Mary Wooldrige

Tale of Mary Wooldridge: (Clarksville Pike--Age about 103.)

"Mary and her twin sister were slaves born in Washington County,

Kentucky, near Lexington, belonging to Bob Eaglin. When Mary was about

fourteen years old she and her sister was brought to the Lexington slave

market and sold and a Mr. Lewis Burns of the same County purchased her.

Mary doesn't know what became of her sister. Five or six years later she

was again put on the block and sold to a Negro Trader but Mary does not

remember this traders name. While here she was kept in a stockade and it

was several years before she again was bought by a white man. Mr. Thomas

McElroy near Lexington bought her and she remained his slave until the

slaves were freed. Mary looks her age. She is a tall gaunt black Negro

with white hair about one inch long and very kinky, and still she

dresses as the older slave woman dressed in the past days. She wears an

old bodice with a very full skirt that comes to her ankles and this

skirt has very long deep pockets and when I asked her why she had such

pockets in her skirt her answer was, "Wal you sees honey I jes am used

ter dis dress and thar is no way foh youse to had me git shud of hit,

dese pockets is powerful venient foh weh I goes inter some ones house

why I turns dose pockets wrong side out and dat always brings me good


Mary contends that she always wears three petticoats.

"Marse Thamos lived in a big log house wid a big plantation all around

hit. He had three hundred slaves on de two plantations. Marse Thamos sho

was good ter us niggers. No nigger mus whoop his stock wid a switch.

"I'se heared him say many time don't youse niggers whoop dese mules. How

would you like to have me whoop you det way?" And he sho would whoop dem

dem niggers if he cotched dem. Lawd have mercy who whould haw thot I'd

be here all dis time. I'd thot I'd be ded and gone. All dese ole niggers

try to be so uppity by jes bein raised in de house and cause dey was why

dey think is Quality. Some of dese nigger gals was raised in de house

but most of dem was made work ebery whar on de plantation. My Massa has

his nigger gals to lay fence worms, mak fences, shuck corn, hoe corn en

terbacco, wash, iron, and de missus try to teach de nigger gals to sew

and knit. But shucks niggers aint got no sense nuf ter do fancy things.

Sometimes I tended de chilluns.

"Yah, yah, I sho do member Abraham Lincoln. My Missus and Massa did not

like Mr. Lincoln, but pshaw, all de niggers did. I member him, I seed

him once, soon after I was freed.

"Pshaw, dey was hard times durin de war, my Missus and sum of de nigger

gals and de chilluns hae to stay in the woods several days ter keep way

from de soldiers. Dey eat all de chickens and kilt the cows and tuk de

horses and we sho scairt out dar wid dem varmints roving roun.

"Nigger aint got no business being sot free, niggers still oughter be

slaves. Us niggers did not hev to bother bout de victuals sor nuthin.

"Wen my Missis called us niggers gether and told us we was free I was as

happy as a skinned frog but you seed I didn't have any sense. All

niggers are fools. Now she says, she did, you can all stay here en work

en we will pay you foh your work, or you can work foh some body else,

but I hev raised you hones, and don't you steal, and work foh nuf money

so you wont hev to steal it if youse gits hongry and haint got no money

to buy vittals jus you ask de white folks foh hit and dey will giv hit

to youse. Oh how I miss my Missis and Massa so much. Wish I hed dem now.

"Shucks on dese niggers and dar ways now. I lef de plantation my old

Missus and Massa home and got on a steam boat on de Ohio Ribber and

nursed de chillun foh de Captain and he's wife on dat boat foh about two

year. An den He, He, He, a nigger don got much sense, Miss Fannie an Mr.

Harry Campbell whot paid me foh my work on de boat gives Five Dollars

foh de work en I'se didn't hev sense nuf ter know what ter do wid dis

money. So I goes ter de store en buys me a cedar tub and filled hit wid

candy. Miss Fannie gave me back de money foh de tub an den I ate nuf

candy ter git sick and den Miss Fannie took de candy back to de store

and she got my money back, she did.

"But shucks, I did not no whot ter do wid de money. Wen I lef Miss

Fannie I rode to Henderson on a log raft en wen I got dar dey was a big

circus and sum one was sayin, "de perade be here directly, He, He, He, I

didn't no whot dey meant, big ignorant fool dat I was and still is, en

wen I seed de elephants and de uther varmints I ran like a big pop-eyed

fool nigger cause I never seed such things. Dat day on de road in town I

met my ole Missus McElroy en she had me ter help her wid de chilluns and

tuk me ter de circus and wen I got in de tent and saw all de cages and

things I was sho scairt of ebery thing till I seed dem babboons dem I

felt all right and at home cause I jes knowed dey was my first cousins.

I stayed in Henderson foh sometime working foh furst one and tother en

den Mr. Henry Shackleford hired me en brung me to Christian County. Not

long fore I was married ter Albert Wooldridge we sho had a big wedding.

Zack Major a nigger preacher of de Baptist faith did de ceremony right

here in Hopkinsville.

"Yes, sho I has ben a mid-wife or granny. All dese high falutin things

dey is doin now in child birth is tommy-rot dey oughter hev jes grannies

now. I livered more babies den most doctors sometimes de white folks had

doctors but I don't take no stock in dese doctors. De furst thing you

does wen a new baby is born is ter let hit lay twenty minutes den cut de

cord and dan grease a scortched rag wid lard jes hog lard en den put de

belly band on den grease de baby all over. Neber wash de baby till tis

over a week ole. Wen de babies had colic I'd take dirt dobber nest and

make a tea, den giv did ter de baby. Sometimes If I couldn't fin no dirt

dobber nes I would git a spider web and make a tea den giv dis or else

jes shake de baby by de heels. If folks would tend ter babies like dey

uster why dese people now wouldn't hev heart trouble.

"Sho I seed a ghost once, I soed Miss Annie Wooldridge after she died up

here on Main St. I was jes settin on de back porch steps jes a lookin

while da white folks was er eatin supper. Miss Annie allways got de eggs

en I seed her dat day. She jes come thru de hen house door en hit was

locked en den thru de pantry door and hit was locked en I jes called her

daughter and I knowed I seed her, sho, I did, it who was Miss Annie.

"Of course dar is hanted houses. De ole Sharp house were dat er way and

all de Sharps were ded but dis house were empty. You neber did see

anything but I sho had heared de doors slam en de silver rattle en at

night in my cabin near to hit I'd sees lights bob up en down. Any body

in dis town can tell you dats so foh dey tore dis house down ter run de

hants eraway.

"People don bother bout de moon much now but if dey would lissen ter de

ole niters dey would always hev good crops. Now if you plant pertatoes

by de dark of de moon you will always hev good crops en if you plant dem

on de light of de moon den you hes all vine. Corn planted on de light de

moon den you has a good crop. I'se knows cause I ken member fore de

niggers wore freed you could jes plant by de moon and plant anything in

God's ground en by de moon en de crops would grow. Now dey jes buther up

God's ground en put ole stinky messy fertilizer on hit en de crops jes

burn up. Nobody oughter mess wid God's ground.

"I'se a Publican who ever heared of a Democrat nigger. Nigger neber did

own enything so dey cant be Democrats en if dey vote a Democrat ticket

dey is jes votin a lie. Cause no nigger neber did own slaves only the

old nigger slave traders and dey werent nuthin but varmints anyway. Ye

jes has to hev owned slaves to vote a Democrat ticket en den no nigger

eber did own slaves er hed nothing."

(Mary lives in Clarksville, Pike R.R. #1, Hopkinsville, Kentucky)

Mary Woodward Mary Wright facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail