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Slave Narrative of Joe Rutherford

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Interviewer: G. Leland Summer
Person Interviewed: Joe Rutherford
Location: Newberry, South Carolina

“I was born about 1846, ’cause I was in de war and was 19 years old when de war was over. I went to Charleston with my master, Ros Atwood, my mistress’s brother. My mistress was Mrs. Laura Rutherford and my master at home was Dr. Thomas Rutherford. We was on Morris Island.

“My father was Allen Rutherford and my mother Barbara Rutherford. My daddy had come from Chili to this country, was a harness maker, and belonged awhile to Nichols. We had a good house or hut to live in, and my work was to drive cows till I was old ‘nough to work in de fields, when I was 13. Then I plowed, hoed cotton, and hoed corn ’till last year of war and den went to Charleston.

“Master paid us no money for work. We could hunt and fish, and got lots of game around there. We had dogs but our master didn’t like hounds.

“Col. Daryton Rutherford, doct’s son, had me for a ‘pet’ on the place. They had overseers who was sometimes bossy but they wouldn’t allow dem to whip me. One old nigger named ‘Isom’, who come from Africa, was whipped mighty bad one day. The padderollers whip me one night when I went off to git a pair of shoes for an old lady and didn’t git a pass. I was 16 years old then.

“Doctor Rutherford had several farms—I reckon around 2,000 acres of land. We didn’t have church nor school but sometimes we had to go to de white folks church and set in the gallery. We didn’t learn to read and write. The mistress learnt some of de nigger chaps to read and write a little.

“We had Saturday afternoons off to wash up and clean up. When Christmas come the doctor would give us good things to eat. When we was sick he give us medicine, but some of de old folks would make hot teas from root herbs.

“We had old time corn-shuckings before and after freedom. We made sure enough corn den and lots of it—had four cribs full. When freedom come, the old man had fallen off a block and was hurt, so one of de overseers told us we was free and could go if we wanted to. Some of dem stayed on and some got in the big road and never stopped walking. Then we worked for ? share of the crops; had our little patch to work, too.

“I was 31 years old when I married first time. Was living in Mollohon. Her name was Leana and she belonged to Madison Brooks’s family, as waiting girl. I was married twice, but had 13 children all by my first wife. I have 14 grandchildren, and so many great-grandchildren I can’t count them.

“When de Ku Klux was in dat country I lived wid a man who was one of them. The first I knew about it was when I went down to de mill, de mule throwed me and de meal, and down de road I went to running and met a Ku Klux. It was him.

“I think Abe Lincoln and Jeff Davis good men, but don’t know much about dem.

“I join de church when I was 68 years old ’cause God sent me to do it. I believe all ought to join church.”

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