Texas Slave Narratives

Texas Slave Narrative

  Jake Barrens

I was born in Overton, Texas, April 12, 1856. Jim Barrens of Virginia was my master, he moved from Virginia to Hamilton County, Texas. He had ten slaves dat he brought to Texas wid him. We was freed in '65 but my mother remained wid him 'till 1869. He was a good marster an' mama thought t'would be better to stay on wid him den, to be goin' about wid us chillun lookin' fer a place to work, an us be half-hungry an no close to wear. He was good an' she knowed we would have enought to eat an' a few close dere. She didn' leave Marster Jim' s until 1869, I was thirteen years old den an' big 'nough to do mos' all kind of work. From Marster Jim's we went to Mr. Gabe Smith's place whar my mother was a domestic servant an' had nice work in de house. She didn' hav' to work in de field or milk any of de cows. Mr. Smith had a farm an ranch. Dere I worked on de farm when dere was farm work to be did. Odder tim's I worked about de ranch, to round up de cattle an' I have helped brand de young calves an drive de odders to market or to de shippen' pen, to go off on de train. I don' know nothin' 'bout my father. He left when I was very young, befo' de war. My mother never did talk or tell us about him, I don't think she ever knowed whar he was at after he separated an' lef her. I started life foh my self when I was sixteen years old. De fust man I worked foh was Mr. Jack Keys , he lived in dis county (Coryell) at Gatesville, Texas, dat was in 1872, an' I has been here ever since save when I went to see my chillun dat live in Oklahoma. I married Mary Ann Mayberry of dis place, de daughter of a pioneer fasbly, on February 13, 1881, an' lived wid her 'till she died November 7, 1926. As I wasn't a slave when I married, my wedden' was about like mos' of de colored weddens now. I didn' have no fine close, I was workin' for small wages an' I jus' had what I could buy, a suit an' clean shirt, looked de best I could an' dat was all. We had fourteen chillun five boys an' nine girls. Dere is two boys an' seven girls livin' now. I got one boy in Los Angeles. California; one boy in Tulsa, Oklahoma; an one girl in Italy, Texas. I also got five grand-chillun liven' an' two dead. All my chillun work an git along good, de boys work at common labor an' de girls work about peoples homes doin' de washin' an ironin' an' some of dem cook. I hab allus lived a good useful live an' have never been convicted or charged wid any crime. I have never been threatened in any way dat I knows of. No'm I can't read an' write 'cause I had no chance to go to school, since dere was no schools in de days of early youth an' my mother was a widder wid odder chillun dependent on me as I was de first born an' oldest chile my mother had. 'Course all de slaves thought freedom would be better dan slavery but my mother said ef de slaves had a good an' kind marster dat dey was better off in de way of a liven' when dey was slaves. 'Cause ef dey got sick de marster had de same doctor wid dem he had wid his own chillun an' wife. When I was a chile, back in de days 'fore freedom, we jus' played about de place in de yard wid de white chillun some, dey always did like to play wid us colored or (nigger chillun) as dey called us 'cause we allus humored dem an dey could allus have dere way about what ever we was playin'. We played wid marbles an a lot of singin' games dat we would ring up to do. No'm I don't 'member none of de songs it hav' been so long an' besides de white chillun knowed dem mos' de time an' we jus' listened to dem an' knowed what to do. On Saturday afternoon an' Sundays if we would get permission from de over-seer we could go to see de slaves on odder farms an' mother would always clean us up an' dress us in our best when she took us to anodder farm to see de slaves dere. We never did go to church. It seemed like de church was jus foh de white folks.