James V Deane


Sept. 20, 1937


JAMES V. DEANE, Ex-slave.

Reference: Personal interview with James V. Deane, ex-slave,

on Sept. 20, 1937, at his home, 1514 Druid Hill Ave.,


"My name is James V. Deane, son of John and Jane Deane, born at Goose

Bay in Charles County, May 20, 1850. My mother was the daughter of

Vincent Harrison, I do not know about my father's people. I have two

sisters both of whom are living, Sarah and Elizabeth Ford.

"I was born in a log cabin, a typical Charles County log cabin, at Goose

Bay on the Potomac River. The plantation on which I was born fronted

more than three miles on the river. The cabin had two rooms, one up and

one down, very large with two windows, one in each room. There were no

porches, over the door was a wide board to keep the rain and snow from

beating over the top of the door, with a large log chimney on the

outside, plastered between the logs, in which was a fireplace with an

open grate to cook on and to put logs on the fire to heat.

"We slept on a home-made bedstead, on which was a straw mattress and

upon that was a feather mattress, on which we used quilts made by my

mother to cover.

"As a slave I worked on the farm with other small boys thinning corn,

watching watermelon patches and later I worked in wheat and tobacco

fields. The slaves never had nor earned any cash money.

"Our food was very plain, such as fat hog meat, fish and vegetables

raised on the farm and corn bread made up with salt and water.

"Yes, I have hunted o'possums, and coons. The last time I went coon

hunting, we treed something. It fell out of the tree, everybody took to

their heels, white and colored, the white men outran the colored hunter,

leading the gang. I never went hunting afterwards.

"My choice food was fish and crabs cooked in all styles by mother. You

have asked about gardens, yes, some slaves had small garden patches

which they worked by moonlight.

"As for clothes, we all wore home-made clothes, the material woven on

the looms in the clothes house. In the winter we had woolen clothes and

in summer our clothes were made from cast-off clothes and Kentucky

jeans. Our shoes were brogans with brass tips. On Sunday we fed the

stock, after which we did what we wanted.

"I have seen many slave weddings, the master holding a broom handle, the

groom jumping over it as a part of the wedding ceremony. When a slave

married someone from another plantation, the master of the wife owned

all the children. For the wedding the groom wore ordinary clothes,

sometimes you could not tell the original outfit for the patches, and

sometimes Kentucky jeans. The bride's trousseau, she would wear the

cast-off clothes of the mistress, or, at other times the clothes made by

other slaves.

"It was said our plantation contained 10,000 acres. We had a large

number of slaves, I do not know the number. Our work was hard, from

sunup to sundown. The slaves were not whipped.

"There was only one slave ever sold from the plantation, she was my

aunt. The mistress slapped her one day, she struck her back. She was

sold and taken south. We never saw or heard of her afterwards.

"We went to the white Methodist church with slave gallery, only white

preachers. We sang with the white people. The Methodists were christened

and the Baptists were baptised. I have seen many colored funerals with

no service. A graveyard on the place, only a wooden post to show where

you were buried.

"None of the slaves ran away. I have seen and heard many patrollers, but

they never whipped any of Mason's slaves. The method of conveying news,

you tell me and I tell you, but be careful, no troubles between whites

and blacks.

"After work was done, the slaves would smoke, sing, tell ghost stories

and tales, dances, music, home-made fiddles. Saturday was work day like

any other day. We had all legal holidays. Christmas morning we went to

the big house and got presents and had a big time all day.

"At corn shucking all the slaves from other plantations would come to

the barn, the fiddler would sit on top of the highest barrel of corn,

and play all kinds of songs, a barrel of cider, jug of whiskey, one man

to dish out a drink of liquor each hour, cider when wanted. We had

supper at twelve, roast pig for everybody, apple sauce, hominy, and corn

bread. We went back to shucking. The carts from other farms would be

there to haul it to the corn crib, dance would start after the corn was

stored, we danced until daybreak.

"The only games we played were marbles, mumble pegs and ring plays. We

sang London Bridge.

"When we wanted to meet at night we had an old conk, we blew that. We

all would meet on the bank of the Potomac River and sing across the

river to the slaves in Virginia, and they would sing back to us.

"Some people say there are no ghosts, but I saw one and I am satisfied,

I saw an old lady who was dead, she was only five feet from me, I met

her face to face. She was a white woman, I knew her. I liked to tore the

door off the hinges getting away.

"My master's name was Thomas Mason, he was a man of weak mental

disposition, his mother managed the affairs. He was kind. Mrs. Mason had

a good disposition, she never permitted the slaves to be punished. The

main house was very large with porches on three sides. No children, no


"The poor white people in Charles County were worse off than the slaves;

because they could not get any work to do, on the plantation, the slaves

did all the work.

"Some time ago you asked did I ever see slaves sold. I have seen slaves

tied behind buggies going to Washington and some to Baltimore.

"No one was taught to read. We were taught the Lord's Prayer and


"When the slaves took sick Dr. Henry Mudd, the one who gave Booth first

aid, was our doctor. The slaves had herbs of their own, and made their

own salves. The only charms that were worn were made out of bones."

James Turner Mclean James Wiggins facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail