DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT, ss. BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the twenty-eighth day of January, in the forty-ninth year of the Independence of the United States of America, WILLIAM GRIMES of the said District, hath deposited in this Office the title of a Book, the right whereof he claims as Author, in the words following, to wit: “The Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave. Written by Himself.” In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, “An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned.” CHARLES A INGERSOLL, Clerk of the District of Connecticut. A true copy of Record, examined and sealed by me. CHARLES A. INGERSOLL, Clerk of the District of Connecticut.
TO THE PUBLIC.
THOSE who are acquainted with the subscriber, he presumes will readily purchase his history. Those who are not, but wish to know who Grimes is, and what is his history, he would inform them, generally, that he is now living in Litchfield, Connecticut, that he is about 40 years of age, that he is married to a black woman, and passes for a negro, though three parts white; that he was born in a place in Virginia, has lived in several different States, and been owned by ten different masters; that about ten years since, he ran away, and came to Connecticut, where, after six years, he was recognized by some of his former master’s friends, taken up, and compelled to purchase his freedom with the sacrifice of all he had earned. That his history is an account of his fortune, or rather of his suffering, in all these various situations, in which he has seen, heard, and felt, not a little.
To those who still think the Book promises no entertainment, he begs leave to suggest another motive why they should purchase it. To him who has feeling, the condition of a slave, under any possible circumstances, is painful and unfortunate, and will excite the sympathy of all who have any. Such was my condition for more than thirty years, and in circumstances not only painful, but often intolerable. But after having tasted the sweets of liberty, (embittered, indeed, with constant apprehension,) and after having, by eight years labor and exertion, accumulated about a thousand dollars, then to be stripped of all these hard earnings and turned pennyless upon the world with a family, and to purchase freedom, this gives me a claim upon charity, which, I presume, few possess, and I think, none will deny. Let any one suppose himself a husband and father, possessed of a house, home, and livelihood: a stranger enters that house; before his children, and in fair day light, puts the chain on his leg, where it remains till the last cent of his property buys from avarice and cruelty, the remnant of a life, whose best years had been spent in misery! Let any one imagine this, and think what I have felt.
Litchfield, October 1, 1824.
LIFE OF WILLIAM GRIMES.
I was born in the year 1784, in J—, County of King George, Virginia; in a land boasting its freedom, and under a government whose motto is Liberty and Equality. I was yet born a slave. My father,—, was one of the most. He had four sons; two by his wife, one, myself, by a slave of Doct. Steward, and another by his own servant maid. In all the Slave States, the ; so that, although in fact, the son of—, I was in law, a bastard and slave, and owned by Doct. Steward. My father was a wild sort of man, and very much feared by all his neighbors. I recollect he shot a man by the name of Billy Hough, through the arm, who came to my master’s and staid. He was, however, finally taken up and committed to Fredericksburg jail, for shooting Mr. Gallava, a gentleman of that country. He refused however to be taken, until a military force was called out. Then he gave up, went to jail, was tried and acquitted, on the ground of insanity. Doct. Steward’s house was about a mile from my father’s, where I went frequently, to carry newspapers, &c. He always used to laugh and talk with me, and send me to the kitchen to get something to eat. I also at those times, saw and played with his other children. My brother, the mulatto, was sent to school, and I believe had his freedom when he grew up. My father, I have no doubt, would have bought and freed me, if I had not while he was in jail. I supposed my father would have been hung; and whether wealth and powerful friends procured his escape, I know not. It is, however, a sufficient commentary upon that event, and upon my fortune, that I then thought and now speak on the subject with indifference. He died at his own house, in J—, about the year 1804. That he suffered his blood to run in the veins of a slave, is the only reflection I would cast upon his memory, which is just none at all, in the slave States. He was a very brave man, I reckon; and when it was attempted to take him, armed his slaves, and would never have been taken alive, if some of his friends had not pursuaded him to yield quietly. Mr. Gallava was passing my father’s when my father met him, and asked him to stop; he said, no, he could not. My father then drew his pistol, and shot him dead. Mr. Gallava’s servant came directly to Doct. Steward’s and gave the alarm. My father inherited the house and plantation where he lived, from his father, who was a man of considerable notoriety, and I believe, both respected and beloved. His character I cannot give. His name however, has been embalmed by the muses, and lives in song; he being the very person on whom that famous song called “Old Grimes,” was written. The lines are as follows.
TUNE.—”John Gilpin was a citizen.”
Old Grimes is dead.—That good old man
We never shall see more;
He us’d to wear a long black coat,
All button’d down before.
His heart was open as the day;
His feelings all were true;
His hair was some inclin’d to gray—
He wore it in a queue.
When’eer was heard the voice of pain
His breast with pity burn’d—
The large, round head, upon his cane
From ivory was turn’d.
Thus, ever prompt at pity’s call,
He knew no base design—
His eyes were dark, and rather small;
His nose was aquiline.
He liv’d at peace with all mankind,
In friendship he was true;
His coat had pocket-holes behind—
His pantaloons were blue.
Unharm’d—the sin which earth pollutes,
He pass’d securely o’er:
And never wore a pair of boots,
For thirty years, or more.
But poor old Grimes is now at rest,
Nor fears misfortune’s frown;
He had a double-breasted vest—
The stripes ran up and down.
He modest merit sought to find,
And pay it its desert:
He had no malice in his mind—
No ruffles on his shirt.
His neighbors he did not abuse,
Was sociable and gay;
He wore large buckles in his shoes,
And chang’d them every day.
His knowledge hid from public gaze,
He did not bring in view—
Nor make a noise town-meeting days,
As many people do.
His worldly goods he never threw
In trust to fortune’s chances;
But liv’d (as all his brothers do)
In easy circumstances.
Thus, undisturb’d by anxious care,
His peaceful moments ran;
And ev’ry body said he was
A fine old gentleman.
Good people all, give cheerful thought
To Grimes’s memory:
As doth his cousin, ESEK SHORT,
Who made this poetry.
Such, according to Esek Short, was the character of my grandfather; and if it is impartially given, I think the family has degenerated. One would think, though, Mr. Short admired old Grimes’s virtues, more than he lamented his death.
Doct. Steward kept me until I was ten years old. I used to ride behind his carriage, to open gates, and hold his horse. He was very fond of me, and always treated me kindly. This made my old mistress, his wife, hate me; and when she caught me in the house, she would beat me until I could hardly stand. Young as I was then, I can yet remember her cruelty with emotions of indignation that almost drive me to curses. She is dead, thank God, and if I ever meet her again, I hope I shall know her.
When I was ten years of age, Col. William Thornton came down from the mountains, in Culpepper County, to buy negroes, and he came to my master’s house, who was his brother-in-law, and seeing me, thought me a smart boy. He asked my master what he would take for me; he replied, he thought I was worth £60. Col. Thornton immediately offered £65, and the bargain was made. The next morning I started with him for Culpepper. It grieved me to see my mother’s tears at our separation. I was a heart-broken child, although too young to realize the afflictions of a tender mother, who was also a slave, the hopes of freedom for her already lost; but I was compelled to go and leave her. After two days travel on horseback, we arrived at my new master’s plantation, which was called Montpelier. After residing there a few weeks, my mistress, finding me an honest servant boy, I was then intrusted with all the keys, which made some of the other servants jealous, who had, when in the situation which I held, pilfered from the stores entrusted to their care, for the purpose of giving to their acquaintances and relations; one in particular, my mistress’s head servant and seamstress, who had as many children as my mistress, and who were then working on the plantation. They fared much harder there than they would in my situation. She tried every art she could invent to set my master and mistress against me. As I had to make the coffee every morning in the nursery, where this servant, whose name was Patty, sat sewing, she would, when I was out, often take medicine from the cupboard, and put it in the coffee; and her object in doing this, was to compel me to go on the plantation, and have one of her children in my place. But as I was a poor friendless boy, without any connexions or inducement to that, if I had been disposed, my mistress was determined to keep me in my present situation. But the favorable opinion my mistress had of my integrity, (which was correct) has cost me many a severe flagellation, in the manner which I will now relate. I had always made the coffee to the satisfaction of my mistress, until one morning, my young master, George Thornton, after taking two or three sips at it, observed, this coffee has a particular taste; and Doct. Hawes, whom I shall hereafter mention, being then at the table, observed the same, adding that it tasted as if some medicine had been put in it. Upon this remark of the Doctor, my mistress rose up from the table and went to the cupboard, where the medicine was kept; and after examining, said, “here is where he has just taken it from, this morning.” My master then rose up in anger, and took me behind the ice-house, and whipped me severely, in the following manner: First, he caused me to be what they call horsed up, by being raised upon the shoulders of another slave, and the slave to confine my hands around his breast; in this situation they gave me about forty of fifty lashes; they whipped me until I hardly had any feeling in me. The crime was sufficiently deserving the punishment, but for a young boy, who had tried and exerted himself to the utmost, to give good satisfaction to his master, mistress and all the family, never intending to injure any other servant, but rather participate in their wrongs, and render assistance if it could lawfully be done; and all for the malicious temper and disposition of this same Patty, it was too much for me to bear. It indeed sometimes happened, that every morning I was taken and whipped severely, for this very act of that malicious (I must call her brute,) when I was entirely innocent. There without friends, torn from the arms of my mother, who has since died in slavery, not being allowed to see me, her only son, during her illness: (I knew of course she would suffer for what she wanted while confined and unable to help herself, and no one willing to help her that could be allowed to see her,) this, together with my suffering, is sufficient to convince my readers, that any boy of my age would endeavor to find, and also improve an opportunity to clear themselves from the house of bondage.
Doct. Hawes, aforementioned, was present at the time I was whipped on account of the coffee, and advised my master not to whip me any more, as he said he thought I could not bear it much longer. He was my master’s son in-law, and a member of Congress, and married my master’s eldest daughter. He did not whip me any more at that time, after the advice of the Doctor. Oftentimes, my mistress would have me make the coffee in the dining room, before her. At such times, Patty had no opportunity for putting in the drugs, and the coffee was then good. I was satisfied in my own mind, that (as she was the overseer of the house, and her husband of the plantation, there being about ten or fifteen servants about the house, and no one of them allowed to interfere with this business in which I was employed) that it must be through her machinations which she employed to injure me, and get me severely flogged.
One time they had what they call a spell, on the plantation, at which all the servants were compelled to turn out, and assist in hoeing corn. I then requested my master to let me go and assist them. He finally consented, and I went. After working there two days, they requested me to come back in the house again, but I refused; and in order that I should be punished for refusing to return, my master and mistress consented to my staying, thinking that my labour and fare would be so much harder that I would willingly return; but the fear of making the coffee, and of the whipping I should receive, induced me still to refuse to return; although at the same time I longed to return, on account of my food, (as did the children of Israel to the flesh pots of Egypt.) Patty and her husband were then better satisfied, for they had me just where they wanted me; that is, out of the house into the field, where I suffered every thing but death itself. When I was in waiting at the house, Maj. Jones, brother-in-law to my master, saw me waiting about the house, and thinking me a smart active boy to wait about the house, asked my master if he would sell me. He refused, saying he wanted me to wait on his son, William Thornton, Jr. who was studying with lawyer Thompson, near Culpepper Court House, as soon as he should go into business for himself. So I was not sold this time.
I remained on the plantation about two years, under a black overseer, by the name of Voluntine, who punished me repeatedly, to make me perform more labour than the rest of the boys. My master then procured another overseer, a white man, by the name of Coleman Thead; he treated us somewhat better than old Voluntine, but he was very severe, flogged me severely several times, for almost nothing. The overseers have an unlimited controul over the slaves on the plantation, and exercise their authority in the most tyranical manner. I was one day at work on the plantation, with nothing on but my shirt, when the overseer (Thead) came to me, threatening to whip me, and caught hold of me for that purpose. I clinched him and told him that if he struck me, I would inform my master about his riding a favorite horse without my masters consent; that my master had already enquired of me why the horse grew so poor, but I would not then tell him; the fear of detection induced him to let me go, telling me to be a good boy, and he would not flog me. I worked under this overseer about nine months, when he left us and went to Georgia. I then worked under old Voluntine again for about six months, when my master engaged a new overseer by the name of Burrows: he was more severe than either of the former. After working with him some time, he set us to making fence, and would compel us to run with the rails on our backs, whipping us all the time most unmercifully. This hard treatment continuing for some time. I at length resolved to run away. I accordingly repaired to the cabin of a slave called Planter George, and informed him that I intended to run away the next morning. I asked him for an old jacket and some meal, both of which he promised to give me. I then baked what meal I had, for my supper, and went to sleep. Old George immediately repaired to the house of the overseer and informed him of my intention to run away in the morning. The overseer came directly to the cabin and sent in George to question me, while he should listen without. George asked me if I intended to run away, provided he would give me the jacket and some meal; being partly asleep I answered that I did not know. He repeated the question several times and still received the same answer. The overseer then hallowed out, hey, you son of a bitch, you are going to run away are you, I’ll give it to you: bring him out here. So they brought me out and horsed me upon the back of Planter George, and whipped me until I could hardly stand, and then told me if I did not run away, he would whip me three times a day, and make me carry three rails to one, all day.
In this manner do the overseers impose on their Planters, and compel their slaves to run away, by cruel treatment. The next morning came, and I knew not what to do. If I went to the field, I was sure to be whipped, and to run away I did not like to. However, like most, I presume, in my situation, I chose the latter alternative, so away I ran for the mountain. I passed close by the field where my young master, Philip Thornton was shooting. His gun burst, and blew off part of his thumb. I crept along under the fence, and got to the mountains, where I staid until night: then I began to be hungry, and thought I would go to some of the neighbors to get something to eat. I went to Mr. Pallam’s, and asked for some tobacco seed for my master, for an excuse, and stayed there all night. I got some corn bread for my supper, and picked up a little about the kitchen for the next day. The next morning I went to the mountain, and staid till night again, when I went down to Mr. Pallam’s to get something to eat, pretending that I had come on an errand from my master.
Mr. Pallam immediately seized me, and called to Daniel to bring the hame strings. He had been down to my master’s that day, and they told him I had gone off, and if I came there again, to take me, which he did, and would have carried me home that night, but his wife persuaded him to wait till morning I was then put under the care of old Daniel. Mr. Pallam told me if I run away from him, he would catch me with his dogs, for they would track me any where Daniel took me to his hovel, and for greater security took away my shoes. I lay peaceable till near morning, when the fear of my master came over me again, and I wished to get away. I begged old Daniel to let me go out, under pretence of necessity, but he refused. He finally gave me one of his shoes, and I went to the door to look out. It was just the dawn of day. I had been waiting the cock crowing all night, and it was now time to go if I went at all. The ground was covered with a light snow. I gave a jump, and Daniel after me, but my step was as light as the snow flake, and the last glimpse I had of Daniel showed him prostrate over a log. I escaped to a corn field in sight of my master’s house, and secreted myself in an old log which I had picked out before. While in the log I fell asleep, and dreamed they had caught and was tying me to be whipped; and such was my agony, that I awoke, from a dream, indeed, but to reality not less painful. I stayed in that place about three days, when I became so pinched with hunger, that I thought I might as well be whipped to death as to starve; so I concluded to give myself up, if I could get to my master before the overseer should get me. In that I succeeded. They gave me something to eat, and Doct. Hawes, my master’s son-in-law, who was at the house, advised them not to whip me. My master asked me what made me go off: I told him the cruelty of the overseer. He then told the overseer not to whip me again without his knowledge I was so hungry that they were afraid to give me as much as I wanted, lest I should kill myself. Not long after, however, the overseer came into the field where we were at work, and after trying to find some fault, whipped us all round. This was the first time he had done it since my master told him not; but I dare not tell my master, for if I did, the overseer would whip me for that. If it were not for our hopes, our hearts would break; we poor slaves always cherish hopes of better times. We are human beings, sensible of injuries, and capable of gratitude towards our masters. This overseer whipped me a great many times before I escaped from his hands. Shortly after this I recollect my master came home late at night, and getting off his horse, got entangled, and would have fallen if I had not been near, and caught him; and being a very large man, the fall might have injured him very much, nay, killed him. Afterwards, when he was angry with me, I could sometimes appease him somewhat, by hinting this to him. There is a holy-day which our master gave us, called Easter Sunday, or Monday. On one of those days I asked my young master, Stuart Thorton, to let me go and see Miss Jourdine, a mulatto girl who was brought up with me and sold by Doct. Steward, to Mr. Glassel. It was eight years before that. When I saw her last, she was then a beautiful girl. I cannot describe the emotions of pleasure with which her presence filled my bosom, nor forget the hour when fate parted us forever. I presume the heart, and the feelings of an illiterate peasant, or an ignorant slave, are as susceptible and as ardent as those of men more enlightened, at least when warmed and excited by the influence of female attractions. The last look of a woman whom you know loves you, which is given through tears and with a consciousness that you are leaving her forever, troubles my heart beyond any thing I have since experienced. My young master did not like me to go, but I did. On the way my bosom burned and my heart almost leaped from me, as I thought on this girl. I felt as though I could, unarmed, have flogged half a dozen lions, if they had crossed my path. I did not find her at Mr. Glassel’s, she having been sold to Mr. Jourdine, who had bought her and kept her for his wife; but I did not return without seeing her. One of the Miss Glassel’s sent a book to my young mistress, to whom I presented it on my return. She asked me where I had been: I told her I had been to see Miss Jourdine. And because I called the girl Miss instead of Betty, my young mistress was extremely angry with me, an said she would have me whipped in the morning. In the morning, Burrows, the overseer came after me to Aaron’s cabin, where I stayed. As I came towards the house, my master came out. The little rascal, says he, had the impertinence to call that wench Miss Jourdine, to his mistress; take him and give it to him. So they took me, and tied me on a bench, and as soon as they began to whip, I would slip out from the rope, until my master told the overseer to horse me upon another’s back, and after he had whipped me a while, to stop and let me rest; for he said he wanted to whip me about a month. They began to whip again in a few minutes, though not so hard, and kept it up three or four hours; I begging all the while to be forgiven, and promising to offend no more. I was so weak after this, I could hardly stand, but they would not have got me to whip if it had not snowed, and prevented me from running away to the mountain. My master gave me many very severe floggings; but I had rather be whipped by him than the overseer, and especially, the black overseers. Oh, how much have I suffered from these black drivers!
Sometime during this year, my master’s son, George, wanted me to wait on him. He came to the field where I was at work, to see me. I had been fighting with Moses, and had cut off my hair as close as possible, for the purpose of having the advantage. Seeing this he refused to take me, I looked so bad. So I was obliged to remain in the field and live on my peck of meal a week. Colonel Thornton was a severe master, and he made his slaves work harder than any one about there, and kept them poorer. Sometimes we had a little meat, or fish, but not often any thing more than our peck of meal. We used to steal meat whenever we could get a chance; and such was my craving for it, that if the punishment had been death, I could not have resisted the temptation. How much I suffered, I will not pretend to say; but I recollect one Saturday I had been to work hard all day: in the evening, I found, back of the garden, some hog’s entrails which had been thrown out a few days before. I was so hungry for meat, that I took these guts, washed them, and put them into a skillet and boiled them. I then wet some corn meal in cold water, put it in the ashes, and made a fire over it. After it had baked, I mixed it with the guts and eat it; but before morning, I was so much swollen that I like to have died. When any of the hogs died, we always eat them. But we did not wait for pigs and geese to die of old age, when we could get a chance to steal them. Steal? Yes, steal them. Why, I have been so hungry for meat that I could have eat my mother.
One instance of cruelty from my mistress I can never forget. It was my turn to beat homony that night. So I began at dark and beat most all night. Having been at work hard all day, before morning I was so hungry that I took and fanned the chaff and husks from the corn I was beating, wet it up with water, and baked it, and this without one grain of salt or fat. I had worked as hard as I could, and beat the homony as I thought sufficiently. About an hour before day, I lay down and went to sleep. In the morning, my mistress sent to the overseer to give me a severe whipping for she said the homony was not beat quite enough, though very good. Notwithstanding, I had worked all night as hard as I could spring, I was taken and flogged. (Homony is a kind of food used at breakfast and dinner. It is made of corn pounded till the skin is all off, then boiled, mashed and fried.) It seems as though I should not forget this flogging when I die: it grieved my soul beyond the power of time to cure. I should not have been alive now if I had remained a slave, for I would have resisted with my life, when I became older, treatment, which I have witnessed towards others, from the overseers, and such as I should probably have net with, nay, such as I have received when a boy from overseers.
While I was with Col. Wm. Thornton, a great many of his slaves were taken sick and died. Doct. Hawes, married one of Col. Thornton’s daughters, Fanny Thornton. My master gave him a tract of land in Culpepper, on which he built himself a house, about a mile from my master’s, and came up there to live, from Caroline, Spotsylvania county. We always supposed that some of his slaves poisoned my Master’s; and I heard one of the servants sav, that he saw an old woman of Doct. Hawes’, put something like red earth into the bread. Several of the servants in the spinning room died, and after that there was a groaning heard in that room; and I have myself heard the spirits groan in that room. If ever there was a room haunted it was that. I will believe it as long as I have my breath to draw. I slept in the passage, close by the door of my master and mistress. Sometimes when I was as wide awake as I am now, the spirits would unlock the doors, and come up stairs, and trample on me, press me to the floor, and squeeze me almost to death: I should have screamed, but the fear of my master, who would not believe, but would have whipped me, prevented.
There was, not long after this, a great hurricane and earthquake; and I saw the sky part, and it looked as red as crimson. The earth shook, and every thing that was on it; and I heard them talk of many thousands who were drowned.
There was, I recollect, at my master’s, two gentlemen from Connecticut, Parson Beebe, and Doct. Goodsell.—They staid there some time, and it was supposed Doctor Goodsell was courting my young mistress. One of my young masters came on to court with them. I heard them talk about New-Haven, but I little thought I should ever see it.
While I was at work under Burrows, the overseer, my master’s son, George, returned from Philadelphia, where he had been studying physic. He went to Northumberland county to practice, and took me from the plantation to wait on him.
In going to Northumberland, we passed through Leeds-town, where I saw my mother and brothers. It was, I suppose, ten years since I had seen my mother. She was living with her old mistress, Doct. Steward’s former wife, but now married to George Fitchue, Doct. Steward being dead. There is nothing in slavery, perhaps, more painful, than the unavoidable separation of parents and children. It is not uncommon to hear mothers say, that they have half a dozen children, but the Lord only knows where they are. Oh! my poor mother! but she is gone, and I presume her skin is now as white as that of her mistress.
Master George hired a house in Northumberland, and I took care of the house when he was gone. I always had been praying to God, ever since I knew what God was: and I thought, like Peter, I had faith. One day when I was alone in the house, I shut all the doors in the house, and went up into the third story to pray; and just as I entered the room, I saw, to my astonishment, a number of skeletons hanging up about it. It was a terrible sight to me, and I was so frightened that I could not stop. The holes in the skull, where the eyes are, seemed to look right at me. I turned round as slowly and softly as possible, without taking my eyes from them until I shut the door. I have often thought it strange, that a skeleton or a corpse should terrify us, though they might shock our feelings But my poor heart never walloped so before; and I had never thought that our garret was a sepulchre.
My master sent me to Fredericksburg, to get another doctor to come and help him cut off a woman’s thigh. I had helped him once, but I almost fainted. When I had got in town and done my errand, I put out my horse at the tavern, and went into the kitchen, where, who should I find but my old master’s cook, Philip. He told me that my brother Benjamin was in town. I went to see him, and told him who I was. He gave me seventy-five cents.—With this I went and bought some cake and rum, and drank, not thinking, until I got drunk and fell down in the street. Some of my friends took me up, and carried me in, and I slept till most night, when I started for home, and rode with all haste, lest my master should flog me for staying. I pretended to him that I rode slow. However, as I did not let him see the horse he never found out my scrape, and it is well he did not, for if he had, I might not have been here to record it. He was cross to me and I feared him like death. I reccollect once his whipping me, after our return from Northumberland, so severely on the naked back, that I carry the stripes to this day, and all because his mother told him that I had been telling his younger brother something that was done when he lived at Northumberland. He gave me once a tumbler of spirits, and made me drink it, which almost killed me. This he did to conceal from my knowledge, a scrape which he was going to have, as I supposed If the cook had not blown tobacco smoke through me, I believe I should have been a corpse before morning.
After staying at Northumberland six or eight months, master George left there, and I went back to his father’s plantation, I went sorrowing too. Master George was going to Philadelphia again, so there was no other place for me but his father’s plantation, where I must work all day, and some times most all night, with my peck of meal a week, and the hell-hound Burrows, to flog me, for he gloried in doing it. One instance in which my master disappointed his savage heart, I remember. He told Burrows to take me down to the stable, tie my legs, put a rail between them, then stretch me up and whip me. While going down to the stable, which was about thirty or forty rods distant, I thought if the order was put in execution, I could not endure it, but must die in the operation. My master and. Burrows went forward, and I followed behind. I looked up to heaven, and prayed fervently to God to hear my prayer, and grant me relief in this hour of adversity; expecting every moment to be whipped until I could not stand: and blessed be God that he turned their hearts before they arrived at the place of destination: for on arriving there I was acquitted. God delivered me from the power of the adversary. Blessed be his name, he heard my prayer in the hour of adversity, and delivered me from the enemy. I will here inform my readers, that in the time of going down to the stable, I did not make a feeble attempt to induce my master not to flog me; but put my trust, and offered my prayers to my heavenly father, who heard and answered them.
On my arriving at the stable, I was surprised to hear my master express himself in terms that I could not reasonably from former treatment expect. He said to me, “go, behave yourself well and you shall not be whipped.” In the mean time, Burrows, the overseer, who had stood by wanting and waiting for the privilege of whipping me, stood in suspence and astonishment, at the lenity of my master in not having me flogged after he, Burrows, had every thing prepared for the purpose; such as a bundle of hickories, ropes to bind me, and a good stout hand to lay it on; ah! and a good resolution.
At one time my master having caused an oven to be built in the yard, for the purpose of baking bread for the negroes, I went there and finding it not quite dry, made impressions with my fingers, such as letters &c. on it, while the mortar was green on the outside. Gabriel, one of the servants, a son of old Volentine, was ordered to strip my shirt up and whip me; (the word severely, has been so many times used it needs no repetition) my master stood by to see the thing well executed: and as he thought he did not be severe enough, he ordered me to strip him and perform the same ceremony, which I did. He then ordered Gabriel to try to whip me harder than he did before. Then Gabriel knew what the old man meant, to wit, to whip me as severe as lay in his power, which he affected on the second trial, exerting all his strength and agility to the utmost to make me suffer, only to please his master. This being so often the case, the negro drivers and indeed the slaves, show much less humanity in punishment, than the masters themselves.
Again, while living with my present, or old master, Col. William Thornton, I had the care of some cows, two of which had calves; and I tried to invent some method to get some milk from these cows, to eat with my corn bread; but dared not let any person know that I did it, fearing that if I did I should receive a severe whipping. But a stratagem occurred to me. We had gourds growing on the side of the fence. I had often used and seen used, the shell of the gourd for a ladle, or scoup dish, and I took a gourd that was green, and excoriated a part, took out the seeds, &c., and without any further cleansing, I filled it with milk from the cow, and then hid it in the chaff pen.—I then went home and baked some bread, and got another gourd and carried there the milk. Being in an open place and it requiring straining, I had nothing at all to strain it through; but being under necessity, I took a part of my shirt tail, which being made of coarse tow cloth, and not having been washed for five or six weeks, I being a poor motherless boy, and no one to wash it but myself, and I all the time kept busy in the field, under the overseer, my shirt was what would be generally termed, full of lice at the time; but as I had no other cloth for straining, I made use of that. But when I went to get the milk, the gourd being green, the milk had contracted a bitterness of which no one can judge, unless they have had a trial. I was however driven to the necessity of eating it, or eating my bread dry. I was quite fearful of being taken by old James, a black servant, who was very much respected by my master and mistress, although very deceitful, but escaped his vigilance. He died before I began to wait on any of my young master’s; and peace be to his soul.
Master George returned from Philadelphia in about a year. He courted his cousin, who lived about six miles from his father’s, and married her. His father gave him a plantation a mile from his own, where I was now placed. My master lived at my wife’s father’s intending to move in the spring; this being the fall season. The name of his overseer was Bennet. This Bennet, and his mother, had lived on land rented to them by my former master, Colonel Thornton. They were then very poor, and secretly bot’ things from the negroes, which they had stolen from my master. This Bennet, having now become overseer, was severe. My master had a servant by his wife’s estate called James. I saw Bennet strip off James’ shirt, and whip his naked back part as if he had been cutting down a tree. I thought what was to be my fate.
One day I was sick and did not go to ploughing. Bennet came after me, and told me he would whip me if I did not. I took up a stick, and told him if he put his hand upon me I would strike him: and marched towards him as bold as a lion. But he knew that I had lived so poor that I had not much strength; and seeing that he did not fear but was in a great rage, I took to my heels. But he caught me, and dragged me up to the, and called two of them to come and assist him. While they were tying me, I made one pitch at Bennet with my head. I missed him, but he hit me with a club, and knocked me speechless. The blood ran from my mouth and nose very fast. I was then so weak that I could hardly stand; so I gave up, and told the overseer to whip me as much as he pleased, but if he did not whip me to death he should drink sorrow for it. When I was tied, James brought the sticks, I spoke out brave, and said to the overseer, why don’t you get some better ones; whip me till your soul is satisfied, but I’ll remember every stick. He began to whip, and I counted out loud every stroke. After he had struck me eleven times, he said, if you will say that you are drunk, and hold your peace. I will stop. I said, you might as well whip me to death; for if you don’t master will, when he hears of this. But he promised me that if I would hold my tongue, and say nothing about this, he would see that I should not be whipped. He knew that it was for his interest to keep me from exposing their buying things which they knew the slaves had stolen. My master however, heard something about this scrape, and was going to whip me, but Mr. Bennet interfered, and told him that I was drunk, as I said, and that he had whipped me enough.
I ought perhaps, to blame slavery more than my master’s. The disposition to tyrranize over those under us, is universal; and there is no one who will not occasionally do it. I had too much sense and feeling to be a slave: too much of the blood of my father, whose spirit feared nothing. I was therefore perhaps, difficult to govern in the way in which it was attempted. I was at this time the property of George Thornton, to whom I was given by his father—Doct. P. T. an older brother, at this time came up from his father’s plantation to buy me, which he did.
I was then in the ice house, he called me up, and the moment I saw him my heart leaped for joy. He asked me if I was wiling to go and wait on him, as it would be much easier for me than it would to work on the plantation? I answered, yes sir, if you please. He then said he had bought me, and was going to Port Royal, to practice physic, and wanted me to go with him on another horse, carry his portmanteau and wait on him. He then sent me to the tailors to get some clothes, and fitted me out very handsomely. We travelled on to Port Royal, where he went into practice. I had two horses to take care of. After remaining there a couple of months, he formed an acquaintance with a young lady, who he afterwards married. After he had been married one month and four days, his wife died. Soon after that we returned to his father’s plantation in Montpelier. After remaining there a few days we went on to Frederickstown in Maryland, where we staid a short time, and returned again to his father’s. After a short stay there, we went to, and resided at the house of , formerly President of the United States, for a few weeks. While we were there he met with his brother-in law from Port Royal, and we returned to that place, when he stayed long enough to settle up his business, and then went to Richmond, Virginia, to practice physic, where he had a very good run of business. After some time, having an opportunity to earn something, I had laid up a few dollars, and being very fond of having my fortune told, being anxious to know whether I should be a free man or not, I went to an old woman who told fortunes in order to have her tell mine, a number of times. She told me that I should be sold to a gentleman, and be taken to the south. I asked her what kind of a man he was: she told me his head was white, which I afterwards found to be true, for he used powder. What she told me proved to be true: she told me he was a crabbed sort of a man and that I should be severely dealt with. She said to me, don’t you go, your master will not compel you to go, but you will finally consent to it, and will go. I told her I would not go. She again told me that I would. I have since thought it strange how this old creature could tell me exactly as it was; but it was so. The man who bought me was at this time in New-York, some hundreds of miles off. Some months after this, one morning as I was busily engaged about the yard, cleaning my masters boots, and doing other work as usual, a gentleman came into the yard at the bell tavern where my master boarded, and enquired of one of the servants for Doct. Thornton. He told him he did not know where he was, but pointing to me said, there is his servant sir. He then said to me, are you his servant boy? I answered him that I was. He then told me to go up and tell my master (who was then in bed) that he wanted to see him. I went and told my master there was a gentleman below who wished to see him. He told me to invite him up into his room. I did so and showed him the way up, where I left them together. A short time after this he came down and asked me if I should be willing to go to Savannah with him, provided he should buy me. I told him I did not know where it was. He then told me to go up and see my master. I did so, and he asked me if I wanted to go with that gentleman. I told him I was very well contented to live with him. (He had always treated me perfectly well, we never had any difficulty) I found that this gentleman had enquired on the road for a good servant, and being informed that my master had one that he would sell, he came to buy me. My master told me that this gentleman was rich and would be likely to give me my time after a few years, but I did not agree to go still. The gentleman again returned from the eagle tavern to our boarding house, the bell tavern. He then slipped two dollars into my hand and said here boy take this and say you will go; and after a great deal of coaxing and flattering, I finally consented to go, for which I have many a time and often heartily repented. He then went to my master and I followed him. He told him that I had consented to go. My master said he would not force me to go, but if I was willing he would consent to it. Mr. A—, (for that was my new masters name, who was a Jew) then paid him five hundred dollars. Doct. Thornton, then ordered his horse up: he would not stay to see me start, but bade me good bye, and rode off with tears in his eyes. I then started with my new master for Savannah, with a carriage and four horses: we travelled about twelve miles the first day. I was dissatisfied with him before I had got two miles. We travelled the next day twenty five miles, as far as Petersburgh. I was so much dissatisfied with him, that I offered a black man at that place, two silver dollars to take an axe and break my leg, in order that I could not go on to Savannah; but he refused, saying he could tell me a better way. I asked him how? He said runaway. I told him I would not run away unless I was sure of gaining my freedom by doing it. We then travelled on the next day about thirty miles, and put up for the night. I then attempted to break my leg myself. Accordingly I took up an axe, and laying my leg on a log, I struck at it several times with an axe endeavouring to break it, at the same time I put up my fervent prayers to God to be my guide, saying, “if it be thy will that I break my leg in order that I may not go on to Georgia, grant that my blows may take effect; but thy will not mine be done.” Finding I could not hit my leg after a number of fruitless attempts, I was convinced by my feelings then, that God had not left me in my sixth trouble, and would be with me in the seventh. Accordingly Itried no more to destroy myself. I then prayed to God, that if it was his will that I should go, that I might willingly. My old master and mistress in Virginia, had often threatned to sell me to the negro buyer from Georgia, for any trifling offence, and in order to make me dislike to go there, they would tell me I should have to eat cotton seed, and make indigo, and not have corn bread to eat as I did in Virginia. The next day we went as far as Columbia, in South Carolina. This was Saturday evening.
I was quite fatigued, and after taking care of the horses, I laid myself down in the stable to rest. I soon fell asleep, and slept for an hour or two. My master missing me, and thinking I had run away, made a thorough search for me, but could not find me until I awoke and went into the house. He was very angry with me: he cursed me and asked me where I had been. I told him I had been asleep in the stable. He told me I lied, and that I had attempted to make my escape; threatening to whip me. I told him I had not attempted any thing of the kind; but he would not believe me. Here again I was in great trouble. I went to bed and slept as well as I could, which was but little. The next day we again pursued our journey, and nothing of any consequence, different from what had before taken place, until we arrived at Savannah, which was in about six weeks. As we entered the city, we were about to pass a man who had a gun on his shoulder, loaded with shot. It accidentally went off, the contents within a very few inches of me. Here again, I escaped a wound, if not death. After residing in Savannah for a few months, and perceiving that he grew more severe and inhuman with me every day, I began to despair of ever living with him in peace. I however found some friends in Savannah, after a short time, and they advised me (after being made acquainted with the manner in which I was used) to get away from him as soon as possible. He would never allow me to leave the yard, unless it was for the purpose of taking out his horses to exercise them. At such times, I would often go to the fortune-teller, and by paying her twenty-five cents, she would tell me what she said my fortune would be. She told me I should eventually get away, but that it would be attended with a great deal of trouble; and truly, I experienced a vast deal of trouble before I could get away.
I will state to my readers some facts relative to the treatment I received from him, and others, during the time I lived there. He had an old black female slave whom he called Frankee. I always believed her to be a witch: circumstances to prove this, I shall hereafter state. He also had at one time, a number of carpenters at work in his yard. One of them, a man about my size, and resembling me very much in his dress, being dressed in a blue round-about jacket. He came into the yard to his work one morning, with an umbrella in his hand. This old woman saw him come in, and thinking it was me, or pretending so to do, was the cause of my receiving a severe whipping, in the following manner. My master having mislaid his umbrella, had been looking for it for some time, and on enquiring of her about it, she told him that she saw me come into the yard with it in my hand. I was then in the yard; he called to me, and said, where have you been sir? I replied, only to work about the yard sir. He then asked me where I was all night with his umbrella. I told him I had not been out of the yard, nor had I seen his umbrella. He said I was a liar, and that I had taken his umbrella away, and was seen to return with it in my hand this morning when coming into the yard. I told him it was not so, and that I knew nothing about it. He immediately fell foul of me with a large stick, and beat me most unmercifully, until I really thought he would kill me. I begged of him to desist, as I was perfectly innocent. He not believing me, still continued to beat me, until his strength was entirely exhausted. Some time after this, my mistress found his umbrella where she had placed it herself, having removed it from the place where he had left it, and gave it to him, saying, you have beat him for nothing, he was innocent of it. I was afterwards informed by another servant, of the circumstance. I then went to my master, and told him that he had beaten me most unmercifully, for a crime I was not guilty of, all through the insinuation of that old woman. He replied, “no, by Gad, I never hit you a blow amiss; if you did not deserve it now, you did some other time.” I told him she must have been drunk or she would not have told him such a story. He said that could not be, as she never was allowed to have any liquor by her. I told him to look in her chest, and convince himself. He then enquired of her if she had any rum. She said, no sir, I have not a drop. I then told him that if he would look in her chest, he would find it. He accordingly went, and found it. He then said to her, hey, you old bitch I have caught you in a lie. On this same account she appeared to be determined to kill me, by some means or other. I slept in the same room with her under the kitchen. My blankets were on the floor. She had a straw bed on a bed-stead about four paces from mine. My master slept directly over my head. I have heretofore stated that I was convinced that this creature was a witch, and would turn herself into almost any different shape she chose. I have at different times of the night felt a singular sensation, such as people generally call the night-mare: I would feel her coming towards me, and endeavouring to make a noise, which I could quite plainly at first; but the nearer she approached me the more faintly I would cry out. I called to her, aunt Frankee, aunt Frankee, as plain as I could, until she got upon me and began to exercise her enchantments on me. I was then entirely speechless; making a noise like one apparently choking, or strangling. My master had often heard me make this noise in the night, and had called to me, to know what was the matter; but as long as she remained there I could not answer. She would then leave me and go to her own bed. After my master had called to her a number of times. Frankee, Frankee, when she got to her own bed, she would answer, sair. What ails Theo? (a name I went by there, cutting short the name Theodore) She answered, hag ride him sair. He then called to me, telling me to go and sleep with her. I could then, after she had left me, speak myself, and also have use of my limbs. I got up, and went to her bed, and tried to get under her coverlid; but could not find her. I found her bed clothes wet. I kept feeling for her, but could not find her. Her bed was tumbled from head to foot. I was then convinced she was a witch, and that she rode me. I then lay across the corner of her bed without any covering, because I thought she would not dare to ride me on her own bed, although she was a witch. I have often, at the time she started from her own bed, in some shape or other, felt a shock, and the nigher she advanced towards me, the more severe the shock would be. The next morning my master asked me what was the matter of me last night. I told him that some old witch rode me, and that old witch, is no other than old Frankee. He cursed me and called me a damned fool, and told me that if he heard any more of it, he would whip me. I then knew he did not believe in witch-craft. He said, why dont she ride me? I will give her a dollar. Ride me you old hag, and I will give you a dollar. I told him she would not dare to ride him.
One morning after he had given me such a severe pounding concerning the umbrella, and I was determined not to stay with him long, but to get away from him as soon as possible; he ordered me to fetch up my horse and saddle him, and put the other horse to the chaise, in order to go out to Bonaventure. I did so, and whilst I was gone I tried to invent some project, to make him believe me unwell. The next morning I pretended to be sick. He asked me what the matter was with me. I told him I had a pain in my side. He then said to Miss A—, go and weigh out a pound of salts for him. She did so. He then came to me with the salts in a cup, and said, do you see this sir? Do you see this? By Gad, you shall take every bit of this. He then mixed up a slight dose and gave it to me, which I took. He then sent for a doctor, who came and felt my pulse, and then said it would be well enough to put a blister plaister on my side. He accordingly went-home, spread a very large plaister, and sent it over, which my master caused to be put on my side, which drew a large blister there. All this I bore without being sick, or unwell in the least. There was a man who had been to him repeatedly, to see if he would sell me. He always refused, saying, no, I did not buy him to sell, and I will be damned if I do sell him, I bought him for my own use. I saw that he knew I was determined to get a new master, and he was the more determined to keep me. At length I refused to eat any thing at all. He would often ask me why I would not eat. I answered him that I could not, I was very weak and unwell. Still he invented every method he could, to induce me to eat, often setting victuals by my bed side &c. At length, one day he wanted me to go and fetch a load of wood: he said, come, make haste and get your dinner ready, I want you to be a clever fellow, and eat your dinner, then to take the horse and cart, and go out and fetch in a load of wood. The dinner was soon ready: he cut off some meat and other victuals, and gave me before he eat himself, saying, here now take this, be a clever fellow; eat it, and go and fetch a load of wood. I told him I did not want it. He says take it sir, and eat it. I replied, I thank you sir, I don’t want it. Got tam your soul; you dont want it ha, you Got tam son of a bitch, you dont want it do you? He then took up a chair and came towards me, threatning to kill me. His wife being afraid he would, called to him in order to prevent him; saying, do not kill him, do not strike him with that chair. He set it down and called to Frankee, fetch me a rope God dam you, fetch me a rope. I will bind him fast, send him to jail, and let him have Moses law. (which is thirty-nine lashes on the naked back) She fetched the rope, and he bound me, and was on the point of having me taken to jail; when I dreading the whipping I knew I should be obliged to take if I went there, finally consented to eat my victuals, and behave myself well. I then eat the victuals, which relished exceedingly well. Then I went to the woods, and fetched home a load of wood. After that I again refused to eat any thing at all, but pretended to be sick all the time. I also told Frankee, to tell my master, that I was subject to such turns every spring, and I should not live through this. She told him, which frightened him very much, thinking he should lose me. (which would grieve him as much as it would to lose a fine horse of the same value.) He then again tried to make me eat by the same means, often leaving victuals by my bed side at night, or order Frankee to do it. He would then enquire of her if I had eaten any thing yet. She replied, no, sir, I have not seen him eat any thing since last Friday noon. I had his horse to water every day; and as I went out of, or across the yard, where I knew he would see me, I would pretend to be so weak that I could scarcely go. I would stagger along, to make him think that I should fall every moment. He one time called his wife to the window, saying, Missess, Missess, by Gad come here, do you see him? He is almost gone, by Gad I shall lose him; see how he staggers. By Gad he has not eat a mouthfull now for these three weeks. I must lose him by Gad; do you see that? I would however have it understood, that during all this time, I did not go without victuals. I sometimes could steal a little provision, and after driving my master to his plantation, I could sometimes run into the potatoe house, where I could find a few of them, which I ate raw. At other times I could find a bone, not quite stripped clean, which together with what I stole, made me a comfortable subsistance; or as much so, as the slaves generally receive. I was determined not to eat any thing in his sight, or to his knowledge, in order to make him think he must either sell me or lose me. One morning he sent me to eat my breakfast, I told him I did not want any. He said, go along and get your breakfast. I went, and returned. When I came back, he asked me if I had eaten my breakfast. I told him, no, sir, I thank you, I did not wish for any. You did not, did you? Gad dam you, you are sick, are you? You may die and be damned, by Gad: you may die and be damned: your coffin shall not cost me a quarter of a dollar, by Gad: you shall be buried on your face, by Gad: you may die and be damned.
Which of us is most likely to receive that part of this blessing which is to take effect in the next life, I will not say. However being determined to change my situation if possible, I went to one Major Lewis, a free black man, and very cunning. I gave him money, to go to my master, and run me down, and endeavour to convince him that I was really sick, and should never be good for any thing. In a few days from this, my master came down in the kitchen and says, boy get up, there boy, (holding it out in his hand,) there is the very money I gave for you: I have got my money again, and you may go and be damned and don’t you never step into my house again; if you do I will split your dam brains out. I then went to my new master’s, Mr. Oliver Sturges, who came from Fairfield, Connecticut. He bought me to drive his carriage. A new coachman’s dress, which he gave me, would have felt much better, if it had not been for the large blister, that had been drawn upon my side. However, I rode down by my old master’s, and cracked my whip with as much pride, spirit and activity, as one of Uncle Sam’s Mail carriers, who drives four horses, on a general post road, drunk or sober. My old master happening to see me pass in this manner, was very much chagrined, to think he had sold me under the impression that I was just ready to die. He called his wife to the window, and complained to her, that she had urged him to sell me, and swore, and cursed outrageously. I was now under my sixth master, Mr. Sturges, who bought me from the Jew. Mr. Sturges, was a very kind master, but exceedingly severe when angry. He had a new negro, by the name of Cato, with whom I got a fighting, and bit off his nose, just as my master was going to sell him, which injured the sale of Cato, very much. For this I had to beg very hard to escape being whipped. I went to the fortune tellers, who told me that my master said, that if he should take me on with him to New York, I should be free: so I knew that I should not go with him. I had always been in the habit of praying, ever since I knew what it meant; and whenever I went to church, to drive the carriage, I used to stand upon the steps, and listen to the preaching. About this time, I began to realize that I was a sinner, and that hell would be my portion if I should die in my present situation: and afterwards while I was living with Doct. Collock, and under the advice of the Rev. Mr. Collock, whose voice and preaching, harrowed up my soul with awful apprehensions, I sought and obtained the hope of salvation. Blessed be God, I know the path to heaven. I have had sweet communion with the Lord; but alas! I have erred, and gone astray from holiness.
My conscience used sometimes to upbraid me with having done wrong, after I had run away from my master and arrived in Connecticut; and while I was living in Southington, Conn. (where I spent some time, as will afterwards be told) I went up on a high mountain, and prayed to the Lord, to teach me my duty, that I might know whether or not I ought to go back to my master. Before I came down I felt satisfied, and it did seem to me that the Lord heard my prayers, when I was a poor wretched slave, and delivered me out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage; and that it was his hand, and not my own artfulness and cunning, which had enabled me to escape: therefore if we trust in God, we need have no fear of the greatest trials; and though my heart has been pierced with sufferings keen as death, and drank from the cup of slavery, the bitterest dregs ever mingled in it; yet under the consolations of religion, my fortitude never left me.
As Mr. Sturges was intending to remove to New-York, he sold out all his property, and every thing he could wish to part with. He talked very strong of taking me on with him to New-York, but after consideration altered his mind, and hired me out to a Mr. Wolhopter, a printer in Savannah. I lived with Mr. Wolhopter all that summer, and drove his horses and carriages all about there, and out to White Bluff, where he had hired a seat for the summer, supposing it to be a healthy situation, which indeed it was; but we were tormented with moschetos and such other insects as infest that country (called by different names) to a great degree, so that we could hardly sleep nights. We were alternately at this place and at Savannah for the space of four or five months. At the expiration of that time, Mr. Wolhopter removed back to Savannah, with his family, and I accompanied them. I will here mention that during the time I resided at White Bluff, at the request of Mr. Wolhopter, I often went a fishing, and the rays of the sun beating down more severe there, than where I had formerly lived, it created an ague and fever, which reduced me so low that even my attending physician, Doct. Collock (who attended me strictly for about four months) dispaired of my life, and often since that time being borne down under the afflictions that a slave often experiences, and indeed too often, I have wished his predictions had proved true. But after Doct. Collock perceived I was convalescent, and gaining my health and strength rapidly, he enquired of me, that provided he should buy me, if I would be contented to live with him; drive his horses and carriage, occasionally wait in the house and at the table, and do such other business as is necessarily required in a family.
With but few remarks I endeavour to give my readers but a faint representation of the hard treatment, ill usage and horrid abuse the poor slave experiences while groaning under the yoke of bondage; that yoke which is not easy, nor the burden light; but being placed in that situation, to repine is useless, we must submit to our fate and bear up as well as we can under the cruel treatment of our despotic tyrant. After Doct. Collock made this proposition to me, I replied that I had been sold from my parents in Virginia, and felt anxious to see them again once more, but if he would buy me, I would serve him faithfully and freely for the term of five years, provided that at the expiration of that time he would grant me my freedom, to be specified in writing, to which he consented and promised to have it done and give me the writing to keep, but he never fulfilled his promise. He however wrote to Mr. Sturges, in New-York, and told me that he had received a letter from him, in which he consented I should go and live with him, and directed me to leave Mr. Wolhopter’s house, and come to his place of residence, which I accordingly did being then very low in health, not having recovered from the ague and fever, but after living with him for some time I recovered my health so far as to be able to perform my duty. When I first went there, on account of my being unwell, my mistress did not like to have me sleep in the house, and so gave me a room up over the carriage house to sleep in. In this room there was a bed-stead, or bunk made of boards. I understood by some of the servants that a man lately died there in a fit. In the course of the day I laid myself down on the bed-stead with a blanket, to rest, not being able to be about, as a very little exercise overcame me. After lying there about an hour, I was looking very steady up towards the roof of the building, when to my great horror and surprise I could plainly percieve a large bright sparkling pair of eyes intently fixed on me, staring me full in the face. It instantly occurred to me that the bed-stead I was then lying on, belonged to the man who had died there, and that I (not having any liberty to use it) was doing wrong and that this was a token for me to leave it. I accordingly took my blanket, spread it on the floor and lay on that. Presently after, the cook Jane came up to fetch me something to eat, she enquired of me why I left the bed-stead and lay on the floor. I replied to her that I was afraid I had done wrong in lying on it as long as I already had done, for I had received no liberty from any person so to do, and I was convinced in my own mind that the bed-stead placed there, belonged to the man who had died there, and that I thought I had seen a token for me to leave it, which I accordingly had done. I then told her the circumstances of the eyes and of my conjectures at the time, that I had no business there. She replied to me, sleep on it if you please, you are perfectly welcome to the use of it. My mistress not knowing any thing of what had happened, sent me word that I might have a lamp there to keep burning through the night. She then was very kind to me and used me well; but I could not endure the thoughts of sleeping there, and as soon as bedtime came, I took my blanket and went in the house and slept in the parlour with the two boys who were then wanting in the house, named Sandy and Cyrus. (commonly called Cy) This being all unknown to my mistres at that time, but she afterwards consented to have me sleep in the house, which I did during the time I lived there. My readers, or many of them who are not credulous, will very likely be apt to disbelieve the assertion already made, but I can assure them that the whole is true. Where is the person who would be made easily to believe a story of this kind, unless he positively did know it to be a fact, and the circumstances can be attested to even now. Although they did not see what I did, they were some of them acquainted with the circumstances. This cook who brought me my victuals, told me the place was said to be haunted. She had her information from the other servants who also told me the same, also that strange noises were heard, which had been heard by other persons who were sick and put up there by my master’s orders to be taken care of; many of them had been removed on the same account, as they told that they were positive of hearing strange noises, and also seeing frightful sights. These stories combined with what I myself saw, warranted me in my opinion to make this assertion. I think the house without any doubt is what people in general would call haunted. My readers may put their own constructions and draw inferences, I can barely state that I tell the truth.
This circumstance happened in the winter. The next summer, my master, Doct Collock, ordered me to get the horses and carriage ready, to take all the family off to Darien; which I accordingly did. They went from thence to Cumberland Island, and I returned to Savannah with the horses and carriage, alone. My master gave me a piece of bacon, or shoulder, smoked, which I suppose would weigh about six or eight pounds, which was the whole he left me, to last all summer. He also left a tierce of rice, to be divided amongst us, about the house, in all, eight or ten of us. After the rice was gone, we were allowed to each of us, eight quarts of Indian corn per week; this was all we had to subsist upon during his absence, which was about six or seven months. I also had a great deal to do about the house, and out on the plantation I had as much mowing as I could attend to. At another time, when I was at work out in the country, at my master’s country seat, I had slipped the head stalls or bridles over the horses heads in order to let them eat while they were harnessed to a waggon, as I had been using them to draw hay. I left them to eat while I went to eat my dinner. In the mean time, two or three small negro children got into the waggon and frightened the horses, so that they ran round the house in the yard, a number of times; and in so doing, they dragged the waggon over, or so nigh a young tree which my master set great store by, that it was torn up or broken down. When my master returned from Cumberland Island, he enquired of the driver, (old Ben) what had become of the tree. Old Ben replied, the torm broke him down, massa; and my master knew no more afterwards about it. The waggon that was also badly broken, we mended up as well as we could among ourselves: the harness, which being considerably injured, I carried to Mr. Kitchen, who being used to make and repair harnesses for my master, fixed it so that he (my master) never found that it had been broken or injured—all of this passed unnoticed by my master.
At the time Doct. Collock left Savannah, he left in his office an old man called Doct. Sherman, to take charge of his office, and attend on such persons as should request his attendance, when he was gone. There were also, at the same time, two young gentlemen in the office, studying with my master; one of them named James M’Call, and the other, a young man, I think they called Mr. Ginneylack. He at different times had insulted these young gentlemen to such a degree, that they left the office. A short time after this, he found a large paper, containing a number of images drawn out with a pencil; one, representing himself, and others, representing ducks, with their bills open, apparently in the attitude of squalling. On the paper was written something like this; “how do you do, my good old friend? how do you do? how are your sore legs? We know that ducks quack, and Sherman is a quack, &c.” It was supposed that he was a quack in the greatest degree. Doct. Collock was considered one of the best physicians in Savannah; but as he was obliged to go to Cumberland Island, and could get no other person of any repute to remain in his office and take charge of his business, readily, and this old man (or Doctor) being an indigent person, he out of charity, let him remain in his office until his return, and transact such business in his line as the people should see fit to set him about. The old man, not knowing to whom to ascribe the (what he termed libel,) vented his malice on me, by asserting that I was the author of it, of which I was perfectly innocent: but he made my master believe it. He wrote to him while he was at Cumberland Island, and persuaded him that I was actually the author. At the time my master wished to return to Savannah, he wrote to his brother-in-law, Edward Campbell, Esq. attorney at law, requesting him to come with me, with the carriage and horses to Darien, in order to take him and his family home. We accordingly went on one day, met them there, and returned the next. After our return, my master took me into his office, and enquired of me about these images. I told him I knew nothing about it. He was very inquisitive about it, but I still told him I knew nothing about it; but as Sherman made him believe that I had done all this mischief, of course my mistress also believed it, and after that I could never please them, let me try my best endeavours, they still appeared to be dissatisfied.
I was one evening, ordered to take my mistress and her sisters to Mr. Andrews’. I accordingly harnessed the horses, put them to the carriage, and drove (with the ladies) to the house where I was directed. They went in the house and stayed, I do not know how long. I stayed with the horses and carriage at the door, in order to take care of them. I waited for them until I fell asleep and was dreaming. When they came out of the house, they awoke me by their talking and laughing at the door. I did not know where I was, where I had been, nor where I was a going. I knew no more where I was than if I had been blind-folded. But I was afraid to let them know that I had been asleep, so I drove on directly towards the market, looking on the right hand and on the left, to see if I could recognize some house that I had before been acquainted with; but finding none I drove on. I had passed a number of turns which would have taken us directly home. My mistress observing this, enquired of me why I did not take that route home, but I made her no reply, then turned towards the bay thinking I was driving towards the commons. I then saw Mrs. Telfure’s house, and then I knew where I was. I then drove down to Judge Jones’s, and left her sisters there, and continued on home with my mistress to broad street. I do not think that my mistress, or either of the ladies ever suspected the reason why I took such a round-about road to get home; but it was owing entirely to my falling asleep in the carriage while waiting at the door, and on awaking, not knowing where I was.
At another time I was severely attacked with a tooth-ache. My master drew one of my teeth which fractured my jaw and made it ache worse. He had often given me a great many bottles to clean and scour, and at this time gave me a great number. I went down under the bluff to get some sand for the purpose of cleaning them. While I was there I kept drinking spirits, (in order to ease my jaw where the tooth was drawn) till I got completely intoxicated, and did not return until nearly evening I was then a praying soul. As I was returning back to my master’s house, I called in at the Rev. Henry Collock’s study, or office. He seeing my condition, or the condition I then was in, immediately offered to attend prayers with me, which he did; we prayed there nearly half an hour. I went into his office with tears rolling down my bosom, and the floor of his office will be a witness to my tears until the day of judgement. After our prayers were ended I came out, and the next time I saw him, was within the walls of a cold prison: he came to the diamond hole, and spoke to me, and asked me how I did, (I was at the time lying down on my blanket on the floor.) I answered him, I had a very bad jaw-ache. I then asked him to give me a book containing the Psalms of David, such an one as I was then reading. The next day he sent me a Bible. I however, at the time I left this Parson Collock at his office, went directly home to my master, who was his cousin. One was a worldly man, the other was a christian. Immediately after I went into the yard my master had information of it, and took me in his office; he asked me where I had been? I told him I had been after gravel to clean his bottles, and on account of the pain in my jaw, I had drank spirits until I was so much intoxicated that I dare not come back until then. He then after having a long conversation with me, ordered me to go up stairs and lie down. I did so, but after I had lain there a few minutes he came up, took me by the collar and ordered me to go into a room where he wanted to lock me up. At this time I suspected his intention of wishing to lock me up, in order that as soon as night came, he could send me to jail. I then pretended to be much more intoxicated than I really was, in hopes by that means to induce him to let me remain where I then was until morning; but he would not, and after a severe struggle he affected the purpose he intended, and I was locked up in a room in the third story, or in the garret. After sitting some time, I began to consider my situation. I observed a bed-stead with a cord in it, which I concluded best for me to take out and let myself down from the window, and clear myself for the woods; but upon examination, I found the window so high from the ground, (after I had taken the cord from the bed-stead) that I feared to attempt the leap; I threw back the cord with despair, and then determined to force the door; it was in me a desperate undertaking, but I finally effected it. After coming down the stairs as still and sly as possible, that creature, Jane the cook, perceived me and gave the alarm. Immediately the cry of stop thief! stop thief! re-echoed from every quarter. I run and they pursued, caught me, and brought me back. I was then bound and pinioned, my hands were closely tied behind, and I was conducted in this manner (in a more shameful manner than one half the prisoners, malefactors, or high way robbers, after having the sentence of death pronounced upon them, are taken to the place of execution) to jail. There I staid eight long weeks, and what do you think my diet was during that time? Why I will tell you my reader, our allowance was to each person one quart of corn, ground and the husks fanned out of it, and then boiled, which we sometimes are allowed salt for, and at other times we are not. Oftentimes we were obliged to eat it without even salt or any other seasoning. As for meat we are entirely a stranger to it, we know nothing about it, as an allowance either from our masters or the jailor. Our jailor having considerable to be done in and about the house, and knowing me to be expert in what he wanted to have done, released me from solitary confinement, and let me work for him about the prison at his own discretion; but one day Doct. Collock saw me out of jail on my ordinary business while he was passing by, and came in and told Capt. M’Call, the jailor, that I would run away if he gave me such liberties. Mr Griffin, then clerk of the jail, came and called to me and said, Grimes, your master says you will run away, and that you must be shut up again, for he does not like to see you out here. I was then conducted back to the cell again, where I remained until he again returned to Savannah; then I was restored as it were to liberty again, that is, to do what was necessary in and about the house; but I being a barber fared rather better than the other prisoners.
I will state that I have seen women brought there and tied hand and foot, and their clothes turned up and tied there, up to their shoulders, leaving their body perfectly naked, then whipped with a keen raw-hide (or cow-skin sometimes called) until the blood run down to their heels. I was then in expectation that my turn would be next, every moment looking for it. While I was in confinement, I myself, as well as the other prisoners, were used to the sound of Oh pray! Oh pray! which came from those poor slaves, then in preparation for being whipped, or experiencing then at the same time, the smart of the lash which was so often used without mercy. As large, stout and athletic a negro as I was ever acquainted with, was selected for the purpose of whipping those who were doomed to receive the lash. He himself being there confined for some crime he had committed. In a case of whipping, he was compelled to put it on as severely as lay in his power, or take a severe flogging himself. One man who was confined in the same room with me, by the name of Reuben, belonging to John Bolton, (one of the richest men in Savannah.) This poor man’s back was cut up with the lash, until I could compare it to nothing but a field lately ploughed. He was whipped three times in one week, forty stripes, save one, and well put on by this strong athletic fellow. You may well think this poor negro’s back was well lacerated, ah, indeed, not only well lacerated, but brutally and inhumanly bruised.
I at this time was in such dread of the whipping post, where I daily saw so many human beings sacrificed to the lash of the tyrant, that it struck me with horror. I prayed constantly to my God (who had relieved me before in the hour of danger,) to protect and defend me in this adversity, being now in a prison, from whence I knew no means of escape. And early one morning, while pondering on the miseries I was compelled to endure. I thought, and indeed I was convinced, that I heard a voice from heaven, saying, Be of good cheer; and other words, which I do not conceive necessary to mention in this history. At the same time I heard this, I had a glimpse of something, most glorious to behold. I immediately felt a comfort in my soul, which cheered me up, and made me feel joyful. I was then convinced that my prayers had ascended to the high throne of Grace, for which I returned my most fervent thanks to the Almighty Ruler of the universe.
After remaining some time in jail, Doct. Collock came and took me out, and said his reason for keeping me there so long, was, that he had expected a ship from New-Orleans, and intended to send me there to work on the sugar plantation; but as the ship did not arrive, and he having considerable mowing to do on his plantation, he would take me out and set me at work to do his mowing, the other slaves not understanding it. So, after remaining in my solitary cell for eight long weeks, I was then permitted to breathe the fresh air again, and put to my task in the meadows, where I continued during that season, cutting and curing his grass. The winter following, I was employed in clearing and grubbing new ground. The next summer I was kept on the plantation as usual, under the negro driver. When the season came for cutting oats, I was one day sent to mow them. I mowed one forenoon, and having a severe boil under each arm, I did not feel able, nor indeed was I able to rake them up. I went to the room where I slept, it being out from Savannah about two or three miles, in a large house where the driver and his family slept. I there laid down to rest myself. After about half an hour, the old negro driver came to me, and asked me why I did not rake up my oats, or those I had cut. I replied, that I had a large boil under each arm, and was unable to do it. He swore I should do it, and went for a stick to beat me, in order to compel me to do it. I heard him coming back, and when he burst open the door, I let him have it in old Virginia stile, (which generally consists in gouging, biting and butting.) I drove my head against him, (hardly knowing what I was about, being so much terrified,) until he could scarcely stand or go. I then compelled him to give up the stick to me, which I kept in my hand, walking to and fro, while he, as soon as he recovered from the bruising I had given him, called aloud to the other slaves to come to his assistance. They immediately gathered together, to the number of about twenty. He ordered them to seize me, and was in hopes they would: but one of the stoutest of them, on whom he placed the greatest reliance, came up to me to inquire what was the matter, and why I had treated the driver so. I asked how I had treated him. He replied, how did you. I then seized him by the shoulders, and said to him, I will show you. So I served him in the same way I had the driver, and almost as severe. The other negroes seeing me use this stout fellow so harshly, were afraid to touch me. I kept walking with the stick I had taken from my enemy, to and fro as before. They did not attempt after that to touch me. The driver then called to one of the slaves, to get a horse, and go to town, to give my master information; saying, Robert, Robert, gitta up a horse, and go uppa town, tella massa Pero a whippa me. But they not attempting to meddle with me any more, I went myself to town, to see my master first. I arrived there after Robert had been there a short time. I went into my master’s office and told him the whole affair. He enquired of me very particularly concerning it. I convinced him of my innocence, and he sent me back to the plantation again, to work as before. During the conversation I had with my master, he asked me how I dare strike the driver. I replied, that I must defend myself. He said to me, would you dare to strike me if I was out there? Do you not know that your arm would be cut off if you did? I answered, yes, sir, I know my arm would be cut off if I should attempt to strike you; but, sir, if you had been there you would not have used me in the way the driver did: he is an iggorant old African, or Guinea negro, and has not judgment sufficient to superintend any one in my present situation. I then showed him my biles. He was satisfied I was not able to rake the oats, but said, when I leave my driver there, I put him in my shoes: go back to the plantation, I shall be there soon myself. I told him I had no friend, except it was himself, and if he did not whip me when he came to the plantation, I should be convinced he was my friend; and furthermore I was convinced that not one negro on the plantation was friendly to me. He knew me to be a stranger, and a man of good sense. After this conversation, I went back to the plantation, and staid there until he came. When he arrived there, he called the old driver, and talked to him very severely, saying, you should have examined into his situation before you undertook to whip him; you would then have been satisfied he was not able to work. He said not three words to me in anger. I continued to work on the plantation until towards winter, when I was again sent to the woods, and employed in cutting and splitting rails. I should have mentioned, that while working on the plantation the summer past, I undertook to raise for myself a small crop of rice, of perhaps twenty rods of ground. It being the first I had ever undertook to raise, it cost me considerable trouble. All that I knew about it, was what little information I could get from seeing the negroes raise here and there a small piece for themselves; and I was obliged to do it in the same way; that is, to take an opportunity occasionally, when not being observed by the driver, to slip in and do a little at it. After it was in a situation to cut, I reaped it and carried it to town, where I sold it for $1 25 per hundred, amounting in the whole, to about five or six dollars. I kept this money, that in case of emergency, I could occasionally purchase a small piece of meat, or other necessary articles, for my subsistence. I sometimes went to town in order to procure something to eat with our common allowance, (a peck of corn per week) and have often carried on my head a bundle of wood, perhaps three miles, weighing more than one hundred pounds, which I would sell for twelve cents, in order to get a supply of necessary food. I would then, it being late in the evening, go to my master’s house unknown to him, and lodge there. It has frequently been the case, that I have been so much fatigued with my day’s work, and then carrying my bundle of wood that distance, that I have overslept myself, or slept longer than I intended. In that case, Ihave been obliged to get out at the window, or in some other way avoid my master, who used to visit his plantation early each morning, so that I could get there first. I would then, after running three miles, start the negroes out to work, telling them my master was coming. They would all go out at once, and by the time he arrived, be steadily engaged at their work. Thus I gained for my master a great many hours work in the course of the season, which he knew nothing about, and all for the purpose of clearing myself from blame, and perhaps a severe flogging.
By this manner, I was enabled to acquire a very comfortable subsistence through the winter, or during the time I lived with Doct. Collock. He sold me some time in the winter. To do the Doctor justice, I must say that he was the best and most humane man I ever lived with, or worked under. Some time previous to my master’s selling me, I had heard that A. S. Bullock, Esq. agent for the navy, (who had engaged a carriage and pair of horses, coming on from New York, which he expected very soon,) wanted to buy a servant, to drive and take care of them. I went to see him, and enquired whether he would buy me. He replied, yes, if your master will sell you. I then went to my master, and told him Mr. Bullock wished to buy me, provided he would sell me. He then said to me, where did you see Mr. Bullock? have you been there to try to induce him to buy you? I replied, no, sir, he saw me in the street and enquired of me whether my master wished to sell me. I told him you did. He then said go and tell your master I will buy you if he will sell you, he then asked me what price my master would require for me, I told him $500, was the price for which I was last sold, he replied I will give that sum for you if Doct. Collock will accept of it. He added, tell your master if he wants to sell you, that I wish him to come and see me. My master replied if Mr. Bullock wants to see me, let him come here, I shall not go to see him. I then went and told Mr. Bullock the answer my master gave me; he asked me if my master would give me a recommend. I answered him that he said he would give me none. He then observed to me, I perceive your master does not want to sell you. He then called his little son to him (aged about twelve years) and gave him between five and six hundred dollars, telling him to go to Doct. Collock, give him the money, and tell him that if he was willing to sell Grimes, to take that and send back as much change as he pleased. He took $500, and sent back the remainder. I was now sold to Mr. Bullock, where I stayed without returning to see my old master. I felt very uneasy whilst the boy was gone, fearing my master would not sell me, as I was satisfied his intention was not to sell me in Savannah, but to send me off to New-Orleans, or some other place at a distance, being as I was convinced in my own mind, so much prejudiced against me by that old quack, (so called) Sherman that he was determined if he sold me at all, that it should not be in Savannah. It is generally known that when a man sells a servant, he intends by that means to punish him, and endeavours to sell him where he shall never see him again. For this same reason I was afraid Doct. Collock, would not sell me, my mistress also being opposed to my being sold in Savannah. I shall here mention a very narrow escape I had while I lived with Doct. Collock. As I was occasionally tending his horses and driving them, I was exposed very often to be hurt by them, to be killed, bit, thrown off them, &c. He had one very ill-natured cross horse, no one could approach him or pass behind him with any safety. I was one day compelled to go in great haste in the reach of him. As I got almost past him, he threw both his feet against me with such violence that my breath was entirely beat out of my body, and I was completely stunned; he sent me at a distance where I lay completely senseless for some time; I merely escaped with my life. After some time I got up, went and informed my master and mistress of the circumstance, when the necessary remedy was administered, and I finally recovered. This I mention, merely to inform my readers of the dangers and narrow escapes I have experienced during my slavery.
This same parson Collock, whom I have heretofore mentioned, was a very fine, candid and humane man; he was beloved by every one who was acquainted with him; a friend to the poor slave, as well as the richest planter, or gentleman, he was in a habit of holding meetings in the evening, as often as two or three times each week, which I always attended to strictly, and very often it was as late as 10 o’clock, or later, before I reached my master’s house. He had a number of times on finding me not at home in the evening, enquired of the other servants where I was, and being generally by them told that they did not know unless I was at meeting; he one evening after my return, appeared to be very angry with me, and asked me where I had been so late for a number of evenings. I replied, I have been to meeting sir. He then said by what means do you escape the vigilance of the guard? (or what they term in the northern states Watch.) I replied, the guard do not meddle with me in returning from meeting. He then said, why do they not? they ought to. I said nothing to this, but I knew very well what he wished, that was, he would be very well pleased to have the guard take me up, and take me to gaol, in order to punish me for attending meeting; but the guard never attempted to meddle with me, they always took me to be a white man I have frequently walked the streets of Savannah in an evening, and being pretty well dressed, (generally having on a good decent suit of clothes,) and having a light complexion, (being at least three parts white,) on meeting the guard I would walk as bold as I knew how, and as much like a gentleman; they would always give me the wall. One time in particular, while walking home late in the evening, I saw two or three of them together, I was afraid, but summoned all my resolution, and marched directly on towards them, not turning to the right hand nor to the left, until I came up to them. They at first did not notice me being engaged in conversation. I continued on, head up, walked past them and happened to brush one of them a little in passing, they immediately turned off the walk; one of them spoke and said we ask your pardon sir. At another time I decieved them in the following manner One evening a coloured man from Richmond, Virginia, called on me while sitting in the kitchen and told me he had lately been waiting on my old master, Doct. Philip Thornton of Richmond, and had taken him from there to his father’s country-seat, at Montpelier in Culpepper county, in a carriage with four horses, but was at present waiting on a gentleman from Richmond, then in town, who lodged at Col. Shelman’s tavern, some distance from my master’s. He told me his name was William Patterson, he was a free man, and was hired by people occasionally to drive their horses. He had heard of me while at Doct. Thornton’s, and by enquiring of Major Lewis, a black man, who was a great groom in Savannah, he found where I lived. He stayed with me, taking something to drink, and smoked a segar (my master knowing nothing of it,) until about eleven o clock, when he wanted to return to his lodgings. I told him the guard were all out at their posts, and it would be dangerous for him to attempt it alone; but if he would consent to walk behind me in the capacity of a servant, (to all appearances) I would accompany him home, and I had no doubt but I could deceive the watch as I had done before. He readily consented to this, and I put on my best suit, took a rattan in my hand, he walked behind me and continued on until we reached the tavern, where we found about fifteen or twenty of the guard seated on the steps of the door; he trembled, but I walked directly on, when they rose up to make room for me to enter and him to follow, I opened the door and went in, he closed it. After he had followed me as a servant through the streets, and made the watch believe it, when we were alone by our selves, he flouished his hands and snapped his fingers a great number of times, saying, well done, well done for you; I will tell this when I get home to Virginia, I should not dared to have undertaken so desperate a thing.
During the time I lived with A. S. Bullock, Esq. the navy agent, at first, he treated me very well. After living with him about a fortnight, the horses and carriage he had expected arrived. The horses were very low in flesh. I took them into my care, attended to them strictly, and they soon began to thrive: in about three or four weeks they were in good order. By this time, my master knew, or at least thought, I understood the business of taking care of horses, and was very well pleased with my performance, as I kept the carriage, horses and harness very clean and nice. During the winter and summer after, I used to drive the horses and carriage, carrying some part or the whole of his family out for a ride every evening, about five o’clock. The distance was generally from three to five miles. The winter following, I was employed generally as during the one past. The next spring he sold his horses and carriage to Doct. Jones, who was an enemy to me, and exerted all the arts he could invent, to influence my master against me; but all availed nothing, my master being well pleased with me, and I with him, he could not effect his purpose. At this time, my mistress, her sister, Mrs. Hunter, with her daughter, Miss Catherine, and a brother of my mistress, Mr. Glen, took passage in a packet, with a great number besides, for New-York. My master concluded to go by land, and to buy a light carriage, with a pair of horses; one Mr. Lyon to join with him, and for me to go and drive the horses. After having every thing almost completed for the journey, they altered their minds, and concluded to take passage in the stage. If I had gone on with Mr. Bullock to the northward, I should have returned, had it been for no other purpose than to make out my enemies to be liars, who had instilled into my master a belief that if he took me with him, I should never return, but run away and leave him. I was then left, by my master’s order, to work out, and pay him three dollars per week, and find myself. I then went to work for Mr. Irving, on board the Epervier, who was manager on board. He gave me one dollar for each day I worked there. The Epervier was a vessel taken from the British in the last war. I saw seven truck loads of gold and silver, in boxes, taken from her and carried to the bank in Savannah. I worked for Mr. Irving about a month, he paid me off, and I worked about town for a few days after, I then went out on a plantation, and worked for a Mr. Housten. He also gave a dollar a day. I worked for him about a week at mowing. After that, I came back, and went to work on board the James Monroe, a national vessel, for Capt. Skinner, of New-London, Con. He gave me seventy-five cents a day. I acted as cook and steward on board of her. After this I went to work about town, and Mr. Burrows, a brother-in-law of my master, hired me to drive his horses and carriage. He gave me twenty dollars a month. I carried him and his family to Augusta. I resided with him all that summer, and drove his horses and carriage from there, up to the same hills, back and forth, each day, when the weather was good, for about five or six months, which was as long as my master would spare me. Mr. Stephen Bullock, a relative to my master, (as he was left superintendent of his affairs during the time he was absent,) wrote to Mr. Burrows that he must send me home. Accordingly I went back to Savannah on horse-back. A few weeks after my return, my master and family arrived from New-York, with a carriage and four elegant horses. I now had six horses to take care of, and the carriage to keep clean and in order. I took such good care of the horses, and kept the carriage so nice, that Mr. Bullock was well pleased with me. After I had got the four new horses in good order, and fat, he sold one pair of them, which relieved me from some trouble and labor. We have never had any disagreement, yet he had been on to the northward, and but just returned. Some time after this, my master bottled up a few dozen of wine, counted them, and delivered them into my care for keeping. At this time he had a number of workmen, joiners and carpenters, at work about the house. When I took the wine into my care, I took it out of the cellar, and as I was gone after a basket, one of the workmen took a bottle and secreted it. My object in going after a basket was to carry it up into the garret, and this man passing that way, took that opportunity to steal a bottle of it, perhaps not considering at the same time that I was responsible for it, and should be liable to receive a severe punishment if the bottles were not all found: but he did not even return the bottle, after drinking the contents. After I carried them up stairs my master went and counted them, and finding one missing, called to me to know where it was. I told him I had set them all out of the cellar, and then went for a basket to carry them up; and I had carried the whole that I found up garret. He said there was one missing, and ordered me to fetch it immediately. I told him I thought I had carried up the whole of them. We then went together, and counted them a number of times, but found one missing. He was very angry with me. I asserted my innocence repeatedly, but all to no purpose. I could not make him believe me not guilty. I was suspicious that some one of the mechanics had taken it. I went to them and enquired about it. One of them acknowledged to me that he had taken it, and was willing to pay my master for it. I then immediately went and informed my master, but he would not believe me. I returned to the man who took it, and requested him to go with me to my master, in order to convince him of my innocence. He consented, and we went together. He made a statement to him of the whole affair, and also told him he was willing to pay him to his full satisfaction. But whether my master had an idea that there was a connivance between us to clear myself, or what his motive was I cannot tell, but he did not appear to be any more satisfied than before; still telling me I took it. It grieved me very much to be blamed, when I was innocent. I knew I had been faithful to him; perfectly so At this time I was quite serious, and used constantly to pray to my God. I would not lie, nor steal. My master knew nothing of that, I kept it a profound secret from him. When I considered his accusing me of stealing when I was so innocent, and had endeavored to make him satisfied by every means in my power, that I was so, but he still persisted in disbelieving me, I then said to myself, if this thing is done in a green tree, what must be done in a dry. I forgave my master in my own heart for all this, and prayed to God to forgive him and turn his heart. I was dissatisfied to think that my master had so bad an opinion of me at the time I was so honest; and tried by best endeavors to please him.
I then wanted some person to buy me, and let me work until I had paid $800. I accordingly applied to a man, who promised me he would try to buy me. I must here state the circumstance that prevented him from doing so. Sometime previous to this, I had told the other servants that something would happen to me, that my master would be very angry with me for something, he would beat me unmercifully and send me to prison. They were very much surprised to hear me talk in this manner as they well knew that we were on very good terms at that time. So after this happened concerning the wine, I having a number of articles in and about the yard, such as boxes, clothes, trunks &c. and as I have before mentioned, being determined to get some person to buy me, I used occasionally to carry some of them off and hide them in the woods, well knowing that if my master should sell me, he would never allow me to enter his yard again, and the things being my own, would be of service to me in another place, should I be so fortunate as to have a new master. After obtaining the promise of this man to buy me, he being unwilling to speak to him on the subject, fearing my master might think he was endeavouring to entice me away, he told me to ask my master if he wanted to sell me. I shall not mention the name of this man, for as it so happened he did not buy me, it might make some difficulty. Ever since the circumstance of the wine, my master not appearing to be satisfied with me about it, had treated me very severely. I determined one day when my master was in the parlour, to ask him the question. So I went into the kitchen which was in the lower room where the other servants were, (having been myself in the stable attending to the horses), and told them that what I had prophesied would soon take place, saying, my hour is come, I am now going up to see my master, and he will beat me and put me in prison. They then enquired of me what was the matter. I answered them that I was going to ask my master a question, for which I shall receive this. They endeavoured to persuade me not to go, saying, you will only bring trouble on yourself by going. But being determined on doing it, I went, not heeding what they said, begging of me not to go. I went up, he was walking backwards and forwards (with his hands thrust in his pockets) across the room, waiting for his dinner. I stood for a few moments behind a chair, with my hand on the back of it, fearing to speak, at length he stepped up towards me, saying, well what’s wanting Grimes? I being so fearful to irritate him, dared not to speak immediately. He repeated, well Grimes what’s wanting. I then with a great deal of diffidence (after many fruitless attempts to speak) said, master are you willing to sell me? It was exactly as I had anticipated, he flew in a violent passion, caught hold of a chair and came toward me in the attitude of attempting to strike me, he made one or two passes at me with it, but dropping it seized me by the collar, and beat me with his first most unmercifully; at the same time exclaiming, sell you? yes, you damned son of a bitch. God dam you, I’ll sell you; I’ll sell you by God; who wants to buy you; God dam you, who wants to buy you? I made no reply, but cleared myself from him and his house as soon as possible for the stable; while going towards the stable, not dareing to turn my head, and expecting him every moment at my heels, I pretended to stop to pick up something, at the same time casting my eyes behind me, I saw him coming very rapidly towards me. I had hoped as his dinner was nigh ready, he would not undertake to come after me until after dinner, and had determined on quitting him immediately, thinking it best to go then, as I was convinced he would when he next saw me finish what he had began, that is a severe beating; but seeing him so near, and pretending not to have seen him, I went into the stable, took my fork, and went to work stirring up the straw, not noticing him at all, or at least not letting him know that I did. He came into the stable and seized me by the collar with his left hand, while with his right fist clenched, he beat me with that in my breast and face, until all in a gore of blood. I dared not say a word, but pretended to be very much hurt; he all the time exclaiming who want’s to buy you? God dam you, I say who wants to buy you? you rascal. He then dragged me to the platform under the Piazza, continuing all the time to beat me in the same manner, but calling frequently to Jack to bring a rope and bind me. He said, bring me a rope Jack, bring a rope God dam you, and bind this rascal. Jack went for a rope, but not being able to find one as soon as he wanted, my master was quite enraged at him, and fell to beating him severely. After some time Jack found a rope and fetched it to my master, but he was so much enraged at me, that he kept beating him, saying, tie him you rascal, tie him sir. All that poor Jack could do was to smart under his chastisement, and keep saying, yes sir, yes sir, I will. I was then placed in such a situation that my arms were pinioned, and my hands tied behind. He then sent Jack for a constable, saying, go you rascal and find a constable, have this damn’d rascal taken to goal. Jack went but soon came back, saying, I could not find master Noble. He then told him to go and get any constable he could find. He soon came with another; my master told this constable to take me to jail, and give me a flogging and lock me up. This man seeing my situation, my face all blood, my hands bound behind me, and I standing there trembling with the bruises I had received, together with the fear of another more barbarous flogging, appeared to take pity on me. He whispered to my master and said, I think by his looks you have given him a severe whipping, I would put him in jail without any more chastisement. My master replied, by God I have not hurt him, all I have done was with my knuckles. I had repeatedly told my master before, that my hands were so closely bound the blood was almost ready to start through my fingers, he replied, I dont care if it should. He then directed the constable (as he had persuaded him not to flog me any more) to take me to jail. We started and got as far as the gate, when he called him back, saying, let Jack wash the blood off his face, it has not been washed for six months, people will think I have been murdering. He then told Jack to go and get my hat and put on me, and also my coat and spread over my shoulders, which he did. I then went with the constable to jail and was locked in. I knew my master’s disposition so well, that I was convinced he did not wish to have me imprisoned, but only for me to make an acknowledgment and ask his pardon, for merely my asking him the question I did. I had before anticipated this, for I knew he could not do without me, all he wanted of me, to set me at liberty, was for me to ask his pardon, and promise never to ask him to sell me again. Had he (at the time the constable advised him not to have me whipped again) persisted in having his orders executed, which I knew to be Moses’ law, (that is) 40 stripes save one, which I must receive before I entered the jail, I should have begged his pardon, and made most any acknowledgement he should require, knowing my constitution could not bear it. But I pretended to be ignorant of the whole and acted stupid, and dull, not regarding what I knew to be his wish; and when I heard him order the constable to commit me without whipping, my heart leapt for joy, for I knew what I had to endure before I should be sold. After lying in jail some time, I sent word to this same man who had promised to buy me, to come and buy me out of jail; but he refused, thinking my master would conjecture he had enticed me to leave him; notwithstanding I had assured him that my master wished to sell me. After that I was compelled to lie there in my solitary cell for the space of three weeks, before any person appeared to buy me. The room in which I was placed, was so foul and full of vermin, it was almost insupportable. The lice were so thick and large, that I was obliged to spread a blanket (which I had procured myself) on the floor, and as they crawled up on it, take a junk or porter bottle which I found in the jail, and rolled it over the blanket repeatedly, and in the same way that I have seen people grind or powder mustard seed on a board. I could always hear the death of some announced by their cracking. This I had to observe daily, and indeed often two or three and perhaps more times each day. Besdes all this, I had often to take off my shirt, pick them out of my collar, pile them up as fast as I could, and take the bottle to crush them. My readers will here understand, that this room had constantly, previous to my imprisonment therein, been occupied as a prison for negroes. They no more than myself having a privilege of a change of linnen, or water wherewith to cleanse it. Any person would naturally suppose the place to be (vulgarly speaking,) filled with lice; and it was when I went there, as nigh filled as any building I ever entered. I will here mention that a few days previous to the time that I told the servants something would take place between my master and myself dissatisfactory to us both, that for some trivial fault, which I cannot now recollect, he came to the stable, took the reins of the harness, bound my hands and led me along the stables (the doors being open,) backwards and forwards for some time, threatning to whip me. The windows in the house being open, my mistress saw him. She then went to the back door and called Ben (a servant) from the kitchen. He came to her. She immediately siezed him by his ear and shaking him severely, pointing at the same time to me, (having a fair view and grinning horridly a ghastly smile,) said, you see there! you see there! Do you see how your master does with Grimes? he will do so with you too. She then called Jack, a poor honest Guinea negro, and a faithful servant, to her and used him in the same way, saying, if you do not behave yourself well you shall be served in the same manner. They replied, yes mistress, I will, I will. It was a practice of my master to have a soup almost every day. My master Stephen, usually went to market each day to procure meat for dinner for the family, and always purchased a shin of beef. Jack accompanied him with the market basket to fetch home what he bought. The richest part of the soup was consumed by the family, and the remainder consisting of the lean meat and the shin and course pieces remaining on the bones, were then left for us in the kitchen. Gulla Jack, who was a servant about the house, to scour, &c, the same that fetched the meat home, after noticing this for a number of months began to be dissatisfied with it. One day in particular we were standing together under the platform back of the house, my master being in the necessary but a few yards from us, heard his conversation, which amounted to nearly what I now am about to state. Jack said to me, (not knowing our master was so near) by God I dont want to stay here for my master to licka me, an licka me, an all he give me a sin of beef, he eata all de meat an den he licka me wid de bone, be God me do not lika stay here to be usa so: using such kind of broken language as he had often before used to me, when I would laugh and join with him merely for sport and to hear him talk; at this time I joined with him and laughed heartily. After this I went to the stable to work, and Jack went to his work. My master went into the house and went up stairs, when he told my mistress what he had heard. Whilst he was telling her, one of the servant girls happened to over hear him. She came directly and informed jack and myself of it, saying our master was quite angry with us for it. We were both very much frightened at this informatin, and knew not what to do. I had cleaned his shoes for him and sent them up by the girl; he sent them back again, saying they were not half cleaned. I did it again and made them very nice and sent them up again. He sent them back a second time with orders for me to fetch them up myself. I was now more afraid than before, but I took them up to him in the parlour: when I went in he was very angry he snatched up the poker and thrust it hastily into the fire with the greatest fury, exclaiming, what, you are above cleaning my shoes are you? by God you are above cleaning my shoes; you can carry on with Jack about a shin of beef, but you are above cleaning my shoes. I replied that I did not mean any harm by that, but only laughed to hear him use his broken language. He then said Jack was not to blame, but it was me altogether, for I knew better, but he was a poor ignorant Guinea negro, and therefore not so much to blame.
My master would always when the weather was bad, order me to drive the horse and chaise to his office and carry him home to dinner, precisely at two o’clock. One time I being detained rather longer than usual, did not arrive there until after the clock had struck; I met him about fifty yards from his office on his way home; I drove up to him in order to have him get in, but he took no notice of me at all, and continued on towards home; I drove a little forwards and turned about, overtook him and asked him if he would ride; he looked at me very sternly and replied, no, I’ll walk as I began it. I then drove home and told Ben about it. He said to me, ah! you look out for that. I might mention a great many similar circumstances, but it would be too tedious a task, and I will leave it here.
After I had got through with all my troubles with Mr. Bullock, a Mr. White came and bought me out of jail for five hundred dollars. He came to the jail and spoke to me, saying he would buy me if I would consent to drive his horses. I told him I would. I was accordingly let out of jail soon after, and went to his house. I found him to be a cross crabbed man. I did not stay with him long. I lived with him perhaps two or three months, when a certain Mr. Welman came to my master’s and bought me. This was the eighth time that I had been sold for five hundred dollars each time. My master did not buy me for his present use. He hired me out to Mr. Oliver Sturges, the man who had once owned me before. I worked for Mr. Sturges about four or five months. He had a man from New-York, who he hired for thirty dollars per month. He wanting to go home, Mr. Sturges offered Mr. Welman the same wages for me. Whilst I was there I drove his horses, took care of his carriage, and occasionally attended the people in the house.
I have experienced the sufferings of a slave in the Southern States. I have travelled from Frederickstown in Maryland, to Darien in Georgia, and from there to Savannah, from whence I made my escape in the following manner. While I belonged to Mr. Welman, he went with his family to Bermuda, and left me to work for what I could get by my paying him three dollars per week. During this time, the Brig Casket from Boston arrived. I went with a number more to assist in loading her. I soon got acquainted with some of these Yankee sailors, and they appeared to be quite pleased with me. Her cargo chiefly consisted of cotton in bales. After filling her hold, they were obliged to lash a great number of bales on deck. The sailors growing more and more attached to me, they proposed to me to leave in the centre of the cotton bales on deck, a hole or place sufficiently large for me to stow away in, with my necessary provisions. Whether they then had any idea of my coming away with them or not I cannot tell, but this I can say safely, a place was left, and I occupied it during the passage, and by that means made my escape. The evening before the Brig was to sail, I went with a coloured man (a sailor on board) up into town and procured some bread, water, dried beef, and such other necessaries that I should naturally want. It was late in the evening and he being a Yankee sailor, I directed him to walk behind me in the capacity of a servant. (as they would consider me his master, the watch or guard being all on their posts,) He did so, and we procured every thing necessary for me, took them on board and I stowed them away in the hole left for me, where I myself went and remained until we arrived at the quarantine ground New York. I will here mention that during my passage I lay concealed as much as possible; some evenings I would crawl out and go and lie down with the sailors on deck, the night being dark, the captain would not distinguish me from the hands, having a number on board of different complexions. He or some one would often in the night when there was something to be done, come on deck and call, forward, there, boys. Aye, aye sir, was the reply; then they would immediately be at their posts, I remaining on the floor not perceived by him. We cast off from the wharf at Savannah Saturday night, and remained in the Savannah river until Monday morning; we then crossed the bar near the light-house. After we had got into the ocean the sailors gave three cheers, and gave me to understand that I was clear; we were out of sight of land they said. Nothing more of any consequence occurred until we arrived at the quarantine ground New-York. I remained concealed from the Captain, Mate, and Steward, until after we arrived. One morning after I had left my place of concealment and was in the forecastle of the vessel, intending to change my clothes, as I was putting on a clean shirt, the mate came down; (the captain and passengers having gone before to New-York,) he percieved me with my shirt half on, (being so frightened that I stood motionless,) said, why Grimes, how came you here? I could make him no answer. He then called some of the crew and enquired of them how I came there. They replied, poor fellow he stole aboard. He then enquired if the steward knew that I was aboard. I told him that he did not. He replied know well that you do not let him know it. He then enquired if the captain knew it. I answered him, no sir. He then said to me, let no one know any thing of it, I wish that I myself knew nothing of it; here boys put him over the bows and set him ashore on Staten Island. Upon that, one of the sailors took me ashore in the boat. On landing, he found another sailor with whom he was acquainted, and told him my circumstances, requesting him to assist me in getting to New-York. He promised him that he would. After staying on the Island a few hours, this man told me to follow him down to the river where the packet boat lay, as she would sail soon. There being some of the crew on board the Casket sick, it was necessary that all who passed from the Island, having been on board of her and all other persons who went from the Island to New-York, should be examined by a Doctor, stationed there for that purpose. This was what I most feared. This man had once spoken to the Doctor, and his name entered on his book; the Doctor stood on the wharf to receive the names of all those who passed into the packet, and none to pass without giving their names, the same to be recorded in his book which he held in his hand. As we approached the wharf, I felt as it my heart was in my mouth, or in other words very much afraid that I should be compelled to give my name, together with an account from where I came, and where I was going, and in what manner I came there. To all this I should not dare to answer, (fearing in one case to implicate the master of the vessel in which I came, who was perfectly innocent; and in the second, of being taken and again returned to my master, there to remain in slavery during the rest of my life.) but I followed him down to the packet boat. 1 perceived the Doctor had his head turned a little to the left, looking at something in that direction. He perceived the sailor who was my conductor, and recognized him as one he had examined; but not noticing me, I slipped aboard without being interrogated at all. I was in the greatest fear of being detected, so much so that I almost fainted; but when I heard the word given to push off, I rejoiced heartily. I then told the sailor who had been my friend, that I was convinced I should meet with some person on my landing whom I had formerly known. He replied, never mind that, take hold of my chest and come along with me. I did so, and soon after we arrived at the lodgings of this sailor who proved to be my friend. (Which I made my place of abode for the present) In the course of the afternoon I saw a coloured girl near the house in the street, I enquired of her if she would walk with me a little ways, in order to see the town, and that I could again find my lodgings. I being a stranger there was afraid of being lost.
We walked about the city some time; at length, as we were walking up Broadway, who should I see but Mr. Oliver Sturges, of Fairfield, who once had been my master in Savannah. To my great astonishment, he came up to me, and said, why, Theodore; how came you here? I lied to him, and told him I had been there about two weeks; being so frightened, I knew not what to say, never intending to tell a lie, wilfully or maliciously. He asked me how all things were going on at his yard in Savannah. I answered, all well, I just came from there, sir. After a few moments conversation, he passed on one way, and I went on towards my lodgings, where I rested that night. The next morning, after purchasing a loaf of bread, and a small piece of meat, I started on foot for New-Haven. I could often get an opportunity to ride; sometimes behind the stage, at others, I could sometimes persuade a teamster to take me on for a short distance. In this manner, I arrived at New-Haven. After I arrived there, and even before, every carriage or person I saw coming behind me, I fancied were in pursuit of me. Lying still on board the vessel so long, made it fatiguing for me to walk far at a time without stopping to rest: my situation there being quite confined, and no opportunity for exercise. I often was obliged to go off the road and lie down for some time; and whenever I saw any person coming on, that I suspected, I took that opportunity for a resting spell, and went out of sight until they passed by. Finding my money growing short, I found that I must live prudent. I met a couple of boys on the road who had some apples. I bought them, which together with what little provision I took with me, was all I had to subsist on until I arrived at New-Haven, which was three days. I lodged the two nights I was on the road at private houses. When I arrived at New-Haven, I found that all the money I had left amounted to no more than seventy-five cents. That night I lodged at a boarding house, kept by a certain Mrs. W. who took me to be a white man; and although I have lived in New-Haven since that time a number of years, she never knew to this day, but what it was a white man that lodged there that night. The next morning I went to work for Abel Lanson, who kept a livery stable. He set me at work in a ledge of rocks, getting out stone for building. This I found to be the hardest work I had ever done, and began to repent that I had ever come away from Savannah, to this hard cold country. After I had worked at this for about three months, I got employment in taking care of a sick person, who called his name Carr, who had been a servant to Judge Clay, of Kentucky; he was then driving for Lanson. I took care of him, and took his place as driver for some time. One day, as I was assisting Isaac (a son of Lanson) to harness a horse, to my great astonishment and surprise, master Stephen Bullock, whom I have heretofore mentioned, as the relation to, and superintendent of my master’s office in Savannah, came up to me and said, Why, John, it is as hot here as in Savannah. (I will here mention, that as it may appear strange for me to have so many names, to those who are not acquainted with the circumstance, that it is a practice among the slave holders, whenever one buys a slave of another, if the name does not suit him, or it he has one of the same name already, he gives him what name he pleases. I for these reasons, have had three different names.) I was so much surprised to see Mr. Bullock, that I could scarce give him an answer. He spoke to me several times I was so much afraid and astonished, that I could give him no answer. I was afraid he would ask me how I came in New-Haven. Who can express my express my feelings at first seeing him. I behaved so bashful and afraid to speak, that after saying a few words, he walked down Church street, and I saw no more of him. After he had gone, Isaac said to me, why, he appears to know you. I replied, yes, it is no wonder that he knows me. I then went and informed my friends that I had seen my young master, and I did not think it prudent for me to stay in New-Haven long. Accordingly I left town, and went on to a place called Southington, a few miles back in the country, where I went to work on a farm. Here an accident befel me, which I will mention. I one day went to assist Capt. Potter to pick up apples, and having on a red flannel shirt, the cattle were afraid of it as I was attempting to take them from the cart. Having stepped between them, in order to let the tongue of the cart down, which was filled with apples, they started and ran down a hill as fast as they possibly could. I held on to the tongue of the cart as long as I had strength enough. They were constantly kicking me in the face. I durst not attempt to quit my hold, fearing I should be crushed to pieces by the loaded cart; but not being able to hold on any longer, after they had run down the hill, and through a pair of bars, I fell, and the cart passed over me and crushed my ancle severely. The neighbors gathered round me, expecting every moment to see me breathe my last. They took me up and carried me to a house, sent for a doctor, and he came. I being so much bruised and kicked, the blood was streaming from me in many places. The Doctor soon stopped it, and bound up my ancle. I recovered slowly, and was obliged to crawl on my hands and knees a great while, and supported myself on what little money I had acquired, until I procured a pair of crutches. I then used to go around amongst the neighbors in Southington, husking corn, and doing such kind of work as I could do in my situation. I found it much harder at this time to be a free man, than I had to be a slave; but finally got to be able to earn fifty cents per day. After I had so far recovered as to be able to walk, or rather limp without crutches, I returned to New-Haven. After staying there a short time, I was taken sick, and continued unable to work for a week or two. I put up with Abel Lanson, and assisted him in digging a well. I then worked about the Colleges, cutting wood, at which I earned about one dollar a day, of which I was very saving, until I had collected about twenty dollars. I then left New Haven, and started for Providence, where I spent the chief part of my money. I then went into partnership with a man by the name of Boham, and kept a barbers shop. After a few months, we dissolved partnership. I then went on to Newport, and after waiting some time for a passage to New Bedford, at length found a packet bound for that port; but the wind blowing very hard, I did not think it safe to go on board, so I put my trunk on board, and went on myself on foot, it being thirty miles, and arrived there before the packet. I had not money sufficient to pay for my board one week. Wishing to get a place to work as soon as I could, and hearing that Mr. John Howland wanted a servant, I applied to him for employ; we soon struck a bargain at the rate of nine dollars a month: this was in June. In the fall after, I kept shop for myself some part of the time; the rest part I worked for Mr. Howland, until it began to grow cold. I also kept a few groceries. The colored people being often in there evenings, had finally become so much habituated to take their own heads in rioting and carousing, (which I endeavored to suppress in vain,) that Mr. Hazzet, my landlord, asked me a number of times, if I had not better give up the shop. To which I replied, yes sir, I will very gladly, for I see the colored people have imposed upon me. I being a stranger, and the only barber in the place, except white people, they would often come in with their families and dance evenings, until late; and being noisy and riotous, I would endeavor to stop them, but to no purpose; they still persisted in it, until I was obliged to give up my shop.
There was a woman who lived in the room below me: she kept house there, and was not pleased with the noise, saying she would not have it there. I suppose she complained to my landlord, and for that reason I was obliged to give up my shop. After one quarter, I did it, and paid him up my rent. After I had left the shop about two months, this woman was heard to cry murder in the night. The neighbors immediately assembled, when two sailors were seen to escape out of her window, go down on to the wharf, and go on board a vessel. The morning following the authority made enquiry about it. On questioning her, she said that two persons came into her room and offered her violence, she resisted as long as her strength held out, and after they had accomplished their design, they then abused and whipped her until she made the outcry. They then enquired of her if she knew who it was. She replied, no. They then enquired, do you suspect any one. She said, no. On enquiring again if she had any reason to mistrust any one, on any account. She replied, I know of no one who owes me grudge except William Grimes: Whilst he lived in this house, over my room, he used to have a great deal of noise there, which disturbed me; I said considerable about it, which was the means of his quitting his shop. He then threatened to be revenged for it. I can think of no other person. I was then taken before a Justice, Esq. Williams, to answer to this charge. I proved by Mr. John Howland, Jr. to whom I had hired out for the winter, for seven dollars a month, that I was in his house all that night. He knew me to go to bed, and as a light snow was then falling, he said it was impossible for me to go out of the house without his knowledge. After three days time I was discharged, they not being able to prove any thing against me. Before I left the room, I was again arrested and taken to this woman’s room, where they questioned her very close. They asked her if she could or would swear to the voice of the person or persons that had been seen to come out of her window. She replied, no, I cannot. They then asked her if she was willing to swear that she was afraid of her life. She answered yes. I was again taken back to the court for another trial; I was well convinced that the woman knew it was not me, and also knew who it was. If it had been me, she would have said so at once. Esq. Williams, asked me if I would have a lawyer. I not knowing what to answer, never having been brought up in a court before, answered, yes, sir, I will have you for my lawyer. He replied, I am bound to do you all the good I can; I must do justice. You had better get some other attorney; but there being no one handy, they (my opponents) said, as you have no attorney, we will have none. Esq. Williams then said to me, you must be recognized together with some other person in the sum of $300, for your appearance at Taunton court, in about three months. I not being acquainted with any person to whom I wished to apply, and having no money, I therefore went to gaol, where I stayed until the court set. When the trial came on, two witnesses were brought forward, who testified that they heard me say I would injure the woman. The Judge enquired of them, was that all you heard? is that all you know? They answered, yes. He then acquitted me, cautioning me to behave myself well. I then went directly to Providence, where I remained a few days, then continued on to Norwich, where I went to work for a few weeks, for Mr. Christopher Starr. From thence I went on to New-London, where I purchased a set ef barbers tools. Having been informed previous to this that a barber might do well at Stonington point, after crossing the river I pursued my journey, it being through woods. I had not gone more than one or two miles before I saw four or five men, who made directly towards me. I was very much frightened when I saw them, but could not tell why. I was much more so, when they came up to me and said where are you going, boy? I answered them to Stonington point. Where did you come from? I came from New-London. What have you got there in your bundle? I have got nothing but some barber’s tools. You are a barber then are you? Yes, I was told that Stonington point was a good place for a barber, and I purchased a set of tools in New-London, with the intention of going there to establish a shop. They then replied, there has lately been a store broken open, and we are now in pursuit of the rogues; we have orders to search every person we meet with; we are therefore under the necessity of searching you. I replied, you may search me gentlemen if you please. They then proceeded to search my bundle, and finding nothing there more than I had told them, let me go on; but advised me not to go there: that the people were not civil, but would raise the devil with any person, who should undertake to establish a barber’s shop there. They advised me to return back to Mr. Starr’s; and after considerable conversation I resolved to return; which I did, and worked on Mr. Starr’s farm about two weeks longer. I then went to New-London, and took the steam-boat for New-Haven, where I arrived sometime in May. I then went to work about the Colleges, as I had formerly done; also, shaving, cutting hair, &c. such as waiting on the scholars in their rooms, and all other kinds of work that I could do when not employed at this. I worked about the Colleges about six or eight months. I had then accumulated about fifty dollars, and hearing that there was no barber in Litchfield, (a very pleasant town, about 36 miles back in the country, where the celebrated Law school, under the direction of Tapping Reeve Esq. was kept,) and as there were between twenty and thirty law students, I thought it a good place for me. I accordingly went and established myself as a barber. I very soon had a great deal of custom, amounting to fifty or sixty dollars per month. After I had resided there about a year with about as good success, I undertook to keep one or two horses and gigs to let. For sometime I made money very fast; but at length trading horses a number of times, the horse jockies would cheat me, and to get restitution I was compelled to sue them. I would sometimes win the case; but the lawyers would alone reap the benefit of it. At other times I lost my case, fiddle and all; besides paying my Attorney.
Let it not be imagined that the poor and friendless are entirely free from oppression where slavery does not exist: this would be fully illustrated if I should give all the particulars of my life, since I have been in Connecticut. This I may do in a future Edition, and when I feel less delicacy about mentioning names.
While at Litchfield, I sold a waggon to a neighbor and took his note, which I was compelled to sue. My debtor lived in a house with another man, whom I had made my enemy, by dunning him in the street for cutting his hair. They out of revenge went to a Grand-Juror, and made complaint against me for keeping a bad girl at my house. I always kept a girl, as we took in washing, and this girl who had been living with an inhabitant there, my wife hired about ten days before. The trial was before Squire M. who got another Esq. to set with him, and a great court it was too. They asked me if I had a lawyer. I said I would plead my own case, as I was sure they had nothing against me. I however told one of Judge G’s. son’s, that he might answer for me if he was a mind to. There were a great many of the inhabitants summoned to testify, and all of them testified in my favour, except two. The jail keeper who lived second door from me, said he knew, nor heard nothing against me; and he was no friend of mine. Trowbridge, and Hungerford, said they had heard thus and so: but were not questioned where they got their information. If I had plead my own case, I could have done better than any lawyer or rather student. M. Smith, managed the case against me. Esq. one of the court as before mentioned, by invitation in giving his opinion, made a long speech against me; or rather, he said there was proof enough that such report was enough to convict me; he said more than the lawyer against me. I had got most of my business by activity. from his servant, who before I went to Litchfield, was the principle waiter &c. for the students. I thought this trial showed his master, and some others thought as much of this as of the crime of which I was accused; particularly as it was one at which they were not likely to feel much indignation in their hearts. The girl was of a bad character; but I did not know it. She was white. I sent her away as soon as I heard any thing against her. I asked my lawyer why he did not question the witness against me, where they heard reports; and he said there was nothing proved against me. The court, he said, did as they was a mind to. I being a negro, I suppose they thought no one would ever notice it. I had money, and if I had not, the town wouldhave to pay the cost. I say before my God, that I was convicted of keeping a bad house, when I had only kept this girl in my house ten days, and knew nothing but that she was virtuous.
I was warned out of town shortly after I went to Litchfield by one of the select-men, and through the influence of this servant before mentioned, or his friends. But I went to Esq B. who told them to let me stay, and I heard no more about it. After I was put under bonds, I was obliged to give a mortgage of my house; and this same trial was five hundred dollars damage to me: it injured my character of course, and those who suppose I have no feelings are mistaken.
A few days after my trial, I went down to cut the Governor’s hair, and he said to me, Grimes, I am sorry that you got in such a scrape. I supposed his since secretary would pursuade him that I was guilty. I only said I was not guilty; and I do wish that the Governor only did know the truth about it. I after this met Esq. B. in the street, and he said William, they did not do you justice at the trial. I talked with him, and he told me when the county court set, he would get the bonds taken off if the states attorney did not object; but the attorney did object at the instigation of—.
This servant had been tried for the same offence which I had, and was convicted; but found friends. I presume if I had been actually guilty, I should have met with different treatment
It has been my fortune most always to be suspected by the good, and to be cheated and abused by the vicious. An instance of rascability I will now mention, which took place at Litchfield: one J. swapped horses with me, and by fraud, induced me to give twenty dollars to boot. The horse I swapped cost me five. I sold the horse I had of him for fifteen dollars. I sued him though, and recovered, I believe thirty dollars. I bought a mare of one P. and paid him good money. Afterwards he came to me with a counterfeit bill, and said I paid it to him. I knew I did not, for it was torn and ragged. He threatened me and I took it, being ignorant of the law. But I understand the law now, pretty well, at least that part which consists in paying fees. My case with the horse jockey cost me a great deal of money. It was curious to hear his witnesses testify: some who knew nothing about the horse or the bargain, swore, just as if they were reciting their catechism. God help them! One of my children was sick, and I sold a buffaloe skin to the physician while he was visiting the child, for which he was to give me six dollars. Before I left Litchfield, I could not get him to make out his bill: but after I went to New-Haven, this doctor sent his bill down there for collection. I thought I had paid enough, and refused paying any more than the six dollars, unless he swore to his account. This he did, but what was strange, he went up into Tolland County, about forty miles off to do it. I was in as good credit as any man in Litchfield, and as good a paymaster. Quackery and extortion generally go together.
I used to carry to the student’s rooms, their meals when they wanted. One of them from Charleston, a graduate of Yale College, sent for his dinner one day. I carried a variety of dishes, a very large dinner, and a plenty of wine and brandy. He had several gentlemen in the room with him that day, and they did all set down at the table, and they would have me to set down to the table too. One of them would say, Mr. Grimes, a glass of wine with you, sir; and the next gentleman would say the same, and so they kept on, until I had got two glasses to their one all around the table. I began to feel myself on a footing with them, and made as free with them as they did with me, and drank to them, and they would set me to making speeches. They not only drank with me themselves, until they got me as drunk as a fool, but they called in Peter Hamden, who was going along, and made him drink a glass of brandy and water with me. At last I took the floor, and lay there speechless some hours. I had two or three apprentice boys; towards night, they came after me and led me home. I never was so drunk in my life before. I looked so like death, my wife was shocked at the sight of me.
Harry, the servant whom I have mentioned before, as my great rival and enemy, I knew kept a lewd house. His protector had been so active in the prosecution against me, that I thought I would retaliate a little. I went to a grand juror therefore and made a complaint against Harry. The grand juror did not understand managing the case at all, as he was just appointed. The trial was before Esq. B. Mr. Beers managed the case for Harry, and got him clear; the witnesses being all Harry’s friends. And when à lawyer makes a justice, the justice sometimes is very apt to remember his creator. Harry then turned round and sued me for damages in getting him complained of. He employed two lawyers, Mr. Sanford and Mr. Beers, and I employed two. Before I made complaint against Harry, I was riding in the stage with a man to New-Haven, who told me all about Harry’s house. I now went to New-Haven, and took this man’s deposition before Esq. Dennison. At the trial, which made some noise in Litchfield, we called on Harry’s lawyers to give bonds, which they did, and at it they went until dinner, when the court adjourned. Only one of Harry’s lawyers returned after dinner, and all he did was to pay the cost and be off. So I came off triumphant. At one time while I was living in New-Haven, I applied to the jail keeper in Litchfield, to borrow two hundred dollars. He said if I would buy his horse and cutter, he would let me have fifty dollars cash, and I must give my note for two hundred dollars, with a mortgage on my place, for security. I did so. The horse and cutter I suppose was worth seventy-five dollars. But while my ignorance thus exposed me to imposition, it was perhaps the only way in which I could learn wisdom: indeed, those to whom I have done kindness, have often proved ungrateful. One Barnes I recollect was confined in Litchfield jail for the fine and cost which had been imposed for a fighting scrape. He told me if I would pay it, which was twelve dollars, he would let me have his cow to get my pay. I paid it, gave him some change after I had taken him out, and shaved him, so that he might go home and see his wife. But I found the cow was not his. His brother is a cabinet maker, and rich, but would not help him I believe. I got into a quarrel with a student. He struck me in a passion, and I sued. He gave me twenty dollars, and I settled it; and having about this time an opportunity to let my place, I did so. The rent was seventy dollars a year. My object was to go to New-Haven, which I now did. I hired a place of Esq. Dagget in New-Haven, close by the Colleges, and gave him one hundred dollars rent. I kept a victualing shop, and waited on the students. I kept money to let, and soon got into full business. I bought furniture too of the students; in this my business interfered with Mr. E. my next neighbor, which brought upon me his displeasure. In fact I had such a run of custom, that all the shop keepers, that is of these huckster shops about college, and who get their living out of the students fell upon me to injure me in every possible manner: they had more sense than I had, about keeping in with the Faculty, and others about there, but I can swear they were not more honest in my opinion. They took pains to prejudice the college steward against me. When I wanted wood, I used to get some student who owed me, to sign a bill and then get the wood delivered at my house; the wood is furnished by college to the students. This was the only way in which I could get my pay often. I had got a load at my house, which had been delivered in this manner. The cartman had thrown it part off, when the steward came up and ordered him to carry it back. I ordered him to unload. He began to put the wood back, when I seized him and stopped it. The steward says you rascal, this is my wood, and are you not going to give up. I said I am not, it is in my possession. He took back however, what was not thrown off. But I went immediately up to the stewards office and demanded it again, and told him I would sue him if he did not restore it; and he gave it up. I told him that it was all I could get from the student. The steward knew if I sued him it would make a great noise and laugh about town, and he knew (being a lawyer,) that I could recover. Being in opposition to all these fellows who get their living about College, they all hated me, and would go to the Tutors and throw out insinuations against me, would tell the students if they had me in their rooms they would be suspected. But notwithstanding their efforts, I did a mighty good business.
As I have spoken of a wife, it may seem strange that I have not related the tale of love which must have preceded matrimony. It would be indelicate to relate many things, necessary to a full understanding of a courtship, from beginning to end. One might tell how he got acquainted; whether he was welcomed or repulsed at first. Praise his wife’s beauty, or commend her temper, before the die is cast. Somehow I did not like, did not know how to tell it. I got married. Though before I went to Litchfield to live, and shortly after I returned to New-Haven, from Taunton, as is mentioned before, I used to hear students say something about taking Yankee girls for wives, and I thought I would look round and see if I could not find one. I had a great many clothes from the students, and I could rig myself up mighty well. And I have always seen that the girls seemed to like those best who dressed the finest. Yet I do reckon, the generality of girls are sluttish, though my wife is not. When a servant, and since too, I have seen so much behind the curtain, that I dont want telling I recollect one student telling a story of this sort, when I was in the room. An acquaintance of his had been courting a lady some time, and, I forget how it was exactly, but after he married her, come to see her in the morning, with all the curls, ribbons, combs, caps, ear rings, wreaths, &c. &c. stripped off, he did not know her. While I was looking round, I found a plain looking girl in New-Haven, and I found she was the very one providence had provided for me; though her beauty, before it faded, and her figure before it was spoiled, as it always must be soon, were such as a fine Virginian like me, might be proud to embrace. I paid my attention to her. I loved her into an engagement. After a while I got one of the students to write a publishment, and sent it to the Rev. Mr. M.; he did not read it the next sabbath, as is customary, and I went to see him. He said he would read it next Sunday, though he thought it was a hoax. So next Sunday he made proclamation. I was then married in the Episcopal manner. I reckon my wife did belong, originally, at Middlebury, twenty miles from New-Haven. I had at that time, become much alarmed about being taken up and carried back to my master, which was one reason why I left New-Haven for Litchfield. My wife’s mother came down to see her, and she went home with her, and came down in a waggon after me, and as I was walking in the street that evening she came, I thought I heard the constable after me, and Mr. Sturges, who formerly owned me. I heard them say, the constable and another, that fellow ran away from Savannah. I was so frightened, my strength left me. But I began to run. I stopped at Lanson’s, and left word for my wife, and then went on as swift as a deer, over the fences. I never thought where I was going. I travelled until two or three o’clock. Oh, how the sweat did run off me! I crept into a barn and slept; and the next day I arrived at Middlebury. Here I went to work among the farmers, until I left for Litchfield, as aforementioned, and commenced my barber’s shop and waiting. I suppose I staid at Litchfield four years, until when I rented my house, and came to New-Haven, as above stated.
While living in New Haven, one C. a student, gave me a room in the house where he roomed, and I waited on him. He sent me to the College Hall after his breakfast. Mr. Kennedy, one of the Cooks, ordered me out, and we had a considerable scrumagein the Hall, but I got the breakfast. I told Corbett, and he advised me to sue him. I went to lawyer Thomas, and got a writ drawn, and had it served that day. Mr. Kennedy got Mr. Twining for his attorney: indeed, I think he had two lawyers. I lost my case. They had president Dwight’s deposition, who stated that he put these men in the hall to do for him as they would in their own houses. Therefore, Kennedy had according to law, a right to put me out. I was at this time a stranger in New-Haven, but I knew a great many of the students, and they were very good to me. They paid the cost of this case, or gave me clothes and money, so that I made money, if any thing, by the suit.
My acquaintance among the black people were friendly to me in New-Haven, and it is no more than just that I should preserve the name of one of them, who is now dead, from oblivion, particularly as he was a runaway slave, like myself, and very distinguished in his profession. As soon as I came from New-Bedford to New-Haven, I went up to College to see Barber Thompson, and to see how he came on; and I found him very sick. He was very glad to see me, and gave the shop into my possession, to keep for him. Barber Thompson, for that was the name he went by in New-Haven, was a slave to Mr. Benly, of Port Royal, Va. He came on to the north with a gentleman, to wait on him, and ran away during the last war He was honest and clever, was called the greatest barber in America, kept shop by the College, and was often called to officiate at parties and weddings, being the politest servant in town. He died last winter, and I had him buried in my burying ground. That poverty which often leaves my wife and children without a supper, may well excuse me for leaving his grave nameless. A stone I intended to erect, with this epitaph.
Here lies Old Thompson! and now he is dead,
I think some one should tell his story;
For while men’s faces must be shaved,
His name should live in glory.
But I have not for the reason above, put up a stone.
The enmity of some of my rivals in business, led them to make representations about town against my character, and one of them had some authority in town affairs. My conduct was good, and the strict laws of Connecticut could find nothing to punish; but the select-men have power to warn any man out of town who has not gained a settlement, which is a difficult thing for a poor man. This was the only course my enemies could take with me. There was certainly no danger of my coming upon the town, which is all the object of the law to prevent. It is very mean and cruel, to drive a man out of town because he is suspected of some crime, or breach of law. If he is guilty, punish him, but not set him adrift on suspicion, or from mere tyranny, because his poverty exposes him to it. If I was a pimp why not punish me for it, not warn a man out of town, because his enemies accuse him of crime. Such was the fact though. They then brought a suit for the penalty, one dollar and sixty-seven cents a week. The suit was before a justice in Woodbridge. I saw him in town and told him I wished to have the case adjourned to New-Haven. They got judgment against me, as I did not appear. I was then in this predicament, liable to be whipped at the post, if I did not pay the fine or depart, in ten days. I think I should not have left, but paid my dollar and sixty-seven cents a week and staid, if I had not at this time become alarmed about being taken up by my old master in Savannah. I was often recognized by students, and others from the south; and my master knew where I was. I thought if I went back in the country, if I was taken up I should have more chance to buy myself free; I therefore returned to Litchfield.
After I returned to Litchfield, Mr. Thompson came on as I had anticipated, with power from my master, to free me or take me back. He said he would put me in irons and send me down to New-York, and then on to Savannah, if I did not buy myself. I instantly offered to give up my house and land, all I had. The house was under a mortgage to Dr. Cottin. A Mr. Burrows, from the south had before this, seen me in New-Haven, and said my master would send on for me. I got a gentleman in Litchfield to write to my master, to know what he would do, and he wrote back he would take five hundred dollars for me, tho’ I was worth eight. Mr. Thompson had now come on, with discretionary power. My house would sell for only $425, under the incumbrance. Mr. T. wished me to give my note for fifty dollars, in addition. I went to the Governor, and told him the whole story: and the governor said, not so, Grimes; you must have what you get hereafter, for yourself. The governor did pity my case, and was willing to assist me, for such is his feeling to the poor.
To be put in irons and dragged back to a state of slavery, and either leave my wife and children in the street, or take them into servitude, was a situation, in which my soul now shudders at the thought of having been placed. It would have exhibited an awful spectacle of the conduct and inconsistency of men, to have done it; yet I was undoubtedly the lawful property of my master according to the laws of the country, and though many would justify him, perhaps aid in taking me back, yet if there is any man in God’s whole creation, who will say, with respect to himself, (only bring the case home) that there are any possible circumstances in which it is just that he should be at the capricious disposal of a fellow being, if he will say, that nature within him, that feeling, that reason tells him so, or can convince him so, that man lies! The soul of man cannot be made to feel it, to think it, to own it, or believe it. I may give my life for the good or the safety of others. But no law, no consequences, not the lives of millions, can authorize them to take my life or liberty from me, while innocent of any crime.
I have to thank my master, however, that he took what I had, and freed me. I gave a deed of my house to a gentleman in Litchfield. He paid the money for it to Mr. T., who then gave me my free papers. Oh! how my heart did rejoice, and thank God! From what anxiety, what pain and heart ache did it relieve me. For even though I might have fared better the rest of life under my master, yet the thought of being snatched up and taken back, was awful. Accustomed as I had been to freedom, for years, the miseries of slavery which I had felt, and knew, and tasted, were presented to my mind in no faint image. To say that a man is better off in one situation than another, if in the one he is better clothed and better fed, and has less care than in the other, is false. It is true if you regard him as a brute, as destitute of the feelings of human nature. But I will not speak on the subject more. Those slaves who have kind masters, are perhaps as happy as the generality of mankind. They are not aware that their condition can be better, and I dont know as it can: indeed it cannot by their own exertions. I would advise no slave to leave his master. If he runs away, he is most sure to be taken. If he is not, he will ever be in the apprehension of it. And I do think there is no inducement for a slave to leave his master, and be set free in the northern states. I have had to work hard; I have been often cheated, insulted, abused, and injured; yet a black man, if he will be industrious and honest, he can get along here as well as any one who is poor, and in a situation to be imposed on. I have been very unfortunate in life in this respect. Notwithstanding all my struggles and sufferings, and injuries, I have been an honest man. There is no one who can come forward and say he knows any thing against Grimes. This I know, that I have been punished for being suspected of things, of which, some of those who were loudest against me, were actually guilty. The practice of warning poor people out of town is very cruel. It may be necessary that towns should have that power, otherwise some might be overrun with paupers. But it is mighty apt to be abused. A poor man just gets a going in business, and is then warned to depart. Perhaps he has a family, and dont know where to go, or what to do. I am a poor man, and ignorant. But I am a man of sense. I have seen them contributing at church for the heathen, to build churches, and send out preachers to them, yet there was no place where I could get a seat in the church. I knew in New-Haven, Indians and negroes, come from a great many thousand miles, sent to be educated, while there were people I knew in the town, cold and hungry, and ignorant. They have kind of societies to make clothes, for those, who they say, go naked in their own countries. The ladies sometimes do this at one end of a town, while their father’s who may happen to be selectmen, may be warning a poor man and his family, out at the other end, for fear they may have to be buried at the state expense. It sounds rather strange upon a man’s ear, who feels that he is friendless and abused in society, to hear so many speeches about charity; for I was always inclined to be observing.
I have forebore to mention names in my history where it might give the least pain, in this I have made it less interesting and injured myself.
I may sometimes be a little mistaken, as I have to write from memory, and there is a great deal I have omitted from want of recollection at the time of writing. I cannot speak as I feel on some subjects. If those who read my history, think I have not led a life of trial, I have failed to give a correct representation. I think I must be Forty years of age but don’t know; I could not tell my wife my age. I have learned to read and write pretty well; if I had opportunity I could learn very fast. My wife has a tolerable good education, which has been a help to me.
I hope some will buy my books from charity, but I am no beggar. I am now entirely destitute of property; where and how I shall live I don’t know; where and how I shall die I dont know, but I hope I may be prepared. If it were not for the stripes on my back which were made while I was a slave. I would in my will, leave my skin a legacy to the government, desiring that it might be taken off and made into parchment, and then bind the constitution of glorious happy and free America. Let the skin of an American slave, bind the charter of American Liberty.