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 Kentucky
[TR: All county names added. Names, information in brackets added.]
Rev. John R. Cox
[Mrs. Elizabeth Alexander]
Susan Dale Sanders
[Martha J. Jones]
Annie B. Boyd
[A Bill of Sale.]
[WILL - Nancy Austin.]
[Mrs. C. Hood]
Easter Sudie Campbell
Mary Wooldridge [TR: name corrected per interview.]
[Tinie Force and Elvira Lewis]
[Mrs. Jennie Slavin]
[TR: This volume contains a high number of misspellings and typing
errors. Words that are apparent misspellings to render dialect, such as
'morster' for 'master', or that reflect spelling errors of a particular
interviewer or typist, such as 'posess' for 'possess' or 'allegience'
for 'allegiance', have not been changed; words that are apparent typing
errors such as 'filed' for 'field', 'ot' for 'of', 'progent' for
'progeny', have been corrected without note, to avoid interrupting the
Garrard County. Ex-Slave Stories.
(Eliza Ison) [HW: Ky 9]
Interview with Dan Bogie:
Uncle Dan tells me "he was born May 5, 1858 at the Abe Wheeler place
near Spoonsville, now known as Nina, about nine miles due east from
Lancaster. Mother, whose name was Lucinda Wheeler, belonged to the
Wheeler family. My father was a slave of Dan Bogie's, at Kirksville, in
Madison County, and I was named for him. My mother's people were born in
Garrard County as far as I know. I had one sister, born in 1860, who is
now dead, and is buried not far from Lancaster. Marse Bogie owned about
200 acres of land in the eastern section of the county, and as far as I
can remember there were only four slaves on the place. We lived in a
one-room cabin, with a loft above, and this cabin was an old fashioned
one about hundred yards from the house. We lived in one room, with one
bed in the cabin. The one bed was an old fashioned, high post corded bed
where my father and mother slept. My sister and me slept in a trundle
bed, made like the big bed except the posts were made smaller and was on
rollers, so it could be rolled under the big bed. There was also a
cradle, made of a wooden box, with rockers nailed on, and my mother told
me that she rocked me in that cradle when I was a baby. She used to sit
and sing in the evening. She carded the wool and spun yarn on the old
spinning wheel. My grandfather was a slave of Talton Embry, whose farm
joined the Wheeler farm. He made shingles with a steel drawing knife,
that had a wooden handle. He made these shingles in Mr. Embry's yard. I
do not remember my grandmother, and I didn't have to work in slave days,
because my mother and father did all the work except the heavy farm
work. My Mistus used to give me my winter clothes. My shoes were called
brogans. My old master had shoes made. He would put my foot on the
floor and mark around it for the measure of my shoes.
Most of the cooking was in an oven in the yard, over the bed of coals.
Baked possum and ground hog in the oven, stewed rabbits, fried fish and
fired bacon called "streaked meat" all kinds of vegetables, boiled
cabbage, pone corn bread, and sorghum molasses. Old folks would drink
coffee, but chillun would drink milk, especially butter milk.
Old master would call us about 4 o'clock, and everybody had to get up
and go to "Starring"[TR:?]. Old Marse had about 30 or 40 sugar trees
which were tapped, in February. Elder spiles were stuck in the taps for
the water to drop out in the wooden troughs, under the spiles. These
troughs were hewed out of buckeye. This maple water was gathered up and
put in a big kettle, hung on racks, with a big fire under it. It was
then taken to the house and finished upon the stove. The skimmings after
it got to the syrup stage was builed down and made into maple sugar for
We wore tow linen clothes in summer and jeans in winter. Sister wore
linsey in winter of different colors, dyed from herbs, especially poke
berries; and wore unbleached cotton in summer, dyed with yellow mustard
My grandfather, Jim Embry mended shoes and made fairly good ones.
There were four slaves. My mother did cooking and the men did the work.
Bob Wheeler and Arch Bogie were our masters. Both were good and kind to
us. I never saw a slave shipped, for my boss did not believe in that
kind of punishment. My master had four boys, named Rube, Falton, Horace,
and Billie. Rube and me played together and when we acted bad old Marse
always licked Rube three or four times harder then he did me because
Rube was older. Their daughter was named American Wheeler, for her
White folks did not teach us to read and write. I learned that after I
left my white folks. There was no church for slaves, but we went to the
white folks church at Mr. Freedom. We sat in the gallery. The first
colored preacher I ever heard was old man Leroy Estill. He preached in
the Freedom meeting house (Baptist). I stood on the banks of Paint Lick
Creek and saw my mother baptized, but do not remember the preachers name
or any of the songs they sung.
We did not work on Saturday afternoon. The men would go fishing, and the
women would go to the neighbors and help each other piece quilts. We
used to have big times at the corn shuckings. The neighbors would come
and help. We would have camp fires and sing songs, and usually a big
dance at the barn when the corn was shucked. Some of the slaves from
other plantations would pick the banjo, then the dance. Miss Americe
married Sam Ward. I was too young to remember only that they had good
things to eat.
I can remember when my mothers brother died. He was buried at the
Wheeler, but I do not recall any of the songs, and they did not have a
preacher. My mother took his death so hard.
There was an old ash hopper, made of slats, put together at the bottom
and wide at the top. The ashes were dumped in this and water poured over
them. A drip was made and lye caught in wooden troughs. This was then
boiled down and made into soap. My mother let me help stir it many a
time. Then the big kettle would be lifted from the fire and left until
cold. My mother would then block it off, and put on a wooden plank to
dry out until ready for use."
Interview with Dan Bogie, Ex-Slave.
Garrard County. Ex-Slave Stories.
(Eliza Ison) [HW: Ky 13]
Interview with George Henderson:
Uncle George tells me that he was born May 10, 1860 near Versailles, in
Woodford County, Kentucky. His father's name was Bradford Henderson, who
was a slave of Milford Twiman who belonged to the Cleveland family. He
does not know where his family came from. There were 21 children
including two or three sets of twins. All died while young, except his
brothers: Milford, Sam, and Joe; and sisters: Elle and Betsy. All the
slaves lived in log cabins and there were about 30 or 40 of them on a
plantation of 400 acres. "The cabin I was born in had four rooms, two
above and two below. The rooms above were called lofts, and we climbed
up a ladder to get to these rooms. We slept on trundle-beds, which were
covered with straw ticks. Our covers were made in big patches from old
cast-off clothes. When we got up in the morning we shoved the trundle
bed back under the big bed. Some boy would ring a great big bell, called
the "farm bell" about sunrise. Some went to the stables to look after
the horses and mules. Plowing was done with a yoke or oxen. The horses
were just used for carriages and to ride. My work was pulling weeds,
feeding chickens, and helping to take care of the pigs. Marse Cleveland
had a very bad male hog and had to keep him in a pen about 10 feet high.
Sometimes he would break out of the pen and it would take all the
bulldogs in the county to get him back. I never did earn any money, but
worked for my food and clothes. My daddy used to hunt rabbits and
possums. I went with him and would ride on his back with my feet in his
pockets. He had a dog named Brutus which was a watch dog. My daddy would
lay his hat down anywhere in the woods and Brutus would stay by the hat
until he would come back. We ate all kinds of wild food, possum, and
rabbits baked in a big oven. Minnows were fished from the creeks and
fried in hot grease. We ate this with pone corn bread. We had plenty of
vegetables to eat. An old negro called "Ole Man Ben" called us to eat.
We called him the dinner bell because he would say "Who-e-e, God-dam
your blood and guts".
Out clothes were made of jeens and linsey in winter. In the summer we
wore cotton clothes. They gave us shoes at Christmas time. We were
measured with sticks. Once I was warming my shoes on a back log on the
big fire place, they fell over behind the logs and burnt up. I didn't
marry while on the plantation.
My master and mistress lived in the big brick house of 15 rooms, with
two long porches. One below and one below. My mistus was Miss Lucy
Elmore before she married. Her children were named Miss Mat, Miss Emma,
and Miss Jennie.
I saw the slaves in chains after they were sold. The white folks did not
teach us to read and write. We had church on the plantation but we went
from one plantation to another to hear preaching. White folks preacher's
name was Reuben Lee, in Versailles. A meeting of the Baptist Church
resulted in the first baptizing I ever saw. It was in Mr. Chillers pond.
The preacher would say 'I am baptizing you in Mr. Chillers pond because
I know he is an honest man'. I can't remember any funeral.
I remember one slave named Adams who ran away and when he came back my
old master picked up a log from the fire and hit him over the head. We
always washed up and cleaned up for Sunday. Some time the older ones
would get drunk.
On Christmas and New Years day we would go up to the house and they
would give us candy and fruit and fire-crackers. We were given some of
all the food that the white folks had, even turkey. Would have heaps of
corn-shuckings, the neighbors would come in and then we'd have big
dances and old Marse would always have a "jug of licker".
If a cat crossed our path we would turn backwards for a while. When I
was about 9 or 10 years old I went from the cabin to the big kitchen to
make the fire for my mammy to get the breakfast and I saw ole man Billie
Cleveland standing looking up in the sky. He had been dead about 3 or 4
years; but I saw him.
The white folks looked after us when we were sick. Used dock leaves,
slippery elm for poultices. They put polk root in whiskey and gave it to
When the news came we were freed every body was glad. The slaves cleared
up the ground and cut down trees. Stayed with Marse Cleveland the first
year after the war. Have heard the Klu Klux Klan ride down the road,
wearing masks. None ever bothered me or any of Marse Clevelands slaves.
I married years after I left Marse Cleveland. Married Lucy Mason the
first time and had three children, two girls and 1 boy. I didn't have no
children by my second marriage, but the third time I had four. One died.
I have eight grandchildren.
We had no overseer but Marse Hock was the only boy and the oldest child.
We had no white trash for neighbors. I have seen old covered wagons
pulled by oxen travelling on the road going to Indianny and us children
was whipped to keep us away from the road for fear they would steal us."
Interview with George Henderson, Ex-slave.
Garrard County. Ex-Slave Stories.
(Eliza Ison) [HW: Ky 11]
Aunt Harriet Mason - Ex-Slave:
She was born one mile below Bryantsville on the Lexington Pike in
Garrard County, and was owned by B.M. Jones. She gives the date of her
birth as April 14, 1847. Aunt Harriet's father was Daniel Scott, a slave
out of Mote Scott's slave family. Aunt Harriet's mother's name was Amy
Jones, slave of Marse Briar Jones, who came from Harrodsburg, Ky. The
names of her brothers were Harrison, Daniel, Merida, and Ned; her
sisters were Susie and Maria. Miss Patsy, wife of Marse Briar gave Maria
to Marse Sammy Welsh, brother of Miss Patsy's and who lived with his
sister. He taught school in Bryantsville for a long time. "General Gano
who married Jane Welsh, adopted daughter of Marse Briar Jones, took my
sisters Myra and Emma, Brother Ned and myself to Tarrant County, Texas
to a town called Lick Skillet, to live. Grapevine was the name of the
white folks house. It was called Grapevine because these grapevines
twined around the house and arbors. Sister Emma was the cook and Myra
and me were nurse and house maids. Brother married Betty Estill, a slave
who cooked for the Estill family. Mr. Estill later bought Ned in order
to keep him on the place. I didn't sleep in the cabins with the rest of
the Negroes; I slept in the big house and nursed the children. I was not
paid any money for my work. My food was the same as what the white folks
et. In the summer time we wore cotton and tow linen; and linsey in the
winter. The white folks took me to church and dressed me well. I had
good shoes and they took me to church on Sunday. My master was a
preacher and a doctor and a fine man. Miss Mat sho was hard to beat. The
house they lived in was a big white house with two long porches. We had
no overseer or driver. We had no "Po white neighbors". There was about
300 acres of land around Lick Skillet, but we did not have many slaves.
The slaves were waked up by General Gano who rang a big farm bell about
four times in the morning. There was no jail on the place and I never
say a slave whipped or punished in any way. I never saw a slave
auctioned off. My Mistus taught all the slaves to read and write, and we
set on a bench in the dining room. When the news came that we were free
General Gano took us all in the dining room and told us about it. I told
him I wusn't going to the cabins and sleep with them niggers and I
didn't. At Christmas and New Years we sho did have big times and General
Gano and Miss Nat would buy us candy, popcorn, and firecrackers and all
the good things just like the white folks. I don't remember any
weddings, but do remember the funeral of Mr. Marion who lived between
the big house and Lick Skillet. He was going to be buried in the
cemetery at Lick Skillet, but the horses got scared and turned the
spring wagon over and the corpse fell out. The mourners sure had a time
getting things straightened out, but they finally got him buried.
They used to keep watermelon to pass to company. Us children would go to
the patch and bring the melons to the big spring and pour water over
them and cool 'em. When news came that we were free we all started back
to Kentucky to Marse Jones old place. We started the journey in two
covered wagons and an ambulance. General Gano and Miss Nat and the two
children and me rode in the ambulance. When we got to Memphis we got on
a steam boat named "Old Kentucky". We loaded the ambulance and the two
wagons and horses on the boat. When we left the boat, we got on the
train and got off at Georgetown in Scott County and rode from there to
General Gano's Brother William in Scott County, on a stage coach. When I
took the children, Katy and Maurice, upstairs to wash them I looked out
the window into the driveway and saw the horses that belonged to Marse
Briar Jones. They nickered at the gate trying to get in. The horses were
named Henry Clay and Dan. When the children went down I waved at the
horses and they looked up at the window and nickered again and seemed to
know me. When we were coming back from Texas, Maurice held on the plait
of my hair all the way back. I didn't marry while I belonged to the Gano
family. I married Henry Mason after I came to Lancaster to live about
sixty years ago. I am the mother of nine children, three boys and six
girls. There are two living. I have no grand-children. I joined the
church when the cholera epidemic broke out in Lancaster in 1878. The
preacher was Brother Silas Crawford, of the Methodist Church. I was
baptized in a pond on Creamery Street. I think people ought to be
religious because they live better and they love people more."
Aunt Harriet lived at the present behind the White Methodist Church in
Lancaster. The daughter with whom she lives is considered one of the
high class of colored people in Lancaster. She holds an A.B. Degree,
teaching in the colored city school, and is also a music teacher. She
stands by the teaching of her mother, being a "Good Methodist"; giving
of her time, talent, and service for her church.
Interview with Aunt Harriet Mason, Lancaster, Kentucky.
Garrard County. Ex-Slave Stories.
Interview with Bert Mayfield:
Bert Mayfield was born in Garrard County, May 29, 1852, two miles south
of Bryantsville on Smith Stone's place. His father and mother were Ped
and Matilda Stone Mayfield, who were slaves of Smith Stone who came from
Virginia. His brothers were John, Harrison, Jerry, and Laurence, who
died at an early age.
He lived on a large plantation with a large old farm house, built of
logs and weatherboards, painted white. There were four rooms on the
first floor, and there were also finished rooms on the second floor. An
attic contained most of the clothes needed for the slaves. "Uncle Bert"
in his own language says, "On Christmas each of us stood in line to get
our clothes; we were measured with a string which was made by a cobbler.
The material had been woben by the slaves in a plantation shop. The flax
and hemp were raised on the plantation. The younger slaves had to
"swingle it" with a wooden instrument, somewhat like a sword, about two
feet long, and called a swingler. The hemp was hackled by the older
slaves. The hackle was an instrument made of iron teeth, about four
inches long, one-half inch apart and set in a wooden plank one and
one-half feet long, which was set on a heavy bench. The hemp stalks were
laid on these benches and hackled herds were then pulled through and
heaped in piles and taken to the work shops where it was twisted and
tied then woven, according to the needs. Ropes, carpets, and clothing
were made from this fiber.
"Our cabins were usually one room with a loft above which we reached by
a ladder. Our beds were trundle beds with wheels on them to push them
under the big beds. We slept on straw ticks covered with Lindsey
quilts, which were made from the cast-off clothes, cut into squares and
Bert can just remember his grandparents.
He would feed pigs; pulled "pusley" out of the garden for them "and them
pigs loved it mighty well".
No money was paid for work. Bacon and "pone bread" baked in the yard in
an oven that had legs and lid on top was the chief food and his
favorite. The coals were put on top as well as under the oven. They
drank sweet milk and butter milk, but no coffee; they also ate cabbage,
squash, sweet and Irish potatoes, which were cooked with, skins on,
greased, and put in the oven. "Possum" and coon hunts were big events,
they would hunt all night. The possums were baked in the ovens and
usually with sweet potatoes in their mouths. The little boys would fish,
bringing home their fish to be scaled by rubbing them between their
hands, rolled in meal and cooked in a big skillet. "We would eat these
fish with pone corn bread and we sho' had big eatins!"
Marse Stone had a big sugar camp with 300 trees. We would be waked up at
sun-up by a big horn and called to get our buckets and go to the sugar
camps and bring water from the maple trees. These trees had been tapped
and elderwood spiles were placed in the taps where the water dripped to
the wooden troughs below. We carried this water to the big poplar
troughs which were about 10 feet long and 3 feet high. The water was
then dipped out and placed in different kettles to boil until it became
the desired thickness for "Tree Molasses". Old Miss Polly would always
take out enough of the water to boil down to make sugar cakes for us
boys. We had great times at these "stirrin' offs" which usually took
place at night.
The neighbors would usually come and bring their slaves. We played
Sheep-meat and other games. Sheep-meat was a game played with a yarn
ball and when one of the players was hit by the ball that counted him
out. One song we would always sing was "Who ting-a-long? Who
ting-a-long? Who's been here since I've been gone? A pretty girl with a
There was no slave jail on the Stone place, and I never saw a slave sold
or auctioned off. I was told that one of our slaves ran off and was gone
for three years. Some white person wrote him to come home that he was
free. He was making his own way in Ohio and stopped in Lexington,
Kentucky for breakfast; while there he was asked to show his Pass papers
which he did, but they were forged so he was arrested. Investigators
soon found that his owner was Mr. Stone who did not wish to sell him and
sent for him to come home. Uncle Ned's own Tim said he "would go fetch
him back" but instead he sold him to a southern slave trader. My old
Mistus Meg taught me how to read from an old national spelling book, but
I did not learn to write. We had no church, but the Bible was read to us
on Sunday afternoons by some of the white folks. The first Church I
remember was the Old Fork Baptist Church about four miles from Lancaster
on the Lexington Pike. The first preacher I remember was Burdette
Kemper. I heard him preach at the old church where my Mistus and Master
took me every Sunday. The first Baptizin' that I remember was on Dix
Fiver near Floyd's Mill. Preacher Kemper did the Baptizin' and Ellen
Stone, one of our slaves was Baptized there with a number of
others - whites and blacks too. When Ellen came up out of the water she
was clapping her hands and shouting. One of the songs I remember at this
"Come sinners and Saints and hear me tell
The wonders of E-Man-u-el,
Who brought my soul with him to dwell
And give me heavenly union."
"The first funeral sermon I remember was preached by John Moran, negro
at the first Baptist here in Lancaster.
"The negroes would talk among themselves, but never carried tales to the
white folks. I never heard of any trouble between blacks and whites. On
Sunday's we would hold prayer meetings among ourselves. The neighbors
would come when slaves were sick. Old Mistus looked after us, giving us
teas made of catnip and vermifuge. Poultices of dock leaves and slippery
elm were also used when were sick. Some of the slaves wore rabbit feet
for charms and skins of snakes for a belt as a charm.
"My first wedding was 53 years ago. The woman was named Emma Barren,
raised by Dr. Pettus. I had no children. We went to Mr. Spencer Hubble
to live, in Lincoln County. We had no chil [TR: This sentence appears to
have been unfinished or erased.]
I received the first news of freedom joyfully. I went to old man
Onstott's to live. I lived there two or three years. I think Abe Lincoln
a great man. He did not believe in slavery and would have paid the