Andy Nelson - Ex -Slave
During the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) unemployed writers were hired and charged with recording some of the folk history of America. One oral history project produced the Slave Narratives, a collection of interviews with former slaves, who in the 1930s were of advanced age and had a story to tell of a dark period of American history. He had been born a slave in Denton county and what follows is his interview for the Slave Narratives.
Andy Nelson, 76, is a leader of a small rural settlement of negroes known as Moser Valley, ten miles east of Fort Worth on State highway #15. He was born a slave to J. Wolf, on a Denton County farm, and his mother belonged to Dr. John Barkswell, who owned an adjoining farm. At the death of his father he was sold to Dr. Barkswell. When freed, he and his mother came to Birdville and later moved to Moser Valley, which derives its name from Telley Moses, who gave his farm to his slaves, and sold parcels to other negroes. "I don' 'member much 'bout de war, but I was bo'n in slavery near de line of Tarrant County, in 1861. My master was named Wolf, but 'bout de end of de war he sells me to Dr. Barkswell, who own my mammy. "When de war is over we gits out and comes to Birdville and after three years Master Moser gives my mammy 17 acres of lan'. He owned lots of slaves and gives 'em all some land for a home. "For ten, twelve years after de war, de Klux gets after de niggers who is gittin' into devilment. De cullud folks sho' quavered when they thought de Klan was after them. One nigger crawls up de chimney of de fireplace and that nigger soon gits powerful hot and has to come out. You should of seen that nigger. He warn't human lookin'. He is all soot, fussed up, choked and skeered. Dey warn't after him but wants to ask him if he knows whar other niggers is hidin'. I was too young to git in no picklement with de Klux. "Years after dat, I'se married and have four, five chillens, and I'se comin' home. I'se stopped by seven men on horses and dey all has rifles and pistols. I says to myself, 'De Klux sho' have come back and dey is gwine to git me. It sho' looks like troublement." "One of dem weighs 'bout 135 pounds and has dark hair and complexium, and he says to me, 'Nigger, whar's de lower Dalton crossin'? Dere was two crossin's of de Trinity River, de upper and de lower. I says, "De upper crossin' is back yonder.' "He says, 'I knows whar de upper crossin' is. I'se askin' you whar de lower one is. Fon' fool with us, nigger.' "Dere was a big fellow, 'bout 250, settin' in de saddle and sorta ant goglin', with his gun pointin' at me. De hole in de end of dat gun looked as big as a cannon. He was mean lookin' and chewin' on a quid of terbaccy. He says , 'You is goin with us to de crossin.' Lead de way.' Den I gits de quaverment powerful bad. I knows I'se a gone nigger. "I says to dem, 'I done nothin', and de big fellow raises his gun and says, 'Git goin', nigger, to dat lower crossin', or you'll be a dead nigger.' "On de way I never says a word, but I'se prayin' de good Lawd to save dis nigger.! When we reached de crossin', I says to myself, 'Dis am de end.' "De little fellow says, 'Do you know who I is?' I says, 'No.' "He says, 'I'se Sam Bass.' "I'se heard of Sam Bass, everybody had in dem days. He was leader of a band. "He says,'We don' want nobody to know we been here. Which you ruther be, a dead nigger befo' or after tellin'?' "De big fellow says, 'Make a sho' job. A dead nigger cain't talk,' and den starts raisin' de gun. "I wants to talk, but I'se so skeered I can' say one word. "Den Sam Bass says, 'No, no! Let him go,' and den I knows de Lawd has heered dis nigger's prayers. "Dey telles me dey's comin' back if I tells ans I promised not to tell. I'se skeered for a week after dat. "In a \few weeks, I hears dat Sam Bass is killed at Round Rock. Den I tells. "Dar's de las' troublement I'se been in. Since dat I'se been busy earning' vittles for de family. I'se been married 40 years and we'uns has 14 chillen and 10 of 'em are livin'. If it warn't for dis farm and de work white folks give me, I don't know how I could of got on. We gits a pension of $21 every month from de state and dat helps a heap. "I'se never had no schoolin'. Dey used to think us cullud folks has no use for edumcation. I thinks diff'rent and sends my chillen to school. Dey reads to me from de papers and sich.