Peter Clifton

Project #1655

W. W. Dixon

Winnsboro, S. C.



"You want me to start wid my fust memory and touch de high spots 'til

dis very day? Dat'll take a long time but I glad to find someone to tell

dat to; I is! I 'members when I was a boy, drivin' de calves to de

pasture, a highland moccasin snake rise up in de path. I see dat forked

tongue and them bright eyes right now. I so scared I couldn't move out

my tracks. De mercy of de Lord cover me wid His wings. Dat snake uncoil,

drop his head, and silently crawl away. Dat was on de Biggers Mobley

place 'tween Kershaw and Camden, where I was born, in 1848.

"My pappy name Ned; my mammy name Jane. My brudders and sisters was Tom,

Lizzie, Mary, and Gill. Us live in a log house wid a plank floor and a

wooden chimney, dat was always ketchin' afire and de wind comin' through

and fillin' de room wid smoke and cinders. It was just one of many

others, just lak it, dat made up de quarters. Us had peg beds for de old

folks and just pallets on de floor for de chillun. Mattresses was made

of wheat straw but de pillows on de bed was cotton. I does 'member dat

mammy had a chicken feather pillow she made from de feathers she saved

at de kitchen.

"My grandpappy name Warren and grandmammy name Maria. De rule on de

place was: 'Wake up de slaves at daylight, begin work when they can see,

and quit work when they can't see'. But they was careful of de rule dat

say: 'You mustn't work a child, under twelve years old, in de field'.

"My master's fust wife, I heard him say, was Mistress Gilmore. Dere was

two chillun by her. Master Ed, dat live in a palace dat last time I

visit Rock Hill and go to 'member myself to him; then dere was Miss Mary

dat marry her cousin, Dr. Jim Mobley. They had one child, Captain Fred,

dat took de Catawba rifles to Cuba and whip Spain for blowin' up de

Maine. You say you rather I talk 'bout old master and de high spots?

Well, Master Biggers had a big plantation and a big mansion four miles

southeast of Chester. He buy my mammy and her chillun in front of de

court house door in Chester, at de sale of de Clifton Estate. Then he

turn 'round and buy my pappy dere, 'cause my mammy and sister Lizzie was

cryin' 'bout him have to leave them. Mind you I wasn't born then.

Marster Biggers was a widower then and went down and courted de widow

Gibson, who had a plantation and fifty slaves 'tween Kershaw and Camden.

Dere is where I was born.

"Marster had one child, a boy, by my mistress, Miss Sallie. They call

him Black George. Him live long enough to marry a angel, Miss Kate

McCrorey. They had four chillun. Dere got to be ninety slaves on de

place befo' war come on. One time I go wid pappy to de Chester place.

Seem lak more slaves dere than on de Gibson place. Us was fed up to de

neck all de time, though us never had a change of clothes. Us smell

pretty rancid maybe, in de winter time, but in de summer us no wear very

much. Girls had a slip on and de boys happy in their shirt tails.

"Kept fox hounds on both places. Old Butler was de squirrel and 'possum

dog. What I like best to eat? Marster, dere is nothin' better than

'possum and yallow sweet 'taters. Right now, I wouldn't turn dat down

for pound cake and Delaware grape wine, lak my mistress use to eat and

sip while she watch my mammy and old Aunt Tilda run de spinnin' wheels.

"De overseer on de place was name Mr. Mike Melton. No sir, he poor man

but him come from good folks, not poor white trash. But they was cussed

by marster, when after de war they took up wid de 'publican party. Sad

day for old marster when him didn't hold his mouth, but I'll get to dat


"Marster Biggers believe in whippin' and workin' his slaves long and

hard; then a man was scared all de time of being sold away from his wife

and chillun. His bark was worse then his bite tho', for I never knowed

him to do a wicked thing lak dat.

"How long was they whipped? Well, they put de foots in a stock and clamp

them together, then they have a cross-piece go right across de breast

high as de shoulder. Dat cross-piece long enough to bind de hands of a

slave to it at each end. They always strip them naked and some time they

lay on de lashes wid a whip, a switch or a strap. Does I believe dat was

a great sin? No sir. Our race was just lak school chillun is now. De

marster had to put de fear of God in them sometime, somehow, and de

Bible don't object to it.

"I see marster buy a many a slave. I never saw him sell but one and he

sold dat one to a drover for $450.00, cash down on de table, and he did

dat at de request of de overseer and de mistress. They was uneasy 'bout


"They give us Christmas Day. Every woman got a handkerchief to tie up

her hair. Every girl got a ribbon, every boy a barlow knife, and every

man a shin plaster. De neighbors call de place, de shin plaster, Barlow,

Bandanna place. Us always have a dance in de Christmas.

"After freedom when us was told us had to have names, pappy say he love

his old Marster Ben Clifton de best and him took dat titlement, and I's

been a Clifton ever since.

"Go way, white folks! What everthing mate for? De birds, de corn tassle

and de silk, man and woman, white folks and colored folks mates. You ask

me what for I seek out Christina for to marry. Dere was sumpin' 'bout

dat gal, dat day I meets her, though her hair had 'bout a pound of

cotton thread in it, dat just 'tracted me to her lak a fly will sail

'round and light on a 'lasses pitcher. I kept de Ashford Ferry road hot

'til I got her. I had to ask her old folks for her befo' she consent.

Dis took 'bout six months. Everything had to be regular. At last I got

de preacher, Rev. Ray Shelby to go down dere and marry us. Her have been

a blessin' to me every day since.

"Us have seven chillun. They's scattered east, west, north, and south.

De only one left is just David, our baby, and him is a baby six foot

high and fifty-one years old.

"Yes sir, us had a bold, drivin', pushin', marster but not a

hard-hearted one. I sorry when military come and arrest him. It was dis

a way, him try to carry on wid free labor, 'bout lak him did in slavery.

Chester was in military district no. 2. De whole state was under dat

military government. Old marster went to de field and cuss a nigger

woman for de way she was workin', choppin' cotton. She turnt on him wid

de hoe and gashed him 'bout de head wid it. Him pull out his pistol and

shot her. Dr. Babcock say de wound in de woman not serious. They swore

out a warrant for Marster Biggers, arrest him wid a squad, and take him

to Charleston, where him had nigger jailors, and was kicked and cuffed

'bout lak a dog. They say de only thing he had to eat was corn-meal-mush

brought 'round to him and other nice white folks in a tub and it was

ladeled out to them thru de iron railin' into de palms of dere hands.

Mistress stuck by him, went and stayed down dere. The filthy prison and

hard treatments broke him down, and when he did get out and come home,

him passed over de river of Jordan, where I hopes and prays his soul

finds rest. Mistress say one time they threatened her down dere, dat if

she didn't get up $10,000 they would send him where she would never see

him again.

"Well, I must be goin'. Some day when de crops is laid by and us get de

boll weevil whipped off de field, I'll get David to bring me and dat

gal, Christina, you so curious 'bout, to Winnsboro to see you. Oh, how

her gonna laugh and shake her sides when I get home and tell her all

'bout what's down on dat paper! You say it's to be sent to Washington?

Why, de President and his wife will be tickled at some of them things.

I's sure they will. Dat'll make Christina have a great excitement when I

tell her we is to be talked 'bout way up dere. I 'spect it will keep her

wake and she'll be hunchin' me and asking me all thru de night, what I

give in.

"Oh, well, I's thankful for dis hour in which I's been brought very near

to de days of de long long ago. Maybe I'll get a pension and maybe I

won't. Just so de Lord and de President take notice of us, is enough for


Anna Wright Aaron-ford facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail