Mammy Kate was a house slave who belonged to future Governor Stephen Heard (1740–1815) of Georgia. She lived in what was then Wilkes County, Georgia, now Elbert County, Georgia.
In an 1820 letter she was said to be the “biggest and tallest” black woman the writer had ever seen and had “proven herself to be a strong, a kindly, a never failing friend to Colonel Heard and his family.” Of pure African descent, she claimed to be the daughter of a great king.
Heard suffered a great deal at the hands of the Tories. They forced his wife out into a snow storm, and she and their young, adopted daughter died from exposure. Then he was captured by the British and sentenced to death.
Ostensibly to care for his needs, Kate followed him to his prison. One morning she presented herself with a large covered basket on her head. She told the sentry on duty that she was there to pick up Colonel Heard’s soiled linen and was admitted to his cell. There she put Heard, who was a small man, in the basket and calmly sauntered pass the guard with him in the basket balanced on her head.
The previous night she had secreted two of Heard’s fine Arabian horses—Lightfoot and Silverheels—on the outskirts of Augusta, where he was imprisoned. She carried Heard to where she had hidden the horses, and she and Heard rode away. It is said that on the ride he offered to set her free, but she responded by telling him that he could set her free, but she was never going to set him free.
He gave her freedom and a deed to a small tract of land and a four-roomed house, but she continued to serve the Heard family, turning over on her death bed her children to his family.