Slave Narrative of Aunt Harriet Mason

Interviewer: Eliza Ison
Person Interviewed: Harriet Mason
Location: Lancaster, Kentucky
Place of Birth: Garrard County KY
Date of Birth: April 14, 1847

Garrard County. Ex-Slave Stories. (Eliza Ison) [HW: Ky 11]

Aunt Harriet Mason-Ex-Slave:

She was born one mile below Bryantsville on the Lexington Pike in Garrard County, and was owned by B.M. Jones. She gives the date of her birth as April 14, 1847. Aunt Harriet’s father was Daniel Scott, a slave out of Mote Scott’s slave family. Aunt Harriet’s mother’s name was Amy Jones, slave of Marse Briar Jones, who came from Harrodsburg, Ky. The names of her brothers were Harrison, Daniel, Merida, and Ned; her sisters were Susie and Maria. Miss Patsy, wife of Marse Briar gave Maria to Marse Sammy Welsh, brother of Miss Patsy’s and who lived with his sister. He taught school in Bryantsville for a long time. “General Gano who married Jane Welsh, adopted daughter of Marse Briar Jones, took my sisters Myra and Emma, Brother Ned and myself to Tarrant County, Texas to a town called Lick Skillet, to live. Grapevine was the name of the white folks house. It was called Grapevine because these grapevines twined around the house and arbors. Sister Emma was the cook and Myra and me were nurse and house maids. Brother married Betty Estill, a slave who cooked for the Estill family. Mr. Estill later bought Ned in order to keep him on the place. I didn’t sleep in the cabins with the rest of the Negroes; I slept in the big house and nursed the children. I was not paid any money for my work. My food was the same as what the white folks et. In the summer time we wore cotton and tow linen; and linsey in the winter. The white folks took me to church and dressed me well. I had good shoes and they took me to church on Sunday. My master was a preacher and a doctor and a fine man. Miss Mat sho was hard to beat. The house they lived in was a big white house with two long porches. We had no overseer or driver. We had no “Po white neighbors”. There was about 300 acres of land around Lick Skillet, but we did not have many slaves. The slaves were waked up by General Gano who rang a big farm bell about four times in the morning. There was no jail on the place and I never say a slave whipped or punished in any way. I never saw a slave auctioned off. My Mistus taught all the slaves to read and write, and we set on a bench in the dining room. When the news came that we were free General Gano took us all in the dining room and told us about it. I told him I wusn’t going to the cabins and sleep with them niggers and I didn’t. At Christmas and New Years we sho did have big times and General Gano and Miss Nat would buy us candy, popcorn, and firecrackers and all the good things just like the white folks. I don’t remember any weddings, but do remember the funeral of Mr. Marion who lived between the big house and Lick Skillet. He was going to be buried in the cemetery at Lick Skillet, but the horses got scared and turned the spring wagon over and the corpse fell out. The mourners sure had a time getting things straightened out, but they finally got him buried.

They used to keep watermelon to pass to company. Us children would go to the patch and bring the melons to the big spring and pour water over them and cool ’em. When news came that we were free we all started back to Kentucky to Marse Jones old place. We started the journey in two covered wagons and an ambulance. General Gano and Miss Nat and the two children and me rode in the ambulance. When we got to Memphis we got on a steam boat named “Old Kentucky”. We loaded the ambulance and the two wagons and horses on the boat. When we left the boat, we got on the train and got off at Georgetown in Scott County and rode from there to General Gano’s Brother William in Scott County, on a stage coach. When I took the children, Katy and Maurice, upstairs to wash them I looked out the window into the driveway and saw the horses that belonged to Marse Briar Jones. They nickered at the gate trying to get in. The horses were named Henry Clay and Dan. When the children went down I waved at the horses and they looked up at the window and nickered again and seemed to know me. When we were coming back from Texas, Maurice held on the plait of my hair all the way back. I didn’t marry while I belonged to the Gano family. I married Henry Mason after I came to Lancaster to live about sixty years ago. I am the mother of nine children, three boys and six girls. There are two living. I have no grand-children. I joined the church when the cholera epidemic broke out in Lancaster in 1878. The preacher was Brother Silas Crawford, of the Methodist Church. I was baptized in a pond on Creamery Street. I think people ought to be religious because they live better and they love people more.”

Aunt Harriet lived at the present behind the White Methodist Church in Lancaster. The daughter with whom she lives is considered one of the high class of colored people in Lancaster. She holds an A.B. Degree, teaching in the colored city school, and is also a music teacher. She stands by the teaching of her mother, being a “Good Methodist”; giving of her time, talent, and service for her church.

Bibliography: Interview with Aunt Harriet Mason, Lancaster, Kentucky.

Estill, Jones, Mason, Scott, Welsh,

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.

1 thought on “Slave Narrative of Aunt Harriet Mason”

  1. Harriet Mason is also interviewed by Sue Higgins, with some interesting differences. General Gano is my Great-Great Grandfather.

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