dreaded white patrollers dat I was a freeman and a
When the slaves were made free, some of the overseers tooted horns,
calling the blacks from their toil in the fields. They were told they
need no longer work for their masters unless they so desired. Most of
the darkeys quit "den and dar" and made a quick departure to other
parts, but some remained and to this day their descendants are still to
be found working on the original plantations, but of course for pay.
Describing the clothing worn in summer time by the slaves, he said they
mostly went barefooted. The men and boys wore homespun, three-quarter
striped pants and sometimes a large funnel-shaped straw hat. Some wore
only a shirt as a covering for their body.
"In winter oxhide shoes were worn, much too large, and the soles
contained several layers of paper. We called them 'program' shoes,
because the paper used for stuffing, consisted of discarded programs. We
gathered herbs from which we made medicine, snake root and sassafras
bark being a great remedy for many ailments."
Williams, though himself not a slave by virtue of the fact that his
grandmother was an Indian, was considered a good judge of healthy
slaves, those who would prove profitable to their owners, so he often
accompanied slave purchasers to the Baltimore slave markets.
He told of having been taken by a certain slave master to the Baltimore
wharf, boarded a boat and after the slave dealer and the captain
negotiated a deal, he, Williams, not realizing that he was being used as
a decoy, led a group of some thirty or forty blacks, men, women and
children, through a dark and dirty tunnel for a distance of several
blocks to a slave market pen, where they were placed on the auction
He was told to sort of pacify the black women who set up a wail when
they were separated from their husbands and children. It was a pitiful
sight to see them, half naked, some whipped into submission, cast into
slave pens surrounded by iron bars. A good healthy negro man from 18 to
30 would bring from $200 to $800. Women would bring about half the price
of the men. Often when the women parted with their children and loved
ones, they would never see them again.
Such conditions as existed in the Baltimore slave markets, which were
considered the most important in the country, and the subsequent ill
treatment of the unfortunates, hastened the war between the states.
The increasing numbers of free negroes also had much to do with causing
the civil war. The South was finding black slavery a sort of white
elephant. Everywhere the question was what to do with the freeman.
Nobody wanted them. Some states declared they were a public nuisance.
"Uncle Rezin", by which name some called him, since slavery days, was,
besides being engaged in preaching the Gospel, journeying from one town
to another, where he has performed hundreds of marriages among his race,
baptised thousands, performed numerous christenings and probably
preached more sermons than any Negro now living. He preached his last
sermon two years ago. He says his life's work is now through and he is
crossing over the River Jordan and will soon be on the other side. Since
the Civil War he has made extra money for his support during depression
times by doing odd jobs of whitewashing, serving as a porter or janitor,
cutting wood, hauling and running errands, also serving as a teamster,
picking berries and working as a laborer. He has had several miraculous
escapes from death during his long life. Twice during the past quarter
of a century his home at Mount Winans has been destroyed by fire, when
firemen rescued him in the nick of time, and some years ago, when he was
suddenly awakened during a severe windstorm, his house was unroofed and
blew down. When workmen were clearing away the debris in search for
"Uncle" Rezin, some hours later, a voice was heard coming from a large
barrel in the cellar. It was from Williams, who somehow managed to crawl
in the barrel during the storm, and called out: "De Lord hab sabed me.
You all haul me out of here, but I'se all right." Scabo, his pet dog,
was killed by the falling debris during the storm. Firemen at Westport
state that three years ago, when fire damaged "Uncle" Rezin's home, the
aged negro preacher refused to be rescued, and walked out of the
building through stifling smoke, as though nothing had happened. When
veterans of a great war have been mowed down by the scythe of Father
Time until their numbers are few, an added public interest attaches to
them. Baltimore septuagenarians remember the honor paid to the last
surviving "Old Defenders", who faced the British troops at North Point
in 1814, and now the few veterans of the War of Secession, whether they
wore the blue or the gray, receive similar attention. A far different
class, one peculiarly associated with the strife between the North and
the South, are approaching the point of fading out from the life of
today--the old slaves, and original old freemen. "Parson" Williams tops
the list of them all.
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