Green Cumby

GREEN CUMBY, 86, was born a slave of the Robert H. Cumby family, in

Henderson, Texas. He was about 14 at the close of the Civil War. He

stayed with his old master four years after he was freed, then

married and settled in Tyler, Texas, where he worked for the

compress 30 years. He lives with his daughter at 749 Mesquite St.,

Abilene, Texas.

"Durin' slavery I had purty rough times. My grandfather, Tater Cumby,

was cullud overseer for forty slaves and he called us at four in de

mornin' and we worked from sun to sun. Most of de time we worked on

Sunday, too.

"De white overseers whupped us with straps when we didn't do right. I

seed niggers in chains lots of times, 'cause there wasn't no jails and

they jus' chained 'em to trees.

"Spec'lators on hosses drove big bunches of slaves past our place from

one place to another, to auction 'em at de market places. De women would

be carryin' l'il ones in dere arms and at night dey bed 'em down jus'

like cattle right on de ground 'side of de road. Lots of l'il chillun

was sold 'way from de mammy when dey seven or eight, or even smaller.

Dat's why us cullud folks don't know our kinfolks to dis day.

"De best times was when de corn shuckin' was at hand. Den you didn't

have to bother with no pass to leave de plantation, and de patter rolls

didn't bother you. If de patter rolls cotch you without de pass any

other time, you better wish you dead, 'cause you would have yourself

some trouble.

"But de corn shuckin', dat was de gran' times. All de marsters and dere

black boys from plantations from miles 'round would be dere. Den when we

got de corn pile high as dis house, de table was spread out under de

shade. All de boys dat 'long to old marster would take him on de

packsaddle 'round de house, den dey bring him to de table and sit by he

side; den all de boys dat 'long to Marster Bevan from another plantation

take him on de packsaddle 'round and 'round de house, allus singin' and

dancin', den dey puts him at de other side de table, and dey all do de

same till everybody at de table, den dey have de feast.

"To see de runaway slaves in de woods scared me to death. They'd try to

snatch you and hold you, so you couldn't go tell. Sometimes dey cotched

dem runaway niggers and dey be like wild animals and have to be tamed

over 'gain. Dere was a white man call Henderson had 60 bloodhounds and

rents 'em out to run slaves. I well rec'lect de hounds run through our

place one night, chasin' de slave what kilt his wife by runnin' de

harness needle through her heart. Dey cotch him and de patter rolls took

him to Henderson and hangs him.

"De patter rolls dey chases me plenty times, but I's lucky, 'cause dey

never cotched me. I slips off to see de gal on de nex' plantation and I

has no pass and they chases me and was I scairt! You should have seed me

run through dat bresh, 'cause I didn't dare go out on de road or de

path. It near tore de clothes off me, but I goes on and gits home and

slides under de house. But I'd go to see dat gal every time, patter

rolls or no patter rolls, and I gits trained so's I could run 'most as

fast as a rabbit.

"De white chillun larned us to read and write at night, but I never paid

much 'tention, but I kin read de testament now. Other times at night de

slaves gathers round de cabins in little bunches and talks till bedtime.

Sometimes we'd dance and someone would knock out time for us by snappin'

de fingers and slappin' de knee. We didn't have nothin' to make de music


"We mos'ly lived on corn pone and salt bacon de marster give us. We

didn't have no gardens ourselves, 'cause we wouldn't have time to work

in dem. We worked all day in de fields and den was so tired we couldn't

do nothin' more.

"My mammy doctored us when we was feelin' bad and she'd take dog-fenley,

a yaller lookin' weed, and brew tea, and it driv de chills and de fever

out of us. Sometimes she put horse mint on de pallet with us to make us

sweat and driv de fever 'way. For breakfast she'd make us sass' fras

tea, to clear our blood.

"My marstar and his two step-sons goes to de war. De marster was a big

gen'ral on de southern side. I didn't know what dey fightin' 'bout for a

long time, den I heered it 'bout freedom and I felt like it be Heaven

here on earth to git freedom, 'spite de fac' I allus had de good

marster. He sho' was good to us, but you knows dat ain't de same as

bein' free.

Granny Cain Green Gray facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail