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Matthews, Maggie Whitehead

Maggie Whitehead Matthews, 80, was born a slave on July 26, 1857, on the Rev. P. Herron cotton plantation at Gonzales, Gonzales County. Maggie's father, Jim, and mother, Tempe, belonged to the Wilson Whiteheads of Blackhawk County, Mississippi. When Wilson Whtehead died his widow, Mary Anne, married Rev. Herron, who brought one hundred and sixty slaves to Texas. This occurred in the same year in which Maggie was born, 1857. Maggie's parents had thirteen children, and Maggie believes she is the last of the children still living. Her mother died at the age of one hundred and eleven years. Maggie has never been to school but she bought a blue back speller and taught herself to read, she is unable to write she says. When she was nineteen years old she married her first husband, Spencer Phillips. They had seven children, of whom only one, Sarah Edwards, still is living. Her second husband was Ben Matthews. They had no children, but Ben was her favorite husband and she has retained his name to this day, despite the fact that her third husband's name was Tom Richards. They had no children. Maggie now resides with her daughter, Sarah

Edwards, at 2227 Rosewood Avenue, Austin. She receives a monthly pension of ten dollars from the State.

"When I was a girl my name was Maggie Whitehead. I was bred (my mammy was pregnant) in Blackhawk County, Mississippi and den my folks was brought on to Gonzales, Gonzales County, Texas. I was told dat I was bawn on de same night dat we got dere, on July 26, 1857. Dat means dat I'm now eighty years old, and I've seen many a year, much hard times, and plenty of devilment. I sure have.

"Wilson Whitehead was de mawster dat owned my parents back in Mississippi. My folks told me dat he sure was a good man. He treated folks right. When Mawster Whitehead died, his wife, Mistress Mary Ann, met and married da Parson Herron. She met him when he was pastor of a chu'ch, I think.

"It was dis Parson Herron dat brought my folks on down here to Texas. He den got a laghe cotton plantation at Gonzales. He brought some one hunnert and sixty odd slaves to Texas. De Herrons had five chillun.

"Mummy's name was Tempe Whitehead. She had thutteen chillun. I am de only one of 'em livin', I think. I did have a brothaw up in Little Rock, Arkansas. I kain't even remembah de names of my brothaws and sistahs no mo'e.

"My mummy was a low, heavy-bodied woman. She was a midwife de biggest paht of de time. Whenever de neighbors wanted her, she was sent over to wait on 'em. I don't know whether she got paid or not. Dey always took her to her job and got her again when she was through. Mummy died twenty seben years ago on last November 25. She was buried on a Thanksgivin' day. She was one hunnert and ten years and eight months old.

"She was a good midwife. Sometimes she had to help in de fields, though. We lived in a little log cabin on de Herron place. Frances was my oldest sistah and she done most of de cookin' fo' us chillun. A certain amount of food was give to us each week, and it had to last us dat time. We'd git a bushel of dis and a bushel of dat. Dat sure had to last us fo' de week.

"Fathaw was Jim Whitehead. He was a tall, broad man, and he was part Cherokee Injun. Fathaw was called a extra-good blacksmith on de Herron plantation. He could make a key, or a plowshare, or anything else dat had to be made by hand. He was mighty good at shoein' hosses and later in life he worked on de stage lines and shoed all of de hosses. Dem hosses on de stage line never did know whut it was to go in a easy trot, 'cause dey was made to lope all of de time. I was small at dat time and I never did git to ride in a stage coach, but we could always see 'em, 'cause dey passed right by de Herron place. We heard how a lot of times de folks in de stage coaches was held up and robbed. De little white chillun would read about it and den git to talkin' about it.

"After freedom fathaw had his own blacksmith shop in Lockhart,

down in Caldwell County. He got paid fo' his work now. He'd make de iron paht of a plow and chaghe a dollah fo' it. Den we moved on down to St. Mary's Bay, near Corpus Christi. A white man by de name of Chambers got him to run a blacksmith shop down dere. We den moved around quite a bit and den we come on up to Austin. But fathaw never come wid us 'cause he died up in Little Rock, Arkansas. Dat's a long time ago, a long time befo' mummy died.

"When we was kids durin' slavery we'd go out and play ring games and make speeches. De little white chillun would learn us our speeches and den we'd say 'em to one another.

"But we never was showed our A B C's. We couldn't even be caught readin'. Jes' to be caught lookin' at a clean sheet of paper was enough to git a scoldin', but to look at a piece of paper dat had writin' on it and if we made lak we knowed whut was wrote on it we sure got a whoopin' fo' it. I couldn't read at dat time but many was de time dat I was caught lookin' at a piece of paper wid writin' on it and I got a whoopin' fo' it. I had told 'em dat I could read whut was on it.

"I haven't been to school one day in my life. De only time dat I was in a schoolhouse was when my parents was invited to a closin'day pahty at a school. I enjoyed de pahty very much, but I jes' never went to school. I learned to be a good speller, 'cause fo' twenty cents I bought me one of dem blue back spellers. Dere was many a time dat I could out spell de folks whut had sent to school. Dey was small words but I could spell 'em. I never did learn how to write though. Many was de time dat I wished I could write, 'cause I wanted to write about my life. I've lived a long time and seen a lot of devilment, yo' know.

"About six months befo' freedom Parson Herron died, his boys den took care of de big plantation. We was den willed to Ferdinand and Mattie Rogan at Lockhart. Mattie had been a whitehead of Mississippi. Mistress Mattie is de one dat told me how old I am. She had her mothaw's Bible, dat had all of her slaves' names in it. It was Mawster Rogan dat told us on June 19, 1865 dat we was free.

"I remembah den how our first Nineteenth was celebrated on June 19, 1866, and de song we sang was 'De Blue Bonnet Flag

Hurrah fo' de Blue Bonnet Flag,

Hurrah fo' de home-spun dresses

Dat de colored wimmen wear;

Yes I'm a radical girl

And glory in de name -

Hurrah fo' de home-spun dresses

Dat de colored wimmen wear.'

"I was nineteen years old when I got married de first time. My husband's name was Spencer Phillips. We got married down in Gonzales County. We had seben chillun. Sarah, de girl dat has been takin' care of me fo' so many years now, de only one livin'. Spencer fahmed most of de time and many was de time dat I went out into de fields and picked my four hunnert pounds of cotton a day. When we picked cotton fo' other folks we got about fifty cents a hunnert pounds. Some of de folks give us our sacks and some of 'em made us furnish our own. De slaves used baskets to pick in durin' slavery time. I kin remembah how old Uncle Mose used to make dem baskets. He made de baskets f'om de split-wood of the wild chinaberry trees.

"My second husband was Ben Matthews. He was a fahmer too. We was married in New Braunsfel. We never had no chillun. I liked Ben best of all my husbands. I keep his name till dis day.

"Tom Richard was my third husband. We got married down in Lockhart. Tom was a fahmer. I didn't have no chillun wid him. Den I had to separate f'om Tom 'cause he was so cruel to me. I stayed wid Sarah f'om dat time on. She's de only child at I got livin'.

(Gauthier, Sheldon F., Tarrant County, Dist. 7, 12-16-37, (Yes))

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