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Anna Smith

From: Ohio

Geo. H. Conn, Writer
Wilbur C. Ammon, Editor
C.R. McLean, District Supervisor
June 11, 1937

Summit County, District #5


In a little old rocking chair, sits an old colored "mammy" known to her
friends as "Grandma" Smith, spending the remaining days with her
grandchildren. Small of stature, tipping the scales at about 100 lbs.
but alert to the wishes and cares of her children, this old lady keeps
posted on current events from those around her. With no stoop or bent
back and with a firm step she helps with the housework and preparing of
meals, waiting, when permitted, on others. In odd moments, she like to
work at her favorite task of "hooking" rag rugs. Never having worn
glasses, her eyesight is the envy of the younger generation. She spends
most of the time at home, preferring her rocker and pipe (she has been
smoking for more than eighty year) to a back seat in an automobile.

When referring to Civil War days, her eyes flash and words flow from her
with a fluency equal to that of any youngster. Much of her speech is
hard to understand as she reverts to the early idiom and pronunciation
of her race. Her head, tongue, arms and hands all move at the same time
as she talks.

A note of hesitancy about speaking of her past shows at times when she
realizes she is talking to one not of her own race, but after eight
years in the north, where she has been treated courteously by her white
neighbors, that old feeling of inferiority under which she lived during
slave days and later on a plantation in Kentucky has about disappeared.

Her home is comfortably furnished two story house with a front porch
where, in the comfort of an old rocking chair, she smokes her pipe and
dreams as the days slip away. Her children and their children are
devoted to her. With but a few wants or requests her days a re quiet and

Kentucky with its past history still retains its hold. She refers to it
as "God's Chosen Land" and would prefer to end her days where about
eighty years of her life was spent.

On her 101st birthday (1935) she posed for a picture, seated in her
favorite chair with her closest friend, her pipe.

Abraham Lincoln is as big a man with her today as when he freed her

With the memories of the Civil War still fresh in her mind and and
secret longing to return to her Old Kentucky Home, Mrs. Anna Smith, born
in May of 1833 and better known to her friends as "Grandma" Smith, is
spending her remaining days with her grandchildren, in a pleasant home
at 518 Bishop Street.

On a plantation owned by Judge Toll, on the banks of the Ohio River at
Henderson, Ke., Anna (Toll) Smith was born. From her own story, and
information gathered from other sources the year 1835 is as near a
correct date as possible to obtain.

Anna Smith's parents were William Clarke and Miranda Toll. Her father
was a slave belonging to Judge Toll. It was common practice for slaves
to assume the last name of their owners.

It was before war was declared between the north and south that she was
married, for she claims her daughter was "going on three" when President
Lincoln freed the slaves. Mrs. Smith remembers her father who died at
the age of 117 years.

Her oldest brother was 50 when he joined the confederate army. Three
other brothers were sent to the front. One was an ambulance attendant,
one belonged to the cavalry, one an orderly seargeant and the other
joined the infantry. All were killed in action. Anna Smith's husband
later joined the war and was reported killed.

When she became old enough for service she was taken into the "Big
House" of her master, where she served as kitchen helper, cook and later
as nurse, taking care of her mistress' second child.

She learned her A.B.C.'s by listening to the tutor teaching the children
of Judge Toll.

"Grandma" Smith's vision is the wonder of her friends. She has never
worn glasses and can distinguish objects and people at a distance as
readily as at close range. She occupies her time by hooking rag rugs and
doing housework and cooking. She is "on the go" most of the time, but
when need for rest overtakes her, she resorts to her easy chair, a
pipeful of tobacco and a short nap and she is ready to carry on.

Many instances during those terrible war days are fresh in her mind: men
and boys, in pairs and groups passing the "big house" on their way to
the recruiting station on the public square, later going back in squads
and companies to fight; Yankee soldiers raiding the plantation, taking
corn and hay or whatever could be used by the northern army; and
continual apprehension for the menfolk at the front.

She remembers the baying of blood hounds at night along the Ohio River,
trying to follow the scent of escaping negroes and the crack of firearms
as white people, employed by the plantation owners attempted to halt the
negroes in their efforts to cross the Ohio River into Ohio or to join
the Federal army.

Referring to her early life, she recalls no special outstanding events.
Her treatment from her master and mistress was pleasant, always
receiving plenty of food and clothing but never any money.

In a grove not far from the plantation home, the slaves from the nearby
estates meet on Sunday for worship. Here under the spreading branches
they gathered for religious worship and to exchange news.

When President Lincoln issued his proclamation freeing the slaves, and
the news reached the plantation, she went to her master to learn if she
was free. On learning it was true she returned to her parents who were
living on another plantation.

She has been living with her grandchildren for the past nine years,
contented but ready to go when the "Good Lord calls her."

Next: Nan Stewart

Previous: Jennie Small

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