Jane Mickens

[HW: Dist 1

Ex-Slave #107]


Age approx. 82


Minnie Branham Stonestreet



[Date Stamp: JAN 26 1937]

[Date Stamp: MAY 8 1937]

A story of happiness and contentment on a big plantation where there

were "a heap of us slaves" is told by Jane Mickens Toombs who said she

was "five er six years ole when de Wah come on (1860), or maby a lit'le


She is a bright old woman, well and spry despite the fact she "wuz

conjured onst when I wuz young an' dat lef' me lame an' dis eye plum'

out an' de t'other bad."

When asked about the conjuring she said: "No'm, I don't 'zackly know how

t'wuz, but enyhow somebody whut knowed how ter 'wu'k roots' got me lame

on dis side, an' my eye out, jess kase I wuz a decent, nice lookin' gal,

an' went on 'tendin' ter my business an' payin' dem no mind. Dat's de

way dey done in dem days, jess jealous of nice colored niggers. Yassum,

I wuz sick fer nigh on ter two years an' de doctuhs never knowed what

ailed me. Dey done everything dey could, but I wuz conjured an' dey

couldn't hep' me. A doctuh-man frum up yander in New Yalk cum down here

ter see his folks, an' he tried to kure [HW: cyore] me, but doctuhs

kain't [HW: kaan't] kure [HW: cyore] conjured folks, so I had ter lay

an' suffer 'til de conjure wore out. Dem whut done dat knowed dey done

me wrong, but I kep' trustin' in my Lawd, an' now dey's gone an' I'se er

stumblin' roun' yit. No mam, I never knowed jess whut dey done ter me,

but hit wuz bad, I kin tell yer dat, hit might nigh kilt me."

Aunt Jane was born on the Gullatt Plantation on the line of Wilkes and

Lincoln counties. Her Mother was Liza Gullatt and her father John

Mickens who belonged to Mr. Augustus McMekin. "Yassum, my Pa wuz John

'Mickens an' his Marster bought him in Alabamy. All de slaves whut

belonged to de McMekins called dey selves 'Mickens. I wuz one of fifteen

chillun an' cum er long in betweenst de oldest 'uns an' de youngest

sum'ers. I wuz named fer my Mistess Jane Gullatt whut died. Young Marse

George Gullatt choosed me out, dough, an' I'd er been his'en ef Freedom

hadn't er come. You know dat's de way dey use ter do back in slavery

time, de young Mistesses an' Marsters choosed out de little niggers dey

wanted fer their'n."

This is another case where the father and mother belonged to different

families. The father had a pass to go and come as he pleased, although

his family lived a little distance away. Jane said her father's master

would have bought her mother if the War hadn't come on and they were set


Jane told of the log cabins in the Quarters where all the negroes lived.

She said they were all in a row "wid er street in de front, er wide

street all set thick wid white mulberry trees fer ter mak' shade fer de

chillun ter play in." They never had any punishment only [HW: except]

switchings by their Mistess, and that was not often. They played dolls,

"us had home-made rag dolls, nice 'uns, an' we'd git dem long grass

plumes (Pampas grass) an' mak' dolls out'n dem too. Us played all day

long every day. My Mistess' chillun wuz all growed up so jess us little

niggers played tergether.

"My Mother spun an' wove de cloth, an' dyed hit, but our Mistess made

our clothes. My Grandma, Nancy, wuz de cook an' she fed all de little

'uns in de big ole kitchen whut sot out in de yard. She had a tray she

put our victuals on an Uh, Uh, whut good things we had ter eat, an' er

plenty of everything! Us et jess whut our white folks had, dey didn't

mak' no difference in us when hit cum ter eatin'. My Grandaddy looked

atter de meat, he done everything 'bout dat, an' he sho' knowed how ter

fix it, too.

"De fust thing I recollects is bein' round in de kitchen when dey wuz

makin' ginger cakes an' my Mistess givin' me de pan she made 'em in fer

me ter sop hit out. Dey ain't nothin' whut smells good lak' de cookin'

in dem days, I kain't smell no victuals lak' dat now. Everything wuz

cooked on a big ole open fire place in one end of de kitchen. Dem good

ole days done gone now. Folkes done got wiser an' wickeder--dey ain't

lak' dey use ter be."

At Christmas Santa Claus found his way to the Quarters on the Gollatt

plantation and each little slave had candy, apples, and "sich good

things as dat." Aunt Jane gave a glowing description of the preparation

for the Christmas season: "Lawdy, how de folks wu'ked gittin' ready fer

Chris'mus, fer three er fo' days dey stayed in de kitchen er cookin' an'

er bakin'--daye wuz de bes' light bread--great big loaves baked on de

fire place, an' cakes an' mo' good ginger cakes. Dey wuz plenty cooked

up to las' er long time. An' another thing, dare want no cookin' on

Sunday, no mam, no wu'k of no kind. My Mistess had de cook cookin' all

day Fridays an' Saddays so when Sunday come dare wuz hot coffee made an'

dat wuz all, everything else wuz cooked up an' cold. Everybody went to

Church, de grown folks white and black, went to de preachin' an' den all

de little niggers wuz called in an de Bible read an' 'splained ter dem.

"Dare wuz preachin' down in de Quarters, but dat wuz at night an' wuz

led by de colored preachers. I recollects one night dare wuz a service

gwine on in one of de cabins an' all us wuz dare an' ole Uncle Alex

Frazier wuz up a linin' off a hymn 'bout

'Broad is de road dat leads ter Death

An' there an' here we travel.'

when in come some mens atter a colored feller whut had stole some sheep

an' hogs. Dey kotch 'im, but sho broke up de meetin'. In de hot summer

time Uncle George Gullatt use ter preach ter de slaves out under de

trees. Uncle George waz a kind of er preacher.

"My Pa didn't 'low his chillun ter go 'roun'. No'm, he kep' us home

keerful lak. Young folks in dem days didn't go all over de country lak

dey does now, dey stayed at home, an' little chillun wuz kep' back an'

dey didn' know no badness lak de chillun do terday. Us never even heared

de ole folks talk nothin' whut we oughtn't ter hear. Us jess played an'

stayed in a child's place. When we wuz sick de white folks seed dat we

wuz 'tended to. Dey use ter mak Jerusalem Oak candy an' give us. Dey

took de leaves of dat bush an' boiled 'em an' den use dat water dey wuz

boiled in an' put sugar 'nough in hit ter mak candy. An dey used plenty

of turpentine on us too--plenty ov hit, an' I believes in dat terday,

hit's er good medicine."

When asked about the War, Aunt Jane said she didn't remember much about

it. "But dare's one thing 'bout hit I sho' does 'member, an' dat's my

young Mistess Beckie's husband, Mr. Frazier, being off fightin' in de

Wah, an' she gittin' er letter frum him sayin' he wuz comin' home sich

an' sich er day. She wuz so happy she had all de grown slaves wu'kin'

gittin' ready fer him. Den dey brung her er letter sayin' he had been

kilt, an' she wuz in de yard when she read hit an' if dey hadn't er

kotch her she'd ov fell. I 'members de women takin' her in de house an'

gittin' her ter bed. She wuz so up sot an' took hit so hard. Dem wuz

sho' hard times an' sad 'uns too. 'Course I wuz too small ter know much

whut wuz gwine on, but I could tell hit wuz bad frum de way de older

folks looked.

"I recollects when dey say Freedom had cum. Dare wuz a speakin' fer de

slaves up here in town in Barnett's Grove. Dat mornin' Ole Miss sont all

de oldes' niggers to de speakin' an' kep' us little 'uns dat day. She

kep' us busy sweepin' de yards an' sich as dat. An' she cooked our

dinner an' give hit to us herself. I 'members de grown folks leavin'

early dat mornin' in a great big waggin.

"A while after de Wah, Pa took us over to de McMekins place an' we lived

dare fer a long time. He died an' lef' us an' den us had ter do de bes'

we could. Col. Tolbert hired me fer ter nuss his chillun an' I went over

ter his place ter live."

Aunt Jane said she isn't superstitious, but likes to see the new moon

clear and bow to it for good luck. She said it is better to show it a

piece of money, but as she doesn't always have money handy, she "jess

bows to hit nice an' polite". She keeps up with the weather by her

rheumatism and the cat: "Ef I has de reumatics I knows hit's gwine ter

rain, an' when de cat comes 'round an' sets washin' her face, look fer

rain, kase hit's er comin'. I've heared folks say dat hit's bad luck ter

stump yo' lef' foot, but I don't know boud dat. But I tell yer, when I

meets er cat I allus turns er round 'fore I goes on, dat turns de bad

luck er way."

When 19 years of age Jane married Albert Toombs. He belonged to the

Toombs family of Wilkes county. Aunt Jane said Albert brought her many

gifts while he was courting: "He warnt much on bringin' candy an'

nothin' lak dat ter eat, but he brung me shawls an' shoes--sumpin' I

could wear." They had four children, but only one is living.

"When I wuz a growin' up", said Aunt Jane, "folks had ter wu'k." She

worked on the farm, spun, wove, "done seamster wu'k" and knitted

stockings, sox and gloves. She said she carded too, "an' in dem times ef

a nigger wanted ter git de kinks out'n dey hair, dey combed hit wid de

cards. Now dey puts all kinds ov grease on hit, an' buy straightenin'

combs. Sumpin' dat costs money, dat's all dey is, old fashion cards'll

straighten hair jess as well as all dis high smellin' stuff dey sells


Aunt Jane likes to tell of those days of long ago. Her memory is

excellent and she talks well. She says she is living out her Miss Jane's

time. "Yassum, my Miss Jane died when she wuz so young, I specks I jess

livin' out her days kase I named fer her. But I does miss dem good ole

days whut's gone. I'se hungry fer de sight ov a spinnin' wheel--does you

know whare's one? Things don't look lak' dey use ter, an' as fer whut we

has ter eat, dare ain't no victuals ever smelled an' et as good as dem

what dey use ter have on de plantation when I wuz a comin' on. Yassum,

folkes has got wiser an' know mo' dan dey did, but dey is wickeder--dey

kills now 'stid er conjurin' lak' dey did me."

Jane Lee Jane Montgomery facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail