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Slave Narrative of Menellis Gassaway

Interviewer: Rogers
Person Interviewed: Menellis Gassaway
Date of Interview: Sept. 1937
Location: M.E. Home, Carrollton Ave., Baltimore, Maryland
Place of Birth: Carroll County MD
Date of Birth: 1850 or 52

Reference: Personal interview with Menellis Gassaway, ex-slave, on Sept. 22, 1937, at M.E. Home, Carrollton Ave., Baltimore.

“My name is Menellis Gassaway, son of Owing and Annabel Gassaway. I was born in Freedom District, Carroll County, about 1850 or 52, brother of Henrietta, Menila and Villa. Our father and mother lived in Carroll County near Eldersberg in a stone and log cabin, consisting of two rooms, one up and one down, with four windows, two in each room, on a small farm situated on a public road, I don’t know the name.

“My father worked on a small farm with no other slaves, but our family. We raised on the farm vegetables and grain, consisting of corn and wheat. Our farm produced wheat and corn, which was taken to the grist mill to be ground; besides, we raised hogs and a small number of other stock for food.

“During the time I was a slave and the short time it was, I can’t remember what we wore or very much about local conditions. The people, that is the white people, were friendly with our family and other colored people so far as I can recall.

“I do not recall of seeing slaves sold nor did the man who owned our family buy or sell slaves. He was a small man.

“As to the farm, I do not know the size, but I know it was small. On the farm there was no jail, or punishment inflicted on Pap or Ma while they were there.

“There was no church on the farm, but we were members of the old side Methodist church, having a colored preacher. The church was a long ways from the farm.

“My father neglected his own education as well as his children. He could not read himself. He did not teach any of his children to read, of which we in later years saw the advantage.

“In Carroll County there were so many people who were Union men that it was dangerous for whites in some places to say they were Rebels. This made the colored and white people very friendly.

“Pap was given holidays when he wanted. I do not know whether he worked on Saturdays or not. On Sunday we went to church.

“My father was owned by a man by the name of Mr. Dorsey. My mother was bound out by Mr. Dorsey to a man by the name of Mr. Morris of Frederick County.

“I have never heard of many ghost stories. But I believe once, a conductor on the railroad train was killed and headed (beheaded), and after that, a ghost would appear on the spot where he was killed. Many people in the neighborhood saw him and people on the train often saw him when the train passed the spot where he was killed.

“So far as being sick, we did not have any doctors. The poor white could not afford to hire one, and the colored doctored themselves with herbs, teas and salves made by themselves.”

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