Tracking History From The Narrative Of A Former Slave

Thank God for the internet. This woman’s story was so interesting that I had to find out more.

You may have seen the show on cable or PBS entitled “Slave Narratives”. The story below is from that project of the 1930’s. It was more or less a grant under FDR’s New Deal, in order to document the lives of elderly former slaves. Very interesting stuff.

Minerva’s pronunciation and grammar are as they were written down by the interviewer. It’s sort of hard to read at first, but you’ll get it. For speaking to the interviewers, I think most of the people were given presents of clothing or other items. Sometimes a thank you is included for a dress or something else.

Of course, the old slave owners seemed to have either been really bad to former slaves, or really good to them. In some cases, they were indifferent (like below), just turning them loose with no food, money or a way to live after the Civil War. Keep in mind that slaves in Texas (and most other states) did not find out about Emancipation until June 19, 1865.

The descendants of Minerva’s owner, Lazarus Goolsbee (not spelled Goolsby) had many descendants, and you will read more about them below. I was not able to find anything on the Goolsbee Plantation or a photo of the “big house” they lived in… but many of that family are still in the general area of east Texas.

Edgar and Minerva Bendy

MINERVA BENDY, 83, was born a slave to Lazarus Goolsby, Henry Co. Alabama, who brought her to Texas when she was five. They settled near Woodville, where Minerva still lives.

Red marker below… I can find nothing about a mansion on or near the property, or on the internet by any historical associations. It probably burned down 140 years ago. If it is not documented at all, it may have just been a big house and not very grandiose, as plantations go. It is also in a very remote part of east Texas (I live near Galveston) and it is the road less traveled. People only go up there to hunt deer. Jasper is where those two guys dragged that old black man to death behind their truck back in the 1990’s. The Jasper-Livingston-Beaumont triangle is bullshit. Don’t ever go there. They don’t care for outsiders in that area.

The links in the narrative below will take you to more info on the individual.

The site of the former Goolsbee Plantation and Cemetery.

The site of the former Goolsbee Plantation and Cemetery.

“My earlies’ ‘membrance was de big, white sandy road what lead ‘way from de house. It was clean and white and us chillen love to walk in de soft, hot sand. Dat in Henry County, Alabama, where I’s born and my old marster was Lazarus Goolsby and he have de big plantation with lots of nigger folks. I ‘member jus’ as good as yesterday wigglin’ my toes in dat sandy road and runnin’ ‘way to de grits mill where dey grind de meal. Dat have de big water wheel dat sing and squeak as it go ’round.

Goolsbee Cemetery, outside of Woodville, Texas

“Aunt Mary, she make all us little chillen sleep in de heat of de day under de big, spreadin’ oak tree in de yard. My mama have 17 chillen. Her name Dollie and my daddy name Herd.

“I’s jus’ a little chile in dem days and I stay in de house with de white folks. Dey raise me a pet in de family. Missus Goolsby, she have two gals and dey give me to de oldest. When she die dey put me in de bed with her but iffen I knowed she dyin’ dey wouldn’t been able to cotch me. She rub my head and tell her papa and mama, ‘I’s gwine ‘way but I wants you promise you ain’t never whip my little nigger.’ Dey never did.

I will assume the old plantation and big house were near the little family cemetery. This is Minerva’s former master’s tombstone. I guess they spelled his name right. The tombstone for one of his daughters was broken but stacked back together. A few infants who died are also buried at the cemetery.


“I’s jus’ ’bout five year old when us make de trip to Texas. Us come right near Woodville and make de plantation. It a big place and dey raise corn and cotton and cane. We makes our own sugar and has[Pg 70] many as six kettle on de furnace at one time. Dey raise dey tobacco, too. I’s sick and a old man he say he make me tobacco medicine and dey dry de leafs and make dem sweet like sugar and feed me like candy.

“I ‘member old marster say war broke out and Capt. Collier’s men was a-drillin’ right dere south of Woodville. All de wives and chillen watch dem drill. Dey was lots of dem, but I couldn’t count. De whole shebang from de town go watch dem.

“Four of the Goolsby boys goes to dat war and dey call John and Ziby and Zabud and Addison. Zabud, he git wounded, no he git kilt, and Addison he git wounded. I worry den, ’cause I ain’t see no reason for dem to have to die.

Actually, Ziby got killed… he died in a Union prison camp in Illinois in Feb, 1863. Many of their cousins and relatives died in the war too. Here’s his tombstone from Illinois:

“After us free dey turn us loose in de woods and dat de bad time, ’cause most us didn’t know where to turn. I wasn’t raise to do nothin’ and I didn’t know how. Dey didn’t even give us a hoecake or a slice of bacon.

“I’s a June bride 59 year ago when I git married. De old white Baptist preacher name Blacksheer put me and dat nigger over dere, Edgar Bendy, togedder and us been togedder ever since. Us never have chick or chile. I’s such a good nuss I guess de Lawd didn’t want me to have none of my own, so’s I could nuss all de others and I ‘spect I’s nussed most de white chillen and cullud, too, here in Woodville.

See more of the family history:

The Goolsbee Family Cemetery