Nelson Cameron

Project #1655

W. W. Dixon,

Winnsboro, S. C.



Nelson Cameron and his wife, Mary, together with a widowed daughter,

Rose, and her six children, live in a four-room frame house, two miles

south of Woodward, S. C., about sixty yards east of US highway #21. He

cultivates about eighty acres of land, on shares of the crop, for Mr.

Brice, the land owner. He is a good, respectable, cheerful old darkey,

and devoted to his wife and grandchildren.

"Marse Wood, Ned Walker, a old Gaillard nigger says as how he was down

here t'other day sellin' chickens, where he got them chickens I's not

here for to say, and say you wanna see me. I's here befo' you and pleads

guilty to de charge dat I'm old, can't work much any longer, and is poor

and needy.

"You sees dere's a window pane out of my britches seat and drainage

holes in both my shoes, to let de sweat out when I walks to Bethel

Church on Sunday. Whut can you and Mr. Roosevelt do for dis old

Izrallite a passin' thru de wilderness on de way to de Promise Land? Lak

to have a little manna and quail, befo' I gits to de river Jordan.

"My old marster name Sam Brice. His wife, my mistress, tho' fair as de

lily of de valley and cheeks as pink as de rose of Sharon, is called

'Darkie.' Dat always seem a misfit to me. Lily or Rose or Daisy would

have suited her much more better, wid her laces, frills, flounces, and

ribbons. Her mighty good to de slaves. Take deir part 'ginst de marster

sometime, when him want to whup them. Sometime I sit on de door-steps

and speculate in de moonlight whut de angels am like and everytime, my

mistress is de picture dat come into dis old gray head of mine. You say

you don't want po'try, you wants facts?

"Well, here de facts: My mammy name Clara. Don't forgit dat. I come back

to her directly. My young mistress was Miss Maggie. Her marry Marse

Robert Clowney; they call him 'Red-head Bob.' Him have jet red hair. Him

was 'lected and went to de Legislature once. No go back; he say dere too

much ding dong do-nuttin' foolishness down dere for him to leave home

and stay 'way from de wife and chillun half de winter months.

"Marse Sam never have so pow'ful many slaves. Seem lak dere was more

women and chillun than men. In them days, pa tell me, a white man raise

niggers just lak a man raise horses or cows. Have a whole lot of mares

and 'pendin' on other man to have de stallion. Fust thing you know dere

would be a whole lot of colts kickin' up deir heels on de place. Lakwise

a white man start out wid a few women folk slaves, soon him have a

plantation full of little niggers runnin' 'round in deir shirt-tails and

a kickin' up deir heels, whilst deir mammies was in de field a hoeing

and geeing at de plow handles, workin' lak a man. You ketch de point?

Well I's one of them little niggers. My pa name Vander. Him b'long to

one of de big bugs, old Marse Gregg Cameron. Marse Gregg, him 'low,

always have more money and niggers than you could shake a stick at, more

land than you could walk over in a day, and more cuss words than you

could find in de dictionary. His bark was worser than his bite, tho'. Pa

was de tan-yard man; he make leather and make de shoes for de

plantation. After freedom date, de way he make a livin' for mammy and us

chillun was by makin' boots and shoes and half solin' them for white

folks at Blackstock, S. C. Marse Sam Brice mighty glad for mammy to

contact sich a man to be de pappy of her chillun.

"Us live in a log house wid a little porch in front and de mornin' glory

vines use to climb 'bout it. When they bloom, de bees would come a

hummin' 'round and suck de honey out de blue bells on de vines. I

'members dat well 'nough, dat was a pleasant memory. Is I told you my

mammy name Clara? My brothers and sisters, who they? George dead, Calvin

dead, Hattie (name for pa's young mistress) dead, Samson, who got his

ear scald off in a pot of hot water, is dead, too. I's existing still. I

did mighty little work in slavery times. 'Members not much 'bout de


"Freedom come, pa come straight as a martin to his gourd, to mammy and

us pickaninnies. They send us to school at Blackstock and us walk

fourteen miles, and back, every day to school. At school I meets Mary

Stroud, a gal comin' from de Gaillard quarter. Her eyes was lak twin

stars. Her hair lak a swarm of bees. All my studyin' books was changed

to studyin' how to git dat swarm of bees in a hive by myself. One day I

walk home from school with her and git old Uncle Tom Walker to marry us,

for de forty cents I saved up. Us happy ever since. Nex' year I work for

Ben Calvin, a colored man on de Cockerell place, jinin' de Gaillard

place. Us did dat to be near her pappy, Uncle Morris Stroud.

"All thru them 'Carpet Bag' days my pappy stuck to de white folks, and

went 'long wid de Ku Kluxes. His young mistress, Miss Harriet Cameron,

marry de Grand Titan of all de Holy invisible Roman Empire. Him name was

Col. Leroy McAfee. Pappy tell me all 'bout it. Marse Col. McAfee come

down from North Ca'lina, and see Marse Feaster Cameron at old Marse

Gregg Cameron's home and want Marse Feaster to take charge down in dis

State. While on dat visit him fall in love wid Marse Feas's sister,

Harriet, and marry her. You say Marse Tom Dixon dedicate a book to her,

de Clansman? Well, well, well! To think of dat. Wish my pappy could a

knowed dat, de Sundays he'd take dat long walk to Concord Church to put

flowers on her grave. They all lie dere in dat graveyard, Old Marse

Gregg, Marse Leroy, Miss Harriet, and Marse Feas. De day they bury Marse

Feas de whole county was dere and both men and women sob when de red

earth rumbled on his coffin top. Pappy had me by de hand and cried lak a

baby, wid de rest of them, dat sad day.

"Does you 'member de time in 1884, when my pappy made you a pair of

boots for $10.00 and when you pay him, him knock off one dollar and you

pay him nine dollars? You does? Well dat is fine, for I sure need dat

dollar dis very day.

"Does I 'member de day old Marse Gregg die? 'Course I does. It happen

right here in Winnsboro. Him come down to 'tend John Robinson's Circus.

Him lak Scotch liquor; de tar smell, de taste, and de 'fect, take him

back to Scotland where him generate from. Them was bar-room days in

Winnsboro. De two hotels had bar-rooms, besides de other nine in town.

Marse Gregg had just finished his drink of Scotch. De parade of de

circus was passing de hotel where he was, and de steam piano come by a

tootin'. Marse Gregg jump up to go to de street to see it. When it pass,

him say: 'It's a damn humbug' and drop dead."

Nellie Smith Nelson Denson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail