BUCKNER – Poor Slave Joe Buckner


Before I stop tonight I want to tell you of another instance of the fidelity of our slaves, one owned by my dear mother, who called himself Joe Buckner. She bought him in Kentucky, after my father’s death, and after her death he became the property of my Sister Josephine. My health being bad Mr. Reardon thought a change would do me good, and we went together to Annapolis to see my brother Perry then stationed there. On leaving home my last charge was “Joe take good care of Miss Josephine and the children! “I’ll take good “keer” of ’em Miss ‘Scilla Sho! And he did till, unfortunately, poor Joe got into a fight with another darkey and was struck on the head with a hoe. He was sick for several days and sister called in our family physician. While she was talking with him Joe became suddenly and violently insane. His screams were so loud and terrifying that it was not long before at least a hundred people were gathered in the yard. My sister and children fled in terror to a neighbor’s house, and Joe was put into a straight jacket and confined.

A few days afterward Mr. Reardon and I returned home. Somehow Joe managed to make his escape after he had quieted down and came straightway home, and for a long time we were kept in a constant state of fear and anxiety about him. But at length on sister’s marriage to Mr. Clements of Maryland, her husband sold him down the river, though Joe seemed to have recovered and only had occasional spells. He always made his way home after them, he said he wouldn’t be contented any other place.

It was during the Civil War, and after Joe had been gone a long time, and the Federal troops had taken possession of our place, one day as we all stood talking I said to the children, “I wonder if poor Joe is alive! if he is, I’m afraid he will come back to us.” A few minutes later who should enter the gate but Joe with a big bag of something over his shoulder. He came with a broad grin on his face, and a “Howdy Miss ‘Scilla!” and set down the bag at my feet. “Here I is at last!” he said. “I done heerd dat Mass Lambert was daid, and Miss Josephine too, so I’s come home to help you, I is! an’ here’s some sweert-taters I brought yer! So he staid, and all that winter he chopped my wood and made my fires, and did not want me to pay him a cent. He worked in the hospital the rest of the time.

When the war was ended Joe got his back pay to the amount of several hundred dollars. He brought it straight to me and wanted me to accept it. ”No Joe,” I said, “I can’t take your money, you have earned it and you must keep it yourself.” “Well Miss ‘Scilla if I was to die and leave it to ye. Would ye be too proud to take it then?” I replied “No Joe—Of course not, but I think you’ll need it all.”‘ Not long after that Joe bade us goodbye and left town with a white man, and we never saw him again.

We always believed he had been murdered for his money. Poor Joe, so good hearted and loyal to our family—he deserved a better fate.

Source: “Reminiscences of The Buckner Family”, by Mrs. Priscilla Aylette Buckner Reardon, about 1901, pages  31-33.