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Abernathy, Betty

"My muthuh brought me to Cape Girardeau in 1862, an' I was 'bout ten yeah old' at dat time. Huh name was Malissa Abernathy an' she tole' me that 'Ole Massa' John Abernathy was meh daddy. 'Ole Massa' was mean to his cullud folks and so was 'Ole Bissis Willie'.

"We lived up in Perry County. The white folk had a nice big house an' they was a number of poor little cabins fo' us folks. Our's was one room, built of logs, an' had a puncheon floor. 'Ole 'Masse' had a number of slaves but we didden have no school, 'ner church an' mighty little merry-makin'. Mos'ly, we went barefooted the yeah 'round.

"My muthuh an' some of the othah women done the weevin' an' sewin'. I learned tospin, I could fill broaches and spin as good as any of 'em. One time 'Ole' Tom Johnson, the 'nigger-buyer' cone up frum Little Rock. He was go'in to buy muthuh an' her family, and take us to Arkansas, but 'bout that time they was so much talk 'bout freein' the slaves, he was 'fraid to.

"Mostly we had right fair eatin's. We didn't go into the big house much, jes' on cleanin' days an' such like.

"Ole Massa' often hired his cullud folks out to neighbuh farmuh an' he didden' care how they was treated. One time my two brothers was hired out an' in the evenin' they came an' tole muthuh they was goin' to run away 'cause they's treated so mean. She begged 'em not to come there to hide 'cause they'd find 'em 'shore, an' most likely kill 'em right before her eyes. They got away an' 'Ole Masse' come to the cabin to search fo' 'em. When muthuh tole him she didn't know where they was, he tied a rope 'round huh neck, an' tied the other end to the reftuhs. Then he beat her to make her tell.

"Aftuh this we was treated so mean that a neighbor helped us escape. We-all got in a big wagon, 'bout ten or twelve of us, an' druv us to the Cape, where they's sojers who'd protect us.

"I remembuh when we got there, they put us in a long. low, freme house, that stodd on the cornuh where Mr. Hecht now lives. Here we lived fo' a long an' I had no trouble findin' work to do. She hired me out fo' twe a week an' I was so proud to be easnin' money that I nevuh thought to read or write.

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