A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Slave Narratives, Oklahoma,
This book is available for downloading for anyone's use at www.gutenberg.org
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 Oklahoma
EX-SLAVES WHO WERE INTERVIEWED
Adams, Isaac Alexander, Alice Banks, Phoebe Bean, Nancy Rogers Bee, Prince Bonner, Lewis Bridges, Francis Brown, John Carder, Sallie Chessier, Betty Foreman Colbert, Polly Conrad, Jr., George Cunningham, Martha Curtis, William Davis, Lucinda Dawson, Anthony Douglass, Alice Dowdy, Doc Daniel Draper, Joanna Easter, Esther Evans, Eliza Farmer, Lizzie Fountain, Della Gardner, Nancy George, Octavia Grayson, Mary Grinstead, Robert R Hardman, Mattie Hawkins, Annie Henry, Ida Hillyer, Morris Hutson, Hal Hutson, William Jackson, Isabella Johnson, Nellie Jordan, Josie King, George G. King, Martha Kye, George Lawson, Ben Lindsay, Mary Logan, Mattie Love, Kiziah Lucas, Daniel William Luster, Bert McCray, Stephen McFarland, Hannah Mack, Marshall Manning, Allen B. Maynard, Bob Montgomery, Jane Oliver, Amanda Oliver, Salomon Petite, Phyllis Poe, Matilda Pyles, Henry F Richardson, Chaney Richardson, Red Robertson, Betty Robinson, Harriett Rowe, Katie Sheppard, Morris Simms, Andrew Smith, Liza Smith, Lou Southall, James Tenneyson, Beauregard Walters, William Webb, Mary Frances Wells, Easter White, John Williams, Charley Wilson, Sarah Woods, Tom Young, Annie
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves
[HW: ***] = Handwritten Note [TR: ***] = Transcriber Note
Age 87 yrs. Tulsa, Okla.
I was born in Louisiana, way before the War. I think it was about ten years before, because I can remember everything so well about the start of the War, and I believe I was about ten years old.
My Mammy belonged to Mr. Sack P. Gee. I don't know what his real given name was, but it maybe was Saxon. Anyways we all called him Master Sack.
He was a kind of youngish man, and was mighty rich. I think he was born in England. Anyway his pappy was from England, and I think he went back before I was born.
Master Sack had a big plantation ten miles north of Arcadia, Louisiana, and his land run ten miles along both sides. He would leave in a buggy and be gone all day and still not get all over it.
There was all kinds of land on it, and he raised cane and oats and wheat and lots of corn and cotton. His cotton fields was the biggest anywheres in that part, and when chopping and picking times come he would get negroes from other people to help out. I never was no good at picking, but I was a terror with a hoe!
I was the only child my Mammy had. She was just a young girl, and my Master did not own her very long. He got her from Mr. Addison Hilliard, where my pappy belonged. I think she was going to have me when he got her; anyways I come along pretty soon, and my mammy never was very well afterwards. Maybe Master Sack sent her back over to my pappy. I don't know.
Mammy was the house girl at Mr. Sack's because she wasn't very strong, and when I was four or five years old she died. I was big enough to do little things for Mr. Sack and his daughter, so they kept me at the mansion, and I helped the house boys. Time I was nine or ten Mr. Sack's daughter was getting to be a young woman--fifteen or sixteen years old--and that was old enough to get married off in them days. They had a lot of company just before the War, and they had whole bunch of house negroes around all the time.
Old Mistress died when I was a baby, so I don't remember anything about her, but Young Mistress was a winder! She would ride horseback nearly all the time, and I had to go along with her when I got big enough. She never did go around the quarters, so I don't know nothing much about the negroes Mr. Sack had for the fields. They all looked pretty clean and healthy, though, when they would come up to the Big House. He fed them all good and they all liked him.
He had so much different kinds of land that they could raise anything they wanted, and he had more mules and horses and cattle than anybody around there. Some of the boys worked with his fillies all the time, and he went off to New Orleans ever once in a while with his race horses. He took his daughter but they never took me.
Some of his land was in pasture but most of it was all open fields, with just miles and miles of cotton rows. There was a pretty good strip along one side he called the "old" fields. That's what they called the land that was wore out and turned back. It was all growed up in young trees, and that's where he kept his horses most of the time.
The first I knowed about the War coming on was when Mr. Sack had a whole bunch of whitefolks at the Big House at a function. They didn't talk about anything else all evening and then the next time they come nearly all their menfolks wasn't there--just the womenfolks. It wasn't very long till Mr. Sack went off to Houma with some other men, and pretty soon we knew he was in the War. I don't remember ever seeing him come home. I don't think he did until it was nearly all over.
Next thing we knowed they was Confederate soldiers riding by pretty nearly every day in big droves. Sometimes they would come and buy corn and wheat and hogs, but they never did take any anyhow, like the Yankees done later on. They would pay with billets, Young Missy called them, and she didn't send them to git them cashed but saved them a long time, and then she got them cashed, but you couldn't buy anything with the money she got for them.
That Confederate money she got wasn't no good. I was in Arcadia with her at a store, and she had to pay seventy-five cents for a can of sardines for me to eat with some bread I had, and before the War you could get a can like that for two cents. Things was even higher then than later on, but that's the only time I saw her buy anything.
When the Yankees got down in that country the most of the big men paid for all the corn and meat and things they got, but some of the little bunches of them would ride up and take hogs and things like that and just ride off. They wasn't anybody at our place but the womenfolks and the negroes. Some of Mr. Sack's women kinfolks stayed there with Young Mistress.
Along at the last the negroes on our place didn't put in much stuff--jest what they would need, and could hide from the Yankees, because they would get it all took away from them if the Yankees found out they had plenty of corn and oats.
The Yankees was mighty nice about their manners, though. They camped all around our place for a while. There was three camps of them close by at one time, but they never did come and use any of our houses or cabins. There was lots of poor whites and Cajuns that lived down below us, between us and the Gulf, and the Yankees just moved into their houses and cabins and used them to camp in.
The negroes at our place and all of them around there didn't try to get away or leave when the Yankees come in. They wasn't no place to go, anyway, so they all stayed on. But they didn't do very much work. Just enough to take care of themselves and their whitefolks.
Master Sack come home before the War was quite over. I think he had been sick, because he looked thin and old and worried. All the negroes picked up and worked mighty hard after he come home, too.
One day he went into Arcadia and come home and told us the War was over and we was all free. The negroes didn't know what to make of it, and didn't know where to go, so he told all that wanted to stay on that they could just go on like they had been and pay him shares.
About half of his negroes stayed on, and he marked off land for them to farm and made arrangements with them to let them use their cabins, and let them have mules and tools. They paid him out of their shares, and some of them finally bought the mules and some of the land. But about half went on off and tried to do better somewheres else.
I didn't stay with him because I was jest a boy and he didn't need me at the house anyway.
Late in the War my Pappy belonged to a man named Sander or Zander. Might been Alexander, but the negroes called him Mr. Sander. When pappy got free he come and asked me to go with him, and I went along and lived with him. He had a share-cropper deal with Mr. Sander and I helped him work his patch. That place was just a little east of Houma, a few miles.
When my Pappy was born his parents belonged to a Mr. Adams, so he took Adams for his last name, and I did too, because I was his son. I don't know where Mr. Adams lived, but I don't think my Pappy was born in Louisiana. Alabama, maybe. I think his parents come off the boat, because he was very black--even blacker than I am.
I lived there with my Pappy until I was about eighteen and then I married and moved around all over Louisiana from time to time. My wife give me twelve boys and five girls, but all my children are dead now but five. My wife died in 1920 and I come up here to Tulsa to live. One of my daughters takes care and looks out for me now.
I seen the old Sack P. Gee place about twenty years ago, and it was all cut up in little places and all run down. Never would have known it was one time a big plantation ten miles long.
I seen places going to rack and ruin all around--all the places I lived at in Louisiana--but I'm glad I wasn't there to see Master Sack's place go down. He was a good man and done right by all his negroes.
Yes, Lord, my old feets have been in mighty nigh every parish in Louisiana, and I seen some mighty pretty places, but I'll never forget how that old Gee plantation looked when I was a boy.
Age 88 yrs. Oklahoma City, Okla.
I was 88 years old the 15th of March. I was born in 1849, at Jackson Parish, Louisiana. My mother's name was Mary Marlow, and father's Henry Marlow.
I can't remember very much 'bout slavery 'cause I was awful small, but I can remember that my mother's master, Colonel Threff died, and my mother, her husband, and us three chillun was handed down to Colonel Threff's poor kin folks. Colonel Threff owned about two or three hundred head of niggers, and all of 'em was tributed to his poor kin. Ooh wee! he sho' had jest a lot of them too! Master Joe Threff, one of his poor kin, took my mother, her husband, and three of us chillun from Louisiana to the Mississippi Line.
Down there we lived in a one-room log hut, and slept on homemade rail bed steads with cotton, and sometimes straw, mostly straw summers and cotton winners. I worked round the house and looked after de smaller chillun--I mean my mother's chillun. Mostly we ate yeller meal corn bread and sorghum malasses. I ate possums when we could get 'em, but jest couldn't stand rabbit meat. Didn't know there was any Christmas or holidays in dem days.
I can't 'membuh nothing 'bout no churches in slavery. I was a sinner and loved to dance. I remembuh I was on the floor one night dancing and I had four daughters on the floor with me and my son was playing de music--that got me! I jest stopped and said I wouldn't cut another step and I haven't. I'm a member of the Baptist Church and been for 25 or 30 years. I jined 'cause I wanted to be good 'cause I was an awful sinner.
We had a overseer back on Colonel Threff's plantation and my mother said he was the meanest man on earth. He'd jest go out in de fields and beat dem niggers, and my mother told me one day he come out in de field beating her sister and she jumped on him and nearly beat him half to death and old Master come up jest in time to see it all and fired dat overseer. Said he didn't want no man working fer him dat a woman could whip.
After de war set us free my pappy moved us away and I stayed round down there till I got to be a grown woman and married. You know I had a pretty fine wedding 'cause my pappy had worked hard and commenced to be prosperous. He had cattle, hogs, chickens and all those things like that.
A college of dem niggers got together and packed up to leave Louisiana. Me and my husband went with them. We had covered wagons, and let me tell you I walked nearly all the way from Louisiana to Oklahoma. We left in March but didn't git here till May. We came in search of education. I got a pretty fair education down there but didn't take care of it. We come to Oklahoma looking for de same thing then that darkies go North looking fer now. But we got dissapointed. What little I learned I quit taking care of it and seeing after it and lost it all.
I love to fish. I've worked hard in my days. Washed and ironed for 30 years, and paid for dis home that way. Yes sir, dis is my home. My mother died right here in dis house. She was 111 yeahs old. She is been dead 'bout 20 yeahs.
I have three daughters here married, Sussie Pruitt, Bertie Shannon, and Irene Freeman. Irene lost her husband, and he's dead now.
Age 78 Muskogee, Oklahoma.
In 1860, there was a little Creek Indian town of Sodom on the north bank of the Arkansas River, in a section the Indians called Chocka Bottoms, where Mose Perryman had a big farm or ranch for a long time before the Civil War. That same year, on October 17, I was born on the Perryman place, which was northwest of where I live now in Muskogee; only in them days Fort Gibson and Okmulgee was the biggest towns around and Muskogee hadn't shaped up yet.
My mother belonged to Mose Perryman when I was born; he was one of the best known Creeks in the whole nation, and one of his younger brothers, Legus Perryman, was made the big chief of the Creeks (1887) a long time after the slaves was freed. Mother's name was Eldee; my father's name was William McIntosh, because he belonged to a Creek Indian family by that name. Everybody say the McIntoshes was leaders in the Creek doings away back there in Alabama long before they come out here.
With me, there was twelve children in our family; Daniel, Stroy, Scott, Segal, Neil, Joe, Phillip, Mollie, Harriett, Sally and Queenie.
The Perryman slave cabins was all alike--just two-room log cabins, with a fireplace where mother do the cooking for us children at night after she get through working in the Master's house.
Mother was the house girl--cooking, waiting on the table, cleaning the house, spinning the yarn, knitting some of the winter clothes, taking care of the mistress girl, washing the clothes--yes, she was always busy and worked mighty hard all the time, while them Indians wouldn't hardly do nothing for themselves.
On the McIntosh plantation, my daddy said there was a big number of slaves and lots of slave children. The slave men work in the fields, chopping cotton, raising corn, cutting rails for the fences, building log cabins and fireplaces. One time when father was cutting down a tree it fell on him and after that he was only strong enough to rub down the horses and do light work around the yard. He got to be a good horse trainer and long time after slavery he helped to train horses for the Free Fairs around the country, and I suppose the first money he ever earned was made that way.
Lots of the slave owners didn't want their slaves to learn reading and writing, but the Perrymans didn't care; they even helped the younger slaves with that stuff. Mother said her master didn't care much what the slaves do; he was so lazy he didn't care for nothing.
They tell me about the war times, and that's all I remember of it. Before the War is over some of the Perryman slaves and some from the McIntosh place fix up to run away from their masters.
My father and my uncle, Jacob Perryman, was some of the fixers. Some of the Creek Indians had already lost a few slaves who slip off to the North, and they take what was left down into Texas so's they couldn't get away. Some of the other Creeks was friendly to the North and was fixing to get away up there; that's the ones my daddy and uncle was fixing to join, for they was afraid their masters would take up and move to Texas before they could get away.
They call the old Creek, who was leaving for the North, "Old Gouge" (Opoethleyohola). All our family join up with him, and there was lots of Creek Indians and slaves in the outfit when they made a break for the North. The runaways was riding ponies stolen from their masters.
When they get into the hilly country farther north in the country that belong to the Cherokee Indians, they make camp on a big creek and there the Rebel Indian soldiers catch up, but they was fought back.
Then long before morning lighten the sky, the men hurry and sling the camp kettles across the pack horses, tie the littlest children to the horses backs and get on the move farther into the mountains. They kept moving fast as they could, but the wagons made it mighty slow in the brush and the lowland swamps, so just about the time they ready to ford another creek the Indian soldiers catch up and the fighting begin all over again.
The Creek Indians and the slaves with them try to fight off them soldiers like they did before, but they get scattered around and separated so's they lose the battle. Lost their horses and wagons, and the soldiers killed lots of the Creeks and Negroes, and some of the slaves was captured and took back to their masters.
Dead all over the hills when we get away; some of the Negroes shot and wounded so bad the blood run down the saddle skirts, and some fall off their horses miles from the battle ground, and lay still on the ground. Daddy and Uncle Jacob keep our family together somehow and head across the line into Kansas. We all get to Fort Scott where there was a big army camp; daddy work in the blacksmith shop and Uncle Jacob join with the Northern soldiers to fight against the South. He come through the war and live to tell me about the fighting he been in.
He went with the soldiers down around Fort Gibson where they fight the Indians who stayed with the South. Uncle Jacob say he killed many a man during the war, and showed me the musket and sword he used to fight with; said he didn't shoot the women and children--just whack their heads off with the sword, and almost could I see the blood dripping from the point! It made me scared at his stories.
The captain of this company want his men to be brave and not get scared, so before the fighting start he put out a tub of white liquor (corn whiskey) and steam them up so's they'd be mean enough to whip their grannie! The soldiers do lots of riding and the saddle-sores get so bad they grease their body every night with snake oil so's they could keep going on.
Uncle Jacob said the biggest battle was at Honey Springs (1863). That was down near Elk Creek, close by Checotah, below Rentiersville. He said it was the most terrible fighting he seen, but the Union soldiers whipped and went back into Fort Gibson. The Rebels was chased all over the country and couldn't find each other for a long time, the way he tell it.
After the war our family come back here and settle at Fort Gibson, but it ain't like the place my mother told me about. There was big houses and buildings of brick setting on the high land above the river when I first see it, not like she know it when the Perrymans come here years ago.
She heard the Indians talk about the old fort (1824), the one that rot down long before the Civil War. And she seen it herself when she go with the Master for trading with the stores. She said it was made by Matthew Arbuckle and his soldiers, and she talk about Companys B, C, D, K, and the Seventh Infantry who was there and made the Osage Indians stop fighting the Creeks and Cherokees. She talk of it, but that old place all gone when I first see the Fort.
Then I hear about how after the Arbuckle soldiers leave the old log fort, the Cherokee Indians take over the land and start up the town of Keetoowah. The folks who move in there make the place so wild and rascally the Cherokees give up trying to make a good town and it kinder blow away.
My husband was Tom Banks, but the boy I got ain't my own son, but I found him on my doorstep when he's about three weeks old and raise him like he is my own blood. He went to school at the manual training school at Tullahassee and the education he got get him a teacher job at Taft (Okla), where he is now.
NANCY ROGERS BEAN
Age about 82 Hulbert, Okla.
I'm getting old and it's easy to forget most of the happenings of slave days; anyway I was too little to know much about them, for my mammy told me I was born about six years before the War. My folks was on their way to Fort Gibson, and on the trip I was born at Boggy Depot, down in southern Oklahoma.
There was a lot of us children; I got their names somewheres here. Yes, there was George, Sarah, Emma, Stella, Sylvia, Lucinda, Rose, Dan, Pamp, Jeff, Austin, Jessie, Isaac and Andrew; we all lived in a one-room log cabin on Master Rogers' place not far from the old military road near Choteau. Mammy was raised around the Cherokee town of Tahlequah.
I got my name from the Rogers', but I was loaned around to their relatives most of the time. I helped around the house for Bill McCracken, then I was with Cornelius and Carline Wright, and when I was freed my Mistress was a Mrs. O'Neal, wife of a officer at Fort Gibson. She treated me the best of all and gave me the first doll I ever had. It was a rag doll with charcoal eyes and red thread worked in for the mouth. She allowed me one hour every day to play with it. When the War ended Mistress O'Neal wanted to take me with her to Richmond, Virginia, but my people wouldn't let me go. I wanted to stay with her, she was so good, and she promised to come back for me when I get older, but she never did.
All the time I was at the fort I hear the bugles and see the soldiers marching around, but never did I see any battles. The fighting must have been too far away.
Master Rogers kept all our family together, but my folks have told me about how the slaves was sold. One of my aunts was a mean, fighting woman. She was to be sold and when the bidding started she grabbed a hatchet, laid her hand on a log and chopped it off. Then she throwed the bleeding hand right in her master's face. Not long ago I hear she is still living in the country around Nowata, Oklahoma.
Sometimes I would try to get mean, but always I got me a whipping for it. When I was a little girl, moving around from one family to another, I done housework, ironing, peeling potatoes and helping the main cook. I went barefoot most of my life, but the master would get his shoes from the Government at Fort Gibson.
I wore cotton dresses, and the Mistress wore long dresses, with different colors for Sunday clothes, but us slaves didn't know much about Sunday in a religious way. The Master had a brother who used to preach to the Negroes on the sly. One time he was caught and the Master whipped him something awful.
Years ago I married Joe Bean. Our children died as babies. Twenty year ago Joe Bean and I separated for good and all.
The good Lord knows I'm glad slavery is over. Now I can stay peaceful in one place--that's all I aim to do.
[Date stamp: AUG 16 1937]
Age 85 yrs. Red Bird, Okla.
I don't know how old I was when I found myself standing on the toppen part of a high stump with a lot of white folks walking around looking at the little scared boy that was me. Pretty soon the old master, (that's my first master) Saul Nudville, he say to me that I'm now belonging to Major Bee and for me to get down off the auction block.
I do that. Major Bee he comes over and right away I know I'm going to like him. Then when I get to the Major's plantation and see his oldest daughter Mary and all her brothers and sisters, and see how kind she is to all them and to all the colored children, why, I just keeps right on liking 'em more all the time.
They was about nine white children on the place and Mary had to watch out for them 'cause the mother was dead.
That Mary gal seen to it that we children got the best food on the place, the fattest possum and the hottest fish. When the possum was all browned, and the sweet 'taters swimming in the good mellow gravy, then she call us for to eat. Um-um-h! That was tasty eating!
And from the garden come the vegetables like okra and corn and onions that Mary would mix all up in the soup pot with lean meats. That would rest kinder easy on the stomach too, 'specially if they was a bit of red squirrel meats in with the stew!
Major Bee say it wasn't good for me to learn reading and writing. Reckoned it would ruin me. But they sent me to Sunday School. Sometimes. Wasn't many of the slaves knew how to read the Bible either, but they all got the religion anyhow. I believed in it then and I still do.
That religion I got in them way back days is still with me. And it ain't this pie crust religion such as the folks are getting these days. The old time religion had some filling between the crusts, wasn't so many empty words like they is today.
They was haunts in them way back days, too. How's I know? 'Cause I stayed right with the haunts one whole night when I get caught in a norther when the Major sends me to another plantation for to bring back some cows he's bargained for. That was a cold night and a frightful one.
The blizzard overtook me and it was dark on the way. I come to an old gin house that everybody said was the hauntinest place in all the county. But I went in account of the cold and then when the noises started I was just too scared to move, so there I stood in the corner, all the time 'til morning come.
There was nobody I could see, but I could hear peoples feet a-tromping and stomping around the room and they go up and down the stairway like they was running a race.
Sometimes the noises would be right by my side and I would feel like a hot wind passing around me, and lights would flash all over the room. Nobody could I see. When daylight come I went through that door without looking back and headed for the plantation, forgetting all about the cows that Major Bee sent me for to get.
When I tells them about the thing, Mary she won't let the old Major scold, and she fixes me up with some warm foods and I is all right again. But I stays me away from that gin place, even in the daylight, account of the haunts.
When the War come along the Major got kinder mean with some of the slaves, but not with me. I never did try to run off, but some of 'em did. One of my brothers tried and got caught.
The old Master whipped him 'til the blood spurted all over his body, the bull whip cutting in deeper all the time. He finish up the whipping with a wet coarse towel and the end got my brother in the eye. He was blinded in the one eye but the other eye is good enough he can see they ain't no use trying to run away no more.
After the War they was more whippings. This time it was the night riders--them Klan folks didn't fool with mean Negroes. The mean Negroes was whipped and some of them shot when they do something the Klan folks didn't like, and when they come a-riding up in the night, all covered with white spreads, they was something bound to happen.
Them way back days is gone and I is mighty glad. The Negroes of today needs another leader like Booker Washington. Get the young folks to working, that's what they need, and get some filling in their pie crust religion so's when they meet the Lord their soul won't be empty like is their pocketbooks today!
Age 87 yrs.
507 N. Durland Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
I was born 7 miles north of Palestine, Texas, on Matt Swanson's place in 1850, but I kin not remember the date. My mistress was name Celia Swanson. My mistress was so good to me till I jest loved her.
My family and all slaves on our place was treated good. Mighty few floggings went on 'round and about. Master was the overseer over his darkies and didn't use no other'n. I waited table and churned in the Big House.
I ate at the table with my mistress and her family and nothing was evah said. We ate bacon, greens, Irish potatoes and such as we git now. Aunt Chaddy was the cook and nurse for all the chillun on the place.
We used to hear slaves on de other places hollering from whippings, but master never whipped his niggers 'less they lied. Sometimes slaves from other places would run off and come to our place. Master would take them back and tell the slave-holders how to treat them so dey wouldn't run off again.
Mistress had a little stool for me in the big house, and if I got sleepy, she put me on the foot of her bed and I stayed there til morning, got up washed my face and hands and got ready to wait on the table.
There was four or five hundred slaves on our place. One morning during slavery, my father killed 18 white men and ran away. They said he was lazy and whipped him, and he just killed all of 'em he could, which was 18 of 'em. He stayed away 3 years without being found. He come back and killed 7 before they could kill him. When he was on the place he jest made bluing.
My mother worked in the field and weaved cloth. Shirts dat she made lasted 12 months, even if wore and washed and ironed every day. Pants could not be ripped with two men pulling on dem with all their might. You talking 'bout clothes, them was some clothes then. Clothes made now jest don't come up to them near abouts.
Doing of slavery, we had the best church, lots better than today. I am a Baptist from head to foot, yes sir, yes sir. Jest couldn't be nothing else. In the first place, I wouldn't even try.
I knows when the war started and ceaseted. I tell you it was some war. When it was all over, the Yankees come thoo' singing, "You may die poor but you won't die a slave."
When the War was over, master told us that we could go out and take care of the crops already planted and plant the ones that need planting 'cause we knowed all 'bout the place and we would go halvers. We stayed on 3 years after slavery. We got a little money, but we got room and board and didn't have to work too hard. It was enough difference to tell you was no slaves any more.
After slavery and when I was old enough I got married. I married a gal that was a daughter of her master. He wanted to own her, but she sho' didn't return it. He kept up with her till he died and sent her money jest all the time. Before he died, he put her name in his will and told his oldest son to be sure and keep up with her. The son was sure true to his promise, for till she died, she was forever hearing from him or he would visit us, even after we moved to Oklahoma from Texas.
Our chillun and grandchillun will git her part since she is gone. She was sure a good wife and for no reason did I take the second look at no woman. That was love, which don't live no more in our hearts.
I make a few pennies selling fish worms and doing a little yard work and raising vegetables. Not much money in circulation. When I gets my old age pension, it will make things a little mite better. I guess the time will be soon.
Tain't nothing but bad treatment that makes people die young and I ain't had none.
[Date stamp: AUG 19 1937]
Age 73 yrs. Oklahoma City, Okla.
I was born in Red River County, Texas in 1864, and that makes me 73 years old. I had myself 75, and I went to my white folks and they counted it up and told me I was 73, but I always felt like I was older than that.
My husband's name is Henry Bridges. We was raised up children together and married. I had five sisters. My brother died here in Oklahoma about two years ago. He was a Fisher. Mary Russell, my sister, she lives in Parish, Texas; Willie Ann Poke, she lives in Greenville, Texas; Winnie Jackson, lives in Adonia, Texas, and Mattie White, my other sister, lives in Long Oak, Texas, White Hunt County.
Our Master was named Master Travis Wright, and we all ate nearly the same thing. Such things as barbecued rabbits, coon, possums baked with sweet potatoes and all such as that. I used to hang round the kitchen. The cook, Mama Winnie Long, used to feed all us little niggers on the flo', jest like little pigs, in tin cups and wooden spoons. We ate fish too, and I like to go fishing right this very day.
We lived right in old Master Wright's yard. His house sat way up on a high hill. It was jest a little old log hut we lived in a little old shack around the yard. They was a lot of little shacks in the yard, I can't tell jest how many, but it was quite a number of 'em. We slept in old-fashion beds that we called "corded beds", 'cause they had ropes crossed to hold the mattresses for slats. Some of 'em had beds nailed to the wall.
Master Travis Wright had one son named Sam Wright, and after old Master Travis Wright died, young Master Sam Wright come to be my mother's master. He jest died a few years ago.
My mother say dey had a nigger driver and he'd whip 'em all but his daughter. I never seen no slaves whipped, but my mother say dey had to whip her Uncle Charley Mills once for telling a story. She say he bored a hole in de wall of de store 'til he bored de hole in old Master's whiskey barrel, and he caught two jugs of whiskey and buried it in de banks of de river. When old Master found out de whiskey was gone, he tried to make Uncle Charley 'fess up, and Uncle Charley wouldn't so he brung him in and hung him and barely let his toes touch. After Uncle Charley thought he was going to kill him, he told where de whiskey was.
We didn't go to church before freedom, land no! 'cause the closest church was so far--it was 30 miles off. But I'm a member of the Baptist Church and I've been a member for some 40-odd years. I was past 40 when I heerd of a Methodist Church. My favorite song is "Companion." I didn't get to go to school 'til after slavery.
I 'member more after de War. I 'member my mother said dey had patrollers, and if de slaves would get passes from de Master to go to de dances and didn't git back before ten o'clock dey'd beat 'em half to death.
I used to hear 'em talking 'bout Ku Klux Klan coming to the well to get water. They'd draw up a bucket of water and pour the water in they false stomachs. They false stomachs was tied on 'em with a big leather buckle. They'd jest pour de water in there to scare 'em and say, "This is the first drink of water I've had since I left Hell." They'd say all sech things to scare the cullud folks.
I heerd my mother say they sold slaves on what they called an auction block. Jest like if a slave had any portly fine looking children they'd sell them chillun jest like selling cattle. I didn't see this, jest heerd it.
After freedom, when I was old enough then to work in the field, we lived on Mr. Martin's plantation. We worked awful hard in the fields. Lawd yes'm! I've heard 'bout shucking up de corn, but give me dem cotton pickings. Fry'd pick out all de crop of cotton in one day. The women would cook and de men'd pick the cotton, I mean on dem big cotton pickings. Some would work for they meals. Then after dey'd gather all de crops, dey'd give big dances, drink whiskey, and jest cut up sumpin terrible. We didn't know anything 'bout holidays.
I've heard my husband talk 'bout "Raw head an' bloody bones." Said whenever dey mothers wanted to scare 'em to make 'em be good dey'd tell 'em dat a man was outside de door and asked her if she'd hold his head while he fixed his back bone. I don't believe in voodooing, and I don't believe in hants. I used to believe in both of 'em when I was young.
I married Jake Bridges. We had a ordinary wedding. The preacher married us and we had a license. We have two sons grown living here. My husband told me that in slavery if your Master told you to live with your brother, you had to live with him. My father's mother and dad was first cousins.
I can 'member my husband telling me he was hauling lumber from Jefferson where the saw mill was and it was cold that night, and when they got halfway back it snowed, and he stopped with an old cullud family, and he said way in the night, a knock come at de door--woke 'em up, and it was an old cullud man, and he said dis old man commence inquiring, trying to find out who dey people was and dey told him best dey could remember, and bless de Lawd, 'fore dey finished talking de found out dis old cullud man and de other cullud woman an' man dat was married was all brothers and sisters, and he told his brother it was a shame he had married his sister and dey had nine chillun. My husband sho' told me dis.
I've heerd 'em say dey old master raised chillun by those cullud women. Why, there was one white man in Texas had a cullud woman, but didn't have no chillun by her, and he had this cullud woman and her old mistress there on the same place. So, when old Mistress died he wouldn't let this cullud woman leave, and he gave her a swell home right there on the place, and she is still there I guess. They say she say sometime, she didn't want no Negro man smutting her sheets up.
I think Abraham Lincoln was a good man, and I have read a whole lots 'bout him, but I don't know much 'bout Jeff Davis. I think Booker T. Washington is a fine man, but I aint heerd so much about him.
[Date stamp: AUG 16 1937]
JOHN BROWN Age (about) 87 yrs.
West Tulsa, Okla.
Most of the folks have themselves a regular birthday but this old colored man just pick out any of the days during the year--one day just about as good as another.
I been around a long time but I don't know when I got here. That's the truth. Nearest I figures it the year was 1850--the month don't make no difference nohow.
But I know the borning was down in Taloga County, Alabama, near the county seat town. Miss Abby was with my Mammy that day. She was the wife of Master John Brown. She was with all the slave women every time a baby was born, or when a plague of misery hit the folks she knew what to do and what kind of medicine to chase off the aches and pains. God bless her! She sure loved us Negroes.
Most of the time there was more'n three hundred slaves on the plantation. The oldest ones come right from Africa. My Grandmother was one of them. A savage in Africa--a slave in America. Mammy told it to me. Over there all the natives dressed naked and lived on fruits and nuts. Never see many white mens.
One day a big ship stopped off the shore and the natives hid in the brush along the beach. Grandmother was there. The ship men sent a little boat to the shore and scattered bright things and trinkets on the beach. The natives were curious. Grandmother said everybody made a rush for them things soon as the boat left. The trinkets was fewer than the peoples. Next day the white folks scatter some more. There was another scramble. The natives was feeling less scared, and the next day some of them walked up the gangplank to get things off the plank and off the deck.
The deck was covered with things like they'd found on the beach. Two-three hundred natives on the ship when they feel it move. They rush to the side but the plank was gone. Just dropped in the water when the ship moved away.
Folks on the beach started to crying and shouting. The ones on the boat was wild with fear. Grandmother was one of them who got fooled, and she say the last thing seen of that place was the natives running up and down the beach waving their arms and shouting like they was mad. The boat men come up from below where they had been hiding and drive the slaves down in the bottom and keep them quiet with the whips and clubs.
The slaves was landed at Charleston. The town folks was mighty mad 'cause the blacks was driven through the streets without any clothes, and drove off the boat men after the slaves was sold on the market. Most of that load was sold to the Brown plantation in Alabama. Grandmother was one of the bunch.
The Browns taught them to work. Made clothes for them. For a long time the natives didn't like the clothes and try to shake them off. There was three Brown boys--John, Charley and Henry. Nephews of old Lady Hyatt who was the real owner of the plantation, but the boys run the place. The old lady she lived in the town. Come out in the spring and fall to see how is the plantation doing.
She was a fine woman. The Brown boys and their wives was just as good. Wouldn't let nobody mistreat the slaves. Whippings was few and nobody get the whip 'less he need it bad. They teach the young ones how to read and write; say it was good for the Negroes to know about such things.
Sunday was a great day around the plantation. The fields was forgotten, the light chores was hurried through and everybody got ready for the church meeting.
It was out of the doors, in the yard fronting the big log where the Browns all lived. Master John's wife would start the meeting with a prayer and then would come the singing. The old timey songs.
The white folks on the next plantation would lick their slaves for trying to do like we did. No praying there, and no singing.
The Master gave out the week's supply on Saturday. Plenty of hams, lean bacon, flour, corn meal, coffee and more'n enough for the week. Nobody go hungry on that place! During the growing season all the slaves have a garden spot all their own. Three thousand acres on that place--plenty of room for gardens and field crops.
Even during the war foods was plentiful. One time the Yankee soldiers visit the place. The white folks gone and I talks with them. Asks me lots of questions--got any meats--got any potatoes--got any this--some of that--but I just shake my head and they don't look around.
The old cook fixes them up though. She fry all the eggs on the place, skillet the ham and pan the biscuits! Them soldiers fill up and leave the house friendly as anybody I ever see!
The Browns wasn't bothered with the Ku Klux Klan either. The Negroes minded their own business just like before they was free.
I stayed on the plantation 'til the last Brown die. Then I come to Oklahoma and works on the railroad 'til I was too old to hustle the grips and packages. Now I just sits thinking how much better off would I be on the old plantation.
Homesick! Just homesick for that Alabama farm like it was in them good old times!
Age 83 yrs. Burwin, Okla.
I was born in Jackson, Tennessee, and I'm going on 83 years. My mother was Harriett Neel and father Jeff Bills, both of them named after their masters. I has one brother, J. B. Bills, but all de rest of my brothers and sisters is dead.
No sir, we never had no money while I was a slave. We jest didn't have nothing a-tall! We ate greens, corn bread, and ash cake. De only time I ever got a biscuit would be when a misdemeanor was did, and my Mistress would give a buttered biscuit to de one who could tell her who done it.
In hot weather and cold weather dere was no difference as to what we wore. We wore dresses my mother wove for us and no shoes a-tall. I never wore any shoes till I was grown and den dey was old brogans wid only two holes to lace, one on each side. During my wedding I wore a blue calico dress, a man's shirt tail as a head rag, and a pair of brogan shoes.
My Master lived in a three-story frame house painted white. My Mistress was very mean. Sometimes she would make de overseer whip negroes for looking too hard at her when she was talking to dem. Dey had four children, three girls and one boy.
I was a servant to my Master, and as he had de palsy I had to care for him, feed him and push him around. I don't know how many slaves, but he had a good deal of 'em.
About four o' clock mornings de overseer or negro carriage driver who stayed at the Big House would ring de bell to git up and git to work. De slaves would pick a heap of cotton and work till late on moonshining nights.
Dere was a white post in front of my door with ropes to tie the slaves to whip dem. Dey used a plain strap, another one with holes in it, and one dey call de cat wid nine tails which was a number of straps plated and de ends unplated. Dey would whip de slaves wid a wide strap wid holes in it and de holes would make blisters. Den dey would take de cat wid nine tails and burst de blisters and den rub de sores wid turpentine and red pepper.
I never saw any slaves auctioned off but I seen dem pass our house chained together on de way to be sold, including both men and women wid babies all chained to each other. Dere was no churches for slaves, but at nights dey would slip off and git in ditches and sing and pray, and when dey would sometimes be caught at it dey would be whipped. Some of de slaves would turn down big pots and put dere heads in dem and pray. My Mistress would tell me to be a good obedient slave and I would go to heaven. When slaves would attempt to run off dey would catch dem and chain dem and fetch 'em back and whip dem before dey was turned loose again.
De patrollers would go about in de quarters at nights to see if any of de slaves was out or slipped off. As we sleep on de dirt floors on pallets, de patrollers would walk all over and on us and if we even grunt dey would whip us. De only trouble between de whites and blacks on our plantation was when de overseer tied my mother to whip her and my father untied her and de overseer shot and killed him.
Negroes never was allowed to git sick, and when dey would look somewhat sick, de overseer would give dem some blue-mass pills and oil of some sort and make dem continue to work.
During de War de Yankees would pass through and kill up de chickens, and hogs, and cattle, and eat up all dey could find. De day of freedom de overseer went into de field and told de slaves dat dey was free, and de slaves replied, "free how?" and he told dem: "free to work and live for demselves." And dey said dey didn't know what to do, and so some of dem stayed on. I married Josh Forch. I am mother of four children and 35 grand children.
I like Abraham Lincoln. I think he was a good man and president. I didn't know much who Jeff Davis was. What I heard 'bout Booker T. Washington, he was a good man.
Now dat slavery is over, I don't want to be in nary 'nother slavery, and if ever nary 'nothern come up I wouldn't stay here.
BETTY FOREMAN CHESSIER
Age 94 years Oklahoma City, Okla.
I was born July 11, 1843 in Raleigh, N. C. My mother was named Melinda Manley, the slave of Governor Manley of North Carolina, and my father was named Arnold Foreman, slave of Bob and John Foreman, two young masters. They come over from Arkansas to visit my master and my pappy and mammy met and got married, 'though my pappy only seen my mammy in the summer when his masters come to visit our master and dey took him right back. I had three sisters and two brothers and none of dem was my whole brothers and sisters. I stayed in the Big House all the time, but my sisters and brothers was gived to the master's sons and daughters whey dey got married and dey was told to send back for some more when dem died. I didn't never stay with my mammy doing of slavery. I stayed in the Big House. I slept under the dining room table with three other darkies. The flo' was well carpeted. Don't remembah my grandmammy and grandpappy, but my master was they master.
I waited on the table, kept flies off'n my mistress and went for the mail. Never made no money, but dey did give the slaves money at Christmas time. I never had over two dresses. One was calico and one gingham. I had such underclothes as dey wore then.
Master Manley and Mistress had six sons an' six darters. Dey raised dem all till dey was grown too. Dey lived in a great big house 'cross from the mansion, right in town before Master was 'lected Governor, den dey all moved in dat mansion.
Plantation folks had barbecues and "lay crop feasts" and invited the city darkies out. When I first come here I couldn't understand the folks here, 'cause dey didn't quit work on Easter Monday. That is some day in North Carolina even today. I doesn't remember any play songs, 'cause I was almost in prison. I couldn't play with any of the darkies and I doesn't remember playing in my life when I was a little girl and when I got grown I didn't want to. I wasn't hongry, I wasn't naked and I got only five licks from the white folks in my life. Dey was for being such a big forgitful girl. I saw 'em sell niggers once. The only pusson I ever seen whipped at dat whipping post was a white man.
I never got no learning; dey kept us from dat, but you know some of dem darkies learnt anyhow. We had church in the heart of town or in the basement of some old building. I went to the 'piscopal church most all the time, till I got to be a Baptist.
The slaves run away to the North 'cause dey wanted to be free. Some of my family run away sometime and dey didn't catch 'em neither. The patrollers sho' watched the streets. But when dey caught any of master's niggers without passes, dey jest locked him up in the guard house and master come down in the mawnin' and git 'em out, but dem patrollers better not whip one.
I know when the War commenced and ended. Master Manley sent me from the Big House to the office about a mile away. Jest as I got to the office door, three men rid up in blue uniforms and said, "Dinah, do you have any milk in there?" I was sent down to the office for some beans for to cook dinner, but dem men most nigh scared me to death. They never did go in dat office, but jest rid off on horseback about a quarter a mile and seem lak right now, Yankees fell out of the very sky, 'cause hundeds and hundeds was everywhere you could look to save your life. Old Mistress sent one of her grandchillun to tell me to come on, and one of the Yankees told dat child, "You tell your grandmother she ain't coming now and never will come back there as a slave." Master was setting on the mansion porch. Dem Yankees come up on de porch, go down in cellar and didn't tech one blessed thing. Old Mistress took heart trouble, 'cause dem Yankees whipped white folks going and coming.
I laid in my bed a many night scared to death of Klu Klux Klan. Dey would come to your house and ask for a drink and no more want a drink than nothing.
After the War, I went to mammy and my step-pappy. She done married again, so I left and went to Warrington and Halifax, North Carolina, jest for a little while nursing some white chillun. I stayed in Raleigh, where I was born till 7 years ago, when I come to Oklahoma to live with my only living child. I am the mother of 4 chillun and 11 grandchillun.
When I got married I jumped a broomstick. To git unmarried, all you had to do was to jump backwards over the same broomstick.
Lincoln and Booker T. Washington was two of the finest men ever lived. Don't think nothing of Jeff Davis, 'cause he was a traitor. Freedom for us was the best thing ever happened. Prayer is best thing in the world. Everybody ought to pray, 'cause prayer got us out of slavery.
Age 83 yrs. Colbert, Oklahoma
I am now living on de forty-acre farm dat de Government give me and it is just about three miles from my old home on Master Holmes Colbert's plantation where I lived when I was a slave.
Lawsy me, times sure has changed since slavery times! Maybe I notice it more since I been living here all de time, but dere's farms 'round here dat I've seen grown timber cleared off of twice during my lifetime. Dis land was first cleared up and worked by niggers when dey was slaves. After de War nobody worked it and it just naturally growed up again wid all sorts of trees. Later, white folks cleared it up again and took grown trees off'n it and now dey are still cultivating it but it is most wore out now. Some of it won't even sprout peas. Dis same land used to grow corn without hardly any work but it sure won't do it now.
I reckon it was on account of de rich land dat us niggers dat was owned by Indians didn't have to work so hard as dey did in de old states, but I think dat Indian masters was just naturally kinder any way, leastways mine was.
My mother, Liza, was owned by de Colbert family and my father, Tony, was owned by de Love family. When Master Holmes and Miss Betty Love was married dey fathers give my father and mother to dem for a wedding gift. I was born at Tishomingo and we moved to de farm on Red River soon after dat and I been here ever since. I had a sister and a brother, but I ain't seen dem since den.
My mother died when I was real small, and about a year after dat my father died. Master Holmes told us children not to cry, dat he and Miss Betsy would take good care of us. Dey did, too. Dey took us in de house wid dem and look after us jest as good as dey could colored children. We slept in a little room close to them and she allus seen dat we was covered up good before she went to bed. I guess she got a sight of satisfaction from taking care of us 'cause she didn't have no babies to care for.
Master Holmes and Miss Betsy was real young folks but dey was purty well fixed. He owned about 100 acres of land dat was cleared and ready for de plow and a lot dat was not in cultivation. He had de woods full of hogs and cows and he owned seven or eight grown slaves and several children. I remember Uncle Shed, Uncle Lige, Aunt Chaney, Aunt Lizzie, and Aunt Susy just as well as if it was yesterday. Master Holmes and Miss Betsy was both half-breed Choctaw Indians. Dey had both been away to school somewhere in de states and was well educated. Dey had two children but dey died when dey was little. Another little girl was born to dem after de War and she lived to be a grown woman.
Dey sure was fine young folks and provided well for us. He allus had a smokehouse full of meat, lard, sausage, dried beans, peas, corn, potatoes, turnips and collards banked up for winter. He had plenty of milk and butter for all of us, too.
Master Holmes allus say, "A hungry man caint work." And he allus saw to it that we had lots to eat.
We cooked all sorts of Indian dishes: Tom-fuller, pashofa, hickory-nut grot, Tom-budha, ash-cakes, and pound cakes besides vegetables and meat dishes. Corn or corn meal was used in all de Indian dishes. We made hominy out'n de whole grains. Tom-fuller was made from beaten corn and tasted sort of like hominy.
We would take corn and beat it like in a wooden mortar wid a wooden pestle. We would husk it by fanning it and we would den put it on to cook in a big pot. While it was cooking we'd pick out a lot of hickory-nuts, tie 'em up in a cloth and beat 'em a little and drop 'em in and cook for a long time. We called dis dish hickory-nut grot. When we made pashofa we beat de corn and cook for a little while and den we add fresh pork and cook until de meat was done. Tom-budha was green corn and fresh meat cooked together and seasoned wid tongue or pepper-grass.
We cooked on de fire place wid de pots hanging over de fire on racks and den we baked bread and cakes in a oven-skillet. We didn't use soda and baking powder. We'd put salt in de meal and scald it wid boiling water and make it into pones and bake it. We'd roll de ash cakes in wet cabbage leaves and put 'em in de hot ashes and bake 'em. We cooked potatoes, and roasting ears dat way also. We sweetened our cakes wid molasses, and dey was plenty sweet too.
Dey was lots of possums and coons and squirrels and we nearly always had some one of these to eat. We'd parboil de possum or coon and put it in a pan and bake him wid potatoes 'round him. We used de broth to baste him and for gravy. Hit sure was fine eating dem days.
I never had much work to do. I helped 'round de house when I wanted to and I run errands for Miss Betsy. I liked to do things for her. When I got a little bigger my brother and I toted cool water to de field for de hands.
Didn't none of Master Holmes' niggers work when dey was sick. He allus saw dat dey had medicine and a doctor iffen dey needed one. 'Bout de only sickness we had was chills and fever. In de old days we made lots of our own medicine and I still does it yet. We used polecat grease for croup and rheumatism. Dog-fennel, butterfly-root, and life-everlasting boiled and mixed and made into a syrup will cure pneumonia and pleurisy. Pursley-weed, called squirrel physic, boiled into a syrup will cure chills and fever. Snake-root steeped for a long time and mixed with whiskey will cure chills and fever also.
Our clothes was all made of homespun. De women done all de spinning and de weaving but Miss Betsy cut out all de clothes and helped wid de sewing. She learned to sew when she was away to school and she learnt all her women to sew. She done all the sewing for de children. Master Holmes bought our shoes and we all had 'em to wear in de winter. We all went barefoot in de summer.
He kept mighty good teams and he had two fine saddle horses. He and Miss Betsy rode 'em all de time. She would ride wid him all over de farm and dey would go hunting a lot, too. She could shoot a gun as good as any man.
Master Holmes sure did love his wife and children and he was so proud of her. It nearly killed 'em both to give up de little boy and girl. I never did hear of him taking a drink and he was kind to everybody, both black and white, and everybody liked him. Dey had lots of company and dey never turned anybody away. We lived about four miles from de ferry on Red River on de Texas Road and lots of travelers stopped at our house.
We was 'lowed to visit de colored folks on de Eastman and Carter plantations dat joined our farm. Eastman and Carter was both white men dat married Indian wives. Dey was good to dey slaves, too, and let 'em visit us.
Old Uncle Kellup (Caleb) Colbert, Uncle Billy Hogan, Rev. John Carr, Rev. Baker, Rev. Hogue, and old Father Murrow preached for de white folks all de time and us colored folks went to church wid dem. Dey had church under brush arbors and we set off to ourselves but we could take part in de singing and sometimes a colored person would get happy and pray and shout but nobody didn't think nothing 'bout dat.
De Patrollers was de law, kind of like de policeman now. Dey sure never did whip one of Master Holmes' niggers for he didn't allow it. He didn't whip 'em hisself and he sure didn't allow anybody else to either. I was afraid of de Ku Kluxers too, and I 'spects dat Master Holmes was one of de leaders iffen de truth was known. Dey sure was scary looking.
I was scared of de Yankee soldiers. Dey come by and killed some of our cattle for beef and took our meat and lard out'n de smokehouse and dey took some corn, too. Us niggers was awful mad. We didn't know anything 'bout dem fighting to free us. We didn't specially want to be free dat I knows of.
Right after de War I went over to Bloomfield Academy to take care of a little girl, but I went back to Master Holmes and Miss Betsy at de end of two years to take care of de little girl dat was born to dem and I stayed with her until I was about fifteen. Master Holmes went to Washington as a delegate, for something for de Indians, and he took sick and died and dey buried him dere. Poor Miss Betsy nearly grieved herself to death. She stayed on at de farm till her little girl was grown and married. Her nigger men stayed on with her and rented land from her and dey sure raised a sight of truck. Didn't none of her old slaves ever move very far from her and most of them worked for her till dey was too old to work.
I left Miss Betsy purty soon after Master Holmes died and went back to de Academy and stayed three years. I married a man dat belonged to Master Holmes' cousin. His name was Colbert, too. I had a big wedding. Miss Betsy and a lot of white folks come and stayed for dinner. We danced all evening and after supper we started again and danced all night and de next day and de next night. We'd eat awhile and den we'd dance awhile.
My husband and I had nine children and now I've got seven grandchildren. My husband has been dead a long time.
My sister, Chaney, lives here close to me but her mind has got feeble and she can't recollect as much as I can. I live with my son and he is mighty good to me. I know I ain't long for dis world but I don't mind for I has lived a long time and I'll have a lot of friends in de other world and I won't be lonesome.
[Date stamp: NOV 5 1937]
GEORGE CONRAD, JR.,
Age 77 yrs. Oklahoma City, Okla.
I was born February 23, 1860 at Connersville, Harrison County, Kentucky. I was born and lived just 13 miles from Parish. My mother's name is Rachel Conrad, born at Bourbon County, Kentucky. My father, George Conrad, was born at Bourbon County Kentucky. My grandmother's name is Sallie Amos, and grandfather's name is Peter Amos. My grandfather, his old Master freed him and he bought my grandmother, Aunt Liza and Uncle Cy. He made the money by freighting groceries from Ohio to Maysville, Kentucky.
Our Master was named Master Joe Conrad. We sometimes called him "Mos" Joe Conrad. Master Joe Conrad stayed in a big log house with weather boarding on the outside.
I was born in a log cabin. We slept in wooden beds with rope cords for slats, and the beds had curtains around them. You see my mother was the cook for the Master, and she cooked everything--chicken, roasting ears. She cooked mostly everything we have now. They didn't have stoves; they cooked in big ovens. The skillets had three legs. I can remember the first stove that we had. I guess I was about six years old.
My old Master had 900 acres of land. My father was a stiller. He made three barrels of whisky a day. Before the War whisky sold for 12-1/2¢ and 13¢ a gallon. After the War it went up to $3 and $4 per gallon. When War broke out he had 300 barrels hid under old Master's barn.
There was 14 colored men working for old Master Joe and 7 women. I think it was on the 13th of May, all 14 of these colored men, and my father, went to the Army. When old Master Joe come to wake 'em up the next morning--I remember he called real loud, Miles, Esau, George, Frank, Arch, on down the line, and my mother told him they'd all gone to the army. Old Master went to Cynthia, Kentucky, where they had gone to enlist and begged the officer in charge to let him see all of his boys, but the officer said "No." Some way or 'nother he got a chance to see Arch, and Arch came back with him to help raise the crops.
My mother cooked and took care of the house. Aunt Sarah took care of the children. I had two little baby brothers, Charlie and John. The old Mistress would let my mother put them in her cradle and Aunt Sarah got jealous, and killed both of the babies. When they cut one of the babies open they took out two frogs. Some say she conjured the babies. Them niggers could conjure each other but they couldn't do nothing to the whitefolks, but I don't believe in it. There's an old woman living back there now (pointing around the corner of the house where he was sitting) they said her husband put a spell on her. They call 'em two-headed Negroes.
Old Master never whipped any of his slaves, except two of my uncles--Pete Conrad and Richard Sherman, now living at Falsmouth, Kentucky.
We raised corn, wheat, oats, rye and barley, in the spring. In January, February and March we'd go up to the Sugar Camp where he had a grove of maple trees. We'd make maple syrup and put up sugar in cakes. Sugar sold for $2.5O and $3 a cake. He had a regular sugar house. My old Master was rich I tell you.
Whenever a member of the white family die all the slaves would turn out, and whenever a slave would die, whitefolks and all the slaves would go. My Master had a big vault. My Mistress was buried in an iron coffin that they called a potanic coffin. I went back to see her after I was 21 years old and she look jest like she did when they buried her. All of the family was buried in them vaults, and I expect if you'd go there today they'd look the same. The slaves was buried in good handmade coffins.
I heard a lot of talk 'bout the patrollers. In them days if you went away from home and didn't have a pass they'd whip you. Sometimes they'd whip you with a long black cow whip, and then sometime they'd roast elm switches in the fire. This was called "cat-o-nine-tails", and they'd whip you with dat. We never had no jails; only punishment was just to whip you.
Now, the way the slaves travel. If a slave had been good sometimes old Master would let him ride his hoss; then, sometime they'd steal a hoss out and ride 'em and slip him back before old Master ever found it out. There was a man in them days by the name of John Brown. We called him an underground railroad man, 'cause he'd steal the slaves and carry 'em across the river in a boat. When you got on the other side you was free, 'cause you was in a free State, Ohio.
We used to sing, and I guess young folks today does too:
"John Brown's Body Lies A 'moulding In the Clay."
"They Hung John Brown On a Sour Apple Tree."
Our slaves all got very good attention when they got sick. They'd send and get a doctor for 'em. You see old Mistress Mary bought my mother, father and two children throwed in for $1,100 and she told Master Joe to always keep her slaves, not to sell 'em and always take good care of 'em.
When my father went to the army old Master told us he was gone to fight for us niggers freedom. My daddy was the only one that come back out of the 13 men that enlisted, and when my daddy come back old Master give him a buggy and hoss.
When the Yanks come, I never will forget one of 'em was named John Morgan. We carried old Master down to the barn and hid him in the hay. I felt so sorry for old Master they took all his hams, some of his whiskey, and all dey could find, hogs, chickens, and jest treated him something terrible.
The whitefolks learned my father how to read and write, but I didn't learn how to read and write 'til I enlisted in the U. S. Army in 1883.
They sent us here (Oklahoma Territory) to keep the immigrants from settling up Oklahoma. I went to Fort Riley the 1st day of October 1883, and stayed there three weeks. Left Fort Riley and went to Ft. Worth, Texas, and landed in Henryetta, Texas, on the 14th day of October 1883. Then, we had 65 miles to walk to Ft. Sill. We walked there in three days. I was assigned to my Company, Troop G. 9th Calvary, and we stayed and drilled in Ft. Sill six months, when we was assigned to duty. We got orders to come to Ft. Reno, Okla., on the 6th day of January 1885 where we was ordered to Stillwater, Okla., to move five hundred immigrants under Capt. Couch. We landed there on the 23rd day of January, Saturday evening, and Sunday was the 24th. We had general inspection Monday, January 25, 1885. We fell in line of battle, sixteen companies of soldiers, to move 500 immigrants to the Arkansas City, Kansas line.
We formed a line at 9:00 o'clock Monday morning and Captain Couch run up his white flag, and Colonel Hatch he sent the orderly up to see what he meant by putting up the flag, so Captain Couch sent word back, "If you don't fire on me, I'll leave tomorrow." Colonel Hatch turned around to the Major and told him to turn his troops back to the camp, and detailed three camps of soldiers of the 8th Cavalry to carry Captain Couch's troop of 500 immigrants to Arkansas City, Kansas. Troop L., Troop D., and Troop B. taken them back with 43 wagons and put them over the line of Kansas. Then we were ordered back to our supply camp at Camp Alice, 9 miles north of Guthrie in the Cimarron horseshoe bottom. We stayed there about three months, and Capt. Couch and his colony came back into the territory at Caldwell, Kansas June 1885.
I laid there 'til August 8, then we changed regiments with the 5th Calvary to go to Nebraska. There was a breakout with the Indians at Ft. Reno the 1st of July 1885. The Indian Agency tried to make the Indians wear citizens' clothes. They had to call General Sheridan from Washington, D. C., to quiet the Indians down. Now, we had to make a line in three divisions, fifteen miles a part, one non-commissioned officer to each squad, and these men was to go to Caldwell, Kansas and bring him to Ft. Reno that night. He came that night, so the next morning Colonel Brisbane and General Hatch reported to General Sheridan what the trouble was. General Sheridan called all the Indian Chiefs together and asked them why they rebelled against the agency, and they told them they weren't going to wear citizen's clothes. General Sheridan called his corporals and sergeants together and told them to go behind the guard house and dig a grave for this Indian agent in order to fool the Indian Chiefs. Then, he sent a detachment of soldiers to order the Indian Chiefs away from the guard house and to put this Indian agent in the ambulance that brought him to Ft. Reno and take him back to Washington, D. C., to remain there 'til he returned. The next morning he called all the Indian Chiefs to the guard house and pointed down to the grave and said that, "I have killed the agent and buried him there." The Indians tore the feathers out of their hats rejoicing that they killed the agent.
On the 12th of the same July, we had general inspection with General Foresides from Washington, then we was ordered back to our supply camp to stay there 'til we got orders of our change. On August 8, we got orders to change to go to Nebraska, to Ft. Robinson, Ft. Nibrary, and Ft. McKinney, and we left on the 8th of August.
This is my Oklahoma history. I gave this story to the Daily Oklahoman and Times at one time and they are supposed to publish it but they haven't.
Now you see that tree up there in front of my house? That tree is 50 years old. It is called the potopic tree. That was the only tree around here in 1882. This was a bald prairie. I enlisted over there where the City Market sets now. That was our starting camp under Capt. Payne, but he died.
I joined the A. M. E. Methodist Church in 1874. I love this song better than all the rest:
"Am I a Soldier of the Cross?"
Abraham Lincoln was a smart man, but he would have done more if he was not killed. I don't think his work was finished. I'll tell you the truth about Booker T. Washington. He argued our people to stay out of town and stay in the country. He was a Democrat. He was a smart man, but I think a man should live wherever he choose regardless. I never stopped work whenever I'd hear he was coming to town to speak. You know they wasn't fighting for freeing the slaves; they was fighting to keep Kansas from being a slave State; so when they had the North whipped, I mean the South had 'em whipped, they called for the Negroes to go out and fight for his freedom. Don't know nothing 'bout Jeff Davis. I've handled a lots of his money. It was counterfeited after the War.
I've been married four times. I had one wife and three women. I mean the three wasn't no good. My first wife's name: Amanda Nelson. 2nd: Pocahuntas Jackson. 3rd: Nannie Shumpard. We lived together 9 years. She tried to beat me out of my home.
MARTHA CUNNINGHAM (white)
Age 81 yrs. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
My father's name was A. J. Brown, and my mother's name was Hattie Brown. I was born in the East, in Saveer County, Tennessee. I had twelve sisters and brothers, all are dead but two. W. S. Brown lives at 327 W. California, and Maudie Reynolds, my sister lives at Minrovie, California.
We lived in different kinds of houses just like we do now. Some was of log, some frame and some rock. I remember when we didn't have stoves to cook on, no lamps, and not even any candles until I was about six years old. We would take a rag and sop it in lard to make lights.
All of our furniture was home made, but it was nice. We had just plenty of every thing. It wasn't like it is in these days where you have to pick and scrape for something to eat.
My grandfather and grandmother gave my mother and father two slaves, an old woman and man, when they married. My grandfather owned a large plantation, and had a large number of slaves, and my father and mother owned several farms at different places. Our mother and father treated our slaves good. They ate what we ate, and they stayed with us a long time after the War. I remember though all of the slave owners weren't good to their slaves. I have seen 'em take those young fine looking negroes, put them in a pen when they got ready to whip them, strip them and lay them face down, and beat them until white whelps arose on their bodies. Yes, some of them was treated awful mean.
I saw mothers sold from their babies, and babies sold from their mothers. They would strip them, put them on the auction block and sell them--bid them off just like you would cattle. Some would sell for lots of money.
They wouldn't take the slaves to church. I don't remember when the negroes had their first schools, but it was a long time after the War.
Why, I remember when they'd have those big corn shuckings, flax pullings, and quilting parties. They would sow acres after acres of flax, then they would meet at some house or plantation and pull flax until they had finished, then give a big party. There'd be the same thing at the next plantation and so on until they'd all in that neighborhood get their crops gathered. I remember they'd have all kinds of good eats--pies, cakes, chicken, fish, fresh pork, beef,--just plenty of good eats.
I went over the battlefield at Knoxville, Tennessee, two or three hours after the Yankees and the Rebels had a battle. It was about a mile from our house, and I walked over hundreds of dead men lying on the ground. Some were fatally wounded, and we carried about six or seven to our house. I saw the doctor pick the bullets out of their flesh.
When the Yankees came they treated the slave owners awful mean. They drew a gun on my mother, made her walk for several miles one real cold night and take them up on the top of a mountain and show them where a still was. They would make her cook for 'em. They took every thing we had. I was about twelve years old at that time.
I stayed there with my mother until after my father died, then we moved to Alabama. I was about 22 years old. I married a man named Kelley. He and my brothers were railroad graders. We traveled all over Texas.
I made the Run. Came here in '89 with my mother, husband and eight children. My husband and brothers graded the streets for the townsite of Oklahoma City and platted it off.
When we made the Run, we just stood on the property until it was surveyed, then we'd pay $1.00, and the lot was ours. I camped on the corner of Robinson and Pottawatomie Streets and Robinson and Chickasaw. I owned the Northwest corner. I later sold both lots.
I am a Christian, Baptist mostly, I guess, and I believe in the Great Beyond. I don't think you have to go to church all the time to be saved, but you have to be right with the Man up yonder before you can be saved.
I am a Republican, and it makes my blood boil whenever I hear a negro say he is a democrat. They should all be Republicans.
I have been married twice. I married William Cunningham here in 1922. He is dead; in fact, both my husbands are dead, so I don't see much need of talking about them.
[Date stamp: AUG 19 1937]
Age 93 yrs. McAlester, Oklahoma
"Run Nigger, run, De Patteroll git ye! Run Nigger, run, He's almost here!"
"Please Mr. Patteroll, Don't ketch me! Jest take dat nigger What's behind dat tree."
Lawsy, I done heard dat song all my life and it warn't no joke neither. De Patrol would git ye too if he caught ye off the plantation without a pass from your Master, and he'd whup ye too. None of us dassn't leave without a pass.
We chillun sung lots of songs and we played marbles, mumble peg, and town ball. In de winter we would set around de fire and listen to our Mammy and Pappy tell ghost tales and witch tales. I don't guess dey was sho' nuff so, but we all thought dey was.
My Mammy was bought in Virginia by our Master, Hugh McKeown. He owned a big plantation in Georgia. Soon after she come to Georgia she married my pa. Old Master was good to us. We lived for a while in the quarters behind the Big House, and my mammy was de house woman.
Somehow, in a trade, or maybe my pa was mortgaged, but anyway old Master let a man in Virginia have him and we never see him no more 'till after the War. It nigh broke our hearts when he had to leave and old Master sho' done everything he could to make it up to us.
There was four of us chillun. I didn't do no work 'till I was about fifteen years old. Old Master bought a tavern and mammy worked as house woman and I went to work at the stables. I drove the carriage and took keer of the team and carriage. I kept 'em shining too. I'd curry the horses 'till they was slick and shiny. I'd polish the harness and the carriage. Old Master and Mistress was quality and I wanted everybody to know it. They had three girls and three boys and we boys played together and went swimming together. We loved each other, I tell ye.
Old Master built us a little house jest back of de tavern and mammy raised us jest like Old Mistress did her chillun. When I didn't have to work de boys and me would go hunting. We'd kill possum, coon, squirrels and wild hogs. Old Master killed a wild hog and he give mammy her ten tiny pigs. She raised 'em and my, at the meat we had when they was butchered.
They had lots of company at de Big House, and it was de only tavern too, so they was lots of cooking to do. They would go to church on Sunday and they would spread their dinners on the ground. My, but they was feasts. We'd allus git to go as I drive the carriage and mammy looked after the food. We had our own church too, with our own preacher.
We had a spinning house where all the old women would card and spin wool in de winter and cotton in de summer. Dey made all our clothes, what few we wore. Us boys just wore long tailed shirts 'till we was 12 or 13 years old, sometimes older. I was 15 when I started driving the fambly carriage and I got to put on pants then.
Our suits was made out of jeans. That cloth wore like buckskin. We'd wear 'em for a year before they had to be patched.
We made our own brogan shoes too. We'd kill a beef and skin it and spread the skin out and let it dry a while. We'd put the hide in lime water to get the hair off, then we'd oil it and work it 'till it was soft. Next we'd take it to the bench and scrape or 'plesh' it with knives. It was then put in a tight cabinet and smoked with oak wood for about 24 hours. Smoking loosened the skin. We'd then take it out and rub it to soften it. It was blacked and oiled and it was ready to be made into shoes. It took nearly a year to get a green hide made into shoes. Twan't no wonder we had to go barefooted.
Sometimes I'd work in the wood shop, dressing wagon spokes. We made spokes with a plane, by hand on a bench.
I didn't have much work to do before I was 15 except to run errands. One of my jobs was to take corn to the mill to be ground into meal. Some one would put my sack of corn on the mule's back and help me up and I'd ride to the mill and have it ground and they'd load me back on and I'd go back home.
I remember once my meal fell off and I waited and waited for somebody to come by and help me. I got tired waiting so I toted the sack to a big log and laid it acrost it. I led my mule up to the log and after working hard for a long time I managed to get it on his back. I climbed up and jest as we started off the mule jumped and I fell off and pulled the sack off with me. I couldn't do nothing but wait and finally old Master came after me. He knowed something was wrong.
Old Master was good to all of his slaves but his overseers had orders to make 'em work. He fed 'em good and took good keer of 'em and never made 'em work iffen they was sick or even felt bad. They was two things old Master jest wouldn't 'bide and dat was for a slave to be sassy or lazy. Sometimes if dey wouldn't work or slipped off de farm dey would whip 'em. He didn't whip often. Colored overseers was worse to whip than white ones, but Master allus said, "Hadn't you all rather have a nigger overseer than a white one? I don't want to white man over my niggers." I've seen the overseer whip some but I never did get no whipping. He would strip 'em to the waist and whip 'em with a long leather strop, about as wide as two fingers and fastened to a handle.
When de war broke out everthing was changed. My young Masters had to go. T. H. McKeown, the oldest was a Lieutenant and was one of the first to go. It nigh broke all of our hearts. Pretty soon he sent for me to come and keep him company. Old Master let me go and I stayed in his quarters. He was stationed at Atlanta and Griffin, Georgia. I'd stay with him a week or two and I'd go home for a few days and I'd take back food and fruit. I stayed with him and waited on him 'till he got used to being in the army and they moved him out to fighting. I wanted to go on with him but he wouldn't let me, he told me to go back and take care of Old Master and Old Mistress. They was getting old by then. Purty soon Young Master got wounded purty bad and they sent me home. I never went back. I got a "pass" to go home. Course, after the war nothing was right no more. Yes, we was free but we didn't know what to do. We didn't want to leave our old Master and our old home. We stayed on and after a while my pappy come home to us. Dat was de best thing about de war setting us free, he could come back to us.
We all lived on at the old plantation. Old Master and old Mistress died and young Master took charge of de farm. He couldn't a'done nothing without us niggers. He didn't know how to work. He was good to us and divided the crops with us.
I never went to school much but my white folks learned me to read and write. I could always have any of their books to read, and they had lots of 'em.
Times has changed a lot since that time. I don't know where the world is much better now, that it has everthing or then when we didn't have hardly nothing, but I believe there was more religion then. We always went to church and I've seen 'em baptize from in the early morning 'till afternoon in the Chatahooche river. Folks don't hardly know nowadays jest what to believe they's so many religions, but they's only one God.
I was eighteen when I married. I had eight chillun. My wife is 86, and she lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
[Date stamp: AUG 16 1937]
Age (about) 89 yrs. Tulsa, Okla.
"What yo' gwine do when de meat give out? What yo' gwine do when de meat give out? Set in de corner wid my lips pooched out! Lawsy!
What yo' gwine do when de meat come in? What yo' gwine do when de meat come in? Set in de corner wid a greasy chin! Lawsy!"
Dat's about de only little nigger song I know, less'n it be de one about:
"Great big nigger, laying 'hind de log--Finger on de trigger and eye on the hawg! Click go de trigger and bang go de gun! Here come de owner and de buck nigger run!"
And I think I learn both of dem long after I been grown, 'cause I belong to a full-blood Creek Indian and I didn't know nothing but Creek talk long after de Civil War. My mistress was part white and knowed English talk, but she never did talk it because none of de people talked it. I heard it sometime, but it sound like whole lot of wild shoat in de cedar brake scared at something when I do hear it. Dat was when I was little girl in time of de War.
I don't know where I been born. Nobody never did tell me. But my mammy and pappy git me after de War and I know den whose child I is. De men at de Creek Agency help 'em git me, I reckon, maybe.
First thing I remember is when I was a little girl, and I belong to old Tuskaya-hiniha. He was big man in de Upper Creek, and we have a purty good size farm, jest a little bit to de north of de wagon depot houses on de old road at Honey Springs. Dat place was about twenty-five mile south of Fort Gibson, but I don't know nothing about whar de fort is when I was a little girl at dat time. I know de Elk River 'bout two mile north of whar we live, 'cause I been there many de time.
I don't know if old Master have a white name. Lots de Upper Creek didn't have no white name. Maybe he have another Indian name, too, because Tuskaya-hiniha mean "head man warrior" in Creek, but dat what everybody call him and dat what de family call him too.
My Mistress' name was Nancy, and she was a Lott before she marry old man Tuskaya-hiniha. Her pappy name was Lott and he was purty near white. Maybe so all white. Dey have two chillun, I think, but only one stayed on de place. She was name Luwina, and her husband was dead. His name was Walker, and Luwina bring Mr. Walker's little sister, Nancy, to live at de place too.
Luwina had a little baby boy and dat de reason old Master buy me, to look after de little baby boy. He didn't have no name cause he wasn't big enough when I was with dem, but he git a name later on, I reckon. We all call him "Istidji." Dat mean "little man."
When I first remember, before de War, old Master had 'bout as many slave as I got fingers, I reckon. I can think dem off on my fingers like dis, but I can't recollect de names.
Dey call all de slaves "Istilusti." Dat mean "Black man."
Old man Tuskaya-hiniha was near 'bout blind before de War, and 'bout time of de War he go plumb blind and have to set on de long seat under de bresh shelter of de house all de time. Sometime I lead him around de yard a little, but not very much. Dat about de time all de slave begin to slip out and run off.
My own pappy was name Stephany. I think he take dat name 'cause when he little his mammy call him "Istifani." Dat mean a skeleton, and he was a skinny man. He belong to de Grayson family and I think his master name George, but I don't know. Dey big people in de Creek, and with de white folks too. My mammy name was Serena and she belong to some of de Gouge family. Dey was big people in de Upper Creek, and one de biggest men of the Gouge was name Hopoethleyoholo for his Creek name. He was a big man and went to de North in de War and died up in Kansas, I think. Dey say when he was a little boy he was called Hopoethli, which mean "good little boy", and when he git grown he make big speeches and dey stick on de "yoholo." Dat mean "loud whooper."
Dat de way de Creek made de name for young boys when I was a little girl. When de boy git old enough de big men in de town give him a name, and sometime later on when he git to going round wid de grown men dey stick on some more name. If he a good talker dey sometime stick on "yoholo", and iffen he make lots of jokes dey call him "Hadjo." If he is a good leader dey call him "Imala" and if he kind of mean dey sometime call him "fixigo."
My mammy and pappy belong to two masters, but dey live together on a place. Dat de way de Creek slaves do lots of times. Dey work patches and give de masters most all dey make, but dey have some for demselves. Dey didn't have to stay on de master's place and work like I hear de slaves of de white people and de Cherokee and Choctaw people say dey had to do.
Maybe my pappy and mammy run off and git free, or maybeso dey buy demselves out, but anyway dey move away some time and my mammy's master sell me to old man Tuskaya-hiniha when I was jest a little gal. All I have to do is stay at de house and mind de baby.
Master had a good log house and a bresh shelter out in front like all de houses had. Like a gallery, only it had de dirt for de flo' and bresh for de roof. Dey cook everything out in de yard in big pots, and dey eat out in de yard too.
Dat was sho' good stuff to eat, and it make you fat too! Roast de green corn on de ears in de ashes, and scrape off some and fry it! Grind de dry corn or pound it up and make ash cake. Den bile de greens--all kinds of greens from out in de woods--and chop up de pork and de deer meat, or de wild turkey meat; maybe all of dem, in de big pot at de same time! Fish too, and de big turtle dat lay out on de bank!
Dey always have a pot full of sofki settin right inside de house, and anybody eat when dey feel hungry. Anybody come on a visit, always give 'em some of de sofki. Ef dey don't take none de old man git mad, too!
When you make de sofki you pound up de corn real fine, den pour in de water an dreen it off to git all de little skin from off'n de grain. Den you let de grits soak and den bile it and let it stand. Sometime you put in some pounded hickory nut meats. Dat make it real good.
I don't know whar old Master git de cloth for de clothes, less'n he buy it. Befo' I can remember I think he had some slaves dat weave de cloth, but when I was dar he git it at de wagon depot at Honey Springs, I think. He go dar all de time to sell his corn, and he raise lots of corn, too.
Dat place was on de big road, what we called de road to Texas, but it go all de way up to de North, too. De traders stop at Honey Springs and old Master trade corn for what he want. He git some purty checkedy cloth one time, and everybody git a dress or a shirt made off'n it. I have dat dress 'till I git too big for it.
Everybody dress up fine when dey is a funeral. Dey take me along to mind de baby at two-three funerals, but I don't know who it is dat die. De Creek sho' take on when somebody die!
Long in de night you wake up and hear a gun go off, way off yonder somewhar. Den it go again, and den again, jest as fast as dey can ram de load in. Dat mean somebody dead. When somebody die de men go out in de yard and let de people know dat way. Den dey jest go back in de house and let de fire go out, and don't even tech de dead person till somebody git dar what has de right to tech de dead.
When somebody bad sick dey build a fire in de house, even in de summer, and don't let it die down till dat person git well or die. When dey die dey let de fire go out.
In de morning everybody dress up fine and go to de house whar de dead is and stand around in de yard outside de house and don't go in. Pretty soon along come somebody what got a right to tech and handle de dead and dey go in. I don't know what give dem de right, but I think dey has to go through some kind of medicine to git de right, and I know dey has to drink de red root and purge good before dey tech de body. When dey git de body ready dey come out and all go to de graveyard, mostly de family graveyard, right on de place or at some of the kinfolkses.
When dey git to de grave somebody shoots a gun at de north, den de west, den de south, and den de east. Iffen dey had four guns dey used 'em.
Den dey put de body down in de grave and put some extra clothes in with it and some food and a cup of coffee, maybe. Den dey takes strips of elm bark and lays over de body till it all covered up, and den throw in de dirt.
When de last dirt throwed on, everybody must clap dey hands and smile, but you sho hadn't better step on any of de new dirt around de grave, because it bring sickness right along wid you back to your own house. Dat what dey said, anyways.
Jest soon as de grave filled up dey built a little shelter over it wid poles like a pig pen and kiver it over wid elm bark to keep de rain from soaking down in de new dirt.
Den everybody go back to de house and de family go in and scatter some kind of medicine 'round de place and build a new fire. Sometime dey feed everybody befo' dey all leave for home.
Every time dey have a funeral dey always a lot of de people say, "Didn't you hear de stikini squalling in de night?" "I hear dat stikini all de night!" De "stikini" is de screech owl, and he suppose to tell when anybody going to die right soon. I hear lots of Creek people say dey hear de screech owl close to de house, and sho' nuff somebody in de family die soon.
When de big battle come at our place at Honey Springs dey jest git through having de green corn "busk." De green corn was just ripened enough to eat. It must of been along in July.
Dat busk was jest a little busk. Dey wasn't enough men around to have a good one. But I seen lots of big ones. Ones whar dey had all de different kinds of "banga." Dey call all de dances some kind of banga. De chicken dance is de "Tolosabanga", and de "Istifanibanga" is de one whar dey make lak dey is skeletons and raw heads coming to git you.
De "Hadjobanga" is de crazy dance, and dat is a funny one. Dey all dance crazy and make up funny songs to go wid de dance. Everybody think up funny songs to sing and everybody whoop and laugh all de time.
But de worse one was de drunk dance. Dey jest dance ever whichaway, de men and de women together, and dey wrassle and hug and carry on awful! De good people don't dance dat one. Everybody sing about going to somebody elses house and sleeping wid dem, and shout, "We is all drunk and we don't know what we doing and we ain't doing wrong 'cause we is all drunk" and things like dat. Sometime de bad ones leave and go to de woods, too!
Dat kind of doing make de good people mad, and sometime dey have killings about it. When a man catch one his women--maybeso his wife or one of his daughters--been to de woods he catch her and beat her and cut off de rim of her ears!
People think maybeso dat ain't so, but I know it is!
I was combing somebody's hair one time--I ain't going tell who--and when I lift it up off'n her ears I nearly drap dead! Dar de rims cut right off'n 'em! But she was a married woman, and I think maybeso it happen when she was a young gal and got into it at one of dem drunk dances.
Dem Upper Creek took de marrying kind of light anyways. Iffen de younguns wanted to be man and wife and de old ones didn't care dey jest went ahead and dat was about all, 'cepting some presents maybe. But de Baptists changed dat a lot amongst de young ones.
I never forgit de day dat battle of de Civil War happen at Honey Springs! Old Master jest had de green corn all in, and us had been having a time gitting it in, too. Jest de women was all dat was left, 'cause de men slaves had all slipped off and left out. My uncle Abe done got up a bunch and gone to de North wid dem to fight, but I didn't know den whar he went. He was in dat same battle, and after de War dey called him Abe Colonel. Most all de slaves 'round dat place done gone off a long time before dat wid dey masters when dey go wid old man Gouge and a man named McDaniel.
We had a big tree in de yard, and a grape vine swing in it for de little baby "Istidji", and I was swinging him real early in de morning befo' de sun up. De house set in a little patch of woods wid de field in de back, but all out on de north side was a little open space, like a kind of prairie. I was swinging de baby, and all at once I seen somebody riding dis way 'cross dat prairie--jest coming a-kiting and a-laying flat out on his hoss. When he see de house he begin to give de war whoop, "Eya-a-a-a-he-ah!" When he git close to de house he holler to git out de way 'cause dey gwine be a big fight, and old Master start rapping wid his cane and yelling to git some grub and blankets in de wagon right now!
We jest leave everything setting right whar it is, 'cepting putting out de fire and grabbing all de pots and kettles. Some de nigger women run to git de mules and de wagon and some start gitting meat and corn out of de place whar we done hid it to keep de scouters from finding it befo' now. All de time we gitting ready to travel we hear dat boy on dat horse going on down de big Texas road hollering. "Eya-a-a-he-he-hah!"
Den jest as we starting to leave here come something across dat little prairie sho' nuff! We know dey is Indians de way dey is riding, and de way dey is all strung out. Dey had a flag, and it was all red and had a big criss-cross on it dat look lak a saw horse. De man carry it and rear back on it when de wind whip it, but it flap all 'round de horse's head and de horse pitch and rear lak he know something going happen, sho!
'Bout dat time it turn kind of dark and begin to rain a little, and we git out to de big road and de rain come down hard. It rain so hard for a little while dat we jest have to stop de wagon and set dar, and den long come more soldiers dan I ever see befo'. Dey all white men, I think, and dey have on dat brown clothes dyed wid walnut and butternut, and old Master say dey de Confederate soldiers. Dey dragging some big guns on wheels and most de men slopping 'long in de rain on foot.
Den we hear de fighting up to de north 'long about what de river is, and de guns sound lak hosses loping 'cross a plank bridge way off somewhar. De head men start hollering and some de hosses start rearing and de soldiers start trotting faster up de road. We can't git out on de road so we jest strike off through de prairie and make for a creek dat got high banks and a place on it we call Rocky Cliff.
We git in a big cave in dat cliff, and spend de whole day and dat night in dar, and listen to de battle going on.
Dat place was about half-a-mile from de wagon depot at Honey Springs, and a little east of it. We can hear de guns going all day, and along in de evening here come de South side making for a getaway. Dey come riding and running by whar we is, and it don't make no difference how much de head men hollers at 'em dey can't make dat bunch slow up and stop.
After while here come de Yankees, right after 'em, and dey goes on into Honey Springs and pretty soon we see de blaze whar dey is burning de wagon depot and de houses.
De next morning we goes back to de house and find de soldiers ain't hurt nothing much. De hogs is whar dey is in de pen and de chickens come cackling 'round too. Dem soldiers going so fast dey didn't have no time to stop and take nothing, I reckon.
Den long come lots of de Yankee soldiers going back to de North, and dey looks purty wore out, but dey is laughing and joshing and going on.
Old Master pack up de wagon wid everything he can carry den, and we strike out down de big road to git out de way of any more war, is dey going be any.
Dat old Texas road jest crowded wid wagons! Everybody doing de same thing we is, and de rains done made de road so muddy and de soldiers done tromp up de mud so bad dat de wagons git stuck all de time.
De people all moving along in bunches, and every little while one bunch of wagons come up wid another bunch all stuck in de mud, and dey put all de hosses and mules on together and pull em out, and den dey go on together awhile.
At night dey camp, and de women and what few niggers dey is have to git de supper in de big pots, and de men so tired dey eat everything up from de women and de niggers, purty nigh.
After while we come to de Canadian town. Dat whar old man Gouge been and took a whole lot de folks up north wid him, and de South soldiers got in dar ahead of us and took up all de houses to sleep in.
Dey was some of de white soldiers camped dar, and dey was singing at de camp. I couldn't understand what dey sing, and I asked a Creek man what dey say and he tell me dey sing, "I wish I was in Dixie, look away--look away."
I ask him whar dat is, and he laugh and talk to de soldiers and dey all laugh, and make me mad.
De next morning we leave dat town and git to de big river. De rain make de river rise, and I never see so much water! Jest look out dar and dar all dat water!
Dey got some boats we put de stuff on, and float de wagons and swim de mules and finally git across, but it look lak we gwine all drown.
Most de folks say dey going to Boggy Depot and around Fort Washita, but old Master strike off by hisself and go way down in de bottom somewhar to live.
I don't know whar it was, but dey been some kind of fighting all around dar, 'cause we camp in houses and cabins all de time and nobody live in any of 'em.
Look like de people all git away quick, 'cause all de stuff was in de houses, but you better scout up around de house before you go up to it. Liable to be some scouters already in it!
Dem Indian soldiers jest quit de army and lots went scouting in little bunches and took everything dey find. Iffen somebody try to stop dem dey git killed.
Sometime we find graves in de yard whar somebody jest been buried fresh, and one house had some dead people in it when old Mistress poke her head in it. We git away from dar, and no mistake!
By and by we find a little cabin and stop and stay all de time. I was de only slave by dat time. All de others done slip out and run off. We stay dar two year I reckon, 'cause we make two little crop of corn. For meat a man name Mr. Walker wid us jest went out in de woods and shoot de wild hogs. De woods was full of dem wild hogs, and lots of fish in de holes whar he could sicken 'em wid buck root and catch 'em wid his hands, all we wanted.
I don't know when de War quit off, and when I git free, but I stayed wid old man Tuskaya-hiniha long time after I was free, I reckon. I was jest a little girl, and he didn't know whar to send me to, anyways.
One day three men rid up and talk to de old man awhile in English talk. Den he called me and tell me to go wid dem to find my own family. He jest laugh and slap my behind and set me up on de hoss in front of one de men and dey take me off and leave my good checkedy dress at de house!
Before long we git to dat Canadian river again, and de men tie me on de hoss so I can't fall off. Dar was all dat water, and dey ain't no boat, and dey ain't no bridge, and we jest swim de hosses. I knowed sho' I was going to be gone dat time, but we git across.
When we come to de Creek Agency dar is my pappy and my mammy to claim me, and I live wid dem in de Verdigris bottom above Fort Gibson till I was grown and dey is both dead. Den I marries Anderson Davis at Gibson Station, and we git our allotments on de Verdigris east of Tulsa--kind of south too, close to de Broken Arrow town.
I knowed old man Jim McHenry at dat Broken Arrow town. He done some preaching and was a good old man, I think.
I knowed when dey started dat Wealaka school across de river from de Broken Arrow town. Dey name it for de Wilaki town, but dat town was way down in de Upper Creek country close to whar I lived when I was a girl.
I had lots of children, but only two is alive now. My boy Anderson got in a mess and went to dat McAlester prison, but he got to be a trusty and dey let him marry a good woman dat got lots of property dar, and dey living all right now.
When my old man die I come to live here wid Josephine, but I'se blind and can't see nothing and all de noises pesters me a lot in de town. And de children is all so ill mannered, too. Dey jest holler at you all de time! Dey don't mind you neither!
When I could see and had my own younguns I could jest set in de corner and tell 'em what to do, and iffen dey didn't do it right I could whack 'em on de head, 'cause dey was raised de old Creek way, and dey know de old folks know de best!
[Date stamp: AUG 16 1937]
Age 105 yrs. 1008 E. Owen St., Tulsa, Okla.
"Run nigger, run, De Patteroll git you! Run nigger, run, De Patteroll come!
"Watch nigger, watch--De Patteroll trick you! Watch nigger, watch, He got a big gun!"
Dat one of the songs de slaves all knowed, and de children down on de "twenty acres" used to sing it when dey playing in de moonlight 'round de cabins in de quarters. Sometime I wonder iffen de white folks didn't make dat song up so us niggers would keep in line.
None of my old Master's boys tried to git away 'cepting two, and dey met up wid evil, both of 'em.
One of dem niggers was fotching a bull-tongue from a piece of new ground way at de back of de plantation, and bringing it to my pappy to git it sharped. My pappy was de blacksmith.
Dis boy got out in de big road to walk in de soft sand, and long come a wagon wid a white overseer and five, six, niggers going somewhar. Dey stopped and told dat boy to git in and ride. Dat was de last anybody seen him.
Dat overseer and another one was cotched after awhile, and showed up to be underground railroaders. Dey would take a bunch of niggers into town for some excuse, and on de way jest pick up a extra nigger and show him whar to go to git on de "railroad system." When de runaway niggers got to de North dey had to go in de army, and dat boy from our place got killed. He was a good boy, but dey jest talked him into it. Dem railroaders was honest, and dey didn't take no presents, but de patrollers was low white trash!
We all knowed dat if a patroller jest rode right by and didn't say nothing dat he was doing his honest job, but iffen he stopped his hoss and talked to a nigger he was after some kind of trade.
Dat other black boy was hoeing cotton way in de back of de field and de patroller rid up and down de big road, saying nothing to nobody.
De next day another white man was on de job, and long in de evening a man come by and axed de niggers about de fishing and hunting! Dat black boy seen he was de same man what was riding de day befo' and he knowed it was a underground trick. But he didn't see all de trick, bless God!
We found out afterwards dat he told his mammy about it. She worked at de big house and she stole something for him to give dat low white trash I reckon, 'cause de next day he played sick along in de evening and de black overlooker--he was my uncle--sent him back to de quarters.
He never did git there, but when dey started de hunt dey found him about a mile away in de woods wid his head shot off, and old Master sold his mammy to a trader right away. He never whipped his grown niggers.
Dat was de way it worked. Dey was all kinds of white folks jest like dey is now. One man in Sesesh clothes would shoot you if you tried to run away. Maybe another Sesesh would help slip you out to the underground and say "God bless you poor black devil", and some of dem dat was poor would help you if you could bring 'em sumpin you stole, lak a silver dish or spoons or a couple big hams. I couldn't blame them poor white folks, wid the men in the War and the women and children hongry. The niggers didn't belong to them nohow, and they had to live somehow. But now and then they was a devil on earth, walking in the sight of God and spreading iniquity before him. He was de low-down Sesesh dat would take what a poor runaway nigger had to give for his chance to git away, and den give him 'structions dat would lead him right into de hands of de patrollers and git him caught or shot!
Yes, dat's de way it was. Devils and good people walking in de road at de same time, and nobody could tell one from t'other.
I remember about de trickery so good 'cause I was "grown and out" at that time. When I was a little boy I was a house boy, 'cause my mammy was the house woman, but when the war broke I already been sent to the fields and mammy was still at de house.
I was born on July 25, 1832. I know, 'cause old Master keep de book on his slaves jest like on his own family. He was a good man, and old Mistress was de best woman in de world!
De plantation had more than 500 acres and most was in cotton and tobacco. But we raised corn and oats, and lots of cattle and horses, and plenty of sheep for wool.
I was born on the plantation, soon after my pappy and mammy was brought to it. I don't remember whether they was bought or come from my Mistress's father. He was mighty rich and had several hundred niggers. When she was married he give her 40 niggers. One of them was my pappy's brother. His name was John, and he was my master's overlooker.
We called a white man boss the "overseer", but a nigger was a overlooker. John could read and write and figger, and old Master didn't have no white overseer.
Master's name was Levi Dawson, and his plantation was 18 miles east of Greenville, North Carolina. It was a beautiful place, with all the fences around the Big House and along the front made out of barked poles, rider style, and all whitewashed.
The Big House set back from the big road about a quarter of a mile. It was only one story, but it had lots of rooms.
There was four rooms in a bunch on one side and four in a bunch on the other, with a wide hall in between. They was made of square adzed logs, all weatherboarded on the outside and planked up and plastered on the inside. Then they was a long gallery clean across the front with big pillars made out of bricks and plastered over. They called it the passage 'cause it din't have no floor excepting bricks, and a buggy could drive right under it. Mostly it was used to set under and talk and play cards and drink the best whiskey old Master could buy.
Back in behind the big house was the kitchen, and the smokehouse in another place made of plank, and all was whitewashed and painted white all the time.
Old Mistress was named Miss Susie and she was born an Isley. She brought 40 niggers from her pappy as a present, and Master Levi jest had 4 or 5, but he had got all his land from his pappy. She had the niggers and he had the land. That's the way it was, and that's the way it stayed! She never let him punish one of her niggers and he never asked her about buying or selling land. Her pappy was richer than his pappy, and she was sure quality!
My pappy's name was Anthony, and mammy's name was Chanie. He was the blacksmith and fixed the wagons, but he couldn't read and figger like uncle John. Mammy was the head house woman but didn't know any letters either.
They was both black like me. Old man Isley, where they come from, had lots of niggers, but I don't think they was off the boat.
You can set the letters up and I can't tell them, but you can't fool me with the figgers, 'less they are mighty big numbers.
Master Levi had three sons and no daughters. The oldest son was Simeon. He was in the Sesesh army. The other two boys was too young. I can't remember their names. They was a lot younger and I was grown and out befo' they got big.
Old Master was a fine Christian but he like his juleps anyways. He let us niggers have preachings and prayers, and would give us a parole to go 10 or 15 miles to a camp meeting and stay two or three days with nobody but Uncle John to stand for us. Mostly we had white preachers, but when we had a black preacher that was Heaven.
We didn't have no voodoo women nor conjure folks at our 20 acres. We all knowed about the Word and the unseen Son of God and we didn't put no stock in conjure.
Course we had luck charms and good and bad signs, but everybody got dem things even nowadays. My boy had a white officer in the Big War and he tells me that man had a li'l old doll tied around his wrist on a gold chain.
We used herbs and roots for common ailments, like sassafras and boneset and peach tree poultices and coon root tea, but when a nigger got bad sick Old Master sent for a white doctor. I remember that old doctor. He lived in Greenville and he had to come 18 miles in a buggy.
When he give some nigger medicine he would be afraid the nigger was like lots of them that believed in conjure, and he would say, "If you don't take that medicine like I tell you and I have to come back here to see you I going to break your dam black neck next time I come out here!"
When it was bad weather sometime the black boy sent after him had to carry a lantern to show him the way back. If that nigger on his mule got too fur ahead so old doctor couldn't see de light he sho' catch de devil from that old doctor and from old Master, too, less'n he was one of old Missy's house niggers, and then old Master jest grumble to satisfy the doctor.
Down in the quarters we had the spinning house, where the old woman card the wool and run the loom. They made double weave for the winter time, and all the white folks and slaves had good clothes and good food.
Master made us all eat all we could hold. He would come to the smokehouse and look in and say, "You niggers ain't cutting down that smoke side and that souse lak you ought to! You made dat meat and you got to help eat it up!"
Never no work on Sunday 'cepting the regular chores. The overlooker made everybody clean up and wash de children up and after the praying we had games. Antny over and marbles and "I Spy" and de likes of that. Some times de boys would go down in de woods and git a possum. I love possum and sweet taters, but de coon meat more delicate and de har don't stink up de meat.
I wasn't at the quarters much as a boy. I was at the big house with my mammy, and I had to swing the fly bresh over my old Mistress when she was sewing or eating or taking her nap. Sometime I would keep the flies off'n old Master, and when I would get tired and let the bresh slap his neck he would kick at me and cuss me, but he never did reach me. He had a way of keeping us little niggers scared to death and never hurting nobody.
I was down in the field burning bresh when I first heard the guns in the War. De fighting was de battle at Kingston, North Carolina, and it lasted four days and nights. After while bunches of Sesesh come riding by hauling wounded people in wagons, and then pretty soon big bunches of Yankees come by, but dey didn't ack like dey was trying very hard to ketch up.
Dey had de country in charge quite some time, and they had forages coming round all the time. By dat time old Master done buried his money and all de silver and de big clock, but the Yankees didn't pear to search out dat kind of stuff. All dey ask about was did anybody find a bottle of brandy!
When de War ended up most all de niggers stay with old Master and work on de shares, until de land git divided up and sold off and the young niggers git scattered to town.
I never did have no truck wid de Ku Kluckers, but I had to step mighty high to keep out'n it! De sho' nuff Kluxes never did bother around us 'cause we minded our own business and never give no trouble.
We wouldn't let no niggers come 'round our place talking 'bout delegates and voting, and we jest all stayed on the place. But dey was some low white trash and some devilish niggers made out like dey was Ku Klux ranging 'round de country stealing hosses and taking things. Old Master said dey wasn't shore enough, so I reckon he knowed who the regular ones was.
These bunches that come around robbing got into our neighborhood and old Master told me I better not have my old horse at the house, 'cause if I had him they would know nobody had been there stealing and it wouldn't do no good to hide anything 'cause they would tear up the place hunting what I had and maybe whip or kill me.
"Your old hoss aint no good, Tony, and you better kill him to make them think you already been raided on," old Master told me, so I led him out and knocked him in the head with an axe, and then we hid all our grub and waited for the Kluckers to come most any night, but they never did come. I borried a hoss to use in the day and took him back home every night for about a year.
The niggers kept talking about being free, but they wasn't free then and they ain't now.
Putting them free jest like putting goat hair on a sheep. When it rain de goat come a running and git in de shelter, 'cause his hair won't shed the rain and he git cold, but de sheep ain't got sense enough to git in the shelter but jest stand out and let it rain on him all day.
But the good Lord fix the sheep up wid a woolly jacket that turn the water off, and he don't git cold, so he don't have to have no brains.
De nigger during slavery was like de sheep. He couldn't take care of hisself but his Master looked out for him and he didn't have to use his brains. De master's protection was like de wooly coat.
But de 'mancipation come and take off de woolly coat and leave de nigger wid no protection and he cain't take care of hisself either.
When de niggers was sot free lots of them got mighty uppity, and everybody wanted to be a delegate to something or other. The Yankees told us we could go down and vote in the 'lections and our color was good enough to run for anything. Heaps of niggers believed them. You cain't fault them for that, 'cause they didn't have no better sense, but I knowed the black folks didn't have no business mixing in until they knowed more.
It was a long time after the War before I went down to vote and everything quiet by that time, but I heard people talk about the fights at the schoolhouse when they had the first election.
I jest stayed on around the old place a long time, and then I got on another piece of ground and farmed, not far from Greenville until 1900. Then I moved to Hearn, Texas, and stayed with my son Ed until 1903 when we moved to Sapulpa in the Creek Nation. We come to Tulsa several years ago, and I been living with him ever since.
I can't move off my bed now, but one time I was strong as a young bull. I raised seven boys and seven girls. My boys was named Edward, Joseph, Furney, Julius, James, and William, and my girls was Luvenia, Olivia, Chanie Mamie, Rebecca and Susie.
I always been a deep Christian and depend on God and know his unseen Son, the King of Glory. I learned about Him when I was a little boy. Old Master was a good man, but on some of the plantations the masters wasn't good men and the niggers didn't get the Word.
I never did get no reading and writing 'cause I never did go to the schools. I thought I was too big, but they had schools and the young ones went.
But I could figger, and I was a good farmer, and now I bless the Lord for all his good works. Everybody don't know it I reckon, but we all needed each other. The blacks needed the whites, and still do.
There's a difference in the color of the skin, but the souls is all white, or all black, 'pending on the man's life and not on his skin. The old fashioned meetings is busted up into a thousand different kinds of churches and only one God to look after them. All is confusion, but I ain't going to worry my old head about 'em.
[Date stamp AUG 19 1937]
Age 77 yrs. Oklahoma City, Okla.
I was born December 22, 1860 in Sumner County, Tennessee. My mother--I mean mammy, 'cause what did we know 'bout mother and mamma. Master and Mistress made dey chillun call all nigger women, "Black Mammy." Jest as I was saying my mammy was named Millie Elkins and my pappy was named Isaac Garrett. My sisters and brothers was Frank, Susie and Mollie. They is all in Nashville, Tennessee right now. They lived in log houses. I 'member my grandpappy and when he died. I allus slept in the Big House in a cradle wid white babies.
We all the time wore cotton dresses and we weaved our own cloth. The boys jest wore shirts. Some wore shoes, and I sho' did. I kin see 'em now as they measured my feets to git my shoes. We had doctors to wait on us iffen we got sick and ailing. We wore asafedida to keep all diseases offen us.
When a nigger man got ready to marry, he go and tell his master that they was a woman on sech and sech a farm that he'd lak to have. Iffen master give his resent, then he go and ask her master and iffen he say yes, well, they jest jump the broomstick. Mens could jest see their wives on Sadday nite.
They laid peoples 'cross barrels and whupped 'em wid bull whups till the blood come. They'd half feed 'em and niggers'd steal food and cook all night. The things we was forced to do then the whites is doing of their own free will now. You gotta reap jest what you sow 'cause the Good Book says it.
They used to bid niggers off and then load 'em on wagons and take 'em to cotton farms to work. I never seen no cotton till I come heah. Peoples make big miration 'bout girls having babies at 11 years old. And you better have them whitefolks some babies iffen you didn't wanta be sold. Though a funny thing to me is, iffen a nigger woman had a baby on the boat on the way to the cotton farms, they throwed it in the river. Taking 'em to them cotton farms is jest the reason niggers is so plentiful in the South today.
I ain't got no education a'tall. In dem days you better not be caught with a newspaper, else you got a beating and your back almost cut off. When niggers got free, whitefolks killed 'em by the carload, 'cause they said it was a nigger uprising. I used to lay on the flo' with the whitefolks and hear 'em pass. Them patrollers roved trying to ketch niggers without passes to whup 'em. They was sometimes called bush whackers.
We went to white folks' church. I was a great big girl before we went to cullud church. We'd stay out and play while they worshipped. We jest played marbles--girls, white chillun and all.
The Yankees come thoo' and took all the meat and everything they could find. They took horses, food and all. Mammy cooked their vittles. One come in our cabin and took a sack of dried fruit with my mammy's shoes on the top. I tried to make 'em leave mammy's shoes too but he didn't.
I stayed in the house with the whitefolks till I was 19. They lak to kept me in there too long. That's why I'm selfish as I am. Within three weeks after I was out of the house, I married William Douglass. Whitefolks now don't want you to tech 'em, and I slept with white chillun till I was 19. You kin cook for 'em and put your hands in they vittles and they don't say nothing, but jest you tech one!
We stayed on, on the place, three or four years and it was right then mammy give us our pappy's name. We moved from the place to one three or four miles from our master's place, and mammy cooked there a long time.
Abraham Lincoln gits too much praise. I say, shucks, give God the praise. Lincoln come thoo' Gallitan, Tennessee and stopped at Hotel Tavern with his wife. They was dressed jest lak tramps and nobody knowed it was him and his wife till he got to the White House and writ back and told 'em to look 'twixt the leaves in the table where he had set and they sho' nuff found out it was him.
I never mentions Jeff Davis. He ain't wuff it.
Booker T. Washington was all right in his place. He come here and told these whitefolks jest what he thought. Course he wouldn't have done that way down South. I declare to God he sho' told 'em enough. They toted him 'round on their hands. No Jim Crow here then.
I jined the church 'cause I had religion round 60 years ago. People oughta be religious sho'; what for they wanta live in sin and die and go to the Bad Man. To git to Heaven, you sho' ought to work some. I want a resting place somewhar, 'cause I ain't got none here. I am a member of Tabernacle Baptist Church, and I help build the first church in Oklahoma City.
I got three boys and three girls. I don't know none's age. I give 'em the best education I could.
[Date stamp: AUG 13 1937]
DOC DANIEL DOWDY
Age 81 yrs. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
I was born June 6, 1856 in Madison County, Georgia. Father was named Joe Dowdy and mother was named Mary Dowdy. There was 9 of us boys, George, Smith, Lewis, Henry, William, myself, Newt, James and Jeff. There was one girl and she was my twin, and her name was Sarah. My mother and father come from Richmond, Va., to Georgia. Father lived on one side of the river and my mother on the other side. My father would come over ever week to visit us. Noah Meadows bought my father and Elizabeth Davis, daughter of the old master took my mother. They married in Noah Meadows' house.
My mother was the cook in the Big House. They'd give us pot likker with bread crumbs in it. Sometimes meat, jest sometimes, very seldom. I liked black-eyed peas and still do till now. We lived in weatherboard house. Our parents had corded-up beds with ropes and us chillun slept on the floor for most part or in a hole bored in a log. Our house had one window jest big enough to stick your head out of, and one door, and this one door faced the Big House which was your master's house. This was so that you couldn't git out 'less somebody seen you.
My job was picking up chips and keeping the calves and cows separate so that the calves wouldn't suck the cows dry. Mostly, we had Saturday afternoons off to wash. I was show boy doing [HW: during] the war, me and my sister, 'cause we was twins. My mother couldn't be bought 'cause she done had 9 boys for one farm and neither my father, 'cause he was the father of 'em. I was religious and didn't play much, but I sho' did like to listen to preachings. I did used to play marbles sometimes.
We jest wore shirts and nothing else both winter and summer. They was a little heavier in winter and that's all. No shoes ever. I had none till after I was set free. I guess I was almost 12 years old then.
The overseer on our place was a large tall, black man. We had plenty poor white neighbors. They was one of our biggest troubles. They'd allus look in our window and door all the time.
I saw slaves sold. I can see that old block now. My cousin Eliza was a pretty girl, really good looking. Her master was her father. When the girls in the big house had beaux coming to see 'em, they'd ask, "Who is that pretty gal?" So they decided to git rid of her right away. The day they sold her will allus be remembered. They stripped her to be bid off and looked at. I wasn't allowed to stand in the crowd. I was laying down under a fig brush. The man that bought Eliza was from New York. The Negroes had made up nuff money to buy her off theyself, but they wouldn't let that happen. There was a man bidding for her who was a Swedeland. He allus bid for the good looking cullud gals and bought 'em for his own use. He ask the man from New York, "Whut you gonna do with her when you git 'er?" The man from New York said, "None of your damn business, but you ain't got money nuff to buy 'er." When the man from New York had done bought her, he said, "Eliza, you are free from now on." She left and went to New York with him. Mama and Eliza both cried when she was being showed off, and master told 'em to shet up before he knocked they brains out.
Iffen you didn't do nothing wrong, they whipped you now and then anyhow. I called a boy Johnny once and he took me 'hind the garden and poured it on me and made me call him master. It was from then on I started to fear the white man. I come to think of him as a bear. Sometimes fellows would be a little late making it in and they got whipped with a cow-hide. The same man whut whipped me to make me call him master, well, he whipped my mamma. He tied her to a tree and beat her unmerciful and cut her tender parts. I don't know why he tied her to that tree.
The first time you was caught trying to read or write, you was whipped with a cow-hide, the next time with a cat-o-nine tails and the third time they cut the first jint offen your forefinger. They was very severe. You most allus got 30 and 9 lashes.
They carried news from one plantation by whut they call relay. Iffen you was caught, they whipped you till you said, "Oh, pray Master!" One day a man gitting whipped was saying "Oh pray master, Lord have mercy!" They'd say "Keep whipping that nigger Goddamn him." He was whipped till he said, "Oh pray Master, I gotta nuff." Then they said, "Let him up now, 'cause he's praying to the right man."
My father was the preacher and an educated man. You know the sermon they give him to preach?--Servant, Obey Your Master. Our favorite baptizing hymn was On Jordan's Stormy Bank I Stand. My favorite song is Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen.
Oh, them patrollers! They had a chief and he git'em together and iffen they caught you without a pass and sometimes with a pass, they'd beat you. But iffen you had a pass, they had to answer to the law. One old master had two slaves, brothers, on his place. They was both preachers. Mitchell was a hardshell Baptist and Andrew was a Missionary Baptist. One day the patroller chief was rambling thoo' the place and found some letters writ to Mitchell and Andrew. He went to the master and said, "Did you know you had some niggers that could read and write?" Master said, "No, but I might have, who do you 'spect?" The patroller answered, "Mitchell and Andrew." The old master said, "I never knowed Andrew to tell me a lie 'bout nothing!"
Mitchell was called first and asked could he read and write. He was scared stiff. He said, "Naw-sir." Andrew was called and asked. He said, "Yes-sir." He was asked iffen Mitchell could. He said, "Sho', better'n me." The master told John Arnold, the patroller chief, not to bother 'em. He gloried in they spunk. When the old master died, he left all of his niggers a home apiece. We had Ku Klux Klans till the government sent Federal officers out and put a stop to their ravaging and sent 'em to Sing Sing.
Doing the war my father was carpenter. His young master come to him 'cause he was a preacher and asked him must he go to the front and my father told him not to go 'cause he wouldn't make it. He went on jest the same and when he come back my father had to tote him in the house 'cause he had one leg tore off. The Yankees come thoo', ramshacked houses, leave poor horses and take fat ones and turn the poor ones in the corn they left. They took everthing they could. They cussed niggers who dodged 'em for being fools and make 'em show 'em everything they knowed whar was.
Our old master was mighty old and him and the women folks cried when we was freed. He told us we was free as he was.
I come to Oklahoma in 1906. I come out of that riot in 1906. Some fellow knocked up a colored woman or something and we waded right in and believe me we made Atlanta a fit place to live in. It is one of the best cities in America.
I married Miss Emmaline Witt. I carried her to the preacher one of the coldest nights I ever rid. I have three chillun and don't know how many grandchillun. My chillun is one a nurse, one in Arizona for his health and the other doing first one thing and another.
I think Abraham Lincoln was the greatest human being ever been on earth 'cepting the Apostle Paul. Who any better'n a man who liberated 4,000,000 Negroes? Some said he wasn't a Christian, but he told some friends once, "I'm going to leave you and may never see you again (and he didn't) so I'm going to take the Divine Spirit with me and leave it with you."
Jeff Davis was as bloody as he could be. I don't lak him a'tall. But you know good things come from enemies. I don't even admire George Washington. White men from the south that will help the Negro is far and few between. Booker T. Washington was a great man. He made some blunders and mistakes, but he was a great man. He is the father of industrial education and you know that sho' is a great thing.
The white folks was ignorant. You know the better you prepare yourself the better you act. Iffen they had put some sense in our heads 'stead of sticks on our heads, we'ud been better off and more benefit to 'em.
I had something from within that made me fear God and taught me how to pray. People say God don't hear sinners pray, but he do. Everybody ought to be Christians so not to be lost.
I work in real estate and can do a lot of work. I don't use no crutches and no cane and walk all the time, never hardly ride. I come in at 1 and 2 o'clock a. m. and get up between 8 and 9 a. m. 'cept Sundays, I get up at 7 or 8 a. m. so I can be ready to go to Sunday School. I cook for my own self all the time too. I am a Baptist and a member of Tabernacle Baptist Church. I am a trustee in my church too.
[Date stamp: AUG 19 1937]
Age 83 yrs. Tulsa, Okla.
Most folks can't remember many things happened to 'em when they only eight years old, but one of my biggest tribulations come about dat time and I never will forget it! That was when I was took away from my own mammy and pappy and sent off and bound out to another man, way off two-three hundred miles away from whar I live. And dat's the last time I ever see either one of them, or any my own kinfolks!
Whar I was born was at Hazelhurst, Mississippi. Jest a little piece east of Hazelhurst, close to the Pearl River, and that place was a kind of new plantation what my Master, Dr. Alexander, bought when he moved into Mississippi from up in Virginia awhile before the War.
They said my mammy brings me down to Mississippi, and I was born jest right after she got there. My mammy's name was Margaret, and she was born under the Ramson's, back in Tennessee. She belonged to Dave Ramson, and his pappy had come to Tennessee to settle on war land, and he had knowed Dr. Alexander's people back in Virginia too. My pappy's name was Addison, and he always belonged to Dr. Alexander. Old doctor bought my mammy 'cause my pappy liked her. Old doctor live in Tennessee a little while before he go on down in Mississippi.
Old doctor's wife named Dinah, and she sho' was a good woman, but I don't remember about old doctor much. He was away all the time, it seem like.
When I is about six year old they take me into the Big House to learn to be a house woman, and they show me how to cook and clean up and take care of babies. That Big House wasn't very fine, but it was mighty big and cool, and made out of logs with a big hall, but it didn't have no long gallery like most the houses around there had.
They was lots of big trees in the yard, and most the ground was new ground 'round that place, 'cause the old Doctor jest started to done farming on it when I was took away, but he had some more places not so far away, over towards the river that was old ground and made big crops for him. I went to one of the places one time, but they wasn't nobody on 'em but niggers and a white overseer. I don't know how many niggers old Doctor had, but Master John Deeson say he had about a hundred.
At old Doctor's house I didn't have to work very hard. Jest had to help the cooks and peel the potatoes and pick the guineas and chickens and do things like that. Sometime I had to watch the baby. He was a little boy, and they would bring him into the kitchen for me to watch. I had to git up way before daylight and make the fire in the kitchen fireplace and bring in some fresh water, and go get the milk what been down in the spring all night, and do things like that until breakfast ready. Old Master and old Mistress come in the big hall to eat in the summer, and I stand behind them and shoo off the flies.
Old doctor didn't have no spinning and weaving niggers 'cause he say they don't do enough work and he buy all the cloth he use for everybody's clothes. He can do that 'cause he had lots of money. He was big rich, and he keep a whole lot of hard money in the house all the time, but none of the slaves know it but me. Sometimes I would have the baby in the Mistress' room and she would go git three or four big wood boxes full of hard money for us to play with. I would make fences out of the money all across the floor, to keep the baby satisfied, and when he go to sleep I would put the money back in the boxes. I never did know how much they is, but a whole lot.
Even after the War start old Doctor have that money, and he would exchange money for people. Sometimes he would go out and be gone a long time, and come back with a lot more money he got from somewhar.
Right at the first they made him a high officer in the War and he done doctoring somewhar at a hospital most of the time. But he could go on both sides of the War, and sometime he would come in at night and bring old Mistress pretty little things, and I heard him tell her he got them in the North.
One day I was fanning him and I asked him is he been to the North and he kick out at me and tell to shut up my black mouth, and it nearly scared me to death the way he look at me! Nearly every time he been gone and come in and tell Mistress he been in the North he have a lot more hard money to put away in them boxes, too!
One evening long come a man and eat supper at the house and stay all night. He was a nice mannered man, and I like to wait on him. The next morning I hear him ask old Doctor what is my name, and old Doctor start in to try to sell me to that man. The man say he can't buy me 'cause old Doctor say he want a thousand dollars, and then old Doctor say he will bind me out to him.
I run away from the house and went out to the cabin whar my mammy and pappy was, but they tell me to go on back to the Big House 'cause maybe I am just scared. But about that time old Doctor and the man come and old Doctor make me go with the man. We go in his buggy a long ways off to the South, and after he stop two or three night at peoples houses and put me out to stay with the niggers he come to his own house. I ask him how far it is back home and he say about a hundred miles or more, and laugh, and ask me if I know how far that is.
I wants to know if I can go back to my mammy some time, and he say "Sho', of course you can, some of these times. You don't belong to me, Jo, I'se jest your boss and not your master."
He live in a big old rottendy house, but he aint farming none of the land. Jest as soon as he git home he go off again, and sometimes he only come in at night for a little while.
His wife's name was Kate and his name was Mr. John. I was there about a week before I found out they name was Deeson. They had two children, a girl about my size name Joanna like me, and a little baby boy name Johnny. One day Mistress Kate tell me I the only nigger they got. I been thinking maybe they had some somewhar on a plantation, but she say they aint got no plantation and they aint been at that place very long either.
That little girl Joanna and me kind of take up together, and she was a mighty nice mannered little girl, too. Her mammy raised her good. Her mammy was mighty sickly all the time, and that's the reason they bind me to do the work.
Mr. John was in some kind of business in the War too, but I never see him with no soldier clothes on but one time. One night he come in with them on, but the next morning he come to breakfast in jest his plain clothes again. Then he go off again.
I sho' had a hard row at that house. It was old and rackady, and I had to scrub off the staircase and the floors all the time, and git the breakfast for Mistress Kate and the two children. Then I could have my own breakfast in the kitchen. Mistress Kate always get the supper, though.
Some days she go off with the two children and leave me at the house all day by myself, and I think maybe I run off, but I didn't know whar to go.
After I been at that place two years Mr. John come home and stay. He done some kind of trading in Jackson, Mississippi, and he would be gone three or four days at a time, but I never did know what kind of trading it was.
About the time he come home to stay I seen the first Ku Klux I ever seen one night. I was going down the road in the moonlight and I heard a hog grunting out in the bushes at the side of the road. I jest walk right on and in a little ways I hear another hog in some more bushes. This time I stop and listen, and they's another hog grunts across the road, and about that time two mens dressed up in long white skirts steps out into the road in front of me! I was so scared the goose bumps jump up all over me 'cause I didn't know what they is! They didn't say a word to me, but jest walked on past me and went on back the way I had come. Then I see two more mens step out of the woods and I run from that as fast as I can go!
I ast Miss Kate what they is and she say they Ku Klux, and I better not go walking off down the road any more. I seen them two, three times after that, though, but they was riding hosses them times.
I stayed at Mr. John's place two more years, and he got so grumpy and his wife got so mean I make up my mind to run off. I bundle up my clothes in a little bundle and hide them, and then I wait until Miss Kate take the children and go off somewhere, and I light out on foot. I had me a piece of that hard money what Master Dr. Alexander had give me one time at Christmas. I had kept it all that time and nobody knowed I had it, not even Joanna. Old Doctor told me it was fifty dollars, and I thought I could live on it for a while.
I never had been away from that place, not even to another plantation in all the four years I was with the Deesons, and I didn't know which-a-way to go, so I jest started west.
I been walking about all evening it seem like, and I come to a little town with jest a few houses. I see a nigger man and ask him whar I can git something to eat, and I say I got fifty dollars.
"What you doing wid fifty dollars, child? Where you belong at, anyhow?" He ask me, and I tell him I belong to Master John Deeson, but I is running away. I explain that I jest bound out to Mr. John, but Dr. Alexander my real master, and then that man tell me the first time I knowed it that I aint a slave no more!
That man Deeson never did tell me, and his wife never did!
Well, dat man asked me about the fifty dollars, and then I found out that it was jest fifty cents!
I can't begin to tell about all the hard times I had working for something to eat and roaming around after that. I don't know why I never did try to git back up around Hazelhurst and hunt up my pappy and mammy, but I reckon I was jest ignorant and didn't know how to go about it. Anyways I never did see them no more.
In about three years or a little over I met Bryce Draper on a farm in Mississippi and we was married. His mammy had had a harder time than I had. She had five children by a man that belong to her master, Mr. Bryce and already named one of the boys--that my husband--Bryce after him, and then he take her in and sell her off away from all her children!
One was jest a little baby, and the master give it laudanum, but it didn't die, and he sold her off and lied and said she was a young girl and didn't have no husband, 'cause the man what bought her said he didn't want to buy no woman and take her away from a family. That new master name was Draper.
The last year of the War Mr. Draper die, and his wife already dead, and he give all his farm to his two slaves and set them free. One of them slaves was my husband's mammy.
Then right away the whites come and robbed the place of every thing they could haul off, and run his mammy and the other niggers off! Then she went and found her boy, that was my husband, and he live with her until she died, jest before we is married.
We lived in Mississippi a long time, and then we hear about how they better to the Negroes up in the North, and we go up to Kansas, but they ain't no better there, and we come down to Indian Territory in the Creek Nation in 1898, jest as they getting in that Spanish War.
We leased a little farm from the Creek Nation for $15 an acre, but when they give out the allotments we had to give it up. Then we rent 100 acres from some Indians close to Wagoner, and we farm it all with my family. We had enough to do it too!
For children we had John and Joe, and Henry, and Jim and Robert and Will that was big enough to work, and then the girls big enough was Mary, Nellie, Izora, Dora, and the baby. Dora married Max Colbert. His people belonged to the Colberts that had Colbert's Crossin' on the Red River way before the War, and he was a freedman and got allotment.
I lives with Dora now, and we is all happy, and I don't like to talk about the days of the slavery times, 'cause they never did mean nothing to me but misery, from the time I was eight years old.
I never will forgive that white man for not telling me I was free, and not helping me to git back to my mammy and pappy! Lots of white people done that.
MRS. ESTHER EASTER
Age 85 yrs. Tulsa, Okla.
I was born near Memphis, Tenn., on the old Ben Moore plantation, but I don't know anything about the Old South because Master Ben moves us all up into Missouri (about 14-miles east of Westport, now Kansas City), long before they started fighting about slavery.
Mary Collier was my mother's name before she was a Moore. About my father, I dunno. Mammy was sickly most of the time when I was a baby, and she was so thin and poorly when they move to Missouri the white folks afraid she going die on the way.
But she fool 'em, and she live two-three year after that. That's what good Old Master Ben tells me when I gets older.
I stay with Master Ben's married daughter, Mary, till the coming of the War. Times was good before the War, and I wasn't suffering none from slavery, except once in a while the Mistress would fan me with the stick--bet I needed it, too.
When the War come along Master he say to leave Mistress Mary and get ready to go to Texas. Jim Moore, one of the meanest men I ever see, was the son of Master Ben; he's going take us there.
Demon Jim, that's what I call him when he ain't round the place, but when he's home it was always Master Jim 'cause he was reckless with the whip. He was a Rebel officer fighting round the country and didn't take us slaves to Texas right away. So I stayed on at his place not far from Master Ben's plantation.
Master Jim's wife was a demon, just like her husband. Used the whip all the time, and every time Master Jim come home he whip me 'cause the Mistress say I been mean.
One time I tell him, you better put me in your pocket (sell me), Master Jim, else I'se going run away'. He don't pay no mind, and I don't try to run away 'cause of the whips.
I done see one whipping and that enough. They wasn't no fooling about it. A runaway slave from the Jenkin's plantation was brought back, and there was a public whipping, so's the slaves could see what happens when they tries to get away.
The runaway was chained to the whipping post, and I was full of misery when I see the lash cutting deep into that boy's skin. He swell up like a dead horse, but he gets over it, only he was never no count for work no more.
While Master Jim is out fighting the Yanks, the Mistress is fiddling round with a neighbor man, Mister Headsmith. I is young then, but I knows enough that Master Jim's going be mighty mad when he hears about it.
The Mistress didn't know I knows her secret, and I'm fixing to even up for some of them whippings she put off on me. That's why I tell Master Jim next time he come home.
See that crack in the wall? Master Jim say yes, and I say, it's just like the open door when the eyes are close to the wall. He peek and see into the bedroom.
That's how I find out about the Mistress and Mister Headsmith, I tells him, and I see he's getting mad.
What you mean? And Master Jim grabs me hard by the arm like I was trying to get away.
I see them in the bed.
That's all I say. The Demon's got him and Master Jim tears out of the room looking for the Mistress.
Then I hears loud talking and pretty soon the Mistress is screaming and calling for help, and if old Master Ben hadn't drop in just then and stop the fight, why, I guess she be beat almost to death, that how mad the Master was.
Then Master Ben gets mad 'cause his boy Jim ain't got us down in Texas yet. Then we stay up all the night packing for the trip. Master Jim takes us, but the Mistress stay at home, and I wonder if Master Jim beat her again when he gets back.
We rides the wagons all the way, how many days, I dunno. The country was wild most of the way, and I know now that we come through the same country where I lives now, only it was to the east. (The trip was evidently made over the "Texas Road.") And we keeps on riding and comes to the big river that's all brown and red looking, (Red River) and the next thing I was sold to Mrs. Vaughn at Bonham, Texas, and there I stays till after the slaves is free.
The new Mistress was a widow, no children round the place, and she treat me mighty good. She was good white folks--like old Master Ben, powerful good.
When the word get to us that the slaves is free, the Mistress says I is free to go anywheres I want. And I tell her this talk about being free sounds like foolishment to me--anyway, where can I go? She just pat me on the shoulder and say I better stay right there with her, and that's what I do for a long time. Then I hears about how the white folks down at Dallas pays big money for house girls and there I goes.
That's all I ever do after that--work at the houses till I gets too old to hobble on these tired old feets and legs, then I just sits down.
Just sits down and wishes for old Master Ben to come and get me, and take care of this old woman like he use to do when she is just a little black child on the plantation in Missouri!
God Bless old Master Ben--he was good white folks!
Age 87 McAlester, Okla.
I sho' remember de days when I was a slave and belonged to de best old Master what ever was, Mr. John Mixon. We lived in Selma, Dallas County, Alabama.
My grandma was a refugee from Africa. You know dey was white men who went slipping 'round and would capture or entice black folks onto their boats and fetch them over here and sell 'em for slaves. Well, grandma was a little girl 'bout eight or nine years old and her parents had sent her out to get wood. Dey was going to have a feast. Dey was going to roast a baby. Wasn't that awful? Well, they captured her and put a stick in her mouth. The stick held her mouth wide open so she wouldn't cry out. When she got to de boat she was so tired out she didn't do nothing.
They was a lot of more colored folks on de boat. It took about four months to get across on de boat and Mr. John Mixon met the boat and bought her. I think he gave five hundred dollars for her. She was named Gigi, but Master John called her Gracie. She was so good and they thought so much of her dat they gave her a grand wedding when she was married. Master John told her he'd never sell none of her chillun. He kept dat promise and he never did sell any of her grandchillun either. He thought it was wrong to separate famblys. She was one hundred and three years old when she died. I guess her mind got kind of feeble 'cause she wandered off and fell into a mill race and was drowned.
Master John Mixon had two big plantations. I believe he owned about four hundred slaves, chillun and all. He allowed us to have church one time a month with de white folks and we had prayer meeting every Sunday. Sometimes when de men would do something like being sassy or lazy and dey knowed dey was gonna be whipped, dey'd slip off and hide in de woods. When dey'd slip back to get some food dey would all pray for 'em dat Master wouldn't have 'em whipped too hard, and for fear the Patroller would hear 'em they'd put their faces down in a dinner pot. I'd sit out and watch for the Patroller. He was a white man who was appointed to catch runaway niggers. We all knew him. His name was Howard Campbell. He had a big pack of dogs. The lead hound was named Venus. There was five or six in the pack, and they was vicious too.
My father was a carriage driver and he allus took the family to church. My mother went along to take care of the little chilluns. She'd take me too. They was Methodist and after they would take the sacrament we would allus go up and take it. The niggers could use the whitefolks church in the afternoon.
De Big House was a grand place. It was a two-story house made out of logs dat had been peeled and smoothed off. There was five big rooms and a big open hall wid a wide front porch clean across de front. De porch had big posts and pretty banisters. It was painted white and had green shutters on de windows. De kitchen was back of de Big House.
De slaves quarters was about a quarter of a mile from de Big House. Their houses was made of logs and the cracks was daubed with mud. They would have two rooms. Our bedsteads was made of poplar wood and we kept them scrubbed white with sand. We used roped woven together for slats. Our mattresses were made of cotton, grass, or even shucks. My mother had a feather bed. The chairs was made from cedar with split white oak bottoms.
Each family kept their own home and cooked and served their own meals. We used wooden trays and wooden spoons. Once a week all the cullud chillun went to the Big House to eat dinner. The table was out in de yard. My nickname was "Speck". I didn't like to eat bread and milk when I went up there and I'd just sit there. Finally they'd let me go in de house and my mother would feed me. She was the house woman and my Auntie was cook. I don't know why they had us up there unless it was so they could laugh at us.
None of old Master's young niggers never did much work. He say he want 'em to grow up strong. He gave us lots to eat. He had a store of bacon, milk, bread, beans and molasses. In summer we had vegetables. My mother could make awful good corn pone. She would take meal and put salt in it and pour boiling water over it and make into pones. She'd wrap these pones in wet cabbage or collard leaves and roll dem into hot ashes and bake dem. They sho' was good. We'd have possum and coon and fish too.
The boys never wore no britches in de summer time. Boys fifteen years old would wear long shirts with no sleeves and they went barefooted. De girls dressed in shimmys. They was a sort of dress with two seams in it and no sleeves.
Old Master had his slaves to get up about five o'clock. Dey did an ordinary day's work. He never whipped them unless they was lazy or sassy or had a fight. Sometimes his slaves would run away but they allus come back. We didn't have no truck with railroaders 'cause we like our home.
A woman cussed my mother and it made her mad and they had a fight. Old Master had them both whipped. My mother got ten licks and de other woman got twenty-five. Old Mistress sho' was mad 'cause mother got whipped. Said he wouldn't have done it if she had known it. Old Mistress taught mother how to read and write and mother taught my father. I went to school jest one day so I can't read and write now.
Weddings was big days. We'd have big dinners and dances once in a while [HW: and] when somebody died they'd hold a wake. They'd sit up all night and sing and pray and talk. At midnight they'd serve sandwiches and coffee. Sometimes we'd all get together and play ring plays and dance.
Once the Yankee soldiers come. I was big enough to tote pails and piggins then. These soldiers made us chillun tote water to fill their canteens and water their horses. We toted the water on our heads. Another time we heard the Yankee's was coming and old Master had about fifteen hundred pounds of meat. They was hauling it off to bury it and hide it when the Yankees caught them. The soldiers ate and wasted every bit of that good meat. We didn't like them a bit.
One time some Yankee soldiers stopped and started talking to me--they asked me what my name was. "I say Liza," and they say, "Liza who?" I thought a minute and I shook my head, "Jest Liza, I ain't got no other name."
He say, "Who live up yonder in dat Big House?" I say, "Mr. John Mixon." He say, "You are Liza Mixon." He say, "Do anybody ever call you nigger?" And I say, "Yes Sir." He say, "Next time anybody call you nigger you tell 'em dat you is a Negro and your name is Miss Liza Mixon." The more I thought of that the more I liked it and I made up my mind to do jest what he told me to.
My job was minding the calves back while the cows was being milked. One evening I was minding the calves and old Master come along. He say, "What you doin' nigger?" I say real pert like, "I ain't no nigger, I'se a Negro and I'm Miss Liza Mixon." Old Master sho' was surprised and he picks up a switch and starts at me.
Law, but I was skeered! I hadn't never had no whipping so I run fast as I can to Grandma Gracie. I hid behind her and she say, "What's the matter of you child?" And I say, "Master John gwine whip me." And she say, "What you done?" And I say, "Nothing." She say she know better and 'bout that time Master John got there. He say, "Gracie, dat little nigger sassed me." She say, "Lawsie child, what does ail you?" I told them what the Yankee soldier told me to say and Grandma Gracie took my dress and lift it over my head and pins my hands inside, and Lawsie, how she whipped me and I dassent holler loud either. I jest said dat [HW: to] de wrong person. [TR: "didn't I?" at end was crossed out.]
I'se getting old now and can't work no more. I jest sits here and thinks about old times. They was good times. We didn't want to be freed. We hated the Yankee soldiers. Abe Lincoln was a good man though, wasn't he? I tries to be a good Christian 'cause I wants to go to Heaven when I die.
Age 80 years McAlester, Okla.
"I'se seventy years old."
And I say, "Whut's you telling me for. I ain't got nothing to do with your age!"
I knowed I was one year older than she was and it sorta riled me for her to talk about it. I never would tell folks my age for I knowed white folks didn't want no old woman working for 'em and I just wouldn't tell 'em how old I really was. Dat was nine years ago and I guess I'm seventy five now. I can't work much now.
I was born four years before de War.--"The one what set the cullud folks free." We lived on a big plantation in Texas. Old Master's name was John Booker and he was good to us all. My mammy died just at de close of de War and de young mistress took me and kept me and I growed up with her chillun. I thought I was quality sure nuff and I never would go to school 'cause I couldn't go 'long to de same school with de white chillun. Young mistress taught me how to knit, spin, weave, crochet, sew and embroider. I couldn't recollect my age and young Mistress told me to say, "I'se born de second year of de War dat set de cullud folks free," and the only time she ever git mad at me was when I forgot to say it jest as she told me to. She take hold of me and shook me. I recollects all it, all de time.
Young mistress' name was Elizabeth Booker McNew. I'se named after her. She finally gave me to my aunt when I was a big girl and I never lived wid white folks any more. I never saw my pappy till I was grown.
In the cullud quarters, we cooked on a fireplace in big iron pots. Our bread was baked in iron skillets with lids and we would set the skillet on de fire and put coals of fire on de lid. Bread was mighty good cooked like dat. We made our own candles. We had a candle mold and we would put a string in the center of the mold and pour melted tallow in it and let it harden. We would make eight at one time. Quality folks had brass lamps.
When we went to cook our vegetables we would put a big piece of hog jowl in de pot. We'd put in a lot of snap beans and when dey was about half done we'd put in a mess of cabbage and when it was about half done we'd put in some squash and when it was about half done we'd put in some okra. Then when it was done we would take it out a layer at a time. Go 'way! It makes me hungry to talk about it.
When we cooked possum dat was a feast. We would skin him and dress him and put him on top de house and let him freeze for two days or nights. Then we'd boil him with red pepper, and take him out and put him in a pan and slice sweet 'taters and put round him and roast him. My, dat was good eating.
It was a long time after de War 'fore all de niggers knowed dey was really free. My grandpappy was Master Booker's overseer. He wouldn't have a white man over his niggers. I saw grandpappy whip one man with a long whip. Master Booker was good and wouldn't whip 'em less'n he had to. De niggers dassent leave de farm without a pass for fear of de Ku Kluxers and patrolers.
We would have dances and play parties and have sho' nuff good times. We had "ring plays." We'd all catch hands and march round, den we'd drop all hands 'cept our pardners and we'd swing round and sing:
"You steal my pardner, and I steal yours, Miss Mary Jane. My true lover's gone away, Miss Mary Jane!
"Steal all round and don't slight none, Miss Mary Jane. He's lost out but I'se got one, Miss Mary Jane!"
We always played at log rollin's an' cotton pickin's.
Sometimes we would have a wedding and my what a good time we'd have. Old Master's daughter, Miss Janie, got married and it took us more'n three weeks to get ready for it. De house was cleaned from top to bottom and us chillun had to run errands. Seemed like we was allers under foot, at least dat was what mammy said. I never will fergit all the good things they cooked up. Rows of pies and cakes, baked chicken and ham, my, it makes my mouth water jest thinking of it. After de wedding and de feast de white folks danced all night and us cullud folks ate all night.
When one of de cullud folks die we would allers hold a "wake." We would set up with de corpse and sing and pray and at midnight we'd all eat and den we'd sing and pray some more.
In de evening after work was done we'd sit round and de older folks would sing songs. One of de favorites was:
"Miss Ca'line gal, Yes Ma'am Did you see dem buzzards? Yes Ma'am, Did you see dem floppin', How did ye' like 'em? Mighty well.
"Miss Ca'line gal, Yes Ma'am, Did you see dem buzzards? Yes Ma'am, Did you see dem sailin', Yes Ma'am. How did you like 'em? Mighty well."
I've heered folks talk about conjures and hoodoo charms. I have a hoss shoe over de door dat will bring good luck. I sho' do believe certain things bring bad luck. I hate to hear a scrinch (screech) owl holler at night. Whenever a scrinch owl git in dat tree at night and start to holler I gits me a stick and I say, "Confound you, I'll make yet set up dar and say 'Umph huh'," so I goes out and time I gits dar he is gone. If you tie a knot in de corner of de bed sheet he will leave, or turn your hat wrong side out too. Dey's all good and will make a scrinch owl leave every time.
I believes in dreams and visions too. I dreamed one night dat I had tall palings all 'round my house and I went out in de yard and dere was a big black hoss and I say, "How come you is in my yard? I'll jest put you out jest lak you got in." I opened de gate but he wouldn't go out and finally he run in de door and through the house and went towards de East. Right after dat my son died. I saw dat hoss again de other night. A black hoss allus means death. Seeing it de other night might mean I'se gwineter die.
I know one time a woman named May Runnels wanted to go to church about a mile away and her old man wouldn't go with her. It made her mad and she say, "I'll be dammed if I don't go." She had to go through a grave yard and when she was about half way across it a icy hand jest slap her and her mouth was twisted way 'round fer about three months. Dat was a lesson to her fer cussing.
One time there was a nigger what belonged on a adjoining farm to Master John Bookers and dey told us dis story:
"Dis nigger went down to de spring and found a terrapin and he say, 'What brung you here?' Jest imagine how he felt when it say to him, 'Teeth and tongue brung me here, and teeth and tongue will bring you here.' He run to de house and told his Master dat he found a terrapin dat could talk. Dey went back and he asked de terrapin what bring him here and it wouldn't say a word. Old Master didn't like it 'cause he went down there jest to see a common ordinary terrapin and he told de nigger he was going to git into trouble fer telling him a lie. Next day the nigger seen de terrapin and it say de same thing again. Soon after dat dis nigger was lynched right close to de place he saw de terrapin."
Master John Booker had two niggers what had a habit of slipping across de river and killing old Master's hogs and hiding de meat in de loft of de house. Master had a big blue hog and one day he missed him and he sent Ned to look fer him. Ned knowed all de time dat he had killed it and had it hid in his loft. He hunted and called "Pig-ooie, Pig." Somebody done stole old Master's big blue hog. Dey couldn't find it but old Master thought Ned knowed something 'bout it. One night he found out Ned was gonna kill another hog and had asked John to go with him. He borrowed John's clothes and blacked his face and met Ned at de river. Soon dey find a nice big one and Ned say, "John, I'll drive him round and you kill him." So he drove him past old Master but he didn't want to kill his own hog so he made lak he'd like to kill him but he missed him. Finally Ned got tired and said. "I'll kill him, you drive him by me." So Master John drove him by him and Ned knock de hog on de head and cut his throat and dey load him on de canoe. When dey was nearly 'cross de river Old Master dip up some water and wash his face a little, then he look at Ned and he say, "Ned you look sick, I believe you've got lepersy." Ned row on little more and he jump in de river and Master had a hard time finding him again. He had the overseer whip Ned for that.
I think Lincoln was a wonderful man. Everybody was sorry when he died, but I never heerd of Jeff Davis.
Age 69 years McAlester, Oklahoma
I was born after de War of de Rebellion but I 'member lots o' things dat my parents told me 'bout slavery.
My grandmother was captured in Africa. Traders come dere in a big boat and dey had all sorts of purty gew-gaws--red handkerchiefs, dress goods, beads, bells, and trinkets in bright colors. Dey would pull up at de shore and entice de colored folks onto de boat to see de purty things. Befo' de darkies realized it dey would be out from shore. Dat's de way she was captured. Fifteen to twenty-five would pay dem for de trip as dey all brought good prices.
I was born and raised in Louisiana, near Winfield. My mother's Master was John Rogers and his wife was Miss Millie. Dey was awful good to deir slaves and he never whupped his grown niggers.
I 'member when I was a child dat we didn't have hardly anything to keep house wid, but we got along purty well I guess. Our furniture was home-made and we cooked on de fireplace.
We saved all our oak-wood ashes, and would put a barrel on a slanting scaffold and put sticks and shucks in de bottom of de barrel and den fill it wid de ashes. We'd pour water in it and let it drip. Dese drippings made pure lye. We used dis wid cracklings and meat scraps to make our soap.
Father took a good-sized pine long and split it open, planed it down smooth and bored holes in de bottom and drove pegs in dem for legs; dis was our battling bench. We'd spread our wet clothes on dis and rub soap on 'em and take a paddle and beat de dirt out. We got 'em clean but had to be careful not to wear 'em out wid de paddle.
We had no tubs either, so father took a hollow log and split it open and put partitions in it. He bored a hole in each section and drove a peg in it. He next cut two forked poles and drove 'em in de ground and rested de ends of de hollow log in dese forks. We'd fill de log trough wid water and rinse our clothes. We could pull out de pegs and let de water out. We had no brooms either, so we made brush brooms to sweep our floors.
Dere was lots of wild game near our home. I 'member father and two more men going out and killing six deer in jest a little while. Dey was plentiful, and so was squirrels, coon, possums and quail. Dere was lots of bears, too. We'd be in de field working and hear de dogs, and father and de boys would go to 'em and maybe dey'd have a bear. We liked bear meat. It was dark, but awful good and sweet.
De grown folks used to have big times at log-rollings, corn-shuckings and quiltings. Dey'd have a big supper and a big dance at night. Us children would play ring plays, play with home-made rag dolls, or we'd take big leaves and pin 'em together wid thorns and make hats and dresses. We'd ride saplings, too. All of us would pull a sapling down and one would climb up in it near de top and git a good hold on it, and dey would turn it loose. It took a purty good holding to stay wid it, I can tell you.
All de ladies rode horseback, and dey rode side-saddles. I had a purty side-saddle when I growed up. De saddle seat was flowered plush. I had a purty riding habit, too. De skirt was so long dat it almost touched de ground.
We spun and wove all our clothes. I had to spin three broaches ever night before bedtime. Mother would take bark and make dye to give us different colored dresses.
Red oak and sweet gum made purple. Bois d'arc made yellow or orange. Walnut made a purty brown. We knitted our socks and stockings, too.
We celebrated Christmas by having a big dance and egg-nog for ever' body.
During slavery young colored boys and girls didn't do much work but just growed up, care-free and happy. De first work boys done was to learn to hitch up de team to Master's carriage and take de young folks for a drive.
My older brothers and sisters told me lots of things dey done during slave days. My brother Joe felt mighty big after freedom and strutted about. One day he took his younger brother, Ol wid him to where father was building a house. Dey played 'bout de house and come up to where a white man and father was talking. De white man was rolling a little ball of mud in his hands and he just pitched it over on Ol's foot. It didn't hurt him a mite, but Joe bridled up and he started to git smart, and father told him he'd break his neck if he didn't go on home and keep his mouth shet. Father finally had to whup Joe to make him know he was black. He give father and mother lots of concern, for dey was afraid the Ku Kluxers would git him. One day he was playing wid a axe and chopped off brother Ol's finger. Mother told him she was going to kill him when she caught him. He took to de woods. His three sisters and two neighbor girls run him nearly all day but couldn't catch him. Late in de evening, he come up to a white neighbor's house and she told him to go in and git under de bed and dey couldn't find him. Curtains come down to de floor and as he was tired he decided to risk it. He hadn't much more dan got hid when he heard de girls coming. He heard de woman say, "He's under de bed." He knowed he was caught, and he put up a fight, but dey took him to mother. He got a whupping, but he was shocked dat mother didn't kill him like she said she was. He didn't mind de whupping. He growed up to be a good man, and was de apple of my mother's eye.
Father knowed a man that stole his Master's horse out and rode him to a dance. For some reason de horse died. De poor man knowed he was up against it, and he let in to begging de men to help him git de horse on his back so he could put him back in his stable and his Master would think he died dere. Poor fellow, he really did think he could tote dat horse on his back. He couldn't git anybody to help him, so he went to the woods. He was shot by a patroller 'cause he wouldn't surrender. Dey captured him but he died.
Paul Castleberry was a white preacher. De colored would go to church de same as de whites. He give de colored instructions on obeying Masters. He say, "while your Master is going f'om pillar to post, looking after your intrusts, you is always doing some devilment." I 'spect dat was jest about de truth.
My sister played wid Miss Millie's little girl, Mollie. De big house was on a high hill and at de foot of de hill. Nearly a half-mile away was a big creek wid a big wooden bridge across it. Soldiers come by ever' few days, and you could hear deir horses when dey struck de bridge. Sister and Mollie would run upstairs and look down de hill, and if it was Confederate soldiers dey would run back and tell Miss Millie and dey would start putting out de best food dey had. If dey saw Yankee soldiers, dey would run down and tell 'em and dey'd start hiding things.
De Yankees come through dere and took ever' body's horses. Lots of people took deir horses and cows and hid 'em in some low place in de deep wood.
Miss Millie had a young horse and she had 'em take him to de wheat field and hide him. De wheat was as high as he was. De Yankees come by, and a man had stopped dere just before dey come. He was riding an old horse, and he was wearing a long linen-duster--a duster was a long coat dat was worn over de suit to protect it from de dust.
Dis smart-aleck hid behind de house and as de soldiers rode up he shot at 'em. Dey started shooting at him and he started running, and his coat was sticking straight out behind him. De soldiers surely wasn't trying to hit him, but dey sure did scare him plenty. Miss Millie was certain dey was going to find her horse but dey didn't.
Master John Rogers was good to all his slaves, and they all loved him and would a'died for him. One day he was sitting in his yard and Mollie come running down stairs and told him de Yankees was coming. He never say nothing, but kept sitting dere. Dat morning he had a big sack of money and he give it to my mother to hide for him. She ripped her mattress, and put it in de middle of it and sewed it up. She den made up de bed and put de covers on it. De Yankees searched de house and took de jewelry and silverware and old Master's gold mug, but dey didn't find his money.
My parents lived close to de old plantation dat they lived on when dey was slaves. De big house was still dere, but it was sure dilapidated. Ever'body was poor after de War, whites and blacks alike. I really think de colored was de best off, for they knowed all 'bout hardships and hard work and de white folks didn't.
At first some of 'em was too proud to do drudgery work, but most of 'em went right to work and build up deir homes again. Food, clothes, and in fact everything needed, was scarce.
Mother always say, "If you visit on New Years, you'll visit all de year." We always had black-eyed peas and hog jowl for New Year's dinner, for it brought good luck.
The Nineteenth of June was Emancipation Day, and we always had a big picnic and speeches.
I knowed one woman who was a conjur woman. Lots of people went to her to git her to break a evil spell dat some one had over them. She'd brew a tea from herbs and give to 'em to drink, and it always cured 'em.
I've seen people use all kinds o' roots and herbs for medicine, and I also seen 'em use all kind of things for cures. I've knowed 'em to put wood lice in a bag and tie 'em 'round a baby's neck so it'd teeth easy.
Black-haw root, sour dock, bear grass, grape root, bull nettle, sweet-gum bark and red-oak bark boiled separately and mixed, makes a good blood medicine.
Age 79 yrs. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Well, to tell you de truth I don't know my age, but I was born in 1858, in Franklin, Tennessee. Now, you can figger for yourself and tell how old I is. I is de daughter of Prophet and Callie Isaiah, and dey was natives of Tennessee. Dere was three of us children, two boys and myself. I'm de only girl. My brothers names was Prophet and Billie Isaiah. I don't 'member much about dem as we was separated when I was seven years old. I'll never forget when me, my ma and my auntie had to leave my pa and brothers. It is jest as clear in my mind now as it was den, and dat's been about seventy years ago.
Oh God! I tell you it was awful dat day when old Jeff Davis had a bunch of us sent to Memphis to be sold. I can see old Major Clifton now. He was a big nigger trader you know. Well, dey took us on up dere to Memphis and we was sold jest like cattle. Dey sold me and ma together and dey sold pa and de boys together. Dey was sent to Mississippi and we was sent to Alabama. My pa, O how my ma was grieved to death about him! She didn't live long after dat. She didn't live long enough to be set free. Poor ma, she died a slave, but she is saved though. I know she is, and I'll be wid her some day.
It was thirty years before my pa knew if we was still living. Finally in some way he heard dat I was still alive, and he began writing me. Course I was grown and married den and me and my husband had moved to Missouri. Well, my pa started out to see me and on his way he was drowned in de Missouri River, and I never saw him alive after we was sold in Memphis.
I can't tell you much 'bout work during de slave days 'cause you see I was jest a baby you might say when de War broke out. I do remember our Master's name though, it was Dr. Perkins, and he was a good Master. Ma and pa sure hated to have to leave him, he was so good to dem. He was a rich man, and had a big fine house and thousands of acres of land. He was good to his niggers too. We had a good house too, better dan some of dese houses I see folks living in now. Course Dr. Perkins niggers had to work, but dey didn't mind 'cause he would let dem have little patches of dey own such as 'tatoes, corn, cotton and garden. Jest a little, you know. He couldn't let dem have much, there was so many on Dr. Perkins plantation.
I don't remember seeing anybody sick in slavery time. You see I was jest a kid and dere's a lot of things I can't remember.
I am a Christian. I jined de church nigh on seventy years ago and when I say dat, I don't mean I jest jined de church. I mean I gave myself up to de Heavenly Father, and I've been gwine straight down de line for Him ever since. You know in dem days, we didn't get religion like young folks do now. Young folks today jest find de church and den call theyselves Christians, but they aint.
I remember jest as well when I was converted. One day I was thinking 'bout a sermon de preacher had preached and a voice spoke to me and said, "De Holy Ghost is over your head. Accept it!" Right den I got down on my knees and prayed to God dat I might understand dat voice, and God Almighty in a vision told me dat I should find de church. I could hardly wait for de next service so I could find it, and when I was in de water getting my baptisement, dat same voice spoke and said, "Now you have accepted don't turn back 'cause I will be wid you always!" O you don't know nothing 'bout dat kind of religion!
I 'member one night shortly after I jined de church I was laying in bed and dere was a vine tied 'round my waist and dat vine extended into de elements. O my God! I can see it now! I looked up dat vine and away in de elements I could see my Divine Master and he spoke to me and said, "When you get in trouble shake dis vine; I'm your Master and I will hear your cry."
I knowed old Jeff Davis good. Why I was jest as close to him as I am to dat table. I've talked wid him too. I reckon I _do_ know dat scoundrel! Why, he didn't want de niggers to be free! He was known as a mean old rascal all over de South.
Abraham Lincoln? Now you is talking 'bout de niggers friend! Why dat was de best man God ever let tramp de earth! Everybody was mighty sad when poor old Abraham was 'sassinated, 'cause he did a mighty good deed for de colored race before he left dis world.
I wasn't here long during slavery, but I saw enough of it to know it was mighty hard going for most of de niggers den, and young folks wouldn't stand for dat kind of treatment now. I know most of the young folks would be killed, but they jest wouldn't stand for it. I would hate to have to go through wid my little share of it again.
Age 85 yrs. Oklahoma City, Okla.
I was born in Mansieur, Louisiana, 1852, Avoir Parish. I am the daughter of Alfred and Clementine Joseph. I don't know much about my grandparents other than my mother told me my grandfather's name was Fransuai, and was one time a king in Africa.
Most of the slaves lived in log cabins, and the beds were home-made. The mattresses were made out of moss gathered from trees, and we used to have lots of fun gathering that moss to make those mattresses.
My job was taking care of the white children up at the Big House (that is what they called the house where our master lived), and I also had to feed the little Negro children. I remember quite well how those poor little children used to have to eat. They were fed in boxes and troughs, under the house. They were fed corn meal mush and beans. When this was poured into their box they would gather around it the same as we see pigs, horses and cattle gather around troughs today.
We were never given any money, but were able to get a little money this way: our Master would let us have two or three acres of land each year to plant for ourselves, and we could have what we raised on it. We could not allow our work on these two or three acres to interfere with Master's work, but we had to work our little crops on Sundays. Now remind you, all the Negroes didn't get these two or three acres, only good masters allowed their slaves to have a little crop of their own. We would take the money from our little crops and buy a few clothes and something for Christmas. The men would save enough money out of the crops to buy their Christmas whiskey. It was all right for the slaves to get drunk on Christmas and New Years Day; no one was whipped for getting drunk on those days. We were allowed to have a garden and from this we gathered vegetables to eat; on Sundays we could have duck, fish, and pork.
We didn't know anything about any clothes other than cotton; everything we wore was made of cotton, except our shoes, they were made from pieces of leather cut out of a raw cowhide.
Our Master and Mistress was good, they let us go to church with them, have our little two- or three-acre crops and any other thing that the good masters would let their slaves do. They lived in a big fine house and had a fine barn. Their barn was much better than the house we lived in. Master Depriest (our master) was a Frenchman, and had eight or nine children, and they were sure mean. They would fight us, but we were not allowed to fight our little Master or Mistress as we had to call them.
The overseer on Master's plantation was a mean old fellow, he carried his gun all the time and would ride a big fine horse and go from one bunch of slaves to the other. Some poor white folks lived close to us. They could not own slaves and they had to work for the rich plantation owners. I believe that those poor white folk are to blame for the Negroes stealing because they would get the Negroes to steal their master's corn, hogs, chickens and many other things and sell it to them for practically nothing.
We had to work plenty hard, because our Master had a large plantation. Don't know just how many acres it was, but we had to be up at 5 o'clock in the morning and would work until dark than we would have to go home and do our night work, that is cook, milk, and feed the stock.
The slaves were punished for stealing, running off, not doing what their master told them and for talking back to their master. If any of these rules were disobeyed their feet and hands were chained together and they were put across a log or a barrel and whipped until the blood came from them.
There were no jails; the white man was the slaves' jail. If whipping didn't settle the crime the Negro committed--the next thing would be to hang him or burn him at stake.
I've seen them sell slaves. The whites would auction them off just as we do cattle and horses today. The big fine healthy slaves were worth more than those that were not quite so good. I have seen men sold from their wives and I thought that was such a crime. I knew that God would settle thing someday.
Slaves would run away but most of the time they were caught. The Master would put blood hounds on their trail, and sometimes the slave would kill the blood hound and make his escape. If a slave once tried to run away and was caught, he would be whipped almost to death, and from then on if he was sent any place they would chain their meanest blood hound to him.
Funerals were very simple for slaves, they could not carry the body to the church they would just take it to the grave yard and bury it. They were not even allowed to sing a song at the cemetery. Old Mistress used to tell us ghost stories after funerals and they would nearly scare me to death. She would tell of seeing men with no head, and see cattle that would suddenly turn to cats, and she made us believe if a fire was close to a cemetery it was coming from a ghost.
I used to hear quite a bit about voodoo, but that some thing I never believed in, therefore, I didn't pay any attention to it.
When a slave was sick, the master would get a good doctor for him if he was a good slave, but if he wasn't considered a good slave he would be given cheap medical care. Some of the doctors would not go to the cabin where the slaves were, and the slave would have to be carried on his bed to his master's back porch and the doctor would see him there.
When the news came that we were free, all of us were hid on the Mississippi River. We had been there for several days, and we had to catch fish with our hands and roast them for food. I remember quite well when old Master came down to there and hollered, Come on out niggers; you are free now and you can do as you please! We all went to the Big House and there we found old Miss crying and talking about how she hated to lose her good niggers.
Abraham Lincoln! Why we mourned three months for that man when he died! I wouldn't miss a morning getting my black arm band and placing it on in remembrance of Abraham, who was the best friend the Negroes ever had. Now old Jeff Davis, I didn't care a thing about him. He was a Democrat and none of them mean anything to the Negro. And if these young Negroes don't quit messing with the democratic bunch they are going to be right back where we started from. If they only knew as I know they would struggle to keep such from happening, because although I had a good master I wouldn't want to go through it again.
Age 83 yrs. Tulsa, Oklahoma
I am what we colored people call a "native." That means that I didn't come into the Indian country from somewhere in the Old South, after the War, like so many negroes did, but I was born here in the old Creek Nation, and my master was a Creek Indian. That was eighty three years ago, so I am told.
My mammy belonged to white people back in Alabama when she was born--down in the southern part I think, for she told me that after she was a sizeable girl her white people moved into the eastern part of Alabama where there was a lot of Creeks. Some of them Creeks was mixed up with the whites, and some of the big men in the Creeks who come to talk to her master was almost white, it looked like. "My white folks moved around a lot when I was a little girl", she told me.
When mammy was about 10 or 13 years old some of the Creeks begun to come out to the Territory in little bunches. They wasn't the ones who was taken out here by the soldiers and contractor men--they come on ahead by themselves and most of them had plenty of money, too. A Creek come to my mammy's master and bought her to bring out here, but she heard she was being sold and run off into the woods. There was an old clay pit, dug way back into a high bank, where the slaves had been getting clay to mix with hog hair scrapings to make chinking for the big log houses that they built for the master and the cabins they made for themselves. Well, my mammy run and hid way back in that old clay pit, and it was way after dark before the master and the other man found her.
The Creek man that bought her was a kind sort of a man, mammy said, and wouldn't let the master punish her. He took her away and was kind to her, but he decided she was too young to breed and he sold her to another Creek who had several slaves already, and he brought her out to the Territory.
The McIntosh men was the leaders in the bunch that come out at that time, and one of the bunch, named Jim Perryman, bought my mammy and married her to one of his "boys", but after he waited a while and she didn't have a baby he decided she was no good breeder and he sold her to Mose Perryman.
Mose Perryman was my master, and he was a cousin to Legus Perryman, who was a big man in the Tribe. He was a lot younger than Mose, and laughed at Mose for buying my mammy, but he got fooled, because my mammy got married to Mose's slave boy Jacob, the way the slaves was married them days, and went ahead and had ten children for Mr. Mose.
Mose Perryman owned my pappy and his older brother, Hector, and one of the McIntosh men, Oona, I think his name was, owned my pappy's brother William. I can remember when I first heard about there was going to be a war. The older children would talk about it, but they didn't say it was a war all over the country. They would talk about a war going to be "back in Alabama", and I guess they had heard the Creeks talking about it that way.
When I was born we lived in the Choska bottoms, and Mr. Mose Perryman had a lot of land broke in all up and down the Arkansas river along there. After the War, when I had got to be a young woman, there was quite a settlement grew up at Choska (pronounced Choe-skey) right across the river east of where Haskell now is, but when I was a child before the War all the whole bottoms was marshy kind of wilderness except where farms had been cleared out. The land was very rich, and the Creeks who got to settle there were lucky. They always had big crops. All west of us was high ground, toward Gibson station and Fort Gibson, and the land was sandy. Some of the McIntoshes lived over that way, and my Uncle William belonged to one of them.
We slaves didn't have a hard time at all before the War. I have had people who were slaves of white folks back in the old states tell me that they had to work awfully hard and their masters were cruel to them sometimes, but all the Negroes I knew who belonged to Creeks always had plenty of clothes and lots to eat and we all lived in good log cabins we built. We worked the farm and tended to the horses and cattle and hogs, and some of the older women worked around the owner's house, but each Negro family looked after a part of the fields and worked the crops like they belonged to us.
When I first heard talk about the War the slaves were allowed to go and see one another sometimes and often they were sent on errands several miles with a wagon or on a horse, but pretty soon we were all kept at home, and nobody was allowed to come around and talk to us. But we heard what was going on.
The McIntosh men got nearly everybody to side with them about the War, but we Negroes got word somehow that the Cherokees over back of Ft. Gibson was not going to be in the War, and that there were some Union people over there who would help slaves to get away, but we children didn't know anything about what we heard our parents whispering about, and they would stop if they heard us listening. Most of the Creeks who lived in our part of the country, between the Arkansas and the Verdigris, and some even south of the Arkansas, belonged to the Lower Creeks and sided with the South, but down below us along the Canadian River they were Upper Creeks and there was a good deal of talk about them going with the North. Some of the Negroes tried to get away and go down to them, but I don't know of any from our neighborhood that went to them.
Some Upper Creeks came up into the Choska bottoms talking around among the folks there about siding with the North. They were talking, they said, for old man Gouge, who was a big man among the Upper Creeks. His Indian name was Opoeth-le-ya-hola, and he got away into Kansas with a big bunch of Creeks and Seminoles during the War.
Before that time, I remember one night my uncle William brought another Negro man to our cabin and talked a long time with my pappy, but pretty soon some of the Perryman Negroes told them that Mr. Mose was coming down and they went off into the woods to talk. But Mr. Mose didn't come down. When pappy came back Mammy cried quite a while, and we children could hear them arguing late at night. Then my uncle Hector slipped over to our cabin several times and talked to pappy, and mammy began to fix up grub, but she didn't give us children but a little bit of it, and told us to stay around with her at the cabin and not go playing with the other children.
Then early one morning, about daylight, old Mr. Mose came down to the cabin in his buggy, waving a shot gun and hollering at the top of his voice. I never saw a man so mad in all my life, before nor since!
He yelled in at mammy to "git them children together and git up to my house before I beat you and all of them to death!" Mammy began to cry and plead that she didn't know anything, but he acted like he was going to shoot sure enough, so we all ran to mammy and started for Mr. Mose's house as fast as we could trot.
We had to pass all the other Negro cabins on the way, and we could see that they were all empty, and it looked like everything in them had been tore up. Straw and corn shucks all over the place, where somebody had tore up the mattresses, and all the pans and kettles gone off the outside walls where they used to hang them.
At one place we saw two Negro boys loading some iron kettles on a wagon, and a little further on was some boys catching chickens in a yard, but we could see all the Negroes had left in a big hurry.
I asked mammy where everybody had gone and she said, "Up to Mr. Mose's house, where we are going. He's calling us all in."
"Will pappy be up there too?" I asked her.
"No. Your pappy and your Uncle Hector and your Uncle William and a lot of other menfolks won't be here any more. They went away. That's why Mr. Mose is so mad, so if any of you younguns say anything about any strange men coming to our place I'll break your necks!" Mammy was sure scared!
We all thought sure she was going to get a big whipping, but Mr. Mose just looked at her a minute and then told her to get back to the cabin and bring all the clothes, and bed ticks and all kinds of cloth we had and come back ready to travel.
"We're going to take all you black devils to a place where there won't no more of you run away!" he yelled after us. So we got ready to leave as quick as we could. I kept crying about my pappy, but mammy would say, "Don't you worry about your pappy, he's free now. Better be worrying about us. No telling where we all will end up!" There was four or five Creek families and their Negroes all got together to leave, with all their stuff packed in buggies and wagons, and being toted by the Negroes or carried tied on horses, jack asses, mules and milk cattle. I reckon it was a funny looking sight, or it would be to a person now; the way we was all loaded down with all manner of baggage when we met at the old ford across the Arkansas that lead to the Creek Agency. The Agency stood on a high hill a few miles across the river from where we lived, but we couldn't see it from our place down in the Choska bottoms. But as soon as we got up on the upland east of the bottoms we could look across and see the hill.
When we got to a grove at the foot of the hill near the agency Mr. Mose and the other masters went up to the Agency for a while. I suppose they found out up there what everybody was supposed to do and where they was supposed to go, for when we started on it wasn't long until several more families and their slaves had joined the party and we made quite a big crowd.
The little Negro boys had to carry a little bundle apiece, but Mr. Mose didn't make the little girls carry anything and let us ride if we could find anything to ride on. My mammy had to help lead the cows part of the time, but a lot of the time she got to ride an old horse, and she would put me up behind her. It nearly scared me to death, because I had never been on a horse before, and she had to hold on to me all the time to keep me from falling off.
Of course I was too small to know what was going on then, but I could tell that all the masters and the Negroes seemed to be mighty worried and careful all the time. Of course I know now that the Creeks were all split up over the War, and nobody was able to tell who would be friendly to us or who would try to poison us or kill us, or at least rob us. There was a lot of bushwhacking all through that country by little groups of men who was just out to get all they could. They would appear like they was the enemy of anybody they run across, just to have an excuse to rob them or burn up their stuff. If you said you was with the South they would be with the North and if you claimed to be with the Yankees they would be with the South, so our party was kind of upset all the time we was passing through the country along the Canadian. That was where old Gouge had been talking against the South. I've heard my folks say that he was a wonderful speaker, too.
We all had to move along mighty slow, on account of the ones on foot, and we wouldn't get very far in one day, then we Negroes had to fix up a place to camp and get wood and cook supper for everybody. Sometimes we would come to a place to camp that somebody knew about and we would find it all tromped down by horses and the spring all filled in and ruined. I reckon old Gouge's people would tear up things when they left, or maybe some Southern bushwhackers would do it. I don't know which.
When we got down to where the North Fork runs into the Canadian we went around the place where the Creek town was. There was lots of Creeks down there who was on the other side, so we passed around that place and forded across west of there. The ford was a bad one, and it took us a long time to get across. Everybody got wet and a lot of the stuff on the wagons got wet. Pretty soon we got down into the Chickasaw country, and everybody was friendly to us, but the Chickasaw people didn't treat their slaves like the Creeks did. They was more strict, like the people in Texas and other places. The Chickasaws seemed lighter color than the Creeks but they talked more in Indian among themselves and to their slaves. Our masters talked English nearly all the time except when they were talking to Creeks who didn't talk good English, and we Negroes never did learn very good Creek. I could always understand it, and can yet, a little, but I never did try to talk it much. Mammy and pappy used English to us all the time.
Mr. Mose found a place for us to stop close to Fort Washita, and got us places to stay and work. I don't know which direction we were from Fort Washita, but I know we were not very far. I don't know how many years we were down in there, but I know it was over two for we worked on crops at two different places, I remember. Then one day Mr. Mose came and told us that the War was over and that we would have to root for ourselves after that. Then he just rode away and I never saw him after that until after we had got back up into the Choska country. Mammy heard that the Negroes were going to get equal rights with the Creeks, and that she should go to the Creek Agency to draw for us, so we set out to try to get back.
We started out on foot, and would go a little ways each day, and mammy would try to get a little something to do to get us some food. Two or three times she got paid in money, so she had some money when we got back. After three or four days of walking we came across some more Negroes who had a horse, and mammy paid them to let us children ride and tie with their children for a day or two. They had their children on the horse, so two or three little ones would get on with a larger one to guide the horse and we would ride a while and get off and tie the horse and start walking on down the road. Then when the others caught up with the horse they would ride until they caught up with us. Pretty soon the old people got afraid to have us do that, so we just led the horse and some of the little ones rode it.
We had our hardest times when we would get to a river or big creek. If the water was swift the horse didn't do any good, for it would shy at the water and the little ones couldn't stay on, so we would have to just wait until someone came along in a wagon and maybe have to pay them with some of our money or some of our goods we were bringing back to haul us across. Sometimes we had to wait all day before anyone would come along in a wagon.
We were coming north all this time, up through the Seminole Nation, but when we got to Weeleetka we met a Creek family of freedmen who were going to the Agency too, and mammy paid them to take us along in their wagon. When we got to the Agency mammy met a Negro who had seen pappy and knew where he was, so we sent word to him and he came and found us. He had been through most of the War in the Union army.
When we got away into the Cherokee country some of them called the "Pins" helped to smuggle him on up into Missouri and over into Kansas, but he soon found that he couldn't get along and stay safe unless he went with the Army. He went with them until the War was over, and was around Gibson quite a lot. When he was there he tried to find out where we had gone but said he never could find out. He was in the battle of Honey Springs, he said, but never was hurt or sick. When we got back together we cleared a selection of land a little east of the Choska bottoms, near where Clarksville now is, and farmed until I was a great big girl.
I went to school at a little school called Blackjack school. I think it was a kind of mission school and not one of the Creek nation schools, because my first teacher was Miss Betty Weaver and she was not a Creek but a Cherokee. Then we had two white teachers, Miss King and John Kernan, and another Cherokee was in charge. His name was Ross, and he was killed one day when his horse fell off a bridge across the Verdigris, on the way from Tullahassee to Gibson Station.
When I got to be a young woman I went to Okmulgee and worked for some people near there for several years, then I married Tate Grayson. We got our freedmen's allotments on Mingo Creek, east of Tulsa, and lived there until our children were grown and Tate died, then I came to live with my daughter in Tulsa.
ROBERT R. GRINSTEAD
Age 80 yrs. Oklahoma City, Okla.
I was born in Lawrence County, Mississippi, February 17, 1857. My father's name is Elias Grinstead, a German, and my mother's name is Ann Greenstead after that of her master. I am a son by my mother and her Master. I have four other half brothers William (Bill) oldest, Albert, Silas, and John.
I was only eight years of age at freedom and for that reason I was too young to work and on account of being the son of my Master's I received no hard treatment and did little or no work. Yet, I wore the same clothing as did the rest of the slaves: a shirt of lowell for summer and shirt and trousers for winter and no shoes. I could walk through a briar patch in my bare feet without sticking one in the bottom of my feet as they were so hard and resistant.
I was the only child of my Master as he had no wife. When the War broke out he went to the War and left the plantation in charge of his overseer and his two sisters. As the overseers were hard for them to get along with they were oftener without an overseer as with one, and therefore they used one of the Negroes as overseer for the most of the time.
Across the river was another large plantation and slave owner by the name of Master Wilson. We called him Master too, for he was a close friend and neighbor to our Mistresses. There was one Negro man slave who decided to not work after Master went to the War and the white overseer was fired and the Negro overseer was acting as overseer, so my Mistress gave him a note to take across the river to Master Wilson. The note was an order to whip this Negro and as he couldn't read he didn't know what the note contained until after Master Wilson read it and gave orders to his men to tie him for his whipping. After this, the whipping was so severe that they never had any more trouble in making this Negro slave work and they never had to send him back again to Master Wilson to be whipped. The fun part of this above incidence was the Negro carried his own note and went alone to be whipped and didn't know it 'til the lashes was being put on him.
My Master's plantation was about 2 miles long and 1½ mile wide and he owned between 30 or 40 slaves. The Negro overseer would wake up the slaves and have them in the field before they could see how to work each morning and as they would go to work so soon their breakfast was carried to the field to them. One morning the breakfast was taken to the field and the slaves were hoeing cotton and among them was a lad about 15 years of age who could not hoe as fast as the older slaves and the breakfast was sat at the end of the rows and as they would hoe out to the end they would eat, and if you would be late hoeing to the end the first to go to the end would began eating and eat everything. So, this 15 year old lad in order to get out to eat before everything was gone did not hoe his row good and the overseer, who was white at this time, whipped him so severely that he could not eat nor work, that day.
The Negroes went to church with the white people and joined their church. The church was Baptist in denomination, and they built a pen in the church in which the Negroes sat, and when they would take sacrament the Negroes would be served after the whites were through and one of the Negro group would pass it around to the others within the pen.
As there were no dances held on the plantation the Negroes would oftimes slip off and go at nights to a nearby dance or peanut parching or rice suppers at nights after work. Some of the slaves would be allowed to make for themselves rice patches which they would gather and save for the dances. To prepare this rice for cooking after harvested they would burn a trough into a log, they called mortar and with a large wooden mallet they called pessel, and which they would pound upon the rice until hulled and ready for cooking. This rice would be boiled with just salt and water and eaten as a great feast with delight.
During slavery some of the Negro slaves would kill snakes and skin them and wear these snake skins to prevent being voodooed they said. When some of the slaves would take sick and the home remedies would fail to cure them our Mistress would allow one of the Negro men slaves to go to the white doctor and get some medicine for the patient. The doctor would ask questions as to the actions of the patient and from said description would send medicine without ever going to see the patient and his medicine would always cure the patient of his disease if consulted in time.
After the news came that brought our freedom a white union officer with 20 trained Negro soldiers visited the plantations and saw that the Negroes received their freedom. He would put on a demonstration with his Negro soldiers by having them line up and then at a command they would all rush forward and stand their guns up together on the stock end without a one falling and get back into line and upon another command they would rush forward and each get his gun again without allowing one to fall and again reline up.
When I was large enough to pay attention to my color and to that of the other slaves I wondered to myself why I was not black like the rest of the slaves and concluded to myself that I would when I got grown like they were as I knew not then that I was the son of my Master.
During the War and as the men and our Master all went to the War the Negroes or a Negro would have to go to the Mistress' homes each morning and start fires and never, did I ever hear of a rape case under such close conditions as Negroes going into the bed rooms each morning of the white mistress to start fires.
My first wife was name Tracy Smith. As I had been free for over 12 years. We had ordinary marriage ceremony. I have 11 grown children, 15 or 20 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.
I think Abraham Lincoln was a fine old gentlemen and as to Jeff Davis I don't think he was what he should have been, and as to Booker T. Washington I think his idea of educating or training Negroes as servants to serve the white race appealed more to the white race than the Negroes.
My viewpoint as to slavery is that it was as much detrimental to the white race as it was to the Negroes, as one elevated ones minds too highly, and the other degraded ones mind too lowly.
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