Claiborne Moss

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Claiborne Moss

1812 Marshall Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 81

"I was born in Washington County, Georgia, on Archie Duggins'

plantation, fifteen miles from Sandersville, the county-seat, June 18,


"My mother's name was Ellen Moss. She was born in Georgia too, in

Hancock County, near Sparta, the county-seat. My father was Fluellen

Moss. He, too, was born in Hancock County. Bill Moss was his owner.

Jesse Battle was my mother's owner before she married. My mother and

father had ten children, none of them living now but me, so far as I

know. I was the fifth in line. There were four older than I. The oldest

was ten years older than I.

"Bill Moss' and Jesse Battle's plantations ware not far apart. I never

heard my father say how he first met my mother. I was only eight years

old when he died. They were all right there in the same neighborhood,

and they would go visiting. Battle and Moss and Evans all had

plantations in the same neighborhood and they would go from one place to

the other.

"When Bill Moss went to Texas, he gave my mother and father to Mrs.

Beck. Mrs. Beck was Battle's daughter and Mrs. Beck bought my father

from Moss and that kept them together. He was that good. Moss sold out

and went to Texas and all his slaves went walking while he went on the

train. He had about a hundred of them. When he got there, he couldn't

hear from them. He didn't know where they was--they was walking and he

had got on the train--so he killed hisself. When they got there, just

walking along, they found him dead.

"Moss' nephew, Whaley, got two parts of all he had. Another fellow--I

can't call his name--got one part. His sister, they sent her back

five--three of my uncles and two of my aunties.

"Where I was raised, Duggins wasn't a mean man. His slaves didn't get

out to work till after sunup. His brother, who lived three miles out

from us, made his folks get up before sunup. But Duggins didn't do that.

He seemed to think something of his folks. Every Saturday, he'd give

lard, flour, hog meat, syrup. That was all he had to give. That was

extra. War was going on and he couldn't get nothing else. On Wednesday

night he'd give it to them again. Of course, they would get corn-meal

and other things from the kitchen. They didn't eat in the kitchen or any

place together. Everybody got what there was on the place and cooked it

in his cabin.

"Before I was born, Beck sold my mother and father to Duggins. I don't

know why he sold them. They had an auction block in the town, but out in

the country they didn't have no block. If I had seen a nigger and wanted

to buy him, I would just go up to the owner and do business with him.

That was the way it was with Beck and Duggins. Selling my mother and

father was just a private transaction between them.


"Twice a week, flour, syrup, meat, and lard were given to the slaves.

you got other food from the kitchen. Meat, vegetables, milk,--all the

milk you wanted--bread.

A Mean Owner

"Beck, Moss, Battle, and Duggins, they was all good people. But Kenyon

Morps, now talk about a mean man, there was one. He lived on a hill a

little off from the Duggins plantation. His women never give birth to

children in the house. He'd never let 'em quit work before the time. He

wanted them to work--work right up to the last minute. Children were all

born in the field and in fence corners. Then he had to let 'em stay in

about a week. Last I seen him, he didn't have nothin', and was ragged as

a jay bird.


"Our house was a log house. It had a large room, and then it had another

room as large as that one or larger built on to it. Both of these rooms

were for our use. My mother and father slept in the log cabin and the

kids slept back in the other room. My sister stayed with Joe Duggins.

Her missis was a school-teacher, and she loved sister. My master gave my

sister to Joe Duggins. Mrs. Duggins taught my sister, Fannie, to read

and spell but not to write. If there was a slave man that knowed how to

write, they used to cut off his thumb so that he couldn't write.

"There was some white people wouldn't have the darkies eating butter;

our white people let us have butter, biscuits, and ham every day. They

would put it up for me.

"I had more sense than any kid on the plantation. I would do anything

they wanted done no matter how hard it was. I walked five miles through

the woods once on an errand. The old lady who I went to said:

"'You walk way down here by yourself?'

"I told her, 'yes'.

"She said, 'Well, you ain't going back by yo'self because you're too

little,' and she sent her oldest son back with me. He was white.

"My boss was sick once, and he wanted to get his mail. The post office

was five miles away. He said to me:

"'Can't you get my mail if I let you ride on my horse?'

"I said, 'Yes sir.' I rode up to the platform on the horse. They run out

and took me off the horse and filled up the saddle bags. Then they put

me back on and told me not to get off until I reached my master. When I

got back, everybody was standing out watching for me. When my boss heard

me coming, he jumped out the bed and ran out and took me off the horse

and carried me and the sacks and all back into the house.


"I saw all of Wheeler's cavalry. Sherman come through first. He came and

stayed all night. Thousands and thousands of soldiers passed through

during the night. Cooper Cuck was with them. He was a fellow that used

to peddle around in all that country before the War. He went all through

the South and learned everything. Then he joined up with the Yankees. He

come there. Nobody seen him that night. He knowed everybody knowed him.

He went and hid under something somewhere. He was under the hill at

daybreak, but nobody seen him. When the last of the soldiers was going

out in the morning, one fellow lagged behind and rounded a corner. Then

he galloped a little ways and motioned with his arms. Cooper Cuck come

out from under the hill, and he and Cooper Cuck both came back and stole

everything that they could lay their hands on--all the gold and silver

that was in the house, and everything they could carry.

"Wheeler's cavalry was about three days behind Sherman. They caught up

with Sherman, but it would have been better if they hadn't, 'cause he

whipped 'em and drove 'em back and went right on. They didn't have much

fighting in my country. They had a little scrimmage once--thirty-six men

was all they was in it. One of the Yankees got lost from his company. He

come back and inquired the way to Louisville. The old boss pointed the

way with his left hand and while the fellow was looking that way, he

drug him off his horse and cut his throat and took his gun off'n him and

killed him.

"Sherman's men stayed one night and left. I mean, his officers stayed.

We had to feed them. They didn't pay nothing for what they was fed. The

other men cooked and ate their own grub. They took every horse and mule

we had. I was sitting beside my old missis. She said:

"'Please don't let 'em take all our horses.'

"The fellows she was talking to never looked around. He just said:

'Every damn horse goes.'

"The Yankees took my Uncle Ben with them when they left. He didn't stay

but a couple of days. They got in a fight. They give Uncle Ben five

horses, five sacks of silverware, and five saddles. The goods was taken

in the fight. Uncle Ben brought it back with him. The boss took all that

silver away from him. Uncle Ben didn't know what to do with it. The

Yankees had taken all my master's and he took Ben's. Ben give it to him.

He come back 'cause he wanted to.

"When Wheeler's cavalry came through they didn't take nothing--nothing

but what they et. I heard a fellow say, 'Have you got anything to eat?'

"My mother said, 'I ain't got nothin' but some chitlins.'

"He said, 'Gimme some of those; I love chitlins.' "Mother gave 'em to me

to carry to him. I didn't get half way to him before the rest of the men

grabbed me and took 'em away from me and et 'em up. The man that asked

for them didn't get a one.

Slave Money

"The slaves would sometimes have five or six dollars. Mostly, they would

make charcoal and sell it to get money.


"I seen patrollers. They come to our house. They didn't whip nobody. Our

folks didn't care nothin' about 'em. They come looking for keys and

whiskey. They couldn't whip nobody on my master's plantation. When they

would come there, he would be sitting up with 'em. He would sit there in

his back door and look at 'em. Wouldn't let 'em hit nobody.

"Them colored women had more fun that enough--laughing at them

patrollers. Fool 'em and then laugh at 'em. Make out like they was

trying to hide something and the patrollers would come running up, grab

'em and try to see what it was. And the women would laugh and show they

had nothing. Couldn't do nothin' about it. Never whipped anybody 'round

there. Couldn't whip nobody on our place; couldn't whip nobody on Jessie

Mills' place; couldn't whip nobody on Stephen Mills' place; couldn't

whip nobody on Betsy Geesley's place; couldn't whip nobody on Nancy

Mills' place; couldn't whip nobody on Potter Duggins' place. Potter

Duggins was a cousin to my master. Nobody run them peoples' plantations

but theirselves.

Social Life

"When slaves wanted to, they would have dances. They would have dances

from one plantation to the other. The master didn't object. They had

fiddles, banjo and quills. They made the quills and blowed 'em to beat

the band. Good music. They would make the quills out of reeds. Those

reeds would sound just like a piano. They didn't have no piano. They

didn't serve nothing. Nothing to eat and nothing to drink except them

that brought whiskey. The white folks made the whiskey, but the colored

folks would get it.

"We had church twice a month. The Union Church was three miles away from

us. My father and I would go when they had a meeting. Bethlehem Church

was five miles away. Everybody on the plantation belonged to that

church. Both the colored and the white belonged and went there. They had

the same pastor for Bethlehem, Union, and Dairy Ann. His name was Tom

Adams. He was a white man. Colored folks would go to Dairy Ann

sometimes. They would go to Union too.

"Sometimes they would have meetings from house to house, the colored

folks. The colored folks had those house to house meetings any time they

felt like it. The masters didn't care. They didn't care how much they


"Sometimes they had corn shuckings. That was where they did the serving,

and that was where they had the big eatings. They'd lay out a big pile

of corn. Everybody would get down and throw the corn out as they shucked

it. They would have a fellow there they would call the general. He would

walk from one person to another and from one end of the pile to the

other and holler and the boys would answer. His idea was to keep them

working. If they didn't do something to keep them working, they wouldn't

get that corn shucked that night. Them people would be shucking corn!

There would be a prize to the one who got the most done or who would be

the first to get done. They would sing while they were shucking. They

had one song they would sing when they were getting close to the finish.

Part of it went like this:

'Red shirt, red shirt

Nigger got a red shirt.'

After the shucking was over, they would have pies, beef, biscuits, corn

bread, whiskey if you wanted it. I believe that was the most they had.

They didn't have any ice-cream. They didn't use ice-cream much in those

days. Didn't have no ice down there in the country. Not a bit of ice

there. If they had anything they wanted to save, they would let it down

in the well with a rope and keep it cool down there. They used to do

that here until they stopped them from having the wells.

"Ring plays too. Sometimes when they wanted to amuse themselves, they

would play ring plays. They all take hands and form a ring and there

would be one in the center of the ring. Now he is got to get out. He

would come up and say, 'I am in this lady's garden, and I'll bet you

five dollars I can get out of here.' And d'reckly he would break

somebody's hands apart and get out.

How Freedom Came

"The old boss called 'em up to the house and told 'em, 'You are free as

I am.' That was one day in June. I went on in the house and got

something to eat. My mother and father, he hired them to stay and look

after the crop. Next year, my mother and father went to Ben Hook's place

and farmed on shares. But my father died there about May. Then it wasn't

nobody working but me and my sister and mother.

What the Slaves Got

"The slaves never got nothing. Alexander Stephens, the Vice-President of

the Confederacy, divided his plantation up and gave it to his darkies

when he died. I knew him and his brother too. Alexander[HW: *] never did

walk. He was deformed. Big headed rascal, but he had sense! His brother

was named Leonard[HW: *]. He was a lawyer. He really killed himself. He

was one of these die-hard Southerners. He did something and they

arrested him. It made him so mad. He'd bought him a horse. He got on

that horse and fell off and broke his neck. That was right after the

War. They kept garrisons in all the counties right after the War.

"I was in Hancock County when I knew Vice-President Stephens. I don't

know where he was born but he had a plantation in Toliver [HW:

Taliaferro] County. Most of the Stephenses was lawyers. He was a lawyer

too, and he would come to Sparta. That is where I was living then. There

was more politics and political doings in Sparta than there was in

Crawfordville where he lived. He lived between Montgomery and Richmond

during the War, for the capital of the Confederacy was at Montgomery one

time and Richmond another.

"After the War, the Republicans nominated Alexander Stephens for

governor. The Democrats knew they couldn't beat him, so they turned

'round and nominated him too. He had a lot of sense. He said, 'What we

lost on the battle-field, we will get it back at the ballot box.' Seeb

Reese, United States Senator from Hancock County, said, 'If you let the

nigger have four or five dollars in his pocket he never will steal.'

Life Since Freedom

"After my father died, my mother stayed where she was till Christmas.

Then she moved back to the place she came from. We went to farming. My

brother and my uncle went and farmed up in Hancock County; so the next

year we moved up there. We stayed there and farmed for a long while. My

mother married three years afterwards. We still farmed. After awhile, I

got to be sixteen years old and I wouldn't work with my stepfather, I

told my mother to hire me out; if she didn't I would be gone. She hired

me out all right. But the old man used all my money. The next year I

made it plain to her that I wanted her to hire me out again but that

nobody was to use a dollar of my money. My mother could get as much of

it as she wanted but he couldn't. The first year I bought a buggy for

them. The old man didn't want me to use it at all. I said, 'Well then,

he can't use my money no more.' But I didn't stop helping him and giving

him things. I would buy beef and give it to my mother. I knew they would

all eat it. He asked me for some wheat. I wouldn't steal it like he

wanted me to but I asked the man I was working for for it. He said,

'Take just as much as you want.' So I let him come up and get it. He

would carry it to the mill.

Ku Klux Klan

"The Ku Klux got after Uncle Will once. He was a brave man. He had a

little mare that was a race horse. Will rode right through the bunch

before they ever realized that it was him. He got on the other side of

them. She was gone! They kept on after him. They went down to his house

one night. He wouldn't run for nothing. He shot two of them and they

went away. Then he was out of ammunition. People urged him to leave, for

they knew he didn't have no more bullets; but he wouldn't and they came

back and killed him.

"They came down to Hancock County one night and the boys hid on both

sides of the bridge. When they got in the middle of the bridge, the boys

commenced to fire on them from both sides, and they jumped into the

river. The darkies went on home when they got through shooting at them;

but there wasn't no more Ku Klux in Hancock County. The better thinking

white folks got together and stopped it.

"The Ku Klux kept the niggers scared. They cowed them down so that they

wouldn't go to the polls. I stood there one night when they were

counting ballots. I belonged to the County Central Committee. I went in

and stood and looked. Our ballot was long; theirs was short. I stood and

seen Clait Turner calling their names from our ballots. I went out and

got Rube Turner and then we both went back. They couldn't call the votes

that they had put down they had. Rube saw it.

"Then they said, 'Are you going to test this?'

"Rube said, 'Yes.' But he didn't because it would have cost too much

money. Rube was chairman of the committee.

"The Ku Klux did a whole lot to keep the niggers away from the polls in

Washington and Baldwin counties. They killed a many a nigger down there.

"They hanged a Ku Klux for killing his wife and he said he didn't mind

being hung but he didn't want a damn nigger to see him die.

"But they couldn't keep the niggers in Hancock County away from the

polls. There was too many of them.

Work in Little Rock

"I came to Little Rock, November 1, 1903. I came here with surveyors.

They wanted to send me to Miami but I wouldn't go. Then I went to the

mortar box and made mortar. Then I went to the school board. After that

I ain't had no job. I was too old. I get a little help from the


Opinions of the Present

"I think that the young folks ought to make great men and women. But I

don't see that they are making that stride. Most of them is dropping

below the mark. I think we ought to have some powerful men and women but

what I see they don't stand up like they should.

Own Family

"I have three daughters, no sons. These three daughters have twelve


Cindy Kinsey Clara Brim facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail