Violet Guntharpe

Project #1655

W.W. Dixon

Winnsboro, S.C.



"I was born a slave in de Rocky Mount part of Fairfield County, up close

to Great Falls. I hear them falls a roarin' now and I see them waters

flashin' in de sunshine when I close my eyes.

My pappy name Robert and my mammy name Phyllis. They b'long to de old

time 'ristocats, de Gaither family. Does you know Miss Mattie Martin,

which was de secretary of Governor Ansel? Dat one of my young mistresses

and another is dat pretty red headed girl in de telegraph office at

Winnsboro, dat just sit dere and pass out lightnin' and 'lectricity over

de wires wheresomever she take a notion. Does you know them? Well, befo'

their mama marry Marster Starke Martin, her was Sally Gaither, my young

missus in slavery time. Her die and go to Heaven last year, please God.

Marster Richard was a good marster to his slaves, though he took no

foolishness and worked you from sun to sun. 'Spect him had 'bout ten

family of slaves and 'bout fifty big and little slaves altogether on dat

plantation befo' them Yankees come and make a mess out of their lives.

Honey, us wasn't ready for de big change dat come! Us had no education,

no land, no mule, no cow, not a pig, nor a chicken, to set up house

keeping. De birds had nests in de air, de foxes had holes in de ground,

and de fishes had beds under de great falls, but us colored folks was

left widout any place to lay our heads.

De Yankees sho' throwed us in de briar patch but us not bred and born

dere lak de rabbit. Us born in a good log house. De cows was down dere

in de canebrakes to give us milk, de hogs was fattenin' on hickory nuts,

acorns, and shucked corn, to give us meat and grease; de sheep wid their

wool, and de cotton in de gin house was dere to give us clothes. De

horses and mules was dere to help dat corn and cotton, but when them

Yankees come and take all dat away, all us had to thank them for, was a

hungry belly, and freedom. Sumpin' us had no more use for then, than I

have today for one of them airplanes I hears flyin' 'round de sky, right


Well, after ravagin' de whole country side, de army got across old

Catawba and left de air full of de stink of dead carcasses and de sky

black wid turkey buzzards. De white women was weepin' in hushed voices,

de niggers on de place not knowin' what to do next, and de piccaninnies

suckin' their thumbs for want of sumpin' to eat; mind you 'twas winter

time too.

Lots of de chillun die, as did de old folks, while de rest of us scour

de woods for hickory nuts, acorns, cane roots, and artichokes, and seine

de river for fish. De worst nigger men and women follow de army. De

balance settle down wid de white folks and simmer in their misery all

thru de spring time, 'til plums, mulberries, and blackberries come, and

de shad come up de Catawba River.

My mammy stay on wid de same marster 'til I was grown, dat is fifteen,

and Thad got to lookin' at me, meek as a sheep and dumb as a calf. I had

to ask dat nigger, right out, what his 'tentions was, befo' I get him to

bleat out dat he love me. Him name Thad Guntharpe. I glance at him one

day at de pigpen when I was sloppin' de hogs, I say: 'Mr. Guntharpe, you

follows me night and mornin' to dis pigpen; do you happen to be in love

wid one of these pigs? If so, I'd like to know which one 'tis; then

sometime I come down here by myself and tell dat pig 'bout your

'fections.' Thad didn't say nothin' but just grin. Him took de slop

bucket out of my hand and look at it, all 'round it, put upside down on

de ground, and set me down on it; then he fall down dere on de grass by

me and blubber out and warm my fingers in his hands. I just took pity on

him and told him mighty plain dat he must limber up his tongue and ask

sumpin', say what he mean, wantin' to visit them pigs so often. Us carry

on foolishness 'bout de little boar shoat pig and de little sow pig,

then I squeal in laughter over how he scrouge so close; de slop bucket

tipple over and I lost my seat. Dat ever remain de happiest minute of my

eighty-two years.

After us marry, us moved on de Johnson Place and Thad plow right on a

farm where dere use to be a town of Grimkeville. I was lonely down dere

all de time. I's halfway scared to death of de skeeters 'bout my legs in

day time and old Captain Thorn's ghost in de night time. You never heard

'bout dat ghost? If you went to school to Mr. Luke Ford sure he must of

tell you 'bout de time a slave boy killed his marster, old Captain

Thorn. He drag and throwed his body in de river.

When they find his body they ketch John, de slave boy, give him a trial

by six white men, find him guilty and he confess. Then they took de

broad axe, cut off his head, mount it on a pole and stick it up on de

bank where they find old Captain Thorn. Dat pole and head stay dere 'til

it rot down. Captain Thorn's ghost 'pear and disappear 'long dat river

bank ever since in de night time. My pappy tell me he see it and see de

boy's ghost too.

De ghost rode de minds of many colored folks. Some say dat de ghost had

a heap to do wid deaths on dat river, by drowning. One sad thing happen;

de ghost and de malaria run us off de river. Us moved to Marster Starke

P. Martin's place. Him was a settin' at a window in de house one night

and somebody crept up dere and fill his head full of buck-shot. Marster

Starke was Miss Sallie's husband, and Miss Mattie and Miss May's papa.

Oh, de misery of dat night to my white folks! Who did it? God knows!

They sent poor Henry Nettles to de penitentiary for it, but most white

folks and all de colored didn't believe he done it. White folks say a

white man done it, but our color know it was de work of dat slave boy's


My white folks come here from Maryland, I heard them say. They fought in

de Revolution, set up a tanyard when they got here, and then when cotton

come, my marster's pappy was de fust to put up a hoss-gin and screw pit

in Rocky Mount section. I glories in their blood, but dere none by de

name 'round here now, 'cept colored folks.

Marster Wood you read a heap of books. Did you ever read 'bout foots of

ghosts? They got foots and can jump and walk. No they don't run, why?

'Cause seem lak their foots is too big. Dat night Marster Starke Martin

was killed it was a snowin'. De whole earth was covered wid a white

blanket. It snowed and snowed and snowed. Us measure how big dat snow

was next mornin' and how big dat ghost track. De snow was seven inches,

and a little bit deep. De ghost track on top de snow big as a

elephant's. Him or she or it's tracks 'pear to drap wid de snow and just

rise up out de snow and disappear. De white folks say 'twas a man wid

bags on his foots, but they never found de bags, so I just believe it

was ghost instigate by de devil to drap down dere and make all dat

misery for my white folks.

Dere's a great day a comin' when de last trumpet will sound and de devil

and all de ghosts will be chained and they can't romp 'round de old

river and folks houses in de night time and bring sorrow and pain in de

wake of them big tracks."

Viola Bowling Violet Shaw facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail