Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery

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Author: Brawley Gilmore  | Date: 1945

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B. A. Botkin University of Chicago 1945

The Ku Klux Klan Through Negro Eyes

[c.1874]

II

We lived in a log house during the Ku Klux days. They would watch you just like a chicken rooster watching for a worm. At night, we was scared to have a Light. They would come around with the dough faces on and peer in the windows and open the door. Iffen you didn’t look out, they would scare you half to death. John Good, a darky blacksmith, used to shoe the horses for the Ku Klux. He would mark the horseshoes with a bent nail or something like that; then after a raid, he could go out in the road and see if a certain horse had been rode; so he began to tell on the Ku Klux. As soon as the Ku Klux found out they was being give away, they suspicioned John. They went to him and made him tell how he knew who they was. They kept him in hiding, and when he told his tricks, they killed him.

When I was a boy on the Gilmore place, the Ku Klux would come along at night a-riding the niggers like they was goats. Yes, sir, they had ’em down on all fours a-crawling, and they would be on their hacks. They would carry the niggers to Turk Creek bridge and make them set up on the banisters of the bridge, then they would shoot ’em offen the banisters into the water. I ’clare them was the awfulest days I ever is seed. A darky name Sam Scaife drifted a hundred yards in the water downstream. His folks took and got him outen that bloody water and buried him on the bank of the creek. The Ku Klux would not let them take him to no graveyard. Fact is, they would not let many of the niggers take the dead bodies of the folks nowheres. They just throwed them in a big hole right there and pulled some dirt over them. For weeks after that, you could not go near thet place, ’cause it stink so far and had. Sam’s folks, they throwed a lot of Indian-head rocks all over his grave, ’cause it was so shallow, and them rocks kept the wild animals from a-bothering Sam. You can still see them rocks, I could carry you there right now.

Doctor McCollum was one of them Ku Klux, and the Yankees sot out for to cotch him. Doc, he rid a white pony called Fannie. All the darkies, they love Doc, so they would help him for to git away from the Yankees, even though he was a Ku Klux. It’s one road what forks, after you crosses Wood’s Ferry. Don’t nobody go over that old road now. One fork go to Leeds and one to Chester. Well, right in this fork, Mr. Buck Worthy had done built him a grave in the Wood’s Ferry Graveyard. Mr. Worthy had done built his grave hisself. It was built out of marble, and it was covered up with a marble slab. Mr. Worthy, he would take and go there and open it up and git in it on pretty days. So Old Doc, he knowed about that grave. He was going to see a sick lady one night when they got after him. He was on Old Fannie. They was about to cotch Old Doc when he reached in sight of that graveyard. It was dark. So Doc, he drive the horse on past the fork, and then he stop and hitch her in front of some dense pines. Then he took and went to that grave and slip that top slab back and got in there and pulled it over him, just leaving a little crack. Doc ’lowed he wrapped hisself in his horse blanket, and when the Yankees left, he went to sleep in that grave and never even woke up till the sun, it was a-shining in his face.

Soon after that my sister took down sick with the misery. Doc he come to see her at night. He would hide in the woods in the daytime. We would fetch him his victuals. My sister was sick three weeks ’fore she died. Doc he would take some blankets and go and sleep in that grave, ’cause he knowed they would look in our house for him. They kept on a-coming to our house. Course we never knowed nothing ’bout no doctor at all. There was a nigger with wooden-bottom shoes, that stuck to them Yankees and other poor white trash around there. He ’lowed with his big mouth that he gwine to find the doctor. He told it that he had seed Fannie in the graveyard at night. Us heard it and told the doctor. Us did not want him to go near that graveyard any more. But Doc, he just laugh, and he ’lowed that no nigger was a-gwine to look in no grave, ’cause he had tried to git me to go over there with him at night and I was scared.

One night, just as Doc was a-covering up, he heard them wooden shoes a-coming; so he sot up in the grave and took his white shirt and put it over his head. He seed three shadows a-coming. Just as they got near the Doc, the moon come out from ’hind a cloud and Doc, he wave that white shirt, and he say them niggers just fell over gravestones a-gitting outen that graveyard. Doc ’lowed that he heard them wooden shoes a-gwine up the road for three miles. Well, they never did bother the doctor any more.

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Chicago: Brawley Gilmore, "The Ku Klux Klan Through Negro Eyes," Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery, ed. B. A. Botkin in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed December 7, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=K53MQRBJK4Y862B.

MLA: Gilmore, Brawley. "The Ku Klux Klan Through Negro Eyes." Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery, edited by B. A. Botkin, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 7 Dec. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=K53MQRBJK4Y862B.

Harvard: Gilmore, B, 'The Ku Klux Klan Through Negro Eyes' in Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery, ed. . cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 7 December 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=K53MQRBJK4Y862B.