John Rudd

Ex-Slave Stories

District #5

Vanderburgh County

Lauana Creel


"Yes, I was a slave," said John Rudd, "And I'll say this to the whole

world, Slavery was the worst curse ever visited on the people of the

United States."

John Rudd is a negro, dark and swarthy as to complexion but his nose is

straight and aqualine, for his mother-was half Indian.

The memory of his mother, Liza Rudd, is sacred to John Rudd today and

her many disadvantages are still a source of grief to the old man of 83

years. John Rudd was born on Christmas day 1854 in the home of Benjamin

Simms, at Springfield, Kentucky. The mother of the young child was house

maid for mistress Simms and Uncle John remembers that mother and child

received only the kindliest consideration from all members of the Simms


While John was yet a small boy Benjamin Simms died and the Simms slaves

were auctioned to the highest bidders. "If'n you wants to know what

unhappiness means," said Uncle John Rudd, "Jess'n you stand on the Slave

Block and hear the Auctioneer's voice selling you away from the folks

you love." Uncle John explained how mothers and fathers were often

separated from their dearly loved children, at the auction block, but

John and his younger brother Thomas were fortunate and were bought by

the same master along with Liza Rudd, their mother. An elder brother,

Henry, was separated from his mother and brothers and became the

property of George Snyder and was thereafter known as Henry Snyder.

When Liza Rudd and her two little sons left the slave block they were

the property of Henry Moore who lived a few miles away from Springfield.

Uncle John declares that unhappiness met them at the threshold of the

Moore's estate.

Liza was given the position of cook, housemaid and plough-hand while

her little boys were made to hoe, carry wood and care for the small

children of the Moore family.

John had only been at the Moore home a few months when he witnessed

several slaves being badly beaten. Henry Moore kept a white overseer and

several white men were employed to whip slaves. A large barrel stood

near the slave quarters and the little boy discovered that the barrel

was a whipping post. The slaves would be strapped across the side of the

barrel and two strong men would wield the "cat of nine tails" until

blood flowed from gashed flesh, and the cries and prayers of the

unfortunate culprits availed them nothing until the strength of the

floggers became exhausted.

One day, when several Negroes had just recovered from an unusual amount

of chastisement, the little Negro, John Rudd, was playing in the front

yard of the Moore's house when he heard a soft voice calling him. He

knew the voice belonged to Shell Moore, one of his best friends at the

Moore estate. Shell had been among those severely beaten and little John

had been grieving over his misfortunes. "Shell had been in the habbit of

whittling out whistles for me and pettin' of me," said the now aged

negro. "I went to see what he wanted wif me and he said 'Goodby Johnnie,

you'll never see Shellie alive after today.'" Shell made his way toward

the cornfield but the little Negro boy, watching him go, did not realize

what situation confronted him. That night the master announced that

Shell had run away again and the slaves were started searching fields

and woods but Shell's body was found three days later by Rhoder McQuirk,

dangling from a rafter of Moore's corn crib where the unhappy Negro had

hanged himself with a leather halter.

Shell was a splendid worker and was well worth a thousand dollars. If he

had been fairly treated he would have been happy and glad to repay

kindness by toil. "Mars Henry would have been better to all of us, only

Mistress Jane was always rilin' him up," declared John Rudd as he sat in

his rocking chair under a shade tree.

"Jane Moore, was the daughter of Old Thomas Rakin, one of the meanest

men, where slaves were concerned, and she had learnt the slave drivin'

business from her daddy."

Uncle John related a story concerning his mother as follows: "Mama had

been workin' in the cornfield all day 'till time to cook supper. She was

jes' standin' in the smoke house that was built back of the big kitchen

when Mistress walks in. She had a long whip hid under her apron and

began whippin Mama across the shoulders, 'thout tellin' her why. Mama

wheeled around from whar she was slicin' ham and started runnin' after

old Missus Jane. Ole Missus run so fas' Mama couldn't catch up wif her

so she throwed the butcher knife and stuck it in the wall up to the

hilt." "I was scared. I was fraid when Marse Henry come in I believed he

would have Mama whipped to death."

"Whar Jane?" said Mars Henry. "She up stairs with the door locked," said

Mama. Then she tole old Mars Henry the truth about how mistress Jane

whip her and show him the marks of the whip. She showed him the butcher

knife stickin' in the wall. "Get yer clothes together," said Marse


John then had to be parted from his mother. Henry Rudd [TR: 'Moore'

written above in brackets.] believed that the Negroes were going to be

set free. War had been declared and his desire was to send Liza far into

the southern states where the price of a good negro was higher than in

Kentucky. When he reached Louisville he was offered a good price for her

service and hired her out to cook at a hotel. John grieved over the loss

of his mother but afterwards learned she had been well treated at

Louisville. John Rudd continued to work for Henry Moore until the Civil

War ended. Then Henry Snyder came to the Moore home and demanded his

brothers to be given into his charge.

Henry Snyder had enlisted in the Federal Army and had fought throughout

the war. He had entered or leased seven acres of good land seven miles

below Owensboro, Kentucky, and on those good acres of Davies County farm

land the mother and her three sons were reunited.

John Rudd had never seen a river until he made the trip to Owensboro

with his brother Henry. The trip was made on the big Gray Eagle and

Uncle John declares "I was sure thrilled to get that boat ride." He

relates many incidents of run-away Negroes. Remembers his fear of the Ku

Klucks, and remembers seeing seven ex-slaves hanging from one tree near

the top of Grimes-Hill, just after the close of the war.

When John grew to young manhood he worked on farms in Davis County near

Owensboro for several years, then procured the job of portering for John

Sporree, a hotel keeper at Owensboro, and in this position John worked

for fifteen years.

While at Owensboro he met the trains and boats. He recalls the boats;

Morning Star, and Guiding Star; both excursion boats that carried gay

men and women on pleasure trips up and down the Ohio river.

Uncle John married Teena Queen his beloved first wife, at Owensboro. To

this union was born one son but he has not been to see his father nor

has he heard from him for thirty years, and his father believes him to

have died. The second wife was Minnie Dixon who still lives with Uncle

John at Evansville.

When asked what his political ideas were, Uncle John said his politics

is his love for his government. He draws an old age compensation of 14

dollars a month.

Uncle John had some trouble proving his age but met the situation by

having a friend write to the Catholic Church authorities at Springfield.

Mrs. Simms had taken the position of God Mother to the baby and his

birth and christening had been recorded in the church records. He is a

devout Catholic and believes that religion and freedom are the two

richest blessings ever given to mankind.

Uncle John worked as janitor at the Boehne Tuberculosis Hospital for

eight years. While working there he received a fall which crippled him.

He walks by the aid of a cane but is able to visit with his friends and

do a small amount of work in his home.

John R Cox John Smith Pettigrew Street facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail