Titus I Bynes
FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT
American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)
Alfred Farrell, Field Worker
John A. Simms, Editor
September 25, 1936
TITUS I. BYNES
Titus B. [TR: Titus I. above] Bynes, affectionately known as "Daddy
Bynes", is reminiscent of Harriet Beecher Stowe's immortal "Uncle Tom"
and Joel Chandler Harris' inimitable 'Uncle Remus' with his white beard
and hair surrounding a smiling black face. He was born in November 1846
in what is now Clarendon County, South Carolina. Both his father, Cuffy,
and mother, Diana, belonged to Gabriel Flowden who owned 75 or 80 slaves
and was noted for his kindness to them.
Bynes' father was a common laborer, and his mother acted in the capacity
of chambermaid and spinner. They had 12 children, seven boys--Abraham,
Tutus[TR:?], Reese, Lawrence, Thomas, Billie, and Hamlet--and five
girls--Charity, Chrissy, Fannie, Charlotte, and Violet.
When Titus was five or six years of age he was given to Flowden's wife
who groomed him for the job of houseboy. Although he never received any
education, Bynes was quick to learn. He could tell the time of day and
could distinguish one newspaper from another. He recalled an incident
which happened when he was about eight years of age which led him to
conceal his precociousness. One day while writing on the ground, he
heard his mistress' little daughter tell her mother that he was writing
about water. Mistress Flowden called him and told him that if he were
caught writing again his right arm would be cut off. From then on his
precociousness vanished. In regards to religion, Bynes can recall the
Sunday services very vividly; and he tells how the Negroes who were
seated in the gallery first heard a sermon by the white minister and
then after these services they would gather on the main floor and hear a
sermon by a Negro preacher.
Bynes served in the Civil War with his boss, and he can remember the
regiment camp between Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.
His mistress would not permit Bynes to accompany his master to Virginia
to join the Hampton Legion on the grounds that it was too cold for him.
And thus ended his war days! When he was 20 years of age, his father
turned him loose. Young Bynes rented 14 acres of land from Arthur Harven
and began farming.
In 1868 he left South Carolina and came to Florida. He settled in
Enterprise (now Benson Springs), Velusia County where he worked for J.C.
Hayes, a farmer, for one year, after which he homesteaded. He next
became a carpenter and, as he says himself, "a jack of all trades and
master of none." He married shortly after coming to Florida and is the
father of three sons--"as my wife told me," he adds with a twinkle in
his eyes. His wife is now dead. He was prevailed upon while very ill to
enter the Titusville Poor Farm where he has been for almost two years.
Della Bess Hilyard ("Aunt Bess")
Della Bess Hilyard, or "Aunt Bess" as she is better known, was born in
Darlington, South Carolina in 1858, the daughter of Resier and Zilphy
Hart, slaves of Gus Hiwards. Both her parents were cotton pickers and as
a little girl Della often went with her parents into the fields. One day
she stated that the Yankees came through South Carolina with Knapsacks
on their shoulders. It wasn't until later that she learned the reason.
When asked if she received any educational training, "Aunt Bess" replied
in the negative, but stated that the slaves on the Hiwards plantation
were permitted to pick up what education they could without fear of
being molested. No one bothered, however, to teach them anything.
In regards to religion, "Aunt Bess" said that the slaves were not told
about heaven; they were told to honor their masters and mistresses and
of the damnation which awaited them for disobedience.
After slavery the Hart family moved to Georgia where Della grew into
womanhood and at an early age married Caleb Bess by whom she had two
children. After the death of Bess, about fifteen years ago, "Aunt Bess"
moved to Fort Pierce, Florida. While there she married Lonny Hilyard
who brought her to Titusville where she now resides, a relic of bygone
Taylor Gilbert was born in Shellman, Georgia, 91 years ago, of a colored
mother and a white father, "which is why I am so white", he adds. He has
never been known to have passed as white, however, in spite of the fact
that he could do so without detection. David Ferguson bought Jacob
Gilbert from Dr. Gilbert as a husband for Emily, Taylor's mother. Emily
had nine children, two by a white man, Frances and Taylor, and seven by
Jacob, only three of whom Gilbert remembers--Gettie, Rena, and Annis.
Two of these children were sent to school while the others were obliged
to work on the plantation. Emily, the mother, was the cook and washwoman
while Jacob was the Butler.
Gilbert, a good sized lad when slavery was at its height, recalls
vividly the cruel lashings and other punishments meted out to those who
disobeyed their master or attempted to run away. It was the custom of
slaves who wished to go from one plantation to another to carry passes
in case they were stopped as suspected runaways. Frequently slaves would
visit without benefit of passes, and as result they suffered severe
torturing. Often the sons of the slaves' owners would go "nigger
hunting" and nothing--not even murder was too horrible for them to do to
slaves caught without passes. They justified their fiendish acts by
saying the "nigger tried to run away when told to stop."
Gilbert cannot remember when he came to Florida, but he claims that it
was many years ago. Like the majority of Negroes after slavery, he
became a farmer which occupation he still pursues. He married once but
"my wife got to messin' around with another man so I sent her home to
her mother." He can be found in Miami, Florida, where he may be seen
daily hobbling around on his cane. (4)
1. Personal interview of field worker with subject.
2. Personal interview with subject.
3. Personal interview with subject.
4. Personal interview of field worker with subject.
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