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Texas Slave Narrative

  Mollie Kirkland

I was born in Talledagah County, Alabama, an' was nine years old wen freedom cum. My Master was named Chas. Malene . My mammy an' her chillun was sold to a slave trader dat took us to Jackson Tennessee wen I was still a baby, whar he sold us to a man named Wood . Dis Master cum to Texas befo' de Civil War an settled in de community of what dey now call old Springfield Texas, near de town's of Grosbeck an' Mexia. Dis Massa Wood had a daughter named Mistis Elizabeth , dey called her Betty , she married a young man from Alabama dat had cum to Palestine Texas, named Elias B. Smyth . After Massa Wood died, den Massa Smyth took charge of de plantation for Miss Betty an' her folks an' managed hit for dem. Dey lived on at Springfield or in de community whar dey raised dey family. Wen de Civil War cum den Massa Smyth had to go an' he made de head slave de overseer, his name was Henry Majors , he looked after de plantation jes like de Master an' helped de Mistis until de Massa cum back from de war. De Massa and Mistis Smyth had four boys an' three girls, de boys names was Alva , Ed B ., Lee B . an' Tom . De girls names wen dey has married is Mrs. E.W. Hawkins of Seymer Texas, Mrs. W.A. Lanning of Waco, Texas an' Mrs. Chas. Watson of Waco. De boys lived to raise dey families, but dey is two dat is passed away, Massa Alva , an Massa Lee . Massa Alva was de President of de First National Bank of Mart, Texas, an' Massa Tom was a Doctor. Massa Ed an' Massa Lee is livin 'an' look after de property. Wen Massa Smyth's chillun was little he bought Aunt Caroline Foster who helped to nurses de chillun an' take keer of dem, he gave her Master a thousand dollars for her, but hit was Aunt Caroline dat helped to take keer of dem when dey is sick an' wen dey wanted anything dat dey Mistis would not give dem dey would go to Aunt Caroline .

Wen de war is over den Massa Smyth provides fer de slaves, he let dem stay on an' dey work de land, an' dey goes to raisin cotton more an' as hit was in de Navasota bottom like, er near hit, de land was rich an' dey soon make lots of cotton an' dey git good prices fer hit, den after awhile dey buy what dey called Smyth ranch about eight miles from Mexia an five or six miles from Mart. Dis is whar I lived when I was married an' had my own family  I does not remember much about de war 'ceptin de soljers a passin' thro' de country, how de ole Misses made de slaves hide de stock out in de brush whar de soljers marchin by would not see dem. I kin also remember how w'en dey stop to spend de night dat dey has de Mistis to give dem supper, an' how Aunt Caroline an' mammy would git busy an' cook de big batch of hot biscuits fer dem, an' how dey would say dey was de finest biscuits dat dey has ever been able to find. Sometimes dey would take de meat dat was put up in de smoke house fer de winter, 'lessen Mammy would hide hit whar dey did not find hit, den if dey did'nt find de meat dey would take what ever dey find, chickens pigs or anything dey could eat. Dey burn some folks houses but left ours. Yes'm I kin remember how de young folks had good times at dey parties, one of de games dat dey played was called "Oh, Sister Phoebe" dey did'nt call hit dancin', but dey would all be in a circle an' de one in the center would choose his partner an' den dey go thro de game jes like de Virginia Reel. Dey sing hit dis way, Oh Sister Phoebe, how merry were we, wen we sat under de Juniper tree, de Juniper tree, heigh-o, de Juniper tree, heigh-o. Wen de one in de center makes his choice den dey sing, Oh rise up Johnny, an' choose you de one, Choose you de fairest, or else choose none. Den dey jes dances de old Virginia Reel an' dey dance twill de sun cum up sometimes, dey is happy an' dey has lots of young folks of de country to cum an' spend de week wid dem effn hit be about time fer de Christmas, but den wen de war cum on dey forgot all about dey good times an' off de old an' de young ones go to de war, dey sang about de war a song of how dey was off to de war, an' de tumult in de air, de fifes shrill note, thro' de wide land every-whar, an' de answerin' tread of hurryin' feet. An dat was de way hit was. I was jes nine years old when freedom cum, but I kin remember to dis day, how dey tell 'bout how dey cum back so different, how dey is comin back, some in dey old ragged clothes, an' dey fine gray uniform dat dey wore off so proud, hit is so faded an' worn out dat dey could not tell effn hit was ever anything but old duckin' britches an dey little gray jackets, was all washed out white. Dis was a sad home-cumin. After de war is over den seem like all de folks from back in de old States was cumin to Texas, dey commenced to settle de country up fast. De Massa an' de Mistis bof' cum befo' de war, but I kin remember hearin de Mistis tell bout how her mammy brought her daddy who was sick in a covered wagon, an' all de cows, an' horses an' de slaves wid dem, how dey cross de Missippi at Memphis Tenneessee, an' how hit takes dem 'bout two months to git here. When dey git to Texas dey cum right on to de new town den of Springfield, dat was named after ole Springfield in de old States. Dis was de county seat of Limestone County, an' hit was not far from de old Parker Fort, maybe six or seven miles. De Tehuacana Creek was not far an' de Tehuacana Hills whar de Tehuacana Indians had once had dey homes.

An' de old Fort Parker dat de Indians had massacreed all de white folks an' stole de white girl Cynthia Ann Parker , was close to whar de Smyth family settled. Old Fort Parker is now what dey call de Fort Parker State Park an' de Lake Springfield is to de memory of old Springfield dat died wen de new rail-road from Dallas to Houston was built about de year 1870 an' built over from de town two miles, so den dey start de new towns of Grosbeck an' Mexia. All dat is left of de ole town is jes a few of de ole time slaves dat lived on after de white folks moved to de new towns. Yes dey called de times in dem days wild, de Indians was 'bout gone a few friendly ones was left, but dey had most all been put on de reservation de government had for dem, but de niggers was free an' so dey think dat dey is to run de country 'stid de white folks, so dey has lots of trouble in de days right after de war, dey has de carpet-baggers dat cum down an' take de white folks things away from dem, an' dey never knew when some body was 'goin to steal everything dey had, so dey had to watch for de thieves, as well as de nigger soljers who cum down to show de white folks what dey must do, so dey was killin's an' all kind of trouble.

Hit begun to git a little better when Governor Richard Coke of Waco was made de governor, an' Sul Ross dat had been de Indian fighter was de sheriff over in McLennan County, dey begun to clean up de country, an' pretty soon de nigger found out dey was not to run de country, an' dey begin to go to work. De first bad nigger dat I kin remember hearin about was called Merrick Trammel , he had been accused of some of de killings, but wen de new court house burned den he was de one dey suspected. He had a cave in de banks of de Navasota River an' so dey tracked him to hit, but de cave was back in de side of de river so dey could git a good shot at whoever cum to hit, he had a white man dat took turn about stayin wid him, so finally dey was accused of stealin' a horse, de reconstruction carpet-baggers, who was de law den made a trade wid dis white man dat he kin go free if he will kill dis Trammell , so de white man was tired of de siege so he kill de bad nigger an' goes free. Hit was not jes dis county dat had de bad men, dey was all over de state, an' de towns was full of saloons, an' de cowboys would git drunk an' ride into de saloons on dey horses an' den de nix' day wen dey is sober dey goes back an' pay de damage. In dese days wen de nigger or white man would try to git away from de law, dey would go to de river bottom, dey was de Brazes, an' de Trinity an' de Navasota bottoms, an' many is de fellow dat has stole or maybe killed some one dat made dey hidin place in dese bottoms until dey could make dey way clear off, to Mexico or some other state. But de most of de time de bloodhounds would track dem an' den de law would git dem, sometimes hit would end up wid a lynching, if hit had been a murder dat he his hidin for. Dey did not have de banks to rob in de little towns like whar we lived, so I kin remember how Massa Smyth had a thousand dollars once after he had sold his cotton wen hit was still high, an' so he does not want to go to Dallas or Houston to a bank, so he hides hit under a post dat was around de bank of potatoes, buried down under de post. De Mistis tell us 'bout hit w'en he dig hit up to use in de winter wen he needs de money. Everybody dat had any money in dese days hid hit somewhar an' dey never thought about if dey needed a bank or not. I has often thought 'bout how de ole Massa hid de money, an' den how de young Massa's Alva an' Lee put dey money into a bank for de people around Mart when dey first had de banks in dis town. De oldest of de Massa is done gone to his hebbenly reward, an de other ones are still here, an' hit was on dey ranch dey buy 'bout six miles from de town of Mart, in de days when dis country first settled, dat I raised my family.

Dis country was not settled until about de year 1870. But dey cum an' did dey part pretty soon after de first settlers, dey cum over from de next county whar de ole Massa lived in de days befo' de war. Dis little town of Mart was jes a village wid about four or five hundred families up until de International an' Great Northern branch from Houston to Fort Worth cum there hit about de year 1890, seems like hit was. Den de folks from de ranch, de young Massa's put in dis bank an' de town turned into a little city den. We stayed on at dis ranch an' I lived on hit for forty years. In dat time de ranch was turned into a farm, dey had learned dat dey could raise cotton on de black land, so dey put hit all nearly in cotton an' corn, so we jes stayed an' worked on dis farm. In de summer we sometimes go back over to de Jacks' Creek reunion close to whar de ole Massa lived, den we see all de old white an' de niggers bof' dat is still livin'. De ole soljers of de Civil War would meet here, den dey tell all about how dey fought de Yankees an' how dey had to go clear back to de ole States to do dis, some of dem was in Hoods Texas Brigade, an' dey tell all de ole stories of de battles over again. I forgit jes which one of de companies dat Massa Smyth was in but I kin remember how he was one of de ole soljers too. Dey still hold dis Jacks Creek Reunion but most of de old soljers has done gone on to dey reunion in de spirit land, whar dey part no more. After de country around de Smyth ranch settle up dey goes to sellin' part of hit off, so dey is not so much land fer de ole nigger's here now an' so my ole man an' myself goes to de town of Calvert, on de Brazes bottom, we live on a plantation down in dis place jes like we lived back in de ole States befo' de war. De war is over but de cabins is all jes like dey was wen de ole Masters cum befo' de war. Dey still has de brush arbor camp meetins, an' de big baptizin's in de river, dey still has de ole time picnics jes like dey did in de days befo' an' after freedom. De country is still mostly timbered if dey do raise lots of cotton de niggers live in de cabins an' sing de ole time songs as dey goes to de fields, de Massa gives dem all de beeves an' de pigs an' hogs dey want for dey nineteenth barbecue, de politicians used to cum an' give de nigger all de whiskey he could drink to git him to vote for his candy-date, but when dey white folks got tired of dem voting all de niggers in de Beazes bottom an' maybe hit would not be for de man dey wanted, den dey had what dey call de white man's primary an' dey dont let de nigger vote in dis 'lection an' den de one dat de white folks wants git de place, an' so dey quit cumin an' givin de nigger de whiskey to git his vote, an' dis makes hit better for de nigger. Dey kin enjoy life widout gittin drunk. Dey was lots of de ole states folks dat had settled down at Calvert befo' de war an' dey still held up for de right man, hit was jes de folks like de ole time carpet-baggers an' de scalawags dat voted de nigger fer de wrong man. Dis is a town made up of some of de finest old state folks in Texas. Dey was ole Cappn Salter who cum to Texas an' settled in Calvert an' bought a plantation wid whole lots of slaves, he lived in Calvert until he died he an' his folks, de little bitch named Salter is on de ole Salter plantation. De Cappn cum from Georgia, an' he was jes one of so many dat cum to dis little town on de Brazos in de days befo' an' right after de war, dey has mos' all passed on to what de Indian call dey happy huntin' groun' but dey lives an' dey work live on, jes as de ones settled over on de Navaseta, de Trinity an' over at old Springfield live on. We likes dis ole timey place so much dat we stay here de rest of our lives together, me an my old man. De folks at Calvert was so good to us, an' hit was easier to make a livin' dan on de black land wen dey commence to have so many folks dar wanted de land. Down in de bottom dey had dey wood an' still do, on de prairie around de Mart country de wood an timber all gone after hit is settled up, until a few years ago dey has to buy dey wood an' coal, 'till de gas well in West Texas bring dem de gas. But dey is all good folks an' give de nigger his chance to work for his livin' de same as de white man now, but sometimes I looks back on de days w'en we is livin' wid de Smyth family an' belongs to dem, an' I has often wished dat I could live dese days over again, for dey always looked after dey niggers long time after freedom, an' if dey needed any help dey saw dat dey got hit. But dis day is passin' away, pretty soon all de old white folks be gone, an' den dey be no one to look after de ole time slaves, so maybe hit jes as well dey is passin' away too.