W S Debnam

N. C. District: No. 2 [320240]

Worker: T. Pat Matthews

No. Words: 1025

Subject: A Slave Story

Story Teller: W. S. Debnam

Editor: Daisy Bailey Waitt

[TR: Date Stamp "JUN 30 1937"]


701 Smith Street.

Yes, I remember the Yankees coming to Raleigh. I don't know very much

about those times, I was so young, but I remember the Yankees all right

in their blue clothes; their horses, and so on. I'll be 78 years old the

8th of this comin' September an' I've heard mother an' father talk about

slavery time a whole lot. We belonged to T. R. Debnam at Eagle Rock, Wake

County. His wife was named Priscilla Debnam. My father was named Daniel

Debnam an' my mother was named Liza Debnam. My master had several

plantations an' a lot of slaves. I don't know how many, but I know he

had 'em. He fed us well; we had a good place to sleep. We had wove

clothes, enough to keep us warm. He treated me just like he had been my

father. I didn't know the difference. Marster an' missus never hit me a

lick in their lives. My mother was the house girl. Father tended

business around the house an' worked in the field sometimes. Our houses

were in marster's yard. The slave quarters were in the yard of the great

house. I don't remember going to church until after the surrender.

I remember the corn shuckin's, but not the Christmas and the fourth of

July holidays. They had a lot of whiskey at corn shuckin's and good

things to eat.

I heard pappy talk of patterollers, but I do not know what they were.

Pappy said he had to have a pass to visit on, or they would whip him if

they could ketch him. Sometimes they could not ketch a nigger they were

after. Yes, they taught us to say pappy an' mammy in them days.

I remember the coon and possum hunts an' the rabbits we caught in gums.

I remember killin' birds at night with thorn brush. When bird blindin'

we hunt 'em at night with lights from big splinters. We went to grass

patches, briars, and vines along the creeks an' low groun's where they

roosted, an' blinded 'em an' killed 'em when they come out. We cooked

'em on coals, and I remember making a stew and having dumplings cooked

with 'em. We'd flustrate the birds in their roostin' place an' when they

come out blinded by the light we hit 'em an' killed 'em with thorn brush

we carried in our han's.

Marster had a gran'son, the son of Alonza Hodge an' Arabella Hodge,

'bout my age an' I stayed with him most of the time. When Alonza Hodge

bought his son anything he bought for me too. He treated us alike. He

bought each of us a pony. We could ride good, when we were small. He let

us follow him. He let us go huntin' squirrels with him. When he shot an'

killed a squirrel he let us race to see which could get him first, while

he laughed at us.

I didn't sleep in the great house. I stayed with this white boy till

bed time then my mammy come an' got me an' carried me home. When marster

wanted us boys to go with him he would say, 'Let's go boys,' an' we

would follow him. We were like brothers. I ate with him at the table.

What they et, I et. He made the house girl wait on me just like he an'

his son was waited on.

My father stayed with marster till he died, when he was 63 an' I was

21; we both stayed right there. My white playmate's name was Richard

Hodge. I stayed there till I was married. When I got 25 years old I

married Ida Rawlson. Richard Hodge became a medical doctor, but he died

young, just before I was married.

They taught me to read an' write. After the surrender I went to free

school. When I didn't know a word I went to old marster an' he told me.

During my entire life no man can touch my morals, I was brought up by

my white folks not to lie, steal or do things immoral. I have lived a

pure life. There is nothing against me.

I remember the Yankees, yes sir, an' somethings they done. Well, I

remember the big yeller gobler they couldn't ketch. He riz an' flew an'

they shot him an' killed him. They went down to marster's store an'

busted the head outen a barrel o' molasses an' after they busted the

head out I got a tin bucket an' got it full o' molasses an' started to

the house. Then they shoved me down in the molasses. I set the bucket

down an' hit a Yankee on the leg with a dogwood stick. He tried to hit

me. The Yankees ganged around him, an' made him leave me alone, give me

my bucket o' molasses, an' I carried it on to the house. They went down

to the lot, turned out all the horses an' tuck two o' the big mules,

Kentucky mules, an' carried 'em off. One of the mules would gnaw every

line in two you tied him with, an' the other could not be rode. So next

morning after the Yankees carried 'em off they both come back home with

pieces o' lines on 'em. The mules was named, one was named Bill, an' the

other Charles. You could ride old Charles, but you couldn't ride old

Bill. He would throw you off as fast as you got on 'im.

After I was married when I was 25 years old I lived there ten years,

right there; but old marster had died an' missus had died. I stayed with

his son Nathaniel; his wife was named Drusilla.

I had five brothers, Richard, Daniel, Rogene, Lorenzo, Lumus and

myself. There wont places there for us all, an' then I left. When I left

down there I moved to Raleigh. The first man I worked fer here was

George Marsh Company, then W. A. Myatt Company an' no one else. I worked

with the Myatt Company twenty-six years; 'till I got shot.

It was about half past twelve o'clock. I was on my way home to dinner

on the 20th of December, 1935. When I was passing Patterson's Alley

entering Lenoir Street near the colored park in the 500 block something

hit me. I looked around an' heard a shot. The bullet hit me before I

heard the report of the pistol. When hit, I looked back an' heard it.

Capt. Bruce Pool, o' the Raleigh Police force, had shot at some thief

that had broken into a A&P Store an' the bullet hit me. It hit me in my

left thigh above the knee. It went through my thigh, a 38 caliber

bullet, an' lodged under the skin on the other side. I did not fall but

stood on one foot while the blood ran from the wound. A car came by in

about a half hour an' they stopped an' carried me to St. Agnes Hospital.

It was not a police car. I stayed there a week. They removed the bullet,

an' then I had to go to the hospital every day for a month. I have not

been able to work a day since. I was working with W. A. Myatt Company

when I got shot. My leg pains me now and swells up. I cannot stand on it

much. I am unable to do a day's work. Can't stand up to do a day's work.

The city paid me $200.00, an' paid my hospital bill.

Abraham Lincoln was all right. I think slavery was wrong because birds

an' things are free an' man ought to have the same privilege.

Franklin Roosevelt is a wonderful man. Men would have starved if he

hadn't helped 'em.

W M Gree Wa Anderson Interviewed By Samuel S Taylor facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail