Phillip Evans

Project #1655

W. W. Dixon,

Winnsboro, S.C.



Phillip Evans, his wife, Janie, and their crippled son live together in

a two-room frame house with one fireplace. The old woman has been a wet

nurse for many white families in Winnsboro. Neither Phillip nor his boy

can work. The wife nurses occasionally.

"I was born at de General Bratton Canaan place 'bout six miles, sort of

up a little, on de sunrise side of Winnsboro. I hopes you're not

contrary like, to think it too much against dis old slave when I tells

you de day. Well sir, dat day was de fust day of April but pray sir,

don't write me down a fool 'cause I born on dat p'ticular April Fool

Day, 1852. When I gits through wid you, I wants you to say if dat

birthday have any 'fect on dis old man's sensibility.

"My pappy was name Dick. Him was bought by General Bratton from de sale

of de Evans estate. My pappy often tell mammy and us chillun, dat his

pappy was ketched in Africa and fetched to America on a big ship in a

iron cage, 'long wid a whole heap of other black folks, and dat he was

powerful sick at de stomach de time he was on de ship.

"My mammy was name Charlotte. Her say her know nothin' 'bout her daddy

or where he come from. One of my brothers is de Reverend Jackson C.

Evans, age 72. Richard, another brother, is 65 years old. All of us born

on de Canaan Bratton place. General Bratton love dat place; so him named

it proud, like de Land of Canaan.

"I help to bring my brother Richard, us calls him Dick, into de world.

Dat is, when mammy got in de pains, I run for de old granny on de place

to come right away. Us both run all de way back. Good us did, for dat

boy come right away. I 'members, to dis hour and minute, dat as soon as

dat boy got here, he set de house full of noise, a-cryin' like a cat

squallin'. All chillun does dat though, as soon as they come into de

world. I got one sister older than me; her name Jenny Watson. Her live

in a house on de Canaan place, callin' distance from where I live. Us is

Methodists. A proud family, brought low by Mr. Hoover and his crowd. Had

to sell our land. 'Spect us would have starved, as us too proud to beg.

Thank God, Mr. Roosevelt come 'long. Him never ask whether us democrat

or 'publican nor was us black or white; him just clothe our nakedness

and ease de pains of hunger, and goin' further, us goin' to be took care

of in our old age. Oh, how I love dat man; though they do say him got


"My brother, de preacher, says dat occasioned by de fact dat de

President got a big stick and a big foot, dat sometime he tromp on de

gout foots of some of them rich people. Howsomever, he say dat as long

as de Lord, de Son, and de Holy Ghost is wid de President, it'll be all

right for us colored folks. It makes no difference 'bout who is against

de President. He says us niggers down South can do nothin' but be

Methodist, pray to de Lord, and shout for de President. I's goin' to try

to do some of de prayin' but dis voice too feeble to do much shoutin'.

"What kind of house us live in at slavery time? Nice plank house. All de

houses in de quarters made dat way. Our beds was good. Us had a good

marster. Our livin' houses and vittles was better and healthier than

they is now. Big quarters had many families wid a big drove of chillun.

Fed them from big long trays set on planks. They eat wid iron spoons,

made at de blacksmith's shop. What they eat? Peas, beans, okra, Irish

'tators, mush, shorts, bread, and milk. Dere was 'bout five or six acres

to de garden. Us kept fat and happy.

"Who was de overseers? Mr. Wade Rawls was one and Mr. Osborne was

another. There was another one but 'spect I won't name him, 'cause him

had some trouble wid my Uncle Dennis. 'Pears like he insult my aunt and

beat her. Uncle Dennis took it up, beat de overseer, and run off to de

woods. Then when he git hungry, him come home at night for to eat

sumpin'. Dis kept up 'til one day my pappy drive a wagon to town and

Dennis jined him. Him was a settin' on de back of de wagon in de town

and somebody point him out to a officer. They clamp him and put him in

jail. After de 'vestigation they take him to de whippin' post of de

town, tie his foots, make him put his hands in de stocks, pulled off his

shirt, pull down his britches and whip him terrible.

"No sir, Marster General Bratton didn't 'low his slaves' chillun to

work. I just played 'round, help feed de stock and pigs, bring in de

fruit from de orchard and sich like.

"Yes sir, marster give me small coins. What I do wid de money? I buy a

pretty cap, one time. Just don't 'members what I did wid it all.

"Us went fishin' in de Melton Branch, wid hooks. Ketch rock rollers,

perch and catfish. They eat mighty good. I like de shortnin' bread and

sugar cane 'lasses best and de fust time I ever do wrong was 'bout de


"Our shoes was made on de place. They had wooden bottoms. My daddy,

being de foreman, was de only slave dat was give de honor to wear boots.

"Dere was just two mulattoes on de place. One was a daughter of my aunt.

All de niggers was crazy 'bout her and wid de consent of my aunt,

marster give her to some kinfolks in Arkansas. De other was name, Rufus.

My marster was not his daddy. No use to put down dere in writing just

who his pappy was.

"Stealing was de main crime. De whippin's was put on de backs, and if

you scowled, dat would git you a whippin' right dere and then.

"Yes sir, dere is haunts, plenty of them. De devil is de daddy and they

is hatched out in de swamps. My brother say they is demons of hell and

has de witches of de earth for their hosses.

"De neighbors 'bout was de Neils, de Rawls, de Smiths, and de Mobleys.

Marse Ed Mobley was great for huntin'. Marse General Bratton was a great

sheep raiser. In spite of dat, they got along; though de dogs pestered

de sheep and de shotguns peppered de dogs sometimes.

"My marster was a general in de Secession War. After dat, him a

controller of de State. Him run old 'Buttermilk' Wallace out of

Congress. Then he was a Congressman.

"My mistress was Miss Bettie. Her was a DuBose. Her child, Miss

Isabella, marry some big man up North and their son, Theodore, is de

bishop of de high 'Piscopal Church of Mississippi.

"Now I repeats de question: Does you think I's a fool just 'cause I's

born on dat fust day of April, 1852?

"You made me feel religious askin' all them questions. Seem like a voice

of all de days dat am gone turn over me and press on de heart, and dis

room 'fect me like I was in a church. If you ever pass de Canaan place

I'd be mighty happy to see you again."

Phil Towns Phillip Johnson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail