Phillip Johnson





Ref: Phillip Johnson, R.F.D. Poolesville, Md.

The subject of this sketch is a pure blooded Negro, whose kinky hair is

now white, likewise his scraggy beard. He is of medium size and somewhat

stooped with age, but still active enough to plant and tend a patch of

corn and the chores about his little place at Sugarlands. His home is a

small cabin with one or two rooms upstairs and three down, including the

kitchen which is a leanto. The cabin is in great disrepair.

Phillip John is above the average in intelligence, has some education

and is quite well versed in the Holy Scriptures, having been for many

years a Methodist preacher among his people. He uses fairly good English

and freely talks in answer to questions. Without giving the questions

put to him by this writer, his remarks given in the first person and as

near his own idiom are as follows:

"I'll be ninety years old next December. I dunno the day. My Missis had

the colored folks ages written in a book but it was destroyed when the

Confederate soldiers came through. But she had a son born two or three

months younger than me and she remember that I was born in December,

1847, but she had forgot the day of the month.

"I was born down on the river bottom about four miles below Edwards'

Ferry, on the Eight Mile Level, between Edwards' Ferry and Seneca. I

belonged to ole Doctah White. He owned a lot o' lan down on de bottom. I

dunno his first name. Everybody called him Doctah White. Yes, he was

related to Doctah Elijah White. All the Whites in Montgomery County is

related. Yes sah, Doctah White was good to his slaves. Yes sah, he had

many slaves. I dunno how many. My Missis took me away from de bottom

when I was a little boy, 'cause de overseer he was so cruel to me. Yes

sah he was mean. I promised him a killin if ever I got big enough.

"We all liked the Missis. Everybody in dem days used to ride horseback.

She would come ridin her horse down to de bottom with a great big basket

of biscuits. We thought they were fine. We all glad to see de Missis a

comin. We always had plenty to eat, such as it was. We had coarse food

but there was plenty of it.

"The white folks made our clothes for us. They made linsey for the woman

and woolen cloth for de men. They gave clothes sufficient to keep em

warm. The men had wool clothes with brass buttons that had shanks on em.

They looked good when they were new. They had better clothes then than

most of us have now.

"They raised mostly corn an oats an wheat down on de river bottom in

those days. They didn't raise tobacco. But I've heard say that they used

to raise it long before I was born. They cut grain with cradles in dem

days. They had a lot 'o men and would slay a lot 'o wheat in a day. It

was pretty work to see four or five cradlers in a field and others

following them raking the wheat in bunches and others following binding

them in bundles. The first reapers that came were called Dorsey reapers.

They cut the grain and bunched it. It was then bound by hand.

"When my Missis took me away from the river bottom I lived in

Poolesville where the Kohlhoss home and garage is. I worked around the

house and garden. I remember when the Yankee and Confederate soldiers

both came to Poolesville. Capn Sam White (son of the doctor) he join the

Confederate in Virginia. He come home and say he goin to take me along

back with him for to serve him. But the Yankees came and he left very

sudden and leave me behind. I was glad I didn't have to go with him. I

saw all that fightin around Poolesville. I used to like to watch em

fightin. I saw a Yankee soldier shoot a Confederate and kill him. He

raised his gun twice to shoot but he kept dodgin around the house an he

didn' want to shoot when he might hit someone else. When he ran from the

house he shot him.

"Yes sah, them Confederates done more things around here than the

Yankees did. I remember once during the war they came to town. It was

Sunday morning an I was sittin in the gallery of the ole brick Methodist

church. One of them came to de door and he pointed his pistol right at

that preacher's head. The gallery had an outside stairs then. I ran to

de door to go down de stairs but there was another un there pointing his

gun and they say don't nobody leave dis building. The others they was a

cleanin up all the hosses and wagons round the church. The one who was

guarding de stairs, he kept a lookin to see if dey was done cleaning up

de hosses, and when he wasn't watching I slip half way down de stairs,

an when he turn his back I jump down and run. When he looks he jus


"My father he lived to be eighty nine. He died right here in this house

and he's buried over by the church. His name was Sam. They called my

mother Willie Ann. She died when I was small. I had three brothers and

one sister. My father married again and had seven or eight other


"I've had eleven children; five livin, six dead. I've been preaching for

forty years and I have seen many souls saved. I don't preach regular

anymore but once in a while I do. I have preached in all these little

churches around here. I preached six years at Sugar Loaf Mountain. The

presidin elder he wants me to go there. The man that had left there jus

tore that church up. I went up there one Sunday and I didn't see

anything that I could do. I think I'm not able for this. I said they

needs a more experienced preacher than me. But the presidin elder keeps

after me to go there and I says, well, I go for one year. Next thing it

was the same thing. I stays on another year and so on for six years.

When I left there that church was in pretty good shape.

"I think preaching the gospel is the greatest work in the world. But

folks don't seem to take the interest in church that they used to."

Phillip Evans Phillip Rice facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail