Mississippi Federal Writers
near New Zion Church, Mississippi]
"My name is Tom Wilson an' I'se eighty fo' years old. My mammy was name
Ca'line an' my pappy was Jeff Wilson. Us lived right out on de old Jim
Wilson place, right by New Zion Chu'ch. I lives thar now--owns me a plot
of groun' an' farms.
"Well, us b'longed to Marse Jim an' Miss Nancy Wilson. I was born right
out thar, but my mammy was brung down frum Ten'see. She come by heir to
Marse Jim but 'fo that her was sol' for ten hun'erd dollars. My mammy
was a big sportly woman an' brung a lot er money an' my pappy, he brung
nine hun'erd. Marse Jim bought him offen de block, but I don't know jes
whar frum. I jes 'members 'bout hearin' him tell 'bout bein' sol'.
"Bofe of dem was fiel' han's. Law, mammy could plow jes lak a man all
day long; den milk twen'y head er cows afte' she quit de fiel' at night.
"De Big House was made out'n logs an' reckin hit had 'bout seben er
eight rooms in hit, an' de kitchen sot a piece frum de mainest house.
Thar was one brick chimbly an' one dirt one to hit, an' a great big wide
po'ch 'cross de front of de house. I 'member Mis Nancy an' white folks
'ud set out thar of an evenin' an' mek us li'l cullud chullun dance an'
sing an' cut capers fer to 'muse 'em. Den dey had a trough, built 'bout
lak a pig trough, an' dey would mek de cook bake a gre't big slab er
co'n bread an' put hit in de trough an' po' milk or lasses over hit,
an' tu'n us li'l cullud chullun loose on hit. An' I'se tell'n y' as much
of hit went in our hair an' eyes an' years[FN: ears] as went in our
"I reckin thar was' bout two er three hun'erd acres in Marse Jim's
place. Us raised cotton, taters, an' hogs. No'm, slaves didn' have no
plots er dey own. Marse Jim give us our rashins' every week. Well, mos'
er de cullud people 'ud cook dey victuals over de fire place in dey own
houses. Us sho' did have 'possum an' taters.
"My mammy wuked in de loom room at night by light of a pine knot. In de
Big House dey had taller[FN: tallow] can'les 'cause I 'member my mammy
moulded 'em. No'm, de spinnin' wheels was kep' in de kitchen of de Big
House. Hit had a dirt flo'. Us jes wo' li'l old suits made out'n lowell
cloth whut mammy wove on de loom. I doan 'member wearin' no shoes.
"I jes played roun' 'bout de place an' he'ped wid de cleanin' up an'
dish washin'. Kinder house boy, I was.
"When us got sick, mammy made us pills out'n herbs. She taken May apple
roots an' boiled hit down to a syrup; den she let dat, dry out an'
rolled hit inter pills. Day sho' was fin' fo' mos' anything we might
"Chris'mus was a mighty glad time fo' us. Yessum, us got extra rashins'
an' had time off ter play an' kick our heels. Gen'ly[FN: generally] had
'bout a week off. Tell you what Marse Jim 'ud do when Chris'mus come
'roun'. He'd sen' one of da cullud mans out to git a log an' say, 'Now
long as dis log burn, y'all kin have off'n wuk'. Co'se us'd hunt de
bigges' gum log an' den soak hit in de stream so hit wud burn on a long
time. Dey'd put hit on back er de fire an' hit wud las' mos' a week.
"Couldn' none of us read or write, an' us wa'nt neber learned 'til afte'
us was set free. Den some went to li'l schools fer da cullud people.
"I sho' has seen m' mammy an' lots mo' git whuppins. Marse Jim, he had a
strop er leather stuck in de slit end of a staff, an' he sho' did whup
'em layed 'cross a barrel. Once' m' pappy run away an' Marse Jim got de
blood houn's afte' him, an' catched him up 'fo he could git fur, an' dat
day he lay him 'cross de barrel, an' whupped him frum sun up til sun
down. When he quit off, m' pappy couldn' talk no more'n a whisper
"Pattyrollers, I heard of 'em allright 'cause dey sho' would git you
iffen y' went abroad widout a pass frum Marse Jim.
"One day us li'l cullud chullun was frollicin' out in de front yard an'
Mis' Nancy an' some mo' was settin' on de po'ch an' all of a sudden I
see somebuddy comin' down de road an' I says 'Look, whut's dat?'
"An' white folks run to de woods an' hid out caze dey seen hit was
Calv'ry 'bout a mile long comin' down de road. Sojer rid right up to me
an' stuck his bay'net at me an' says, 'Boy, whar de tater house?' An' I
sho' did show him whar 'twas. Dem sojers sho' was starved. Dey take
thirty tater punks, fifteen er twenty chickens, and five hams. Den dey
went in de smoke house an' grabbed off five er ten poun's er sausage,
middlln's, and sides. Dey take 'nough grub to load three wagons an' take
hit over to New Zion Church 'bout er mile frum us. An' right thar dey
camped that night.
"That was afte' de Siege er Vicksburg. Marse Jim didn' keer, but he sent
us ober nex' mo'nin' to git de leavin's, an' thar was a wagon load er
jes de leavin's.
"I 'members when us was sot free allright. 'Twas in de middle of da
winter y' know, an' Marse Jim was so mad 'bout hit he went off down to a
li'l stream or water an' broke de ice an' jumped in, an' he died 'bout
two weeks afte' of de pewmonia[FN: pneumonia].
"I was glad to git m' freedom 'cause I got out'n frum under dem
"Afte' dat us bought lan' frum de Wilsons whut was lef' an' I been a
fa'min' thar ever since."
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