Oketibbeha County, Mississippi was the birthplace of the “Prophet”. The first master he can remember was John Gay, owner of a plantation of some 2,700 acres and over 100 slaves and a heavy drinker. The “Prophet” calls Gay “fahter”, and becomes very vague when asked if this title is a blood tie or a name of which he is generally known.
According to Kemp- Gay was one of the meanest plantation owners in the entire section, and frequently voices his pride in being able to employ the cruelest overseers that could be found in all Mississippi. Among these were such men as G.T. Turner, Nels T. Thompson, Billy Hole, Andrew Winston and other men with statewide reputations for brutality. When all of the cruelties of one overseer had been felt by the slaves on the Gay plantation and another meaner man’s reputation was heard of on the Gay plantation, the master would delight in telling his slaves that if they did not behave, he would send for this man. “Behaving”- the Prophet says, meant living on less food than one should have; mating only at his command and for purposes purely of breeding more and stronger slaves on his plantation for sale. In some cases with women- subjecting to his every demand if they would escape hanging by the wrists for half a day or being beaten with a cowhide whip.
About these whippings, the “Prophet” tells many a blood-curdling tale.
” One day when an old woman was plowing in the field, an overseer came by and reprimanded her for being so slow- one gave him some back talk; he took out a long closely woven whip and leashed her severely. The woman became sore and he took her hoe and chopped him right across his head, and child you should have seen how she chopped this man to a bloody death.”
” Prophet” Kemp will tell you that he hates to tell these things to any investigator, because he hates for people to know just how mean his “fahter” really was.