Work Projects Administration.

Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Florida Narratives online

. (page 14 of 19)
Online LibraryWork Projects AdministrationSlave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Florida Narratives → online text (page 14 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


be paid for all of the work you have done since the Proclamation was
signed and that you will do in the future. Don't you work for anybody
without pay'.

The Provost Judge also told the slaves that they might leave if they
liked, and Anna was among those who left. She went to visit the husband
of her mother in Charleston. With her mother and five other children,
Anna crossed rivers on log rafts and rode on trains to Charleston.

Elias Mumford was Anna's step-father in Charleston, and after spending a
year there with him the entire family joined a colonizing expedition to
West Africa. There were 650 in the expedition, and it left in 1867.
Transportation was free.

The trip took several weeks, but finally the small ship landed at Grand
Bassa. Mumford did not like the place, however, and continued on to
Monrovia, Liberia. He did not like Monrovia, either, and tried several
other ports before being told that he would have to get off, anyway.
This was at Harper Cape, W. Africa.

Here he almost immediately began an industry that was to prove
lucrative. Oysters were 'large as saucers', according to Anna, and while
the family gathered these he would burn them and extract lime from them.
This he mixed with the native clay and made brick. In addition to his
brick-making Mumford cut trees for lumber, and with his own brick and
lumber would construct houses and structures. One such structure brought
him $1100.00.

Another manner in which Mumford added to his growing wealth was through
the cashing of checks for the Missionaries of the section. Ordinarily
they would have to send these back to the United States to be cashed,
and when he offered to cash them - at a discount - they eagerly utilized
the opportunity to save time; this was a convenience for them and more
wealth for Mumford.

Anna found other things besides happiness in her eight years in Africa.
There were death, sickness, and pestilences. She mentions among the
latter the African ants, some of which reached huge proportions. Most
dreaded were the Mission ants, which infested every house, building and
structure. Sometimes buildings had to be burned to get rid of them. The
bite of these ants was so serious that after sixty years Anna still
exhibits places on her feet where the ants left their indelible traces.
Another of the ant pests was the Driver ant, so large, powerful and
stubborn that even bodies of water did not stop them. They would join
themselves together above the surface of the water and serve as bridges
for the passage of the other ants. The Driver ants moved in swarms and
their approach could be seen at great distances. When they were seen to
be coming toward a settlement the natives would close their doors and
windows and build fires around their homes to avoid them. These fires
had to be kept burning for weeks.

Eight and more persons died a day from the African fever during the
early colonization attempts; three of these in Anna's family alone were
victims of it. It was generally believed that if a victim of the fever
became wet by dew he was sure to die.

After eight years Mumford and the remainder of his family returned to
America, where the accrued checks he possessed for cashing made him
reasonably wealthy. Anna married Robert Scott and moved to Jacksonville,
where she has lived since.

At ninety-one she still occupies the little farm on the outskirts of
Jacksonville that was purchased with the money left to her out of her
mother's inheritance (from the African transactions of Mumford) and
Robert's post-slavery savings, and in front of her picturesque little
cottage spins yarns for the neighbors of her early experiences.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Interview with subject, Mrs. Anna Scott, Edgewood and Moncrief Avenues
(Route 2, Box 911) Jacksonville, Fla.




FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

J.M. Johnson, Field Worker
John A. Simms, Editor
Chaseville, Florida
August 28, 1936

WILLIAM SHERMAN


In Chaseville, Florida, about twelve miles from Jacksonville on the
south side of the Saint Johns River lives William Sherman (locally
pronounced _Schumann_,) a former slave of Jack Davis, nephew of
President Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy. (1)

William Sherman was born on the plantation of Jack Davis, about five
miles from Robertsville, South Carolina, at a place called "Black
Swamp," June 12, 1842, twenty-three years prior to Emancipation. His
father who was also named William Sherman, was a free man, having bought
his freedom for eighteen hundred dollars from his master, John Jones,
who also lived in the vicinity of the Davis' plantation. William
Sherman, senior, bargained with his master to obtain his freedom,
however, for he did not have the money to readily pay him. He hired
himself out to some of the wealthy plantation owners and applied what he
earned toward the payment for his freedom. He was a skilled blacksmith
and cabinet maker and his services were always in demand. After
procuring his freedom he bought a tract of land from his former master
and built a home and blacksmith shop on it. As was the custom during
slavery, a person who bought his freedom had to have a guardian;
Sherman's former master, John Jones, acted as his guardian. Under this
new order of things Sherman was in reality his own master. He was not
"bossed," had his own hours, earned and kept his money, and was at
liberty to leave the territory if he desired. However, he remained and
married Anna Georgia, the mother of William Sherman, junior. She was
also a slave of Jack Davis. After William Sherman, senior, finished his
day's work he would go to the Davis plantation to visit his wife and
sometimes remain for the night. It was his intention to purchase the
freedom of his wife Anna Georgia, and their son William, but he died
before he had sufficient money to do so, and also before the Civil War,
which he predicted would ensue between the North and South. His son
William says that he remembers well the events that led up to his
father's burial; he states that the white people dug his grave which was
six feet deep. It took them three days in which to dig it on account of
the hardness of the clay; when it was finished he was put sorrowfully
away by the white folk who thought so much of him. William was a boy of
nine at that time, and he remembers that his mother was so grieved that
he tried to console her by telling her not to worry "papa's goin' to
com' back and bring us some more quails" (he had been accustomed to
bringing them quails during his life) but William sorrowingly said "he
never did come back."

Anna Georgia was a cook and general house woman in the Davis' home. She
was a half breed, her mother being a Cherokee Indian. Her husband,
William, was a descendant of the Cheehaw Indians, some of his a forbears
being full-blooded Cheehaws. Their Indian blood was fully evident,
states William junior. The Davis family tree as he knew it was as
follows: three brothers, Sam, Thomas and Jefferson Davis (President of
the Confederacy.) Sam was the eldest of the three and had four children,
viz: Jack, Robert, Richard and Washington. Thomas had four, viz: James,
Richard, Rusha and Minna. Jefferson Davis' family was not known to
William as he lived in Virginia, whereas, the other brothers and their
families lived near each other at "Black Swamp."

Jack Davis, the master of William Sherman, was the son of Sam Davis,
brother of Jefferson Davis. Thomas and Sam Davis were comparatively
large men, while Jefferson was thin and of medium height, resembling to
a great extent the late Henry Flagler of Florida East Coast fame, states
William. Many times he would come to visit his brothers at "Black
Swamp." He would drive up in a two-wheeled buggy, drawn by a horse.
Oft'times he visited his nephew, Jack and they would get together in a
lengthy conversation. Sometimes he would remain with the Davis family
for a few days and then return to Virginia. On these visits William
states that he saw him personally. These visits or sojourns occurred
prior to the Civil War. Jack Davis being a comparatively poor man had
only eight slaves on his plantation; they were housed in log cabins made
of cypress timber notched together in such a way as to give it the
appearance of having been built regular lumber. It was much larger and
of different architecture than the slave cabins, however.

The few slaves that he had arose at 4:00 o'clock in the morning and
prepared themselves for the field. They stopped at noon for a light
lunch which they always took with them and at sun-down they quit work
and went to their respective cabins. Cotton, corn, potatoes and other
commodities were raised. There was no regular "overseer" employed.
Davis, the master acted in that capacity. He was very kind to them and
seldom used the whip. After the outbreak of the Civil War, white men
called "patarollers" were posted around the various plantations to guard
against runaways, and if slaves were caught off their respective
plantations without permits from their masters they were severely
whipped. This was not the routine for Jack Davis' slaves for he gave
the "patarollers" specific orders that if any of them were caught off
the plantation without a permit not to molest them but to let them
proceed where they were bound. Will said that one of the slaves ran away
and when he was caught his master gave him a light whipping and told him
to "go on now and run away if you want to." He said the slave walked
away but never attempted to run away again. Will states that he was
somewhat of a "pet" around the plantation and did almost as he wanted
to. He would go hunting, fishing and swimming with his master's sons who
were about his age. Sometimes he would get into a fight with one of the
boys and many times he would be the victor, his fallen foe would
sometimes exclaim that "that licking that you gave me sure hurt," and
that ended the affair; there was no further ill feeling between them.


Education: The slaves were not allowed to study. The white children
studied a large "Blue Back" Webster Speller and when one had thoroughly
learned its contents he was considered to be educated.


Religion: The slaves had their own church but sometimes went to the
churches of their white masters where they were relegated to the extreme
rear. John Kelley, a white man, often preached to them and would
admonish them as follows; "you must obey your master and missus, you
must be good niggers." After the beginning of the war they held
"meetings" among themselves in their cabins.


Baptism: Those slaves who believed and accepted the Christian Doctrine
were admitted into the church after being baptized in one of the
surrounding ponds.


Cruelties: There was a very wealthy plantation owner who lived near the
Davis plantation; he had eleven plantations, the smallest one was
cultivated by three hundred slaves. Oftimes they would work nearly all
night. Will states that it was not an unusual thing to hear in the early
mornings the echoes of rawhide whips cracking like the report of a gun
against the bare backs of the slaves who were being whipped. They would
moan and groan in agony, but the whipping went on until the master's
wrath was appeased. John Stokes, a white plantation owner who lived near
the Davis' plantation encouraged slaves to steal from their masters and
bring the stolen goods to him; he would purchase the goods for much less
than their value. One time one of the slaves "put it out" that "Massa"
Stokes was buying stolen goods. Stokes heard of this and his wrath was
aroused; he had to find the "nigger" who was circulating this rumor. He
went after him in great fury and finally succeeded in locating him,
whereupon, he gave him a good "lacing" and warned him "if he ever heard
anything like that again from him he was going to kill him." The
accusations were true, however, but the slave desisted in further
discussion of the affair for "old Massa Stokes was a treacherous man."
On another occasion one of the Stokes' slaves ran away and he sent
Steven Kittles, known as the "dog man," to catch the escape. (The dogs
that went in pursuit of the runaway slaves were called "Nigger dogs";
they were used specifically for catching runaway slaves.) This
particular slave had quite a "head start" on the dogs that were trailing
him and he hid among some floating logs in a large pond; the dogs
trailed him to the pond and began howling, indicating that they were
approaching their prey. They entered the pond to get their victim who
was securely hidden from sight; they dissapeared and the next seen of
them was their dead bodies floating upon the water of the pond; they had
been killed by the escape. They were full-blooded hounds, such as were
used in hunting escaped slaves and were about fifty in number. The slave
made his escape and was never seen again. Will relates that it was very
cold and that he does'nt understand how the slave could stand the icy
waters of the pond, but evidently he did survive it.


Civil War: It was rumored that Abraham Lincoln said to Jefferson Davis,
"work the slaves until they are about twenty-five or thirty years of
age, then liberate them." Davis replied: "I'll never do it, before I
will, I'll wade knee deep in blood." The result was that in 1861, the
Civil War, that struggle which was to mark the final emancipation of the
slaves began. Jefferson Davis' brothers, Sam and Tom, joined the
Confederate forces, together with their sons who were old enough to go,
except James, Tom's son, who could not go on account of ill health and
was left behind as overseer on Jack Davis' plantation. Jack Davis joined
the artillery regiment of Captain Razors Company. The war progressed,
Sherman was on his famous march. The "Yankees" had made such sweeping
advances until they were in Robertsville, South Carolina, about five
miles from Black Swamp. The report of gun fire and cannon could be heard
from the plantation. "Truly the Yanks are here" everybody thought. The
only happy folk were, the slaves, the whites were in distress. Jack
Davis returned from the field of battle to his plantation. He was on a
short furlough. His wife, "Missus" Davis asked him excitedly, if he
thought the "Yankees" were going to win. He replied: "No if I did I'd
kill every _damned nigger_ on the place." Will who was then a lad of
nineteen was standing nearby and on hearing his master's remarks, said:
"The Yankees aint gonna kill me cause um goin to Laurel Bay" (a swamp
located on the plantation.) Will says that what he really meant was that
his master was not going to kill him because he intended to run off and
go to the "Yankees." That afternoon Jack Davis returned to the "front"
and that night Will told his mother, Anna Georgia, that he was going to
Robertsville and join the "Yankees." He and his cousin who lived on the
Davis' plantation slipped off and wended their way to all of the
surrounding plantations spreading the news that the "Yankees" were in
Robertsville and exhorting them to follow and join them. Soon the two
had a following of about five hundred slaves who abandoned their
masters' plantations "to meet the Yankees." En masse they marched
breaking down fences that obstructed their passage, carefully avoiding
"Confederate pickets" who were stationed throughout the countryside.
After marching about five miles they reached a bridge that spanned the
Savannah River, a point that the "Yankees" held. There was a Union
soldier standing guard and before he realized it, this group of five
hundred slaves were upon him. Becoming cognizant that someone was upon
him, he wheeled around in the darkness, with gun leveled at the
approaching slaves and cried "Halt!" Will's cousin then spoke up, "Doan
shoot boss we's jes friends." After recognizing who they were, they were
admitted into the camp that was established around the bridge. There
were about seven thousand of General Sherman's soldiers camped there,
having crossed the Savannah River on a pontoon bridge that they had
constructed while enroute from Green Springs Georgia, which they had
taken. The guard who had let these people approach so near to him
without realizing their approach was court martialed that night for
being dilatory in his duties. The Federal officers told the slaves that
they could go along with them or go to Savannah, a place that they had
already captured. Will decided that it was best for him to go to
Savannah. He left, but the majority of the slaves remained with the
troops. They were enroute to Barnswell, South Carolina, to seize Blis
Creek Fort that was held by the Confederates. As the Federal troops
marched ahead, they were followed by the volunteer slaves. Most of these
unfortunate slaves were slain by "bush whackers" (Confederate snipers
who fired upon them from ambush.) After being killed they were
decapitated and their heads placed upon posts that lined the fields so
that they could be seen by other slaves to warn them of what would
befall them if they attempted to escape. The battle at Blis Creek Fort
was one in which both armies displayed great heroism; most of the
Federal troops that made the first attack, were killed as the
Confederates seemed to be irresistible. After rushing up reinforcements,
the Federals were successful in capturing it and a large number of
"Rebels."

General Sherman's custom was to march ahead of his army and cut rights
of way for them to pass. At this point of the war, many of the slaves
were escaping from their plantations and joining the "Yankees." All of
those slaves at Black Swamp who did not voluntarily run away and go to
the "Yankees" were now free by right of conquest of the Federals.

Will now found himself in Savannah, Georgia, after refusing to go to
Barnswell, South Carolina, with the Federals. This refusal saved him
from the fate of his unfortunate brothers who went. Savannah was filled
with smoke, the aftermath of a great battle. Lying in the "Broad River"
between Beaufort, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia were two Union
gun boats, the _Wabash_ and _Man O War_, which had taken part in the
battle that resulted in the capture of Savannah. Everything was now
peaceful again; Savannah was now a Union city. Many of the slaves were
joining the Union army. Those slaves who joined were trained about two
days and then sent to the front; due to lack of training they were soon
killed. The weather was cold, it was February, 1862, frost was on the
ground. Will soon left Savannah for Beaufort, South Carolina which had
fallen before the "Yankee" attack. Soldiers and slaves filled the
streets. The slaves were given all of the food and clothes that they
could carry - confiscated goods from the "Rebels." After a bloody
struggle in which both sides lost heavily and which lasted for about
five years, the war finally ended May 15, 1865. Will was then a young
man twenty-three years of age and was still in Beaufort. He says that
day was a gala day. Everybody celebrated (except the Southerners). The
slaves were _free_.

Thousands of Federal soldiers were in evidence. The Union army was
victorious and "Sherman's March" was a success. Sherman states that when
Jefferson Davis was captured he was disguised in women's clothes.

Sherman states that Florida had the reputation of having very cruel
masters. He says that when slaves got very unruly, they were told that
they were going to be sent to Florida so they could be handled. During
the war thousands of slaves fled from Virginia into Connecticut and New
Hampshire. In 1867 William Sherman left Beaufort and went to Mayport,
Florida to live. He remained there until 1890, then moved to Arona,
Florida, living there for awhile; he finally settled in Chaseville,
Florida, where he now lives. During his many years of life he has been
married twice and has been the father of sixteen children, all of whom
are dead. He never received any formal education, but learned to read
and studied taxidermy which he practiced for many years.

He was at one time Inspector of Elections at Mayport during
Reconstruction Days. He recalled an incident that occurred during the
performance of his duties there, which was as follows: Mr. John Doggett
who was running for office on the Democratic ticket brought a number of
colored people to Mayport by boat from Chaseville to vote. Mr. Doggett
demanded that they should vote, but Will Sherman was equally insistent
that they should not vote because they had not registered and were not
qualified. After much arguing Mr. Doggett saw that Sherman could not be
made "to see the light" and left with his prospective voters. William
Sherman once served upon a United States Federal jury during his
colorful life.

In appearance he could easily be regarded as a phenomenon. He is
ninety-four years of age, though he appears to be only about fifty-five.
His hair is black and not grey as would be expected; his face is round
and unlined; he has dark piercing but kindly eyes. He is of medium
stature. He has an exceptionally alert mind and recalls past events with
the ease of a youth. The Indian blood that flows in his veins is plainly
visible in his features, the color of his skin and the texture of his
hair.

He gives as his reason for his lengthy life the Indian blood that is in
him and says that he expects to live for nintey-four more years. Today
he lives alone. He raises a few vegetables and is content in the
memories of his past life which has been full. (2)


REFERENCES

1. Most of his friends call him SHERMAN, hence he adopted that name.

2. A personal interview with William Sherman, former slave, at home in
Colored quarters, Chaseville, Florida




FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Martin D. Richardson, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
January 27, 1937

SAMUEL SMALLS


A VOLUNTARY SLAVE FOR SEVEN YEARS

The story of a free Negro of Connecticut, who came south to observe
conditions of slavery, found them very distasteful, then voluntarily
entered that slavery for seven years is the interesting tale that Samuel
Smalls, 84 year old ex-slave of 1704 Johnson Street, Jacksonville, tells
of his father Cato Smith.

Smith had been born in Connecticut, son of domestic slaves who were
freed while he was still a child. He grew to young manhood in the
northern state, making a living for himself as a carpenter and builder.
At these trades he is said to have been very efficient.

Still unmarried at the age of about 30, he found in himself a desire to
travel and see how other Negroes in the country lived. This he did,
going from one town to another, working for periods of varying length in
the cities in which he lived, eventually drifting to Florida.

His travels eventually brought him to Suwannee County, where he worked
for a time as overseer on a plantation. On a nearby plantation where he
sometimes visited, he met a young woman for whom he grew to have a great
affection. This plantation is said to have belonged to a family of
Cones, and according to Smalls, still exists as a large farm.

Smith wanted to marry the young woman, but a difficulty developed; he
was free and she was still a slave. He sought her owner. Smith was told
that he might have the woman, but he would have to "work out" her cost.
He was informed that this would amount to seven years of work on the
plantation, naturally without pay.

Within a few days he was back with his belongings, to begin "working
out" the cost of his wife. But his work found favor in his voluntary
master's eyes; within four years he was being paid a small sum for the
work he did, and by the time the seven years was finished, Smith had
enough money to immediately purchase a small farm of his own.

Adversity set in, however, and eventually his children found themselves
back in slavery, and Smith himself practically again enslaved. It was
during this period that Smalls was born.

All of the Florida slaves were soon emancipated, however and the
voluntary slave again became a free man. He lived in the Suwannee County
vicinity for a number of years afterward, raising a large family.


REFERENCE

Personal interview with Samuel Smalls, ex-slave, 1704 Johnson Street,
Jacksonville, Florida




FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
The American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Cora N. Taylor
Frances H. Miner, Editor
Miami, Florida
May 14, 1937

SALENA TASWELL


Salena Taswell, 364 NW 8th St., Miami, Fla.


1. Where, and about when, were you born?

In Perry, Ga. in 1844.

2. If you were born on a plantation or farm, what sort of farming
section was it in?


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryWork Projects AdministrationSlave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Florida Narratives → online text (page 14 of 19)