Recollections of lives of slavery and emancipation.
Edited by Dina C. McBride
Interview with Mollie Williams
If I lives till next September fifteenth, I'll be eighty-four. I was born about three miles from Utica on the Newsome place. Me and my Pappy and brother Hamp belonged to Master George Newsome. Master George was named after George Washington up in Virginia where he come from. Miss Margurite was our mistress. My Mammy? Well, I'll have to tell you how about her.
You see Master George come off down here from Virginia like young folks venturing about and married Miss Margurite and wanted to start up living right over there near Utica where I was born. But Master George was poor and he sure found out you can't make no crop without a start of darkies, so he wrote home to Virginia for to get some darkies. All they sent him was four mens and old Aunt Harriet for to cook.
The day Master George and his uncle, Mr. John Davenport, now there was a rich man for you - why he had two carriage drivers, and they rode over to Grand Gulf where they was selling slaves off the block, and Mr. John told Master George to pick himself out a pair of darkies for to chop his cotton and the like. So Master George pick out my Pappy first. My Pappy come from North Carolina. Then he seen my Mammy and she was big and strengthy and he wanted her powerful bad, but like I told you, he didn't have enough money to buy them both, so his Uncle John say he'd buy Mammy and then he would loan her over to Master George for Pappy. The first child would be Mr. John's and the second Master George's and likewise. Mammy was a Missourian named Marilyn Napier Davenport, and Pappy was Martin Newsome.
Darkies lived in little old log houses with dirt chimneys. That is, the rest of the darkes did. They kept me up in the big house, being mammyless like. Mostly I slept in a trundle bed with Miss Mary Ann till I got so bad they had to make a pallett on the floor for me. They was Mr. Bryant, Mr. A.D., Miss Martha, Miss Ann, Miss Helen, Miss Mary Jane, and Mr. George, all belonging to Master George and Miss Margurite.
Mammy was a field hand. She could plow and work in the fields just like a man and my Pappy he done the same. Mammy, she hated house work like me. I just naturally loves to be out running around in the fields and about. I never liked to work round the house none at all.
We wore lowell clothes and toed brogans. Miss Margurite made our dress and like and after Aunt Harriet died she done the cooking, too, for all the slaves and the family. She fixed up dinner for the field hands and I taken it to them. Master George had an old powder horn he blowed mornings to get the darkies up before day good and they come in about sundown.
We growed corn and taters and cotton plentiful, and we had grand orchards and peanuts. The sheeps and hots and cows and like.
Miss Marguerite had a piano, an accordian, a flutena, and a fiddle. She could play a fiddle as good as a man. Law, I heard many as three fiddles going in that house many a time. And I can just see her little ole fair hands now, playing just as fast as lightening, tune about:
My father he cried, my mother she cried,, I wasn't cut out for the army. O, Captain Gink, my horse me think, But feed my horse on corn and beans, and support the gals by any means. Cause I'm a Captain in the army.
All us children begged her to play that and we all sing and dance, great goodness . . One song I remember Mammy singing:
Let me nigh, be my cry, Give me Jesus. You may have all this world, But give me Jesus.
Singing and shouting. She had religion all right. She belonged to old Farrett back in Missouri.
We didn't get sick much but Mammy made yeller top tea for chills and fever and give us. Then if it didn't do no good Miss Marguerite called for Dr. Hunt like she done when her own children were sick.
None of the darkies on that place could read or write. Guess Miss Helen and Miss Ann would have learned me but I was just so bad and didn't like to set still no longer than I had to.
I seen plenty of darkies whipped. Master George buckled my Mammy down and whipped her when she ran off. Once when Master George seen Pappy stealing a bucket of molasses and toting it to a gal on another place he whipped him, but didn't stake him down. Pappy told him to whip him but not to stake him, he'd stand for it without the staking, so I remember he looked like he was jumping a rope and hollering, "Pray Master," every time the strop hit him.
I heard about some people what nailed their darkies ears to a tree and beat them, but I never seen one whipped that way.
I never got no whippings from Master George cause he didn't whip the children none. Little darky children played along with the white children. If the old house is still there I expect you can find mud cakes up under the house what we made out of eggs we stole from the hen nests. Then we milked just anybody's cows we could catch and churn it. All time into some mischief.
There was plenty of dancing among the darkies on Master George's place and on ones nearby. They danced reels and like in the moonlight:
Mamma's got the whopping cough, Daddy's got the measels, That's where the money goes, Pop goes the weasel!
Buffalo gals, can't you come out tonight, Come out tonight, and dance by the light of the moon?
Gennie put the kettle on, Sally boil the water strong, Gennie put the kettle on, and let's have tea.
Run tell Coleman, Run tell everybody, that the niggers is arising
Run nigger run, the patrollers catch you, Run nigger run, for it's almost day, The nigger run, the nigger flew; the nigger lost his big old shoe.
When the war come, Master George went to fight back in Virginia. Us all thought the Yankees was some kind of devils and we was scared to death of them.
One day Miss Mary Jane, Helen, and me was playing and we seen mens all dressed in blue coats with brass buttons on they bosums riding on big fine horses, drive right up to our porch and say to Aunt Delia where she was sweeping and say, "Good morning Madam, no mens about?" When we told them no mens was about they ask for the keys to the smoke house and went out and helped they selfs and loaded they wagons. Then they went out int he pasture amongst the sheeps and killed off some of them. Next they went in the buggy house and all together struck down the carriage so as we never could use it no more. Yessu, they done right smart of mischief around there.
Some of the darkies went off with the Yankees. My brother Howard did and we ain't heard tell of him since. I'll tell you about it. You see Mr. Davenport owned him and when he heard about the Yankees coming this way he sent his white driver and Howard in the carriage with all his valuables to the swamp to hide, and while they was there the white driver he went off to sleep and Howard was prowling around and we all just reconed he went off with the Yankees.
You mean hoodoo? That's what my Pappy done to my Mammy. You see they was always fussing about first one thing, then another, and Mammy got so mad cause Pappy slipped her clothes out of her chest and taken them over to other gals for to dance in, and when he brought them back Mammy would see fingerprints on them where he'd been turning them around, and she sure be made and fight him. She could lick him, too, cause she was bigger. One day Pappy come in and say to Mammy, "Does you want to be bigger and stronger than what you already is?" And Mammy say she did. So next day he brought her a little bottle of something blood red and something looked like a gourd seed in the middle of it and he told her to drink it if she wanted to be really strong. From the first drink she fell off instead of walking off, she just stumbled and got worser and worser until she plumb lost her mind. For a long time they had to tie her to a tree. Then after the war she left Mr. Davenport and just traveled about over the country. I stayed on with Miss Marguerite helping her just like I had been doing. One day Mammy came after me and I run and hid under a pile of quilts, and liked to have smothered to death waiting for her to go on off.
Next time she come she brung a written letter to Miss Marguerite from the Freeman's Board and took me with her. We just went from place to place till I got married and settled down for myself. I had three children but ain't none of them living now.
Page Created July 19, 2006
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