Well, to tell you the truth I don't know my age, but I was born in 1858, in Franklin, Tennessee. Now, you can figure for yourself and tell how old I am.
I am the daughter of Prophet and Callie Isaiah, and they were natives of Tennessee. There was three of us children, two boys and myself. I'm the only girl. My brothers names was Prophet and Billie Isaiah.
I can't tell you much 'bout work during the slave days because you see I was just a baby you might say when the War broke out. I do remember our Master's name though, it was Dr. Perkins, and he was a good Master.
|Williamson County, Tennessee, 1878 Tennessee State Library and Archives, Map Collection|
Ma and pa sure hated to have to leave him, he was so good to dem. He was a rich man, and had a big fine house and thousands of acres of land. He was good to his n*****s too. We had a good house too, better dan some of dese houses I see folks living in now. Course Dr. Perkins n****** had to work, but dey didn't mind 'cause he would let dem have little patches of dey own such as 'tatoes, corn, cotton and garden. Jest a little, you know. He couldn't let dem have much, there was so many on Dr. Perkins plantation. I don't remember seeing anybody sick in slavery time. You see I was just a kid and there's a lot of things I can't remember.
"I don't 'member much about them [her brothers and father] as we was separated when I was seven years old.I'll never forget when me, my ma and my auntie had to leave my pa and brothers. It is just as clear in my mind now as it was then, and that's been about seventy years ago.Oh God! I tell you it was awful that day when old Jeff Davis had a bunch of us sent to Memphis to be sold."
|This ad was placed by a woman looking for her three children who had been sold in Memphis. |
I think it describes a little bit of what Nancy must have gone through being separated from her father and brothers that awful day in Memphis.
I can see old Major Clifton now. He was a big n***** trader you know. Well, they took us on up there to Memphis and we was sold just like cattle. They sold me and ma together and they sold pa and the boys together. They was sent to Mississippi and we was sent to Alabama. My pa, oh how my ma was grieved to death about him! She didn't live long after that. She didn't live long enough to be set free. Poor ma, she died a slave, but she is saved though. I know she is, and I'll be with her some day.I knowed old Jeff Davis good. Why I was jest as close to him as I am to dat table. I've talked with him too. I reckon I do know dat scoundrel! Why, he didn't want de n****** to be free! He was known as a mean old rascal all over de South.Abraham Lincoln? Now you is talking 'bout the n****** friend! Why dat was de best man God ever let tramp de earth! Everybody was mighty sad when poor old Abraham was assassinated, 'cause he did a mighty good deed for the colored race before he left this world.I wasn't here long during slavery, but I saw enough of it to know it was mighty hard going for most of de n****** den, and young folks wouldn't stand for dat kind of treatment now. I know most of the young folks would be killed, but they jest wouldn't stand for it. I would hate to have to go through wid my little share of it again."
I have not determined how or when Nancy was able to claim her freedom, but she seems to have settled in Montgomery, Alabama. On Christmas Day1869, Nancy Perkins married Bailey Gardner in Mongomery, Alabama. Bailey was a hack driver - he drove a horse and carriage giving rides to people around town for a fare. They appear to have lived a comfortable life. In the 1880s, Bailey's mother lived with them in a home that owned. Nancy worked as a washerwoman and her mother-in-law was a seamstress.
|1880 Federal Census, Montgomery, Alabama|
"It was thirty years before my pa knew if we was still living. Finally in some way he heard that I was still alive, and he began writing me. Course I was grown and married then and me and my husband had moved to Missouri. Well, my pa started out to see me and on his way he was drowned in the Missouri River, and I never saw him alive after we was sold in Memphis."
|O'Niel Herman Bradley|
Son of Nancy's cousin
In 1911, Nancy's husband Bailey also died and she sold his horses and equipment by placing an ad in the local newspaper.
|1932 Oklahoma City Directory|
Listing for Nancy Gardner, widow of Bailey
She was living at 501 Missouri Avenue
|A portion of Summit View Cemetery map showing locations of Judge George Perkins burial (far left) and suspected burial of Nancy Perkins Gardner and Bradley cousins (upper right)|
I joined the church nigh on seventy years ago and when I say dat, I don't mean I just joined the church.I mean I gave myself up to the Heavenly Father, and I've been goine straight down the line for Him ever since do now,You know in those days, we didn't get religion like young folks. Young folks today just find the church and then call theyselves Christians, but they ain't.
I remember just as well when I was converted. One day I was thinking about a sermon the preacher had preached and a voice spoke to me and said,"The Holy Ghost is over your head. Accept it!" Right then I got down on my knees and prayed to God that I might understand that voice, and God Almighty in a vision told me that I should find the church. I could hardly wait for the next service so I could find it, and when I was in the water getting my baptisement, that same voice spoke and said, "Now you have accepted don't turn back because I will be with you always!" O you don't know nothing about thatat kind of religion!
I remember one night shortly after I joined the church I was laying in bed and there was a vine tied 'round my waist and that vine extended into the elements. I could see my Divine Master and he spoke to me and said, "When you get in trouble shake this vine; I am your Master and I will hear your cry."