Archiver > NCBUNCOM > 2000-02 > 0950480145

From: "Douglas/Ungaro" <>
Subject: Sarah GUDGER, NC - Slave Narrative - WPA, May 5 1937
Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2000 23:15:45 +0100

Ms. Sarah Gudger was born enslaved in Asheville, NC, in 1816. From what I
have read, she lived to be 121 years old. Her father was Smart Gudger. I
don't yet know if this Gudger family was related to mine. My oldest known
African American Gudger ancestor was NOAH Gudger, enumerated in the 1870
Buncombe County census.

The original, first-person slave narrative below is one of
*many* available for a few days - for free - on the website

Marian Douglas, Gudger descendant

........................... text from WPA records on the website....

Investigation of the almost incredible claim of Aunt Sarah
Gudger, ex-slave living in Asheville, that she was born on Sept. 15, 1816,
discloses some factual information corroborating her statements.

Aunt Sarah's father, SMART Gudger, belonged to and took his
family name from JOE Gudger, who lived near Oteen, about six miles east of
Asheville in the Swannanoa valley, prior to the War Between the States.
Family records show that Joe Gudger married a Miss McRae in 1817, and that
while in a despondent mood he ended his own life by hanging, as vividly
recounted by the former slave.

JOHN HEMPHILL, member of the family served by Aunt Sarah until
"freedom", is recalled as being "a few y'ars younge' as me", and indeed his
birth is recorded for 1822. ALEXANDER Hemphill, mentioned by Aunt Sarah as
having left to join the Confederate army when about 25 years of age, is
authentic and his approximate age in 1861 tallies with that recalled by the
ex-slave. When Alexander went off to the war Aunt Sarah was "gettin' t' be
an ol' woman."

Aunt Sarah lives with distant cousins in a two-story frame
house, comfortably furnished, at 8 Dalton street in South Asheville (the
Negro section lying north of Kenilworth). A distant made relative, 72 years
of age, said he has known Aunt Sarah all his life and that she was an old
woman when he was a small boy.

Small in stature, about five feet tall, Aunt Sarah is rathered
rounded in face and body. Her milk-chocolate face is surmounted by short,
sparse hair, almost milk white. She is somewhat deaf but understands
questions asked her, responding with animation. She walks with one crutch,
being lame in the right leg. On events of the long ago her mind is quite
clear. Recalling the Confederate "sojers, marchin', marchin'" to the drums,
she beat a tempo on the floor with her crutch. As she described how the
hands of slaves were tied before they were whipped for infractions she
crossed her wrists.

OWEN GUDGER, Asheville postmaster (1913-21), member of the
Buncombe County Historical Association, now engaged in the real estate
business, says he has been acquainted with Aunt Sarah all his life; that he
has, on several occasions, talked to her about her age and early
associations, and that her responses concerning members of the Gudger and
Hemphill families coincide with known facts of the two families.

Interviewed by a member of the Federal Writers' Project, Aunt
Sarah seemed eager to talk, and needed but little prompting.

(SARAH GUDGER, (born 15 Sep 1816), Interview with Mrs. MARJORIE
JONES, 5 May, 1937)

I wah bo'n 'bout two mile fum Ole Fo't on de Ole Mo'ganton Road.
I sho' has had a ha'd life. Jes wok, an' wok, an' wok. I nebbah know nothin'
but wok. Mah boss he wah Ole Man Andy Hemphill. He had a la'ge plantation in
de valley. Plenty ob ebbathin'. All kine ob stock: hawgs, cows, mules, an'
hosses. When Marse Andy die I go lib wif he son, William Hemphill.

[Ms. Gudger's narrative continues on website]

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