West Center Street
Marion County, Missouri
Lewis Mundy, now living on West Center Street, Hannibal, Missouri, was born in slavery on the farm of John Wright, five miles north of La Belle, Lewis County, Missouri. He has lived there for over thirty years, and has a wide acquaintance among both white and colored people. The following is his story of his life:
“Mr. Wright had eleven slaves, my mother and ten of us children. Mr. Wright had eight children. My father was owned by Billy Graves, whose farm was joined to master’s farm. I don’t know where he came from, but mother was brought here by the Wrights from Virginia.
“Our master and mistress was good to us, but of course my mother had to whip me often. She used a whip made from twisted buckbrush twigs.
“I worked in the fields mostly. When I was small I rode one of the oxen and harrowed the fields. When I was about ten or eleven I plowed with oxen. I’ve plowed many times with a moldboard plow with an iron share on it.
“We never wanted for clothes very bad. We wore long shirts that reached to the knees until we was twelve or fourteen years old. Them wool shirts was warm. We had one pair of shoes a year. Many times I went after the cows barefoot when there was over a foot of snow on the ground. It didn’t seem to hurt me. I was toughened to it.
“After we were freed mother stayed with master for about a year, then she moved over toward Newark and worked out till she got straightened out so she could keep house for herself. I stayed there for a while longer until I got work on a farm at fifty cents a day. After a while they paid me seventy-five cents a day. We didn’t get anything from our master after the war. I remember the Bowans, though, give their slaves eighty acres of land.
“I remember there was a Ku Klux Klan in the county, but they never bothered me. I tended to my own business and never bothered nobody. I never was arrested in my life. I never give the policemen any trouble.
“I got married when I was about twenty and settled in Jetto in Knox County and worked on a farm. We had two children. One of them died years ago, and I am living here with my other daughter. After a while we moved to Palmyra. I worked around on farms until 1903, then we moved here to Hannibal. I worked in the Burlington Shops for seventeen years, till they told me I was too old to work anymore. I am now getting a pension now for over a year. It helps a lot.
“I have voted ever since I was old enough. They used to tell me how to vote. I always belonged to the Baptist Church and belong to the Helping Hand Baptist now. My mistress belonged to the old time Christian Church and I used to drive her to church with a bay mare she had.
“We used to sing, ‘I Am Bound For The Promised Land’, and ‘Heart (Hark) From The Tombs Mournful Sound’. My mother used to sing, ‘You All Ought To Have Been There’ ‘Roll Jordan, Roll’, and ‘Do, Lord, Do Remember Me’. They don’t sing them old songs anymore.
“Mankind! The young folks now days ain’t like we used to be. Why, in Monticello they used to have a log jail, but now they got one made of stone and iron. They just can’t hold ’em no more. I guess it’s right that this world is growing weaker and wiser. But the young folks have a better chance. Look at the big fine schools they have now, they ought to get along better.”