Belle Butler

Federal Writers' Project

of the W.P.A.

District #6

Marion County

Anna Pritchett

1200 Kentucky Avenue



829 North Capitol Avenue

Interviewer's Comment

Belle Butler, the daughter of Chaney Mayer, tells of the hardships her

mother endured during her days of slavery.


Chaney was owned by Jesse Coffer, "a mean old devil." He would whip his

slaves for the slightest misdemeanor, and many times for nothing at

all--just enjoyed seeing them suffer. Many a time Jesse would whip a

slave, throw him down, and gouge his eyes out. Such a cruel act!

Chaney's sister was also a slave on the Coffer plantation. One day their

master decided to whip them both. After whipping them very hard, he

started to throw them down, to go after their eyes. Chaney grabbed one

of his hands, her sister grabbed his other hand, each girl bit a finger

entirely off of each hand of their master. This, of course, hurt him so

very bad he had to stop their punishment and never attempted to whip

them again. He told them he would surely put them in his pocket (sell

them) if they ever dared to try *anthing like that again in life.

Not so long after their fight, Chaney was given to a daughter of their

master, and her sister was given to another daughter and taken to

Passaic County, N.C.

On the next farm to the Coffer farm, the overseers would tie the slaves

to the joists by their thumbs, whip them unmercifully, then salt their

backs to make them very sore.

When a slave slowed down on his corn hoeing, no matter if he were sick,

or just very tired, he would get many lashes and a salted back.

One woman left the plantation without a pass. The overseer caught her

and whipped her to death.

No slave was ever allowed to look at a book, for fear he might learn to

read. One day the old mistress caught a slave boy with a book, she

cursed him and asked him what he meant, and what he thought he could do

with a book. She said he looked like a black dog with a breast pin on,

and forbade him to ever look into a book again.

All slaves on the Coffer plantation were treated in a most inhuman

manner, scarcely having enough to eat, unless they would steal it,

running the risk of being caught and receiving a severe beating for the


Interviewer's Comment

Mrs. Butler lives with her daughters, has worked very hard in "her


She has had to give up almost everything in the last few years, because

her eyesight has failed. However, she is very cheerful and enjoys

telling the "tales" her mother would tell her.

Submitted December 28, 1937

Indianapolis, Indiana

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