Slavery in Auburn, Alabama

Slavery in Auburn, Alabama.

A Description of the Institution of Negro Slavery as It Existed in and near Auburn from 1850 to 1860.

Meriwether Harvey.

Auburn, Ala.

Just before the Civil War there were about one thousand white people and seven hundred slaves in Auburn and its immediate neighborhood.

This paper refers to some others as it discusses people who lived as far as twenty-one miles from Auburn. There were not more than six families in Auburn who owned no slaves. The plantations contained from five hundred to one thousand acres each, a section (640 acres) being considered the average. There were from thirty to sixty slaves on each, as a rule. Among the largest owners were Mr. Buchanan, who had about two hundred and fifty; Mr. Mike Harvey, one hundred and five; Mr. Ingram, about one hundred and fifty; Mr. William Harvey, about sixty; Mr. Frank Reese and wife, about sixty; Dr. Reese, about one hundred; Mr. and Mrs. Dowdell, about one hundred and fifty or two hundred. Other slave owners were the Joneses, Perrys, Winds, Harpers, Whites, Drakes, Samfords and Mr. Edwin Reese.

The homes of the slaves differed, but the usual quarters on the plantation were very much as follows:

The house was, as a rule, a one room log cabin, but if the family was large there were two rooms. The houses were made of logs, which were split in halves; the round part was one the outside, and the flat side served as the interior wall. Planks were nailed over the cracks on the inside, while mud was used on the outside. One large end chimney was built to each house. It was built of rough rocks up to about five feet, then little sticks about one inch in diameter were laid on this foundation of stone; [2] two of these sticks were laid opposite each other, then two other sticks of equal length were laid opposite each other on and at right angles to the two sticks first laid down. This was done until the chimney was built a little above the roof; in between these sticks was poured yellow mortar, made of mud. On one side of the room, near the fire place, there was a window about three or four feet square. A wooden shutter, hung on home-made white oak hinges, was used for shutting the cold out. There was one door to each house, also hung on white oak hinges. This door was kept closed by having a hole slanting about thirty degrees toward the door cut in the wall just at the place where it closed; a stick about three or four inches long was put in this hole and in that way the door was fastened. Still another device was often used. A hole was cut through the door about four inches from the edge and about midway from the bottom. A chain, nailed to the outside of the house was passed through the hole and fastened to a peg on the inside. A log flattened at the top served as a step. There were no porches, but many of the houses had shed rooms attached to the back. Just at the door was a board fastened at right angles to the wall, on this sat a wooden bucket bound with iron bands and by its side hung, on a peg, a drinking gourd, with a long handle, through the end of which was run a string that was hung on the peg. The gourd terminated in a globe like shape and a round hole was cut on one side of this and thus was formed a dipper.

Inside of the house was the most primitive furniture. The chairs consisted of logs that had been sawed off about two feet high, or of stools made of four small logs, which served as legs, and a plank nailed across. the best chairs were old cast-offs from the master’s house. If the bottoms happened to be out, they were re-seated by running across the chair white oak splits about one-twelfth of an inch thick and about one inch wide; these were woven and interwoven at right angles. The bedsteads were made [3] of four posts standing upright, which were about four inches in diameter; two poles of equal length were nailed to the upright poles opposite each other, then two others were nailed to them at right angles to the first poles and opposite each other. Across this bedstead were laid poles to serve as slats. The mattress was made of cotton bagging, and was stuffed with hay or shucks and often with cotton. Each negro was given a gray blanket at the beginning of winter; they also made comforts and quilts with the refuse cotton, the outer covering was sometimes cotton bagging, but usually cotton scraps pieced together. Their brooms for the house were made of broom straw that grows in old fields; this straw was cut off about three feet long, and the bottom of the straw was tied with a string, while the other end was loose and used for sweeping. Another kind of broom used for the yards was made in a like manner with the exception that dogwood branches were used instead of straw. The ceiling was the under side of the slanting roof, which was made of boards about three and one half feet long. Across the beams placed at the foot of the roof were laid planks on which were put various things, such as bags of refuse cotton and seeds. Great strings of brilliant red pepper were the usual ornamentation. The slaves did their cooking in the fire place, and had such utensils as pots, frying pans, and coffee pots. The houses were arranged in long rows opposite each other; each house was surrounded by a fence, which was made of planks about five feet high and about one inch in thickness and four inches in width. The top of each plank was cut in a V shape with the V turned upside down. Many of the negroes had flowers in their front yards; these flowers were of the most primitive kind, such as four o’clocks and various flowering weeds. In the rear of each house was garden from one-fourth to one acre in extent; near the garden was a poultry house. The negro quarters were usually built near some spring, or if that was not convenient, one well was dug to supply the whole negro [4] settlement. These houses were built near uncleared woods, so that the negroes would have no trouble in supplying themselves with fuel. Of course this description does not fit every case, but is only a general statement. When a person had over twenty slaves he usually owned a carpenter who made the furniture for the other negroes. Those who had cotton mattresses usually raised the cotton themselves on their own little patches. Later the houses were built with two rooms and with a chimney between, one family occupying one side of the house, and another the other. Mrs. Dowdell’s houses were all two roomed, and had front porches. A few slaves had bureaus. Trunks and boxes were often used to hold clothing. All of Mrs. Dowdell’s slaves lived in straight up and down houses with a brick chimney between the two rooms. Slaves often had good furniture, which was given them from the big house. I find no case of dirt floors.

The negro men at the beginning of the cold weather were given two pairs of pants, two cotton shirts, one coat and two sets of under clothes. The pants and coats were made of Kersey cloth, which was a cloth with a cotton warp and a woolen filling. They were also each given one pair of shoes, called brogans, which were usually bought at the stores, but were made by the shoe makers on some plantations. They were made of strong leather, and could not be worn out in one winter. In spring each man was given a fll suit of osnaburg; in the fall each man was given a store-bought woolen hat and each woman was given two full suits. Some of the negroes made hats for themselves of palmetto, palms, and wheat straw; they also made their own fans from palmetto, some of which were as much as three feet wide. Mr. Harvey’s cook, with the help of the old women on the place and of those women not able to work, made the clothes, all of which were homespun. This spinning was done by all the women after the laying by time, and during the year by women not able to work. A great many people bought the cloth with which they made [5] their slaves clothes. The women did their own knitting. Negroes often had the best kind of clothes; the white people gave them all their old clothes.

Monday at twelve o’clock, or at night, each negro was given three and one-half pounds of meat and one peck of meal. Some gave four pounds of meat a week. Food was given the children as they needed it. There were always one or two old women on each plantation who were able to do nothing except take care of the children from three months old to seven years. They cooked for them and for those men who had no wives or mothers; they also looked after the sick. Usually the children were fed out of gourds and pans, but sometimes peas and molasses was poured in a wooden trough, and the children crowded about and all ate together. Some people never heard of this, but I have found at least two such cases. If the negroes were working at some distance from their quarters they would carry the food for the mules with them, and the little negroes would bring dinner, cooked by the old women, to them. They fed and ate at the shelters which were built principally for rain in each field that was some distance from the house. Usually, however, they did not work too far away to come home. The women generally came home about 11 o’clock and prepared dinner; at 12 a horn was blown, or a large bell was rung, and they all came home. They then rested for an hour or an hour and a half. They also prepared their own breakfast and supper. Besides their regular supply of meat and meal, they were given molasses, potatoes, vegetables, and large quantities of peas. Each negro had his own garden, and a big garden was planted for them, and was worked by them like the other land of their master. The principal vegetables were collards, squashes, and turnip greens. One mistress gave her slaves all the flour and molasses they wished. Big fields of tobacco were also planted for the negroes. Some gave their slaves store-bought tobacco, but as a rule only the home-raised tobacco was given them. [6] This was given to both men and women, as they all smoked and chewed. Each negro was allowed to raise chickens, and a good many people let each have a hog of his own. One master never gave his slaves, which numbered eight, any allowance of any kind, but gave them what they needed. Little negroes carried water to the field hands all during the day in great gourds, some of which held from two to three gallons of water.

Negroes were allowed to make money in various ways. Usually each negro man was given a patch of from two to five acres, according to the size of his family. In this he could plant whatever he pleased, and he could work it on holidays, at night, and at odd times. Some of the negroes made money by splitting rails at night in the winter. Carpenters and blacksmiths were sometimes given certain tasks to do and when they got through with these they were allowed to hire their time out. On Saturdays sometimes slaves were given tasks to do, and when they finished, they could do what they pleased; also sometimes a certain amount of cotton was required as their week’s labor and when they got through they owned their time for the rest of the week. This was done only with those who wished it. Negroes were also allowed to burn charcoal, for which there was always a demand; they were also often given the right to cut wood on the plantation, and haul it to town and sell it. The women were allowed to sell chickens, eggs, and vegetables. One of the Auburn negroes cut cord wood for the railroad at night. Negroes were often hired out to other people; the master or mistress would sometimes give the negro permission to hire out for as much as he or she could get, provided they would bring the owner back a definite amount in a given time. I know of two negroes who hired their time in Montgomery. Very often they got money by begging for just a nickel or a dime. One negro, Charles White, during each Christmas brought into Auburn three or four four-mule wagon loads of corn wihch he had raised himself. To sell this [7] produce a negro had to have a written permit from his master; often, however, things were traded without a permit to some underhand night-buyer for tobacco and whiskey. Each negro planted tobacco in the fence corners and gardens; some could make good cigars and Littleton Harvey made a good deal of money from his homemade plug tobacco.

They spent their money for anything they wished, except that they were not allowed to have guns or whiskey. They spent most of their money for store-bought tobacco, candy, toys, and such things. One slave owner had a negro man who owned one horse and two mules. Another had a negro who on his death bed told him where he had some money buried and asked him to divide it among his children. After the negro’s death he looked in the designated place, and dug up a coffee pot which contained $18.00, most of which were 6 1-4ct and 12 1-2ct pieces. He had been a shoemaker, and had accumulated this amount in a lifetime.

The mules were all fed at night. At daylight all the negroes went to work. They cooked their own breakfast before they left home; so, of course, they arose very early. They were given from an hour to an hour and a half for dinner. If the place where they were working was a long way off, they would stop work earlier than if the place was near; this was done so they would get home just at dark. They always came home singing and the songs with the rattling of the chains on the plows, and the tramping of mules made in the twilight a music that is indescribable. As they worked in the field, one would give out a field song and then the others joined in the chorus; thus they were singing most of the time. The little negroes stayed at the nursery with the old woman and helped take care of the children and toted water all during the day to the field hands and also dinner when necessary. The women who were too old to do anything else did nothing else except take care of the children, cook for those who had no wives or mothers, and nurse the sick. [8] Those women who were not able to work in the field did the spinning, eight cuts being required as a day’s work. Some of the women could get through with their tasks by two or three in the afternoon, while others had to work late in the night. On one plantation one old woman did the warping and put it in the loom, and two other women did all the weaving. Mr. H. lived by himself and had one cook; she also did spinning—in fact, all the women spun at times. His washer-woman was an exceptional negro. She was perfectly black, and had five or six children, yet she kept a spotless house and his clothes were never allowed to have a spot on them. As a race the negroes were filthy. They all had to clean up and put on their best clothes Sunday. Women and men plowed. I find that women of some masters never plowed; but as a rule the work was divided among them according to their skill. Women usually cooked their own dinner, and always cooked their supper and breakfast. All the large plantations had carpenters and blacksmiths, some of whom were skilled. Mrs. L. had one whom she hired out for eight hundred dollars per year. Mrs. D. had two women who did nothing but sew. Nearly all the women did some sewing. She had a carriage driver, a miller, a cobbler, a blacksmith, two or three carpenters, two women to cook, two women to weave, and two women to milk from thirty to forty cows. One old woman did nothing but take care of the poultry and she usually raised about one hundred and fifty turkeys a year. One old negro man spent his time in making brooms, foot mats and split-oak baskets. Mrs. R. lived in town; she had a family of four and had nine servants about the house. She had a gardener, a driver, a cook, a seamstress, a house maid, and a woman to wash and iron; the little negroes between two and ten picked up chips, caught chickens, and ran errands. Mr. D. had two house women, one house boy, a man of all work, a cook, and a washer-woman. Mr. W. had a girl who [9] served as seamstress and house girl, and did anything else she was told to do; he also had a nurse, yet he owned only eight slaves. The married women worked very little in some families, but as a rule they worked right along with the men. If it was not a busy time of the year, Saturday afternoon was generally given them as a holiday; the women usually did their washing then and the men would go fishing or have a frolic or work on their little patches. The women and children usually worked the garden. The slaves in the winter time were busied with clearing new ground, knocking down old cotton and corn left standing, making baskets, splitting rails, and mending the fences. There was always something for them to do. The negroes belonging to some masters worked when they pleased and had holiday when they pleased. They would only make enough corn to last them until March; then their masters would buy for them. One man had about twenty cows. He let the negroes look after them and sell the milk and butter. It is needless to say that he never realized any money from them.

Most of the negroes were Methodists. The Methodist circuit riders came to each plantation once or twice a month, and were paid by the owner. Often the negroes belonged to the denomination to which their owners belonged. There was only one known Presbyterian slave in the town; she belonged to the McGregors and was a real African. There were many Baptists among them. In every country church and in the Baptist church at Auburn a certain number of rear seats were reserved for the negroes. The Methodist church at Auburn had a gallery which the negroes occupied during the morning service. In the afternoon the white preacher, or often a negro preacher, preached to them in the basement of the church. The Baptist church had no basement; so they were allowed to occupy whatever part of the church they chose for the afternoon service. There were always some white people present at these services. The negroes never failed [10] to shout long and loud. Sometimes at the morning services they would shout, for instance, old Aunt Charlotte Reese would jump up and clasp her hands and cry out Tank God, dis is old Charlotte Reese. The shouting, however, was done mostly in the afternoon. During the first part of the service the negroes would begin to sway from one side to the other. They were thus getting in the spirit. After they became more deeply moved they swayed their bodies backward and forward. Soon after there was screaming and clapping of hands and some of the most pious went into trances. The negroes were made to put on their best clothes every Sunday morning. Nearly all wore hats to church, but there were a few old negro women who wore bandannas. It is said that the crowd of negroes who poured out of the Methodist church reminded one very much of a gay bed quilt, so varied were their Sunday clothes. I find one man who did not allow his slaves to attend religious services either at the churches or on his plantation. The communion was first passed to the white people and then to the negroes. It is said by some that they never heard of a negro being turned out of the church. Wagons were allowed the negroes for going to church. Mrs. D. had a class of about thirty or forty negroes who met in her laundry every Sunday afternoon. She taught them Bishop Caper’s catechism. Mrs. R. taught her little negroes Biblical facts. Mrs. W. taught her negroes the catechism. Aunt Manda Oliver read the New Testament while a slave; the white children taught her to read. Mrs. R.’s little daughter taught her playmate, a slave, to spell. These are the only two cases I have found where negroes were taught reading. There were a good many negro exhorters. Aunt Manda Oliver says that hardly any could read or write; but Mrs. R. says that preachers could generally read. Mrs. H. had one negro who was part Indian and whom he bought out of a [11] Baltimore jail, where had had been put for his master’s debt; this negro could both read and write. He knows no other negro who could do so. Mrs. D. had seeral who could read and write but she taught none to do so. Mr. R. had a carpenter who could read, to whom he willed his family Bible.

Mr. R. allowed his slaves to cook only breakfast on Sunday; they prepared on Saturday for Sunday. On Sunday they were required to join in the family worship. I have found one negro who fasted every Friday. No one worked his slaves on Sunday, except for feeding the stock and doing absolutely necessary things. Mr. R.’s negroes had an all-day holiday when one of their number died. The corpse was buried in a grave yard; a negro preacher conducting the service, the principal part of which was the singing. The preacher would give out two lines, then the congregation would sing those two lines, and so on. The whole plantation and the white folks would turn out to the funeral, which was a great occasion. As a rule, holiday was not given for a funeral. The coffin was a pine box covered with black cloth.

When the crop was laid by, which was between July 4th and 10th, the owner, or a number of owners, gave their negroes a barbecue. If the owner owned above ten negroes, he usually gave his own barbecue. Many things were cooked for this great occasion—pies, cakes, bread, potato custards, and fine barbecued meat. There was always the greatest abundance. First, the white people ate at the long table; then the table was again set, and the negroes ate to their hearts content. Watermelons were served with the other eatables. The negroes spent the day in dancing to the music of banjoes and reeds, which were made of five to ten quills of different lengths and resembled very much the Scotch bag-pipe; these were blown through. Also the music made by knocking together, as the minstrels do today, the rib bones of a cow was joined to that of the [12] banjo and the reeds. Another favorite instrument was an iron triangle which was beat with an iron rod. The negroes were decorated with anything bright they could find; the foreman very often wore a frock-tailed coat and a stove-pipe hat, with a feather in it. The foreman and other important negro personages made speeches to the assembled crowd, the one who spoke the loudest was considered the best speaker, and the subject of their discourses was the progress of their crops. For example, a negro man would say that in a certain rich bottom the corn was growing so fast that it could be heard cracking. They always bragged on their folks, and ridiculed their neighbors for being in the grass. But the thing that delighted negroes most was the jug of corn whiskey which was passed among them at intervals. At night they built a great bonfire and danced about it in Indian fashion. They also had square dances and cake-walks about the fire.

Corn shucking was another great occasion in the negro’s life. The owner would have all his corn hauled up and thrown on the ground at the crib door in a big pile; then he would invite his neighbors’ negroes to come to his house on a certain night to a corn shucking. Only the men were invited; as they came they could be heard in the distance singing corn songs. I have tried to record some of these songs, but I find they were a jargon; they had no real words, only a tune. Some disinterested man would lay a long pole in the middle of the pile; then two negro men would choose sides, as is done today in spelling matches, and the two sides would enter into a contest to see which could first finish their side of the pile. The leader, dressed in a stove pipe hat and feather, walked up and down on the pile and gave out the corn song. The whole crowd answered him in the chorus. As they shucked, they would throw the corn into the barn in front of them and the shucks behind. When they had finished about half of the pile, corn whiskey was passed; thus they worked till eleven o’clock, when [13] they had a big plain supper. After eating the put the shucks in pens made for the purpose. By twelve they had finished, and then the frolic began. They danced about the great bonfire that had been burning all the time behind them, so that they might have sufficient light to shuck the corn, the lights and shadows making a strange and ghostly scene. After the supper the owner of the plantation, the giver of the corn shucking, or sometimes the overseer, was seized and carried about on the shoulders of some of the negroes. The other negroes followed, all singing at the top of their voices. About two or three o’clock in the morning they all went home.

Log rollings took place in the spring of the year, usually during February or March. The negroes who belonged to the plantation would cut down trees and brush on a piece of ground, the trees were cut in logs from eight to ten feet long, and then the owner would invite the neighboring negroes to come to the log rolling. Hand sticks of hickory about four feet long were run under the log, from two to four of these sticks being placed under it according to its size and weight. Then one negro man took hold of each of these sticks, and thus they toted these logs to a place where they were being piled. If one of the negroes could not hold up his end, or if he gave out before they got to the pile, he was much laughed at. This was a great trial of strength. The women, boys, and children followed behind the log-toters with the smaller wood and fired the piles of logs. They were called the trash gang. A large supply of food was furnished for the dinner; but there was no frolic, for the negroes were too tired for it.

On some Saturday afternoons the negroes had quilting parties. The quilts were put in the frames and the needles and thread were made ready. Some old women and the neighboring girls were invited; they quilted until dark; then the men came, and if the quilt was not out, they would help the women get it out. The master would give them all a big supper and then they had their dancing, giggling, [14] and cake walking. I have found one man who never allowed his negroes to have such meetings.

Christmas lasted a week with the slaves of some masters, while it lasted only one day with others. They all dressed up in their Sunday clothes and came to the big house very early to get Christmas gifts. The old women always got red bandanna handkerchiefs, the men, corn whiskey and store-bought tobacco, and the children, candy. Mrs. D. gave all of her negroes eggnog and cake. They were also given old clothes, but no extra dinner. They amused themselves just as they pleased, and went to town if it was not too far, where they danced on the streets and had a frolic.

The treatment of slaves was generally good because the negro was property and was cared for as such. I have interviewed only one man who ever saw a slave unmercifully beaten. A great many negroes would run away; some of them were chronic runaways, and were so seemingly without any cause whatever. A few of these chronic runaways were chained at night. Certain people all through the country kept fox hounds for tracking runaway negroes, who would go off into the swamps and woods. It was often impossible to catch them in any way except with dogs. They were seldom bitten by the dogs when over taken; they would climb a tree if one was near at hand, but if they were caught on the ground, the dogs were so trained that they circled around the negroes, without going close to them. Negroes always aided a runaway by slipping to him something to eat. Mr. H. never had a negro to lie out more than three days, and never offered more than ten dollars as a reward for his return. Mr. B., with the aid of another man, caught a negro who had been in the woods seven years. He advertised the negro, and in due time returned him to his master. The slave turned out to be the most faithful of a large number of slaves. Mrs. D. says of her whole [15] number of slaves, which was between one hundred and fifty and two hundred, there was never a runaway; Mr. B. knows several such cases. Uncle West would run from the plantation up to Mr. F. R.’s residence whenever the overseer told him to do what he did not wish to do, or threatened to whip him. None of the negroes ever did any other kind of running away.

The overseers were men selected for their practical farming ability, and their business was to oversee the negroes and look after the farm and the planting. Sometimes an overseer was discharged, or brought to trial, when he mistreated a negro. One of Mr. W. H.’s overseers whipped two of his negroes, who hid in the swamp. Some of the other negroes came from the plantation to Auburn to tell their master. He decided the whipping unjust and paid the overseer up and let him go.

When an overseer was hired it was understood that he was to ride the country as a patrol; also the young white slave-owners of the neighborhood patrolled on certain nights. A negro was not allowed to leave his master’s plantation without a pass stating where he was going and when he was to return. This had to be signed, either by the overseer or the master. If the negro was caught away from home without a pass, he was whipped with a leather strap by these patrols. The usual punishment for being away from home without a pass was ten to twenty lashes, but in exceptional cases thirty-nine lashes might be given. These patrols went usually Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons and nights, but they also went out any night when they thought they might catch negroes roving about. They patrolled the roads, visited the plantations, and searched the cabins; if a negro was caught in a cabin away from home, he was taken off a good way from the negro quarters and whipped. Of course the whipping depended upon the offense, the mood of the patrol, and the negro whipped. Sometimes people who did not own negroes would catch a [16] negro without a pass and beat him badly, but the regular patrol did not do this.

The negroes were punished as a rule, by whipping; the whip was a leather strap so that it would not cut the skin. The foreman was the boss and did the whipping, but the owner, or overseer, was there to witness it. On some plantations the overseer did the whipping, but the master was usually present. Negroes were not whipped for small offenses; a foreman would sometimes dislike a certain negro and would beat that one unmercifully. As a rule, the overseer was more kind and merciful than the foreman. If there was a large number of hands, the foreman spent his whole time bossing; if the number was small, he would work awhile and then boss awhile. He lorded it over the other negroes. The worst whipping was often done by the negro parents.

When a negro became sick, he had good medical attention. Some of the owners made a contract with the physician for a year, while others paid by the call. Mr. R. had scarlet fever among his slaves and his doctor’s bill at one time was one thousand dollars. As a rule there was not a great deal of sickness among them, chills and fever being the most usual complaint. I find one woman who had consumption. At one time there were forty cases of typhoid fever on Mrs. D’s plantation. One died. While they were sick, they were fed from the master’s table.

The negro families were seldom separated. In fact, very few slaves were sold in Auburn except by the Northern traders, who would leave Virginia with a drove of three hundred or more and would sell as they came. They often arrived in Auburn with about seventy-five; the white people in Auburn bought from these speculators. The last slave bought in Auburn from one of these, was bought by Dr. R. in 1864 for a thirty-gallon barrel of crude castor oil. These speculators cared nothing for family relations. Most of the negroes in and about Auburn were inherited. [17] I have not heard of a single negro who was sold from here out of the country.

The marriage ceremony was often performed by jumping the broom together. Generally, it was performed by some negro exhorter, and after the marriage, which was at night, they would have a supper. Mrs. R. had a negro girl, Mit, who was married in her dining room. First came in the bride and groom, then four attendants; the bride had a new dotted, white, Swiss dress, a white sash, kid shoes, and silk gloves; her hair was parted in the middle and puffed. The couple were married by a negro preacher by the name of Monroe Wind, and all the white folks were present. After the marriage they took the refreshments, cake and wine, to a nearby negro house and passed them around among the crowd. Often the man and the wife belonged to different people. The negro man would ask the owner of the girl for her; if the owner consented, he would write a note saying so to the man’s owner. The negro man was given an annual permit to visit his wife on Wednesday and Saturday nights, if they lived some distance apart. Some gave a pass each week. The children, if there were any, belonged to the negro woman’s master. These marriages were seldom binding.

Slavery was not without its dark side. There were near Auburn several instances of cruel treatment to slaves. In one case they were not properly fed, in another, they were not sufficiently clothed. How far this was due to the lack of means of the masters is now hard to determine. In some cases they seem to have been overworked. In one or two they were treated roughly and punished severely. In one case a slave stabbed his master, but did not kill him. The slave was tried and hanged. Public opinion disapproved of cruelty on the part of masters. One man was indicted three times for ill treatment of his slaves, especially for failing to supply them with sufficient food and clothing. He was fined each time.

[18]There were some old negroes who did as they pleased and went where they pleased. These negroes were too old and infirm to be of any value. Mr. H. had four or five such, two of whom were blind women. They made money by making baskets and selling chickens and eggs. These negroes were not what were called free negroes. Uncle Burl Dillard was in reality a free negro, but he nominally belonged to the Dillards. He made ginger bread and persimmon beer, which he sold. He also had a wagon and mule, and went through the country buying old rags which he took to Columbus and there sold. His wife, Aunt Kitty Dillard, was a slave.

The negroes had the greatest contempt for poor white folks, that is people who owned no negroes. Every one speaks of their faithfulness. They would divide anything they had with their masters and would steal from their neighbor rather than their master. Only cribs and smoke houses were locked. They thought their folks the greatest in the world, and what belonged to the master was always spoken of as theirs. They were respectful to every one except poor white folks. Mr. R.’s negroes came from South Carolina and would not associate with other negroes because they thought South Carolina negroes far superior to any of the negroes in Auburn. In 1847 Aus Harvey went to Mexico with his master. When they left, the mother of Mr. Harvey made Aus promise to bring her son back if he should die. Mr. Harvey died with yellow fever, and true to his promise, Aus brought the body home. He paid his own fare and that of the corpse by cooking and doing various things. He told parties that the corpse was a piece of furniture he was bringing to Alabama. Finally, he got the body as far as Montgomery; then the family sent for it. There were many examples of faithfulness, too numerous to be told.