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Belle Williams

From: Kansa



Belle Williams was born in slavery about the year 1850 or 1851. Her
mother's name was Elizabeth Hulsie, being the slave of Sid Hulsie, her
last name being the name of her master. The Hulsie plantation was
located in Carroll County, Arkansas. Belle Williams, better known as
"Auntie Belle" is most interesting. She lives in her own little home in
the one hundred block on Harvey Street, Hutchinson, Kansas. She is too
old and crippled to do hard work, so spends most of her time smoking her
pipe and rocking in her old armchair on the little porch of her home.
She is jolly, and most interesting.

"Yes, I was a slave," she said. "I was born a slave on a plantation in
Carroll County, Arkansas and lived there 'till after the war. Law sakes,
honey, I can see them 'Feds' yet, just as plain as if it was yesterday.
We had a long lane--you know what a lane is--well, here they come! I run
for mah mammy, and I'll never forget how she grabbed me and let out a
yell, "It's them Feds, them blue coats."

"You see my massa was a good massa. He didn't believe in whipping
niggers and he didn't believe in selling niggers, and so my mammy and
me, we didn't want to leave our mistress and massa. We called them
'Mother Hulsie' and 'Massa Sid.' One officer told my mammy that she
could take along with her, anything out of the cabin that she wanted.
Mammy looked around and said, "I don't want to take nothin' but my
chillun," so we all told Mother Hulsie 'goodbye,' and when my mammy
told her goodbye, why Mother Hulsie cried and cried, and said, 'I just
can't let you go, Elizabeth, but go on peacefully, and maybe some day
you can come back and see me.'"

As the story came word after word, big tears dropped on the thin black
hands, and she reached for her tobacco can and pipe. The can was
missing, so I offered to get it for her, for I was anxious for one peep
into "Auntie's" little house, but I couldn't find the can, so after
moans and sighs, she got to her feet and found her favorite Granger
Twist. After settling; again in her chair, and when her pipe was at its
best, "Auntie" continued, "Oh, honey, it was awful! You see I never been
nowhere and I was scairt so I hung onto my mammy. The soldiers took us
to camp that night, and after staying there several days, we went on to
Springfield, Missouri, and it was right at fifty-two years ago that I
came here. I was married to Fuller, my first husband and had seven
chilluns. He helped me raise them that lived and, after he died, I
married Williams and had two chilluns, but he didn't help me raise my
chilluns. Why, honey, I raised my chilluns and my chilluns' chilluns,
and even one great-grandchild now. Why, I always been a slave. I worked
for all the early white families in this here town that needed help."

I asked "Auntie" if she were ever sold on the block, and she answered,
"Law sakes, honey, I must tell you. No, I never was sold, but nuthin'
but the Dear Blessed Lawd saved me. You see Massa Sid had gone away for
a few days, and his boys was takin' care of things, when some nigger
traders came and wanted to buy some niggers, and they picked on my
grandmammy and me. How old was I? Well, I reckon I was about fourteen.
You see, honey, I never could read or write, but I can count, and I can
remember--Lawdy! how I can remember. Well, there I was on the block,
just scairt and shivering--I was just cold all over--and them there
nigger traders was jest a talkin', when down that long lane came Massa
Sid, and I'm tellin' you, it was the Dear Lawd that sent him. He was a
ridin' on his hoss, and he stopped right in front of me, standing there
on the block. He looked at his boys, then he turned to them nigger
traders and yelled out, "What you all doin' here?" The boys told him
there was just so many niggers on the place, and they wanted some money
and when the nigger traders come along they thought they would sell a
few niggers. Honey, I'm tellin' you, Massa Sid turned to them nigger
traders and said, "you nigger traders get out of here. These are my
niggers and I don't sell niggers. I can feed them all, I don't want any
help." He grabbed me right off of the block and put me on the hoss in
front of him and set me down in front of my cabin. Sceered, oh Lawdy I
was sceered! No, suh, Massa Sid never sold no niggers."

"I must tell you about what happened one night while we were all there
in the camp. One of the massa's boys that loved my uncle, came crawling
on all fours, just like a pig, into camp. He passed the pickets, and
when he found my uncle he laid there on the ground in my uncle's arms
and cried like a baby. My uncle was old but he cried too and after a
while he told the boy that he must go back--he was 'fraid that the
pickets would see him and he would be shot, so he went with him,
crawling on all fours just like a pig, till he got him past the pickets,
and our young master never saw my uncle any more. Oh, honey, them was
heart-breakin' times. The first night we was in camp, my mammy got to
thinking about Mother Hulsie and how she was left all alone with all the
work, and not a soul to help her. The blue coats had gone through the
house and upset everything, so in the morning she asked the captain if
she could ask just one thing of him, and that was that she and my uncle
go back to Mother Hulsie just for the day, and help put everything away
and do the washing. The captain said they could go, but they must be
back by five o'clock, and not one nigger child could go along, so they
went back for the day and mammy did all the washing, every rag that she
could find, and my uncle chopped and stacked outside the house, all the
wood that he could chop that day, and then they came back to camp. My
mammy said she'd never forget Mother Hulsie wringing her hands and
crying, 'Oh Lawd, what will I do?' as they went down the land."

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