Uncle Sam Smith

An Old Slave’s Reminiscences
written by Mrs. S. L. Coleman, Fountain Inn, S. C.

"ole Mis" as she taught the negroes, ministered to them in sickness and shouldered their responsibilites, he spoke with glistening eyes. The world will never see again that type of womanhood represented by the mistress of the Southern plantation. She was a sort of mother, teacher, nurse and angel to the blacks under her care.

"Yo nebber knowed O’l Miss", yo’ say?

"Wa’ll dat’s a pity sho’

De sort o’ quality she wuz

Is gone to come no mo."

"She knowed mo’ dan doctors, case

God tol’ her what te give

She knowed mo’ dan de preachers, case

God tol’ her how to live."

The words of Howard Weeden in her charming volume, "Some colored Folks I have Known" portray the relationship between the queenly Mistress and her slaves on the old plantation.

Each plantation had its cotton gin, small wooded affair run by horse power. Each had its grist mill, its great millstone turned by water power.

"Once", said the old darky, "Marse John and Marse Argenbright, a neighbor got in a argument bout which one’s mill made de bes meal. Dey finally agreed to carry the meal to Laurens to be judged. When de judges said Marse Argenbright’s de bes, hit made Marse John mad. "I don’t care he said, yo’ is nuthin but a rascal no haw, yo is done been turned out of de church three times and I ain’t been turned out but once’."

"I wuz fo’teen years old when I fuss heared de Bible", Uncle Sam says. "It was down at King’s Chapel and young Marse Jim wuz de preacher. I went up an joined de church. Dey kep’ me on probation for six months an praise de lawd, I bin trusting him ebber since.

The year peceding the war, Marse John died. The plantation had to be divided and the negroes sold. The, for the second time, now a grown man, was auctioned off from the "block." He and several others were purchased by "Ole Mis", who retained the plantation home while her sons built homes of their own about her.

The war come on, the plantation life was saddened. The songs of the darkies in the fields were less joyous and a general air of gloom hung heavy over the land. The negroes worked on producing food to supply their own needs and some to send to the army. Young Sam got ready to go to the war as bodyguard Marse John Owings, a half brother of "Ole Mis", but Marse John was exempted in order that he might look after his own plantation and that of his sister. "Somebody had to stay home an make the niggers work or day wouldn’t had nithin to eat, fo de niggers hadn’t nebber been used to workin less somebody made um. Dey wuz lak chillin."

"We nebber knowed we’s free" said Uncle Sam, "till de govmit sint de officers to tell de white folks dey must tell us we’s free. Den Ole Mis called us all to de house to tell us. "Sam", she said, "Yo won’t nebber hab to work fo me no mo", den she went to cryin and cryin. I stayed on dere as long as Ole Mis lived. Some de niggers lef and some didn’t."

The longed for freedom didn’t prove the unalloyed bliss the negroes expected. The ignorant blacks knew not what to do with their freedom. It was a heap wuss dan slavery time," the negroes declared. "De niggers had no education an mos ob em didn’t hab no sense, so day went to stealin and doin all kins of meanness. White folks no allowed to punish niggers, but de Yankee guards from Laurens came to punish dem when dey do meanness. Dem Yankees whip harder den our white folks. Once a nigger woman an her two boys stole a hog from Marse Gin’l Jones. De Gin’l was a fine man an good to his niggers. Young Marse Joe Smith married de Gin’l’s daughter. Dem Yankees came and tuck dat nigger woman an her boys an tied um by dey thumbs to de limb ob a tree an let um holler fo half hour. Dey sho did holler, and dey thumbs nebber did git rite no mo.

"After de wah niggers didn’t get cash money fo workin fo de white folks, kase dey wuz no money to git. Dey made de crop, an at the end ob de year, de Yankee guards come roun and divided it up. Each nigger got 2 1/2 bu. corn and 3 qts. molasses. Dat had to do um a year, fo dey wuzn’t nowhere to git no mo."

The stragglers from the Union army who passed through the south, plundering as they went, after the close of the war, frightened the negroes worse than the whites. "Ole Mis hid her silver and jewelry in a trench dug out in a hillside," the negro recalled. "Dey hauled de corn to a deep gully an covered it wid brush. Den whin dey heard de Yankees comin sich a time dey had hidin. I can just see dem niggers now, squattin in fence corners and duckin behin de outbuildings, dey had the horses hid. "Take keer dem horses boys, I’m gwine a run", Marse Joe said, and he got away. But de Yankees foun all de hosses cep Marse Joel"s fine saddle hoss. Dey nebber did git it. Dey made the nigger boys git on the hosses an ride off wid um, but dem niggers come back no quicker’n dey could git back. Didn’t take um long to git ernuff of them Yankees."

"Yas’m, dey sho been blood shed fo de niggers", says Uncle Sam, "but I don’t blame the Souf, dey had dey money in de niggers and den dey wuz used to niggers an wanted to keep um."

Uncle Sam doesn’t know what to think of the great present generation of negroes. "Dey don’t want to work. All day stude bout is edducation," he says. "An mos of dey edducation is dis heer basketball. Style is the thing wid um now. Style in de churches eben. Dey use to go to church and git down on dey knees an pray but it ain’t de style to get on de knee now. Dey is too dressed up an laundry bills too high. Postle Paul says, "Min not high things’" but dese young niggers ain’t paying no tenshun to Paul. Dey all de time decoration de churches whin dey own hearts need decoratin inside. Dese fine churches what dey builds to show off an den can’t pay fo, mins me ob de Pharisees, white on de outside an filled wid dead men’s bones. Niggers up here at Bethlehem started to build a church, whin long comes a man wantin to sell um a plan, an dem fool niggers paid $700.00 for a plan. Now dey ain’t got nuthin to finish dey church wid, but it don’t matter, fo all dey go to church fo dese days is to show dey automobiles."

Uncle Sam’s wife and twelve children have long been dead. He reared an orphan group of eight, the children of a nephew. To the white friends who have helped him feed and clothe these children, the old darky is everlastingly thankful. "Praise de Lawd", he says, "De White Cross help me till de Red Cross took me up. I members ebbery single thing given to me", he says, "an de Lawd’ and I knows he’ll say "well done good and faithful servants" to white folks and black folks in Fountain Inn.

Taken from the Greenville News

July 5 1939

Old Slave’s Parents were shipped Here From Africa:

Life of "Uncle" Sam Smith Filled with many Interesting Happenigs:

Uncle Sam Smith, whose parents were shipped from Africa was born on the plantation of Ole Marse Bull, below Abbeville on June 20, 1839 at 11 o’clock, declares the century old negro. By birth he was Sam Bull.

Master Billy Bull was a hard and exacting master and was disliked by many of his slaves, two of which plotted and executed his murder. Little Sam went to the hanging of these two slaves and declares confusion was worse confounded as the blocks were knocked from under the two and "panick" set in as the blacks fled. Mistress Bull soon settled her husband’s estate and sold the slaves.

Little Sam and his mother were bought by John "Skinner" Smith who lived above Abbeville; Sam’s father and sister were bought by two other and different masters. The lot in which "Uncle" Sam fell brought 400 and his name was changed from Bull to Smith. This John "Skinner" Smith was the great-grandfather of Mrs. Lucyle Smithe Dargan, of Greenville.

"Uncle" Sam claims that the authentic data concerning his time and place of birth was correcly established when he had to prove he was past 50 years that he might stop working on county roads, for there was then a law that all negro men up to this age had to do a certain amount of work on roads.

"Uncle" Sam has been a hard working and law abiding negro whereby he has gained the high esteem of both races of this section. His philosophies of life are wholesome and profitable to any who would follow them. He says: "I tells the chilluns at home that they races about to get schoolin, but education is lak a nice letter well writ; if it has no stamp on it, it ain’t no good, and if education ain’t stamped with common sense, it ain’t no good.

Peanut Butter and cake are his favorite foods, and "de white fok" give these to him often. Even at the looth milestone, Sam’s mind is clearly stocked withthe experiences and information from the days of yore, and all who visit him are repaid in facts and inspiration for their going.




Last Update: 10/2008
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