Bolden Hall


American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Alfred Farrell, Field Worker

John A. Simms, Editor

Dive Oak, Florida

August 30, 1936


Bolden Hall was born in Walkino, Florida, a little town in Jefferson

County, on February 13, 1853, the son of Alfred and Tina Hall. The Halls

who were the slaves of Thomas Lenton, owner of seventy-five or a hundred

slaves, were the parents of twenty-one children. The Halls, who were

born before slavery worked on the large plantation of Lenton which was

devoted primarily to the growing of cotton and corn and secondarily to

the growing of tobacco and pumpkins. Lenton was very good to his slaves

and never whipped them unless it was absolutely necessary--which was

seldom! He provided them with plenty of food and clothing, and always

saw to it that their cabins were liveable. He was careful, however, to

see that they received no educational training, but did not interfere

with their religious quest. The slaves were permitted to attend church

with their masters to hear the white preacher, and occasionally the

master--supposedly un-beknown to the slaves--would have an itinerant

colored minister preach to the slaves, instructing them to obey their

master and mistress at all times. Although freedom came to the slaves in

January, Master Lenton kept them until May in order to help him with his

crops. When actual freedom was granted to the slaves, only a few of the

young ones left the Lenton plantation. In 1882 Bolden Hall came to Live

Oak where he has resided ever since. He married but his wife is now

dead, and to that union one child was born.

Charlotte Martin

Charlotte Mitchell Martin, one of twenty children born to Shepherd and

Lucinda Mitchell, eighty-two years ago, was a slave of Judge Wilkerson

on a large plantation in Sixteen, Florida, a little town near Madison.

Shepherd Mitchell was a wagoner who hauled whiskey from Newport News,

Virginia for his owner. Wilkerson was very cruel and held them in

constant fear of him. He would not permit them to hold religious

meetings or any other kinds of meetings, but they frequently met in

secret to conduct religious services. When they were caught, the

"instigators"--known or suspected--were severely flogged. Charlotte

recalls how her oldest brother was whipped to death for taking part in

one of the religious ceremonies. This cruel act halted the secret

religious services.

Wilkerson found it very profitable to raise and sell slaves. He

selected the strongest and best male and female slaves and mated them

exclusively for breeding. The huskiest babies were given the best of

attention in order that they might grow into sturdy youths, for it was

those who brought the highest prices at the slave markets. Sometimes the

master himself had sexual relations with his female slaves, for the

products of miscegenation were very remunerative. These offsprings were

in demand as house servants.

After slavery the Mitchells began to separate. A few of the children

remained with their parents and eked out their living from the soil.

During this period Charlotte began to attract attention with her herb

cures. Doctors sought her out when they were stumped by difficult cases.

She came to Live Oak to care for an old colored woman and upon whose

death she was given the woman's house and property. For many years she

has resided in the old shack, farming, making quilts, and practicing her

herb doctoring. She has outlived her husband for whom she bore two

children. Her daughter is feebleminded--her herb remedies can't cure


Sarah Ross

Born in Benton County, Mississippi nearly eighty years ago, Sarah is the

daughter of Harriet Elmore and William Donaldson, her white owner.

Donaldson was a very cruel man and frequently beat Sarah's mother

because she would not have sexual relations with the overseer, a colored

man by the name of Randall. Sarah relates that the slaves did not marry,

but were forced--in many cases against their will--to live together as

man and wife. It was not until after slavery that they learned about the

holy bonds of matrimony, and many of them actually married.

Cotton, corn, and rice were the chief products grown on the Donaldson

plantation. Okra also was grown, and from this product coffee was made.

The slaves arose with the sun to begin their tasks in the fields and

worked until dusk. They were beaten by the overseer if they dared to

rest themselves. No kind of punishment was too cruel or severe to be

inflicted upon these souls in bondage. Frequently the thighs of the male

slaves were gashed with a saw and salt put in the wound as a means of

punishment for some misdemeanor. The female slaves often had their hair

cut off, especially those who had long beautiful hair. If a female slave

was pregnant and had to be punished, she was whipped about the

shoulders, not so much in pity as for the protection of the unborn

child. Donaldson's wife committed suicide because of the cruelty not

only to the slaves but to her as well.

The slaves were not permitted to hold any sort of meeting, not even to

worship God. Their work consumed so much of their time that they had

little opportunity to congregate. They had to wash their clothes on

Sunday, the only day which they could call their own. On Sunday

afternoon some of the slaves were sent for to entertain the family and

its guests.

Sarah remembers the coming of the Yankees and the destruction wrought by

their appearance. The soldiers stripped the plantation owners of their

meats, vegetables, poultry and the like. Many plantation owners took

their own lives in desperation. Donaldson kept his slaves several months

after liberation and defied them to mention freedom to him. When he did

give them freedom, they lost no time in leaving his plantation which

held for them only unpleasant memories. Sarah came to Florida

thirty-five years ago. She has been married twice, and is the mother of

ten children, eight of whom are living.


1. Personal interview with Bolden Hall, living near the Masonic Hall, in

the Eastern section of Live Oak, Florida

2. Personal interview with Charlotte Martin, living near Greater Bethel

African Methodist Episcopal Church, in the Eastern section of Live Oak,


3. Sarah Ross, living near Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal

church, Live Oak, Florida

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