Texas Slave Narratives

Texas Slave Narrative

  Catherine Green

Catharine Green , eighty-four, was born a slave in 1854, on the Perry McGinnis ' cotton plantation, near Bastrop, Bastrop County. Catharine says, when all the slaves were freed, she was about eleven years of age, but does not remember the day and month of her birth. Her master, Perry McGinnis , was a man who believed in punishing his slaves only when they needed it. Wesley Gerry McGinnis was Catharine's father, Harriet Gerry McGinnis , her mother. Catharine has been married three times: John Dunn   five boys and one girl; Charles Boyd   three boys and two girls; and she married Henry Green when she was about seventy-one years old. Catharine , a small, yellow complexioned and shy person, says she had Indian ancestors. Her complexion and high cheekbones prove she is correct. Catharine owns a three room shack and a lot in the negro section of Manor, Travis County, but for the past eight months rheumatism has kept her in bed, and she has been living with her son, James Boyd , in a three room bungalow, at 2300 East 16th Street, Austin. She was propped up in the center of the bed with pillows, and, although the day was uncomfortably warm a fire had been burning in the small, tin heater. Her husband, Henry Green , sat beside the bed and listened respectfully. Henry is a peculiar sort of person, and says he is a "Shaw ", because some of his ancestors were Indians  probably Shawnees. It is almost impossible to understand Henry's guttural way of talking. Catharine receives a monthly pension of $10 from the state of Texas.

My name when I was a girl was Catharine McGinnis . I was bawn about eighty-four years ago, but I jes' don't remember de day and month dat I was bawn. I was bawn on Mawster Perry McGinnis ' place. I always tell my chillun dat dis was in de thornbrakes near Bastrop. Mawster McGinnis was a putty good boss. I believe dat I got jes' one whoopin', and dat was because one of my little sisters, Margaret , followed me from de slave quarters to de big house, and she was naked. I didn't really know dat she had followed me, till I come to de big house. But I remembah dat I got a whoopin' fo' it. Papa's name was Wesley Gerry McGinnis . He was a field worker on de cotton plantation. He was a short, fat man. Papa was always runnin' away from de place. Den he'd git a whoopin' fo' it, and he'd run away again. He'd stay out in de woods durin' de day, and at night he'd slip up to our house and git somethin' to eat. He got mad and run away a good many times. Papa died in 1899. Mama's name was Harriet . She was a sickly woman all of de time. She always had bad headaches. She was small and slim and wasn't heavy-made. She had Injun blood in her, and so did her mother. Mama had two sons, Wesley, Jr ., and Charlie , and four girls, Margaret , Frances , Jennie and Catharine . Me and Jennie is de only chillun still livin'. Mama died somewheres between 1893 - 95. We never got paid fo' our work durin' slavery, and we had our cabins in de quarters. We got plenty to eat, more'n some folks do now. We had parched cawn fo' coffee. It was good. Even de white folks drank it. Our mawster had plenty of cows, and we got plenty of milk to drink. We got plenty of meats and greens. We riced a lot of collard greens and poke-salads. We had cawncakes and bread made from de seconds, or whut yo' would call shorts. I remember one day dere was so many grasshoppers comin' over de place, dat dey fell into de food dat we was cookin'. Dere was so many grasshoppers, dat dey looked lak bees. De folks done thought dat jedgment had come, and dey run into dere houses and closed de doors. Mawster McGinnis didn't make me do no tasks. I was too little to much work. But, I hated to stay home, 'cause I would git too lonesome. I would git a tin bucket, hold it in my arm, and drop cotton seeds into de rows. I got married when I was about thutteen or fourteen years old. My first husband was John Dunn . We had five boys and one girl. John was mostly a fahmer. One day, he went fishin' on de San Gabriel River, up in Williamson County, I believe. Fo' some reason I tried to git him not to go. It was in de springtime, and he had been workin' so hahd in de fields, dat, when it rained, he wanted to go fishin'. Along in de evenin' of de same day, dey told me dat John had drowned in de river. Dey didn't find his body till de next day. Den dey brought him home. John was a putty good husband, and all of de folks liked him. Den one day one of my daughters, Katie , died of fits. Katie had been my second child wid John , and she was jes' beginnin' to walk. She died before John got drowned. My second husband was Charlie Boyd . We had three boys and two girls. We got married in de early eighties, jes' about de time when de state capitol was bein' built here in Austin. Charlie was a carpenter and a brick-mason. I heard him say many a time dat he done some work at de capitol. He was about sebenteen years old when he was set free. He had been owned by de Alexander fambly. Charlie wanted to learn how to read, even when he was a slave. He'd sneak up to de Alexander house at night, and lissen to de studyin' dere lessons. Dey wouldn't know he was dere. He wanted to learn de A, B, C's. He knowed dat he wasn't allowed to study, but he'd tell de Alexander chillun de next day: I bet dat yo'all kain't say yo' A, B, C's. Let me hear yo. Den de chillun would say 'em, and Charlie would remembah whut dey said. Charlie was brought from Lake Charles, Louisiana, to Texas, when he was five years old. Folks was always callin' him Uncle Lake , 'cause he used to talk so much about Lake Charles. De John Alexanders was mighty good slave-owners. All of de Alexanders was prosperous. De history of de Alexanders would go from Manor to Austin. Everybody in Manor called Charlie 'Uncle Lake ' and me, 'Aunt Catharine .' Charlie had about one hunnert beehives at one time in Manor. He had a lot of pigeons; and he was crazy about his greyhounds. Oh, My Lawd, he had a bunch of dawgs. Some of 'em Lep, Queen, and Hattie. Hattie lived to be fifteen years old, and she was his female breedin' dawg. Charlie always said dat he was arrested only once, and dat was because of his dawg. A Mexican boy at a chu'ch threw a rock and hit de dawg. Charlie bawled de Mexican boy out. Dey said dat he disturbed de peace while chu'ch was goin' on, and he had to pay a fine. After slavery, Charlie used to walk from Austin to Manor, about sixteen miles to pick cotton. He used to say dat he could walk to Manor and back and still pick his three hunnert pounds of cotton a day. He also had a chance to buy good, black fahmin' land at fifty cents a acre, and he laughed at 'em. Now some of dat land cost as much as one hunnert dollars a acre. Charlie used to say how his French owners down in Louisiana fed dere slaves in big troughs. All of his brothers and sisters spoke French, but he was too young to learn it. He did learn a few words from his oldest sister  and he had only twelb sisters.  He had only two or three brothers. One of 'em, March , went back to Louisiana, and de last dat we heard from him, was dat he owned a lot of land near Lake Charles.  Charlie died in Manor in 1915. I waited fo' about ten years befo' I married de third time. I was married to Henry Green . I was den about seventy-one years old. Henry calls hissef a Shaw , 'cause of de way dat he talks. He says dat he's got Injun blood in him. Henry was workin' by de day, choppin' cotton and pickin' cotton when I met him. He jes' come to my home in Manor and courted me. We got married in Austin and den went back to Manor. Henry was married three times befo' he married me. He had only one girl wid his other marriages, but he's got a houseful of grandchillun.  Henry's eyes is in bad shape, and he kain't do much work. He stays here wid me at my son's home, 'cause I got de rheumatism so bad. Henry lives off of his ten dollahs a month pension. My son, James Boyd , is from de second husband, and he's in his forties, but he's goin' to college to learn to be a preachah. His grandfather, John Wesley Boyd , was a Methodist Preachah.