Thompson Family

The following account is taken from the Slave Narrative project.

Penny Thompson, 86, now living at 1100 E. 12th St., Fort Worth, Texas, was born a slave to Calvin Ingram, in Coosa Co., Alabama. In 1867 Penny was brought to Tyler, Texas, and several years later she married Ike Thompson and moved to Fort Worth.

“Do I ‘member slavery days? Yes, suh! How could I forgit dem? For an old person I has good ‘collection. I’s 10 year old when de war start and my massa am Calvin Ingram. My mammy and pappy was a weddin’ present to Massa Ingram from his pappy. Mammy give birth to 15 chilluns, but I never saw any of my brothers and sisters, ’cause they all born on Massa Ingram’s pappy’s plantation ‘fore he give my mammy to Massa Ingram.

“De plantation dat Massa Ingram have was 200 acres or mo’. Him own ’bout 20 grown-up slaves, and on dat place dey raises ’bout everything we eats and wears, includin’ de vinegar and de peach brandy. Everybody am ‘signed to dey duties and my mammy am chief cook for de big house. I he’ps her and feeds chickens, gits eggs and totes water.

“De treatmen’ couldn’t be better. Massa am de bestes’ and de kindes’ fellow dat ever live. He am in Heaven, for sho’, but de missy mus’ be in Hell, for she sho’ was a debbil. Massa have de fight with her lots of times ’bout de treatment of us, but he wouldn’t let her ‘buse us.

“We’uns was never hongry for food, ’cause we have lots of meat, chickens and eggs and cornmeal and ‘lasses and honey. De hams is smoked on de place and dey am de hams, white man, dey am de hams! Den massa have a big cellar jus’ full of everything and I never forgit de big, brass key what lock dat cellar. Dere was de jams and de jellies and de preserves, and de massa give us somethin’ of all of dat. Him makes de gran’ peach brandy and every mornin’ we could have two fingers in de glass. ‘Twas de same at night. Dere was somethin’ else was reg’lar every mornin’ and night and dat am de prayer. He calls all us together and says de prayers. I often thinks of dat brandy and de prayers, two times every day.

“As for de whuppin,’ dere wasn’t any on massa’s place. Him have only one nigger what am unruly and dat am Bill McClure, and a bigger thief never lived.

“On de nex’ plantation dey gives de whuppin’ and we hears dem niggers beller. On dat plantation dey trades and sells de niggers all de time and de speculation wagon comes by often. Sometime it am awful to see de babies sold from de mothers and de wife from de husban’. Sich bemoanin’ at some of dem sales, yous jus’ can’t ‘magine.

“But on massa’s place we has no tradin’ of slaves and we’uns have pass for go to church and parties and de dance. When de night for de party come on our place, de yard am cleaned off and we makes sandwiches. One time massa come to me and say, ‘Jus’ wait a minute, I nearly forgits de mos’ ‘portant part,’ and he give me a new pink dress. I’s so happy I cries for joy, and everybody says I looks like de Queen of Sheba.

“De other big time am de corn huskin’ bee. Once a year all de neighbors comes fust to one place den to de other. At de huskin’s, dey gives de prize when you finds a red ear. De prize am two fingers of dat peach brandy. When dey gits de fus’ one dey works a little harder, de second still faster, and de third, Lawd-a-massy, how dem husks do fly! Dey don’t git drunk, ’cause you am lucky to find as much as three red ears at one huskin’.

“We has de weddin’s too, but no preacher or cer’mony. When a man sees a girl him likes and de girl am willin’, dey says dey wants a weddin’. De womens cooks extra and dey gits de cedar boughs and wets dem and sprinkles flour on dem and puts dem on de table. We sits at de table and eats and sings ‘ligious songs and after supper dey puts de broom on de floor an de couple takes de hands and steps over de broom, and den dey am put to bed.

“We was never bother with de patter rollers, but I ‘members a song ’bout dem, like dis:

“‘Up de hill and down de hollow

Patter rollers cotched nigger by de collar;

Dat nigger run, dat nigger flew,

Dat nigger tear his shirt in two.’

“In de war soldiers comes to massa’s place and every time he feeds dem. You hears de clippity clop of de hosses and dey is off de saddle ‘fore you gits to de door. Dey says, ‘We wants de meal,’ or maybe dey wants to sleep. Massa’s wife say, ‘I’s not goin’ do nothin’ for dem blue bellies,’ but massa make her fix de chicken. Dere was everything dere but manners, ’cause dey have de pistols drawed.

“After freedom, mos’ of us stays with massa, ’cause we don’t know where to go and we don’t want to go, but ‘fore long massa dies and dat was mournin’ time. After de death, we all leaves.

I marries Bill Thompson but he won’t work so after 15 year I gits de divorcement.”