Texas Slave Narratives

Texas Slave Narrative

  Mary Anne Gibson

Mary Anne Gibson , 76, was born a slave on July 4, 1861, on the Robert Rutherford cotton plantation, east of Austin, Travis County. Mary's father was Charlie Hardeman , her mother, Nancy Hardeman . Mary , a buxom, very black-complexioned woman, looks in person today like a typical slave mammy of pre-civil war days. When she was seventeen years of age, she married Sonie Washington , a renter-farmer. They had nine children. Her first husband died in 1912. She soon was married to Jim Gibson , who died in 1915. Mary is a pleasant person, and likes to sit in her room and fashion quaint hooked rugs out of varicolored rags. That is how she makes her living. She receives no pension of any kind, and lives in a large, rented house with her daughter, Mrs. Beulah Strong , at 1907 East Seventeenth Street, Austin, Texas. HER STORY:

Charlie Hardeman was my pappy's name. He was a slave on de Bill Hardeman cotton plantation. His place was up in Williamson County. We was all black folks, pappy, mammy and all of us. Dere ain't no other kind of blood in us, I reckon. Pappy was owned by one massa, and mammy was owned by another. Pappy would come to visit mammy on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Pappy used to say dat de Injuns was putty bad up dere where he was. Pappy was trusted by de Hardemans lak he was a white man. He always said dat his white folks was good to him. Pappy and a cook was de only slaves dat Massa Bill owned, I believe. Mammy's name was Nancy Rutherford Hardeman , and dey called her Nan . She was a field worker on Mass Robert Rutherford's cotton plantation. Massa Rutherford was a tall, old man, with a long, heavy beard. I kin remembah dat. He never did whoop us folks. He would cuss us out sometimes. Massa Rutherford was a trader in slaves. He'd bring 'em to his place one day, and git rid of 'em de next day. He never kept dem long in one place, but jes' kept tradin' 'em off. Mammy was tol'able tall, and weighed about one hunnert and eighty five pounds. She weighed dat much befo' she got to be older. She's been dead only about twenty-three years. De doctah said dat she jes' died of old age. Mammy had seben chillun. Our mammy's name was Nancy , but Massa Rutherford also had a cook on de place by de name of Aunt Nancy . While mammy was doin' hahd work out in de fields, Aunt Nancy would take care of us chillun. Aunt Nancy was den already kinder middle-aged. I thought as much of Aunt Nancy as I did of my own Mammy. Aunt Nancy lived to see freedom. My name is

Mary Anne Gibson , and I was a Hardeman . I was bawn on July 4, 1861, at four o'clock in de afternoon. I know all of dis 'cause Massa Rutherford got it out of his Bible. His cotton plantation was on de Little Walnut Creek, jes' east of Austin. I reckon dat he had cotton, 'cause I used to play on bales of cotton in his yard. Alot of slaves was turned loose long befo' we was. Den one day Massa Rutherford was hitchin' his hoss, and he said, 'Yo'-all is as free as I am, by God! yo'-all kin stay here as long as yo' want to, or yo'-all kin go. But, by God, if yo'-all go yo'-all will starve to death.' Den mammy told him, 'By God, Massa Rutherford , I'm takin' my chillun and leavin'. If we starve, we'll starve together.' All right, Mary Anne , if yo'-all are goin', go on out in de smokehouse, and git yourself de biggest side of middlin' bacon in dere, cut it down, and take it; and take a bushel of cawn, so yo' kin make some cawnmeal.' Mammy done dat. Den pappy come de next day in a ox-wagon, and took us out into de brush country at Spicewood Springs, jes' northwest of Austin. We lived in a brush-arbor durin' all dat summer. Pappy made our livin' by makin' and sellin' charcoal. If pappy'd go out to make his charcoal, or go to town to sell it, mammy would set at de door of de brush-arbor, holdin' a ax, lookin' out fo' de Injuns. But as long as we lived dere, nothin' ever happened. Kinder late in de fall of dat year, we moved to another place. By Christmas, we moved to de Compton place, in Travis County. Dis was our first Christmas after slavery. Mammy baked us a cake and made some molasses candy. We also had a chicken dinner. But we never got no presents of no kind. We sure didn't git no dolls at dat time. We knowed whut Christmas was, all right. Both pappy and mammy told us about it. Pappy always told me things 'cause I was his pet, anyhow. He called me Mary Anne , and de others called me Anne . We didn't stay on dis place very long. Pappy was fahmin' on de halfs, and mammy done de cookin' fo' de white folks. Sister Bettie nussed Mistress Compton's grandchild. Den we moved to a place below Bastrop, but pappy stayed on fo' a while at de Compton place, 'cause he had to gather his crops. Bettie taken de brain-fever, and died.

Pappy never did git to see her no mo'e. We made a plain coffin on de place, put her in it and den hauled her away on a two-wheel cart dat was pulled by oxen. When we was still at de house, I tried to pull Bettie out of dat box. I didn't know why she was in dere. Den dey told me dat she was dead, but I still didn't know whut it meant. All dat I wanted to do, was to git Bettie out of dat box. She was buried somewhere along de Colorado River bank, but I sure don't know where now. Den we moved to de Big Walnut Creek, near Austin. We fahmed on de old Tom Burdett place. We made a good crop dere. I know we made a good crop, 'cause pappy was able to give all of us a big piece of money. I know dat we come to town. Dis here big Congress Avenue was den jes' a big muddy place. I bought a China doll, a doll-house, and some candy. Each of us chillun got somethin' different. I know dat de boys bought fifes and drums and sich things. We moved to another place, not fur from de Burdetts . We rented on de halfs again. I stayed here wid de folks. I helped wid de field work. I'd put a sack over my shoulders, and drop cawn and cotton seeds into de plowed rows. Den I had to chop and pick cotton. Oh, us chillun had to work, all right. De most cotton dat I ever picked durin' my life, was about three hunnert pounds. Pappy was good to his chillun. He fed us enough. He raised his own cows and hogs. We had horses and chickens, too. We had plenty of milk, butter and eggs. If pappy was livin' now I wouldn't want for anything. He sure was a hahd worker. He died when he was only thutty-eight years old. He died of pneumonia. He had leased some land near where we lived, and he was tryin' to build a house fo' his fambly. Oh, he was a noble man. He lived fo' about two weeks. Pappy went to sleep on a Friday afternoon. He had called me to his bed, and he was cryin' lak he had been whooped. He had looked at me and said, 'Anne , yo' got a pappy yit.' Whut's de matter, pappy?' I asked him. Den dat Sunday night, he died. I was only about eleben years old when he died, but I cry about it now, when I think about pappy. Today, Frank , Jennie and me is still livin'. Frank is about eighty-two but he ain't able to do much work. He owns a little fahm near Pflugerville. He hauls and sells wood, when he kin. Jennie lives west of Austin, and she has a small home, and gits a pension from de state. She's about eighty-four, and kain't do much work. None of us is able to help de other. On July 11, 1878, I got married to Sonie Washington . We had nine chillun. Sonie was jes' as good a husband as he could be. He was a renter-fahmer, and rented on de halfs. Sonie died on July 24, 1895. He had heart trubble. Little better'n three years, and I married again. He was Dave Hill , a fahmer. We had three chillun. I've been married three times, and I never did have no town man. I was bawn in de country, and lived in de country. I lak de country, and always did. I wouldn't be in town now, if I had a way to live on a fahm.My second husband died in 1912. Den I married Jim Gibson , a old man. He died in 1915.I kin read and write. I went to school after slavery fo' three winter terms. De teachah, Isabella Shaw - a light colored woman, said dat I was swift. I learned fast. I never got no whoopin's fo' not studyin', but 'cause I was stubborn at times.