Sarah Waggoner

Sarah Waggoner was a 93 year old formerly enslaved person.  She remembers a great deal about her life of enslavement.  In this excerpt she first describes how her enslaver worked her much harder late in the Civil War because she knew the enslaved were likely to be freed.  She then goes on to describe the work and the life she lived inside her enslavers’ house.
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During the war, Old Miss kept telling me I had to help her put new cloth in the loom and when little Jane, that’s her little girl, wanted me to play, her mother would say, ’Sarey has to work fast now, because she is going to be free’.  Oh Lord, Miss, Sarey will never be free. But I was freed. 

Now I am going to tell you about home life. I worked in the house for Old Miss, and we had plenty to do and plenty to eat. When the white folks were through eating, I got a pan and got the grub, and sat on the floor and ate it. 

Oh Lordy, but I worked hard since I was twelve years old. But not in the fields. Old Miss said there was plenty for me to do in the house, and there was, sure enough.  I washed and cooked for all of us. And ironed too. I’d heat the irons, great big old irons, in the fireplace. I ironed on a quilt spread out on the floor, and I ironed just as nice as anybody. I lived right in the house with the white folks. In summer we slept, my brother Henry and me, in a trundle bed in the kitchen; and in the winter made a pallet beside the fireplace. Old Pap was good to us. He kept up a fire all night when it was cold. I never saw a cooking stove or a lace shoe until I was freed. We just had to burn our faces cooking over the fireplace. I milked eight cows and then put the milk away. That took a long time. They didn’t have horses then, much. They had a yoke of oxen. Sometimes some of us were hired out to work but we didn’t get any money for that ourselves. They drawed the wages.

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Sarah Waggoner1844 (93)G.K. BartlettJim Howard
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Savannah, MOMissouriGrayson County, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Gender/gender rolesFirst person, dialect, hired out