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Violet Guntharpe

From: South Carolina

Project #1655
W.W. Dixon
Winnsboro, S.C.


"I was born a slave in de Rocky Mount part of Fairfield County, up close
to Great Falls. I hear them falls a roarin' now and I see them waters
flashin' in de sunshine when I close my eyes.

My pappy name Robert and my mammy name Phyllis. They b'long to de old
time 'ristocats, de Gaither family. Does you know Miss Mattie Martin,
which was de secretary of Governor Ansel? Dat one of my young mistresses
and another is dat pretty red headed girl in de telegraph office at
Winnsboro, dat just sit dere and pass out lightnin' and 'lectricity over
de wires wheresomever she take a notion. Does you know them? Well, befo'
their mama marry Marster Starke Martin, her was Sally Gaither, my young
missus in slavery time. Her die and go to Heaven last year, please God.

Marster Richard was a good marster to his slaves, though he took no
foolishness and worked you from sun to sun. 'Spect him had 'bout ten
family of slaves and 'bout fifty big and little slaves altogether on dat
plantation befo' them Yankees come and make a mess out of their lives.

Honey, us wasn't ready for de big change dat come! Us had no education,
no land, no mule, no cow, not a pig, nor a chicken, to set up house
keeping. De birds had nests in de air, de foxes had holes in de ground,
and de fishes had beds under de great falls, but us colored folks was
left widout any place to lay our heads.

De Yankees sho' throwed us in de briar patch but us not bred and born
dere lak de rabbit. Us born in a good log house. De cows was down dere
in de canebrakes to give us milk, de hogs was fattenin' on hickory nuts,
acorns, and shucked corn, to give us meat and grease; de sheep wid their
wool, and de cotton in de gin house was dere to give us clothes. De
horses and mules was dere to help dat corn and cotton, but when them
Yankees come and take all dat away, all us had to thank them for, was a
hungry belly, and freedom. Sumpin' us had no more use for then, than I
have today for one of them airplanes I hears flyin' 'round de sky, right

Well, after ravagin' de whole country side, de army got across old
Catawba and left de air full of de stink of dead carcasses and de sky
black wid turkey buzzards. De white women was weepin' in hushed voices,
de niggers on de place not knowin' what to do next, and de piccaninnies
suckin' their thumbs for want of sumpin' to eat; mind you 'twas winter
time too.

Lots of de chillun die, as did de old folks, while de rest of us scour
de woods for hickory nuts, acorns, cane roots, and artichokes, and seine
de river for fish. De worst nigger men and women follow de army. De
balance settle down wid de white folks and simmer in their misery all
thru de spring time, 'til plums, mulberries, and blackberries come, and
de shad come up de Catawba River.

My mammy stay on wid de same marster 'til I was grown, dat is fifteen,
and Thad got to lookin' at me, meek as a sheep and dumb as a calf. I had
to ask dat nigger, right out, what his 'tentions was, befo' I get him to
bleat out dat he love me. Him name Thad Guntharpe. I glance at him one
day at de pigpen when I was sloppin' de hogs, I say: 'Mr. Guntharpe, you
follows me night and mornin' to dis pigpen; do you happen to be in love
wid one of these pigs? If so, I'd like to know which one 'tis; then
sometime I come down here by myself and tell dat pig 'bout your
'fections.' Thad didn't say nothin' but just grin. Him took de slop
bucket out of my hand and look at it, all 'round it, put upside down on
de ground, and set me down on it; then he fall down dere on de grass by
me and blubber out and warm my fingers in his hands. I just took pity on
him and told him mighty plain dat he must limber up his tongue and ask
sumpin', say what he mean, wantin' to visit them pigs so often. Us carry
on foolishness 'bout de little boar shoat pig and de little sow pig,
then I squeal in laughter over how he scrouge so close; de slop bucket
tipple over and I lost my seat. Dat ever remain de happiest minute of my
eighty-two years.

After us marry, us moved on de Johnson Place and Thad plow right on a
farm where dere use to be a town of Grimkeville. I was lonely down dere
all de time. I's halfway scared to death of de skeeters 'bout my legs in
day time and old Captain Thorn's ghost in de night time. You never heard
'bout dat ghost? If you went to school to Mr. Luke Ford sure he must of
tell you 'bout de time a slave boy killed his marster, old Captain
Thorn. He drag and throwed his body in de river.

When they find his body they ketch John, de slave boy, give him a trial
by six white men, find him guilty and he confess. Then they took de
broad axe, cut off his head, mount it on a pole and stick it up on de
bank where they find old Captain Thorn. Dat pole and head stay dere 'til
it rot down. Captain Thorn's ghost 'pear and disappear 'long dat river
bank ever since in de night time. My pappy tell me he see it and see de
boy's ghost too.

De ghost rode de minds of many colored folks. Some say dat de ghost had
a heap to do wid deaths on dat river, by drowning. One sad thing happen;
de ghost and de malaria run us off de river. Us moved to Marster Starke
P. Martin's place. Him was a settin' at a window in de house one night
and somebody crept up dere and fill his head full of buck-shot. Marster
Starke was Miss Sallie's husband, and Miss Mattie and Miss May's papa.
Oh, de misery of dat night to my white folks! Who did it? God knows!
They sent poor Henry Nettles to de penitentiary for it, but most white
folks and all de colored didn't believe he done it. White folks say a
white man done it, but our color know it was de work of dat slave boy's

My white folks come here from Maryland, I heard them say. They fought in
de Revolution, set up a tanyard when they got here, and then when cotton
come, my marster's pappy was de fust to put up a hoss-gin and screw pit
in Rocky Mount section. I glories in their blood, but dere none by de
name 'round here now, 'cept colored folks.

Marster Wood you read a heap of books. Did you ever read 'bout foots of
ghosts? They got foots and can jump and walk. No they don't run, why?
'Cause seem lak their foots is too big. Dat night Marster Starke Martin
was killed it was a snowin'. De whole earth was covered wid a white
blanket. It snowed and snowed and snowed. Us measure how big dat snow
was next mornin' and how big dat ghost track. De snow was seven inches,
and a little bit deep. De ghost track on top de snow big as a
elephant's. Him or she or it's tracks 'pear to drap wid de snow and just
rise up out de snow and disappear. De white folks say 'twas a man wid
bags on his foots, but they never found de bags, so I just believe it
was ghost instigate by de devil to drap down dere and make all dat
misery for my white folks.

Dere's a great day a comin' when de last trumpet will sound and de devil
and all de ghosts will be chained and they can't romp 'round de old
river and folks houses in de night time and bring sorrow and pain in de
wake of them big tracks."

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