Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States
Work Projects Administration
Part 3 out of 6
It was in a trunk. The hair and hide was still on the trunk when the War
ceased. He used his money to pay the slaves that worked on his place
"I went to school to a white man from January till May and mother paid
him one dollar a month tuition. After I married I went to school three
terms. I married quite young. Everyone did that far back.
"I married at Aunt Jane's home. We got married and had dinner at one or
two o'clock. Very quiet. Only a few friends and my relatives. I wore a
green wool traveling dress. It was trimmed in black velvet and black
beads. I married in a hat. At about seven o'clock we went to ny
husband's home at Perry, Georgia. He owned a new buggy. We rode thirty
miles. We had a colored minister to marry us. He was a painter and a
fine provider. He died. I had no children.
"I came to Forrest City 1874. There was three dry-goods and grocery
stores and two saloons here--five stores in all. I come alone. Aunt Jane
and Uncle Sol had migrated here. My mother come with me. There was one
railroad through here. I belong to the Baptist church.
"I married the second time at Muskogee, Oklahoma. My husband lived out
there. He was Indian-African. He was a Baptist minister. We never had
any children. I never had a child. They tell me now if I had married
dark men I would maybe had children. I married very light men both
"I washed and ironed, cooked and kept house. I sewed for the public,
black and white. I washed and ironed for Mrs. Grahan at Crockettsville
twenty-three years and three months. I inherited a home here. Owned a
home here in Forrest City once. I live with my cousin here. He uses that
house for his study. He is a Baptist minister. (The church is in front
of their home--a very nice new brick church--ed.) I'm blind now or I
could still sew, wash and iron some maybe.
"I get eight dollars from the Social Welfare. I do my own cooking in the
kitchen. I am seventy-seven years old. I try to live as good as my age.
Every year I try to live a little better, 'A little sweeter as the years
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Cyrus Bellus
1320 Pulaski Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
[HW: Made Own Cloth]
"I was born in Mississippi in 1865 in Jefferson County. It was on the
tenth of March. My father's name was Cyrus Bellus, the same as mine. My
mother's name was Matilda Bellus.
"My father's master was David Hunt. My father and mother both belonged
to him. They had the same master. I don't know the names of my
grandfather and mother. I think they were Jordons. No, I know my
grandmother's name was Annie Hall, and my grandfather's name was Stephen
Hall. Those were my mother's grandparents. My father's father was named
John Major and his mother was named Dinah Major. They belonged to the
Hunts. I don't know why the names was different. I guess he wasn't their
Slave Sales, Whippings, Work
"I have heard my folks talk about how they were traded off and how they
used to have to work. Their master wouldn't allow them to whip his
hands. No, it was the mistress that wouldn't allow them to be whipped.
They had hot words about that sometimes.
"The slaves had to weave cotton and knit sox. Sometimes they would work
all night, weaving cloth, and spinning thread. The spinning would be
done first. They would make cloth for all the hands on the place.
"They used to have tanning vats to make shoes with too. Old master
didn't know what it was to buy shoes. Had a man there to make them.
"My father and mother were both field hands. They didn't weave or spin.
My grandmother on my mother's side did that. They were supposed to
pick--the man, four hundred pounds of cotton, and the woman three
hundred. And that was gittin' some cotton. If they didn't come up to the
task, they was took out and give a whipping. The overseer would do the
thrashing. The old mistress and master wouldn't agree on that whipping.
"The slaves were allowed to get out and have their fun and play and
'musement for so many hours. Outside of those hours, they had to be
found in their house. They had to use fiddles. They had dancing just
like the boys do now. They had knockin' and rasslin' and all such like
"So for as serving God was concerned, they had to take a kettle and turn
it down bottom upward and then old master couldn't hear the singing and
prayin'. I don't know just how they turned the kettle to keep the noise
from goin' out. But I heard my father and mother say they did it. The
kettle would be on the inside of the cabin, not on the outside.
House, Furniture, Food
"The slaves lived in log houses instead of ones like now with
weather-boarding. The two ends duffed in. They always had them so they
would hold a nice family. Never had any partitions to make rooms. It was
just a straight long house with one window and one door.
"Provisions were weighed out to them. They were allowed four pounds of
meat and a peck of meal for each working person. They only provided for
the working folks. If I had eight in a family, I would just get the same
amount. There was no provisions for children.
"But all the children on the place were given something from the big
house. The working folks ate their breakfast before daylight in the log
cabin where they lived. They ate their supper at home too. They was
allowed to get back home by seven or eight o'clock. The slaves on my
place never ate together. I don't know anything about that kind of
"They had nurses, old folks that weren't able to work any longer. All
the children would go to the same place to be cared for and the old
people would look after them. They wasn't able to work, you know. They
fed the children during the day.
How Freedom Came
"My father and mother and grandmother said the overseer told them that
they were free. I guess that was in 1865, the same year I was born. The
overseer told them that they didn't have any owner now. They was free
folks. The boss man told them too--had them to come up to the big house
and told them they had to look out for themselves now because they were
free as he was.
Right After the War
"Right after emancipation, my folks were freed. The boss man told them
they could work by the day or sharecrop or they could work by groups. A
group of folks could go together and work and the boss man would pay
them so much a day. I believe they worked for him a good while--about
seven or eight years at least. They was in one of the groups.
"My own earliest recollections was of picking cotton in one of those
squads--the groups I was telling you about. After that, the people got
to renting land and renting stock for themselves. They sharecropped
then. It seems to me that everybody was satisfied. I don't remember any
one saying that he was cheated or beat out of anything.
"We had a public school to open in Jefferson County, Mississippi. We
called it Dobbins Bridge. There was a bridge about a mile long built
across the creek. We had two colored women for teachers. Their names was
Mary Howard and Hester Harris. They only used two teachers in that
school. I attended there three years to those same two women.
"We had a large family and I quit to help take care of it.
"I don't think there was much disturbance from the Ku Klux on that
plantation. The colored folks didn't take much part in politics.
"I stopped school and went to work for good at about fifteen years. I
worked at the field on that same plantation I told you about. I worked
there for just about ten years. Then I farmed at the same place on
shares. I stayed there till I was 'bout twenty-six years old. Then I
moved to Wilderness Place in the Cotton Belt in Mississippi. I farmed
there for two years.
"I farmed around Greenville, Mississippi for a while. Then I left
Greenville and came to Arkansas. I come straight to Little Rock. The
first thing I did I went into the lumber grading. I wasn't trained to
it, but I went into it at the request of the men who employed me. I
stayed in that eight years. I learned the lumber grading and checking.
Checking is seeing the size and width and length and kind of lumber and
seeing how much of it there is in a car without taking it out, you know.
"I married about 1932. My wife is dead. We never had any children.
"I haven't worked any now in five years. I have been to the hospital in
the east end. I get old age assistance--eight dollars and commodities."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Bob Benford
209 N. Maple Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"Slavery-time folks? Here's one of em. Near as I can get at it, I'se
seventy-nine. I was born in Alabama. My white folks said I come from
Perry County, Alabama, but I come here to this Arkansas country when I
"My old master was Jim Ad Benford. He was good to us. I'm goin' to tell
you we was better off then than now. Yes ma'am, they treated us right.
We didn't have to worry bout payin' the doctor and had plenty to eat.
"I recollect the shoemaker come and measured my feet and directly he'd
bring me old red russet shoes. I thought they was the prettiest things I
ever saw in my life.
"Old mistress would say, 'Come on here, you little niggers' and she'd
sprinkle sugar on the meat block and we'd just lick sugar.
"I remember the soldiers good, had on blue suits with brass buttons.
"I'se big enough to ride old master's hoss to water. He'd say, 'Now,
Bob, don't you run that hoss' but when I got out of sight, I was bound
to run that hoss a little.
"I didn't have to work, just stayed in the house with my mammy. She was
a seamstress. I'm tellin' you the truth now. I can tell it at night as
well as daytime.
"We lived in Union County. Old master had a lot of hands. Old mistress'
name was Miss Sallie Benford. She just as good as she could be. She'd
come out to the quarters to see how we was gettin' along. I'd be so glad
when Christmas come. We'd have hog killin' and I'd get the bladders and
blow em up to make noise--you know. Yes, lady, we'd have a time.
"I recollect when Marse Jim broke up and went to Texas. Stayed there
bout a year and come back. [HW: migration?]
"When the war was over I recollect they said we was free but I didn't
know what that meant. I was always free.
"After freedom mammy stayed there on the place and worked on the shares.
I don't know nothin' bout my father. They said he was a white man.
"I remember I was out in the field with mammy and had a old mule. I
punched him with a stick and he come back with them hoofs and kicked me
right in the jaw--knocked me dead. Lord, lady, I had to eat mush till I
don't like mush today. That was old Mose--he was a saddle mule.
"Me? I ain't been to school a day in my life. If I had a chance to go I
didn't know it. I had to help mammy work. I recollect one time when she
was sick I got into a fight and she cried and said, 'That's the way you
does my child' and I know she died next week.
"After that I worked here and there. I remember the first run I worked
for was Kinch McKinney of El Dorado.
"I remember when I was just learnin' to plow, old mule knew five hundred
times more than I did. He was graduated and he learnt me.
"I made fifty-seven crops in my lifetime. Me and Hance Chapman--he was
my witness when I married--we made four bales that year. That was in
1879. His father got two bales and Hance and me got two. I made money
every year. Yes ma'am, I have made some money in my day. When I moved
from Louisiana to Arkansas I sold one hundred eighty acres of land and
three hundred head of hogs. I come up here cause my chillun was here and
my wife wanted to come here. You know how people will stroll when they
get grown. Lost everything I had. Bought a little farm here and they
wouldn't let me raise but two acres of cotton the last year I farmed and
I couldn't make my payments with that. Made me plow up some of the
prettiest cotton I ever saw and I never got a cent for it.
"Lady, nobody don't know how old people is treated nowdays. But I'm
livin' and I thank the Lord. I'm so glad the Lord sent you here, lady. I
been once a man and twice a child. You know when you're tellin' the
truth, you can tell it all the time.
"Klu Klux? The Lord have mercy! In '74 and '75 saw em but never was
bothered by a white man in my life. Never been arrested and never had a
lawsuit in my life. I can go down here and talk to these officers any
"Yes ma'am, I used to vote. Never had no trouble. I don't know what
ticket I voted. We just voted for the man we wanted. Used to have
colored men on the grand jury--half and half--and then got down to one
and then knocked em all out.
"I never done no public work in my life but when you said farmin' you
hit me then.
"Nother thing I never done. I bought two counterpins once in my life on
the stallments and ain't never bought nothin' since that way. Yes ma'am,
I got a bait of that stallment buying. That's been forty years ago.
"I know one time when I was livin' in Louisiana, we had a teacher named
Arvin Nichols. He taught there seventeen years and one time he passed
some white ladies and tipped his hat and went on and fore sundown they
had him arrested. Some of the white men who knew him went to court and
said what had he done, and they cleared him right away. That was in the
'80's in Marion, Louisiana, in Union Parish."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Carrie Bradley Logan Bennet, Helena, Arkansas
Age: 79 plus
"I was born not a great piece from Mobile but it was in Mississippi in
the country. My mother b'long to Massa Tom Logan. He was a horse trader.
He got drowned in 1863--durin' of the War, the old war. His wife was
Miss Liza Jane. They had several children and some gone from home I jus'
seed when they be on visits home. The ones at home I can recollect was
Tiney, John, Bill, and Alex. I played wid Tiney and nursed Bill and Alex
was a baby when Massa Tom got drowned.
"We never knowed how Massa Tom got drowned. They brought him home and
buried him. His horse come home. He had been in the water, water was
froze on the saddle. They said it was water soaked. They thought he swum
the branch. Massa Tom drunk some. We never did know what did happen. I
didn't know much 'bout 'em.
"He had two or three families of slaves. Ma cooked, washed and ironed
for all on the place. She went to the field in busy times. Three of the
men drove horses, tended to 'em. They fed 'em and curried and sheared
'em. Ma said Massa Tom sure thought a heap of his niggers and fine
stock. They'd bring in three or four droves of horses and mules, care
fer 'em, take 'em out sell 'em. They go out and get droves, feed 'em up
till they looked like different from what you see come there. He'd sell
'em in the early part of the year. He did make money. I know he muster.
My pa was the head blacksmith on Masaa Tom's place, them other men
helped him along.
"I heard ma say no better hearted man ever live than Massa Tom if you
ketch him sober. He give his men a drink whiskey 'round every once in
awhile. I don't know what Miss Liza Jane could do 'bout it. She never
done nothin' as ever I knowed. They sent apples off to the press and all
of us drunk much cider when it come home as we could hold and had some
long as it lasts. It turn to vinegar. I heard my pa laughing 'bout the
time Massa Tom had the Blue Devils. He was p'isoned well as I understood
it. It muster been on whiskey and something else. I never knowed it. His
men had to take keer of 'em. He acted so much like he be crazy they
laughed 'bout things he do. He got over it.
"Old mistress--we all called her Miss Liza Jane--whooped us when she
wanted to. She brush us all out wid the broom, tell us go build a play
house. Children made the prettiest kinds of play houses them days. We
mede the walls outer bark sometimes. We jus' marked it off on the ground
out back of the smokehouse. We'd ride and bring up the cows. We'd take
the meal to a mill. It was the best hoecake bread can be made. It was
water ground meal.
"We had a plenty to eat, jus' common eatin'. We had good cane molasses
all the tine. The clothes was thin 'bout all time 'ceptin' when they be
new and stubby. We got new clothes in the fall of the year. They last
till next year.
"I never seed Massa Tom whoop nobody. I seen Miss Liza Jane turn up the
little children's dresses and whoop 'em with a little switch, and
straws, and her hand. She 'most blister you wid her bare hand. Plenty
things we done to get whoopin's. We leave the gates open; we'd run the
calves and try to ride 'em; we'd chunk at the geese. One thing that make
her so mad was for us to climb up in her fruit trees and break off a
limb. She wouldn't let us be eating the green fruit mostly 'cause it
would make us sick. They had plenty trees. We had plenty fruit to eat
when it was ripe. Massa Tom's little colored boys have big ears. He'd
pull 'em every time he pass one of 'em. He didn't hurt 'em but it might
have made their ears stick out. They all had big ears. He never slapped
nobody as ever I heard 'bout.
"I don't know how my parents was sold. I'm sure they was sold. Pa's name
ivas Jim Bradley (Bradly). He come from one of the Carolinas. Ma was
brought to Mississippi from Georgia. All the name I heard fer her was
Ella Logan. When freedom cone on, I heard pa say he thought he stand a
chance to find his folks and them to find him if he be called Bradley.
He did find some of his brothers, and ma had some of her folks out in
Mississippi. They come out here hunting places to do better. They wasn't
no Bradleys. I was little and I don't recollect their names. Seem lack
one family we called Aunt Mandy Thornton. One was Aunt Tillie and Uncle
Mack. They wasn't Thorntons. I knows that.
"My folks was black, black as I is. Pa was stocky, guinea man. Ma was
heap the biggest. She was rawbony and tall. I love to see her wash. She
could bend 'round the easier ever I seed anybody. She could beat the
clothes in a hurry. She put out big washings, on the bushes and a cord
they wove and on the fences. They had paling fence 'round the garden.
"Massa Tom didn't have a big farm. He had a lot of mules and horses at
times. They raised some cotton but mostly corn and oats. Miss Liza Jane
left b'fore us. We all cried when she left. She shut up the house and
give the women folks all the keys. We lived on what she left there and
went on raising more hogs and tending to the cows. We left everything.
We come to Hernando, Mississippi. Pa farmed up there and run his
blacksmith shop on the side. My parents died close to Horn Lake. Mama
was the mother of ten and I am the mother of eight. I got two living,
one here and one in Memphis. I lives wid 'em and one niece in Natches I
live with some.
"I was scared to death of the Ku Klux Klan. They come to our house one
night and I took my little brother and we crawled under the house and
got up in the fireplace. It was big 'nough fer us to sit. We went to
sleep. We crawled out next day. We seen 'em coming, run behind the house
and crawled under there. They knocked about there a pretty good while.
We told the folks about it. I don't know where they could er been. I
forgot it been so long. I was 'fraider of the Ku Klux Klan den I ever
been 'bout snakes. No snakes 'bout our house. Too many of us.
"I tried to get some aid when it first come 'bout but I quit. My
children and my niece take keer or me. I ain't wantin' fer nothin' but
good health. I never do feel good. I done wore out. I worked in the
field all my life.
"A heap of dis young generation is triflin' as they can be. They don't
half work. Some do work hard and no 'pendence to be put in some 'em.
'Course they steal 'fo' dey work. I say some of 'em work. Times done got
so fer 'head of me I never 'speck to ketch-up. I never was scared of
horses. I sure is dese automobiles. I ain't plannin' no rides on them
airplanes. Sure you born I ain't. Folks ain't acting lack they used to.
They say so I got all I can get you can do dout. It didn't used to be no
sich way. Times is heap better but heap of folks is worse 'an ever folks
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: George Benson,
Ezell Quarters, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Occupation: Cotton Farmer
"I was here in slavery days--yes ma'm, I was here. When I come here,
colored people didn't have their ages. The boss man had it. After
surrender, boss man told me I ought to keep up with my age, it'd be a
use to me some day, but I didn't do it.
"I member the soldiers would play with me when they wasn't on duty. That
was the Yankees.
"I was born down here on Dr. Waters' place. Born right here in Arkansas
and ain't been outa Arkansas since I was born. So far as I know, Dr.
Waters was good to us. I don't know how old I was. I know I used to go
to the house with my mother and piddle around.
"My father jined the Yankees and he died in the army. I heered the old
people talkin', sayin' we was goin' to be free. You _know_ I didn't
have much sense cause I was down on the river bank and the Yankees was
shootin' across the river and I said, 'John, you quit that shootin'!' So
you know I didn't have much sense.
"I can remember old man Curtaindall had these nigger dogs. Had to go up
a tree to keep em from bitin' you. Dr. Waters would have us take the
cotton and hide it in the swamp to keep the Yankees from burnin' it but
they'd find it some way.
"Never went to school over two months in all my goin's. We always lived
in a place kinda unhandy to go to school. First teacher I had was named
Mr. Bell. I think he was a northern man.
"All my life I been farmin'--still do. Been many a day since I sold a
bale a cotton myself. White man does the ginnin' and packin'. All I do
is raise it. I'm farmin' on the shares and I think if I raise four bales
I ought to have two bales to sell and boss man two bales, but it ain't
"I voted ever since I got to be a man grown. That is--as long as I could
vote. You know--got so now they won't let you vote. I don't think a
person is free unless he can vote, do you? The way this thing is goin',
I don't think the white man wants the colored man to have as much as the
"When I could vote, I jus' voted what they told me to vote. Oh Lord,
yes, I voted for Garfield. I'se quainted with him--I knowed his name.
Let's see--Powell Clayton--was he one of the presidents? I voted for
him. And I voted for McKinley. I think he was the last one I voted for.
"I been farmin' all my life and what have I got? Nothin'. Old age
pension? I may be in glory time I get it and then what would become of
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Kato Benton
Creed Taylor Place, Tamo Pike
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
"I was born in South Carolina before the War. I ain't no baby. I wasn't
raised here. No ma'am.
"My daddy's name was Chance Ayers and my mammy's name was Mary Ayers. So
I guess the white folks was named Ayers.
"White folks was good to us. Had plenty to eat, plenty to wear, plenty
to drink. That was water. Didn't have no whisky. Might a had some but
they didn't give us none.
"Oh, yes ma'am, I got plenty kin folks. Oh, yes ma'am, I wish I was back
there but I can't get back. I been here so long I likes Arkansas now.
"My mammy give me away after freedom and I ain't seed her since. She
give me to a colored man and I tell you he was a devil untied. He was so
mean I run away to a white man's house. But he come and got me and
nearly beat me to death. Then I run away again and I ain't seed him
"I had a hard time comin' up in this world but I'm livin' yet, somehow
"I didn't work in no field much. I washed and ironed and cleaned up the
house for the white folks. Yes ma'am!
"No ma'am, I ain't never been married in my life. I been ba'chin'. I get
along so fine and nice without marryin'. I never did care anything 'bout
that. I treat the women nice--speak to 'em, but just let 'em pass on by.
"I never went to school in my life. Never learned to read or write. If I
had went to school, maybe I'd know more than I know now.
"These young folks comin' on is pretty rough. I don't have nothin' to do
with 'em--they is too rough for me. They is a heap wuss than they was in
my day--some of 'em.
"I gets along pretty well. The Welfare gives me eight dollars a month."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: James Bertrand
1501 Maple Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
[HW: "Pateroles" Botlund Father]
"I have heard my father tell about slavery and about the Ku Klux Klan
bunch and about the paterole bunch and things like that. I am
sixty-eight years old now. Sixty-eight years old! That would be about
five years after the War that I was born. That would be about 1870,
wouldn't it? I was born in Jefferson County, Arkansas, near Pine Bluff.
"My father's name was Mack Bertrand. My mother's name was Lucretia. Her
name before she married was Jackson. My father's owners were named
Bertrands. I don't know the name of my mother's owners. I don't know the
names of any of my grandparents. My father's owners were farmers.
"I never saw the old plantation they used to live on. My father never
told me how it looked. But he told me he was a farmer--that's all. He
knew farming. He used to tell me that the slaves worked from sunup till
sundown. His overseers were very good to him. They never did whip him. I
don't know that he was ever sold. I don't know how he met my mother.
"Out in the field, the man had to pick three hundred pounds of cotton,
and the women had to pick two hundred pounds. I used to hear my mother
talk about weaving the yarn and making the cloth and making clothes out
of the cloth that had been woven. They used to make everything they
wore--clothes and socks and shoes.
"I am the youngest child in the bunch and all the older ones are dead.
My mother was the mother of about thirteen children. Ten or more of them
were born in slavery. My mother worked practically all the time in the
house. She was a house worker mostly.
"My father was bothered by the pateroles. You see they wouldn't let you
go about if you didn't have a pass. Father would often get out and go
'round to see his friends. The pateroles would catch him and lash him a
little and let him go. They never would whip him much. My mother's
people were good to her. She never did have any complaint about them.
"For amusement the slaves used to dance and go to balls. Fiddle and
dance! I never heard my father speak of any other type of amusement.
"I don't remember what the old man said about freedom coming. Right
after the War, he farmed. He stayed right on with his master. He left
there before I was born and moved up near Pine Bluff where I was born.
The place my father was brought up on was near Pine Bluff too. It was
about twenty miles from Pine Bluff.
"I remember hearing him say that the Ku Klux Klan used to come to see us
at night. But father was always orderly and they never had no clue
against him. He never was whipped by the Ku Klux.
"My father never got any schooling. He never could read or write. He
said that they treated him pretty fair though on the farms where he
worked after freedom. As far as he could figure, they didn't cheat him.
I never had any personal experience with the Ku Klux. I never did do any
sharecropping. I am a shoemaker. I learned my trade from my father. My
father was a shoemaker as well as a farmer. He used to tell me that he
made shoes for the Negroes and for the old master too in slavery times.
"I have lived in Little Rock thirty years. I was born right down here in
Pine Bluff like I told you. This is the biggest town--a little bigger
than Pine Bluff. I run around on the railroad a great deal. So after a
while I just come here to this town and made it my home."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Alice Biggs
Holly Grove, Ark.
Age: "Bout 70"
"My mother come from Kentucky and my father from Virginia. That where
they born and I born close to Byihalia, Mississippi. My father was Louis
Anthony and mama name Charlotte Anthony.
"Grandma and her children was sold in a lump. They wasn't separated.
Grandpa was a waiter on the Confederate side. He never come back. He
died in Pennsylvania; another man come back reported that. He was a
colored waitin' man too. Grandma been dead 49 years now.
"Mama was a wash woman and a cook. They liked her. I don't remember my
father; he went off with Anthony. They lived close to Nashville,
Tennessee. He never come back. Mama lived at Nashville a while. The
master they had at the closin' of the war was good to grandma and mama.
It was Barnie Hardy and Old Kiss, all I ever heard her called. They
stayed on a while. They liked us. Held run us off if he'd had any
"The Ku Klux never come bout Barnie Hardy's place. He told em at town
not to bother his place.
"I never wanted to vote. I don't know how. I am too old to try tricks
new as that now.
"Honey, I been workinr in the field all my life. I'm what you call a
country nigger. I is a widow--just me an my son in family. Our home is
fair. We got two hundred acres of land, one cow and five hogs--pigs and
"The present conditions is kind of strange. With us it is just
up-and-down-hill times. I ain't had no dealins with the young
generation. Course my son would tell you about em, but I can't. He goes
out a heap more an I do.
"I don't get no pension. I never signed up. I gets long best I can."
Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person interviewed: Mandy Billings
3101 W. 14th Highland Add., Pine Bluff, Ark.
"Now I was born in 1854. That was in slavery times. That wasn't yistiday
was it? Born in Louisiana, in Sparta--that was the county seat.
"Bill Otts was my last owner. You see, how come me sold my mother was my
grandfather's baby chile and his owner promised not to separate him nary
time again. It was in the time of the Old War. Charles McLaughlin--that
was my old master--he was my father and Bill Otts, he bought my mother,
and she was sold on that account. Old Master Charles' wife wouldn't 'low
her to stay. I'm tellin' it just like they told it to me.
"We stayed with Bill Otts till we was free, and after too. My
grandfather had to steal me away. My stepfather had me made over to Bill
Otts. You know they didn't have no sheriff in them days--had a provost
"As near as I can come at it, Miss, I was thirteen or fourteen. I know I
was eighteen years and four days old when I married. That was in '74,
wasn't it? '72? Well, I knowed I was strikin' it kinda close.
"My white folks lived in town. When they bought my mother, Miss Katie
took me in the house. My mother died durin' of the War--yes ma'am.
"I member when the bloodhounds used to run em and tree em up.
"Yes'm, niggers used to run away in slavery times. Some of em was
treated so mean they couldn't help it.
"Yes ma'am, I've seen the Ku Klux. Seen em takin' the niggers out and
whip em and kick em around. I'm talkin' bout Ku Klux. I know bout the
patrollers too. Ku Klux come since freedom but the patrollers was in
slavery times. Had to get a pass. I used to hear the niggers talkin'
bout when the patrollers got after em and they was close to old master's
field they'd jump over the fence and say, 'I'm at home now, don't you
come in here.'
"I farmed in Louisiana after I was married, but since I been here I
mostly washed and ironed.
"When I worked for the white folks, I found em a cook cause I didn't
like to be bound down so tight of a Sunday.
"I been treated pretty well. Look like the hardest treatment I had was
my grandfather's, Jake Nabors. Look like he hated me cause I was
white--and I couldn't help it. If he'd a done the right thing by me, he
could of sent me to school. He had stepchillun and sent them to school,
but he kep' me workin' and plowin'."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Jane Birch, Brinkley, Arkansas
"I was three years old when the Yankees come through. I can't recollect
a thing about them. Ma told us children if we don't be quiet the Ku
Kluck come take us clean off but I never seed none. When we be working
she say if we don't work the grass out pretty soon the Ku Kluck be
taking us out whooping us. So many of us she have to scare us up to get
us to do right. There was fifteen children, nearly all girls. Ma said
she had good white folks. She was Floy Sellers. She belong to Mistress
Mary Sellers. She was a widow. Had four boys and a girl. I think we
lived in Chester County, South Carolina. I am darky to the bone. Pa was
black. All our family is black. My folks come to Arkansas when I was so
young I jes' can't tell nothing about it. We farmed. I lived with my
husband forty years and never had a child.
"Black folks used to vote more than I believe they do now. The men used
to feel big to vote. They voted but I don't know how. No ma'am, reckon I
"The times been changing since I was born and they going to keep
changing. Times is improving. That is all right.
"I think the young generation is coming down to destruction. You can't
believe a word they speak. I think they do get married some. They have a
colored preacher and have jes' a witness or so at home. Most of them
marry at night. They fuss mongst theirselves and quit sometimes. I don't
know much about young folks. You can't believe what they tell you. Some
work and some don't work. Some of them will steal."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Beatrice Black, Biscoe. Arkansas
Age: 48 Occupation: Store and "eating joint"
"I was born below the city pump here in Biscoe. My husband is a twin and
the youngest of thirteen children. His twin brother is living. They are
fifty years old today (August 6, 1938). His mother lived back and forth
with the twins. She died year before last. She was so good. She was sure
good to me. She helped me raise my three children. I misses her till
this very day. Her name was Dedonia Black when she died.
"She said master brought her, her father and mother and two sisters,
Martha and Ida, from Brownsville, Tennessee at the commencement of the
old war to Memphis in a covered ox wagon, and from there on a ship to
Cavalry Depot at De Valla Bluff. They was all sold. Her father was sold
and had to go to Texas. Her mother was sold and had to go back to
Tennessee, and the girls all sold in Arkansas. Master Mann bought my
mother-in-law (Dedonia). She was eighteen years old. They sold them off
on Cavalry Depot where the ship landed. They put her up to stand on a
barrel and auctioned them off at public auction.
"Her father got with the soldiers in Texas and went to war. He enlisted
and when the war was over he come on hunt of my mother-in-law. He found
her married and had three children. He had some money he made in the war
and bought forty acres of land. It was school land (Government land).
She raised all her thirteen children there. They brought grandma back
out here with them from Tennessee. They all died and buried out here. My
mother-in-law was married three times. She had a slavery husband named
Nathan Moseby. After he died she married Abe Ware. Then he died. She
married Mitchell Black and he died long before she died. She was
ninety-two years old when she died and could outdo me till not but a few
years ago. Her strength left her all at once. She lived on then a few
"She always told me Master Mann's folks was very good to her. She said
she never remembered getting a whooping. But then she was the best old
thing I ever seen in my life. She was really good.
"One story she tole more than others was: Up at Des Arc country the
Yankees come and made them give up their something-to-eat. Took and
wasted together. Drunk up their milk and it turning, (blinky--ed.).
She'd laugh at that. They kept their groceries in holes in the ground.
The Yankees jumped on the colored folks to make them tell where was
their provision. Some of them had to tell where some of it was. They was
scared. They didn't tell where it all was.
"When they went to Des Arc and the gates was closed they had to wait
till next day to get their provisions. They had to start early to get
back out of the pickets before they closed."
Name of Interviewer: Beulah Sherwood Hagg
Name of Ex-Slave; Boston Blackwell Age: 98
Residence: 520 Plum, North Little Rock
Story told by Boston Blackwell
Make yourself comfoble, miss. I can't see you much 'cause my eyes, they
is dim. My voice, it kinder dim too. I knows my age, good. Old Miss, she
told me when I got sold--"Boss, you is 13--borned Christmas. Be sure to
tell your new misses and she put you down in her book." My borned name
was Pruitt 'cause I got borned on Robert Pruitt's plantation in
Georgia,--Franklin County, Georgia. But Blackwell, it my freed name. You
see, miss, after my mammy got sold down to Augusta--I wisht I could tell
you the man what bought her, I ain't never seed him since,--I was sold
to go to Arkansas; Jefferson county, Arkansas. Then was when old Miss
telled me I am 13. It was before the Civil War I come here. The onliest
auction of slaves I ever seed was in Memphis, coming on to Arkansas. I
heerd a girl bid off for $800. She was about fifteen, I reckon. I heerd
a woman--a breeding woman, bid off for $1500. They always brought good
money. I'm telling you, it was when we was coming from Atlanta.
Do you want to hear how I runned away and jined the Yankees? You know
Abraham Lincoln 'claired freedom in '63, first day of January. In
October '63, I runned away and went to Pine Bluff to get to the Yankees.
I was on the Blackwell plantation south of Pine Bluff in '63. They was
building a new house; I wanted to feel some putty in my hand. One early
morning I clim a ladder to get a little chunk and the overseer man, he
seed me. Here he come, yelling me to get down; he gwine whip me 'cause
I'se a thief, he say. He call a slave boy and tell him cut ten willer
whips; he gwine wear every one out on me. When he's gone to eat
breakfas', I runs to my cabin and tells my sister, "I'se leaving this
here place for good." She cry and say, "Overseer man, he kill you." I
says, "He kill me anyhow." The young boy what cut the whips--he named
Jerry--he come along wif me, and we wade the stream for long piece.
Heerd the hounds a-howling, getting ready for to chase after us. Then we
hide in dark woods. It was cold, frosty weather. Two days and two nights
we traveled. That boy, he so cold and hungry, he want to fall out by the
way, but I drug him on. When we gets to the Yankee camp all our troubles
was over. We gets all the contraband we could eat. Was they more
run-aways there? Oh, Lordy, yessum. Hundreds, I reckon. Yessum, the
Yankees feeds all them refugees on contraband. They made me a driver of
a team in the quatamasters department. I was always keerful to do
everything they telled me. They telled me I was free when I gets to the
Yankee camp, but I couldn't go outside much. Yessum, iffen you could get
to the Yankee's camp you was free right now.
That old story 'bout 40 acres and a mule, it make me laugh. Yessum, they
sure did tell us that, but I never knowed any pusson which got it. The
officers telled us we would all get slave pension. That just exactly
what they tell. They sure did tell me I would get a passel (parcel) of
ground to farm. Nothing ever hatched out of that, neither.
When I got to Pine Bluff I stayed contraband. When the battle come,
Captain Manly carried me down to the battle ground and I stay there till
fighting was over. I was a soldier that day. No'um, I didn't shoot no
gun nor cannon. I carried water from the river for to put out the fire
in the cotton bales what made the breas'works. Every time the 'Federates
shoot, the cotton, it come on fire; so after the battle, they transfer
me back to quartemaster for driver. Captain Dodridge was his name. I
served in Little Rock under Captain Haskell. I was swored in for during
the war (Boston held up his right hand and repeated the words of
allegiance). It was on the corner of Main and Markham street in Little
Rock I was swored in. Year of '64. I was 5 feet, 8 inches high. You says
did I like living in the army? Yes-sum, it was purty good. Iffen you
obeyed them Yankee officers they treated you purty good, but iffen you
didn't, they sure went rough on you.
You says you wants to know how I live after soldiers all go away? Well,
firstes thing, I work on the railroad. They was just beginning to come
here. I digged pits out, going along front of where the tracks was to
go. How much I get? I get $1.00 a day. You axes me how it seem to earn
money? Lady, I felt like the richess man in the world! I boarded with a
white fambly. Always I was a watching for my slave pension to begin
coming. 'Fore I left the army my captain, he telled me to file. My file
number, it is 1,115,857. After I keeped them papers for so many years,
white and black folks bofe telled me it ain't never coming--my slave
pension--and I reckon the chilren tored up the papers. Lady, that number
for me is filed in Washington. Iffen you go there, see can you get my
After the railroad I went steamboating. First one was a little one; they
call her Fort Smith 'cause she go frum Little Rock to Fort Smith. It was
funny, too, her captain was name Smith. Captain Eugene Smith was his
name. He was good, but the mate was sure rough. What did I do on that
boat? Missy, was you ever on a river boat? Lordy, they's plenty to do.
Never is no time for rest. Load, onload, scrub. Just you do whatever you
is told to do and do it right now, and you'll keep outen trouble, on a
steamboat, or a railroad, or in the army, or wherever you is. That's
what I knows.
Yessum, I reckon they was right smart old masters what didn't want to
let they slaves go after freedom. They hated to turn them loose. Just
let them work on. Heap of them didn't know freedom come. I used to hear
tell how the govmint had to send soldiers away down in the far back
country to make them turn the slaves loose. I can't tell you how all
them free niggers was living; I was too busy looking out for myself.
Heaps of them went to farming. They was share croppers.
Yessum, miss, them Ku-Kluxers was turrible,--what they done to people.
Oh, God, they was bad. They come sneaking up and runned you outen your
house and take everything you had. They was rough on the women and
chilren. People all wanted to stay close by where soldiers was. I sure
knowed they was my friend.
Lady, lemme tell you the rest about when I runned away. After peace, I
got with my sister. She's the onliest of all my people I ever seed
again. She telled me she was skeered all that day, she couldn't work,
she shake so bad. She heerd overseer man getting ready to chase me and
Jerry. He saddle his horse, take his gun and pistol, bofe. He gwine kill
me en sight, but Jerry, he say he bring him back, dead er alive, tied to
his horse's tail. But he didn't get us, Ha, Ha, Ha. Yankees got us.
Now you wants to know about this voting business. I voted for Genral
Grant. Army men come around and registered you before voting time. It
wasn't no trouble to vote them days; white and black all voted together.
All you had to do was tell who you was vote for and they give you a
colored ticket. All the men up had different colored tickets. Iffen
you're voting for Grant, you get his color. It was easy. Yes Mam! Gol
'er mighty. They was colored men in office, plenty. Colored legislaturs,
and colored circuit clerks, and colored county clerks. They sure was
some big officers colored in them times. They was all my friends. This
here used to be a good county, but I tell you it sure is tough now. I
think it's wrong--exactly wrong that we can't vote now. The Jim Crow
lay, it put us out. The Constitution of the United States, it give us
the right to vote; it made us citizens, it did.
You just keeps on asking about me, lady. I ain't never been axed about
myself in my _whole_ life! Now you wants to know after railroading
and steamboating what. They was still work the Yankee army wanted done.
The war had been gone for long time. All over every place was bodies
buried. They was bringing them to Little Rock to put in Govmint
graveyard. They sent me all over the state to help bring them here.
Major Forsythe was my quartemaster then. After that was done, they put
me to work at St. John's hospital. The work I done there liked to ruin
me for life. I cleaned out the water closets. After a while I took down
sick from the work--the scent, you know--but I keep on till I get so for
gone I can't stay on my feets no more. A misery got me in the chest,
right here, and it been with me all through life; it with me now. I
filed for a pension on this ailment. I never did get it. The Govmint
never took care of me like it did some soldiers. They said I was not a
'listed man; that I was a employed man, so I couldn't get no pension.
But I filed, like they told me. I telled you my number, didnft I?
1,115,827, Boston Blackwell. I give my whole time to the Govmint for
many years. White and black bofe always telling me I should have a
pension. I stood on the battlefield just like other soldiers. My number
is in Washington. Major Forsythe was the one what signed it, right in
his office. I seed him write it.
Then what did I do? You always asking me that. I was low er long time.
When I finally get up I went to farming right here in Pulaski county.
Lordy, no, miss, I didn't buy no land. Nothing to buy with. I went share
cropping with a white man, Col. Baucum. You asking me what was the
shares? Worked on halvers. I done all the work and fed myself. No'um, I
wasn't married yit. I took the rheumatiz in my legs, and got short
winded. Then I was good for nothing but picking cotton. I kept on with
that till my eyes, they got so dim I couldn't see to pick the rows
clean. Heap o' times I needed medicine--heap o' times I needed lots of
things I never could get. Iffen I could of had some help when I been
sick, I mought not be so no account now. My daughter has taked keer of
me ever since I not been able to work no more.
I never did live in no town; always been a country nigger. I always
worked for white folks, nearly. Never mixed up in big crowds of colored;
stayed to myself. I never been arrested in my whole life; I never got
jailed for nothing. What else you want to know, Miss?
About these days, and the young folks! Well, I ain't saying about the
young folks; but they--no, I wouldn't say. (He eyed a boy working with a
saw.) Well, I will say, they don't believe in hard work. Iffen they can
make a living easy, they will. In old days, I was young and didn't have
nothing to worry about. These days you have to keep studying where you
going to get enough to eat.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Tayler
Person interviewed: Henry Blake
Rear of 1300 Scott Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: 80, or more Occupation: Farming and junk, when able
[HW: Drove a "Horsepower Gin Wagon"]
"I was born March 16, 1863, they tell me. I was born in Arkansas right
down here on Tenth and Spring Streets in Little Rock. That was all woods
then. We children had to go in at night. You could hear the wolves and
the bears and things. We had to make a big fire at night to keep the
wolves and varmints away.
"My father was a skiffman. He used to cross the Arkansas River in a
ferry-boat. My father's name was Doc Blake. And my mother's name was
Hannah Williams before she morried.
"My father's mother's name was Susie somethin'; I done forgot. That is
too far back for me. My mother's mother was named Susie--Susie Williams.
"My father's master was named Jim Paty. My father was a slavery man. I
was too. I used to drive a horsepower gin wagon in slavery time. That
was at Pastoria Just this side of Pine Bluff--about three or four miles
this side. Paty had two places-one about four miles from Pine Bluff and
the other about four miles from England on the river.
"When I was driving that horsepower gin wagon. I was about seven or
eight years old. There wasn't nothin' hard about it. Just hitch the
mules to one another's tail and drive them 'round and 'round. There
wasn't no lines. Just hitch them to one another's tail and tell them to
git up. You'd pull a lever when you wanted them to stop. The mule wasn't
hard to manage.
"We ginned two or three bales of cotton a day. We ginned all the summer.
It would be June before we got that cotton all ginned. Cotton brought
thirty-five or forty cents a pound then.
"I was treated nicely. My father and mother were too. Others were not
treated so well. But you know how Negroes is. They would slip off and go
out. If they caught them, he would put them in a log hut they had for a
jail. If you wanted to be with a woman, you would have to go to your
boss man and ask him and he would let you go.
"My daddy was sold for five hundred dollars--put on the block, up on a
stump--they called it a block. Jim Paty sold him. I forget the name of
the man he was sold to--Watts, I think it was.
"After slavery we had to get in before night too. If you didn't, Ku Klux
would drive you in. They would come and visit you anyway. They had
something on that they could pour a lot of water in. They would seem to
be drinking the water and it would all be going in this thing. They was
gittin' it to water the horses with, and when they got away from you
they would stop and give it to the horses. When he got you good and
scared he would drive on away. They would whip you if they would catch
you out in the night time.
"My daddy had a horse they couldn't catch. It would run right away from
you. My daddy trained it so that it would run away from any one who
would come near it. He would take me up on that horse and we would sail
away. Those Ku Klux couldn't catch him. They never did catch him. They
caught many another one and whipped him. My daddy was a pretty mean man.
He carried a gun and he had shot two or three men. Those were bad times.
I got scared to go out with him. I hated that business. But directly it
got over with. It got over with when a lot of the Ku Klux was killed up.
"In slavery time they would raise children just like you would raise
colts to a mare or calves to a cow or pigs to a sow. It was just a
business It was a bad thing. But it was better than the county farm.
They didn't whip you if you worked. Out there at the county farm, they
bust you open. They bust you up till you can't work. There's a lot of
people down at the state farm at Cummins--that's where the farm is ain't
it--that's raw and bloody. They wouldn't let you come down there and
write no history. No Lawd! You better not try it. One half the world
don't know how the other half lives. I'll tell you one thing, if those
Catholics could get control there would be a good time all over this
world. The Catholics are good folks.
"That gang that got after you if you let the sun go down while you were
out--that's called the Pateroles. Some folks call 'em the Ku Klux. It
was all the same old poor white trash. They kept up that business for
about ten years after the War. They kept it up till folks began to kill
up a lot of 'em. That's the only thing that stopped them. My daddy used
to make his own bullets.
"I've forgot who it is that told us that we was free. Somebody come and
told us we're free now. I done forgot who it was.
"Right after the War, my father farmed a while and after that he pulled
a skiff. You know Jim Lawson's place. He stayed on it twenty years. He
stayed at the Ferguson place about ten years. They're adjoining places.
He stayed at the Churchill place. Widow Scott place, the Bojean place.
That's all. Have you been down in Argenta to the Roundhouse? Churchill's
place runs way down to there. It wasn't nothing but farms in Little Rock
then. The river road was the only one there at that time. It would take
a day to cone down from Clear Lake with the cotton. You would start
'round about midnight and you would get to Argenta at nine o'clock the
next morning. The roads was always bad.
"After freedom, we worked on shares a while. Then we rented. When we
worked on shares, we couldn't make nothing--Just overalls and something
to eat. Half went to the other man and you would destroy your half if
you weren't careful. A man that didn't know how to count would always
lose. He might lose anyhow. They didn't give no itemized statement. No,
you just had to take their word. They never give you no details. They
just say you owe so much. No matter how good account you kept, you had
to go by their account and now, Brother, I'm tellin' you the truth about
this. It's been that way for a long time. You had to take the white
man's work on notes and everything. Anything you wanted, you could git
if you were a good hand. You could git anything you wanted as long as
you worked. If you didn't make no money, that's all right; they would
advance you more. But you better not leave him--you better not try to
leave and get caught. They'd keep you in debt. They were sharp.
Christmas come, you could take up twenty dollars in somethin' to eat and
much as you wanted in whiskey. You could buy a gallon of whiskey.
Anything that kept you a slave because he was always right and you were
always wrong if there was difference. If there was an argument, he would
get mad and there would be a shooting take place.
"And you know how some Negroes is. Long as they could git somethin',
they didn't care. You see, if the white man came out behind, he would
feed you, let you have what you wanted. He'd just keep you on, help you
get on your feet--that is, if you were a good hand. But if you weren't a
good hand, he'd just let you have enough to keep you alive. A good hand
could take care of forty or fifty acres of land and would have a large
family. A good hand could git clothes, food, whiskey, whenever he wanted
it. My father had nine children and took care of them. Not all of them
by one wife. He was married twice. He was married to one in slavery time
and to another after the War. I was a child of the first one. I got a
sister still living down here in Galloway station that is mighty nigh
ninety years old. No, she must be a hundred. Her name is Frances
Dobbins. When you git ready to go down there, I'll tell you how to find
that place jus' like I told you how to fin' this one. Galloway is only
'bout four miles from Rose City.
"I been married twice in my life. My first woman, she died. The second
lady, she is still living. We dissolved friendship in 1913. Least-wise,
I walked out and give her my home. I used to own a home at twenty-first
"I belong to the Baptist Church at Wrightsville. I used to belong to
Arch Street. Was a deacon there for about twelve years. But they had too
much splittin' and goin' on and I got out. I'll tell you more sometime."
Henry Blake's age appears in excess of eighty. His idea of seventy-five
is based on what someone told him. He is certain that he drove a
"Horsepower Gin Wagon" during "slavery times", and that he was seven or
eight when he drove it. Even if that were in '65, he would be at least
eighty years old--seventy-three years since the War plus seven years of
his life. His manner of narration would indicate that he drove earlier.
The interview was held in a dark room, and for the first time in my life
I took notes without seeing the paper on which I was writing.
Interviewer: Mary D. Eudgins
Person Interviewed: Miss Adeline Blakeley Age: 87
Home: 101 Rock Street, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
There is no hint of elision in the speech of Adeline Blakeley, scarcely
a trace of vernacular. All of her life her associations have been with
white persons. She occupies a position, rare in post-slavery days, of
negro servant, confidant and friend. After the death of Mrs. Hudgins,
family intimates, wives of physicians, bankers' wives and other
Fayetteville dowagers continued periodically to come to see Adeline.
They came not in the spirit of Lady Bountifuls condescending to a
hireling, but because they wanted to chat with an old time friend.
As told by:
"Honey, look in the bible to get the date when I was born. We want to
have it just right. Yes, here's the place, read it to me. July 10, 1850?
Yes, I remember now, that's what they've always told me. I wanted to be
sure, though. I was born in Hickman County, Tenn. and was about a year
when they brought me to Arkansas. My mother and her people had been
bought by Mr. John P. Parks when they were just children--John and
Leanna and Martha. I was the first little negro in the Parks kitchen.
From the first they made a pet out of me. I was little like a doll and
they treated me like a plaything--spoiled me--rotten.
After Mr. Parks came to Arkansas he lived near what is now Prarie Grove,
but what do you think it was called then--Hog Eye. Later on they named
it Hillingsley for a man who settled there. We were two miles out on the
Wire Road, the one the telegraph line came in on, Honey. Almost every
conmunity had a 'Wire Road'.
It was the custom to give a girl a slave when she was married. When Miss
Parks became Mrs. Blakeley she moved to Fayetteville and chose me to
take with her. She said since I was only 5 she could raise me as she
wanted me to be. But I must have been a lot of trouble and after she had
her baby she had to send me back to her father to grow up a little. For
you might say she had two babies to take care of since I was too little
to take care of hers. They sent a woman in my place.
Honey, when I got back, I was awful: I had been with the negroes down in
the country and said 'hit' and 'hain't' and words like that. Of course
all the children in the house took it up from me. Mrs. Blakeley had to
teach me to talk right. Your Aunt Nora was born while I was away. I was
too little to take full charge of her, but I could sit in a chair and
hold her on my lap.
Mrs. Blakeley taught her children at home. Her teaching was almost all
they had before they entered the University. When I was little I wanted
to learn, learn all I could, but there was a law against teaching a
slave to read and write. One woman--she was from the North did it
anyway. But when folks can read and write its going to be found out. It
was made pretty hard for that woman.
After the war they tried to get me to learn, but I tossed my head and
wouldn't let them teach me. I was about 15 and thought I was grown and
wouldn't need to know any more. Mary, it sounds funny, but if I had a
million dollars I would give it gladly to be able to read and write
letters to my friends.
I remember well when the war started. Mr. Blakeley, he was a cabinet
maker and not very well, was not considered strong enough to go. But if
the war had kept up much longer they would have called him. Mr. Parks
didn't believe in seceding. He held out as long as it was safe to do so.
If you didn't go with the popular side they called you 'abolitionist' or
maybe 'Submissionist'. But when Arkansas did go over he was loyal. He
had two sons and a son-in-law in the Confederate army. One fought at
Richmond and one was killed at Gettysburg.
The little Blakeley boy had always liked to play with the American flag.
He'd march with it and carry it out on the porch and hang it up. But
after the trouble began to brew his mother told him he would have to
stay in the house when he played with the flag. Even then somebody saw
him and scolded him and said 'Either burn it or wash it.' The child
thought they meant it and he tried to wash it. Dyes weren't so good in
those days and it ran terribly. It was the awfulest thing you ever saw.
Fayetteville suffered all thru the war. You see we were not very far
from the dividing line and both armies were about here a lot. The
Federals were in charge most of the time. They had a Post here, set up
breast works and fortified the square. The court house was in the middle
of it then. It was funny that there wasn't more real fighting about
here. There were several battles but they were more like
skirmishes--just a few men killed each time. They were terrible just the
same. At first they buried the Union soldiers where the Confederate
Cemetery is now. The Southerners were placed just anywhere. Later on
they moved the Northern caskets over to where the Federal Cemetery is
now and they took up the Southern men when they knew where to find them
and placed them over on the hill where they are today.
Once an officer came into our home and liked a table he saw, so he took
it. Mrs. Blakeley followed his horse as far as she could pleading with
him to give it back because her husband had made it. The next day a
neighbor returned it. He hod found it in the road and recognized it. The
man who stole it had been killed and dropped it as he fell.
Just before the Battle of Prairie Grove the Federal men came thru. Some
officers stopped and wanted us to cook for them. Paid us well, too. One
man took little Nora on his lap and almost cried. He said she reminded
him of his own little girl he'd maybe never see again. He gave her a
cute little ivory handled pen knife. He asked Mrs. Blakeley if he
couldn't leave his pistols with her until he came back thru
Fayetteville. She told him it was asking too much, what would happen to
her and her family if they found those weapons in her possession? But
he argued that it was only for a few days. She hid them under a tub in
the basement and after waiting a year gave them to her brother when he
came through. The Yankees met the Southerners at Prairie Grove. The
shots sounded just like popcorn from here in Fayetteville. We always
thought the man got killed there.
The soldiers camped all around everywhere. Lots of them were in tents
and some of the officers were in houses. They didn't burn the
college--where Miss Sawyer had taught, you know. The officers used it
for their living quarters. They built barracks for the men of upright
logs. See that building across the street. It's been lots of things, a
livery stable, veterinary barn, apartment house. But it was one of the
oldest buildings in Arkansas. They've kept on remodeling it. The Yankees
made a commissary out of it. Later on they moved the food up on the
square and used it for a hospital. I can remember lots of times seeing
the feet of dead men sticking out of the windows.
Your Aunt Nora's mother saved that building from being burned. How did
it happen? Well you see both sides were firing buildings--the
Confederates to keep the Yankees from getting them, and the other way
about. But the Southerners did most of the burning. Mrs. Blakeley's
little boy was sick with fever. She and a friend went up, because they
feared burnings. They sat there almost all night. Parties of men would
come along and they would plead with them. One sat in one doorway and
the other in the building next. Mrs. Blakely was a Southerner, the other
woman a Northerner. Between them they kept the buildings from being
burned: saved their own homes thereby and possibly the life of the
little sick boy.
It was like that in Fayetteville. There were so many folks on both sides
and they lived so close together that they got to know one another and
were friends. Things like this would happen. One day a northern officer
came over to our house to talk to his wife who was visiting. He said he
would be away all day. He was to go down to Prarie Grove to get 'Old Man
Parks, dead or alive'. Not until he was on his way did somebody tell him
that he was talking about the father of his wife's hostess. Next day he
came over to apologize. Said he never would have made such a cruel
remark if he had known. But he didn't find his man. As the officers went
in the front door, Mr. Parks went out of the back and the women
surrounded him until he got away.
There was another time when the North and South took refuge together.
During the war even the little children were taught to listen for bugle
calls and know what they meant. We had to know--and how to act when we
heard them. One day, I remember we were to have peas for dinner, with
ham hock and corn bread. I was hungry that day and everything smelled so
good. But just as the peas were part of them out of the pot and in a
dish on the table the signal came 'To Arms'. Cannon followed almost
immediately. We all ran for the cellar, leaving the food as it was.
The cellar was dug out only a little way down. It had been raining and
snowing all day--melted as it fell. It was about noon and the seep water
had filled a pool in the middle of the cellar. They placed a tub in the
water and it floated like a little boat. They put Nora and a little girl
who was visiting her, and me in it. The grown folks clung to the damp
sides of the cellar floor and wall. After the worst bombing was over we
heard someone upstairs in the house calling. It was the wife of a
Northern officer. He had gotten away so fast he had forgotten his
pistols. She had tried to follow him, but the shots had frightened her.
We called to her to come to the basement. She came, but in trying to
climb up the slick sides she slid down and almost into our tub. She
looked so funny with her big fat legs that I giggled. Mrs. Blakeley
slapped me--it was one of the few times she struck me. I was glad she
did, for I would have laughed out. And it didn't do to laugh at
It wes night before the fighting was over. An old man who was in the
basement with us went upstairs because he heard someone groan. Sure
enough a wounded man had dragged himself to our door. He laid the man,
almost fainting down before the fireplace. It was all he could do. The
man died. When we finally came up there wasn't a pea, nor a bit of ham,
not a crum of cornbread. Floaters had cleaned the pot until it shone.
We had a terrible time getting along during those years. I don't believe
we could have done it except for the Northern soldiers. You might say
the Confederacy was kept up by private subscription, but the Yankees had
the whole Federal government back of them. They had good rations which
were issued uncooked. They could get them prepared anywhere they liked.
We were good cooks so that is the way we got our food--preparing it for
soldiers and eating it with them. They had quite a variety and a lot of
everything. They were given bacon and coffee and sugar and flour and
beans and somthing they called 'mixed vegetables'. Those beans were
little and sweet--not like the big ones we have today. The mixed
vegetables were liked by lots of folks--I didn't care for them.
Everything was ground up together and then dried. You had to soak it
like dried peas before cooking.
After the war they came to Mrs. Blakeley, the soldiers did, and accused
her of keeping me against my will. I told them that I stayed because I
wanted to, the Blakeleys were my people. They let me alone, the whites
did, but the negroes didn't like it. They tried to fight me and called
me names. There was a well near the square from which everybody got
water. Between it and our house was a negro cabin. The little negroes
would rock me. I stood it as long as I could. Then I told Mrs. Blakeley.
She said to get some rocks in my bucket and if they rocked me to heave
back. I was a good shot and they ran. Their mother came to Mrs. Blakeley
to complain, but she told her after hearing her thru that I had stood
all I could and the only reason I hadn't been seriously hurt was because
her children weren't good shots. They never bothered me again.
It was hard after the war. The Federals stayed on for a long time.
Fences were down, houses were burned, stock was gone, but we got along
somehow. When Nora Blakeley was 14 a lady was teaching a subscription
school in the hall across the street--the same hall Mrs. Blakely had
saved from burning. She wanted Nora to teach for her. So, child that she
was, she went over and pretty soon she was teaching up to the fourth
grade. I went over every morning and built a fire for her before she
That fall she went over to the University, but the next year she had to
stay out to earn money. She wanted to finish so badly that we decided to
take boarders. They would come to us from way over on the campus. There
were always lots more who wanted to stay than we could take. We bought
silver and dishes just as we could pay for them, and we added to the
house in the summer time. I used to cook their breakfasts and dinners
and pack baskets of lunch for them to take over to the Campus. We had
lots of interesting people with us. One was Jeff Davis--later he was
governor and then senator. He and a Creek Indian boy named Sam Rice were
great friends. There were lots of Indians in school at the University
then. They didn't have so many Indian schools and tribes would make up
money and send a bright boy here.
Ten years after she graduated from the University Nora married Harvey M.
Hudgins. They moved to Hot springs and finally ran a hotel. It burned
the night of Washington's birthday in 1895. It was terrible, we saved
nothing but the night clothes we were in. Next morning it was worse for
we saw small pox flags all over town. Our friends came to our rescue and
gave us clothes and we went with friends out into the country to escape
the epidemic. There were three or four families in one little house. It
was crowded, but we were all friends so it was nice after all.
About ten years before Mr. Hudgins had built a building in Fayetteville.
They used the second floor for an Opera House. When we came back here
after the fire we took it over to run. Mr. Hudgins had that and all the
billboards in town. We saw all the shows. Several years later the twins,
Helen and Wade were born. I always went to see the shows and took them
with me. Folks watched them more than the shows. I kept them neat and
clean and they were so cute.
We saw the circuses too. I remember once Barnum and Bailey were coming
to Fort Smith. We were going down. I didn't tell anybody, but I put $45
in my purse. I made money then. Mr. Hudgins got me a cow and I sold milk
and butter and kept all I made. Why the first evening dress Helen had
and the first long pants Bud (Wade) had I bought. Well, we were going
down to Fort Smith, but Bud got sick and we couldn't go. You know, Mary,
it seemed so queer. When Helen and I went to California, we all saw the
same circus together. Yes, I've been to California with her twice.
Whenever the train would stop she would come from the pullman to the
coach where the colored persons had to ride to see about me. We went out
to visit Sister (Bess Hudgins Clayton) and Bud. While we were there,
Barnum and Bailey came to Los Angeles. It seemed so funny. There we
were--away out in California--all the children grown up and off to
themselves. There we were--all of us--seeing the show we had planned to
see way back in Arkansas, years and years before.
You know, Honey, that doll Ann has--she got it for her seventh birthday
(Elisabeth Ann Wiggans--daughter of Helen Hudgins Wiggans). It was
restrung for her, and was once before for her mother. But it's the same
doll Baby Dean (Dean Hudgins) carried out of that fire in Hot Springs in
1895. Everybody loves Ann. She makes the fifth generation I've cared
for. When Helen is going out she brings Ann down here or I go up there.
It's usually down here tho. Because since we turned the old home into
apartments I take care of them, and it's best for me to be here most of
All the people in the apartments are mighty nice to me. Often for days
at a time they bring me so much to eat that I don't have to cook for
myself. A boy going to the University has a room here and tends to the
furnace. He's a nice boy. I like him.
My life's been a full one, Honey, and an interesting one. I can't really
say which part of it is best. I can't decide whether it's a better world
now or then. I've had lots of hard work, and lots of friends, lots of
fun and I've gone lots of places. Life is interesting."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Vera Roy Bobo (Mulatto, almost white)
Holly Grove, Arkansas
"My parents come from Macon, Georgia. My mother was Margaret Cobb. Her
people were owned by the Cobbs. They reared her. She was a house girl
and a seamstress. She sewed for both white and black. She was light
"My father was St. Roy Holmes. He was a C.M.E. preacher in Georgia and
later in Arkansas. He came on the train to Forrest City, 1885. He
crossed the Mississippi River on a ferry boat. Later he preached at
Wynne. He was light color.
"I never heard them say very much about slavery. This was their own
"My husband's father was the son of a white man also--Randall Bobo. He
used to visit us from Bobo, Mississippi. The Bobo a owned that town and
were considered rich people. My husband was some darker and was born at
Indian Bay, Arkansas. He was William Bobo. I never knew him till two
months before I married him. We had a home wedding and a wedding supper
in this house."
(This may be continued)
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Liddie Boechus, (second interview)
"I was born in West Point, Mississippi. My own dear mother's owner was
Pool. His wife was Mistress Patty Pool. Old man Pool raised our set. He
was an old soldier, I think. He was old when I came to know him.
"My own papa's pa was Smith. After he came back from the Civil War he
took back his Smith name. He changed it back from Pool to Smith.
"I was a small child when my own dear mother died. My stepmother had
some children of her own, so papa hired me out by the year to nurse for
my board and clothes. My stepmother didn't care for me right. White
folks raised me.
"I married when I was fifteen years old to a man twenty years old or
more. White folks was good to me but I didn't have no sense. I lef' 'em.
I married too young. I lived wid him little over twelve years, and I had
twelve children by him. Then I married a preacher. We had two more
children. My first husband was trifling. I ploughed, hoed, split wood to
raise my babies.
"My daughter come from Louisiana to stay with me last winter when I was
sick. I got eight dollars, now I gets six dollars from the Welfare. My
daughter here now.
"I went to one white teacher a few days--Miss Perkins. I never got to go
enough to learn. I took up reading and writing from my children. I write
mighty poor I tell you.
"I used to be a midwife and got ten dollars a case. They won't pay off
now. I do a little of that work, but I don't get nothing for it. They
have a doctor or won't pay.
"My husband was a good man. He was a preacher. I'm a Baptist.
"I don't know what to think about young folks. Every feller is for his
own self. Times is hard with old folks. I had a stroke they said. This
new generation ain't got no strength. I think it is because they set
around so much. What would a heap of them do? A long day's work in the
field would kill some of them. It would! Some folks don't work 'nough to
be healthy. I don't know, but though, I really believes education and
automobiles is the whole cause."
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Maggie (Bunny) Bond, Madison, Arkansas
Age: Well up in 80's
"I was born at Magnolia, North Carolina. Lou Nash named me Maggie after
my mistress. That was her name. They had a rabbit they called Bunny. It
died. They started calling me Bunny. Our old mistress was a Mallory from
Virginia. She was the old head of all these at Forrest City. (A big
family of people are descendants at Forrest City.)
School During the War
"Mrs. Eddy Williams said to my mother, 'Let her go to school and play
with the children.' I was young. I don't know how old I was. I was
washed, my hair combed, and clean dresses put on me. I went to school
four or five days. I set by different ones. They used slates. It was a
log schoolhouse. It had a platform the teacher sat on. They preached in
it on Sunday. Where Mt. Vernon Cemetery now stands. The teacher was Mrs.
McCallis. She rode horseback from out of the bottoms. The families of
children that come there were: Mallorys, Izards, Nashs, Dawsons,
Kittrells, and Pruitts.
"There was a big oak tree in front. The boys played on one side, the
girls on the other. Cake and pie was a fortune then. If the children had
any they would give me part of it. Times was so hard then people had
plain victuals every day at school.
"The children tried to learn me at recess under the tree. They used
McGuffey's and Blue Back books. One day I said out loud, 'I want to go
home.' The children all laughed. One day I went to sleep and the teacher
sent me out doors to play. Mrs. McCallis said, 'Bunny, you mus'n't talk
out loud in school.' I was nodding one day. The teacher woke me up. She
wrapped her long switch across the table. She sent me to play. The house
set up on high blocks. I got under it and found some doodle holes. Mrs.
McCallis come to the door and said, 'Bunny, don't call so loud. You must
keep quiet.' I would say: 'Doodle, doodle, your house on fire. Come get
some bread and butter.' They would come up.
"After the War I had a white lady teacher from the North. I went a
little bit to colored school but I didn't care about books. I learned to
sew for my dolls. The children would give me a doll all along.
"The happiest year of my whole life was the first year of my married
life. I hardly had a change of clothes. I had lots of friends. I went to
the field with Scott. I pressed cotton with two horses, one going around
and the other coming. Scott could go upstairs in the gin and look over
at us. We had two young cows. They had to be three years old then before
they were any service. I fed hogs. I couldn't cook but I learned. I had
been a house girl and nurse.
"I was nursing for Mrs. Pierce at Goodwin. I wanted to go home. She
didn't want me to leave. I wouldn't tell her why. She said, 'I speck you
going to get married.' She gave me a nice white silk dress. Mrs.
Drennand made it. My owner, Miss Leila Nash, lend me one of her
chemisette, a corset cover, and a dress had ruffles around the bottom.
It was wide. She never married. I borrowed my veil from a colored woman
that had used it. Mr. Rollwage (dead now but was a lawyer at Forrest
City) gave Scott a tie and white vest and lend him his watch and chain
to be married in. They was friends. Miss Leila made my cake. She wanted
my gold band ring to go in it. I wouldn't let her have it for that. Not
my ring! She put a dime in it. Miss Maggie Barrow and Mrs. Maggie
Hatcher made two baskets full of maple biscuits for my wedding. They was
the best cake. Made in big layers and cut and iced. Two laundry baskets
full to the brim."
She showed us a white cedar three-gallon churn, brass hoops hold the
staves in place, fifty-seven years old and a castor with seven cruits
patented December 27, 1859. It was a silver castor and was fixed to ring
for the meal.
She showed us the place under a cedar tree where there are four unmarked
graves--Mr. and Mrs. McMurray and their son and daughter and one niece.
The graves are being ploughed over now.
"Mrs. Murray's son gave her five hundred dollars. She hid it. After she
died no one knew where to find it."
Scott Bond bought the place. Bunny was fixing the hearth (she showed us
the very spot) brick and found a brick. Dora threw it out. The can could
never be found and soon Dora went home near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Dora
was a Negro servant in the Bond home. It seems the money was in the old
can that Bunny found but thought it was just a prop for the brick.
Maggie (Bunny) Bond has given two of her white friends coffins. One was
to a man and two years ago one was to a woman, Mrs. Evans' daughter. She
wanted to do something, the nicest thing she could do for them, for they
had been good to her. People who raised them and had owned them. They
gratefully accepted her present. In her life she has given beautiful and
expensive wedding preaents to her white friends who raised her and owned
her. She told us about giving one and someone else said she gave two.
Theo Bond's wife said this about the second one.
The Yankees passed along in front of the Scott Bond home from Hunter,
Arkansas to Madison, Arkansas. It was an old military road. The Yankees
burnt up Mt. Vernon, Arkansas. Madison was a big town but it overflowed
so bad. There were pretty homes at Madison. Levies were not known, so
the courthouse was moved to Forrest City. Yankees camped at Madison. A
lot of them died there. A cemetery was made in sight of the Scott Bond
yard. The markings were white and black letters and the pailings were
white with black pointed tips. They were moved to the north. Madison
grew to be large because it was on a river.
Maggie (Bunny) Bond is eight-ninth white.
Interviewer: Thomas Elmore Lucy
Person interviewed: Caroline Bonds
"What's all dis info'mation you askin' about goin' to be for? Will it
help us along any or make times any better? All right, then. My name's
Caroline Bonds. I don't know jist exactly when I was born, but I think
it was on de twentieth of March about--about--yes, in 1866, in Anderson
County, North Carolina.
"So you was a 'Tarheel' too? Bless my soul!
"My old master was named Hubbard, and dat was my name at first. My
parents belonged to Marse Hubbard and worked on his big plantation till
dey was freed.
"I was too little to remember much about what happened after de War. My
folks moved to Arkansas County, in Arkansas, soon after de War and lived
down dere a long time.
"I joined de Missionary Baptis' Church when I was fifteen and has
belonged to it ever' since.
"No sir, I never got in de habit of votin' and never did vote, never
thought it was necessary."
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Rev. Frank T. Boone
1410 W. Seventeenth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
[HW: Free Colonies]
"I was born in Nansemond County, Virginia on my father's place near the
center of the County. I was born free. We were members of the colonies.
You know there were what is known as Free Colonies. They were Negroes
that had always been free. The first landing of the Negroes in America,
they claimed, formed a colony. The Negro men who came over, it is said,
could buy their freedom and a number of them did.
"But I didn't become free that way. My ancestors were a white man and an
Indian woman. He was my great-grandfather. None of my family have been
slaves as far back as I know.
"There was one set of white people in Virginia called Quakers. Their
rule was to free all slaves at the age of twenty-one. So we got some
free Negroes under that rule. My mother who was a Negro woman was freed
under this rule. My father was always free.
"My grandmother on my father's side owned slaves. The law was that
colored people could own slaves but they were not allowed to buy them. I
don't know how many slaves my grandmother owned. I didn't know they were
slaves until the War was over. I saw the colored people living in the
little houses on the place but I didn't know they was slaves.
"One morning my grandmother went down to the quarters and when she came
back she said to my aunt, 'Well, the slaves left last night.' And that
was the first I knew of their being slaves.
"My father's name was Frank Boone. I was named for him. My mother's name
was Phoebe Chalk. I don't know who her mother and father were. She said
that her mother died when she was a child. She was raised by Quaker
people. I presume that her mother belonged to these Quaker people.
"On our place no grown person was ever whipped. They was just like one
family. They called grandmother's house the big house. They farmed. They
didn't raise cotton though. They raised corn, peas, wheat, potatoes, and
all things for the table. Hogs, cows, and all such like was raised. I
never saw a pound of meat or a peck of flour or a bucket of lard or
anything like that bought. We rendered our own lard, pickled our own
fish, smoked our own meat and cured it, ground our own sausage, ground
our own flour and meal from our own wheat and corn we raised on our
place, spun and wove our own cloth. The first suit of clothes I ever
wore, my mother spun the cotton and wool, wove the cloth and made the
clothes. It was a mixed steel gray suit. She dyed the thread so as to
get the pattern. One loom carried the black thread through and the other
carried the white thread to weave the cloth into the mixed pattern.
"I don't know how large our place was. Maybe it was about a hundred
acres. Every one that married out of the family had a home. They called
it a free Negro colony. Nothing but Negroes in it.
"My father volunteered and went to the army in 1862. He served with the
Yankees. You know Negroes didn't fight in the Confederate armies. They
was in the armies, but they were servants. My father enrolled as a
soldier. I think it was in Company F. I don't know the regiment or the
division. He was a sergeant last time I saw him. I remember that well, I
remember the stripes on his arm. He was mustered out in Galveston,
Texas, in 1865.
"The house I was born in was a log house, sealed inside. The cracks were
chinked with dirt and mud, and it was weather boarded on the outside.
You couldn't tell it was a log house. It had two rooms. In them times
you didn't cook in the house you lived in. You had a kitchen built off
from the house you lived in just like you have servant quarters now. You
went across the yard to do your cooking. The smokehouse was off by
itself. Milk was off by itself too. The dairy house was where you kept
the flour and sugar and preserves and fruit and pickles and all those
kind of things. No food was kept in the house. The milk house had
shelves all up in it and when you milked the cows the pans and bowls and
crocks were put up on the shelves. Where it was possible the milk house
was built on a branch or spring where you could get plenty of cold
water. You didn't milk in the milk house. You milked in the cow pen
right out in the weather. Then you carried it down to the milk house and
strained it. It was poured out in vessels. When the cream rose it was
skimmed off to churn for butter.
"Feed for the stock was kept in the corn crib. We would call it a barn
now. That barn was for corn and oft'times we had overhead a place where
we kept fodder. Bins were kept in the barn for wheat and peas.
Slaves on Other Places
"I seen the slaves outside the colonies. I was little and didn't pay any
attention to them. Slaves would run away. They had a class of white
people known as patrollers. They would catch the slaves and whip them. I
never saw that done. I heard them talking about it. I was only a child
and never got a chance to see the slaves on the places of other people,
but just heard the folks talking about them.
Within the Yankee Lines
"When the War broke out, the free colored people became fearful. There
was a great deal of stuff taken away from them by the Confederate
soldiers. They moved into the Yankee lines for protection. My family
moved also. They lost live stock and feed. They lost only one horse and
then they came back home. I can see that old horse right now. He was a
sorrel horse, with a spot in his forehead, and his name was John. My
father was inside the Yankee lines when he volunteered for the service.
I don't know how much he got or anything about it except that I know the
Yankees were holding Portsmouth, Norfolk, Hampton Roads, and all that
Expectations of the Slaves
"I could hear my mother and uncle talk about what the slaves expected. I
know they was expecting to get something. They weren't supposed to be
turned out like wild animals like they were. I think it was forty acres
and a mule. I am not sure but I know they expected something to be
settled on them.
What They Got
"If any of them got anything in Virginia, I don't know anything about
it. They might have been some slaves that did get something--just like
they was here in Arkansas.
"Old Man Wilfong, when he freed Andy Wilfong in Bradley County,
Arkansas, gave Andy plenty. He did get forty acres of land. That is
right down here out from Warren. Wilfong owned that land and a heap more
when he died. He hasn't been dead more than six or seven years. I
pastored him in 1904 and 1905. There were others who expected to get
something, but I don't know any others that got it. Land was cheap then.
Andy bought land at twenty-five and fifty cents an acre, and sold the
timber off of it at the rate of one thousand dollars for each forty
acres. He bought hundreds of acres. He owned a section and a section and
one-half of land when he was my member. He had seven boys and two girls
and he gave them all forty acres apiece when they married. Then he sold
the timber off of four forties. Whenever a boy or girl was married he'd
give him a house. He'd tell him to go out and pick himself out a place.
"He sold one hundred and sixty acres of timber for four thousand
dollars, but if he had kept it for two years longer, he would have got
ten thousand dollars for it. The Bradley Lumber Company went in there
and cut the timber all through.
"Wilfong's master's name was Andrew Wilfong, same as Andy's. His master
came from Georgia, but he was living in Arkansas when freedom came.
Later on Andy bought the farm his master was living on when freedom
came. His master was then dead.
Right After the War
"My mother came back home and we went on farming just like we did
before, raising stuff to eat. You know I can't remember much that they
did before the War but I can remember what they did during the War and
after the War,--when they came back home. My folks still own the old
place but I have been away from there sixty-one years. A whole
generation has been raised up and died since I left.
"I came out with one of my cousins and went to Georgia (Du Pont)
following turpentine work. It was turpentine farming. You could cut a
hole in the tree known as the box. It will hold a quart. Rosin runs out
of that tree into the box. Once a week, they go by and chip a tree to
keep the rosin running. Then the dippers dip the rosin out and put it in
barrels. Them barrels is hauled to the still. Then it is distilled just
like whiskey would be. The evaporation of it makes turpentine; the rosin
is barreled and shipped to make glass. The turpentine is barreled and
sold. I have dipped thousands of gallons of turpentine.
"I came to South Carolina in 1880 and married. I stayed there seven
years and came to Arkansas in 1888. I came right to North Little Rock
and then moved out into the country around Lonoke County,--on a farm. I
farmed there for five years. Then I went to pastoring. I started
pastoring one year before I quit making cotton. I entered the ministry
in 1892 and continued in the active service until November 1937. I put
in forty-five years in the active ministry.
"I first went to school at a little log school in Suffolk, Virginia.
From there I went to Hampton, Virginia. I got my theological training in
Shorter College under Dr. T.H. Jackson.
"I never had any experience with the Ku Klux Klan. I seen white men
riding horses and my mother said they was Ku Kluxes, but they never
bothered us as I remember. They had two sets of white folks like that.
The patrollers were before and during the War and the Ku Klux Klan came
after the War. I can't remember how the Ku Klux I saw were dressed. The
patrollers I remember. They would just be three or four white men riding
Nat Turner Rebellion
"I have heard the 'Nat Turner Rebellion' spoken of, but I don't know
what was said. I think the old people called it the 'Nat Turner War.'
"Lawyer Whipper was one of the best criminal lawyers in the state. He
was a Negro. The Republican party had the state then and the Negroes
were strong. Robert Small was a noted politician and was elected to go
to Congress twice. The last time he ran, he was elected but had a hard
fight. The election was so close it was contested but Small won out. He
was the last nigger congressman. I heard that there were one or two
more, but I don't remember them.
"When I first went to South Carolina, them niggers was bad. They
organized. They used to have an association known as the Union Laborers,
I think. The organization was like the fraternal order. I don't know's
they ever had any trouble but they were always in readiness to protect
themselves if any conflict arose. It was a secret order carried on just
like any other fraternal order. They had distress calls. Every member
has an old horn which he blew in time of trouble. I think that sane kind
of organization or something like it was active here when I came. The
Eagles (a big family of white people in Lonoke County) had a fight with
members of it once and some of the Eagles were killed a year or two
before I came to this state.
Voting and Political Activities
"I voted in South Carolina, but I wasn't old enough to vote in Georgia.
However, I stumped Taliaferro County for Garfield when I was in Georgia.
I lived in a little town by the name of McCray. The town I was in, they
had never had more than fifteen or twenty Republican votes polled. But I
polled between two hundred and three hundred votes. I was one of the
regular speakers. The tickets were in my care too. You see, they had
tickets in them days and not the long ballots. They didn't have long
ballots like they have now. The tickets were sent to me and I took care
of them until the election. In the campaign I was regularly employed
through the Republican Campaign Committee Managers.
"According to preparation and conditions there were less corruption then
than there is now. In them days, they had to learn the tricks. But now
they know them. Now you find the man and he already knows what to do.
"Back in that period, nearly all the songs the Negro sang considerably
were the spirituals: 'I'm Going Down to Jordan,' 'Roll Jordan Roll.'"
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: J.F. Boone
1502 Izard, Little Rock, Arkansas
[HW: A Union Veteran]
"My father's name was Arthur Boone and my mother's name was Eliza Boone,
I am goin' to tell you about my father. Now be sure you put down there
that this is Arthur Boone's son. I am J.F. Boone, and I am goin' to tell
you about my father, Arthur Boone.
"My father's old master was Henry Boone. My mother came from
Virginia--north Virginia--and my father came from North Carolina. The
Boones bought them. I have heard that my father, Arthur Boone, was
bought by the Boones. They wasn't his first masters. I have heard my
father say that it was more than a thousand dollars they paid for him.
"He said that they used to put up niggers on the block and auction them
off. They auctioned off niggers accordin' to the breed of them. Like
they auction off dogs and horses. The better the breed, the more they'd
pay. My father was in the first-class rating as a good healthy Negro and
those kind sold for good money. I have heard him say that niggers
sometimes brought as high as five thousand dollars.
"My father don't know much about his first boss man. But the Boones were
very good to them. They got biscuits once a week. The overseer was
pretty cruel to them in a way. My father has seen them whipped till they
couldn't stand up and then salt and things that hurt poured in their
wounds. My father said that he seen that done; I don't know whether it
was his boss man or the overseer that done it.
"My father said that they breeded good niggers--stud 'em like horses and
cattle. Good healthy man and woman that would breed fast, they would
keep stalled up. Wouldn't let them get out and work. Keep them to raise
young niggers from. I don't know for certain that my father was used
that way or not. I don't suppose he would have told me that, but he was
a mighty fine man and he sold for a lot of money. The slaves weren't to
blame for that.
"My father said that in about two or three months after the War ended,
his young master told them that they were free. They came home from the
War about that time. He told them that they could continue living on
with them or that they could go to some one else if they wanted to
'cause they were free and there wasn't any more slavery.
"I was born after slavery. Peace was declared in 1865, wasn't it? When
the War ended I don't know where my father was living, but I was bred
and born in Woodruff near Augusta in Arkansas. All the Booneses were
there when I knew anything about it. They owned hundreds and hundreds of
acres of ground. I was born on old Captain Boone's farm.
"My father was always a farmer. He farmed till he died. They were
supposed to give him a pension, but he never did get it. They wrote to
us once or twice and asked for his number and things like that, but they
never did do nothing. You see he fit in the Civil War. Wait a minute. We
had his old gun for years. My oldest brother had that gun. He kept that
gun and them old blue uniforms with big brass buttons. My old master had
a horn he blowed to call the slaves with, and my brother had that too.
He kept them things as particular as you would keep victuals.
"Yes, my father fit in the Civil War. I have seen his war clothes as
many times as you have hairs on your head I reckon. He had his old sword
and all. They had a hard battle down in Mississippi once he told me. Our
house got burnt up and we lost his honorable discharge. But he was
legally discharged. But he didn't git nothin' for it, and we didn't
"My father was whipped by the pateroles several times. They run him and
whipped him. My daddy slipped out many a time. But they never caught him
when he slipped out. They never whipped him for slippin' out. That was
during the time he was a slave. The slaves wasn't allowed to go from one
master to another without a pass. My father said that sometimes, his
young master would play a joke on him. My father couldn't read. His
young master would give him a pass and the pass would say, 'Whip Arthur
Boone's --- and pass him out. When he comes back, whip his --- again and
pass him back.' His young master called hisself playin' a joke on him.
They wouldn't hit him more than half a dozen licks, but they would make
him take his pants down and they would give them to him jus' where the
pass said. They wouldn't hurt him much. It was more devilment than
anything else. He would say, 'Whut you hittin' me for when I got a
pass?' and they would say, 'Yes, you got a pass, but it says whip your
---.' And they would show it to him, and then they would say, 'You'll
git the res' when you come back.' My father couldn't read nothin' else,
but that's one word he learnt to read right well.
"My father was quite a young man in his day. He died in 1891. He was
just fifty-six years old. I'm older now than he was when he died. My
occupation when I was well was janitor. I have been sick now for three
years and ain't done nothin' in all that time. If it wasn't for my wife,
I don't know whut I would do.
"I was born in 1872, on December the eighth, and I am sixty-six years
old now. That is, I will be if the Lord lets me live till December the
eighth, this year.
"Now whose story are you saying this is? You say this is the story of
Arthur Boone, father of J.F. Boone? Well, that's all right; but you
better mention that J.F. Boone is Arthur Boone's son. I rent this house
from Mr. Lindeman. He has the drug store right there. If anybody comes
lookin' for me, I might be moved, but Mr. Lindeman will still be there."
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