Slave Narratives

from the Rawick Papers, Series 5
L.C. Shaw
February 15, 1937
Spokane, Washington
Mrs. Sarah Laws Hill

Mrs. Sarah Laws Hill. Born during the days of slavery, Sarah Laws was the youngest of a family of seven girls and four boys, who with their mother, Haggar, and their father, Manual, were owned by Master Green, a good kind master. Due to financial difficulties Master Green was forced, when Sarah was four years old, to sell the family to Master Baltimore. Baltimore was a kind and generous man, but he employed a foreman who was a hard man to work for, and drove the slaves to desperation with his repeated goading and "slave driving" tactics.

Sarah was not very old, she does not remember how old, when Mr. Baltimore died and all his property, including slaves, passed to his four daughters and their husbands. The Laws family was given to the sister who had married Master Rollander; he did not condone the practice of slavery, but his wife had no compulsions and the slaves were forced to work for her. The main crops were corn and alfalfa. Sarah recalls vividly how hard she was forced to work and how little she was fed. The main 'vittles' she ate were cornbread three times a day, salt pork about once a month and eggs once a week. Neither she nor her family received any money and were constantly reminded by their mistress that they owed her money for their keep.

The little girl wished to go to school to learn to read and write, which privilege was of course forbidden, and once when the mistress found her reading a book she was given a sound thrashing

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and a drastic scolding for wasting her time and not tending to her allotted work. Shortly after this last sale of the family, to quote Sarah Laws Hill, "Mr. Laws was a good slave, and wanted to earn some good money, so Master Rollander said if he gave him $500 he would let him go, so he did this and went to California." Where Manual Laws got the $500, Sarah is unable to say. Manual went to California, mined his little claim and was soon able to buy from the Master his wife and the four children he was able to locate. He never found the other seven. He then bought a little farm in Missouri and farmed it all through the Civil War.

Sarah Laws has vivid recollections of the war and its results. She heard the cannons and helped and fed many of the soldiers of both the Union and the Confederate armies. She knew the building in Kansas where John Brown kept the slaves he had smuggled out of Missouri. She saw and talked to John Brown, and describes him as a great man. With the war came the "Carpet Baggers", those unscrupulous Northerers who would promise the slaves money and freedom if they went with them, the men who would then take the slaves farther south and sell them for whatever they could get as they knew the Emancipation Proclamation was imminent. When Lincoln declared all the slaves free most of them went North with the Union soldiers, but many, because they had no money, were forced to stay on the plantations. After the Proclamation, "the masters gave the slaves just barely enough for them to keep body and soul together, very little food and no clothing, this of course was done to keep them from running away." But some of them "ran away on

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their nerve."

About seven years after the Emancipation Sarah Laws married John Hill who had been a slave on a cotton plantation. He had been in the Civil War, assisting the doctors as they held the wounded and amputated their legs, cut out the bullets and dressed wounds. He was a rock mason at the time of his death, about seven years ago in Kansas. Her daughter then brought her to Spokane.

A few rambling incidents recalled by Mrs. Hill that are set down here as they do not seem to fit in any other part of the essay.

She recalls, that when she was a little girl, she was sent on an errand to a neighboring plantation. While she was there the foreman of the plantation went into a cabin and brought out a negro who was dying. The foreman had his men dig a hole in a nearby field and put the negro in it with the remark, "We'll come back in about an hour, he should be dead then and we can cover him up.

One of the masters, who owned her, sold a very pretty girl of about 16 years old, "downriver" to another plantation owner. A little later he grew lonesome for the child, stole her back and thwarted all endeavors of the other man to regain her. Shortly afterwards she bore a child and her present master was very angry because he did not know who the father of the child was, himself, or the man to whom he had sold her. Her father ran away from a

Electronic editor's note: the mimeographed sheets end here. Once I have the bound set of narratives, I will check for missing pages. Taylor


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