Slave Narrative of Mary Anderson

Interviewer: T. Pat Matthews
Person Interviewed: Mary Anderson
Location: 17 Poole Road, R.F.D. #2, Raleigh, North Carolina
Place of Birth: Wake County NC
Date of Birth: May 10, 1851
Age: 86

My name is Mary Anderson. I was born on a plantation near Franklinton, Wake County, N. C. May 10, 1851. I was a slave belonging to Sam Brodie, who owned the plantation at this place. My missus’ name was Evaline. My father was Alfred Brodie and my mother was Bertha Brodie.

We had good food, plenty of warm homemade clothes and comfortable houses. The slave houses were called the quarters and the house where marster lived was called the great house. Our houses had two rooms each and marster’s house had twelve rooms. Both the slave and white folks buildings were located in a large grove one-mile square covered with oak and hickory nut trees. Marster’s house was exactly one mile from the main Louisburg Road and there was a wide avenue leading through the plantation and grove to marster’s house. The house fronted the avenue east and in going down the avenue from the main road you traveled directly west.

The plantation was very large and there were about two hundred acres of cleared land that was farmed each year. A pond was located on the place and in winter ice was gathered there for summer use and stored in an icehouse, which was built in the grove where the other buildings were. A large hole about ten feet deep was dug in the ground; the ice was put in that hole and covered. [TR: HW note in left margin is illegible.]

A large frame building was built over it. At the top of the earth there was an entrance door and steps leading down to the bottom of the hole. Other things besides ice were stored there. There was a still on the plantation and barrels of brandy were stored in the ice house, also pickles, preserves and cider.

Many of the things we used were made on the place. There was a grist mill, tannery, shoe shop, blacksmith shop, and looms for weaving cloth.

There were about one hundred, and sixty-two slaves on the plantation and every Sunday morning all the children had to be bathed, dressed, and their hair combed and carried down to marster’s for breakfast. It was a rule that all the little colored children eat at the great house every Sunday morning in order that marster and missus could watch them eat so they could know which ones were sickly and have them doctored.

The slave children all carried a mussel shell in their hands to eat with. The food was put on large trays and the children all gathered around and ate, dipping up their food with their mussel shells, which they used for spoons. Those who refused to eat or those who were ailing in any way had to come back to the great house for their meals and medicine until they were well.

Marster had a large apple orchard in the Tar River low grounds and up on higher ground and nearer the plantation house there was on one side of the road a large plum orchard and on the other side was an orchard of peaches, cherries, quinces and grapes. We picked the quinces in August and used them for preserving. Marster and missus believed in giving the slaves plenty of fruit, especially the children.

Marster had three children, one boy named Dallas, and two girls, Bettie and Carrie. He would not allow slave children to call his children marster and missus unless the slave said little marster or little missus. He had four white overseers but they were not allowed to whip a slave. If there was any whipping to be done he always said he would do it. He didn’t believe in whipping so when a slave got so bad he could not manage him he sold him.

Marster didn’t quarrel with anybody, missus would not speak short to a slave, but both missus and marster taught slaves to be obedient in a nice quiet way. The slaves were taught to take their hats and bonnets off before going into the house, and to bow and say, ‘Good morning Marster Sam and Missus Evaline’. Some of the little negroes would go down to the great house and ask them when it wus going to rain, and when marster or missus walked in the grove the little Negroes would follow along after them like a gang of kiddies. Some of the slave children wanted to stay with them at the great house all the time. They knew no better of course and seemed to love marster and missus as much as they did their own mother and father. Marster and missus always used gentle means to get the children out of their way when they bothered them and the way the children loved and trusted them wus a beautiful sight to see.

Patterollers were not allowed on the place unless they came peacefully and I never knew of them whipping any slaves on marster’s place. Slaves were carried off on two horse wagons to be sold. I have seen several loads leave. They were the unruly ones. Sometimes he would bring back slaves, once he brought back two boys and three girls from the slave market.

Sunday wus a great day on the plantation. Everybody got biscuits Sundays. The slave women went down to marsters for their Sunday allowance of flour. All the children ate breakfast at the great house and marster and missus gave out fruit to all. The slaves looked forward to Sunday as they labored through the week. It was a great day. Slaves received good treatment from marster and all his family.

We were allowed to have prayer meetings in our homes and we also went to the white folks church.

They would not teach any of us to read and write. Books and papers were forbidden. Marster’s children and the slave children played together. I went around with the baby girl Carrie to other plantations visiting. She taught me how to talk low and how to act in company. My association with white folks and my training while I was a slave is why I talk like white folks.

Bettie Brodie married a Dr. Webb from Boylan, Virginia. Carrie married a Mr. Joe Green of Franklin County. He was a big southern planter.

The war was begun and there were stories of fights and freedom. The news went from plantation to plantation and while the slaves acted natural and some even more polite than usual, they prayed for freedom. Then one day I heard something that sounded like thunder and missus and marster began to walk around and act queer. The grown slaves were whispering to each other. Sometimes they gathered in little gangs in the grove. Next day I heard it again, boom, boom, boom. I went and asked missus ‘is it going to rain?’ She said, ‘Mary go to the ice house and bring me some pickles and preserves.’ I went and got them. She ate a little and gave me some. Then she said, ‘You run along and play.’ In a day or two everybody on the plantation seemed to be disturbed and marster and missus were crying. Marster ordered all the slaves to come to the great house at nine o’clock. Nobody was working and slaves were walking over the grove in every direction. At nine o’clock all the slaves gathered at the great house and marster and missus came out on the porch and stood side by side. You could hear a pin drap everything was so quiet. Then marster said, ‘Good morning,’ and missus said, ‘Good morning, children’. They were both crying. Then marster said, ‘Men, women and children, you are free. You are no longer my slaves. The Yankees will soon be here.’

Marster and missus then went into the house got two large arm chairs put them on the porch facing the avenue and sat down side by side and remained there watching.

In about an hour there was one of the blackest clouds coming up the avenue from the main road. It was the Yankee soldiers, they finally filled the mile long avenue reaching from marster’s house to the main Louisburg road and spread out over the mile square grove. The mounted men dismounted. The footmen stacked their shining guns and began to build fires and cook. They called the slaves, saying, ‘Your are free.’ Slaves were whooping and laughing and acting like they were crazy. Yankee soldiers were shaking hands with the Negroes and calling them Sam, Dinah, Sarah and asking them questions. They busted the door to the smoke house and got all the hams. They went to the ice-house and got several barrels of brandy, and such a time. The Negroes and Yankees were cooking and eating together. The Yankees told them to come on and join them, they were free. Marster and missus sat on the porch and they were so humble no Yankee bothered anything in the great house. The slaves were awfully excited. The Yankees stayed there, cooked, eat, drank and played music until about night, then a bugle began to blow and you never saw such getting on horses and lining up in your life. In a few minutes they began to march, leaving the grove which was soon as silent as a grave yard. They took marster’s horses and cattle with them and joined the main army and camped just across Cypress Creek one and one half miles from my marster’s place on the Louisburg Road.

When they left the country, lot of the slaves went with them and soon there were none of marster’s slaves left. They wandered around for a year from place to place, fed and working most of the time at some other slave owner’s plantation and getting more homesick every day.

The second year after the surrender our marster and missus got on their carriage and went and looked up all the Negroes they heard of who ever belonged to them. Some who went off with the Yankees were never heard of again. When marster and missus found any of theirs they would say, ‘Well, come on back home.’ My father and mother, two uncles and their families moved back. Also Lorenza Brodie, and John Brodie and their families moved back. Several of the young men and women who once belonged to him came back. Some were so glad to get back they cried, ’cause fare had been mighty bad part of the time they were rambling around and they were hungry. When they got back marster would say, ‘Well you have come back home have you, and the Negroes would say, ‘Yes marster.’ Most all spoke of them as missus and marster as they did before the surrender, and getting back home was the greatest pleasure of all.

We stayed with marster and missus and went to their church, the Maple Springs Baptist church, until they died.

Since the surrender I married James Anderson. I had four children, one boy and three girls.

I think slavery was a mighty good thing for mother, father, me and the other members of the family, and I cannot say anything but good for my old marster and missus, but I can only speak for those whose conditions I have known during slavery and since. For myself and them, I will say again, slavery was a mighty good thing.

Anderson, Brodie,

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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