Zeb Crowder

N. C. District: No. 2 [320239]

Worker: T. Pat Matthews

No. Words: 1,414


Story Teller: Zeb Crowder

Editor: Daisy Bailey Waitt

[TR: Date Stamp "JUN 30 1937"]


323 E. Cabarrus Street

I wont nuthin' in slavery time and I aint nuthin' now. All de work I am

able ter do now is a little work in de garden. Dey say I is too ole ter

work, so charity gives me a little ter go upon every week. For one weeks

'lowance o' sumptin' ter eat dey gives me, hold on, I will show you, dat

beats guessin'. Here it is: 1/2 peck meal (corn meal), 2 lbs oat meal, 2

lb dry skim milk, and 1 lb plate meat. Dis is what I gits fer one week

'lowance. I can't work much, but de white folks gib me meals fur washin'

de woodwork in dere houses, de white folks in Hayes's Bottom. What

little I do, I does fer him. He gives me meals for workin'. De charity

gives me about 80 cts worth o' rations a week.

I wus seven years old when de Yankees come through. All de niggers

'cept me an' de white folks ran to de woods. I didn't have sense enough

ter run, so I stayed on de porch where dey were passin' by. One of 'em

pointed his gun at me. I remember it as well as it was yisterday. Yes

sir, I seed de Yankees and I remember de clothes dey wore. Dey were blue

and dere coats had capes on' em and large brass buttons. De niggers and

white folks were afraid of' em. De ole house where dey came by, an' me

on de porch is still standin', yes sir, and dey are livin' in it now. It

belongs to Ralph Crowder, and he has a fellow by de name o' Edward, a

colored man, livin' dere now. De house is de udder side o' Swift Creek,

right at Rands Mill. I belonged ter ole man William Crowder durin'

slavery, Tom Crowder's daddy. Ralph is Tom's son. My missus wus named

Miss Melvina an' if I lives ter be a hundred years old I will never

forget dem white folks. Yes sir, dey shore wus good ter us. We had good

food, good clothes and a good place ter sleep.

My mother died before de war, but Miss Melvina wus so good ter us we

didn't know so much difference. Mother wus de first person I remember

seein' dead. When she died Miss Melvina, marster's wife, called us

chillun in and says, 'Chillun your mother is dead, but anything in dis

kitchen you wants ter eat go take it, but don't slip nuthin'. If you slip

it you will soon be stealin' things.' I had four brothers and one

sister, and none of us never got into trouble 'bout stealin'. She taught

us ter let other people's things alone.

My father wus named Waddy Crowder. My mother wus named Neelie Crowder.

Grandpa was named Jacob Crowder and grandma was named Sylvia Crowder. I

know dem jist as good as if it wus yisterday.

Never went ter school a day in my life. I can't read an' write. Dey

would not 'low slaves ter have books, no sir reee, no, dat dey wouldn't.

We went wid de white folks to church; dey were good ter us, dat's de

truth. Dere aint many people dat knows 'bout dem good times. Dey had a

lot o' big dinners and when de white folks got through I would go up and

eat all I wanted.

I 'member choppin' cotton on Clabber branch when I wus a little boy

before de surrender. When de surrender come I didn't like it. Daddy an'

de udders didn't like it, 'cause after de surrender dey had to pay

marster fer de meat an' things. Before dat dey didn't have nuthin' to do

but work. Dere were eight slaves on de place in slavery time. Clabber

branch run into Swift Creek. Lord have mercy, I have caught many a fish

on dat branch. I also piled brush in de winter time. Birds went in de

brush ter roost. Den we went bird blindin'. We had torches made o'

lightwood splinters, and brushes in our han's, we hit de piles o' brush

after we got 'round 'em. When de birds come out we would kill 'em. Dere

were lots o' birds den. We killed' em at night in the sage fields[5]

where broom grass was thick. Dem were de good times. No sich times now.

We killed robins, doves, patridges and other kinds o' birds. Dey aint

no such gangs o' birds now. We briled 'em over coals o' fire and fried

'em in fryin' pans, and sometimes we had a bird stew, wid all de birds

we wanted. De stew wus de bes' o' all. Dere aint no sich stews now. We

put flour in de stew. It was made into pastry first, and we called it

slick. When we cooked chicken wid it we called it chicken slick.

Dere were no overseers on our plantation. Marster wouldn't let you have

any money on Sunday. He would not trade on Sunday. He would not handle

money matters on Monday, but 'ceptin' dese two days if you went to him

he would keep you. He was who a good ole man. Dat's de truf.

The Ku Klux would certainly work on you. If dey caught you out of your

place dey would git wid you. I don't remember anything 'bout de

Freedman's Bureau but de Ku Klux Klan was something all niggers wus

scared of. Yes sir, dey would get wid you. Dats right. Ha! Ha! Dat's


I never seen a slave whupped, no sir, I never see a slave sold. I saw

de speculators do'. I saw de patterollers, but dey didn't never whup my

daddy. Dey run him one time, but dey couldn't cotch him. Marster Crowder

allus give daddy a pass when he asked fer it.

I believe ole marster an' ole missus went right on ter Heaven, Yes, I

do believe dat. Dat's de truf. Yes, my Lawd, I would like to see' em

right now. Dere is only one o' de old crowd livin', an' dat is Miss

Cora. She stays right here in Raleigh.

We used to have candy pullin's, an' I et more ash cakes den anybody. We

cooked ash cakes out o' meal. We had dances in de winter time, and other

plays. I played marbles an' runnin' an' jumpin' when I wus a chile. Dey

give us sasafrac tea sweetened to eat wid bread. It shore wus mighty

good. My father never married enny more. He settled right down after de

war and farmed fer his old marster and all we chillun stayed. We didn't

want ter leave, an' I would be wid 'em right now if dey wus livin'.

I got married when I wus 21 years old, and moved ter myself in a little

house on de plantation. De house is standin' dere now, de house where I

lived den. I seed it de udder day when I went out dere to clean off my

wife's grave. I married Lula Hatcher. She died 'bout ten years ago. I

married her in Georgia. I stayed dere a long time when missus' brother,

Wiley Clemmons, went ter Georgia ter run turpentine an' tuck me wid him.

I stayed dere till he died; an' Mr. Tom Crowder went after him an'

brought him back home an' buried him at de ole home place. He is buried

right dere at de Crowder place.

I have worked wid some o' de Crowders mos' all my life and I miss dem

people, when one of 'em dies. Dey allus give my daddy outside patches,

and he made good on it. He cleaned up seven acres, and do you know how

he fenced it? Wid nuthin' but bresh. An' hogs an' cows didn't go in dere

neither. We had lots o' game ter eat. Marster 'lowed my daddy ter hunt

wid a gun, and he killed a lot o' rabbits, squirrels, an' game. We

trapped birds an' caught rabbits in boxes. Daddy caught possums an'

coons wid dogs. One o' my brothers is livin' at Garner, N. C. I am four

years older den he is. From what little judgment I got I thought a right

smart o' Abraham Lincoln, but I tells you de truf Mr. Roosevelt has done

a lot o' good. Dats de truf. I likes him.

[Footnote 5: The Negroes call the tall grass sage.]


Zack Herndon Zek Brown facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail