Levi Branham, My Life and Travels (1929) (Electronic Edition)



        IN 1894 the white caps were very severe in Murray county. The Murray county white caps threw Bill Roper into a pit June 11, 1894. I think he remained in the pit eight or nine days, then he was drawn out alive. He now lives in Texas. He was accused of being a reporter, but he was not.

        On June 7, 1894, Bill Roper and I went to Nix's Spring to buy some whisky. Bill Roper bought one gallon of whisky and I bought two gallons.

        Three colored men were hanged in Spring Place by the white caps. In 1874 a colored man named Carter Griffin was hanged in Spring Place. John Ward was hanged in 1875 for rape. In 1878 John Duncan was shot by the white caps. The house where Duncan was killed bears the name "Duncan House." After Duncan was killed the Ku Klux attempted to make a raid on a colored fellow named Walker Dwight. Dwight must have suspicioned that they were going to make a raid on him, so he and his wife locked the door of their house and went to their crib. They locked the crib on the inside, and put the latch on the outside. The

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Ku Klux went to Dwight's house and raided it, but they did not find anyone there. They then went to the crib and finding the crib locked they must have thought that there was no one in it, so they went on without looking into the crib.

        In 1891 John Bently Davis, colored man, was shot down by the Ku Klux one night. During the night he crawled to the house. Davis' weapons were an ax and shotgun, the Ku Klux used pistols, and for a time they had a merry little war. Davis cut two or three of the Ku Klux. Davis and the two Ku Klux that were cut are dead now. Davis went to Chattanooga after he recovered from his injuries and went to work. While he was engaged in work he became over-heated and death was the result.

        The lady that John Ward was hanged about was named Mrs. Parrot. Immediately after John Ward was hanged, John Austin and I ran a blacksmith shop. One day when we were collecting I went to Mrs. Parrott's house to collect. She seemed to be afraid of me and I was frightened, too. I soon left her house without pay for my blacksmith work. I went to another fellow's house and there I spent the night. I never went back to Mrs. Parrot's to get my pay.

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        When I was quite a boy I used to drive a gin pulled by four horses. Two boys drove one on one lever and one on the other. The gin stood in front of the house where Mr. Charlie King of Spring Place, now lives. The gin was run by a horse I used to ride on the lever that pulled the gin. The ginned cotton was allowed to fall into a lint room. The cotton was packed with a wooden screw. It was taken from the lint room to the press in baskets. The press was pulled by a horse, also.

        Times have changed now and have become what I call fast times. Steam and electric gins are the only kinds of gins that are to be seen these days.

        When I was a boy we children used to call cotton negro devil. We would go across the field and see if any cotton was coming up. If we found any we would pull it up and say "we have killed one negro devil."

        In 1875 times were very rough in this country, but I was never bothered. The Ku Klux used to come to my house to borrow mules from me. Some people would say that I knew who the Ku Klux were, but I did not know a one of them after they were disguised.

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        The night John Ward was hanged a crowd of white people and I were in a store. Some of them were praying that Ward would not he hanged that night, but while they were talking about the matter the Ku Klux came into the store and ordered forty foot of rope with which to hang Ward. There was only one door to the store, but I went out by the Ku Klux. Some of the white men asked the Ku Klux if they would allow us to get home, the Ku Klux said, "yes, every rat to his hole." I suppose every rat did get to his hole. I know I got to mine. The next day a clerk at the store asked me if I hid in one of his boxes or did I get home. I told him that I went home. I left out behind a man named Jim Temple. I don't know whether I made any tracks or not, but I got home.

        The night before Ward was hanged, that night he was hauling wood with two mules southeast of Spring Place and I was hauling wood with a horse southwest of Spring Place. I looked up and saw a crowd of men coming with guns and I thought to myself that there must be a war in the country. They came to me and asked me if I had been in the southeast of Spring Place and I told them I had not. They wanted to carry me to jail thinking that I might be the one who raped Mrs. Parrot. They said they would

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carry me and all other negroes that they found to jail so they would be sure to get the right one. I told them "no," that I was not going to be carried to jail alive. I told my horse to get up. They did not bother with me any more. As it happened Mrs. Parrot described Mr. Ward, the one who had offended her. She said she tore his shirt and noticed that he had a scar on his breast. The white people examined Ward and found that he had a scar. Ward owned that he was the guilty person.

        I have had lots of ups and downs, but by the help of the Good Lord I have come out more than unconquered.

        I was talking with a white man about fifteen or sixteen years ago. He said that there were good negroes and bad negroes, good white people and bad white people. He further said that there is good land and bad land and the land and people were made up alike. I have always tried to stay with the good people.

        Everything has changed either for good or bad, the land has changed and the people have changed.

        I have been in several little towns and I find that there are colored folks in most of them

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but I suppose they are like Ham, they draw water and hew wood for Shem and Japeth's race. When Noah got drunk Ham laughed and God put a curse upon him and I believe it is so because the colored folks are always laughing at anything. The minister of the them. I don't know what they are doing, Gospel can't keep them straight, neither can the law keep them straight.

        In 1878 I came from down the country to Spring Place. Spring Place was then a glorious little town with two bar rooms and two dry goods stores.

        In 1884, fire broke out in Spring Place, burnt one store, one dwelling and the court house. All have been rebuilt since.

        1906, fire destroyed the jewelry shop and a store.

        1909, fire destroyed the old Bond Johnson hotel; destroyed the entire block While the fire was raging three prisoners were crying to be let out. Tump Brandon was one of the prisoners. All came back but one; he kept going.

        1914, the Shield's Hotel burnt.

        In 1920 fire burnt Dr. Bagley's house and four people got burnt, two children and two adults, and two escaped.

        The fifth fire was in 1921. Will Lonner's house was destroyed by fire.

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        1922, Mr. D. D. Kemp's house was destroyed by fire.

        1927, fire destroyed Bishop's warehouse. Bishop had twelve bales; L. B. Brandon five bales; Ed Cox one bale; W. P. Whittle three; W. R. Ballew, one.

        1929, Bishop's gin was destroyed by fire.