Matthew Hume

Grace Monroe

Dist. 4

Jefferson County



Mr. Hume had many interesting experiences to tell concerning the part

slavery had played in his family. On the whole they were fortunate in

having a good master who would not keep an overseer who whipped his


His father, Luke Hume, lived in Trimble County Kentucky and was allowed

to raise for himself one acre of tobacco, one acre of corn, garden

stuff, chickens and have the milk and butter from one cow. He was

advised to save his money by the overseer, but always drank it up. On

this plantation all the slaves were free from Saturday noon until Monday

morning and on Christmas and the Fourth of July. A majority of them

would go to Bedford or Milton and drink, gamble and fight. On the

neighboring farm the slaves were treated cruelly. Mr. Hume had a

brother-in-law, Steve Lewis, who carried marks on his back. For years he

had a sore that would not heal where his master had struck him with a

blacksnake whip.

Three good overseers were Jake Mack and Mr. Crafton, Mr. Daniel Payne

was the owner who asked his people to report any mistreatment to him. He

expected obedience however.

When Mr. Hume was a small boy he was placed in the fields to hoe. He

also wanted a new implement. He was so small he was unable to keep near

enough to the men and boys to hear what they were talking about, he

remembered bringing up the rear one day, when he saw a large rock he

carefully covered it with dirt, then came down hard on it breaking his

hoe. He missed a whipping and received a new tool to replace the old

one, after this he could keep near enough to hear what the other workers

were talking about.

Another of his duties was to go for the cattle, he had to walk around

the road about a mile, but was permitted to come back through the fields

about a quarter of a mile. One afternoon his mistress told him to bring

a load of wood when he came in. In the summer it was the custom to have

the children carry the wood from the fields. When he came up he saw his

mistress was angry this peeved him, so that he stalked into the hall and

slammed his wood into the box. About this time his mistress shoved him

into a small closet and locked the door. He made such a howl that he

brought his mother and father to the rescue and was soon released from

his prison.

As soon as the children were old enough they were placed in the fields

to prepare the ground for setting tobacco plants. This was a very

complicated procedure. The ground was made into hills, each requiring

about four feet of soil. The child had to get all the clods broken fine.

Then place his foot in the center and leave his track. The plants were

to be set out in the center and woe to the youngster who had failed to

pulverize his hill. After one plowing the tobacco was hand tended. It

was long green and divided into two grades. It was pressed by being

placed in large hogsheads and weighted down. On one occasion they were

told their tobacco was so eaten up that the worms were sitting on the

fence waiting for the leaves to grow but nevertheless in some manner his

master hid the defects and received the best price paid in the


The mistress on a neighboring plantation was a devout Catholic, and had

all the children come each Sunday after-noon to study the catechism and

repeat the Lord's Prayer. She was not very successful in training them

in the Catholic faith as when they grew up most of them were either

Baptists or Methodists. Mr. Hume said she did a lot of good in leading

them to Christ but he did not learn much of the catechism as he only

attended for the treat. After the service they always had candy or a cup

of sugar.

On the Preston place there was a big strapping negro of eighteen whom

the overseer attempted to whip receiving the worst of it. He then went

to Mr. Hume's owner and asked for help but was told he would have to

seek elsewhere for help. Finally some one was found to assist. Smith was

tied to a tree and severely beaten, then they were afraid to untie him,

when the overseer finally ventured up and loosened the ropes, Smith

kicked him as hard as he could and ran to the Payne estate refusing to

return. He was a good helper here where he received kind treatment.

A bad overseer was discharged once by Mr. Payne because of his cruelty

to Mr. Luke Hume. The corncrib was a tiny affair where a man had to

climb out one leg at a time, one morning just as Mr. Hume's father was

climbing out with his feed, he was struck over the head with a large

club, the next morning he broke the scoop off an iron shovel and

fastened the iron handle to his body. This time he swung himself from

the door of the crib and seeing the overseer hiding to strik him he

threw his bar, which made a wound on the man's head which did not knock

him out. As soon as Mr. Payne heard of the disturbance the overseer was

discharged and Mr. Mack placed in charge of the slaves.

One way of exacting obedience was to threaten to send offenders South to

work in the fields. The slaves around Lexington, Kentucky, came out

ahead on one occasion. The collector was Shrader. He had the slaves

handcuffed to a large leg chain and forced on a flat boat. There were

so many that the boat was grounded, so some of the slaves were released

to push the boat off. Among the "blacks" was one who could read and

write. Before Shrader could chain them up again, he was seized and

chained, taken to below Memphis Tennessee and forced to work in the

cotton fields until he was able to get word from Richmond identifying

him. In the meantime the educated negro issued freedom papers to his

companions. Many of them came back to Lexington, Kentucky where they

were employed.

Mr. Hume thought the Emancipation Proclamation was the greatest work

that Abraham Lincoln ever did. The colored people on his plantation did

not learn of it until the following August. Then Mr. Payne and his sons

offered to let them live on their ground with conditions similar to our

renting system, giving a share of the crop. They remained here until

Jan. 1, 1865 when they crossed the Ohio at Madison. They had a cow which

had been given them before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued but

this was taken away from them. So they came to Ind. homeless, friendless

and penniless.

Mr. Hume and his aged wife have been married 62 years and resided in the

same community for 55 years where they are highly respected by all their


He could not understand the attitude of his race who preferred to remain

in slavery receiving only food and shelter, rather than to be free

citizens where they could have the right to develop their individualism.

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