So great was the fear in which Gay was held that when Kemp’s mother, Arnette Young, complained to Mrs. Gay, that her husband was constantly seeking her for a mistress and threatening her with death if she did not submit, even Mrs. Gay had to advise the slaves to do as Gay demanded, saying- “My husband is a dirty man and will find some reason to kill you if you don’t.” “I can’t do a thing with him.” Since Arnette worked at the “big house” there was no alternative, and it was believed that out of the union with her master, Henry was born. A young slave by the name of Broxton Kemp was given to the woman as husband at the time John Kemp was born; it is from this man that “Prophet” took his name.
Life on the plantation held nothing but misery for the slaves of John Gay. A week’s allowance of groceries for the average small family consisted of a package of about ten pounds containing crudely ground meal, a slab of bacon- called side-meat and from a pint to a quart of syrup made from sorghum, depending on the season.
All slaves reported for work at 5 o’clock in the morning, except those who cared for the overseer, who began their work an hour earlier to enable the overseer to be present at the morning checkup. This checkup determined which slaves were late or who had committed some offense late on the day before or during the night. These were signed out and before the rest of the slaves began their work they were treated to the sight of these delinquents being stripped and beaten until blood flowed; women were no exception to the rule.