Texas Slave Narratives

Texas Slave Narrative

  Lizzie Grant

I was born in Dunbar, West Virginia, in 1847 and was owned by Ellis Grant , Cousin to General U. S. Grant . My mother's name was Ella Grant . I do not know who my father was, as I was a stray colt and never was told who he was. I had only one sister that I knew of and her name was Sally . Our home life as slave children was hell. Maser owned a plantation of 20 acres. Their home was a 2 room house built of rocks and covered with boards split out of logs by hand. The house had lots of shade trees and vines around it. Cowhides were hung over the doors to keep out the rain and cold. He only had 2 slaves which was me and my husband. Maser died of wounds he received in that awful war between the states. I had a home wedding and Maser built us a one-room quarters and put me and my man together in it and we became man and wife. We had 9 children, 6 are still living in this country close by and trying to farm. I had 19 grandchildren the last time I counted them and one great grandchild. My man died 30 years ago, and I'se never married again. I gets a few little odd jobs to do as my pension is not enough to live on. I am getting old and feeble and not able to do much work and have to buy lots of medicine to keep me going.

I was born in Dunbar, West Virginia, in the year 1847, and was owned by Ellis Grant , cousin to the great Grant that was the northern General. I was given in marriage to a slave boy that Maser raised. My mother's name was Ella Grant . I do not know who my father was as I was a stray colt and never was told who he was. I had only one sister that I ever knew of, her name was Sally . When the war was over we came to Texas and I never did hear from my mother any more. I don't know if she had any more children or not. Our homelife as slave children was hell, as we never had any playtime at all. From the time we could walk Mistress had us carrying in wood and water and we did not know what it was to get out and romp and play like children do now. Our quarters was pretty good, they were built out of bark logs and all the cracks were dobed with mud to keep out the cold and rain. Our beds they were built down on the ground in one corner of our quarters out of moss, shucks and grass. Yes we kept real warm in there all the time as we had a big rock fireplace built to keep us warm. We kept plenty wood as that and water was about all we got free. As slaves we done all kinds of work such as, hoe tobacco, pull and dry it then, we out rails for fences, and just anything that Maser had to do as it did not make any difference to him, he worked men or women slaves just alike. The women cooked and washed dishes while the men tended to the stock that Maser owned. Maser would give us a nickel or dime once and awhile and we bought candy and things like that when he would give us any money, but that was seldom ever, maybe once or twice a year. Yes we had plenty to eat such as it was. We had cornbread gathered right out of the field as we ate it grated by hand, nothing in it but water and salt. We had pork and beef cooked on the open fireplace most of the time and we called it roasted meat, it was sure good. Yes we had plenty rabbit, possum and fish, but I never did care anything about such except fish. I sure did like fish fried good and brown on a big flat iron skillet in plenty hog grease. That was all the kind of grease we had back there in those early days. No the slaves did not have their own garden but Maser always had a large garden and he gave the slaves what he wanted them to have out of his garden, but he never growed anything but greens and a few potatoes. In hot weather we wore royal shirts and they were home spun and hand made. They never would wear out because they was made out of good material and dyed with poke root berries, but in cold weather we had wool clothes made by hand, but no shoes. All the shoes we had was just rags that we wrapped our feet up in cold weather to keep them warm when we had to get out and tend to the stock. On Sunday we had clean white royal shirts to wear but we must keep them clean as Maser would tear us up for wearing dirty clothes on Sunday than for anything else. My wedding clothes were just plain ever day clothes but they were real clean. I had on plain white dress trimmed with some cloth dyed from poke root berries. No shoes as I was barefooted the day I was married to that boy and Maser made me marry him as we were going to raise him some more slaves. Maser said it was cheaper to raise slaves than it was to buy them, and I guess it was for they did not lose so much when we was free by the government.

Maser was a jolly good man if he did whip the slaves sometimes, most of the slaves thought he was real mean, but he was not because he was always laughing and going on. I don't members him ever being mad or mean to his black people. Mistress she was a plum Angel, she never did bother us or do anything to the slaves as she said all the time that slavery was not right. She was a real religious woman. When Maser would put us to helping Mistress she never would scold or fuss at us and was always in a good humor and tried to show us how to do things without being mean to us. They did not have any children as they was a young couple. We were given to them when they married. Maser's father gave us to him, and Mistress father gave them their house. I was about 17 years old when I was given to my young Maser, me and the man that I called my husband. So our young Maser put us to live together to raise from just like you would stock today. They never thought anything about it either. They never cared or thought about our feeling in the matter, of course we got use to one another and never thought anything about the way they put us to live. Yes Maser he had a real nice home back there among them shade trees and vines. Their home was built out of rocks and had 2 rooms covered with boards split out of logs by hand, but the only doors it had was covered over with cowhides to keep out the rain and cold. Maser he just had small home of about 20 acres and all the slaves he had was me and my man. He woke us up every morning about 4 o'clock when he built fire in that old rock fireplace. He had 2 big iron bars hanging just outside his door and he would hit them together several times and we knew to crawl out of bed. My man he tended to the stock while I cooked breakfast then we would be in the field or tobacco curing shed by daylight. We would work every day just long as we could see how. The people now don't work like they did the, guess they are too lazy to work. Yes Maser he would whip us if we did not work real good or for telling stories, getting sassy or stubborn, but this is one negro he never did have to whip; sometime he would scold me real good and that was enough for me.

But I'se seen some Masers beat on their slaves all the time and I'se seen Maser hang slaves around the neck and left all night, then I'se seen them wear chains day in and day out and their Maser would be plum mean to them, I guess was because they could, as some of them would not have any cause to treat their slaves that way. But you know some people are that way today and some people mistreat their stock by not feeding them and their poor old mules get poor and give out on them then they grab a pole and nearly beat them poor old things to death, when the mules are not to blame. Their owners are the ones to blame because the most of the time when you feed a mule good he is always ready to go. That was just the way with slavery, if you feed a negro good and keep him in good health and good condition he is ready to work without all the abuse their Masers put on the. If you wanted a real stubborn and mean negro work him until they would give out and you had a negro that would try to make you kill him as the negro is one animal that does not care for dying. If you take all his liberty and work him real hard you had better kill him before he kills you, cause they are the most cunning brutes that walk on this earth. Yes I have seen slaves sold and auctioned off, some of them would be real glad they were going to have a new Maser as they would think, well I will get a good Maser maybe. Then I have seen some that would cry and bawl for weeks for their Masers were good to them. They would be afraid their new Masers would be mean to them. All the slaves that had people they would bawl and yell because they thought they never would see them any more and lots of them never did see one another anymore. Maybe they would be in another state and all the way the negro had to go after he was free was to foot it, as none of them owned anything to ride in. Lots times they did not own clothes they had on their backs. The way they did when they were going to sell a slave was to make that slave clean up real good, then he would grease their face, hands and feet real good so they would look fat and slick. If you went to buy a yearling you would want that yearling to be real fat and his hide to look slick and good, or you would not want the yearling. That was just the way with the slave when you went to buy one, you would want that slave to look like he had been taken good care of and in the best of shape or you would not want him or her. Well, no sir, the white people did not teach us how to read or write son, they did not want us that way, all they wanted with the slaves was to work. They did not care if we could read or not, of course you know son we have been servants to the rest of the world ever since old

Noah's son laughed at his father's nakedness and God turned his flesh black and told him for that act his sex would always carry a curse, and that they would be servants of the people as long as this old world in its present form remained. Yes and we was once sold into slavery, then they freed us, but we are still slaves to the white man or worse, because we are servants now without pay or care of any kind taken of us. Because we have increased at a rapid rate and one of us dead now they don't care because the people have lost nothing, and they are plenty more servants at their door waiting for them to give a hand out of scraps. In other words, we are worse off than if we were a sorry curr dog and if we gather anything together they are some white man ready to take it away from us. Yes, but the curr dog he can put up a fight for his rights but not the negro, as he would be doomed before he started the fight.

Well no, the slave did not have church but the white people did and they always had place fixed for the slaves in their own church, and Maser and Mistress they read the good book to us. They always taught us to tell the truth, and the way they had church back there was about once a year and it lasted about 6 weeks or 2 months, they called it the old camp meetings where everybody got religion and shouted both black and white. Boy, people then had religion, they don't have that now, no sir, I'se don't see where God has got any people now like he had then, the old devil has got all the people now of both colors. In them days back there, people used to walk 10 and 12 miles to church, come there in their ever day clothes to worship, but now people won't walk one block to church or will they come to church if they have'nt got silk dresses and silk hose to wear. White girls then come to church with plain clean homespun dresses on with their hair 3 or 4 feet long and they was most beautiful then, but now, son they got their hair cut close and them permanents on their hair - they are not half as pretty as the old time girl. Well, when we had a funeral back there in them days we had a sad affair. We did not have frolics like we do now, everyone for miles around quit work to come and do all they could for their departed one, but now if your next door neighbor dies they don't know it unless they see someone in a big fine car come there to carry the dead one to the graveyard. No one will hardly take time to bury the dead, they do not have time to miss their picture show or quit work to bury their dead. Lord knows son, what people will do now, they have got so bad and if God don't knock some blind I can't see why because they are so wicked. I'se seen one slave that tried to run away from his Maser, but child that negro never got very far as his Maser was out bright and early the next day after him. He could not get far as there was no cars for him to get a ride, all the way for him to travel was on foot. He got about 30 miles from home before his Maser caught him and his Maser put a rope around his neck and made that negro trot all the way back home. Where he got that negro home he sure did give him a good whipping and put chains around his legs and made him wear them nearly a year, that took all that negro's pleasure away from him. The negro he sure did get a terrible punishment. We could go from one plantation to another if we could get a pass from our Maser. If we slipped off without a pass the patterrollers they would sure get that Negro, and that negro he was afraid of them patterrollers. When they got the negro the first time it was just 39 licks with that cat-o-nine tails. I guess son, you know what cat-o-nine tails are. We most generally fell in at the door as we would always be so tired when we did get to our quarters. Then I'se been laying there and them patterrollers would come in our quarters and walk all around me and I would just be so quiet until I would hardly breathe while they were there. Maser always let us have Saturday evening off so we could wash and clean up for that night, and on Saturday evening he would nearly always have to go get supplies for the coming week, anyway we were always ready for that negro dance Saturday night. Of course we nearly always had to go to another plantation to the dances as we were all the negroes on our farm. We would have to get a pass from Maser before we could go, but that was one thing he never did refuse to let us go to the negro dances close by when it was so we could. Sometimes when Mistress was feeble he would not let us go, made us stay there and wait on her, something we always like to do, as Mistress was sure good to us. On Sunday we always lay around, had a good time resting; only when we went to church afoot, we enjoyed going to church and always wanted to go. In the summertime you would find us on the creek fishing and swimming as our Maser he never was so strict on us just long as we stayed on the farm. Of course we were negroes and we just had to slip off once and awhile if we did'nt we was not negroes. Of course we always tried to be careful and not let Maser catch us running around. He would not have cared himself but them patterrollers they would have torn us up good if they had caught us. I knew one negro that they caught running around and they liked to have killed that negro. They stretched him over a barrel and hit him 50 licks with the cat-o-nine tails and he was not able to do anything for over a month. On Christmas we had the best time ever, for Maser went to his fathers and on the next Christmas to Mistress' fathers and he always carried us with him and just turned us loose and let us run around the plantation with the other slaves except when Mistress wanted us to help her with her Christmas cooking. She never did want us around all time except when she wanted us to scrub the floors and wash dishes, but Oh! what a dinner they did give the slaves on that day. Then too, they would give us a few presents to make us happy and to help keep us in good spirits all along. No, we never had nothing like eggnog or spirits to drink on them holidays, as our Maser and Mistress were too religious for anything like that.

On New Years Day we always made a good resolution for the coming year and if a man should come to your home that day and come in your house without you asking him you would have a happy and prosperous year, but just let a woman come to your house and come in first, bad luck you would have because she brought the evil spirits and the evil spirits would work against you all the year. Son you may not believe in evil spirits but they will sure work against you cause they are the devil's spirits. We knew nothing of any other holiday, of course we always had Sunday as a holiday, that is we never did have to work on that day. We had a gay time when some of Maser's white people married. Had a good dinner and then the negroes were allowed to take Maser away from his bride and keep him one night. We did not have very many ring games as there was not very many young people for me to play with, but we such games as we could play, see-saw and wolf-over-the-river. I was about all the youngster that Maser had on our plantation at the time, so when I was allowed to visit some other farm or plantation where there was some young people why I made up for being there by myself. Oh yes, I have seen several ghosts, they is sure scarry. One time I saw one that almost turned this old negro's hair white. I passed by a house one night and just before I got to the house it was just clear as it could be, moon was shining bright as day, and it turned dark all at once, and went to raining, boy! was I scared. Then it quit raining just like it started and a man came out on the front porch and cleared up his throat, but listen son, while it was dark and raining they was a hand that got hold of me and said "negro what in the hell are you doing?' I felt all around to see what had me but I never could feel anything, and I was out in the middle of the big road, nothing could I fell, and it left just like it came. Well we had pretty good care taken of us slaves. When we get to feeling bad and not real sick Maser first went and got old negro Mammy to doctor on us. The first thing she done was to get her gunny sack and go to the woods and gather a lot of herbs and make her own medicine. Boy, believe me she sure give us some awful medicine. She used poke root salve for sores, skin eruption and so on; for chills, fevers and so on she boiled down to a thick syrup, red oak bark, peach tree leaves with cami weed. Son when you get this remedy all mixed together it is one of the terriblest doses you ever took it if you were not sick you would be from taking Mammy's medicine. Of course if our old negro Mammy could not do anything for our illness, Maser he went for the white doctor, then we were too valuable to let get sick or die, that would never do, because Maser he would lose from 800 to 1500 dollars for a single slave. Only the rich people could own a slave, but still from what this old negro could see, money was not as hard to get then as it is now. All the people seemed to have plenty of money, and it was all in gold too. Son, can you tell me what has become of all the gold, that is money that you cannot get hold of now. People must have lost all of that gold, wish I could find some of it wherever they lost it. Well,

I just barely did live when I was free, but son, let me tell you about that awful war that we had to go through with. It was hell from the start. The first thing it done was to take all the able bodied men out of the country and slaughter them like wild beast. They gave a big farewell barbacue and dance there on the public square to the young men, and old men too as far as that matters, as the white men did not think they could get along without their slave men to go along and wait on them and take care of the stock. So Maser he took my man to the war with him, but Maser was wounded pretty bad; so he came back home and stayed for awhile. While he was home the country was overrun with soldiers and Maser had to send Mistress to another place to get her away from those terrible guns. While the army was there he rejoined his gang and when that awful war was finally won by the northern soldiers, all the fields and homes there went to waste, fences all burned and torn down, also the houses. We had to put in almost a year building the homes and fences back. What stock they had was scattered all over creation, so we went all over the country trying to get back what they had. When that war was over lots of money had been spent, nothing won, but a lot of new graves, widows and orphan children suffering - their homes all wrecked. Slavery had not ended, no we just went from slaves to peons, and they are worse off than slaves ever were. In slavery time the poor negro was taken good care of, now after they were supposed to free the negroes, they did free them in one sense of the word, but put them in a whole lot worse shape as they turned them loose to make their own way with nothing to make it with. They took the negro from under good care of the slave owners to where if the white man, who was Lord and Maser over the negro race, did not care for killing a negro or if the negro became sick that was no loss to the white man anymore if he should die. Then the man was not responsible for us and he could not or would not see that we had good medicine given us, or any care taken of us. To this day the negro has had a hard fight to win bread for his race. Just after the war Maser he gave us $2.00 a month to stay there and work for him. Sometimes he could pay us, then again he could not, as finally he paid us about half what we made. It made it hard on us because we never collected half of our wages, and wages were very low at that time in this country. If we could have gotten all of what we made we would have been in pretty good shape, cause everything was cheap then. Son, these days a dollar just don't go no where. You can't buy anything hardly with a dollar bill. We worked there for Maser until he died after the war, then we came to Texas as we heard that people could get rich here in no time, but that was not so. Furthermore at that time we were too far from anywhere and could not sell what we made. Maser died from the wound he received in that awful war between the states. I'se had a home wedding when I married. Maser just built us a one room quarters and put me and my man in it together and we were man and wife. We raised 9 children, 6 of them living and farming in this country close by. No, son, I don't know exactly how many grandchildren I has. 19 the last time I counted them. I has one great grandchild. My man he died 30 years ago, and I'se never married anymore. Wish I had, cause living by yourself sure is lonesome.

Well, son, I don't know hardly what I did expect from freedom as I have thought back to that time a lot since, then, too, how we were treated, and what a hard time we had after we war free. Well Yes, I guess I expected the Government to give us negroes a home and mules as we had made Maser all he had, but no sir, we were not given a thing but a hard deal, turned loose with no clothes to wear on our backs, just like wild beasts to roam over the country. No, they would not let us do that we mostly had to stay with our people if we got anything. You asked me if we were forced to stay on as servants, yes, if we expected to live. No, they did not give us money or anything except what we worked for- and not half of that, they still made us do just like they wanted to after the war and still do. We had plenty to eat in slavery time, good clothes to wear and someone to take care of us if we got sick, but now we don't have this. If us negroes get cornbread and syrup for breakfast, and peas and cornbread for another meal, we are doing extra well now. Our clothes are ragged and patched on top of patch- no medicine or medical care at all except what we prepare ourselves from the herbs of the woods. Slavery time was different, we had good clothes to wear and plenty to eat cause Maser always had plenty for us. After the war we generally done just what the white man told us to do, and he kept us jumping sideways all the time. Then if he wanted to kill a negro he did not loose anything cause the negro was free and he could get another one without costing anything. Was one always waiting for him to say the word. That negro worked himself to-death for the white man as he had to live, wages were low and then we never got half what we did make. There was no way of making him pay us either, no sire, we just had to take what they would give us- and still do until this very day. Son, I thinks since the war times is just been hell for the negro race. There was them KKK's to say that we must do just like our white man tell us, if we did not, they would take the poor helpless negro and beat him up good and plenty. After all I guess the KKK done pretty good by the negro race of people, as some of them, the white man never would been able to control, as the negroes are a roaming race of people by nature, therefore, these negroes they would not have worked without someone to make them and they would not have done anything but prowled around and stole everything they could get their hands on. Now here was where the KKK done the negroes a good turn, by keeping them settled and working. No the KKK never did bother me in no way at all, as I'se always been a pretty good negro if I do say so myself. No sir, I never did vote or my man either as the KKK and the patterrollers were there to say that we could not vote, and they said none of us were able to read or write and therefore did not know anything about voting or what we was voting for. We never did try to vote unless our white man made us vote and that was very seldom he ever tried to make us. Now I believe the negro has become more use to the way of his new country and more educated and he should be allowed more privileges in voting than he ever was. We have to pay taxes and send our boys just like the white man to fight for his country in time of war, in fact we have to shoulder about the same load that every other race that has come to America. They are not barred from any privileges after they have been in this country so long.

Well I have done just about everything here that was possible to do in the country or on the farm to help my man make a living from plowing to cutting cordwood. I have pulled one end of a crosscut saw day in and day out trying to help feed my family of kids. No, I have never held any of these fancy jobs like hotel or cafe work. I'se took in lots of washing but thank God for our last President, he has given me a small pension to live on and that is the first thing the old slave negro ever had done for them. I gets a few little odd jobs now and then to help me get along as my pension is not enough for me, cause I'se have to have lots of medicine to keep me living. I am getting old and feeble son, and am not able to do much work. Well these here young folks they does pretty well considering the way they have to do to get by on and the way the white man beats them out of what they makes. Of course I know times are hard for us country negroes, we never knows from one meal to the next where it is coming from. Of course the negro he has gone pretty far from where we was, when we were free, as when we were set free there was not one out of a thousand that could read or write his name. Well son, if times ever get good again and the white man will give us a chance our race of people will brace up and come to the front. We are an energetic race of people, we hardly ever expect to be defeated if we had, at the close of the war we would not have been here. Instead of that we are still going on ahead to better our race of people. Now some are holding office and are holding good jobs and you hardly ever see a young negro that cannot read or write. I hope to live to see our people looked on and favored more than he is now by other races of people here on the earth today, well so long son