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Henry Clay Moorman

From: Indiana

William R. Mays
District 4
Johnson County

427 W. King St., Franklin, Ind.

Henry Clay Moorman has resided in Franklin 34 years, he was born Oct. 1,
1854 in slavery on the Moorman plantation in Breckenridge County,

Mr. Moorman relates his own personal experiences as well as those handed
down from his mother. He was a boy about 12 years old when freedom was
declared. His father's name was Dorah Moorman who was a cooper by trade,
and had a wife and seven children. They belonged to James Moorman, who
owned about 20 slaves, he was kind to his slaves and never whipped any
of them. These slaves loved their master and was as loyal to him as his
own family.

Mr. Moorman says that when a boy he did small jobs around the plantation
such as tobacco planting and going to the mill. One day he was placed
upon a horse with a sack of grain containing about two bushels, after
the sack of grain was balanced upon the back of the horse he was started
to the mill which was a distance of about five miles, when about half
the distance of the journey the sack of grain became unbalanced and fell
from the horse being too small to lift the sack of grain he could only
cry over the misfortune. There he was, powerless to do any thing about
it. After about two hours there was a white man riding by and seeing the
predicament he was in kindly lifted the sack up on the horse and after
ascertaining his master's name bade him to continue to the mill. It was
the custom at the mill that each await their turn, and do their own
grinding. After the miller had taken his toll, he returned to his master
and told of his experience. Thereafter precautions were taken so he
would not again have the same experience.

The slave owners had so poisoned the minds of the slaves, they were in
constant fear of the soldiers. One day when the slaves were alone at the
plantation they sighted the Union soldiers approaching, they all went
to the woods and hid in the bushes. The smaller children were covered
with leaves. There they remained all night, as the soldiers (about 200
in number) camped all night in the horse lot. These soldiers were very
orderly; however, they appropriated for their own use all the food they
could find.

The slave owners would hide all their silverware and other articles of
worth under the mattresses that were in the negro cabins for safe

There were three white children in the master's family. Wickliff, the
oldest boy and Bob was the second child in age. The younger child, a
girl, was named Sally and was about the same age as the subject of this
article. Both children, being babies about the same age, the black
mother served as a wet nurse for the white child, sometimes both the
black child and the white child were upon the black mammies lap which
frequently was the cause of battles between the two babies.

Some of the white mistresses acted as midwife for the black mothers.

There were two graveyards on the plantation, one for the white folks and
one for the blacks. There is no knowledge of any deaths among the white
folks during the time he lived on the plantation. One of this black
boys' sisters married just before slavery was abolished. He remembers
this wedding. In connection with the marriages of the slaves in slavery
days, it is recalled that slaves seldom married among themselves on the
same plantation but instead the unions were made by some negro boy from
some other plantation courting a negro girl on a distant plantation. As
was the custom in slavery days the black boy would have to get the
consent of three people before he was allowed to enter upon wedlock;
first, he would get the consent of the negro girls' mother, then he
would get the consent of his own master as well as the black girl's
master. This required time and diplomacy. When all had given their
consent the marriage would take place usually on Saturday night, when a
great time was had with slaves coming from other plantations with a
generous supply of fried chicken, hams, cakes and pies a great feast and
a good time generally with music and dancing. The new husband had to
return to his own master after the wedding but it was understood by all
that the new husband could visit his wife every Saturday night and stay
until Monday morning. He would return every Monday to his master and
work as usual indefinitely unless by chance one or the other of the two
masters would buy the husband or wife, in such event they would live
together as man and wife. Unless this purchase did occur it was the rule
in slavery days that any children born to the slave wife would be the
property of the girl's master.

When the required consent could not be had from all parties concerned it
sometimes caused friction and instances have occured when attempts at
elopement was made causing no end of trouble. This condition was very
rare, as in most all cases of this kind the masters were quite willing
for this marriage and would encourage the young couple. It is remembered
that there were no illegitimate children born on the Moorman plantation.

The slaves would have their parties and dances. Slaves would gather from
various plantations and these parties would sometimes last all night. It
was customary for the slaves to get passes from their masters
permitting them to attend, but sometimes passes were not given for
reasons. In line with these parties it is remembered that there existed
at that time what was known as the Paddle-Rollers, these so called
Paddy-Rollers was made up of a bunch of white boys who would sneak up on
these defenseless negroes unawares late in the night and demand that all
show their passes. Those that could not show passes were whipped, both
the negro boys and girls alike. The loyalty of these poor black boys was
shown when they would volunteer to take an extra flogging to protect
their girl friends. The Paddy-Rollers were a mean bunch of white boys
who reviled in this shameful practice.

After slavery was abolished, this colored slave family remained on the
same plantation for one year. They left the plantation via Cloverport by
boat for Evansville, Ind., where they remained until the subject of this
sketch removed to Franklin, Ind. in 1903 where he took pastorate with
the African Methodist Episcopal Church where he served for 12 years. He
is now a retired minister residing at 427 W. King St.

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