I married my woman, Nannie Wilkerson, 58 years ago. Dat was after slavery, and I love her, honest to God I does. Course in dem days we didn't buy no license, we jest got permits from old Master and jumped over a broom stick and jest got married.
I sho' did hate when de Yanks come 'cause our white folks was good to us, and jest take us right along to church with 'em. We didn't work on Sad'days or Christmas.
We raised gardens, truck patches and such for spending change.
I sho' caught hell after dem Yanks come. Befo' de war, you see de patroller rode all nite but wouldn't bother a darkey iffen he wouldn't run off. Why dem darkeys would run off I jest couldn't see.
Dose Yanks treated old master and mistress so mean. Dey took all his hams, chickens, and drove his cattle out of the pasture, but didn't bother us niggers honest. Dey drove old master Aster off'n his own plantation and we all hid in de corn field.
My mother took me to Greenville, Texas, 'cause my step-pappy was one of dem half smart niggers round dere trying to preach and de Ku Klux Klan beat him half to death.
Dere was some white folks who would take us to church wid 'em—dis dis [TR: sic] was aftah the war now—and one night we was all sitting up thar and one old woman with one leg was dah and when dem Klans shot in amongst us niggers and white folks aunt Mandy beat all of us home. Yes suh.
My first two teachers was two white men, and dem Klans shot in de hotel what dey lived in, but dey had school for us niggers jest de same. After dat, dose Klans got so bad Uncle Sam sent soljers down dere to keep peace.
After de soljers come and run de Klans out we worked hard dat fall and made good crops. 'Bout three years later I came to Indian Territory in search of educating my kids.
I landed here 46 years ago on a farm not far from now Oklahoma City. I got to be a prosperous farmer. My bale of cotton amongst 5,000 bales won the blue ribbon at Guthrie, Oklahoma, and dat bale of cotton and being a good democrat won for me a good job as a clerk on the Agriculture Board at the State Capitol. All de white folks liked me and still like me and called me "cotton king."
I have jest three chillun living. Walter is parcel post clerk here at de post office downtown. Delia Jenkins, my daughter is a housewife and Cleo Luckett, my other daughter, a common laborer.
Have been a christian 20 years. Jest got sorry for my wicked ways. I am a member of the Church of God. My wife is a member of the Church of Christ. I'm a good democrat and she is a good republican.
My fav'rite songs is: "Dark Was the Nite, and Cold the Ground" and "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray."
I'm glad slavery is over, but I don't think dem white folks was fighting to free us niggers. God freed us. Of course, Abraham Lincoln was a pretty fine man. Don't know much about Jeff Davis. Never seen him. Yes, and Booker T. Washington. He was one of the Negro leaders. The first Negro to represent the Negroes in Washington. He was a great leader.
During slavery time never heerd of a cullud man committing 'sault on a white woman. The white and cullud all went to church together too. Niggers and white shouted alike.
I remember some of the little games we played now: "Fox in the wall", "Mollie, Mollie Bride", and "Hide and go seek."
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves [Date stamp: AUG 19 1937]
STEPHEN McCRAY Age 88 yrs. Oklahoma City, Okla.
I was born in Huntsville County, Alabama, right where the Scottsboro boys was in jail, in 1850.
My parents was Wash and Winnie McCray. They was the mother and father of 22 chillun. Jest five lived to be grown and the rest died at baby age. My father's mother and father was named Mandy and Peter McCray, and my mother's mother and father was Ruthie and Charlie McCray. They all had the same Master, Mister McCray, all the way thoo'.
We live in log huts and when I left home grown, I left my folks living in the same log huts. Beds was put together with ropes and called rope beds. No springs was ever heard of by white or cullud as I knows of.
All the work I ever done was pick up chips for my grandma to cook with. I was kept busy doing this all day.
The big boys went out and got rabbits, possums and fish. I would sho' lak to be in old Alabama fishing, 'cause I am a fisherman. There is sho' some pretty water in Alabama and as swift as cars run here. Water so clear and blue you can see the fish way down, and dey wouldn't bite to save your life.
Slaves had their own gardens. All got Friday and Sadday to work in garden during garden time. I liked cornbread best and I'd give a dollar to git some of the bread we had on those good old days and I ain't joking. I went in shirt tail all the time. Never had on no pants 'til I was 15 years old. No shoes, 'cept two or three winters. Never had a hat 'til I was a great big boy.
Marriage was performed by getting permission from Master and go where the woman of your choice had prepared the bed, undress and flat-footed jump a broom-stick together into the bed.
Master had a brick house for hisself and the overseer. They was the only ones on the place. The overseer woke up the slaves all the way from 2 o'clock till 4 o'clock of mornings. He wasn't nothing but white trash. Nothing else in the world but that. They worked till they couldn't see how to work. I jest couldn't jedge the size of that big place, and there was a mess of slaves, not less'n three hundred.
I doesn't have no eggycation, edgecation, or ejecation, and about all I can do is spell. I jest spell till I get the pronouncements.
We had church, but iffen the white folks caught you at it, you was beat most nigh to death. We used a big pot turned down to keep our voices down. When we went to hear white preachers, he would say, "Obey your master and mistress." I am a hard shell-flint Baptist. I was baptised in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Our baptizing song was mostly "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand" and our funeral song was "Hark From The Tomb."
We had some slaves who would try to run off to the North but the white folks would catch 'em with blood hounds and beat 'em to death. Them patrollers done their work mostly at night. One night I was sleeping on cotton and the patrollers come to our house and ask for water. Happen we had plenty. They drunk a whole lot and got warm and told my father to be a good nigger and they wouldn't bother him at all. They raided till General Grant come thoo'. He sent troops out looking for Klu Klux Klanners and killed 'em jest lak killing black birds. General Grant was one of the men that caused us to set heah free today and able to talk together without being killed.
I didn't and don't believe in no conjure. No sensible person do either. We had a doctor on the place. Ever master had a doctor who waited on his slaves, but we wore asafetida or onion 'round our necks to keep off diseases. A dime was put 'round a teething baby's neck to make it tooth easy, and it sho' helped too. But today all folks done got 'bove that.
The old folks talked very little of freedom and the chillun knew nothing at all of it, and that they heard they was daresome to mention it.
Bushwhacker, nothing but poor white trash, come thoo' and killed all the little nigger chillun they could lay hands on. I was hid under the house with a big rag on my mouf many a time. Them Klu Klux after slavery sho' got enough from them soldiers to last 'em.
I was married to Kan Pry in 1884. Two chillun was born. The girl is living and the boy might be, but I don't know. My daughter works out in service.
I wish Lincoln was here now. He done more for the black face than any one in that seat. Old Jeff Davis kept slavery up till General Grant met him at the battle. Lincoln sho' snowed him under. General Grant put fire under him jest lak I'm fixing to do my pipe. Booker T. Washington was jest all right.
Every time I think of slavery and if it done the race any good, I think of the story of the coon and dog who met. The coon said to the dog "Why is it you're so fat and I am so poor, and we is both animals?" The dog said: "I lay round Master's house and let him kick me and he gives me a piece of bread right on." Said the coon to the dog: "Better then that I stay poor." Them's my sentiment. I'm lak the coon, I don't believe in 'buse.
I used to be the most wicked man in the world but a voice converted me by saying, "Friend, friend, why is you better to everybody else than you is to your self? You are sending your soul to hell." And from that day I lived like a Christian. People here don't live right and I don't lak to 'tend church. I base my Christian life on: "Believe in me, trust my work and you shall be saved, for I am God and beside me there is no other."
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves
HANNAH McFARLAND Age 85 yrs. Oklahoma City, Okla.
I was born in Georgetown, South Carolina, February 29, 1853. My father was name James Gainey and my mother was name Katie Gainey. There was three chillun born to my folks doing slavery. My father was a free man, but my mother was de slave of the Sampsons, some Jews. My father was de richest Negro in South Carolina doing this time. He bought all three of we chillun for $1,000 apiece, but dem Jews jest wouldn't sell mamma. Dey was mighty sweet to her. She come home ever night and stayed with us. Doing the day a Virginian nigger woman stayed with us and she sho' was mean to we chillun. She used to beat us sumpin' terrible. You know Virginia people is mean to cullud people. My father bought her from some white folks too.
We lived in town and in a good house.
It was a good deal of confusion doing de War. I waited on the Yankees. Dey captured mamma's white people's house. Dey tried to git mamma to tell dem jest whut de white folks done done to her and all she could say was dey was good to her. Shucks, dey wouldn't sell her. She jest told them she had a free husband.
My father was a blockader. He run rafts from one place to another and sho' made a lot of money. He was drowned while doing this while I was a good size child.
Dem patrollers tied you to a whipping post iffen dey caught you out after 10 o'clock. They 'tempted to do my mother that way, but my papa sho' stopped dat. I can't say I lak white people even now, 'cause dey done done so much agin us.
I was free, but I couldn't go to school, 'cause we didn't had none. I been in Oklahoma over 40 years. Have done some traveling and could go some whar else, but I jest stays here 'cause I ain't got no desire to travel.
All we ever wore to keep off diseases was asafetida, nothing else.
I done heard more 'bout conjure in Oklahoma than I ever heerd in South Carolina. All dat stuff is in Louisiana. I didn't heah nothing 'bout the Klu Klux Klan till I come to Oklahoma neither. More devilment in Oklahoma than any place I know. South got more religion too. I jest as soon be back with the Rebels.
Bushwhackers whipped you iffen you stayed out late, and sho' nuff if dey didn't lak you.
I felt sorry for Jeff Davis when the Yankees drilled him through the streets. I saw it all. I said, "Mama, Mama, look, dey got old Jeff Davis." She said, "Be quiet, dey'll lynch you." She didn't know no better! She was a old slave nigger. I showed the Yankees where the white folks hid their silver and money and jewelry, and Mamma sho' whipped me about it too. She was no fool 'bout slavery. Slavery sho' didn't he'p us none to my belief.
I didn't care much 'bout Lincoln. It was nice of him to free us, but 'course he didn't want to.
The overseer was sho' nothing but poor white trash, the kind who didn't lak niggers and dey still don't, old devils. Don't let 'em fool you, dey don't lak a nigger a'tall.
I'm a Methodist. People ought to praise God 'cause he done done so much for dese sinners. Dey was heap more religious in my early days. I jined church in 1863. I jined the Holiness so I could git baptized and the Methodist wouldn't baptize you. After my baptism, I went back to the Methodist Church. You know my pastor, Reverend Miller, is the first Methodist preacher I ever knowed that was baptized, and that baptizes everybody.
I was married in Akin, South Carolina to Andrew Pew. We had 12 chillun. Jest one boy is my only living child today.
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves
MARSHALL MACK Age 83 yrs. Oklahoma City, Okla.
I was born September 10, 1854. I am the second child of five. My mother was named Sylvestus Mack and my father Booker Huddleston. I do not remember my mother's master, 'cause he died before I was born. My Mistress was named Nancy Mack. She was the mother of six children, four boys and two girls. Three of dem boys went to the War and one packed and went off somewhar and nobody heard from him doing of the whole War. But soon as the War was over he come home and he never told whar he had been.
I never saw but one grown person flogged during slavery and dat was my mother. The younger son of my mistress whipped her one morning in de kitchen. His name was Jack. De slaves on Mistress' place was treated so good, all de people round and 'bout called us "Mack's Free Niggers." Dis was 14 miles northwest of Liberty, county seat of Bedford County, Virginia.
One day while de War was going on, my Mistress got a letter from her son Jim wid jest one line. Dat was "Mother: Jack's brains spattered on my gun this morning." That was all he written.
Jack Huddleston owned my father, who was his half-brother, and he was the meanest man I ever seen. He flogged my father with tobacco sticks and my mother after these floggings (which I never seen) had to pick splinters out of his back. My father had to slip off a night to come and visit us. He lived a mile and a half from our house on the south side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it sho' is a rocky country. He'd oversleep hisself and git up running. We would stand in our door and hear him running over them rocks til he got home. He was trying to git dere before his master called him.
It was a law among the slave-holders that if you left your master's place, you had to have a pass, for if the patroller caught you without one, he would give you 9 and 30 lashes and carry you to your master, and if he was mean, you got the same again!
On the 3-foot fireplace my mother and father cooked ash cakes and my father having to run to work, had to wash his cakes off in a spring betwixt our house and his. My mother was the cook in the Big House.
All the time we would see "nigger traders" coming through the country. I have seen men and women cuffed to 60-foot chains being took to Lynchburg, Va., to the block to be sold. Now I am talking 'bout what I know, for it would not mean one thing for me to lie. I ain't jest heard dis. My uncle John was a carpenter and always took Mistress' chillun to school in a two-horse surrey. On sech trips, the chillun learned my uncle to read and write. Dey slipped and done this, for it was a law among slave-holders that a slave not be caught wid a book.
One morning when I was on my way to de mill with a sack of corn, I had to go down de main pike. I saw sech a fog 'til I rid close enough to see what was gwine on. I heard someone say "close up." I was told since dat it was Hood's Raid. They took every slave that could carry a gun. It was at dis time, Negroes went into de service. Lee was whipping Grant two battles to one 'til them raids, and den Grant whipped Lee two battles to one, 'cause he had Negroes in the Union Army. Dey took Negroes and all de white people's food. Dey killed chickens and picked dem on horseback. I never will forgit that time long as I live.
Ever day I had to get the mail for three families. I carried it around in a bag and each family took his'n out. I guess I was one of the first Negro mailmen.
We had church on the place and had right good meetings. Everybody went and took part in the service. We had to have passes to go off the place to the meetings.
The children wore just one garment from this time of year (spring) till the frost fell. Mistress' daughters made dese. We sure kept healthy and fat.
I will be 83 years of age September 10, 1937 and am enjoying my second eyesight. I could not see a thing hardly for some few years, but now I can read sometimes without glasses. I keep my lawn in first class shape and work all the time. I think this is 'cause I never was treated bad during slavery.
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves [Date stamp: AUG 19 1937]
ALLEN V. MANNING Age 87 Tulsa, Okla.
I always been somewhar in the South, mostly in Texas when I was a young man, and of course us Negroes never got much of a show in court matters, but I reckon if I had of had the chance to set on a jury I would of made a mighty poor out at it.
No sir, I jest can't set in judgement on nobody, 'cause I learned when I was jest a little boy that good people and bad people—makes no difference which—jest keep on living and doing like they been taught, and I jest can't seem to blame them none for what they do iffen they been taught that way.
I was born in slavery, and I belonged to a Baptist preacher. Until I was fifteen years old I was taught that I was his own chattel-property, and he could do with me like he wanted to, but he had been taught that way too, and we both believed it. I never did hold nothing against him for being hard on Negroes sometimes, and I don't think I ever would of had any trouble even if I had of growed up and died in slavery.
The young Negroes don't know nothing 'bout that today, and lots of them are rising up and amounting to something, and all us Negroes is proud of them. You see, it's because they been taught that they got as good a show to be something as anybody, if they tries hard.
Well, this old Negro knows one thing: they getting somewheres 'cause the young whitefolks is letting them and helping them to do it, 'cause the whitefolks has been taught the same way, and I praise God its getting to be that way, too. But it all go to show, people do like they been taught to do.
Like I say, my master was a preacher and a kind man, but he treated the Negroes jest like they treated him. He been taught that they was jest like his work hosses, and if they act like they his work hosses they git along all right. But if they don't—Oh, oh!
Like the Dixie song say, I was born "on a frosty mornin'" at the plantation in Clarke County, Mississippi, in the fall of 1850 they tell me. The old place looked the same all the time I was a child, clean up to when we pull out and leave the second year of the War.
I can shet my eyes and think about it and it seem to come right up in front of me jest like it looked. From my Pappy's cabin the Big House was off to the west, close to the big road, and most of the fields stretched off to the north. They was a big patch of woods off to the east, and no much open land between us and the Chickasawhay River. Off to the southwest a few miles was the Bucatunna Creek, and the plantation was kind of in the forks between them, a little ways east of Quitman, Mississippi.
Old Master's people been living at that place a mighty long time, and most the houses and barns was old and been repaired time and time again, but it was a mighty pretty place. The Big House was built long, with a lot of rooms all in a row and a long porch, but it wasn't fine like a lot of the houses we seen as we passed by when we left that place to go to Louisiana.
Old Master didn't have any overseer hired, but him and his boys looked after the place and had a Negro we called the driver. We-all shore hated that old black man, but I forget his name now. That driver never was allowed to think up nothing for the slaves to do, but jest was told to make them work hard at what the master and his boys told them to do. Whitefolks had to set them at a job and then old driver would whoopity and whoopity around, and egg them and egg them until they finish up, so they can go at something else. He worked hard hisself, though, and set a mighty hard pattern for the rest to keep up with. Like I say, he been taught he didn't know how to think, so he didn't try.
Old Mistress name was Mary, and they had two daughters, Levia and Betty. Then they had three sons. The oldest was named Bill Junior, and he was plumb grown when I was a boy, but the other two, Jedson and Jim, was jest a little older then me.
Old Master didn't have but two or three single Negroes, but he had several families, and most of them was big ones. My own family was pretty good size, but three of the children was born free. Pappy's name was William and Mammy's was Lucy. My brother Joe was the oldest child and then come Adeline, Harriet, and Texana and Betty before the surrender, and then Henry, Mattie and Louisa after it.
When the War come along old Master jest didn't know what to do. He always been taught not to raise his hand up and kill nobody—no matter how come—and he jest kept holding out against all them that was talking about fighting, and he wouldn't go and fight. He been taught that it was all right to have slaves and treat them like he want to, but he been taught it was sinful to go fight and kill to keep them, and he lived up to what he been taught.
They was some Choctaw people lived 'round there, and they flew up and went right off to the War, and Mr. Trot Hand and Mr. Joe Brown that had plantations on the big road towards Quitman both went off with their grown boys right at the start, but old Master was a preacher and he jest stayed out of it. I remember one day I was sent up to the Big House and I heard old Master and some men out at the gate 'xpounding about the War. Some of the men had on soldier clothes, and they acted like they was mad. Somebody tell me later on that they was getting up a home guard because the yankees done got down in Alabama not far away, but old Master wouldn't go in with them.
Two, three days after that, it seems like, old Master come down to the quarters and say git everything bundled up and in the wagons for a long trip. The Negroes all come in and everybody pitch in to help pack up the wagons. Then old Master look around and he can't find Andy. Andy was one Negro that never did act like he been taught, and old Master's patience about wore out with him anyways.
We all know that Andy done run off again, but we didn't know where to. Leastwise all the Negroes tell old Master that. But old Master soon show us we done the work and he done the thinking! He jest goes ahead and keeps all the Negroes busy fixing up the wagons and bundling up the stuff to travel, and keeps us all in his sight all the time, and says nothing about Andy being gone.
Then that night he sends for a white man name Clements that got some blood hounds, and him and Mr. Clements takes time about staying awake and watching all the cabins to see nobody slips out of them. Everybody was afraid to stick their head out.
Early next morning we has all the wagons ready to drive right off, and old Master call Andy's brother up to him. He say, "You go down to that spring and wait, and when Andy come down to the spring to fill that cedar bucket you stole out'n the smokehouse for him to git water in you tell him to come on in here. Tell him I know he is hiding out way down the branch whar he can come up wading the water clean up to the cornfield and the melon patch, so the hounds won't git his scent, but I'm going to send the hounds down there if he don't come on in right now." Then we all knowed we was for the work and old Master was for the thinking, 'cause pretty soon Andy come on in. He'd been right whar old Master think he is.
About that time Mr. Sears come riding down the big road. He was a deacon in old Master's church, and he see us all packed up to leave and so he light at the big gate and walk up to whar we is. He ask old Master where we all lighting out for, and old Master say for Louisiana. We Negroes don't know where that is. Then old deacon say what old Master going to do with Andy, 'cause there stood Mr. Clements holding his bloodhounds and old Master had his cat-o-nine-tails in his hand.
Old Master say just watch him, and he tell Andy if he can make it to that big black gum tree down at the gate before the hounds git him he can stay right up in that tree and watch us all drive off. Then he tell Andy to git!
Poor Andy jest git hold of the bottom limbs when the blood hounds grab him and pull him down onto the ground. Time old Master and Mr. Clements git down there the hounds done tore off all Andy's clothes and bit him all over bad. He was rolling on the ground and holding his shirt up 'round his throat when Mr. Clements git there and pull the hounds off of him.
Then old Master light in on him with that cat-o-nine-tails, and I don't know how many lashes he give him, but he jest bloody all over and done fainted pretty soon. Old Deacon Sears stand it as long as he can and then he step up and grab old Master's arm and say, "Time to stop, Brother! I'm speaking in the name of Jesus!" Old Master quit then, but he still powerful mad. I don't think he believe Andy going to make that tree when he tell him that.
Then he turn on Andy's brother and give him a good beating too, and we all drive off and leave Andy setting on the ground under a tree and old Deacon standing by him. I don't know what ever become of Andy, but I reckon maybe he went and live with old Deacon Sears until he was free.
When I think back and remember it, it all seems kind of strange, but it seem like old Master and old Deacon both think the same way. They kind of understand that old Master had a right to beat his Negro all he wanted to for running off, and he had a right to set the hounds on him if he did, but he shouldn't of beat him so hard after he told him he was going let him off if he made the tree, and he ought to keep his word even if Andy was his own slave. That's the way both them white men had been taught, and that was the way they both lived.
Old Master had about five wagons on that trip down into Louisiana, but they was all full of stuff and only the old slaves and children could ride in them. I was big enough to walk most of the time, but one time I walked in the sun so long that I got sick and they put me in the wagon for most the rest of the way.
We would come to places where the people said the Yankees had been and gone, but we didn't run into any Yankees. They was most to the north of us I reckon, because we went on down to the south part of Mississippi and ferried across the big river at Baton Rouge. Then we went on to Lafayette, Louisiana, before we settled down anywhere.
All us Negroes thought that was a mighty strange place. We would hear white folks talking and we couldn't understand what they said, and lots of the Negroes talked the same way, too. It was all full of French people around Lafayette, but they had all their menfolks in the Confederate Army just the same. I seen lots of men in butternut clothes coming and going hither and yon, but they wasn't in bunches. They was mostly coming home to see their folks.
Everybody was scared all the time, and two—three times when old Master hired his Negroes out to work the man that hired them quit his place and went on west before they got the crop in. But old Master got a place and we put in a cotton crop, and I think he got some money by selling his place in Mississippi. Anyway, pretty soon after the cotton was all in he moves again and goes to a place on Simonette Lake for the winter. It aint a bit cold in that place, and we didn't have no fire 'cepting to cook, and sometimes a little charcoal fire in some crock pots that the people left on the place when they went on out to Texas.
The next spring old Master loaded up again and we struck out for Texas, when the Yankees got too close again. But Master Bill didn't go to Texas, because the Confederates done come that winter and made him go to the army. I think they took him to New Orleans, and old Master was hopping mad, but he couldn't do anything or they would make him go too, even if he was a preacher.
I think he left out of there partly because he didn't like the people at that place. They wasn't no Baptists around anywheres, they was all Catholics, and old Master didn't like them.
About that time it look like everybody in the world was going to Texas. When we would be going down the road we would have to walk along the side all the time to let the wagons go past, all loaded with folks going to Texas.
Pretty soon old Master say git the wagons loaded again, and this time we start out with some other people, going north. We go north a while and then turn west, and cross the Sabine River and go to Nachedoches, Texas. Me and my brother Joe and my sister Adeline walked nearly all the way, but my little sister Harriet and my mammy rid in a wagon. Mammy was mighty poorly, and jest when we got to the Sabine bottoms she had another baby. Old Master didn't like it 'cause it was a girl, but he named her Texana on account of where she was born and told us children to wait on Mammy good and maybe we would get a little brother next time.
But we didn't. Old Master went with a whole bunch of wagons on out to the prairie country in Coryell County and set up a farm where we just had to break the sod and didn't have to clear off much. And the next baby Mammy had the next year was a girl. We named her Betty because Mistress jest have a baby a little while before and its name was Betty.
Old Master's place was right at the corner where Coryell and McLennan and Bosque Counties come together, and we raised mostly cotton and jest a little corn for feed. He seem like he changed a lot since we left Mississippi, and seem like he paid more attention to us and looked after us better. But most the people that already live there when we git there was mighty hard on their Negroes. They was mostly hard drinkers and hard talkers, and they work and fight jest as hard as they talk, too!
One day Old Master come out from town and tell us that we all been set free, and we can go or stay jest as we wish. All of my family stay on the place and he pay us half as shares on all we make. Pretty soon the whitefolks begin to cut down on the shares, and the renters git only a third and some less, and the Negroes begin to drift out to other places, but old Master stick to the halves a year or so after that. Then he come down to a third too.
It seem like the white people can't git over us being free, and they do everything to hold us down all the time. We don't git no schools for a long time, and I never see the inside of a school. I jest grow up on hard work. And we can't go 'round where they have the voting, unless we want to ketch a whipping some night, and we have to jest keep on bowing and scraping when we are 'round white folks like we did when we was slaves. They had us down and they kept us down. But that was the way they been taught, and I don't blame them for it none, I reckon.
When I git about thirty years old I marry Betty Sadler close to Waco, and we come up to the Creek Nation forty years ago. We come to Muskogee first, and then to Tulsa about thirty seven years ago.
We had ten children but only seven are alive. Three girls and a boy live here in Tulsa and we got one boy in Muskogee and one at Frederick, Oklahoma.
I sells milk and makes my living, and I keeps so busy I don't think back on the old days much, but if anybody ask me why the Texas Negroes been kept down so much I can tell them. If they set like I did on the bank at that ferry across the Sabine, and see all that long line of covered wagons, miles and miles of them, crossing that river and going west with all they got left out of the War, it aint hard to understand.
Them whitefolks done had everything they had tore up, or had to run away from the places they lived, and they brung their Negroes out to Texas and then right away they lost them too. They always had them Negroes, and lots of them had mighty fine places back in the old states, and then they had to go out and live in sod houses and little old boxed shotguns and turn their Negroes loose. They didn't see no justice in it then, and most of them never did until they died. The folks that stayed at home and didn't straggle all over the country had their old places to live on and their old friends around them, but them Texans was different.
So I says, when they done us the way they did they was jest doing the way they was taught. I don't blame them, because anybody will do that.
Whitefolks mighty decent to me now, and I always tried to teach my children to be respectful and act like they think the whitefolks they dealing with expects them to act. That the way to git along, because some folks been taught one way and some been taught another, and folks always thinks the way they been taught.
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves
BOB MAYNARD, AGE 79 23 East Choctaw Weleetka, Oklahoma.
I was born near what is now Marlin, Texas, Falls County. My father was Robert Maynard and my mother was Chanie Maynard, both born slaves. Our Master, Gerard Branum, was a very old man and wore long white whiskers. He sho' was a fine built man, and walked straight and tall like a young man.
I was too little to do much work so my job was to carry the key basket for old Mistress. I sho' was proud of that job. The basket held the keys to the pantry, the kitchen, the linen closet, and extra keys to the rooms and smokehouse. When old Mistress started out on her rounds every morning she'd call to me to get de basket and away we'd go. I'd run errands for all the house help too, so I was kept purty busy.
The "big house" was a fine one. It was a big two-story white house made of pine lumber. There was a big porch or veranda across the front and wings on the east and west. The house faced south. There was big round white posts that went clean up to the roof and there was a big porch upstairs too. I believe the house was what you'd call colonial style. There was twelve or fifteen rooms and a big wide stairway. It was a purty place, with a yard and big trees and the house that set in a walnut and pecan grove. They was graveled walks and driveways and all along by the driveway was cedars. There was a hedge close to the house and a flower garden with purty roses, holly hocks and a lot of others I don't know the name of.
Back to the right of the house was the smokehouse, kept full of meat, and further back was the big barns. Old Master kept a spanking pair of carriage horses and several fine riding horses. He kept several pairs of mules, too, to pull the plow. He had some ox teams too.
To the left and back of the "big house" was the quarters. He owned about two thousand acres of land and three hundred slaves. He kept a white overseer and the colored overlooker was my uncle. He sho' saw that the gang worked. He saw to it that the cotton was took to the gin. They used oxen to pull the wagons full of cotton. There was two gins on the plantation. Had to have two for it was slow work to gin a bale of cotton as it was run by horse power.
Old Master raised hundreds of hogs; he raised practically all the food we et. He gave the food out to each family and they done their own cooking except during harvest. The farm hands was fed at the "big house." They was called in from the farm by a big bell.
Sunday was our only day for recreation. We went to church at our own church, and we could sing and shout jest as loud as we pleased and it didn't disturb nobody.
During the week after supper we would all set round the doors outside and sing or play music. The only musical instruments we had was a jug or big bottle, a skillet lid or frying pan that they'd hit with a stick or a bone. We had a flute too, made out of reed cane and it'd make good music. Sometimes we'd sing and dance so long and loud old Master'd have to make us stop and go to bed.
The Patrollers, Ku Kluxers or night riders come by sometimes at night to scare the niggers and make 'em behave. Sometimes the slaves would run off and the Patroller would catch 'em and have 'em whipped. I've seen that done lots of times. They was some wooden stocks (a sort of trough) and they'd put the darky in this and strap him down, take off his clothers and give him 25 to 50 licks, 'cording to what he had done.
I reckon old Master had everything his heart could wish for at this time. Old Mistress was a fine lady and she always went dressed up. She wore long trains on her skirts and I'd walk behind her and hold her train up when she made de rounds. She was awful good to me. I slept on the floor in her little boy's room, and she give me apples and candy just like she did him. Old Master gave ever chick and child good warm clothes for winter. We had store boughten shoes but the women made our clothes. For underwear we all wore 'lowers' but no shirts.
After the war started old Master took a lot of his slaves and went to Natchez, Mississippi. He thought he'd have a better chance of keeping us there I guess, and he was afraid we'd be greed [TR: freed?] and he started running with us. I remember when General Grant blowed up Vicksburg. I had a free born Uncle and Aunt who sometimes visited in the North and they'd till us how easy it was up there and it sho' made us all want to be free.
I think Abe Lincoln was next to de Lawd. He done all he could for de slaves; he set 'em free. People in the South knowed they'd lose their slaves when he was elected president. 'Fore the election he traveled all over the South and he come to our house and slept in old Mistress' bed. Didn't nobody know who he was. It was a custom to take strangers in and put them up for one night or longer, so he come to our house and he watched close. He seen how the niggers come in on Saturday and drawed four pounds of meat and a peck of meal for a week's rations. He also saw 'em whipped and sold. When he got back up north he writ old Master a letter and told him he was going to have to free his slaves, that everybody was going to have to, that the North was going to see to it. He also told him that he had visited at his house and if he doubted it to go in the room he slept in and look on the bedstead at the head and he'd see where he'd writ his name. Sho' nuff, there was his name: A. Lincoln.
Didn't none of us like Jeff Davis. We all liked Robert E. Lee, but we was glad that Grant whipped him.
When the War was over, old Master called all the darkies in and lined 'em up in a row. He told 'em they was free to go and do as they pleased. It was six months before any of us left him.
Darkies could vote in Mississippi. Fred Douglas, a colored man, came to Natchez and made political speeches for General Grant.
After the war they was a big steam boat line on the Mississippi River known as the Robert E. Lee Line. They sho' was fine boats too.
We used to have lots of Confederate money. Five cent pieces, two bit pieces, half dollar bills and half dimes. During the war old Master dug a long trench and buried all de silver ware, fine clothes, jewelry and a lot of money. I guess he dug it up, but I don't remember.
Master died three years after the War. He took it purty good, losing his niggers and all. Lots of men killed theirselves. Old Master was a good old man.
I'm getting old, I reckon. I've been married twice and am the father of 19 chillun. The oldest if 57 and my youngest is two boys, ten and twelve. I has great grandchillun older than them two boys.
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves [Date stamp: AUG 19 1937]
JANE MONTGOMERY Age 80 yrs. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
I was born March 15, 1857, in Homer, Louisiana. I claim to be 75 years old, but that's jest my way of counting. My mother was Sarah Strong and my father was Edmond Beavers. We lived in a log cabin that had jest one door. I had two sisters named Peggy and Katie. Mammy was bought from the Strong family and my pappy was bought from Beavers by Mister Eason.
We slept on wooden slabs which was jest make-shift beds. I didn't do no work in slave times 'cause I was too little. You jest had to be good and husky to work on that place. I listened and told mammy everything I heerd. I ate right side dat old white woman on the flo'. I was a little busy-body. I don't recollect eating in our quarters on Sunday and no other time.
I don't remember no possums and rabbits being on our place, 'cause when white folks killed a chicken for their selves, dey killed one for the niggers. My pappy never ate no cornbread in all his put-together. Meat was my favorite food. I never ate no dry bread without no meat.
We wore homespun clothes. My first pair of shoes was squirrel skin. Mammy had 'em made. We wore clothes called linsey that was wool and cotton mixed.
My father was the onliest overseer. It was sho' a great big old place. My master jest seen the place on Sundays. They was jest seven Niggers on our plantation. No working late at night but we had to git up at daylight. When our day's work was done, we went to bed, but sometimes they sung. Sadday was a holiday from working on the plantation. You had Sadday to wash for yourself. We didn't do nothing on Christmas and all holidays.
Mistress never whip us and iffen master would start, mistress would git a gun and make him stop. She said, "Let ever bitch whip her own chillun." I never seen no patrollers, I jest heerd of 'em. They never come on our place. I guess they was scared to. The Klu Klux whipped niggers when so never they could catch 'em. They rid at night mostly.
I am a Baptist. I belong to Calvary Baptist Church. I was baptized in a creek. Our favorite hymn was "Dark Was the Night an' Cold the Ground." Our favorite revival hymn was "Lord I'd Come to Thee, a Sinner Undefiled." Our favorite funeral song was "Hark From the Tomb."
My family didn't believe in conjure an' all that stuff, 'though they's a heap of it was going on and still is for that matter. They had "hands" that was made up of all kinds of junk. You used 'em to make folks love you more'n they did. We used asafetida to keep off smallpox and measles. Put mole foots round a baby's neck to make him teethe easy. We used to use nine red ants tied in a sack round they neck to make 'em teethe easy and never had no trouble with 'em neither.
I think I seen a haunt once, 'cause when I looked the second time, what I seen the first time was gone.
When the War was over, mistress' son come home and he cleaned his guns on my dress tail. It sho' stunk up my dress and made me sick too. He told old mistress that niggers was free now. I went and told mammy that old Betsy's son told her the niggers was free and what did he mean. She said, "Shhhhhh!" They never did jest come out and tell us we was free. We was free in July and mammy left in September. We lived in Jordan Saline, out from Smith County. Then my mother give me to my father 'cause she was married to another man. Her and my step-father moved to Gilmore, Texas. They sent for me round 'bout Christmas and we lived on Sampers' farm.
We lived so far out, we couldn't go to school, 'though they was for us. We didn't own no land. Didn't nobody learn me to read and write.
Abe Lincoln was a good man. It was through Mr. Lincoln that God fit to free us. I don't know much 'bout Jeff Davis and don't care nothing 'bout him. Booker T. Washington built that school through God. He used to live in a cabin jest lak I done. He was sho' a great man.
I married Trole Kemp in 1883. I 'mind you they didn't marry in slavery, they jest took up. Master jest give a permit. I am the mother of 10 chillun and 5 grandchillun. Four of my chillun died young. Them what's living is doing different things sech as: writing policy, working on made work, housework, government clerk and hotel maid. One is in the pen.
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves [Date stamp: AUG 13 1937]
AMANDA OLIVER Age 80 yrs. Oklahoma City, Okla.
I 'membuh what my mother say—I was born November 9, 1857, in Missouri. I was 'bout eight years old, when she was sold to a master named Harrison Davis. They said he had two farms in Missouri, but when he moved to northern Texas he brought me, my mother, Uncle George, Uncle Dick and a cullud girl they said was 15 with 'im. He owned 'bout 6 acres on de edge of town near Sherman, Texas, and my mother and 'em was all de slaves he had. They said he sold off some of de folks.
We didn't have no overseers in northern Texas, but in southern Texas dey did. Dey didn't raise cotton either; but dey raised a whole lots of corn. Sometime de men would shuck corn all night long. Whenever dey was going to shuck all night de women would piece quilts while de men shuck de corn and you could hear 'em singing and shucking corn. After de cornshucking, de cullud folks would have big dances.
Master Davis lived in a big white frame house. My mother lived in the yard in a big one-room log hut with a brick chimney. De logs was "pinted" (what dey call plastered now with lime). I don't know whether young folks know much 'bout dat sort of thing now.
I slept on de floor up at de "Big House" in de white woman's room on a quilt. I'd git up in de mornings, make fires, put on de coffee, and tend to my little brother. Jest do little odd jobs sech as that.
We ate vegetables from de garden, sech as that. My favorite dish is vegetables now.
I don't remember seeing any slaves sold. My mother said dey sold 'em on de block in Kentucky where she was raised.
I don't remembuh when de War broke out, but I remembuh seeing the soldiers with de blue uniforms on. I was afraid of 'em.
Old mistress didn't tell us when he was free, but another white woman told my mother and I remembuh. One day old mistress told my mother to git to that wheel and git to work, and my mother said, "I ain't gwineter, I'm jest as free as you air." So dat very day my mother packed up all our belongings and moved us to town, Sherman, Texas. She worked awful hard, doing day work for 50c a day, and sometimes she'd work for food, clothes or whatever she could git.
I don't believe in conjuring though I heard lotta talk 'bout it. Sometimes I have pains and aches in my hands, feel like sometime dat somebody puts dey hands on me, but I think jest de way my nerves is.
I can't say much 'bout Abe Lincoln. He was a republican in favor of de cullud folk being free. Jeff Davis? Yeah, the boys usta sing a song 'bout 'im:
Lincoln rides a fine hoss, Jeff Davis rides a mule, Lincoln is de President, Jeff Davis is de fool.
Booker T. Washington—I guess he is a right good man. He's for the cullud people I guess.
I been a Christian thirty some odd years. I've been here some thirty odd years. Had to come when my husband did. He died in 1902. We married in 18—I've forgot, but we went to de preacher and got married. We did more than jump over de broom stick.
In those days we went to church with de white folks. Dey had church at eleven and the cullud folks at three, but all of us had white preachers. Our church is standing right there now, at least it was de last time I was there.
I don't have a favorite song, theys so many good ones, but I like, "Bound for the Promised Land." I'm a Baptist, my mother was a Baptist, and her white folks was Baptist.
I have two daughters, Julia Goodwin and Bertha Frazier, and four grandchildren, both of 'ems been separated. Dey do housework.
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves
SALOMON OLIVER Age 78 yrs. Tulsa, Oklahoma.
John A. Miller owned the finest plantation in Washington County, Mississippi, about 12-mile east of Greenville. I was born on this 20,000-acre plantation November 17, 1859, being one of about four hundred slave children on the place.
About three hundred negro families living in box-type cabins made it seem like a small town. Built in rows, the cabins were kept whitewashed, neat and orderly, for the Master was strict about such things. Several large barns and storage buildings were scattered around the plantation. Also, two cotton gins and two old fashioned presses, operated by horses and mules, made Miller's plantation one of the best equipped in Mississippi.
Master John was quite a character. The big plantation didn't occupy all his time. He owned a bank in Vicksburg and another in New Orleans, and only came to the plantation two or three times a year for a week or two visit.
Things happened around there mighty quick when the Master showed up. If the slaves were not being treated right—out go the white overseer. Fired! The Master was a good man and tried to hire good boss men. Master John was bad after the slave women. A yellow child show up every once in a while. Those kind always got special privileges because the Master said he didn't want his children whipped like the rest of them slaves.
My own Mammy, Mary, was the Master's own daughter! She married Salomon Oliver (who took the name of Oliver after the War), and the Master told all the slave drivers to leave her alone and not whip her. This made the overseers jealous of her and caused trouble. John Santhers was one of the white overseers who treated her bad, and after I was born and got strong enough (I was a weakling for three-four years after birth), to do light chores he would whip me just for the fun of it. It was fun for him but not for me. I hoped to whip him when I grew up. That is the one thing I won't ever forget. He died about the end of the War so that's one thing I won't ever get to do.
My mother was high-tempered and she knew about the Master's orders not to whip her. I guess sometimes she took advantage and tried to do things that maybe wasn't right. But it did her no good and one of the white men flogged her to death. She died with scars on her back!
Father use to preach to the slaves when a crowd of them could slip off into the woods. I don't remember much about the religious things, only just what Daddy told me when I was older. He was caught several times slipping off to the woods and because he was the preacher I guess they layed on the lash a little harder trying to make him give up preaching.
Ration day was Saturday. Each person was given a peck of corn meal, four pounds of wheat flour, four pounds of pork meat, quart of molasses, one pound of sugar, the same of coffee and a plug of tobacco. Potatoes and vegetables came from the family garden and each slave family was required to cultivate a separate garden.
During the Civil War a battle was fought near the Miller plantation. The Yankees under General Grant came through the country. They burned 2,000 bales of Miller cotton. When the Yankee wagons crossed Bayou Creek the bridge gave way and quite a number of soldiers and horses were seriously injured.
For many years after the War folks would find bullets in the ground. Some of the bullets were 'twins' fastened together with a chain.
Master Miller settled my father upon a piece of land after the War and we stayed on it several years, doing well.
I moved to Muskogee in 1902, coming on to Tulsa in 1907, the same year Oklahoma was made a state. My six wives are all dead,—Liza, Lizzie, Ellen, Lula, Elizabeth and Henrietta. Six children, too. George, Anna, Salomon, Nelson, Garfield, Cosmos—all good children. They remember the Tulsa riot and don't aim ever to come back to Oklahoma.
When the riot started in 1922 (I think it was), I had a place on the corner of Pine and Owasso Streets. Two hundred of my people gathered at my place, because I was so well known everybody figured we wouldn't be molested. I was wrong. Two of my horses was shot and killed. Two of my boys, Salomon and Nelson, was wounded, one in the hip, the other in the shoulder. They wasn't bad and got well alright. Some of my people wasn't so lucky. The dead wagon hauled them away!
White men came into the negro district and gathered up the homeless. The houses were most all burned. No place to go except to the camps where armed whites kept everybody quiet. They took my clothes and all my money—$298.00—and the police couldn't do nothing about my loss when I reported it to them.
That was a terrible time, but we people are better off today that any time during the days of slavery. We have some privileges and they are worth more than all the money in the world!
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves
PHYLLIS PETITE Age 83 yrs. Fort Gibson, Okla.
I was born in Rusk County, Texas, on a plantation about eight miles east of Belleview. There wasn't no town where I was born, but they had a church.
My mammy and pappy belonged to a part Cherokee named W. P. Thompson when I was born. He had kinfolks in the Cherokee Nation, and we all moved up here to a place on Fourteen-Mile Creek close to where Hulbert now is, 'way before I was big enough to remember anything. Then, so I been told, old master Thompson sell my pappy and mammy and one of my baby brothers and me back to one of his neighbors in Texas name of John Harnage.
Mammy's name was Letitia Thompson and pappy's was Riley Thompson. My little brother was named Johnson Thompson, but I had another brother sold to a Vann and he always call hisself Harry Vann. His Cherokee master lived on the Arkansas river close to Webber's Falls and I never did know him until we was both grown. My only sister was Patsy and she was borned after slavery and died at Wagoner, Oklahoma.
I can just remember when Master John Harnage took us to Texas. We went in a covered wagon with oxen and camped out all along the way. Mammy done the cooking in big wash kettles and pappy done the driving of the oxen. I would set in a wagon and listen to him pop his whip and holler.
Master John took us to his plantation and it was a big one, too. You could look from the field up to the Big House and any grown body in the yard look like a little body, it was so far away.
We negroes lived in quarters not far from the Big House and ours was a single log house with a stick and dirt chimney. We cooked over the hot coals in the fireplace.
I just played around until I was about six years old I reckon, and then they put me up at the Big House with my mammy to work. She done all the cording and spinning and weaving, and I done a whole lot of sweeping and minding the baby. The baby was only about six months old I reckon. I used to stand by the cradle and rock it all day, and when I quit I would go to sleep right by the cradle sometimes before mammy would come and get me.
The Big House had great big rooms in front, and they was fixed up nice, too. I remember when old Mistress Harnage tried me out sweeping up the front rooms. They had two or three great big pictures of some old people hanging on the wall. They was full blood Indians it look like, and I was sure scared of them pictures! I would go here and there and every which-a-way, and anywheres I go them big pictures always looking straight at me and watching me sweep! I kept my eyes right on them so I could run if they moved, and old Mistress take me back to the kitchen and say I can't sweep because I miss all the dirt.
We always have good eating, like turnip greens cooked in a kettle with hog skins and crackling grease, and skinned corn, and rabbit or possum stew. I liked big fish tolerable well too, but I was afraid of the bones in the little ones.
That skinned corn aint like the boiled hominy we have today. To make it you boil some wood ashes, or have some drip lye from the hopper to put in the hot water. Let the corn boil in the lye water until the skin drops off and the eyes drop out and then wash that corn in fresh water about a dozen times, or just keep carrying water from the spring until you are wore out, like I did. Then you put the corn in a crock and set it in the spring, and you got good skinned corn as long as it last, all ready to warm up a little batch at a time.
Master had a big, long log kitchen setting away from the house, and we set a big table for the family first, and when they was gone we negroes at the house eat at that table too, but we don't use the china dishes.
The negro cook was Tilda Chisholm. She and my mammy didn't do no out-work. Aunt Tilda sure could make them corn-dodgers. Us children would catch her eating her dinner first out of the kettles and when we say something she say: "Go on child, I jest tasting that dinner."
In the summer we had cotton homespun clothes, and in winter it had wool mixed in. They was dyed with copperas and wild indigo.
My brother, Johnson Thompson, would get up behind old Master Harnage on his horse and go with him to hunt squirrels so they would go 'round on Master's side so's he could shoot them. Master's old mare was named "Old Willow", and she knowed when to stop and stand real still so he could shoot.
His children was just all over the place! He had two houses full of them! I only remember Bell, Ida, Maley, Mary and Will, but they was plenty more I don't remember.
That old horn blowed 'way before daylight, and all the field negroes had to be out in the row by the time of sun up. House negroes got up too, because old Master always up to see everybody get out to work.
Old Master Harnage bought and sold slaves most all the time, and some of the new negroes always acted up and needed a licking. The worst ones got beat up good, too! They didn't have no jail to put slaves in because when the Masters got done licking them they didn't need no jail.
My husband was George Petite. He tell me his mammy was sold away from him when he was a little boy. He looked down a long lane after her just as long as he could see her, and cried after her. He went down to the big road and set down by his mammy's barefooted tracks in the sand and set there until it got dark, and then he come on back to the quarters.
I just saw one slave try to get away right in hand. They caught him with bloodhounds and brung him back in. The hounds had nearly tore him up, and he was sick a long time. I don't remember his name, but he wasn't one of the old regular negroes.
In Texas we had a church where we could go. I think it was a white church and they just let the negroes have it when they got a preacher sometimes. My mammy took me sometimes, and she loved to sing them salvation songs.
We used to carry news from one plantation to the other I reckon, 'cause mammy would tell about things going on some other plantation and I know she never been there.
Christmas morning we always got some brown sugar candy or some molasses to pull, and we children was up bright and early to get that 'lasses pull, I tell you! And in the winter we played skeeting on the ice when the water froze over. No, I don't mean skating. That's when you got iron skates, and we didn't have them things. We just get a running start and jump on the ice and skeet as far as we could go, and then run some more.
I nearly busted my head open, and brother Johnson said: "Try it again," but after that I was scared to skeet any more.
Mammy say we was down in Texas to get away from the War, but I didn't see any war and any soldiers. But one day old Master stay after he eat breakfast and when us negroes come in to eat he say: "After today I ain't your master any more. You all as free as I am." We just stand and look and don't know what to say about it.
After while pappy got a wagon and some oxen to drive for a white man who was coming to the Cherokee Nation because he had folks here. His name was Dave Mounts and he had a boy named John.
We come with them and stopped at Fort Gibson where my own grand mammy was cooking for the soldiers at the garrison. Her name was Phyllis Brewer and I was named after her. She had a good Cherokee master. My mammy was born on his place.
We stayed with her about a week and then we moved out on Four Mile Creek to live. She died on Fourteen-Mile Creek about a year later.
When we first went to Four Mile Creek I seen negro women chopping wood and asked them who they work for and I found out they didn't know they was free yet.
After a while my pappy and mammy both died, and I was took care of by my aunt Elsie Vann. She took my brother Johnson too, but I don't know who took Harry Vann.
I was married to George Petite, and I had on a white underdress and black high-top shoes, and a large cream colored hat, and on top of all I had a blue wool dress with tassels all around the bottom of it. That dress was for me to eat the terrible supper in. That what we called the wedding supper because we eat too much of it. Just danced all night, too! I was at Mandy Foster's house in Fort Gibson, and the preacher was Reverend Barrows, I had that dress a long time, but its gone now. I still got the little sun bonnet I wore to church in Texas.
We had six children, but all are dead but George, Tish, and Annie now.
Yes, they tell me Abraham Lincoln set me free, and I love to look at his picture on the wall in the school house at Four Mile branch where they have church. My grand mammy kind of help start that church, and I think everybody ought to belong to some church.
I want to say again my Master Harnage was Indian, but he was a good man and mighty good to us slaves, and you can see I am more than six feet high, and they say I weighs over a hundred and sixty, even if my hair is snow white.
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves
MATILDA POE Age 80 yrs. McAlester, Okla.
I was born in Indian Territory on de plantation of Isaac Love. He was old Master, and Henry Love was young Master. Isaac Love was a full blood Chickasaw Indian but his wife was a white woman.
Old Master was sure good to his slaves. The young niggers never done no heavy work till dey was fully grown. Dey would carry water to de men in de field and do other light jobs 'round de place.
De Big House set way back from de road 'bout a quarter of a mile. It was a two-story log house, and the rooms was awful big and they was purty furniture in it. The furniture in de parlor was red plush and I loved to slip in and rub my hand over it, it was so soft like. The house was made of square logs and de cracks was filled out even with the edges of de logs. It was white washed and my but it was purty. They was a long gallery clean across de front of de house and big posts to support de roof. Back a ways from de house was de kitchen and nearby was de smokehouse. Old Master kept it well filled with meat, lard and molasses all de time. He seen to it that we always had plenty to eat. The old women done all de cooking in big iron pots that hung over the fire. De slaves was all served together.
The slave quarters was about two hundred yards back of de Big House. Our furniture was made of oak 'cepting de chairs, and dey was made out of hackberry. I still have a chair dat belonged to my mammy.
The boys didn't wear no britches in de summer time. Dey just wore long shirts. De girls wore homespun dresses, either blue or gray.
Old Master never hired no overseer for his slaves, but he looked after 'em hisself. He punished dem hisself too. He had to go away one time and he hired a white man to oversee while he was gone. The only orders he left was to keep dem busy. Granny Lucy was awful old but he made her go to the field. She couldn't hold out to work so he ups and whips her. He beat her scandalous. He cut her back so bad she couldn't wear her dress. Old Master come home and my, he was mad when he see Granny Lucy. He told de man to leave and iffen he ever set foot on his ground again he's shoot him, sure!
Old Master had a big plantation and a hundred or more slaves. Dey always got up at daylight and de men went out and fed de horses. When de bell rang dey was ready to eat. After breakfast dey took de teams and went out to plow. Dey come in 'bout half past 'leven and at twelve de bell rung agin. Dey eat their dinner and back to plowing dey went. 'Bout five o'clock dey come in again, and den they'd talk, sing and jig dance till bedtime.
Old Master never punished his niggers 'cepting dey was sassy or lazy. He never sold his slaves neither. A owner once sold several babies to traders. Dey stopped at our plantation to stay awhile. My mammy and de other women had to take care of dem babies for two days, and teach dem to nuss a bottle or drink from a glass. Dat was awful, dem little children crying for they mothers. Sometimes dey sold de mothers away from they husbands and children.
Master wasn't a believer in church but he let us have church. My we'd have happy times singing an shouting. They'd have church when dey had a preacher and prayer meeting when dey didn't.
Slaves didn't leave de plantation much on 'count of de Patrollers. De patroller was low white trash what jest wanted a excuse to shoot niggers. I don't think I ever saw one but I heard lots of 'em.
I don't believe in luck charms and things of the such. Iffen you is in trouble, there ain't nothing gonna save you but de Good Lawd. I heard of folks keeping all kind of things for good luck charms. When I was a child different people gave me buttons to string and we called them our charm string and wore 'em round our necks. If we was mean dey would tell us "Old Raw Head and Bloody Bones" would git us. Grand mammy told us ghost stories after supper, but I don't remember any of dem.
I never did know I was a slave, 'cause I couldn't tell I wasn't free. I always had a good time, didn't have to work much, and allus had something to eat and wear and that was better than it is with me now.
When de War was over old Master told us we was free. Mammy she say, "Well, I'm heading for Texas." I went out and old Master ask me to bring him a coal of fire to light his pipe. I went after it and mammy left pretty soon. My pappy wouldn't leave old Master right then but old Master told us we was free to go where we pleased, so me an' pappy left and went to Texas where my mammy was. We never saw old Master any more. We stayed a while in Texas and then come back to de Indian Territory.
Abe Lincoln was a good man, everybody liked him. See, I've got his picture. Jeff Davis was a good man too, he just made a mistake. I like Mr. Roosevelt, too.
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves
HENRY F. PYLES Age 81 yrs. Tulsa, Okla.
Little pinch o' pepper—— Little bunch o' wool——
Two, three Pammy Christy beans—— Little piece o' rusty iron——
Wrop it in a rag and tie it wid hair, Two fum a hoss an' one fum a mare——
Mumbledy, Mumbledy, Mumbledy——
Wet it in whiskey Boughten wid silver; Dat make you wash so hard your sweat pop out, And he come to pass, sho'!
That's how the niggers say old Bab Russ used to make the hoodoo "hands" he made for the young bucks and wenches, but I don't know, 'cause I was too trusting to look inside de one he make for me, and anyways I lose it, and it no good nohow!
Old Bab Russ live about two mile from me, and I went to him one night at midnight and ask him to make me de hand. I was a young strapper about sixteen years old, and thinking about wenches pretty hard and wanting something to help me out wid the one I liked best.
Old Bab Russ charge me four bits for dat hand, and I had to give four bits more for a pint of whiskey to wet it wid, and it wasn't no good nohow!
Course dat was five-six years after de War. I wasn't yet quite eleven when de War close. Most all the niggers was farming on de shares and whole lots of them was still working for their old Master yet. Old Bab come in there from deep South Carolina two-three years befo', and live all by hisself. De gal I was worrying about had come wid her old pappy and mammy to pick cotton on de place, and dey was staying in one of de cabins in the "settlement", but dey didn't live there all de time.
I don't know whether I believed in conjure much or not in dem days, but anyways I tried it that once and it stirred up sech a rumpus everybody called me "Hand" after that until after I was married and had a pack of children.
Old Bab Russ was coal black, and he could talk African or some other unknown tongue, and all the young bucks and wenches was mortal 'fraid of him!
Well sir, I took dat hand he made for me and set out to try it on dat gal. She never had give me a friendly look even, and when I would speak to her polite she just hang her head and say nothing!
We was all picking cotton, and I come along up behind her and decided to use my "Hand." I had bought me a pint of whiskey to wet the hand wid, but I was scared to take out of my pocket and let the other niggers see it, so I jest set down in de cotton row and taken a big mouthful. I figgered to hold it in my mouth until I catched up wid that gal and then blow it on the hand jest before I tech her on the arm and speak to her.
Well, I take me a big mouthful, but it was so hot and scaldy it jest slip right on down my throat! Then I had to take another, and when I was gitting up I kind of stumbled and it slip down, too!
Then I see all the others get way on ahead, and I took another big mouthful—the last in the bottle—and drap the bottle under a big stalk and start picking fast and holding the whiskey in my mouth this time. I missed about half the cotton I guess, but at last I catch up with de rest and git close up behind dat purty gal. Then I started to speak to her, but forgot I had de whiskey in mouth and I lost most of it down my neck and all over my chin, and then I strangled a little on the rest, so as when I went to squirt it on de "hand" I didn't have nothing left to squirt but a little spit.
That make me a little nervous right then, but anyways I step up behind dat gal and lay my hand on her arm and speak polite and start to say something, but I finish up what I start to say laying on my neck with my nose shoved up under a cotton stalk about four rows away!
De way that gal lam me across the head was a caution! We was in new ground, and she jest pick up a piece of old root and whopped me right in de neck with it!
That raise sech a laugh on me that I never say nothing to her for three-four days, but after while I gets myself wound up to go see her at her home. I didn't know how she going to act, but I jest took my foot in my hand and went on over.
Her old pappy and mammy was asleep in the back of the room on a pallet, and we set in front of the fireplace on our hunches and jest looked at the fire and punched it up a little. It wasn't cold, but de malary fog was thick all through de bottoms.
After while I could smell the whiskey soaked up in dat "hand" I had in my pocket, and I was scared she could smell it too. So I jest reached in my pocket and teched it for luck, then I reached over and teched her arm. She jerked it back so quick she knocked over the churn and spilled buttermilk all over de floor! Dat make de old folks mad, and dey grumble and holler and told de gal, "Send dat black rapscallion on out of here!" But I didn't go.
I kept on moving over closer and she kept on backing away, but after while I reach over and put my hand on her knee. All I was going to do was say something but I shore forgot what it was the next minnit, 'cause she jest whinnied lak a scared hoss and give me a big push. I was settin straddledy-legged on the floor, and that push sent me on my head in the hot ashes in the fur corner of the chimney.
Then the old man jump up and make for me and I make for the door! It was dark, all 'cepting the light from the chimney, and I fumble all up and down the door jamb before I find de latch pin. The old man shorely git me if he hadn't stumble over the eating table and whop his hand right down in de dish of fresh made butter. That make him so mad he jest stand and holler and cuss.
I git de pin loose and jerk de door open so quick and hard I knock de powder gourd down what was hanging over it, and my feet git caught in the string. The stopper gits knocked out, and when I untangle it from my feet and throw it back in de house it fall in the fireplace.
I was running all de time, but I hear dat gourd go "Blammity Blam!" and then all de yelling, but I didn't go back to see how dey git the hot coals all put out what was scattered all over de cabin!
I done drap dat "hand" and I never did see it again. Never did see the gal but two-three times after that, and we never mention about dat night. Her old pappy was too old to work, so I never did see him neither, but she must of told about it because all the young bucks called me "Hand" after that for a long time.
Old Bab kept on trying to work his conjure with the old niggers, but the young ones didn't pay him much mind cause they was hearing about the Gospel and de Lord Jesus Christ. We was all free then, and we could go and come without a pass, and they was always some kind of church meeting going on close enough to go to. Our niggers never did hear about de Lord Jesus until after we was free, but lots of niggers on de other plantations had masters that told them all about him, and some of dem niggers was pretty good at preaching. Then de good church people in de North was sending white preachers amongst us all the time too. Most of de young niggers was Christians by that time.
One day old Bab was hoeing in a field and got in a squabble about something with a young gal name Polly, same name as his wife. After while he git so mad he reach up with his fingers and wet them on his tongue and point straight up and say, "Now you got a trick on you! Dere's a heavy trick on you now! Iffen you don't change your mind you going pass on before de sun go down!"
All de young niggers looked like they want to giggle but afraid to, and the old ones start begging old Bab to take the trick off, but that Polly git her dander up and take in after him with a hoe!
She knocked him down, and he jest laid there kicking his feet in the air and trying to keep her from hitting him in the head!
Well, that kind of broke up Bab's charm, so he set out to be a preacher. The Northern whites was paying some of the Negro preachers, so he tried to be one too. He didn't know nothing about de Bible but to shout loud, so the preacher board at Red Mound never would give him a paper to preach. Then he had to go back to tricking and trancing again.
One day he come in at dinner and told his wife to git him something to eat. She told him they aint nothing but some buttermilk, and he says give me some of that. He hollered around till she fix him a big ash cake and he ate that and she made him another and he ate that. Then he drunk the rest of de gallon of buttermilk and went out and laid down on a tobacco scaffold in de yard and nearly died.
After while he jest stiffened out and looked like he was dead, and nobody couldn't wake him up. 'Bout forty niggers gathered round and tried but it done no good. Old mammy Polly got scared and sent after the white judge, old Squire Wilson, and he tried, and then the white preacher Reverend Dennison tried and old man Gorman tried. He was a infidel, but that didn't do no good.
By that time it was getting dark, and every nigger in a square mile was there, looking on and acting scared. Me and my partner who was a little bit cripple but mighty smart come up to see what all the rumpus was about, and we was jest the age to do anything.
He whispered to me to let him start it off and then me finish it while he got a head running start. I ast him what he talking about.
Then he fooled round the house and got a little ball of cotton and soaked it in kerosene from a lamp. It was a brass lamp with a hole and a stopper in the side of the bowl. Wonder he didn't burn his fool head off! Then he sidle up close and stuck dat cotton 'tween old Bab's toes. Old Bab had the biggest feet I ever see, too.
'Bout that time I lit a corn shuck in de lamp and run out in de yard and stuck it to de cotton and jest kept right on running!
My partner had a big start but I catch up wid him and we lay down in de bresh and listened to everybody hollering and old Bab hollering louder than anybody. Old Bab moved away after that.
All that foolishness happen after the War, but before de War while I was a little boy they wasn't much foolishness went on I warrant you.
I was born on de 15th of August in 1856, and belonged to Mister Addison Pyles. He lived in town, in Jackson, Tennessee, and was a old man when de War broke. He had a nephew named Irvin T. Pyles he raised from a baby, and Mister Irvin kept a store at de corner of de roads at our plantation. The plantation covered about 300 or 400 acres I reckon, and they had about 25 slaves counting de children.
The plantation was about 9 miles north of Red Mound, close to Lexington, Tennessee, and about a mile and a half from Parker's Crossroads where they had a big battle in de War.
They wasn't no white overseer on the place, except Mister Irvin, and he stayed in de store or in town and didn't bother about the farm work. We had a Negro overlooker who was my stepdaddy. His name was Jordan, and he run away wid de Yankees about de middle of de War and was in a Negro Yankee regiment. After he left we jest worked on as usual because we was afraid not to. Several of de men got away like that but he was de only one that got in de army.
They was a big house in de middle of de place and a settlement of Negro cabins behind and around it. We called it de settlement, but on other plantations where white folks lived there too they called it de quarters. We always kept this big house clean and ready, and sometimes de white folks come out from town and stay a few days and hunt and fish and look over de crops.
We all worked at farm work. Cotton and corn and tobacco mostly. We all laid off Sunday after noontime, but we didn't have no church nor preaching and we didn't hear anything 'bout Jesus much until after de emancipation.
I reckon old Master wasn't very religious, 'cause he never tell us 'bout the Holy Word. He jest said to behave ourselves and tell him when we wanted to marry, and not have but one wife.
We had little garden patches and cotton patches we could work on Sunday and what de stuff brung we could sell and keep the money. Old Master let us have what we made that way on Sunday. We could buy ribbons and hand soap and coal oil and such at de store. Master Irvin was always honest 'bout continuing de money, too.
We didn't have no carders and spinners nor no weavers on de plantation. They cost too much money to buy just for 25 niggers, and they cost a lot more than field niggers. So we got our clothes sent out to us from in town, and sometimes we was give cloth from de store to make our clothes out of.
We got de shorts and seconds from de mill when we had wheat ground, and so we had good wheat bread as well as corn pone, and de big smokehouse was on de place and we had all de meat we wanted to eat. Old Master sent out after de meat he wanted every day or so and we kept him in garden sass that way too.
We was right between de forks of Big Beaver and Little Beaver and we could go fishing without getting far off de place. We couldn't go far away without a pass, though, and they wasn't nobody on the place to write us a pass, so we couldn't go to meeting and dances and sech.
But de niggers on de other plantations could get passes to come to our place, and so we had parties sometimes there at our place. We always had them on Sundays, 'cause in the evening we would be too tired to work if we set up, and the other masters wouldn't give passes to their niggers to come over in de evening.
We had a white doctor lived at de next plantation, and old Master had a contract with old Dr. Brown to look after us. He had a beard as long as your arm. He come for all kinds of misery except bornings. Then we had a mid-wife who was a white woman lived down below us. They was poor people renting or living on war land. Nearly all de white folks in that country been there a long time and their old people got de land from de government for fighting in the Revolutionary War. Most all was from North Carolina—way back. I think old Master's pappy was from dere in de first place.
Old Master had two sons named Newton and Willis. Newton was in de War and was killed, and Willis went to war later and was sick a long time and come home early. Old Master was too old to go.
There was two daughters, Mary, de oldest, married a Holmes, and Miss Laura never did marry I don't think.
My mammy's name was Jane, and she was born on de 10th day of May in 1836. I know de dates 'cause old Master kept his book on all his niggers de same as on his own family. Mammy was the nurse of all de children but I think old Master sent her to de plantation about the time I was born. I don't think I had any pappy. I think I was jest one of them things that happened sometimes in slavery days, but I know old Master didn't have nothing to do with it—I'm too black.
Mammy married a man named Jordan when I was a little baby. He was the overlooker and went off to de Yankees, when dey come for foraging through dat country de first time.
He served in de Negro regiment in de battle at Fort Piller and a lot of Sesesh was killed in dat battle, so when de War was over and Jordan come back home he was a changed nigger and all de whites and a lot of de niggers hated him. All 'cepting old Master, and he never said a word out of de way to him. Jest told him to come on and work on de place as long as he wanted to.
But Jordan had a hard time, and he brung it on his self I reckon.
'Bout de first thing, he went down to Wildersville Schoolhouse, about a mile from Wildersville, to a nigger and carpet bagger convention and took me and mammy along. That was de first picnic and de first brass band I ever see. De band men was all white men and they still had on their blue soldier clothes.
Lots of de niggers there had been in de Union army too, and they had on parts of their army clothes. They took them out from under their coats and their wagon seats an put them on for de picnic.
There was a saloon over in Wildersville, and a lot of them went over there but they was scared to go in, most of them. But a colored delegate named Taylor and my pappy went in and ordered a drink. The bartender didn't pay them no mind.
Then a white man named Billy Britt walked up and throwed a glass of whiskey in Jordan's face and cussed him for being in de Yankee army. Then a white man from the North named Pearson took up the fight and him and Jordan jumped on Billy Britt, but de crowd stopped them and told pappy to git on back to whar he come from.
He got elected a delegate at de convention and went on down to Nashville and helped nominate Brownlow for governor. Then he couldn't come back home for a while, but finally he did.
Old Master was uneasy about de way things was going on, and he come out to de farm and stayed in de big house a while.
One day in broad daylight he was on de gallery and down de road come 'bout 20 bushwhackers in Sesesh clothes on horses and rid up to de gate. Old Master knowed all of them, and Captain Clay Taylor, who had been de master of de nigger delegate, was at the head of them.
They had Jordan Pyles tied with a rope and walked along on de ground betwixt two horses.
"Whar you taking my nigger?", Old Master say. He run down off de gallery and out in de road.
"He ain't your nigger no more—you know that", old Captain Taylor holler back.
"He jest as much my nigger as that Taylor nigger was your nigger, and you ain't laid hands on him! Now you jest have pity on my nigger!"
"Your nigger Jordan been in de Yankee army, and he was in de battle at Fort Piller and help kill our white folks, and you know it!" Old Captain Taylor say, and argue on like that, but old Master jest take hold his bridle and shake his head.
"No, Clay", he say, "that boy maybe didn't kill Confederates, but you and him both know my two boys killed plenty Yankees, and you forgot I lost one of my boys in de War. Ain't that enough to pay for letting my nigger alone?"
And old Captain Taylor give the word to turn Jordan loose, and they rid on down de road.
That's one reason my stepdaddy never did leave old Master's place, and I stayed on dere till I was grown and had children.
The Yankees come through past our place three-four times, and one time they had a big battle jest a mile and a half away at Parker's Crossroads.
I was in de field hoeing, and I remember I hadn't watered the cows we had hid way down in de woods, so I started down to water them when I first heard de shooting.
We had de stock hid down in de woods and all de corn and stuff hid too, 'cause the Yankees and the Sesesh had been riding through quite a lot, and either one take anything they needed iffen they found it.
First I hear something way off say "Br-r-rump!" Then again, and again. Then something sound like popcorn beginning to pop real slow. Then it git faster and I start for de settlement and de big house.
All Master's folks was staying at de big house then, and couldn't git back to town 'count of de soldiers, so they all put on they good clothes, with de hoop skirts and little sunshades and the lace pantaloons and got in the buggy to go see de battle!
They rid off and it wasn't long till all the niggers was following behind. We all got to a hill 'bout a half a mile from the crossroads and stopped when we couldn't see nothing but thick smoke all over de whole place.
We could see men on horses come in and out of de smoke, going this way and that way, and then some Yankees on horses broke through de woods right close to us and scattered off down through de field. One of de white officers rid up close and yelled at us and took off his hat, but I couldn't hear nothing he said.
Then he rid on and catch up with his men. They had stopped and was turning off to one side. He looked back and waved his hat again for us to git away from that, and jest then he clapped his hand to his belly and fell off his hoss.
Our white folks turned their buggy round and made it for home and no mistake! The niggers wasn't fur behind neither!
They fit on back toward our plantation, and some of the fighting was inside it at one corner. For three-four days after that they was burying soldiers 'round there, and some of de graves was on our old place.
Long time afterwards people come and moved all them to other graveyards at Shiloh and Corinth and other places. They was about a hundred killed all around there.
After de War I married Molly Timberlake and we lived on there 'til 1902, when we come to Indian Territory at Haskell. They wasn't no Haskell there then, and I helped to build dat town, doing carpenter work and the like.
We had two boys, Bill and Jim Dick, and eight daughters, Effie, Ida, Etta, Eva, Jessie, Tommie, Bennie and Timmie. Her real name is Timberlake after her mammy. They all went to school and graduated in the high schools.
My wife has been dead about ten years.
Oklahoma Writers' Project Ex-Slaves 10-13-37 [Date stamp: NOV 5 1937]
CHANEY RICHARDSON Age 90 years Fort Gibson, Okla.
I was born in the old Caney settlement southeast of Tahlequah on the banks of Caney Creek. Off to the north we could see the big old ridge of Sugar Mountain when the sun shine on him first thing in the morning when we all getting up.
I didn't know nothing else but some kind of war until I was a grown woman, because when I first can remember my old Master, Charley Rogers, was always on the lookout for somebody or other he was lined up against in the big feud.
My master and all the rest of the folks was Cherokees, and they'd been killing each other off in the feud ever since long before I was borned, and jest because old Master have a big farm and three-four families of Negroes them other Cherokees keep on pestering his stuff all the time. Us children was always afeared to go any place less'n some of the grown folks was along.
We didn't know what we was a-feared of, but we heard the Master and Mistress keep talking 'bout "another Party killing" and we stuck close to the place.
Old Mistress' name was Nancy Rogers, but I was a orphan after I was a big girl and I called her "Aunt" and "Mamma" like I did when I was little. You see my own mammy was the house woman and I was raised in the house, and I heard the little children call old mistress "mamma" and so I did too. She never did make me stop.
My pappy and mammy and us children lived in a one-room log cabin close to the creek bank and jest a little piece from old Master's house.
My pappy's name was Joe Tucker and my mammy's name was Ruth Tucker. They belonged to a man named Tucker before I was born and he sold them to Master Charley Rogers and he just let them go on by the same name if they wanted to, because last name didn't mean nothing to a slave anyways. The folks jest called my pappy "Charley Rogers' boy Joe."
I already had two sisters, Mary and Mandy, when I was born, and purty soon I had a baby brother, Louis. Mammy worked at the Big House and took me along every day. When I was a little bigger I would help hold the hank when she done the spinning and old Mistress done a lot of the weaving and some knitting. She jest set by the window and knit most all of the time.
When we weave the cloth we had a big loom out on the gallery, and Miss Nancy tell us how to do it.
Mammy eat at our own cabin, and we had lots of game meat and fish the boys get in the Caney Creek. Mammy bring down deer meat and wild turkey sometimes, that the Indian boys git on Sugar Mountain.
Then we had corn bread, dried bean bread and green stuff out'n Master's patch. Mammy make the bean bread when we git short of corn meal and nobody going to the mill right away. She take and bile the beans and mash them up in some meal and that make it go a long ways.
The slaves didn't have no garden 'cause they work the old Master's garden and make enough for everybody to have some anyway.
When I was about 10 years old that feud got so bad the Indians was always talking about getting their horses and cattle killed and their slaves harmed. I was too little to know how bad it was until one morning my own mammy went off somewhere down the road to git some stuff to dye cloth and she didn't come back.
Lots of the young Indian bucks on both sides of the feud would ride around the woods at night, and old Master got powerful oneasy about my mammy and had all the neighbors and slaves out looking for her, but nobody find her.
It was about a week later that two Indian men rid up and ast old master wasn't his gal Ruth gone. He says yes, and they take one of the slaves along with a wagon to show where they seen her.
They find her in some bushes where she'd been getting bark to set the dyes, and she been dead all the time. Somebody done hit her in the head with a club and shot her through and through with a bullet too. She was so swole up they couldn't lift her up and jest had to make a deep hole right along side of her and roll her in it she was so bad mortified.
Old Master nearly go crazy he was so mad, and the young Cherokee men ride the woods every night for about a month, but they never catch on to who done it.
I think old Master sell the children or give them out to somebody then, because I never see my sisters and brother for a long time after the Civil War, and for me, I have to go live with a new mistress that was a Cherokee neighbor. Her name was Hannah Ross, and she raised me until I was grown.
I was her home girl, and she and me done a lot of spinning and weaving too. I helped the cook and carried water and milked. I carried the water in a home-made pegging set on my head. Them peggings was kind of buckets made out of staves set around a bottom and didn't have no handle.
I can remember weaving with Miss Hannah Ross. She would weave a strip of white and one of yellow and one of brown to make it pretty. She had a reel that would pop every time it got to a half skein so she would know to stop and fill it up again. We used copperas and some kind of bark she bought at the store to dye with. It was cotton clothes winter and summer for the slaves, too, I'll tell you.
When the Civil War come along we seen lots of white soldiers in them brown butternut suits all over the place, and about all the Indian men was in it too. Old master Charley Rogers' boy Charley went along too. Then pretty soon—it seem like about a year—a lot of the Cherokee men come back home and say they not going back to the War with that General Cooper and some of them go off the Federal side because the captain go to the Federal side too.
Somebody come along and tell me my own pappy have to go in the war and I think they say he on the Copper side, and then after while Miss Hannah tell me he git kilt over in Arkansas.
I was so grieved all the time I don't remember much what went on, but I know pretty soon my Cherokee folks had all the stuff they had et up by the soldiers and they was jest a few wagons and mules left.
All the slaves was piled in together and some of the grown ones walking, and they took us way down across the big river and kept us in the bottoms a long time until the War was over.
We lived in a kind of a camp, but I was too little to know where they got the grub to feed us with. Most all the Negro men was off somewhere in the War.
Then one day they had to bust up the camp and some Federal soldiers go with us and we all start back home. We git to a place where all the houses is burned down and I ask what is that place. Miss Hannah say: "Skullyville, child. That's where they had part of the War."
All the slaves was set out when we git to Fort Gibson, and the soldiers say we all free now. They give us grub and clothes to the Negroes at that place. It wasn't no town but a fort place and a patch of big trees.
Miss Hannah take me to her place and I work there until I was grown. I didn't git any money that I seen, but I got a good place to stay.
Pretty soon I married Ran Lovely and we lived in a double log house here at Fort Gibson. Then my second husband was Henry Richardson, but he's been dead for years, too. We had six children, but they all dead but one.
I didn't want slavery to be over with, mostly because we had the War I reckon. All that trouble made me the loss of my mammy and pappy, and I was always treated good when I was a slave. When it was over I had rather be at home like I was. None of the Cherokees ever whipped us, and my mistress give me some mighty fine rules to live by to git along in this world, too.
The Cherokee didn't have no jail for Negroes and no jail for themselves either. If a man done a crime he come back to take his punishment without being locked up.
None of the Negroes ran away when I was a child that I know of. We all had plenty to eat. The Negroes didn't have no school and so I can't read and write, but they did have a school after the War, I hear. But we had a church made out of a brush arbor and we would sing good songs in Cherokee sometimes.
I always got Sunday off to play, and at night I could go git a piece of sugar or something to eat before I went to bed and Mistress didn't care.
We played bread-and-butter and the boys played hide the switch. The one found the switch got to whip the one he wanted to.
When I got sick they give me some kind of tea from weeds, and if I et too many roasting ears and swole up they biled gourds and give me the liquor off'n them to make me throw up.
I've been a good church-goer all my life until I git too feeble, and I still understand and talk Cherokee language and love to hear songs and parts of the Bible in it because it make me think about the time I was a little girl before my mammy and pappy leave me.