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Texas Slave Narrative

  John Price

John Price , nearing 80, was born a slave of Charles Bryan , in Morgan City, Louisiana. The Bryans brought him to Texas about 1861, and he now lives in Liberty. Mirandy , his wife, was also a slave, but has had a paralytic stroke and speaks with such difficulty that she cannot tell the story of her life. Their little home and yard are well cared for.

I's five year old when de Lincoln war broke up and my papa was name George Bryan in slavery time and he come from St Louis, what am in Missouri. After freedom de old boss he call up de hands and say, 'Iffen you wants to wear my name you can, but take 'nother one iffen you wants to.' So my daddy he change he name to George Price and dat why my name John Price . My old massa name George Bryan and he wife name Felice . Dey buy my papa when he 18 year old boy and dey take him and raise him and put all dey trust in him and he run de place when de old man gone. Dat in Morgan City, in Louisiana on de Berwick side. I's workin' in Hyatt when I 'cide to git marry and I marry dis gal, Mirandy , 'bout 52 year ago and us still been together. Us marry in Moss Bluff and Sam Harris , he a cullud man, he de preacher what marry us. I have on pretty fair suit of clothes but one thing I 'member, de gal I marry, she have $5.00 pair of shoes on her feet what I buys for her. Us done have five sons and three daughters and I been a pretty 'fluential man 'round Liberty. One time dey a man name Ed Pickett what was runnin' for Clerk of de Court in Liberty County and he come 'round my place 'lectioneering, 'cause he say whatever way I votes, dey votes. Did you ever hear a old coon dog? Old coon dog, he got a big, deep voice what go, 'A-woo-o-o, a-woo-o-o.' You can hear him a mile. Well, dat Ed Pickett he say to me, 'John Price , you know what I wants you to do? I wants you put dat other feller up a tree. I wants you put him so fur up a tree he can't even hear dat coon dog holler.' And I does it, 'cause I's pretty 'fluential 'round here.


A trace of chin whiskers borders his thin face and a sparse white mustache edges his upper lip. John Price , nearing 80, is a small man, emphatic in manner and ordinary in appearance. His step is sprightly for his years and he talks in gestures as much as in words. Patched overalls and shirt, and broken shoes attest to his industry and his home and yard are well cared for. Mirandy , his wife for 52 years, was also a slave but is too young to recall her experiences. She has recently suffered a slight paralytic stroke and speaks with difficulty. John was born in Morgan City, Louisiana, but came to Liberty, Texas, with the Bryans some four years before freedom.

I's five year' ol' w'en de Lincum war broke up. My papa was name' George Bryan in slav'ry time, and he come from St. Louis, Missouri. Atter freedom de ol' boss he call' up de han's and say, 'Iffen you wanter wear my name you kin, but tek anudder one iffen you wanter.' So my daddy he change' he name to George Price and dat why my name John Price . My ol' marster name' Charles Bryan and he wife name' Felice . Dey buy my daddy w'en he 18 year' ol' boy and dey tek him and raise' him and put all dey trus' in him and he run de place w'en de ol' man gone. Dat was in Margan City, Lou'siana on de Berwick side. De year I's one year old us come to Texas and settle in Liberty. I was a-layin' in my mammy's arms and her name Lizette but dey call her Lisbeth . She mos'ly French. I got three sister, Sally Hughes and Liza Jones and Celina , and two brothers, Pat Whitehouse and Jim Price . De white folks have a tol'able fair house one mile down south of Raywood and it were a long, frame house and a pretty good farm. Us quarters was log houses built out of li'l pine poles pile one top de other. Dey have nail up log. country beds and homemade tables and rawhide bottom chairs and benches. Dem chair have de better weight dan de chair today. Iffen you rare back now, de chair gone, but de rawhide stay with you. De old massa pretty fair to us all. Iffen my papa whip me I slips out de house and runs to de big house and crawls under de old massa's bed. Sometime he wake up in de middle de night and say, 'Boy,' and I not answer. Den he say 'gain. 'Boy. I know you under dat bed. You done been afoul your papa 'gain, and he act awful mad. Den he throw he old sojer coat under de bed for to make me a pallet and I sleep dere all night. Us chillen have lots of time to play and not much time to work. Us allus ridin' old stick hosses and tie a rope to do stick and call it a martingale. Us make marbles out of clay and dry 'em and play with 'em. De old boss wouldn't 'low us have no knife, for fear us cut each other. Us never sick much dem days, but us have de toothache. Dey take white tree bark what taste like peppermint and stew it up with honey and cure de toothache. Us never go to church. Some my wife's people say dey used to have a church in de hollow and dey have runners for to watch for de old boss man and tell 'em de massa comin'. Us old massa say Christmas Day am he day to treat and he tell us 'bout Santy Claus. Us taken us socks up to he house and hang dem 'round de big fireplace and den in de mornin' us find candy and cake and fruit and have de big time. New Year Day was old missy time. She fix de big dinner on dat day and nobody have to work. When de war is breakin' old massa come by ship to Galveston up de Trinity River to Liberty by boat to try to save he niggers, but it wasn't no use. Us see lots of tents out by Liberty and dey say it sojers. I tag long with de big boys, dey sneaks out de spades and digs holes in de prairie in de knolls. Us plannin' to live in dem holes in de knolls. When dey say de Yankees is comin' I sho' is 'fraid and I hear de cannon say, 'Boom, boom,' from Galveston to Louisiana. De young white missy, she allus sing de song dat go: We are a band of brothers, native to de soil, Fightin' for our liberty with treasure, blood and toil, And when us rights was threaten', de cry rise far and near, Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag what bears a single star.

After freedom my papa move away but de old massa come after him and worry him till he 'most have to come back. When my li'l sister have de whoopin' cough, old massa come down in a hurry and say, 'You gwineter kill dem chillen,' and he puts my sister and brother on de hoss in front of him and takes 'em home and cures 'em hisself. It were years after dat 'fore my papa leave him 'gain. Dey driv beefs and have two rivers to cross to git dere, de Sabine and de Neches. Dey 'liver 'em by so many head and iffen day ain't have 'nough, other mens on de prairie help 'em fill out de number what dey needs. I's rid many a wild hoss in my day and dat's where I make my first money for myself. De year I was one year ol' in April, us cone to Liberty, Texas. I was a-layin' in my mammy's arms. Her name' Lizette but dey call her Lis'beth . She zos'ly Frenct. I got t'ree sister, Sally Hughes , Liza Jones and a ha'f sister, Celina and two brudders, Pat Whitehouse and Jim Price . Dey's ten ol' folks on de place wid my mammy and daddy. De w'ite folks house was a tol'able fair house one mile down sou'f of Raywood. It were a long frame house and a pretty good farm. De quarters was log houses buil' outer li'l pine poles pile' one 'pon top de other. Dey hab nail up log country beds, and ho'made tables and rawhide bottom chairs, and benches. Dem chair' hab a better weight dan de chair' today. Iffen you rar' beback now de chair gone, but de rawhide stay wid you. Some dat rawhide so hard you couldn' cut it wid a axe, and de legs was made outer ash sticks. Us hab good ho'mek clo's and plenty to eat. De ol' marster was pretty fair to us all. Iffen my papa whip' me I slip outer de house and run up to de big house and crawl under de ol' marster' bed. Sometime' he wake up in de middle of de night and say, 'Boy' and I no answer. Den he say 'gin, 'Boy, I know you under dat bed. You done been afoul of your daddy ag'in, and he act awful mad. Den he t'row he ol sojer coat under de bed for me to mek a pallet and I sleep dere all night. Us chillen hab lots of time to play and not much time to wuk. Us was allus ridin' ol' stick-hosses. Us tie a rope to de stick and call it a martingale. Us mek marbles outer clay and dry 'em and play wid 'em but dey warn't sich good marbles. De ol' boss wouldn' 'low us to hab no knife for fear us cut each other. Us chillen nebber was sick much of de time. Us hab toofache a lots in dem days. Dey tek a w'ite tree bark w'at tas' like peppermint and stewed it up wid honey and cure de toofache. Us li'l chillen nebber did go to no Sunday School like dey does now. Some of de marsters wouldn' eben 'low it. Some my wife's people say how dey uster hab chu'ch in a hollow. Dey hab runners to watch for de ol' boss man and to git off a piece and watch to tell 'em to lower dey voice' 'cause de marster comin'. Us ol' boss man say Crissmus day was his day to treat. He tell us 'bout Santy Claus.

Us taken us sox up to de boss' house and hang dem dat away 'roun de big fireplace, and den in de mawnin' us fin' candy and cake and fruit and hab a big time. New Year' Day was ol' mistus time. She fix a big dinner for eb'rybody on dat day and nobudy hafter wuk. De ol' marster come by ship to Galveston up de Trinity Riber to Liberty by boat to try to sabe he niggers, but it warn't no use. Us see lots of tents out by Liberty. Dey say dey was sojers. I tag 'long wid de big boys--dey sneak out de spades and dig 'em holes on the prairie in de knolls. Us was plannin' to lib in dem holes in de knolls. W'en dey say "De Yankees is comin' I sho' was 'fraid. I hear de cannon say, boom! boom! boom! from Galveston to Lou'siana. De young w'ite mistus she allus sing a song dat go: 'We are a ban' of brothers, native to the soil Fightin' for our liberty with treasure, blood, and toil. And when our rights were threatened, the cry rose near and far, Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.  Atter freedom my daddy move' away. De boss man kep' comin' atter him and worryin' him 'til he almos' hafter come back. W'en my li'l sister got de whoopin' cough de ol' marster come down dere in a hurry. He say, 'You gwineter kill dem chillen,' and he put my sister and brudder on de hoss in front of him and tuk 'em home and cure' 'em hisse'f. It were years atter dat befo' my daddy leabe him ag'in. Dey drive beefs. Dey had two ribbers to cross to git dere, de Sabine and de Neches. Dey 'libered (delivered) 'em by so many head. Iffen dey ain't had 'nough, other mens on de prairie he'p 'em fill out de number w'at dey need. I's rid many a wil' hoss in my day. Dat's w'er I mek my fus' money for myse'f. I was wukkin' in Hyatt froo Crissmus w'en I 'cide to git marry. I marry dis gal Mirandy 'bout 52 year' ago, and us still been togedder. Us was marry in Moss Bluff. Sam Harris , he was a cullud man, he de preacher w'at marry us. I hab on a pritty fair suit of clo's but one t'ing I 'member de gal I marry, she hab a five dollar pair of shoes on her feet w'at I buy for her. Us done hab five sons--two of 'em dead now--and t'ree daughters. I been a pritty 'fluential 'roun' Liberty. One time dey was a man name' Ed Pickett and he was runnin' for Clerk of Court in Liberty County. He come 'roun' my place 'lectionerin' 'cause he say w'atever way I vote, dey votes. Did you ebber hear a ol' 'coon dog? Ol' 'coon dog he got a big deep voice w'at go, A-Woo, A-Woo, and you kin hear 'im a mile. Well, dat Ed Pickett he say to me, 'John Price , you know w'at I want you to do? 'I want you to put me ahead in dis race. I want you put dat other feller up a tree. I want you put him so fur up a tree he can't eben hear dat 'coon dog beller.


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