b. 2 October 1852, d. 23 February 1942
- Isaac was born on 2 October 1852 in Montgomery County, Texas, at Greenwood plantation near old Danville.
- He was known as Ike.
- His job as a 12-year-old at Greenwood was to mind the cows and sheep, mounted on a mule, turning cows out into harvested fields, keeping them out of unharvested crops, and also keeping dogs from the sheep.
- On Wednesday, 27 December 1865, Green Wood recorded in his plantation daily account book: "Edmon & Family moved."
- Following emancipation, Isaac adopted the name Isaac Martin.
- Edmon and Mariah appeared in the US federal census of 1 June 1870 in Danville, Montgomery County, Texas. Other members of the household included Isaac, Betty and Louisa Martin.
- He was a farmer, according to the 1870 census.
- He married Mary on 28 October 1872 in Montgomery County, Texas.
- Isaac and Mary appeared in the US federal census of 1 June 1880 in Montgomery County, Texas. Other members of the household included Layton Martin, Edmund Martin, Isaac Martin and William Martin.
- He was a farmer, according to the 1880 census.
- He married Rhoda (?) on 3 July 1907 in Jefferson County, Texas.
- Isaac and Rhoda (?) appeared in the US federal census of 15 April 1910 in Fullerton, Vernon Parish, Louisiana. Other members of the household included George Martin and James McGowen.
- He was employed cutting logs, according to the 1910 census.
- Isaac and Rhoda (?) appeared in the US federal census of 1 January 1920 in Voth, Jefferson County, Texas. Also in the household were six boarders.
- He was working at a sawmill, according to the 1920 census.
- Isaac and Rhoda (?) appeared in the US federal census of 1 April 1930 in Voth, Jefferson County, Texas, enumerated next to Rhoda's son Jim McGowan.
- He was a truck farmer, according to the 1930 census.
- James McGowen and Hassie (?) appeared in the US federal census of 1 April 1940 in Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas, at 2 Roman Street. Other members of the household included Isaac Martin, Rhoda (?). In 1935 they all were living in Voth.
- At the time of his death Isaac was living in Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas, at 2 Dollinger.
- Isaac died on 23 February 1942 at age 89 in Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas, at Barnwell Community Clinic.
- His wife Rhoda (?) became a widow at his death.
- He was interred at Blanchette Cemetery, Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas.
- Children of Edmon born between 1842 and 1858, were recorded by Green Wood.
The following narrative, as told by Isaac Martin, was recorded as part of the 1936-1938 WPA Federal Writers' Project. Isaac Martin and his wife Rhoda were living at that time in Voth, Jefferson County, Texas.
Dis ol' man jes' layin' 'roun'. Ain't nuttin' to him no mo'. I done wo' out. I jes' waitin' for de Good Marster to call po' ol' Isaac home to Glory.
When dey read de proclamation to my mammy and daddy dey mek 'em give eb'rybody' age in de fam'ly. I was twelve year' ol' den.
I was bo'n up here in Montgomery county 'bout t'ree mile from Willis upon de I&GN Railroad. I holp to buil' dat I&GN Railroad.
Ol' Major Wood he my daddy' marster, and 'course he mine too. He was well fixed. He had 'bout seb'nty or eighty wukkin' slaves and I dunno how many li'l niggers. I didn' know nuttin' 'bout ol' Missus, Mrs. Wood. I jis' 'member she a big fat woman. Dey didn' 'low no li'l nigger chillun up in de yard 'roun' de big house 'cep'n' to clean up de yard, and dem what done dat, dey hatter be jis' like dat yard, clean as peckerwoods.
Ol' marster he warn't mean. He nebber whip' 'em jis' so iffen anybody say de slave orter be whip. Dey hafter see him and tell him what dey done befo' he give de order to de overseer to whip. Iffen he don' t'ink dey orter be whip, he say don' whip 'em and dey don' git whip.
I had to mind de cows and de sheep. I had a mule to ride 'roun' on. It was dis way, I hafter mind de cows. Ol' marster he plant dif'rent fiel's in co'n, fifty or sixty or a hundred acres. When dey harvestin' de co'n, when dey git one fiel' done dey tu'n de cows in so dey kin eat on de stalks and nubbins what lef' in dat fiel'. I got to ride 'roun' and see de cows don' bus' over from one fiel' what dey done harves' into de other fiel' where dey wukkin', or what ain't been harves' yet. I jis' like dat, ridin' dat mule 'roun' de fiel' and keepin' de cows in.
Den dere was five or six of us boys to keep de dogs out de sheep. You know iffen de dogs git in de sheep dey ap' to kill 'em.
Us go huntin' wid de dogs lots of time, and lots of time us ketch rabbits. Dey was six dogs, and de rabbits we kotch was so much vittles for us. I 'member one night us went out huntin' and ketch fo' or five rabbits. Us tek 'em home and clean and dress 'em, and put 'em in de pot to have big rabbit supper. I was puttin' some red pepper in de pot to season 'em, and den I rub my eyes wid my han' and git dat pepper in my eyes and it sho' burn. You know how red pepper burn when it git in your eyes, I nebber will forgit 'bout dat red pepper. De ol' folks uster show us how to fix de t'ings we ketch huntin', and cook 'em.
Ol' marster sho' t'ought mo' of his li'l nigger chillen. He uster ride in de quarters 'cause he like to see 'em come runnin'. De cook, she was a ol' woman name' Forney, and she had to see atter feedin' de chillen. She had a way of callin' 'em up. She holler, "Tee, tee, t-e-e"; and all us li'l niggers jis' come runnin'. Ol' marster he ride up and say, 'Forney, call up dem li'l pickaninnies,' and ol' Forney she lif' up her voice and holler, "Tee, t-e-e, t-e-e," and ol' marster jis' set up on de hoss and laugh and laugh a lot to see us come runnin' up. He like to count how many li'l niggers he did have. Dat was fun for us too. I 'member dat jes' like yestiddy.
"Nuttin' went hard wid me. Fur's I know 'bout slav'ry dem was good times."
Dey had 'bout t'ree or fo' hundred of sheep. My father hafter kill a mutton eb'ry Friday for de house. Dey bring up de sheep and somebody hol' de head 'cross a block and my father cut de head off wid a hatchet. Sheeps is de pitifullest t'ings to kill. Dey jis' give up. And dey cries, too. But a goat, he don' give up, naw suh, he talk' back to you to de las'.
I 'member one time dey gwine to give a school feas', and dey gwine kill a goat. Dey hang dat goat up to a tree by he hind legs so de blood drain good. Dey cut he t'roat, dat's de way dey gwine kill 'im. Dat goat seem like he kep' on talkin' and sayin' "Please, God, don' kill me" to de las', but dat ain't done no good. Dat goat jis' beg to de las'.
My ol' marster he live in a big house. Oh, it was a palace. It had eight or nine rooms. It was buil' outer logs, and moss and clay was stuff' twixt de logs. Dere was boards on de outside and it was all ceil' nice on de inside. He lived in a mansion.
Dey was plenty rich. Ol' marster he had a ol' waitin' man all dress up nice and clean. Now if you wanter talk to ol' marster you hafter call for dat ol' waitin' man. He come and you tell him what you want and den he go and tell ol' marster and den he say, "Bring him in,'"and den you go in and see de ol' marster and talk your business, but you had to be nice and hol' your hat under your arm.
Dey's big rich people. Sometime' dey have parties what las' a week. Dey was havin' dere fun in dere way. Dey come in kerridges and hacks.
My father was de hostler and he hafter keep de hosses and see 'bout feedin' 'em. Dey had a sep'rate li'l house for de saddles. Ol' marster he kep' good hosses. He warn't mean.
He had a great big pasture and lots of times people go camp in it. You see it was disaway, de Yankees dey got rushin' de American people, dat de Confed'rates, dey kep' comin' furder and furder wes', 'till dey come to Texas and den dey can't go much furder. De Yankees kep' crowdin' 'em and dey kep' on comin'. When dey camp in ol' marster' pasture, he give 'em co'n. I see 'em dribe a whole wagon load of co'n and dump it on de groun' for dey hosses. De Yankees nebber come 'till de war close. Den dey come all through dat country. Dat was destruction, it seem to me like. Dey take what dey want.
When freedom come and de proclamation was read and de ol' marster tol' 'em dey was free and didn' have no ol' marster no mo' some of de slaves cried. He tell 'em, "I don't want none of you to leave." "I'll give you $8.00 a mont'." All de ol' folks stay and help gadder dat crop. It sho' griebe ol' marster and he didn' live long atter dey tek his slaves 'way from him. Well, it jis' kill' him, dat's all. I 'members de Yankees on dat day dey sot to read de proclamation. Dey was gwine 'roun' in dey blue uniform' and a big long sword hangin' at dey side. Dat was cur'osity to dem niggers.
When ol' marster want to go out, he call he li'l nigger serbent to go tell my father what was de hostler, to saddle up de hoss and bring him 'roun'. Den ol' marster git on him. He had t'ree steps, so he could jis' go up dem steps and den his foot be right at de stirrup. My daddy hol' de stirrup for him to put he other foot in it.
I was big 'nuff to run after him and ax him to gimme a dime. He laugh and sometime he gimme de dime. Sometime he pitch it to me and I run and grab it up and say, "T'ankee, marster," and he laugh and laugh.
Ol' mistus she had a reg'lar cook. Dat was my mudder's mudder. Eb'ryt'ing had to be jis' so, and eb'ryt'ing nice and clean.
Dey didn' do no reg'lar wuk on Sunday. Eb'ry Sunday one of de other wimmins hafter tek de place of de cook so she could git off. All of 'em what could would git off and go to de chu'ch for de preachin'. Dem what turn didn' come one Sunday, would go anudder 'till dey all got 'roun' to go.
Marster had two or t'ree hundred head of cattle. My gran'father, Guilford, had a mule and hoss of he own. Uncle Hank was his brudder, and he had de sheep department to look atter. Sometime de niggers git a hoss or a sheep over, den de marster buy 'im. Some of de niggers had a li'l patch 'roun' dey cabin' and dey raise veg'table. Ol' marster he buy de veg'table sometime. I didn' know what freedom was. I didn' know wedder I needed it or not. Seem to me like it was better den dan now, 'cause I gotter look out for myself now.
Us uster be on de watch-out for ol' marster. De fus' one see him comin' lit out and open de gate for him to ride froo and ol' marster toss him a nickle.
When it was time to eat, do ol' cook she holler out, "T-e-e, t-e-e, t-e-e-e" and all us li'l niggers come runnin'. She have a big tray and each of us have a wessel and a spoon. She fill' us wessel and us go eat and den us go back for mo'. Us git all us want. Dey give us supper befo' de han's come in from de fiel' and what wid playin' 'roun' all day and eatin' all us could hol' in de afternoon, twarn't long befo' us li'l niggers ready to go to sleep.
One t'ing, ol' marster didn' want his niggers to run about. Sometime dey want to go over to anudder plantation on Sunday. Den he give 'em a pass iffen he willin' for 'em to go. Dey had patterrollers to ride from plantation to see iffen dey was any strange niggers dere.
When dey wanter marry, de man he repo't to ol' marster. He want his niggers to marry on his own plantation. He give 'em a nice li'l supper and a big dance. Dey had some sort of license but ol' marster tek care of dat. He had two sons what had farms and slaves of dere own. Ol' marster didn' care if his slaves marry on his sons' farms. If any of de slaves do mean, he mek 'em work on Sunday. He didn' b'leeb in beatin' 'em.
So many of 'em as could, usually go to de white folks chu'ch on Sunday and hear de white preacher. Dey sit off to deyse'fs in de back of de chu'ch. Dem what stay at home have a cullud preacher. Dey try to raise 'em up social.
Dey had a ol' woman to look after de babies when dey mammies was out in de fiel'. Dey have a time sot for de mammies to come in and nuss de babies. De ol' woman she had helpers. Dey had a big house and cradle' fer dem babies where de nuss tek care of 'em.
When anybody die dey have a fun'rel. All de han's knock off work to 'tend de fun'rel. Dey bury de dead in a ho'made coffin.
I nebber pay no 'tenshun to talk 'bout ghos'es. I nebber b'leeb in 'em. But one time comin' from chu'ch my uncle' wife say, "Ike, you eber see a ghos'? Want to see one?" and I tell her "I don't give a cent, yes I want to see one." She say, "I show you a man dress' all in white what ain't got no head, and you gwine feel a warm breeze." After a while down de hill by de graveyard she say, "Dere he go." I look' but I neber see nuttin', but I feel de warm breeze.
I uster go to see a gal and I uster hafter pass right by a ol' graveyard. It was all wall' up wid brick but one place dey had steps up over de wall so when dey hafter bury a body two men kin walk up dem steps side by side, and dat de way dey tek de corpse over. Well, when I git to dem steps I hear sump'n'. Den I stop and I ain't hear nuttin'. When I start walkin' ag'in I hear de noise ag'in. I look 'roun' and den I see sump'n' white come up right dere where de steps go over de wall. I had a stick in my han' and nex' time it come up I mek a rush at it and hit it. It was jis' a great big ol' billy goat what get inside de wall and was tryin' to git out. He get out jis' when I hit him and he lit out froo de woods. Dat's de only ghos' I eber see and I's glad dat warn't no ghos'.
Ol' marster he had twenty head of cows. Dey give plenty milk. Dey uster git a cedar tub big as dat dere one full of milk. De milkers dey pack it on dey head to de house. Us cow-pen boys had to go drive up de caffs. Cow-pen boys? Cow-pen boys, dem de boys what keep away de caffs when dey do de milkin'. Co'se, lots of times when dey froo milkin' us jump on 'em and ride 'em. Wheneber dey ketch us doin' dat dey sho' wear us out. Dat warn't yestiddy.
Fur as I's concern we had a plum good time in slav'ry. Many a year my grampa raise a bale of cotton and marster buy it. Dat was encouragin' us to be smart.
My daddy name' Edmond Wood and my ma name' Maria. I had a brudder and a sister; dey name' Cass and Ann. I been a farmer all my life. I kep' on farmin' 'till de boll weevil hit dese parts and den I quit de farm and went to public work. I work in de woods and cut logs. I buy dis house. I been here 'roun' Voth 'bout twenty-five year'.
I been marry twict. De fus' time I marry -- I git so stinkin' ol' I can't 'member when it were, but it been a long ways back. My fus' wife, Mary Johnson. She die' and den I marry dis yere woman I got yere now. Her name been Rhoda McGowan when I marry her but she been marry befo'. Bofe of us ol', ain't fit for nuttin'. Us git pension' and dat what us live on now, 'cause I too ol' to do any work no mo'.
Me and my fus' wife we had ten chillun. Dey's all dead but fo' and I ain't sho' dey's all livin'. Las' I heerd of 'em one was in Houston, and one in Chicago, and one in Kansas City, and one live here. I see him dis mawnin'.
I heerd tell of de Klu Klux but I ain't neber seed 'em. I neber did go to school needer.
I's a member of de C.M.E. Meth'dis' Chu'ch. When I uster could git about I uster be a steward in de chu'ch. Den I was de treasurer of de chu'ch here at Voth for some seben year'. I uster b'long to de U.B.F. Lodge, too.
Back in slav'ry dey allus had a ol' darky to train de young ones and teach 'em right from wrong. And dey'd whip you for doin' wrong. Dey'd repo't to de overseer. Some of 'em was mean and repo't somebody dey ain't like jis' to git 'em in trouble. De overseer he had to 'vestigate 'bout it and if it was so, somebody git a whippin'. Sometimes some folks repo't sump'n' when it warn't true.
Ol' marster he was plum ind'pendant. His plantation was off from de town. He uster had his mail brung to him. Fur's I kin 'member I didn' had to look out for nuttin'. Dey had a time to call all de slaves up and give 'em hats, and anudder time dey give 'em shoes, and anudder time dey give 'em clo's. Dey see dat eb'rybody was fit. Ol' marster allus give 'em all some kinder present at Crismus. I dunno what all he give de ol' folks but he give de chillun candy and de like.
I was allus tickle' to see ol' marster come 'roun' -- Oh, good gracious, yes. And it allus tickle' him to come 'roun' and see all his li'l niggers.
One time Cap'n Fisher was 'sociated wid ol' marster, and him and anudder man come 'long wid ol' marster up de road what run froo de quarters. Dey wanter see de li'l niggers. Ol' marster call 'em up and frow out a han'ful of dimes. It sho' tickle' 'em to see de li'l niggers scramble for dem dimes, and us look' for dimes 'roun' dat place for a week. Dat was enjoyment to de white folks dem days.
Marster was good to his niggers and none of 'em eber run away. My mudder she raise ol' mistus' baby chile. She uster suckle him jis' like he her own baby and he allus t'ink lots of her. After he a growed up man he uster bring her presents lots of times. He call her 'mammy all de time.
He went off to de war. He los' he hearin' and got deef. Muster been de noise from dem big cannons what done it. He got his big toe shot off in de war, too. After de war was over he come home and git married.
Dat 'bout all dat I kin 'member 'cep'n' dat I vote' in de state and other 'lections when I's twenty-one year' ol'.
Writer Fred Dibble described Isaac Martin: "Quite black, with close-cut hair and stubby gray whiskers, Isaac Martin is contentedly spending the evening of his life. But two or three darkened teeth show between his thick lips as he talks. He was enjoying the friendly shade of the old tree in his backyard from his comfortable seat in an old rocker. His feet were bare and his once striped trousers were rolled up above his knees to keep him cool in the hot midsummer weather. Beside the chair was a pair of brogan shoes with gaping splits across the toes to avoid cramping his feet. He told the story of bygone days with evident enjoyment."
Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938 (digital online collection). Texas Narratives, Volume 16, Part 3. Washington, DC: Library of Congress Manuscript Division.
- Last Edited: 2 Aug 2015
Family 1: Sylvia Fance b. circa 1850, d. 5 March 1920
- Mary L. Martin+ b. circa 20 July 1870, d. 2 February 1944
Family 2: Mary b. circa 1847, d. between 1900 and 1907
- Layton Martin b. circa 1873
- Edmund Martin b. July 1874
- Isaac Martin b. December 1876
- William Martin b. August 1878
- James Emmit Martin b. 2 February 1881, d. 2 October 1955
- Lee Martin b. May 1882
- Viola Martin b. circa June 1883
- Henry Martin b. May 1887
- George Martin b. 4 June 1889
- Zilpha Martin b. April 1891