From: South Carolina
Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis
Place, Marion, S.C.
Date, August 31, 1937
No. Words ----
Reduced from ---- words
Rewritten by ----
Ex-Slave, 85 Years
"I born de 24th day of February, 1852 bout 11/2 miles of Mars Bluff. My
father, Western Wilson, belonged to Col. William Wilson en my mamma name
Chrisie Johnson. She belonged to Dr. William Johnson en we stay dere wid
him four or five years after freedom. Dr. Johnson old home still standin
yonder. It de Rankin home. I drive carts under dat house lots of times
in slavery time." (The house is built high off the ground.)
"Dr. Johnson was a mighty able man, a stiff one, able one. He kill one
hundred head of hogs to feed his niggers wid. Oh, I don' know how many
acres of land in his plantation, but I reckon dere be bout 1,000 or more
acres of land. He have slave house all de way from de side of his house
to Tyner. De overseer stay on de lower end of street dat bout 3/4 mile
long en all de niggers house up from de overseer to Dr. Johnson house.
Over hundreds of dem dere."
"Dr. Johnson en his wife was good to dey niggers as dey could want
anybody to be. Had plenty to eat en plenty clothes to wear all de time.
He give all de slaves out something on Saturday or he give dem more any
time dey needed it. Just go en say, 'Boss, I ain' got no rations en I
need some.' Dey give us meat en bread en molasses to eat mostly, but
didn' have no wheat flour den. Dey plant 10 or 20 acres of sprangle top
cane en make de molasses en sugar out dat. Bill Thomas mash it together
en cook it for de molasses. Den he take cane en cook it down right low
en make sugar, but it wasn' like de sugar you buy at de store now days.
Oh, yes, de slaves had dey own garden dat dey work at night en
especially moonlight nights cause dey had to work in de field all day
till sundown. Mamma had a big garden en plant collards en everything
like dat you want to eat."
"All de niggers dat live in de quarters had bunk beds to sleep on what
was thing dat have four legs en mattress put on it. Have mixed bed dat
dey make out of cotton en shucks. De boy chillun have shuck bed en de
girl chillun have cotton bed."
"De peoples bout dere have good clothes to wear in dat day en time. Dey
was homemade clothes. My mamma spin en send dem to de loom house en den
dey dye dem wid persimmon juice en different things like dat to make all
kind of colors. Dey give us cotton suit to wear on Sunday en de nicest
leather shoes dat dey make right dere at home. Clean de hair off de
leather just as clean as anything en den de shoemaker cut en sew de
shoes. Vidge Frank father de shoemaker. Vidge Frank live down dere at
Claussen dis side de planing mill."
"I hear dem tell dat my grandparents come from Africa. Dey fooled dem to
come or I calls it foolin dem. De peoples go to Africa en when dey go to
dock, dey blow whistle en de peoples come from all over de country to
see what it was. Dey fool dem on de vessel en give dem something to
eat. Shut dem up en don' let dem get out. Some of dem jump over board en
try to get home, but dey couldn' swim en go down. Lots of dem still lost
down dere in de sea or I reckon dey still down dere cause dey ain' got
back yet. De peoples tell dem dey gwine bring dem to a place whe' dey
"I tellin you dat was a good place to live in slavery time. I didn' have
to do nothin but mind de sheep en de cows en de goats in dat day en
time. All de slaves dat was field hands, dey had to work mighty hard. De
overseer, he pretty rough sometimes. He tell dem what time to get up en
sound de horn for dat time. Had to go to work fore daybreak en if dey
didn' be dere on time en work like dey ought to, de overseer sho whip
dem. Tie de slaves clear de ground by dey thumbs wid nigger cord en make
dem tiptoe en draw it tight as could be. Pull clothes off dem fore dey
tie dem up. Dey didn' care nothin bout it. Let everybody look on at it.
I know when dey whip my mamma. Great God, in de mornin! Dey sho had
whippin posts en whippin houses too in dem days, but didn' have no jail.
I remember dey whipped dem by de gin house. De men folks was put to de
post what had holes bored in it whe' dey pull strings through to fasten
dem up in dere. Dey catch nigger wid book, dey ax you what dat you got
dere en whe' you get it from. Tell you bring it here en den dey carry
you to de whippin post for dat. No men folks whip me. Women folks whip
me wid four plaitted raw cowhide whip."
"Niggers went to white peoples church in dat day en time. Dr. Johnson
ride by himself en bought carriage for niggers to drive his girls dere
to Hopewell Church below Claussen. You know whe' dat is, don' you? Miss
Lizzie (Dr. Johnson's daughter) good teacher. She sent me to de gallery
en I recollect it well she told me one Sunday dat if I didn' change my
chat, dey were gwine to whip me. She say, 'You chillun go up in de
gallery en behave yourself. If you don', I gwine beat you Monday.' Dey
had catechism what dey teach you en she say, 'Charlie, who made you?' I
tell her papa made me. She ax me another time who made me en I tell her
de same thing another time. I thought I was right. I sho thought I was
right. She took de Bible en told me God made me. I sho thought papa made
me en I go home en tell papa Miss Lizzie say she gwine beat me Monday
mornin. He ax me what I been doin cuttin up in church. I say, 'I wasn'
doin nothin. She ax me who made me en I tell her you made me.' He told
me dat God made me. Say he made Miss Lizzie en he made everybody. Ain'
nobody tell me dat fore den, but I saved my beaten cause I changed my
"I hear tell bout de slaves would run away en go to Canada. Put nigger
dogs after dem, but some of dem would get dere somehow or another. If I
was livin on your place, I wouldn' dare to go to another house widout I
had a permit from my Massa or de overseer. We slip off en de patroller
catch en whip us. One time dey give my daddy a quilting en ax several
women to come dere. Dey had a lot of chillun to cover en give a quilting
so dey can cover dem up. Mistress tell dem to give so en so dis much en
dat much scraps from de loom house. I was settin dere in de corner en
dey blow cane. Common reed make music en dance by it. Dat de only way
niggers had to make music. Dance en blow cane dat night at grandmother's
house (Wilson place). Dey was just a pattin en dancin en gwine on. I was
sittin up in de corner en look up en patrol was standin in de door en
call patrol. When dey hear dat, dey know something gwine to do. Dey took
Uncle Mac Gibson en whip him en den dey take one by one out en whip dem.
When dey got house pretty thin en was bout to get old man Gibson, he
take hoe like you work wid en put it in de hot ashes. People had to cut
wood en keep fire burnin all de year cause didn' have no matches den.
Old man Gibson went to de door en throwed de hot ashes in de patrol
face. Dey try to whip us, but de old man Gibson tell dem dey got no
right to whip his niggers. We run from whe' we at to our home. Dey tried
four year to catch my daddy, but dey couln' never catch him. He was a
"I don' remember what kind of medicines dey use in slavery time, but I
know my mamma used to look after de slaves when dey get sick. Saw one
child bout year or two old took sick en died en Lester Small want me to
dig it up en carry him to de office. I expect dey gwine be dere, but
dey never come. I took it out en laid it on de bank in sheet dat dey
give me. Den I picked it up en carried it in de house. It smeared me up
right bad, but I carried it in de office en he look at it. He put it in
de corner en say, 'You can go.' Pay me $2.00. Dr. Johnson want to cut
dat child open. Dat what he want wid it. I know dis much dat dey use
different kind of roots for dey medicines en I see dem wear dime in dey
clothes dat dey tell me was to keep off de rheumatism. Send to
Philadelphia to get dat kind of dime."
"I tellin you time hard dese days. I had stroke here en can' work, but I
doin de best I can. Miss Robinson help me daughter do de best she can.
Do washin en ironin. Miss Robinson say she gwine give me old age
pension. I ask Miss Robinson, I say, 'I livin now en can' get nothin. If
I die, would you help my chillun bury me?' She say, 'I will do de best I
can to help put you away nice.' Miss Robinson good lady."
=Source:= Charlie Grant, ex-slave, age 85, Florence, S.C.
Personal interview by H. Grady Davis and Mrs.
Lucile Young, Florence, S.C., May 11, 1937.
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