Lewis Jones

LEWIS JONES, 86, was born a slave to Fred Tate, who owned a large

plantation on the Colorado River in Fayette Co., Texas. Lewis'

father was born a slave to H. Jones and was sold to Fred Tate, who

used him as a breeder to build up his slave stock. Lewis took his

father's name after Emancipation, and worked for twenty-three years

in a cotton gin at La Grange. He came to Fort Worth in 1896 and

worked for Armour & Co. until 1931. Lewis lives at 3304 Loving

Ave., Fort Worth, Texas.

"My birth am in de year 1851 on de plantation of Massa Fred Tate, what

am on de Colorado River. Yes, suh, dat am in de state of Texas. My mammy

am owned by Massa Tate and so am my pappy and all my brudders and

sisters. How many brudders and sisters? Lawd A-mighty! I'll tell you

'cause you asks and dis nigger gives de facts as 'tis. Let's see, I

can't 'lect de number. My pappy have 12 chillen by my mammy and 12 by

anudder nigger name Mary. You keep de count. Den dere am Liza, him have

10 by her, and dere am Mandy, him have 8 by her, and dere am Betty, him

have six by her. Now, let me 'lect some more. I can't bring de names to

mind, but dere am two or three other what have jus' one or two chillen

by my pappy. Dat am right. Close to 50 chillen, 'cause my mammy done

told me. It's disaway, my pappy am de breedin' nigger.

"You sees, when I meets a nigger on dat plantation, I's most sho' it am

a brudder or sister, so I don't try keep track of 'em.

"Massa Tate didn't give rations to each family like lots of massas, but

him have de cookhouse and de cooks, and all de rations cooked by dem and

all us niggers sat down to de long tables. Dere am plenty, plenty. I

sho' wishes I could have some good rations like dat now. Man, some of

dat ham would go fine. Dat was 'Ham, what am.'

"We'uns raise all de food right dere on de place. Hawgs? We'uns have

three, four hundred and massa raise de corn and feed dem and cure de

meat. We'uns have de cornmeal and de wheat flour and all de milk and

butter we wants, 'cause massa have 'bout 30 cows. And dere am de good

old 'lasses, too.

"Massa feed powerful good and he am not onreas'ble. He don't whup much

and am sho' reas'ble 'bout de pass, and he 'low de parties and have de

church on de place. Old Tom am de preacherman and de musician and him

play de fiddle and banjo. Sometime dey have jig contest, dat when dey

puts de glass of water on de head and see who can jig de hardes' without

spillin' de water. Den dere am joyment in de singin'. Preacher Tom set

all us niggers in de circle and sing old songs. I jus' can't sing for

you, 'cause I's lost my teeth and my voice am raspin', but I'll word

some, sich as

"'In de new Jerusalem,

In de year of Jubilee.'

"I done forgit de words. Den did you ever hear dis one:

"'Oh, do, what Sam done, do dat again,

He went to de hambone, bit off de end.'

"When Old Tom am preacherman, him talks from he heartfelt. Den sometime

a white preacherman come and he am de Baptist and baptize we'uns.

"Massa have de fine coach and de seat for de driver am up high in front

and I's de coachman and he dresses me nice and de hosses am fine, white

team. Dere I's sat up high, all dress good, holdin' a tight line 'cause

de team am full of spirit and fast. We'uns goes lickity split and it am

a purty sight. Man, 'twarnt anyone bigger dan dis nigger.

"I has de bad luck jus' one time with dat team and it am disaway: massa

have jus' change de power for de gin from hoss to steam and dey am

ginnin' cotton and I's with dat team 'side de house and de hosses am

a-prancin' and waitin' for missy to come out. Massa am in de coach. Den,

de fool niggers blows de whistle of dat steam engine and de hosses never

heered sich befo' and dey starts to run. Dey have de bit in de teeths

and I's lucky dat road am purty straight. I thinks of massa bein' inside

de coach and wants to save him. I says to myself, 'Dem hosses skeert and

I don't want to skeer 'em no more.' I jus' hold de lines steady and keep

sayin', 'Steady, boys, whoa boys.' Fin'ly dey begins to slow down and

den stops and massa gits out and de hosses am puffin' hard and all foam.

He turns to me and say, 'Boy, you's made a wonnerful drive, like a

vet'ran.' Now, does dat make me feel fine! It sho' do.

"When surrender come I's been drivin' 'bout a year and it's 'bout 11

o'clock in de mornin', 'cause massa have me ring de bell and all de

niggers runs quick to de house and massa say dey am free niggers. It am

time for layin' de crops by and he say if dey do dat he pay 'em. Some

stays and some goes off, but mammy and pappy and me stays. Dey never

left dat plantation, and I stays 'bout 8 years. I guess it dat coachman

job what helt me.

"When I quits I goes to work for Ed Mattson in La Grange and I works in

dat cotton gin 18 years. Fin'ly I comes here to Fort Worth. Dat am 1896.

I works for Armours 20 years but dey let me off six years ago, 'cause

I's too old. Since den I works at any little old job, for to make my


"Sho', I's been married and it to Jane Owen in La Grange, and we'uns

have three chillen and dey all dead. She died in 1931.

"It am hard for dis nigger to git by and sometime I don't know for sho'

dat I's gwine git anudder meal, but it allus come some way. Yes, suh,

dey allus come some way. Some of de time dey is far apart, but dey

comes. De Lawd see to dat, I guess.

Lewis Johnson Lewis Mann facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail