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Williams, Lou

LOU WILLIAMS, said to be the oldest citizen of San Angelo, Texas, was born in southern Maryland in 1829. She and her family were slaves of Abram and Kitty Williams, of that section, and Lou served as nursemaid to her master's children from the age of eight until after the Civil War. She then wont to Louisiana where she worked as a cock for several years before coming to San Angelo. She is very active for her 108 years and is a familiar figure about town, with her crutch.

"I's have de bes' white folks in Maryland. I's born in a three-room frame house and I had one of them statements (birth certificates). When I five years old my old missy she say, 'Dat gal, she she' am gwine be dependable and I makes nursemaid out of her.' When I eight years old she trusts me with dem white chillen. I loves to fish se well I'd take de li'l chillen to de creek and take off my underskirt and spread it out on de bank and put de chillen en it while I she' cetch de fish. Massa, he start lookin' for me and when he gits to de creek, he say. 'Dar's de li'l devil.' He know dem chillen safe, se he jus' laugh.

"In de fall massa puts us nigger chillen on de bale of cotton and takes us to town and gives us money to buy candy and dells with. We allus had good feed and lets of fish and rabbits and possums, but when my missy see dem possums carryin' de baby possums round she fall out with possum and she say, 'He mere possum bein' cooked 'round here.'

"When I jes' a li'l gal I seed de stars fall and when everything get dark like and dem bright stars begin to fall we all start runnin' and hollerin' to our missy and she say. 'Chillen, don't git under my coat, git en your knees and start prayin', and when we begins to pray de Land he sends a shower of rain and puts out dem stars an de whole world would a been burned up.

"When massa take us to town he say he want us to see how de moan slave owners raffles off de fathers and de husban's and de mothers and de wives and do chillen. He takes us 'round to do big platform and a white man git up dere with de slave and start hollerin' for bids, and de slave stands dere jes' pitiful like, and when somebody buy de slave all de folks starts yellin' and a cryin'. Den sho' was bad times. Our massa wouldn't do his niggers dat way and we loved his for it, too.

"We had big gardens and lots of vegetables to eat, 'cause massa had 'bout eight hundred slaves and 'bout a thousand acres in he plantation. In summer time we wore jes' straight cotton slips and no shoes till Sunday, den we puts on shoes and white dresses and ties a ribbon 'round our waists, and we didn't look like de same chillen.

"Dere a big arbor for de whites to go to church and we goes, too. When we starts down de road to church, our mama, she start sayin' things to make us be quiet. We pass de graveyard and she say, 'See dat spirit runnin' 'long here with us?' When we gits dere we hardly moves. We could jine, if we wants to.

"My mama, she Black Creek Indian and none of dem white folks wants her. When massa buys my daddy and us chillen we had done been sold 'way from her and we cry and she cry, and den she follow us to our plantation and cry and beg our massa let her stay. He say, 'She ain't no good but put her in de house and let her do some patchin' and mendin'.' Mama,

she cry and say. 'Thank God. Thank God! I's git to be with my husban' and li'l chillen.' She make de good spinner and weaver and old missy, she say she couldn't do without her, 'cause she spin cotton cloth for summer and woolen cloth for winter.

"Niggers didn't have much weddin's, but when massa find dem takin' up he tells everybody to dress in white and de two what was takin' up together has to march up and down till de big supper comes off. Dey was man and wife den, but me, I's diff'rent. I's had a 'spectable weddin'. 'cause missy, she say I's her nursemaid. De preacher, he reads, and I's all dressed in white clothes and sech a supper we never had befo'.

"All de slaves wasn't so lucky as we was, though. We lives close to de meanest owner in de country. Our massa wouldn't keep no overseer, 'cause he say his niggers wasn't dogs, but dis other man he keeps overseers to best de niggers and he has de big leather bullwhip with lead in de end, and he beats some slaves to death. We heared dem holler and holler till dey couldn't holler no mo! Dan dey jes' sorta grunt every lick till dey die. We finds big streams of blood where he has whopped dem and when it rained de whole top of de ground jes' looks like a river of blood dere. Sometime he bury he niggers and sometime de law come out and make his bury dem. He put dem in chains and stockades and sometimes he would buck and gag dem.

"We seed he niggers goin' by our plantation with de oven on de heads ?round three o'clock in de mornin' on de way to de fields. Dose ovens made of wood and tin over de tin cup dat fit de slaves' heads. Each nigger have he bread and some old hairy bone meat a-cookin' with fire coals in dese ovens. Dey made not to burn de head and when dey gits to de fields dey sets dem down to finish cookin' while dey works till breakfast time. De mamas what expectin' babies was whopped to make dem worl faster and when babies was sick dey has to put dem in de basket on top dere heads and take dem to de cotton patch, and put dem under de cotton stalks and try to 'tend to dem. Lawd, Lawd, dem was awful times, and I sho' is glad I has good white folks.

"Some dat man's niggers allus runnin' 'way and dey sets de nigger dogs on dem and cotch dem mos' times. Den dey treat 'em so bad dey wouldn't never want to run away no more.

"We allus gits Saturday evenin' off to wash our clothes and sometime we has dances Saturday night. I has two brothers. Jim and William and William git kilt in de war. My two sisters named Relia and Laura. We has corn shuckin's and big suppers and on Christmas day massa buys us de present, most times shoes, 'cause we didn't have any shoes.

"When de white folks dies or gits married everybody sho' carries on big. When we sick dey gives us snakeroot tea and candnilo and sage tea and if we's bad sick, dey gits de doctor. Missy, she my hog hoof tea, jes' bile de hoofs in good whiskey for de cold. Dem so put camphor ball and asafoetida 'round our necks to keep off disease

"When de war ends we sees a white man comin' down de road of a hoss and de road full of niggers followin' him, singin' and about' and prayin'. I stays with massa till he die, them I marries and has chile and one grandchile, and I lives with her.

Williams, Lou -- Additional Interview

Lou (Granny) Williams, said to be the oldest citizen of San Angelo, was born in southern Maryland in 1829. She and her family were slaves of Abram and Kitty Williams of that section and Lou served as nursemaid to her master's children from the age of eight until after the Civil War, remaining with her "White Folks" 3 years after the war. She went from here to Lousiana working as a cook for a number of years before coming to Texas and settling in San Angelo. She is very active for her 108 years and is a familiar figure about town on her one crutch, walking to and from her home which is about one mile from town.

"I's had de bes' white folks in dat state," says Granny. "I was bo'n in a 3-room frame house and I had one of dem statements* and all de niggers had one and when I was 5 years old my old Miss, she say, "Dat gal, she sho' goin' be dependable. I's goin' make nursemaid out of her.' When I was 8 years old my Missus, she trust me with dem white chillun and I's love to fish so well I'd take de little chillun down to de creek and take off my unda skirt and spreads it out on de bank and put de chillun on it while I sho' ketch de fish. Massa, he start lookin' fer us and when he gits to de creek he say, 'Dar's de lil devil,' but he know how I like to fish and he say, 'Lou, what make you slip off?' I say, 'Cause Miss, she won't let me fish,' and he know dem chillun safe, so he jus' laugh and never did whoop me. When my Missus finds out I was goin' fishin' on Sunday she tells me a story. She say a man was goin' to church and she say dat man, he fell in de river and drowned and when de bunch started lookin' fer him one man say, 'I put dese blades of fodder on de water and dey will float down de stream 'til dey reach where he is and den stop right over him.' Dat fodder hit floated ten miles down dat creek and stopped. Dey found de man right dere with both hands et off by alligators.

"In de fall Massa put de nigger chillun on a bale of cotton and takes us to town and gives us money to buy candy and dolls with. We allus had good food, lots of fish and rabbits and 'possum, but when my Missus see dem 'possum carryin' de baby 'possums in dem sacks she falls out with 'possum and say, 'No mo 'possum bein' cooked aroun' here.'

"When I was jes' a lil gal I seen de stars fall and when everything got dark like and dem bright starts begin to fall we all start runnin' and hollerin' to our Missus and she say, 'Chillun, don't git under my coat, git on your knees and start prayin', and when we begins to pray de Lawd, he sends a shower of rain and puts out dem stars or de whole worl' would a been burned up.

When Massa take us to town he say he wants us to see how de mean slave owners raffle off de fathers and de husban's and de mothers and de wives and de chillun. He takes us 'round to a big plat-form and a white man gits up dere with de slave and starts hollerin' fer bids and de slave stands dere jes' pitiful like and when some body buys de slave all de folks dey start yellin' and a cryin'. Dem sho' was bad times. Our Massa wouldn't do his niggers dat way and we loved him fer it too. We had big gardens and lots of vegetables for my Massa had 'bout eight hundred slaves and 'bout a thousand acres in his plantation. In summer time we wore jes' straight cotton slips and no shoes 'til Sunday, den we puts on shoes and white dresses and ties a ribbon 'round our waists and we didn't look like de same chillun.

"Dere was a big arbor fer de whites to go to church and we could go too. When we start down de road to church, our mama, she start sayin' things to make us be quiet in church. We pass de graveyard and she say, 'See dat spirit runnin' along here with us?' We say, 'No.' She say, 'He sho' gits ye if ye don' set down when ye gits to church.' And when we gits dere we sets down and hardly moves. We could jine de church, if we wanted to.

"My mother, she was Black Creek Indian and none of dem white folks want her. Dey say she no good fer slave and when Massa bought my father and us chillun, we had done been sold 'way from her and we cry and she cry and den she follow us to our plantation and cries and begs our Massa to let her stay and he say, 'She ain't no good but put her in de house and let her do some patchin' and mendin!' and mama, she cry and say, 'Thank God! I's git to be with my husban' and lil chillun.' She make a good spinner and weaver and ole Miss, she say she couldn' do without her 'cause we spun cotton cloth for summer and woolen cloth for winter.

"Niggers didn' have much weddin's and I never seen any baptizin's fer dem, but when Massa finds dem takin' up he tells everybody to dress in white and de two what was taken up together would have to march up and down 'til de big supper comes off. Dey was man and wife den, but me, I was diff'nt. I's had a 'spectable weddin', 'cause Miss, she say I was her nursemaid. De preacher, he reads and I was all dressed in white clothes and sech a supper we never had befor.'

"All de slaves wasn't so lucky as we was though. We lived close to de meanest owner in de country. Our Massa wouldn't keep no over-seers 'cause he say his niggers wasn't dogs, but dis other man, he keeps over-seers to beat de niggers and he had a big leather bull whip with lead in de end and he beats some of de slaves to death. We could hear dem holler and holler 'til dey couldn't holler no mo' den dey jes' sorta grunt every lick 'til dey die. We could find big streams of blood where he had whooped dem and when it rained de whole top of de groun' jes' looked like a river of blood dere. Sometimes he bury his niggers and sometime de law comes out and makes him bury dem. He put dem in chains and stockades and sometimes he would buck and gag dem. We could see his niggers goin' by our plantation with der oven on der heads around 3 o'clock in de mornin' on der way to de fields. Dose ovens was made of wood and tin over a tin cap dat fits de slaves' head. Each nigger would have his bread and some old hairy bone meat a cookin' with fire coals in dese ovens as he went to work. Dey was made so as not to burn der heads and when dey got to de fields dey would set dem down to finish cookin' while dey worked 'til breakfast time. De mothers what was expectin' babies was whooped to make 'em work faster and when any babies was sick de mothers would have to put dem in a basket on top of der heads and take dem to de cotton patch and put dem under de cotton stalks and try to 'tend to dem. Lawd, Lawd, honey! dem was awful times, but I sho' is glad I had good white folks.

"Some niggers was always runnin' away and dey would set de nigger dogs* on dem and ketch dem mos' times and put dem in jail, den dey would treat dem so bad dey wouldn' never want to run away no mo'. Most of de white folks wouldn' teach de niggers nothin' 'cause dey say dey learn too much and know more den de white folks.

"We allus gets Saturday evenin' off to wash our clothes and some times we have dances on Saturday night. I had two brothers, Jim and William, and William was killed in de Civil War. My two sisters' names was Relia and Laura. We would have co'n shuckin's and big suppers and on Christmas our Massa would buy us a present, most times it would be shoes 'cause we didn't have many shoes.

"When de white folks died or got married every body shocarried on big. We didn' have many doctors but some times we had one and him and old Miss would give us snakeroot tea and camamile and sage tea. Miss, she make hog-hoof tea. Jes' bile de hoofs in good whiskey fer a cold. Den she puts camphor balls and asafoetida 'round our necks to keep off diseases.

"When de war ended we see a white man comin' down de road on a hoss, readin' a paper and de road was full of niggers a followin' him. Some was a singin' and some was a shoutin' and a prayin' 'cause he was a readin' dat dey was free. We jes' stayed on with our white folks and dey let us raise crops on de halves and we stay dar 'til our Massa die, den we went to Louisiana and I was a cook fer a long time. I jes' had one lil gal and she have one lil gal and she, my gran' chile, lets me live with her now, and dis is de only home I's have, but de ole age pension hit takes care of me 'til I goes on to meet ole Massa and ole Missus.

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