Slave Narrative of Charles Lee Dalton

Interviewer: Miss Nancy Woodburn Watkins
Person Interviewed: Charles Lee Dalton
Location: Madison, North Carolina
Age: 93

Ex-Slave Biography–Charles Lee Dalton, 93.

In July, 1934, the census taker went to the home of Unka Challilee Dalton and found that soft talking old darky on the porch of his several roomed house, a few hundred feet south of the dirt road locally called the Ayersville road because it branches from the hard surfaced highway to Mayodan at Anderson Scales’ store, a short distance from Unka Challilie’s. Black got its meaning from his face, even his lips were black, but his hair was whitening. His lean body was reclining while the white cased pillows of his night bed sunned on a chair. His granddaughter kept house for him the census taker learned. Unka Challilie said: “I’se got so I ain’t no count fuh nuthin. I wuz uh takin’ me a nap uh sleepin’ (‘ AM). Dem merry-go-wheels keep up sich a racket all nite, sech a racket all nite, ah cyan’t sleep.” This disturbance was “The Red Wolfe Medicine Troop of Players and Wheels” near Anderson Scales’ store in the forks of the Mayodan and the Ayresville roads.

In 1937 in the home of his son, Unka Challilie ninety-three, told the cause of his no “countness.” “I wuz clean-up man in de mill in Mayodan ontill three years ago, I got too trimbly to git amongst de machinery. Daze frade I’d fall and git cut.”

I cum tuh Madison forty-five yeah ago, and I bought one acre, and built me a house on it, an’ razed my leben chillun dyah. My wife was Ellen Irving of Reidsville. We had a cow, pigs, chickens, and gyardum of vegetables to hope out what I got paid at de mill.

Nome I nevah learned to read an write. Ounct I thought mebbe I’d git sum lunnin but aftah I got married, I didn’t think I would.

My old Marse wuz Marse Lee Dalton and I stayed on his plantation till forty-five years ago when I cum tuh Madison. His place wuz back up dyah close tuh. Mt. Herman Church. Nome we slaves ain’t learn no letters, but sumtimes young mistis’ ‘d read de Bible tuh us. Day wuz pretty good tuh us, but sumtimes I’d ketch uh whippin’. I wuz a hoe boy and plow man. My mothers’ name wuz Silvia Dalton and my daddy’s name wuz Peter Dalton. Day belonged to Marse Lee and his wife wuz Miss Matilda Steeples (Staples). Marse Lee lived on Beaver Island Creek at the John Hampton Price place. Mr. Price bought it. He married Miss Mollie Dalton, Marse Lee’s daughter. Dyah’s uh ole graveyard dyah whah lots uh Daltons is buried but no culled fokes. Day is buried to the side uh Stoneville wiff no white fokes a-tall berried dyah. De ole Daltons wuz berried on de Ole Jimmy Scales plantation. Day bought hit, an little John Price what runs uh tuhbaccah warehouse in Madison owns hit now. (1937) His tenant is Marse Walt Hill, an hits five miles frum Madison. I knose whah de old Deatherage graveyard is, too, up close to Stoneville whah sum Daltons is berried. Ole Marse Lee’s mother was a Deatherage.

Ole Marse was kind to us, an’ I stayed on his plantation an’ farmed till I kum to Madison. Dee Yankees, day didn’t giv us nuthin so we had kinduh to live off’n old Marse.

Fuh ayteen yuz I kin member ah de Mefodis Church byah in Madison. I wuzn’t converted unduh de Holiness preachment uh James Foust but duh de revival of Reverend William Scales. William didn’t bare much lunnin. His wife wuz Mittie Scales an huh mother wuz Chlocy Scales, sister to Tommie Scales, de shoemaker, what died lase summuh (July, 1936). William jes wanted so much tuh preach, and Mittie hoped him. I’se been uh class leader, an uh stewart, an uh trustee in de church. It’s St. Stephen’s and de new brick church was built in 1925, an Mistuh John Wilson’s son wrote uh peace uh bout hit in de papuh. De fuss chuch wuz down dyah cross de street fum Jim Foust’s “tabernacle.” But de fuss cullud chuch in Madison wuz a Union chuch over dyah by de Presbyterian graveyard whah now is de Gyartuh factry. An’ Jane Richardson wuz de leader.

Yess’m I got so no count, I had to cum live with mah son, Frank Dalton. Frank married Mattie Cardwell. You remembuh Mary Mann? She married Anderson Cardwell. Day’s bofe dade long time. Days berried jess up hyuh at Mayodan whah Mr. Bollin’s house is on and dem new bungyloes is on top um, too. Uh whole lots uh cullud people berried in dah with de slaves of Ole Miss Nancy (Watkins) Webster on till de Mayo Mills got started and day built Mayhodan at de Mayo Falls. An’ dat’s whah my daughter-in-law’s folks is berried.

My leben chillun–Frank, one died in West Virginia; Cora married Henry Cardwell; Hattie married Roy Current and bafe ob dem in Winston; Della married Arthur Adkins, an’ Joe, an’ George an’ Perry an’ Nathaniel Dalton, an’.

Yes’m mah daughter-in-law has de writings about de brick chuch, dem whut started hit, an’ she’ll put it out whah she can git hit fuh you easy, when you coun back fuh hit.

Nome, up at Marse Lee Dalton’s fob de s’renduh us slaves didn’t nevuh go tuh chuch. But young Miss’ud read de Bible to us sometimes.

Here in the five room, white painted cottage of his son, Frank, Unka Challilie is kindly cared for by his daughter-in-law, Mattie. A front porch faces the Mayodan hard road a few doors from the “coppubration line.” A well made arch accents the entrance to the front walk. A climbing rose flourishes on the arch. Well kept grass with flowers on the edges show Mattie’s love. At the right side is the vegetable garden, invaded by several big domineckuh chickens. A kudzu vine keeps out the hot west sun. Unka Challilie sits on the front porch and nods to his friends [HW: , or] else back in the kitchen, he sits and watches Mattie iron after he has eaten his breakfast. Several hens come on the back porch and lay in boxes there. One is “uh settin” fuh fried chicken later! A walnut tree, “uh white wawnut”, waves its long dangly green blooms as the leaves are half grown in the early May. Well dressed, clean, polite, comforted with his religion, but very “trimbly” even on his stout walking stick, Unka Challilie often dozes away his “no countness” with “uh napuh sleepin” while the mad rush of traffic and tourist wheels stir the rose climbing over the entrance arch. An ex-slave who started wiff nuffin de Yankees gave him, who lived on his old Marse’s place ontil he wuz forty-eight, who cleaned the Mayo Mills ontill he wuz too trimbly to get amongst de machinery, who raised eleven children on an acre of red Rockingham county hillside, faces the next move with plenty to eat, wear, plenty time to take a nap uh sleepin.

Cardwell, Dalton, Irving, Lee,

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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