Emily Mays

[HW: DIST. 6

Ex-slave #77]

Alberta Minor

Re-search Worker


East Solomon Street,

Griffin, Georgia


[Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]

Emily was born in 1861 on the Billy Stevens plantation in Upson County.

Her mother, Betsy Wych, was born at Hawkinsville, Georgia, and sold to

Mr. Billy Stevens. The father, Peter Wych, was born in West Virginia. A

free man, he was part Indian and when driving a team of oxen into

Virginia for lime, got into the slave territory, was overtaken by a

"speculator" and brought to Georgia where he was sold to the Wyches of

Macon. He cooked for them at their Hotel, "The Brown House" for a number

of years, then was sold "on the block" to Mr. Stevens of Upson County.

Betsy was sold at this same auction. Betsy and Peter were married by

"jumping the broomstick" after Mr. Stevens bought them. They had sixteen

children, of which Emily is the next to the last. She was always a

"puny", delicate child and her mother died when she was about seven

years old. She heard people tell her father that she "wasn't intented to

be raised" 'cause she was so little and her mother was "acomin' to get

her soon." Hearing this kind of remarks often had a depressing effect

upon the child, and she "watched the clouds" all the time expecting her

mother and was "bathed in tears" most of the time.

After the war, Peter rented a "patch" from Mr. Kit Parker and the whole

family worked in the fields except Emily. She was not big enough so they

let her work in the "big house" until Mrs. Parker's death. She helped

"'tend" the daughter's babies, washed and ironed table napkins and

waited on them "generally" for which she can't remember any "pay", but

they fed and clothed her.

Her older sister learned to weave when she was a slave, and helped sew

for the soldiers; so after freedom she continued making cloth and sewing

for the family while the others worked in the fields. [Buttons were made

from dried gourds.] They lived well, raising more on their patch than

they could possibly use and selling the surplus. For coffee they split

and dried sweet potatoes, ground and parched them.

The only education Emily received was at the "Sugar Hill" Sunday School.

They were too busy in the spring for social gatherings, but after the

crops were harvested, they would have "corn shuckings" where the Negroes

gathered from neighboring farms and in three or four days time would

finish at one place then move on to the next farm. It was quite a social

gathering and the farm fed all the guests with the best they had.

The Prayer Meetings and "singings" were other pleasant diversions from

the daily toil.

After Mrs. Parker's death Emily worked in her father's fields until she

was married to Aaron Mays, then she came to Griffin where she has lived

ever since. She is 75 years old and has cooked for "White folks" until

she was just too old to "see good", so she now lives with her daughter.

Emeline Stepney Emma Barr facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail