During the time they come to fighting in the Civil War I was about twelve year old; that make me about 89 year old now, and the year about 1849, when I was born on the Dick Bean plantation over at Lincoln, Arkansas, about 20-mile southwest of Payetteville.
My father was name Joe Bean; mother was name Cosby Bean and when she died about 15-year back she was 112 year old. She was a Cherokee Indian slave; come here from Georgia when the Indians did, but I don't know her master's name, I mean the Indian master. Some time old Master Bean buy her, that's all I know about it.
Our old slave family was a big one, most of them is now dead, but I remember the names, all except two of the little children who died early, having no names. There was Anderson, Mary, Sarah, Cinda, Martha, Rochelle, and Christie; some of the girls still living.
The master was Dick Bean, the mistress was Nancy Bean; they both dead now, the master going first someday before the war closed, while his young son, Dick the Second, was fighting for the South. He come through the war safe enough and live to raise his own son, Dick the Third (I always calls him), who lets me live in this one-room log cabin on his farm, God Bless his soul!
The old master's house in Arkansas was a big six-room, two-story place of pine planks, with a porch all around the house. Not far from the big house was a rock building used for the looms; in there they made cloth and thread, and they make it for anybody what come there with cotton or wool. I helped throw the thread in the loom, and I get the dye stuff the walnut bark for black, the post oak bark that mix in with the copperas for yellow, the log-wood mix in with alum for the red-brown colors.
I remember the old slave cabins, all just alike, setting in a row, with a box-elder tree growing in the middle of the yard. The cabins was only one room, without windows, facing the south, with a fireplace in one end. Six of them cabins fill up the yard, near as I get to it now.
The flooring was rough plank, except around the fireplace where the stones reach out, and where we eat from the wooden dishes on the floor. Lots of good eats for the old master didn't hide out the vegetables and the meats, they always handy in the smokehouse and wide open for the slaves when they needs it. The beds was made of posts put together with wooden pegs, corded rope for the springs covered with cowhide first and then a homespun tick filled with grass straw. Cover that with a homespun quilt and you got the bed.
During the slave times Master Bean had two horses, a bay trotter and a brown single-footer, mighty fine travelers them riding horses. We ride on the squirrel hunts, me on the bay, master close behind on the brown, waiting for me to sight up a squirrel. Them was the best days of all.
But them days go when the fighting starts and when we starts to moving around. The first move was to Dardenelle (Arkansas),
away over from Fort Smith close by the Arkansas River, on a place where lived the old master's married daughter, Eliza. That's where master died.
He stayed shut up in the house a long time 'fore he died. That worry me thought maybe he already dead. Worry me, too, because I always use to put on the master's shoes and tie 'em for him, and bring drinks of spring water to cool him after a long ride, and then I figures to find out is he living or not.
They won't let nobody in the room, just break me up because I was near crazy to be with him when he's sick and need me. So I go around the house and rolls me up a barrel to the window of his room, and there he was laying on the bed by the window and I knock on the glass so he'll turn and see me.
'Joe, Joe, come here!' I hear him like it was yesterday. 'Take a bucket to the spring and get Master Dick a fresh drink.'
They let me take the water to him, and I recollect that was about the last thing I get to do for good old Master Bean.
When he first get sick he was worried about the Federals coming and taking his money. He had gold and silver around the house, heaps of it. He stack it on the floor in long rows to count it before he sack it up getting ready to hide it from the soldiers or the stealing bands that rove around the country.
The money was buried by the master and an old slave man who was the most trusted one on the place. Folks heard about the money being buried and after master died some white man get hold of the old slave and try to make it tell where it was buried. The man heated an old ax and burn the old slave's feet, but he never told. Not until young Master Dick come back from the war.
Young master was full of grieving when he find his daddy dead and the money gone. The old slave ask him, "What you worry so for, Master Dick?'
Master Dick just set there on the porch, face buried in his hands. 'Everything lost in the war,' the young master groaned. 'My daddy is gone, the money is all gone, don't know what me and mama will do.'
'Hush! Young Master Dick, I show where is the money hid. I show you that, but I can't bring back your old daddy; I can't bring back the old master.'
After freedom some of the slaves kept on with old mistress and young Dick, working for good wages.
Right after the war I come to Fort Gibson. Camped in a tenthouse made of elm bark. A Creek Indian drifter moved out and we moved in. Lived about one-half mile from the garrison. Been around here ever since. Once I lived in Jesse James' cave at McBride Switch they calls it nowadays; another time I live on a patch of ground where folks say "Cherokee Bill" (Crawford Goldsby, hanged in 1896, by order of Judge Parker's court at Fort Smith), had a battle with officers on Fourteen-Mile Creek.
When I get to thinking about slave days always I remember of the slaves that run away. Master Bean had a white overseer,
but he didn't allow for no whippings, 'cept maybe he cuff a young one around if he done something real mean or maybe sometimes he sell one for the same reason. Whippings, like some of them rich owners did, No! The old master's hide get all turned around if somebody hit a Negro. He'd let nobody chunk 'em around.
But the ones that run away, well, they get the dogs after 'em. Blood hounds they call 'em, and if a slave be gone two days say, the dogs was used to track, and the masters would say, 'If we don't catch them on this farm catch 'em on the next!'
One time I saw a slave whipped on another plantation. He was a new slave, what I mean, they had just bought him and the overseer said the whipping was 'just to break him in!' First they beat him with a whip, then with a strap, after tieing him to a log. Peeled off his shirt and laid on with the whip, and then pour salt and pepper water over him so's his back would sting and burn.
I see them use blood-hounds a long time after the war. That's when the store safe was robbed at Melvin (Oklahoma), not far from where I live. Went to town when I heard about it, and they brought the dogs in to trail the robber. Them blood hounds look like fat cur dogs to me, but they starts out trailing and pretty quick they's barking and howling at a colored man's house.
Somebody yelled, 'We got him!' But when they all get to where the dogs are they found then all fighting over the pickings of the scrap bucket! And the robber is still free.
A black wool suit and a white poplin shirt, them's my wedding clothes. Got them from the store at Fort Gibson. I married Louisa Alberty; she was a free. Worked for Reverend Dunkin, she did, who was our preacher at the wedding. Married Mary Rogers the next time.
There was lots of children, can't remember all the names. Minnie, Linda, John, Jack, Tom, Potum, lots more than that, can't remember.
I belong to the colored Baptist church because I want a good resting place when I go; if they is such a place as Hell it don't seem like such a good resting place to me.