Texas Slave Narrative
Mary Glover , 83, was born a slave on June 1, 1854, on the Judge Frank Harper cotton plantation at Sumpter, Texas. Mary's mother was Elvy Harper , who was a cook on the plantation. Mary's father was Nelson Harper , who was a sort of an overseer for the younger slaves. Mary was a house girl and a field worker, and was well treated by the Harpers . Mary , who lives at 325 McGee Street, San Marcos, Hays County, is glad to know she is within shuffling distance of Judge Harper's granddaughter, Miss Sallie Reed , who works in the Hays County court house. When Mary's monthly state pension check of $13.00 proves insufficient for her needs, she pays a visit to Miss Sallie and hints that "times sure is bad again." Mary lives in a small, two-room shack at the eastern edge of town, and on a black land muddy street. She lives alone, because someone had told her that she cannot receive a pension if anyone lives with her. She is good humored until one of her great-grandchildren - there are five generations comes into the house from their home next door and taking advantage of a visitor being around, tries to pilfer a biscuit or two; but Mary , company or no company, gives the child a good lecture on leaving other peoples food alone. I ain't, she said looking glum, got any too much food fo' mahsef. She is small, slim and very black complexioned. "But" she said proudly, I was big and strong once. I'se shrunk a lot wid age Mary is a good housekeeper, but her age prevents her from doing much work. She says she was born at Sumpter on the Trinity River but it is probable that she has confused the town with Summer on the Red River in Lamar County. Mary's one great great joy in her life is to have a granddaughter come to her house and read the Bible to her. HER STORY:
Mammy's name was Elvy Harper . She was small and heavy set. She was a house woman, and de reg'lar cook on de Jedge Frank Harper cotton plantation. When she cooked fo' de hands, she done de cookin' under a shed, or whut us slaves called 'cookin' under de scafford.' Mammy had a trough, wheah she sifted de cawnmeal into. Water was added to dis, and den it was all worked around wid de hands. We never got no flour fo' our bread, but plenty of good cawnmeal. She baked de cawnbread right on de ground. I never did see no stove durin' slavery; dere was plenty of fireplaces. We lived in a one-room log-house on de place. We got plenty to eat. Dere was turnip greens and other greens in season; plenty of meat, 'cause we always had plenty of hogs; all of de milk dat we wanted; but we never saw no coffee, sich as dey use now. We parched cawnmeal, and used dat fo' makin' de coffee. Even de white folks drank dat. Dere was no end of de good sweet 'taters dat we et, but I never saw no Irish 'taters till after freedom. Dere was always so many peaches in season, dat we was allowed to git 'em and cook 'em. Dey sure tasted good when yo' put molasses over 'em. Mammy was good to us but she made us mind. Chillun', she'd say, 'I ain't goin' to be wid yo' always. Yo' mind yo' boss man. Be good and he won't have to whoop yo'. Don't take nothin' dat don't belong to yo'. Trust in de Lawd, and he will take care of yo and if yo' all don't behave, I'll have to whoop yo' mysef.' Jes' me and my sister, Lettie , is livin' now. Lettie lives up in El Paso. De last dat I heard of her was dat she was still married and doin' tol'able well. She's de youngest, and is now about sixty-six years old. Pappy's name was Nelson Harper , He was a laghe, heavy-set man. He was whut yo' would call a overseer over de youngest men, and he had to learn 'em how to plow de fields. Pappy has been dead only about twenty-six years. He died a little while after mammy died. When I was a girl, my name was Mary Harper . I was bawn on June 1, 1853. It's wrote down on some papers dat I keep over dere in dat rag-bed of mine. I'm going to be eighty-four years old, dis comin' June. I was bawn on Jedge Frank Harper's cotton plantation at Sumpter. Dis was near de Trinity River. worked in de house, toted water out to de field hands, and picked some cotton. I still remembah how I wanted to pick my one hunnert pounds of cotton a day. But I jes' couldn't git more'n fifty-five pounds a day. Jedge Harper and he never did hit me a lick in his life would laugh at me and say, G'wan, Mary , yo'll be able to pick it tomorrow De first job dat I kin remembah doin' was when de Jedge give me to his daughter, Elizabeth . Everybody called her Liz Chandler . Whut kin yo' do Mary ? Mistress Liz asked. 'Kin yo' tend to de baby?' Yessum,' I says, 'I can tend to de baby.' All right; put de diaper on him'. But, I jes' couldn't git dem diaper pins closed. I tried and cried. Mistress Liz laughed at me. Hush, Mary , I ain't goin' to whoop yo'. Now watch me and I'll show yo' how to do it.' Den I knowed how. He was a boy and dey called him Major Chandler . Dat was his name. He's dead now, but about four years ago, he come down here to see me. He knowed me. Why he was lak my own baby. He had been a fahmer. Major's fathaw was a Baptist minister. Dey always jes' called him Reverend Chandler . I heard him preach many a time. He shorely could preach. I went to chu'ch many a time wid Mistress Liz . I'd set on a little footrest in back of Mistress Liz's seat wid little Major in my arms. Wimmen would come along and say, 'Whose little nigger is dis?' Mistress Liz Chandler's ', I'd say. Oh, Lets see de little baby. He's putty'. Dere was some Sunday nights when Reverend Chandler would come to our brush arbor to preach and baptize. I never knowed whut de shoutin' was about den. Whut yo' been shoutin' about?' I'd ask mammy. Why, child, when yo' git older and 'fess yo' religion, yo'll know whut yo' is shoutin' about. When yo' git religion, yo'll feel so good, dat yo'll jes' git to shoutin'.' And I have been livin' right all of my days.
Dere has been times when, 'cause I was honest, I got help f'om de white folks. I've always said dat my white folks wont let me starve. When we was chillun, we'd play marbles. We'd use flat pecans fo' marbles. We'd play ring games. Sometimes Mistress Liz would tell us, 'Yo'all got to bathe and put on a hoop skirt tonight and play-act fo' us out in de yard.' De girls in de play-actin' wore long dresses and bonnets. De boys play-acted in dere long shirts wid a split on de sides. All of dem boys up to de age of ten years wore cottonsack-shirts lak dat out in de fields, and wid no pants. I never did do no dancin'. I never did lak it, and never did believe dat it was right. Mary , yo' won't come to a dance 'cause yo' kain't dance.' Folks would say. I don't want to learn how to dance. Yo'll have a heap of pleasure.' I don't want dat kind of pleasure.' I never did see pappy and mammy on a dance-floor in my life. One Monday mawnin', all of us chillun was down at de hoss-lot, playin'. We had been told dat we didn't have to go to de fields. Whut dey goin' to do wid all of de folks?' I asked. 'Is dey goin' to git a whoopin'? Dey should be out in de fields.' Yo' see de Jedge had hired a overseer, Mawster Brinkley , and he sure made us mind. Grantson ,' shouted Jedge Harper to my brother. Yassuh!' All of yo' chillun come here.' I had been puchin' a stick at de hosses in de hoss lot and I thought dat fo' once I was goin' to git a whoopin. Jedge,' I said, I didn't punch no stick in dat hoss - I jes' stuck it at him!' But de Jedge said, 'All of yo' is free lak I am. I ain't got nothin' to do wid yo'-all no more.' When pappy heard dat he was free, he got so glad dat he shouted and danced a jig in a pile of ashes. My aunt Ca'oline throwed her tin plates away and shouted, I'm goin' to git me some white plates.' Old uncle Sol said, 'Whut yo' talkin' about Jedge - dat we is free?' You're free, Sol ; but, yo' folks kin stay right on here, and help me wid de crops.' Every one of de slaves stayed on and helped Jedge Harper . Mawster Brinkley , de overseer, got so mad dat de slaves was set free, dat he got up and left. Jedge Harper give every one of his slaves a sow apiece; he give 'em seeds, and saw to it dat dey had a staht. After about three or four years, de jedge moved to whut is now Martindale, Caldwell County. He had a big cotton plantation. Me and de folks worked fo' him on de halfs. Pappy sure was a good fahmer. We milked six cows, and got half of de milk. I was gittin' to be a good cotton picker, and I could pick my three hunnert and fifty pounds a day now. After livin' here fo' about eleben years, Jedge Harper died. Roxy Harper had married Bob Martindale , and we was wid dem. I was near eighteen years old when I got married. De Jedge was still livin' den. He asked me, 'Mary , is yo' goin' to git married?' Naw, sah, Jedge.' Yes, yo' is, yo' little god-drot fool.' He'd laugh. Dat was his way of talking. Dat's de nearest dat he ever got to cussin'. Charlie Glover was a fahmer near wheah we lived. I met him at chu'ch. One Sunday, a whole lot of us girls was standin' in a corner of de chu'ch yard. Charlie singled me out and said, 'I want de privilege to wait on yo', and to take yo' home.' A girl nudged me and said, 'Let him take yo' home.' So, I let Charlie take me home, but I told all of de girls to follow me, 'cause I was afraid dat mammy would git mad. She was strict wid us, and she could whoop, too. Charlie was good to me. Mammy liked him too. Mary ,' she told me, 'Yo' is old enough, but yo' show yo' manners, and let him show his'n. If he won't, I'll stop him f'om comin' here.' Jake Ellison was once de owner of Charlie . He's de one dat got our marriage license fo' us in Lockhart; but, we was married in Martindale. We had fourteen chillun, seben boys and seben girls: Johnny , Charlie , Rob , A.J., Bruce , and two of 'em died when dey was babies; Teena , Allie , Leila , Elvy , Georgianne , Lizzie , and Sarah . Rob is de only one livin'. De folks used to call him Dude , but since he got married, he got out of de habit of wearin' fine clothes. He's tryin' to pay out his fahm, near here. If he hadn't run around wid other wimmen, he'd done have de place paid fo'.
On June 19, 1906, my husband and two of de boys, A.J. and Rob , was comin' over to San Marcos, when de buggy was hit by a engine and caboose. De engine drug Charlie four telephone posts away and splintered up de buggy, but didn't hurt de hoss. De two boys was hurt, but not killed; but Charlie's bones rattled when yo' picked him up. He lived yet f'om nine in de mawnin' till four in de evenin', but he didn't know nobody. De good white folks proved dat de engine didn't whistle when it was comin' over de hill. I got three hunnert dollahs fo' my paht; and now I had nine chillun on my hands yet, and nine grand-chillun. But I got by somehow. De white folks helped me all dat dey could. I'd wash clothes fo' folks; we'd go out in de summer and pick cotton, and we got good prices fo' our pickin' den.
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