Slave Narrative of Mattie Hariman

Person Interviewed: Mattie Hariman
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Place of Birth: Gunalis, Texas
Date of Birth: January 2, 1859
Age: 78

I was born January 2, 1859, at Gunalis, Texas. My father’s name was William Tensley and my mother’s name Mildred Howard. They was brought from Virginia. I did have 8 brothers and sisters but all of them are dead.

My Master was name William Henry Edward. Since I was too young to work I nursed my sisters’ children while they worked. The cooking was done all up to the general kitchen at Masters house and when slaves come from work they would send their children up to the kitchen to bring their meals to their homes in the quarters. Our Mistress would have one of the cooks to dish up vegetables and she herself would slice or serve the meat to see that it wasn’t wasted, as seemingly it was thought so precious.

As my mother worked ’round the Big House quite a deal I would go up to the Big House with her and play with the white children who seemed to like for me to come to play with them. One day in anger while playing I called one of the white girls. “old black dog” and they pretended they would tell their mother (my Mistress) about it. I was scared, as they saw, and they promised me they would not tell if I’d promise to not do it again, and which I was so glad to do and be let off so lightly.

For summer I wore a cotton slip and for winter my mother knitted at nights after her days work was done so I wore red flannels for underwear and thick linsey for an over-dress, and had knitted stockings and bought shoes. As my Master was a doctor he made his slaves wear suitable clothes in accordance to the weather. We also wore gloves my mother knitted in winter.

My Mistress was good to all of the slaves. On Sunday morning she would make all the Negro children come to the Big House and she would stand on the front steps and read the Catechism to us who sat or stood in front on the ground.

My Master was also good. On Wednesdays and Friday nights he would make the slaves come up to the Big House and he would read the Bible to them and he would pray. He was a doctor and very fractious and exact. He didn’t allow the slaves to claim they forgot to do thus and so nor did he allow them to make the expression. “I thought so and so.” He would say to them if they did: “Who told you, you could think!”

They had 10 children, 7 boys and 3 girls. Their house was a large 2-story log house painted white. My father was overseer on the plantation.

The plantation consisted of 400 acres and about 40 slaves including children. The slaves were so seldom punished until they never’d worry about being punished. They treated their slaves as though they loved them. The poor white neighbors were also good and treated the slaves good, for my Master would warn them to not bother his Negroes. My Mistress always told the slaves she wanted all of them to visit her and come to her funeral and burial when she died and named the men slaves she wanted to be her pall-bearers, all of which was carried out as she planned even though it was after freedom.

The slaves even who lived adjoining our plantation would have church at our Big House. They would hold church on Sundays and Sunday nights.

As my mother worked a deal for her Mistress she had an inkling or overheard that they was going to be set free long before the day they were. She called all the slaves on the plantation together and broke to them this news after they had promised her they would not spread the news so that it would get back to our Master. So, everybody kept the news until Saturday night June 19th, when Master called all the slaves to the big gate and told them they were all free, but could stay right on in their homes if they had no places to go and which all of them did. They went right out and gathered the crop just like they’d always done, and some of them remained there several years.

My first husband was name, S.W. Warnley. We had 4 children, 1 girl and three boys and 3 grandchildren. I now have two grandchildren.

Now that slavery is over I sometime wish ’twas still existing for some of our lazy folks, so that so many of them wouldn’t or couldn’t loaf around so much lowering our race, walking the streets day by day and running from house to house living corruptible lives which is keeping the race down as though there be no good ones among us.

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

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