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Frank Adamson




From: South Carolina

Project #1655
W. W. Dixon
Winnsboro, S. C.

FRANK ADAMSON
EX-SLAVE 82 YEARS OLD.


"I 'members when you was barefoot at de bottom; now I see you a settin'
dere, gittin' bare at de top, as bare as de palm of my hand.

"I's been 'possum huntin' wid your pappy, when he lived on de Wateree,
just after de war. One night us got into tribulation, I tells you! 'Twas
'bout midnight when de dogs make a tree. Your pappy climb up de tree,
git 'bout halfway up, heard sumpin' dat once you hears it you never
forgits, and dats de rattlin' of de rattles on a rattle snake's tail. Us
both 'stinctly hear dat sound! What us do? Me on de ground, him up de
tree, but where de snake? Dat was de misery, us didn't know. Dat snake
give us fair warnin' though! Marster Sam (dats your pa) 'low: 'Frank,
ease down on de ground; I'll just stay up here for a while.' I lay on
them leaves, skeered to make a russle. Your pa up de tree skeered to go
up or down! Broad daylight didn't move us. Sun come up, he look all
'round from his vantage up de tree, then come down, not 'til then, do I
gits on my foots.

"Then I laugh and laugh and laugh, and ask Marster Sam how he felt.
Marster Sam kinda frown and say: 'Damn I feels like hell! Git up dat
tree! Don't you see dat 'possum up dere?' I say: 'But where de snake,
Marster?' He say: 'Dat rattler done gone home, where me and you and dat
'possum gonna be pretty soon!'

"I b'longs to de Peays. De father of them all was, Korshaw Peay. My
marster was his son, Nicholas; he was a fine man to just look at. My
mistress was always tellin' him 'bout how fine and handsome-like he was.
He must of got use to it; howsomever, marster grin every time she talk
like dat.

"My pappy was bought from de Adamson peoples; they say they got him off
de ship from Africa. He sho' was a man; he run all de other niggers 'way
from my mammy and took up wid her widout askin' de marster. Her name was
Lavinia. When us got free, he 'sisted on Adamson was de name us would go
by. He name was William Adamson. Yes sir! my brothers was: Justus,
Hillyard, and Donald, and my sisters was, Martha and Lizzettie.

"'Deed I did work befo' freedom. What I do? Hoed cotton, pick cotton,
'tend to calves and slop de pigs, under de 'vision of de overseer. Who
he was? First one name Mr. Cary, he a good man. Another one Mr. Tim
Gladden, burn you up whenever he just take a notion to pop his whip. Us
boys run 'round in our shirt tails. He lak to see if he could lift de
shirt tail widout techin' de skin. Just as often as not, though, he tech
de skin. Little boy holler and Marster Tim laugh.

"Us live in quarters. Our beds was nailed to de sides of de house. Most
of de chillun slept on pallets on de floor. Got water from a big spring.

"De white folks 'tend to you all right. Us had two doctors, Doctor
Carlisle and Doctor James.

"I see some money, but never own any then. Had plenty to eat: Meat,
bread, milk, lye hominy, horse apples, turnips, collards, pumpkins, and
dat kind of truck.

"Was marster rich? How come he wasn't? He brag his land was ten miles
square and he had a thousand slaves. Them poor white folks looked up to
him lak God Almighty; they sho' did. They would have stuck their hands
in de fire if he had of asked them to do it. He had a fish pond on top
of de house and terraces wid strawberries, all over de place. See them
big rock columns down dere now? Dats all dats left of his grandness and
greatness. They done move de whippin' post dat was in de backyard. Yes
sah, it was a 'cessity wid them niggers. It stood up and out to 'mind
them dat if they didn't please de master and de overseer, they'd hug dat
post, and de lend of dat whip lash gwine to flip to de hide of dat back
of their's.

"I ain't a complainin'. He was a good master, bestest in de land, but he
just have to have a whippin' post, 'cause you'll find a whole passle of
bad niggers when you gits a thousand of them in one flock.

"Screech owl holler? Women and men turn socks and stockings wrong side
out quick, dat they did, do it now, myself. I's black as a crow but I's
got a white folks heart. Didn't ketch me foolin' 'round wid niggers in
radical times. I's as close to white folks then as peas in a pod. Wore
de red shirt and drunk a heap of brandy in Columbia, dat time us went
down to General Hampton into power. I 'clare I hollered so loud goin'
'long in de procession, dat a nice white lady run out one of de houses
down dere in Columbia, give me two biscuits and a drum stick of chicken,
patted me on de shoulder, and say: 'Thank God for all de big black men
dat can holler for Governor Hampton as loud as dis one does.' Then I
hollers some more for to please dat lady, though I had to take de half
chawed chicken out dis old mouth, and she laugh 'bout dat 'til she
cried. She did!

"Well, I'll be rockin' 'long balance of dese days, a hollerin' for Mr.
Roosevelt, just as loud as I holler then for Hampton.

"My young marsters was: Austin, Tom, and Nicholas; they was all right
'cept they tease you too hard maybe some time, and want to mix in wid de
'fairs of slave 'musements.

"Now what make you ask dat? Did me ever do any courtin'? You knows I
did. Every he thing from a he king down to a bunty rooster gits cited
'bout she things. I's lay wake many nights 'bout sich things. It's de
nature of a he, to take after de she. They do say dat a he angel ain't
got dis to worry 'bout.

"I fust courted Martha Harrison. Us marry and jine de church. Us had
nine chillun; seven of them livin'. A woman can't stand havin' chillun,
lak a man. Carryin', sucklin', and 'tending to them wore her down, dat,
wid de malaria of de Wateree brung her to her grave.

"I sorrow over her for weeks, maybe five months, then I got to thinking
how I'd pair up wid dis one and dat one and de other one. Took to
shavin' again and gwine to Winnsboro every Saturday, and different
churches every Sunday. I hear a voice from de choir, one Sunday, dat
makes me sit up and take notice of de gal on de off side in front. Well
sir! a spasm of fright fust hit me dat I might not git her, dat I was
too old for de likes of her, and dat some no 'count nigger might be in
de way. In a few minutes I come to myself. I rise right up, walked into
dat choir, stand by her side, and wid dis voice of mine, dat always
'tracts 'tention, jined in de hymn and out sung them all. It was easy
from dat time on.

"I marry Kate at de close of dat revival. De day after de weddin', what
you reckon? Don't know? Well, after gittin' breakfas' she went to de
field, poke 'round her neck, basket on her head and picked two hundred
pounds of cotton. Dats de kind of woman she is."




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Previous: Victoria Adams



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