William Hamilton belonged to a slave trader, who left him on the Buford plantation, near Village Creek, Texas. The trader did not return, so the Buford family raised the child with their slaves. When interviewed in the late 1930s, Mr. Hamilton lived at 910 E. Weatherford St., Ft. Worth, Texas. What follows is his narrative, in his own words:
Who I is, how old I is and where I is born, I don’t know. But Massa Buford told me how during the war a slave trader named William Hamilton, come to Village Creek, where Massa Buford live. That trader was on his way south with my folks and a lot of other slaves, taking them somewheres to sell. He camped by Massa Buford’s plantation and asks him, ‘Can I leave dis little nigger here till I comes back?’ Massa Buford say, ‘Yes,’ and the trader say he’ll be back in about three weeks, soon as he sells all the slaves. He must still be selling them, because he never comes back so far and there I am and my folks am took on, and I is too little to remember them, so I never knows my pappy and mammy. Massa Buford says the trader comes from Missouri, but if I is born there I don’t know.
The only thing I remembers about all that, am there am lots of crying when they took me away from my mammy. That something I never forget.
I only remembers after the war, and most the colored folks stays with Massa Buford after surrender and works the land on shares. They have good times on that place, and don’t want to leave. They has dances and fun till the Ku Klux organizes and then it am lots of trouble. The Klux comes to the dance and picks out a nigger and whips him, just to keep the niggers scared, and it got so bad they don’t have no more dances or parties.
I remembers seeing Faith Baldwin and Jeb Johnson and Dan Hester getting whipped by the Klux. They wasn’t so bad after women. It am always after dark when they comes to the house and catches the man and whips him for nothing. They has the power, and it was done for to show they has the power. It gets so bad around there, that the menfolks always eats supper before dark and takes a blanket and goes to the woods for to sleep. Alex Buford don’t sleep in the house for one whole summer.
No one knowed when the Klux coming. All of a sudden up they gallops on horses, all covered with hoods, and bust right into the house. Just latches instead of locks was used them days. They comes several times to Alex’s house but never catches him. I’d hear them coming when they hit the lane and I’d holler, ‘The Klux am coming.’ It was my job, after dark, listening for them Klux, then I gets under the bed.
Why they comes so many times around there, am because the second time they comes, Jane Bensom am there. Jane am lots of woman, wide as the door and tall, and weighs about three hundred pounds. I calls, ‘Here comes the Klux,’ and makes for under the bed. There am embers in the fireplace and she fills a pail with them and when the Klux busts in the door she lets them have the embers in the face, and then out the back door she goes. Two of them am burnt pretty bad. The next night back they comes and asks where Jane am. She belongs to Massa John Ditto and am so big everybody knows her, but the niggers won’t tell on her. She leaves the country finally, but they comes looking for her every night for two months.
Right over on Massa Ditto’s place, was a killing of a baby by them Klux. The baby am in the mammy’s arms and a bunch of Klux riding by takes a shot at the mammy, and it hits the baby and kills it.
Right after the baby killing, soldiers with blue coats comes there and camps front of Massa Buford’s place and protects the colored folks. I goes over to their camp every day and they gives me lots of good eats.
The colored folks has lots of trouble after the war, because they am ignorant niggers and gets foolishment in the head. They gets the idea the white folks should give them land and mules and such. Over in the valley, Massa Moses owns lots of land and fifty nigger families, and he gives each family a deed to about fifty acres. Some of them colored folks grandchildren still on that land, too, the Parkers and Farrows and Nelsons and some others. Then all the other niggers thinks they should get land, too, but they don’t, and it make them get foolishment and get in trouble.
In 1897 I marries Effie Coleman and has no children, so I is alone in the world now. I can’t do much and lives on the $10.00 a month pension. The white folks lets me live in this shack for mowing the lawn, but I worries about when I can’t do no more work. It am an awful way to spend your last days.
The original transcript of the interview is here.
To understand a bit more about the process I use to “translate” the interviews, see this.