Forrest City, Arkansas
Age About 807
"I was born in Decatur, Tennessee. Mother was sold on the block at public auction in St. Louis. Master Bob Young bought a boy and a girl. My father was a full-blood Irishman. His name was Lassiter. She didn't have no more children by him. He was hired help on Bob Young's place.
"Bob Young had one thousand five hundred acres of land. He had several farms. Little Hill and Creek farms. They had a rock walk from the kitchen to the house. I slept in a little trunnel bed under my mother's mistress' bed. The bed was corded and had a crank. They used no slats in them days. We called Master Bob Young's wife Miss Nippy; her name was Per/nol/i/py. They was good old people. His boys was rough. They drunk and wasted the property.
"The white folks had feather beds and the slaves had grass beds. We'd pull grass and cure it. It made a good bed. Miss Nippy learnt us to work. I know how to do near 'bout anything now. She kept an ash hopper dripping all the time. We made all our soap and lye hominy by the washpots full. Mother cooked and washed and kept house. She took the lead wid the housework. Miss Nippy ride off when she got ready. Mother went right on wid the work. I took care of the chickens and took the cows to the pasture. I helped to wash clothes. I stood on a block to turn meat. We had a brick stove and a grill to fry meat on. We had good clothes and good to eat. After I was grown I'd go back to see Miss Nippy. She raised me. She say, 'I thought so much of your mama. I love you. I hope you live a long time.' Mama had a hard time and Miss Nippy knowd all about it.
"After Bob Young bought mother he went back and bought Aunt Sarah. They growed up together. They could dance with a glass of water on their heads and never spill a drap.
"Ma said when she married they had a corn shucking and a big dinner four o'clock in the morning. Her name was Luiza. She had two children by him. Aunt Jane on Welches place took him away from her. He quit mother cold to go wid her. After freedom she married Ban Pitts. The way she married at the corn shucking, they jumped over the broom back'ards and Master Bob Young 'nounced it. She was killed no time after freedom, but she had had six children. Miss Nippy kept me. She was good to me and trained me to read. We all never left after freedom. I never left till I was good and grown.
"I always thought Master Bob Young buried his money during the War. Children wasn't allowed to watch and ask questions. I was standing in the chimney corner and seen him bury a box of something in the flower garden. I was in Miss Nippy's room. I never did know if it was money or what. He had a old yaller dog followed him all the time. Truman was a speckled dog set about on the front porch to bark.
"Sam, the boy that was bought when I was in St. Louis, was hard to control. Bob Young beat him. He died. They said he killed him. They buried him in the white folks' cemetary.
"They celebrated Christmas visiting and big parties. We would have eggnog and ten or fifteen cakes. Master Bob Young was a consumptive. He had it thirty-five years. They all died out with it.
They kept a big ten or fifteen gallon demijohn with willow woven around the bottom full of whiskey, all the time upstairs. They kept the door locked.
"I stole miny ah drink. Find the door unlocked. I got too much one time. It made me sick. I thought I had a chill. She thought I been upstairs. They was particular with the children, both black and white then. They put the children to bed by sundown and they would set around the fire and talk. She raised Elnora and the baby Altona after mother got killed. She give them good clothes and good to eat. Their papa took the boy. He left after mother got killed. We took a pride in the place like it was our own. We didn't know but what it was our very own.
"We had a acre in garden. We raised everything. We had three or four thousand pounds of meat and three cribs of corn. I ketched it when I left them. I made thirty-three crops in my life. My children all grown and gone. My son-in-law died. He had dropsy eight months. He had a dead liver. I've wanted since he died. I've had a hard time since he died. He was a worker and so good to us all.
"Mother worked with a white woman. Mother was full-blood Indian herself. The woman's husband got to dealing with his daughter. She had three babies in all. They said they put them up in the ceiling, up in a loft. This old man got med with Bob Young and burnt his gin. Mother seen him slipping around. They ask her but she wouldn't tell on him, for she didn't see him set it on fire. They measured the tracks. He got scared mother would tell on him. One night a colored man on the place come over. Her husband was gone somewhere and hadn't got home. She was cooking supper. They heard somebody but thought it was a pig come around.
Hogs run out all time. The step was a big limestone rock. She opened the door and put the hot lid of the skillet on it to cool. Stood it up sideways. Then they heard a noise at that door. It was pegged. So she went along with the cooking. It wasn't late. He found a crack at the side of the stick and dirt chimney, put the muzzle of the gun in there and shot her through her heart. The man flew. She struggled to the edge of the bed and fell. The children was asleep and I was afraid to move. The moon come up. I couldn't get her on the bed. I put a pillow under her head and a quilt over her, but I didn't think she was dead. The baby cried in the night. I was so scared I put the eight-months-old baby down under there to nurse. It nursed. She was dead then, I think now. When four o'clock come it was daylight. The little brother said, 'I know what's the matter, our mama's dead.' I went up to Mr. Bob Young's. He brought the coroners. I was so young I was afraid they was going to take us to jail. I asked little brother what they said they was going to do. He said, 'They are going to bury mama in a heep (deep) hole. They set out after her husband and chased him clear off. They thought he shot her by him not coming home that night and her cooking supper for him.
"This white man left and went to Texas. His wife said the best woman in Decatur had been killed. They put him on the gallows for killing his daughter's babies, three of them and put them in the loft. He told how he killed mother. He had murdered four. He was afraid mother would tell about him. She knowd so much. She didn't tell. Indians don't tell. She was with his girl when the first baby was born, but she thought it died and she thought the girl come home visiting, so his wife said she had told her to keep her from telling. It was a bad disgrace. His wife was a good, humble, kind woman.
"Master Bob Young sent for Ben Pitts after they'd run him off, and he let him have his pick of us. He took the boy and lived on the place. Her other husband come and got his two children. Miss Nippy took our baby girl and the other little girl. I was raised up at her house, so she kept me on. Kept us all till we married off.
"I'd feel foolish to go try to vote. I'm too old now.
"I don't get help from the government yet. We are having a hard time to scratch around and not go hungry."
Interviewer Miss Irene Robertson"