Allison Criner: A Letter From A Former Criner Slave

Allison Criner: A Letter From A Former Criner Slave

The following letter was written January 22, 1931 to Mary Whiting Gillespie, granddaughter of Eliza Criner Whiting, by Allison Criner, an old slave in the Criner family who was a small boy at the time of the war.

Allison Criner was born February 11, 1849. He belonged to Isaac Criner who lived three miles north of New Market, Alabama which was 17 miles from Huntsville. Isaac Criner never sold one of his black people.

"Mr. Criner owned 38 colored people and had twelve children, nine girls and three boys. Seven of them married and two, Miss Mahala and Miss Almira died old maids. Miss Lucinda had 12 children, Miss Nancy six, Miss Rebecca five, Miss Woodson, four, Miss Eliza, three, Master Calvin, two and Master Mac, 1 Alfred, four. Miss Betty and Miss Polly Ann Robinson had no children.

I remember them all with the exception of Alfred. He died before I was born. Masterís 38 colored servants, were worth about $30,000. He had 600 acres of land which he gave to the four girls that remained with him until his death. Miss Nancy, Eliza, Lucinda, Polly Ann divided the Monona County land in Iowa, also Alfred, Mackís and Calvinís children.

The land cost him very little, about $1.50 per acre I think. He had about 50 head of sheep, 35 or 40 head of cattle, 75 or 100 head of hogs. He did not allow his colored servants abused or whipped. He did not sell but would buy occasionally.

Miss Eliz died during the Civil War. A soldier from Onawa who was stationed at Huntsville sent them word by a colored boy that Miss Eliza was dead. The big crying then took place.

The Civil War broke out and the Yankees came to our house. This was the black Dutch. The bushwhackers had waylaid the road and Killed General McCook on August 2, 1862 at night on his way to Nashville. They burned all the fine dwellings in the neighborhood at New Market and did not allow the white ladies to take as much as a photo or a dress from the burning building. They did not burn the Old Masterís house because Miss Betty showed them some Masonic apparatus, but they took the silverware from my mother who had hid it. They made her go and get it. They took every horse off the place, about 25 in all. They drove off all the cattle, burned the fences, took all the corn from the cribs, all of the meat out of the smoke house, all the sugar and coffee on the place and threw it in the creek.

They did others much worse than they did the Criners. They took all the colored men and some of the women. The ones that did the most to the Criners were the 4th Michigan and the 7th Pennsylvania. They were especially rough.

I would have been worth about $1200 or $1500 when young if the war had not come on. I am the only one of the colored people now living. I went to Iowa in 1870 and stayed 6 months with Mrs. Nancy Whiting.

My white people had to go daily to their camps to get something to eat. They had to beg for an old horse to ride.

Miss Eliza married very young. Billy Whiting would have married Miss Claraís mother but he was stopped by the other two brothers who said that two in the family was enough.

I hope that you will be able to read this. Please look over my mistakes and tell me if you get this. I will never in the world forget your kindness to me. I did not know until Christmas day when they showed it to me. I was surprised beyond all expectation. I hope that I donít weary you with these little things that happened during my boyhood days. You were in the room at the old homestead where your father was born. Oh I am so glad that you did visit Alabama.

Allison Criner

Greensburg, LA.

Kindly Contributed by Mark Whiting Pullen

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Web-Master Jerry Dean Criner July 19, 2004

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