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Shelby, Will

Will Shelby, of Peach Tree, is a slender negro about five feet and eight inches in height. He has thin features, bronze complexion, short whiskers, and a pleasant countenance. He rides horseback seven miles to town, which is proof of his activity for his eighty-six years. He seems to have character, and to have led a good, worth-while life.

"My name's Will Shelby. I libs in the Peach Tree section, seben mile' nor'-wes' of Jasper. I was bo'n in Jasper eighty-six year' 'go las' October. My fadder's name was Peter Shelby, and he come from Arkansas. My mudder' name, Phillis Shelby and she part Injun. Us marster, Alfred Shelby, he hab big plantation at Peach Tree. He kep' only 'bout six or seben slaves, and was 'bout 's good to us 's mos' marsters."

"Marster funrnish' us wid shoes in the winter, but he fam'ly didn' b'long to no chu'ch and didn' read the Bible to us, or he'p us la'rn to read and write. Our mistess name was Lindy Shelby. Dey hab fo' or five chillen. Dey ol'es' son went to the war and git sho froo (through) de jaw, and git sont home. Atter so long a time, he git well."

"'Bout the close of the war, t'ousands of sojers pass' the place goin' back Norf. Dey was t'ree or mo' day' passin' and us couldn' git no milk durin' dat time. Eb'ry time us go to milk, dey'd tek the milk and drink it befo' us could git to the house wid it."

"My gran'paren's come from Memphis, Tennessee. Dey was slaves all dey life'. My brudders name' was Clark, John, Henry and Ambrose. My sister' name' was Sally, Jane, Pet and Daffy. Us marster whip' us a-plenty. Iffen one run 'way, he sot the dogs on 'im, den dey brung 'im back and beat 'im up. I see us neighbors runnin' dey slaves wid dogs, and whippin' 'em 'til dey was plum' bloody."

"We uster git a pass and go to chu'ch at Peach Tree w'en we's slaves. Rev. Neeley, a Mef'dis' was my fav'rit preacher. He was de fust preacher w'at open up the cullud chu'ch dere of 'bout a hunnerd members."

"W'en us was freed, us move on Mistah Pickle's fa'm, and I's jes' fa'm mos' all my life. W'en I's 'bout nineteen, I marry Gracie Hadnot. I wo' a black suit and she wo' w'ite dress. Rev. Gilbert, another Mef'dis' preacher, marry us. Us hab 'leben chillen, but mos' of dem dead no'. My wife die' twenty-five year' 'go. I libs all by myse'f 'cept for my blin' daughter, w'at was bo'n blin', and she now sixty-five year' ol'. I gits 'leben dollars pension. Dey give her pension at fust, den dey stop' it. Don' know w'at for dey stop' it. She stay all by herse'f w'en I's gone. In winter, she allus stay in bed 'til I gits back, 'cause she skeert she bu'n the house, or bu'n up herse'f."

"I owns twenty-five acre farm, but I's got po' house, w'at I hopes to 'pair dis nix' fall. I rents my lan' out w'en I kin. W'en we fust uster come to Jasper, dar was only two sto's in the town. Ol' doctor W'ite he kep' a hotel close to w'er the Cit'zens Bank am now. W'en the war start' us didn' hab a mill or shingle in Jasper. Dey spin and weave all dey clo's. In the early day, us allus walk' de seben mile' to town. Us hab ox teams but us rather walk dan drive dem."

"Jes' atter freedom come, the sojers come and ax marster if he hab tu'n' he slaves loose. He tell dem dat he hab. 'Well'dey say, dey is jes' 's free 's you is now, and kin go and wuk w'er dey please.'"

"We sho' got 'nuf whippin' in dem days. Marster whip' the ol' folks, and mudder whip' us youngsters."

"Us uster hunt and fish w'en us hab time, and git fish, rabbits, 'possum, 'coon, squirrel, wild tukkey, deer, and I track' and see one or two bear, but never git 'em. I never see a ghos' or w'at look like one in all my life."

"Some of us neighbors' slaves run 'way and go down in ol' man Smith' fiel' and mek a camp in a under-groun' tunnel. Dey hab cans, skillets, and all sich to cook wid. Me and another fin' dere camp w'ile us was fishin' one day, but co'se, us wouldn' tell on 'em."

"I's jes' stay 'roun' Jasper and fa'm all the time. I ain't been fifty mile' from home in all my life."

(Heloise M. Foreman, Dallas County, District #4, 08 January 1937, (yes))

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