Slave Narrative of James V. Deane
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Person Interviewed: James V. Deane
Date of Interview: Sept. 1937
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Place of Residence: 1514 Druid Hill Ave., Baltimore, Maryland
Place of Birth: Charles County MD
Place of Birth: May 20, 1850
Reference: Personal interview with James V. Deane, ex-slave, on Sept. 20, 1937, at his home, 1514 Druid Hill Ave., Baltimore.
“My name is James V. Deane, son of John and Jane Deane, born at Goose Bay in Charles County, May 20, 1850. My mother was the daughter of Vincent Harrison, I do not know about my father’s people. I have two sisters both of whom are living, Sarah and Elizabeth Ford.
“I was born in a log cabin, a typical Charles County log cabin, at Goose Bay on the Potomac River. The plantation on which I was born fronted more than three miles on the river. The cabin had two rooms, one up and one down, very large with two windows, one in each room. There were no porches, over the door was a wide board to keep the rain and snow from beating over the top of the door, with a large log chimney on the outside, plastered between the logs, in which was a fireplace with an open grate to cook on and to put logs on the fire to heat.
“We slept on a home-made bedstead, on which was a straw mattress and upon that was a feather mattress, on which we used quilts made by my mother to cover.
“As a slave I worked on the farm with other small boys thinning corn, watching watermelon patches and later I worked in wheat and tobacco fields. The slaves never had nor earned any cash money.
“Our food was very plain, such as fat hog meat, fish and vegetables raised on the farm and corn bread made up with salt and water.
“Yes, I have hunted o’possums, and coons. The last time I went coon hunting, we treed something. It fell out of the tree, everybody took to their heels, white and colored, the white men outran the colored hunter, leading the gang. I never went hunting afterwards.
“My choice food was fish and crabs cooked in all styles by mother. You have asked about gardens, yes, some slaves had small garden patches which they worked by moonlight.
“As for clothes, we all wore home-made clothes, the material woven on the looms in the clothes house. In the winter we had woolen clothes and in summer our clothes were made from cast-off clothes and Kentucky jeans. Our shoes were brogans with brass tips. On Sunday we fed the stock, after which we did what we wanted.
“I have seen many slave weddings, the master holding a broom handle, the groom jumping over it as a part of the wedding ceremony. When a slave married someone from another plantation, the master of the wife owned all the children. For the wedding the groom wore ordinary clothes, sometimes you could not tell the original outfit for the patches, and sometimes Kentucky jeans. The bride’s trousseau, she would wear the cast-off clothes of the mistress, or, at other times the clothes made by other slaves.
“It was said our plantation contained 10,000 acres. We had a large number of slaves, I do not know the number. Our work was hard, from sunup to sundown. The slaves were not whipped.
“There was only one slave ever sold from the plantation, she was my aunt. The mistress slapped her one day, she struck her back. She was sold and taken south. We never saw or heard of her afterwards.
“We went to the white Methodist church with slave gallery, only white preachers. We sang with the white people. The Methodists were christened and the Baptists were baptised. I have seen many colored funerals with no service. A graveyard on the place, only a wooden post to show where you were buried.
“None of the slaves ran away. I have seen and heard many patrollers, but they never whipped any of Mason’s slaves. The method of conveying news, you tell me and I tell you, but be careful, no troubles between whites and blacks.
“After work was done, the slaves would smoke, sing, tell ghost stories and tales, dances, music, home-made fiddles. Saturday was work day like any other day. We had all legal holidays. Christmas morning we went to the big house and got presents and had a big time all day.
“At corn shucking all the slaves from other plantations would come to the barn, the fiddler would sit on top of the highest barrel of corn, and play all kinds of songs, a barrel of cider, jug of whiskey, one man to dish out a drink of liquor each hour, cider when wanted. We had supper at twelve, roast pig for everybody, apple sauce, hominy, and corn bread. We went back to shucking. The carts from other farms would be there to haul it to the corn crib, dance would start after the corn was stored, we danced until daybreak.
“The only games we played were marbles, mumble pegs and ring plays. We sang London Bridge.
“When we wanted to meet at night we had an old conk, we blew that. We all would meet on the bank of the Potomac River and sing across the river to the slaves in Virginia, and they would sing back to us.
“Some people say there are no ghosts, but I saw one and I am satisfied, I saw an old lady who was dead, she was only five feet from me, I met her face to face. She was a white woman, I knew her. I liked to tore the door off the hinges getting away.
“My master’s name was Thomas Mason, he was a man of weak mental disposition, his mother managed the affairs. He was kind. Mrs. Mason had a good disposition, she never permitted the slaves to be punished. The main house was very large with porches on three sides. No children, no overseer.
“The poor white people in Charles County were worse off than the slaves; because they could not get any work to do, on the plantation, the slaves did all the work.
“Some time ago you asked did I ever see slaves sold. I have seen slaves tied behind buggies going to Washington and some to Baltimore.
“No one was taught to read. We were taught the Lord’s Prayer and catechism.
“When the slaves took sick Dr. Henry Mudd, the one who gave Booth first aid, was our doctor. The slaves had herbs of their own, and made their own salves. The only charms that were worn were made out of bones.”