John Collins

Project #1655

W. W. Dixon

Winnsboro, S. C.



John Collins lives in a two-room frame cottage by the side of US 21,

just one mile north of the town of Winnsboro, S. C. on the right side of

the highway and a few hundred yards from the intersection of US 21 and

US 22. The house is owned by Mr. John Ameen. His son, John, who lives

with him, is a farm hand in the employ of Mr. John Ameen, and is his

father's only support.

"They tells me dat I was born in Chester County, just above de line dat

separates Chester and Fairfield Counties. You know where de 'dark

corner' is, don't you? Well, part is in Fairfield County and part is in

Chester County. In dat corner I first see de light of day; 'twas on de

29th of February, 1852. Though I is eighty-five years old, I's had only

twenty-one birthdays. I ketches a heap of folks wid dat riddle. They ask

me: 'How old is you Uncle John?' I say: 'I is had twenty-one birthdays

and won't have another till 1940. Now figure it out yourself, sir, if

you is so curious to know my age!' One time a smart aleck, jack-leg,

Methodist preacher, of my race, come to my house and figured all day on

dat riddle and never did git de correct answer. He scribbled on all de

paper in de house and on de back of de calendar leaves. I sure laughed

at dat preacher. I fears he lacked some of dat good old time 'ligion, de

way he sweated and scribbled and fussed.

"My daddy was name Steve Chandler. My mammy was called Nancy. I don't

know whether they was married or not. My daddy was sent to Virginia,

while de war was gwine on, to build forts and breastworks around

Petersburg, so they say, and him never come back. I 'members him well.

He was a tall black man, over six feet high, wid broad shoulders. My

son, John, look just lak him. Daddy used to play wid mammy just lak she

was a child. He'd ketch her under de armpits and jump her up mighty nigh

to de rafters in de little house us lived in.

"My mammy and me was slaves of old Marse Nick Collins. His wife, my

mistress, was name Miss Nannie. Miss Nannie was just an angel; all de

slaves loved her. But marster was hard to please, and he used de lash

often. De slaves whisper his name in fear and terror to de chillun, when

they want to hush them up. They just say to a crying child: 'Shet up or

old Nick will ketch you!' Dat child sniffle but shet up pretty quick.

"Marster didn't have many slaves. Best I 'member, dere was about twenty

men, women, and chillun to work in de field and five house slaves. Dere

was no good feelin's 'twixt field hands and house servants. De house

servants put on more airs than de white folks. They got better things to

eat, too, than de field hands and wore better and cleaner clothes.

"My marster had one son, Wyatt, and two daughters, Nannie and Elizabeth.

They was all right, so far as I 'member, but being a field hand's child,

off from de big house, I never got to play wid them any.

"My white folks never cared much about de slaves having 'ligion. They

went to de Universalist Church down at Feasterville. They said everybody

was going to be saved, dat dere was no hell. So they thought it was just

a waste of time telling niggers about de hereafter.

"In them days, way up dere in de 'dark corner', de white folks didn't

had no schools and couldn't read or write. How could they teach deir

slaves if they had wanted to?

"De Yankees never come into de 'dark corner'. It was in 1867, dat us

found out us was free; then we all left. I come down to Feasterville and

stayed wid Mr. Jonathan Coleman. From dere, I went to Chester. While I

was living dere, I married Maggie Nesbit. Us had five chillun; they all

dead, 'cept John. My wife died two months ago.

"I is tired now, and I is sad. I's thinking about Maggie and de days dat

are gone. Them memories flood over me, and I just want to lay down.

Maybe I'll see you sometime again. I feel sure I'll see Maggie befo'

many months and us'll see de sunrise, down here, from de far hebben

above. Good day. Glad you come to see me, sir!"

John Cole John Crawford facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail