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Interviewer: T. Pat Matthews
Person Interviewed: Frank Freeman
Location: 216 Tuppers Lane, Raleigh, North Carolina
Date of Birth: December 14, 1857
Place of Birth: Wake County NC
I was born near Rolesville in Wake County Christmas Eve, 24 of December 1857. I am 76 years old. My name is Frank Freeman and my wife’s name is Mary Freeman. She is 78 years old. We live at 216 Tuppers Lane, Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina. I belonged to ole man Jim Wiggins jus’ this side o’ Roseville, fourteen miles from Raleigh. The great house is standin’ there now, and a family by the name o’ Gill, a colored man’s family, lives there. The place is owned by ole man Jim Wiggins’s grandson, whose name is O. B. Wiggins. My wife belonged to the Terrells before the surrender. I married after the war. I was forty years ole when I was married.
Old man Jim Wiggins was good to his niggers, and when the slave children were taken off by his children they treated us good. Missus dressed mother up in her clothes and let her go to church. We had good, well cooked food, good clothes, and good places to sleep. Some of the chimneys which were once attached to the slave houses are standing on the plantation. The home plantation in Wake County was 3000 acres.
Marster also owned three and a quarter plantations in Franklin County. He kept about ten men at home and would not let his slave boys work until they were 18 years old, except tend to horses and do light jobs around the house. He had slaves on all his plantations but they were under colored overseers who were slaves themselves. Marster had three boys and five girls, eight children of his own.
One of the girls was Siddie Wiggins. When she married Alfred Holland, and they went to Smithfield to live she took me with her, when I was two years old. She thought so much o’ me mother was willing to let me go. Mother loved Miss Siddie, and it was agreeable in the family. I stayed right on with her after the surrender three years until 1868. My father decided to take me home then and went after me.
They never taught us books of any kind. I was about 8 years old when I began to study books. When I was 21 Christmas Eve 1880, father told me I was my own man and that was all he had to give me.
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I had decided many years before to save all my nickles. I kept them in a bag. I did not drink, chew, smoke or use tobacco in any way during this time. When he told me I was free I counted up my money and found I had $47.75. I had never up to this tasted liquor or tobacco. I don’t know anything about it yet. I have never used it. With that money I entered Shaw University. I worked eight hours a week in order to help pay my way.
Later I went into public service, teaching four months a year in the public schools. My salary was $25.00 per month. I kept going to school at Shaw until I could get a first grade teacher’s certificate. I never graduated. I taught in the public schools for 43 years. I would be teaching now, but I have high blood pressure.
I was at Master Hollands at Smithfield when the Yankees came through. They went into my Marster’s store and began breaking up things and taking what they wanted. They were dressed in blue and I did not know who they were. I asked and someone told me they were the Yankees.
My father was named Burton, and my mother was named Queen Anne. Father was a Freeman and mother was a Wiggins.
There were no churches on the plantation. My father told me a story about his young master, Joe Freeman and my father’s brother Soloman. Marster got Soloman to help whip him. My father went in to see young Missus and told her about it, and let her know he was going away. He had got the cradle blade and said he would kill either of them if they bothered him. Father had so much Indian blood in him that he would fight. He ran away and stayed four years and passed for a free nigger. He stayed in the Bancomb Settlement in Johnson County. When he came home before the war ended, Old Marster said, ‘Soloman why didn’t you stay?’ father said, ‘I have been off long enough’. Marster said ‘Go to work’, and there was no more to it. Father helped build the breastworks in the Eastern part of the State down at Ft. Fisher. He worked on the forts at New Bern too.
I think Abraham Lincoln worked hard for our freedom. He was a great man. I think Mr. Roosevelt is a good man and is doing all he can for the good of all.