John Beckwith

N. C. District: No. 2 [320157]

Worker: Mary A. Hicks

No. Words: 341


Story Teller: John Beckwith

Editor: Daisy Bailey Waitt

[TR: No Date Stamp]


An Interview with John Beckwith 83, of Cary.

I reckon dat I wuz 'bout nine years old at de surrender, but we warn't

happy an' we stayed on dar till my parents died. My pappy wuz named

Green an' my mammy wuz named Molly, an' we belonged ter Mr. Joe Edwards,

Mr. Marion Gully, an' Mr. Hilliard Beckwith, as de missus married all of

'em. Dar wuz twenty-one other slaves, an' we got beat ever' onct in a


When dey told us dat de Yankees wuz comin' we wuz also told dat iffen

we didn't behave dat we'd be shot; an' we believed it. We would'uv

behaved anyhow, case we had good plank houses, good food, an' shoes. We

had Saturday an' Sunday off an' we wuz happy.

De missus, she raised de nigger babies so's de mammies could wuck. I

'members de times when she rock me ter sleep an' put me ter bed in her

own bed. I wuz happy den as I thinks back of it, until dem Yankees


Dey come on a Chuesday; an' dey started by burnin' de cotton house an'

killin' most of de chickens an' pigs. Way atter awhile dey fin's de

cellar an' dey drinks brandy till dey gits wobbly in de legs. Atter dat

dey comes up on de front porch an' calls my missus. When she comes ter

de do' dey tells her dat dey am goin' in de house ter look things over.

My missus dejicts, case ole marster am away at de war, but dat doan do

no good. Dey cusses her scan'lous an' dey dares her ter speak. Dey robs

de house, takin' dere knives an' splittin' mattresses, pillows an' ever'

thing open lookin' fer valerables, an' ole missus dasen't open her


Dey camped dar in de grove fer two days, de officers takin' de house

an' missus leavin' home an' goin' ter de neighbor's house. Dey make me

stay dar in de house wid 'em ter tote dere brandy frum de cellar, an'

ter make 'em some mint jelup. Well, on de secon' night dar come de wust

storm I'se eber seed. De lightnin' flash, de thunder roll, an' de house

shook an' rattle lak a earthquake had struck it.

Dem Yankees warn't supposed ter be superstitious, but lemmie tell yo',

dey wuz some skeered dat night; an' I hyard a Captain say dat de witches

wuz abroad. Atter awhile lightnin' struck de Catawba tree dar at de side

of de house an' de soldiers camped round about dat way marched off ter

de barns, slave cabins an' other places whar dey wuz safter dan at dat

place. De next mornin' dem Yankees moved frum dar an' dey ain't come

back fer nothin'.

We wuzn't happy at de surrender an' we cussed ole Abraham Lincoln all

ober de place. We wuz told de disadvantages of not havin' no edercation,

but shucks, we doan need no book larnin' wid ole marster ter look atter


My mammy an' pappy stayed on dar de rest of dere lives, an' I stayed

till I wuz sixteen. De Ku Klux Klan got atter me den' bout fightin' wid

a white boy. Dat night I slipped in de woods an' de nex' day I went ter

Raleigh. I got a job dar an' eber' since den I'se wucked fer myself, but

now I can't wuck an' I wish dat yo' would apply fer my ole aged pension

fer me.

I went back ter de ole plantation long as my pappy, mammy, an' de

marster an' missus lived. Sometimes, when I gits de chanct I goes back

now. Course now de slave cabins am gone, ever' body am dead, an' dar

ain't nothin' familiar 'cept de bent Catawba tree; but it 'minds me of

de happy days.

John Bates John Bowdry facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail