Texas Slave Narratives

Texas Slave Narrative

  Virginia Yarbrough

Virginia Yarbrough , 78, 715 Crawford St., Fort Worth, born a slave to Frank Neal of Rapides Parish, Louisiana; on his plantation near Alexandria which had 30 adult slaves. She remained with her master until 1876 when she married Sipp Yarbrough , who died in 1907; they had nine children, but only two are living (1937). She operates a rooming house for her livelihood.

Well, sar, Ise glad to talk if it don't cost me, or if Ise don't have to stop peelin' these pears 'cause Ise paid six-bits fo' dem an' wants to make preserves. Ise bo'n in slavery times. Ise 'membahs w'en de wah starts 'cause Ise cod nuff to go into de cotton field an' help pick de cotton. 'Course Ise couldn't pick much but Ise help. Ise 'bout nine yeahs old Ise guess. Twas in Rapides Parish in Weziana Ise bo'n. De plant'tion am neah Alexandria. 'Twas owned by Marster Frank Neal ; his wife name am Ann . Marster Neal died short time befo' de wah, den about two yeahs aftah Marster neal died Missie Ann mar'ried Dr. Tom Manning . Thar what 'bout 30 grown niggers an' 'bout dat many younguns. De cullud fo'ks lived in de quarters dat am 'bout 10 log cabins. All that war in de cabins am one table, couple benches, fire place whar de cooking am done, bunks fo' sleepin' an' weuns never had to scrub 'cause de flooah am dirt. 'Couse weuns have to shovel out de dirt once in a while. Each family do thar own cookin' an' each family have one cabin. Thar whar my parents, me an' my brother dat live in weuns cabin. Weuns am treated awful good by Marster Neal an' by Marster Manning , too. Deys am good 'bout de rations, de clothes, an' deys don't overwo'k de cullud fo'ks. 'Course de cullud fo'ks make an' raised everything weuns have but 'twas all weuns needs. 'Twas plenty of meat, 'twas plenty of veg'ables, co'n meal, milk, eggs, an' all fruit weuns want in de season an' 'twas lots of it preserved fo' de winter. Yas, some weuns have fish. Thar whar good fishin' in Red River right neah de plant'tion. De cullud fo'ks use to sein for de fishes. De cullud fo'ks never wo'k on de Saturday aftahnoon. Dat time am fo' weuns to do lak weuns want sich as de weuns wahin', fix de clothes, an' does fishin' if deys want to. Ise never heahs 'bout whuppin's so Ise don't think 'twas any given. Thar am a chu'ch on de place an' often a white preacherman come an' preach.

Twas diffe'ent on de plant'tion next to weuns. Thar de Marster warnt so good. 'Twas a big place an' dey use de whup sometimes an' de Marster force de womens to live wid de man him picks fo' dem. Youse see weuns visit wid each tudder Sundays an' dey tell weuns what am done on de Buckham place. Ise gwine to tell youse how a nigger couple fools de Marster Buckham once. 'Twas a cullud gal, her name am Nancy , 'bout 17 yeahs old an' her Marster tol' her to live wid a certain nigger name Tip. Dat gal Nancy 'tested dat fellow Tip. She won't 'llows him to come neah her. Tip tol' his Marster 'bout it an' de Marster gives the gal a whuppin' an' tol' her dat him owned her an' dat she must do as him wants. De cullud fellow feels sorry 'bout de gal gettin' de whuppin' so Tip sez to Nancy : 'Ise don't want to see youse whupped so Ise sleep on de flooah an' youse use de bunk but youse must promise never tell de Marster.' 'Ise sho promise, hope to die', she sez. Twas 'bout three months aftah de Marster see thar am no chiles gwine to be bo'n so he tuks her fo'm dat fellow an' 'llows her to stay wid de one she laks 'cause he thinks Nancy can't have culluns. Dat am 'bout five yeahs befo' surrendah an' every heahs thar am a chils bo'n to Nancy while she am a slave. De Marster never did learnt how come thar warnt any chils bo'n wid de furst man. Course Marster Manning never does anything lak dat but 'warnt much to de mai'iage. De niggers jus' do as de please an' am 'llowed to go furst wid one den de tudder, sometimes. 'Twarnt dat way wid my fo'ks. All my mammy's chulluns am bo'n by de one man.
 Ise tol' youse de Marster never whupps; well, Ise fo'gets de one time he cuffs one nigger. Dis am how it happened. Over on de Buckham place thar am a new nigger come dat de Marster Buckham buys. Sho as youse live dat nigger could throw his voice. What youse call it, 'tis ventril'quist, taint it? Well dat am what he am. Thar whar clump of woods twix de two plant'tions. De crows use to sat in de trees an' kaw all day 'cause deys have de nest thar. One day dat ventril'quist am in de woods neah whar nigger Amos am wo'kin'. Dat fellow starts to do ventril'quist talk to Amos an' Amos thinks 'tis de crow a-talkin'. Den he gets all 'cided an' runs to tell Marster Mannin '. De Marster don't believe it, 'course Amos 'sisted on de Marster comin' to de field. De Marster sez:  Ise go but if youse foolin' me Ise sho cuff you. Youse sho can do sich if dem crows am not talkin'," sez de nigger Amos .

W'en deys get to de field 'side de woods, 'course de crows am jus' sezen, "kaw, kaw". So de Marster give Amos a couple cuffs. De Marster goes back to de house an' aftah him am gone Amos sez to de crows, "If Ise could Ise kill every one of youse". Den he heahs de answer, "Nigger youse talk too much, aftah dis keep dat mouth shut an' save de cuffin'." 'Course weuns all heahs 'bout it an' aftah dat weuns call Amos Kaw Kaw an' dat sho get him hitup. Aftah de wah starts de Marster leaves Weziana an' moves to Texas wid all his slaves. Him goes to San Augustine. Thar whar 'bout ten teams of oxen an' mules hitched to wagons an' weuns travled many days. Ise can't 'membahs how many day weuns am on de road 'cuase Ise too young an' tis so long 'go. Weuns camp out at night sleepin' whar weuns can, on de ground, in de wagons an' undah de wagons. De meals am cooked by de camp fires. 'Twas lots of fun at furst but weuns gets awful tired much befo' weuns reach San Augustine. De roads am bad 'twas many mud holes an' weuns am stuck many times. Often weuns am stuck so bad deys have to hitch two an' sometimes three teams to de one wagon to pull it out of de hole. Aftah weuns gets to San Augustine my mammy died. Jus' befo' she died she called Missie Ann to her an' asked her to please tuks care of me. Aftah dat Missie tuks me in de house fo' de servant girl. Marster Manning farms till de wah am oveah den weuns goes back to Weziana on de old place. 'Twas 'bout half of de niggers dat goes back wid him. Aftah weuns gets back to Weziana 'twas a short time till Ise heah dat father am killed in de battle. So 'twas jus' de chulluns left of de Tom Reynolds family. Weuns stayed wid Marster Manning long aftah surrendah.

Two or three yeahs aftah surrendah de Gover'ment sends weuns de notice dat thar am some money comin' to weuns 'cause de Government owed it to father. Ise don't know how come 'cause Ise igo'mus 'bout sich thin's. Weuns have to go to court to prove Ise de daughter of Tom Reynods . Youse see my father an bo'n on Tom Reynolds place an' dat how come him name am Reynolds . To show youse how much 'tention de Marsters pay to mai'iage of de niggers Ise want to tell you what am sez in de court by Marster Tom . De court man asked him: "Am Virginia de daughter of Tom Reynolds dat youse use to own." Marster Tom answers de court man an' him sez: "Well, Ise don't know fo' certain but Ise see it am always Tom dat come out of Vi'gina's mother's cabin w'en de bell rings so him have de best chance fo' to be Vi'gin's father."
 Ise in de court listin' an' w'en de Marster sez he dont know fo' certain Ise am de daughter of Tom Reynolds Ise sho skeert dat de courtman am gwine to think Ise am not de daughter of my father, but Marsters statement am alright an' deys pay to weun chulluns de money. 'Twas put in de hands of Marster Tom fo' to keep fo' weuns. Two hundred dollars am de 'mount. De Marster pays me my money w'en Ise get mai'ied to Sipp Yarbrough in 1876.

My husband was a hard worker an' 'tend to his farm wo'k so weuns am always provided fo', not wid lot of foolishments but whut am needed, jus' plain stuff. Now since my husband died 'tis bee tough tussle fo' me to get by. What youse think 'bout old woman my age dat can make de livin'? 'Taint much but Ise live. Ise have de few rooms dat Ise rent an' dat a'way Ise make it, 'tis awful close sometimes. Ise have to make it go 'cause deys don't pay me any pension 'cause Ise own dis home. Ise sho would lak to get de pension so it wont be any worryment fo' me. What Ise think 'bout women votin'? Ise think deys should. If tis right to hang women deys should have de right to vote on how 'tis done. Ise never voted, youse see weuns am on de farm aftah freedom an' a-way f'om whar de votin' am. Weuns heah 'bout de fussin' dat am ovah de cullud fo'ks votin' so weuns jus' keeps away f'om de trubblement. Songs? gosh fo' mighty, what next? Ise tell de words of one 'bout de wah:
No'then goods am outter date since old Abe's blockade Jeff Davis rides a big white hoss Abe Lincoln rides de mule. Jeff Davis sats in a rockin' chaiah Lincoln sats on a stool. Hurrah, hurrah, fo' de sunny South so dear Three cheers fo' de homespun dress Southland ladies wear. Youse see 'twas hard f o' to buy store goods durin' de wah so de big ladies have to wear homespun laks de niggers use. Dats how come fo' someone to make up dat song. Now, if dat am all Ise am gwine to cook de pears.