|AUTOBIOGRAPHY -- OF -- AMANDA SMITH. -- CHAPTER I. -- BIRTH, PARENTAGE AND DELIVERANCE FROM SLAVERY THROUGH THE CONVERSION -- OF MY MOTHER'S YOUNG MISTRESS--MY PIOUS GRANDMOTHER.|
I was born at Long Green, Md., Jan. 23rd, 1837. My father's name was Samuel Berry. My mother's name, Mariam. Matthews was her maiden name. My father's master's name was Darby Insor. My mother's master's name, Shadrach Green. They lived on adjoining farms. They did not own as large a number of black people, as some who lived in the neighborhood. My father and mother had each a good master and mistress, as was said. After my father's master died, his young master, Mr. E., and himself, had all the charge of the place. They had been boys together, but as father was the older of the two, and was a trustworthy servant, his mistress depended on him, and much was entrusted to his care. As the distance to Baltimore was only about twenty miles, more or less, my father went there with the farm produce once or twice a week, and would sell or buy, and bring the money home to his mistress. She was very kind, and was proud of him for his faithfulness, so she gave him a chance to buy himself. She
He did not capture the boys, but in the struggle he lost his own life, and was brought home dead.
But I turn again to my story. As I have said, my father having paid for himself was anxious to purchase his wife and children; and to show how the Lord helped in this, I must here tell of the wonderful conversion of my mother's young mistress and of her subsequent death, and the marvelous answer to my grandmother's prayers.
There was a Methodist Camp Meeting held at what was at that time called Cockey's Camp Ground. It was, I think, about twenty miles away, and the young mistress, with a number of other young people, went to this meeting. My mother went along to assist and wait on Miss Celie, as she had always done. It was an old-fashioned, red-hot Camp Meeting. These young people went just as a kind of picnic, and to have a good time looking on. They were staunch Presbyterians, and had no affinity with anything of that kind. They went more out of curiosity, to see the Methodists shout and hollow, than anything else; because they did shout and hollow in those days, tremendously. Of course they were respectful. They went in to the morning meeting and sat down quietly to hear the sermon; then they purposed walking about the other part of the day, looking around, and having a pleasant time. As they sat in the congregation, the minister preached in demonstration of the Power and of the Holy Ghost. My mother said it was a wonderful time. The spirit of the Lord got hold of my young mistress, and she was mightily convicted and converted right there before she left the ground; wonderfully converted in the old-fashioned way; the shouting, hallelujah way. Of course it disgusted those who were with her. They were terribly put out. Everything was spoiled, and they did not know how to get her home. They coaxed her, but thank the Lord, she got struck through. Then they laughed at her a little. Then they scolded her, and ridiculed her; but they could not do anything with her. Then they begged her to be quiet; told her if she would just be quiet, and wait till they got home, and wait till morning, they would be satisfied. My mother was awfully glad that the Lord had answered her and grandmother's prayer. As I have heard my mother tell this story she has wept as though it had just been a few days ago. Mother had only been converted about two years before this, and had always prayed for Miss Celie, so her heart was bounding with gladness when Miss Celie was converted. But of course she must hold on and keep as quiet as possible; they had
"Oh! Mary, I can't hold out any longer; they insist on my going to that ball, and I have decided to go. It's no use." So they had a good cry together, went off and prayed, and that was the last prayer about the ball. How strange! And yet God had that all in his infinite mercy--opening the prison to them
They said, "Anything, my dear."
"I want you to promise me that you will let Samuel have Mariam and the children." Then they had my mother get up out of the bed at once. Of course they didn't want her to hear that; and they said:
"Now, my dear, if you will keep quiet, you may be a little better." And then she went off in a kind of sinking spell. When she said this, and they sent my mother out, she ran with all her might and told grandmother, and grandmother's faith saw the door open for the freedom of her grandchildren; and she ran out into the bush and told Jesus. Of course my mother had to hurry back so as not to be missed in the house. Miss Celie went on that way for three days, and they would quiet her down. When the second day came, and she made the request, and they sent my mother out, she ran and told grandmother that Miss Celie had made the same request; then she ran back to the house again, and grandmother went out and told Jesus. At last it came to the third and last day, and the doctor said: "She can only last such a length of time without there is a change; so what you do, you must do quickly."
Mother was in the bed behind her, holding her up. She called them all again, and said, "I want you to make me one promise; that is, that you will let Samuel have Mariam and the children."
"Oh! yes, my dear," they said, "we will do anything."
My mother was a great singer. When Miss Celie got the promise, she folded her hands together, and leaning her head upon my mother's breast she said, "Now, Mary, sing."
And as best she could, she did sing. It was hard work, for her heart was almost broken, for she loved her as one of her own
I often say to people that I have a right to shout more than some folks; I have been bought twice, and set free twice, and so I feel I have a good right to shout. Hallelujah!
I was quite small when my father bought us, so know nothing about the experience of slavery, because I was too young to have any trials of it. How well I remember my old mistress. She dressed very much after the Friends' style. She was very kind to me, and I was a good deal spoiled, for a little darkey. If I wanted a piece of bread, and if it was not buttered and sugared on both sides, I wouldn't have it; and when mother would get out of patience with me, and go for a switch, I would run to my old mistress and wrap myself up in her apron, and I was safe. And oh! how I loved her for that. They were getting me ready for market, but I didn't know it. I suppose that is why they allowed me to do many things that otherwise I should not have been allowed to do. They used to take me in the carriage with them to church on Sunday. How well I remember my pretty little green satin hood, lined inside with pink. How delighted I was when they used to take me. Then the young ladies would often make pretty little things and give to my mother for me. Mother was a good seamstress; she used to make all of our clothes, and all of father's every day clothes--coats, pants and vests. She had a wonderful faculty in this; she had but to see a thing of any style of dress or coat, or what-not, and she would come home and cut it out. People used to wonder at it. There were no Butterick's patterns then that she could get hold of. So one had to have a good head on them if they kept nearly in sight of things. But somehow mother was always equal to any emergency. My dear old mistress used to knit. I would follow her around. Sometimes she would walk out into the yard and sit under the trees, and I would drag the chair after her; I was too small to carry it. She would sit down awhile, and I would gather pretty flowers. When she got tired she would walk to another spot, and I would drag the chair again. So we would spend several hours in this way. My father had proposed buying us some time before, but could not be very urgent. He had to ask, and then wait a long interval before he could ask again.
"In some way or other
The Lord will provide;
It may not be my way,
It may not be thy way,
And yet in His own way,
The Lord will provide."