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Person Interviewed: Jane Montgomery
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Place of Birth: Homer, Louisiana
Date of Birth: March 15, 1857
I was born March 15, 1857, in Homer, Louisiana. I claim to be 75 years old, but that’s jest my way of counting. My mother was Sarah Strong and my father was Edmond Beavers. We lived in a log cabin that had jest one door. I had two sisters named Peggy and Katie. Mammy was bought from the Strong family and my pappy was bought from Beavers by Mister Eason.
We slept on wooden slabs which was jest make-shift beds. I didn’t do no work in slave times ’cause I was too little. You jest had to be good and husky to work on that place. I listened and told mammy everything I heerd. I ate right side dat old white woman on the flo’. I was a little busy-body. I don’t recollect eating in our quarters on Sunday and no other time.
I don’t remember no possums and rabbits being on our place, ’cause when white folks killed a chicken for their selves, dey killed one for the niggers. My pappy never ate no cornbread in all his put-together. Meat was my favorite food. I never ate no dry bread without no meat.
We wore homespun clothes. My first pair of shoes was squirrel skin. Mammy had ‘em made. We wore clothes called linsey that was wool and cotton mixed.
My father was the onliest overseer. It was sho’ a great big old place. My master jest seen the place on Sundays. They was jest seven Niggers on our plantation. No working late at night but we had to git up at daylight. When our day’s work was done, we went to bed, but sometimes they sung. Sadday was a holiday from working on the plantation. You had Sadday to wash for yourself. We didn’t do nothing on Christmas and all holidays.
Mistress never whip us and iffen master would start, mistress would git a gun and make him stop. She said, “Let ever bitch whip her own chillun.” I never seen no patrollers. I jest heard of ‘em. They never come on our place. I guess they was scared to. The Klu Klux whipped niggers when so never they could catch ‘em. They rid at night mostly.
I am a Baptist. I belong to Calvary Baptist Church. I was baptized in a creek. Our favorite hymn was “Dark Was the Night an’ Cold the Ground.” Our favorite revival hymn was “Lord I’d Come to Thee, a Sinner Undefiled.” Our favorite funeral song was “Hark From the Tomb.”
My family didn’t believe in conjure am all that stuff. ‘though they’s a heap of it was going on and still is for that matter. They had “hands” that was made up of all kinds of junk. You used ‘em to make folks love you more’n they did. We used asafetida to keep off smallpox and measles. Put mole foots round a baby’s neck to make him teethe easy. We used to use nine red ants tied in a sack round they neck to make ‘em teethe easy and never had no trouble with ‘em neither. I think I seen a haunt once, ’cause when I looked the second time, what I seen the first time was gone.
When the war was over, mistress’ son come home and he cleaned his guns on my dress tail. It sho’ stunk up my dress and made me sick too. He told old mistress that niggers was free now. I went and told mammy that old Betay’ s son told her the niggers was free and what did he mean. She said, “Shhhhhh!” They never did jest come out and tell us we was free. We was free in July and mammy left in September. We lived in Jordan Saline, out from Smith County. Then my mother give me to my father ’cause she was married to another man. Her and my step-father moved to Gilmore. Texas. They sent for me round ’bout Christmas and we lived on Sampers ‘ farm.
We lived so far out, we couldn’t go to school, ‘though they was for us. We didn’t own no land. Didn’t nobody learn me to read and write.
Abe Lincoln was a good man. It was through Mr. Lincoln that God fit to free us. I don’t know much ’bout Jeff Davis and don’t care nothing ’bout him. Booker T. Washington built that school through God. He used to live in a cabin jest lak I done. He was sho’ a great man.
I married Trole Kemp in 1883. I ‘mind you they didn’t marry in slavery, they jest took up. Master jest give a permit. I am the mother of 10 chillun and 5 grandchillun. Four of my chillun died young. Them what’s living is doing different things sech as: writing policy, working on made work, housework, government clerk and hotel maid. One is in the pen.