Rebecca Jane Grant





Project #-1655

Phoebe Faucette

Hampton County



Folklore



[HW: Grant, Rebecca Jane]

NINETY TWO YEAR OLD NEGRO TELLS OF EARLY LIFE AS SLAVE





In Hampton County at Lena, S.C., there lives an old negro woman who has

just passed her ninety-second birthday, and tells of those days long ago

when man was bound to man and families were torn apart against their

will. Slowly she draws the curtain of Time from those would-be-forgotten

scenes of long ago that cannot ever be entirely obliterated from the

memory.



"Well, just what is it you want to hear about, Missus?"



"Anything, everything, Auntie, that you remember about the old days

before the Civil War. Just what you've told your grand-daughter, May,

and her friend, Alice, here, many times, is what I want to hear."



"Tell her, mamma," said Alice with a whoop of laughter, "about the time

when your Missus sent you to the store with a note!"



"Oh that! Not that Missus?"



"Yes, Auntie that!"



"Well, I was just a little girl about eight years old, staying in

Beaufort at de Missus' house, polishing her brass andirons, and

scrubbing her floors, when one morning she say to me, 'Janie, take this

note down to Mr. Wilcox Wholesale Store on Bay Street, and fetch me back

de package de clerk gie (give) you.'



"I took de note. De man read it, and he say, 'Uh-huh'. Den he turn away

and he come back wid a little package which I took back to de Missus.



"She open it when I bring it in, and say, 'Go upstairs, Miss!'



"It was a raw cowhide strap bout two feet long, and she started to

pourin' it on me all de way up stairs. I didn't know what she was

whippin' me bout; but she pour it on, and she pour it on.



"Turrectly she say, 'You can't say "Marse Henry", Miss? You can't say,

"Marse Henry"!'



"Yes'm. Yes'm. I kin say. 'Marse Henry'!



"Marse Henry was just a little boy bout three or four years old. Come

bout halfway up to me. Wanted me to say Massa to him, a baby!"



"How did you happen to go to Beaufort, Auntie? You told me you were

raised right here in Hampton County on the Stark Plantation."



"I was, Miss. But my mother and four of us children (another was born

soon afterwards) were sold to Mr. Robert Oswald in Beaufort. I was de

oldest, then there was brother Ben, sister Delia, sister Elmira, and

brother Joe that was born in Beaufort. My father belong to Marse Tom

Willingham; but my mother belong to another white man. Marse Tom was

always trying to buy us so we could all be together, but de man wouldn't

sell us to him. Marse Tom was a Christian gentleman! I believe he seek

religion same as any colored person. And pray! Oh, that was a blessed

white man! A blessed white man! And Miss Mamie, his daughter, was a

Christian lady. Every Wednesday afternoon she'd fill her basket with

coffee, tea, sugar, tobacco and such things, and go round to de houses

where dere was old folks or sick folks. She'd give um de things; and

she'd read de scriptures to um, and she'd kneel down and pray for um.

But we had to leave all de folks we knew when we was took to Beaufort.



"All of us chillun, too little to work, used to have to stay at de

'Street'. Dey'd have some old folks to look after us--some old man, or

some old woman. Dey'd clean off a place on de ground near de washpot

where dey cooked de peas, clean it off real clean, den pile de peas out

dere on de ground for us to eat. We'd pick um up in our hands and begin

to eat. Sometimes dey'd cook hoe cakes in a fire of coals. Dey'd mix a

little water with de meal and make a stiff dough that could be patted

into shape with de hands. De cakes would be put right into the fire, and

would be washed off clean after they were racked out from de coals.

Sometimes de Massa would have me mindin' de birds off de corn. But 'fore

I left Beaufort, I was doin' de Missus' washin' and ironin'. I was

fifteen years old when I left Beaufort, at de time freedom was declared.

We were all reunited den. First, my mother and de young chillun, den I

got back. My uncle, Jose Jenkins come to Beaufort and stole me by night

from my Missus. He took me wid him to his home in Savannah. We had been

done freed; but he stole me away from de house. When my father heard

that I wasn't wid de others, he sent my grandfather, Isaac, to hunt me.

When he find me at my uncle's house, he took me back. We walked all

back--sixty-four miles. I was foundered. You know if'n a foundered

person will jump over a stick of burning lightwood, it will make um feel

better."



"Tell us, Auntie, more about the time when you and your mother and

brothers and sisters had just gone to Beaufort.



"Well mam. My mother say she didn't know a soul. All de time she'd be

prayin' to de Lord. She'd take us chillun to de woods to pick up

firewood, and we'd turn around to see her down on her knees behind a

stump, aprayin'. We'd see her wipin' her eyes wid de corner of her

apron, first one eye, den de other, as we come along back. Den, back in

de house, down on her knees, she'd be aprayin'. One night she say she

been down on her knees aprayin' and dat when she got up, she looked out

de door and dere she saw comin' down out de elements a man, pure white

and shining. He got right before her door, and come and stand right to

her feet, and say, "Sarah, Sarah, Sarah!"



"Yes, Sir."



"What is you frettin' bout so?"



"Sir. I'm a stranger here, parted from my husband, with five little

chillun and not a morsel of bread."



"You say you're parted from your husband? You're not parted from your

husband. You're jest over a little slash of water. Suppose you had to

undergo what I had to. I was nailed to the Cross of Mount Calvary. And

here I am today. Who do you put your trust in?



"My mother say after dat, everything just flow along, just as easy. Now

my mother was an unusually good washer and ironer. De white folks had

been sayin', 'Wonder who it is that's makin' de clothes look so good.'

Well, bout dis time, dey found out; and dey would come bringin' her

plenty of washin' to do. And when dey would come dey would bring her a

pan full of food for us chilluns. Soon de other white folks from round

about heard of her and she was gettin' all de washin' she needed. She

would wash for de Missus durin' de day, and for de other folks at night.

And dey all was good to her.



"One day de Missus call her to de house to read her something from a

letter she got. De letter say that my father had married another woman.

My mother was so upset she say, 'I hope he breaks dat woman's jawbone.

She know she aint his lawful wife.' And dey say her wish come true. Dat

was just what happened.



"But we all got together again and I thanks de good Lord. I gets down on

my knees and prays. I thanks de Lord for His mercy and His goodness to

me every day. Every time I eats, I folds my hands and thanks Him for de

food. He's de one that sent it, and I thanks Him. Then, on my knees, I

thanks him.



"Aunt Jane receives an ample pension since her husband fought on the side

with the Federals. He was known as James Lawton before the war, but

became, James Lawton Grant after the war."



=Source:= Mrs. Delacy Wyman, Mgr. Pyramid Pecan Grove, Lena S.C.

Rebecca Jane Grant, ninety-two year old resident of

Lena, S.C.





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