Botetourt-Alleghany-Amherst County Virginia USGenWeb Archives History
Persinger Family Journal 1907-1910 January 1907
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Susan Persinger firstname.lastname@example.org and Mary Jones email@example.com
January 30, 2008, 4:15 pm (January 1907)
Today we had us one of my chickens after church to eat. James killed the big white hen for me and Amos cleaned it for me. I had give her warning cause like granddaddy Persinger always say they can lay in their nest or they can lay in my pot. That old thing had not give me an egg one in ages. Sis fixed up some beets and Miss Mary brought over some rice with onions. We had us a good time cause the house full of people. I wish I had me a house full all the time cause lord knows a body hates to be by theirselfs. I like to be by myself if I have some thinking to do but most of the time I want someone with me. Me and sis always been together and that makes it easier on us both. I wonder somedays if sis ever misses never getting married. The way she talks she don’t. She would of made a good momma cause she was always good with mine. Somedays I feel bad cause I think maybe that she never got her no man cause she always be wanting to take care of me and mine. I thanks sweet Jesus that she been with me all these years cause I never made it without her.
I enjoy writing. I use to write when I was little but with the children and all it just seemed that I never had time or was just to wore out to do it. Miss Fridley over in Alleghany County give me a book to write in when I was bout 8 and I wrote lots in it. Sis thinks that momma burned part of it by mistake when she was starting a fire in the cook stove. I wish I had it to read what I was thinking bout back then. Sis can read and do some writing but she not as good as me cause she never liked to do her much learning. Sis always wanted to be outside or in the kitchen helping with the cooking. Me I liked it but we didn’t have lot of time for it cause we were always working around the house and fore I was 14 we was working for other people. I use to hate the men talking about starting the garden cause I knowed what was coming. Lord knows I hated pulling rocks from those fields. Us kids had to carry big buckets and we had to fill them with rocks out of the garden and we carry them all day til it was to dark to see. We had to grub the ground and then pull weeds and my back would hurt but had to be done. I can make a good garden but don’t mean I like it. After we left Botetourt for the Carolinas I remember telling sis that making a garden there was not hard on a body cause there was no big rocks to be moving out of the garden and the dirt easy to turn over. I remember one year we was staying up in Ritch Patch and lord knows we carried rocks all summer and every time it rain there was more rocks then fore we started. Miss Bowen always say that the ground growed rocks.
I don’t know nothing to write bout today. I tell myself to least write every Sunday. Miss Odell says it good cause it keeps your mind off your troubles. I find me a hawk feather out by the basin yesterday. I put it over the door so as to keep bad luck out. Granddaddy Persinger always say put them with the quill down so that bad luck run right up them and not in the house. Lord knows we need us some good luck in this house. I aint had no word from my David in a long time. I know he can write. Sis says that he must be busy but I don’t know me why he don’t at least write me a few lines. Miss Jones say that Miss Grace been gone five years today. Her and Miss Jones were good friends and I had her over a couple of times. She was a good Christian lady and loved her church. I never knowed if they was related and don’t do me no asking now cause if they was it may make her sad. Miss Jones done seen more trouble in her time than most so I never want to add to her grief. I know how it is to lose one you done loved and someone reminding you that they are gone.
Miss Mary and Miss Jones come over and we had us all a good time. They learned us some slave songs that they would sing on the plantation. Miss Mary is the funnyist person when she has her a mind to be. Miss Pearl didn’t want to do her no singing cause she says they aint nothing bout slave days she ever want to think bout again but then she and Miss Mary do one together and it was the cutist thing. Miss Jones can do her some singing. Sis says that in heaven that has to be what an angel sounds like. Now sis don’t have her no voice for singing at all. My Tom can do him some singing but aint no use trying to get that boy in church to do it but he is a good boy and always do for me and sis. The preachers wife keeps acting like it is my fault all my children aint in church but I don’t pay her no never mind. I have me a good family and sweet Jesus done blessed me good. I always think bout all the times we had us at church over the years. When we was living down in the Carolinas me and sis always doing something in church. Course some of the churches were small and me and sis like us a church full of people.
My James done give his kids a dog. I hate to say it but I think the thing is ugly with big bat ears and a tiny little tail. I never have much cared for a dog and sis don’t like them but the kids already love him to death so I have to put up with him. I always been a little ascared of dogs cause one of granddaddy relations up and died from worms they got from a dog. Say they knotted up inside her and fore they could doctor her she up and died. Miss Mary was over most of the day with me. Sis fixed us up an apple pie and we enjoyed ourselves. I been waiting on a letter from my David. I wish he was here but a man has to go where there be work. I know he could write more than he do. Amos cut his foot and stayed two nights with me so that I could look after him. Lord knows his momma act like she not able to do nothing. Little wonder that my James come over all the time. I know that a body may not know all they needs to know when they first gets married but she has had her plenty of time to learn. I done offered her for years to help her learn some cooking and some sewing but says she aint got her no mind for it. If James didn’t do most the cooking they all be starving. When he is gone working his kids come here and eats most of the time or I have to fix up something and send it over. I don’t mind me a bit but she needs to be doing her part. Her and Linda done had words a couple times over it but I keep hush cause aint my place to say. She say she sick all the time and send Amos over to get her a plate of something and I been ascared to say much cause if she up and died I never forgive myself.
Miss Odell done give me a white kitten. James says he thinks his momma is crazy cause I got me a houseful already. I only let a few stay in the house but I likes having me a white cat cause they are good luck. My granddaddy Persinger knowed all bout animals and how they works. He say a white deer is called a spirit deer and is sacred and no man should kill one cause they are special and have powers. When he was little him and his daddy seen them one over in Alleghany County. It was no more than a rock throw from where they were but didn’t run off cause it knowed they never hurt it. He say his daddy told him never bother the spirit deer cause the spirits protect it. His daddy was an Indian and learned him all bout such things. The way you know such things is by the way they look. If an animal or bird is different from what you expect then it means that it done been marked by the spirits. Some is good luck and some is bad luck and a body needs to know which is which. A white squirrel is called a ghost squirrel. I never seen me one but granddaddy say a white squirrel is bad luck. If you see one you gots to leave it be cause if you kill it all the bad luck runs to you. It be the same with a white crow. I heared of this boy that shot him a white crow and took it home to show his family. A couple days later his momma falls over dead in her kitchen and everyone says he done brought death home with him that day. A black cat is unlucky but a black rooster brings good luck. If they have any spots on them then they not lucky or unlucky. Some folks don’t know them nothing bout such things but I think they is important for a body to know.
Me and Miss Odell been cooking up a pot of beans for Miss Mary cause she been in the sick bed most all week. Miss Jones says she helps her but she not able hardly to be taking care of herself so me and sis been helping. My cook stove got a crack in it you could put your finger through but don’t want to be spending me no money to be replacing it. I like to cook course liking it got nothing to do with it cause I got to do it. I don’t want nobody in my kitchen anyhow excepting maybe Miss Odell or sis. Sis can do her some cooking when she has a mind to and aint noone make better cakes. James says he will bring me some vanilla when he stops by tomorrow. That boy loves his vanilla cakes and I tell him that I get sis to help me bake him up some. Sweet Jesus knows that there aint a better son than my James. Miss Beth can do her some eating. She eat most of half a pie that I fixed me up. She stayed the night with me and near bout chewed my ear off but course I loves listening to her talk. I can do me my sewing and never has to worry myself bout what to say cause she never gives a body a chance to say nothing. Sis says she bet she talks in her sleep.
A person never believe she as old as she is. She says she was born in 1819 over in Botetourt County. She had her 10 children and done outlived all but one. Only one left is her boy Nathan and he not able to hardly look after himself and she still able to get out and do things. She had him in 1839 somewhere up north cause she was free and say that her and her man had trouble out of some slave catchers that wanted to sell them off at auction. She never say it but Miss Odell says that her man was a runaway from the Carolinas and that be why they had them some trouble but I know that they made trouble even if a body not no runaway. After the war they come back to Virginia cause she had her some people here and cause she didn’t like her all the snow and cold up there. I say that it snow and get cold here and she laughs and say if we aint lived up north then we never seen real snow or cold. Say she lost her man and two of her boys in 1889 from some sickness but never say what it was. The way I understand it Miss Odells sister married herself up with her youngest boy Paul and then they moved to Missouri. Say they got themselves burned up in a fire. That the only way I never want to die by. When I was little there was this fire and I seen this man and most of his skin was burned off so that he didn’t look like a man at all. It took him days to die and him moaning and yelling all the time cause of the pain. They had granddaddys brother get some of the wine he done made and they give him all he could drink trying to get rid of the pain. Sweet Jesus I never want to be taken like that.
I finished the big quilt. I put some of my best pieces in it. It has four rings in the center and ten stars down each side. Miss Wilson say she will buy it for her girl and another if I can make it by next week. Miss Odell promised to come round tomorrow and help me with it. This one got a flower design in it with two butterflys in the middle. I made me one like it couple years ago and sold it to some white folks down in Roanoke. Grandma Persinger showed me how to make the design when I was little. Sis got me a book with some designs in it but they are not near as pretty I think as the ones we makes. Miss Lewis wants me to sew her up a new dress so I needs get started on it. A lot of work to be done but better than none.
Miss Beth come over and say she going to live with her grandson. She say she never see me again in this world cause she done seen her the angel of death in her dreams and know she be gone soon. I started to cry but she say she want no tears cause she ready to see all her babies again and I think bout my Adam and tell her that I understand and that I love her. My granddaddy Persinger always say that his daddy told him that when a body gets old that death come to them and let the person know that their time is ending soon. They can come in the form of animals or in dreams and they do this so that the person can get themselves ready to pass on. He say aint no use fighting what will come cause it like trying to stop a river. A body has to be accepting that what come will come. If a body accepts the gift of knowing what come then it makes it easier but if a body fights it they will lose and everyone round them will have a hard time with it.
I aint feeling poorly in the least bit today. I had me a pain in my belly for neigh on two days. I put a smidge of wood ash and catnip in branch water and work better than anything the doctor has. Miss Mary come over this morning and had done fixed me some hoe cakes and greens. Guess it is her way of thanking me from when she was aling. She got her a good heart and I love her to death. We set and talked bout the old days and I tell her bout my writing so that when the lord calls me my family wont forget. I showed her but Miss Mary never had no learning. She says that slaves that had learning got beat. If they catch a slave with paper then they sell him off right then. She ask me to make the mark for Jacob cause that was her boys name so I show her and then I give her the paper to keep. She says she wanted to call him Mark but the master done picked out Jacob for him. We lucky cause to my knowing lest from the Persingers we aint been no slaves in my family. I know Raymonds momma was a slave so some of my children have slave blood in them. It don’t make me no never mind cause we all the same anyhow but Miss Mary says it do cause we got us learning. I remember Miss Bowen and Miss Wolf over in Alleghany County learning sis her letters and then them and sis helping me to write them down. Sweet Jesus knows I misses me those two women. They were two of the best white women I ever knowed. Sis and me been sewing most this week. James says he can take more things to Roanoke with him next week and sell them cause those people pay more than we gets round here. I done got me another buyer for my eggs so I need to be raising me up some more hens. I have two hens sitting on eggs now and may sit two more. Tom give me couple of hens he got from the white folks he working for. He is good at building so lots of folks want him to help them when they got a building to put up. He got that from his granddaddy Persinger cause that man could build him everything and could carve himself almost anything out of wood. He learned it from his daddy. He carved me a deer that looks real and I still got it. Daddy says he made one of a wild cat and give it to his momma Miss Sara and she had it til the day she passed. My James can work in wood and he done made me two or three chairs for my table. I thank sweet Jesus that all mine got themselves a trade. Things hard these days so a man needs him a trade. Mine always know that they can find them work somewhere cause they can do so many things. Course James been working since he was little and always has him a mind to be working. I cant abide me no lazy person. I been working for Miss Lewis doing the cooking and helping around the house cause her momma staying over at her place and she needs some help. Her momma an alful fussy woman and she calls me mammy Becca cause when she was little she had her a mammy Becca and she thinks I be her. After she eats I got to stay by her bed til she falls asleep cause that what her mammy Becca done. She makes me brush her hair fore and after every meal. We gots to dress her up like she a baby cause she got no mind bout things. She keep asking me bout people I never knowed but I goes along cause that what Miss Lewis pays me for. She don’t know Miss Lewis and keeps telling her not to be bossing her mammy cause her daddy done give her mammy Becca for her own. She keeps telling me not to worry cause no one ever beat or sell me cause she protect me. Me and sis been trading off but sis don’t like no one calling her mammy but she says she keeps her mouth shut cause Miss Lewis pays us good. She puts me in a mind of Miss Amanda cause she that way fore she died. That woman had her a hard life but a body never knowed it by the way she acted. She always had her a smile on her face and was singing all the time and Jesus knows she loved her church. We put my Raymond in the ground next to her and I know they in heaven. I got me a letter from my David and he put some money in it. He says that he likes his work and that the Italians he is working with treats him good. Sis says that grandma Persinger had her some Italian blood but I aint never been round any that I can recollect. Raymonds daddy was white but I don’t know if he had him any Italian blood. I stayed the last two nights over at Miss Lewis place cause her daughter gone to Richmond and says her momma keeps getting out of the bed at night. She aint no trouble for me cause when she sees me in the chair she goes back to sleep. If she don’t then I got to read to her from one of her books and I likes to read. Miss Lewis says I can borry me one anytime I want. She thinks Miss Lewis is her momma now and I know it gots to be hard on her. She keeps asking me bout her sister Emma and Miss Lewis says she been dead going on twenty years but I tell her she is fine and be home soon. I never want my kids to go through that with me so hope the lord takes me fore that ever happen.
People need to know that death is not the worse thing that can come down on a body. I seen so many of my people fall into some sort of madness fore their time to pass come and the family suffered so. Miss Odell made me some sausage cakes and poor John stew so I didnt have to do me no cooking once I got home. She been looking after my cats for me. She sure is a good woman. I missed not sleeping in my own bed but thank sweet Jesus sis says she will stay with her a couple of nights. (May 5 1907) Miss Odell and sis brought me a mess of turnips and onions and I done cooked them up with some pork and we eat all day on them. Today is May 5 which means my baby Adam been dead thirty years now and they know that and didn’t want me to be by myself today. Sweet Jesus knows that I grives myself as much today as I did in 1877. My baby Adam was a joy from the day I had him. He never cried like other babies and had the biggest eyes I ever seen on a baby just like he was an angel. He was just three months old and as healthy as a bull but I put him down for a nap and when I go back to see bout him Jesus had done took him. I don’t recollect much after that cause I done been took by the madness. Sis say that after we buried him she finds me down by the river and she asks me if I planning on joining my baby in the grave and I say that my baby is calling me from the water. I was sick to my soul and blamed god for what he done to me. Took near a year fore I goes back to church cause the pain in my heart just to great. God done blessed me with James in 1879 and a better baby never been put in any woman arms. I don’t recollect all the years for the others but sis got them wrote down for me in her Bible. I lost me two babies fore I was a few months along one cause I had me the fever and the other when I fall down getting wood. I think it don’t bother me much bout them cause I never knowed them. Lord knows that I love all my babies but there a place in my heart for sweet little Adam that never be filled. I don’t know why that little angel on my mind all the time. I still see his face all the time in my other kids and grandbabies. Some days I think bout when I get to see him again in heaven and the hugs and kisses I have for him. I feel bad for Miss Mary cause I know my baby Adam with Jesus but she don’t know nothing bout her babies if they alive or dead and she done stayed with me all day making me feel better and not a word from me bout what she be feeling. I will fix her up some apple dumplins tomorrow and take them over.
James come over and helped me out in the garden. Things look good so far and I hope to have me a mess of onions and greens fore long. Amos was fooling around at some foolness and broke my kitchen window so James had to fix that up for me fore he left. I wish Tom would come around more but he say he to busy working and at least he aint in no foolness like some of the boys round here. Miss Lewis wants me to come stay the next three nights over at her place to help with her momma. I have to stay up half the night so I going to take some of my sewing with me. Sis says that death is coming soon cause she can feel it. I just be hoping that she don’t pass while I be with her not cause I fear death but cause it will break Miss Lewis heart when she gone. I have heared many a colored person say that white folks don’t feel bout passing like we does but that nothing but crazy talk. As sick as that woman been and as much trouble it be taking care of her Miss Lewis don’t want to see her pass. I know she would give her last penny and her big house if she could make her well. Sweet Jesus knows that when it be my time I want to pass in my own bed with my family by me. Miss Lewis momma sleeping right now but her breathing not right. The light to poor for a body to do any sewing so I sets here and watches her and can do me some writing. I been fixing to write but had nothing to write bout. Sis says I needs to put down the story daddy told us bout when granddaddy Persinger helped him some runaway slaves. His Christian name was Gabriel but lots of folks called him You Way cause that was his nickname. They were living over there in Allegany County long fore the war. One night they heared some commotion and was ascared someone be thiefing some their domineckers. Granddaddy went out and finds himself two runaways over by his springhouse. They were a man and a woman and he say they the darkest coloreds he seen in his life. They say they done runaway cause their master was going to sell them off at auction. Grandma fixed them something to eat cause they looked half starved to death. Granddaddy didn’t know what to do with them so he took them to old man Redcross place. He was this mulatto man that knowed everybody round. He say he didn’t want to help cause he say that kind of wrongness get his family killed or sold out from under him if the whites find out.
Granddaddy tells him that he gots to help them cause they are little older than a child and he knowed that if the slavers take them they would beat them to the bone.. He thinks bout it fore a spell and tells them where they can go and find some white folks that take in runaways but says it is far off. Granddaddy says that he is going to take them through the woods cause that way no whites be eyeing them. Fore they leave he tells granddaddy that if the whites catch them then they never knowed him. Grandma say he gone purt near two weeks but she never worried her head over it cause Miss Sara always say him and his brothers was more like wild Indians and aint no white folks ever catch him once he in the woods. I had me a long walk today. I love to walk and visit along the way. It gives a body time to think bout things. The years going by so fast. I remember when my James was just a baby and I would hand him to Miss Amanda so that I could go to work and when I look back he put me in the mind of an angel. Now he is a grown man with a wife and babies of his own. When I walk by myself I feel like a little girl running after her granddaddy through the woods or playing apple ball in the field. I always loved being round all those people when I was little cause they made a body feel safe and loved. I know now that they loved me and payed no never mind to my color. I stayed the night one time over in Ritch Patch with Miss Smith and I was ascared of her man cause he had him a hard look but when I was leaving he give me the biggest hug and say I could come back when we was that way again. So many of my family and friends done passed on and I miss them a lot. When a body is in the house by yourself it seem like all those years come back and you feels so old and lost. I never been ascared of death but I want to stay with my children and their babies and see my grandbabies all grown with children of theirs running round my feet. The Bible says that a body go to heaven when they die and they see all their family again. Maybe it is like you was alive again. I want to see my Adam again.
Miss Fridley always say that she never ascared to be passing on if she knowed that all hers be taken care of when she was gone. I wish I could be as strong as that woman was. Raymond use to tell me that I was strong and somedays I think he passed in peace cause he knowed me and sis be just fine. (June 1907) I have me my birthday this week. Not sure of the day but sis say I was born in June so I set June 4 as my day cause my granddaddy always say 4 was a lucky number. I never been sure of the year but don’t matter much. None ever payed no mind to it for me excepting Miss Fridley cause she say that it is important .I always say that god took my momma but then to make up for it he give me sis and Miss Fridley and Miss Bowen and Miss Wolf so I had me four mommas. That aint to say that daddys wife weren’t no momma to me and sis it just that we never seemed to be loved by her. She never beat us and always give us food to eat but always seemed like she doing it cause it was her place and not cause she loved us. Sis say she never recollects her ever saying that she loved us but Miss Fridley and the others were saying it all the time. That is the way with some people but I know she say it to her own children but since me and sis always being reminding her everytime she seen us that daddy had loved him another woman she never say it to us. It bother sis more than me cause I back talked her one day and I say she don’t have to be loving me cause I was a Persinger by blood and those people loved me. I know that back talking was wrong but a child needs to feel like they are loved. The preacher says we needs to raise some money for the church. I be wishing we had the money to help more but lord knows we just making it ourselves. Miss Mary says she got nothing to give but maybe we can make up something to sell. I got me a card from my David. He sent me a couple dollars. He says he is doing fine and he is hoping to be back by Christmas. He done found him a woman and I want to meet her. Lord knows that that boy got no sense when it come to women. Spend his last penny on one if he got the chance. Lord knows he didn’t get that from his daddy cause that man never let go of nothing. Sis say when we buried him to check his hands cause he is going to take what he can with him. James the best of the bunch in that way though he spends on me more than he should. I thanks god every night for my children cause they my joy.
Tom got him that deer that been eating my garden. He was a big one and we worked all day getting him cut up. Me and sis cut part of him up in long strips to dry it the way that granddaddy showed us. He mixed in some dry roots and crushed leaves with his but sis is not sure how he done them. When he went in the woods he always had him a bag of it and hard bread so he could eat without needing to stop and fix up something. Miss Mary say she will show Tom how to fix up the hide so he can use it to make something out of it. I remember that granddaddy had him pants and an overshirt that he made that way and he always say they was good in the brush cause no thorns can get you and they lasts a long time. His daddy showed him how to do it cause his daddy never liked him no white mans clothes. Sis says that they had them a big bucket full of ashes and water that they put it in and him and grandma would work and scrape on it for days. I know that they made us shoes out of some and I liked them but I aint no cobbler so don’t know nothing bout how he made them. I know times were hard but me and sis had us some good times when we was little.
Me and sis went to church this morning and come home to fix up a bite for everyone to eat. I had me a house full of company and sure was glad bout it. I cooked up some of the deer that my Tom done killed in my garden and it sure was good. I got to show off my new divanport. It almost to pretty to be setting on. My babies done bought it for me but truth be told bet James come up with most of it. First new piece that come in this house since I can recollect. I was ascared to be asking what they done give for it but that would be bad manners anyhow. Miss Ruthann say she seen one exactly like it when she was cleaning over at some white folks. Miss Ruthann was a house slave down in Tennessee fore the war so she got herself an eye for good stuff. She say her momma was the mammy for the master from the time he was a baby. Her and her momma got to live in a room off the kitchen and got to eat what the white folks were eating. Course says that she is not her real momma cause her real momma died fore she was six. I tell her bout how my momma died when I was a baby to. Says Miss June ask the master to give her Miss Ruthann cause she never had her no babies of her own. She say course everybody knowed she didn’t have to do her no asking cause Miss June got what she wanted. Her and her momma got to go to town and all over and never needed her no pass cause everybody knowed her. Even the poor white trash knowed better than cause her no trouble. Everybody say how you feeling today Mammy June and she say tolerable. She says when her momma got the pox the master moved her into the room next to his and had a white doctor come and see bout her. Miss Mary says she cant hardly believe that cause she aint never knowed no white folks caring for colored but she says it is the truth. When her master got himself killed in the war her momma say she would kill that Yankee that done shoot her boy if she had the chance cause she loved him like he was her own. I always in a good spirit when my house full of folks talking and having a good time.
I wish we had more times like this. Miss Wilson had her some people down from Covington so got me to do the cooking. Her sister was talking bout the Persingers over that way and I wanted so bad to ask her bout Bernard but knowed better than ask. It would be nice to hear how things be with him but some things best left in the dark. Her sister made me mad talking bout how there was not enough sugar in the pie and the meat was nearly raw and the bread was to hard. I wanted to tell her to get in the kitchen and fix it herself but I need me the money so I keep hush. That woman eat more than two people and never moved a dish one. I got me no kindness for people like that. I know something is going on with Linda. James says there aint but I know there is. Linda is like sis. They both as stubborn as an old banny hen wanting to go to nest. I know Linda has trouble feeling she is a part of this family but she is and I love her. Sis came by hers honest cause my grandma Persinger always say that Miss Sara had her a way that when she set her mind on something nobody change her. The Bible say that women folk suppose to listen to their men but she say Miss Sara never payed no mind to what they tell her unless she had her a mind to. I wish somedays that I took more after her.
We has had us some bad times. James was working and fell off the roof of this house they was working on. I was in bed and Tom come running in the house yelling for me to come quick. I was thinking that the house be on fire so I run out in my bed clothes and Tom is yelling that James done been hurt bad. I see my baby and he is all hurt and blood done come out of his mouth and nose and he keeps telling me not to cry that he is not that bad hurt. All I could think bout was the time me and sis were visiting over in Alleghany County with some of the Persingers that lived over that way. It was a year or two after the war and Miss Fridley and Miss Bowen took us over at her friends house one Saturday so they could visit. All the men went out to skid them some logs. I wanted to go with the men but Miss Wright say that the men in the berries and I think that it to early for any berries but sis told me what it was. We were all in the kitchen and the door flings open and the men come in with this boy all covered in blood cause a tree done rolled him over. They toss all the coverings off the table and put him on it and you could see a bone up through his chest and blood coming out everywhere. One of the men takes off for a doctor and one of the men turns to my cousin Caleb and say to ride his horse to the boys house and get his momma cause he not going to make it. He say ride the horse to the ground if you has to but get her here quick. They send us kids out and I never seen him come back but sudden like I heared this scream come from the house and it was his momma. The women were holding her and some of them was praying out loud calling for god to come and save the boy. I heared the boy tell his momma that he was cold and they grabbed all the blankets and put them on him and then he tell her it don’t hurt him none and then he pass.
I can still see that poor woman tearing at her hair til the men folk tied her down. I stay up all night with James and pray but I was thinking bout that boy and how he say it don’t hurt and then he pass. I tell sweet Jesus that if he makes my baby right I never be asking for nothing again. I lost me my Adam and I die if he takes my James. The doctor says that he done busted him some ribs but if he stays in bed for a while he will be fine. Course James gots him a hard head and talking bout that he gots to work but I tell him that aint the way it going to be. He don’t like it but my boy always listens to his momma. Out of all mine he is the only one that never back talked me and I aint never had to ask him more than once to help me do something. Sweet baby Jesus please make my boy right. I will never be able to go on without him. I give all my praises to sweet Jesus cause James is getting better. He still got him some soreness in his chest and he is not able to work but I can see that he is stronger everyday. I cooked him up a big meal and he eat good. I love me that boy. Sis been helping over at his place so I can get me some rest but truth be knowed I never get me no rest cause he is on my mind all the time.
The ladys at church had a prayer circle for him and I pray all day and night for him. The preacher done come over a couple of times to pray for him. James tells me he is sorry that he not able to help me fix my garden up and I tell him to hush his mouth cause aint a one of us hungry. I cry a lot cause even being sick he still is thinking bout his momma. I always say that I was mad at god for taking my baby Adam but then he give me the best son a momma could ever want. There is this Bible story bout this man that god took all he had and then give him even better than he had. Sis says that I never have to worry my head cause he always been stronger than a bull. He took that after his granddaddy Persinger. Tom and Amos been helping me around the house and they are my joy. God has blessed me with my family and I give all my thanks to him. James come over today and I have me the biggest smile on my face cause my baby doing good. He says that he is going back to work in a week but he is still sore. I look at him and a momma knows when something is wrong. I ask him if it is his health and he says no but hushes up. I tell him I want to know what the trouble be and he tells me that he aint got him no money and his family has them some bills. I tell him to come in the kitchen with me and I take up the back board where I keep me my money jar. I take me out my money jar and count it out and there is more than sixty dollars. I give it all to him and tell him that I been saving that for hard times and times don’t get much harder. He says that he never take money from his momma cause he knows I need it for me. I tell him that my money is his money and that he better be taking it. He says that he will pay me back and I tell him that he already done it. I love me that boy and aint nothing I have that is not his. I got me more sewing to do than I can ever get done so be more money coming in this house and I have me enough to eat. That boy done give and give to me and I feel good being able to help him. I would give my life for him and I pray to Jesus that he knows it. Sweet Jesus knows that when Raymond passed that boy had to take on all the jobs of a man and me and sis never made it without him.
James says that he wants to take me and sis to see the ocean. Sis says that there aint no way she wants to go cause she don’t like her no water. I can swim like a duck but sis sink like a rock. She says she is happy where she is but if I want to go then I should go with him. I would like to do me some traveling fore I pass on. I always wanted to go to Florida and New York and maybe out west. I know it cost a lot but don’t do a body no harm to be wishing. He is working again and it is almost like he never been hurt. I thank god for that. I finished me some sewing and me and sis done sold us two pairs of curtains to a friend of Miss Cora. We picked us a couple of big tomatoes out of the garden and we been eating on them all day. Sis loves her tomatoes with hoe cakes and Tom had give us some butter so we has been eating good. Now when we were living in the Carolinas we could grow us some good tomatoes. It seemed like all we had to do was put them in the ground and fore we knowed it those plants falling over with tomatoes. We would pick them with bushel baskets and what we never could use or sell we would give to the chickens and the hogs that we was raising us. Those days were hard but we always seemed to have us a good time. James been talking bout heading over to Buchanan to see if he can get him some work. He worked for a Mister Waldron up that way a few years back and he payed him good and his wife had me sew her up some things. If there no work up that way he say he will go down to Richmond cause they always have work there. I done took some pieces over to Miss Jones so she can fix her a spread. I got me more than I can use cause the kids gives me plenty. Course I know she never be able to finish it cause she barely able to see but I don’t say nothing bout it. Miss Wilson says that she would be collecting for the colored kids again this year. Course she didn’t come to tell us. She sends her hired man to do it as usual thinking she to good to come into a church full of coloreds. I want to tell her god don’t care nothing bout that but the preacher says that her hearts in the right place. Course most stuff she collected last year so bad that a white kid wouldn’t want it. It took me and Miss Odell nearly two days of cleaning and fixing just to make half them presentable. She told her hired man to tell us how much that she loved all the colored children. I want to say to her that we are not all colored. Miss Sara granddaddy Persingers mom was white and his daddy was Indian which mean we got more right to be here than she do. The world seems to me to be messed up with all this talk bout color anyway.
Miss Terry say we are mulatto and that makes us colored but I just let it pass me by. That woman fret a body to death. It aint no concern of hers what color mine be. Course it is the same all over cause we had us trouble when we were living in the Carolinas and we had trouble in Botetourt Count and Alleghany County and everywhere we stayed. Some people got their mind on color and see nothing else. There Miss Amanda as dark as any person I ever seen and a better soul god never put here. Here some of these white boys always in some foolness but never a word bout them being in it cause they are white. Amos say he never walks by some parts cause if those white boys see him there be trouble. I know when we were in the Carolinas there was a part of town where colored people never go cause whites not allow it. It don’t make no good sense to me. Miss Eliza come over today and tells me my cats done left me a bird on my porch as a gift. I need to keep most of them in the house or they will catch them everyone around here in no time. She says she been thinking bout moving in with her daughter. I never want to have to go live with my children cause I like having me my own house. All mine take me in without no word of nothing bout it but I never want to be a burden to nobody. I seen me a falling star last night. When I was little I would sit outside and look up at the stars half the night.
My granddaddy Persinger would tell me stories bout the stars and how to tell things by looking at them but I forgot what all he done told me bout them. I don’t know how that man could keep all that stuff in his head. He knowed more than I could hope to know. Course in those days most had no way to write things down so a body had to learn them good. I give James a bag of dried deer to take with him when he is working cause I know that boy likes to do him some good eating. A person never know that he had been hurt cause he is as strong as ever. I thank god everyday for that.
Miss Ruthann come by for a visit. I fixed us some tomatoes with corn and give her some of the dried deer I fixed up. She don’t got her more than two or three teeth in her head but she eats anything she wants like she had her a mouthful. I could listen to her talk all day. I ask her if she ever thinks bout her real momma and she say that all she remembers bout her was that she worked the fields. She never knowed her daddy. After she was give to Miss June and moved in the big house the other slaves never had much to do with her. She says that fore the war she liked being round whites more than colored people cause they were always good to her. Course she had to keep her place and had to clean the house and help in the kitchen. Miss June was the boss of all the house slaves and would tell them everyday what they had to do. She says that it was hard on her and Miss June after the war cause the family sold off the plantation and they had to leave. The family give Miss June some money so that made it easier. She is the only colored person I know that thought the war was wrong and liked being a slave. She was a woolworker when she was younger but her eyes to bad to do it now. I love to sew cause I want to be able to make me my own money. Sis helps me but I have to do the fancy stitching cause sis not good at it cause of her eyes. I just thank god that we can still see at all. Granddaddy told me that one of his brothers had him a blind boy. He weren’t born that way but had him some sickness fore he was a year old and then lost his sight. I never knowed him cause he done passed when he was still little and that was fore I was born. I seen this old blind woman over in Botetourt County and she had to have this girl lead her all over. I never be wanting to live like that.
Me and sis visited over at Mister Smiths place. It was his birthday and he had himself a big party. Aint seen that much food in a long time. After we all eat, me and Miss Jane sing a couple songs and then Mister Davis played his banjo and we done danced down the roof. To my knowing it aint no sin but Mister Brown up and left cause he says it is. Miss Jane says that he is old timey Baptist and they don’t allow no dancing. That man has him some strange ideas bout things. She say his people never allowed no talking in tongues in church and that lots of things we do they didn’t allow. Course in our day me and sis been to a lot of different churches both white and black and there were things we liked in them all and things we didn’t like but we never say nothing bout what we didn’t like cause it not our place and it the house of god. I never understand it all but I do know that his house aint no church so he had no call to up and leave like he done. We all sit and watched Miss Mary and Miss Jones do a slave dance that they did when they was on the plantation. Miss Mary was kicking those legs high up and swinging her arms like a wind catcher and Miss Jones was moving so fast that if I had not seen it with my own eyes I never would have believed it was her. I aint laughted so hard in all my born days. Miss Jones got her a bad leg but a body never knowed it the way she was moving. I aint seen those two smile as much as they did and it made me feel good knowing that they had them a good time cause lord knows they deserve them one. Sis showed them a Indian dance that our granddaddy Persinger had showed her. They wanted me to get out there with her but sis dance better than me. Tom started to make a ruckess and hoot and holler like a wild Indian but Miss Jane hit him side of his head with a granny switch and say he better show respect. I kept hush cause he was wrong and cause he was at a party don’t mean he can act him a fool. He knowed better than that cause lord knows he was raised right. I always liked me a good party as long as weren’t no foolness bout it. I remember we had us a big party when we was little over at the house of Miss Mandy but I don’t recall what for. She is married up with my cousin and I love her to death. She is a white woman but is almost as dark as me and has her the biggest heart. We all sung songs and danced and there was food put out all over the place. Long bout dark some of the men got in the jug and started some foolness and granddaddys brother and some of the women had to get two of the men apart cause they was ready to fight. We stayed the night and fore we leave the next day Miss Mandy give me this pretty bonnet that she had been wearing at the party and told me that I looked pretty in it. I have always wanted to say to her that she never know how that made me feel. When I was little I never liked the way I looked and to have her say it to me was like the best gift she could give me. I had me that bonnet for years after and every time I was feeling low I put it on my head and always make me feel better. Some folks never understand how little seeds grow themselves into big flowers and she give me one of the best any folks ever give me. We alls done cooked the whole day long for the church. I was near tired to death but Miss Mary say she not cause she always worked that way cause she was a slave and then a washerwoman for some white folk I ask how old she is and she say she not sure. Her and Miss Jones were slaves on the same plantation and lived through the war. Miss Jones says she got to be near 80 cause she almost that age and she knows she older. Way they talk times was hard on them during the war and their master got real mean. Say some days got nothing to eat but a handful of flour and what they grubs in the fields. One night they catch a dog running by their cabin and they club him over the head and then cook him up. I got to be mighty hungry for I eat me a dog but Miss Mary say it weren’t bad.
She say they prayed everyday that them Yankee soldiers come and set them free. I don’t tell them nothing bout the fact that some of my kin done fought for the south. I feel bad cause we were free and some of my kin was passing. Miss Jones says that her childrens daddy was white but cause the master done found out bout her and the overseer he sold them out to Georgia. He would of sold her to excepting he done beat her so bad that busted her leg. He tells her she was going burn forever cause it be a sin and he aint going to have no devils breeding with whites on his place. After the war over Miss Jones got herself married to a baker down in Richmond but he been dead now purt near twenty years. Her and Miss Mary been living over at Mister Davis place ever since. I tell them that granddaddy and his kin was taken from Miss Sara to cause they was mixed. Some white folks told granddaddy that he better keep hush on what he knowed. Say don’t you tell nobody who your real momma be or you all get in trouble. Say god was going to punish her for what she done did with the devil The folks that got them worked them all hard and some got beat but least they wasn’t no slaves. I never understand why white folks always thinking bout color the way they do.
Miss Wilson sent us a box of hymn books for the church by way of her hired man. He says that her church done got themselves new ones so they give us the old ones cause Miss Wilson knowed we needed us some. Me and Miss Eliza open the box thinking that they be all to pieces and they were like new. Miss Pearl says some look like they never been touched. I don’t understand a body needing new when the old near as good as the new but we be happy to have them. When we were in the Carolinas we didn’t have us none for the church but made do without them. I love to sing in church and know most of the songs without having to look at the words but I know some don’t. Miss Eliza says she wishes she had her some book learning cause then she could read the words but now is to old to learn. I remember Miss Wolf learning sis her letters and then sis learning me. Fore long I was writing my name and doing me some reading. I thank Sweet Jesus that all mine gots them some learning. There be some white folks that think that we are to dumb to learn but they are wrong. My Mary better at reading than me. That girl can pick herself up bout any book and read it. Course knowing and doing two different things cause she don’t do her much. Always say she got to much work to do and that may be true so I never worry her bout it cause least ways she knows how to do it. I remember when some white man Raymond was working for let him borry a book for me to read and I would stay up way past dark and read it over and over. When a body reads it is like you aint got you no troubles. I wish I had me more books and keep telling myself that one day I get me some but always seem like you gets a little money and it flies out of your hand.
I seen Mister Greens boy yesterday. He still act the way he always done and got him the dirtiest mouth on him. He talked to me and say his daddy done died a few years back and I wants to smile cause I know that man burning with the devil. Me and sis worked for his daddy years ago and that man was next to a devil. He never wanted to give a body a minute to rest and even if you worked hard he always there yelling bout us being a bunch of lazy niggers that wanted to steal all he gots. His boy never lifted a hand towards anything that looked like work. He would walk round with his daddy and cuss us and all the time his daddy saying nothing to him. I had me this dream one time that we were shucking corn for him and out through the field there come this band of wild Indians.
Everybody run off cause they were ascared excepting me and sis. This Indian with feathers all in his hair and paint on his face come over to us and ask if we knowed the family of Gabriel Persinger cause his daddy was one of their people. We tell him that we are his family and this Indian man puts me and sis on a horse and says that they done come to take us back where we belong. Mister Green comes running out yelling for us to get back to shucking his corn. This Indian looks at my hands and sees they are bleeding. He makes a sign and several Indians shoot Mister Green full of arrows. They take me and sis to their village and aint no whites or coloreds there just Indians and they dress us in Indian clothes and we are happy. The Bible says there is good in all folks but I never seen no good in any of his. Miss Green was like a snake and her girl not much better. She would come out and stand right in front of us when we were working and a body having to move round her and her talking bout how her daddy paying us to much. She tells me that her daddy done payed more for her new piano than we ever see. If we needed a swallow of water had to go down by the cow barn cause they say don’t want no nigger fouling their well. I want to tell her that me and sis aint blacks but no use cause she would of throwed us off the place for back talking and we needed us the pay. I know the devil be glad to see her coming when she is dead.
The preacher tells us today that he is going to leave us next month and we need to be looking for a new one. He says his family is going to Georgia cause his momma lives there and she is sick and he needs to take care of her. I be sorry to see him go cause he is a good man but I understand that a mans family comes first. He says that he has a preacher friend that might want to come down this way. I loves me my church and be lost without it so I hope we get a new preacher soon and that he be a true man of god. I want all mine to go with me but they are growed up now and can do as they please. James will go with me some if I worry him enough but I know he works hard and only has him one day off. Linda would go with me but now that girl off with some foolness. Least ways Amos still likes to go and that pleases me cause he is a good boy. I asked Ben to come with us but that boy act like he didn’t hear me and that momma of his never make them children go. Jesus knows mine never had a say bout it when they was little. A person has got to raise children right these days but aint no use talking to her cause she never listen. I never say nothing to James bout the way she doing the children cause it aint my place and she never listen to him anyhow. James come in late from work night fore last and ask me to fix him up something. Course I don’t mind cause I love to cook. He say he seen an owl out in my front tree and near scares me to death. Granddaddy Persinger say owls is bad luck and if you see one three nights in a row it mean someone in the house going to pass over. Say that Miss Sara done seen an owl out her back door and when it called it say her name. A couple of days later she was dead to the world. Granddaddy say that we got to know us bout such things cause they can keep us safe or do us bad. Next morning I go out and get me a bunch of pine and cedar branches and hang them over every window and door on the place.
Granddaddy say they keep out bad luck and help keep a body safe. I even put a bunch on my bed posts. Last night I go out and sure enough the owl done left. Granddaddy say his daddy learned him all bout such things and I done seen them work. He had him a bag round his neck with tobacco and bones and colored stones that his daddy done give him. He say they protect a body from things out to do him harm. I put me lot of faith in such things cause they the old ways. The preacher says its a sin to believe in such foolishness and the kids look at me like I got me some sickness but I know what I know. Like you can tell if its going to rain by listening to the chickens at night cause like he say if a rooster crow when he done gone to bed he be waking up with a wet head or that the rain will end soon if you see a cow eating in the wind the rain that falls will soon end. A body can tell if the winter be bad by looking at bees cause he say bee nest high in tree lots of snow in winter you see. I seen it more times than I can count and know it. Some white folks say it nonsense but them Indians here lot longer than them so they knowed all bout such things. Grandma say one night granddaddy was uneasy but never say what was wrong. She say he keep going to the door and looking out like he sees something out there. She goes on to bed but when he don’t come on she gets herself up and granddaddy is out in the back and done made him a fire. She say he was throwing something in the fire and talking Indian and rubbing his neck bag. She never ask him why he done it cause he always tell her that she to much Christian to understand what he do. I know that he seen something and he done what needed be done to keep it away.
I got me a job cleaning over at Mister Andrews. His daddy knowed Mister Craft that married up with granddaddys sister Miss Phebe. He hired himself to his daddy for a time but I never knowed what worked he done. I never say nothing to him bout it cause some white folks gots strange ideas bout such things and best to let it family matters be. I clean every Monday while he is at work. He has him a big house and it takes most of the day to finish it up. I like the work but he gots him this big hound and that thing acts like he wants to eat me up. He has a chain round his neck but that may not hold him cause he looks strong to me. I work a lot in the kitchen cause I don’t think those people ever clean a dish. His kitchen bigger than the first house me and sis lived in when we went down to the Carolinas. Each of the bedrooms has a big bed and then chairs so a body can do them some sitting round fore they go to bed. Mister Brown told us that he be glad to see the preacher go cause he weren’t that good a preacher anyhow. It made Miss Odell mad and she told him that he better keep hush or god was going to strike him down. Mister Brown is a Christian man but he always talking bad bout other people. That man needs to sit himself down by Miss Terry cause by the time they are through be nobody they aint talked bad bout. Somedays it seem like we have had folks round us always talking bad bout other people since we were born. One thing bout the Persingers they looked after their own and nobody better be talking bad bout one of them lest they was their momma or daddy cause they would hush them up in a hurry. Miss Fridley always say that she pulled the weeds from her own garden and if she didn’t pull them maybe it cause she knowed they was there and wanted them there. (December 1907) My children all come over for Christmas excepting David cause he is still working in the Carolinas but he done sent me five dollars.
They give me a new pair of shoes and a wool coat with little pearl buttons. It sure is pretty and keep a body good and warm. Sis made up a couple of vanilla cakes and they were all eat up. Miss Mary and Miss Jones come over and stayed the night with me. I give them each a red scarf and I think they enjoyed themselves. I love my family but sis always be special cause me and her done raised each other. She never had her no man cause she never wanted to leave me and cause she alful shy around them. Course my children just like they were hers and she seen some my grandbabies more than me. I think somedays that god knowed how hard it be on us so he give us to each other to make it easier. Lord knows I never made it after my Adam pass without her. Some nights I think how it will be when one of us pass on and the other one here by theirselves. I don’t think that I would be able to go on. I have me my children and I love them all but me and sis been through so much together.
(January 1908) Miss Nicely bought a quilt from me for her momma. I sold her the one that had the pieces from Miss Marys old flower dress and it was pretty. I used grandmas garden row pattern and was afeared that the flowers all be gone fore I finished it but thank sweet Jesus had me just enough. I been trying to recollect this big one that Miss Bowen had on her bed when I was little. It was done all in bright colors and was the prettyist thing but I don’t remember exactly had it was. Me and sis been trying to draw it up but never seem to get it right. I had me some black eyed peas with tomato bread and cabbage for the new year and sis done stayed the night with me. James took me over to the store and I bought me some coffee and sugar. I love my coffee and Miss Mary drink it plain but I got to have me some sugar in mine. It cant be no sin but I feel bad cause I could give that money to the church but Miss Jones say god want us to be happy. Course Miss Jones only drink her tea but she puts sugar in it. I don’t like the tea they fix up round here. Now my granddaddy Persinger could make him up Indian tea and I liked it. He made it out of bark and leaves and roots that he would boil in a big pot. I be wishing I could serve up some then Miss Jones know what real tea be like.
Miss Nicely wants me to stitch her up a Bible cover so I need to get started after I get back from Mister Andrews tomorrow. It takes a lot of work but she always pays me good. (January 1908) The weather been bad here. I use to love me a good snowfall but not anymore. Me and sis been hugging this old stove of mine trying to keep warm. Good thing we have a house full of heavy blankets and plenty of good food to eat. I made up some soup and we been eating on it all day. Sis says that she is going with me next time I cleans for Mister Andrews cause his house always warm. I like having sis with me cause I always feel at ease when she is with me. When we was little we would play in the snow all day and never come in til it was dark. When we come in grandma would call us her snow babies and make us get next to the fire and warm up. My James took that after me cause he was the same and loved him being in the snow. Every cat on the place is under my cook stove in the kitchen. Sis didn’t want to have me let them in but my cats hate the cold and snow and I aint leaving them out to freeze.
Course sis aint bad bout cats like one of Miss Bowens kin. She say he come back from the war and her cats jumping all over the table and he tries and shus them but this one old cat still sits there looking at him so he gets his gun and they were all thinking that he was funning them and all of a sudden a shot goes out and that cat falls dead to the world. After that he never had to be saying nothing to cat or folks twice cause they knowed he might do it to them. I like having sis in the house with me on days like this. I know Miss Carol paying her to look after her place but I want her with me cause that the way it always been since we were little. I know she don’t like it none being over there by herself cause she has goy Amos to stay many a night with her. Me and sis wanted to get us some sewing done today but been to cold to do much work so we sit and talk. James say he never know how we can do us all that talking but I tell him that some times it like I was talking to the other half of myself cause we done seen and done all the same things and we knowed all the same people and sometimes she recollect some thing that I done forgot. Lord knows sis better at remembering names than me. I remember things that happened better than she do but I get myself messed up with names and dates.
That hateful dog of Mister Andrews up and died and Jesus knows that it made me happy cause I hated me that thing. He is having a party over at his place on Saturday and asked me to come over early in the morning and help with the cooking. I tell him yes cause he pays good and everything in his kitchen new and store bought so it will not even seem like work to me cause if I was home I would be cooking all day anyhow. Sis is going to bake up a couple of cakes for me to take over cause he say he would pay her for them. His sister wants me to sew up some dresses for her girls. They are the prettyist things and as well mannered as you please. When they come in the house they sit themselves right down on the divanport and never say a word til she say something to them. She has her a colored housekeeper but says she don’t do her no sewing. It is hard to believe that her and Mister Andrews is related cause he is a cold man but she is friendly and talks like we were best friends. She never acts like she has money and is better than the rest. I wish more people acted like her cause when she tells me that her housekeeper is colored she says it like it nothing to it the way you says a dress is blue. Some white folks says it like there is something wrong bout it but not her.
The new preacher come today. He is from up round Covington and I tell him I got me some people up that way. Sure is a good preacher and most of the people love him already excepting Mister Brown and he don’t like nobody. He says he is long winded but Mister Davis tells him it cause he gots a lot to say and he better be listening at him. Miss Beulah says he needs to be walking the ayle so that he get forgiveness. I liked me the last one we had but he was not as good as this one. His wife do act like she the last peacock on the farm but don’t bother me none. Miss Belle says it cause her family from up north gots them some money and they looks down on us poor folks. Sometimes I be wishing we had us some money but we are not hungry so guess that all a body can be wanting.
Miss Eliza says that he reminds her of her daddy cause he looked like him. We had us a good one down in Carolina but the he passed and we got a new one and he could preach it good but after church he acted like he was ascared of every white man that come round. Some of the ladies told sis that his family had it hard during the war and that fore the Yankees come his master tried to kill him some of the slaves cause he say he rather see them dead than free. Where they was from after the war the whites were always putting coloreds in their place. I don’t know what they done to him but I know he was like a rabbit when there were any whites round him. A body got to stand on their own feet. Sis say we has us a problem with people that don’t cause all the people we knowed when we was growing up was strong people. I almost marked out what I put down last time cause lord knows I have me a happy life. Thinking bout money is a sin when there aint no big need. I got me family and friends that loves me to death and God knows I love them.
I could use a new cook stove and the floor nearly gone in the back room but I can make do. As long as a body can get around aint no need be complains bout what you aint got. Momma always say it aint what you don’t got its what you do got that is important. There Miss Terry be with more than most folks but her life aint that good. There Miss Mary got nothing but aint never sad. She reminds me of grandma Persinger. That woman be singing all the time just like my grandma. Miss Jones says she thinks Miss Mary was born around 1827 cause she was born in June 1829 but don’t know the day. She says her master done bought Miss Mary and her brother when she was bout seven and she recollects them saying that Miss Mary be five but she is not sure. As far as I can recollect grandma was born bout 1818 cause she say she was two years younger than granddaddy. Sis says that she recollects them talking bout some of her people way back being slaves but if they was I never knowed it. She says that grandmas daddy had done married him two or three women in his day cause he was so old he kept on outliving them. I don’t recollect her talking bout them any.
Yesterday was my Davids birthday and I miss him not being around. Sis made up a vanilla cake with nuts in it anyhow and we eat on it like he was here. I remember when that child was born and I was thinking that he never come. We had just come back from the Carolinas and were living over next to Miss Pinn and she come over and helped me and sis. It was two days fore he come and Miss Pinn says he was the biggest baby she ever seen. When I seen him I say that I never knowed how I was able to have him but Miss Pinn say that Jesus was with me. I called him David after the giant in the Bible but then a few years later learned that he was the giant killer and not the giant. I was sick for a couple of days after I had him but Miss Pinn had her some Indian blood and knowed how to make medicine so she fixed me up good. He is the lightest of mine and has him the prettyist hair I ever seen on a child. More than one person ask me if he was white. When I see him now I think how much he looks like my cousins Caleb and Bernard. They are good boys but have them an eye for the ladies. My David is a good boy but got him no head for women. Some men folk that way and I never been able to understand it. I hope he comes home soon for a visit but sis says we don’t need him here to have us a party.
Sis is my best friend and I love her. She is always thinking of me and mine. I wish Miss Carol get herself back over this way cause I want sis with me all the time. I know women that don’t want their sisters round them all the time cause it puts them nervous but not me and sis. Something killed one of my laying hens last night so James come over and fixed up their pen for me. I love me that boy and be lost without him looking after me. He says that it don’t have him no pains at all any more. Tom done give me a big box of stuff the white folks he working for give him. I got me a good set of curtains out of it and some nice cloth pieces that I can cut up. There was an old reticule that I give to Miss Odell and some fancy buttons that I can use. He jokes with me and says I need to find me a man. I laugh course aint no way I want me another man. Lord knows that I loved his daddy cause he was a good man and we had us some good times but I never go through that again. He was always off working some place and me worrying myself to death. That man never ascared of hard work and brought every penny they pay him back to this house. Never wanted to spend a penny on himself excepting course for those cigars he always was smoking. He got along good with the kids and never was unfaithful to me and he treated sis and James like they was his own family. I miss him but I got me more than some days I can carry. Some days the load feels to heavy for a body to carry but you got to keep going cause that is what life is. (March 7 1908) The preacher come to the house visiting and enjoyed it but him and Miss Odell were talking lot bout the war and I tell them that I don’t remember much bout it cause I was to little. I know that we were staying with some of granddaddy people over in Alleghany County when it was over.
Miss Bowen and Miss Wolf come over and say that it done ended and they cries and Miss Wolf hug me and say it was going to be fine. I know that we had us some family that fought for the south but I don’t tell them nothing bout that cause I know they never understand. Sis says that she recollects that one day some soldiers come to the house and Miss Wolf was over and she takes us in the house and tells us to hide ourselves under the bed til they gone. Miss Bowen and Miss Fridley give them some food and a couple jugs of cider and they leave. Sis don’t know if they was from the south or the north. Miss Jones say it don’t matter cause if they were from the south they might have killed or beat us or taken us for slaves and sold us down south and if they were from the north they might have made us go with them. I say they never knowed Miss Wolf cause didn’t matter who they was nobody ever hurt us when she around cause she never let them. She was no big around as a do bad stick but I think she could run off a bear if she had her a mind to. Miss Eva says that when the Yankee soldiers come to her plantation they take most of the slaves with them but after a few days they leave them and Miss Eva says they were hungry and cold and wanted to go back. She says her daddy ascared that if the Confederates or patterollers catch them they hang the lot of them. After the war they settled down round Memphis for awhile. I aint never been there but would like to go there someday. Tomorrow is Sis birthday day cause it is March 8 so I need to get up early and fix up her a cake, I know she was born in 1857 which mean she be 51 but she says she not. I love her to death but she is alful vain.
We had us a bad storm here night fore last. The wind tore the roof off my back porch so the kids come over and patch it up for me. They brought that yappy dog with them again. The nippy thing worry a body to death. He put my cat in under the bureau. I told him next time I send him over to visit at Miss Marys. I don’t like me no wind cause it puts me in a mind of when we were living over at grandma Persingers place and the wind purt near took the place. They put all us kids down in the root cellar and we thinking we going to die. They give me and sis a sip of some wine to keep us quiet that granddaddy and his brother been making to sell. Only time in all my born days I had me any and aint planning on ever again but recken the lord forgive me this one time. I was so ascared but I look over and there is my granddaddy not a look of worry bout him at all. I knowed then that we were going to be safe cause aint nobody knowed more bout things then him. He tells me that the wind might take the house but we could always build back a house. Lord knows he was a good man. I fixed me a mess of greens for everybody and they give the bone to that troublesome dog. He dragged it over my new rug fore I put him out. My children know I don’t care for him but they bring him anyhow. I don’t never say nothing bout it cause at least they come and see me and I got me a boot if that thing bother me to much. Something was up on my roof night fore last. It liked to put me in my death bed. I was to ascared to go out and look see. I was thinking that it be one of the spirits that my granddaddy Persinger use to tell us bout. He learned all bout them from his daddy. I don’t recollect how he called them but he say they move at night and can take them a human soul. They live in the shadows and you can see them sometimes if you walk in the dark and look at the shadow cause sometimes you stop but the shadow keeps on moving. He say when the first white folks come over this way that one of them goes out and don’t come back. They find him two days later and not a mark on him but he was all dried up like a piece of winter meat. This Indian man that was with them say to leave the body where it is cause it belongs to the spirits and if they move it the bad spirits be moving with it. They take him back and give him a Christian burying. The next day one of the men that done helped move him gets snake bit and up and dies. The day after that this old man that was with them falls in the river and they never find the body. That night some of the men dig up the man and take him back out in the woods and leave him where they find him and nothing else happens to them. Some people laughs bout such things but lots of things out there that people don’t know nothing bout. Like sis says you don’t have to believe in a bear for one to eat you up. When my little angel passed I heared him call me from the water. A momma knows the sound of her own baby. I was ready to walk right in that river and drown myself but sis stopped me. I know that it was one of those spirits fooling me. Even the Bible talks bout evil spirits and I believe they are real. My granddaddy knowed bout such things and how to protect against them but I never learned it so I put me my Bible under my pillow when I get ascared. I wish sis would come back and live with me cause some nights a body don’t want to be alone in the house.
There been a mountain of bad trouble round here for neigh on two weeks. Miss Adas boy done been messing with a white girl from town. Everybody is saying that it is Mister Reynolds girl. James say he seen him over at her place different times of the night. Her daddy ready to kill them both and some of the men working with him done come down here claiming they going burn him out. Miss Ada says it aint so cause he done been seeing a mulatto girl from down in Richmond. It don’t make no never mind to some of the white folks though cause they mad. White folks don’t put up with mixing. Sweet Jesus knows that my family done suffered cause of it all these years. I remember grandma Persinger telling us bout granddadys momma Miss Sara and how bout 1820 or so some white men over in Alleghany County say they going to come and kill her man cause he was an Indian and she was a white woman. The way granddaddy talk white folks was more ascared of wild Indians than anything and always talking bout the old days when Indians and whites been fighting in them mountains. She say that Miss Saras family never took to him being round Miss Sara but they say any man that came on the place wish he hadn’t cause those Persingers never give a body no trouble but everybody knowed that they put you in the ground if you brought trouble to them. Me and sis stayed with lots of those folks when we was little and that the way they was. They was good people and never fretted nobody but if anybody come to start some foolness they had to deal with them all and those people could be rough when they had to be. I know I was over there one day at granddaddys brothers place and there was a crowd of folks there and some I never knowed. This man grab me and tell me he going to take me into the bushes. Miss Mandy seen him and she hit him side of his head with a stick and told him to get out of his jug. He turned and hit her in the face and all those Persinger boys tore into him and I was thinking that they kill him fore they done. Some folks was ascared of them boys but not me cause we was blood and they looked after me and I never had to fret bout nothing. It done near give Miss Mary a death blow thinking patterollers coming after us all and going to burn us all out. They stayed a couple nights here cause her and Miss Jones ascared to be alone and they knowed James kill him any man white or colored that tried do me harm. James got him a quiet way but he is as strong as a bull and better noone rile him. He took that after his granddaddy cause that man like the rest of his family and never bother nobody but if someone fooled with him or his they better watch themselves.
I been working out in the yard. I think bout to many things when I stay in the house to much. All this trouble set me to wondering why white folks got so many problems with a persons color. My granddaddy always had him problems cause of it. Fore the war he was out on the other side of Botetourt down close to Carolina and these soldiers come up and asks him if he is Indian or colored. My granddaddy Persinger had him an Indian daddy and a white momma but he was thinking that something was wrong bout them asking. Where he was from everybody knowed him and knowed that he was Indian but there nobody knowed it. He tells them he is colored cause he knowed that the soldiers been sent to take all Indians out west. The soldiers tell him that if he is colored then they need to see his papers. He tells them that he is working at a plantation down the road and they can come and see for themselves if they like. They soldiers go off a short way in a different direction and granddaddy walks on like he belongs there and is doing his business but he sees them soldiers stop so he takes off in the woods. He hides himself in the brush til the next day and then makes his way home through the woods. Grandma say that it don’t make no sense cause if he was colored that might have took him for a runaway and if he was Indian they might have took him out west but if he was white and done killed himself some man the soldiers never bothered him bout it. Miss Eliza says that her momma was a free woman just fore the war and one day some slavers catch her and sell her off down south at an auction. She never got her freedom back til after the war and then she come back to Virginia. I never be able to understand it. Some folks need to be reading their Bibles.
(May 5 1908) Sweet Jesus knows today was hard on me cause it mean another year since my baby Adam been gone. James says he can take me over to the grave this summer and been thinking bout that all day. I think if I had me a reason for his passing on I could accept it better but my sweet angel never sick a day. I ask god to help me understand. Miss Pearl say she lost her a baby when he was not even a year old with the pox. Says she still thinks bout him but don’t grive herself none cause she seen to many deaths in her life to be thinking bout it. Course she seen lots during the war. Says she seen a hanging fore she barely old enough to walk. Says they call all the slaves out and tells them they wants them to see what happens to a nigger when he do wrong. She watched him and says that poor man kicked and kicked fore he died. When the Yankees done set them free says they crossed a field and there were dead bodies and men dying all around and some boy no more than 14 with his arm blowed off walking round talking crazy and crying for his momma. They all run in the woods and her daddy says for her not to be looking back cause aint nothing they could do for those white soldiers. I guess if you sees all that you never the same. I cries after she tells me bout it all not cause it bothers me bout those white soldiers. They caused that war with a bunch of foolness. It bothered me cause I was thinking bout my little angel walking around heaven calling for his momma and near bouts breaks my heart. I know she was thinking that I done gone mad. I feel better after I had me a good cry but sorry that I done upset Miss Pearl. Good night sweet baby. Momma loves you and misses you. We had us a family day at church after preaching. The preacher say for everyone to bring their family We all took food and most my kids and grandkids come. My David still working in Carolina with a bunch of Italian men and I wishes he was here. Me and Miss Odell helped with a lot of the cooking and sis made three cakes. The older kids and men played ball and my James and Mister Davis played music so me and sis worked with the young kids playing us some games and telling stories. We got them all in a circle and sis tells them stories out of the Bible but when its my turn I tells them the story our granddaddy use to tell us kids bout the eagle. The eagle use to be all white cause it was a sacred bird and the spirits fill it with special powers that let it hunt good and fly higher than any bird in the sky. One day this eagle come to the river and this Indian man be fishing and he throws up a fish in the air and the eagle catches it. He flys to a big tree and eats the fish. Everyday the eagle returns and the man gives the eagle a fresh fish. One day it done rained hard and the rivers way up. The man was trying to fish while the eagle flys in the sky over his head. The man slips and falls in the water. The water so fast that the man is took far down river. The eagle lands in a big tree watching the man. A hawk in the tree says to the eagle why don’t he help this man that done give him fish to eat everyday. The eagle thinks bout it for a minute and then flys to the man and trys to pull him from the water but the man is to big. The eagle decides to give his power to the man. He flys down and lands on the mans back. He puts his claws in his back and all his special power leave his body and go into the man. The man gets strong and swims to the shore. He sees the eagle in a low tree but his white color is gone and instead he is all brown and black. The eagle tells him that he give him all his power to save him cause he owed him cause here the man been giving him all those fish and he never thanked him. The eagle says that now he will die for sure cause he never be able to hunt and fish again. The man says that he has some of the power left in him and he can put it back in the eagle but its not enough to fill him up. They think bout it for a while and then decide to put some in his head so his eyes be strong and some in his tail so his legs be strong for hunting and fishing. That’s why the eagle gots him a white head and a white tail and when a man sees it he knows what the eagle done for man and that he should give him respect. I think that we need to learn our kids bout the old stories cause noone bothering to put them down on paper and when we pass on they be gone to. Sis says she knows that the preachers wife is mad cause of what I done but I don’t care me a lick.
My cat done found her a box full of kittens out under the porch. Kids say I crazy for feeding the fool thing but I loves her and she the best ratter I ever had on the place. I plan on keeping me the little gray one with white on his belly. Ben done called the black one with white paws but say he has to be asking his father when he gets back from Roanoke. Miss Pearl say she might be wanting her one. The church was full of folks today. Miss Minni says that bad times brings folks to Jesus cause they gots themselves no where else to go. The preacher done helped Miss Adas boy move out and they going to stay with some of his people up round Covington til things gets better. It don’t make no never mind to some these holler head white folks wether you colored, Indian, mulatto or nothing. We aint white so we have got to keep our place or they going to put us in it. I recollect bout ten years back I was visiting over in Alleghany County and I see Miss Phebes girl in town. I see her and her man and she acts like she don’t half want to talk to me. I hear her tell her man that I knowed her momma. It bothers me but aint going to fret myself to death over it. She is mixed to but if she wants to act like she aint not my place to say different. Amos been coming by and I been helping him learn some Bible verses so he can say them in church. That boy is smart and is a joy to me. I know James thinks so to but he don’t show it much cause that aint his way. Course lots of them Persingers that way. I always knowed that they loved me but never was saying it much not like Miss Wolf or Miss Bowen done. Miss Mandy did but then she married herself in and weren’t no blood. Sometimes a body like to hear it even if they know it. I tell all mine everytime I see them that I love them cause a body never know if you see them again. I done learned me that lesson the hard way.
There was a bat in my kitchen this morning. They have a nest up in my roof but this is the first time one got in the house. My granddaddy had him a story bout bats but I done forgot it. Sis says that is why I need to write everything down. The preacher say today that witches aint real and that done upset sis and Miss Jones cause they say they are. Sis says that one of Miss Fridley kin over in Alleghany County was a real witch. One day she was walking down the road and sees some people hog killing and tells them she sure likes to have her some sausage meat. They say she can buy her some but they knowed she had her no money. Next day they go out and all them hogs done died. After that when they seen her coming by they takes her out something. Sis says she could heal sickness. When a body took the fever she would fix up something and they almost always get better. One man catch her round his hen house one day taking her some eggs and he run her off. That night his hen house burned down and folks tell him that he knowed better than get her mad that he lucky it was not his house. Miss Bowen had her hair falling out her head and she goes to her and pays her. She makes up some charms and fore long her hair done growed back full. Daddy say that Miss Sara granddaddys momma had her what folks calls the eye. She could look at a woman and tell her what her baby was going to be. She could see things bout the future but never had her no charms. Grandma goes to her fore she has her Ruth and says that she tells her that she be having a girl but she says she sees a shadow on her babies head. Grandma say that fore she was a month old death done took her. Grandma say Miss Phebe got it from her momma Miss Sara cause it always pass from the momma to her daughters. Miss Jones says they had them this slave on her plantation and both her parents were African. She says she was a witch and even the master was ascared of her. She says when she got herself tired she stop working and nobody say nothing to her but let another slave stop and they get a beating. She says she looked them white folks right in the eye and them white folks looks away cause everybody knows that if you looks a witch in the eye she can take your soul. I tells them that it aint our preachers fault cause he don’t believe in such things. He just don’t know how things be cause he is from the city. Folks from the mountains know bout such things cause they lived it and a body that didn’t know bout how things was died in them mountains. Granddaddy always say that the mountains can be your best friend or worse enemy it was up to you as to what it was.
(June 1908) James give me a new Bible for my birthday and I love it cause mine was falling to pieces and always be feeling bad taking it in the lords house. I was a little mad cause sweet Jesus knows that James needed him that money but James says that cause he don’t go often enough now it be like he is there with me every Sunday. Lord knows I loves me that boy. I give my old one to Miss Jones cause she don’t got her one. She don’t do her no reading cause she never had her no learning but says it sure feels good having the word of god in her own hands. I never wanted to give it to her cause it was to pieces but she say don’t matter cause the word of god is the word of god and she never read it anyhow. Momma had her one with all the names and dates wrote down but sis say one day she sneaks in her room and her and my name not wrote down. It don’t bother me none cause we was not her kids. I miss my other brothers and sisters but sis and me got each other and I don’t do me much visiting cause sis don’t want to visit them. I always got on good with William and some of the others but sis has her ways. Somedays I think that maybe my David is like sis. Maybe he loves his brothers and sisters but never want to be around them cause of something that done happened. Maybe cause he is so light colored he don’t feel like he belongs. I often think that was why granddaddy the way he was cause there his own twin brother light and he was so dark. I asked James bout it and he says that David is walking his own road and not to worry myself bout it but it is hard when it is your own baby. James know how it is cause his Linda gots her own ways to.
It may be sinful to be bragging on my family but I got to say that my Amos made me proud. He won the Bible verse saying at church by more than ten verses and they give him a blue ribbon with a cross on it. That boy aint had him no schooling but he can hear something one time and he knows it from then on. When it was just him and Sam left up there my stomach was bout jumping out my body and I look at sis and she was the same way. Miss Cora was so sure her boy going to win that thing and here my grandbaby take it. After it was done she was telling how he knowed more verses but got nervous and how he was the smartest boy in the church. All I have to say is that the test of the cook is in the eating of the cake and my Amos done won. Amos say he wants me to hang it up in my house cause he over here most of the time anyhow and I was so pleased that I nearly cried. The lord been good to me and mine. There my James as good as boy as ever walked and all my children done good. Sis tells him that we are going to fix him up all his favorites to show him how proud he done made us. I give thanks to sweet Jesus for my family.
Miss Eliza come over and stayed all day with me and sis. She says her granddaughter and her husband done moved in with her. Miss Terry says its cause he done been in some trouble over there in Tennessee. I hopes that boy don’t cause no trouble for her cause she don’t need it. She been sick with some pain in her chest for months now. She says that Miss Elizas girl say she don’t want her momma or her daughter moving in with her. That don’t make no good sense to me why a child treat their own momma and girl that way. Everyone I got is welcome to come live with me even if we have to sleep five to a bed. Me and sis sleep many a night in a hay barn when we were growing up. Family is family and you do for your family when they need you. To many folks done forgot what it means to be a family. Miss Fridley always say that blood is blood and you do for your own and don’t never do no complaining bout it. There my David been gone for years but if he was to come here tomorrow with a wife and ten children I be the happiest woman there is and tell them all to stay right here with me. Jesus know what a body do and if I was her girl I would be doing me some thinking bout that.
We were out in the garden most of the day and had us a good time visiting. I put my old chair out in the garden for Miss Jones and she would grub round a while then sit and talk. She says made her feel like she was the masters girl looking out on her slaves and we all laughs. I give James a basket of tomatoes to take home with him. Ben took his kitten home with him and my momma cat been walking through the house looking for it. I tell her she still got her three left. I wish I could run like I done when I was little cause a day like today was made for running and playing. I been thinking bout my first love today but I don’t say nothing bout it cause sis don’t like me talking bout him. Some things best left in the past but a person cannot help how they be feeling. I loved me that man and I knows that he loved me. I wonder if he ever be thinking bout me. He would make me feel like I was special and nothing in the world could hurt me. We would talk most of the day and not like most folks be talking but like every word you say was important. He scratched mine and his names on this old apple tree out by the barn and when he was done I would go down and rub my fingers over it til I was ascared that I rub them off. I could stare at that man all day long cause he had him the prettyist eyes I ever seen on a man. My David always put me in a mind of him. I was thinking that we would be together for all time. Course wanting and getting two different thing so no need to be questioning god now bout it but I did love him. I feel bad somedays cause I loved me two men in my days and sis aint had her none. I know she liked her this one when we was living in Carolina. His name was Charly Reed and Lord knows that man was a talker. He tried to talk with her a time or two but she was to shy to even talk to him. He ended up marrying this woman and sis says she got the uglyist hair and teeth she ever seen on a woman and I was thinking that she should have married her that man cause sis was a pretty woman.
She still is and could get her a man if she wanted her one cause she is a hard worked and gots her a big heart. I wonder if she ever thinks of him if she do she never says it. I think I got me the best garden ever. I pulled a couple of tomatoes off and they was as big as saucers and as sweet as a body could want. Sis made us up a green tomato pie with some of the small green ones and we picked us a bucket full of beans and cooked them with some pork fat. I give a mess of beans and some tomatoes to Miss Lewis cause she always be giving me stuff. Linda come by the house and visited with me and sis. First time she been here in ages. James says that her and her momma aint talking. James loves that girl like she was his cause she was just seven years old when he married him her momma. Her real daddy run off fore she was two so James the only daddy she ever knowed. Course aint hard to figure out why he done left her but Linda was his and he should have been thinking bout her. I don’t know what the problem is but something is wrong but lord knows she never talk to me bout it. I tell her that she can tell me anything and I never whisper a word of it to her momma cause that is what a grandma is for but she keeps saying aint nothing wrong so aint my place. Sis says it cause the family knows I don’t want me no trouble brought in my house but if there is trouble I want to know bout it. I think sis knows but if they tell her not to say that woman never speak a word to nobody not even me cause she knows how to keep her a secret. I know that I can tell her something and she keep it with her forever. Miss Bushs boy done come over and ask me show him how to write some. He aint never had him no learning cause where they was from weren’t no colored school. He says he can pay me with some yard goods. He been working over at the Mr. Peters place but says that he has got to write his name to the paper every week when they pay him his money. He knows some letters but don’t know how they go. He done been making his mark on the paper but say Mr. Peters done told him he needs to be writing his name. Sis always say that I would make a fine teacher. I never got to be one but made sure all mine got them some learning. We had us a colored school down at the church in Carolina and me and sis would help the children with their learning. One day some white men go to the preacher and tell him it would be a shame if his church burned down cause of some foolness he let go on there. He closed the school cause say that church for learning bout god and that was the most important thing. I lost me all respect for that man after that cause if he was a true man of god he would of turned it over to Jesus and let him help protect us. I know me and sis would of taken our turn at guarding the church and they might have beat us down but fore they did they have had a fight. Sis may be little but that woman can swing her a stick like she mean it. When I was little I always liked me reading the best course we never had us many books but grandma Persinger would borry us some from Miss Bowen or Miss Fridley. I miss those woman cause they was like angels to me and sis. Somedays I wish I was little again but then a body thinks bout the hard days and lord knows we seen us some. I use to think that it would be best if we was all Indian or all white or all colored cause then a body fit in somewhere but when you is mixed you never feels like you belongs with any of them. I know now why so many of granddaddys people told everyone they weren’t mixed cause when you aint you has fewer troubles.
Course a body don’t have no say in such so gots to accept it cause never change it. I wore me my new calico to church. Miss Odell say it look store bought. Don’t mean to be prideful but it do fit me fine. Had an Indian man come to church today. He is a friend of Miss Terrys. Asked me if we had Indian blood cause he could see it in my face. I tell him that we is Indian to. He ask me if we can talk Indian and I tells him no but that my granddaddy could. Daddy say that he used to speak it with some of his family. One day he was out and talked it and some white men say that they don’t want no African talk. Such things scare whites near to death and they apt to beat or hang somebody. I don’t think he ever talked it again. Miss Jones say her daddy made some whites mad while he was in town for his master. They come in the middle of the night and done whipped him to the bone for master ever got there to stop them. She say he tells them you want to beat him to death then you pay me for him first. I told him bout that my granddaddy was part Christian and part Indian and prayed in the Indian way. I don’t know nothing bout how he done it cause he always went out alone. I thought it was cause he be ascared of whites seeing him but Grandma say that was the Indian way. They don’t have no building cause the woods is their church and they have their own special days. Some of my family still do them but some thinks it will cause problems with the whites cause whites don’t like for coloreds to do such. He says that most of his people are Christian but a few of the old ones still do the old ways. Miss Terry says that she is going to go with him out west cause she wants to get away. Somedays I be wishing I could go to but then I love my family and friends here. Lord knows we done moved and moved from place to place over the years that a body glad to be in one place for more than a few years.
The fever done hit us bad. Seems like most every house got somebody sick. The preacher sick so had no church today. First Sunday I not in church in a long time. It put me in a mind of when me and sis first went to Carolina. I think it was bout 1878 cause we was living up in the mountains and some fever hit. Seemed like we put a lot of good folks in the ground that year and then as quick as it come it was gone. James been working down in Petersburg and I wish he was here. Most folks here not got no money for a doctor. My granddaddy use to make a tea out of roots and peach leaves for such things. Learned it from his daddy but don’t no one remember how to make it. I knowed how to make it when I was young but done forgot. I feel bad but got to keep on. Most everyone else in the family not sick yet so thank God. Miss Pearl says that Miss Mary is in a bad way. I need to go see her but I dont want to go out til I feel better. If James was here I would send her over soup. I know that Miss Jones take good care of her but she so old that she not able to look after herself most days but lord knows she tries. She feels bout her like I do sis and aint nothing I would not do if she was sick. I pray that sweet Jesus look after all mine and keep them close to him.
James come back last night and I sure was happy to see that boy. He give me some money and a new Sunday hat. It is black with little white feathers in it and has it a lace trim. He says they worked him hard but pays good. Him and a group of men was living together down there so he didn’t need be worrying bout cooking cause others done it. I been doing sewing all week. I went over to Miss Wilson to give her her fitting. That woman is so hard to please. I got to fix the sleeves cause now she wants cuffs on them. She gots herself the biggest house I thinks I ever been in. You could fit most my house in her parlor I bets. She gots herself a big fireplace with all kinds of decorations round it and a big painting of her husband hanging on the wall. Miss Jones says that it has six or seven bedrooms. She says when I finishes with her dress she wants me to sew her up some new curtains. Bens kitten up and died on him. I think that dog of Amos done worried it to death. I don’t know why they keep the fool thing. He done eat up their rug and always in some mess but they say they love him like he was part of the family. Course I never say much cause I got me a houseful of cats and I love them. I need to sew me up a new dress to go with my new hat. James brung sis a hat to and it is made like mine excepting where mine is black hers is white with black feathers and the lace is more of a light blue. Sis always look good in blue and I know she will love it even more cause it come from James. I had me a new cat show up on my porch yesterday He is a pretty thing but wants to try and get in the house all the time. I was ascared that I was going to fall right over him cause he always round my feet. I cooked me up a pot of tomatoes and corn and had me piece of cake bread. James give me some buttermilk so I been eating good. Sis stayed with me a couple of nights. She been helping me with my sewing. I bout finished with Miss Wilsons curtains. I took her dress over to her and it fit good. Her friend was over there and says that she wishes she had her some darky to sew up her some dresses. I was mad and Miss Wilson knowed it but I don’t say nothing cause I needs the money. I aint no darky and don’t want no white women thinking they better than me calling me one. They got them all the money they needs but still feels that they needs to put people like me in our place. Somedays I hates me people like that but Jesus say we got to forgive them. It makes me mad that so many white folks got themselves this problem with color and I want to ask if it makes them feel more white when they say such things. Amos and Ben come by and those boys know how to do them some eating. Course I know they don’t get them none when they home less they fix it up themselves. Not a word one bout Linda and we never asked cause we don’t want to put them in nothing. I worry bout her but not much a body can do bout it. She knows that she can come by and talk with me if she has a mind to.
Tom come by and give me a big coon. Me and Miss Odell cooked him up with onions and it sure was good. My grandma could cook her up one that was one of the best things I ever put in my mouth. She cooked hers with apples. Miss Jones says she likes coon with onions better. When she was a slave she says they eat coon whenever they could. They also cooked up possum and it was better than chicken. Miss Mary is not feeling good so she stayed home. Miss Jones says that she keeps on talking bout her kids. Miss Jones remembers the day they sold Miss Marys family. She says that the Master never says no word to her bout what he plans to do. Early one morning he come with the overseer and a couple of white men and they drags her man and her kids from their cabin. Miss Mary begs him to sell her with her kids but he says she is going to stay. She run after the wagon yelling and crying til one of the men beat her. Even then says that he would knock her down and move off but Miss Mary get right on up and go after them again. The Master yell for some of the slaves to hold her fore he kill her dead. It took near a month fore she talk after that. Miss Jones knowed how it was cause the Master sold her kids at auction to and she never seen them again. She says that everybody knowed that he run a breeding plantation. He would buy up lots of women slaves and put them with a man and when the children old enough to fetch a good price he would sell them at auction. She says he was always in the jug and would gamble and then lose loads of money and then sell some slaves to pay off what he done lost. After he sells off Miss Marys family he sends another man to her cabin but Miss Mary tells him that he can stay in the cabin but if he touches her she cut his throat in his sleep. She says he let her be cause he knowed she would do it. I loves me that woman cause Miss Mary got her a good heart and when she pass Jesus take in right in with him. I remember grandma talking bout the law taking Miss Saras babies from her. Say she look the man right in the eye and say that she not able to stop him but if ever see him out on the road maybe she cut him from chest to post and he told her that then the law be hanging her and she say that not matter cause he be dead already. She say whenever he come up that way after that he always have a man with him so Miss Sara not cut him up like a winter hog. Done been a while since I do me any writing. Lord knows it been hard on me cause I been bad sick and was thinking that sweet Jesus ready to call me home.
I been thinking bout what I want to say to my grandbabies. I done learned a lot bout myself and I got to say that it weren’t all good. I always had me a problem with making myself a judge of others. There all these years I been talking bad bout Miss Wilson cause of the way she acts but also cause she is white and has her some money. When I was sick the preacher tells her and she had her hired man come to my house and bring me food and he says that Miss Wilson wants me to know that if I need something to just send her word. He tells me that she pays him good and that she even sends his family gifts. He says that she never comes to the colored part cause it wouldn’t look right cause her people strict and they don’t know nothing bout coloreds excepting what they hear bout those good for nothing ones always causing trouble. He is right cause some of those boys be getting into trouble all the time drinking and acting fools that a body ascared to go out at night. One thing I know aint none of mine ever caused no trouble. Like the Bible says you got to raise them right. If they were in church more wouldn’t be no time to get into some foolness. Fore he leaves he give me a letter and when I open it up there out falls more than six dollars. Sweet Jesus knows how bad I needed it. In the letter she says that she is sorry bout me being sick and bout how her friend acted when I was at her place. It made me feel bad cause here I been talking how bad she was to everyone all these years and turns out what I was thinking was a devil turns out to be an angel. Grandma Persinger always say that folks is folks. There are good whites and bad whites and good blacks and bad blacks and cause we are mulattos we have twice as many to be good or bad to us. Some blacks are mean to us cause they think we to white and white folks that think we are to black. She say that when we see a white man or a colored man or an Indian man we better be thinking that he could be a cousin of ours so we better treat him with respect cause being mean is a sin but if you are mean to family it’s a bigger sin. I asked the lord to forgive me and I done promised to do better.
(February 1909) It has been to cold to be doing much visiting so I been in the house by myself most of the day. I done me some sewing but it is hard on a body being in the house alone. I been thinking bout all my family and it is hard somedays cause I miss them. I think bout them all the time. Yesterday was my Adams birthday and I miss him as much today as ever. I think bout all mine that done passed. My granddaddys brother died bout six years back and I wanted to go to Ritch Patch when they buried him. He was a good man and always treated me and sis good. Sis say she thinks he was a hard man but I know he had him a good heart and he loved us. He was with the south during the war but it aint his fault that so many has problems with a persons color and started that war. James told me that he would take me but I knowed that Bernard would be there and a part of me wanted to see him but I knowed that it would a been hard. Somedays I wish I was a stronger woman cause I let them stop us but that not my way. When James takes me up to see my sweet Adam I plan on going over and paying my respects. Seems like more of mine in the ground then with me somedays. I thank god my James and sis with me and not been took. I never be able to live with that. Amos come by for a while and I fixed him up some eggs. I aint getting enough to sell right now so get to eat up the few I get ourselves. I love them fried with onions and potatoes and some pork fat. Amos can do him so eating when he has him a mind to. He sets me in a mind of when James was his age. James is a good daddy to his and I give thanks to god for him everyday. Somedays the world seems so mixed up to me. I was talking with sis and she says that grandma say that in the past some of the Persingers owned them a couple of slaves. Grandma say that she recollected Miss Sara talking bout it. I don’t like to think that my blood family would ever do some foolness like that but sis says that the past is the past and it don’t make her no never mind anyhow cause all those folks are long dead. Miss Terry says that even some Indians owned themselves some black slaves and that bothers me to cause what if my Indian relations were slave owners. It is enough to worry a body to death. The Bible says that the sins of the daddy fall down on their kids so a body has to think that be why so much bad falling on us all. I try and talk with the preacher bout it but he don’t seem to understand. I never do no talking bout it round Miss Jones cause I know it would upset her thinking of mine maybe owning some of hers cause it upsets me. Somedays I wish I never knowed nothing bout the ways things were. Miss Eliza says she never lets herself think bout the way thing were cause don’t do no good anyhow. That woman done seen her more than her share of troubles and just wants to forget what she done seen. Maybe I need to me more like her but sis say a body never change their nature.I use to have me long talks with Miss Amanda bout things and she always say that aint no use looking back cause aint nothing there and aint no use looking forward cause you aint there yet the only thing you can do is try and stand where you at without falling down. I do think that a body needs to know when they done been cause that is the only way to learn but then if a body dwell on things to much that aint good.
I been wanting to write for some time now but had to work me up the courage to do it. The preacher says that if we want forgiveness for our sins then we got to admit them. I been carrying me a big one all these years and never told a soul not even my babies. The problem is that it eats at you year after year til all you feel is the pain and the shame of what you done. When I was little I use to pray to god to make me white. I figured since I was part white already it wouldn’t be hard for him to do it. I use to pray hard and rub my face with vinegar til it bleed. I was thinking that if I was white I could stay over at some of granddaddy Persingers relations in Alleghany County. They always had them pretty things to be wearing and good food and when they walk around nobody look at them likes they don’t belong. I tell god that if he can only make one of us white to make it me. I told him that being lighter than sis it be easy to do it for me. Sweet Jesus knows I love sis and I never understand why I say it. It done been a burden on my soul all these years. When my sweet Adam passed I was thinking that maybe god punished my baby cause of what I done or that he figured I never be loving me no dark baby since I wanted him to be white. When my David come I was thinking how I wished that my Adam had been that white looking and then was ascared that maybe god take him from me to. I know better now but the sore is still there. Maybe all these years I been hating Miss Wilson cause in my soul I wanted to be her. I never understand why I ask god to make me white and not sis to. Sweet Jesus forgive me cause that aint true. I was thinking that two children be a burden but one more white child not be nothing. I wanted to stay even if sis had to go. Somedays I hated her cause she was so dark that when we was together everybody knowed we was mixed but when I was by myself lots of whites took me for white. My mind was evil to be thinking that way and some days I hate myself for ever thinking that way. This been a good day. All mine doing good and the cat finally catch that mouse that been in my kitchen for the last week. Course the fool thing brought it to the foot of my bed and left it there. It like to send me to Jesus when I seen it there. I sold me three dresses that I sewed up for Miss Pitzer. She says she wants me to make her up two more and be sending me the cloth the first of the week. She says she knows a couple of others that might be wanting me to sew them up some stuff. I love to sew and never seem like work. We had us an all day service at church cause we has a visiting preacher from Norfolk. He sure do preach it but something bout him just don’t sit right with me. He don’t have the look. My grandma always say a true man of god has the look and when you sees him you knows that he is a man of god. Sis up and left fore it was over cause her back been troubling her but I know its cause he don’t have the look. I got me a letter from my David and he send me some money. He says that he likes his job and they are good to him. I want that boy to be happy but I miss him. James give me a book on spelling so I can write better. I still have trouble with some words cause they sound the same and some words with e at the end cause it don’t make no sound. I thank god everyday for giving me that boy. There aint a son is this world that could be any better. I hear so many at church talking bout how bad their children do them and I know that I be a lucky momma cause all mine love and care bout me. I done me a lot of thinking bout things and decide to talk out my sins with sis and pray to sweet Jesus that she understand and forgive me for how I was thinking when we were little. I told sis bout asking god to make me white when we were little and not asking him to make her white cause I wanted to stay. I nearly cry myself to death trying to tell her. She just laughed and told me she prayed for god to make her white to cause I was light enough that if god made her white she was sure the white folks let both of us stay with them. I hug her and we both laugh ourselves sick cause of the foolness we had us when we were little. I love her to death cause she always been with me through the hard days and the good. When I lose my second baby she stayed right with me for a week and never leave my bed. James still calls her momma two cause says she around as much as me and don’t bother me none cause I still momma one. After my sweet baby Adam passed she went with me to Carolina and lived with me there. I knowed she hated it there but she stayed cause of me. When I lost me my Raymond she stayed with me and my children and if her and James not there I never have made it. I tell her all the time that she needs to live with me here cause lord knows I got me plenty of room and she is here most of the time anyhow but she say she promised Miss Carol to look after her place. Sweet Jesus knows that I feel better now that we done talked out all that foolness.
There is still a part of me inside that I never understand. If I look in my mirror the person I see aint the person I feel like. Maybe I never understand it. All I know is that god done blessed me with a family that I love more than my own life. We had us a quilting over at church on Saturday. Miss Roses girl getting married so we was making one for her. She comes by and thanks us but never picked herself up no needle. Miss Eva says she is the laziest one woman she ever seen in her life but I know at least one that got her beat but I never say nothing cause family matters best kept at home. She says she don’t know nothing bout cooking so hopes her man don’t mind going hungry cause he be living on love and little else. One thing for sure all mine done learned them some cooking for they could hardly walk. Course James learned it the best cause he had to help when I had the others but he don’t like it but bet some days he be thanking Jesus he can cause they would starve to death waiting on his woman to do it. To be honest Tom the worse cause he burns everything he touches. I do it good but Sis is better than me. Now my Sara can bake up the best tomato bread a body ever eat. Glad that they done come back cause I miss them when they are not here. They been visiting with his people up in Maryland. I wish David get himself home cause I aint seen that boy in ages. James fixed me up some new bedposts cause mine were in bad shape and done been ascared that one night I end up on the floor. I never know how that boy finds the time to do all the things he do.
Miss Terry and her Indian friend had me and sis over and she fixed up a nice meal. He says that his Indian name means jumps in the river but I never be able to write it down in Indian. He says that both his parents were Indian. He looks to me older than Miss Terry but I never asked him cause that aint my place. His aunt married up with some colored man so he come to Virginia with his momma so they could visit. He don’t have him no long hair and dresses like everybody round here. He says that most Indians dress that way now. I know that aint all true cause me and sis lived in Carolina and some of them Indians there still wear them long hair but most do dress like everyone else but they still talk Indian. Sis tells him that she remembers Miss Fridley talking bout granddaddy Persingers daddy. He was an Indian man and she says that he carried him a bag round his neck like granddaddy had. He tells us how Indians use things for charms and that a man has animals that have meaning for that man. He says that different types of Indians each has them their own ways. The ways they dress is different and the way they wear feathers has meaning. He says that they use tobacco as part of their religion and I was telling him bout granddaddy having him some round his neck. I was wanting to talk to him some more but Miss Terry never keep hush for nothing. She says that she is going with him when he goes back out west and that she might just decide to stay if she likes it there. She says to many crazy people around here for her liking. She was talking bout how Miss Adas boy done caused all this trouble for us colored folk when she knows I don’t like to be called colored by her. Then she was talking bad bout Mister Davis and how he done folks and that Miss Coras girl was with a baby and nobody knowing who the daddy be. I tell sis when we get home that Miss Terry never have a kind word for nobody. (May 5 1909) My sweet baby Adam it done been another year and momma still misses you everyday but this day more than most. If I could bring you back with my own life I would my sweet angel. I pray to god that you are happy and I know that I will see you again. I done stiched your name on my pillow so I sleep with you every night. Sis says she prays for you and loves you. I know that Jesus is with you. You gots you a whole house full of sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews that one day be with you and when that day comes there be a party like heaven aint never seen. My dear angel my heart feels somedays like its going to break apart cause you are gone from me and it never be right til I see you in heaven. Good night my sweet baby.
(May 1909) I been practicing with my writing book but don’t know how to write some of the big words so been practicing. Sis come over last night to remind me that my birthday is next week. Say I got me a mirror and don’t need no reminding cause I see it everyday. I ask sis bout if granddaddy Persinger needed him papers to travel. Miss Jones says that mulattos had to have them papers saying they were free or they would be sold. She says when she was a slave the Master buy himself a light colored mulatto man at the auction. He tells them that he was a free man from up around Maryland but the slave catchers done grabbed him and sold him cause he don’t have no papers saying he is free. A few months later he runaway and says she never heared what happened with him but says she hopes he made it to freedom. She says she was thinking bout running off but after the Master had busted her leg she knowed that she would never get far off. Sis says she thinks him and grandma had them some papers but she never seen them cause we was little and after the war they didn’t need them no papers anyhow. I wish I could recollect all these things now but when I was little I never payed much mind to the things they tell me and now it seem like they the most important things I want to know. James give me a big fan made all out of feathers. He says I can set myself out on my back porch and fan myself like I was a real princess. I tell him I aint no princess that I always be the queen. We laugh so hard that we nearly made ourselves sick. I always have me a good time when that boy is here. Some days it is like god made that boy just for me and sis to love.
My garden is looking good. Miss Jane give me some flower seeds and I put them in front of the corn. I don’t know what kind they are but some of them is the prettyist I ever seen. One has got these big red flowers on it that looks like a small saucer and some is pink with a little white in them. The preacher was saying that we have got to count our blessing so we know how much god loves us. I done seen all my children growed up with children of their own. I got me a sister that I loves as much as my children and that loves me. I got me a house that aint to hot in the summer and not to cold in the winter. I got me my health and all mine got them good health. I got me more enough food to eat and enough money to do me. I got me a trade and all mine got them one to. Me and sis has us enough learning to read and write what we wants. All my children has them some learning. I got me a nice church to go to and friends that love me. I got me more cats than most and I love them and they love me. I have room to put me out a nice garden and run me some chickens. I always have me some folks wanting me to work for them. I have me a new Bible that lets me read the word of god whenever I want. I have more than enough coffee to drink and lord knows I likes me my coffee. I have me some nice clothes to wear and I can stitch me up almost any design I see. There was a big black snake in my henhouse eating him some of my eggs today. I retched in the nest to get me my eggs and something moved. It bout near stopped my heart till I seen that it was just a black snake and not no poisonous one. I killed it with my ax not cause he could do me harm but cause if I don’t he will come back everytime he is hungry and I needs me my eggs. Now Miss Fridley would cook her up a snake but I aint never eat me one. Sis did and says it was good cause she cooked it up with some pork fat and onions. I got me a letter from my brother. Been ten years since I had me any word from him. He says he loves me and sis and that his family is doing good. I read the letter to sis but she didn’t say nothing. I know she thinks bout them all but that wound never healed and so nothing a body can do bout it. I loves me that woman but somedays I don’t understand her. She has her a big heart when it comes to me and my kids.
I think our daddy and momma did the best they could but no need to say it cause she not want to listen. My brother ask me to write him bout granddaddy and his people cause he wants to know the ways of granddaddy Persingers people. I wrote him a long letter and put all I could recollect bout him and his daddy and Miss Sara. I liked soing it cause some of daddys children don’t care them nothing bout how things was but it is important for a person to know bout their people. I never told sis cause she never want to know what I done anyhow. I made me and sis some bacon bread and we eat it all up. I never know how she can eat the way she do and still as little as a bird. My Marys the same way.
I seen her eat half a vanilla cake at one sitting. I always tell her that sis must be her real momma. Tom is working on some building down in Richmond. That boy is a hard worker and I know he do good. (June 1909) My red hen hatched her out 15 chicks and cant think of a better birthday present than that. Good thing we got that snake out in the henhouse or they all be gone. They are the cutest things. I love watching a hen scratch round with her babies. I can sell every egg I get so I like it when they hatch a big brood. When we were living down in Carolina we always had us some chickens and use to raise up a couple of hogs but don’t have no room here for any hogs. I liked having them on the place but me and sis never liked them at killing time. We had to get up early and start water boiling and we would work until it was done and sometimes it went all through the next night. I love me my pork but not all that work. We would sell what we didn’t need and always folks ready to pay for good pork meat. Now sis can cook her up a pork pie and it is the best thing. My Mary can cook her up some good pork when she has her a mind to. We had us a root cellar in Carolina and it was always full of stuff we put up and could eat all year off it. Course the house was alful small with only two rooms. Me and Raymond and the boys would sleep in the small room off the kitchen and sis and the girls would put them out some blankets on the floor in the kitchen and sleep there. We only had one window in the kitchen and one small one in our room. Raymond was always talking bout building on but we never got round to it. Sometimes during the summer the boys would sleep out on the porch. I never minded it being small I was happy cause we had us a wood floor cause when me and sis first moved down that way we lived for a while in this old cabin and it only had one room and dirt floors. There was only a few houses up on that mountain and me and sis had to get up and leave fore sun was up and walk to where we was working. I would leave James with Miss Amanda and she was good to him. She was this old colored woman that had been a slave fore the war. Her and Raymonds momma was sisters but they had them different dads. He say her daddy was this African man right off the boat but his daddy was the Masters son cause say he had him an eye for colored women. After me and Raymond got ourselves married we moved down the road a piece and then sis stayed with the kids when I was working. If sis had to work then Raymond get himself up early and get Miss Amanda to come and stay with them. After she passed me and sis had to care for them ourselves and lord knows it was hard but then Raymond got him a better job and so I didn’t have to work all the time so me and sis could keep us some chickens and raise us up some hogs and then sell meat and eggs. We put out a big garden and what we didn’t need we could sell and what we didn’t sell we give to them hogs. I liked it down there but sis never did cause not many people so never had many people to be visiting with and sis likes to be round other ladies. We had us a nice church but it was a fair piece away and when it was raining or the weather was cold we didn’t go. Later when we moved into this house with three rooms in it it was like we was living in a palace. I miss me those days sometimes cause we was always all together and now we got things nicer but most the family seldom round here. Course we always have a houseful of company and me and sis love our church so that makes it better.
Sis been sick this week so she been staying here with me so I could be looking after her. Amos and Ben say they will look after Miss Carols place while she is here. I ask her to move on in with me but she don’t want to. She says my children have enough on them and she don’t want to be no burden. I tell her that is crazy talk cause she is my only true sister and I love her to death. My babies done growed up and its just me. My boys help me but I still make my own money. She never be a burden to mine cause they thinks they gots them two mommas anyhow. I love her but she has her funny ways at times. Sweet Jesus knows that without her there never be a family cause she always been there to get us through the bad times. Miss Odell got her a big family and they help her cause that is what a family do when they love each other. I know she is feeling better cause her and the kids dog been fighting all day. I was ascared that if it pulled at her dress one more time that she would smash in his head. I bout finished my stitching for Miss Lewis. She had me do her a set of towels and a couple pillowcases with her name on them in gold thread. It done took me bout two weeks cause sis aint been able to help me much but I think I will be done by Wednesday. When a person has some sickness in the house it sets a mind to thinking bout how things be. I remember asking Miss Fridley one day why all her people stayed up in them mountains when they could live anywhere they wanted.
She told me that for some people the mountains called to them and it was like in their blood. She say you take somebody like my granddaddy out of them mountains and it be like pulling a plant out of the garden by the roots. Maybe that is why so many folks seem like they are lost cause they never listen to their soul bout such things. I know I seen him many a day out on his porch looking off at the mountains and he say that they were talking to him and I never understood what he was saying but I know now. We had us a piece of beef today. I don’t care much for beef cause it got no taste to it but James brought it over so me and sis cooked it up for him. He likes him some beef so I don’t mind doing it for him. I was thinking that it was tough but James say it was good and that all that matters to me. I give the rest of it to the cats after everyone left and they ate it right up. Now I would like to have me a milk cow cause I can drink me some milk. When we was little we would help milk the cows and I like doing it but sis always been ascared of cows. I never understand it cause a cow aint nothing. A bull is different and I don’t want nothing to do with them. I was out in the field picking me some apples over at Miss Fridleys when I was little. I look behind me and there is this big old bull looking me in the face. I climb up high in the tree and the bull circles the tree and I was screaming but noone heared me. After a while Miss Fridley come out looking for me and I see her coming through the field with this little stick in her hand. I yell and tell her that the bull gone mad and she better watch or he kill her dead. She walk right up to the bull and shu him off and tells me to get myself down. I didn’t want to climb down but she say that he keep his place that all he was after was a few apples. I climb down and run like a rabbit but when I look back she walking like it was nothing. I never be able to do that but I think that woman was ascared of nothing. I think Mary and Sara are into it again. I never understand why they not able to get along better. They always in a fuss over some foolness. My boys get in it sometimes but they always settle it fast. Me and sis almost never have us any hard words and I wish my girls could be more like us cause one day we be gone and they only have each other. I know that James like to move himself down south and has talked a time or two bout wanting to see Texas but he never leave me and sis. David been off working for years and Tom may want to go off and find him better work then he can get him in these parts. That leave the two of them by themselves so they need to be thinking bout that. We done moved more times than I care to count so hope that we be here for a long time but if we did their husbands got them their own jobs and family near by so they have to stay. Course that woman of James never mind as long as any new place got a big chair for her to be sitting in all day. Me and sis had to work since we was little so seem like normal for us but even if we never worked that hard I don’t think we could be sitting in a chair all day doing nothing. I like to keep busy cause it make the day pass faster. My James is like me cause that boy always doing something. His boy Amos just like him but then Ben takes after his momma. Jesus knows that I love him but that boy don’t got him no head for work.
I been thinking all day bout my family. David still working in Carolina and my James is over in Roanoke and I miss him. Miss Mary done died and it makes me sad cause I know her family don’t know nothing bout it. I loved me that woman cause she never had a bad bone in her body. She told me awhile back that she never talked to her brother in nearly twenty five years. She never say why. Miss Jones says she knows but be taking that to her grave cause she make a promise never to tell. She had her a man and some kids but her master had done sold them off fore the war ended cause he needed money and she never knowed where they went off to. Just her and her brother was all that was left after she got her freedom. I don’t understand it but sometimes it happens that way. My granddaddy Persinger had him lots of family but after the war never talked to most of them ever again. I recollect when his brother George give me and sis each a pair of shoes cause we didn’t have us none he never asked bout him at all. I know that him and Miss Phebe got on good but her man didn’t want no colored around so she had to go see him. Wonder what he thought she be. Grandma say she made the best green tomato pie she ever put in her mouth but once they done moved it was to far for her to come over so they didn’t see her much anymore. I want to know more bout why this come to be but don’t no one seem to know for sure. Nobody knows nothing bout my Aunt Ann as she was gone fore they was old enough to know much of anything and says they never talked bout her. Grandma Persinger had her another girl they called Ruth but lord took her for she a month old. Sweet Jesus knows I know how it be to lose a child so I understand why she never did her much talking bout it. Granddaddy had him a sister Mary living out west but I never seen her and Miss Marys death set me to thinking bout if she was alive or dead and if she was no one here knowing nothing bout it. I aint never beat my children but lord knows that if they stopped talking to each other I would beat them near to death. James and Tom always fighting but they always settles it. Things enough to worry a body to death somedays. This week seem alful long to me. Guess folks been to busy to be visiting much so just me and the cats. I miss Miss Mary and been thinking bout her a lot this week. I recollect Miss Mary talking bout how she never knowed her real momma cause her and her brother was sold when they was little. I never knowed my real momma. My daddy was only bout 16 when him and momma had sis. My momma was a mulatto woman from over near Roanoke and cause he was to young to get married they just had to visit when they could. Sis was bout a year old when momma had me. She died a day or two after she had me so me and sis was sent to her momma but she was to old to take care of two babies and after a while she sent us to granddaddy Persingers. We never seen or heared from her or her people again so don’t know if she died or what done happened. I think my real mommas name was Margaret but Sis says it was Martha. I ask daddy bout her but he say that he don’t ever want to talk bout her cause it cause trouble between him and momma but I thinks that wound never healed. We lived with granddaddy part of the time and then later with daddy after he got married and some with other family we had. They were all good to us but sis says that momma always looked at us like we were different cause we not her kids and that why they give us to any family that take us in. I can understand cause she always had a houseful of her own and we were two more hungry mouths to feed. I think that is why sis never been close to the other kids in the family cause she say we only partly related and they were treated better than us. I don’t say nothing cause she is my sister and I love her and things were hard but we also had us some good times. I loved it when we stayed with some of granddaddy relations over in Alleghany County. We use to visit over at Miss Wolfs cause she had a big house and she would buy us candy and she had dolls that she let us play with. I know she loved us and when we stayed over we got to sleep in separate beds in a big bedroom. Whenever we were hungry we got to go to the kitchen and she would fix us up something and always say for us to eat all we wants. When bed time come she always say that there was food in the kitchen and that if we got hungry during the night we could get us some bread out of the bread pan and eat it. I remember one time her and Miss Bowen took us to town and we goes to this store.
I was bout six and sis was seven and this big white man comes over and says that they know that he don’t allow no niggers in his store. First time in my life I was ever called that and I almost cried right there. Miss Wolf just looks him in the eye and says that we are Peter Persingers children and we going to pick out some candy cause we are such good girls. This white woman comes over and says that we are just babies and that he better not make us cry. He let us pick it out ourselves but when we are leaving he says that next time she need to leave us outside if any white folks is in the store. That night I ask baby Jesus to make her my momma but fore I was eight we was back at daddys. James took sis over to visit a couple days with Miss Beverly. Miss Jones been staying with me cause she says she seen a shadow moving in Miss Marys room. I know its been hard on her with Miss Mary passing and the two of them like sisters. Be like sis passing on for me. I told her how my granddaddy always say that when a body die the spirit sometimes stays round for a spell but that the spirit never harm nobody. Its all a part of how the world be. He say he never ascared of dying cause it just the next part of the journey. Course Miss Jones don’t have no Indian blood and believes in some of them African ways. She is ascared cause she says a ghost can take over the body of a living person. I never understand why she be thinking that as sweet as Miss Mary was she would take over her body. I don’t know me much bout those African ways but it don’t make no good sense to be thinking that way. I recollect grandma talking bout this ghost over in Alleghany County. The white folks over there had killed them this slave and after he was dead she say people started to see him out in this field. She say she never seen it but granddaddys brother was over that way and say one evening he seen him standing in the field like he was looking for something. When he looks again he was gone but say he knowed what he seen. Everybody knowed it was him cause weren’t no black men round them parts. It never hurt or bothered noone and lots of folks seen it so I think granddaddy was right. The preachers wife says that we is both wrong cause the soul go up to heaven when you dies. I believe me in Christian ways but I also believe me in some of them old ways.
Lord knows I seen me better days. I wonder some days what the world coming to. The church seem alful empty today. Miss Mary gone and all Miss Adas people done moved away. Mister Brown done had to move in with his son down in Norfolk cause he got some sickness. Miss Odell says that he was a slave down in Carolina fore the war. He got marks all over his back from the whip. Him and his brother run off fore the war was over and some patterollers shoots him and his brother. They shoot his brother dead but Mister Brown played possum and waited till they done went on fore he gets up. Sympathizers took him in and doctored him up good. Say some abolitionists help him get up north. I never knowed that bout him and that be why he always acted like he was mad. I seen the scars on Miss Jones back and I never know how that woman lived through that beating. I thank sweet Jesus that none of mine was no slaves. Miss Odells daddy was a slave but she says that he never got beat. Her momma was a free woman cause her daddy bought them their freedom. I never knowed that a slave could do that but she says its true. After the war was over him and her momma stay on the place and hire themselves to the master. Her momma worked in the big house and he cared after masters horses. Says they were good to her and always be giving her plenty to eat. When master passed they moved to Virginia not to far from Fincastle cause they had them some family over that way. They are both dead now but she gots her four brothers and two sisters. I think a big family is good for a body cause lord knows it aint right being by yourself. Sis stayed the night with me. She says that two of my cats got up in the bed with her but she let them be cause she was to tired to kick them out of the bed. Cats likes to sleep where it is warm but sis don’t like her no cats in her bed. She got herself up early and fixed us up a big breakfast. That woman loves to cook. I like it when she cooks breakfast cause lord knows I hate fooling with getting a fire in that cook stove of mine in the mornings. We cooked us up two apple pies and give one to Miss Odell cause Miss Frances is staying over at her place and give one to Miss Jones. Miss Lewis wants me and sis to come over tomorrow and cook for her cause she is going to have her a house full of company. She give me a big box of can goods cause she say she got no use for them. They nice people but got them funny ways when it come to food cause they don’t eat them lots of things, She says that people that works with her man always bringing him stuff out of their gardens. They put me in a mind of some of Miss Bowens people. We was at her house and she had her a bunch of company and she brings out this big plate of meat and someone ask what it is and she say old John and some of them say they never eat it cause everyone knowed that old John was the name of her horse and she done cooked him up. Me and sis eat it up cause it was good and made us no never mind cause good food is good food.
I never be like Miss Mary and eat me no dog but a horse like a cow and people pay no never mind to eating a cow. Now when it come to coffee that woman got her the best there is. When we over there I drinks me all I can cause it is better than what I have me. Sis says that she has it sent in. If I ask I know she would give me a bag but got me better manners than that. Sis told me that I need to write more bout our people cause all the old ones that knowed bout them are passing on. She act like she don’t care bout my writing one day and then telling me what to put down the next. My Sara say she to bossy but she aint cause that just her way. I recollect a story bout our granddaddy and she say I should put it down. Our granddaddy Gabriel Persinger was born up there in Ritch Patch Virginia. It is up in the mountains not to far off of Botetourt. It aint hard to get to if you been there but can be hard going the first time. Miss Sara was by herself in the cabin that her and her man had done made. I think they say that it had just one big room. Her man had done went off cause he was thinking that there was plenty of time fore the child be coming and he knowed that her family was just down the road. Her brother done told her to come to his house and stay cause he was worried bout her. There come up this bad wind storm and Miss Sara was afeared to go out til the storm was over. Sometime after dark the baby started coming and around midnight she had done had her the baby and then the second one done started coming. Not many people in those days had twins so she was surprised and being that it was her first time she was not sure what to do. She had helped with babies coming so she knowed some. She had her some problems cause in the morning her brother and his wife come to check on her cause she had not come to their house. They find Miss Sara out on the floor all covered in blood and the children on the bed. Her brother say that he figured that she was going die cause she done lost so much blood. He takes the babies cause they were dirty and still had blood on them and he goes for help while his wife tended Miss Sara. Some women come to the cabin and they try to doctor Miss Sara. They send for this colored lady cause they knowed she could cook up some medicine for her and everyone knowed that coloreds and Indians knowed more bout medicines from plants than most of them white folks over there. After several days Miss Saras fever done broke and she was eating some so they figure she was going to live. They bring one of the boys back to see if she has any milk to nurse her babies with. She say that she called the first one Gabriel cause while she was sick she had a dream bout angels standing by her bed. Her man was an Indian and they put great store in dreams and such. Her family says this was a good idea cause her not dying was sure a miracle of God. They seen that she was dry and cause they had no cow around to get her some milk they meted the boys out. Miss Sara had to stay down there with her sister for neigh on a month cause she was still weak to be looking after herself. I thank Jesus that I had me folks there when I had me my babies cause it was hard. The only one that give me big trouble was my David cause he was so large. Tom was my last one and the easiest of the lot. It was round 1890 cause we was living down in Carolina next to Miss Mays place but sis got the date wrote down in her Bible. I got sis up out of bed and she went and got Miss May and her sister and they weren’t in the house more than a short time fore he come and had me almost no pains at all. It weren’t but a few years after that that Raymond passed so tom was my last Liked to of had me some more but liking aint getting so a body have to make do. Amos killed himself a big goose down by the river and give it to me to cook it up. I stuffed it with onions and nuts and sis made us some Yankee pea stew to go with it. Miss Frances come over and eat with us and we had us a good time. Miss Jones says she gots to be almost ninety. She been living with her son down close to Richmond but comes this way bout two times a year. I enjoy it when she is here cause she is always telling stories bout growing up and she knows every song in the hymn book by memory. She can recite hundreds of verses from the Bible and her mind as fresh today as it ever was. Her people was from down in the Carolinas. I know she had her a hard life but that woman never do her any complaining. I wish more folks round here was like her. She had herself four big cups of coffee and I told her that me and her both likes us our coffee more than the food. I made Betty a new dress and it is pretty. It is a light green and it has little dots all over it. I trimmed it with some lace that James got me. I may have enough cloth left to fix a shirt up for Miss Jones cause she says she likes the color. God has been good to me cause I always have my family and friend with me. Me and sis cleaned on the house all day. We been working so much we never has time to do us any cleaning here. Sis been here with me all week. We have us a good time and lord knows I love me that woman. Miss Odell says that when she has people over at her place after a while they gets her nervous but it never that way with sis. We been together since we was born. My Sara thinks she alful bossy at times but I never pay that no mind cause that her way. Course my Sara got her better raising than ever say that to her or do her any back talking and I know she loves her like she was her momma. James come over and eat with us cause he knowed sis done baked us up a cake. The glass in my window is loose and the wind comes right through it so he says he is going to fix it up for me. Course there been times when me and sis lived in places where weren’t no glass for the windows and we had to cover them with blankets in the winter to keep out the wind so if it take him awhile to get to it don’t make me no never mind cause at least we got glass in it. Miss Eliza been in her sick been here neigh on a week. Me and sis done took her over some food cause that granddaughter of her don’t do her much cooking. Miss Odell told me that what she do cook cant half eat cause it got so much salt in it that it make a body sick.
I think it was 15 years ago yesterday that Raymond passed but don’t know for sure cause so much done happened and we never wrote the date down. I miss him somedays cause he was a good man but feel strange cause I never feel bout him like a wife should be feeling. He was a kind man and I loved him but just different. He always called me his keykuba which is some kind of African talk for flower. He learned it from Miss Amandas daddy but he only knowed him a few words of it. I know that he loved me and he never tried to rule over me or hit me like some of these men be trying to do to their women. He knowed he weren’t my first man but seemed to make him no never mind. I pray that he at peace and knows that I did love him. I finished my stitching on the dress for Miss Pinn. Her boy had me make it up for her and theys going to surprise her with it. It is a light gray with white in it and I stitched little designs round the collar and cuffs. Miss Frances has done gone back to Richmond. James says that he will take me down to visit with her in a few weeks if I want to go. There is to much work to do to be thinking bout traveling. I aint had me no word from my David in a while and I sure miss him but a man needs to work. Mister Andrews had me work two days for him this week. He had some things for me to mend and had me do his windows. I don’t mind the work cause it is not hard work at all excepting some of those tall windows. It is good for a body to have plenty of work. I took the dresses I sewed up over to Miss Lewis. She ask me to sit and have some coffee with her. I like her cause she don’t act like a lot of white folks. Me and sis worked for her back when her momma was living and we cooks for her when she got company. She keeps asking me to come work for her a couple of days a week and I tell her I think bout it. White folks sometimes talks to you likes you a child but not her. She tells me that her daddy made her marry up with Mister Lewis cause that’s the way he done things. She says she didn’t take to him right off cause she was thinking that his ears set wrong on his head and his hands to small for a man. She says she started to run off but knowed her daddy disown her if she done it. Now she loves him and says he is real good to her and makes good money and lets her buy what she wants. Course she says aint nobody telling her girls who to marry cause old ways was for old times and got no place today. I don’t think thats true but good to know that folks is folks. Grandma Persinger always say it don’t matter what color dish you eat from it is what is in the plate that is important. I recollect them talking bout granddaddy Persingers momma Miss Sara and how her family tried to make her marry some white man when she was young cause granddaddy’s daddy was gone most of the time and never could get married with her cause he was not white. Say she run off in the woods and gone several weeks fore she comes back. That white man say she was to wild for him cause he aint never going chase down no woman in the woods. After that they never bother her bout getting married. I wish somedays that I had had me the courage that she had her. Linda come over with the boy she seeing. He is well mannered and as polite as you please but that boy talk your ear off. I never understood most of what he was talking bout cause he uses words I never heared in all my born days. His people from up north and he gots him some good learning. He say he will let me borry some his books if I want and I tell him please cause I like to read. He say he will send them by Linda next week. I never ask her bout her momma and she never talked any bout her. I know her momma don’t do her right cause she don’t do none of them right but not my place to say nothing bout it. I know it troubles my James cause she don’t do her no cooking or cleaning but he never complain cause that his way. Somedays I want to go over there and tell her to get herself out of bed and clean that house. Me and sis cleaned up one day when she was gone and when she come back she like to bite the head off sis bout it. She never tell me nothing cause she knowed don’t nobody talk bad to James momma. James never put up with it. Miss Jones say she don’t want to talk bad bout anyones people but she would knock her down til she be happy to cook and keep the house clean. There me and sis had to sew up some shirts for Ben and Amos cause she say she ascared that she ruin the cloth if she try to do it and lord knows it aint nothing to sewing up a shirt. We do it cause we love Ben and Amos and cause it help out James and Jesus know as good as that boy be to me and sis we do anything make it easier on him. All I have to say is she better be glad she never growed up over there in Botetourt County or Alleghany cause those people knowed how to work you right. They was all good to us but lord knows we had us some hard work to do. Course in them days everyone had to work the garden from the oldest to the youngest. Miss Fridley always say if you can walk you can work and if you like to eat you better like to work. My back has been sore all day. I knowed I was doing to much lifting on that divanport but I hate asking James to do all my heavy work for me. Amos would do it if he was here but he been busy. Sis helped me some but her back worse than mine. I been wishing I could see me my David. I wish I had the eye like Miss Sara cause then I know if he was doing good. Grandma told us bout the time granddaddy went down to the Carolinas to visit his daddys people. She say he was gone neigh on nine months and she was thinking that maybe he decide to stay with them or that him and his daddy done been killed. She say she heared tell of whites shooting Indian folk dead and the law doing nothing bout it. If they killed a slave it could be big trouble cause somebody have to pay for him so whites might beat one they catch bad but most knowed better than kill them one. She goes to Miss Saras place and ask her bout them and she say that she sees them both plain and she don’t see her no shadow bout them. A few days later he come walking in like he never been gone. Grandma say she always knowed he had him wood fever and a man with it got to get out in the woods some or they dies. His brothers had it to and Miss Sara always say that aint no use trying to change them cause it was born in them. Sometimes you gots to let a dog run free or they goes crazy but they always come back. The dog never be thinking bout how lonely or worried folks back home be when they off running something it is in he blood and they gots to chase it. Maybe that where my David got him his ways. Grandma say it aint a womans place to tie a man like that up cause if you loves them then you gots to accept that how things going to be. I love me that boy and never want to put no chains on him. I know if I told him that I needed him back here he come in a hurry but he never be happy.
James stayed the night with me and he never say but I know something troubling him. I know he loves his wife but it got to be hard with her never lifting a hand to do nothing. James would never leave her cause of the kids so I think he come here to get away for a time and cause here he can rest cause I do all the cooking and cleaning. I never say nothing to him cause it aint my place but it is hard to keep hush at times cause he my baby. Sis had her a place come up on her leg the size of a hens egg. She stayed here with me and I doctored it and now she is better. My granddaddy told me one time that his daddy always say that the world cause sickness but that the world cure it to. He never needed him no doctor cause his people knowed all bout such things and how to use plants and roots to cure them any sickness. I wish that I had all that wrote down cause today most folks don’t know them nothing bout such things. Somedays it seem like the world moving so fast that a body never keep up. Most everyday they done invented some new thing to take the place of the old and me and sis starting to feel lost. The old days were hard but we knowed what to do and how to act. Today you hears everyday of men beating their women for nothing and their women doing nothing bout it and people being robbed in plain daylight and when we was little there never was such things cause people was stronger and knowed how to take care of themselves. There granddaddys momma Miss Sara alone most of the time with noone to help her and she got on just fine. Aint no man ever thought of hurting her cause it be like hitting a wild cat. Miss Wolf was this little woman and I seen her move things that a man today never be able to lift and in the fields she could work most of the men today to the ground. I know Miss Bowen was at her house and this man was visiting them and was in the jug at her house one night and he hit her over some foolness and the next day say he looked like the horses done run him down cause both his eyes were busted and some of his teeth was gone. I don’t think he ever tried that foolness again. People didn’t have them all these stores and doctors to be running to so you did for yourself or you didn’t have. I know if we stopped working longer than it took to wipe away the sweat you was called lazy and doless but folks today stops when they have a mind to. Unless you was sick nobody be feeding you or looking after you they let you go hungry. I was over at Miss Wrights when I was bout seven and she has me grubbing most of the day in the garden and then give me all the food I could eat and told me that cause I done worked so hard she make me up a pie. Her boy come in and she asked him if he done cut her some wood and he say no cause he come in cause he was hungry to death and she say when the work is done the food be done to. I say that I go help him and she say no cause I done my part and now he doing his part. Now he a grown man and a better worker you never find.
I had all the ladies from the church over and we all fixed up something to eat and had us a good time. Miss Eliza made up some fried cabbage and onions with a little sugar in them and they were good. Miss Cora cooked up a rabbit but I didn’t eat me much of it cause it had a bad taste to it. We had us a Bible study and those of us that could do some reading took turns reading out of Matthew. Each of us was to read three verses and than give someone else a turn. Course the preachers wife took to reading like she the only one of us that had any learning and read two chapters fore Miss Terry told her to let someone else do some reading. She bout near fell out of her chair when she says it but she stopped. That woman acts like cause a body is from the south that we don’t got us no learning. I been reading since I was little. I like to do me some reading out of my Bible but there are lots that I don’t understand bout it. Sis says that a body don’t need to understand all the words cause just hearing the words is enough. I asked Miss Lewis one day if she understands all them words cause she has had her a lot of schooling. She says she knows them but there is parts that she has trouble understanding. I thinks to myself that if she don’t understand it all I never be able to. Somedays I wish that I had me lots of schooling cause I love to learn bout things. I think bout all the things I wants to know bout but seem like a body never has the time for what they wants. I think bout how I would like to talk different languages. My granddaddy could talk him some Indian and my David can talk him some Italian but I never had me the chance to learn nothing bout other languages. Miss Lewis say she can talk her some Latin but can read it better than she can talk it. She let me look at her Latin book and I was thinking that it be like a dream to pick it up and start learning it. Miss Beulah got her some good learning and I seen her pick up the Bible and read it out loud and never miss a word. Sis was up most of the night sick. She says she knowed it was that rabbit that Miss Cora cooked up. I fixed her up some soup and she was in bed most of the day. I hope she is better tomorrow so she can go with me to church.
Me and sis had us a mess of bear meat today. James got it from those folks that he been working for. It was good but not as good as grandma Persingers. I don’t know how she fixed it but sure was good. I got me a bear claw that my granddaddy give me and sis got her one to. She got hers in her memory box but I keep mine on a string and wear it some cause granddaddy always say that it bring good luck. Granddaddy done killed it fore we was born. Him and grandma was living in Alleghany County and him and his brother was out hunting. They seen this deer and was tracking it through some thick brush. His brother come up on this bear cub and knowed that its momma had to be close by. He calls to granddaddy and says they got to get out cause its momma defend her cub if she seen them. Him and granddaddy starts to move out of the brush when they see its momma. It was a big one and stood up on its back legs and near as tall as they was. It comes right for them and they shoot it but she keeps coming. They run in different directions cause she not be able to follow them both. She takes out after his brother so granddaddy has time to get him off a shot. He was ascared cause the bear so close to his brother that the shot could kill his brother and not the bear. He shoots and the bear falls. His brother says the bear was so close he could feel its breath on his neck. They cut up the bear and granddaddy takes the claws and some of the meat and let his brother have the hide. They talk bout killing the cub cause they done killed its momma but granddaddy says that the cub big enough to make it on its own. Linda come by with some books and it made me as happy as a cold cat under a hot stove. I started in on one and plan to do me some good reading.
Sis done stayed with me all week. White folks having some party and seems like everyone wants a new dress so had more sewing than I ever get done on my own so sis stay and helps me. We gets up start sewing and go til late but we finished them all in time. Miss Smith had me sew her up one with all these fancy buttons on it and lord knows thought I never get finished. Sis says she sleep for a week now that we are done. Me I like keeping busy cause it make the day go fast. Course me and sis done worked since we could walk. Sis say I must be crazy cause I talks to my cats while I works. I tells her that granddaddy say that animals can understand you when you talks from your heart. When he killed something he always say a prayer and thank the animal for the gift they be giving. He had him this old mean dog that everyone ascared of cause he looked like a wolf. Grandma say she never wanted to feed him cause he maybe eat her up to. Granddaddy would just say a word to him and he act like a baby kitten. He even let you rub his belly. She say she seen him talk a squirrel out of the trees. I know mine understand me good cause I tell them to stay off my davenport and they stay off. I tell my momma cat to get herself in the kitchen and she heads right in. Sis say she don’t like her no cats but I know she do cause she always sneaking them food. When my big yellow cat died she cried herself sick over it. James says that he is going to paint my kitchen for me next week. Its been needing new paint for some time so I be glad to see it done. I like to keep my house in neat and clean. We know to many that don’t pay no never mind to such things but a house should be clean. Sis was here all day helping me with my sewing. Me and her were talking today bout the time we run away. We had to leave from over there in Alleghany County and was staying with our daddy. We waits till they were busy and we takes off. We were aiming to get back to some of granddaddys peoples place but we didn’t know for certain how to get there. Sis says that it has to be a little way through the woods and if we go through them we can be there for they knowed we was gone. I puts some cake bread in a sack and we sets off. We walk all day and after we eats the last of the bread sis says we should go back cause it be dark soon. We turn round but don’t know which way to go. Fore long its dark and we was cold and hungry and ascared that some wild animal or evil spirit was going to eat us. We sleep beside this big rock and sis gets her a big stick to use if any animal come around and I get me a bunch of pine branches to keep away any evil spirits. We walk all the next day with only a few wild berries to eat on. I tell sis that we were going to die in them woods and they never going to find our bodies. We stops to rest and hears this noise. I was bout ready to cry cause I knowed it was a bear ready to eat us up but when I looks back it was our granddaddy. He says that it done took him all day to track us down cause we move faster in the woods than him. I gives him a big hug. He says that we has to stay the night in the woods cause it soon be dark. He builds us a fire and kills some squirrels and we sleeps side by side. The next day he takes us to his place and I thinks we was going to get a whipping but he never says nothing. Years later grandma says that she thinks that he was proud of the way we moved through the woods like wild Indians. There was the prettyist bird out in my garden today. It was all blue with a little red in it. I was ascared that the cats get it but they never payed it no mind. James says that I got me more cats than I need but I love me my cats. I been thinking bout Miss Lewis momma. Sis was with her when she passed on. She says that she started talking real clear and says she was acting like she is talking to her sister Emma that been dead for years and her momma and Mammy Becca. She tells sis that she sees them all standing round her and that her momma says to tell her thank you for taking such good care of her. Sis says that she nearly fell over she was so ascared. She runs and gets Miss Lewis but when they gets back to her room she done passed on and she got her a smile on her face. Sis says she was ascared to say what she seen cause folks be thinking she done lost her good sense. If Miss Lewis momma seen those people then it mean that whites and coloreds all go to the same heaven. It don’t matter me none but there be some mighty unhappy white folks if that is true. I always was thinking bout that though cause we has white and Indian and black blood and I was thinking bout if there was a separate heaven for people like us. Miss Eliza says that they always told her that black folks had to go to a separate heaven cause they was marked by god. To me that was just some people talking that didn’t have no good sense. Tom give me a jar of honey and I got to say that it is a weakness for me. I like to have me some on my bread at breakfast but then I will eat on it all day. When we were growing up we had us some hives and honey was our sugar for most of the year. Granddaddy would put it in his tea but I can eat it plain. Sis don’t care much for it cause she likes her sugar and vanilla cakes. I don’t think that it is a sin to eat like that but it seems that way at times. I aint never been ascared of bees. I could walk right up to the hive and never be stung but sis got stung if she was anywhere close to them. Granddaddy always say that bees can tell if a person is ascared of them and then they sting but if you walk right up to them like you not then they leave you alone. I seen that man covered with them and walk away like it weren’t nothing. Linda come by and we had us a nice visit. I never asked her what was the matter cause if she wanted me to know she would tell me. Amos says that there is some foolness between her and her momma but he don’t know what it is. I was glad that she feels like she can still stop by and visit with me. I need to go over to Mister Andrews in the morning. Sis says she is going with me so I can finish early. It seems to me like the years go faster the older a body gets. I look around and so many of the ones I knowed when I was little done passed on and my own children getting older than I ever thought I would be. It makes it hard when you goes to talk bout somebody you knowed and there aint nobody in the house that knowed them excepting me and sis. I wonder someday if there will be noone even remembering that I was here. Me and Miss Jones bout the only ones ever go out to visit Miss Marys grave and once we are gone noone will never go again. Noone never go visit my sweet baby Adam but me and when I done passed on he will be alone. My David keeps saying he come home soon so that I can meet his new woman. I hate it cause with the rest gone most of the time my poor James has to come and do it all. Course that boy never do him no complaining bout it but I feel bad. I went to put me some money in my jar and when I open it I know something is wrong. I get it out and count it and it comes to more than I been putting in. Only soul other than me and sis that knows bout it is my James.
That sweet angel been putting money in my jar for me. Lord Jesus there never been a better boy than him put here. Sure been cold here the last few days. I cooked up one of my chickens and had the kids over. Sis cooked up an apple pie and Miss Odell brought over a cake. We all had us a good time but James and Tom were in a fuss over some nonsense and I tell them to let it go cause Sunday aint for no argueing and such foolness. James say he sorry but Tom got to much his granddaddy in him to say he is. James played the guitar for us and we all was singing and having a good time. I remember the day I bought it for him. I pay almost four dollars for it and had to hide it under my bed for neigh on two weeks. Mister Davis give him lessons and I pay him with eggs. Now he can play almost any song we wants. My boys say they going to patch up my floor for me and lord knows it needs it. Got me a bag of cloth that I need to be cutting up this week. Bout finished with my sewing for Miss Wright so need to get started on a dress for Miss Eliza. Christmas soon be here so I got to finish up my sewing so I be ready. David says he will not be able to come home by Christmas cause he wants to spend some time with that girls people. I pray that boy aint in no foolness cause he gots himself no head with women. Some days it seem like that boy been gone forever.
I will miss him but sure that I will have me a house full of company. (December 26 1909) The kids came over for Christmas and they give me a new clock and the grandkids done went in and got me a new coffee pot. They had done give me part of my Christmas cause they patched the floor in the back room for me. Tom says that my house looking like a palace which makes me the queen. Sis give me a box to put my Bible in and it is the prettyist thing with gold colored ribbon on the sides and a cross on the front with white doves. I give her a new hat with a hatpin that is in the shape of a beetle. I give each of my boys a new shirt that I done sewed up and the girls got each a skirt that I sewed up from that blue cloth that I got from Richmond. I give the grandbabies a bag with candy in them excepting Nancy cause she to little so I give her a pillow that I stitched up with her name on it. I was thinking that my legs give out fore the day done but lord knows I enjoyed myself. I been thinking bout asking James to take me down to visit Raymond’s grave. I feel bad cause it been years since I visited and all he got is this little marker on it with his name. It would take a good day or two but I know I could get Linda or Miss Odell to stay and look after the place for me. I owe him a visit cause he was a good man and good to me and sis and deserves more than being left on that mountain without as much as a visit one from his family. I can understand bout Tom cause he was to little when he passed to remember but the others should be more respectful. I wonder some days if James ever think bout his real daddy. He aint never asked me nothing bout him and I have wanted to tell him over the years but then maybe a body better if they never knowed some things. I want to keep some things stored away forever but if he ever asked me I would tell him cause as good as that boy been to me and sis I would owe him the truth. (December 31 1909) I really feel my years these days. When I was young I done run round half the time with no shoes on my body and could be snow on the ground cause I never pay it no mind. Now a little wind and I want to put a quilt round me. Today I feel in worse shape than this old house. It is hard to believe that tomorrow it will be 1910. I don’t know my exact age but I know I got to be getting old. They use to tell me that I was born round 1858 in Botetourt but sis says it was 59. Guess it don’t matter much but sure like to know. Linda come by and give me a pair of wool gloves. She says she is sorry she weren’t here for Christmas but needs her time away from her momma to think things out. I told her I understand but that be a lie but I say it anyhow. Sis say she seen Miss Terry in town yesterday. She says that Indian man that was living over there at her place done up and left her without so much as a word. He be saying how he was going to take her out west and how happy she be round his people and now she is still here and he done left. She went to bed one night and when she got herself up his clothes was gone. I guess it that way sometimes with Indians cause I recollect how grandma Persinger use to talk bout granddaddy’s father. He was a Cherokee Indian but not like those you sees today cause he was what folks called a wild Indian. She says he made his own clothes out of skins and had no part Christian in him and was more at home in the woods then in a house with four walls. Say he called a house a whitemans cage. Say he was like a shadow cause he be there one minute and then fore you knowed it he was gone. Course he must been round a good bit cause him and Miss Sara done had them a pack of kids. Folks say he was a tall man with dark hair longer than any womans they ever seen. Whites were ascared of him cause he looked so wild. Granddaddy took after him in a lot ways. He was always taking off and be gone for days at a time fore he come back with whatever he done killed in the woods. Grandma say she never worried that he got another woman out in those woods cause no other woman ever put up with his ways more than a day. Course I know that she loved him more than anybody. I remember how sad he looked when he got old and had to keep close to the house cause he could no longer do what he done when he was young. I wonder somedays if he ever thought that it might have been better had he let them white soldiers take him out west with all those Indians. I seen Miss Adas sister yesterday. She says her boy still over in Covington. I don’t think he ever come back here cause if he do someone likely to lynch him. We had a new lady come to church. She is from Tennessee. She is as light skinned mulatto girl with the prettyist eyes I ever seen. I seen white folks darker than her many times. Miss Odell says that her brother is as dark as tar but he gots him green eyes. Sometimes it is that way with mulattos. Granddaddy was dark but then some his brothers looked white. Me and sis don’t look like cause she got dark skin and I look Indian course she aint nothing but skin and bones and I always been big. Miss Jones had her some kids by a white man and one was real dark but then one looked almost white. Their daddy was the overseer on the plantation and says when he first come to her cabin she hated him but after a while she started to care bout him cause he was good to her. She says the Master found out bout them when he seen how light her son was and so he throwed him off his place and sold her babies. I cant hardly believe that she ever loved her a white man after all the way she was treated by whites. Miss Odells says that Mister Brown told her that he never hated him all whites cause when he done runaway whites doctored him and helped him. I have knowed some good whites and some bad whites but I know some black folks that I don’t care for cause of the way they act. God has been good to me cause none of mine been taken from me excepting my Adam.
We had us a new family in church today. This is the second family that come to church this month so god is blessing us. They are from the Carolinas and are some kin to Miss Eva. They got them eight kids and they were running wild all through the preaching. One thing for sure mine knowed better that ever do such racketing cause they knowed if they did when they got themselves home their daddy not be pleased. Lord knows I miss the days when I had me a crowd with me at church. I know I be there for god but it gets a body lonely when you sees a whole big family there. Me and Miss Jones sits together up close cause we sings with the choir. Miss Odell is upset with the preachers wife cause she is picking out the songs she likes and not asking what we wants to sing. It don’t bother me none cause I sing round the house and can sing what I want at home. Baby Nancy done took a fever so I tell them to keep her at home today. Me and the cats not lonely cause I think they are happy not having to be running all day long from that dog of theirs. I got to get me up early tomorrow cause I got me a dress to finish for Miss Johnsons girl. Lord know she got more money than good sense cause here it is still cold and she be wanting a new spring dress course I just sew then up and as long as I get my money aint my concern. I had me one of my best hens up and die on me. Amos went out and checked the pen and say he could find no sign of something bothering at her so guess it was her time. I wish I had a place to run me a few hogs but lord knows when I would find me the time to look after them. I like having me fresh pork to eat and me and sis use to make the best sausage from our hogs. People would be coming from all over to buy it cause everybody knowed that we made it good. I made up a new dress for my Nancy and it makes her look like a doll baby. It is yellow with white stripes. I had enough cloth left over to sew me up some pillows. The preachers wife wants me to sew her up a couple of dresses and some shirts for him. I got to say that woman has got her a good eye for cloth cause got her some blue that is the prettyist I ever seen. I know that it cost her plenty to get it course she got her some money. Miss Jane says that her daddy sends her money every month. I need some more thread fore I start so James says he can pick me up some. My big old gray cat done got a hurt paw so I got to look after it. Sis says I should have been a nurse cause I got me a way with sick things. I done ask sis to move back in with me and she says she be thinking bout it cause that old house of hers hard to keep warm. She was only suppose to be there a year cause Miss Carol pay her to look after the place while she taking care of her momma over in Botetourt County but it done been a couple of years now and she still living there looking after the place. I be hoping she moves back cause with James working away I get lonely some nights. Course she keeps reminding me that the first place we lived in Carolina was always cold cause the wind come right through it. Many a night we would sleep by the cook stove and take turns getting up to put more wood in it. Miss Amanda come over and showed us how to mix up mud with some straw and then put in it the cracks in the wall and let it dry. It worked as good as new boards. I thank Jesus that we have it better now. Sis done moved back in with me and I sure am happy bout it. I hate being by myself once it gets dark. James been trying to stay a night or two a week with me but I knows he gots himself his own to be looking after. I know that he is as happy as me that she is here. Miss Carol says that she can get some of her people to come and look after the place. We fixed the door to her room so it closes cause sis say she don’t want no cats getting in her bed at night. I like them sleeping with me cause they are warm and they are cleaner than most folks round here. When we was little me and sis had to sleep together most of the time and lord knows how that woman ever sleeps cause she flops round in the bed all night. She says she don’t snore but sweet Jesus knows I can hear her through the whole house at night but I don’t pay it no mind. My boys done come over and changed out my old cook stove for the one Miss Carol give us and glad to have it cause hers better than mine. She gets up early so it is nice to get up to a warm kitchen. I thank Jesus that I have her with me again. I wanted to do something nice for Miss Carol cause I know how it is to be taking care of a sick person all the time but she had to go fore I got me a chance to do it. It seems like the old days with sis living here with me. Course she was here most of the time anyhow but it just is nice knowing that she never has to leave. Lords knows I rest me better when I have a body in the house with me. My granddaddy told me that there was an Indian curse that go may you die alone and friendless with noone to cry at your passing. A body needs to have them family round them all the time cause it makes you feel safe and loved. Amos brought that dog of his over to the house and him and my new cat got into a fight and this time the cat won. He got him right on the nose and run under my divanport. I wanted to laugh but didn’t cause I knowed better. Course they never minded when he put my cats under it. Maybe they leave the hateful thing at home now but if come a problem I can put the cats out while they are here. Sis cooked up some rice and onions and Amos eat two helpings. That woman can do her some cooking and I know she is happy that she is here with me again. My boys want to know if I want them to help get the garden ready for planting. I guess I will put out a few rows of something cause come summer be glad I did. Last year had me more than 20 pounds of fall beans that I done dried and been eating on. My Mary say she don’t understand why a body don’t want to buy their goods from the store but I don’t pay her no mind cause she knowed better than say it. Her and Sara had them some words over some foolness but James say it is fine now. They know I don’t like no trouble in the family cause we is all we got. I ask them if they wants to be like poor Miss Mary dying alone over there at Mister Davis with no family there to help her pass over. My granddaddy use to sing a passing song when someone died but I never learned it. He always say that a soul needed for their family to be there when they is put in the ground to sing so they can pass over in peace. Least Miss Mary had me and Miss Jones there for her at her grave. I pray her soul done passed over and she is happy. Sweet Jesus knows I loved that woman. I got me a letter from my David and things must be good cause he sends me money everytime he writes. He keeps saying he is going to come visit me but gots to work all the time. I ask sis if she wants to visit some of our family this summer cause been years since we seen some of them. She says no cause they never acted like we their real sisters. Says one day after we come back to daddys that they tell her that our real momma was a slave and means we were slaves to and that why momma not want us around. I told her that was a lie cause granddaddy say she was a free woman. He say she and her sister hired themselves out to a white family in Botetourt but they never was slaves.
I reminded her that granddaddy was raised by different folks cause the law took him from his momma Sara and he say he had him two mommas and two families and that we are just like him. She says it don’t matter cause her family is here and no need to look for what you already has. James say he would take me if I want to go but I don’t want no hard feeling with sis so I told him I don’t want to go. Aint no use talking bout it cause sis stubborn when she has a mind to be. She always been like that and Miss Bowen always say that a person never change their nature. I know she is a stronger person than me and I know I never made it this far without her. When I went to Carolina folks were saying that I was crazy cause a woman never be safe going without no man but I knowed sis never let noone bother me. I seen a hawk in my front tree today so that mean good luck on the way. Lord knows we need us some. Miss Odell come over and told me that Miss Frances passed bout a week ago.
I was sorry to hear that but I know that she is in heaven now. It seems like all the old ones passing over Jordan and it makes me sad. All the stories that they knowed going to be lost with nobody ever knowing bout them. There poor Miss Jones barely able to get round anymore cause of her leg and even Miss Odell feeling her years. The church is full of new faces and I think bout that they never knowed Miss Mary and some of the others. They will never know that it was Mister Brown that give the church the new doors or that Miss Carlas family give the land for the church to be built on. Miss Grace give the church the preachers chair and helped get the church started but not many there now ever knowed her. Nobody ever remember that it was granddaddys brother that give me and sis our first pair of real shoes or bout how good Miss Fridley and Miss Bowen was to us. I wish I knowed bout my real momma. I don’t even know where she is buried. I think bout her grave there and nobody coming to see her all these years and hope she knows that even though I never knowed her that I love her and one day I will see her in heaven. I hope she be looking after my baby Adam. I never understand why he had to up and die. I need to get myself over there and visit his grave and wish I could visit me the grave of my momma. It don’t do a body good fretting much on it cause things is the way they is and a body has to accept it all as a part of life. Miss Wilson done sent over a box of clothes for the church and me and sis been cleaning and mending them up cause we has some families that can sure use them. Seth says that some of the boys have shoes all full of holes and he knows that some only has them one change of shirts. I use not to like Miss Wilson but I like her just fine now cause at least she try her best to help. Miss Terry come back to church. Sis says she was ashamed cause the way that Indian man done her but lord knows it weren’t her fault. Some men are just like that and aint no call to be blaming women cause of the way a man does things. She is an alful prideful woman at times but then sometimes she gots a right to be. Some men round here wants to be blaming white folks for most everything and what they don’t put on them they put on the women. My James got back from Roanoke and brought me some more paper for writing in. Good thing to cause I bout filled up what I got. He gots to go back the first of April cause his new job starts then. He knows I don’t like it when he is gone but aint no work for him around here. He says that he can rest peaceful at night now that his momma two is living here with me. Tom says that he may go with him. Lord knows I will miss them but James says that the job will be finished in a couple of months. Miss Jones wants me to sew her up a new church dress and I be happy to do it for her. I been thinking bout doing her a white one with blue designs round the collar cause it will make her look like an angel. I done me a lot of crying and thinking bout things the past few days. Sis ask me what was wrong and I never say nothing and she tells me that I might as go on and tell her cause I always tells her in the end anyhow. She is right cause I tells her what I never say to nobody else. I got me a long letter from my David and he is getting married. I was so happy bout it that I was yelling and I fell over the divanport and nearly busted my arm. Then he says that she is white and she thinks that he is Italian. James had done told me that he was telling people that he was Italian cause he been working around them Italians so much that he could talk him some of the language and being light colored that was enough to fool white people. That don’t bother me none cause sis says that grandma Persinger was part Italian so he has some Italian blood in him from her. I never was thinking that he would be wanting to marry him white. I don’t mind me him passing as Italian cause some of my people done passed as white and sweet Jesus knows that they is white people darker than him. He could even marry him a white woman course they never be able to live round here cause everyone knows he is mixed. It upsets me cause if she is thinking that he is Italian he never be able to bring her here to see me and I never see me any my grandbabies from him. He says that life is easier if you aint colored cause people treats you different. He says some people don’t like them no Italians but they don’t treat you like they would if you was black. He says her father is from over there in Europe and her momma is part Italian and is darker than him. Her family says that he gots to become a Catholic so he is going to do it. After they is married they is going to move up north cause her father owns him a business and he can work for him. He says that he loves me and will keep writing but that he loves her and wants him a better life. Sis says that I got to accept that he never be able to come back here. If I love him that I got to let him go his own way and we all knows that life is not as hard on white folks. Lord sweet Jesus it hurts me so bad. I want to pull the covers up over my head and die. Sweet Jesus help me. I never be able to carry me this load. You take my Adam from me and now you take my David from me. I want to know me why. I done had me time to think and done talked with my James bout it all. My David been lost to me for years. James says that David always told him that he could never live as a black man cause he weren’t black. He wants him a better life and if he needs to be away from here to get it then I should be happy for him and let him go. I know that god is not punishing me. I know that he loves me and I was wrong to be mad at him. When he give me back my James I say I never ask for nothing else. He always be my boy but if this will give him the life my baby wants then I can accept it. Sis says not much be different cause he been gone and only word from him was a letter when he take the time to write. He says that he will still write to me and that I always be his momma. I pray that sweet Jesus understand that I was hurt when I say all those things. I love me all my babies and the lord has been good to me and mine. I can allow that he needs this for him and I will try and be happy for him. It is not going to be easy but then life is not easy even for most white folks. Mister Andrews says that he wants me to start working for him three days a week doing the cleaning but also doing them some cooking. I was thinking bout telling him no but we can always use the money. I wrote my David and I told him that I love him and that all I want is for him to be happy. He has some Italian blood so if he wants to be Italian and white that is fine with me cause he always be my boy. Sis says that he is lucky cause he is light enough to be white and dark enough to be black so god done give him the power to say what he wants to be. I told Miss Jones bout it and she says that she hopes her baby is passing to cause she wants him to do good. At least my David writes me and I know bout him and there Miss Jones aint seen her babies in over fifty years. I have to be honest with myself cause it may be that his momma is jealous cause he has the woman he loves. Sis knows but I never say nothing to nobody else.
I loved me a white man and I still think bout him somedays. His name was Bernard and he was my cousin. We knowed each other since we was babies. He was a handsome man with eyes like an angel and sweet Jesus knows that a kinder man aint been born. He lived over in Alleghany County so he had to travel a fair piece to see me. We talked bout getting ourselves married and building us a cabin and having us a houseful of children but his daddy and my granddaddy made us keep away cause they told us that we have nothing but trouble. I was thinking that one night he would come and we would run us away but he never come back. I never told him that my sweet Adam was his. I was praying that my Adam be so light that everybody know that he was his and that they let us get married but when Adam was dark I just let it go. I loved me my husband and he was a good man but part of me always wanted to be with him. Maybe my David never be thinking bout what he wanted but never could have him. So many nights I wished that I was a stronger woman than what I was cause then I would have marched myself right over there and told him that it was his baby and we were getting ourselves married wether the family liked it or not. To late now to be thinking on such things but makes a bodywonder. Course I never understand why he never got himself up and come after me. I know he loved me but maybe he was to weak inside to go against his daddy. I been trying to talk to my Sara but seem like that girl never want to listen to her momma. Somedays seem like everything I say be wrong. Miss Odell says that the way it is with some but I never understand. Maybe I have trouble cause me and sis never had us no momma to talk to bout what we was thinking or feeling so I don’t know how I should be acting or saying to her. She never back talks me but she looks at me like I was this crazy old woman that don’t know nothing bout nothing. I want her to be happy and I know she wants her a good life but it seems that some trash can tell her something and it like it the word of god and me the devil. I was talking to her bout her work and how they be treating her better than most gets treated and she ups and walks out of my house with no word at all. It like to tear out my heart. I never say nothing to James bout it cause I know he have words with her bout it and I don’t want me no trouble with my children.
I cut my arm off fore I ever say something that hurt that girl but don’t matter none cause she never believe me. Miss Odell says that she will grow herself out of it but I don’t know. They pays her good and the work aint hard but she says they yell all the time. She can sit herself down when she be tired and they feeds her good but that don’t matter to her. I never want her to have to be working for somebody like Mister Green cause then she know what hard work and yelling be like. Like grandma always say it is to late to set an egg after you cracks it. Sis say she will talk with her and seem like she listens sometimes to her. I love me that girl and I know she loves me just be that I don’t know if she respects me. Maybe she thinks I love my boys more than her and Mary and lord knows that aint true. Me and James is closer than the rest but that because he always doing for his momma and after Adam is the oldest. After Raymond passed James had to be the man of the house and I know he had it hard so I try and make up for that but I love all my children. I think somedays that maybe me and sis done held him back all these years cause he always got to be thinking bout looking after us. I cooked us up some cabbage with pork and sis made up some bread and my Amos come over and eat with us. That boy is such a joy to have round and he is always making us laugh bout some foolness he done been in. Mister Andrews give him a job over at his work and he likes it. He is a good worker and do as he is told. I wish he could get him some schooling but he wants to work and least he aint like some of this bunch round here that is to lazy to get themselves out of the bed. Jesus sure done blessed me good. Miss Odell been sick so me and sis fixed her up some food and took it over. I finished me my new dress. It is black with white trim and big white buttons. It is a sin to think bout clothes when you goes to church but I thinks it is a sin if a person don’t put on the best they has. Miss Jones don’t have her much but always wears her nice clothes to church. Sis says she knows that Miss Jones is failing and it tears at my soul to think bout it. Sis has her an eye for such things. I thank Jesus everyday that I have her with me. A body rests peaceful when they have someone in the house with them. I been working three days over at Mister Andrews and then two days for Miss Lewis. The work aint been hard cause they both keeps a clean house. I do the cooking fore I leaves and that Mister Lewis loves him my apple dumplins. Miss Lewis can do some cooking but says she hates to work in the kitchen. Sis cleans and cooks for Miss Wilson on Mondays and Fridays so there has been some good money coming in this house. James and Tom come over and fixed the steps for me cause one was falling apart. I hope those boys know that they are my joy.
James told me that Linda and her momma is talking again and that pleases me. A body has got to do them some thinking bout the good things they have and not be thinking only bout their troubles. Me and sis have seen our share of hard times and when we were little things were not easy but we have it better then most. I love my family and that is enough for me. Miss Beulah come over and we had us a nice visit. She bout talked our ears off with stories bout her family. She was born over in Botetourt County just like me but she was born round 1824 so she a lot older than me. She is a good Christian lady and can read and write good cause her family learned her when she was little. She did her a lot of traveling in her day cause she was the playmate of some white girl and wherever they sent her she had to go along. I think that means she was a slave but she says she was never treated like a slave. She got to go up north and down to Florida and Georgia. She says that sometime round1851 they were living in Maryland and her misses told her that she could come and go as she liked and so she married up with this free man from up that way but she stayed close to her misses til after the war. Then they come back to Virginia to look for her momma and her daddy but say she never found where they got off to. They went back to Maryland for a few years but say when they go back they find that her misses done gone over to Europe. She had her two boys and one lives down in Richmond and the other is up in Maryland. She must have her some money cause she has a nice house and aint noone but her living in it. Miss Odell says that her misses give her plenty of money when she set her free and give her and her man a big house up that way and that where her money come from. It aint no concern of mine cause she is a good woman and always give whenever the church needs some money. Something got hold of my white cat and I been ascared that he would up and die on me but seem like he is feeling better today. Me and sis been doing lot of talking last few days. It is a joy having her with me all the time now. I recollect being over at different peoples houses when we was little and them telling us that if someone come over that we never seen then we were never to tell them that we all was blood relations. We were to little to understand and now the same thing happening in my own family again.
I never care bout what color my grandbabies be I never say that they aint mine. If some folks have a problem with that it be their problem and not mine. All this talk bout color is stupid talk anyhow. My David will always be my boy and don’t bother me none what color he wants to be. I never want my grandbabies to have to go through what me and sis done gone through. I never want them to try and hide who they are or pray that sweet Jesus make them different. Lord knows me and sis seen us some hard times but aint nothing ever stopped us from being family. I may never get to see me any grandbabies from him but I will still love them and they will be part of my family. James asked me and sis if we wanted him to fix up the rest of the front porch. It needs some new boards so say he will do it for us when he gets the time. James took me over to my Adams grave and it like to kill me. The Bible says that his soul went to heaven but I feel so bad with him buried way over there. I never understand why the lord took him but maybe someday I will so just have to set my mind straight til that day come. He took me up to Ritch Patch to visit the graves of some of my people and we come to this house that I use to visit in when we was little and it was all to pieces. I don’t recollect who it belonged to but Miss Fridley would take us over to visit. I remembered it being so big but when me and James walked in it was just this small little cabin. I guess when a body is little everything seem so big. Part of me was wanting to run into Bernard but I don’t even know if he still over that way but I never visited with any of the people cause it was getting dark and James wanted to get back in Botetourt fore it was dark. We put us up a small tent and I cooked us up some food over an open fire and I told James that for the first time in ages I was at peace in my soul. It was dark and we were in the middle of the woods but it was like granddaddy always say the trees and them mountains were trying to talk to me. I cant believe that when me and sis runaway that time that I was ascared to be in those woods cause nothing there ever going to hurt me. We bedded ourselves down and this breeze come up and I was thinking that it was like the hand of my sweet Adam and all mine that done passed in them mountains was round me. I started to cry and James was thinking that something wrong but I tell him that aint nothing ever going to be wrong ever again and he looks at me like I got the madness. I tell him that I aint ascared no more bout dying and that after all these years of going to church I know that god is real. Maybe he aint exactly like what they be telling us bout in church but I know there be a god cause he was there with me. Maybe granddaddy was right that all peoples got themselves a little piece of god in them. The whites have them one part and the blacks have them a part and the Indians have them a part and cause we is mixed we have parts of all of them in us and that makes us stronger. I come home and for the first time in ages I could look myself in the mirror and I liked the woman looking back at me cause I didn’t hate the way she looks. That aint exactly the truth cause I think I look alful old but least it gots nothing to do with my color. Miss Beulah and Miss Odell come over and me and sis cooked us up one of the best meals in ages.
Sis cooked up and pork and potato pie and that was the best thing. After we eat we set round and talked and Miss Beulah smoked her pipe. When we was growing up lots of the women smoked them pipes but not many do it anymore and those that do are only the older ones. Miss Odell is such a funny woman when she wants to be and her and Miss Beulah took turns telling us stories bout all the things they been in over the years. Miss Beulah done had her an interesting life and done been able to see so many things that me and sis never seen. She was telling bout being down in Louisiana with her misses and say me and sis would have loved it there cause the part they was in say the white men and black men both loved them their mulatto woman. Sis laughs but I know she feel a little out of sorts cause sis always been shy round any men other than blood family. Amos and James were by and we fed them up good. I look at those two and see how they get along and it makes me proud. Course Ben never come with him but he is like his momma so don’t worry me none. When I see how James and Amos get along it makes me wonder bout my daddy. Sis says she thinks he was born in 1841 but I never certain cause a body got so much to be remembering. I wish that we got on like James and Amos but some things not to be. I think he loved me and sis but he had him a different way bout him. I sometimes think that he seen to much of momma in us and that pain to much for him to bare. It would have been nice to been able to sit and talk with him bout things but never seemed like we could. If I tried he always get himself up and start fooling with something. If he went outside I would ask to go with him but he always say stay in the house. Course we were never there more than a few weeks fore we were sent off to stay with somebody else. Lord knows me and sis have had us a good life so no cause to be complaining it just that a body wonders bout things.
This journal was kept by Mary Margaret Persinger 1858-1919? a daughter of Peter Persinger from Botetourt County, Virginia, granddaughter of Gabriel and Rebecca Persinger and a great granddaughter of Sarah Persinger. This journal was found in an old trunk in 1982 by my aunt and given to me. A number of loose pages along with a second journal, which covers part of 1910- 1912, disappeared after her death and it is hoped that if found the owner will allow these to be added to this record. Most entries had no date attached to them and many were loose so I know some mistakes were made in trying to put them in order. There were almost two hundred pages of hand written entries and some mistakes may have been made during the typing . There is a great deal of Persinger family history going back as far as 1816 included among the accounts of day-to-day activities. If anyone has information on any of the individuals listed here please feel free to share it with me. As a result of transcribing the entries into MS Word the program automatically corrected many spelling and grammatical errors, but many were deliberately left by me as written. In cases where words were illegible, a best guess was made.
I give permission for the posting of all or parts of the journal to the Internet to any site for genealogical research purposes, however use of this for profit is prohibited without written permission from Susan Persinger Jones or Mary Jones. firstname.lastname@example.org
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