Sam Kilgore

SAM KILGORE, 92, was born a slave of John Peacock, of Williams

County, Tennessee, who owned one of the largest plantations in the

south. When he was eight years old, Sam accompanied his master to

England for a three-year stay. Sam was in the Confederate Army and

also served in the Spanish-American War. He came to Fort Worth in

1889 and learned cement work. In 1917 he started a cement

contracting business which he still operates. He lives at 1211 E.

Cannon St., Fort Worth, Texas.

"You asks me when I's born and was I born a slave. Well, I's born on

July 17, 1845, so I's a slave for twenty years, and had three massas.

I's born in Williamson County, near Memphis, in Tennessee. Massa John

Peacock owned de plantation and am it de big one! Dere am a thousand

acres and 'bout a thousand slaves.

"De slave cabins am in rows, twenty in de first row and eighteen in de

second and sixteen in de third. Den dere am house servants quarters near

de big house. De cabins am logs and not much in dem but homemade tables

and benches and bunks 'side de wall. Each family has dere own cabin and

sometimes dere am ten or more in de family, so it am kind of crowded.

But massa am good and let dem have de family life, and once each week de

rations am measure out by a old darky what have charge de com'sary, and

dere am allus plenty to eat.

"But dem eats ain't like nowadays. It am home-cured meat and mostly

cornmeal, but plenty veg'tables and 'lasses and brown sugar. Massa

raised lots of hawgs, what am Berkshires and Razorbacks. Razorback meat

am 'sidered de best and sweetest.

"De work stock am eighty head of mules and fifty head of hosses and

fifteen yoke of oxen. It took plenty feed for all dem and massa have de

big field of corn, far as we could see. De plantation am run on system

and everything clean and in order, not like lots of plantations with

tools scattered 'round and dirt piles here and there. De chief overseer

am white and de second overseers am black. Stien was nigger overseer in

de shoemakin' and harness, and Aunty Darkins am overseer of de spinnin'

and weavin'.

"Dat place am so well manage dat whippin's am not nec'sary. Massa have

he own way of keepin' de niggers in line. If dey bad he say, 'I 'spect

dat nigger driver comin' round tomorrow and I's gwine sell you.' Now,

when a nigger git in de hands of de nigger driver it am de big chance

he'll git sold to de cruel massa, and dat make de niggers powerful

skeert, so dey 'haves. On de next plantation we'd hear de niggers

pleadin' when dey's whipped, 'Massa, have mercy,' and sich. Our massa

allus say, 'Boys, you hears dat mis'ry and we don't want no sich on dis

place and it am up to you.' So us all 'haves ourselves.

"When I's four years old I's took to de big house by young Massa Frank,

old massa's son. He have me for de errand boy and, I guess, for de

plaything. When I gits bigger I's his valet and he like me and I sho'

like him. He am kind and smart, too, and am choosed from nineteen other

boys to go to England and study at de mil'tary 'cademy. I's 'bout eight

when we starts for Liverpool. We goes from Memphis to Newport and takes

de boat, Bessie. It am a sailboat and den de fun starts for sho'. It am

summer and not much wind and sometimes we jus' stand still day after day

in de fog so thick we can't see from one end de boat to de other.

"I'll never forgit dat trip. When we gits far out on de water, I's dead

sho' we'll never git back to land again. First I takes de seasick and

dat am something. If there am anything worser it can't be stood! It

ain't possible to 'splain it, but I wants to die, and if dey's anything

worser dan dat seasick mis'ry, I says de Lawd have mercy on dem. I can't

'lieve dere am so much stuff in one person, but plenty come out of me. I

mos' raised de ocean! When dat am over I gits homesick and so do Massa

Frank. I cries and he tries to 'sole me and den he gits tears in he

eyes. We am weeks on dat water, and good old Tennessee am allus on our


"When we gits to England it am all right, but often we goes down to de

wharf and looks over de cotton bales for dat Memphis gin mark. Couple

times Massa Frank finds some and he say, 'Here a bale from home, Sam,'

with he voice full of joy like a kid what find some candy. We stands

round dat bale and wonders if it am raised on de plantation.

"But we has de good time after we gits 'quainted and I seed lots and

gits to know some West India niggers. But we's ready to come home and

when we gits dere it am plenty war. Massa Frank jines de 'Federate Army

and course I's his valet and goes with him, right over to Camp

Carpenter, at Mobile. He am de lieutenant under General Gordon and befo'

long dey pushes him higher. Fin'ly he gits notice he am to be a colonel

and dat sep'rates us, 'cause he has to go to Floridy. 'I's gwine with

you,' I says, for I thinks I 'longs to him and he 'longs to me and can't

nothing part us. But he say, 'You can't go with me this time. Dey's

gwine put you in de army.' Den I cries and he cries.

"I's seventeen years old when I puts my hand on de book and am a sojer.

I talks to my captain 'bout Massa Frank and wants to go to see him. But

it wasn't more'n two weeks after he leaves dat him was kilt. Dat am de

awful shock to me and it am a long time befo' I gits over it. I allus

feels if I'd been with him maybe I could save his life.

"My company am moved to Birmingham and builds breastworks. Dey say Gen.

Lee am comin' for a battle but he didn't ever come and when I been back

to see dem breastworks, dey never been used. We marches north to

Lexington, in Kentuck' but am gone befo' de battle to Louisville. We

comes back to Salem, in Georgia, but I's never in no big battle, only

some skirmishes now and den. We allus fixes for de battles and builds

bridges and doesn't fight much.

"I goes back after de war to Memphis. My mammy am on de Kilgore place

and Massa Kilgore takes her and my pappy and two hundred other slaves

and comes to Texas. Dat how I gits here. He settles at de place called

Kilgore, and it was named after him, but in 1867 he moves to Cleburne.

"Befo' we moved to Texas de Klu Kluxers done burn my mammy's house and

she lost everything. Dey was 'bout $100 in greenbacks in dat house and a

three hundred pound hawg in de pen, what die from de heat. We done run

to Massa Rodger's house. De riders gits so bad dey come most any time

and run de cullud folks off for no cause, jus' to be orn'ry and plunder

de home. But one day I seed Massa Rodgers take a dozen guns out his

wagon and he and some white men digs a ditch round de cotton field close

to de road. Couple nights after dat de riders come and when dey gits

near dat ditch a volley am fired and lots of dem draps off dey hosses.

Dat ended de Klux trouble in dat section.

"After I been in Texas a year I jines de Fed'ral Army for de Indian war.

I's in de transportation division and drives oxen and mules, haulin'

supplies to de forts. We goes to Fort Griffin and Dodge City and

Laramie, in Wyoming. Dere am allus two or three hundred sojers with us,

to watch for Indian attacks. Dey travels on hosses, 'head, 'side and

'hind de wagon. One day de Sent'nel reports Indians am round so we gits

hid in de trees and bresh. On a high ledge off to de west we sees de

Indians travelin' north, two abreast. De lieutenant say he counted 'bout

seven hundred but dey sho' missed us, or maybe I'd not be here today.

"I stays in de service for seven years and den goes back to Johnson

County, farmin' on de Rodgers place, and stays till I comes to Fort

Worth in 1889. Den I gits into 'nother war, de Spanish 'merican War. But

I's in de com'sary work so don't see much fightin'. In all dem wars I

sees most no fightin', 'cause I allus works with de supplies.

"After dat war I goes to work laborin' for buildin' contractors. I works

for sev'ral den gits with Mr. Bardon and larns de cement work with him.

He am awful good man to work for, dat John Bardon. Fin'ly I starts my

own cement business and am still runnin' it. My health am good and I's

allus on de job, 'cause dis home I owns has to be kept up. It cost

sev'ral thousand dollars and I can't 'ford to neglect it.

"I's married twict. I marries Mattie Norman in 1901 and sep'rates in

1904. She could spend more money den two niggers could shovel it in. Den

I marries Lottie Young in 1909, but dere am no chillens. I's never dat


"I's voted ev'ry 'lection and 'lieves it de duty for ev'ry citizen to


"Now, I's told you everything from Genesis to Rev'lations, and it de

truth, as I 'members it.

Sam Keaton Sam Miller facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail