Slave Narrative of Alex Woodson

Interviewer: Iris Cook
Person Interviewed: Alex Woodson
Location: New Albany, Indiana
Place of Birth: Woodsonville, Hart County, Kentucky,
Age: 80-85
Place of ResidenceL 905 E. 4th St., New Albany, Indiana

Iris Cook Dist 4 Floyd Co.


Observation of Writer

Alex Woodson is an old light skinned darkey, he looks to be between 80 and 85, it is hard to tell his age, and colored folks hardly ever do know their correct age. I visited him in his little cottage and had a long talk with him and his wife (his second). “Planted the fust one.” They run a little grocery in the front room of the cottage. But the stock was sadly run down. Together with the little store and his “pinshun” (old age pension) these old folks manage to get along.

Alex Woodson was born at Woodsonville, in Hart County, Kentucky, just across Green River from Munfordville. He was a good sized boy, possibly 7 years or more when “Freedom wuz declared”. His master was “Old Marse” Sterrett who had about a 200 acre place and whose son in law Tom Williams ran a store on this place. When Williams married Sterretts daughter he was given Uncle Alex and his mother and brother as a present. Williams was then known as “Young Master.”

When war come Old Master gave his (Woodson’s) mother a big roll of bills, “greenbacks as big as Yo’ arm”, to keep for him, and was forced to leave the neighborhood. After the war the old darkey returned the money to him intact.

Uncle Alex remembers his mother taking him and other children and running down the river bank and hiding in the woods all night when the soldiers came. They were Morgan’s men and took all available cattle and horses in the vicinity and beat the woods looking for Yankee soldiers. Uncle Alex said he saw Morgan at a distance on his big horse and he “wuz shore a mighty fine looker.”

Sometimes the Yankee soldiers would come riding along and they “took things too”.

When the War was over old Master came back home and the negroes continued to live on at the place as usual, except for a few that wanted to go North. Old Master lived in a great big house with all his family and the Negroes lived in another good sized house or quarters, all together. There were a few cabins.

“Barbecues! My we shore used to have ’em, yes ma’am, we did! Folks would come for miles around. Would roast whole hawgs and cows, and folks would sing, and eat and drink whiskey. The white folks had ’em but we helped and had fun too. Sometimes we would have one ourselves.”

“Used to have rail splittin’s and wood choppins. The men woud work all day, and get a pile of wood as big as a house. At noon they’d stop and eat a big meal that the women folks had fixed up for em. Them wuz some times, I’ve spent to many a one.”

“I remember we used to go to revivals sometimes, down near Horse ave. Everybody got religion and we shore had some times. We don’t have them kind of times any more. I remember I went back down to one of those revivals years afterwards. Most of the folks I used to know was dead or gone. The preacher made me set up front with him, and he asked me to preach to the folks. But I sez that “no, God hadn’t made me that away and I wouldn’t do it.”

I’ve saw Abraham Lincoln’s cabin many a time, when I was young. It set up on a high hill, and I’ve been to the spring under the hill lots of times. The house was on the Old National Road then. I hear they’ve fixed it all up now. I haven’t been there for years.

After the war when I grewed up I married, and settled on the old place. I remember the only time I got beat in a horse trade. A sneakin’ nigger from down near Horse Cave sold me a mule. That mule was jest natcherly no count. He would lay right down in the plow. One day after I had worked with him and tried to get him to work right, I got mad. I says to my wife, Belle, I’m goin’ to get rid of that mule if I have to trade him for a cat. An’ I led him off. When I came back I had another mule and $15 to boot. This mule she wuz shore skinny but when I fattened her up you wouldn’t have known her.”

“Finally I left the old place and we come north to Indiana. We settled here and I’ve been here for 50 years abourt. I worked in the old Rolling Mill. And I’ve been an officer in the Baptist Church at 3rd and Main for 41 years.”

“Do I believe in ghosts” (Here his second wife gave a sniff) Well ma’am I don’t believe in ghosts but I do in spirits. (another disgusted sniff from the second wife) I remember one time jest after my first wife died I was a sittin right in that chair your sittin in now. The front door opened and in come a big old grey mule, and I didn’t have no grey mule. In she come just as easy like, put one foot down slow, and then the other, and then the other I says ‘Mule git out here, you is goin through that floor, sure as youre born. Get out that door.’ Mule looked at me sad-like and then just disappeared. And in its place was my first wife, in the clothes she was buried in. She come up to me and I put my arms around her, but I couldn’t feel nothin’ (another sniff from the second wife) and I says, “Babe, what you want?”

Then she started to git littler and littler and lower and finally went right away through the floor. It was her spirit thats what it was. (“Rats” says the second wife.)

“Another time she came to me by three knocks and made me git up and sleep on another bed where it was better sleepin’.”

“I like to go back down in Kentucky on visits as the folks there wont take a thing for bed and vittles. Here they are so selfish wont even gave a drink of water away.”

“Yes’m the flood got us. Me and my wife here, we whet away and stayed two months. Was 5 feet in this house, and if it ever gets in here agin, we’re goin down in Kentucky and never comin’ back no more.”

The old man and his wife bowed me out the front door and asked me to come back again and we’ed talk some more about old times.

Sterrett, Woodson,

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007-2024. The WPA Slave Narratives must be used with care. There is, of course, the problem of confusion in memory resulting from (73+ years) of the participants. In addition, inexperienced interviewers sometimes pursued question lines related to their own interests and perspectives and attempted to capture the colloquialism of the informant's speech. The interviews provide fascinating insight and surprisingly candid information, however.

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