Mary Ellen Johnson
MARY ELLEN JOHNSON, owner of a little restaurant at 1301 Marilla
St., Dallas, Texas, is 77 years old. She was born in slavery to the
Murth family, about ten miles from San Marcos, Texas. She neither
reads nor writes but talks with little dialect.
"I don't know so fur back as befo' I was born, 'cept what my mammy told
me, and she allus said little black chillen wasn't sposed to ask so many
questions. Her name was Missouri Ellison, 'cause she belonged to Miss
Micelder Ellison and then when she married with Mr. Murth, her daddy
said my mammy was her 'heritance.
"My first mem'ries are us playin' in the backyard with Miss Fannie and
Miss Martha and Mr. Sammie. They was the little Murth chillen. We used
to make playhouses out there and sweep the ground clean down to the
level with brush brooms and dec'rate it all up with little broken
glasses and crockery.
"In them days we lived in a little, old log cabin in the backyard and
there was just one room, but it was snug and we had a plenty of livin'.
My mammy had a nice cotton bed and she weren't no field nigger, but my
"Miss Micelder had a fine farm and raised most everything we ate and the
food nowadays ain't like what it was then. Miss Micelder had a wood
frame house with a big kitchen and they were cookin' goin' on all the
time. They cooked on a wood stove with iron pots and skillets, and the
roastin' ears and chicken fried right out of your own yard is tastier
than what you git now. Grated 'tater puddin' was my dish.
"When I am seven years old I hear talk 'bout a war and the separation
but I don't pay much 'tention. It seem far away and I don't bother my
kinky head 'bout it. But then they tells eme [typo: me] the war is over
and I'm goin' to be raised free and that I don't 'long to anybody but
Gawd and my pappy and mammy, but it don't make me feel nothin', 'cause I
ain't never know I ain't free.
"After the war we removed to a house on a hill where they is five
houses, little log houses all in a row. We had good times, but we had to
work in the cotton and corn and wheat in the daylight time, but when the
dusk come we used to sing and dance and play into the moonlight.
"But one man called Milton, he's past his yearling boy days and he
didn't like to see us spend our time in sin, so he'd preach to us from
the Gospel, but I had the hardest time to get 'ligion of anybody I
knowed. Fin'ly I got sick when I were fifteen and was in my bed and
somethin' happened. Lawd, it was the most 'lievable thing ever happened
to me. I was layin' there when sin formed a heavy, white veil just like
a blanket over my bed and it just eased down over me till it was mashing
the breath out of me. I crys out to the Lawd to save me and, sho'
'nough, He hear the cry of a pore mis'able sinner. I ran to my mammy and
"The next year I marries and went on 'nother farm right near by and
starts havin' chillen. I has ten and think I done rightly my part,
'cause I lived right by the word and taught my chillen the same. I'm
lookin' to the promise to live in Glory after my days here is done.
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