Slave Narrative of William W. Watson

Do I remember slavery? Who could forget these lash prints on my back. Some time I set here and look at my wife and think Lord help me look what I live through. Me and my wife had a car wreck early last year, that made her lose her mind so she just sings all the time cant think. Raises chickens and talks like a baby. She is two years older than me, and too she is the mother of thirteen children, had lots of trouble. I am still able to find the cows and horses that belong to my son. My wife has the prettyest name, Betsy Ann Davis, then she was sold to Donivan, he called her Annier, but I still say Betsy Ann. My wife just weighed 120 pounds use to weigh one hundred. My mother belonged to the same master that my wife did ole man Davis, Master Tom we calls him. My mother was Eliza Davis, and my paw was Baker Watson. Father was brought from some place to W. Virginia and sold, I never learned the place. When they was bought they come to Tennessee. I do not know the place. Henry Watson owned my father, and Tom Davis owned my mother. Davis lived in Tennessee. Watson’s plantation joined Davis some place about ten miles below Palaska. They lived in the deep country. Master Davis’ children was named Simon, Susie, George, Minnie. Their house was made in a log, tee shape. The house I was born in was a one room mud log room in white folks, Davis yard. Boy I was, born at Master Davis. Master Watson had a big slave house made like a barn had one room stalls, like you put horses in for the slave families, our bed was made on the wall, each room had a mud fireplace. Master had nice beds, made cherry, ash, walnut, high tops. I dont know any thing about any my old grand parents guess they was left across the water. During of the war and before it I plowed, handled rock, to make a building out of, cut logs, cleaned up new ground, thrashed, cut hay, fenced, worked in blacksmith shop, shoe horses. Done everything a farmer could do and be alive now. I pressed and loaded and toted cotton a bale at the time on my back. I weighed 280 pounds when I was about grown. Me and my wife raised our children out of a iron pot and a three leg skillet. I made buck eye wood trays, made bread up in these, didnt have no dishes. We had wood home made bowls. We wasn’t fed like we eat now, we eat then like a hog, better not ask Master Watson for no lean meat either. After the first year we was free we had lean hams. Do I remember the bull whip and cat of nine lashed with a hole in each leather lash to draw blood – my back sure did bleed. If you didnt do the work or be a little slow, Master Watson tell you once, but better mind him, next time the cat of nine tails was salted and boy it hurt. I didnt know what a shoe was until I was grown, come up all my growing years barefooted. Henry Watson whipped all the niggers. Old man Davis was a father to me but I was took away from him.

Master Davis had sons, named George, Jim, Ben, Billie, Isom, the daughters was Ann, Susie. Master Davis old lady was named Margarite. Margarite made me toat water and make fires. Henry Watson got me, then I had to do all the churning for his slaves. He had pappy first, guess he bought me but Master Davis didnt say I sold you. My paw come and said come go with me so I went. I am the father of thirteen children. Old Watson had 250 acres in his plantation. I heard him tell the overseer, say white man ride the 250 today and watch for any strayed niggers, if so bring them in my house. Master Davis had 600 acres in his plantation, he owned my mother, Martha, Benner, Harriet, Bennett, John, thats a few the slave names I remember. My mother was on the Davis plantation when my paw took me away to Watson’s place. My mother and paw married the old way first, then after the war they sure got married, thats the way me and my wife done. After the war we got together, all hired out to plantation owners got our start at farming but it was hard go. We got up by a bell and went to bed by a horn, you better get up to go when you hear that bell Watson’s overseer come to the door to see, little kids and all come out of bed so they could get that ash cake. At dinner when we come from the field we eat at Watson’s back porch for a table. In winter we eat in our own house. At Davis dinner time we eat in his kitchen summer and winter. After I left Davis he moved down to the little Village of Bunker Hill, Tenn. Me and my wife been married old way before slave times dont know how many years. I got children way over 60 years old. Got one gets the old age pension. My living children names are Matilda, Blanch, Thomas, Ebnezer, some of the dead ones names are Mamie, Anne, Baxter. I forget the two sets of twins names maybe they wasnt named my wife dont remember. In slave days after Master Davis brought my wife to me we set up all night, spin, knit, weave. I done this do, same as she did was I always a good boy never cursed, gambled, or drank. Was always at church. My wife could sew good. I used to get after her. But she hasnt any mind any more since that car from Porter hit our wagon the mules run away. I went to Sunday school after the war with domestic breaches on. My wife dye them with milk persely it made them purple. She used copperas to dye yellow, walnut bark to dye brown, smart weed for dark purple. I bin married just one time in my days. Dont never want another woman couldnt be like my Anna. When I had my wagon wreck I was unconscious for two days. My wife was knocked out too. That is all I can remember. I was treated mean in slave times glad to the Lord I am free and serving the Lord and Abe Lincoln’s spirit, that’s how much I love that man. I got his picture here too. Lincoln lived in a log house, and I live in a one room cellar under the ground. My son lives in a house close by but I cant listen to his children they got about two dozen. One dozen grandchildren, two great grand grandchildren. You got them in your picture with us. Master Davis was a Irish man. Watson was white trash. When peace was declared I was on the auction block with my mother. I dont know when, but my mother died and I went to paw, after the war. Master Davis when I was free give me a spotted horse and saddle this was directly after the war 1865. I have belonged to the church all my life even when I was a slave boy I prayed I was years old first time I know I prayed. I come from Bunker Hill to Gipson Station then Muskogee bin here ever sence far years. Jehovah No. 1 first church I belonged to at Gipson station then to St. John Baptist, Muskogee at Agency Hill. These great grandchildren are named Phillys and Joe.

Davis, Donivan, Watson,

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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