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Barnett, Amelia

Amelia Barnett, 94, was born a slave in 1843, somewhere in Alabama. Amelia still is active physically, but she is unable to remember names or dates. She says she knows she was born in Alabama, and at an early date, came on the 'Arkansas boat to Texas.' Her mother was Clora Barnett; she says all that she knows about her father is that he was a white man in Alabama. Amelia and her mother were slaves on the Charley Barnett cotton plantation, about thirty miles from Bastrop, Bastrop County. Amelia married Josephns Barnett, and they were the parents of twelve children, of whom only three are still living. Her husband died in 1917. Amelia lives in Bastrop and receives a monthly pension of $12 from the State. She still is able to do her own cooking and washing.

"A man come around here once and he asked me, 'Say Auntie, ain't you' got Injun blood in yo'?' 'I sho' has,' I told him.

"Yo' see, one ob my grandmaws was an old Injun squaw. I don't know whut one, but she was a squaw. Must ob been on mammy's side.

"Den dere was my fathaw, he was a white man down in Alabama. I don't know his name and don't know nothin' about him.

"My mammy was Clora Barnett. Me and her come f'om Alabama on de old Arkansas boat to Texas, but lawsy, I sho' don't remembah jes' where we landed in Texas. Down on de coast somewhere, I reckon.

"My own name in Amelia Barnett, and de folks always called me 'Mela.' I was bawn back in Alabama about ninety-four years ago. Dat'a a long time ago but I remembah one thing dat happened on de old Arkansas boat---my sistah, Anne, was bawn. And now de last dat I heard ob her was dat she lived in Oklahoma and was doin' poorly.

"In de early days we was slaves on Mawster Charley Barnett's lahge cotton plantation, about thirty miles f'om Bastrop, but in Bastrop County. Mawster Barnett raised cotton, cawn, wheat and 'gubers.' I remembah dat he always give us plenty ob dem 'gubers' to eat.

"Mawster Barnett was mean to us at times, but he give us plenty to eat. On Sundays he'd give us enough rations to last a week. He'd give us whatever he had. De mawster's chillun was good to us and would give us some bread to eat. Sometimes we et hawg meat, but never fo' supper. Dat is fo' de chillun. To dis day I kain't eat no meat fo' supper.

"De mawster had about forty-five cows on his plantation. De reason I remembah dat is 'cause when we was kids we took our tin cups and our bread and went to de cowpen to git our milk. Milk and bread was all dat de chillun had to eat fo' supper. Mawster always told us dat it wasn't good fo' chillun to eat meat fo' supper.

"Dere was a big strainer at de cowpen and we'd strain our milk through it. Us chillun could ask fo' jes' one cup ob milk. Dat had to do us till de next mawnin'.

"Mammy done de cookin' up at de big house. She was a good cook. All ob us chillun had to go up to de big house to git our breakfast. All ob us had a big tin-plate apiece, and we'd hand it to her and she'd fill it up. We had plenty ob bacon, ashcakes, biscuits, plenty ob butter and sweet milk. Fo' dinner we had meat, sweet potaters, cabbage, cawn in season, and de like. Why I was fat as a pig.

"Sometimes at night, when we was in our log-cabin down in de slave quarters, I'd tell mammy, 'Mammy, make me a ashcake.'

"'All right, Mela, I'll make yo' some right here in de fireplace."

"She baked 'em right in de ashes. Dere was times when she roasted ribs in de cabin. Dey sure was good.

"But dere is one thing dat I never had in my life---I never had a teaspoonful ob coffee in my life. I jes' don't lak coffee, and it's not dat I think dat it would harm me. Mammy would try to make me drink it, but I wouldn't. I jes' don' lak it.

"We used to drink a toddy durin' Christmas. Mawster Barnett had a place up beside de house where he kept whiskey but he never did git drunk. On Christmas us chillun would play ring-games and de older folks would jes' set down and watch us. Sunday was a day ob rest, but if it was wheat and fodder time, dere was work to do even on Sundays.

"Durin' de cotton pickin' time a big bell was rung to git us up about four o'clock in de mawnin'. We had to go to de field and pick when it was still dark. Dere was times durin' scrappickin' when it was so cold dat we had to make a big fire in de field and wahm our hands.

"Mawster Barnett sho' whooped me at times.

"'Mela,' he'd say, 'tote in dem clothes.'

"If I wouldn't do it I'd git a whoopin'. I got mo'e whoopin's den de others, cause I was jes' full of devilment.

"Den jes' befo' freedom mammy died. She left five chillun---four girls and one boy. Den I done field work and house work.

"Mawster Barnett never did tell us dat we was free, and we got de news f'om other folks dat we was free. We was supposed to have been freed on June 19, 1865. When I knowed dat I was free I kept on workin' fo' Mawster Barnett fo' about six months. I helped him gather his crops but I wasn't paid fo' it. Den de only way dat I got away was dat I jes' got up and walked off. It was on Christmas eve day dat I went away. I walked to another white fambly, about two miles away. Brady was dere name. I stayed dere jes' one day, and den I walked to de Schuff place, where I had a servant-friend.

"I cain't read or write and I kin remembah when I got married, but not de year. I was married to Josephns Barnett. I always called him 'Cephns.' We had twelb chillun and dere is only three ob dem livin' now. One daughter, Ella, lives here wid me and she ain't never been married. 'Cephns died in 1917.

"After we was married, 'Cephns worked fo' Sidney Green's ferry here in Bastrop. Dis ferry was operated by hand. I believe dat dere was a charge ob a dime fo' walkers, and thutty-five cents fo' de wagons. Dis was fo' a round-trip, I believe.

"'Cephns wasn't allowed to take anybody over at night, unless he was a doctah. But one night he took a white man over and when he put him on de other side ob de Colorado River, he asked de man, 'Ain't you' goin' to pay me fo' dat trip?'

"'No, I ain't goin' to pay you a ----- cent:'

"Den he took out a gun and shot at my husband. He ducked and run into a little shed on de ferry and he never did take nobody across again at night, unless he could show dat he was a doctah.

"De Green ferry could carry three wagons at one time; but de new ferry, Bowie's, dat stahted in business near here could tote only one wagon. One day a Mr. Hugh Duval, a white man, thought he would try out de new ferry. He had jes' been to Austin to buy a new stove. He put de wagon in de boat and dey stahted fo' de other side. Befo' dey could git across de ferry boat stahted to sinkin' right dere. Mr. Duval unhitched de mules and stahted swimmin' fo' de shore. Nobody was drowned, but dey sho' lost dat new stove. In de early days de Colorado Rivah got up so high here several times dat a lot ob folks went on de streets in skiffs. I know dat dey tied a boat to a store on Main Street, here in Bastrop. We was livin' on de other side of de rivah at dat time.

"I have had to work hard all ob my life. After we was married, I used to do de cookin' in de Claiborne House and de Nickison House, both ob 'em was hotels. I was paid six dollahs a week and I got my meals. Even to dis day I do my own washin' and cook my own vittles.

"I was never bothered by de Ku Klux Klan; but I remembah how de patrols used to chase slaves dat never had no passes f'om dere mawsters. 'Cephns was courtin' a girl a long time befo' he married me. He belong to a Barnett, too, but he wasn't no kin to my mawster. 'Cephns' mawster would allow him to roam around without a pass. De patrols found out dat 'Cephns was over at his girls house on a plantation nearby. Dey run him out ob de girl's house and he got so scared dat he run home and jumped over a fence to git dere, and he tore his linen britches. 'Cephns sho' could outrun dem patrols.

Smith, William Corsiona County (July 22, 1937 (no))

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