Jeff Calhoun

JEFF CALHOUN, about 98, was born a slave of the Calhoun family, in

Alton, Alabama. After his master died, a son-in-law, Jim Robinson,

brought Jeff and 200 other slaves to Austin, Texas. Jeff was 22

when the Civil War began. He stayed with his old master, who had

moved to Stewart Mills Texas, after he was freed, and raised 23

children. He says, "I 'spect I has near a thous- children,

grandchildren and great grandchildren." He makes his home among

them, drifting over five states when and as he wishes.

"My name am Jeff Calhoun and I was born in Alton, in Alabama, about

1838, 'cause I's told by my massa. Dat makes me 'bout 98 year old now.

My father was Henry Robinson and my mammy, she Mary Robinson. She was

born in Maryland, in Virginia, but didn't know much 'bout her folks,

'cause she was sold off young. Dere was four of us brothers and ten

sisters, but dey all dead now but me.

"We makes our beds out of forked saplings drove in the ground, 'cause de

floors was dirt. We sets de pole in dat ground and it run to de top of

de cabin and we makes one bed down low and one bed above. De big folks

sleeps in de low beds and de chillun above, 'cause dey can climb.

"My massa had 15 chillun and my mamma suckled every one of dem, 'cause

his wife was no good to give milk.

"We allus had lots to eat, but for meat we has to go to de woods and git

deer and turkey and buffalo and some bear. I have eat hoss and skunk and

crow and hawk.

"We has a big fire to cook on, and to make de corn cakes we put one leaf

down and put batter on dat and put another leaf over it and cover with

hot ashes and by noon it was done. Same thing for supper. We never have

biscuits 'cept on Sunday or Christmas.

"My mama was de spinner so I has plenty shirts and some britches, and we

raises indigo on de place and makes dye of it. We never wore no shoes in

de summer and some winters neither. We has a good pair of pants and

shirt we wears Sundays and holidays and was married in.

"De way dey done at weddings dem days, you picks out a girl and tell

your boss. If she was from another plantation you had to git her bosses

'mission and den dey tells you to come up dat night and git hitched up.

They says to de girl, 'You's love dis man?' Dey says to de man, 'You

loves dis girl?' If you say you don't know, it's all off, but if you say

yes, dey brings in de broom and holds it 'bout a foot off de floor and

say to you to jump over. Den he says you's married. If either of you

stumps you toe on de broom, dat mean you got trouble comin' 'tween you,

so you sho' jumps high.

"My massa was good to us. He lived in a log house with a floor and was

all fixed up with pretty furniture and mirrors and silver on de table.

De missus was little and frail, but she was good to us and so was de

massa. He wasn't no hand to whip like some of he neighbors. Dey would

tied de slaves' hands to a pole and whip de blood out of them. Dey was

whipped for runnin' away.

"I knowed a slave call Ben Bradley and he was sold on de auction block

and his massa chained him hand and foot and started for Texas. Dey got

to de Red River and was crossin' and de chains helt him down and he

never came up. And I have a uncle what run off and dey took a pack of

hounds--a pack were twelve--and dey got on his trail and I heared dem

runnin' him. Dey run him three days and nights and took a gun loaded

with buck shot but was sposed not to shoot above de legs. Dey come back

and said he got away, but some boys was out huntin' and finds him and he

been shot four times with buck shot.

"De only time we got to rest was Sunday and de fourth of July and

Christmas, and one day Thanksgiving. We got de big dinners on holidays.

After supper was have corn shuckings, or on rainy days, and sometimes we

shucks 500 bushels. We allus picked de cotton in big baskets, and when

we gits it all picked we spreads on big and has a celebration.

"I was in Texas when de war broke out and I hauls corn lots of times to

de gin where was de soldier camp, and I helped cook awhile and would

have been in de battle of Vicksburg only dey takes another man 'stead of

me and he gits kilt. I's glad I's a sorry cook, or I'd got kilt 'stead

of him.

Jeff Burgess Jeff Davis facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail