This is the autobiography of Israel S. Campbell, also called the "Father of Black Texas Baptists." Campbell was born a slave in Kentucky and was sold to several owners in the Ohio Valley during the first twenty years of his life. He converted to the Baptist Church and fled to Canada. Later he spent twenty-four years in Texas, where his sermons are still famous today.
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Bond And Free
Or,Yearnings For Freedom
Bond And Free
Chapter I. Birth And Early Years.
Chapter II. Change And Disappointment.
Chapter III. A Change Of Life.
Chapter IV. Another Year--Another Change.
Chapter V. Marriage Of My Mother--Another Parting.
Chapter VI. A Change Of Masters--Result.
Chapter VII. Another New Year's Day.
Chapter VIII. Jail Life.
Chapter IX. New Experiences.
Chapter X. Married--Slavery.
Chapter XI. Overseer--The Hog Scrape.
Chapter XII. Insurrection--Result.
Chapter XIII. Religious Experience.
Chapter XIV. My Ministry.
Chapter XV. Mechanic--Visit My Mother.
Chapter XVI. Preaching And Working.
Chapter XVII. Chapter Of Troubles.
Chapter XVIII. Arrest--Imprisoned.
Chapter XIX. Fugitive--My Green Brier House.
Chapter XX. Northward Journey--Adventures.
Chapter XXI. Journeyings To The Land Of Promise.
Chapter XXII. Across The River--Journey Through Illinois And Ohio.
Chapter XXIII. Free--Life In Freedom.
Chapter XXIV. Visit To Kentucky--Result.
Chapter XXV. The Fugitive Slave Law--Agent.
Chapter XXVI. Education--Beginning To See Its Advantages.
Chapter XXVII. Election Troubles--Result.
Chapter XXVIII. My Trade--How It Ended.
Chapter XXIX. Another School--Baptist Convention--Oberlin.
Chapter XXX. Unfortunate Sale--At Oberlin Again.
Chapter XXXII. Pastoral Charge--Missionary Labors.
[A.] Naturalization Certificate.
[B.] Notary Public's Certificate.
[C.] Pastoral Recommendations.
[D.] Certificate Of Sandusky City Baptist Church.
[G.] A Poem On Baptism.
[I.] Song Of Martyrs.
[J.] Form Of Celebrating Marriages.
[K.] Missionary Reports.
Bond and Free, I. S. Campbell
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
DEAR READER, I ask your attention to the contents of a book, that you may see and understand what the title-page intends to convey to your mind when it says, "Bond and Free." It is not my theoretical views upon any system or institution,--not a panegyric upon the advantages of freedom, or a denunciation of those who hold human beings in bondage. God, in His good Providence, would not permit such to be, without some great design was intended, nor does He sanction such as either lawful or right.
I was born a slave, saw both the bright and the gloomy sides of the institution, suffered its bitter sorrows and enjoyed its enervating pleasures. Something better, however, was intended for me; and, although I was doomed to drink of the bitter waters of Marah, and to pass through the dark valley of its desolation, I have been allowed to come into the promised land, and to enjoy the milk and honey with which it abounds.
But my mission is not yet finished. Three of my children are yet in the land, treading the wine-press and making bricks without straw. And as time rolls on, I see the oppressor's rod becoming heavier, and the shackles becoming tighter and tighter around them, and my heart yearns for them, and my prayers are often and earnest for their liberation.
Many ways have suggested themselves to my mind by which they might become free; but my mind revolts at any course that may not be considered right, and of which my conscience does not approve.
To go to their homes, and, under the plea of filial affection, instil into their minds a hatred of their masters, a disaffection to their homes and labor might be approved by many. But is it right? Would God approve of such hypocrisy in one whose mission is to preach peace and truth and submission to the powers that be. Besides, few know the danger, the suffering, or the peril of such a course until they have passed through its experiences. And I pray that my friends will never advise or urge such a plan while a better one remains open, and one which I think God has pointed out as the only just way.
Again, I might, by hard labor in some mechanical occupation, gain, after many years, enough to buy their freedom; but I have chosen the better part, and am endeavoring to free men, to the best of my poor ability, from the thraldom of sin and misery; and should I have preferred the former plan, their hairs might become gray while I was trying, and I would gain but three bodies from earthly bondage, while I may be instrumental, through God's blessing and your aid, of doing the same and rescuing many from the bondage of Satan. Which would you have me to do?
Or, again, I might traverse the land, and beg from charity and sympathy's purse the means by which they could be liberated; but methinks it would be given coldly, if not grudgingly, to so uncertain an object, and, in many instances, be denied altogether from a want of appreciation of my cause.
All such thoughts and plans as these have occurred to my mind; but a voice within has said, not my will, "A higher and better way I point thee to;" and I have answered, "Thy servant prayeth, What wilt Thou have me to do, Lord?"
And then came the thought, convincing, while it was consoling, "You have passed through the sea. You have trodden the wine-press, and you have enjoyed the promised land. Fiction has painted its scenes, interested parties have told their story, and partial observers have undertaken to give their opinions to the world. Cannot you, from experience, tell a tale which will place the truth uppermost, and enable both friends and the public to judge impartially of the great question of the age?"
And I answered, "With Thy help, O Lord."
This, then, gives the reason for the appearance of my little work, in which I have endeavored to present three reasons why I may ask for patronage and encouragement.
Firstly. I have written nothing but what I have witnessed or experienced, which, as my life was an uncommonly varied one, presents both the horrors and advantages of slavery, shows the bitter trials and yearnings of the slave, and the almost total neglect of their mental and moral training, leaving them without God in the world. I have not painted the scenes with fancy; for I consider the naked truth more powerful than fiction. I have not given my views or opinions of slavery; for, as I have before said, I may be biased, and do not think myself capable of judging on such a great question.Let facts speak for themselves.
Secondly. I have children yet in the land of bondage, who, had I the means, I can purchase from their masters at a reasonable price. To this end I expect to devote the proceeds of the sale of this book; by which I consider that I am not only gaining their liberty, but am placing before the world the truest picture of the South and its institutions,--both the dark and the bright side.
And Thirdly, I wish here to show what, under God's blessing and proper training, I believe, in a few years, the majority of the slaves may attain in mental and moral growth and understanding. I do not wish to be my own trumpeter, but hope my book will be read; and while so doing, remember it is the record of one who has been in the very lowest places of slavery and in the most cheering ones of freedom, and then judge what may be the result.
Hoping that I have not tired you in this my humble statement of my case, and that I may have your kind approval of my course, I leave the following pages to tell their own story.
I am, very respectfully, In Christian fellowship and love,
CANADA WEST, January, 1861.
HAPPY, ye sons of busy life, Who equal to the bustling strife, No other view regard. Even when the wished ends deny'd, Yet while the busy measure ply'd They bring their own reward: Whilst I, a hope-abandoned wight, Unfitted with an aim, Meet ev'ry sad returning night And joyless morn the same.
IN the State of Old Kentucky, and in Greenville County, my eyes first opened to the light. My mother lived in the family of Captain John Russell, who was well-known as a leading light of the Presbyterian Church in that county, and who was truly, I believe, a devoted Christian, as he always tried to do what he thought right, and his memory will ever remain honored by his slaves and those with whom he was accustomed to associate.
His wife, however, who was devoid of all feeling or principle, gave the Captain no little cause of trouble, and made his life rather a burden than a pleasure. She was of all women the most unprincipled. She would swear, rant and beat the slaves as if they were brutes, and could never be pleased by any one--not only the slaves but her husband would feel the weight of her wrath if he dared to interpose a word in behalf of the slave, or remonstrate with her about her wickedness. From morning until night could her voice be heard swearing, bawling and screaming at some of the hands; and, with whip in hand, she would traverse the field, and if she thought any of the hands were not working as hard as they should, would pounce suddenly upon them, and appease her wrath by applying the lash. Should her husband interpose, she would lay it on him, until he was glad to get beyond her reach.
The reason of her having such bitter feelings was said to have been caused by a disappointment in her marriage--she thinking the Captain was wealthy, and being of a wealthy family herself was disappointed in finding him only in comfortable circumstances, and appeared to make his life as miserable as she possibly could. He was, however, of a respectable family, and a distant relative of Henry Clay, and held a very high social position in Greenville County. But all this could not reconcile her to her disappointment.
In her treatment of the slave children was her disposition still further unmasked. She fed them like so many pigs, and her presence was to them like a hawk flying over a hen with a young brood. She delighted to be considered a "bully"--fearing neither man nor spirit. I must say, that in all my experience in life, that never have I met such a strange combination of the wicked in any human being, and often have I conjectured in my own mind as to what purpose she really could have been sent upon the earth. But as all the ways of Providence are inscrutable to the finite, so have I left the revelation of her purpose until the last day, when all things shall be revealed.
Never shall I forget her, although I had hardly become conscious of existence before she died, and well do I remember that event. The rejoicing that then occurred was such as is seldom indulged in among slaves. The thought of being freed from her tyranny seemed to thrill every heart, and although they did not really understand the full meaning of death, the idea of being free from her lash and eye, seemed to possess every one, and while her spirit was passing to the undiscovered country, they were dancing and rejoicing over the result. The only good they really wished her was that God would have mercy on her and pardon her great wickedness.
THAT night a child might understand, The deil had business on his hands.
OLD mistress died as she had lived--raving, swearing and screaming, nor would she listen even in her last moments to consolation or direct her mind to the great event which was fast approaching, and in which she was to be the principal actor. But the dreaded and last enemy spares not the strong, and as the day passed away her spirit took its flight.
But, it appeared as if their hopes were to be disappointed, for even after her body was cold, and laid beneath the green sod, did her spirit continue to "walk the earth," and haunt the old stumping ground, giving master no peace, and following the slaves as was her practice when alive. [It is a common belief among the slaves in the south and among many others, that the spirits of those who are unhappy in the other world, still continue to visit the earth until the cause of their trouble is removed.
So convinced was master that such was the fact, that he could rest neither night nor day, and at last concluded to sell his farm and go away. But still did old mistress haunt the place and contend that the farm belonged to her. At last the man that bought it tried to persuade master to buy it back again. But master had had too much trouble there to go back so easily, and refused to have any thing to do with it. Such was the termination of mistress's visits to that place, at least as far as was known, as all the slaves were then removed, and from such I derived my information.
I was, at the time of moving, about four years old, but my memory has always been very good, and I remember many circumstances which then took place. In removing we were no little troubled by being caught in a heavy shower, which completely drenched us, and as we had no protection, we were huddled in an open wagon and a few old clothes thrown over us.
The place to which we removed was on the Ohio river, in Union County, near Morganfield the County Town. Here master purchased a new place and it was not long before he took to himself a help-meet. The lady he chose was a kind and affectionate mistress, always looking after and considering the wants of her slaves. Master seemed in her to have been rewarded for all the misery he had suffered with his first wife, for never did man and wife live more happily together than they. Truly did the slaves feel the change, and never did any one try to repay by faithfulness Christian solicitude than did old master's hands. There was no need either of hard and severe treatment or the lash.
Mistress Sallie, for such was her name, was of the Methodist persuasion, and a truly devoted Christian. After master's marriage all things changed. Where carelessness and disorder prevailed, she established order and system. Where religion was never thought of, she taught us all that we should pray to the Great Being who made us, and that we were poor miserable sinners, with the wrath of God abiding on us; that he had sent his dear Son upon this earth, who had suffered and died to save us from the punishment hereafter, to which we were doomed. She established family prayer, and at night all the slaves were called upon to participate in the devotion--master reading the Bible and Miss Sallie singing a hymn and praying. We then had enough to eat and to wear, and every thing was as prosperous as we could wish for, and master had nothing of which to complain, either with the work or his other affairs. God surely worked there.
But like all human hopes this course of affairs could not last long. Disappointment seems to be the direst enemy of our human nature, and we could expect no exception.
We had now passed over three of the happiest years we had ever known, and really began to think this world a better place than we had ever imagined it. But now our happiness and hopes were to be blasted.
From some unknown cause master was taken very sick; every day he grew worse. The Doctor was summoned, but seemed to give him but little relief. At length he gave up all hopes of life, and had all his slaves called to his bedside He told them he was dying; this he did not dread, for all must die; but it weighed heavily on his mind when he thought how his poor slaves would be scattered after he was gone, and which he was now powerless to prevent; urging and advising them to try and do their duty, and God would take care of and help them. I stood by his bedside and saw him breathe his last breath, and never shall I forget the beautiful smile which remained on his countenance after his body was cold.
The day and even week after he died was one of universal mourning. The thought that master was gone forever, brought tears from the stoutest heart, for they well knew they had lost their best friend.
All his slaves followed his remains to the grave and dropped a tear to his memory. It was on this occasion that I received the first money I ever possessed, which I got for holding the horse of old master's nephew--a four pence half-penny.
BUT me, not destined such delights to share, My prime of life in wandering spent and care; Impelled, with steps unceasing, to pursue Some fleeting good, that mocks me with the view.
A CHANGE was now to take place. Hitherto my life had been passed in old master's family, and the last three or four years had made me forget the hard treatment of his first wife. I was now about nine years old.
The estate was appraised, and mistress allowed to continue on until the first of the year. On New Year's day we went to the auctioneer's block, to be hired to the highest bidder for one year. This scattered my old associates far and wide, casting each among strangers, and perhaps hard masters.
I was sold to one Ezekiel Edwards, a Tanner, for ten dollars. He owned no slaves but hired all his help--so I ground tan for that year.
Mr. Edwards was not married, but boarded with a widow lady in Morganfield, Mrs. Kate Thornton, more familiarly known as Aunt Katy, who, after my day's work was over, I used to wait on and run her errands, which in a very short time made me a great favorite with her. She had many strange ways, and had a peculiar mode of getting along cheaply, an instance of which is the following:--
Every morning she would tell me to get the pitcher and go for some cream for her coffee.
"Where must I go, Mistress Katy?"
"Go to Mrs. Townsend, and tell her I wish some cream for my coffee."
So off I would go, and Mrs. Townsend would give her some cream. This continued until Mrs. Townsend became tired of giving her cream, and sent her what we called blue John. Then Aunt Katy raved and scolded, and said:--
"What did you bring this stuff for, you d--l?"
"Mrs. Townsend gave it to me, madam," I replied.
"You bring any more blue John here, and I will blue John you, you rascal."
"Well, Mistress Katy, what must I do?"
"Tell her I want cream, and if she has not got it go somewhere else."
So the next morning Aunt Katy said, "Israel, get the cream pitcher and get some cream for breakfast."
"Where must I go, Mistress Katy?"
"Ask me where to go. Do you not know who has cows?"
Off I went to every person who had a cow, until I succeeded in getting the cream; so by the time I left Aunt Katy's I knew every person who owned a cow in Morganfield. But never did Aunt Katy pay for any cream.
Another of her plans for living cheaply was--On Sundays many of the boys (slaves) came to town to sell their produce, (a privilege which many masters allowed) which they had raised in their little plots of ground, by working overtime.
Aunt Katy was ever on the alert to find a stranger, who, should she espy one, she would always accost--
"Good morning, my man servant!"
"Pleasant day, mistress," he would reply.
"What have you to sell to-day, my man?"
"Some brooms, foot-mats, eggs, bread-trays, madam," or whatever he might have.
"They are the very things I want."
"Well, Mistress, I want to sell them."
"Then come in, my man, come in."
Then she would buy whatever she would want, and then put the following questions:
"How far do you live from here my man?"
"Four or five miles, mistress," or whatever the distance might be.
"Can you not call in next Sunday, I have just spent every cent I had; but I will have plenty by that time. Mr. Willett will be here and pay you, if I do not."
Off goes the boy, thinking that he has made an excellent bargain.
The next Sunday soon rolls around, and the boy presents himself to Aunt Katy for pay. Summoning her to the door, he would address her,
"Good morning, mistress."
"Good morning, my man, and what do you wish this morning?"
"I called, mistress, for the little change you owe me."
"The change for the things you bought last Sunday," mistress."
"Be off from here, you rascal, I never saw you before."
"Oh, yes, mistress; do you not remember you bought some brooms, and eggs, &c., last Sunday?"
"Get out of yard this minute, or I will have Mr. Willett after you, you saucy d--l."
So the poor fellow would have to leave without a cent for his things.
This Mr. Willett was an old boarder of Aunt Katy's, and always attended to whatever she wished, so that she thought there was nobody living like Squire Willett.
But a year or so after I had been there, Squire Willett took a notion to take to himself a wife. This almost broke Aunt Katy's heart. She raved and went almost mad, she cried, groaned and moaned, to think that she was losing all the support she had in life.
Soon, however, another boarder took his place, which soothed her feelings, and she often remarked that although she had lost squire Willett she had gained a Bell, who was a most liberal provider, and things soon went their usual way.
In the fall, however, Mr. Edwards took to himself a wife, and then he took me to live at home with him; the other hands still boarded at Aunt Katy's.
An incident occurred about this time which so impressed my mind with the terror of being sold to the South, that I believe I should have rather died than that such should have been my fate. There was a colored man and his wife living at this time on the opposite of the road, where I was grinding bark. She heard that her master had sold her to a slave dealer. The thoughts of being parted from her husband made her grieve so hard that it unstrung her mind, and she cut her throat with a razor. Such is the terror among all the more intelligent slaves of going South (meaning Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, etc.) that they had rather suffer death.
On Christmas-Eve my time was up, all the hired slaves being allowed, by custom, to a week of holidays. Mr. Edwards thought, because I was boy, that I might stay with him until New Year's day.
But I was not willing to this, and as he wished to compel me, on Christmas-Eve night I took flight, and went to my mother. I remained with her until New Year's day. I had never been with her so long since I could remember, as I was taken from her when a babe, and had never had an opportunity of spending my holidays with her since.
THE wise Shook their white heads o'er me and said, Of such materials wretched men were made.
ANOTHER New Year had come, and again we were to be put on the auctioneer's block, to be hired to the highest bidder for another year. One by one they went, until my turn came, and I was bid off to a Mr. John Wing, of Morganfield, a merchant--an Englishman by birth. I did not remain with him long, as the executors had settled up old master's estate, and all the slaves had either to be sold or divided among the heirs. The division was performed as follows:--The names of five were put down on strips of paper, and then drawn like a lottery. The man who owned my uncle and mother put them in with the others, thinking that he would lose the old ones and get some of the young ones.
My brother Washington was a smart and very sprightly young man, and was wanted by several. The man who owned my mother said he was determined to have him, but his brother-in-law was equally as anxious; however, when the tickets were drawn, it so proved that neither of them had drawn him, but he was drawn by master's youngest child, a young lady, then about my age. The man who had owned my mother again drew my uncle, Aunt Fanny, an old woman about the same age as my mother, myself and sister. But, as his wife was so taken with my mother, they hired her from her owner. This brought my mother and sister and myself together.
Mr. Lucius Devaull was our new master's name. He was a prominent member of the M. E. Church, class-leader, a good singer and good hand to pray; but, should he get angry, would give vent to his temper by oaths, always asking forgiveness the moment his anger subsided. I was very well pleased with this home, as I was with my sister and mother. My work was to nurse a little child and wait on mistress. On Saturdays I had to clean the candle-sticks, which was the cause at this time of a little incident, and was my first experience in running away:--Every night at this time I had to lay beside the cradle and rock the baby, and would sometimes fall asleep and let the baby cry, for which mistress would whip me. One night, being very tired, I determined if she whipped me I would run away. The Saturday following this resolution I was as usual put to cleaning the candle-sticks, which, when I presented them for inspection, were not as well cleaned as she wished them, and told me to clean them again, and if I did not make them shine as I ought, she would whip me. I thought to myself, I you whip me to-day I will run away; but I went again to clean the candle-sticks. After cleaning them as well as I could, I again presented them to her for inspection, but they did not please her, and she said, "Put them down, sir, and hand me that switch from behind the bureau." She then gave me the promised whipping, after which she said, "Now go and try it again."
I took up the candle-sticks and went to the kitchen, and sit them down, and went over to one of the neighbors about two miles away. There I staid all night, and the next morning, about nine o'clock, I was sitting on the fence thinking what I should do, on looking up who should I see but my master and his brother coming along the road. They espied me before I noticed them, but I took across the field as hard as I could run, and they after me. When they came to the fence, as master's brother could run the fastest, master held the horses while he went after me. After a long race, however, he caught me, and master carried me home. He then wanted to know why I ran away, and if old Aunt Fanny told me to? I told him no sir; but he did not believe me, and commenced whipping me; when I saw he was determined to make me say Aunt Fanny persuaded me, I acknowledged she did. He then stopped whipping me, and commenced at poor old Aunt Fanny, who did not know what could be the matter, but bore it patiently. Then he was satisfied, and said he hoped it was a lesson I would not soon forget, and that I was growing just like my Uncle Anderson, who would always run away every chance he got.
But the candle-sticks were not cleaned any better that time.
In that country Sunday is a great day for sports. The slaves would all get together and wrestle and box and play, and pass a jovial day, and we all passed the time very pleasantly.
THERE's a bliss beyond all the poet has told, When two, that are linked in one heavenly tie, With heart never changing, and brow never cold, Love on through all ills, and love till they die. * * * * * * * All that stood dark and drear before the eye.
ANOTHER Christmas rolled upwards, and my mother took again a partner for the second time. There was quite a lively time at the wedding, many of her friends being assembled, and after supper a sermon was preached by a Baptist minister by the name of Sebolt, from the text, "Wherefore laying aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisies, and envies, all evil speakings, as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.--1 PETER ii. 1, 2.
Such is the common custom among pious persons, always endeavoring to sanctify their lives, by giving God the glory. My mother was a very pious woman, and the man she married was a preacher of the Baptist persuasion. Prayer was my mother's great delight, and three times a day, as did Daniel's of old, her prayers ascended to heaven for mercy, deliverance and protection.
About this time I was twelve year's old and was getting along as happily as could be expected. But disappointment must come. One day master told me that he was going to sell me before long. I afterwards found out that old master Russell was very much in debt, and that each one of the heirs had to pay a portion of the amount, and that as I was the youngest, mine was going to part with me for that purpose. This grieved me very much to think of being parted from mother again, and I thought that the Lord would prevent my being sold, so I chose the old wheat yard, and prayed earnestly every day that the Lord would not let my master sell me; pleading that if I was sold my mother would be bereft of her only help, and that I would try and be a good boy. But the Lord had other ends, which I was not able to comprehend.
One morning my master told me to catch two of the horses, Kate and Dragon, and put the saddles on them. He then told me to get on Kate while he bestrode Dragon, and off we rode, without any word as to where we were going or on what mission. As we passed the cattle-pen my mother was milking the cows, and comprehending that I was going to be sold, came to me and bade me good-bye, urging me to be good boy; not to be saucy to any one, to be honest and trustworthy, and, if she never saw me again in this world, to meet her in heaven. Master sit on his horse impatiently while mother was talking, but never said a word either as consolation or information as to where I was I going.
We rode about six miles without halting; we then stopped for breakfast. Here master met some of his friends, who, knowing his purpose, told him where he could get the money for me. After breakfast all the party again mounted their horses and rode into Livinton County, and as night was approaching, halted before a large house and halloed, not liking to alight before they were sure they would be hospitably received. In a few minutes out came an old man in his shirt sleeves, as I then thought, looking more like a slave than an owner or master of such a fine looking place.
They told him their mission, and that they did not wish to go further that night. He invited them to alight, had our horses taken care of, and we went to partake of supper. While we were all talking together in the kitchen, the house girl came in for me, and said they wanted to see me in the house. I followed her, and found myself in the presence of the man and his wife. After looking at me some minutes, feeling my flesh to see that I was strong and solid, he asked me how I would like them for master and mistress. I answered politely, "I don't know, sir." The lady said "We are going to buy you from your master in the morning." Then the girl led me back to the kitchen, and I thought to myself, I wish you were both dead.
After I became more familiarized with the boys I asked them what kind of master and mistress they were? One of them said the old man was the very devil, "and if they buy you, you will wish they were dead in less than a week."
"Why, you all look very well," I replied.
"Yes, but they whip like the d--l, and do not give us half enough to eat; well, if we did not get any more than they give us, we would not be able to work at all.
"Then, how do you get it," I asked.
"Oh, if they buy you, you'll soon find out how we get it."
We then retired for the night, some to sleep, but I to ponder over my future.
The next morning they ordered their horses to be caught and saddled, and all master's party, with the landlord, rode off to Princeton, telling me to stay there until they returned.
When master Lucius had settled all his business and was ready to return home, he came to me and said, "Israel, I have sold you to this gentleman, and you must try and be a good boy, and if you do not, he will have to make you good; after handing me a Pistareen he rode off, leaving me behind, but carrying away instead three hundred and fifty dollars--unequal exchange, thought I, bringing me on a horse and taking away my value in his pocket.
ABOUT the joys and pleasures of this world This question was not seldom in debate.
THE next Monday morning I went to work for my new master. Having eaten breakfast very early, and not having much of it, about eight o'clock my appetite began to sharpen, and I asked the hands where I could get any thing to eat.
They answered, "You work on, you will get nothing to eat here till ten o'clock."
Although I was very hungry I worked steadily until the horn blew for dinner. We then had ash-cake and buttermilk, without any meat, given us to eat; we felt the want of meat very much as it was necessary to keep up strength when working in the hot sun all day. We had nothing more then until night, when we came in from work; then we had ash-cake and pot liquor, with a very little piece of meat. This was our fare every day from our master.
Having been accustomed to have enough to eat and wear, this kind of treatment was more than I was willing to bear. The next morning, when we all started out to work, I took the public road and started back to my mother, thinking master Lucius would repent of selling me to such a hard man and buy me back; and that Mr. Crookesty would be so tired of me as to be glad to get clear of me, seeing I was likely to give him considerable trouble.
I went about seven miles before I stopped, and was very tired and hungry, when I discovered on the road a Blacksmith shop and a white man at the door. My first thought was to get out of his sight by going through the woods, but hunger prevailed, and I went up to the shop and spoke to him. He asked me whose slave I was, where I was going and several questions about my mission. Thinking he would befriend me, I told him my story, and that I was going back to my old home, expecting my master would buy me back again.
He soon perceived that I had run away and invited me in the shop to rest and get something to eat. I was not there long, when in came Mr. Crookesty. I then knew it was all over with my getting home at that time. After remunerating Mr. Simpson for stopping me, he drove off home.
When we reached home the first one to greet me was his wife, who commenced scolding and ranting; asking me if I did not think myself a pretty fellow, etc., and advising Mr. Crookesty to put me in the garden to work, and put the children to watch me. So I worked for the next two days in the garden, with the children watching me by day and the slaves by night. The third day I was again put in the field to work, but at night, as we were going home, I got into the road and started off towards master Lucius, again. I got about eight miles from home before any one noticed me. At this time I came up to a house that stood on the road, where the owner, with another man, was sitting conversing outside the door. Fearing they would see me I jumped into the cotton-field; but the man saw me, it being moonlight, and hailed me, and told me to come to him. He asked me my name, where I was from, and where I was going. I told him my story. He then asked me if I was not hungry, telling me to go into the kitchen and the girls would give me something to eat. I done as I was told, and they soon gave me a good supper--such an one as I had not had for many a day, and for which I was truly grateful. While I was enjoying my meal who should walk in but old master Crookesty, with a rope in his hand.
"Well, is this you, Israel?"
"Yes sir," I replied.
He then tied the rope around my neck, and led me from the table, leaving all the nice supper behind. He led me out in the yard, and seated himself in front of the other gentlemen, holding me by the rope. There I stood, like a prisoner at the bar, with no one to plead or speak a word in my behalf.
At length one of them, a blacksmith, named Carlisle, ventured to speak to me; and told me he knew how I was raised, that master Lucius was kind to his slaves; but Mr. Crookesty has bought you and is able to give you even better than you ever had, and that I had better give up running away and be content with my home.
I replied that I would never be satisfied; that I had to work from daylight until ten o'clock without a mouthful to eat; that then I only had a little ash-cake and some butter milk; at night only a little ask-cake and pot-liquor, with a very little piece of meat. Master gave the rope around my neck a sharp pull, but I continued and said, that this was not enough for any one who had to work in the field all day.
Mr. Crookesty seeing that I was exposing his treatment, spoke up--
"Well, it is time I was getting home. Good-night gentleman," and off we started, to travel the eight miles I had come that night over--he making me walk and run the whole way. It being late when we reached home, he took me in his room, and tied me to the bed-post: to be sure of my not getting off again before morning. There I lay on the hard floor, with nothing to cover me, thinking of another chance to run away.
When morning came, and led me into the yard, and told me to take off my shirt. When I had done this he told me to put my arms around a Black Jack tree which stood there. (This tree was known by the name of Widow Black, for here the old man always tied all of the slaves when he whipped them--it was said that they did not always come off alive.) He then got two or three switches and commenced the whipping. I hollowed and screamed, but all to no purpose. I pleaded with his wife to intercede for me, but she replied, "I am not your mistress, I am old 'Black Tooth.' "
I then again begged master to have mercy on me, but he replied, "I am not your master, I am 'Old Sam,' " and he commenced whipping me again. He stopped again and said, "I have been whipping you for running away, now I am going to whip you for what you told the hands in the field. You told them that you was not going to call us master and mistress, but my wife 'Black Tooth,' and myself 'Old Sam,' and then he began whipping me. When he had finished and untied me I hurried down to a spring of water and leaped into it, and rolled over and over. Mr. Crookesty came upon me while I was thus cooling myself and commenced whipping me again. After I got out of his grasp, I hurried up in the field and went to hoeing corn with all my might, thinking to myself that "I had paid rather dear for my whistle."
But all this action produced some good results. The next morning the horn blowed at eight instead of ten o'clock for breakfast; and although we found the ash-cake and butter-milk, there was more of it and some meat. We had meat again at dinner, at two o'clock, and bread and milk for supper. The hands looked upon me as a benefactor, all thanking me and expressing sorrow that I had to hug the widow, "for," said they, "we have never had three meals a day before since we belonged to Mr. Crookesty.
The next day after my whipping, Mr. Crookesty came to me in the field where I was working, and said, "Israel, I tell you what I will do; I have bought you, and you have caused me to give you a severe whipping for running away; this I do not wish to have to do any more. Now, if you will be a good boy, and not run away any more, I will take you to wait on the house and let you be hostler at the stable, then you can have a chance of making some money, and I will give you enough to eat and wear."
"Sir," I replied, "I will do the very best I can."
So he took me to the house, and all of us had plenty to eat and wear; and never did he have occasion to whip me again. The place where he lived was an old town, about one hundred and ten miles from Nashville, and twenty-five miles from the mouth of the Cumberland River, by the name of Centreville, and master was said to keep the best tavern in that part of Kentucky. After I had lived here a little over two years, master took a notion to go to Mississippi. He advertised and sold every thing except his slaves. He then purchased a large flat-boat and after we had all embarked we rowed down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. In going down the rivers we often met large steamboats which would terribly frighten old mistress. All the way she was praying and crying. Among the boys there was one who was her favorite, named King, and when she saw one of the boats coming, she would cry to King to pull with all his might, and see her out of danger, as she was sure they would kill them.
One day, while rowing down the Mississippi, there came blenching and blowing down the river a large steamer, with an Indian painted on the side, named Tecumseh: this so frightened old mistress that it threw her into hysterics. In fact, so completely did this voyage affect old mistress that by the time we reached Vicksburg she died. For this event the slaves did not feel sorry, for she had treated them very meanly.
Old master Crookesty did not commence operations here immediately, but hired all his slaves except one woman, who he kept to take care of his children. He hired me to a gentleman by the name of Mr. Bellfer, who had a large cotton farm. Here I entered on a new life, that of the plantation system, that is, every one had to be up with the blowing of the horn, and be in the field by day-light. Every Sunday each one had their rations dealt out to them: three pounds of meat and one peck of corn for the week, which they had to grind and cook for themselves.
When Cotton-picking time came, they talked of giving every one a stated task, and told me I would have to pick a hundred pounds a-day. I tried it for three days, but could not get over ninety pounds, but they put it down one hundred, and the Monday morning following they gave each one their task, and told them that if they did not pick the amount they would have as many lashes as there were pounds short. I tried it, and took my basket up to be weighed at noon. The overseer noticed that I was going to fall short of my number of pounds, and exclaimed, to hurry me up, "Jatherous, jatherous, by the holy and just God, Israel, you will have to buy the rabbit agin night," meaning that I would get a whipping.
The overseer was an Irishman by birth, and was a singular old fellow. He kept a slate with each hand's name on it, and would put each draft of cotton down as they brought it in. At night his voice could be heard at its loudest pitch, "All ye's, all ye's gather up your baskets and away to the cotton-house. So we would gather up the baskets and go to the cotton-house. As I was going I espied Mr. Bellfer coming to the cotton-house, with the lantern, bull-whip and rope to tie the delinquents. I knew that my task was short, and that I would get as many lashes as my task was wanting pounds. I could not brave the settlement, so as the others went up I set my basket down and slipped behind the house, and went into the woods. I remained there until I thought all the white people had retired, then I took my sack, which I used for picking cotton, and went into the sweet potato patch and digged some potatoes, which I took into the cook's house to roast. Hardly had I them covered, before Mr. Bellfer made his appearance at the door, and exclaimed--
"Well, Israel, is that you?"
"Yes, sir," I replied.
"Well, I will settle with you now," adding an oath for emphasis.
The overseer was not in the house, but was in the slave quarters, he having a fine black woman for a wife, he not having as much prejudice against color as many of our northern brethren. Mr. Bellfer aroused him, and, soon after he made his appearance--
"So you have him, have you, Doctor; by the holy and just God, he will buy the rabbit now."
They ordered me to cross my hands, and they fastened them and lead me out into the yard. There was no whipping ground there, so while Mr. Bellfer held me, the overseer prepared the stakes to which to tie me while they were whipping me. Finding they were going to give me a hard whipping, I commenced begging and pleading, that if they would only forgive me that time, I would do better in future. But they were deaf to my cries. Mrs. Bellfer coming to the door at that time, I entreated her to plead for me; told her I would do better, and that I was sorry for what I had done.
Mistress Betsy had great influence with her husband, and she seeing that I was not as hardened as many of the other slaves, she stopped him and inquired into my case. The Doctor told her that I had not picked my task and had commenced running away.
Mistress Betsy then asked the Doctor not to whip me this time, for she was sure I would try and do better. But he told her to go away, that I had commenced running sway, and if he did not break me all the niggers would do likewise.
But I kept on pleading and so awakened Mistress Betsy's feelings in my behalf that she begged the Doctor to let me off this time, and offering to go my security that I would have my task hereafter, and never run away any more. She asked me if I understood what she had promised.
"Yes ma'am," I replied.
Then Mr. Bellfer said, "Israel, if Mrs. Bellfer will go your security, I will let you off this time: but never expect it again. He then untied my hands, and I went into the kitchen and took my potatoes out of the fire and began to eat them.
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