Original URL 4/21/1997: http://www.umsl.edu/services/library/blackstudies/betters.htm
University of Missouri-St. Louis
Thomas Jefferson Library
from the Rawick Papers, Series 5
Mrs. Ada Davis, P.W.
October 2, 1937
McLennan County, Texas (No)
Aunt Kate Betters
"I wuz born back in ole Mississ (Mississippi) in de year of
1848. Ize gwine to be 87 years ole come dis harves' time. My daddy wuz
Young Wright and mammy wuz Almira Wright. Mammy jes had us two gals, me
an' Sis Emily. Us had Marse Berry Wright fer our boss an Mistis Lina
Wright wuz his wife an owned us too. I jes don't recall no granpas but
guess I mus a-had 'em case odder folks did. Me an Emily an ma, us worked
in de house an us didn't know nuffin' bout dem quarter niggers. Ole
Mistis kep us all starched an clean an learned us, all of us, mammy an
all to read an write an made us read an study de good book. Oh, she
raised us right proper. Oh yassum, I hoped make candles, carded wook,
spun cotton an wool into thread an effen I does say it, I was a master
hand when it come to weavin an sewing close fer white an colored.
Yassum, I could dye de cloth an strip it all pretty on de loom. An all
of us could cook to a turn. Ole Mistis jes took in de county when it
come to preserves an' cake an' sech. An all de country de uset to come
to our white folks goings on case dey sot sech a good table.
"Time ob a big ball, us'd cook fer days an hab a great long
table dat wuz sot an fixed all purty aby early mornin de day ob de
festivities an dat table nebber wuz empty twell late de next day. Effen
it wuz a Chrismus, er a New Year er a weddin den dey shore wuz de cookin
an us all worked all day an mos all night fer nigh on a week at a pop.
Notm us wuz so 'cited an allus laffed so much dat we didn't nebber know
Betters, Aunt Kate
wuz tired. Dey'd build a big log fire in de big fireplaces at each end
ob de big room whar dey danced an' all trim de winders an de walls an
doors an jes eDerywhar wid red berries an vines an cedar an don't fergit
to tell 'em 'bout dat mistletoe. Ha! Ha! dat shore gwine cause meny a
purty gal's face to redden an it cotched meny a weddin bell too. Dem wuz
shore de good ole times. Us'd run an fotch any carry; shine an polish an
cook an sew; but us'd git to see dem couples swing an hear dat fiddle
hum an down in de kitchen Marse an Mistis don' keer effen a niggers foot
twitch out a tune er two wid a likely gal. My ole man wuz house boy an
waitin' boy fer Marster an us gwine git a little toddy an swing er set
er two every time dat fiddle gin a tune. De kerridges ud drive up loaded
wid pretty girls an high steppin men an in dey ud come all laughin an
ready fer dere egg-nog er wine an den de quadrilles.
"My ole man he done fix ole Marse up gorgeous like fer de big
ball. He had a swaller tal coat, shiny leather pumps an a stiff white
shirt an I tells you he looked like he own 'em all.
"Mistis Lina 'ud come down de steps smilin wid her pink dress
a-tranin behind her an her little foots a-peepin out so purty, wid a
hankcher like a spider web an a great white fan, all spread out like a
peacock tail an her roun white arms an th'toat an her big dark eyes jes
a-lightin up de world. An all de folkses 'ud gather roun' her like bees
atter a flower.
"Den dey'd strike up de dancin tune. Dey 'ud allers wheel de
pianner out in de big hall. An dey'd fotch ole Jim Long from 'cross
Betters, Aunt Kate
de ribber to play. He'd come wid he fiddle, grinnin an scrapin' cause he
shore wuz a notable fiddler. When dat ole him 'ud shake dat bow, you
couldn't help you foot a-pattin a leetle, excusin ef you wuz a member of
de church. In er minute, dey all 'ud be flyin roun de room an' ole Jim,
he 'us be a-rockin like a boat on de ribber, an he face all shiny, he
teef a-grinnin like de full moon, an he big foot set way out, er-pattin
to keep de time. Come times when ole Marse 'ud ketch de dancin fever an
step out on de flo in he long-tail coat an high collar, an knock 'em off
de "Snow-bud on de Ashbank" an Chicken in de Bread Tray," right natchel.
He could jes plank 'em down.
"On Chrismus us niggers had a dance. Hit wuz down in de
washhouse an' de table wuz set in de carpenter shop jes by. Oh, hit
sutten'ly wuz beautiful. Mistis had suptrenten' eberything wid her own
hands. So, she wuz down dere wid an apron up to her chin an dere wuz de
big lamps from de big house, two ob 'em on each table an some of de
table cloths from de big house an ole Marster's bowl full ob egg-nog wif
snow drift on top ob hit, an pretty dishes from de big house an some
cheers. Nuttin warn't too good fer niggers dat night. De little yung'uns
wuz runnin roun' almos' 'stracted, squealin an squirmin' an under foots
so a-body couldn't walk. An dere wuz a big fire like at butcherin time.
"De fiddlers got dey dram an tuned up lively. Niggers wuz as
thick as blackbirds in a corn crib an de gals wuz shakin dey foots fer
some young man an buck an back steppin fer to go 'long. De sleepers ob
dat house wuz a-rockin as de fiddler called de niggers fer de dance. Den
all de white folks wid marster in de lead come in to 'spec de tables
Betters, Aunt Kate
an dey all fill up dey glasses an pledge dey health on all de servants,
an wish every body a Merry Chrismus an de white folks went in de wash
house to see de dancin an take a han deyself. De white folks git so much
larnin dey kin dance an fool de debbil too. Dem niggers danced 'twill
you couldn' tell which wuz de clappers an which de back steppers, but
when someboddy say supper dat stop em.
Reference: Interview with Aunt Kate Betters, ex-slave, McLennan County,
Return to Slave Narratives main page.
Date Last Modified: June 06, 1996