Allen Carthan, seventy-four, was born a slave on the John Townsend Plantation near Manor, Texas. Once a coachman for Colonel E. M. House, Allen treasures many of his souvenirs of this past glory, among them a silk top hat which was a part of his uniform. Allen and his wife, Eliza, live in Austin, Texas.
"'Liza and me was married back in 1882, and she was just thirteen year old. 'Liza Ivory, dat was her name 'fore I give her mine. We been married nigh to fifty-six years and dat's a rec'mendation.
"My papa was named Gabriel Townsend Carthen but folks allus called him just Gabe. He was workin' on de Johnnie Townsend plantation, 'bout two mile east of Manor when I was borned. Johnnie was de son of Jedge Townsend and papa was de jedge's waiter durin' de War. He didn't do no fightin', just waited on de jedge, and when de war ended dey come on home. Papa was black all right, but he had long, straight hair and dey do say his mammy had some Injun blood in her.
"Mammy was Lucinda Carthen and was a housewoman and had ten chillen. I was one of dem and dey told me I was borned on de ninth of September, back in '63. De old Townsend Bible had all us names in it.
"I can 'member how dat old plantation was laid out. Some de long turn-rows was half a mile long and went in a straight path to de north. De jedge had two big, black greyhounds and many was de time I seed dem dogs chasin' jackrabbits up dem long rows.
"We stayed dere 'bout three year after de break-up. Den papa rents a farm from Dave Upright and we lived in a log cabin with de stick chimney. De fireplace so big I crawls in and sot by de hobs. Sometimes dey'd put 'taters in to bake and wouldn't know I was in dere, and I'd grab dem and eat dem.
"Papa and mammy slep' on de big bed but us chillen slep' on de trundle bed. We had purty good eats, workin' dat place on de third and fourth. For de new land what we grubs up we has all de crops for four years. I 'members papa had eighteen bales of cotton and a buyer give him nineteen cents a pound. When I was old 'nough, I picked five, six hunerd pounds cotton de day. I sho' could pick dat stuff. I got from seventy-five cents to a dollar-fifty a hunerd for pickin'.
"When I gits to be nineteen I marries 'Liza Ivory. We had just one child and he died, and we 'dopted a seven year old gal, Katie. Back dat time I was lookin' for a job and seed a ad in a Austin paper and I takes de street car and goes to 1704 West Avenue and rings de doorbell. A fine-lookin' lady comes to de door. Dat was Friday and on Monday mornin' I goes to work as a carriage driver. Dat was Colonel House I gits dat job for, and me and 'Liza lives in de servants' quarters at de House place. I got forty dollars de month and room and board and all us doctor bills paid, too.
"De Colonel was a man what didn't like no big fripperies. If you wanted to see him, he wanted you to come on in and say you say, not tell a lot of funny jokes first. I worked for him 'bout twenty year and not once did he tell a funny joke, whilst I was 'round.
"He rented his hosses from de Miller Liv'ry Stable but de Victoria buggy was his'n. He drove a buggy, too, with a light sorrel hoss, Sinbad. One day he give me a uniform what was his'n when he was on de staff of Gov. J. S. Hogg.
"'If you goes to you lodge, you can put dis suit on,' he tells me. I weared dat suit in de parade onct and dat hat with de big, black ostrich feather on it, cost seventy-two dollars. I still got it. Den I still got de hat I weared for carriage drivin'.
"De Colonel liked chicken and lambchops. De basement of his red, granite house, what cost 'bout ninety-five thousand dollars, was filled with champagne and whiskey and wine, but de Colonel never touched a drap of dat. De house was made like a steamboat.
"After de Colonel went away in 1914, I done yard work, too. He done give me de Victoria and harness and say if I gits some hosses, I could make a livin'. But cars was comin' in and buggies was goin' out. Dat Victoria cost a thousand dollars and I sold it for thirty-five. I got twenty dollars for de harness and de Colonel allus send me a li'l money. He'd send checks for twenty-five and ten dollars and I'd git a check for Christmas.
"One day a 'porter come and told me de Colonel done passed out. I was sorry and weeped 'bout it. I went on de train to de funeral. It was down in Houston. Some my white friends done give me de sixteen dollars to go to Houston.
"Dis last summer, I has a light stroke and can't do much now. De pension money helps me out. I never did larn to read and I just sits 'round and wishes dem days was back. I'd like to be top dat carriage 'gain, drivin' de hosses. But I still got my hat."
Alfred E. Menn Travis County District No. 9 (September 16, 1937 (yes))
Allen Carthen, 74, ex-coachman for Colonel E. M. House, was born a slave September 9, 1863 on the John Townsend cotton plantation near Manor. Allen's father was Gabriel Townsend Carthen; his mother, Lucinda Carthen. The couple had ten children of whom, Allen believes, only himself and his brother Jack are living. Allen married Eliza Ivory in 1882. Eliza was about thirteen years old at the time. Both Allen and Eliza was friendly, soft-spoken negroes. They live at 1160 Leona Street, Austin, and receive a monthly pension of $12. from the State. Allen is a dark-colored negro with gray hair. Among his treasures are memories of his association with Colonel House, and a silk top-hat which was a part of his costume as coach driver for the Colonel. Several framed photographs of Colonel House hang on the walls of his house.
"Pappa's name was Gabriel Townsend Carthen. De folks always called him Gabe. He was workin' on de Johnnie Townsend cotton plantation, about two and a half miles east of Manor, Travis County, when I was bawn. Johnnie was de son of Jedge John Townsend, Sr.
"Poppa was de jedge's waiter durin' de Civil War. He didn't do no fightin', but jes' waited on de jedge. When de war ended, dey come on home.
"My grandpopps, Jack, was de carriage-driver on de place. Dat's de only kind of work dat he done. Grandma Dicey was de cook on de place. She had long, straight black hair, high cheekbones, and a light color. I think dat she must of had Injun blood in her.
"Poppa was black lak me, but he had long, straight hair. He done a lot of fahmin' after slavery; den he was a porter on de Texas and Pacific railroad fo' about thutty years. When Poppa died, about seventeen years ago, he was 'way up in de nineties.
"Mama's name was Lucinda Carthen. She was a housewoman on de Townsend place. She had ten chillun, but she raised only four, and de rest died when dey was babies. One of my brothaw's, Henry, left us about forty years ago, and lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. I don't think dat he is livin'. Me and Jack is de only ones livin', I believe. I heard from Jack not long ago, and he was workin' in a saloon at San Angelo. Mama died about eighteen years ago, jes' a little while after poppa died.
"My name is Albert Allen Carthen, but folks have always called me Allen. I was bawn on September 9, 1863, on de Johnnie Townsend cotton fahm, about two and a half miles east of Manor. De old Townsend fambly Bible had dere names in it, and de names of dere slaves. De Bible got burned up, but I kin still remembah de date and year dat I was bawn.
"I kin remembah how dat old Townsend fahm was laid out. Some of de long turn-rows was about a half a mile long, and it went in a straight path to de nawth. De jedge had two big black greyhounds, and many was de time dat I saw dem dogs chasin' de jackrabbits up dem long rows. Dem dogs run lak lightnin', and dey'd catch dem rabbits, too.
"Grandma Dicey used to do de cookin' on de place, and I used to go to de log-cabin kitchen, dat was set apart f'om de two-story frame house where de mawster lived, and put my hand through a crack in de wall and ask fo' a little bread. Dat outside wall had de holes daubed up wid clay and hog-hair, but I put my hand in dat hole.
"'Br-mammy, give me some bread,' I'd beg.
"I couldn't say de word grandma, so I called her Br-mammy. I was her favorite grandson, 'cause I was around her more dan de others. I jes' took up wid de old folks, and have always been dat way. Grandma Dicey was good to me and she'd give me some bread. I sure would take my hand out of my pocket, dat was as greasy as a rat-hole, and push it through dat hole in de wall.
"We stayed on de Townsend fahm fo' about three years after de breakup. Den pappa rented a fahm f'om Dave Upright, near Manor. We lived in a log-cabin wid a stick-chimney. De fireplace was so laghe, dat I could crawl in and sit by de hobs fo' awhile. Sometimes my brothaws would put some 'taters in de fire to bake, and dey wouldn't know dat I was near. When some of de 'taters was baked, I'd grab 'em and eat 'em.
"Poppa and mama slept on de big bed in de cabin, but us chillun slept on de trundle bed, dat was rolled under de big bed durin' de day.
"We worked on dis place on de third and fourth; and fo' de new land dat we grubbed up and broke up, we got all de crops off'n it fo' four or five years. I remembah how pappa had eighteen bales of cotton, and a buyer come around and give him nineteen cents a pound. I went out de next day where de cotton was sold, and found two dimes. I told pappa about it. He told me dat I could have dem. I don't remembah whut I done wid de money.
"When I got older, dere was many a day when I picked five and six hunnert pounds of cotton a day, and den I didn't pick all day. Yassah, I sure could pick dat stuff. I went out and picked fo' de white folks, and I got f'om sebenty-five cents to a dollahfifty a hunnert fo' pickin. I know dat one time I picked cotton up till three days before Christmas. It wasn't even cold at dat time.
"I married when I was about nineteen years old. De girl was Eliza Ivory. She was about thutteen when we married. I had met her at Sunday School and at chu'ch. We had jes' one child, and he died when he was a baby. We adopted a seben year old girl, Katie, and raised her up to a young woman. She got married at fifteen and had one child, Samuel Weeks, Katie give him to us de minute dat he was bawn. Samuel has been wid us ever since, and he's growed up now. Katie is still livin' wid her husband Carnelius Weeks, in Los Angeles, California.
"It was sometimes in de nineties when I was lookin' fo a job. I saw a ad in a Austin paper. I took de street car and went to 1704 West Avenue and ring de door bell. A fine-lookin' lady, kind of heavy-set, came to de door.
"'I see where you' want a carriage driver.'
"'Yes, I do - I want a good driver,' she said, 'I am Mrs. E. M. House.'
"'Well, I think dat I kin do it. I used to work fo' Condit and Davis. I was dere porter.'
"'Oh, if yo' worked fo' dem, den dat's de only recommendation dat yo' need. Come to work Monday mawnin'.'
"Dat was on a Friday afternoon. On Monday mawnin', I went to work as de carriage-driver. I drove and made de fire in de sittin'-room.
"'Allen, yo' make de best fire of anybody dat I ever seen,' Colonel House told me lots of times.
"Me and Eliza and Sam, our adopted boy, lived in de servants' quarters at de House place. I got forty dollahs a month, room and board; and we got all of our doctah bills paid, too.
"Colonel House had two girls, Mona and Janet, but no boys.
"I'd drive Mrs. House to the opery-house at night. I'd take her back home about eleben o'clock. Next mawnin' Colonel House would give me a dollah or two. But I never knowed him to go to dat opery-house. He didn't care to go.
"Colonel House was a man dat didn't lak no big fripperies. He was a small man of about five feet. If yo' wanted to see him, he wanted you to come on in and say whut yo' had to say, and not tell a lot of funny jokes first. I worked fo' him fo' about twenty years, and not once did he really tell a funny joke, while I was around.
"One night Mrs. House said to her husband, 'Edward, do yo' know dat if Joe had still been our driver, I believe dat I would of been dead today.'
"It was de second day dat I was dere. I was drivin' de hosses. Dey got mad about somethin' and stahted to kickin'.
"'Don't jump out, Mrs. House,' I holloed.
"A white feller come along and helped me wid de hosses.
"'Nobody but Allen kin drive me,' Mrs. House told de Colonel.
"'Colonel House,' I said, 'I would of kilt one of dem hosses befo' I'd let it kill Mrs. House. Yo' kin always git another hoss, but yo' kain't git another Mrs. House.
"The Colonel patted me and said, 'Good boy, Allen, good boy.'
"Colonel House rented his hosses fom de Miller Livery Stable; but de Victoria buggy was his'n. He drove a buggy and had a light sorrel hoss named Sinbad. He sure would bite strangers, too. Dat was de hoss he used hisself.
"Colonel House was a great reader. Dere was times when he sent me to town to git a dozen books, and some newspapers. De first thing dat he done when he got through eatin' was to staht readin'.
"One day he give me a uniform dat was his'n when he was on de staff of Governor J. S. Hogg.
"'If yo' go to yo' lodge, yo' kin put dis suit on and yo' will have on more clothes dan de others' he told me.
"I wore dat suit in a parade once, and I had my picture taken. De hat, wid a black ostrich feather on it, cost sebenty-five dollahs. I still got it. Den I still got de hat dat I wore when I was a carriage driver.
"Colonel House liked chicken and lambchops. De basement of his red granite mansion, dat cost about ninety-five thousand dollahs and is built in a steamboat-style, was filled wid champagne, whiskey and wine, and it was dere fo' dem dat like it; but de Colonel never touched a drop of it. I ought to know, 'cause I helped wait on de table durin' a banquet. He didn't smoke, either. He was a mighty good man.
"Some of de friends of Colonel House knowed President Wilson.
"'Dere is a man in Austin dat yo' ought to know.'
"Den Colonel House met de president. Dey shook hands, and become friends f'om dat day. Colonel House used to tell me dat he never wanted to hold a public office. I do know dat when Colonel House named a man fo' governor, or any other office, he generally got him into office.
"Colonel House left Austin in about 1914, jes' befo' de
World War broke out. F'om den on, I done yard and house work. Colonel House give me de Victoria and a fine set of harness. He told me dat if I got some hosses, dat I might be able to make a livin'; but cars was comin' in at dat time, and buggies was goin' out. De Victoria had cost a thousand dollahs, and I sold it fo' thutty-five dollahs. I got twenty dollahs fo' de harness.
"But, Colonel House would always send me a little money. He'd send me checks fo' twenty-five and ten dollahs. I'd always git a check fo' Christmas.
"One day a reporter come to my house and told me dat Colonel House had passed out. I was sorry and weeped about it. I went on de train to Houston to his funeral. Some of my good white friends here in Austin took up a collection of sixteen dollahs, so I could go to Houston.
"It was de first time dat I had ever been in Houston. I didn't lak that town.
"I knowed Mrs. House right away. She had changed a lot in de twenty-four years dat dey was gone. I saw her only twice durin' dat time. She didn't recognize me, till somebody told her who I was.
"Colonel House used to tell me dat I could of been smart, if I'd went to school. I went to school fo' only about three months after slavery. I'll tell yo' de reason dat I stopped goin', de folks of dat day didn't have much interest in education. Later in life, I used to study at night. We didn't have no good lamp,
but jes' one of dem iron grease-lamps dat was made in a blacksmith shop. De light was so bad, dat I almost ruined my eyes. I was putty fair in arithmetic, but I didn't go much fo' spellin'.
"Dis last summer, I had a light stroke, and I can't do much work. I still owe about six dollahs rent here. De pension money of twelb dollahs ain't enough to pay fo' everything. Dis is a three-room house, and we pay ten dollahs a month rent.
"Why, I owed one colored feller only fifty cents, and he come into my house and wanted to take somethin' fo' what I owed him. He took our victrola, but de law got it back, 'cause it belonged to my wife.