WPA Federal Writers ,Project Collection

Manuscripts pertaining to Polk County 
From the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division,
WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection 1936-1940

Abbin, Jaydy - surnames: Abbin, Atkins, Bryan, Ford, Rodgers, Stokes, White.
Bevely, Dave & Jeanette - surnames: Bevely, Fern, Hallman, Sweat, Turner.
Boyd, John & Rebecca - surnames: Andrews, Bonaker, Boyd, Drane, Dix, Helm,
 Hutch, Livington, Rochelle,
 Rossevelt, Sanders, Stephenson, Sullivan.
Flucher, Patience - surnames: Flucher, Hendrick, Jackson, Johnson, McLeod, Oates,
 Raodes, Riley, Roux, Sullivan.
Gray, Rich & Lula - surnames: Gray
Kellum, Robert & Ruby - surnames: Bells, Bryant, Freeman, Glenn, Kellum, McCarthy, White.
Merryvale, Frank & Ella - surnames: Dolly, Merryvale, Wilkins.
Robinson, Charlies & Lucinda - surnames: Bethune, Bogan, Robinson, Jackson, Williams
Scott, Robert & Rosa Lee - surnames: Bryant, Graham, Jones, Jupiter, Mitchell,
 Scott, Scout, Spanish, Walker, Young.
Stembridge, Will & Julia - surnames: Candy, Conack, Coniber, Daniels,
Hall, Stembridge.
Threet, Dan & Amelia - surnames: Brown, Derman, Roberson, Rochelle, Threet,
 Williams, Winn
Wimster, C. W. - surnames: French, Lindsay, Lowther, Stevens, Wimster, Wishart.
Wright, John & Susan - surnames: Green, Hawkin, Love, Simpson, Willie, Wright, Write

February 15, 1938
J. B. and Birdie Lee Atkins (real names)
Municipal Trailer Camp
Tampa, Florida
Lindsay K. Bryan, writer
unedited {Begin handwritten} [???] {End handwritten}
On the ragged fringe of the trailer camp an aged and battered flivver coughed and
whoosed to a stop. It settled
 dejectedly in the sand, with flabby tires and drooping fenders. Attached to its
rear was a small home-made house
 trailer, or more accurately, a rough tin shanty on wheels.
The driver, an angular and weathered-beat on man of perhaps 35, in faded blue overalls,
 got out of the car and peered
here and there under its bottom. Suddenly his long frame straightened so with alacrity.
 He shook a mop of sandy hair
out of his eyes, threw back his head, and gave lusty [voat?] to the peculiar, half-yodling
 "hoy-o-o-o-pee." yell of
the Florida cowboy.
Then, gazing into far space, he song off-key in a robust but [adenoidal?] tonor:

"I'm a-goin down to Tampa town
With money in [our?] britches,
A pint o' likker on each [hip?]-
Look out, you [sons-o-witches?]
"Fer I'm a wild-eyed fightin fool,
an [??] gonna raise some h--l.
I'm rootin, tootin, cuttin, shootin
Cowboy from La Belle.
The [lilting] ditty was sung to a tune something like that of "Dixie."
Intrigued by the picture and sound effects, the questing writer sniffed a
 possible story and approached the scene.
As he drew near a woman's voice from inside the trailer quavered in mild
 rebuke of the singer[.?]
"Jaydy, you hush up singin that nasty song. Fokes all think we're Yankees."
Jaydy cut short his melody, and grinned amiably as the prowling scribe greeted
him and revealed that he was looking
 for life histories for a book about southern people.
"Well I declare!" the trailer its used. "So you write stuff to print in books.
Well, well: That seems like a [carus?]
kind-a trade to work at. I never thought uv a body follerin that for a livin.
 I read a book [wunst?]. Hit wuz about a
man named Robinson [Crusoe?]. That feller shore had his sef a time on that island.
" He laughed and went on:
"Well, I aint fitten to go in no book, but I wuz born an raised a Floridy Cracker.
 Mostly in the woods and swamps.
But I ben up Nawth sense last June. Jist got back this fur, thank the good Lord.
I'm a-headin fur Lee County. My name! Hit's J. D. Abbin."
He was asked what the initials J. D. stood for, and replied firmly:
"That's my whole front name, jist J. D. But people calls me Jaydy for short.
 Just my maw one time when I wuz a did if
J. D. meant some other name. But she said no, she named me jist that, after he uncle, J.D.
 Stokes, [anche?] never had
no other name. A right many fellers in Floridy's named jist with letters thataway."
"What did you do up North?" the history-[housed?] queried, as he accepted Jaydy's
invitation to 'set down' beside him on the rickety running board.
"[Be?] an the ole woman went off up yonder to [bee?]-trait to git me a job
in Ole Ham Ford's factory,me bein a jack-leg
 mechanic fun workin round [cars?] an sawmills. Well, I gotta job [nuttin?]
 fur bout six months, but got laid off in
Dee-cember. So I built us this little ole [piece-a?] trailer, and we lit a
[shuck?] for Floridy."The story-huntrr suggested the trip north must have been
 a great experience for Jaydy, and asked him how he liked it. He drawled:
"We kinda liked some uv it. But if I'd a-staid up there I'd a-had to kill a whole
passal o' niggers. Then Yankee
niggers haint gotta bitta manners. [Thy?], the black sons-o-buzzards
all set right down by a white man, in a street
car or any place. I got arrested twice up there for kickin the tar outa niggers."
Asked what he had worked at in Florida, Jaydy pondered, as he took a knife from his pocket,
 whetted the long blade on
his shoe and began whittling a pine stick: "[An?], I reckon I've done near about everthing.
 Never wuz no hand for
settlin down for long in one place. I spose that's why I always ben pore.
But by gravy I've had a [heap-o?] fun in
my time," he chuckled, his blue eyes twinkling[ reminiscently?].
"Tell me about your life. I'll bet you've had a lot of adventures,"
wheedled the biography-[beagle?].
"Well, "he cackled again, "if you aim to putt me in a book I better leave
out a lotta things I done, or they'll chunk
me in the jail house and [throw?] the key away. But if you don't print my right
 name hit'll be all right." This was promised, and he continued[:?]
"When I was jist a yearlin boy about 10 my famly moved [fum be Soter?]
 County to [Hannertes?] (Manatee) County. Up to
then we'd ben raisin a few hawgs and cows and doin a little farmin an
stillin in De [Soter?] and Glades County, on shares, mostly.
In Mannertee County we herded cows a while, then went sharecroppin down
 on Sawgrass Slough, back Bradentown. Raisin
tomaters an celery, mostly. But evertime we'd gitta crop good started,
seemed like, they'd come a freeze, or drouth,
or blight, or bugs, or sumpun, and kill out near about everthing you had.
"Parta our twenty acres was pee-yore [nuck?], so deep an soft an dry you could
stick a hoe hannel down in it clean up
to the hoe. One fall hit caught a-fire when some cow men set fire to the woods,
 and it tuck us two days an nights to
cuten it. We had to tote water in buckets fum the well, bout a quarter away.
"Hit burnt mighty nigh a acre, plus down to hard pan, on the twenty nex to ourn,
 where ole Jim Rolls was farmin. We
holp him to cuten his, an he help us, but it tuck us an all our famlies to keep it
 fum spreadin any furder.
"Well, we couldn't hardly make our seed and fertilize a-farmin. So paw an me set us
 up a little still down in the big
hammock and went to makin shine. We done right good at that, sellin to bootleggers
in Bradentown an Tampa, but it tuck
most all we made to pay off the prohibition agents for lettin us run.
"After we'd ben there bout two years maw died with playgry [(pellagra)?].
 Then paw, the ole billy-goat, went and
married a neighbor gal ony 14 years old--jist a little fryin-size biddy,
 thout no more sense an a [pond?] gannet.
An paw goin on 50 year old! He traded her daddy six hawgs an ten gallon-a shine
fer the pesky brat. After they got
married he brung her home to live with us in our ole shack.
"Me an Dery--that wuz my sister, a year youngern me an the ony other
youngun left--we fussed a plenty at paw for
doin such a fool thing, but he wouldn't pay us no mind.
"One time I come home fum takin a load shine to town, and when I got to the
 house I heard a scufflin and a screechin
inside. I run in, and there was that little huzzy a-beatin on Dory with a [tomater?]
[stumb?]--an Dory too skairt to fight back.
"I was so mad I jist turnt her over muh knee an spanked her beehind till
she hollered like a stuck pig. Paw heard er
and [come?] a-runnin in fum the stable. Then he seen what I wuz doin he retch
 up on a shelf for his pistol and tried
to shoot me. But I'd done shot up all his [?] shootin at snakes, so he turnt
to an started to [gimme?] a pistol-snuppin.
"I fit him back a while, and I reckon I might coulda whupped him; but I jist
 hauled off an knocked him out with a jolt
on the jaw. When me and Dory gethered up our close an other [plunder?] in a [aragus?]
 sack, and we left home for good.
"I shore hated to go off fum there, cause I was a-cutin a nice little gal named Birdie
Lee Rodgers over acrost the
slough. Her daddy had got religion at a Holy Roller [section?], and he said
I wuz too no-count fer her. He'd done
run me off his place with a shotgun, but me and her kep meetin in
the woods right on till I left.
"Well, me an Dory walked all the way to [Spadantown?] that night an staid with kin fokes.
I knowed a [boat?] cap'n
there that wuz rannin likker in fum Cuby, and he [gimme?] a job on his boat;
 mostly loadin and unloadin hams (sacks)
[uv?] likker, an [arstanian?] onion [a-lookin?] out for [guvaint?] boats.
[We?] has us a good fast gas cruiser, and we run ony at night, thout lights.
 But sometimes [them?] coast [gucruers ad?]
pick us up with their search lights, an then they'd [?] away at us with their
 machine guns an little ole cannons.
One night a thee-inch shell went smack [thew?] our cabin, an missed my
bunk ony bout a foot. But they never ketched us.
 I did git pistol-bit one time when we wuz fixin to land some booze an
a depty sheriff shot at us -- jist a 38 slug thew muh laig.
"Cap'n Bob paid me good money, but I spent it fast on wimen an gamblin.
 (Here Jaydy lowered his voice cautiously and
cast a wary eye toward the trailor, from whence came the clatter of
dishwashing and a woman's low voice humming contentedly).
"Them Cubian wimen is shore not [?]," he whispered enthusiactically.
 "They'll either love you to death, or stick a
knife in you if you make em jealous. I reckoleck one little [Spanish?] gal
 I had in [Navather?]--But shucks, I
better not tell that." And Jady chortled and winked [roguishly?].
"Sometimes when likker wuz scared in Havanner we'd snuggle a loada Chinyman
over on a dark night an putt on ashore
at some lonesome place on the Floridy coast. One night we fetched over eleven
 head uv [?] at $200 a head. We putt
em off jist afore day down on Lemon [Hay?]. Cap'n Bob wouldn't go no closter to
 shore'n bout half a mile, cause
the water wuz shaller. He [made?] them pore Chinks jump overboard an wade ashore
in about five foot-a water. They
wuz a big movin van waitin fer em on shore to take em to [?]. Hits a wonder some
 uv em didn't git drownded.
"I wrote a couple times to Birdie Lee whilst I wuz beatin, but never got no
 hearin fum er, so I figgered on musta
quit likin me, or either her daddy got the letters an never give em to er.
"One time we tied our boat up at Fort Myers fora coupla days to git the engine
fixed, an I decided to hop a train
an go up to see Birdie Lee. But goin up town I met a bootlegger I knowed, as he
tole me they wuz a warrant out for
Cap'n Bob. I got skairt they might want me too, so I high-tailed right outa there,
 an hitch-hiked to Marco.
"There I run into Virgin White, a feller I usta [cow-bust?] with. Virgin was
a regle ole woods rat. He wuz fixin to
go down in the Everglades a--trappin, an he ast me to go in with him. I had around
[$60?] on me, so I help him buy
the traps an rations an a tent, an we lit out fer Big Cypress Swamp.
 I figgered that was a good place to hide out
if they had a warrant for me.
"Varmints was plenty that winter, an we got a lotta [hidea--?] otter,
deer, skunk, gator, bear, an one big panther. By spring we had about $400 [wuth?].
"We went to Miami an sold em. My share wuz [$197?], an I felt perty rich with
all that money burnin a hole in muh
britches pocket. But I hadn't had no fum fer the longest, so I started out lookin
 fer wimmen an likker, an a little
gamblin. Well, I found plenty-a all uv [?]--specially a big crap game. [I be?]
 John Brunned if I could win a bet in that game, an by [?] I wuz [?], plum broke.
The Florida adventurer laughed ruefully as he paused and leaned over to pick up a
fresh piece of whittling timber.
 The back of his [?] neck presented a fascinating study, with its crimson
and deepley [?] skin, caked in diamond-
shaped patterns like red alligator skin. Such necks are frequent among rural
 Floridians who have lived much of their lives exposed to the sun, wind and weather.
From the trailor now came busy sounds of sweeping, and the woman's rather sweet
voice was lifted in an old church hymn.
Jaydy continued to reflect as he spat out a [quid} the size of a golf ball and
 took a fresh chew from a thick plug. Then he resumed his story.
"Well, I decided Miami wuzzent no place for a pond hopper like me,
 as I hit the hard road a-walkin nawth. I soon
thumbed a ride with a feller on a furniture truck goin to Lakeland.
 But we broke a axle some place in the woods
in Folk County, an I started walkin ahead to calla garage man to tow him in.
 I phoned fer one fum a [fillin?] station, as then kep on walkin west.
Goin thew the flatwoods a ole Ford coop ketched up with me, an drivin it
 wuz a skinny red-headed woman bout
 40 years old. I thumbed er fore I seen she wuz a woman, but she stopped
an picked me up any how. We got talkin,
an I tole er I wuz lookin fer a job. She said she wuz a widdor woman with a
80-acre farm, an needed a man to
help run it. Said her ole man had up an died on er a year back, an left er the
farm an a flock-a kids, an forty
head-a cattle, an she didn't know how many hangs a-runnin the woods.
 She'd been to town after rations an [? cawn]; an ast me [could?] I hiro out to her.
"I tole er I didn't love farmin a-tall, workin fum [hin?] till [can't?] an
 a-livin on grits an hawg's vest with the buttons on ("cow belly").
Asked what was meany by "from [hin?] till can't," Jaydy explained it meant
"fum the time you kin [soe?] in the
 mawnin till you can't see at night," and proceeded:
"But she lent over agin me kinda clost, an said if I'd come an work fer her
I wouldn't hafta work moren eight
hours a day, an she'd gimme [$30?] a month an board, with plenty ham, an chicken,
 an pie, an anything else I
 wanted. I reckoned she musta ben kinda bad off fer a man any [noe?],
the way she kept snugglin up to me in the seat, an me ugly as a skint buzzard.
"She wuz a homely ole varmit her sef, with her buck teeth, an long nose, an freckly neck.
 But by then I wuz so dad-blamed hongry my belly wuz growin fast to muh backbone,
 an me broke as a jaybird. So I tole er I'd hire out to er fer a while, an maybe longer.
"By good dusk we got to her farm, bout a mile back fum the road in a hammock.
She had a good house an stable,
 with a mule, an plenty chickens an some hawgs an cows in the yard pens.
So I thought I might could stan it a while, any how.
"As we pulled up to the porch there wuz a [scroochin?], an out poured five
 head-a younguns, all sizes fum knee-
high to a saplin boy about 10--an all their heads so red you coulda lit
a cigarette on em. When they seen me
they all run behind the house an pecked at me fum around the corners,
skairt like. But I started makin funny
faces at em, an dancin a jig, an they soon made up with me.
"Well, the ole gal tuck me in an fed me up and bedded me down, an I wuz
 treated like a rich uncle fum then on.
After bouta week eatin good vittles an bein [?] a plenty, I sez to mysef, sez
 I[:?] "Well, old double-ugly, looks like you done won yo'sef a home, an a famly to boot.
But, thinks I, this lady's shore-nuff hard up fer a man, takin the likes-a me to raise.'
"Things rocked along thataway thee-four weeks. But fore long I got to messin up with
another gal down the road apiece.
 Carried her to a peanut bilin an a coupla frolics, an sich like. But when the widder
 found it out she started
rompin on me an pesterin me to marry her. Well, I looked at them buck teeth, an them
spindly laigs, an thoughts
 that litter a-kids, an tole er I wuzzent no marryin man. [Made?] but like
I already had a wife in [?].
"But she kep ding-dongin me right on, an said if I'd marry her she'd gimme half
the farm an stock, an a hunnerd
dollars to boot. I felt right sorry fer the ole dame, but couldn't stummick marryin her.
 I even swore I had T. B.,
the ketchin kind, an tole er all my famly went crazy soon as they got married, an had
to be sent to Chattyhoochy.
But nuthin I said fazed her. I declare, she wuz the hell-bentist woman on gittin
 married I ever seen.
"Finally she kep hen-peckin me till I got to whur I wuz plum fed up, an couldn't
stan it no longer.
So one day I drove her ole flivver to town, makin out I wuz goin for scratch feed,
an left the car there
an tuck a train fer Fort [Meade?]. I'd already drawed a month's wagon, an she owed
 me some more, but I never ast her fer it.
"Back-a Fort Meade I gotta job woods-ridin for a teppentine camp,
 an stuck at that bout a year, kinda hidin
out agin. When I putt in a year er two [?]; worked as guard on a
chain gang; made shine fer bout a year;
cow-hunted some, an done a lotta other things till 1936.
"Then I heard they wuz makin big money raisin tuck down in Lee County,
 so I went down there an rented me a
piece-a land an putt in a crop uv tomaters an beans. That year I shore
 made mysef a killin. Cleaned up $2,000
 cash money.
"Then I met a nize old gal I'd knowed when we wuz youngsters. She wuz a-visitin
 some fokes clost to my farm.
Well, we found out we liked each other right much yit, so we got married an
kep on farmin fer a while. I still got her, an a little money, so we aint so
 frightnin bad off. She's got religion--the Holy Roller kind, an she's shore
a good woman. She's even got me readin the Bible a right smart, too.
"Next we're a-goin back to Lee County and drive round till we find a little
 farm at jist suits us. Then I'll buy it an settle down--maybe.
At this point the trailer door opened and a neat, pleasant-faced
little woman with graying bobbed hair leaned out.
 She placed two spread fingers across her mouth, pursed her lips and
squirted out a hissing stream of snuff juice
 that hit the ground with a smack. Then she saw us, blushed, and smiled a little sheepishly.
"Hey, old woman," Jaydy cackled, "this [genman's?] a book writer by trade,
 an he's puttin me in a book. Whaddya think a-that!"
"Pleased to meet you," she nodded and smiled, "but I hope you won't putt
me in yer book too, with this ole
raggedy frock on. I aint had time to do no washin sence we left [Dee-troit?]."
The dress wuz neat, clean and pretty, if a little faded. The writer asked: "
Are you glad to get back to Florida, Mrs. [Abbin?]?"
"I shore am proud to be in Floridy agin. I wuz raised heah, an so wuz
all my kin people. If I'd-a had my
[crtnors?] we wouldn't a-went off up there. I druther a-staid down here.
 But Jaydy wanted to go." Her brown eyes beamed on him, as she continued[:?]
"I met some mighty nice fokes up there, but their vittles aint fitten to eat.
 Why, them Yankee storekeepers
don't even know what grits is, ner turnip greens, ner [haslet?].
 I'm a-cookin a mess-a haslet now. Jady loves it too."
(Haslet, it was explained, consists of the lungs and liver of a hog,
 made into a kind of stew).
After a little further conversation, the caller said goodbye to the couple,
 and was cordially invited to
"come back," and to visit them on their farm when they got settled.
 She walked away, Jaydy called after him:
"[Say?], misto, I aimed to tell you but I forgot--This here's that
 Birdie Lee I wuz tellin you bout." He patted her arm and grinned proudly.
AUTHOR'S NOTE.--In twenty years of frequent contact with rural natives of Florida,
 the writer has observed that they are far from consistent in their use of
 native peculiarities of speech. This is probably due to
most of them having associated for periods with northern people and
with better educated Floridians. For example, a "Cracker" will sometimes say
"hit" for "it," and at other times pronounce the word correctly.
Also, he may either articulate his r's or slur them in using the same
words at different times. He may at
times say "muh" or "mah" for "my," or use the word correctly.
 The same inconstany provails in the use of all
other words and phrases. Therefore, the inconsistencies of speech in
 "Jaydy's" recital as chronicled here
should be attributed to literal recording instead of careless writing.

{Begin handwritten} Life Save and [?] - History - Jeanette Bevely,
 Diggs {End handwritten}

Federal Writers' Project
Paul Diggs
Lakeland, Florida
Janurary 13, 1939
Bevely, Dave and Jeanette
34 Lake Wire Drive
Lakeland, Florida
Dave was stopping traffic at the busy intersection of Iowa Avenue and the Atlantic
Coast Line Railroad. There,
he stood with the round galvanized sign with a handle, and the word "stop" printed
 on both sides. He was
holding it above his head to warn the on coming drivers in the automobiles that
 a train was approaching. The
grinding of brakes on the mighty steel wheels could be heard as the Limited came
pounding down the track
enroute to Tampa, Florida. Dave said, "you better step back, this train makes
a plenty of dust when it pauses.
" All of a sudden it passed, and the dust flew like a whirlwind. He then waved
for the traffic to move on.
In a few minutes the Avenue was cleared of the heavy traffic until time for
the next train to pass. In his courteous way he waved for cars to go and come, seeing
 to their safty in passing the grade crossing.
 After completing his duty, Dave invited me to his little shed that sits
beside the main line. There he rested himself on two rocks placed on top of one another.
 On the other side of the door was a nail keg with
 a burlap sack on it for a pillow. The shed was four feet
in dimension, with a small stove sitting in the
north-west corner,and a water cooler sitting on a stand in the other corner.
 There was a delapidated chair
 covered also with a burlap sack. Three lantern were on a shelf on the west
side, these he used at night to
stop traffic. On the out side was a pile of wood, cut and ready to burn in
case he needed a fire. He had
prepared it for his shift, which was from three oclock P.M. to eleven oclock P.M.
 Dave said, "four passenger
trains, and six freight trains passes while I am on duty."
Dave lives in a section house at 34 Lake Wire Drive with his family
consisting his wife Jeanette, age 41,
three step children Mildred, age 19, who takes in washing at home;Minnie
Lee, age [?], who does the same;
and Junior, age13. The step-children away from home are Lee Early,
age 25- married and lives in Trilby, Fla.
Theodore, age [?], married and has two children. Theodore lives next door
to Dave in house number thirty two. Dave stated that he was born in Jefferson
County, Florida. December 5th, 1886. His father was Fred ,
and mother Francis Bevely. He said, "that he has heard his father say
he was five years old when freedom
was declared. There were fourteen children in the family- seven boys and
 seven girls. The surviving five live in various section of the State.
His father married Julia Fern, after the death of his mother.
"My parents were farmers in Jefferson County. I ran away from home when
I was between twelve and thirteen years old.
 I strayed away on account of the treatment I received from my stepmother.
 Lots of boys stray away from home on
that account. "When I became a man I returned home, and there I married
 to my first wife Rosetta Turner, at
[monticella?],in Jefferson County, 1908. We separated in later years.
 I then married my second wide Jeanette Hallman,in 1932, Lakeland, Florida.
We have no children." "During my first marriage in 1908 I settled in Alauchua County.
 I worked on the section gang, on a tramroad. They used wood burners engines.
 I received 1.50 per day.
 I came to Folk County, where I began working at the
Pebbledale Phosphate mine. I averaged on this job around seven dollars a week.
We lived in the quarters built
for the workers. After working there for three years I returned
 to Jefferson County, and worked on the farm
with my father. Later I went to Morehaven, in Glades County.
 There I worked on the extra gang of the Atlantic
Coast Line putting down railroad rails. Part of the time I cooked for the workers
in the gang. Afterwards
I quit the extra gang and went to work on the section gang with
 headquarters in LakeWales, Florida. Here I
worked from January to November in 1925. During this year I left
 and moved to Lakeland, Florida. Where I
 have been ever since during the same kind of work on the section gang.
 Most of my work has been in the yard here in Lakeland. This job that I
 am holding down now, was given to me when the old man [was?] retired
who use to be watchman here. When on the section gang I received 1.60 a day.
Now I make 50.00 a month. I have
 been at this work little over a year. There has not been an accident on
this crossing since I took it over." "I have to attend Safty
 Meetings held at different places.
 To be safe yourself you have to learn to make others safe.
 All of my luck comes from a good work record. I always wanted
to work well from a kid up."
"My brother Jim, is a watchman at the other crossing on Florida Avenue.
 We started in service together,
he is forty seven years old. I have another brother Bee who lives on the
 farm in Jefferson County." "I have a good boss-man, our foreman Mr.R.W. Sweat -
who heads up the Railroad Department." "I never went to school a day in my life.
 When I left home I could neither read nor write my name. Now
I can read and write anything. How I began, I would buy paper and envelopes,
 and had a friend who would do the writting for me. I wouldn't get any answer for
them and when I got wise I found that he was signing
his name to them. I noticed he would get lots of mail and could
tell me things about home. From then on I began to learn to read and write."
"Yes to my judgement I think a man should have an eduction. I read a good deal
 on this job. You see what I read.
" Dave arose form his stone seat and entered his shed, and brought out a few
[small?] books. They were as following:
 The Bible, The Child's Bible Question Book, The Pocket Treasury,
 The Emphazized Gospal of St John, and the Words of
Comfort and Consolation.
"I don't have time to fool with little old joke books. I tries to read
 something that will give me consolation to my soul."
In regard to voting Dave said, "no sir; I never voted, never been
interested in voting. Ever since I first heard
of colored people having trouble voting I never fooled with it.
"Yes Sir, I am a member of the Primitive Baptist Church, located on West
[?] Street. Our pastor is
Rev. C.B. Bartley,he pastors our church and one in St. Petersburg, Florida.
We hold service twice a month. I have been a churchman since 1905. I used to be
 president of the Usher Board,Usher, and a trustee.
I had to give up my church work on account of my job.
 My family they attend church regularly. A person could'nt
live a better life under [the?] Sun than a christian life.
 It's the finest life to live on earth.
This new fashion religion that they have now of days,
 I don't have no faith in it. This old fashion
religion will hold fast. It will stay with you."
"This new religion people will go out and get drunk,cuss, and fight,
 and go to church [?] [?] you praying. When I was small I would go to church,
 and at that time I was considered develish. I remember when I would
chunk stones at the chicken. My mother would take me to the field where
they were picking cotton. I was so small, they had a six pound sack ,
 and had to pick cotton too.
In making me work that kept me ut of mischief.I think that
started me off to work and being good." Dave is five feet and four inches in height,
 dark brown in complexion, he was dressed in overalls with a heavy
gold chain hanging with an expensive watch on it. He displayed his
watch and stated that it kept correct time.
He stated that he has to have it checked every week by the jeweler.
 His old felt hat was black. And his gold
teeth in front shined when he smiled. He has a pleasant personality,
and good common sense about conditions in general.
Every on is passing appeared to know him. They did not fail to speak to Dave.
Dave said, "that he did not have to pay any rent for his home. the company
supplies the house." The home
on Lake Wire is painted gray with white trimmings like all
the other section houses that line Lake Wire next
to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. His wife was very pleasant and from
observation she is a good housekeeper.
They have two bed rooms, and the furniture was in very good shape.
This day they were very neat in thier attire.
They stated that their grocery bill was never over 20.00 per month,
 and they have everything they want. Dave said,
"that he did not eat very much meat, some times a little bacon,
mostly I like vegetables and no sweets." There are about five more
 Colored families in this section, they are surrounded by white people. The exterior
appearence was good. The lawn was green and well kept. There was a fence
in front of the house and it was painted white. They all seemed to be happy together.
Dave said, "when I get off from work I go home and sleep, when
I wake up I chop wood, and work around the lawn.
I hardly have time to do anything else. I don't play any kind of games,
 I am too old for that now. I have to take
care of myself so I can make [a?] living for my family.
 During these times there is no time for a fellow to fool
At this time Dave said well I must get on the job, it is time for a
train to come through, and with a courteous
bow he said good bye.

Federal Writers' Project
Paul Diggs
Lakeland, Florida
March 3, 1939
Boyd, John and Rebecca
827 Missouri Avenue
Lakeland, Florida
In the City of Lakeland, located in the heart of the Citrus development of the State of Florida, there lives a Negro family who has seen Lakeland grow to it's present stage of development. They have maintained their respectability from their pionering period to the present time. The members of the family consist of, John and his wife Rebecca, their son Bryan, and John's two sisters Mary and Mattie. Mattie is the first Negro baby to be born in Lakeland, Florida. John is tall and rawboned. He walks a little bent over, he is dark in complexion, with many gray hairs in his head. John was born in Cario, Georgia, having passed his sixty fifth birthday. His parents were Willis J. and Gabrella Boyd. Rebecca is very small in size, four feet and five inches in height, dark brown in complexion, with gray hairs in her head. They were very congenial and above the average in intelligence. Rebecca said, " I will do the best I can to tell you about our early life, and what I found when I came to Lakeland in [1898?]. I came here from Thomasville, Georgia, where I was born. My parents Bryant and [Cherry Sanders?], were slaves. When I was small I used to hear them talk about slavery time. They said their slave master was Mr. [M.?.] Hutch. They [had?], father said, one hundred and fifty slaves on the plantation. He was considered a good slave master. Father died February [10?], 1895, at the age of seventy years old. My mother died in 1909. Our son Bryant was born in 1884, and I was born October 9,1870. I married John while he was working in Arcadia, Florida, December 12,1900. My parents rented land to farm on in Thomasville, Georgia. They once had one hundred and fifty acres, and called it a three horse farm. There were fifteen children in our family, all of them are deceased except myself. When we came to Lakeland we settled near the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, near Lake Weir. At that time, nearly all the colored people lived in that section. There was about one hundred colored people living in Lakeland at that time. Now I hear them say that we have nearly four thousand colored people in Lakeland . That's jumping up some. They came here from every place."Mattie was busy ironing in the back hallways. Rebecca called her. She came in and sat down." Now Mattie can tell you about herself. Mattie said," it is true that I am considered the first Negro child to be born in Lakeland . My parents were Willis J. and Gabrella Boyd. Willis died January 11, 1903, age 54. Gabrella died July 7, 1901, age 45. I was born May 1, 1886. I remembered the second colored child that was born in Lakeland , Lubenny Sullivan, (whose bible record was seen) was born June 14,1886. She is now living in Philadelphia, married and is known as Mrs. Livington. She has three grown children. I know well the first white child born in Lakeland\, she now lives in Tampa, Florida. Miss Dora Lee Bonaker, who is now Mrs Helm. Congressman, [A.?] J. Drane's son Orcian was born the same month that Miss Dora Lee was born.Where we lived was a wilderness. Pane street was near the depot. At that time Main, Pine, street, and Kentuckey avenue, were the main streets. Most of the business was located on Main street. I was born near Lake Weir along the railroad. Deep sand [trails?] with do [ruts?] in them. [?]. to your knees were the only paths and roadways. The big wheels of the ox-carts cut them like this. This was the only mode of travel then. I use to ride them many days. Slow riding to what we have now. But we thought we were getting there fast. In 1898 I saw soldiers who camped around Lake Weir, Lake Morton, and Lake Hunter. They were on their way to the Spanish American War in Cuba. You remember the sixth of May when the Battleship Maine was sunk in 1898. The soldiers began pouring in the last of April, and it was the last of August before they all left. Those were some exciting times around Lakeland . I remember the colored Tenth [Cavalry?], The Illinois., The Ist [regimen?] from Ohio, and the 77th of New York. All of these were white soldiers. This place was the backing up place from Tampa. As fast as the ships would take them to Cuba they would leave out of Lakeland . Some never did get to go to Cuba, because the Tenth Cavalry had whipped them out under Colonel, Rossevelt. These were some days. Talking about hard times, that was no name for it. I attended Elementary school, only going as far as the sixth grade. At that time they did not have any more grades, until Prof. W.A. Rochelle brought the school up to the eighth grade. I left Lakeland and finished my schooling in Ocala at the Emerson school, going through the High school course. The first colored school located in Lakeland was at Florida Avenue and Main street where the People's Bank Building now stands. When they moved it from there, they held school in the Methodist church one season, and in the Baptist church another, moving sometimes to the Masonic Hall. This was kept up until the first school was located in Morehead at Orange and Ohio Avenue in 1905. I taught in this school seven years, holding a third grade certificate. I have been married, but I divorced my husband. He is alive somewhere. Rebecca said, " Mattie has something to be proud of being the first colored child born in Lakeland and still living to tell about it. I went to school myself. I attended the Hamilton school in Thomasville, Georgia. I went as far as the seventh grade. The school building was built out of logs with only one large room. We had two teachers, and about one hundred and fifty children. At that time we only had three months schooling, way long before the last they gave us six months. This was not long after freedom. We would play jumping the rope, and sometimes baseball, the girls played on one side and the boys on the other. Back there they didn't mix up with the boys.
When I came to Lakeland, I was elected the First President of the Parent Teachers Association.
We started with twenty members which grew to fifty members when I gave it up.
 I think education is the greatest thing in the world today.
 I don't think there is enough association
of parents with teachers. Since Prof. Rochelle gave up the principleship we have not
 had the good fellowship with teachers.
Things are different. We didn't have so many wayward girls during our times.
When I first came here I remembered finding only eight Baptists, twenty five
 A M E Methodists, and five M E Methodists. I didn't know anything about
 Primitive Baptists at that time. That part of the
Baptists popped up later. I have been a member of the Harmany Baptist
Church thirty one years. John,
does not belong to any church. When I was active in church,
 I was President of the B Y P U, teacher of
the first Bible Class, treasurer of the Sunday School, head of
the Deaconess Board, and President, once,
of the Women's Home Missionary Society. I tried to give my soul to my church work.
 I think that the saving of souls has retarded in the last few years.
 I think the cause of the condition is slackness on the part of
the churches today. Years ago they were better. The Old folks
 don't have any power over the young folks, because they set wrong kind of examples[!?]
" I had to give up all work when I had this stroke in 1935.
 I had the stroke on my left side. Now you see
I am able to walk and use my hand. I had all of my teeth pulled out.
You know bad teeth can poison your whole system. Before I was swepted off of my feet,
I weighed one hundred and thirty pounds. I suffer mostly
from "High Blood Pressure" I have to watch my eating very carefully.
Speaking of food- I remembered right after freedom how cheap things were.
 Around 1878 you could get a large
hog for $1.50; butter 15 a pound; bushel of potatoes 20 bushel of
corn 25;eggs sold two dozen for 15, and
you had to carry them eight and ten miles to the next town to sell them.
 A big change now. With this trouble
I am having, it cost me a great deal for special food that I have to eat.
 I only eat fish, lamb, grits, butter,
whole wheat bread, and corn bread when it is cooked well. Before I had this
stroke I could eat anything.
John and the rest of the family eat most any thing. I worry a great deal at
 times because I am not able to work like I used to. When I was on the farm
in Georgia I was strong and worked hard. I hoed and picked cotton
on my fathers farm. We only received 40 a hundred. A hundred pound was a whole
lot of cotton to pick back there. They didn't have the cultivation like they have now.
If you made thirty five cents a day you would do better
than those who worked in domestic service, because they only made
 [$?] 1.00 per week. Some places they would
only make $ 1.00 a month doing the housework and cooking.
You sometime had to cook for eight and ten in the family.
I had my family to feed and look out for. The way the mistress did,
 was to tell you to put a [peck?] of potatoes
in the stove. When ordered to go to the smoke house, you were told to get
the odds and ends of the meat to cook
with the greens. What was left you could give to your children. That's the
way they made up for their low pay.
And that's the way the pan came about, I mean servants carrying pans home
when they finished work. Carrying pans
home is no new thing. My child would starve if I didn't carry a pan home at night.
 Mistress would give us all the
old clothes and shoes. After President Grover Cleveland and Harrison,
times changed and things began to pick up.Sometimes we would get from $2.00 to $ 2.50 a week.
 Things began to get better still after President
William McKinley's and Theodore Roosevelt's time.
 when we came to Florida we found wages better than we got
in Georgia. I hav'nt worked out very much. I worked up a good
laundry business here at home. I would average from $ 4.00 to $15.00 a week
when times were good.I thought once that this stroke I have came from washing
a great deal. I was taught when I married John to care for him.
 A women's place was at home. I thought my duty
way back there was to cook, mend clothes, and keep a good clean house for him.
 I knew [if I?] was away I could
not do that. I am from the old school. Things are different now.
 Everybody goes, and home takes care of itself.
John followed work in the Phosphate mines from 1900 to 1907 with the "Tiger
 Bay Phosphate Company" they are out of business now. He also railroaded some,
working here in the Coast Line railroad yard until 1925. On this job
he would average sometimes $ 100.00 a month. John is a good well digger.
 He makes from $ 5.00 up to $ 100.00 putting in wells and sprinkle systems in the graves.
He had a call this morning to come out to Colonial drive
to clean out a well. John farms on our twenty acre farm located
in the South-West section of Lakeland . It is
where Old Pa [Dix] lived. You remember the old man who was over a
hundred years old when he died. That's the place.
 The shack is right on our land. We let a man stay in there now.
 John has'nt done so well with the farm this year.
Bryant works on relief. Mattie and Mary stay at home and help with
the laundry work. Mattie makes around five
dollars every week. Work is not so plentiful now, lot of folks do their
own work at home. I am fond of laundry work.
What little John and myself accumulated came partly from my laundry work.
We would put our little bits together
so we could have something. Once we owned fourteen houses on this street.
 We lost them during the depression.
All we saved was our home place and the twenty acres.
Some times, I begin to think that is too much since I have been unable to work.
 Bryant helps me out a lot.
He is one son who has stuck to his mother. It took lots of money to get me back in shape.
 If it were not for the help from this relief work we could not have pulled through.
It has been lots of help to us. I have
tried to get an old age pension, but I hav'nt been able to prove my age.
 About this laundry work around the town,
I recall when colored women did nearly all of it. Now they have big places
to do the laundry work, and that
cuts us down same. A few folks like it the old way. If I were able to vote again
 I would vote for the democrats. I have voted since they allowed women to vote.
 John votes, too. We never had any trouble voting. We felt
like we had a right to vote paying so much taxes every year.
Since I had this stroke I can't walk very far. I try to walk
to the stores on Florida Avenue and back again
to give me exercise. Outside of that I keep busy with light work around the house.
 My biggest fun is working around the flowers and attending to my chickens.
John usually piddles around the house and yard when he is home.
 Some times he walks up the street and sits on the Knights of
 [Chythian's?] steps on Florida Avenue, and gossips with some of his old cronies.
 When Bryant finishes work he like to dress up and walk down the street, or go to
the movies. He likes moving pictures. You can see for yourself that Mattie
 and Mary are just plain home folks,they go to church on Sunday's and that's about all.
I don't go around like I used too, I miss doing the little
things for folks in the community. When I was active I tried to do
 my best as long as I could. I liked it too, to
 help other. I believe that is the reason the Lord has blessed me
in my afflictions so far. To the delight of Rebecca, John came home. She said,
 " I am glad you came home while "Professor" is here [."?]
He shook hands and expressed his appreciation in my calling.
 He shunned his overalls, and washed his face, and hands,
and returned in a fresh overall and joined in the interview.
John stated that if you are talking about old time I can tell you
a few thing, if Rebecca has told you our
story would be about the same. You know a white man by the name of
 Mr. V.W. Stephenson, who lives at 937 W. 5th street.
 He used to live in a little house on 7th St near the Washington Park.
Now he was the first man to sell me a lot in this town.
 He was one of the first white men to settle here in 1882 some years before I came.
 I have heard him say that Lakeland was named by Dr. Andrews.
 He aught to know because he was in the meeting when it was named.
 Right after then they layed the [town?] off in 1883 and 1884.
 They call him Judge now, he still owns lots of
property in the white and colored section. The colored park he deeded
it to the City to be used for a Negro park.
I have worked hard trying to have something. I have never made anything easy in my life.
 From the looks of me it look like I have been a good man in my days.
Since some of the folks have gone back to trucking and farming
I have been kept busy digging wells and putting in sprinkling systems.
 I guess Rebecca told you about it. I think hard times has run them back to the soil.
 This has slowed me down with my work on my little farm.
I don't have time to look after it like I aught too. You have a hard time to
get some one to help you farm here
in this town. Most of the colored men don't have farming in their bones,
 that's funny most of them came here off
of the farm and it is hard to get them back to it.I have made pretty good off it at times.
 If nothing more, it has kept me out of the paper sack. We get all the
fresh vegetables we want. The most I plant is corn, beans, tomatoes, pepper,
[oats?], onions, squash, collard,[mustards?], and [sometime?] I try my hand at strawberries.
 I have my [land?] cultivated where it raises most anything.
I have had some whopping good [watermelons?] out there. I happen to have some sandy spots.
It takes that for watermelons. I do most of my planting by the moon. I don't
 know anything about this new method
of farming. I [tak'] mine out of the old way of farming. It usually works.
Well when it comes to digging wells I am considered to be the best in this section.
 That bragging [on herself?]. But the white folks say so. They aught to know.
 I have followed it for years. I learned it while working around
the [Phosphate?] mines. We always had to sink a pipe to get water
 and I worked with [that?] crew. I can usually
tell by sounding where to find water. All I have to dois to see the [mud?]
and I can soon tell you if there is good water there. I hardly miss, some
places I have to dig deeper than others. The best wells are dug thirty
feet or deeper. You miss all of the top drainage. You know the water
 beneath the surface ran off in section, every
so many feet. Some people say pump water will make you sick.
That's because it is nothing deep enough. People
[pour?] out their dish water, wash water, and some have their
 septic tools to close when the pump is not deep enough.
 That's the reason why. We have to pull up pipes every now and then and clean
off the points. You have seen them.
There is is a sharp point on the end, and it gets clogged up some time.
"Old age is about to get me now, I am not as active as I once was.
I have lost lots of money fooling with
 property, worries, big doctor bills, and all that works on a fellow pretty badly.
 You have to be a good draft horse to pull the load.
You know conditions are not like they use to be.
I have seen big changes around here. I honestly think the Government is doing
 all it can to help people and business.But the people must help themselves some too.
Many people are stuck in these towns. With all of this open country
they could get out and grow something.That would help to thin them out.
About my religion, I bet Rebecca has been telling you about it.I speck I oughter
get some kind of religion by this time. You will have to bring in a new flock
of preachers to save me now. If I didn't see so much maybe
I would do a little better. I give my share to the church even
if I don't go. When them big rallies come off,
they see my money, but they don't see me. I live my life.
So far I think it has been a pretty good one.
One thing I am not fed up on lots of false beliefs.
When I had a good car I used to enjoying muself riding around looking at farms.
 If I have a good walk now I am happy." John was called by a white man who knocked at
 the door and this conclude his interview. Rebecca,
said," I am so glad you had a chance to talk to him, they don't
 let him stay home long. The home of John and Rebecca is located on a very sandy Avenue.
 It is a large ten room weather- boarded house.
Very well constructed and the exterior is painted white.
 There is a large porch extending across the front
lower and upper, with large cement pillars. Vines are growing on trellises
 on both sides of the porch.
 Ferns in alrge pots sit on each side of the entrance. There are four wicker
 rocking chairs on the lower porch.
 The upper porch was bare of furnishing. The lawn had a good growth of
 green grass with foliage along the
side of the fence. Two large ferns were on each side of the entrance.
 The back yard was not so orderly.
And in out house sat on the north side with a big iron.
It sitting in the middle of the yard. Mary was
 busy boiling clothes. [??] this [ct.?] wire and chicken yard
 was built on the southside. It was filled
with chickens. Rebecca was proud of her chickens. Near the chicken
yard was an in out house and some orange trees.
Entering the house, you step into a small hallway. There was an old
 [?] in the corner and a stand near the
door with a calling card dish sitting on pretty embroidered scarf,
pretty blue and black blocken linoleum was
on the floor. To the left, on the north side, was a combination
 sitting and dining room. In this room was
an old time [?], six chairs, one china closet, and sewing machine, large dining
 table, a small table with dishes
on it in one corner, and brown linoleum was on the floor with a few
pictures on the wall.
The room on the south side was a bed room, [consisting?] of a double bed,
 [?] wicker chair, a wash stand,
clothes were hanging on the wall in the corner, and the floor was covered
 with a light brown rug.
[?] through a [?] in the hallway you come to another bedroom. [It?] contained
a double bed, wash stand, and two chairs. The clothes in the room were hanging
 on the wall. The floor covering was a green grass rug.
The room adjoining this one was a bed room with a double bed,
 a cot, several chairs and a worn grass rug.
 Across from this bed room was a small kitchen that contained an
 old wood stove, and a closet in which there
were dishes and kitchel utensils. There was no covering on the floor.
 In the back hallway, Mary was busy at her ironing again.
The steps leading to the second floor were located in the back hallway.
 The rooms on the second floor were
given over to bed rooms, all neatly furnished and clean. All of the windows
 had good curtains and shades to them.
The house was ceiled, some of the rooms on the lower floor needed repainting.
 Electric lights was in all of the rooms.
John returned from mission and said, " If I did'nt have good white friends
I don't know what would happen to me.
I have always got along swell with them. All of my work is for them.
I think we have a pretty good town.
I know all of the old settlers and they will do most anything for me.
 It is how you treat yourself. I always mind my own business, and know how far to go.
 It is a blessing to live to see how things has changed.
 We did'nt have all the good things these children have today.
 I hate to say it in spite of it all they don't
take advantage of their opportunities. We had to get and git back yonder.
 Again he had a caller, and in bidding the family good bye he said he would like for me to
see him drill a well some time. Mattie and Rebecca has all
smiles, and pleased over having their life's happening written up.

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Peggy McSwain
Thank you Odell