Personal Narratives


Sarah Frances Shaw Graves

Sarah Frances Shaw Graves

"I was born March 23, 1850 in Kentucky, somewhere near Louisville. I am goin' on 88 years right now. (1937). I was brought to Missouri when I was six months old, along with my mama, who was a slave owned by a man named Shaw, who had allotted her to a man named Jimmie Graves, who came to Missouri to live with his daughter Emily Graves Crowdes. I always lived with Emily Crowdes."

The matter of allotment was confusing to the interviewer and Aunt Sally endeavored to explain.

"Yes'm. Allotted? Yes'm. I'm goin' to explain that, " she replied. "You see there was slave traders in those days, jes' like you got horse and mule an' auto traders now. They bought and sold slaves and hired 'em out. Yes'm, rented 'em out. Allotted means somethin' like hired out. But the slave never got no wages. That all went to the master. The man they was allotted to paid the master."

"I was never sold. My mama was sold only once, but she was hired out many times. Yes'm when a slave was allotted, somebody made a down payment and gave a mortgage for the rest. A chattel mortgage. . . ."

"Allotments made a lot of grief for the slaves," Aunt Sally asserted. "We left my papa in Kentucky, 'cause he was allotted to another man. My papa never knew where my mama went, an' my mama never knew where papa went." Aunt Sally paused a moment, then went on bitterly. "They never wanted mama to know, 'cause they knowed she would never marry so long she knew where he was. Our master wanted her to marry again and raise more children to be slaves. They never wanted mama to know where papa was, an' she never did," sighed Aunt Sally.

Read the rest of Sarah's narrative here:

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Pete Bruner

Pete Bruner

Peter Bruner, was born in Winchester, Kentucky, Clark Co., in 1845. His master was John Bell Bruner, who at that time treated him fairly well. When Peter was 10 years of age his master brought him and his sister to Irvine. After arriving in Irvine, Peter's master was very cruel to him. They got only cornbread, fat meat and water to eat. If his master's hunger was not satisfied, he would even take this little from them. The[TR:?] were tables to eat from.

Once Peter, was taken into his master's house to nurse the children and was made to sleep on the floor with only a ragged quilt to lie on and one thin one over him.

Often he was whipped because his mistress said the washing was not clean, when it was. On one occasion when he was beaten his master took a piece of sole leather about 1 foot long and 2 inches wide, cut it full of holes and dipped it in water that was brined. He then took the leather and lashed the poor slave's back.

Joe Bruner, was a better master to his slaves than John. Once when Peter stole some sugar and flour, that he and his sister might have a pound cake, Joe caught him. He did not whip him however, because he knew that Peter did not often have enough to eat.

Peter, endured torture as long as he could and finally decided to escape. He went to Richmond, Kentucky on to Lexington. On his way he made a contract with a man to drive his horses to Orleans, but was caught while in Lexington. On his way they caught him and took him to jail and he remained until his master came for him. This did not down him, for just as soon as he could he escaped again, and this time got as far as Xenia, Ohio, but was again caught and brought back. This time he was severely beaten for three hours.

When 17 years old, Peter was hired out to Jimmy Benton, who was more cruel than John Bruner, but was again brought back. It was then that he tried again to escape. This time he went through Madison Co. near Sugar Creek. This was about the year 1861, when the war had begun. Again he was caught and taken back, but this time by Joe Bruner. He escaped several times, but never could seem to get anywhere. Once when he and another slave, Phil, escaped they were caught and made to walk the entire distance barefoot. After this Peter, was chained each night to a chair. One morning while eating his breakfast he heard a knock at the door and on opening it he found a troop of Union Home Guards. Jim Benton and John Bruner were taken to prison. After this Peter went to Miller's Creek and worked at odd jobs for awhile.

Read more of Pete Bruner's narrative here:

Slavery in America
Personal Narratives