Slave Narrative of Ned Walker

Interviewer: W. W. Dixon
Person Interviewed: Ned Walker
Location: Winnsboro, South Carolina
Place of Birth: Winnsboro, South Carolina
Age: 83

Ned Walker lives in the village of White Oak, near Winnsboro, S.C., in a two-room frame house, the dwelling of his son-in-law, Leander Heath, who married his daughter, Nora. Ned is too old to do any work of a remunerative character but looks after the garden and chickens of his daughter and son-in-law. He is a frequent visitor to Winnsboro, S.C. He brings chickens and garden produce, to sell in the town and the Winnsboro Hill’s village. He is tall, thin, and straight, with kind eyes. Being one of the old Gaillard Negroes, transplanted from the Santee section of Berkeley County, in the Low Country, to the red hills of Fairfield County, in the Up Country, he still retains words and phrases characteristic of the Negro in the lower part of South Carolina.

“Yes sir, I’s tall and slim lak a saplin’; maybe dat a good reason I live so long. Doctor say lean people lives longer than fat people.

“I hear daddy read one time from de Bible ’bout a man havin’ strength of years in his right hand and honor and riches in his left hand, but whenever I open dat left hand dere is nothin’ in it. ‘Spect dat promise is comin’ tho’, when de old age pension money gits down here from Washington. When you ‘spect it is comin’? De palm of my hand sho’ begin to itch for dat greenback money. So you think it’s on de way? Well, thank God for dat but it seem ‘most too good to be true. Now I’ll quit askin’ questions and just set here and smoke and answer, whilst you do de puttin’ down on de paper.

“Yes sir, I was born right here in de southeast corner of Winnsboro, on de Clifton place. De day I was born, it b’long to my master, David Gaillard. Miss Louisa, dats Master David’s wife, ‘low to me one day, ‘Ned don’t you ever call de master, old master, and don’t you ever think of me as old miss’. I promise her dat I keep dat always in mind, and I ain’t gonna change, though she done gone on to heaven and is in de choir a singin’ and a singin’ them chants dat her could pipe so pretty at St. Johns, in Winnsboro. You see they was ‘Piscopalians. Dere was no hard shell Baptist and no soft shell Methodist in deir make up. It was all glory, big glory, glory in de very highest rung of Jacob’s ladder, wid our white folks.

“Well, how I is ramblin’. You see dere was Master David and Mistress Louisa, de king bee and de queen bee. They had a plantation down on de Santee, in de Low Country, somewhere ’bout Moncks Corner. One day Master David buy a 1,385 acres on Wateree Creek. He also buy de Clifton place, to live in, in Winnsboro. I can’t git my mind back to tell you what I wants for you to put on de paper. ‘Scuse me, forgit everything, ’til you git my pedigree down.

“I done name Master David and Mistress Louisa. Now for de chillun. Us was told to front de boys name wid Marse and de young ladies name wid Miss. Now us can go and git somewhere.

“Well, dere was Miss Elizabeth; she marry Mr. Dwight. Miss Maria marry another Mr. Dwight. Miss Kate marry Mr. Bob Ellison, a sheriff. Her got two chillun in Columbia, Marse David and Marse DuBose Ellison. Then for de boys; they all went to de war. Marse Alley got kilt. Marse Dick rise to be a captain and after de war marry Congressman Boyce’s daughter, Miss Fannie. Marse Ike marry and live in de Low Country; he die ’bout two years ago. Marse Sam marry a Miss DuBose and went wid General Wade Hampton.

“Marse Sam’s son cut a canal that divide half and half de western part of de whole world. Us niggers was powerful scared, ’til Marse David Gailliard took a hold of de business. Why us scared? Why us fear dat de center of de backbone of de world down dere, when cut, would tipple over lak de halfs of a watermelon and everybody would go under de water in de ocean. How could Marse David prevent it? Us niggers of de Gaillard generation have confidence in de Gaillard race and us willin’ to sink or swim wid them in whatever they do. Young Marse David propped de sides of de world up all right, down dere, and they name a big part of dat canal, Gaillard Cut, so they did. (Gaillard Cut, Panama Canal)

“Well, I keep a ramblin’. Will I ever git to Marse Henry, de one dat looked after and cared for slaves of de family most and best? Marse Henry marry a Miss White in Charleston. He rise to be captain and adjutant of de fightin’ 6th Regiment. After de war him fix it so de slaves stay altogether, on dat 1,385 acres and buy de place, as common tenants, on de ‘stallment plan. He send word for de head of each family to come to Winnsboro; us have to have names and register. Marse Henry command; us obey. Dat was a great day. My daddy already had his name, Tom. He was de driver of de buggy, de carriage, and one of de wagons, in slavery. Marse Henry wrote him a name on a slip and say: ‘Tom as you have never walked much, I name you Walker.’

“It wasn’t long befo’ daddy, who was de only one dat could read and write, ride down to Columbia and come back wid a ‘mission in his pocket from de ‘Publican Governor, to be Justice of de Peace.

“Marse Henry ladle out some ‘golliwhopshus’ names dat day. Such as: Caesar Harrison, Edward Cades and Louis Brevard. He say, ‘Louis, I give you de name of a judge. Dan, I give you a Roman name, Pompey.’ Pompey turned out to be a preacher and I see your grandpa, Marse William Woodward, in de graveyard when Uncle Pompey preached de funeral of old Uncle Wash Moore. Tell you ’bout dat if I has time.

“Well, he give Uncle Sam de name of Shadrock. When he reach Uncle Aleck, he ‘low: ‘I adds to your name Aleck, two fine names, a preacher’s and a scholar’s, Porter Ramsey.’ ‘Bout dat time a little runt elbow and butt his way right up to de front and say: ‘Marse Henry, Marse Henry! I wants a big bulldozin’ name.’ Marse Henry look at him and say: ‘You little shrimp, take dis then.’ And Marse Henry write on de slip of paper: Mendoza J. Fernandez, and read it out loud. De little runt laugh mighty pleased and some of them Fernandezes ’round here to dis day.

“My mammy name Bess, my granddaddy name June, grandmamny, Renah, but all my brothers dead. My sisters Clerissie and Phibbie am still livin’. Us was born in a two-story frame house, chimney in de middle, four rooms down stairs and four up stairs. Dere was four families livin’ in it. Dese was de town domestics of master. Him have another residence on de plantation and a set of domestics, but my daddy was de coachman for both places.

“De Gaillard quarters was a little town laid out wid streets wide ‘nough for a wagon to pass thru. Houses was on each side of de street. A well and church was in de center of de town. Dere was a gin-house, barns, stables, cowpen and a big bell on top of a high pole at de barn gate. Dere was a big trough at de well, kept full of water day and night, in case of fire and to water de stock. Us had peg beds, wheat straw mattress and rag pillows. Cotton was too valuable.

“Master didn’t ‘low de chillun to be worked. He feed slaves on ‘tatoes, rice, corn pone, hominy, fried meat, ‘lasses, shorts, turnips, collards, and string beans. Us had pumpkin pie on Sunday. No butter, no sweet milk but us got blabber and buttermilk.

“Oh, then, I ’bout to forgit. Dere was a big hall wid spinnin’ wheels in it, where thread was spin. Dat thread was hauled to Winnsboro and brought to de Clifton place in Winnsboro, to de weave house. Dat house set ’bout where de Winnsboro Mill is now. Mammy was head of de weave house force and see to de cloth. Dere was a dye-room down dere too. They use red earth sometime and sometime walnut stain. My mammy learn all dis from a white lady, Miss Spurrier, dat Master David put in charge dere at de first. How long she stay? I disremembers dat. Us no want for clothes summer or winter. Had wooden bottom shoes, two pair in a year.

“Mr. Sam Johnson was de overseer. Dere was ’bout 700 slaves in de Gaillard quarter and twenty in town, countin’ de chillun. De young white marsters break de law when they teach daddy to read and write. Marse Dick say: ‘To hell wid de law, I got to have somebody dat can read and write ‘mong de servants.’ My daddy was his valet. He put de boys to bed, put on deir shoes and brush them off, and all dat kind of ‘tention.

“De church was called Springvale. After freedom, by a vote, de members jines up, out of respect to de family, wid de Afican Methodist ‘Piscopalian Church, so as to have as much of de form, widout de substance of them chants, of de master’s church.

“No sir, us had no mulattoes on de place. Everybody decent and happy. They give us two days durin’ Christmas for celebratin’ and dancin’.

“I marry Sylvin Field, a gal on de General Bratton Canaan place. Us have three chillun. Nora Heath, dat I’m now livin’ wid, at White Oak, Bessie Lew, in Tennessee, and Susannah, who is dead.

“What I think of Abe Lincoln? Dat was a mighty man of de Lord. What I think of Jeff Davis? He all right, ‘cordin’ to his education, just lak my white folks. What I think of Mr. Roosevelt? Oh, Man! Dat’s our papa.

“Go off! I’s blabbed ‘nough. You ‘bliged to hear ’bout dat funeral? Will I pester you for ‘nother cigarette? No sir! I ain’t gonna smoke it lak you smoke it. Supposin’ us was settin’ here smokin’ them de same? A Gaillard come up them steps and see us. He say: ‘Shame on dat white man’, turn his back and walk back down. A Woodward come up them steps and see us. He say: ‘You d— nigger! What’s all dis?’ Take me by de collar, boot me down them steps, and come back and have it out wid you. Dat’s ’bout de difference of de up and low country buckra.

“Now ’bout Uncle Wash’s funeral. Uncle Wash was de blacksmith in de forks of de road ‘cross de railroad from Concord Church. He was a powerful man! Him use de hammer and tongs for all de people miles and miles ’round. Him jine de Springvale Afican Methodist ‘Piscopalian Church, but fell from grace. Him covet a hog of Marse Walt Brice and was sent to de penitentiary for two years, ’bout dat hog. Him contacted consumption down dere and come home. His chest was all sunk in and his ribs full of rheumatism. Him soon went to bed and died. Him was buried on top of de hill, in de pines just north of Woodward. Uncle Pompey preached de funeral. White folks was dere. Marse William was dere, and his nephew, de Attorney General of Arizona. Uncle Pompey took his text ’bout Paul and Silas layin’ in jail and dat it was not ‘ternally against a church member to go to jail. Him dwell on de life of labor and bravery, in tacklin’ kickin’ hosses and mules. How him sharpen de dull plow points and make de corn and cotton grow, to feed and clothe de hungry and naked. He look up thru de pine tree tops and say: ‘I see Jacob’s ladder. Brother Wash is climbin’ dat ladder. Him is half way up. Ah! Brudders and sisters, pray, while I preach dat he enter in them pearly gates. I see them gates open. Brother Wash done reach de topmost rung in dat ladder. Let us sing wid a shout, dat blessed hymn, ‘Dere is a Fountain Filled Wid Blood’.’ Wid de first verse de women got to hollerin’ and wid de second’, Uncle Pompey say: ‘De dyin’ thief I see him dere to welcome Brother Wash in paradise. Thank God! Brother Wash done washed as white as snow and landed safe forever more.’

“Dat Attorney General turn up his coat in de November wind and say; ‘I’ll be damn! Marse William smile and ‘low: ‘Oh Tom! Don’t be too hard on them. ‘Member He will have mercy on them, dat have mercy on others’.”

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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1 thought on “Slave Narrative of Ned Walker”

  1. Ned Walker was my great grand farther…….visited them in summertime as children/ my sister me in White Oak…….Very interesting reading about my kin folks…

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