Richard Macks


Sept. 7, 1937



Reference: Personal interview with Richard Macks, ex-slave,

at his home, 541 W. Biddle St., Baltimore.

"I was born in Charles County in Southern Maryland in the year of 1844.

My father's name was William (Bill) and Mother's Harriet Mack, both of

whom were born and reared in Charles County--the county that James

Wilkes Booth took refuge in after the assassination of President Lincoln

in 1865. I had one sister named Jenny and no brothers: let me say right

here it was God's blessing I did not. Near Bryantown, a county center

prior to the Civil War as a market for tobacco, grain and market for


"In Bryantown there were several stores, two or three taverns or inns

which were well known in their days for their hospitality to their

guests and arrangements to house slaves. There were two inns both of

which had long sheds, strongly built with cells downstairs for men and a

large room above for women. At night the slave traders would bring their

charges to the inns, pay for their meals, which were served on a long

table in the shed, then afterwards, they were locked up for the night.

"I lived with my mother, father and sister in a log cabin built of log

and mud, having two rooms; one with a dirt floor and the other above,

each room having two windows, but no glass. On a large farm or

plantation owned by an old maid by the name of Sally McPherson on

McPherson Farm.

"As a small boy and later on, until I was emancipated, I worked on the

farm doing farm work, principally in the tobacco fields and in the woods

cutting timber and firewood. I slept on a home-made bed or bunk, while

my mother and sister slept in a bed made by father on which they had a

mattress made by themselves and filled with straw, while dad slept on a

bench beside the bed and that he used in the day as a work bench,

mending shoes for the slaves and others. I have seen mother going to the

fields each day like other slaves to do her part of the farming. I being

considered as one of the household employees, my work was both in the

field and around the stable, giving me an opportunity to meet people

some of whom gave me a few pennies. By this method I earned some money

which I gave to my mother. I once found a gold dollar, that was the

first dollar I ever had in my life.

"We had nothing to eat but corn bread baked in ashes, fat back and

vegetables raised on the farm; no ham or any other choice meats; and

fish we caught out of the creeks and streams.

"My father had some very fine dogs; we hunted coons, rabbits and

opossum. Our best dog was named Ruler, he would take your hat off. If my

father said: 'Ruler, take his hat off!', he would jump up and grab your


"We had a section of the farm that the slaves were allowed to farm for

themselves, my mistress would let them raise extra food for their own

use at nights. My father was the colored overseer, he had charge of the

entire plantation and continued until he was too old to work, then

mother's brother took it over, his name was Caleb.

"When I was a boy, I saw slaves going through and to Bryansville town.

Some would be chained, some handcuffed, and others not. These slaves

were bought up from time to time to be auctioned off or sold at

Bryantown, to go to other farms, in Maryland, or shipped south.

"The slave traders would buy young and able farm men and well-developed

young girls with fine physiques to barter and sell. They would bring

them to the taverns where there would be the buyers and traders, display

them and offer them for sale. At one of these gatherings a colored girl,

a mulatto of fine stature and good looks, was put on sale. She was of

high spirits and determined disposition. At night she was taken by the

trader to his room to satisfy his bestial nature. She could not be

coerced or forced by him [TR: 'by him' lined out] so she was attacked by

him. In the struggle she grabbed a knife and with it, she

sterilized[HW:?] him and from the result of injury he died the next day.

She was charged with murder. Gen. Butler, hearing of it, sent troops to

Charles County to protect her, they brought her to Baltimore, later she

was taken to Washington where she was set free. She married a Government

employe, reared a family of 3 children, one is a doctor practicing

medicine in Baltimore and the other a retired school teacher, you know

him well if I were to tell you who the doctor is. This attack was the

result of being goodlooking, for which many a poor girl in Charles

County paid the price. There are several cases I could mention, but they

are distasteful to me.

"A certain slave would not permit this owner to whip him, who with

overseer and several others overpowered the slave, tied him, put him

across a hogshead and whipped him severely for three mornings in

succession. Some one notified the magistrate at Bryantown of the

brutality. He interfered in the treatment of this slave, threatening

punishment. He was untied, he ran away, was caught by the constable,

returned to his owner, melted sealing wax was poured over his back on

the wounds inflicted by him, when whipping, the slave ran away again and

never was caught.

"There was a doctor in the neighborhood who bought a girl and installed

her on the place for his own use, his wife hearing of it severely beat

her. One day her little child was playing in the yard. It fell head down

in a post hole filled with water and drowned. His wife left him;

afterward she said it was an affliction put on her husband for his sins.

"During hot weather we wore thin woolen clothes, the material being made

on the farm from the wool of our sheep, in the winter we wore thicker

clothes made on the farm by slaves, and for shoes our measures were

taken of each slave with a stick, they were brought to Baltimore by the

old mistress at the beginning of each season, if she or the one who did

the measuring got the shoe too short or too small you had to wear it or

go barefooted.

"We were never taught to read or write by white people.

"We had to go to the white church, sit in the rear, many times on the

floor or stand up. We had a colored preacher, he would walk 10 miles,

then walk back. I was not a member of church. We had no baptising, we

were christened by the white preacher.

"We had a graveyard on the place. Whites were buried inside of railing

and the slaves on the outside. The members of the white family had

tombstones, the colored had headstones and cedar post to show where they

were buried.

"In Charles County and in fact all of Southern Maryland tobacco was

raised on a large scale. Men, women and children had to work hard to

produce the required crops. The slaves did the work and they were driven

at full speed sometimes by the owners and others by both owner and

overseers. The slaves would run away from the farms whenever they had a

chance, some were returned and others getting away. This made it very

profitable to white men and constables to capture the runaways. This

caused trouble between the colored people and whites, especially the

free people, as some of them would be taken for slaves. I had heard of

several killings resulting from fights at night.

"One time a slave ran away and was seen by a colored man, who was

hunting, sitting on a log eating some food late in the night. He had a

corn knife with him. When his master attempted to hit him with a whip,

he retaliated with the knife, splitting the man's breast open, from

which he died. The slave escaped and was never captured. The white

cappers or patrollers in all of the counties of Southern Maryland

scoured the swamps, rivers and fields without success.

"Let me explain to you very plain without prejudice one way or the

other, I have had many opportunities, a chance to watch white men and

women in my long career, colored women have many hard battles to fight

to protect themselves from assault by employers, white male servants or

by white men, many times not being able to protect, in fear of losing

their positions. Then on the other hand they were subjected to many

impositions by the women of the household through woman's jealousy.

"I remember well when President Buchanan was elected, I was a large boy.

I came to Baltimore when General Grant was elected, worked in a livery

stable for three years, three years with Dr. Owens as a waiter and

coachman, 3 years with Mr. Thomas Winanson Baltimore Street as a butler,

3 years with Mr. Oscar Stillman of Boston, then 11 years with Mr. Robert

Garrett on Mt. Vernon Place as head butler, after which I entered the

catering business and continued until about twelve years ago. In my

career I have had the opportunity to come in contact with the best white

people and the most cultured class in Maryland and those visiting

Baltimore. This class is about gone, now we have a new group, lacking

the refinement, the culture and taste of those that have gone by.

"When I was a small boy I used to run races with other boys, play

marbles and have jumping contests.

"At nights the slaves would go from one cabin to the other, talk, dance

or play the fiddle or sing. Christmas everybody had holidays, our

mistress never gave presents. Saturdays were half-day holidays unless

planting and harvest times, then we worked all day.

"When the slaves took sick or some woman gave birth to a child, herbs,

salves, home liniments were used or a midwife or old mama was the

attendant, unless severe sickness Miss McPherson would send for the

white doctor, that was very seldom."

Richard Jackson Richard Miller facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail