Slave Narrative of Margaret Nickens of Hannibal, Missouri

Margaret Nickens, now living at 1644 Broadway, Hannibal, Missouri, was born in slavery on the farm of Pleasant McCann about six miles from Paris in Monroe County, Missouri. She was a daughter of George Morrison and wife, slaves of Pleasant McCann. The following is her story as she told it:

“Mr. McCann was a rich slave holder. His daughter, Georgia Ann, was married to a Mr. Dawson and lived in Liberty, Clay County. When I was ’bout eight years old de Dawsons come back to Paris to visit. Dey had two children den so dey took me as a nurse for de children. Mr. Dawson didn’t believe in slaves and he didn’t em none. My mistress had only one slave to do de cooking and she took me for to be de nurse.

“De baggage and slaves and other things dey hauled in a covered wagon and de white folks rode in a rockaway. When we was fixing to leave, dere was lots of people standing ’round. My mother had to stand dere like I wamn’t her’s and all she could say was, ‘Be a good girl, Margaret.’

“When we was at Liberty de first soldiers we seen was General Price’s men and later we seen lets of Union soldiers.

“De day dat de slaves was freed Mr. Dawson told me dat I was as free as he was and dat he brought me here and he would take me back if I wanted to go. I said, ‘If I still have a mother and father I wants to go to dem.’

“When we got back to Paris my mistress Georgia Ann said, ‘Oh, that black good-for-nothing lazy gal, I should have left her at Liberty, but Mr. Dawson would bring her.’ I didn’t like her ’cause she wasn’t very good to me and now I don’t want to meet my mistress in either hell or heaven.

“I was about eleven years old den. We moved from dere to Palmyra. My father split rails and built fences (they didn’t have wire fence in those days,) and shucked corn and worked on farms or whatever kind of job he could get to do. My father didn’t got no land nor money like some of de folks did. Most of de white folks was good to de slaves and didn’t whip dem unless dey was sure ‘nough bad.

“My father come from Virginia and my mother from Kentucky when dey was little. Dey never soon dere parents no more. Dey watched for a long time among de colored people and asked who dey was when dey thought some body looked like dore parents, but never could find dem. Dey was so small when dey left, dey didn’t even remember dere names.

“I have been working for do Col. Dan Dulany and de Mahan families here in Hannibal for three generations, more’n sixty years. I’m net working newhere now since Mr. Mahan died about two years ago.

“I am saving my money, what little I has, but de younger folks new days don’t save anything. Dey just want a good time. I tell don to save for a rainy day even if its only an umbrella, because it will rain some day.”

Margaret Nickens is called “Mag” by her friends. She is about eighty-five years old and lives alone in a home that she owns. She raised and educated one daughter who taught school for about forty years in the colored public school in Hannibal. The daughter died eight years ago.

“Mag” used very little southern accent or dialect and used good English, perhaps because she has lived most of her life with cultured people.

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007.

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