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Slave Narrative of Morris Hillyer

Person Interviewed: Morris Hillyer Location: Alderson, Oklahoma Age: 84 My father was Gabe Hillyer and my mother was Clarisay Hillyer, and our home was in Rose, Georgia. Our owner was Judge Hillyer. He was de last United States senator to Washington, D. C., before de war. My mother died when I was only a few days old and the only mother I ever knew was Judge Hillyer’s wife, Miss Jane. Her nine children were all older than I was and when mother died Miss Jane said mother had raised her children and she would raise here. So she took us into her house and we never lived at de quarters any more. I had two sisters, Sally and Sylvia, and we had a room in de Big House and sister Sally didn’t do nothing else but look after me. I used to stand with my thumb in my mouth and hold to Miss Jane’s apron while she knitted. When Judge Hillyer was elected be sold out his farm and gave his slave a to his children. He owned about twelve or fourteen slaves at this time. He gave me and my sister Sylvia to his son, Dr. Hillyer, and my father to another one of his sons who was studying law. Father stayed with him and took care of him until he graduated. Father learned to be a good carpenter while he lived with George Hillyer. George never married until after de war. Dr. Hillyer lived on a big plantation but he practiced medicine all de time. He didn’t have much time to look after de farm but he...

Biography of Joseph M. Henley

JOSEPH M. HENLEY is one of the most prominent, enterprising and progressive tillers of the soil in Buckhorn Township, and his residence on Gobler Flat. He was born in Franklin County, Ga., in 1847, but his father, John S. Henley, was born in Washington County, Tennessee He was a minister of the Methodist Church and preached the gospel in his native State, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina until his death in 1865, at about the age of seventy years. He supported the principles of the Democrat party throughout life, and at two different times represented Rabun County, Ga., in the State Legislature During the Civil War he was a Union man. He was well educated, mainly by his own efforts, and by trade was a cabinet maker. He sold goods in North Carolina and Georgia, and was shrewd and successful in the conduct of his affairs, but was always generous in the use of his means, and being sympathetic, kind-hearted and charitable, no one ever left his house hungry nor in sore want. He was married three times: first to Mary Syller, then to Mary E. Patton, and afterward to Minerva Mclntire, the last mentioned being the mother of the subject of this sketch. Mr. Henly now says he received his education in the Confederate Army, for he entered the service when he was but fifteen years old, becoming a member of the Fourteenth Georgia Infantry. On account of disability he was discharged from active service, and was then on detail at Athens, Ga., from December, 1864, until the surrender. He was at Atlanta during...

Slave Narrative of Rachel Adams

Interviewer: Sadie S. Hornsby Person Interviewed: Rachel Adams Location: 300 Odd Street, Athens, Georgia Age: 78 Rachel Adams’ two-room, frame house is perched on the side of a steep hill where peach trees and bamboo form dense shade. Stalks of corn at the rear of the dwelling reach almost to the roof ridge and a portion of the front yard is enclosed for a chicken yard. Stepping gingerly around the amazing number of nondescript articles scattered about the small veranda, the visitor rapped several times on the front door, but received no response. A neighbor said the old woman might be found at her son’s store, but she was finally located at the home of a daughter. Rachel came to the front door with a sandwich of hoecake and cheese in one hand and a glass of water in the other. “Dis here’s Rachel Adams,” she declared. “Have a seat on de porch.” Rachel is tall, thin, very black, and wears glasses. Her faded pink outing wrapper was partly covered by an apron made of a heavy meal sack. Tennis shoes, worn without hose, and a man’s black hat completed her outfit. Rachel began her story by saying: “Miss, dats been sich a long time back dat I has most forgot how things went. Anyhow I was borned in Putman County ’bout two miles from Eatonton, Georgia. My Ma and Pa was ‘Melia and Iaaac Little and, far as I knows, dey was borned and bred in dat same county. Pa, he was sold away from Ma when I was still a baby. Ma’s job was to weave all...

Slave Narrative of Martha Colquitt

Interviewer: Sarah H. Hall Person Interviewed: Martha Colquitt Location: Athens, Georgia The aged Negress leaned heavily on her cane as she shuffled about her tiny porch in the waning sunlight of a cold January day. An airplane writing an advertising slogan in letters of smoke high in the sky was receiving but indifferent attention from Aunt Martha. Sha shivered and occasionally leaned against a post until a paroxysm of coughing subsided. “What would you have thought of that if it had suddenly appeared in the sky when you were a child?” she was asked. “It would have scared me plum to death,” was the response. “I didn’t come out here just to see dat,” she continued, “I didn’t have nothin’ to make no fire wid, and I had to git out in de sunshine ’cause it wuz too cold to stay in de house. It sho’ is mighty bad to have to go to bed wid cold feet and cough all night long.” Her visitor could not resist the impulse to say, “Let’s make a trade, Aunt Martha! If I give you a little money will you buy wood; then while you enjoy the fire will you think back over your life and tell me about your experiences when I come back tomorrow?” “Bless de Lord! I sho’ will be glad to tell you de truf ’bout anything I can ‘member,” was her quick reply as she reached for the money. [TR: Return Visit] The next day Aunt Martha was in bed, slowly eating a bowl of potlicker and turnip greens into which cornbread had been crumbled. “My ches’...

Slave Narrative of Mary Colbert

Interviewer: Sadie B. Hornsby Person Interviewed: Mary Colbert Location: Athens, Georgia (NOTE: This is the first story we have had in which the client did not use any dialect. Mary Colbert’s grammar was excellent. Her skin was almost white, and her hair was quite straight. None of us know what a “deep” slave was. It may have the same meaning as outlandish Negro. The “outlandish Negroes” were those newly arrived Negroes who had just come in from any country outside of the United States of America, and were untrained. They were usually just from Africa. Sarah H. Hall) With the thermometer registering 93 degrees in the shade on a particularly humid July day, the visitor trudged up one steep, rocky alley and down another, hesitantly negotiated shaky little bridges over several ravines, scrambled out of a ditch, and finally arrived at the address of Mary Colbert. It was the noon hour. A Negro man had tied his mule under an apple tree in one corner of Mary’s yard. The animal was peacefully munching hay while his master enjoyed lunch from a battered tin bucket. Asked if Mary was at home, the man replied: “Yessum, jus’ call her at de door.” A luxuriant Virginia creeper shaded the front porch of Mary’s five-room frame house, where a rap on the front door brought the response: “Here I am, honey! Come right on through the house to the back porch.” The aged mulatto woman was hanging out clothes on a line suspended between two peach trees. To the inquiry for Mary, she answered: “Yes, Honey, this is Mary. They say I am...

Slave Narrative of Susan Castle

Interviewer: Sadie B. Hornsby Person Interviewed: Susan Castle Location: Athens, Georgia On a beautiful morning in April, the interviewer found Susan sitting in the door of her cabin. When asked if she would like to talk about the old plantation days, she replied; “Yes Ma’am, I don’t mind tellin’ what I know, but for dat I done forgot I sho’ ain’t gwine make nothin’ up. For one thing, I ain’t never lived on no plantation. I was a house servant in town.” She added: “Do you mind me axin’ you one favor?” Consent was given and she continued: “Dat is, please don’t call me Aunt Susan; it makes me feel lak I was a hundred years old. “I was borned in Clarke County, March 7, 1860; I believes dat’s what dey say. Mudder was named Fannie and Pappy’s name was Willis. Us chillun called ‘im Pappy lak he was de onliest one in de world. He fust belonged to Marse Maxwell of Savannah, Georgia. I was so little I disremembers how Pappy come by de name of Castle. In all de seben of us chillun, I didn’t have but one brudder, and his name was Johnny. My five sisters was Mary, Louvenia, Rosa, Fannie, and Sarah. All I ‘members ’bout us as chilluns was dat us played lak chilluns will do. “In de quarters us had old timey beds and cheers, but I’ll tell you whar I slept most times. Hit was on a cot right at de foot of Mist’ess’ bed. I stayed at de big house most of de time at night, and ‘fore bedtime I sot...

Slave Narrative of Callie Elder

Interviewer: Sadie B. Hornsby Person Interviewed: Callie Elder Location: Athens, Georgia Callie lives with her daughter, Cornelia, in a 6-room house near the crest of a hill. Their abode is a short distance from the street and is reached by steep stone steps. In response to the call for Callie, a tall mulatto woman appeared. Her crudely fashioned blue dress was of a coarse cotton fabric and her dingy head rag had long lost its original color. Straight black hair, streaked with gray, and high cheek bones gave the impression that in her ancestry of mixed races, Indian characteristics predominate. Her constant use of snuff causes frequent expectoration and her favorite pastime seems to be the endeavor to attain an incredible degree of accuracy in landing each mouthful of the amber fluid at the greatest possible distance. As she was about to begin conversation, a little yellow boy about five years old ran into the room and Callie said: “‘Scuse me please, I can’t talk ’til I gits my grandboy off so he won’t be late to school at Little Knox. Set down in dat dar cheer and I’ll be right back.” Soon Callie returned and it was evident that her curiosity was aroused. When the interviewer explained the purpose of the visit, she exclaimed: “Lordy! Miss, what is de government gwine do next? For de God’s truth, I never knowed I would have to tell nobody what happened back in dem days, so its jus’ done slipped out of my mind. “Anyhow, I warn’t even born in Clarke County. I was born in Floyd County, up nigh Rome,...

Slave Narrative of Alice Bradley

Interviewer: Grace McCune Person Interviewed: Alice Bradley Location: Athens, Georgia Alice Bradley, or “Aunt Alice” as she is known to everybody, “runs cards” and claims to be a seeress. Apologetic and embarrassed because she had overslept and was straightening her room, she explained that she hadn’t slept well because a dog had howled all night and she was uneasy because of this certain forerunner of disaster. “Here t’is Sunday mornin’ and what wid my back, de dog, and de rheumatics in my feets, its [TR: ‘done’ crossed out] too late to go to church, so come in honey I’se glad to hab somebody to talk to. Dere is sho’ goin’ to be a corpse close ’round here. One night a long time ago two dogs howled all night long and on de nex’ Sunday dere wuz two corpses in de church at de same time. Dat’s one sign dat neber fails, when a dog howls dat certain way somebody is sho’ goin’ to be daid.” When asked what her full name was, she said: “My whole name is Alice Bradley now. I used to be a Hill, but when I married dat th’owed me out of bein’ a Hill, so I’se jus’ a Bradley now. I wuz born on January 14th but I don’t ‘member what year. My ma had three chillun durin’ de war and one jus’ atter de war. I think dat las’ one wuz me, but I ain’t sho’. My pa’s name wuz Jim Hill, and ma’s name wuz Ca’line Hill. Both of ’em is daid now. Pa died October 12, 1896 and wuz 88 years...

Slave Narrative of Willis Cofer

Interviewer: Grace McCune Person Interviewed: Willis Cofer Location: Athens, Georgia Willis was enjoying the warm sunshine of an April morning as he sat on his small porch. Apparently, he was pleased because someone actually wanted to hear him talk about himself. His rheumatism had been painful ever since that last bad cold had weakened him, but he felt sure the sunshine would “draw out all the kinks.” Having observed the amenities in regard to health and weather, the old man proceeded with his story: “Eden and Calline Cofer was my pa and ma and us all lived on de big old Cofer plantation ’bout five miles from Washin’ton, Wilkes. Pa b’longed to Marse Henry Cofer and ma and us chillun wuz de property of Marse Henry’s father, Marse Joe Cofer. “I wuz borned in 1860, and at one time I had three brudders, but Cato and John died. My oldest brudder, Ben Cofer, is still livin’ and a-preachin’ de Gospel somewhar up Nawth. “Chilluns did have de bestes’ good times on our plantation, ’cause Old Marster didn’t ‘low ’em to do no wuk ’til dey wuz 12 years old. Us jus’ frolicked and played ’round de yard wid de white chilluns, but us sho’ did evermore have to stay in dat yard. It wuz de cook’s place to boss us when de other Niggers wuz off in de fields, and evvy time us tried to slip off, she cotch us and de way dat ‘oman could burn us up wid a switch wuz a caution. “Dere warn’t no schools for us to go to, so us jes’ played ’round....

Slave Narrative of James Bolton

Interviewer: Sarah H. Hall Person Interviewed: James Bolton Location: Athens, Georgia Age: 85 “It never was the same on our plantation atter we done laid Mistess away,” said James Bolton, 85 year old mulatto ex-slave. “I ain’t never forget when Mistess died—she had been so good to every nigger on our plantation. When we got sick, Mistess allus had us tended to. The niggers on our plantation all walked to church to hear her funeral sermon and then walked to the graveyard to the buryin’.” James, shrivelled and wrinkled, with his bright eyes taking in everything on one of his rare visits to town, seemed glad of the chance to talk about slavery days. He spoke of his owner as “my employer” and hastily corrected himself by saying, “I means, my marster.” “My employer, I means my marster, and my mistess, they was sho’ all right white folkses,” he continued. “They lived in the big ‘ouse. Hit was all painted brown. I heard tell they was more’n 900 acres in our plantation and lots of folkses lived on it. The biggest portion was woods. My paw, he was name Whitfield Bolton and Liza Bolton was my maw. Charlie, Edmund, Thomas and John Bolton was my brothers and I had one sister, she was Rosa. We belonged to Marse Whitfield Bolton and we lived on his plantation in Oglethorpe County near Lexington, not far from the Wilkes County line. “We stayed in a one room log cabin with a dirt floor. A frame made outen pine poles was fastened to the wall to hold up the mattresses. Our mattresses was...
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