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Texas Slave Narrative

  Mary Dodson

Mary Dodson, 89, was born a slave on May 1, 1848, on the Jim Dodson cotton plantation, near La Grange, Fayette County, Texas. Aunt Mary , as every one calls her, says her master was good to his seven slaves. Rose Dodson , her mother, had eleven children. Mary was the oldest. Lige Higgins , her father, she does not remember. Mary's mother married Sam Dodson after emancipation. Rose Dodson during slavery was a cook and field hand. Sam Dodson was also a slave on the Jim Dodson plantation. Mary's job was nurse to her master's children, who liked her very much. In 1868, when Mary was twenty years old, she married Jack Dodson , who was also one of the Dodson ex-slaves. They had nine children, of whom three boys and two girls still are living. Her husband died about twelve years ago. Mary is the owner of a one hundred acre farm near Manchaca, about ten miles south of Austin.  Mama was a good-sized woman, and she was a black woman. Her name was Rose Dodson . Mama cooked sometimes, but when dere was a rush in de fields, she'd have to go out in de field. Mama had ten or eleben chillun. I know dat she had a big gang of 'em. Now jes' me, de oldest, and de youngest, Robert , is de only one's livin'. Mama has been dead a good many years. I never did see my fathaw. I never did know much about him, even when I got to askin' about him. I'd wonder where my fathaw was and ask, 'Where is fathaw, Mama?' Mary ,' she'd say, 'Yo' fathaw done went to California when yo' was only four weeks old.' Whut was fathaw's name, mama?' His name was Lige Higgins , and he never come back.' He was a white man, I think. I never did see him. He went to California when de gold fever got stahted. People had said dat yo' could go out dere and pick up gold lak rocks. Lige , somebody told me, sent a white woman friend of his'n a piece of gold right out from de ground. Yo' know dat a nigger never would of done dat. I was bawn on May 1, eighty-nine years ago. I'm goin' to be ninety dis comin' May. I was bawn on de Jim Dodson cotton fahm, near La Grange, Fayette County. Mawster Dodson was Georgia folks. Our mawster wasn't no rich man, and he had jes' a few of us niggers, about seben slaves, I reckon. I ain't goin' to lie about my white folks, 'cause Mawster Jeem , dat's whut us niggers always called him, was a mighty good man. I say dat he was a good man. Mistress Lucy was mean to us sometimes, but she was all right. But Mawster Jeem was so good to us niggers, dat when I was a child, he used to tell us dat if we worked hard some of de mawnin's dat we could go fishin' in de afternoons. I was scared of water, but I'd go fishin'. Sometimes we'd catch dem big alligator-gars. Dey sure had long bills lak saws. Dere was more'n one time when mama would go ahead and fry one of dem fish. Dat jes' goes to show yo' whut a good mawster we had. Of course dere was some other slaves dat had sich bad masters dat dey had nothin' but some parched cawn on Sundays. Yo' see some of dem slaves was big eaters, and when dere week's rations was et up befo' de time fo' another givin' dey'd have to go hongry. If dey got out of grub dey sure had to wait till Saturday evenin' to git some mo'e When some of dem slaves got so hongry, dey would come on over to Mistress Lucy's house. Have yo' got any cold bread? Please give me some, please ma'am,' dey'd beg. Rose , have yo' got any bread left?' Mrs. Lucy would say, 'If'I yo' have give him some.' of dem slaves had to chop cotton all day long on Sundays jes' cause some of dem mawsters didn't care whut happened to dere workers. Why some of dem niggers looked dried up, dey was dat poor. But mawster Jeem sure fed his slaves, and dey was fat. When I was a child, I had to help in de house. I had to help nuss de mawster's chillun. Mistress Lucy had three boys and five girls. I was older'n dey was and dey sure was good chillun. One day a little nigger girl told one of de white chillun, 'Well, all of yo' little niggers is goin' to leave yo' soon.' De little white child den told his pap that, 'Lizzie said dat all of de little niggers was goin' to leave the white folks. Well, let 'em leave,' he said. Sure enough one day de driver, he was next to de overseer, went up to de big house to ask Mawster Jeem whut dere was to do fo' de day. Mawster Jeem , whut's next?' he asked.  Well, Tom ,' he said, 'I'm goin' to tell yo' dis mawnin' dat yo' slaves is free, yo' is free to go where yo' want to, but yo' all don't have to leave.'  Heaps of dem niggers had no place to go to. All of Mawster Jeem's slaves s yed on till all of his crops was gathered. When de time came fo' dem to leave, our mawster give, as fur as I recollect, each grown pusson seventeen dollahs. Dat was big money to us. Oh, our white folks was good and reasonable, and I ain't goin' to lie about 'em.  After slavery, mama married Sam Dodson , one of de Dodson niggers. Sam rented a fahm f'om a German, Jacob Meyer , in Fayette County. Dis fahm was about six miles f'om La Grange. Mr. Meyer's was a putty good one to work fo'.  My stepfathaw, Sam , treated me nice, and I got to thinkin' dat he was my papa. But dere is one thing dat was wrong. If somethin' happened in our fambly, de others always wanted to blame me fo' it, jes' cause I was de oldest. I had a sistah dat was a devil fo' fightin'. Her name was Maria . Maria would git mad and try to pass lick at somebody, den she'd git a good whoopin'. I was goin' on twenty-one when I got married. I helped fahm all of dis time on my stepfathaw's place, or I'd work out. My husband was Jack Dodson .

We was all of de same Dodson fambly. Me and Jack had nine chillun, six boys and three girls. Some of dem girls got de chance to go to de Tillotson negro college here in Austin, and den dey become teachahs. I got only three boys and two girls left. Jack fahmed most of de time. We fahmed down in Fayette County fo' a numbah of years. Den we moved to Austin. Jack jes' run a little delivery wagon. Dis was jes' a spring-wagon, pulled by one hoss. Jack wasn't gittin' along fast enough fo' me. We had to buy groceries and pay rent fo' our house. Dere was a lot of times when we had somethin' to eat but no wood to cook it wid. De wood had to be bought, too. Den I had to take in washin' so dat we could live. Jack would fool around and haul stuff in his wagon fo' only two bits and fo' bits. Dat wouldn't do. Jack , come on let's git out on a fahm,' I would say, ''where we kin all git out and make a livin'.' If I had my say, Mary,' he said, 'I wouldn't never go out of sound of dat city clock in town, de clock on de old city market.'' we moved to a little fahm, south of Austin. De first year we didn't make nothin'. We planted cawn, and yo' might not believe it, but we made only three baskets of nubbins, and dat's de truth. We was able to live through de year, 'cause our white boss was good enough to keep us up, and 'cause dere was times when me and Jack would go all around de countryside, pickin' up bones, dat we sold to a junkman. De next year we made a good crop, and cotton was sellin' fo' a good price. we moved to a fahm on Onion Creek, near here. Dis wasn't nothin' but a patch, but we made a little crop. Den some of de chillun got to workin' out and dat sure helped us a heap. F'om Onion Creek, we moved to de fahm where I'm at now. Our place is called about a mile f'om Manchaca. When we stahted here we rented fo' three hunnert dollahs a year. J. W. Smith owned de place, and he was a good white man. Den we bought dis place of about one hunnert acres fo' thutty dollahs a acre. After workin' hard fo' a long, long time, we was able to pay it off. Den about twelb years ago Jack died of Brights disease. His daddy died of it also.

I never went to school one day in my whole life. Even after slavery, I had to work too hard. When I was a young'un and had chillun, I was always ready to go f'om job to job, but now, I'm always ready to hurry and git through wid my work so I kin rest. A old pusson isn't restin' when he's settin' up, and he has to lay down to git a good rest. My own chillun was goin' to school and when I had worked hard in de fields all day, dey would tell me at night,  Mama, come on, we want to learn yo' how to do yo' A B C's, and how to read. To de devil wid yo',' I'd say, 'I'm too tired. I'm goin' to bed.' So up to dis day I kin read a few easy words, but I sure kain't write none. I even has to make a cross fo' my name.


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