Bert Mayfield

The interviewer recorded the interview as a first person narrative by Bert Mayfield.  In the excerpt, Bert Mayfield describes his living conditions as an enslaved person: clothing, living conditions, food, and his work tapping trees for syrup. 
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…On Christmas, each of us stood in line to get our clothes; we were measured with a string that was made by a cobbler. The material had been woven by the slaves in a plantation shop…

Our cabins were usually one room with a loft above which we reached by a ladder. Our beds were trundle beds with wheels on them to push them under the big beds. We slept on straw ticks [mattress made of straw] covered with Lindsey quilts, which were made from the cast-off clothes, cut into squares and strips.

(I) would feed pigs; pulled parsley out of the garden for them and the pigs loved it mighty well. No money was paid for work… Possum and coon hunts were big events, they would hunt all night. The possums were baked in the ovens and usually with sweet potatoes in their mouths. The little boys would fish, bringing home their fish to be scaled by rubbing them between their hands, rolled in meal and cooked in a big skillet. We would eat these fish with pone corn bread and we sure had big eatin’s!

Master Stone had a big sugar camp with 300 trees. We would be woken up at sunup by a big horn and called to get our buckets and go to the sugar camps and bring water from the maple trees. These trees had been tapped and … the water dripped to the wooden troughs below. We carried this water to the big poplar troughs which were about 10 feet long and 3 feet high. The water was then dipped out and placed in different kettles to boil until it became the desired thickness for “Tree Molasses”. Old Miss Polly would always take out enough of the water to boil down to make sugar cakes for us boys. We had great times at these “stirring offs” which usually took place at night.

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Bert Mayfield1852 (Unknown)Eliza IsonSmith Stone
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Garrard County, KYKYBryantsville, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Garrard County, Food, Daily Life, Work, Christmas