Sylvia Cannon

Code No.

Project, 1885-(1)

Prepared by Annie Ruth Davis

Place, Marion, S. C.

Date, October 5, 1937

No. Words

Reduced from ---- words

Rewritten by ----


Ex-Slave, Age 85

"Yes, mam, I been a little small girl in slavery time. I just can

remember when I was sold. Me en Becky en George. Just can remember dat,

but I know who bought me. First belong to de old Bill Greggs en dat whe'

Miss Earlie Hatchel bought me from. Never did know whe' Becky en George

went. Yes, mam, de Bill Greggs had a heap of slaves cause dey had my

grandmammy en my granddaddy en dey had a heap of chillun. My mammy, she

belong to de Greggs too. She been Mr. Gregg's cook en I de one name

after her. I remembers she didn' talk much to we chillun. Mostly, she

did sing bout all de time. Most of de old people sing bout;

'O Heaven, sweet Heaven,

When shall I see?

If you get dere fore me,

You tell my Lord I on de way.

O shall I get dere?

If you get dere fore I do,

You tell My Lord I on de way.

O Heaven, sweet Heaven,

When shall I see?

O when shall I get dere?'

"Oh, dat be a old song what my grandmammy used to sing way back dere."

"I don' know exactly how old I is cause de peoples used to wouldn' tell

dey chillun how old dey was fore dey was grown. I just ain' able to say

bout my right age, but I know my sister was older den me en she de one

keep count us chillun age. She told me I be bout 84 or 85 years old, so

my sister tell me. She done gone en left me en I try to keep count, but

I don' know. Dere been bout 14 head of we chillun en dey all gone but

me. I de last one. I can tell you dis much, I was just a little small

girl when Miss Earlie Hatchel bought me en she wouldn' let me hold de

baby cause she was 'fraid I would drop it. I just set dere on de floor

en set de baby 'tween my legs, but my Lord, Miss Hatchel been so good to

me dat I stay on dere wid her 8 years after freedom come. Miss Hatchel

tell me I better stay on dere whe' I can get flour bread to eat. Yes,

mam, never got a whippin in all my life. Miss Hatchel, she shake me by

de shoulders once or twice, but never didn' whip me in all my life dat I

knows of. Dat de reason, when my parents come after me, I hide under de

bed. My mammy, she went in de name of Hatchel en all her chillun went in

de name of Hatchel right down dere in de Effingham section."

"No, honey, don' nobody be here wid me. Stays right here by myself. Digs

in de garden in de day en comes in de house at night. Yes, mam, I

thought dis house been belong to me, but dey tell me dis here place be

city property. Rich man up dere in Florence learn bout I was worth over

$1500.00 en he tell me dat I ought to buy a house dat I was gettin old.

Say he had a nice place he want to sell me. I been learned dat what

white folks tell me, I must settle down on it en I give him de money en

tell him give me de place he say he had to sell me. I been trust white

folks en he take my money en settle me down here on city property. He

say, 'Mom Sylvia, you stay here long as you live cause you ain' gwine be

here much longer.' I promise my God right den not to save no more money,

child. People back dere didn' spend money like dey do dese days en dat

how-come I had dat money. Dey would just spend money once a year in dat

day en time. Yes, mam, I pay dat man over $900.00. Been payin on it long

time en got it all paid but $187.00 en city find out what dat man had

done. City tell me just stay on right here, but don' pay no more money

out. Dey give me dat garden en tell me what I make I can have.

Courthouse man tell me dat I ought to drop my thanks to de Heavenly

Father dat I is free. If de town picks up any sick person, dey bring dem

here en tell me do de best I can for dem. Tell me to keep good order so

de people won' be shame to come en see bout me. Got two houses dere join

together. Dere be four rooms in dis front one en three in de other

house. Woman go up north en leave her things here en tell me if she ain'

come back, I could have dem en she ain' come back yet. Been gone two


"Yes, mam, I been married twice. First husband die en den another sick

man come along en ax de city for me. I work on him en make teas for him,

but he die in bout two years. I beg de town to let me go out to de poor

farm en stay, but dey say I done pay too much to move. Tell me stay on

here en keep de house up de best way I can.

"No'um, I ain' able to do no kind of work much. No more den choppin my

garden. Can' hardly see nothin on a sunny day. I raise my own seed all

right cause sometimes I can' see en find myself is cut up things en dat

make me has to plant over another time. City tell me do like I was raise

en so I been choppin here bout 20 years."

"Oh, now go way from here. My son born in de year of de earthquake en if

he had lived, I would been bless wid plenty grandchillun dese days. Yes,

mam, I remember all bout de shake. Dey tell me one man, Mr. Turner, give

way his dog two or three days fore de earthquake come en dat dog get

loose en come back de night of de shake. Come back wid chain tied round

his neck en Mr. Turner been scared most to death, so dey tell me. He

say, 'Oh, Mr. Devil, don' put de chain on me, I'll go wid you.' Dat was

his dog come back en he thought it was de devil come dere to put de

chain on him. Yes, mam, dere was such a cuttin up every which a way

cause de people thought it was de Jedgment comin. I went a runnin dere

to de white folks house en such a prayin en a hollerin, I ain' never see

de like fore den en ain' see it since den neither. Dere was stirrin

everywhe' dat night en de water in de well was just a slashin. I tried

to pray like de rest of de people. Some say dey was ready to get on de

old ship of Zion. I cut loose from de white folks en went in de woods to

pray en see a big snake en I ain' been back since. I know dat ain' been

nothin but a omen en I quit off cuttin up. I know it ain' been no need

in me gwine on like dat cause I ain' never do no harms dat I knows of."

"Yes, mam, white folks had to whip some of dey niggers in slavery time,

dey be so mean. Hear tell bout some of dem would run away en go in de

woods en perish to death dere fore dey would come out en take a whippin.

Some was mean cause dey tell stories on one another en been swear to it.

My mammy tell me don' never tell nothin but de truth en I won' get no

whippin. I been raise up wid de white folks en I tell de truth, I can'

hardly stand no colored people."

"Oh, honey, dere won' no such thing as cotton mill, train, sawmill or

nothin like dat in my day. People had to set dere at night en pick de

seed out de cotton wid dey own hands. Didn' hear tell bout no telephone

nowhe' in dem days en people never live no closer den three en four

miles apart neither. Got old Massa horn right in dat room dere now dat

he could talk on to people dat be 16 miles from whe' he was. Come in

here, child, en I'll let you see it. See, dis old horn been made out of

silver money. You talks in dat little end en what you say runs out dat

big end. Man ax me didn' I want to sell it en I tell him I ain' got no

mind to get rid of it cause it been belong to old Massa. Den if I get

sick, I call on it en somebody come. Wouldn' take nothin for it, honey."

"Times was sho better long time ago den dey be now. I know it. Yes, mam,

I here frettin myself to death after dem dat gone. Colored people never

had no debt to pay in slavery time. Never hear tell bout no colored

people been put in jail fore freedom. Had more to eat en more to wear

den en had good clothes all de time cause white folks furnish

everything, everything. Dat is, had plenty to eat such as we had. Had

plenty peas en rice en hog meat en rabbit en' fish en such as dat.

Colored people sho fare better in slavery time be dat de white folks had

to look out for dem. Had dey extra crop what dey had time off to work

every Saturday. White folks tell dem what dey made, dey could have.

Peoples would have found we colored people rich wid de money we made on

de extra crop, if de slaves hadn' never been set free. Us had big rolls

of money en den when de Yankees come en change de money, dat what made

us poor. It let de white people down en let us down too. Left us all to

bout starve to death. Been force to go to de fish pond en de huckleberry

patch. Land went down to $1.00 a acre. White people let us clear up new

land en make us own money dat way. We bury it in de ground en dat

how-come I had money. I dig mine up one day en had over $1500.00 dat I

been save. Heap of peoples money down dere yet en dey don' know whe' to

find it."

Source: Sylvia Cannon, age 85, ex-slave, Marion St., Florence,

S. C.

Personal interview by Annie Ruth Davis, October, 1937.

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