Emma Bard

The following story appeared in the Fulton County Expositor on Tuesday, November 20th, 1962.  Some of the language is out dated and some of Emma Bard's quotes uses language that seems to be stereotypical.  We have chosen to reprint the article directly and not change the language as it reflects the attitudes of it's time.  However, if these are direct quotes from Mrs. Bard or artistic license on the part of the author to create "authenticity" we can not say.  The story appeared in a column called Historical Society News, and is itself a reprint of an earlier article.  

Historical Society News

By Margery Humphrys

Mrs. Clyde Wentz of Tedrow, brought in an old clipping from one of the papers, probably the Republican.  Many of us remember the negro family that lived on East Cherry St. many years ago, and Mrs. Emma Bard raised her family by doing family washings.  Her son James Bard graduated in 1914 and we believe that he is practicing medicine in Chicago. The following clipping is very interesting.  

The turning point in Aunt Emma Bard's life came when Abraham Lincoln, show picture she holds, precipitated the Civil War which resulted in freeing the slaves.  Mrs. Bard, who at 88 enjoys good health in her Wauseon home, where she is highly respected was a slave on a Kentucky plantation until she became 15 years of age.

One of Wauseon's most contented and most respected residents, is a brown skinned colored woman who from her porch at 415 Cherry St. peacefully contemplates a world which has been completely transformed within the span of her own lifetime. 

Mrs. Emma Bard, more familiarly known as 'Aunt Emma' of Wauseon's only colored family who at the age of 88 can look back with clarity down a vista of changing years to the time when she was a slave girl on a Kentucky tobacco plantation.  Born eleven years before the Civil War started and at a time when negro's bondage was still unquestioned, Mrs. Bard vividly remembers the hapless and tawdry details of her life as a slave. 

She was a house slave.  How long her family has been in America, Mrs. Bard does not know.  As far back as she knows they were always slave on the John L Graves tobacco plantation in Boon County, the first county south of Cincinnati.  She herself was a house slave whose duties were to dust, clean spittoons, pick up litter off the lawn on the Graves mansion and take care of the white folks' babies.  The work for the 15 slaves on the Graves plantation started at 4 o'clock in the morning.  her mother was the cook while her grandmother did all of the weaving for the folks on the plantation.  While food in a variety of form was always available for the white folks, Mrs. Bard recalls that for the slaves the daily menu consisted of corn-pone, and sow-belly and greens, although occasionally a juicy ham fell mysteriously from the smokehouse racks.   

Photo of "Aunt Emma" Bard at the age of 88 on the front porch of her home in Wauseon.
From the Collection of the Museum of Fulton County

The Cowhide lash 

"Were we ever whipped?  Why bless yo' child, we sure were.  Mastuh Jack never used a cat-o-nine tails on us but he did have a cowhide lash.  I  saw a cat-o-nine tails used once on another plantation and it scared me to death."

Mrs. Bard talk how marriages among the slaves were performed with only the most primitive ceremonies.  A straight stick was laid on the ground and the man and woman stepped over it as they took a vow to live together as long as they lived.  Otherwise the slaves were bred in much the same fashion the whites bred their stock.  A fine buck slave was mated with the most likely wench with an eye to the worth of the offspring.

Civil War Incidents

Although dates do not stand out in Mrs. Bard's memory, detailed incidents of the Civil War are undimmed.  She relates how the silver and china was hidden in the hillside cave as the troops drew near.  Then one morning while she was out on the lawn with the babies, an advanced guard of the Rebels appeared.  In terror she hustled the children into the house.  Her master transported the entire family and the slaves to a nearby farm as a battle seemed inevitable.  It took place right on the Grave's plantation and Mrs. Bard said the Union soldiers licked 'em up like molasses.   But the rebels got as far as Florence.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Bard's father escaped by means of the underground railway into Canada.  He had been sent to Cincinnati to dispose of some horses and never returned.  She later learned that he secured a job as a cook on a sailing vessel which was marooned in a small port where the entire population died of cholera.   

Freedom is Won

When word came that the war was over the North had won, Master Graves approached Mrs. Bard's mother and said "Martha, you're just as free as I am."  "What am I gonna do?" her mother wailed.  "You can stay here and work for me for 25 cents a week if you want to."  Later Mrs. Bard and her mother went to live with her father on a neighbor's plantation.  She worked out among the various families in Boon County, at a wage of 25 cents a week.

A widow in 1884, she came north to put her children in school since no means of education was provided in Boon County for negro children.  Her northward journey ended in Adrian, MI where she had an aunt.  It was there she met and married Frank Bard, with whom she cam to Fulton Co. 35 years ago.  Together they prospered and acquired a farm.  Mr. Bard figured prominently in a lawsuit involving the number of hours his team worked in the construction of the Toledo and Indiana Railroad.  Unable to read or write, he kept his time by means of notches carved in a stick.  Fulton County Common Pleas Court upheld his method for reckoning and he was awarded judgement.  He died 12 years ago.  Now alone again, Mrs. Bard lives peacefully with her granddaughters in a spick and span house which for neatness and cleanliness has won the admiration of her neighbors.  Although born in slavery, by her very mien and habits of life, she holds the respect of all who know her.


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