Texas Slave Narratives

 

 

 

 

Texas Slave Narrative

  Louis Young

Louis Young , 88, was born a slave of Hampton Atkinson, on a small farm in Phillips County, Arkansas. When Louis was twelve, his master sold him and his mother to Tom Young , who took them to Robinson Co., Texas. Louis now lives at 5523 Bonnell St., Fort Worth, Tex.

Mammy done put my age in de Bible and I'm eighty-eight years old now. I'm born in 1849. But I can git round. Course, I can't work now, but, shucks, I done my share of work already. I works from time I'm eight years old till I'm eighty past, and I'd be workin' yit if de rhumatis' misery didn't git me in do arms and legs. It make me stiff. so I can't walk good. Yes, suh, I starts to work when eight on dat plantation where I'm born. Dat in Arkansaw, and Massa Hampton own me and my mammy and eight other niggers. My pappy am somewhere, but I don't know where or nothin' 'bout him. Us all work from light to dark and Sunday, too. I don't know what Sunday am till us come to Texas, and dances and good things, I don't know nothin' 'bout dem till us come to Texas. Massa Hampton , he am long on de work and short on de rations, what he measure out for de week. Seven pounds meat and one peck meal and one quart 'lasses, and no more for de week. If us run out, us am out, dat's all. One day us gits sold to Massa Tom Young . He feels mammy's muscles and looks on her for marks of de whip. Massa Young say he give $700, but Massa Hampton say no, he want $1,000. He say, 'Yous takin' dem to Texas, where day sho' to be slaves. 'spite do war

Finally Massa Young gives $900 for us and off us go to Texas. Dat in 1861, de fall de year, and it am three teams mules and three teams oxen hitch to wagons full of farm things and rations and sich. Us on de road more'n three weeks, maybe a month, befo' us git to Robinson County. When us git dere, de work am buildin' de cabins and house and den clear de land, and by Spring, us ready to put in de crops, de corn and cotton. Massa Young am good and give us plenty to eat. He has 'bout twenty slaves and us works reason'ble, and has good time 'pared with befo'. On Saturday night it am dancin' and music and singin', and us never heared of sich befo'. One day Massa Young call us to de house and tell us he don't own us no more, and say us can stay and he pay us some money, if us wants. He ask mammy to stay and cook and she does, but I'm strongheaded and runs off to Calvert and goes to work for Massa Brown, and dere I stays till I'm growed. He paid me $10.00 de month and den $15.00. When I's twenty-five I marries Addie Easter and us have no chillen and she dies ten years after. Den I drifts 'round, workin' here and yonder and in 1890 I marries dat woman settin' right dere. Den I rents de farm and if de crops am good, de prices am bad, and if de prices am good, do crops am bad. No it go and us lives, and not too good, at dat. I quite in 1925 and comes to Fort Worth and piddles at odd jobs till my rheumatis' git so bad give years age. I done forgit to tell you 'bout de Klux. Dem debbils causes lots of trouble. Dey done de dirty work at night, come and took folks out and whip dem. Some cullud folks am whip so hard dey in bed sev'ral weeks and I knowed some hanged by dey thumbs. Maybe some dem cullud folks gits out dere places, but mostest dem I knows gits whip for nothin'. It jus' de orneriness dem Klux. It so bad de cullud folks 'fraid to sleep in dey house or have parties or nothin' after dark. Dey starts for de woods or ditches and sleeps dere. It git so dey can't work for not sleepin', from fear of dem Klux. Den de white folks takes a hand and sojers am brung and dey puts de stop to dem debbils. Bout de livin' now, us jus' can't make it. Us lives on what de pension am and dat $30.00 de month, and it mighty close us has to live to git by on sich. I thinks of Massa Young , and us live better den dan now I never votes, 'cause I can't read and dat make troublement for me to vote. How I gwine make de ticket for dis and dat? For dem what can read, dey can vote.


Louis Young , 88, 5523 Bonnell St., Ft. Worth, Texas, was born a slave to Mr. Hampton Atkinson , who owned eight slaves, including Louis ' mother, and a small farm in Phillips Co., Ark. When Louis was 12, Mr. Atkinson sold him and his mother to Mr. Tom Young , who took them to Robinson Co., Tex. Louis ' mother remained with Mr. Young after their freedom, but Louis ran away to Calvert, Tex., where he was employed by a Mr. Brown . Farming was Louis ' life's vocation. He married twice, the first time to Addie Easter in 1875. No children were born to them. She died in 1885. His second marriage was to Ann Jones in 1890. Two children were born to them, and both reside in Ft. Worth now. His story:

My age am 88. Dat Ise knows fo' sho, 'cause 'tis in de Bible whar my mammy have de record put. Yous figger it up, an' see if 'taint right. Ise bo'n in 1849. Yas sar, an' dis old fellow can still git around. Co'se Ise not able to wo'k now but shucks, Ise done my share of de wo'k. Ise wo'ked f'om de time Ise eight yeahs old 'til Ise 80 past. Ise be wo'kin' yet if 'twarnt fo' de rheumatiz misery in my legs an' arms. Dat misery fiz it so 'tis hard fo' me to walk on 'count of de stiffness. Yas sar, Ise starts to wo'k w'en eight on de plantation whar Ise bo'n in Phillips County, in Arkansaw. Marster Hampton Atkinson owns my mammy an' Ise 'long wid eight tudder niggers. My father am somewhar else, Ise don't know whar, or anything 'bout him.

De Atkinson place warnt much. Lak Ise says, w'en Ise eight, Ise put to wo'k. doin' chores sich as milkin', feedin' stock, weedin' de garden, an' all sich wo'k. Dey kept me busy f'om mo'nin' 'til night. Twas de same wid de old fo'ks 'bout de wo'k. Wo'k, wo'k, wo'k, 'twas all dey do. De cullud fo'ks wo'ked f'om de time dey could see 'til dark comes, an' Sunday am jus' de same as tudder days. Ise don't know what Sunday am s'posed to be 'til Ise come to Texas. Parties, dances, tudder good things, Ise don't know what dey am 'til Ise comes to Texas. No sar, not on Marster Atkinson's place, an' weuns am not 'lowed to go to tudder places. Him comes to de cabins ever night, an' looks to see if weuns am all thar. Marster Atkinson am long on wo'k, an' short on rations. Dey am measured out each Sunday mo'nin' fo' de whole week. 'Twas seven pounds meat, side meat or ham, one peck of meal, quart of 'lasses, an' no mo' rations am given. Thar am milk, weuns gits dat ever' day. If weuns runs short, weuns runs short an' dat's all 'twas. Shucks, man! Tea an' coffee, Ise don't know what dat taste lak 'til Ise comes to Texas. One day, Marster Young comes to buy weuns. Weuns don't know a thing 'bout it 'til he comes. De Marster Atkinson calls allus to de yard, an' Marster Young looks weuns over lak 'twas mules him was gwine to buy. He am mo' pa'ticular 'bout mammy. He looks on her fo' marks, feels her muscles to see if dey am hard, an' looks all over her. Den dey dickers back an' fo'th. Atkinson says,  Ise took $1,000.00 fo' de two", meanin' me too. Ise give you $700.00," says Marster Young . No sar! Deys worth $1500.00,  Marster Atkinson says. M'ybe so if 'twarnt fo' de wah, but deys m'ybe worth nothin' next yeah,  Marster Young told him. Dat's why Ise offer dem fo' $1,000.00. Dat am $500.00 less dan deys worth. Yous tookin' dem to Texas whar deys sho to have slaves," de Marster comes back at him. Ise gives you $900.00, an' not a cent mo',  says Marster Young . Look at dat boy. Wide shoulders, big muscles, w'en he am 18 yeahs old, he will be worth $1,000.00, an' de womens am strong as de ox. Ise can't 'cept $900.00. If 'twarnt fo' de wah, Ise not sell at any price," de Marster says. Well, 'taint no chance fo' a trade, so Ise gwine," says Marster Young . Gosh, mammy an' Ise hearts stops beatin', weuns am so dis'pointed. Den de Marster says, Tell yous what Ise do. Ise splits de diff'nce.  Tis a trade," says Marster Young , an' weuns goes wid him right den. Dat am in 1861, an' in de Fall of de yeah. Weuns starts fo' Texas a few days after weuns am bought. 'Twas three teams of mules, an' three teams of oxen hitched to wagons loaded wid farm good, rations an' sich. Weuns am on de road 'bout three weeks, or m'ybe mo'. 'Twas long time, anyway. M'ybe a month befo' weuns gits to Robinson County.

W'en weuns gits to Robinson County, allus goes to wo'k buildin' de cabins an' de house fo' de Marster. Soon's de houses am built, weuns starts to clear de land, an' by Spring, weuns am ready to put in de crops. 'Twas co'n an' cotton weuns planted. Marster Young am a good Marster. Him don't overwo'k de cullud fo'ks, an' fed weuns all weuns wants to eat. Co'se, him watch fo' de wastin' of food. He says,  Ise wants yous to have all yous can eat, but don't waste de food. If Ise catch yous wastin' de food, Ise den measures it out". Now, weuns had de 'sperience wid de measurin, so weuns am always careful. Thar am 15 tudder slaves Marster Young buys f'om tudder people, an' brings dem heah. Weuns tells dem 'bout de measurin', so deys careful too. Weuns wo'ks reasonable, an' had good time 'pared wid what weuns am used to befo'. De cullud fo'ks comes to weuns' place on Saturday nights, an' 'twould be dancin', music, an' singin' 'til late, or weuns am given de pass an' goes to some tudder place. 'Twas lak livin' fo' sho. De fust thing weuns knows, one day de Marster calls allus together at de house. Co'se, weuns wonders what fo', 'cause 'tis unusual. W'en weuns gathers thar, he says, "Well fo'ks, Ise have s'prise fo' yous. Ise don't own yous any mo'. 'Tis de ordah f'om de Gov'ment dat thar am to be no mo' slaves. Yous am free to do lak yous think best." Well, thar weuns am. Ise heah my mammy says What Ise thinks best, am to stay right heah. 'Tis de best weuns ever had". All de fam'lies stays right on de place, an' farmed on halves. De Marster asked mammy to stay an' de cookin' fo' him, an she does. Ise don't stay long, 'cause Ise have de fuss wid my mammy lots. Ise strong headed, an' she wants me to do de right thing, an' go to school an' git some larnin'. De Marster tries to git her to bind me out to him 'til Ise 21. De Marster says to her, "Ise larn him to mind, an' be a man". Well, mammy 'fuses to bind me to him, an' she starts to 'range fo' me to go to school dat am bein' fixed fo' de cullud chilluns. Jus' thar am whar Ise makes de big mistake of my life.

Ise don't lak de idea of goin' to school, so Ise leaves an' goes to Calvert, Texas, whar Ise goes to wo'k fo' Marster Brown , 'bout three miles out. Ise stayed thar 'til Ise grown man. Marster Brown paid me $10.00 a month an' board at de fust, den at last, Ise raised to $15.00. W'en Ise 25 yeahs old, Ise gits mai'ied to Addie Easter . Weuns have no chilluns, an' she dies 'bout ten yeahs later. Ise drifts 'round den, wo'kin' fo' fust dis farmer an' dat. In 1890, Ise mai'ies dis womens sattin' right heah. Weuns have two chilluns an' both am livin' right heah in Fort Worth. After Ise mai'ied de second time, Ise rents a farm. Dat's de way Ise makes my livin' most of my life, farmin'. Sometimes, weuns does good, an' sometimes 'twarnt so bad nor so good. If de crops am good, de prices am bad, an' if de prices am good, den de crops am bad. So it goes, weuns lives, an' not too good at dat. Ise quits farmin' in 1925, an' comes to Fort Worth. Ise piddled at odd jobs 'til my rheumatiz gits so bad 'bout five yeahs ago. Since den, Ise do nothin'. Now, 'bout de Klux, dem devils caused lots of trouble 'round Calvert. Ise wo'kin' fo' Marster Brown den, an' am safe 'cause Ise lives on his place, an' had a room in de servant's qua'tahs. Dey don't care to come into de Marster's yard, but de cullud fo'ks as lives on farms an' sich, sho catches hell. De Klux does de dirty wo'k at night. Deys come an' took de fo'ks out, an' whups dem. Thar am some cullud fo'ks whupped so hard deys in bed fo' sev'ral weeks. 'Twas sev'ral hanged up by dey thumbs. Now m'ybe some of de cullud fo'ks gits outer deys place, but mostest of dem Ise knows, gits whupped fo' nothin'. 'Twas jus' de o'neriness of de Klux. 'Twas so bad some of de cullud fo'ks am 'fraid to sleep in de house, have parties, or anything after dark. W'en dark come, de cullud fo'ks starts fo' de woods, ditches, or anywhar dey feels safe f'om de Klux. It gits so dey can't do deys wo'k right fo' de loss of sleep. Den de white fo'ks dat owns de land took a hand. Thar am sojers brought to de country, an' dey puts a stop to de devils. Ise jus' lucky Ise wid Marster Brown durin' dem days. Bout de livin' now, well, weuns jus' don't make it. Weuns have to live on what de pension gives, an' dat am $30.00 de month fo' de both of weuns. 'Tis mighty close weuns have to live to git by on sich. Ise often thinks 'bout de slave days on Marster Young's place. Weuns lives bettah den dan now. Bout de votin', Ise never votes. Yous see, Ise can't read, an' dat makes it troublement fo' me to vote. How Ise gwine to make de ballot fo' dis an' dat office? Ise jus' can't, so Ise don't vote. Fo' dem dat can read, dey should vote. Anyway, Ise gwine to 'lows de younguns to worry 'bout sich.


BACK TO TEXAS "Y" SLAVE NARRATIVE INDEX