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Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves, North Carolina Narratives, Part 1

SARAH GUDGER born September 15


Gudger, Asheville postmaster (1913-21), member of the Buncombe County Historical Association, now engaged in the real estate business, says he has been acquainted with Aunt Sarah all his life; that he has, on several occasions, talked to her about her age and early associations, and that her responses concerning members of the Gudger and Hemphill families coincide with known facts of the two families.

Interviewed by a member of the Federal Writers' Project, Aunt Sarah seemed eager to talk, and needed but little prompting.

SARAH GUDGER (born September 15, 1816) Interview with Mrs. Marjorie Jones, May 5, 1937

I wah bo'n 'bout two mile fum Ole Fo't on de Ole Mo'ganton Road. I sho' has had a ha'd life. Jes wok, an' wok, an' wok. I nebbah know nothin' but wok. Mah boss he wah Ole Man Andy Hemphill. He had a la'ge plantation in de valley. Plenty ob ebbathin'. All kine ob stock: hawgs, cows, mules, an' hosses. When Marse Andy die I go lib wif he son, William Hemphill.

I nebbah fo'git when Marse Andy die. He wah a good ole man, and de Missie she wah good, too. She usta read de Bible t' us chillun afoah she pass away.

Mah pappy, he lib wif Joe Gudgah (Gudger). He ole an' feeble, I 'membahs. He 'pend on mah pappy t' see aftah ebbathin' foah him. He allus trust mah pappy. One mo'nin' he follah pappy to de field. Pappy

he stop hes wok and ole Marse Joe, he say: "Well, Smart (pappy, he name Smart), I's tard, wurried, an' trubble'. All dese yeahs I wok foah mah chillun. Dey nevah do de right thing. Dey wurries me, Smart. I tell yo', Smart, I's a good mind t' put mahself away. I's good mind t' drown mahself right heah. I tebble wurried, Smart."

Pappy he take hole Ole Marse Joe an' lead him t' de house. "Now Marse Joe, I wudden talk sich talk effen I's yo'. Yo' ben good t' yo' fambly. Jest yo' content yo'self an' rest."

But a few days aftah dat, Ole Marse Joe wah found ahangin' in de ba'n by de bridle. Ole Marse had put heself away.

No'm, I nebbah knowed whut it wah t' rest. I jes wok all de time f'om mawnin' till late at night. I had t' do ebbathin' dey wah t' do on de outside. Wok in de field, chop wood, hoe cawn, till sometime I feels lak mah back sholy break. I done ebbathin' 'cept split rails. Yo' know, dey split rails back in dem days. Well, I nevah did split no rails.

Ole Marse strop us good effen we did anythin' he didn' lak. Sometime he get hes dandah up an' den we dassent look roun' at him. Else he tie yo' hands afoah yo' body an' whup yo', jes lak yo' a mule. Lawdy, honey, I's tuk a thousand lashins in mah day. Sometimes mah poah ole body be soah foah a week.

Ole Boss he send us niggahs out in any kine ob weathah, rain o' snow, it nebbah mattah. We had t' go t' de mountings, cut wood an' drag it down t' de house. Many de time we come in wif ouh cloes stuck t' ouh poah ole cold bodies, but 'twarn't no use t' try t' git 'em dry. Ef de Ole Boss o' de Ole Missie see us dey yell: "Git on out ob heah yo' black thin', an' git yo' wok outen de way!" An' Lawdy, honey, we knowed t' git, else we git de lash. Dey did'n cah how ole o' how young yo' wah, yo' nebbah too big t' git de lash.

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