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Veney, Bethany
The Narrative of Bethany Veney, slave woman



The spur of the Blue Ridge, against which my little house leaned, was called "Stony Man"; and it was supposed to be full of copper. Some time ago, some Northern adventurers had set up an engine, in order to mine the copper and test its quality. But, for reasons which I had never understood, the project was abandoned and the men went home. They had built a small shanty on the ground, and I had lived with them to do their work. It had been a dreary experience to me, and I was thankful when it was over. It was not, therefore, a pleasant circumstance to me when Lorenze Prince called at my door, and told me he had come to see if I would go up Stony Man again, to keep house for two Northern gentlemen, who had just arrived in Luray, and were going to start up the old engine, and see what they could make of the copper. I answered him hastily that he needn't ask me, for I wouldn't go to that lonesome place again for love or money. Lorenze thought I was very foolish, for he had seen them, and knew they were nice gentlemen; and, besides, they would pay me a dollar and a half a week, sure pay. I at last agreed he might tell them that I would be up there the next morning, and would get

their dinner for them, and then I would decide about staying longer.

My little home seemed pleasanter to me than ever that night, when I thought of leaving it. I was enjoying a good degree of freedom there. I could go out and come in as I pleased; and for a good distance about the country, with Master McCoy's pass in my bosom, I was safe to a certain extent. It never once occurred to me that this change might lead up to the end I had so long desired; namely, a life where I should need no pass written by a human hand to insure my safety as I went from place to place, but where the stamp of my humanity, imprinted by the Infinite Father of all, should be an all-sufficient guarantee in every emergency. I have repeated to myself many times since, when I have thought over those times,

"God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform."
And it is with deep and loving gratitude I refer every blessing to him.

Mr. G. J. Adams and Mr. J. Butterworth were the two gentlemen from Providence, R.I. The next morning, as I neared the engine-house, Mr. Butterworth saw me, and came forward to speak with me. His manner of speaking with gentle and kind. He told me to go to the house; and Mr. Adams, who was now at the village, would be back soon, as would arrange with me.

It did not seem lonesome, as I had imagined; and I myself to work at once, pulling up the weeds that had over grown everything and everywhere.

It was not long before Mr. Adams came, and we was soon acquainted; and I felt contented and at home that

My boy was happy, as was I. Several months passed, I do not remember how many, when it became necessary for both Mr. Adams and Mr. Butterworth to go home for a time; and they paid me in advance to remain where I was while they should be gone. At last they returned, and things went on as before until one night I was down at the village, in old Mr. Aulman's store, and he asked me "how many niggers that could work had Master McCoy?" The question was like a sword cutting me in two, or like a sudden flash of lightning striking me to the ground. I knew well there was trouble ahead, and that, for McCoy's debts, I might at any moment be sold away from my boy, as I had been before from my girl. I determined this should never be. I would take my child and hide in the mountains. I would do anything sooner than I would be sold.

A few days passed, and my worst fears were confirmed by Isaac Prince, who told me that all McCoy's property was posted to be sold. The next day, as I was planning how I could get off, I saw a white horse, and a man standing at the smelting-mill. The man was busily talking with Mr. Adams, and both seemed very earnest. At last, the man mounted the horse and rode away, while Mr. Adams came into the house. He said it was true that McCoy's property had been attached, to pay his debts, incurred by gambling, and everything would go under the auctioneer's hammer. I won't be sold. He shall never find me, to sell me again," I angrily cried. Mr. Adams looked at me, and I saw the great pity in his eyes. He said, "Betty, I have given my ford in writing to this man, whom you saw, that, provided will leave you here with us, instead of taking you to the he shall find you here whenever he shall come for you." But the floor giving way under me. It was with difficulty

I kept from falling. A few moments of deep agony passed, and then I was able to say to him that, since he had pledged his word in black and white, he should not be obliged to break it. He need not fear for me, for I would stay just as he had promised; but "I was, oh! so sorry he had promised."

I cannot tell now in what way it was first suggested that Mr. Adams should buy me and take me North with him. I think, when he was home, he had talked with his wife and her sister, Miss Sarah Brown, about such a possibility, and Miss Sarah had offered to advance a part of the price for which I might be purchased.

However that might have been, Mr. Adams now saw Mr. McCoy, and found he was greatly pressed for money, and would sell me as readily to him as to any one; and, not to spend too much time over what was really a very simple business transaction, a bill of sale was at once made out to Mr. Adams, which reads as follows:--

Received of G. J. Adams seven hundred and seventy-five dollars ($775), it being, the purchase of my negro woman Berthena and her child Joe. The right and title to the said negro woman I warrant and defend against any person or persons whatsoever.

Given under my hand and seal the 27th day of December, 1858.

[ Seal .]David McCoy .
Benj. F. Grayson .

Not long afterward,--I forget how long,--Messrs, Adams and Butterworth suspended operations at the mine, and taking me and my boy, turned their faces homeward. To at that time expected to return, after a few months, and promised me I should go with them, so I did not feel so badly of parting with all the old faces and places as I should otherwise

have done. However, before their business arrangements for going were matured, John Brown had made his invasion into Virginia; and the excitement that followed made it unsafe for any one who sympathized with or defended him to be seen in any Southern State.

Then followed the War of the Rebellion; and it was not till a much later date, and in a different way from what I had anticipated when I left, that I saw again the old fields where I had toiled and suffered, and grasped again the hands that before had beaten and bruised me.