[TR: ***] = Transcriber Note [HW: ***] = Handwritten Note
A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves
TYPEWRITTEN RECORDS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT 1936-1938 ASSEMBLED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PROJECT WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA SPONSORED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Prepared by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Arkansas
Vaden, Charlie Vaden, Ellen Van Buren, Nettie Vaughn, Adelaide J.
Wadille [TR: Waddille], Emmeline Wadille (Waddell), Emmeline (Emiline) Waldon, Henry Walker, Clara Walker, Henry Walker, Jake Walker, Jake Wallace, Willie Warrior, Evans Washington, Anna Washington, Eliza Washington, Jennie Washington, Parrish Watson, Caroline Watson, Mary Wayne, Bart Weathers, Annie Mae Weathers, Cora Webb, Ishe Wells, Alfred Wells, Douglas Wells, John Wells, Sarah Wells, Sarah Williams Wesley, John Wesley, Robert Wesmoland, Maggie West, Calvin West, Mary Mays Wethington, Sylvester Whitaker, Joe White, Julia A. White, Lucy Whiteman, David Whiteside, Dolly Whitfield, J.W. Whitmore, Sarah Wilborn, Dock Wilks, Bell Williams, Bell Williams, Charley Williams, Charlie Williams, Columbus Williams, Frank Williams, Gus Williams, Henrietta Williams, Henry Andrew (Tip) Williams, James Williams, John Williams, Lillie Williams, Mary Williams, Mary Williams, Mary Williams, Rosena Hunt Williams, III, William Ball (Soldier) Williamson, Anna Williamson, Callie Halsey Willis, Charlotte Wilson, Ella Wilson, Robert Windham, Tom Wise, Alice Wise, Frank Withers, Lucy Woods, Anna Woods, Cal Woods, Maggie Word, Sam Worthy, Ike Wright, Alice Wright, Hannah Brooks
Yates, Tom Young, Annie Young, John
Name of Interviewer: Irene Robertson Subject: NEGRO LORE Story:—Information
This information given by: Charlie Vaden Place of Residence: Hazen, Green Grove, Ark. Occupation: Farming Age: 77 [TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
Charlie Vaden's father ran away and went to the war to fight. He was a slave and left his owner. His mother died when he was five years old but before she died she gave Charlie to Mrs. Frances Owens (white lady). She came to Des Arc and ran the City Hotel. He never saw his father till he was grown. He worked for Mrs. Owens. He never did run with colored folks then. He nursed her grandchildren, Guy and Ira Brown. When he was grown he bought a farm at Green Grove. It consisted of a house and forty-seven acres of land. He farmed two years. A fortune teller came along and told him he was going to marry but he better be careful that they wouldn't live together or he might "drop out." He went ahead and married like he was "fixing" to do. They just couldn't get along, so they got divorced.
They had the wedding at her house and preacher Isarel Thomas (colored) married them and they went on to his house. He don't remember how she was dressed except in white and he had a "new outfit too."
Next he married Lorine Rogers at the Green Grove Church and took her home. She fell off the porch with a tub of clothes and died from it just about a year after they married.
He married again at the church and lived with her twenty years. They had four girls and four boys. She died from the change of life.
The last wife he didn't live with either. She is still living.
Had another fortune teller tell his fortune. She said, "Uncle, you are pretty good but be careful or you'll be walking around begging for victuals." He said it had nearly come to that now except it hurt him to walk. (He can hardly walk.) He believes some of what the fortune tellers tell comes true. He has been on the same farm since 1887, which is forty-nine years, and did fine till four years ago. He can't work, couldn't pay taxes, and has lost his land.
He was paralized five months, helpless as a baby, couldn't dress himself. An herb doctor settled at Green Grove and used herbs for tea and poultices and cured him. The doctors and the law run him out of there. His name was Hopkins from Popular Bluff, Missouri.
Charlie Vaden used to have rheumatism and he carried a buckeye in each pants pocket to make the rheumatism lighter. He thought it did some good.
He has a birthmark. Said his mother must have craved pig tails. He never had enough pig tails to eat in his life. The butchers give them to him when he comes to Hazen or Des Arc. He said he would "fight a circle saw for a pig tail."
He can't remember any old songs or old tales. In fact he was too small when his mother died (five years old).
He believes in herb medicine of all kinds but can't remember except garlic poultice is good for neuralgia. Sassafras is a good tea, a good blood purifier in the spring of the year.
He knows a weather sign that seldom or never falls. "Thunder in the morning, rain before noon." "Seldom rains at night in July in Arkansas."
He has seen lots of lucky things but doesn't remember them. "It's bad luck to carry hoes and rakes in the living house." "It's bad luck to spy the new moon through bushes or trees."
He doesn't believe in witches, but he believes in spirits that direct your course as long as you are good and do right. He goes to church all the time if they have preaching. Green Grove is a Baptist church. He is not afraid of dead people. "They can't hurt you if they are dead."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Ellen Vaden DeValls Bluff, Ark. Age: 83
"I am 83 years old. My mother come from Georgia. She left all her kin. Our owner was Dave and Luiza Johnson. They had two girls and a boy—Meely, Colly and Tobe. My mother's aunt come to Memphis in slavery time and come to see us. She cooked and bought herself free. The folks what owned her hired her out till they got paid her worth. She died in Memphis. I never heard father say where he come from or who owned him. He lived close by somewhere.
"My mother cooked. Me and Dave Johnson's boy nursed together. When they had company, Miss Luiza was so modest she wouldn't let Tobe have 'titty'. He would come lead my mother behind the door and pull at her till she would take him and let him nurse. She said he would lead her behind the door.
"I don't remember freedom. I know the Ku Klux was bad around Augusta, Arkansas. One time when I was little a crowd of Ku Klux come at about dusk. They told Dave Johnson they wanted water. He told them there was a well full but not bother that woman and her children in the kitchen. Dave Johnson was a Ku Klux himself. They went on down the road and met a colored woman. She knowed their horses. She called some of them by name and they let her alone.
"One time a colored man was settin' by the fire. His wife was sick in bed. He seen the Ku Klux coming and said 'Lord God, here comes the devil.' He run off. They didn't bother her. She told them she was sick. When she got up and well she wouldn't live with that husband no more.
"Up at Bowens Ridge they took some colored men out one night and if they said they was Republicans they let them go but if they said they was Democrats they whooped them so hard they nearly killed some of them. Some said they was bushwhackers or carpet baggers and not Ku Klux.
"I am a country-raised woman. I had a light stroke and cain't work in the field. I get $8.00 and commodities. I like to live here very well. I don't meddle with young folks business. Seems like they do mighty foolish things to me. Times been changing ever since I come in this world. It is the people cause the times to change. I wouldn't know how to start to vote."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Nettie Van Buren, Clarendon, Arkansas Ex school-teacher Age: 62
"My mother was named Isabel Porter Smith. She come from Springville. Rev. Porter brought her to Mississippi close to Holly Springs. Then she come to Batesville, Arkansas. He owned her. He was a circuit rider. I think he was a Presbyterian minister. I heard her say they brought her to Arkansas when she was a small girl. She nursed and cooked all the time. After freedom she went with Reverend Porter's relatives to work for them. I know so very little about what she said about slavery.
"My father was raised in North Carolina. His name was Jerry Smith and his master he called Judge Smith. My father made all he ever had farmin'. He knew how to raise cotton. He owned a home. This is his home (a nice home on River Street in Clarendon) and 80 acres. He sold this farm two miles from here after he had paralysis, to live on.
"My parents had two girls and two boys. They all dead but me. My mother's favorite song was "Oh How I Love Jesus Because He First Loved Me." They come here because my mother had a brother down here and she heard it was such fine farmin' land.
"When I was a little girl my father was a Presbyterian so he sent me to boardin' school in Cotton Plant and then sent me to Jacksonville, Illinois. I worked my board out up there. Mrs. Dr. Carroll got me a place to work. My sister learned to sew. She sewed for the public till her death. She sewed for both black and white folks. I stretches curtains now if I can get any to stretch and I irons. It give me rheumatism to wash. I used to wash and iron.
"My husband cooks on a Government derrick boat. He gets $1.25 and his board. They have the very best things to eat. He likes the work if he can stay well. He can cook pies and fancy cookin'. They like that. Say they can't hardly get somebody work long because they want to be in town every night.
"We have one child. I used to be a primary teacher here at Clarendon.
"I never have voted. My husband votes but I don't know what he thinks about it.
"I try to look at the present conditions in an encouraging way. The young people are so extravagant. The old folks in need. The thing most discouraging is the strangers come in and get jobs home folks could do and need and they can't get jobs and got no money to leave on nor no place to go. People that able to work don't work hard as they ought and people could and willin' to work can't get jobs. Some of the young folks do sure live wild lives. They think only of the present times. A few young folks are buying homes but not half of them got a home. They work where they let 'em have a room or a house. Different folks live all kinds of ways."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Adelaide J. Vaughn 1122 Cross Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 69
"I was born in Huntsville, Alabama. My mother brought me from there when I was five years old. She said she would come to Arkansas because she had heard so much talk about it. But when she struck the Arkansas line, she didn't like it and she wanted to go back. I have heard her say why but I don't remember now; I done forgot. She thought she wouldn't like it here, but she did after she stayed a while.
"My bronchial tubes git all stopped up and make it hard for me to talk. Phlegm gits all around. I been bothered with them a good while now.
"My mother, she was sold from her father when she was four years old. The rest of the children were grown then. Master Hickman was the one who bought her. I don't know the one that sold her. Hickman had a lot of children her age and he raised her up with them. They were nice to her all the time.
"Once the pateroles came near capturing her. But she made it home and they didn't catch her.
"Mr. Candle hired her from her master when she was about eighteen years old. He was nice to her but his wife was mean. Just because mother wouldn't do everything the other servants said Mis' Candle wanted to whip her. Mother said she knew that Mis' Candle couldn't whip her alone. But she was 'fraid that she would have Sallie, another old Negro woman slave, and Kitty, a young Negro woman slave, to help whip her.
"One day when it was freezing cold, she wanted mother to stand out in the hall with Sallie and Clara and wash the glasses in boiling hot water. She was making her do that because she thought she was uppity and she wanted to punish her. When mother went out, she rattled the dishes 'round in the pan and broke them. They was all glasses. Mis' Candle heard them breaking and come out to see about it. She wanted to whip mother but she was 'fraid to do it while she was alone; so she waited till her husband come home. When he come she told him. He said she oughtn't to have sent them out in the cold to wash the glasses because nobody could wash dishes outside in that cold weather.
"The first morning she was at Mis' Candle's, they called her to eat and they didn't have nothing but black molasses and corn bread for mother's meal. The other two ate it but mother didn't. She asked for something else. She said she wasn't used to eating that—that she ate what her master and mistress ate at home.
"Mis' Candle didn't like that to begin with. She told my mother that she was a smart nigger. She told mother to do one thing and then before she could do it, she would tell her do something else. Mother would just go on doing the first thing till she finished that, and Mis' Candle would git mad. But it wasn't nobody's fault but her own.
"She asked mother to go out and git water from the spring on a rainy day. Mother wouldn't go. Finally mother got tired and went back home. Her mistress heard what she had to tell her about the place she'd been working. Then she said mother did right to quit. She had worked there for three or four months. They meant to keep her but she wouldn't stay. Mis' Hickman went over and collected her money.
"When mother worked out, the people that hired her paid her owners. Her owners furnished her everything she wanted to eat and clothes to wear, and all the money she earned went to them.
"Mis' Candle begged Mr. Hickman to let him have mother back. He said he'd talk to his wife and she wouldn't mistreat her any more but mama said that she didn't want to go back and Mrs. Hickman said, 'No, she doesn't want to go back and I wouldn't make her.' And the girls said, 'No, mama, don't let her go back.' And Mis' Hickman said, 'No, she was raised with my girls and I am not going to let her go back.'
"The Hickmans had my mother ever since she was four years old. My grandfather was allowed to go a certain distance with her when she was sold away from him. He walked and carried her in his arms. Mama said that when he had gone as far as they would let him go, he put her in the wagon and turned his head away. She said she wondered why he didn't look at her; but later she understood that he hated so bad to 'part from her and couldn't do nothing to prevent it that he couldn't bear to look at her.
"Since I have been grown I have worked with some people at Newport. I stayed with them there and married there, and had all my children there.
"I heard the woman I lived with, a woman named Diana Wagner, tell how her mistress said, 'Come on, Diana, I want you to go with me down the road a piece.' And she went with her and they got to a place where there was a whole lot of people. They were putting them up on a block and selling them just like cattle. She had a little nursing baby at home and she broke away from her mistress and them and said, 'I can't go off and leave my baby.' And they had to git some men and throw her down and hold her to keep her from goin' back to the house. They sold her away from her baby boy. They didn't let her go back to see him again. But she heard from him after he became a young man. Some one of her friends that knowed her and knowed she was sold away from her baby met up with this boy and got to questioning him about his mother. The white folks had told him his mother's name and all. He told them and they said, 'Boy, I know your mother. She's down in Newport.' And he said, 'Gimme her address and I'll write to her and see if I can hear from her.' And he wrote. And the white people said they heard such a hollering and shouting goin' on they said, 'What's the matter with Diana?' And they came over to see what was happening. And she said, 'I got a letter from my boy that was sold from me when he was a nursing baby.' She had me write a letter to him. I did all her writing for her and he came to see her. I didn't get to see him. I was away when he come. She said she was willing to die that the Lord let her live to see her baby again and had taken care of him through all these years.
"My father's name was Peter Warren and my mother was named Adelaide Warren. Before she was married she went by her owner's name, Hickman. My daddy belonged to the Phillips but he didn't go in their name. He went in the Warren's name. He did that because he liked them. Phillips was his real father, but he sold him to the Warrens and he took their name and kept it. They treated him nice and he just stayed on in their name. He didn't marry till after both of them were free. He met her somewheres away from the Hickman's. They married in Alabama.
"Mama was born and mostly reared in Virginia and then come to Alabama. That's where I was born, in Alabama. And they left there and came here. I was four years old when they come here.
"I never did hear what my father did in slavery time. He was a twin. The most he took notice of he said was his brother and him settin' on an old three-legged stool. And his mother had left some soft soap on the fire. His brother saw that the pot was goin' to turn over and he jumped up. My father tried to get up too but the stool turned over and caught him, caught his little dress and held him and the hot soap ran over his dress and on to his bare skin. It left a big burn on his side long as he lived. His mother was there close to the house because she knowed the soap was on and those two little boys were in there. She heard him crying and ran in and carried him to her master. He got the doctor and saved him. My father's mother didn't do nothing after that but 'tend to that baby. Her master loved those little boys and kept her and didn't sell her because of them. (The underscoring is the interviewer's—ed.) That was his last master—Warren. Warren loved him more than his real father did. Warren said he knew my father would never live after he had such a burn. But he did live. They never did let him do much work after the accident.
"I think my father's master, Warren—I can't remember his first name—farmed for a living.
"My father and mother had five children. I don't know how many brothers my father had. I have heard my mother say she had four sisters. I never heard her say nothin' 'bout no brothers—just sisters.
"I had six children. Got three living and three dead. They was grown though when they died. I had three boys and three girls. I got two boys living and one girl. The boy in St. Louis does pretty well. But the other in Little Rock doesn't have much luck. If he'd get out of Little Rock, he would find more to do. The one in St. Louis don't make much now because they done cut wages. He's a dining-car waiter. This girl what's here, she does all she can for me. She has a husband and my husband is dead. He's been dead a long time.
"I belong to Bethel A.M.E. Church. You know where that is. Rev. Campbell is a good man. We had him eight years. Then we got Brother Wilson one year and then they put Campbell back.
"I don't know what to think of these young people. Some of them is running wild.
"When I was working for myself, I was generally a maid. But that is been a long time ago. I washed and ironed and done laundry work when I was able a long time ago. But I can't do it now. I can't do it for myself now. I washed for myself a little and I got the flu and got in bad health. That was about four years ago. I reckon it was the flu; I never did have no doctor. When I take the least little cold, it comes back on me."
This old lady appears nearer eighty than sixty-nine, and she speaks with the sureness of an eyewitness.
Interviewer: Mrs. Blanche Edwards Person interviewed: Emmeline Waddille (deceased) Lonoke County, Arkansas Age: 106
She immigrated with her owner, L.W.C. Waddille, to Lonoke County in 1851, coming to Hickory Plains and then to Brownsville. They moved from Hayburn, Georgia in a covered wagon drawn by oxen.
She lived with a great-granddaughter, Mrs. John High, seven miles north of Lonoke, until 1932, when she died. She had nursed six generations of the Waddille family. She was born a deaf-mute but her hearing and speech were restored many years ago when lightening struck a tree under which she was standing.
Emmeline told of how they would stop for the night on the rough journey, and while the men fed the stock, the women and slaves would cook the evening meal of hoecake, fried venison, and coffee. The women slept in the wagons and the men would sleep on the creek watching for wild life. With other pioneers, they suffered all the hardships and dangers incident to the settling of the new country more than three-fourths of a century ago.
Emmeline always had good care. She worked hard and faithfully and was amply rewarded.
Circumstances of Interview STATE—Arkansas NAME OF WORKER—Blanche Edwards ADDRESS—Lonoke, Arkansas DATE—October 20, 1938 SUBJECT—An Old Slave [TR: Emiline Waddell] [TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]
1. Name and address of informant—Mrs. John G. High, living nine miles north of Lonoke, Arkansas.
2. Date and time of interview—October 20, 1938
3. Place of interview—At the home of Mrs. John G. High, nine miles north of Lonoke.
4. Name and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with informant—
5. Name and address of person, if any, accompanying you—
6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.
Text of Interview
Emiline Waddell, a former slave of the L.W. Waddell family, lived to be 106 years old, and was active up to her death.
She was born a slave in 1826 at Haben county, Georgia, a slave of Claybourne Waddell, who emigrated to Brownsville, in 1851, in covered wagons, oxen drawn.
Her "white folks" were three weeks making the trip from the ferry across the Mississippi to old Brownsville; after traveling all day through the bad and boggy woods, at the end of their rough journey at eventide, the movers dismounted and began hasty preparations for the night. While the men were feeding the stock and providing temporary quarters, the women assisted the slaves in preparing the evening meal, of hoe-cake, fried venison and coffee. Then the women and children would sleep in the wagons while the men kept watch for wild life.
Mammy Emiline was a faithful old black mammy, true to life and traditions, and refused her freedom, at the close of the war, as wanted to stay and raise "Old Massa's chilluns," which she did, for she was nursing her sixth generation in the Waddell family at the time of her death. Even to that generation there was a close tie between the southern child and his or her black mammy. A strange almost unbelievable thing happened to Emiline; she was born a deaf mute, but her hearing and speech was restored many years before her death, when lightening struck a tree under which she was standing.
Superstitious beliefs were strong in her and her tales of "hants" were to "her little white chilluns", really true but hair-raising. Then she would talk and live again the "days that are no more", telling them of the happy prosperous, sunny land, in her negro dialect, and then tell of the ruin and desolation behind the Yankees; the hard times my white folks had in the reconstruction days—negro and carpetbag rule; then give them glimpses of good—much courage, some heart and human feeling; perhaps ending with an outburst of the negro spiritual, her favorite being, "Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home."
After a faithful service of 106 years, Emiline died in 1932 at the home of Mrs. John G. High, a great-granddaughter of L.W.C. Waddell living nine miles north of Lonoke, and the grown up great-great-grandchildren still miss Mammy.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Henry Waldon 816 Walnut Street. North Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 84
"I was plowing when they surrendered. I had just learned to plow, and was putting up some land. My young master come home and was telling me the War was ended and we was all free.
"I was born in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. I think it was about 1854. My father's name [HW: was] ——, my mother's [HW: was] ——, I knew them both.
"My mother belonged to Sterling and my father belonged to a man named Huff—Richmond Huff.
"We lived in Lauderdale County. Huff wouldn't sell my father and my people wouldn't sell my mother. They lived about a mile or so apart. They didn't marry in them days. The niggers didn't, that is. Father would just come every Saturday night to see my mother. His cabin was about three miles from her's. We moved from Lauderdale County to Scott County, Mississippi, and that separated mama and papa. They never did meet again. Of course, I mean it was the white people that moved, but they carried mama and us with them. Papa and mama never did meet again before freedom, and they didn't meet afterwards.
"My mother had twelve children—eight girls and four boys. She had one by a man named Peter Smith. She was away from her husband then. She had four by my father—two boys and two girls; my father's name was Peter Huff. My mother's name was Mary Sterling. I never did see my father no more after we moved away from him.
"My father made cotton and corn, plowed and hoed in slavery time. His old master had seventy-five or eighty hands. His old master treated him pretty rough. He whipped them about working. He never hired no overseer over them. When he whipped them he took their shirts off and whipped them on their naked backs. He cut the blood out of some of them. He never did rub no salt nor vinegar in their wounds. His youngest son done his overseeing. He would whip them sometime but he wasn't tight on them like some that I knowed.
"A fellow by the name of Jim Holbert was mean to his slaves as a man could be. He would whip them night and day. Work them till dark; then they would eat supper. Cook their own supper. Had nothing to cook but a little meat and bread and molasses. Then they would go back and bale up three or four bales of cotton. Some nights they work till twelve o'clock then get up before daylight—'round four o'clock—and cook their breakfast and go to work again. That was on Jim Holbert and Lard Moore's place. Them was two different men and two different places—plantations. They whipped their slaves a good deal—always beating down on somebody. They made their backs sore. Their backs would be bleeding just like they cut it with knives. Then they would wash it down with water and salt.
"On my master's farm, each one cooked in his own cabin. While the hands were working, my master left one child, the largest, stay there and taken care of the little ones.
"They had bloodhounds too; they'd run you away in the woods. Send for a man that had hounds to track you if you run away. They'd run you and bay you, and a white man would ride up there and say, 'If you hit one of them hounds, I'll blow your brains out.' He'd say 'your damn brains.' Them hounds would worry you and bite you and have you bloody as a beef, but you dassent to hit one of them. They would tell you to stand still and put your hands over your privates. I don't guess they'd have killed you but you believed they would. They wouldn't try to keep the hounds off of you; they would set them on you to see them bite you. Five or six or seven hounds bitin' you on every side and a man settin' on a horse holding a doubled shotgun on you.
"My old miss's sister hired slave women out to old Jim Holbert once. One of them was in a delicate state, and they dug a hole and put her stomach down in it and whipped her till she could hardly walk.
"Holbert lived to see the niggers freed. All of his slaves left him pretty well when freedom come. He managed to hold on to his money. He didn't go to the War. He was pretty old. He had two sons in the War—his wife had one in there and he had one. One of them got wounded but he didn't die.
"My mistress's oldest son, Ed Sterling, got shot in the Civil War. He got shot right in the side at Franklin, Tennessee. It tore his whole side off—near about killed him. But he lived to ride paterole. He was mean. Catch a man in bed with his wife at night, he'd whip him and make him go home. He was the meanest man in the world. All the other sons were better than he was. His name was Ed Sterling.
"The first thing I remember was work. You weren't allowed to remember nothing but work in slave times and you got whipped about that. You weren't allowed to go nowhere but carry the mules out to the pasture to eat grass. Sometimes they jump the fence and go over in the field and eat corn. Me and another fellow named Sandy used to watch them all day Sunday. Watching the mules and working in the fields through the week was the first work I remember. Me and my sister worked on one row. The two of us made a hand. She is down in Texas somewheres now. They taken her from old lady Sterling's place. She give them to her son and he carried them down in Texas. He had a broken leg and never did go to the war. If he did, I never knowed nothing about it.
"None of the masters never give me anything. None of them as I knows of never give anything to any of the slaves when they freed 'em. Never give a devilish thing. Told them that they was free as they was and that they could stay there and help them make crops if they wanted to. The biggest part of them stayed. The rest went away. Their husbands taken them away.
"Right after the war my mother married an old fellow who used to be old Holbert's nigger driver. He stayed on Sterling's place one night. He stayed there a year. Then he married my mother and went to old Holbert's place and of course, we had to go too. I stayed there and worked for him. And my mama too and the two youngest sisters and the youngest brother stayed with me. I run away from him in '86. I went down the railroad about five miles and an old colored fellow give me a job. He used to belong to the railroad boss.
"I worked nearly two years on that railroad; then I left and come on down to Arkansas. I have been right here on this spot about forty years. I don't know how long it is been since I first come here, but it is been a long time ago. I paid fire insurance on this place for thirty-nine years. I lived over the river before I came to North Little Rock. I worked for the railroad company thirty-eight years. It's been fifteen years since I was able to work—maybe longer.
"I belong to Little Bethel Church (A.M.E.) here in North Little Rock. I been a member of that church more than thirty-five years.
"I have been married twice, and I am the father of three children that are living and two that dead—Tommy, Jim, Ewing, Mayzetta, and the baby. He was too young to have a name when he died.
"I think things is worse than they ever was. Everything we get we have to pay for, and then pay for paying for it. If it wasn't for my wife I could hardly live because I don't get much from the railroad company."
Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins Person Interviewed: Aunt Clara Walker Aged: 111 Home: "Flatwoods" district, Garland County. Own property.
Story by Aunt Clara Walker
"You'll have to wait a minute ma'am. Dis cornbread can't go down too fas'. Yes ma'am, I likes cornbread. I eats it every meal. I wouldn't trade just a little cornbread for all de flour dat is.
Where-bouts was I born? I was born right here in Arkansas. Dat is it was between an on de borders of it an dat state to de south—yes ma'am, dat's right, Louisiana. My mother was a slave before me. She come over from de old country, she was a-runnin' along one day front of a—a—dat stripedy animal—a tiger? an' a man come along on an elephant and scoop her up an' put her on a ship.
Yes ma'am. My name's Clara Walker. I was born Clara Jones, cause my pappy's name was Jones. But lots of folks called me Clara Cornelius, cause Mr. Cornelius was de man what owned me. Did you ever hear of a child born wid a veil over its face? Well I was one of dem! What it mean? Why it means dat you can see spirits an' ha'nts, an all de other creatures nobody else can see.
Yes ma'am, some children is born dat way. You see dat great grandchild of mine lyin' on de floor? He's dat way. He kin see 'em too. Is many of 'em around here? Lawsey dey's as thick as piss-ants. What does dey look like? Some of 'em looks like folks; an' some of 'em looks like hounds. When dey sees you, dey says "Howdy!" an' if you don't speak to 'em dey takes you by your shoulders an dey shakes you. Maybe dey hits you on de back. An' if you go over to de bed an lies in de bed an' goes to sleep, dey pulls de cover off you. You got to be polite to 'em. What makes 'em walk around? Well, I got it figgured out dis way. Dey's dissatisfied. Dey didn't have time to git dey work done while dey was alive.
Dat greatgrandchild of mine, he kin see 'em too. Now my eight grandchildren an' my three children what's alivin' none of 'em can see de spirits. Guess dat greatgrandchild struck way back. I goes way back. My ol' master what had to go to de war, little 'fore it was over told me when he left dat I was 39 years old. Somebody figgured it out for me dat I's 111 now. Dat makes me pretty old, don't it?
There was another fellow on a joinin' plantation. He was a witch doctor. Brought him over from Africa. He didn't like his master, 'cause he was mean. So he make a little man out of mud. An' he stick thorns in its back. Sure 'nuff, his master got down with a misery in his back. An' de witch doctor let de thorn stay in de mud-man until he thought his master had got 'nuff punishment. When he tuck it out, his master got better.
Did I got to school. No ma'am. Not to book school. Dey wouldn't let culled folks git no learnin'. When I was a little girl we skip rope an' play high-spy (I Spy). All we had to do was to sweep de yard an go after de cows an' de pigs an de sheep. An' dat was fun, cause dey was lots of us children an we all did it together.
When I was 13 years old my ol' mistress put me wid a doctor who learned me how to be a midwife. Dat was cause so many women on de plantation was catchin' babies. I stayed wid dat doctor, Dr. McGill his name was, for 5 years. I got to be good. Got so he'd sit down an' I'd do all de work.
When I come home, I made a lot o' money for old miss. Lots of times, didn't sleep regular or git my meals on time for three—four days. Cause when dey call, I always went. Brought as many white as culled children. I's brought most 200, white an' black since I's been in Hot Springs. Brought a little white baby—to de Wards it was—dey lived jest down de lane—brought dat baby 'bout 7 year ago.
I's brought lots of 'em an' I ain't never lost a case. You know why. It's cause I used my haid. When I'd go in, I'd take a look at de woman, an' if it was beyond me, I'd say, 'Dis is a doctor case. Dis ain't no case for a midwife. You git a doctor.' An' dey'd have to get one. I'd jes' stan' before de lookin' glass, an' I wouldn't budge. Dey couldn't make me.
I made a lot of money for ol' miss. But she was good to me. She give me lots of good clothes. Those clothes an my mother's clothes burned up in de fire I had a few years ago right on dis farm. Lawsey I hated loosin' dose clothes I had when I was a girl more dan anything I lost. An' I didn't have to work in de fields. In between times I cooked an' I would jump in de loom. Yes, ma'am I could weave good. Did my yards every day. I weave cloth for dresses—fine dresses you would use thread as thin as dat you sews wid today—I weaves cloth for underclothes, an fo handkerchiefs an for towels. Den I weaves nits and lice. What's dat—well you see it was kind corse cloth de used for clothes like overalls. It mas sort of speckeldy all over—dat's why dey called it nits and lice.
Law, I used to be good once, but after I got all burned up I wasn't good for so much. It happened dis way. A salt lick was on a nearby plantation. Ever body who wanted salt, dey had to send a hand to help make it. I went over one day—an workin' around I stepped on a live coal. I move quick an' I fall plum over into a salt vat. Before dey got me out I was pretty near ruined.
What did dey do? Dey killed a hog—fresh killed a hog. An' dey fry up de fat—fry it up wid some of de hog hairs an' dey greesed me good. An' it took all de fire out of de burns. Dey kept me greezed for a long time. I was sick nearly six months. Dey was good to me.
An one day, young miss, she married. Ol' miss give me to her 'long of 23 others. Twenty four was all she could spare an' keep some for herself an save enough for de other children. We went to California. Young Miss was good, but her husband was mean. He give me de only white folks whippin I ever had. Ol' miss never had to whip her slaves. I was tryin' to cook on an earth stove—dat's why it happen. Did you ever hear of an earth stove? Well, dey make sort of drawers out of dirt. You burn wood in 'em. After you git used to it you kin cook on it good. But dat day I was busy an' I burned de biscuits. An' he whip me.
I run off. I knew in general de way home. When I come to de Brazos river it looked most a mile across. But I jump in an' I swim it. One day I done found a pearl handled pocket knife. A few days later I meet up wid a white boy. An' he say its his knife, an' I say, 'White boy, I know dat ain't your knife, an' you know it ain't. But if you'll write me out a free pass, I'll give it to you.' An' so he wrote it. After dat, I could walk right up to de front gates an ask for somthin' to eat. Cause I had a paper sayin' I was Clara Jones an' I was goin' home to my ol' mistress Mis' Cornelius. Please paterollers to leave me alone. An' folks along de way, dey'd take me in an' feed me. Dey'd give me a place to stay an fix me up a lunch to take along. Dey'd say, "Clara, you's a good nigger. You's a goin' home to your ol' miss, so we's goin' to do for you."
An' I got within five miles of home before dey catch me. An' my ol' miss won't let me go back. She keep me an' send another one in my place. An' de war kept on, an ol' massa had to go. An' word come dat he been killed.
Yes, 'em, some folks run off, an' some of 'em stayed. Finally ol' miss refugeed a lot of us to California. What is it to refugee. Well, you see, suppose you was afraid dat somebody go in' to take your property an' you run 'em away off somewhere—how you come to know.
When de war was over, young miss she come in an she say, 'Clara, you's as free as I am.' 'No, I ain't.' says I. 'Yes, you is,' says she. 'What you goin' to do?' 'I's goin' to stay an' work for you.' says I. 'No' says she, 'you ain't cause I can't pay you.' 'Well,' says I, 'I'll go home to see my old mother.' 'Tell you what,' says she, 'I ain't got nuff money to send you, only part—so you go down to whar' dey is a'pannin' gold. You kin git a Job at $2.00 per day.'
Many's a day I've stood in water up to my waist pannin' gold. In dem days dey worked women jest like men. I worked hard, an' young miss took care of me. When I got ready to come home I bought my stage fare an' I carried $300 on me back to my ol' mother.
De trip took six weeks. Everywhere de stage would stop young miss had writ a note to somebody and de stage coach men give it to 'em an dey took care of me—good care.
When I got home to my mother I found dat ol' miss had give all of 'em somthin' along with settin 'em free. My mother had 12 children so she git de mos'. She git a horse, a milk cow, 8 killin' hogs and 50 bushels of corn. She moved off to a little house on ol' miss's plantation and make a crop on halvers. She stay on dar for three—four years. Den she move off into another county where she could go to meetin without havin' to cross de river. An' I stayed on wid her an help her farm—I could plow as good as a man in dem days.
Finally I hear dat you could make more money in Hot Springs, so I come to see. My mother was dead by dat time. De first year I made a crop for Mr. Clay—my granddaughter cooks and tends to children for some of his folks today. When I went to town an I washed at de Arlington hotel. It wasn't de fine place it is today. It was jest boards like dis cabin of mine. An I washed at another hotel—what was it—down across de creek from de Arlington. Yes ma'am, dat's it. De Grand Central—it was grand too—for dem days. An' I cooked for Dr. McMasters. An' I cooked for Colonel Rector—de Rectors had lots of money in dem days. I could make a weddin' cake good as anybody—with, a 'gagement ring in it. I could make it fine—tho I don't know but two letters in de book an' thoses is A and B.
I married Mr. Walker. He was a hod carrier when dey built de old red brick Arlington. I remember lots of things dat happened here. I remember seein' de smoke from de fire—dat big one. We was a livin' near Picket Springs—you don't know whare dat is. Well, does you know where de soldier's breast work was—now I git you on to remembering.
Den, later on we moved out an' got a farm near Hawes. I traded dat place for dis one. Yes, ma'am I likes livin' in de country. Never did like livin' in town.
I don't right know whether culled folks wanted to be free or not. Lots of 'em didn't rightly understand, Ol' miss was good to hers. Some of 'em wasn't. She give 'em things before an she give 'em things after. Of course, we went back an' we washed for 'em. But one mortal blessin. Ol' miss had made her girls learn how to cook an' wait on themselves.
Now take de Combinders. Dey was on de next plantation. Dey was mean. Many a time you could hear de bull whip, clear over to our place, PLOP, PLOP. An' if dey died, dey jest wrapped 'em in cloth an' dig a trench, an' plow right over 'em. An' when de war was over, dey wouldn't turn dey slaves loose. An de Federals marched in an' marched 'em off. An' ol' Mis' Combinder she holler out an she say, 'What my girls goin' to do? Dey ain't never dressed deyselves in dey life. We can't cook? What we do?' An' de soldiers didn't pay no attention. Dey just marched 'em off.
An' ol' man Combinder he lay down an' he have a chill an' he die. He die because day take his property away from him.
Yes, ma'am, Thank you for the quarter. I's goin' to buy snuff. I gets along good. My grandson he hauls wood for de paper mill. An' my granddaughters dey works for folks cooks an takes care of children. I had a good crop dis year. I'll have meat, I got lots of corn, an' I got other crops. We're gettin' along nice, mighty nice. Thank you ma'am."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Henry Walker, Hazen, Arkansas Age: 80
I was born nine miles south of Nashville, Tennessee. The first I ever knowed or heard of a war, I saw a lot of the funniest wagons coming up to the house from the road. I called the old mistress. She looked out the window and pushed me back up in the corner and shot the door. She was so scared. I thought them things they had on their coats (buttons) was pretty. I found out they was brass buttons. I peeped out a crack it was already closed 'cept a big crack, I seed through. Well, the wagons was high in front and high in the back and sunk in the middle. Had pens in the wheels instead of axels. Wagon had a box instead of a bed. The wagons would hold a crib full of corn. They loaded up everything on the place there was to eat and carried it off. My folks and the other folks was in the field. Colored folks didn't like 'em taking all they had to eat and had stored up to live on. They didn't leave a hog nor a chicken, nor anything else they could find. They drove off all the cows and calves they could find. Colonel Sam Williams, the old master, soon did go to war then. The folks had a hard time making a living. Old mistress had four girls and her baby Ed was one day older than I was. The children of the hands played around in the woods and every place and stayed in the field if they was big enough to do any work. Old mistress had all the children pick up scaley barks and hickory nuts and chestnuts and walnuts. She put them in barrels. She sold some of them. She had a heap of sugar maple trees. They put an elder funnel to run the sap in buckets. We carried that and she boiled it down to brown sugar. She had up pick up chips to burn when she simmered it down or made soap. She kept all the children hunting ginsing up in the mountains. She kept it in sacks. A man come by and buy it. We hunted chenqupins down in the swamps. There was lots of walnut trees in the woods.
No the slaves didn't leave Colonel Williams. He left them. He brought me and Ed and we went back and moved to the old Williams farm on Arkansas River close to Little Rock. Then he sent for my folks. They come in wagons. They worked for him a long time and scattered about. I stayed at his house till he said "Henry, you are grown; you better look out for yourself now." Ed was gone. He sent all the girls off to school and Ed too. They taught me if I wanted to learn but I didn't care much about it. I went to the colored school and Ed to the white school. He learned pretty well. I never did like to 'sociate or stay 'bout colored folks and I didn't like to mind 'em. Old mistress show did brush me out sometimes and they called my mother to tend to me. When I was real little they drove the hands to the block to be sold out along the road. Old mistress say: "If you don't be good and mind we'll send yare off and sell you wid 'em." That scared me worse than a whooping. Never did see anybody sold. Heard them talk a heap about it. When one of them wouldn't work and lay out in the woods, or they wouldn't mind they soon got sold off. They mated a heap of them and sold them for speculation. No mam I didn't like slavery. We had plenty to eat but they worked for all they got. Had good fires and good warm houses and good clothes but I did not like the way they give out the provisions. They blowed a horn and measured out the weeks paratta for every family. They cooked at the cabins for their own families. There was several springs and a deep rock walled well at old mistress' house. Old mistress always lived in a fine house. I slept at my mother's house nearly all the time. She had a big family. White folks raised me up to play with Ed till I thought I was white. They taught me to do right and I ain't forgot it. I never was arrested. I married three times, bought three marriage license all in Prairie County. All three wives died.
I owns dis house 'cept a mortgage of $50. One of my boys got in a difficulty. I don't know where he is to get him to pay it off. The other boy he's not man enough either to pay it off.
I never did know jess when the Civil War did close. I kept hearing 'em say we are free. I didn't see much difference only when Colonel Williams come back times wasn't so hard. Then he sold out and come to Arkansas. Then each family raised his own hogs and chickens and finally got to have cows.
I was as scared of the Ku Klux Klan as of rattlesnakes. In Tennessee they come up the road and back just after dark. They rode all night and if you wasn't on your master's own land and didn't have a pass from him or the overseer they would set the dogs on you and run you home. Sometimes they would whip them. Take them home to the old master. I never heard of no uprisings. People loved each other better then than now. They didn't have so much idle time. There was always some work to be doing. When they didn't mind they run them with dogs and whipped them. The overseer and paddyrollers seed about that. The first day of the year everybody went up to hear the rules and see who was to be the overseer. Then they knowed what to do for the year. They never did kill nobody. No mam that was too costly. They had work according to their strength and age. The Ku Klux was to keep order.
I been living in Hazen forty or fifty years. All I ever have done was farm sometimes one-half-for-the-other and sometimes on share-crop.
I have voted but not lately. I votes a Republican ticket. I votes that way because it was the Republicans that set us free, I always heard it said. I jess belongs to that party. Seems lack we gets easier times when the Democrats reign. Colonel Williams was a Democrat.
The young folks are not as well off as I was at their age. They are restless and won't work unless they gets big pay and they spends the money too easy. The colored people are too idle and orderless. They fight and hate one another and roam around in too much confusion.
I gets from $3 to $8 last month from the Sociable Welfare. My children helps me mighty little. They got their own children to see after and don't make much.
Colonel Williams and Ed are both dead. They did give me a lot of fine clothes when I went to see them as long as they lived. I don't know where the girls hab gone. Scattered around. I oughter never left my good old home and white folks. They was show always mighty good to me.
I never could sing much. I used to give the Rebbel Yell. Colonel Yopp give me a dime every time I give it. Since he died I ain't yelled it no more. I learned it from Colonel Williams. I jess took it up hearing him about the place.
FOLKLORE SUBJECTS Name of Interviewer: Irene Robertson Subject: Ex-Slave-Hunting Story:—Information
This information given by: Henry Walker Place of Residence: Hazen, Arkansas Occupation: Farmer. Age: 78 [TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
Henry Walker was born nine miles south of Nashville, Tennessee. Remembered the soldiers and ran to the windows to see them pass. One day he saw a lot of soldiers coming to the house. Henry ran in ahead and said out loud, "them Yankeys are coming up here." The mistress slapped Henry, hid him and slammed the doors. The soldiers did not get in but they did other damage that day. They took all the mules out of the lot and drove them away. They filled their "dugout wagons" with corn. A dugout wagon would hold nearly a crib full of corn. They were high in front and back and came down to a point, nearly touched the ground between the wheels. The wheels had pens instead of axles in them.
The children ran like pigs every morning. The pigs ran to eat acorns and the children—white and black—to pick up chestnuts, scaly barks and hickory nuts. There were lots of black walnuts. "We had barrels of nuts to eat all winter and the mistress sold some every year at Nashville, Tennessee. The woods were full of nut trees and we had a few maple and sweet gum trees. We simmered down maple sap for brown sugar and chewed the sweet gum. We picked up chips to simmer the sweet maple sap down. We used elder tree wood to make faucets for syrup barrels. There were chenquipins down in the swamps that the children gathered."
Henry Walker said that they were sent upon the hills to find ginsing and often found long beds of it. They put it in sacks and a man came and bought it from the mistress. The mistress' name was Mrs. Williams. She kept the money for the ginsing and nuts too when she sold them.
Henry said he ate at Mrs. Williams', but the other children ate at the cabin. On Saturday evening the horn would sound and every slave would come to get his allowance of provisions. They used a big bell hung up in a tree to call them to meals and to begin work. They could also hear other farm bells and horns. Colored folks could have dances if they would get permission. Some masters were overseers themselves and some hired overseers. Patty Rell was a white man and the bush-wackers give us trouble sometimes.
On January first every year everybody ate peas and "hog jole" and received the new rules. The masters would say, "don't be running up here telling me on the overseer." They had a bush harbor church and the white preacher came to preach to black and white sometimes. They taught obedience and the Golden Rules. No schools—Henry said since freedom the white men had cheated him out of all he had ever made, with pen-and-ink. He rather be whipped with a stick than a writing pen. He said Mr. and Mrs. Williams were good people. Henry learned to knit his socks and gloves at night watching the grown people. They made a certain number of broches every night. He liked that.
Henry said Mr. Williams let him carry his gun hunting with him and taught him how to shoot squirrels. They were plentiful. He had a lot of dogs. The master went to the deer stand and Henry managed the twelve hounds. He didn't like to fox hunt. About a hundred men and thirty dogs, horns, etc. out for the chase. They came from Nashville and in the country. A fox make three rounds from where he is jumped and then widens out. They brought "fine whiskey" out on the chases.
When they had corn shuckings one Negro would sit on the fence and lead the singing, the others shuck on each side. The master would pour out a tin cup full of whiskey from a big jug for each corn shucker, and Mrs. Williams would give each a square of gingerbread.
Mr. Williams set aside a certain number of acres of land every year to be cleared, fenced and broke for cultivation by spring. Six or eight men worked together. They used tong-hand sticks to carry the logs to the piles where they were burning them. A saw was a side show, they used mall, axe and wedge. After the log rolling there would be a big supper and a good one. The visitors got what they wanted from the table first. "That was manners."
"We took turns going to the Methodist church at Nashville with Mr. and Mrs. Williams. They went in the fine carriage and the maid held the baby but anybody else rode along behind on horseback. The carriage horses were curried every day, kept up and ate corn and fodder. Mr. and Mrs. Williams came to Nashville to big weddings and dances often."
After Henry Walker came to Hazen, Colonel Yopp had him feed his dogs and attend him on big fox hunting trips. Since Colonel Yopp died January 1928 Henry seldom, or perhaps has never sung the song he sang to Colonel for dimes if he needed a little change. He learned the song and whoop back in in slavery days. He said William Dorch (colored boy) took it up from hearing him sing for Colonel Yopp and would write it for me and sing it and give it with the old Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee whoop.
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Jake Walker 3002 Short W. Ninth Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 95
"Well, I was here—I was born in 1842, August the 4th. That makes me ninety-five in the clear. If I live till next August I'll be ninety-six.
"No ma'am, I wasn't born in Arkansas, I was born in Alabama. I been here in Arkansas bout forty or fifty years. I used to live in Mississippi when I first left the old country.
"Oh yes'm, I was bout big enough to go durin' the War, but I wouldn't run off. Couldn't a had no better master. That's the reason I'm livin' like I do. Always took good care of myself. Never had no exposure.
"I did work fore the War, I'll say! Done anything they said.
"John Carmichael was my old master and Miss Nancy was old missis.
"Oh yes ma'am, I seed the Yankees. They stopped there. I wasn't askeered of nobody. I have went to the well and drawed water for em.
"I member when the War was gwine on. I didn't know why they was fightin'. If I did I done forgot—I'll be honest with you. I didn't know nothin' only they was fightin'. Most of my work was around the house. I never paid no tention to that war. I was livin' too fine them days. I was livin' a hundred days to the week. Yes ma'am, I did get along fine.
"Oh yes ma'am, I had good white folks. I never was sold. No ma'am, I born right on the old home place.
"Patrollers? Had to get a pass from your master to go over there. Oh yes, I know all about them. I have seed the Ku Klux too. Yes ma'am, I know all about them things.
"I never been to school but half a day. I went to work when I was eight years old and been workin' ever since.
"My father died in slave times and my mother died the fourth year after surrender.
"After freedom, I worked there bout the course of three or four years. Then I emigrated and come on to Mississippi. The most I done them times was farmin'. Reckon I stayed in Mississippi five or six years.
"The most work I done here in Arkansas is carpenter work. I'm the first colored man ever contracted in Pine Bluff.
"If I wasn't able to work, I don't think I'd stay here long.
"Used to drive the mule in the gin in slave times.
"We didn't have a bit of expense on us. Our doctor bills was paid and had clothes give to us and had plenty of something to eat.
"Yes'm, I used to vote but it's been for years since I voted. Voted Republican. I don't know why the colored people is Republican. You askin' me something now I don't know nothin' about, but I believe in votin' for the man goin' to do good—do the country good.
"Oh, don't talk about the younger generation—I jist can't accomplish em, I sure can't. They ain't got the 'regenious' and get-up about em they had in my time. They is more wiser, that's about all. The young race these days—I don't know what's gwine come of em. If twasn't for we old fogies, don't know what they'd do.
"We ain't never had that World War yet told about in the Bible. Called this last war the World War but twasn't.
"I've always tried to keep my place and I ain't never been in any kind of trouble."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Jake Walker, Wheatley, Arkansas Age: 68
"I was born seven or eight miles from Hernando, Mississippi. My pa was a slave over twenty years. He belong to Master Will Walker, and his white mistress was Ann. They brought him from 'round Athens, Georgia. He was heired through his master. His own mother died at his birth and he was the son of a peddler through the country. He was a furriner but pa never could tell. His young master never told him. His ma was the nurse about the place. The peddler was a white man of some kind. He kept coming about selling goods. The dogs made a bad racket. They never bought nothing much. Old master suspicioned him trying to get away with something about the place. He come right out and accused him to being up to something. He denied it. He told the peddler not to come back. He never. After it was over she told her mistress. He wanted her to go on off with him. That made them mad. But he never was seen about there.
"When Will Walker got married he wanted my pa and he was give to him, a horse and buggy, two mules, a lamb, and five young cows. He had some money and he come to Mississippi. I reckon he did buy some land. He got to be a slave owner before freedom. Pa said he drove the horse to the buggy and his master rode a mule, led a mule and brought his cows, and they kept the lamb in the buggy with them nearly all the way.
"I think they was good to him. His young mistress cried so much they all went back once before freedom. They went on Christmas time. Only time he ever was drunk. He got down and nearly froze to death. The white folks heard he was somewhere down. They went and got him one Sunday morning in a two-horse wagon. He was nearly dead. That was his first and last spree.
"Pa said he nursed three of his young mistress' babies, Alfred, Tom, and Kenneth.
"After freedom pa went to Texas with Alfred Walker. He owned a ranch out on the desert and raised Texas ponies and big horn cows. They sent a carload of young cattle to St. Louis and pa stopped back in Mississippi and married ma. She was a Walker too, Libbie Walker. There was fourteen of us children. They nearly all went to Louisiana to work in the timber. I come to Clarendon. I been married three times. My last wife left me and took my onliest child. Only child I ever had. They was at Hot Springs last account I had of them. She was cooking for a woman over there. My girl is up 'bout grown now. She come to Clarendon to see me three years ago. I sent for her but she wouldn't stay. She writes to me, but I have to get somebody to write for me and somebody to read her letters. I can read print real good. I never went to school a day in my whole life. We had to work early and late when I come up.
"I farmed, sawmilled, worked in the timber. I do public work, haul wood, cut wood, and work in the field by day labor.
"I votes a Republican ticket. I haven't voted since Mr. Taft run. I don't have no way to keep up with elections now. Folks used to talk more, now they keeps quiet.
"I never heard pa say how he come to know about freedom. Ma said she was refugeed to Texas and when they brung them back, Master Will Walker met them at the creek on his place and he said, 'You all are free now. You can go on my place or hunt other places.' They went on his place and they lived there a long time. I don't remember ever living on that place. Pa wasn't there then. I don't know where be could been. Ma and pa was both Walkers but no blood kin. Ma didn't talk much about old times. She was sold once, she said. Bass Kelly bought her. I don't know if Will Walker traded for her. She never did say. Bass Kelly was mean to her. He beat her and one time she hid and kept hid till she nearly starved, she said. She hid in the corn crib. It was a log house. She didn't enjoy slavery. Pa had a very good time, better than us boys had it when we come up. He worked and kept us with him. He and ma died the same week. They had pneumonia in Mississippi.
"I got one sister. She lives close to Shreveport. She keeps up with us all. I go down there every now and then. She's not stove up like I am. She wants me to stay with her all the time. I gets work down there easier but I have the rheumatism bad down there.
"I don't know what will become of young folks. I wish I had their chance. They can't wait for nothing. They in too big a hurry for the crop to grow. Busy living by the day. When the year gone they ain't no better off. Times is good in places. Hard in places. Times better in Louisiana than up here. Work easier to get. Folks got more living.
"I'm chopping cotton on Mr. Hill's place. I gets ninety cents a day. I can't get over the ground fast."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Willie Wallace 40th and Georgia Streets, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 80
"I was born in Green County, Alabama. Elihu Steele was my old master. Miss Julia was old missis. She was Elihu's wife. Her mother's name was Penny Hatter. Miss Penny give my mother to her daughter Julia.
"I was a twin and they choosed us for the cook and washer and ironer, but surrender come along 'fore we got big enough to do anything.
"My father was crippled and couldn't work in the field, and I remember he used to carry the children out to the field to be suckled.
"They had a right smart of slaves. My mother had twelve children and I'm the baby.
"I remember they'd make up a big pot of corn bread and pot-liquor and they'd say, 'Eat, chillun, eat.'
"I remember one time the white folks had some stock tied out, and I know my sister's little boy didn't know no better and he showed the Yankees where they was.
"I remember when they said the people was free, but our folks stayed right on there—I don't know how many years—'cause my mother thought a heap of her old missis, Penny.
"I went to school after freedom and learned how to read and write and figger. I worked in the field till I got disabled. I never did wash and iron and cook for the white folks.
"I was fifteen—somewhere in there—when I married and I'm the mother of twelve children.
"I have lived in Thomas, West Virginia; Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; Cumberland, Maryland; Milliken, Louisiana; and Birmingham, Alabama. I just lived in all them places following my children around.
"I fell through a trestle in Birmingham and injured myself comin' from church.
"I think the people is gettin' terrible now. You think they're gettin' better? I think they're gettin' wuss.
"I got a book here called 'Uncle Tom' and I hates to read it sometimes 'cause the people suffered so.
"I don't think old master had any overseers. Miss Julia wouldn't 'low any of her people to be beat."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden Person interviewed: Evans Warrior 609 E. 23rd Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Age: 80
"I was born here in Arkansas in Dallas County. I don't know zackly what year but I was bout five when they drove us to Texas. Stayed there three years till the war ceasted.
"Old master's name was Nat Smith. He was good to me. I was big enough to plow same year the war ceasted.
"Yankees come through Texas after peace was 'clared. They'd come by and ask my mother for bread. She was the cook.
"We left Arkansas 'fore the war got busy. Everything was pretty ragged after we got back. White folks was here but colored folks was scattered. My folks come back and went to their native home in Dallas County.
"Never did nothin' but farm work. Worked on the shares till I got able to rent. Paid five or six dollars a acre. Made some money.
"I heered of the Ku Klux. Some of em come through the Clemmons place and put notice on the doors. Say VACATE. All the women folks got in one house. Then the boss man come down and say there wasn't nothin' to it. Boss man didn't want em there.
"I went to school a little. Kep' me in the field all the tims. Didn't get fur enuf to read and write.
"Yes'm, I voted. Voted the Republican ticket. That's what they give me to vote. I couldn't read so I'd tell em who I wanted to vote for and they'd put it down. Some of my friends was justice of the peace and constables.
"I been in Pine Bluff bout four years—till I got disabled to work.
"I been married five times. All dead but two. Don't know how many chillun we had—have to go back and study over it.
"Some of the younger generation is out of reason. Ain't strict on chillun now like the old folks was."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Anna Washington, Clarendon, Arkansas (Back of Mrs. Maynard's home in the alley) Age: 77
"I've forgot who my mother's owner was. She was born in Virginia. She was put on a block and sold. She was fifteen years old and she never seen her mother again after she left her. Her master was George Birdsong. He bought my papa too. They was onliest two he owned. He wanted them both light so the children would be light for house girls and waiting boys. Light colored folks sold for more money on the block.
"The boss man over grandpa and grandma in Virginia was John Glover. But he was not their owner. My grandpa was about white. He said his owners was good to him but now grandma had a pided back where she had been whooped. Grandpa come down from the Washington slaves so my papa said. That is the reason I holds to his name and my boy holds to it. Papa said he had to plough and clean up new ground for Master Birdsong. He was a young man starting out and papa and mama was young too.
(She left and came back with some old scraps of yellow and torn papers dimly written all over: Anna Washington, born 1860 at Hines County at Big Rock. Mother born at Capier County. Father born at White County, Virginia—ed.)
"This is what was told to me by my papa: His grandmother was born of George Washington's housemaid. That was one hundred forty years ago. His papa was educated under a fine mechanic and he help build the old State-house at Washington. Major Rousy Paten was the Washington nigger 'ministrator.
"I had a sister named Martha Curtis after his young wife. I had a brother named Housy Patton. They are both dead now. Pa lived to be ninety-eight years old. My mama was as white as you is but she was a nigger woman. Pa was lighter than I is now. I'm getting darker 'cause I'm getting old. My pa was named Benjamin Washington.
"I heard my pa talk about Nat Turner. (She knew who he was o.k.—ed.) He got up a rebellion of black folk back in Virginia. I heard my pa sit and tell about him. Moses Kinnel was a rich white man wouldn't sell Nellie 'cause of what his wife said. She was a housemaid. He wrote own free pass book and took her to Maryland. Father's father wanted to buy Nellie but her owner wouldn't sell her. He took her.
"My mother had fourteen children. We and Archie was the youngest.
"Moses Kinnel was a rich white man and had lots of servants. He promised never to sell Nellie and keep her to raise his white children. She was his maid. He promised that her dying bed. But father's father stole her and took her to Maryland.
"Pa run away and was sold twice or more. When he was small chile his mother done fine washing. She seat him to go fetch her some fine laundry soap what they bought in the towns. Two white men in a two-wheel open buggy say, 'Hey, don't you want to ride?' 'I ain't got time.' 'Get in buggy, we'll take you a little piece.' One jumped out and tied his hands together. They sold him. They let him go to nigger traders. They had him at a doctor's examining his fine head see what he could stand. The doctor say, 'He is a fine man. Could trust him with silver and gold—his weight in it.' They brung him to Mississippi and sold him for a big price. He had these papers the doctor wrote on him to show.
"Then he sent for my mama after they sat him free. His name was Ben Washington.
"He never spoke much of freedom. He said his master in Mississippi told them and had them sign up contracts to finish that year's crop. He took back his old Virginia name and I don't recollect that master's name. Heard it too. Yes ma'am, heap er times. My recollection is purty nigh gone.
"I don't get no younger in feelings 'cause I'm getting old."
FOLKLORE SUBJECTS Name of Interviewer: S.S. Taylor Subject: Slave memories—Birth, Mother, Father, Separation House Subject: Slaves—Dwellings, Food, Clothes Subject: Corn Shucking, Dances, Quiltings, Weddings among Slaves Subject: Slaves—Fight with Master (junior); Slave uprisings Subject: Confederate Army Negroes; Ex-slave Occupations Story:—Information [TR: Topics moved from subsequent pages.]
This information given by: Eliza Washington Place of Residence: 1517 West Seventeenth Little Rock, Arkansas Occupation: Washing and Ironing (When able) Age: About 77 [TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
The first thing I remember was living with my mother about six miles from Scott's Crossing in Arkansas, about the year 1866. I know it was 1866 because it was the year after the surrender, and we know the surrender was in 1865. I know the dates after 1866. You don't know nothin' when you don't know dates. If you get up in court and say somethin', the lawyers ask you when it happened and then they ask you where did it happen, and if you can't tell them, they say "Witness is excused. You don't know nothin'."
Mother and Father
My mother was born in North Carolina in Mecklinberg in Henderson County. I don't know when she came to Arkansas, and I don't know when she went to Tennessee.
My father was born in Tennessee. I don't know the county like I did in North Carolina. I don't know the town either, but I think it was in the rurals somewhere. The white folks separated my mother and father when I was a little baby in their arms. The people to whom my father belonged stayed in Tennessee, but my mother's people came to Arkansas. It must have been along in the time of the war that they come to Arkansas.
My mother lived in a log house chinked with wood chinks. The chinks looked like gluts. You know what a glut is? No? Well a glut looks like the pattern of a shoe. They lay the logs together, and then chink up the cracks with wood blocks made up like the pattern of a shoe. These were chinks, wooden things about a foot long, shaped like a wedge. They were used for chinking. After the logs were laid together, chinks would be needed to stop up the holes between the logs. After the chinking was finished, clay was stuffed in to stop up the cracks and make the house warm. I've seen a many a one built.
Wide planks were used for the floors. The doors were hung on wooden hinges. The doors were never locked. They didn't have any looks on them. You could bar them on the inside if you wanted to. They didn't have no fear of burglars in them days. People wasn't bad then as they is now. They had just one window and one door in the house. The chimney was built up like a ladder and clay and straw was stuffed in the framework.
I have seen such houses built right down here in Scott's. My mother was a field hand. She lived in such a house in Tennessee. There wasn't no brick about the house, not even in the chimney. In later years, they have covered up all those logs with weather boards and made the houses look like what they call "modern", but theyr'e the same old log houses.
My mother said her white folks fed her well. She had whatever they had. When she came to Arkansas, they issued rations, but she never was issued rations before. When they issued rations, they gave them so much food each week—so much corn meal, so much potatoes, so much cabbage, so much molasses, so much meat—mostly rubbish-like food. We went out in the garden and dug the potatoes and got the cabbage.
But in Tennessee, my mother got what ever she wanted whenever she wanted it. If she wanted salt, she went and got it. If she wanted meat, she went to the smokehouse and got it. Whatever she wanted, she went and got it, and they didn't have no times for issuing out.
Social Affairs—Corn Shuckings, Quiltings and Dances
The biggest time I remember on the plantations was corn shucking time. Plenty of corn was brought in from the cribs and strowed along where everybody could get to it freely. Then they would all get corn and shuck it until near time to quit. The corn shucking was always at night, and only as much corn as they thought would be shucked was brought from the cribs. Just before they got through, they would begin to sing. Some of the songs were pitiful and sad. I can't remember any of them, but I can remember that they were sad. One of them began like this:
"The speculator bought my wife and child And carried her clear away."
When they got through shucking, they would hunt up the boss. He would run away and hide just before. If they found him, two big men would take him up on their shoulders and carry him all around the grounds while they sang. My mother told me that they used to do it that way in slave time.
They didn't dance then like they do now all hugged up and indecent. In them days, they danced what you call square dances. They don't do those dances now, they're too decent. There were eight on a set. I used to dance those myself.
I heard mother say she went to a lot of quiltings. I suppose they had them much the same as they do now. Everybody took a part of the quilt to finish. They talked and sang and had a good time. And they had somethin' to eat at the close just as they did in the corn shucking. I never went to a quilting.
Some of the Niggers went to church then just as they do now, and some of them weren't allowed to go.
Reverend Winfield used to preach to the colored people that if they would be good niggers and not steal their master's eggs and chickens and things, that they might go to the kitchen of heaven when they died.
An old lady once said to me, "I would give anything if I could have Maria in heaven with me to do little things for me." My mother told me that the niggers had to turn the pots down to keep their voices from sounding when they were praying at night. And they couldn't sing at all.
I can remember that they used to have weddings when I was a child around the years 1867 and 1868. My mother told me of marriages and weddings. She never saw no paint on anybody's face. They used to have powder, but they never used any paint. Girls were better then than they are now.
Fight with Master
My mother's first master was named Rasly, and her second was named Neely. She and her young master, John McNeely, who was raised with her and who was about the same age as she was, got to fighting one day and she whipped him clear as a whistle. After she whipped him that fight went all over the country. She was between sixteen and seventeen years old an he was about the same. She had never been whipped by the white folks.
She was in the kitchen. I don't know what the trouble started over. But they had an argument. There were some other white boys in the kitchen with her young master, and they kept pushing the two of them up to fight. He wanted to show off; so he told her what he would do to her if she didn't hush her mouth. She told him to just try it, and the fight was on. So they fought for about an hour, and the other white boys egged them on.
She said that her old master never did whip her, and she sure wasn't going to let the young one do it. I never heard that they punished her for whipping her young master. I never heard her say that anybody tried to whip her at any other time. My mother was a strong woman. She could lift one end of a log with any man.
My mother used to say that when she was about fourteen years old, (That was about the time that the stars fell, and the stars fell in 1833 [HW:*]. So she must have been born in 1819. In 1833, she was sold for a fourteen year old girl. That was the only time that she ever was sold. That left her about eighty-three years old when she died in 1903.) She used to say that when she was about fourteen years old, and was living in North Carolina in Mecklinburg Co, in Henderson County, that the white folks called all the slaves up to the big house and kept them there a few days. There wasn't no trouble on my mother's place, but they had heard that there was an uprising among the slaves, and they called all the Niggers up to the house. They didn't do nothin' to them. They just called them up to the house, and kept them there. It all passed over soon. I don't know nothin' else about it.
Confederate Army Negroes
I've "heered" old Brother Zachary who used to belong to Bethel Church tell about the surrender. Brother Zachary is dead now. He was a soldier In the Confederate army. He fought all through the war and he used to tell lots of stories about it.
You know, Lee was a tall man, fine looking and dignified. Grant was a little man and short. Those two generals walked up to each other with a white flag in their hands. And they talked and agreed just when they would fight. And then they both went back to their armies, and they fought the awfulest battle you ever "heered" of. The men lay dead in rows and rows and rows. The dead men covered whole fields. And General Lee said that there wasn't any use doing any more fighting. General Grant let all the rebels keep their guns. He didn't take nothin' away from them.
I saw General Grant when he came to Little Rock. There was an old white man who had never been to Little Rock in his life. He said "I just had to come up here to see this great general that they are talking about."
We always worked in the field in slave time. I don't know nothin about share cropping because I always did days work. I used to get four and five dollars a week for washing. But now they wants the young folks and they don't pay them five dollars for everything. I can't get a pension. Why you reckon they won't give me one. They don't understand that that little house I own doesn't even keep itself up. My daughter-in-law is good to me but she needs everything she makes. I can't get much to do now, and what little I gets, they don't pay me much for.
I don' remember nothin' else.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Jennie Washington, DeValls Bluff, Arkansas Age: 80
"My mother was a slave and my father too I recken. They belonged to Jack Walton when I remembered. I was born at St. Charles. My mother died in time of the war at St. Louis. This is whut I remembers. My mother was sold twice. The Prices owned her and the Wakefields owned her before she was owned by old Jack Walton. I was the youngest child. I had one brother went to war and he drawed a pension long as he lived. We children all got scattered out. Mr. Walton bout the age of my father and he said some day all these niggers be set free and warnt long fore they sho was. I had one older sister I recollect mighty well. My mother named Fannie, my father named Abe Walton. He had a young master James Walton.
"When I was nuthin but a chile I remembers James dressed up like Ku Klux Klan and scared me. The old master sho did whoop him bout that. They take care of the little black children and feed em good an don't let em do too hard er work to stunt em so they take em off and sell em for a good price.
"I remembers the little old log house my granma and granpa way back over on the place stayed in till they died. We went back after the war and lived ten years on the same place. We lived close to the white folks in a bigger house.
"I don't recollect no big change after freedom cept they quit selling and working folks without giving them money. I was too small to notice much change then I speck. Times has always been tight wid me. I ain't never had very much. I did work an a livin is all I ever got out of it. Never could make enough to get ahead.
"The white folks never give the darky nothing when freedom declared. We used to raise tobacco and sell it to smoke and make snuff. And he had em make ax handles to sell on the side for money till the crops gathered.
"If you believe in the Bible you won't believe in women votin' I never did vote. I ain't goner never vote.
"The present condition is fine. Mrs. Robinson carries a great big truck load to her farm every day to pick cotton. She sent word up here she take anybody whut wanter work. I wish I was able to go. I loves to pick cotton. She pay em seventy-five cents a hundred. She'll pay em too! I don't know what they do this winter. Set by the fire I recken. But next spring she'll let hoe that crop. She took em this past year to hoe out that very cotton they pickin now. Her husband, he's sick. He keeps their store up town. She takes a few white hands too if they wanter work. I don't think the present generation no worse en they ever been. They drawed up closer together than they used to be. They buys everything now an they don't raise nuthin. It's the Bible fulfillin. Everything so high they caint save nuthin!
"I married twice. First time in the church, other time at home. I had four children. I had two in Detroit. I don't know where my son is. He may be there yet. My daughter there got fourteen children her own. I don't know where the others are. Nom [HW: long "o" diacritical] they don't help me a bit, do well helpin theirselves. I gets the Welfare sistance and I works my garden back here."