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A Moment in History The life of

Langston – The Old Slave

Son Filmore Taylor Hancock

Excerpts from an interview conducted in 1936-1938 by a worker employed with the Federal Writers’ Project in Missouri. “Uncle” Fil Hancock was 86 at the time, living in Rolla, MO.

Note:  Text written in the manner of Filmore’s speech.

His story is important to the Union Campground Cemetery Association because he mentions in his recollections, “If I can leave enough when I die, I want to be buried at the Union Graveyard in Greene County, MO where IN mammy is buried since three ~earlbefore the Civil War. My daddy was buried there in 1863.” Here is his story. Only selected portions are included due to limited space.

 “I was born 1851, de 28th of February. My granny come here with her missus Hancock when do) brung de Cherokee Indian tribe here from middlin’ Tennessee, de time dey moved de Missouri Indians back to Oklahoma, what dey called Indian Territory way back ’bout 135 ta 140 years ago. Our 01′ missus maiden name was Riggs. My 0l’ mastah was Scotch-Irish. A big red faced man wid sandy hair, mostly baldheaded. He weren’t ‘lowed to whip us. 0l’ missus wouldn’t let him tech us. We had to mind him, though. But she done de whipping. My own mammy whipped us good and proper. She used a razor strop, and shore poured it on us. She was puny and sick most all de times. De said she had compumption. Nowdays de calls it T.B. But it was plain old consumpion in demdays …

 “My 0l’ missus Hancock named me, herself; called me Filmore Taylor Hancock, after two presidents who took der seats in 1850. 01′ Colonel Hancock was our mastah an’ he was de richest man in Greene County, MO …His wife, 01′ missus, was born in 1804. My own granny on my mammy’s side was born in 1805. My granny was given to missus, as her own, de day she was born. Course 01′ missus was only a year old den. Der was thirty two of us slaves on our 01′ missus place, and eleven of us sprung from 01′ granny. “We had five young missus names were Winnie, Elizabeth, Lucinda, Luella and Tennessee. Dey was so rich and proud …

 “My boss – Hancock – was de biggest slave holder in Missouri when de war first come up. He settled four miles east of Springfield, MO. He owned close to 1200 or 1500 acres of ground, from Springfield to Strafford, east. We had 375 acres in cutivation-corn, oats, wheat, rye, and clover was our main crops.

“My daddy belonged to a man named Lou Langston. There is a railroad station named for this same  Langston, what was known as the Gulf Road.   I took my mammy’s white folk’s name …

 “In ’61 I see General Lyons when he passed right by our house. All de Union sojers had to pass by our house time of de war. We lived on the main road from Rolla to Springfield… “All de Union sojers stopped at our house to get water. We had a runnin’ stream that never did go dry. They filled their canteens there. All us chillun fussed ’bout ’em takin’our milk and butter outen de spring house. 0l’ missus keep all her milk and butter and cheese in dere to keep it cool. When de Union sojers come by our house to Rolla dey took so much of the water to fill dere canteens it nearly took our spring dry. Took every thing we had in de spring house …I don’t remember how dey was dressed, but dey all hade on sumpin’ blue. Uniforms, I guess …

“De Rebels held Springfield from 1861 til 1862, when General Fremont come in and took it. Marmaduke and Price had de biggest armies of the Southerners. Frement come sneaking in, wrapped his wagon wheels with old blankets so dey wouldn’t hear his coming, and he had a body guard of three hundred. Fremont come ’bout daybreak, and started shooting de town up. He got de town and held it…

 From Lennis L. Broadfoot’s book, Pioneers of The Ozarks. another interview with Filmore Hancock gives the following information:

“I didn’t leave mah mastah, but de soldiers come along in Novembah, aftah de Battle of Wilson’ Creek, which was fought August 10, 1861, and picked me up an’ stole me away, an’ took me to Yellville, Ark., an’ set me down. Dey took me on horseback. Dey had an ahmy camp in Yellville, an’ dey kept me foah a while an’ tuhned me loose, an’ der I  was, way fum my mastah, to ‘root hog aw die, ‘an’ say, mistah, it sho wuz tuf. When de sojers stole me ‘way fum mah mastah, I sho had a hahd time for a long time, an’ nearly stahved to deaf, and wished to be back on 0l’ mastah’s farm, but after I run loose fo a long time, I lahned to  get by ..”

The original interview continues:

“Ise seed six Civil War generals in mah liye.\ I seed General Shelby, General Marmaduke, an’ General Price, who was Southern generals, an’ Gereral Lyons, General Siegal, an’ General Sanborn, who wuz all Northern generals.” v “1 can name all de presidents fum Abe Lincoln to Mistah Roosevelt. But above all, Iluves de name ‘Abe’ ’cause he set de black man free.”

Filmore Hancock was very observant, interested in his surroundings and acutely aware of events and people. He had an amazing memory concerning dates and everyday activities. His story unfolds to paint a vivid portrait of a momentus period in American history. He is buried in the Rolla Cemetery in Phelps County. Either his wishes to be buried beside the graves of his parents were unknown at the time of his death or there was not enough money to ship his body to Greene County. The dates on his tombstone

read Born: Feb. 8, 1851 Died: Feb. 18, 1944

The tombstones of his parents no longer exist in Union Campground Cemetery. We can surmise his mother’s surname was Hancock and his fathers’s surname was Langston. Note: John Hancock owned property east of Union Campground Cemetery. He also owned acreage to the south and southeast. In partnership with his brother-in-law, John Morton, he owned additional properties. He was a Southern sympathizer and later moved his family to Texas.

 Filmore mentions the daughters of John Hancock and their names can be verified through the 1860 Federal Census of Campbell Township. Since forming our cemetery association, there have been many stories about soldiers camping on the Union Campground during the Civil War.

Filmore Hancock’s reminiscences would appear to verify the presence of Union soldiers near the old graveyard, and raises the possibility of some soldiers being buried there. ++++

The pen and ink drawing of Filmore Hancock is from Pioneers of the Ozarks Lennis L. Broadfoot.

Article prepared by: Jean Rayl