Barney Stone

Barney Stone was 91 years old when interviewed.  He was enslaved for 16 years before he escaped and joined the Union Army during the Civil War.  After the Civil War, Barney Stone was a self-taught teacher at a Black school and then became a preacher.  Earlier in the interview, Barney Stone explains how he witnessed his enslaver sell his sister, mother and brother.  He also recounts how his enslaver brutally whipped him, and other examples of cruelty towards enslaved people.  In this excerpt, Barney Stone explains how he joined the Union Army and his experience during the Civil War.  

*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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Source Description:

… After those experiences of sixteen long years in Hell, as a slave, I was very bitter against the white man, until after I ran away and joined the Union army.

At the out-break of the Civil War and when the Northern [Union] army was marching into the Southland, hundreds of male slaves were shot down by the Rebels [Confederates], rather than see them join with the Yankees [Union soldiers]. One day when I learned that the Northern troops were very close to our plantation, I ran away and hid in a culvert [tunnel for water], but was found and I would have been shot – had the Yankee troops not scattered them – and that saved me. I joined the Union army and served one year, eight months and twenty-two days, and fought with them in the battle of Fort Wagnor, and also in the battle of Milikin’s Bend. When I went into the army, I could not read or write. The white soldiers took an interest in me and taught me to write and read, and when the war was over I could write a very good letter. I taught what little I knew to [redacted] children after the War…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Barney Stone1847 (91)Robert C. IrvinLemuel Stone
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Noblesville, INKYKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, Literacy, EducationFirst Person, Third Person, Whipped, Witness Extreme Cruelty, Sold, Slave Traders, Union Troops, Veteran or Widow, Notable, Spencer County

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Anna Toll Smith

Anna Smith was married and had a young daughter when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This excerpt is the beginning of the interview.  Here, the interviewer Geo. H. Conn offers his own personal assessment of Anna Smith.  This excerpt offers teachers a chance to explore with students the context in which the WPA interviews occurred and how the interviewer influences the interview and its resulting narrative. 

*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:

…In a little old rocking chair, sits an old [redacted] known to her friends as “Grandma” Smith, spending the remaining days with her grandchildren. Small of stature, tipping the scales at about 100 lbs. but alert to the wishes and cares of her children, this old lady keeps posted on current events from those around her. With no stoop or bent back and with a firm step she helps with the housework and preparing of meals, waiting, when permitted, on others. In odd moments, she like to work at her favorite task of “hooking” rag rugs. Never having worn glasses, her eyesight is the envy of the younger generation. She spends most of the time at home, preferring her rocker and pipe (she has been smoking for more than eighty year) to a back seat in an automobile.  

When referring to Civil War days, her eyes flash and words flow from her with a fluency equal to that of any youngster. Much of her speech is hard to understand as she reverts to the early idiom and pronunciation of her race. Her head, tongue, arms and hands all move at the same time as she talks.  A note of hesitancy about speaking of her past shows at times when she realizes she is talking to one not of her own race, but after eight years in the north, where she has been treated courteously by her white neighbors, that old feeling of inferiority under which she lived during slave days and later on a plantation in Kentucky has about disappeared.  


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Anna Toll Smith1835 (101 or 102)Geo. H. ConnJudge Toll
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Summit County, OHOHHenderson, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
InterviewerThird Person, Veteran or Widow, Slave Patrollers, Henderson County

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Anna Toll Smith

In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts the life of Anna Smith in the third person.  Anna Smith was married and had a young daughter when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In this excerpt, the interviewer describes Anna Smith’s memories of life as an enslaved person before and during the Civil War.  The excerpt ends with Anna Smith describing her emancipation.   

*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:

… Mrs. Smith remembers her father who died at the age of 117 years.  Her oldest brother was 50 when he joined the confederate army. Three other brothers were sent to the front [to fight in the Civil War]. One was an ambulance attendant, one belonged to the cavalry, one an orderly seargeant [sic] and the other joined the infantry. All were killed in action. Anna Smith’s husband later joined the war and was reported killed.  

When she became old enough for service she was taken into the “Big House” of her master, where she served as kitchen helper, cook, and later a nurse, taking care of her mistress’ second child.  She learned her A.B.C.’s by listening to the tutor teaching the children of Judge Toll…

Many instances during those terrible war days are fresh in her mind: men and boys, in pairs and groups passing the “big house” on their way to the recruiting station on the public square, later going back in squads and companies to fight; Yankee soldiers raiding the plantation, taking corn and hay or whatever could be used by the northern army; and continual apprehension [worry] for the menfolk at the front.  She remembers the baying of blood hounds [barking of dogs] at night along the Ohio River, trying to follow the scent of escaping [redacted] and the crack of firearms as white people, employed by the plantation owners attempted to halt the [redacted] in their efforts to cross the Ohio River into Ohio [where they would be free] or to join the Federal [Union] army…

When President Lincoln issued his proclamation freeing the slaves, and the news reached the plantation, she went to her master to learn if she was free. On learning it was true she returned to her parents who were living on another plantation…   


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Anna Toll Smith1835 (101 or 102)Geo. H. ConnJudge Toll
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Summit County, OHOHHenderson, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, Education, Emancipation, Lincoln, EconomicsThird Person, Veteran or Widow, Slave Patrollers, Henderson County

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Amanda Elizabeth Samuels

In this third person narrative, the interviewer describes how the “old master” and “young master” treated Amanda Elizabeth Samuels (called “Lizzie”).  While the interviewer concludes that Lizzie’s life was relatively better with the “old master,” the interviewer explains that the first enslaver was motivated by profit, not kindness. The teacher may need to point out to students that the enslaver did not treat enslaved people “just like his own children,” because he enslaved and sold them, while his own children were free. 
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Excerpt:

Her [Lizzie’s] mother, a slave hand, worked on the farm until her young master, Robert McMurry was married. She was then sold to Rev. Carter Plaster and taken to Logan County, Kentucky.

The child, Lizzie was given to young Robert. She lived in the house to help the young mistress who was not so kind to her. Lizzie was forced to eat chicken heads, fish heads, pigs’ tails, and parsnips. The child disliked this very much and was very unhappy with her young mistress because in Robert’s father’s home all slave children were treated just like his own children. They had plenty of good substantial food and were protected in every way.

The old master felt they were the hands of the next generation and if they were strong and healthy, they would bring in a larger amount of money when sold.

Lizzie’s hardships did not last long as they were set free soon after young Robert’s marriage. He took her in a wagon to Keysburg, Kentucky to be with her mother.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Amanda Elizabeth SamuelsUnknown (80-85)Anna Pritchett  Robert McMurry,Rev. Carter Plaster
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Marion County, ININTN
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Emancipation, EconomicsThird Person, Sold, Union Troops

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Alex Smith and Elizabeth Smith

In this third person narrative, the interviewer briefly notes Alex Smith’s recollections of the Civil War, before comparing how their respective enslavers treated Alex and Elizabeth Smith.  The excerpt ends with the interviewer briefly describing Elizabeth Smith’s life after emancipation.
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Excerpt:

…Although only a child of five, Mr. [Alex] Smith remembers the Civil War, especially the marching of thousands of soldiers, and the horse-drawn artillery wagons. The Stubblefields freed their slaves the first winter after the war.

On the Peter Stubblefield plantation, the slaves [including Elizabeth Smith] were treated very well and had plenty to eat, while on the Robert Stubblefield plantation Mr. [Alex] Smith went hungry many times, and said, “Often, I would see a dog with a bit of bread, and I would have been willing to take it from him if I had not been afraid the dog would bite me.”…

The day the mistress and master came and told the slaves they were free to go anyplace they desired, Mrs. Smith’s mother told her later that she was glad to be free but she had no place to go or any money to go with. Many of the slaves would not leave and she never witnessed such crying as went on. Later Mrs. Smith was paid for working. She worked in the fields for “vittles” [food] and clothes. A few years later she nursed children for twenty-five cents a week and “vittles,” but after a time she received fifty cents a week, board, and two dresses…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Alex Smith and Elizabeth SmithUnknown (83), Unknown (83)Henrietta Karwowski Robert Stubblefield, Peter Stubblefield
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
South Bend, ININKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Emancipation, Hunger, Civil War, EconomicsThird Person, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Union Troops

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Adah Isabelle Suggs

In this third person narrative, the interviewer describes two escape attempts by Harriet and her young daughter Adah.  The excerpt begins with the interviewer explaining Harriet’s motivations for escaping, describes a failed escape attempt, and then recounts Harriet and Adah successfully escaping to Ohio. Teachers might note the interviewer’s word choice of “mildly punished” to describe Harriet’s imprisonment in an upstairs room.  

*The term “negroes” was replaced, but not removed, from the excerpt below. The replacement word is denoted in italics. This historically-used term was replaced due to its offensive, marginalizing, and/or disparaging nature. See more information.
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Excerpt:

A custom prevailed throughout the southern states that the firstborn of each slave maiden [woman] should be the son or daughter of her master and the girls were forced into maternity at puberty. The mothers naturally resisted this terrible practice and Harriott was determined to prevent her child [Adah] from being victimized.

One planned escape was thwarted; when the girl [Adah] was about twelve years of age the mother [Harriet] tried to take her to a place of safety but they were overtaken on the road to the ferry where they hoped to be put across the Ohio River. They were carried back to the plantation and the mother [Harriet] was mildly punished and imprisoned in an upstairs room.

The little girl knew her mother was imprisoned and often climbed up to a window where the two could talk together.

[On their second escape attempt, Adah] … brought a large knife from Mrs. McClain’s pantry and by the aid of that tool the lock was pried from the prison door and the mother made her way into the open world about midnight…

Under the cover of night, the two fugitives [Adah and Harriet] traveled the three miles to Henderson, there they secreted themselves under the house of Mrs. Margaret Bentley until darkness fell over the world to cover their retreat. Imagine the frightened Harriet and Adah stealthily creeping through the woods in constant fear of being recaptured. Federal soldiers put them across the river [into Ohio, a free state] … The husband of Harriott, Milton McClain, and her son Jerome were volunteers in a negro regiment [in the Union Army]…the enlistment of slaves made enlisted enslaved people free as well as their wives and children, so, by that statute [law], Harriott McClain and her daughter should have been given their freedom.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Adah Isabelle Suggs1862 (Unknown)Lauana CreelJackson McClain, Louisa McClain
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Evansville, ININHenderson, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Resistance, Escape, Failed escape, FamilyThird person, Union Troops, Slave Patrollers, Henderson County

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