Slave Narrative of Jane Wilson

Interviewer: G. Leland Summer
Person Interviewed: Jane Wilson
Date of Interview: June 9, 1937
Location: Newberry, South Carolina
Age: 77

“I am daughter of Billy Robertson and Louisa Robertson; was born about 77 years ago in Newberry, on Marse Job Johnstone’s place. My father lived with Judge Job Johnstone as his extra man or servant. He lived in the house with him, slept in his room and waited on him when he became old; and, too, was the driver of his carriage. He drove him to other courthouses to hold court. After the war, my father was janitor at Newberry College, and he was liked by professors, students, and everybody who knew him as ‘Uncle Billy’. At commencement, he always made a speech at night on the campus, which the students enjoyed. He told about his travels from Virginia to Newberry before the war. Judge Johnstone never wanted anybody else to be with him when he traveled.

“I belonged to the Avelleigh Presbyterian Church in Newberry, and was christened in the church by the preacher, the Rev. Buist. Colored people were allowed to be members and set in the gallery when they went to church.

“After the war, a colored man named Amos Baxter was killed by the Ku Klux at the old courthouse. My father was on Judge Johnstone’s farm a few miles away. He was sent for and came with another colored man to town, and prayed and preached over the body of Baxter. The Ku Klux came to kill my father for doing this, but they never caught him.

“I had to stay home most of the time and help mama keep house. I never worked in the field but once, and the job was so poor they put me back in the house. That was the old Nance place.

“Once I saw a man hung in Newberry. He was a negro named Thompson and killed a white man named Reid. He killed him at a store in Pomaria and burned it over his body. He was hung near the railroad, and a big crowd was there to see it. That was my first time to see a man hung, and I promised God it would be my last. They asked the negro if he had anything to say, and give him five minutes to talk. He was setting on a box smoking; then he got up and said he reckoned his time was over, he was sorry for all the bad things he had done; that he had killed a boy once for 25 cents, and had killed a little girl for 20 cents. He was sorry for his wife and three weeks old baby. His wife saw him hung.

“The Ku Klux wanted to kill any white people who was Republicans. They killed some negroes. A white man named Murtishaw killed Lee Nance, a store keeper. I was a little girl and saw it. Some little children was standing out in front. Murtishaw came up and said he wanted to buy something or pretended he wanted to; then he went up to Nance, pulled his pistol quick and shot him through the throat and head.

“Judge Johnstone’s kitchen was away from the house, a brick building. They had large ovens and wide fireplaces in which they cooked.

“My father’s favorite horses, when he drove the family, was ‘Knox’ and ‘Calvin’, which they kept for many years. When they died the mistress cried awfully about it.

“My husband died at old Mr. Dan Ward’s place, on College Hill, where he was living then.”

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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