An Offer That I Couldn't Refuse

When my father died, an old Negro saw me in a country store and offered to help dig the grave for my father; that is, he wanted to do it for free, because he had great respect for my father, and wanted to show it by helping the family save money in that way.

This man, I think, was a tenant on the land of my great-uncle John Bailey. He lived on the farm with his family, in a small house that still stands, and worked for wages, helping the endeavors of Uncle John and wife Bertha. But he said, according to Milton Bailey, "The wages was mighty poor." 

When the War Between the States ended the relation of slave to master sometimes changed slowly, not all at once. I remember that an aged church member told us this story. A former slave of his father, newly freed, had gone west to some awful place (maybe Kansas) to work as a free person. Soon she wrote a letter 'home' to her former master offering to return and serve him for the rest of her life, if he would only manage to get her there. He might have needed someone to take care of him, but did not have enough trust to send the passage money.

Census records of the period 1870 to 1920 show that there were "servants" in many homes, sometimes classified as Negro. And I have a record of a 'girl' that my ancestor Joseph Stepp had 'rased' in his home and would now allow her to marry his son James Stepp. So it is clear that many a destitute person, black or white, was willing to go into the home of a benefactor to act in the position of 'servant' in exchange for protection and sustenance.