Echoes from Windy Hill

May 10, 2024 at 11:30 am by RMGadmin

The Untold Story of Kittie Sneed

By Charles Booth  |  City of Brentwood, Director of Communications

Toward the end of her life, Kittie Sneed sat in a chair, resting her tired legs, and told a local lawyer her life story. It was the fall of 1892, and the ailing Sneed, blind in one eye, hoped to receive her late son’s military pension to help pay her living expenses. That son, Thomas Sneed, a Civil War veteran, died of tuberculosis shortly after the war. As a former slave, Kittie didn’t have savings or an inheritance, and her weary, eighty-seven-year-old body kept her from working.
“I am always sick, I have one eye, and have such pains in my right thigh that the side of my lower limb is almost useless, unfitting to do washing or such labor as I might do,” she told the lawyer. Kittie needed this new income to survive. Today, her forgotten application provides a rare glimpse into the life of an enslaved person living and working in this community.
“When I was fifteen years old, the traders brought me from North Carolina to near Brentwood, Williamson County, Tennessee, where I was sold to Constantine Sneed,” Kittie said. “I have lived within one mile of Brentwood, Tennessee, ever since I have lived in Tennessee.”
The Sneed’s were one of Brentwood’s first families, with James Sneed arriving from Virginia in the 1790’s after purchasing land off Old Smyrna Road. His son, Constantine Sneed, built the Windy Hill home where Kittie lived.
“Constantine Sneed was the only master I had after I came to Tennessee,” she said. “He died there (Brentwood) weeks before the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. After my old master died, I stayed with his children until after the close of the war.” After her death, Kittie was buried in the Sneed Family Cemetery, with a headstone that read only “Black Mammy” and “A true servant of God and man.”
The Sneed descendants were fascinated by Kittie’s tombstone and felt compelled to identify the woman who had spent her life at Windy Hill. Their research eventually led them to Kittie’s pension deposition. This past fall, Kathy Greaves and fellow Historic Commission Member Inetta Gaines presented Kittie’s story to the Brentwood City Commission.
“I wanted to give voice to Mrs. Kittie Sneed… Because she was a human being,” Gaines said. “Just to give voice to those who were voiceless at the time. She could not read or write, so someone else was taking her deposition. This is a treasure for us to have.”
Gaines, reading Kittie’s words, said, “When I was about nineteen years of age, I married Zachary Sneed and I married him at my master’s house. I was married by an old colored preacher named Bird Hightower who is now dead... Zachary Sneed, my husband, was owned by James Sneed, my master’s father... The white folks took Seth (her son) off to Texas during the War and I have not seen him since.”
Kittie never received the pension, and she died on September 12, 1905, near Brentwood. Her deposition will soon be available on