J. H. Williams' Narrative


Mr. J. H. Williams, who is nearing eighty-nine, and makes his home with his grandson, J. H. Williams Jr. relates some of his experiences and memories of that happy period in life, "Youth". "My father had slaves and they were always after me to teach them to read and write. I'd go down to the negro cabins at night sometimes and teach them as beast I could, but being awfully afraid to go out alone at night, some of the negroes would have to walk home with me. One night as I started home, the negro gave me atorch for a light and told me to run along and he would stand in the door and watch until I got home. I had to pass one of the negro cabins with a log kitchen extending to the back of the cabin, and just as I reached this I heard a great commotion in the kitchen; I threw my light down, and started for the house as fast as my teo feet would carry me. Just as I reached the kitchen door, a flat log was used for a step, the door flew open and out came a large form, slipping on the log step, and landing right under my feet, sprawling me on the ground flat of my back. I was too frightened to move, but my yell made up for that lost. The large, black form turned out to be my pet pig.

I'll never forget the cruel treatment the slaves received. It was reported that a run-away slave had killed a white woman, and everyone was on the look out for him. One evening a negro boy and I were returning from a rabbit hunt when I noticed a black hand upon a log on the edge of the path and poking the boy, I asked if he saw the hand. He said he did, but not to stop; we went home and told what we had found. It turned out to be the run-away negro. A group of the slave owners took him out, undressed him and tied him to a log and whipped him until blisters were formed; then, they took a large tom cat by the tail and dragged him up and down the negro's back. After this, they sprinkled salt and pepper over the mangled back and rubbed it in. Such was the hideous treatments, the slaves received before and just after the War between the States. I love the South, but I did not love her way of slavery.

You remember the saying, "Keep your nose out of cracks," well, an old chum of mine forgot that it would apply to heads also. We were going to school in a large, one room log cabin; the logs were green when put up and after standing awhile, the sun and weather had made them shrink and leave large space between the. The school house was located in an old field where a bunch of cattle were always grazing. This chum would hold his book up between his heas and the teacher and stick his head out one of these large holes and watch the cattle. ONe day the teacher saw this and eased around him, he has slipped up into the seat and almost on his knees and had also slipped his head from the wide slit in the wall up to the narrow part, and when she hit him, he could not pull his head back; she gave him a good sound whipping while his head was caught; that broke us from lookinh at the cattle through these holes.

One of my teachers who was a justice of peace, had to attend court one day, and my brother, being the oldest boy in school, had to take charge of the school. Before the teacher was a fourth of a mile away, the older boys were standing on their heads on every bench in the school room

One year we asked our teacher to give us the fourth of July off, but he would not, so that evening after everyone had gone home, a bunch of the boys out and brought up a big load of poles. We piled these up in the door of the school house. The next morning when the teacher came he looked at them, and without smiling, turned around and walked off. We got the day off after all.

I was a member of the Ku-Klux-Klan, but never took any part in their dirty work. One night we met in the old cemetery out in the country, and were all standing around listing to the lecture, when all of a sudden, a yell and the falling of dirt was heard; upon investigation we found that one of the members, a man well over six feet tall, had stepped on a grave that looked solid, but had caved in from the under side, and had fallen in with him. His bravery left him and his screams for help were loud until he was rescued.

Another night, we met in a pine thicket and were trying to decide what to do with an old negro that had been stealing hogs. One member, Bona terrell, was afflicted with stammering, and when the question was asked, replied, "Ka-ka-k-kill 'em!" "Well, what will we do with his eight year old girl? "Ka-ka-k-kill hu-hu-her too; she-she'll be a big un after awhile!"

About forty of our crowd was arrested and tried once. I was not in the gang thought. Some of the men made this remark, "If we get justice, I'll be satisfied." "Justice! yelled Terrell, "hang man, anything except jusctice!"

I was twenty-two years old when I joined the church. Old brother Zack Lofton would preach to us every Sunday in a grove of dog-wood trees. he would spend every Saturday night with me and before we retired, would read a chapter in the Bible and pray. I very often, in reading my Bible, run across some of the chapters and they are just as fresh in my mind as if it were only yesterday. The neighbors, with the help of brother Lofton, organized a church, New Prospect, and built a small building on two acres from Frank Hartman. Mr. Hartman would not sell it to us at first saying, "I wouldn't sell a church to those bulldozers, not to mention a piece of land; they have burned and torn down too many houses for me in that part of the country." "But, Mr. Hartman," I said. Maybe we can convert them if you will give us a deed to the two acres." "Well, I'll try them," was the answer. We got the church started then, and the burning of houses soon was a thing of the past."


Lincoln County Source Material for MS History, Vol. 2, pages 196-199.
Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library

Remembering Their Names