Robert Glenn

N. C. District: No. 2 [320020]

Worker: T. Pat Matthews

No. Words: 2,118


Story Teller: Robert Glenn

Editor: George L. Andrews

[TR: Date Stamp "SEP 10 1937"]

ROBERT GLENN 207 Idlewild Avenue Raleigh, North Carolina.

I was a slave before and during the Civil War. I am 87 years old. I was

born Sept. 16, 1850. I was born in Orange County, North Carolina near

Hillsboro. At that time Durham was just a platform at the station and no

house there whatever. The platform was lighted with a contraption shaped

like a basket and burning coal that gave off a blaze. There were holes

in this metal basket for the cinders to fall through.

I belonged to a man named Bob Hall, he was a widower. He had three

sons, Thomas, Nelson, and Lambert. He died when I was eight years old

and I was put on the block and sold in Nelson Hall's yard by the son of

Bob Hall. I saw my brother and sister sold on this same plantation. My

mother belonged to the Halls, and father belonged to the Glenns. They

sold me away from my father and mother and I was carried to the state of

Kentucky. I was bought by a Negro speculator by the name of Henry long

who lived not far from Hurdles Mill in Person County. I was not allowed

to tell my mother and father goodbye. I was bought and sold three times

in one day.

My father's time was hired out and as he knew a trade he had by working

overtime saved up a considerable amount of money. After the speculator,

Henry Long, bought me, mother went to father and pled with him to buy me

from him and let the white folks hire me out. No slave could own a

slave. Father got the consent and help of his owners to buy me and they

asked Long to put me on the block again. Long did so and named his price

but when he learned who had bid me off he backed down. Later in the day

he put me on the block and named another price much higher than the

price formerly set. He was asked by the white folks to name his price

for his bargain and he did so. I was again put on the auction block and

father bought me in, putting up the cash. Long then flew into a rage and

cursed my father saying, 'you damn black son of a bitch, you think you

are white do you? Now just to show you are black, I will not let you

have your son at any price.' Father knew it was all off, mother was

frantic but there was nothing they could do about it. They had to stand

and see the speculator put me on his horse behind him and ride away

without allowing either of them to tell me goodbye. I figure I was sold

three times in one day, as the price asked was offered in each instance.

Mother was told under threat of a whupping not to make any outcry when I

was carried away. He took me to his home, but on the way he stopped for

refreshments, at a plantation, and while he was eating and drinking, he

put me into a room where two white women were spinning flax. I was given

a seat across the room from where they were working. After I had sat

there awhile wondering where I was going and thinking about mother and

home, I went to one of the women and asked, 'Missus when will I see my

mother again?' She replied, I don't know child, go and sit down. I went

back to my seat and as I did so both the women stopped spinning for a

moment, looked at each other, and one of them remarked. "Almighty God,

this slavery business is a horrible thing. Chances are this boy will

never see his mother again." This remark nearly killed me, as I began to

fully realize my situation. Long, the Negro trader, soon came back, put

me on his horse and finished the trip to his home. He kept me at his

home awhile and then traded me to a man named William Moore who lived in

Person County. Moore at this time was planning to move to Kentucky which

he soon did, taking me with him. My mother found out by the "Grapevine

telegraph" that I was going to be carried to Kentucky. She got

permission and came to see me before they carried me off. When she

started home I was allowed to go part of the way with her but they sent

two Negro girls with us to insure my return. We were allowed to talk

privately, but while we were doing so, the two girls stood a short

distance away and watched as the marster told them when they left that

if I escaped they would be whipped every day until I was caught. When

the time of parting came and I had to turn back, I burst out crying

loud. I was so weak from sorrow I could not walk, and the two girls who

were with me took me by each arm and led me along half carrying me.

This man Moore carried me and several other slaves to Kentucky. We

traveled by train by way of Nashville, Tenn. My thoughts are not

familiar with the happenings of this trip but I remember that we walked

a long distance at one place on the trip from one depot to another.

We finally reached Kentucky and Moore stopped at his brother's

plantation until he could buy one, then we moved on it. My marster was

named William Moore and my missus was named Martha Whitfield Moore. It

was a big plantation and he hired a lot of help and had white tenants

besides the land he worked with slaves. There were only six slaves used

as regular field hands during his first year in Kentucky.

The food was generally common. Hog meat and cornbread most all the

time. Slaves got biscuits only on Sunday morning. Our clothes were poor

and I worked barefooted most of the time, winter and summer. No books,

papers or anything concerning education was allowed the slaves by his

rules and the customs of these times.

Marster Moore had four children among whom was one boy about my age.

The girls were named Atona, Beulah, and Minnie, and the boy was named

Crosby. He was mighty brilliant. We played together. He was the only

white boy there, and he took a great liking to me, and we loved each

devotedly. Once in an undertone he asked me how would I like to have an

education. I was overjoyed at the suggestion and he at once began to

teach me secretly. I studied hard and he soon had me so I could read and

write well. I continued studying and he continued teaching me. He

furnished me books and slipped all the papers he could get to me and I

was the best educated Negro in the community without anyone except the

slaves knowing what was going on.

All the slaves on marster's plantation lived the first year we spent in

Kentucky in a one room house with one fireplace. There was a dozen or

more who all lived in this one room house. Marster built himself a large

house having seven rooms. He worked his slaves himself and never had any

overseers. We worked from sun to sun in the fields and then worked at

the house after getting in from the fields as long as we could see. I

have never seen a patteroller but when I left the plantation in slavery

time I got a pass. I have never seen a jail for slaves but I have seen

slaves whipped and I was whipped myself. I was whipped particularly

about a saddle I left out in the night after using it during the day. My

flesh was cut up so bad that the scars are on me to this day.

We were not allowed to have prayer meetings, but we went to the white

folks church to services sometimes. There were no looms, mills, or shops

on the plantation at Marster Moore's. I kept the name of Glenn through

all the years as Marster Moore did not change his slaves names to his

family name. My mother was named Martha Glenn and father was named Bob


I was in the field when I first heard of the Civil War. The woman who

looked after Henry Hall and myself (both slaves) told me she heard

marster say old Abraham Lincoln was trying to free the niggers. Marster

finally pulled me up and went and joined the Confederate Army. Kentucky

split and part joined the North and part the South. The war news kept

slipping through of success for first one side then the other. Sometimes

marster would come home, spend a few days and then go again to the war.

It seemed he influenced a lot of men to join the southern army, among

them was a man named Enoch Moorehead. Moorehead was killed in a few days

after he joined the southern army.

Marster Moore fell out with a lot of his associates in the army and

some of them who were from the same community became his bitter enemies.

Tom Foushee was one of them. Marster became so alarmed over the threats

on his life made by Foushee and others that he was afraid to stay in his

own home at night, and he built a little camp one and one half miles

from his home and he and missus spent their nights there on his visits

home. Foushee finally came to the great house one night heavily armed,

came right on into the house and inquired for marster. We told him

marster was away. Foushee lay down on the floor and waited a long time

for him. Marster was at the little camp but we would not tell where he


Foushee left after spending most of the night at marster's. As he went

out into the yard, when leaving, marster's bull dog grawled at him and

he shot him dead.

Marster went to Henderson, Kentucky, the County seat of Henderson

County, and surrendered to the Federal Army and took the Oath of

Allegiance. Up to that time I had seen a few Yankees. They stopped now

and then at marster's and got their breakfast. They always asked about

buttermilk, they seemed to be very fond of it. They were also fond of

ham, but we had the ham meat buried in the ground, this was about the

close of the war. A big army of Yankees came through a few months later

and soon we heard of the surrender. A few days after this marster told

me to catch two horses that we had to go to Dickenson which was the

County seat of Webster County. On the way to Dickenson he said to me,

'Bob, did you know you are free and Lincoln has freed you? You are as

free as I am.' We went to the Freedmen's Bureau and went into the

office. A Yankee officer looked me over and asked marster my name, and

informed me I was free, and asked me whether or not I wanted to keep

living with Moore. I did not know what to do, so I told him yes. A fixed

price of seventy-five dollars and board was then set as the salary I

should receive per year for my work. The Yankees told me to let him know

if I was not paid as agreed.

I went back home and stayed a year. During the year I hunted a lot at

night and thoroughly enjoyed being free. I took my freedom by degrees

and remained obedient and respectful, but still wondering and thinking

of what the future held for me. After I retired at night I made plan

after plan and built aircastles as to what I would do. At this time I

formed a great attachment for the white man, Mr. Atlas Chandler, with

whom I hunted. He bought my part of the game we caught and favored me in

other ways. Mr. Chandler had a friend, Mr. Dewitt Yarborough, who was an

adventurer, and trader, and half brother to my ex-marster, Mr. Moore,

with whom I was then staying. He is responsible for me taking myself

into my own hands and getting out of feeling I was still under

obligations to ask my marster or missus when I desired to leave the

premises. Mr. Yarborough's son was off at school at a place called

Kiloh, Kentucky, and he wanted to carry a horse to him and also take

along some other animals for trading purposes. He offered me a new pair

of pants to make the trip for him and I accepted the job. I delivered

the horse to his son and started for home. On the way back I ran into

Uncle Squire Yarborough who once belonged to Dewitt Yarborough. He

persuaded me to go home with him and go with him to a wedding in Union

County, Kentucky. The wedding was twenty miles away and we walked the

entire distance. It was a double wedding, two couples were married.

Georgianna Hawkins was married to George Ross and Steve Carter married a

woman whose name I do not remember. This was in the winter during the

Christmas Holidays and I stayed in the community until about the first

of January, then I went back home. I had been thinking for several days

before I went back home as to just what I must tell Mr. Moore and as to

how he felt about the matter, and what I would get when I got home. In

my dilema I almost forgot I was free.

I got home at night and my mind and heart was full but I was surprised

at the way he treated me. He acted kind and asked me if I was going to

stay with him next year. I was pleased. I told him, yes sir! and then I

lay down and went to sleep. He had a boss man on his plantation then and

next morning he called me, but I just couldn't wake. I seemed to be in a

trance or something, I had recently lost so much sleep. He called me the

second time and still I di [HW: d] not get up. Then he came in and

spanked my head. I jumped up and went to work feeding the stock and

splitting wood for the day's cooking and fires. I then went in and ate

my breakfast. Mr. Moore told me to hitch a team of horses to a wagon and

go to a neighbors five miles away for a load of hogs. I refused to do

so. They called me into the house and asked me what I was going to do

about it. I said I do not know. As I said that I stepped out of the

door and left. I went straight to the county seat and hired to Dr.

George Rasby in Webster County for one hundred dollars per year. I

stayed there one year. I got uneasy in Kentucky. The whites treated the

blacks awful bad so I decided to go to Illinois as I thought a Negro

might have a better chance there, it being a northern state. I was

kindly treated and soon began to save money, but all through the years

there was a thought that haunted me in my dreams and in my waking hours,

and this thought was of my mother, whom I had not seen or heard of in

many years. Finally one cold morning in early December I made a vow that

I was going to North Carolina and see my mother if she was still living.

I had plenty of money for the trip. I wrote the postmaster in Roxboro,

North Carolina, asking him to inform my mother I was still living, and

telling him the circumstances, mailing a letter at the same time telling

her I was still alive but saying nothing of my intended visit to her. I

left Illinois bound for North Carolina on December 15th and in a few

days I was at my mother's home. I tried to fool them. There were two men

with me and they called me by a ficticious name, but when I shook my

mother's hand I held it a little too long and she suspicioned something

still she held herself until she was more sure. When she got a chance

she came to me and said ain't you my child? Tell me ain't you my child

whom I left on the road near Mr. Moore's before the war? I broke down

and began to cry. Mother nor father did not know me, but mother

suspicioned I was her child. Father had a few days previously remarked

that he did not want to die without seeing his son once more. I could

not find language to express my feeling. I did not know before I came

home whether my parents were dead or alive. This Christmas I spent in

the county and state of my birth and childhood; with mother, father and

freedom was the happiest period of my entire life, because those who

were torn apart in bondage and sorrow several years previous were now

united in freedom and happiness.


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