DAYS OF BONDAGE.
BEING A BRIEF NARRATIVE OF HIS
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
Commercial Pub. Co.
My first remembrance of my life begins when I was from 8 to 10 years of age. I was born in North Carolina in 1810, the property of Olser Hye, within 15 miles of the capital of the State--Raleigh. My mother's name was Cherry and my father', Barney. I was taken away from them when I was small and hired out to Sim Alfred, who lived about two miles from where I was born. My mother was traded for a tract of land and sent to Alabama. My father died about this time. Just at this time I was brought to know right from wrong. I was afraid to plough in the corn-field by myself--always used to working with a large force of hands before that. I promised then and there that if I lived to be a man I would get religion. It occurred to me that if I had religion I would not be afraid of dying. When I was a boy, whichever way I turned it looked as though something was going to catch me. Though I was but a small boy, I promised that I would not live the life my father had lived. I knew my father was a desperate wicked man, would get drunk. His associates were all wicked. My poor dear mother, I could not say anything about her religion but she taught me how to pray before she left me. The morning she left I could not bear to shake her hand and bid her good bye. I heard from her. She was the mother of eleven  children. She left four little ones of us. I was the oldest of the four, being only about 10 years of age myself, father dead, and mother gone to the State of Alabama. It has been over 60 years since she left us, and I have never forgotten my mother; have no remembrance of ever having heard from her since. I promised God I would seek my soul's salvation when I got to be a man, and often refreshed my memory that I had promised Him never to live the life of my father. My conscience spoke to me and said I thought you promised never to live the life of your father. You are living the very same life he lived. It startled me and I looked up and cast my eyes towards the Heaven. I had to go out and fall on my face, and prayed to Almighty God. He held me to my promises and pledge until I was a man. You see at once reader how awful it is to sin against God. I was a poor ignorant boy. God had enlightened me at that day and supported me down to this day. Young man, young woman, if you have a wicked mother or a wicked father do not pursue the course that they do. Better young men to let your father go down to destruction than for you both to go.
Better young woman to let your mother go down to destruction than to let you both go. Young man if the Lord plants the seed of grace in your heart save your father through prayer if possible. Better young woman if the Lord plants the seed of grace in your heart to try and save your mother through the power of your prayers. The Lord made impression on my heart and has since completed the confession in my soul. During the dark times of slavery, ignorant as I was, He called me, and I have believed Him ever since. No young man or woman has any excuse for sinning against God. If God enlightened me at that day and time what ought you to do with all the advantages you have now. God requires all at your hands.
He requires you to seek Him early while He may be found. That was His language to me sixty years ago. Every young man and boy, God has His eye fixed on you and is warning you every day. Every young woman and girl, God has his eye fixed on you warning you every day. Little boys and girls, God has his eye on you. He is bringing warning to your ears. He intends that none of you shall die with any excuse for not seeking Him. The first text I ever remember in my life was about the rich man and Lazarus. When I was a boy I didn't know a text. God put it in my heart to believe that text. The first minister I ever knew belonged to the Baptist denomination, (colored) his name was Stephen Southerlin. The next was a white minister belonging to the Methodist denomination by the name of David Fowler. Over 60 years since I heard them preach, and they were the first I ever heard. God put it in my heart to believe the Gospel. His spirit has forever found me. Second text was: "It shall be well with the righteous, for they shall receive the works of their hands." The next text was: "They that have pity on the poor lendeth to the Lord." In my fancy God had me to believe in this. I say to you young men and young women He is speaking to you as He spoke to me. God lets no man live or die with any excuse. Not knowing his will, he teaches us through our forefathers' sins, that we are guilty rebels in His sight. I was taught that John said prepare Ye, for the kingdom of God is at hand. If God taught us in that day and time, how much more does he teach you now, that I did not know.
If He held me responsible then, dose He not hold you so to-day? He is a just God, he deals with all his people alike. He that will come shall come. He has made rich promises for us all. Taught me from a small boy. He is teaching me to-day. I ask you young people to remember one thing, do not follow your wicked parents; act, act wise. Go to the Lord while you are young; while you may, as when I came to be a man grown, I was not ready then. I made many attempts to bow and pray to God, but I failed to be in earnest. His spirit followed so long I had to give up my work and bow and pray. On one occasion I went out and tried to pray to God and raised up and felt worse than I did before, I bowed down, the Lord spoke to me and said, never can you obtain religion while you continue drinking whiskey. This was in 1851. I then ceased to drink, the devil got with me, told me it was all imagination and that I could take whiskey moderately two or three times a day and seek my salvation too. I did not know it was He at that time, but I yielded to
Him. I turned to and drank again as usual. In 1853 I was living in the little town of Lamberton, Robertson Co., N.C., near the line of South Carolina, when the greatest revival broke out that I had ever seen, at a Methodist quarterly meeting, during the months of June and July. The people were going up and confessing their religion by scores. God's spirit had been following me until that meeting. I thought at that revival I would seek my soul's salvation. At the revival, Peter Doubt, from Raleigh, preached a sermon. So Martin, of Franklin, preached a sermon. He had formerly been a circuit rider, and was now stationed in Lamberton, they said ruin this revival and the year 1853 will roll some of you into eternity. You may never have another opportunity. Ones' text "Bring my spirit away from Ephriham for he is joined to his idols again." Ones' text was, "Go your way, Sault," says Felix, "and come at a more convenient season and I will hear thee," and during that revival I felt that I was a lost man. I had been so; I felt like this before. But at this revival I could not feel. I attempted to pray, but couldn't pray. I sat then and found out it was all for nothing, it seemed to be me the whole of the subject seemed for me. I was the guilty man. The whole of the argument was that God never let his Spirit go back to Ephriham again, but left him there and gave him up to be lost and damned forever. Felix never saw Paul again to talk with him, and that was me, both cases seemed to suit me exactly.
On one occasion during the revival, I stood up and shed tears like a child; I felt my sins and asked God to forgive me and I would never sin any more--I thought I was a lost man. I went on for weeks, crying and howling to God, going on that I was a lost man. This was in 1853. I attempted to pray and could not. I would up and go, lie down by a place, get up and try it again; no relief for me yet. I would go out during the dark hours of the night, away in a lonesome place to pray. I asked God if he had drawn His spirit away from me and left me to be damned, to show it to me. He manifested that He had not drawn His Holy Spirit from me. You could hear me cry aloud, I was so rejoiced that I could be saved.
In 1854 I professed religion at my work in the woods. I forget the day of the month. In November, 1855, I was baptized; many sore trials from June 1853 to 1855. They attempted to whip me in 1854 and backed me down but I continued to pray night and day. A company of men hired me that year--gave Dr. Rogers $300 for me a year. When they did this, I looked at them wistfully, and when they talked of whipping me, I told them to back me down and get their shooting works ready and kill or cripple me and pay for me, for I did not let Dr. Rogers whip me and would not let anyone else do it. I went home to him on or about the 4th of July, and told him I wanted to leave and must leave. He said it was a good note, and for me to stay the year out, as he did not want to take his note in. I answered him and said if he did not want to take his note in I was man enough to take care of myself.
I went back a few days after the 4th of July, but before this time I had professed a hope. I do this to show to men that no devil has the power to keep a man from praying if he is in earnest. In
a few days I left them. I had promised I wouldn't stay with them, and I wouldn't. They did all manner of evil to me except put their hands on me. Day after day, while working there, I was praying to God to convert my soul. They destroyed everything of mine they could put their hands on. I never worked another hour after I went back there--they told me they were going to town to hire me out, as I did not want to stay with them. I then went that day past Davis', the overseer, and told him farewell--I was gone.
I concluded to stay out that year until Christmas: this was in July. I staid out for about one month, and while out one day, I heard a voice say, "go in, go in, there will be no abuse." I said, "yes, yes, I will go in;" God was protecting me then.
Whilst at the distillery they destroyed my chickens and pigs, and forbid anyone selling me either chickens or shoats, or anything else; so one day a voice said, "Christ died for you; can't you give up a few dung-hill chickens for Him?" I said, "Yes, yes; he could give me more or something more." Bob Jeffries and Jim Litchfield, who were living at Raleigh, N.C., now shot my chickens down. Sim Rodgers, who was an M.C. from Raleigh that year, and Bill Jeffries, of Franklin Co., N.C., were members of the firm.
I walked all that day and nearly all night to get to old Sim Rogers' place, which I approached about sunrise. On one occasion, while passing the railroad on my way to see my wife and children at Raleigh (I had the luck in 1854 to get a free man in Raleigh to hire my wife and three children, Hillyard Evans by name,) I passed overseer, section hand, railroad hands, white men and colored together. As I approached them, I cried out to myself, "I am a taken man to-day; I am surrounded." I promised God before I left the woods to give the matter back into his hands, as I was in a deep cut. I could not run back nor climb the walls, so I raised my hatchet and said to myself, "If you put your hands on me I will not save one of you." My feet turned and I never felt in such a fix in so short a time, when a voice said to me, "I thought you were going to put your trust in God; you are putting it in your hatchet." I let my hand fall and walked right on. God would not let them touch me; they spoke very politely to me, although they knew a month before that I had run away--the morning I went to see old Sim Rogers. I had to go and see him first man. I bowed a dozen times when within a mile of his house, to God, asking Him to bless me; I had strong faith in God.
I got there and got into conversation with him and got my breakfast, although not hungry--trouble fills any man. He asked me which I would do--go to Raleigh or to Billy Jeffries. I said to Billy Jeffries. When we got ready to start he saddled four horses; one for himself, one for his little son, one for his servant and one for me, and said, "look here, you are not going down there with me; you are going to leave me." I said, "No, I will go with you." I had promised God to follow on. He reached back and draws a rope and says he must tie me. I shed tears, as I must either submit to this indignity or fight him back. I could have whipped him out, but I did
not intend to resist, as I had promised God to leave it all in His hands.
We went on down there that day. Of course, they tied me--I either had to be tied or show to God I would not trust Him. As we rode on I prayed to Almighty God as I sat upon the horse. We had not got very far before they took the ropes all off me. When they got down to Bob Jeffries they sent for his father. I looked for them to whip me almost to death that day, because they hit between four hundred and five hundred licks when they get you fastened. I was loth to go in the gate. They called me in; the flesh was weak; I felt a little uneasy and weak.
I was right at the place where I professed religion. I continued to pray. They treated me very well that day; not a cross word did they give me. 'Twas for my wife and children I gave myself up. I trusted in God and knew he would not forsake me. they gave me a pass to go back to Raleigh that night; we thus made peace that far. They were not satisfied with me--they wanted to punish me. Dr. Rodgers had sent word to Raleigh if they got hold of me to take care of me for him, but not to hurt me as I was his property.
On Monday morning I met Sim Rodgers, to go to work on the railroad. He concluded that we had better go back to town--about half a mile. I walked on with him until we got to the Court House, when he turned to me and said, "I will have to put you in jail." I promised God to leave the work in His hands and let Him fight it, and when he got me in jail I said to myself, "You never whipped me before, but you will whip me now." I then waited in jail until the parties that hired me brought false charges against me, saying that I threatened them. They wanted to whip me, but I would not let them do it. While waiting one month in jail and one in the woods, I was of no service, doing no work. God's spirit whispered to me while in those prison walls. "Put your trust in Me and I will carry you through all your difficulties; put your trust in Me." Just see, kind readers, all the struggles from March to August. I was a happy man even in jail, when he said, "Put your trust in Me."
The parties had me put in jail to be shipped away. I had many friends in Raleigh, and my wife and friends came to see me every day, when I was allowed to speak with them through the grating, and I told them not to be uneasy or troubled, as I was coming out in a few days. I might go away, but I would only take a ride on the railroad and come back again; that I was going no further than Raleigh.
In a few days Calvin J. Rodgers, the agent of my master, came down to Raleigh, which was fifteen or sixteen miles off. He turned me out and hired me to Mr. Henry Miller, the agent of North Carolina Railroad. I saw Miller's hands and asked them what the fare on the railroad was for slaves and to give me all the points. I then went to Calvin Rodgers and told him I was not going to Miller's; he got cross with me, and I told him to set his price for me a month, give me a note and let me pick my own man. He did so, and I got
a white man to do it in less than four-and-twenty hours.
In 1854 I hired my wife, children, and myself until 1865, in Raleigh, and never left them until quite recently. Now, readers, when Jeffries said "his niggers should never raise chickens or have any privileges; he never wanted me to eat anything except what he gave me; never wanted me to eat a piece of chicken or buy a pound of butter, if he could help it," I said, "that the Lord would give me more, or something else, and He did do it. Readers, we are not to the end of it yet. He has given me more than I ever expected. In the course of four years He gave me five horses and two wagons as a free man, or at least, everybody thought I was. I made out splendidly. Now, readers, it just shows how important it is to put your trust in God, although things may look dark and gloomy.
From my boyhood up to the time I was twenty-one or twenty-two years of age, I had hard struggling to get bread and and clothes. After I was ten years old I knew nothing about going to church. I don't say I did not have the shirt, for didn't have it; down South the white man wasn't particular about clothing you. It was warm there and the cold could not hurt you. Two pieces, shirt and pantaloons, lasted you until fall and winter; three pieces in winter, which you generally got by Christmas. A very few people gave woolen clothes--wool was high then.
From sixteen to twenty years of age I desired to go to church. I kept creeping out, the Lord showing me what to do. I looked around at myself. God showed me that I was a young man. I went to work night and day and clothed myself. We slaves would rise between four and five o'clock in the morning and never get back to bed until nine or ten o'clock that night. Up to that time I refused to serve God, and yet He extended His mercy to me.
I was a young man, near grown, when the stars fell. I then belonged to Col. Tignal Jones, of Wake Co, N.C., who had married my young mistress, Emily Hye. I might say that we slaves were under a cloud; we could not see clearly what the duty of a man was at that time, that is, we could not by law, but through the mysteries of God we could.
I wanted a wife, so I went to Col. Jones and told him I wanted to marry. I had been going to see my girl, three miles from home, for three years. 'Twas a pretty hard pill, but mustering up the courage I said, "Master, I want to get married." I told him who and where my girl was. He answered quick and short, "If you have a wife there, I'll sell you to a trader; I want you to have a wife at home, sir, I'll buy you a wife." When he said this, my reply to him was, "Go buy her, sir." I felt very sad, she had troubled me for three long years.
There was a man in my neighborhood by the name of Sandy Hye, who hired hands as fast as he could get them to send them to the gold mines, which was about 200 miles away. I got Hye to hire me without saying anything to Col. Jones. I wanted to go; I did not want to go to a trader, neither did I intend to have a woman I did not want. Hye succeeded in sending me to the gold mines. I
went there and never did a days work, and in three weeks time I was back, and wouldn't agree to return any more. That same year I was out of Col. Jones' service and I went to my wife's master, Dr. Rogers, and told him what I wanted. He and his wife were both willing for me to have her, but did not know that Col. Jones was opposed to it. That same year, 1834, we went together, like a goose and gander--no wedding--and we are together yet as man and wife. She has been the mother of eleven children, of which we have raised all but two.
I had pleasure with my wife and little ones for about four years, when my troubles commenced. Col. Jones was a white Southern man who believed in parting slaves and sending them where he pleased. He had four men--I was the youngest--and he parted all of them. I was out of his employ for four yeares, working for the Government of North Carolina, after which I fell back in his hands, working on his farm and on the Raleigh & Gaston R. R. He set out to part my wife and I, as he had threatened to do. I could not suit him, I could not get along with him; he was always abusing me and threatening to sell me; he aggrivated me and tried my very soul. I was raised poor and hard as any slave, but the Lord had elevated me and made me feel that I was more of a man. I had all the craves for a wife and children, and I feel today that God gave me that woman to take care of her, for fifty-two or fifty-three years tells mighty well about us. Col. Jones rebuked me on one occasion--I was dressing my wife finer than he was his wife. I answered him, "Master, that is my money; I work for it. If I don't give it to my wife and children, what am I to do with it?" The troubles between he and I still increased, and on one occasion, when I got home in the morning from my wife's house, we met and had words. I replied, "Sir, I love my wife--you love yours; if you don't want me to go see my wife, just send me as far away as you can, by land or water, for I am going at the risk of my life." He jumped and struck at me and we had a regular warfare that day. He tried to tie and whip me but I would not let him. His wife came crying and begging me to submit to my master and to cross my hands and let him whip me, just to save his word. I would not submit and they sent off after the neighbors--he, his wife and myself were shut up in her bedroom. By this time I had got very mad; I was not going to hurt the old people, but I caught up a couple of heavy chains and stood up behind the door, making my mind to drop them--knock them down as they came in. They sent a messenger, telling them not to come in. God was in the midst. They turned me out and we got along very well for about a year, when another trouble broke out. He intended to sell me because I told him I would never serve him. Whenever there were traders in the country, I never felt safe with my wife and children.
He landed me in jail for sale during this time. My wife's master had a friend who was a trader in Raleigh. He sent word to the jail to keep quiet; he had a man, a trader, who would buy me and carry me back to my wife and children. I staid in jail one month when Col.
Jones' brother-in-law, Dick Smith, of Raleigh, turned me out. The next trial he gave me was with Keith & Wooley, of South Carolina, speculators, who were traveling through that section of the country buying up negros. I was always on the lookout when there were any speculators in the country. He was trying for three days, unbeknowning to me, to trade me off.
One Sunday I went down to what is known as Rogers' Crossroads, when two traders came riding along, whom none of us knew. There were a good many of us colored men standing together and we got a little excited, not knowing who they were. I mistrusted something and stepped across the road and bowing to them, called them "Master." I thought it was Mr. Wade and Guy, railroad men from off the river, and I asked them if I was right. "Oh yes!" said they, "that's who we are; to whom do you belong?"
"To Col. Jones," says I.
"What's your name?"
I told them my name was Friday Jones. They were on rather spirited horses, and I walked along with him for about half a mile. I was then very near my wife's house, where I met little Ben Rogers, who said, "How do, Mr. Keith, how do, Mr. Wooley, how do, Friday; Mr. Keith, how do you and Mr. Wooley come along buying the niggers/" They remained silent and winked at Ben Rogers not to say anything about speculators; so they told it next day, for fear I would run away. We parted and I went on.
I had not gone more than a hundred yards before I had to stop. Sunday night I rested bad--I was troubled. I went on home as usual Monday morning and went to my work. I worked until Monday evening on Panta Creek, and when night came, I said to an old man named Jack, "This is my own axe--I will hide it here; if I never come back, give it to my wife and children." Jack was astonished at me; it made him feel bad to have me talk so to him. I was satisfied in my mind that there was trouble at hand.
We had to go about a mile-and-a-half or two miles to the home house, where we stayed all night. When I got home, about seven or eight o'clock, I concluded to go down to the same neighborhood where I was on Sunday. Just before I started and I heard some one call Jack; it was Col. Jones himself. I answered him and told him and said Jack wasn't there. He stepped in with his gun in hand and collared me immediately and said, "You are a soldier, sir.'. I told him, "No sir, I was not." He said, "Walk with me, sir." We went on to his house and into his bedroom; he then called for a rope to tie me, which I let him do. He told his wife he had sold me to Keith & Wooley, and was to deliver me the next day at eleven o'clock, at Raleigh, N.C. jail and receive his money. I concluded to either let him tie me or whip him out, and it would not do to whip him as my wife's master would have got down on me then, and he was my friend; so I said to him, "Sir, let me go by and bid my wife and children farewell?"
"No sir, you shall never go by there again until I send you away.
He was very particular in tying me, saying he was going to tie me as tight as an Indian pony. He sent to Panta Creek after his brother Frank, who came that night. He said, "Tig, have you sold this nigger?"
"Yes, I have sold him and am going to deliver him to-morrow at eleven o'clock; I want you to go with me to carry him." He then retired and gave his brother the rope to hold me, telling him to set with me all night.
During the night I concluded to make Frank carry me out into the yard and try to get away, but before we got back my conscience said, "Go back; you are tied fast, and a scuffle to get away would only make it worse for you; you cannot get away." In the dead hour of the night I cut the ropes and got my hands loose and clear, when I again asked Frank to go out with me--this was the second time. I mistrusted the door was locked. Frank said to his brother, "Tig, give me that key, I want to carry this nigger out doors."
"You shall not carry him one step," Tig answered, so he went back and sat down. I was tempted to go anyhow, after being loose, and whip them out. I had made up my mind never to let them carry me to Raleigh, but my conscience persuaded me to sit until tomorrow, or the next morning. The madam got up between four and five o'clock, and went out to get breakfast, while the boys were feeding the horses. Col. Jones then let his brother lay down and he held the end of the rope and I the other--he had not discovered that I had cut the rope at that time.
When the madam went out she left the door unlocked and open, so I watched my chance, and when it came, with one spring I was in the yard. Frank, who heard me jump, was the first to notice my flight and said to Tig, who was sitting by, "He's gone! he's gone!" I had made up my mind I would not go, and I wouldn't. It was a cold frosty morning and I ran five or six miles barefooted and without any hat, to where my wife lived to get my clothes. I cut through the plantation and got there before Frank did on the horse, because he had to go all the way around the road. Just as I got my clothes and got out of the way, he rode up and called for my clothes; my wife gave him two old shirts, but he would not take them.
It was the custom in the South when we slaves ran away to strip us naked and starve us out, and forbid anybody feeding or clothing us.
In 1856 my wife and three children were for sale. I was for sale also. My two oldest children were sold--we were all the property of Dr. Ben Rogers then. Seven other of his servants were for sale, but he refused to sell any of them to a trader, either letting them select homes for themselves or he selecting one for them. He was pressed for $10,000--his youngest son got into a difficulty and he had to give a $10,000 bond. He forged $1,000 on the Wilmington N.C., Bank.
Jno. O'Neil, of Raleigh, saw my wife and I in Raleigh, and told me to see my master and get him to sell them to him (O'Neil) and it would be a home for them for their life-time. See what a lie a
man will tell. A short time after that he sold my wife and youngest child for as much as he gave for the four.
I became so uneasy and troubled I could not work; I went away but I could not stay. I had to come back to Raleigh to watch where they sent my wife and children--he had now bought my wife and children, and did not ask me any odds. I asked him to sell again and let me pick their homes. I was worse troubled then about my wife and children than I had ever been before in so short a time. I went twenty or thirty miles down the railroad, getting up cord wood, and was so troubled I could not work at all. I took the train on one occasion and landed at the depot before day. I cut me a big hickory stick and concluded if he had sent my wife and child away when I got there (there was a ditch between his house and the market house where I would lay in wait,) to cut him down below the knees, so that he would never be of any more account. We got cross that day and he attempted to strike me. I knew there was no show for me, so I stood perfectly calm and cool, not even winking my eye.
That morning before day, I jumped up and ran into the house, and felt the bed; finding my wife and child there, no one can tell how joyful I felt. He then said to me that he would sell all of them for so much, and he would not take that after sunset. This was some time in February--I remember of a heavy snow being on the ground. I said to him, "Then, sir, you intend to part myself and my family?" I stepped out the door, and having no dependence at all that I knew of, I raised up my hands and gazed across the street, said, "Lord, I have done all that I could, the matter is in your hands; my wife and children are gone without your assistance." In a second thereafter, my eyes rested on Joshua James, a Baptist minister, who was the editor of the Baptist Recorder. I went up the steps into his office and related the occurence to him. He immediately came down and went over and looked at them; he then turned back and he and he and I went to O'Neil's and agreed to give him such a price for them; it was a trade and O'Neil and I had nothing more to do with each other.
My troubles made a new beginning with James; my wife and James' wife could not agree. For a short time after James bought her I did not hire her out, but later on I hired her until the surrender.
Some time in 1863 while the war was going on, James moved away from Raleigh, up in Caswell Co., N.C. At that time I had my wife and three youngest children hired, Mary, Cherry and Katy. I had two sons hired out in Raleigh at the same time--I hired them from their master, Dr. Rogers. Mary was nearly a young woman; I watched over her, knowing James would not hire her to me. Mrs. Martin, a very respectable lady, hired her before James left Raleigh. I got one of James' friends, who was also my friend, to hire Mary for me--I took her away from Mrs. Martin's by paying a big price for her. No matter how much they asked for my wife and children, I paid it.
At this time he had an agent in Raleigh, to whom he wrote,
telling him to put my family on the auction block on the first of January. The letter was written about the middle of December, and in it he wrote his agent to see Friday Jones, that he might get someone to buy them; if he didn't, to put them on the block and sell them for the cash--he wanted no more women and children on his plantation. Heavy trouble on poor me again about my wife and children. I prayed some and studied some. I hitched up my horse and buggy and went to his house about seventy-five miles away. The first day I reached the town of Hillsboro, some forty miles from home; the next day I got within three miles of Yanceyville C.H., Caswell Co. I then drove up to his house just at dark. He was not expecting me. I had been praying to Almighty God before I left home, and I now continued and dictated what I must do and what I wanted to do. He (James) was naturally a short, crabbed speaking man, his manner was not very pleasant and he was a rough-looking man, but my wife and children were at stake and I had no fear of him--I had God with me.
I had left mourning hearts at home on the Friday morning I started. He fed me and my horse that night and the next morning, and treated me very well. He invited me in after supper and I told him my story; it was between God, him, and myself. We set with his wife until near one o'clock, talking of many different things. I had to agree with him a great deal in his talk. I told him I could not get anyone but a trader to buy my wife and children. My master was dead and his estate had to be settled the next fall; his oldest children had settled out in Tennessee and would not be in until the fall, and he (James) could buy my wife and children if he choose. He sat down and made me out a pretty stout letter to Alfred Williams, his agent. Before he wrote that letter, I promised him a large amount of money for their next year's hire, which he agreed to take. I returned home very proud. I strutted to my buggy, feeling that I had accomplished so much good.
I arrived home that evening, after being away for five days, and my wife was a happy woman when I told her I had accomplished my aim. My brothers and sisters in Christ had me in their arms and were sending up prayers for me.
I could not stay away from home contented; I was troubled until I got back. Two boys I had hired six or seven years back, had grown to be men and were in town when I returned, and they appeared so glad to see me. My oldest daughter, whom I took from a trader about a year previous to that Christmas, I had left locked up in a house I had rented in Raleigh. I was still a restless man and never slept sound for any length of time. To show you readers how important it is to trust Almighty God, you will readily see by the way I have been tried. All these troubles I put before you; man never dictated at all--it was my God and me.
In 1853 a trader bought my oldest daughter. Before she was sold, Dr. Dozier, her master, attempted to whip her and she refused to let him; he imprisoned her in a corn crib, and called Tom Gil', one of his slaves, to assist him in whipping her, but she whipped them
both, flung the door open and left. She was then living within seventeen or eighteen miles of Raleigh, and she came to see me; she only staid in the woods a short time. 'Twas a sad thing to see so likely a young woman abused as badly as she was.
He then sold her to Perry, who lived about three miles from Raleigh; Perry sold her to Leroy Jones, eight miles from Raleigh. She came to Raleigh to see me at Christmas. Perry, who owned her then, ordered a policeman, unbeknowing to her, to put her in jail. The policemen came to my house and tried to make a fuss with me by taking her out, so as to arrest her, but I held my peace; they struck my children, who were crying, a blow or two, but still I said nothing. This occurred at night--Parker, Driver and Beavers were the names of the policemen. They carried her to jail that night--no sleep, no rest for me.
I arose early the next morning and got in the roadway that Perry had to travel--I knew what block and what street to wait to see him; I asked him what she had been doing.
"Nothing," he replied; she had behaved alright, she was a good cook and suited him exactly, but the Yankees were going to take the country, and he had to be conscripted and carried into the war. He had to sell her because he wanted the money back he paid for her, to give to his children. I left a sad family, the oldest daughter being snatched from our midst by a merciless trader.
The next morning Perry came in person and took her out of jail and carried her home. The next day, while standing in the yard, she saw a strange party of horsemen coming down the lane; she knew Leroy Jones, and attempted to make her escape; poor woman, the four men soon out-ran her and caught her in the open field. Reader, common trouble cannot kill me, but one of my saddest feelings was when they told me she was sold to a trader.
Her husband, Allen Tate, and his master's overseer got into a fight, and Tate had to be sent away to keep the overseer from killing him. Her youngest child, a girl, died, leaving her oldest child, Bobby, and her sister still in the Dozier family.
As you peruse this little book just think what I have suffered and endured as a man.
Saturday night I went to bed as usual. I had been in the habit every night and more especially on Saturday night, of telling my people one regular saying, "Get up in the morning and give no trouble now; let me have my breakfast soon so that I can go to church and have nothing to trouble my mind." I would go to my morning service and have a daughter sing a hymn. On Saturday night I always knelt and gave humble thanks to God for sparing me and my family through the week. Sunday morning I thanked God for letting me see the sun rise, and asked Him to bless me both soul and body through the sabbath day.
On Sunday night I changed my saying to "get up early, boys, feed my horse and prepare me to take a trip." I took my horse and buggy the next morning after breakfast and travelled about sixteen miles. 'Twas a very cold morning during the Christmas season. I
had made up my mind what to do when I heard that Jones had bought her. Reader, when you get to this place, just pause and see how many of you would have done as I did. I fixed up myself as though I was going on a trip to New York--warm clothes and thick blankets in the bottom of my buggy. I passed within half a mile of the trader's that day and made a stop a few miles the other side. I saw some of my acquaintances and inquired for her; they said she was over at Jones' the trader. I told Charley Moore, a young man, to go over and see her and to tell her that I was in the neighborhood and must see her that night, but she must let no one know. I then went seven or eight miles farther to my mistress', who was a widow, and staid there until after sunset. I had then sixteen miles to go before I got to Raleigh--Jones' was about half-way. Dr. Roger's wife did not want me to go home that night, as it was so very cold. I told her I could not stay, as my business was so very important I had to be there early in the morning. I told her the reason I came up was to know if they were going to make any alteration in the hiring of us--my boys and I had to be hired every year. She said she would make no change; we were to remain hired as our master had hired us. I bowed my head and thanked her. I then shook hands with her, Henriette and Aggie, her cook.
Then moon was shining bright as day as I drove off. About three or four miles from there, I met Charley Moore.
"Did you see her, Charley?" I asked.
"Yes, everything is all right?"
We did not stand and talk long, as there were a good many deserters in the woods at that time.
"Farewell, Charlie," I said, "I will never forget you."
I then drove on to within half a mile of Jones' house, where there was an old field grown up into a wilderness; about fifty-three years before one brother had killed another in this place. I drove my horse into a thicket and stopped; I then got out and walked down to the house. He had a great many hounds, and it seemed as if I would never reach the house for them--they alarmed the woods. I went stepping along the ridge-path as easy as I could ; she imagined the dogs were barking at me and came out. The house set off to my right side and hearing the bushes parting and cracking on my left, I turned, and saw her in the path in front of me. As she appeared in the road I made for her, and throwing my arms around her I kissed her; telling her I came for her, and if she suffered I intended to suffer with her. She informed me that they put irons on her but took them off when she got home.
They had a guard watching her, so she asked me to let her go back before they missed her.
"Very well," says I, "but come out after they get still as I want to take you to Raleigh to-night in my buggy, which is up in Bashford's old place." She went back immediately.
I waited until a very late hour in the night, but she did not come. I heard Jones call and talk to some one at the house, but I could not tell what he said. She had not returned yet, so in the dead
of the night I went into the yard and peeped about in the cracks in log cabins, but could not see her. I thought, perhaps, she had dropped asleep, as the niggers had been dancing and frolicking all the night before, and she did not get any sleep. I saw her nodding, as I thought, and not daring to let anyone see me I punched her. The woman roused up but dropped to sleep again; I was mistaken--it was not her.
I thought of another plan: I knocked at the door and asked for such and such a man, who was not there; I went to another house and asked for another man; he was not there. I then went around to the houses generally--they were built like a town, and a speculator has a good many--and if she had heard me she would have come out. Instead of asking the Lord "was I defeated," I said, "I am defeated; Lord, what shall I do, they have got her locked up in the house; I have missed my aim and shall have to go back without her." Instead of asking the Lord what to do, I dictated to him that I would stay until day--I was not going home without her.
I walked on towards my buggy and was surprised by meeting her; she had come out and missed me but had found her way to my buggy in the old field. My soul was lifted up. I was a strong man and I took her in my arms back to my buggy, and taking my blankets, wrapped her up snug from head to foot.
It was now past midnight; I drove to Raleigh but stopped at a friend's house and warmed her; I did not go a direct route because I knew they would follow and take me up.
After warming up, I pushed on to Raleigh. I got there just as day was breaking in the east and astonished her mother and the rest of the children, as they did not know where I went or what I went for. They arose early and wanted to know what I was going to do with her. I replied that I was going to keep her for awhile in my stable loft. After keeping her there for a short while, I carried her out into the country where she staid a month or so, but as she again got restless, I had to take my horse and buggy in the dead of the night and bring her in and kept in the stable loft.
James came in a few days after I got her and asked for her.
"Good morning, Uncle Friday," he first said to me.
"Good morning, Mr. Jones."
"Uncle Friday, how is your daughter this morning?"
"I don't know, sir, how she is."
"Oh yes, you do; all I blame you for is coming up there and bringing her away. Were you not up to your mistress' house on Sunday?"
"Did you see Squire George Thompson?"
"Did you speak to him?",
"I did not, sir."
"The day of your hiring, you bring her up there; if you don't, I'll give you a heap of trouble. If you can get anyone to give $1,200 for her, I'll take it.
I looked for him to come that day to the sale, but he did not. I bowed down on my knees--here's faith--and asked God not to let him reach that ground on that day. He was not sick that day and it was not more one-half or three quarters of an hours' ride, with such fine horses and carriages as he had. I went to the hiring ground as usual and asked my guardian if he could hire me out without putting me on the block; "he said 'yes." I asked him what he would take for me, and he said $50. Park Overby, a white friend of mine, said that he would give it; I was then safe, and Jones could not interfere with me. He intended to pay any sort of price for me, as he was going to have me at all hazards. Fifty dollars in confederate money was nothing--it was God bearing me up.
I had two boys to be hired. I hired my buggy and horse and brought white men from Raleigh to hire my boys. Jones never had a chance to speak to me but once in two years, although he was there every other day and sometimes every day in the week. My daughter was still with me.
Within two miles of Raleigh he attempted to shoot me, but I got away from him and left my wagon standing in the road--he was allowed to carry pistols and shoot, and I wasn't. He tried to hire me again but I did not go to the hiring; he was there, though. The widow said that no one should hire me to punish me; she would hire me herself first.
Some of the young men at Rogers' hired me and let me stay at Raleigh as usual.
Leroy Jones was the speculator and Kinyon Jones owned trained blood-hounds; they, with Leru Hourse, went into my stable. I stood back and saw them go up the steps into the loft, and break the door open. She was in there at the time, but they went in and searched, and did not find her.
I left her then until the morning Sherman's army arrived; as Kilpatrick's cavalry approached Raleigh, running Wheeler's army out, I turned her out. I had kept her within one square of the market house for twelve months; in the course of the two years she had been very sick--on two occasions her mother had said she could not live; to turn her loose in the road and let them take her, for they would ruin me. Bless my wife! I will never meet a woman that I will love as I love her. I said, "I shall not turn her loose, madam; if she dies I intend to bury her."
I had two colored friends in Raleigh--John Flagg and Bob Lucas. I intended to go down to the country and tell Mr. Holt that there was a refugee here to be buried that evening, and that I wanted him to dig the grave and have it ready, and I intended to take my horse and wagon and have John Flagg and Bob Lucas bury her, had she died. Old Dr. McKee, of Raleigh, prescriped for my family in case of sickness, and we got the medicine from him and doctored her.
During the first year, in June, she professed religion. She is now living in Raleigh, a sound and healthy woman.
I want to show you, readers, what I had to endure as a man. I
had no education. God smiled upon me and gave me common knowledge. I close, dear readers, by showing what a father and husband can and will do, with the help of God. Col. Jones and I now parted forever. It was about six weeks after this that it occurred to me he was going to send me off. There was a family breaking up and selling out; his wife's sister and her husband both died and the children had come from Alabama to settle the estate. The thought suggested itself to me that they were going to swap me for some of Herndon's people. As a wicked sinner I asked the question, "how do I know he would; nobody ever told me so." 'Twas a matter between God and I.
I was on the watch; he could not make a move that I would not find out. Col. Jones and family went up Herndon, about six or eight miles, to bid them farewell, and stayed away nearly a week, leaving me to sow wheat and put up fattening hogs.
I could not work, so I went to John Suit, a white neighbor, and told him they were going to send me away. He said if it had been so he would have heard something of it. I quit working entirely; my feelings would not left me exercise.
I went down to my wife's house, about eight or ten miles distant, at night, and standing upon a ladder in the house, I said, "wife, wife, they don't intend I shall stay in this country with you, so you and the children do the best you can." I had made up my mind to leave and go either in the northern or western free States and live.
I went within half a mile right in front of his door. I was going to dig my cave right there in the mountain and stay the balance of my days. A little stream ran down by the foot of the mountain, and I threw the dirt I dug out into the stream. I dug a place so large that I could go in and turn all around; I was going to secure it by cutting down large trees all around it. I asked the Lord not to let me be overtaken in that den.
Col. Jones and his family had not got back from the sale, so I went down to my wife's house. While there, someone came to the door and asked my wife when she had seen Friday. I whispered to her not to tell them I was there. They said, "tell him to look out for himself, as Jones has sold him to Herndon, and Herndon is going to leave for Alabama in a few days.
This was my predicament; he had swapped me for Sam, a slave, and his wife. When he got home and found that I had left, he was astonished; he had to go out in the neighborhood and get a man to take Sam, and he kept his wife to cook.
He then went to Jesse Pinny to get him to buy Sam; Pinny refused to buy Sam, but said that he would buy me if Jones would sell me. They were then some three days, Sunday included, trading for me. Pinny said the reason he bought me was that he needed one man to help him raise his children; he had seen me working and thought I would suit him. He sent for me in the night to meet him at his brother Sandy's; I met him and he asked me if I would live with him, and I told him I would. He told me to come to his house
on Tuesday morning this was Sunday night. His house was five miles off.
Readers, just notice what I suffered as a man, and yet these trials were good for me. Col. Jones made me suffer, in his lifetime, what few men have suffered. On one occasion, I submitted to let him tie me and whip me. I asked him if he didn't think he had whipped me enough.
"When I am done with you it will be night," he replied.
I did not know my strength; I flung my foot against the tree and broke loose and got away from him and the other white man, and untied the knot with my teeth. I was tempted to kill him.
This was two years before I parted with him for good. There was a day when he would take no money for me. The first time he ever talked of selling me was when I asked him to let me have a wife on Dr. Roger's plantation. he never let me see any peace after the first four years.
Bretheren, what a blessing it is to dwell together in the spirit. Beware how you entertain a stranger, for you may entertain an angel. Have you forgotten the life we lived when we were slaves? Our suffering were great, and in some places we were not allowed to worship God at all. We had to have secret prayer meetings on Saturday nights, and some would have to watch for the patrolmen and hard task-masters, to keep from being surprised while the others prayed and sung. When the enemy was seen the watch would give the alarm; we should then close the meeting and make our escape, in order to keep our backs from being slashed and salted down.
In Marsh county, N.C., we had a noble speaker by the name of Minger Crudemp; he was the slave of a popular Baptist Minister, who, although he was a preacher, did not allow his slaves to worship the God he praised. This Minger Crudemp would hold prayer meetings every Saturday night that he had a chance in spite of the penalty he would have to pay if he was caught; they would run him Saturday and Sunday. Bretheren, see how hard it was for us to serve God in the days of slavery. In some places they were allowed to praise God, but they had to have a white man to watch them. (When I was a small boy Bethey Thompson, a religious woman, was whipped by her mistress because she would pray and shout through the day.) Oh, how hard were the lives we led in those days. It was a common thing for slave men and women to run away into the woods to keep their masters from whipping them. To-day, bretheren, we ought to love one another and be the best friends and citizens in America. Just look at the mercy of God in the midst of all the Presidents during slavery; yet we were held in bondage. God reared up Abraham Lincoln--one whom the people had not looked for--who used more power than any of the men in America. He caused the shackels to be thrown off the bondmen.
There are a few of you who have ever thought what it cost to set you free-hundreds and thousands of lives were lost; even our greatest man, Abraham Lincoln, fell. No other man did the will of God as he did; it seemed as if he was intended to liberate us. He arose
and declared that slavery should be abolished. This was power that God gave him. His heart failed him, but God pressed him on. All that we can do is live close to the cross as a race. Life and blood was sacrificed for us; our people are gaining on one hand but losing on the other. Freedom of speech, to serve God, and to worship under our own vine and fig-tree, is ours.
Between sixty and seventy years ago, the colored people of the South were shouting in the fields, when the overseer came and was about to whip them and drive them to work, when he was stricken down and converted by the power of God; then out came the master, and he was also converted. These I relate to show the power of God and the salvation of men and their souls.
How often have mortals been whipped to death and no one near to help or pity them. How horrible for a man to stand and see his wife whipped and her wounds bathed in salt water, and not be able to protect her. To-day, some of our race are not doing much better. Man and wife, think of the passage in the great book, "Little children, love ye one another, as the scripture hath commanded you to do."
The author of this book is uncultured and unlearned--can neither read nor write.
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