Sarah Woods Burke





James Immel, Reporter



Folklore

Washington County, District Three



SARAH WOODS BURKE

Aged 85





"Yessir, I guess you all would call me an ex-slave cause I was born in

Grayson County, West Virginia and on a plantation I lived for quite a

spell, that is until when I was seven years old when we all moved up

here to Washington county."



"My Pappy's old Mammy was supposed to have been sold into slavery when

my Pappy was one month old and some poor white people took him ter

raise. We worked for them until he was a growed up man, also 'til they

give him his free papers and 'lowed him to leave the plantation and come

up here to the North."



"How did we live on the plantation? Well--you see it was like this we

lived in a log cabin with the ground for floors and the beds were built

against the walls jus' like bunks. I 'member that the slaves had a hard

time getting food, most times they got just what was left over or

whatever the slaveholder wanted to give them so at night they would slip

outa their cabins on to the plantation and kill a pig, a sheep or some

cattle which they would butcher in the woods and cut up. The wimmin

folks would carry the pieces back to the cabins in their aprons while

the men would stay behind and bury the head, skin and feet."



"Whenever they killed a pig they would have to skin it, because they

didn't dare to build a fire. The women folk after getting home would put

the meat in special dug trenches and the men would come erlong and cover

it up."



"The slave holders in the port of the country I came from was men and it

was quite offen that slaves were tied to a whipping stake and whipped

with a blacksnake until the blood ran down their bodies."



"I remembers quite clearly one scene that happened jus' afore I left

that there part of the country. At the slaveholders home on the

plantation I was at it was customary for the white folks to go to church

on Sunday morning and to leave the cook in charge. This cook had a habit

of making cookies and handing them out to the slaves before the folks

returned. Now it happened that on one Sunday for some reason or tother

the white folks returned before the regular time and the poor cook did

not have time to get the cookies to the slaves so she just hid then in a

drawer that was in a sewing chair."



"The white folks had a parrot that always sat on top of a door in this

room and when the mistress came in the room the mean old bird hollered

out at the top of his voice, 'Its in the rocker. It's in the rocker'.

Well the Missus found the cookies and told her husband where upon the

husband called his man that done the whipping and they tied the poor

cook to the stake and whipped her till she fainted. Next morning the

parrot was found dead and a slave was accused because he liked the woman

that had been whipped the day before. They whipped him than until the

blood ran down his legs."



"Spirits? Yessir I believe in them, but we warnt bothered so much by

them in them days but we was by the wild animals. Why after it got dark

we children would have to stay indoors for fear of them. The men folks

would build a big fire and I can remember my Pappy a settin on top of

the house at night with a old flint lock across his legs awaiting for

one of them critters to come close enough so he could shoot it. The

reason for him being trusted with a gun was because he had been raised

by the poor white man who worked for the slaveholder. My Pappy did not

work in the fields but drove a team of horses."



"I remembers that when we left the plantation and come to Washington

County, Ohio that we traveled in a covered wagon that had big white

horse hitched to it. The man that owned the horse was Blake Randolls. He

crossed the river 12 miles below Parkersberg. W. Va. on a ferry and went

to Stafford, Ohio, in Monroe County where we lived until I was married

at the age of 15 to Mr. Burke, by the Justice of the Peace, Edward

Oakley. A year later we moved to Curtis Ridge which is seven miles from

Stafford and we lived their for say 20 year or more. We moved to Rainbow

for a spell and then in 1918 my husband died. The old man hard luck came

around cause three years my home burned to the ground and then I came

here to live with my boy Joe and his family."



"Mr. Burke and myself raised a family of 16 chilluns and at that time my

husband worked at farming for other people at $2.00 a month and a few

things they would give him."



"My Pappy got his education from the boy of the white man he lived with

because he wasn't allowed to go to school and the white boy was very

smart and taught him just as he learned. My Pappy, fought in the Civil

War too. On which side? Well, sho nuff on the site of the North, boy."





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