Samuel Watson

Samuel Watson was very young when the Civil War ended and Emancipation was granted to those enslaved.  However, he clearly remembers the struggles his family had after Emancipation.  In this excerpt, he describes the struggle his mother had supporting the family, how his siblings became indentured servants, and his life as an indentured servant to an unkind employer.
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Uncle Samuel remembers when the war ended and the slaves were emancipated. “Some were happy and some were sad!” Many dreaded leaving their old homes and their masters’ families.

Uncle Samuel’s mother and three children were told that they were free people and the master asked the mother to take her little ones and go away.

She complied and took her family to the plantation of Jourdain James, hoping to work and keep her family together. Wages received for her work failed to support the mother and children so she left the employ of Mr. James and worked from place to place until her children became half starved and without clothing.

The older children, remembering better and happier days, ran away from their mother and went back to their old master.

Thomas Watson went to Dixon, Kentucky and had an article of indenture drawn up binding both Thomas and Laurah to his service for a long number of years. Little Samuel only remained with his mother who took him to the home of William Allen Price. Mr. Price’s plantation was situated in Webster County, Kentucky about half-way between Providence and Clay on Craborchard Creek. Mr. Price had the little boy indentured to his service for a period of eighteen years. There the boy lived and worked on the plantation.

He said he had a good home among good people. His master gave him five real whippings within a period of fourteen years but Uncle Samuel believes he deserved every lash administered.

It was the custom for a slave indentured to a master to be given a fair education, a good horse, bridle, saddle and a suit of clothes for his years of toil, but Mr. Price did not believe the boy deserved the pay and refused to pay him. A lawyer friend sued in behalf of the N***o and received a judgement of $115.00 (one hundred and fifteen dollars). Eighteen dollars repaid the lawyer for his service and Samuel started out with $95.00 and his freedom.

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Samuel Watson1862Lauana CreelThomas Watson
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Evansville, INIndianaClay, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Emancipation, Economics, EqualityThird person, Dialect, Bound out after war, whipped, notable,