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James V Deane

From: Maryland

Sept. 20, 1937

JAMES V. DEANE, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with James V. Deane, ex-slave,
on Sept. 20, 1937, at his home, 1514 Druid Hill Ave.,

"My name is James V. Deane, son of John and Jane Deane, born at Goose
Bay in Charles County, May 20, 1850. My mother was the daughter of
Vincent Harrison, I do not know about my father's people. I have two
sisters both of whom are living, Sarah and Elizabeth Ford.

"I was born in a log cabin, a typical Charles County log cabin, at Goose
Bay on the Potomac River. The plantation on which I was born fronted
more than three miles on the river. The cabin had two rooms, one up and
one down, very large with two windows, one in each room. There were no
porches, over the door was a wide board to keep the rain and snow from
beating over the top of the door, with a large log chimney on the
outside, plastered between the logs, in which was a fireplace with an
open grate to cook on and to put logs on the fire to heat.

"We slept on a home-made bedstead, on which was a straw mattress and
upon that was a feather mattress, on which we used quilts made by my
mother to cover.

"As a slave I worked on the farm with other small boys thinning corn,
watching watermelon patches and later I worked in wheat and tobacco
fields. The slaves never had nor earned any cash money.

"Our food was very plain, such as fat hog meat, fish and vegetables
raised on the farm and corn bread made up with salt and water.

"Yes, I have hunted o'possums, and coons. The last time I went coon
hunting, we treed something. It fell out of the tree, everybody took to
their heels, white and colored, the white men outran the colored hunter,
leading the gang. I never went hunting afterwards.

"My choice food was fish and crabs cooked in all styles by mother. You
have asked about gardens, yes, some slaves had small garden patches
which they worked by moonlight.

"As for clothes, we all wore home-made clothes, the material woven on
the looms in the clothes house. In the winter we had woolen clothes and
in summer our clothes were made from cast-off clothes and Kentucky
jeans. Our shoes were brogans with brass tips. On Sunday we fed the
stock, after which we did what we wanted.

"I have seen many slave weddings, the master holding a broom handle, the
groom jumping over it as a part of the wedding ceremony. When a slave
married someone from another plantation, the master of the wife owned
all the children. For the wedding the groom wore ordinary clothes,
sometimes you could not tell the original outfit for the patches, and
sometimes Kentucky jeans. The bride's trousseau, she would wear the
cast-off clothes of the mistress, or, at other times the clothes made by
other slaves.

"It was said our plantation contained 10,000 acres. We had a large
number of slaves, I do not know the number. Our work was hard, from
sunup to sundown. The slaves were not whipped.

"There was only one slave ever sold from the plantation, she was my
aunt. The mistress slapped her one day, she struck her back. She was
sold and taken south. We never saw or heard of her afterwards.

"We went to the white Methodist church with slave gallery, only white
preachers. We sang with the white people. The Methodists were christened
and the Baptists were baptised. I have seen many colored funerals with
no service. A graveyard on the place, only a wooden post to show where
you were buried.

"None of the slaves ran away. I have seen and heard many patrollers, but
they never whipped any of Mason's slaves. The method of conveying news,
you tell me and I tell you, but be careful, no troubles between whites
and blacks.

"After work was done, the slaves would smoke, sing, tell ghost stories
and tales, dances, music, home-made fiddles. Saturday was work day like
any other day. We had all legal holidays. Christmas morning we went to
the big house and got presents and had a big time all day.

"At corn shucking all the slaves from other plantations would come to
the barn, the fiddler would sit on top of the highest barrel of corn,
and play all kinds of songs, a barrel of cider, jug of whiskey, one man
to dish out a drink of liquor each hour, cider when wanted. We had
supper at twelve, roast pig for everybody, apple sauce, hominy, and corn
bread. We went back to shucking. The carts from other farms would be
there to haul it to the corn crib, dance would start after the corn was
stored, we danced until daybreak.

"The only games we played were marbles, mumble pegs and ring plays. We
sang London Bridge.

"When we wanted to meet at night we had an old conk, we blew that. We
all would meet on the bank of the Potomac River and sing across the
river to the slaves in Virginia, and they would sing back to us.

"Some people say there are no ghosts, but I saw one and I am satisfied,
I saw an old lady who was dead, she was only five feet from me, I met
her face to face. She was a white woman, I knew her. I liked to tore the
door off the hinges getting away.

"My master's name was Thomas Mason, he was a man of weak mental
disposition, his mother managed the affairs. He was kind. Mrs. Mason had
a good disposition, she never permitted the slaves to be punished. The
main house was very large with porches on three sides. No children, no

"The poor white people in Charles County were worse off than the slaves;
because they could not get any work to do, on the plantation, the slaves
did all the work.

"Some time ago you asked did I ever see slaves sold. I have seen slaves
tied behind buggies going to Washington and some to Baltimore.

"No one was taught to read. We were taught the Lord's Prayer and

"When the slaves took sick Dr. Henry Mudd, the one who gave Booth first
aid, was our doctor. The slaves had herbs of their own, and made their
own salves. The only charms that were worn were made out of bones."

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