Thomas Lewis

In this interview, the interviewer recounts in the first person Thomas Lewis’s memories of the Civil War and his mother’s interactions with Union soldiers. 
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Excerpt:

…Once when I was a little boy, I was sitting on the fence while my mother plowed to get the field ready to put in wheat. The white man who owned her was plowing too. Some Yankee soldiers on horses came along. One rode up to the fence and when my mother came to the end of the furrow, he said to her, “Lady, could you tell me where Jim Downs’ still house is?” My mother started to answer, but the man who owned her told her to move on. The soldiers told him to keep quiet, or they would make him sorry. After he went away, my mother told the soldiers where the house was. The reason her master did not want her to tell where the house was, was that some of his Rebel friends [people supporting the Confederacy] were hiding there. Spies had reported them to the Yankee [Union] soldiers. They went to the house and captured the Rebels.

Next soldiers came walking. I had no cap. One soldier asked me why I did not wear a cap. I said I had no cap. The soldier said, “You tell your mistress I said to buy you a cap or I’ll come back and kill the whole family.” They bought me a cap, the first one I ever had.

The soldiers passed for three days and a half. They were getting ready for a battle. The battle was close. We could hear the cannon. After it was over, a white man went to the battle field. He said that for a mile and a half one could walk on dead men and dead horses. My mother wanted to go and see it, but they wouldn’t let her, for it was too awful.

…Once they sent my mother there [to the nearest small town]… She saw a flash, and something hit a big barn. The timbers flew every way, and I suppose killed men and horses that were in the barn. There were Rebels hidden in the barn and in the houses, and a Yankee spy had found out where they were. They bombed the barn and surrounded the town. No one was able to leave. The Yankees came and captured the Rebels.

I had a cousin named Jerry. Just a little while before the barn was struck a white man asked Jerry how he would like to be free. Jerry said that he would like it all right. The white men took him into the barn and were going to put him over a barrel and beat him half to death. Just as they were about ready to beat him, the bomb struck the barn and Jerry escaped…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Thomas Lewis1857 (approx. 80)Estella R. DodsonUnknown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Bloomington, ININKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil WarSpencer County, First Person, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Union Troops, Klan/Mob Violence, Hired Out

Lewis_T_1

Thomas Lewis

In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts in the first person Thomas Lewis’s memory of how White people forced Black people to work for free even after the Civil War and how Thomas Lewis’s mother resisted this practice. 

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [ ___ ].   See more information.
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Excerpt:

…I was born in Spencer County, Kentucky, in 1857. I was born a slave. There was slavery all around on all the adjoining places. I was seven years old when I was set free. My father was killed in the Northern army. My mother, step-father and my mother’s four living children came to Indiana when I was twelve years old. My grandfather was set free and given a little place of about sixteen acres. 

[After the Civil War was over] A gang of white men went to my grandmother’s place and ordered the [ ___ ] people out to work. The [ ___ ] people had worked before for white men, on shares. When the wheat was all in and the corn laid by, the white farmers would tell the [ ___ ] people to get out, and would give them nothing. The [ ___ ] people did not want to work that way, and refused. This was the cause of the raids by white farmers. My mother recognized one of the men in the gang and reported him to the standing soldiers in Louisville. He was caught and made to tell who the others were until they had 360 men. All were fined and none allowed to leave until all the fines were paid. So the rich ones had to pay for the poor ones. Many of them left because all were made responsible if such an event ever occurred again.

Our family left because we did not want to work that way….


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Thomas Lewis1857 (approx. 80)Estella R. DodsonUnknown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Bloomington, ININKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Sharecropping, ViolenceSpencer County, First Person, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Union Troops, Klan/Mob Violence, Hired Out

Lewis_T_2

Thomas Lewis

In this interview, the interviewer recounts in the first person formerly enslaved person Thomas Lewis’s explanation of why enslaved people resisted and the consequence of that resistance. 
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Excerpt:

… There was no such thing as being good to slaves. Many people were better than others, but a slave belonged to his master and there was no way to get out of it. A strong man was hard to make work. He would fight so that the white men trying to hold him would be breathless. Then there was nothing to do but kill him. If a slave resisted, and his master killed him, it was the same as self-defense today. If a cruel master whipped a slave to death, it put the fear into the other slaves…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Thomas Lewis1857 (approx. 80)Estella R. DodsonUnknown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Bloomignton, ININKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Resistance, ViolenceSpencer County, First Person, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Union Troops, Klan/Mob Violence, Hired Out

Lewis_T_3

Lula Chambers

Dave Lillard enslaved over one hundred people, including Lula Chambers. She did not know her father and her mother was sold shortly after Lula Chambers was born.   The interviewer records in the first person Lula Chambers’s memories of the Ku Klux Klan and why some enslavers did not abuse enslaved people for economic reasons.    

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [redacted].   See more information.
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Excerpt:

… I used to be scared to death of those old Ku Klux folks with all their hoods on their heads and faces. I never will forget, I saw a real old [redacted] woman slave down on her knees praying to God for his help. She had a Bible in front of her. Course she couldn’t read it, but she did know what it was, and she was praying out of her very heart, until she had drawn the attention of the old Ku Klux [Klan] and one of them just walked in her cabin and lashed [whipped] her unmerciful. He made her get up off her knees and dance, old as she was. Of course the old soul couldn’t dance but he just made her hop around anyhow.  

The slave owners in the county where I was raised—the well-to-do ones I mean, did not abuse the slaves like the poor trash and other slaveholders did. Of course they whipped them plenty when they didn’t suit. But they kind of took care of them to sell. They had a great slave market there that didn’t do anything but sell slaves, and if they wanted a good price for them, the slave would have to be in a pretty good condition. That’s what saved their hides… 


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Lula ChambersUnknown (Unknown, older than 90)Grace E. WhiteDave Lillard
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
St. Louis, MOMOKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Economics, ViolenceGallatin County, First Person, Dialect, Whipped, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Sold, Slave Traders, Klan/Mob Violence

Chambers_L_1

Mary Wright

Mary Wright was born the year the Civil War ended. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts in the first person Mary Wright’s retelling of her mother’s story of the Ku Klux Klan using violence to intimidate Black people after the Civil War in Kentucky.    

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [ ___ ].   See more information.
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Excerpt:

…My [Mary Wright’s] mammy bound me out to Miss Puss Graham to learn to work, for my vittles [food] and clothes. Miss Puss gave me a pair of red morocco shoes and I was so happy, I’ve never forgotten these shoes. I heard my mammy talk of thee [ ___ ] Rising. The Ku Klux [Klan] used to stick the [ ___ ]head on a stake alongside the Cadiz road and  the buzzards would eat them till nothing was left but the bones. There was a sign on this stake that said ‘Look out [ ___ ]! You are next.’  We children would not go far away from the cabin. I tell you that is so. I just knew that this Ku Klux would do that to us sure if we had been caught…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Mary Wright1865 (Unknown)UnknownJames Coleman
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
KYKYGracey, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Violence, KKKChristian County, First Person, Dialect, Klan/Mob Violence, Bound out After War

Wright_M_1

Mrs. Preston

The interviewer records in this interview in the third person and does not record Mrs. Preston’s first name.  In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts how the KKK drove Mrs. Preston and her family from their home after the Civil War. 
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Excerpt:

…At the close of the war, her [Mrs. Preston’s] father was given a house, land, team and enough to start farming for himself. Several years later the Ku Klux Klan gave them a ten days notice to leave, one of the masked band interceded for them by pointing out that they were quiet and peaceable, and a man with a crop and ten children couldn’t possibly leave on so short a notice so the time was extended another ten days, when they took what the Klan paid them and came north. They remained in the north until they had to buy their groceries “a little piece of this and a little piece of that, like they do now”, when her father returned to Kentucky. Mrs. Preston remained in Indiana. Her father was burned out, the family escaping to the woods in their nightclothes, later befriended by a white neighbor. Now they appealed to their former owner who built them a new house, provided necessities and guards for a few weeks until they were safe from the Ku Klux Klan…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Mrs. PrestonUnknown (83)G. MonroeBrown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Jefferson County, ININFrankfort, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
KKKFranklin County, First Person, Union Troops, Klan/Mob Violence, 

Preston_1

Mrs. Preston

The interviewer records this interview in the third person and does not record Mrs. Preston’s first name.  In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts Mrs. Preston’s memories of the Civil War.  
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Excerpt:

… Her ‘Master Brown’, resided in Frankfort, having taken his best horses and hogs, and leaving his family in the care of an overseer on a farm. He was afraid the Union soldiers would kill him, but thought his wife would be safe. This opinion proved to be true. The overseer called the slaves to work at four o’clock, and they worked until six in the evening… 

She remembered seeing Union and Confederate soldiers shooting across a river near her home. Her uncle fought two years and returned safely at the end of the war. She did not feel that her master and mistress had mistreated their slaves… 


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Mrs. PrestonUnknown (83)G. MonroeBrown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Jefferson County, ININFrankfort, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil WarFranklin County, First Person, Union Troops, Klan/Mob Violence, 

Preston_2

Frank Cooper

Frank Cooper was a child when he spoke to his mother about her time in enslavement.  Here, he recounts a tale she told him of the Ku Klux Klan coming into her town and the measures the men in town took to protect themselves and their families from the potential cruelty the KKK would bring.

*“Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [victims].
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Excerpt:

My mother related some experiences she had with the Paddy-Rollers, later called the Ku Klux, these Paddy-Rollers were a constant dread to the N***oes. They would whip the poor victims unmercifully without any cause. One night while the N***oes were gathering for a big party and dance they got wind of the approaching Paddy-Rollers in large numbers on horseback. The N***o men did not know what to do for protection, they became desperate and decided to gather a quantity of grapevines and tied them fast at a dark place in the road. When the Paddy-Rollers came thundering down the road bent on deviltry and unaware of the trap set for them, plunged head-on into these strong grapevines and three of their number were killed and a score was badly injured. Several horses had to be shot following injuries.

When the news of this happening spread it was many months before the Paddy-Rollers were again heard of.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Frank CooperUnknownWilliam R. MaysGood,  Burton, Cooper
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Franklin, INIndianaKentucky
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
ViolenceFirst person, whipped, Klan/mob violence

Cooper_F_2

Richard Miller

Richard Miller was the son of an Indian mother and an enslaved father.  In the following excerpts, he describes two examples of violence.  The first is an example of an enslaved person being burned alive.  The second describes a former enslaved person defending himself after the KKK murdered his wife.
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Excerpt:

He remembers a slave by the name of Brown, in Texas, who was chained hand and feet to a woodpile, oil thrown over him, and the wood, then fire set to the wood, and he was burned to death.

After the fire smoldered down, the white women and children took his ashes for souvenirs.

 . . . George Band was a very powerful slave, always ready to fight, never losing a fight, always able to defend himself until one night a band of Ku Kluxers came to his house, took his wife, hung her to a tree, hacked her to death with knives. Then went to the house, got George, took him to see what they had done to his wife. He asked them to let him go back to the house to get something to wrap his wife in, thinking he was sincere in his request, they allowed him to go. Instead of getting a wrapping for his wife, he got his Winchester rifle, shot and killed fourteen of the Kluxers. The county was never bothered with the Klan again. However, George left immediately for the North.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Richard Miller1843Sarah H. LockeUnknown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Marion County, INIndianaDanville, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
ViolenceThird person, witnessed extreme cruelty, Klan/mob violence

Miller_R_2

Sebert Douglas

Sebert Douglas lived in Kentucky before and during the Civil War.  In this excerpt, he gives several brief recollections: of Morgan’s raid, enslaved persons who joined the Union Army, examples of KKK violence, and what he did after emancipation.
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Excerpt:

I remember [Confederate General John Hunt] Morgan’s Raid. I don’t remember what year it was but I remember a right smart about it. Cumberland Gap was where they met. The Rebs and Yankees both came and took things from old master. I remember three horses they took as well. Yankees had tents in the yard. They were in the yard right in front of the Methodist church.

My mother was Mrs. Hood’s slave, and when she married she took my mother along and I was born on her place. I was the carriage boy in slave times. My father did the driving and I was the waiting boy. I opened the gates.

I remember Billy Chandler and Lewis Rodman ran off and joined the Yankees but they came back after the war was over.

Pattyrollers were about the same as the Ku Klux. The Ku Klux would take the roof off the colored folks’ houses and take their bedding and make ’em go back where they came from.

We stayed right there with old master for two or three years, then we went to the country and farmed for ourselves.

I went to school just long enough to read and write. I never seen any use for figures until I married and went to farming.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Sebert Douglas82 years oldBernice BowdenGover Hood
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Pine Bluff, AKArkansasLebanon, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, Emancipation, Violence,First person, dialect, Klan/mob violence, Union soldiers,

Douglas_S_1