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Texas Slave Narrative

  Carey Davenport

Although signs of age are very evident, Reverend Carey Davenport , retired Methodist minister of Anahuac, appears sturdy despite his 83 years. His large face is accentuated by a mop of thick white wool. He was reared a slave of Captain John Mann in Walker county, Texas, although the location is now in San Jacinto. His wife, who has been his devoted companion for over 60 years, was born in slavery shortly before emancipation. Together, they are contentedly pursuing the even tenor of their way in the evening of life. The Reverend is very fond of fishing and spends much time with hook and line. A man of more than ordinary education among his fellows, his talk shows but little dialect, although speech is sometimes impaired by a huge and constantly agitated wad of chewing tobacco which stains his drooping mustache. 

If I live 'til the thirteenth of August, I'll be 82 years ol'. I was born in 1855 up in Walker county. Since then they split the county and the place where I was born is jus' 'cross the line in San Jacinto county, 'bout 12 miles eas' of Huntsville. Jim and Janey Davenport was my father and mother. They come from Richmond, Virginia. I had two sisters, Betty and Harriet and a half brother, William . He took the name of ol' marster and called himself William Mann . "Ol' marster's name was John Mann . Dey uster call him Cap'n Mann . Ol' missus' name was Sarah . They had three boys, Robert , Tom and Johnny . One of the girls was name' Mildred . I don't 'member the names of the res' of the girls. "I'd say ol' marster treat' his slaves bad. He was a class leader in the Methodis' Church. Dere was one thing I couldn' understan'. Ev'ry Sunday morning' ev'rybody had to git ready and go for prayer. Dey sing and den ol' marster read the Bible and pray. I never could understan' his religion 'cause sometime he git up off his knees and befo' we git out the house he cuss us out.  All my life I been a Methodis'. I been a reg'lar preacher 43 years. Since I quit I been livin' here at Anahuac. Seems like I do 'bout as much preachin' now as I eber done. So I's been preachin' in all, close to 50 years.  I don't 'member no cullud preachers in slavery times. The white Methodis' circuit riders come 'roun' on horseback and preach. Dere was a big box house for a church house. Sometime they had special service for cullud folks. Sometimes the cullud folks sit off in one corner of the church when the white folks was havin' services.  Sometimes the cullud folks go down in dugouts and hollows and hol' dey own service. They uster sing songs what come a-gushin' up from the heart. I might have remembered part of some of 'em what you want to hear, but I can't jis' now.  Dey was 35 or 40 slaves on the place. I never see no slaves bought or sol' and I never was sol', but I seen 'em beat oh, Lord, yes. I seen 'em make a man put his head through the crack of the rail fence and then dey beat him 'till he was bloody. They give some of 'em 300 or 400 licks.  Ol' man Jim , that was Aunt Sarah's husban', he run away lots. Sometime they git the dogs after him. He run away one time and it was so col' his legs git frozen and they hafter cut his legs off. Sometime dey put chains on run away slaves and chain 'em to the house.  I never knowed of 'em puttin' bells on the slaves on our plantation, but over on anudder plantation they did. They had a piece that go 'roun' on they shoulders and aroun' dere necks wid pieces up over dere heads and dey hung up the bell on the piece over dey head. 

I was a sheep minder in dem days. I's put to herdin' the sheep and carryin' 'em out to the pasture. Ol' wolves would scatter the sheep sometimes in the day time. The ol' man uster count the sheep when dey come in in the ev'nin'. If dey was any missin', I hafter go back 'bout a mile in the dark to fin' 'em. When I go back sometime there be a bunch here and a bunch there.  Dey uster be a ol' sheep what I call Billy. When dey come in I wouldn't let ol' Billy in. I keep him to the las'. When I hafter go back to git them what was lef' behin', I uster use ol' Billy to roun' 'em up. I'd grab him and jump on 'im and ride 'im all the way in. Dey all follow ol' Billy. The one what had the bell on they call Nanny. The wolves was bad but they never tackle' me. They ruther git the sheep. They like sheep meat better'n they like man meat.  When ol' Cap'n want to put me to other work, he was goin' to put he own boy for sheep herder. I took him and a cousin of mine to train for sheep herder. Las' day I carry dem out, when we was comin' in, young marster see a ol' sow wid nine pigs, and he want me to ketch the pigs and let him mark 'em, and I wouldn't do dat. He wanted to beat me up but I go'd on. Ev'ry time he try to beat me I throw him down and go on. When we git to the lot we hafter go 'roun' to the big gate at the front. When we git dere he had a pine knot. He had me so close I couldn't go through dat gate. I stop and he hit me wid dat knot. I can feel it now sometimes. Ol' Cap'n was sittin' on the gallery and he seed it all. When I fall on one knee I shove' him backward in a pond what was right behin' him. Ol' marster he holler and say, 'Come here,' and when he hear the story he whip' young marster. The ol' lady she sittin' there and she ain't like it 'cause he never whip' me. But she ain't done nuthin' yet. One time after that she was sittin' in the yard knittin'. She throw her knittin' needle off and call' me to come git it. I done forgot she wanter whip me. When I bring the needle she grab' me. I pull away but she hol' on my shirt. I run 'roun' and 'roun' and she call her mother and dey ketch me and whip me. My shirt jis' had one button on it and I was pullin' and gnawin' on that button, and toreckl (directly) it come off and de whole shirt slip' off, and I didn' have nuthin' on but my skin. I run and clim' up on the pole at the gate wid two pos's (posts) and sot up there 'till marster come. He see me a-sittin' dere and say, 'Carey what for you up dere?' Den I tell him the whole transaction. I say, 'Missus, she whip' me 'cause young mars John git whip'; that time and not me.' Den he mek me git down and git up on his horse behin' him and ride up to the big house. Ol' missus she done went to the house and go inside and go to bed wid her leg, 'cause when she was whippin' me she stick my head 'tween her knees, and when she do that I bit her. "Ol' marster was a great b'leever in the truth. When you talk to him he mek you look him right straight in he eye. Dat the way he tell if you tellin' him the truth. He b'leeve me 'cause I ain't never tell him no lie. 

Ol' marster' house was a two-story house wid galleries. My mudder she uster wait in the house and she have a pretty good house to live in. It was a plank house, too, but all the other houses was log houses mek out of hewed logs.  My pa was a carpenter. Ol' marster let him have lumber and he mek his own furniture outer dress' lumber. He make a box to put clo's in. We hang up some of the clo's on the wall. We never did had more'n two suits. "I heerd 'bout some plantations where the slaves had patches 'roun' their house but our marster, he didn't do that. He wouldn't let his slaves have no patch. My pa was a blacksmith, a carpenter, and a wheelwright. He uster make them ol' Carey plows. He uster be specially good at makin' the mould board (turning shear). The mould board was made out of hardwood. It had a iron point what my pa make. He make the bes' Carey plows in that part of the country. He make horseshoes, nails and anything make out of iron, and he shod the horses and mules. He uster make spinnin' wheels and parts of looms. I know they make all the homespun clothes on the loom. My mother did the weavin'.  He was a very valuable man. He make wheels, make the hub and put the spokes in and set up the whole wagon wheel. Them wagons was mos'ly ox wagons. Dat was what dey put me to when I quit sheep herdin'. When freedom come I was drivin' three yokes of oxen. My pa he uster make the yokes. He shape up the beam and make the bows. He holler out a place in a log and put the wood he goin' to make the bow outer in it. There was two pieces of wood standin' up about the middle of the bow. They put a lever on it and ben' up one end and put a clevis on it. Den he put the lever on the other end and put the clevis on that and that kep' it bent. Then he let it season and git the shape. I help him make many a one."

Ol' marster had a big farm. He raise' cotton and corn and 'taters and peanuts and sorghum cane, and some ribbon cane. The bigges' crops was cotton and corn." "When the war was on I saw some soldiers. They was jis' marchin' 'long the road. They never stop'. They was Southern soldiers. There wasn't no fightin' 'roun' there. My pa tol' us when freedom come. He'd been a free man. He was bodyguard to the ol' marster, and when he die' he give him his freedom. That was in Richmond, Virginia. But young marster steal him into slavery again. He was glad when he free again. Ol' marster make arrangement for us to stay with him 'til the crop was all gathered. We all stay' with him 'till after the harvest. Then we go to the ol' Rawls house. The place b'long to Mr. Chiv Rawls . He and my father and another man run the place. It was a big farm. I git marry when I was 21 or 22 years ol' and that's her right there now. We's been married more'n 60 years. She was 17 years ol' then. She was raised in Grant's colony. Her pa was a blacksmith. Her ma was dead and she was lookin' after the house and tendin' to all the chillen 'till her pa marry again. We had it all 'ranged. We stop the preacher one Sunday mornin' when he was on his way to preachin' and he come there to her pa' house and marry us. We's had 'leben children. All has deceased but three. Dey never was but two gals, and one, that Lillie Pearl , she live right back of us here. I got one boy name' Carey , livin' in Oakhurst and one boy, Will , livin' in Dallas. I was educated since freedom. Dey warn't no schools in slavery day, but after I freed I went to the public schools. Mos' of my learnin' I git from a German man who was the principal of a college. He teach me the bigges' part of my education. When I was fo'teen a desperado kill' my father. After then I had my mother and her eight children to take care of. That rob' me of the priv'lege of goin' to school. I work' two mont's and go to school one mont' and that way I make money to take care of ma and the children and go to school too. Ellen Jestis was my wife' name 'fore she marry me. The McGruder Wynns raise' her folks. She only three years ol' when 'mancipation come and don't 'member much about it.