PRISCILLA GIBSON is not sure of her age, but thinks she was born about 1856, in Smith County, Mississippi, to Mary Puckett and her Indian husband. They belonged to Jesse Puckett. who owned a plantation on the Strong River. Priscilla now lives in Jesper, Texas.
"Priscilla Gibson is my name, and I's bo'n in Smith County, way over in Mis'ippi, sometime befo' de War. I figger it was 'bout 1856, 'cause I's ole enough to climb de fence and watch dem musterin' in de troops when de war began. Dey tol' me I's nine year ole when de War close, but dey ain' sure of dat, even. My neighbor, Uncle Bud Adams, he 83, and I's clippin' close at he heals.
"Manny's name was Mary Puckett, but I never seed my father as I knows of. Don' know if he was a whole Injun or part white man. Never seed but one brother and his name was Jake. Dey took him to de War with de white boys, to cook and min' de camp and he took pneumony and die.
"Massa's name was Jesse Puckett, and Missus' name Mis' Katie. Dey hab big fam'ly and dey live in a big wooded beam house with a big up-stair'. De house was right on de highway from Raleigh to Brandon, with de Strong River jiz' below us. Dey took in and 'commadated travelers 'cause dey warn' hotels don.
"Massa have humer's of acres. You could walk all day and you never git offen his lan'. An' he have gran' furniture and other things in de house. I kin remember dem, 'cause I use' to he'p 'round de house, run errands and fan Mis' Katie and sich. I 'members chairs with silk coverin's on 'em and dere was de gran' lights, big lamps with de roses on de shades. And eve'ywhere de floors with rugs and de rugs was pretty, dey wasn' like dese thin rugs you sees nowadays. No, ma'em, dey has big flowers on 'em and de feets sinks in 'em. I useter lie down on one of dem rugs in Mis' Katie's room when she's asleep and I kin stop fannin.'
"Massa Puckett was tol'able good to he slaves. We has clothes made of homespun what de nigger women weaved, and de little boys wo' long-tail shirts, with no pants till they's grown. Massa raised sheep and dey make us wool clothes for winter, but we has no shoes.
"De white folks didn' larn us read and write but dey was good to us 'cop' when some niggers try to run away and den dey whips 'em hard. We has plenty to eat and has prayer meetin's with singin' and shoutin', and we chilluns played marbles and jump de rope.
"After freedom come all lef' but me 'cause Missus say she have me boun' to her till I git my age. But I's res'less one night and my sister, Georgy Ann, come see me, and I run off with her, but dey never comes after me. I was scart dey would, 'cause I 'membered 'bout our neighbor, ole Means, and his slave, Sylvia, and she run away and was in de woods, and he'd git on de hose, take de dogs and set 'em on her, and lot dem bite her and tear her clothes.
Gibson, Priscilla -- Additional Interview
Priscilla Gibson is a part Indian negress in whom the Indian features predominate. She is slender, of medium height, has new false teeth, shell-rimmed glasses, and an abundance of kinky, snow-white hair drawn back, and worn in two knots at the nape of her neck. She is always neatly dressed and wears three large rings. She makes hooked rugs, or does minor chores about her daughter's home in Jasper.
"Priscilla Gibson is my name. I was bo'n in Smith county, Mis'ippi, some time befo' de wah. I figure it was 'bout in 1856, 'cause I was ol' 'nough to climb up on de fence an' watch dem musterin' in troops when de wah begin. Dey tole me I was nine year' ol' when de wah close. My neighbor, Uncle Bud Adams, he eighty-t'ree, an' I's clippin' close at he heels."
"Mother's name was Mary Puckett. I neber seed my father as I knows of. Don' know if he was a white man or Injun. We was slaves of de Pucketts in Mis'sippi. Neber seed but one brother, Jake Puckett. Dey tek him to de wah wid de white boys, to cook an' mind de camp. He tuk pneumony an' die'. Bruder Henry was whole lots ol'er dan I was, an' die' befo' I eber seed him."
"Our marster's name was Jesse Puckett, an' Mistess' name was Mis' Katie. Dey hab a big fam'ly. Dey lib in a big wooden-beam house wid a big up-stair'. De house was right on de highway from Raleigh to Brandon, wid de Strong River jis' b'low us. Dey tuk in or 'commodated travelers 'cause dey warn't hotel den. Marster hab a big plantation wid hunnerds of acres. I don' 'member my gran'parents. Mother died w'en my baby sister was five day' ol', den me an' de baby stay' in de house wid de w'ite folks, mos' eb'ry night, an' a cullard woman tuk care of us."
"Uncle Isaac Puckett he too ol' to wuk in de fiel's, so he cook an' mek hoss collars out of shucks. He was de bes' cook we had. Marster was tol'able good to all he slaves. We wo' (wore) little, home-spun, cotton slips in summer, an' de little boys wo' long-tail shirts mek outn' de same kin' er clof. Marster raise' sheep, an' dey mek us home-spun wool clo's for winter. I don' neber 'member havin' no shoe'."
"I didn' see no slaves sol', but I hear' so much 'bout it, seem like I see it. De w'ite folks didn' help us to learn to read an' write. Atter freedom come dey all lef' but me. De gov'ment said dey could stay if dey didn' hab no one to care for 'em, an' Mistess say she hab me boun' (bound) to her 'til I git my age. Dey hab it in writin' dat I was to go to school, but I warn't let to. I stay 'til I was a young lady, den I want' to dress up an' go 'bout. Dey let me go to parties, quiltin's, an' de like, if Uncle Charlie would go 'long an' tek care of me. Dey was better to me dan I know, but I was res'less one night, my sister, Georgy Ann come to see me, an' in de night, I run off wid her, but dey neber come atter me."
"De slaves uster hab prayer meetin's wid singin' an shoutin' at de nigger houses. Dey didn' hab no chu'ches of dere own. Dey went to de w'ite folks' chu'ches, an' sot in de back. Guess I's mos'ly Injun, 'cause a few years ago, a man come 'trough tekin' names of all Injuns,
so dey could buil' a ol' peoples' home for 'em somew'ere in Oklahoma, an' dey didn' tu'n me down."
"W'en we was little, we play marbles, jump de rope, an' mek swings. I use' to know lots of play songs, but I done forgit 'em now."
"Yes, I's seen ghos'tes. I seen ole Jesse, our marster, atter he die'. Eb'ry eb'ning, we hatter tote water an' put it on de back po'ch. One night, I was totin' water an' ol' Jesse come 'long an' pass' me. We raise' indigo an' dye' clot' for clo's an' he had on dem same indigo dye' clo's. He walked a long way pas' me. I sot my buckets down, an' w'en I tu'n to look for him, he was gone. I knew it was his spirit. It seems eb'ry hair on my head stan' right straight up. I run to de kitchen an' holler', 'Aunt Tempie!' (de cook) I seed Marster.' She say, 'Dat ain' nuffin', I see him lots 'er times.' I knowed it was him, 'cause I uster git him switches to whip us. He didn' whip us hard. He tuk one he knowed would bre'k purty quick an' w'en it did, he' say, 'Dar now, run 'long, an' don' you neber do dat no mo', but Miss Katie she lay it on to us."
"Ol' Katie was a doctor. She doctor' de slaves les' dey get bad sick, den she sen' for Dr. Patten w'at lib close by, or for Dr. Finch w'at lib 'bout ten mile' 'way."
"I marry Jerry Gibson. Us was marry by de Justice of de Peace. We raise' a fam'ly of seben chillen."
"A neighbor, ol' Means, hab one ol' woman slave, Sylvia, w'at uster run 'way. He'd heat a stick, an' stick it on her neck, an' beat her, den she' tek to de woods, an' stay dere fo' days. Us'd see her peepin'
an' watchin' 'bout in de woods. Ol' Means would git on his horse, tek de dogs an' set on her, an' let dem bite her an' tear her clo's."
"De w'ite folks hab a big loom w'er de w'ite gals weave clot'. Dey hab me make dem snuff. I tuk ol' Marster's t'baccer an' put it on a big lid or pan. I kep' stirrin' an' turnin' it ober on de fire in de fire-place. Den I salt' it, tuk it off, put it in a clean rag an' powder' it, den it was ready fo' use. De sojers camp' at de gin w'en dey come atter boys w'at run 'way, or who stay' too long on de furlo's. Marster hab a nice horse train' for war, an' dey git him."
"Marster's boys, Tommy an' Jesse, would be out scoutin' at night an' come in for breakfas'. Dey'd lay dere guns down by dere side. Dey would put me on de front po'ch to watch. One mawnin' I see a lot of cav'ry comin' up ober de hill. I run an' tol' dem. Dey grab dere guns an' run an' hide in de sage bresh out in de fiel' behin' de house. De sojers (soldiers) come swarmin' like bees, and dey neber fin' de boys. Tommy was kill' at Vicksburg. Dey brung him home an' bury him in Smith county, Miss'ippi, an' later on Jesse an' some mo' boys."
"My husban' lubbed to farm, an' he farm' 'til 'bout ten year' ago, w'en he die. Den we sol' our house, an' come to Lou'sana w'ere one daughter lib. Millie Mayfeild, my ol'es' daughter, libs in Vicksburg. Den I got a son in Carrullersville, Missouri. He's a dentist an' mek my teeth. I visit wid him a year, but come back here to Willie's 'cause I allus want to stay wid her an' her big fam'ly of chillen."
Dibble, Fred, P.W. Beaumont, Jefferson, Dist. #3 (June 1, 1937 (Yes))