Slave Narrative of Martha J. Jones

Interviewer: Byers York
Person Interviewed: Martha J. Jones
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Place of Birth: Buckingham County, Virginia
Date of Birth: 1847
Age: 90

In an interview with Mrs. Martha J. Jones, she reminisced of the old Civil War days as follows:

“I was born in Buckingham County, Virginia, and later during the Civil War, I lived in Gilmer County, W. Va. My fathers name was Robert R. Turner; he was born in 1818 and my mother’s name was Susan; she was born in 1821. My parents had six children and we lived on a big farm.

My father was in the legislature in W. Va. During the Civil War, I had three brother in the Southern Army. One of them died of fever, one was shot and killed in action, and the other William Wert Turner, came out of the army after the close of the war and became a lawyer. Later he went to New Castle, Kentucky, and became a prominent lawyer, where he remained until his death in 1932.

I married John R. Jones, a lieutenant in the Union Army, at Gilmer, W. Va., when I was about twenty years old, shortly after the war. We then moved to New Castle, Kentucky, Henry County. We had four children born to us, and I now have three living children; later on in years we moved to Louisville. During the days of the Civil War my father owned three slave, one was an old darkey named Alex, and the nigger mammies, were Diana and Mary Ann. My parents were always good to their slaves, and never traded or sold them. They were good workers and my father never kept many.

My Uncle, John C. Turner, had farms close to my father’s in West Va., and he had fifty-two slaves when the war ended. He would buy, sell and trade them all the time. The slaves were judged by the Masters. If they were big and strong they would bring a good price, as they would be better workers for the fields, and then, I would watch my uncle swap and buy slaves, just the same as he was buying any other stock for his farm. I am getting [HW: old] now, and my memory is not so good no more, and it is hard to remember the things of so long ago. You see, I will be ninety years old, next Feb. 23rd. I was born in 1847.”

Jones, Turner,

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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