"Giddap da, ole mule! Is yo' all gwine putter round heah all day and me a wantin' to git to Victoria fast?"
A colored lad of maybe 14 years of age whacked at the sides of the ambling mule he was riding with a limber branch and signed mournfully, wearily. He was leving behind hi the familiar scenes of the Beaumont country and proceeding to a new home n Victoria. As he rode he pondered on what his brother, Joe Mishs, was doing, left back in Jefferson County. If he had known that they would never meet again, even more gloomy would have been his countenance.
Far away, miles east of the Mississippi, the guns of the Civil War were booming, but this slave of Jack Hilibrant did not know it. There was some idle conversation now and then in the cotton fields or around the stove at night about some future day when the colored boy would be a free man, but a dream could have interested youthful Antoine Jefferson no less. Thus far in his short life he had lived a carefree existence in Jefferson County with his mother and father and some of his ten brothers and sisters. The most trying experience of his few years was this trip by mule, alone, from Beaumont to Victoria while his family was making the trip by boat.
"Giddap, da, yo' all! I'se sure tired of dis heah ridin' along in de dirt! Some of ma mammy's corn bread would be pow'ful tasty right now!"
this was one of the first chapters in the life of Antoine Jefferson, ex-slave and long-time resident of Matagorda County, who died in May, 1944.
Perhaps because his life had spanned nearly a century of life in these United States, the passing of Antoine was widely noted in Matagorda County. He had been a hard working man, had saved enough money to buy 100 acres of land on Wilson Creek, and, finally, a home in Blessing. He had married twice, his first wife being Frances Aliniece and his second, Sarah V. Jefferson. He had one son, his namesake, and four daughters, Ila M. Wells and Lettie Smith of Houston; Adline Stinnett of El Paso and Clara Walker of Oakland, Cal. People loved old Antoine; he was a friend and so had friends.
In reminiscent mood, Antoine sometimes talked of life back in Jefferson County when he was a small boy. Life in those days was quite different, he would recall. The slave family lived in a one-room mud shack with very little furniture. His mother had one feather mattress and the chilluns slept on moss mattresses.
That good old mammy of his cooked in a skillet over a fireplace, producing a diet of cornbread, beef, potatoes and hominy for her large family. "This fancy food," Antoine would muse, presented with a salad or a dessert, "we didn't know anything about such." If the fire went out in the fireplace--and every effort was made to see that it did not--fire must be borrowed from the neighbors in return for an armful of kindling.
Antoine never forgot the picture his mother made at the spinning wheel, making cloth for her family's clothing, not the picture he made in the homespuns that were allotted to him.
Antoine was a man when he because the slave of a Mrs. Patterson. She taught him to wash, iron and cook. Then cam Emancipation and he was taken from Mrs. Patterson, across the Arionoa River and later to a ranch on the Garse River. Here he worked hard and food was very scarce. In 1865 he became a free man.
At a loss for a time he soon began to work for Mr. B. G. Grimes who operated a slaughter house on Tres Palacios Creek. Here he worked for many years and was loved by the entire family.
Later he was employed by Mr. Nolan Keller who was his lifelong friend and to Mr. Keller's family he was deeply devoted.
Many are the other families in Matagorda County who knew Antoine well and who felt in His passing that another fragment of the pre-war era had gone forever.
The Daily Tribune, July 13, 1944
Copyright 2007 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Apr. 22, 2007
Apr. 23, 2007