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AN EX-SLAVE SPEAKS

Narrator: Doc (James) McGill, 74, of Hamilton, Missouri

Jim McGill was born in slavery and was five years old when he was freed. He is the son of Mary Martin McGill and George McGill. Mary was owned by Jack Martin, six miles north west of Richmond, Missouri, who ran a grist mill. George was owned by Mr. McGill also of Richmond, Missouri. The couple were married by a colored preacher and had five boys and give girls who were the property of Martin, since he owned the mother. These were his only slaves. McGill also had but one slave family. Martin sold one of Mary's girls to a Richmond man named Hamilton for about $1000. She afterwards came to the town of Hamilton with her son Green Thompson who is a respectable colored hostler etc. here.

The colored family lived in a log cabin and were well treated. Mr. Martin told them whenever they needed flour or corn meal to go to the sacks and get what they wanted. Mary spun and wove for her mistress as well as for her own children. Her girls worked in the mill, in the fields, cut wood like men.

Doc McGill recalls the day they were freed. The Richmond negroes visited back and forth and laughed loudly for they thought they would not have to work any more.

Then the negro father went down to Camden on the river and rented a cheap farm and set his boys to work; harder than they had worked before. The river kept coming up on his crop every year; and although he had bought the land he was glad to sell it and come back to Caldwell County about fifty years ago.

Jim worked for over twenty years as a handy man to Dr. Tiffin which gave him his nick name "Doc." He never had a chance to go to school a day for there was no colored school near Camden. He can not read nor write but can count money and laundry pieces in his job as laundry man. He recalls several of the old ex-slaves of the Hamilton vicinity. There was Tony Huggins who could read. He was a preacher. He owned his own farm east of town and had a rock quarry where he employed other darkies. He as well as Uncle Charley Dunn both peddled hominy and horse radish. Uncle Charley gave a yearly possum and sweet potato dinner at which the aristocratic white folks paid fifty cents a plate. No trash were invited.

Jim McGill sang a song which he learned years ago. He sang slowly with many a twirl and rest in his voice.

"The day is past and gone, the evening shades appear

May we all remember well, the night of death draws near."

I wonder how old the song and the tune were.

Interview taken June 1934.

 

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All photos are copyright KingsCross Farm, 1997 & 1998
All written material other than reference material copyright KingsCross Farm 1998