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Samson Forrester

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Material Information

Title:
Samson Forrester slave interview
Physical Description:
1 online resource (9 p.) : ;
Language:
English
Creator:
Frost, Jules A
Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Florida
Publisher:
Federal Writers Project, American Guide, Negro Writers Unit
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
African Americans -- Interviews -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Slavery -- Personal narratives -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre:
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )

Notes

Summary:
Federal Writers' Project interview with Samson Forrester, focusing on his years spent as a slave in Tampa and his captivity during the Seminole War. Interview conducted by Jules A. Frost.
General Note:
Title from caption on PDF of p.1 (viewed June 24, 2010).

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 002211597
oclc - 643299116
usfldc doi - F36-00035
usfldc handle - f36.35
System ID:
SFS0021884:00001


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Full Text

PAGE 1

A. Frost Sept. 12, 1938 c:'"'-&--.. / SAMSON FORRESTER. -uA.-h-'{ Born in sl .. very, stolen by the Indians, reoaptured and restored to his muster, bought and held us a by the Government, manumitted and employed by Unole Sam at a good salary, these are only a few exoerpts from the ususual experienoes 01' Samson. Forrest>r, legendary oharaoter and blaok Daniel Boone of his time .. Aooording to a news story in the Tampa Tribune August 11, 1883. Samson wus a sh.ve belonging to a man named Forrester. Some few years before. the first Seminole War of 1835, when he was a smel.ll ohud, he was stolen by the Indians. His native English was soon forgotten, und when recaptured und re-stored to his master several years hewas-a tull, built youth, skilled in ull the secrets of woodoraft, .and familiar with the haunts of the Seminole. His mother tongue quickly returned to hiJ.ll, and the o1!"1oers at Fort Brooks, military reservation of Tampa, recognizing his potential usefulness, purohased him from his mlliter 1'01' and pluoed him at theftisPOSal of the looal commanding offioer at Fort Brooks, lrom whioh point he operated I as a slave of the Government, performing useful servioe as soout and interpreter. At the .olose of the seoond Seminole war in 1842 he was given his freedom, but. retained by the government at a gopd AS off1oial ambassador to the Seminoles, he rendered indispensable se.rvioe in helping to round up the Indians for deportation to Louisiana and Arkansas. Instead of drawing and spending his money, he allowed it to aooumulate in the hands of Ma)or MoKinstry, quartermaster at Fort Brooks, and these savings proved useful soma time

PAGE 2

As the were being-brought in and transported to the western reservations. Samson: found. time for romanoe. Tropioal moon-light and phlloprogeni ti ve urge began to serenade the stout hear,t of the young adventurer, and a strong attraotion a:ew him to the home 01' Capto.in H. Kendriok, where he lingered. under the influenoe of u. pal r ,01'. lunguo"t"o"ll.& o.a"t"k. \l..1\d u,t\..J..s.u.all attraotive maid belonging to Mrs.' Kendriok. Here was the setting for a true-llf&story as'oaptivating as fiotion, involving atall"browned, athletio youth, unpolluted by the taint of mOClern oivilization, te,mpered in tl;l.e t:urnaoe of" adventure from earliest ". .... -reooiHeo1;;ion; and' a y .)ungl girl. swarthy ,of skin, but with the features and 1'-igure 01' a Venus in bronze. who, aooording to her mastel', wus the most beautiful ool'ored girl he had ever 'In tL news'paper interviuw in 1883, some for-ty years lu.ter, Captain Kendriok told Interestingly tit' 'events leading up the unusu.al oourtship. I When Samson beoame that possession' rather.than pursuit of ,happiness. in all-important, he went to Kendr10k ,a.nd o!'fered . .' to' buy the who had prought about suoh strange performa.noe of a -" pr.eviously normal heart. -, The unaoquaillted with Sams,on's thrifty habits, rel'lied that 'hadoost him $1,400, and that even if' he" saUher oost, she would still be 'out of reaoh. The dusky ,Romeo answered suoh transaotion might be arranged, sinoe he was able and to produoe the Surpris.ed !'y this prompt a.ooeptance,' the that his w1f'e might have something to say about the matter, she, and the -ohildren' were genuinely fond of the useful and attractive girl; so he oountered with the deolaration that he would'not sell the maid without her own oonsent.

PAGE 3

When told of the offer she burst lnto tears, and muoh to her master's surprise, said that she was willing to be sold, but only to her I husband, Samson joyfully made his mark to an order on Major MoKinstry, who handed over the full amount in gold, and the joyful pair left for their new home in Fort Brooks. When the military post, was abandoned, Samson seleoted a homestead on HOlloman's Branoh. near Lake Thonotosassa At this pb,ce, whioh he Samsonville, 'they lived with an adopted daughter until nearly the turn of' the oentury. when tho old soout died at an advanced tl.ge. His \) widow lived there until her del;1th, many ye,ars lu.ter. The artiole in the old file stated thut one inoident in Samson's oareer refleoted rather unfavorably upon him. In 1839, when General William S.Hurney 'was enoamped on the Caloosahatchee River six miles west of Fort Myers, in command of a detachment of 30 men engaged in bUllding a trading post, Samson Forrester was inoharge of the soouting operations, spending a parge of' his time with theSem inoles in their Big Cypress Ai'tt:lr the men had pe .. formed a partioularly hard day's work in oamp, Samson from the Indians' stronghold with the reassuring news that the warriors were in a friendly mood. Relying upon this information, General &rney deoided not to post the usual guard, and the men were soon sleeping soundly. Toward 'morning the Indians under the oommand of Gheokiki and Billy Bowlegs attaoked the little foroe, killing eighteen men. General Harney who was already awake und wus maps and pluns for the ooming day heard the commotion, and outting an opening in the buok of his tent he swam aoross the river, hid under a bout, and finally reaohed Fort Myers.

PAGE 4

The believed for a long time that Samson had betrayed him, but it is thought that he finally obtlnged his mind. Samson stoutly denied the oh""rge, but his innooence was never definitely ostablished. In a reoent interview with David Taylor, an ex-slave now liuing in Tampa. it W!.LS learned thla.t Samson had beoome his godfather when he was in Key West more than eighty years ago. Some years. later Forrester left Key West for Tampa, taking his young oharge with him. The boy lived at Samsonville with his foster parents for ubout two years, but beoause of the harsh treatment of Forrester, he finally ran away. The old man speaks af'feotlonu.tely 01' -Au.nt Rose," Fot'rester's wife, and says that he visited her at Samsonville long a6ter death. Questioned at to the probability of Forrester's betrayal of' General liarneYt Uncle Du.ve admitted, after mature thought. such aot would l')ot have been unusual for a man of that type, and said. that he recalled having heard Forrester bO<..Bt of having given wrong information both to whites and to Inditl.ns. Musing over reoolleotions of Forrester's peculiar habits, old Dave told of oertuin savage traits seeming to prove thu.t onvironment often 'exerts an unusual force upon an individual who, under different oiroumstances, might have beoome the most docile of servants. During Taylor's rather brief stay at Samsonville, when only an immature youth, he went out to the open well to draw a pail of water-A loose board on the ollrb oallsed him to spill a part of the oontents of the buoket, and Forrester, who was standing nearby, ordered the boy to bring him the board. When he did so, _e man struok him in the side with the edge of the board. with suoh foroe that young Taylor was rendered almost unoonsoious-When he was able to move he ran most of the way to Tampa, oaught an outbound boat and returned to his old home in Key West.

PAGE 5

In spite of the memory of this unpleasant exodus, Taylor reoalls the prowess of his powerful foster parent and tells with an amused smile of the only time the invinoible soout was ever knooked down without quiok and effeotive retaliation-During the roundup of the last shipment of Indians, a band of women' and ohildren were waiting on the dook at Tampa for the gang plank to be lowered from the boat that would oarry them from their beloved Land of Flowerse Forrester had fluently desoribed the attraotive features of the Louisiana reservation, and had'been largely in influenoing the Indians to oome,in voluntarily-As he oame riding 1n on his horse an old squaw motioned for him to oome nearer. -Samson.' she said in her native tongue, "we ,nursed you when a baby_ We trusted you with all our seorets, and loved you as one of our own. Now, when we need your proteotion, you turn.against us, and round us up like oattle.-. Before the man realized the depth of her feelings she swung a sturdy fist to his jaw with suoh foroe that he was knooked bodily out of the saddle. "An' dat be .de onliest time,' Unole Dave ohuokled, -that anybody, white, blaok or Injun, evah knook him down 'thout gittin' bad hurt.-Ina reoent interview withDavid Taylor, an ex-slave now living in Tampa, it was learned that Samson Forrester had beoome his godfather when he was ohristened in Key West more than eighty years ago. When the old newspaper aooount was brought to light, another t was made to Unole Dave to get fu.rther partioulars-"Hit was Iak.dis," the old man explained. "Marse Pinkney was a Catholio, an' he had all his slaves ohristened by a priest. W'en my mammy j'ined de Methodists, she want dat I be ohristened over at'in, an'

PAGE 6

He listened attentively while the transoript of the old news story '" was read to him. "Well, dat's moslly I reokon, II he agreedf IIHe sho was what pou' d oall a. fine-look1n' man. tall and straight, wid shouldahs 'bout dat broad; but I wculdp't say he evah did learn to talk right good. I know --I lived wid '1m 'quite a spell an' he allus talked 11ke a Injun; nevah oould say my name--allu5 oalled me 'Dave-" III was a pretty good ohunk of a boy w'en he brung me here t' Tampa wid 'im f'm Key West. He oalled his plaoe 'Samsonville' it was 'bout two mile and a hahf otha side 0' Lake Thonotosassa. on Holloman's Branoh. right 'orost tim 01' man Adam Holloman's plaoe. I lived wid urn tell I got a mesS of his oussedness; den I run away_' Pressed for details of Samson's treatment. old Dave's wrinkled beoame tense at the reoolleotion of the ooourrenoe-'Tried t' kill me--dat's what he done-One day I was drawin' watah f'm open well. stid of a rope, we had what you oall a sweep. a pole fastened to de buoket. Dey was a loese bo'd on de ourb, an' hit slipped an' made me spill de watah. Samson was stahndin' otf a pieoe watohin' me. an' he say 'Fotoh me dat bo'd.' W'en I give it to 'im he hit me in de side wid de edge ot it an' knooked me down-W'en I o'd git my bref I rl1n into de house an' tol4 Rosella--dat was hi,S 'dopted daughter, I g\'Yine r.un away_ She jes lahf an' 'say she reokon 1. wouldn't. ".IEf you see me oome intodi shouse ag'.in,' I tells 'er. 'you kin soald me wid dat kittle 0' hot watah.' "Pretty soon I went in to git my things, an' she say 'You min' what you done tol' me? I'se gwine do what you tell me to. 'an' she retoh tor de out I goes. an' nevah stopped runnin' tell I got to Cyrus Charles' plaoe in Tampa.

PAGE 7

IHe _s de oullud. f1reman at Haygood's mill. Oat was 'bout where de Southern Lumber Company is now. at de foot 0' Harrison Street. on de river. / f Cyrus lived in a big two-story house on 'de southwest oorner 0' Tampa an' Harrison. At dat time de riyer oome right up to his baok yahd. All dat land what's dere now. olean down to de river was filled in, mostly wid sawdust an' stuff dumped in flm de mill. rwell. I stayed at his house till I got a job wid Cap'n James MoKay on one 0' his boats goin' to Key West. hid till de boat done lef'." X W'en I got dere. I lit out an' sayed t IFrom you know of Forrester, I the old man was asked. 'Ido you think that he might have aoted as tra1tor--that he oaused the Harney massaore?" II 'member hear1n' 'bout dat massaoree, an' I wouldn',t put hit past lim. He'd be mighty apt to doa trick lak date I've heared lim say he done betrayed bete' white folks an' Injuns. He useta brag about it. But I reokon dey be'n lotsa otha' folk done de same thing. W'en'de Injuns save out a white j'm a party dey be killin' dat man gwine mek 'em think he willin' to help' 'em out; but no sooner 'n he gits wid some white folks, he tells 'em all 'bout de Injuns. an' how t' ketoh up wid 'em. Samson Forrester was a sly one, all right. Onoe he was soout1n' for de sojers an' dey oome ,to some Injun traoks all gwine de same way. De sojers stahts off, de way de, traoks gwine, ,an' Samson he say 'HoI' on. dere 1 Y'all gwine de wrong way.' An' sho nuff. dem Injuns been walkin' baok' ards. So de sojer.s tu' nan' go, de otha way, and pretty soon dem traoks all be tu'ned de otha way and Injuns be'n runnin' liokety-split an' got

PAGE 8

away The old man was asked if Forrester's wife. l.Ahnt Ro se? I reokon I do. I useta go an' see 'er long abrtah he be'n dald. Ween she was visitln' at de Armwood's. Levin Armwood. hw was a oullud p'lioeman. His place was on de oorner o' guv'ner an where.de oullud Episoopal ohuroh is He's got a daughter, Blanoh, still livin'. Her mother was a Holloman. Mis' Pughsley,at de funeral home, she o'n you all about. de Armwoods." -Dld Samson. Forre ster -and hi s wife have any ohildren?' !he old man smiled. had plenty of 'em. but none of iem b'longed to Ahnt Rose. Nellie Forrester, a granddaughter 0' his, lives som'eres in West Tampa now. Dat pieoe you done read sounds lak Ahnt Rose be his fust . wife; she wasn't. though. His fust wife was killed by de Injuns. Ahnt. Rose lived on de old plaoe at Samsonville until she died. She useta visit a right smart wid de Armwoods, but she allus wanted t' be baok at bed-time.'

PAGE 9

Q U & S T I 0 I I A I R B Vlbo was .. son Forrester' a IIBster? Where did he Uve! Where did Samson and his wite first l1ve here in Tampa? About when did they move to Saa8onvl11e? Just whore 1s Samsonville? Where 1s the old Holloaan plaoe? f.'a s Armwood's wU'e a Holloman? Did she b along to the Adam Iiollolllan .tElIl11y? Did you ever see a plottlre of 5ftmson Fone) ster? Did yoa know Rosella, h1s'adopted daugh,er? What became of her? .. ,. I 1. Samson baried? Where 1a.Rose About bOVI' old W&o'Saason when stolon IncU,ans? lihen rooaptured? .: Do you know about his first Wbere was she killed. by the Indinns? 1)0 yoa bu)w Blllnohs' Armwood? Is she n :la1lyor 1n


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Samson Forrester
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Federal Writers Project, American Guide, Negro Writers Unit,
1937?]
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Title from caption on PDF of p.1 (viewed June 24, 2010).
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Federal Writers' Project interview with Samson Forrester, focusing on his years spent as a slave in Tampa and his captivity during the Seminole War. Interview conducted by Jules A. Frost.
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