Slave Narrative of Sarah Louise Augustus

Interviewer: T. Pat Matthews
Person Interviewed: Sarah Louise Augustus
Location: 1424 Lane Street, Raleigh, North Carolina
Age: 80

Age 80 years 1424 Lane Street Raleigh, North Carolina

I wus born on a plantation near Fayetteville, N. C., and I belonged to J. B. Smith. His wife wus named Henrietta. He owned about thirty slaves. When a slave was no good he wus put on the auction block in Fayetteville and sold.

My father wus named Romeo Harden and my mother wus named Alice Smith. The little cabin where I wus born is still standing.

There wus seven children in marster’s family, four girls and two boys. The girls wus named Ellen, Ida, Mary and Elizabeth. The boys wus named Harry, Norman and Marse George. Marse George went to the war. Mother had a family of four girls. Their names wus: Mary, Kate, Hannah and myself, Sarah Louise. I am the only one living and I would not be living but I have spent most of my life in white folk’s houses and they have looked after me. I respected myself and they respected me.

My first days of slavery wus hard. I slept on a pallet on the floor of the cabin and just as soon as I wus able to work any at all I wus put to milking cows.

I have seen the paterollers hunting men and have seen men they had whipped. The slave block stood in the center of the street, Fayetteville Street, where Ramsey and Gillespie Street came in near Cool Springs Street. The silk mill stood just below the slave market. I saw the silkworms that made the silk and saw them gather the cocoons and spin the silk.

They hung people in the middle of Ramsey Street. They put up a gallows and hung the men exactly at 12 o’clock.

I ran away from the plantation once to go with some white children to see a man hung.

The only boats I remember on the Cape Fear wus the Governor Worth, The Hurt, The Iser and The North State. Oh! Lord yes, I remember the stage coach. As many times as I run to carry the mail to them when they come by! They blew a horn before they got there and you had to be on time ’cause they could not wait. There wus a stage each way each day, one up and one down.

Mr. George Lander had the first Tombstone Marble yard in Fayetteville on Hay Street on the point of Flat Iron place. Lander wus from Scotland. They gave me a pot, a scarf, and his sister gave me some shells. I have all the things they gave me. My missus, Henrietta Smith, wus Mr. Lander’s sister. I waited on the Landers part of the time. They were hard working white folks, honest, God fearing people. The things they gave me were brought from over the sea.

I can remember when there wus no hospital in Fayetteville. There wus a little place near the depot where there wus a board shanty where they operated on people. I stood outside once and saw the doctors take a man’s leg off. Dr. McDuffy wus the man who took the leg off. He lived on Hay Street near the Silk Mill.

When one of the white folks died they sent slaves around to the homes of their friends and neighbors with a large sheet of paper with a piece of black crepe pinned to the top of it. The friends would sign or make a cross mark on it. The funerals were held at the homes and friends and neighbors stood on the porch and in the house while the services were going on. The bodies were carried to the grave after the services in a black hearse drawn by black horses. If they did not have black horses to draw the hearse they went off and borrowed them. The colored people washed and shrouded the dead bodies. My grandmother wus one who did this. Her name wus Sarah McDonald. She belonged to Capt. George McDonald. She had fifteen children and lived to be one hundred and ten years old. She died in Fayetteville of pneumonia. She wus in Raleigh nursing the Briggs family, Mrs. F. H. Briggs’ family. She wus going home to Fayetteville when she wus caught in a rain storm at Sanford, while changing trains. The train for Fayetteville had left as the train for Sanford wus late so she stayed wet all night. Next day she went home, took pneumonia and died. She wus great on curing rheumatism; she did it with herbs. She grew hops and other herbs and cured many people of this disease.

She wus called black mammy because she wet nursed so many white children. In slavery time she nursed all babies hatched on her marster’s plantation and kept it up after the war as long as she had children.

Grandfather wus named Isaac Fuller. Mrs. Mary Ann Fuller, Kate Fuller, Mr. Will Fuller, who wus a lawyer in Wall Street, New York, is some of their white folks. The Fullers were born in Fayetteville. One of the slaves, Dick McAlister, worked, saved a small fortune and left it to Mr. Will Fuller. People thought the slave ought to have left it to his sister but he left it to Mr. Will. Mr. Fuller gives part of it to the ex-slaves sister each year. Mr. Will always helped the Negroes out when he could. He was good to Dick and Dick McAlister gave him all his belongings when he died.

The Yankees came through Fayetteville wearing large blue coats with capes on them. Lots of them were mounted, and there were thousands of foot soldiers. It took them several days to get through town. The Southern soldiers retreated and then in a few hours the Yankees covered the town. They busted into the smokehouse at marstar’s, took the meat, meal and other provisions. Grandmother pled with the Yankees but it did no good. They took all they wanted. They said if they had to come again they would take the babies from the cradles. They told us we were all free. The Negroes begun visiting each other in the cabins and became so excited they began to shout and pray. I thought they were all crazy.

We stayed right on with marster. He had a town house and a big house on the plantation. I went to the town house to work, but mother and grandmother stayed on the plantation. My mother died there and the white folks buried her. Father stayed right on and helped run the farm until he died. My uncle, Elic Smith, and his family stayed too. Grandfather and grandmother after a few years left the plantation and went to live on a little place which Mrs. Mary Ann Fuller gave them. Grandmother and grandfather died there.

I wus thirty years old when I married. I wus married in my missus’ graduating dress. I wus married in the white folks’ church, to James Henry Harris. The white folks carried me there and gave me away. Miss Mary Smith gave me away. The wedding wus attended mostly by white folks.

My husband wus a fireman on the Cape Fear river boats and a white man’s Negro too. We had two children, both died while little. My husband and I spent much of our time with the white folks and when he wus on his runs I slept in their homes. Often the children of the white families slept with me. We both tried to live up to the standards of decency and honesty and to be worthy of the confidence placed in us by our white folks.

My husband wus finally offered a job with a shipping concern in Deleware and we moved there. He wus fireman on the freighter Wilmington. He worked there three years, when he wus drowned. After his death I married David Augustus and immediately came back to North Carolina and my white folks, and we have been here ever since. I am a member of several Negro Lodges and am on the Committee for the North Carolina Colored State Fair.

There are only a few of the old white folks who have always been good to me living now, but I am still working with their offspring, among whom I have some mighty dear friends. I wus about eight years old when Sherman’s Army came through. Guess I am about eighty years of age now.

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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