William Moore

"My mammy done told me the reason her and my paw's name am Moore was 'cause afore they 'longed to Marse Tom Waller they 'longed to Marse Moore, but he done sold them off.

"Marse Tom heared they gwine 'mancipate the slaves in Selma, so he got his things and niggers together and come to Texas. My mammy said they come in covered wagons but I wasn't old 'nough to 'member nothin' 'bout it. The first 'lections I got is down in Limestone County.

"Marse Tom had a fine, big house painted white and a big prairie field front his house and two, three farms and orchards. He had five hundred head of sheep, and I spent mos' my time bein' a shepherd boy. I starts out when I'm li'l and larns right fast to keep good 'count of the sheeps.

"Mammy's name was Jane and paw's was Ray, and I had a brother, Ed, and four sisters, Rachel and Mandy and Harriet and Ellen. We had a purty hard time to make out and was hongry lots of times. Marse Tom didn't feel called on to feed his hands any too much. I 'members I had a cravin' for victuals all the time. My mammy used to say, 'My belly craves somethin' and it craves meat.' I'd take lunches to the field hands and they'd say, 'Lawd Gawd, it ain't 'nough to stop the gripe in you belly.' We made out on things from the fields and rabbits cooked in li'l fires.

"We had li'l bitty cabins out of logs with puncheon beds and a bench and fireplace in it. We chillun made out to sleep on pallets on the floor.

"Some Sundays we went to church some place. We allus liked to go any place. A white preacher allus told us to 'bey our masters and work hard and sing and when we die we go to Heaven. Marse Tom didn't mind us singin' in our cabins at night, but we better not let him cotch us prayin'.

"Seems like niggers jus' got to pray. Half they life am in prayin'. Some nigger take turn 'bout to watch and see if Marse Tom anyways 'bout, then they circle theyselves on the floor in the cabin and pray. They git to moanin' low and gentle, 'Some day, some day, some day, this yoke gwine be lifted offen our shoulders.'

"Marse Tom been dead long time now. I 'lieve he's in hell. Seem like that where he 'long. He was a terrible mean man and had a indiff'ent, mean wife. But he had the fines', sweetes' chillun the Lawd ever let live and breathe on this earth. They's so kind and sorrowin' over us slaves.

"Some them chillun used to read us li'l things out of papers and books. We'd look at them papers and books like they somethin' mighty curious, but we better not let Marse Tom or his wife know it!

"Marse Tom was a fitty man for meanness. He jus' 'bout had to beat somebody every day to satisfy his cravin'. He had a big bullwhip and he stake a nigger on the ground and make 'nother nigger hold his head down with his mouth in the dirt and whip the nigger till the blood run out and red up the ground. We li'l niggers stand round and see it done. Then he tell us, 'Run to the kitchen and git some salt from Jane.' That my mammy, she was cook. He'd sprinkle salt in the cut, open places and the skin jerk and quiver and the man slobber and puke. Then his shirt stick to his back for a week or more.

"My mammy had a terrible bad back once. I seen her tryin' to git the clothes off her back and a woman say, 'What's the matter with you back?' It was raw and bloody and she say Marse Tom done beat her with a handsaw with the teeth to her back. She died with the marks on her, the teeth holes goin' crosswise her back. When I's growed I asks her 'bout it and she say Marse Tom got mad at the cookin' and grabs her by the hair and drug her out the house and grabs the saw off the tool bench and whips her.

"My paw is the first picture I got in my mind. I was settin' on maw's lap and paw come in and say Marse Tom loaned him out to work on a dam they's buildin' in Houston and he has to go. One day word come he was haulin' a load of rocks through the swamps and a low-hangin' grapevine cotched him under the neck and jerked him off the seat and the wagon rolled over him and kilt him dead. They buried him down there somewheres.

"One day I'm down in the hawg pen and hears a loud agony screamin' up to the house. When I git up close I see Marse Tom got mammy tied to a tree with her clothes pulled down and he's layin' it on her with the bullwhip, and the blood am runnin' down her eyes and off her back. I goes crazy. I say, 'Stop, Marse Tom,' and he swings the whip and don't reach me good, but it cuts jus' the same. I sees Miss Mary standin' in the cookhouse door. I runs round crazy like and sees a big rock, and I takes it and throws it and it cotches Marse Tom in the skull and he goes down like a poled ox. Miss Mary comes out and lifts her paw and helps him in the house and then comes and helps me undo mammy. Mammy and me takes to the woods for two, three months, I guess. My sisters meets us and grease mammy's back and brings us victuals. Purty soon they say it am safe for us to come in the cabin to eat at night and they watch for Marse Tom.

"One day Marse Tom's wife am in the yard and she calls me and say she got somethin' for me. She keeps her hand under her apron. She keeps beggin' me to come up to her. She say, 'Gimme you hand.' I reaches out my hand and she grabs it and slips a slip knot rope over it. I sees then that's what she had under her apron and the other end tied to a li'l bush. I tries to get loose and runs round and I trips her up and she falls and breaks her arm. I gits the rope off my arm and runs.

"Mammy and me stays hid in the bresh then. We sees Sam and Billie and they tell us they am fightin over us niggers. Then they done told us the niggers 'clared to Marse Tom they ain't gwine be no more beatin's and we could come up and stay in our cabin and they'd see Marse Tom didn't do nothin'. And that's what mammy and me did. Sam and Billie was two the biggest niggers on the place and they done got the shotguns out the house some way or 'tother. One day Marse Tom am in a rocker on the porch and Sam and Billie am standin' by with the guns. We all seen five white men ridin' up. When they gits near Sam say to Marse Tom, 'First white man sets hisself inside that rail fence gits it from the gun.' Marse Tom waves the white men to go back but they gallops right up to the fence and swings off they hosses.

"Marse Tom say, 'Stay outside, gen'man, please do, I done change my mind.' They say, 'What's the matter here? We come to whip you niggers like you done hire us to.'

"Marse Tom say, 'I done change my mind, but if you stay outside I'll bring you the money.'

"They argues to come in but Marse Tom outtalk them and they say they'll go if he brings them they three dollars apiece. He takes them the money and they goes 'way.

"Marse Tom cuss and rare, but the niggers jus' stay in the woods and fool 'way they time. They say it ain't no use to work for nothin' all them days.

"One day I'm in a 'simmon tree in middle a li'l pond, eatin' 'simmons, and my sister, Mandy, come runnin'. She say, 'Us niggers am free.' I looks over to the house and seen the niggers pilin' they li'l bunch of clothes and things outside they cabins. Then mammy come runnin' with some other niggers and mammy was head runner. I clumb down out that tree and run to meet her. She say Marse Tom done told her he gwine keep me and pay her for it. She's a-scared I'll stay if I wants to or not and she begs me not to.

"We gits up to the house and all the niggers standin' there with they li'l bundles on they head and they all say, 'Where we goin'?'

"Mammy said, 'I don't know where you all gwine but me, myself, am gwine to go to Miss Mary.' So all the niggers gits in the cart with mammy and we goes to Miss Mary. She meets us by the back door and say, 'Come in, Jane, and all you chillen and all the rest of you. You can see my door am open and my smokehouse door am open to you and I'll bed you down till we figurates a way for you.'

"We all cries and sings and prays and was so 'cited we didn't eat no supper, though mammy stirs up some victuals.

"It warn't long afore we found places to work. Miss Mary found us a place with a fine white man and we works on sharance and drifts round to some other places and lives in Corsicana for awhile and buys mammy a li'l house and she died there.

"I got married and had three chillen, cute, fetchin' li'l chillen, and they went to school. Wasn't no trouble 'bout school then, but was when 'mancipation come. My brother Ed was in school then and the Ku Klux come and drove the Yankee lady and gen'man out and closed the school.

"My chillen growed up and my wife died and I spent mos' my days workin' hard on farms. Now I'm old and throwed 'way. But I'm thankful to Gawd and praiseful for the pension what lets me have a li'l somethin' to eat and a place to stay."