Story of Peter Bruner, a former slave.
Transcribed by Bonnie Snow
Peter Bruner, was born in Winchester, Kentucky,Clark Co., in 1845. His master was John Bell Bruner, who at that timetreated him fairly well. When Peter was 10 years of age his master broughthim and his sister to Irvine. After arriving in Irvine, Peter's master wasvery cruel to him. They got only cornbread, fat meat and water toeat. If his master's hunger was not satisfied, he would even take thislittle from them. The were tables to eat.
Once Peter, was taken into his master's house tonurse the children and was made to sleep on the floor with only a ragged quiltto line on and one thin one over him.
Often he was whipped because his mistress saidthe washing was not clean, when it was. On one occasion when he was beatenhis master to a piece of sole leather about 1 foot long and 2 inches wide, outit full of holes and dipped it in water that was brined. He then took theleather and lashed the poor slave's back.
Joe Bruner, was a better master to his slavesthan John. Once Peter stole some sugar and flour, that he and his sistermight have pound cake, Joe caught him. He did not whip him however,because he knew that Peter did not often have enough to eat.
Peter, endured torture as long as he could andfinally decided to escape. He went to Richmond, Kentucky on toLexington. In his way he made a contract with a man to drive his horses toOrleans, but was caught while in Lexington. On his way they caught him andtook him to jail and he remained until his master came for him. This didnot down him, for just as soon as he could he escaped again, and this time gotas far as Xenia, Ohio. but was again caught and brought back. Thistime he was severely beaten for three hours.
When 17 years old, Peter was hired out to JimmyBenton, who was more cruel than John Bruner, but was again brought back. It was then that he tried to escape. This time he went through Madison Co.near Sugar Creek. This was about the year 1861, when the war hadbegun. Again he was caught and taken back, but this time by JoeBruner. He escaped several times, but never could seem to getanywhere. Once when he and another slave, Phil, escaped they were caughtand made to walk the entire distance barefoot. After this Peter, waschained each night to a chair. One morning while eating his breakfast heheard a knock at the door and on opening it he found a troop of Union HomeGuards. Jim Benton and John Bruner were taken to prison. After thisPeter went to Miller's Creek and worked at odd jobs for awhile.
When John Bruner was taken from Prison, he wasmuch better to Peter. Soon after John was released from Prison, Peterescaped again. This time he had joined a regiment in the war. Hewent through hardships, cold, hunger and illness.
Often when they were awaken in the morning theywould find their blankets frozen to the ground. He was sick severaltimes. His feet frozen and other things would go wrong such as having afever and once he had Variloid. After serving for awhile he was musteredout and returned to Winchester, where his mother lived. He stayed a shorttime and then went to Oxford, Ohio. Here he went to school, but soondecided he was not learning anything so decided to get married. In thespring he was married to Nannie Proctor. Again he made a mistake andduring this time suffered hardships trying to keep a roof over their heads andfood enough to eat. He worked at odd jobs, but could not find much to doand got very much in debt. He then went to Hamilton, Ohio and asked Mr.John Frye to loan him some money. He had asked Mr. Roberts for some and hewould not loan it. However John Frye did loan him the money and Peter paidhimself out of debt and bought a stone quarry from his mother-in-law. Hesold a lot of stone from it, but finally sold this and took a job as engineer atOxford, College. Dr. Walker was president at that time. It was herethat Peter celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary. The teacher, facultyand seniors made this a happy day for him. He got a job as janitor underDr. Thompson at Miami University. He worked here for 13 years underPresident Taft. He is a member of Bethel A. M. E. Church and has been forover 50 years. In 1918 he and his wife celebrated their goldenanniversary.
Peter Bruner is still living (1936) but hiseyesight is impaired. He is 91 years of age.
Slave Narratives - Clark County - Mayme Nunnelley
The first records of Slaves in Clark County was given by a descendant ofone of the members of the little band of Revolutionary soldiers who had beencomrades and mess mates throughout the long bloody war. These fifteenfamilies, some from Virginia and others from Maryland, started west-ward in theearly spring of 1783 for Kentucky. They brought with them some horses, afew cattle, thirty or forty slaves and a few necessary household articles.
After many hardships and trials, borne heroically by both men and women,they halted on the banks of the Big Stoner, in what is now the eastern part ofClark County. Two years later another group of families with their slavescame to join this little settlement.
In some cases the owners were good to their slaves had comfortablequarters for them at a reasonable distance from the main house. Theirclothing was given to them as they need it. In most instances the clothingwas made on the plantation. Material woven, and shoes mad. Thecabins were one and two rooms, maybe more if the families were large. Theslaves ate their meals in the kitchen of the main house. A cruel aninhumane master was ostrazied and taught by the silent contempt by his neighborsa lesson he seldom failed to learn. In 1789 the general assembly passed anact in which good treatment was enjoined upon master and all contracts betweenmaster and slaves were forbidden. The execution of this law was within thejurisdiction of the county courts which were directed to admonish the master ofany ill treatment of his slaves. If presisted (sic) in the court hadoption and power to declare free the abused slave.
Few traders came to Clark County as the slaves were not sold unless theywere unruly. There was no underground railroads through this area.
Among some of the old wills compiled by Dr. George F. Doyle of Winchester,we find wills as follows:
"John Briston in his will dated April 27, 1840 frees his negroes, theexecutor to go to Todd County and buy land and divide it between the negroes andthey were given a cow, three horses and he expressed a desire for them to go toLiberia. They were to be given a certain amount to defray their movingexpenses, and buy them provisions and each negro was given his blanket."
"Henry Calmes, in his will dated 1831, divided his slaves among hiswife and children." (B7-p654)
"John Christy in his will 1848 says at the death of his wife all hisland and slaves are to be sold and the proceeds divided among hischildren." (B 11-p.346.
"In some old wills enough slaves are to be sold and all outstandingdebts paid and those left to be divided among his heirs."
"A will dated 1837 says at the expiration of eight years after hisdeath all negroes above those bequeathed are to be offered to the ColonizationSociety, if they are of age, to be transported to Liberia and those not of age to continue to serve the persons to whom they are allotted until they come ofage, boys 21 and girls 18 when they are to be offered to the ColonizationSociety to be transported to Liberia. None of them are to be forced to go. Those that do not go to to Liberia are to continue to serve the persons to whomthey are allotted until they are willing to go. Three persons by name tobe hired out the seventh year after the death and the money arising from saidhire to be given to those that go to Liberia first, $10.00 a piece if thereshould be so much and the balance given the next one to go."
"In the will of Robert Lewis, February 20, 1799, he sets three of hisslaves free and gives them the use of 200 acres of the northwest of the Ohio,their life time. There were to be five hired out until their hire amountsto 120 pound each, then they were to be freed. As the other younger slavesbecame of age, they are to be freed."
From the following will dated June 22, 1840 it shows the slaves were ableto accumalate (sic) an estate:
"Allan, Charles June 22, 1840 Oct 26. 1840
"A free man of color. Estate to be sold andthe proceeds distributed as follows: To Ester Graves, a woman of colorbelonging to the heirs of Rice Arnold, $100.00; balance of money to be dividedequally between the children "I claim to be mine". Jerrett,Charles, Ester, Carolina, Granvill and Emil, all children aforesaid. Charolette Arnold and all belongin to the heirs of Rice Arnold and also Sally,Alfred, Mary, Lacy, Hulda, Catherine, and Maud, children of Ester Gravesaforesaid, slaves of Bengemine Graves; also two children of Mary Allen, a slavebelonging to Patsey Allan names Lesa and Carolina, the sixteen children toreceive an equal share of the money arising from the sale of his estate."
Clark County did not have an auction block or slave market but every NewYears Day in front of the Courthouse owners would bring their slaves to behired. It was told by one of the old citizens a few years ago, (died twoyeas ago) that he walked nine miles one bitter cold day to hire some slaves. These could be hired for a definite time or until they brought certain amountsof money.
In 1812-1814 Winchester, the County Seat of Clark County boasted of aweekly newspaper, issued every Saturday. From the advertisement column ofthis paper we learned that Dillard Collins was willing to pay $10.00 to get hisrun away slave, Reuben, and a similar reward was offered for one "Soipio"who had taken a French leave from his master, (donned) in his master's newclothes. Another ad in this paper ways (sic) one Walter Karrick offered totrade a negro ( sic) woman for "Whiskey", oyder (sic) and flour.
"A story is told of a slave "Monk Estill" who helped orrather belonged to Col. James Estill of Madison County. I 1782 in a battleknown as Estill's defeat, which occured on the grounds where Mt. Sterling nowstands in Montgomery County, Col. Estill and twenty-five men attacked a party ofWyandotte Indians by who the slave was taken prisoner.
"In the thickest of the fight, Monk called out in a loud voice;"Don't give away, Marse Jim, there's only twenty-five Indians and you canwhip all of them."
"Col. Estill was killed and the men retreated. Monk escapedfrom his captors and after many hardships joined the white comrades.
"On his shoulder he carried a wounded soldier twenty-five miles toEstill Station. His young master gave him his freedom in recognition forhis bravery and supported him in comfort the rest of his life."
In Clark County are many small negroe settlements formed by the old freedslaves after the war. Some had accumalated a little and bought a smallpiece of land and others had homes given to them by their owners.
Mr. Archilles Eubank was the largest slave holder of his day, Mr. ColbyQuinsenberry was second, in Clark County.
"The story is told that at the time of General Morgan's last raid onWinchester, an old faithful slave of Dr. Hubbard Taylor, (a noted Physician allover this portion of Kentucky at this time) who was always careful of hismater's interests, and without the consent of his master, saved his very fineriding horse, "Black Prince" from being pressed into service of theConfederates. Ab (the slave's name) learned that Morgan's men were goodjudges of horse flesh and had taken several horses just as the Federals did whenthey needed them and he determined to conceal price, whose groom he was. He put him there in the smoke house along with the meat, but prince pawed andmade disturbances until he took him out and took him to the cellar persuadinghim to descend the steps and left him there. He came up to hear thatseveral horses had been taken from the cellars of the men, then he hastened backto get Prince. He brought him out of the cellar and took him to thelaundry room and sat there with him conversing him to keep quiet until alldanger passed. When Prince became restless and wanted to paw his way out,old Ab would say, "Now Prince, you quit dat you's in danger of being tankenby the bad soldiers." Old Prince would stop instantly and listen tohis groom."
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