Slave Narrative of Fanny Smith Hodges

Interviewer: Mrs. W. F. Holmes
Person Interviewed: Fanny Smith Hodges
Location: Berglundtown, Mississippi

Fanny Smith Hodges lives in Berglundtown, in the northern part of town, in the only Negro settlement within the corporate limits of McComb.

“My name’s Fanny Hodges. I was Fanny Smith befo’ I was mar’ied. My mammy was Jane Weathersby, an’ she b’long ter old man Weathersby in Amite County. He was de meanes’ man what ever lived. My pappy was sol’ befo’ I was born. I doan know nothin’ ’bout him. I had one sister—her name was Clara—and one brudder—his name was Jack. Dey said my pappy’s name was George. I doan know.

“Mammy said when I was jes big ‘nough to nuss an’ wash leetle chulluns, I was sol’ to Marse Hiram Cassedy an’ dat man give me ter his darter, Miss Mary, to be her maid. De Cassedys sho’ was good people. I was big ‘nough to draw water, an’ put it in a tub an’ wash Miss Mary, Miss Annie, an’ Miss July. I had to keep ’em clean. I had to comb dey hair an’ dey would holler an’ say I pulled. I was tol’ not to let anything hurt dem chulluns.

“I slep’ in de Quarters wid de other niggers. Befo’ sunup I had to git to de Big House ter dress dem chulluns. I doan’ member whut kind of bed I had, but reckin’ it was good. I et in de kitchen. Dey fed fine. I et whut de white folks lef’, an’ sometimes dey had ‘possum an’ taters. Dey was good.

“Marse Cassedy was a big Judge. He went to all de cou’ts, an’ rode in a fine carri’ge with two big horses hitched ter it, an’ a driver. He wore fine clo’es an’ ever’body said he was a mighty big man. He had lots an’ lots of money. I doan know how many acres in his plantation, but he had more’n 50 slaves.

“When Marse Cassedy was gone, his oberseer would be hard on de slaves, but Marse Cassedy would tell him not to be too hard. He never ‘lowed his driver to draw de blood when dey whupped. He fed his slaves. Dey all had gardens and he tuk care of us. He had money in every one of us. De oberseers was white men workin’ fer wages.

“I was never whupped afte’ I went to Marse Cassedy. Slaves was whupped when dey wouldn’t work right. Sometimes dey was lazy. De oberseer blowed a horn every mornin’ and de slaves knowed to git up, an’ when dat horn blowed agin, dey knowed dey must go to de fiel’. Dey blowed de horn at dinner an’ night. Afte’ supper, we set ’bout an’ sing an go places. Sometimes de men would steal off an’ go ter other plantations, an’ when kotched dey got a whuppin’. If de pataroller got em, dey sho’ kotched it. Dey was whupped an’ brung back.

“De white folks had big dances in de Big House and de niggers played de fiddle. Dey was fine times. Dey had good things ter eat, an’ I allus got some of whut was lef’. Christmas time de slaves had dances. I could sho’ shuffle my feet. Shucks, folks doan dance like dat any more.

“When slaves was sick, dey went to de woods and got roots an’ herbs ter doctor ’em wid. If dey had runnin’ off of de bowels, dey got red oak barks an’ boiled it an’ made ’em drink it. It’s de best thing right now to cure runnin’ off of de bowels. If young gals had pains in dey stomachs dey made tea out’n gum bark and dat would bring ’em ’round. When babies was born, dey had good midwives to wait on ’em. Dat was good money.

“When Miss July got mar’ied dey had two cooks in de kitchen makin’ pound cake fer more’n a week, an’ pies, an’ chicken pie, an’ dey killed a hog. Dey had ever’body in de country savin’ butter an’ eggs fer a long time. I didn’ see de weddin’ but de yard was full and we had ever’thing to eat.

“My folks was rich. Marse Cassedy went to de War an’ he was a big man dere. He was gone a long time. Dey kep’ tellin’ us de Yankees was comin’ and Miss Fanny had her silver put in a bag and hid. Dey had de money put in a wash pot and buried, an’ dey ain’t found dat money yet. Oh, dey had more money! Didn’ I tell you dey was rich? No mam, dey wasn’t po’ when war was over. Dey had ever’thing. When de Yankees come, dey carried off all de meat in de smokehouse, an’ de blanket an’ quilts, an’ every thing dey wanted, dey he’ped deyse’ves. None of de slaves went wid’ em.

“When Marse Cassedy come home he had de oberseer blow de horn ’bout ten o’clock and tol’ ’em all dey was freed. He said he’d work ’em fer wages, an’ nearly everyone of ’em stayed fer wages. I stayed wid Miss Mary ’bout ten years. Den I mar’ied. No, Jake an’ me rid horse back an’ went to Magnolia an’ got mar’ied. I doan know who mar’ied us—somebody in de cou’t house.

“Me an’ Jake went to Summit ter live’. We had to work mighty hard. Sometimes I plowed in de fiel’ all day; sometimes I washed an’ den I cooked, an’ afte’ ‘while, we moved down to de new town. I come here when dis town fust started. I cooked fer Mrs. Badenhauser, while he was mayor of de town. Dey worked me hard. Me’n Jake’s had some hard ups an’ downs. I had fo’ chullun, none of dem livin’ dat I know of. I might have some grandchulluns but if I do, dey live up North.

“I’m old an’ can hardly git about. I’se got a cancer. De doctor done cut my lef’ brest clear offen me, but dat hurts me somtimes yit.

“I niver jined any church ’til ’bout 20 year ago, right here in Berglundtown. My church is Flowery Mount Baptist Church, an’ my Brudder Washin’ton is my pastor, an’ he is de best preacher what ever lived. No, Marse Cassedy didn’t have no church fer de slaves. Dey went to de white folks’ church.

“How do I live? Well I gits a pension of fo’ dollars a month, an’ I try to wash a leetle fer de colored folks, an’ den I beg. I can’t stay here long but God won’t low me to starve. Bless God, he’s comin’ fer me some day.”

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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