Lindsey Moore





FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT

American Guide, (Negro Unit)



Martin Richardson, Field Worker

Palatka, Florida

January 13, 1937



LINDSEY MOORE





AN EX-SLAVE WHO WAS RESOURCEFUL



In a little blacksmith shop at 1114 Madison Street, Palatka, is a busy

little horse-shoer who was born in slavery eighty-seven years ago.

Lindsey Moore, blacksmith, leather-tanner ex-marble shooting champion

and a number of other things, represents one of the most resourceful

former slaves yet found in the state.



Moore was born in 1850 on the plantation of John B. Overtree, in

Forsythe County, Georgia. He was one of the six children of Eliza Moore;

all of them remained the property of Overtree until freed.



On the Overtree plantation the slave children were allowed considerable

time for play until their tenth or twelfth years; Lindsey took full

advantage of this opportunity and became very skillful at

marble-shooting. It was here that he first learned to utilize his

talents profitably. 'Massa Overtree' discovered the ability of Lindsey

and another urchin to shoot marbles, and began taking them into town to

compete with the little slaves of other owners. There would be betting

on the winners.



Mr. Overtree won some money in this manner, Lindsey and his companion

being consistent winners. But Lindsey saw possibilities other than the

glory of his victories in this new game; with pennies that some of the

spectators tossed him he began making small wagers of his own with his

competitors, and soon had amassed quite a small pile of silver for those

days.



Although shoes were unheard-of in Lindsey's youth, he used to watch

carefully whenever a cow was skinned and its hide tanned to make shoes

for the women and the 'folks in the big house'. Through his attention to

the tanning operations he learned everything about tanning except one

solution that he could not discover. It was not until years later that

he learned that the jealously-guarded ingredient was plain salt and

water. By the time he had learned it, however, he had so mastered the

tanning operations that he at once added it to his sources of

livelihood.



Lindsey escaped much of the farm work on the Overtree place by learning

to skillfully assist the women who made cloth out of the cotton from the

fields. He grew very fast at cleaning 'rods', clearing the looms and

other operations; when, at thirteen, it became time for him to pick

cotton he had become so fast at helping with spinning and weighing the

cotton that others had picked that he almost entirely escaped the

picking himself.



Soap-making was another of the plantation arts that Lindsey mastered

early. His ability to save every possible ounce of grease from the meats

he cooked added many choice bits of pork to his otherwise meatless fare;

he was able to spend many hours in the shade pouring water over oak

ashes that other young slaves were passing picking cotton or hoeing

potatoes in the burning sun.



Lindsey's first knowledge of the approach of freedom came when he heard

a loud brass band coming down the road toward the plantation playing a

strange, lively tune while a number of soldiers in blue uniforms marched

behind. He ran to the front gate and was ordered to take charge of the

horse of one of the officers in such an abrupt tone until he 'begin to

shaking in my bare feet! There followed much talk between the officers

and Lindsey's mistress, with the soldiers finally going into encampment

a short distance away from the plantation.



The soldiers took command of the spring that was used for a water supply

for the plantation, giving Lindsey another opportunity to make money. He

would be sent from the plantation to the spring for water, and on the

way back would pass through the camp of the soldiers. These would be

happy to pay a few pennies for a cup of water rather than take the long

hike to the Spring themselves; Lindsey would empty bucket after bucket

before finally returning to the plantation. Out of his profits he bought

his first pair of shoes--though nearly a grown man.



The soldiers finally departed, with all but five of the Overtree slaves

joyously trooping behind them. Before leaving, however, they tore up the

railroad and its station, burning the ties and heating the rails until

red then twisting them around tree-trunks. Wheat fields were trampled by

their horses, and devastation left on all sides.



Lindsey and his mother were among those who stayed at the plantation.

When freedom became general his father began farming on a tract that was

later turned over to Lindsey. Lindsey operated the farm for a while, but

later desired to learn horseshoeing, and apprenticed himself to a

blacksmith. At the end of three years he had become so proficient that

his former master rewarded him with a five-dollar bonus for shoeing one

horse.



Possessing now the trades of blacksmithing, tanning and

weaving-and-spinning, Lindsey was tempted to follow some of his former

associates to the North, but was discouraged from doing so by a few who

returned, complaining bitterly about the unaccustomed cold and the

difficulty of making a living. He moved South instead and settled in the

area around Palatka.



He is still in the section, being recognized as an excellent blacksmith

despite his more than four-score years.





BIBLIOGRAPHY



Interview with subject, Lindsey Moore, 1114 Madison Street, Palatka,

Fla.





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