Slave Narrative of Mary Smith

Interviewer: Caldwell Sims
Person Interviewed: Mary Smith
Date of Interview: September 14, 1937
Location: Union, South Carolina

“I liked to went crazy when my brother, Bob, went to Arkansas. Den Marse George Young wrote our names in a book and give it to my ma. It was jes’ a small mem’randum book. We kept it till Miss Addie, dat is Mrs. Billy, give ma de Bible storybook, and den she copied our names in dat one. De little book was about wore out den; so it was burned up when Miss Addie had done finished writing our names in de storybook. Us gwine to keep dat book and hand it down atter we done left dis earth. Ma been dead now over fifty years.

“I sho nu’sed Marse George’s chilluns fer him, when I was a little gal. Jimmie, Willie, Conquest, Jack, Katie and Annie was Marse’s chilluns. Conquest dead now. Marse George had a great big house. He was a jes’tice of de peace or something or ‘nother den. I don’t know what year my ma died, but Marse had her buried at New Chapel. Dat same year we raised a big crop of corn, cotton and peanuts, and had plenty hogs. Marse let us have all we wanted. He let us hang our meat in his smokehouse dat year.

“Befo’ ma died and I was a little gal, a terrible thing happened to us. Across de Enoree on another place, de Miller place, Fannie Miller run away. Dey couldn’t find her fer a long time. Dey told my marster to git her. One Sunday my ma got ready to dress me fer Sunday school. She bathed me and when she looked in de drawer she couldn’t find my clothes. All of her clothes was gone, too. I cried ’cause I couldn’t go to Sunday school. Maude, de woman what lived next to us, went to church. She saw Fannie dar wid all ma’s clothes on. She told Marse about it and he sont out and had Fannie caught. She had come to our house and got de clothes on Saturday evening. She had dem hid in a old house on our place. Dey put her in jail, and den her marster come and whupped her and sont de clothes back to ma. She never tried to run off agin.

“Jack Gist, a slave of Gov. Gist, run away once and lived in a cave fer five months befo’ de white folks found him. He went down on ‘de forest’ and dug a cave near de road in sight of de Harris Bridge which still spans de Fairforest Creek at dat p’int. De cave wasn’t dug on Governor Gist’s land, but on a place know’d den as de old Jackson place. In de mid hours of night Jack come to see his friends and dey give him things to eat. When dey got him he had a hog, two geese, some chickens and two middles of meat. Cose de hog and de middles was stole.

“One night he was crossing de Fairforest Creek on a foot-log and he met Anderson Gist, one of de Governor’s slaves. Dey talked fer awhile. Next morning, Anderson come wid his marster to de cave whar Jack was. Dey took all his things on to de big house, and he was whupped and put back to work. Governor Gist and our marster was good to deir slaves and dey didn’t punish ’em hard like some of ’em did. We had lots more den dan we has had ever since.

“I never went to de field till atter freedom come. Dey wasn’t hard on us in de fields and I liked to work. We worked mostly from sun-up till it was too dark to work. Marster’s youngest girl, Mary Jane Young, married Mr. Dave Lane. Dey didn’t have a wedding.

“My grandpa was a African and he talked real funny. He was low, chunky, fat and real black. He went around a lot befo’ he died. He was de father of my mother, Clora. Granny, his wife, was called ‘Fender’ and she died de first year of freedom. She was sold and lived on a neighboring plantation. We went to see her every Saturday. Ma would always take us to see her, and if we didn’t git to go, she come to see us. We liked to go, and Marse always give us a pass. De patrollers watch us like a hawk, but we had our passes and we told dem if dey bothered us our marster would handle ’em. He would, too, ’cause dat was ‘de law’. Granny Fender was good looking. She wore purty beads, earrings and bracelets, and wrapped her head up in a red cloth. Her eyes and teeth flashed and she was always jolly. Sometimes we stay all night, but most de time we come back home. When she come to see us she always stay all night. All de old folks had real religion den, and it kept ’em happy. Folks now are too fancy fer religion and it ain’t real. I has real religion and nothing don’t worry me. I feels happy all de time over it.

“My marster give my mother de spot of ground and de lumber fer our church which was named New Chapel. De second church is on de same spot. De first preaching was had under a oak tree, or arbor. Uncle Tony Murphy was de first preacher. He was my favorite of all de preachers. Marse read de Bible to us, but sometimes others read it to us, too. His son, Bud, dat was killed in de first battle, used to come to de quarters and read de Bible to us.

“Alex Hall was de minister dat immersed us all. We was all Methodists, but out dar dey baptized everybody in de Fairforest no matter what church dey went to. Dar was fifty people baptized de day dat I was. Milly Bethane made me a big white robe to be baptized in. When I got out I had a white dress to put on. Dey had a tent fer us to go in to change our clothes. We was baptized in de Fairforest jes’ above de Harris Bridge. Everybody sung while we was going under de water. Some of ’em shouted, too. It took de earthquake to shake religion in my husband. He was Emanuel Gist, de first one.

“Dat night, de people was hollering and woke me up. My husband called me. ‘What dat?’ he ‘low. ‘I don’t know,’ I says. He got up and run out. Soon he come back home and he was shaking all over. He fell on de bed. When de chimney started to fall, I told him to git up. He said he was too scared to git up. I pulled him up and he was so scared dat he shook all over. I opened de door. He was too scared to stand up. Next day he couldn’t work; so he went off. I looked fer him till way in de night. When he did come home, he was rejoicing. He was wid religion and he never give it up. Dat was on de night of de earthquake. You could hear people hollering fer miles around.”

Murphy, Smith, Young,

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007.

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