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  --  PRISON HORRORS.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XIII.

Albert, Octavia V. Rogers
The House of Bondage



Sallie Smith living in the woods--Death of her mother--The ill-treatment she suffered.

THE subject of this sketch is another faithful sister of Aunt Charlotte's church. She was born in the State of Louisiana, on Bayou B[oelig ]uf. As I had the pleasure of meeting her very often, and, seeing she manifested much interest and real devotion for her church, I became much attached to her. So once as she passed I asked her, if it was not unpleasant to her, if she would please spend a while with me and tell the story of her life as a slave.

She readily assented, saying: "Yes, my dear child. There saint a day but what I think how good my blessed Jesus has been to me and all of my people. O, sometimes I think of my old slave-days, and begin to cry for joy when I remember how good the Lord has been to me. Well do I remember when my poor mother died and left me and my little brother. She

called us as she was about to die, and said, 'My dear children, I am going to leave you. The angels is waiting for me. I am almost over. Promise me you will follow me.' I said, 'Mother, is you going to leave us?' and before she could answer she was dead. Madam, I cried night and day; it seemed my mother's death would nearly kill me. We was slaves, and had nobody to care any thing for us. We both had to work hard just like the others on the place. I was about fourteen, and my brother about one year old. The overseer got mad whenever he saw my cry. He told me to hush crying, and said, 'Your mother is dead and in hell, and could not come back here; and if you don't hush I'll beat you half to death.' He was a Catholic, and hated my mother's sort of religion. When he said my mother was in hell that made me cry more; and he beat me and kicked me all 'round in the field. I had to pick one hundred and fifty pounds of cotton every day or get a whipping at night."

"Were you always able to get one hundred and fifty pounds every day?"

"No, my child, I could not. Sometimes I'd pick it, but I could not get it every day.

One night I got up just before day and run away; and I tell you I stayed in the woods one half of my time. Sometimes I'd go so far off from the plantation I could not hear the cows low or the roosters crow."

"Where did you sleep at night, and how did you get something to eat?"

"I slept on logs. I had moss for a pillow; and I tell you, child, I wasn't cared of nothing. I could hear bears, wild-cats, panthers, and every thing. I would come across all kinds of snakes--moccasin, blue runner, and rattle-snakes--and got used to them. One night while I was in the woods a mighty storm came up; the winds blowed, the rain poured down, the hail fell, the trees was torn up by the roots, and broken limbs fell in every direction; but not a hair on my head was injured, but I got as wet as a drowned, rat. Next day was a beautiful Sunday, and I dried myself like a buzzard."

"Aunt Sallie, you did not tell me how you got your meals."

"O, child, sometimes I did not get any; but many time I'd find out where the hands on the place were working, and if the overseer was

away I'd get something from them. They would bring me something, too, after they found out where I was, and I'd wait on the edge of the woods every day; and when they would come to hunt for me they called out in a low, piercing sound, 'Sallie, Sallie!' I'd come running, and sometimes I was nearly perished."

"Why, Aunt Sallie, it seems to me it was far better for you to have stayed at home than to wander about in the woods."

"No, I could not stay after my mother died. The overseer was mean to me. He beat me every day, and I had no kin on the plantation but my brother, and he could do nothing for me. I got used to staying in the woods, and felt satisfied there. I had a flint-rock and piece of steel, and I could begin a fire any time I wanted. Sometimes I'd get a chicken and would broil it on the coals and would bake ash-cake.

"I remember one night," said Aunt Sallie, "I went to the quarters and knocked at the door of one old lady that belonged to my marster, and she let me in. I asked her for something to eat, but she said, 'I saint got a piece of bread done, but if you want you can bake

you a corn-cake.' And bless your soul, child, just as I was about to cook my bread the overseer came in and caught me. La, me! I thought I'd faint when he came in the door."

"Well, what did he do with you?"

"He tied me with a rope by both arms and carried me to the smoke-house. When he got in he throwed the rope over the joist of the smoke-house and left me there all night. He just allowed my toes to touch the floor when he tied me up by my wrists. But, my child, the Lord was with me that night! I managed to get my wrists out of the rope and I sat up nodding in the smoke-house all that night. I was afraid to let him see me down, so just as he was about to unlock the door the next day I slipped my hands back in the rope. He thought I had been tied all night; but, bless the Lord! I was just like Paul and Silas when they were in jail. I cried to the Lord and he loosened the rope. Madam, although I did not have religion when I used to live in the woods, yet it seemed I could not keep from praying. I'd think of my mother, how, just before she died, she told me to 'come.' And that word always followed me. I used to lie out in the

woods on the logs, with moss under my head, and pray a many and many a night. I hardly knowed what to say or how to pray, but I remembered how I used to hear my mother praying, on her knees, in the morning before day, long before she died, and I just tried to say what she used to say in her prayers. I heard her say many a time, 'O, Daniel's God, look down from heaven on me, a poor, needy soul!' I would say, 'O, Daniel's God, lookdown from heaven on me in these woods!' Sometimes it seemed I could see my mother right by my side as I laid on the log asleep. One time I talked with her in my sleep. I asked her, 'Mother, are you well?' And it seemed I could hear her saying, as she beckoned to me. 'Come, O come; will you come?' And I did try to get up in my sleep and start to her, and I rolled off the log. By that time I woke up, and the sun was shining clear and bright and I was there to wander about in the woods?"

"You have not told me what he did with you when he took you out of the smoke-house that morning."

"Why, he had a big barrel he kept to roll us

in, with nails drove all through it, and he put me in it and had a man to roll me all over the yard. Madam, I thought he was going to kill me. When the overseer had me taken out of that barrel I could hardly walk. I was sore and bruised all over. That night a poor old woman on our place greased me all over, and I got over with the bruises and went to work."

"Well, I suppose that was an end to your stay in the woods?"

"No, madam, I did not stay more than a month before I ran away again. I tell you, I could not stay there. I had got used to the woods, and the overseer was so brutal to me. The weather was beginning to turn cold, and I made me a moss bed just like a hog, and I kept warm at night. But many times I used to sleep in the chimney-corners on a plantation next to my marster's. I could hear the colored people inside the cabins pray and sing at night."

"Why, it seems you could have gone inside the cabins and stayed with them, Aunt Sallie?"

"Well, yes, I did go in often, but they finally told me I must stop coming. They said the overseer on their place would beat them to

death if he caught me in their cabins. So I stopped going inside. They did not know I was outside of the chimney. I heard them sing many times this hymn:

"'In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
Give me Jesus, give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus!
You may have all this world;
Give me Jesus!'"

  --  PRISON HORRORS.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XIII.