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Johnson, Spence

SPENCE JOHNSON was born free, a member of the Chectaw Nation, in the Indian Territory, in the 1850's. He does not knew his exact age. He and his mother were stolen and sold at auction in Shreveport to Riley Surratt, who lived near Shreveport, on the Texas -Louisiana line. He has lived in Wace since 1874.

"De nigger stealers done stole me and my mammy out'n de Choctaw Nation, up in de Indian Territory, when I was 'bout three years old. Brudder Knex, Sis Hannah, and my mammy and her two step-chillun was down on de river washin'. De nigger stealers drive up in a big carriage and mammy jus' thought nothin', 'cause the ford was near dere and people goin' on de road stopped to water de horses and res' awhile in de shade. By'n by, a man coaxes de two bigges' chillun to de carriage and give dem some kind-a candy. Other chillun sees dis and goes, too. Two other men was walkin' 'round smokin' and gettin' closer to mammy all de time. When he kin, de man in de carriage get do two big step-chillun in with him and me and sis' clumb in too, to see now come. Den de man haller, 'Git de ole one and let's git from hore.' With dat de two big men grab mammy and she fought and screeched and bit and cry, but dey hit her on de head with something and drug her in, and threwed her on de floor. De big chilluns begin to fight for mammy, but one or de men hit 'em hard and off dey driv, with de horses under whip.

"Dis was near a place called Beggy Depot. Dey went down de Red Ribber, 'cross de ribber and on down in Louisian to Shreveport.

Down in Leuisan us was put on what dey call de 'black' and sol' to de highes' bidder. My mammy and her three chillun brung $3,000 flat. De step chillun was sol' to somebody else, but us was bought by Marse Riley Surratt. He was de daddy of Jedge Marshall Surratt, his who get to be jodge here in Wace.

"Marse Riley Surratt had a big plantation; don't know how many acres, but dere was a factory and gins and big houses and lots of nigger quarters. De house was right on de Tex-Louisan line. Mammy cooked for 'em. When Marse Riley bought her, she couldn' speak nothin' but de Choctaw words. I was a baby when us lef' de Choctaw country. My sister looked like a full blood Choctaw Indian and she could pass for a real full blood Indian. Mammy's felks was all Chectaw Indians. Her sisters was Pelly Hogan, and Sookey Hogan and she had a brudder, Helan Tubby. Dey was all known in de Territory in de ole days.

"Near as Marse Riley's books can come to it, I mus' of been be'n 'round 1859, up in de Territory.

"Us run de hay press to bale cotton on de plantation and took cotton by ox wagons to Shreveport. Seven or eight wagons in a train. with three or four yoke of steers to each wagon. Us made 'lasses and cloth and shoes and lots of things. Old Marse Riley had a nigger who could make shoes and if he had to go to court in Carthage, he'd leave nigger make shees for him.

"De quarters was a quarter mile long, all strung out on de creek bank. Our cabin was nex' de big house. De white folks give big balls and had supper gein' all night. Us had lots to eat and dey let us have dances and suppers, too. We never go anywhere. Mammy always cry and 'fraid of bein' stole again.

"Dere was a white man live close to us, but over in Louisan. He had raised him a great big black man what brung fancy price on de block. De black man she' love dat white man. Dis white man would sell ole John - dat's de black man's name - on de block to someman from Georgia or other place fur off. Den, after 'while de white man would steal ole John back and bring him home and feed him good, den sell him again. After he had sol' ole John some lot of times, he coaxed ole John off in de swamp one day and ole John foun' dead sev'ral days later. De white folks said dat de owner kilt him, 'cause a dead nigger won't tell no tales.'

"Durin' de Freedom War, I seed soldiers all over de read. Dey was breakin' hosses what dey stole. Us skeered and didn' let soldiers see us if we could he'p it. Mammy and I stayed on with Marse Riley after Freedom and till I was 'bout sixteen. Den Marse Riley died and I come to Wace in a wagon with Judge Surratt's brother, Marse Taylor Surratt. I come to Wace de same year dat Dr. Levelace did, and he says that was 1874. I married and us had six chillun.

"I can't read or write, 'cause I only went to school one day, De white felks tried to larn me, but I's too thickheaded.

Johnson, Spence -- Additional Interview

Dr. J. D. Lovelace, Fernhome, Waco, Texas---Interview with Spence Johnson. SPENCE JOHNSON**

"De nigger stealers done stole ma an' my mammy out'n de Choctaw Nation up in de Indian territory when I was 'bout three years old. Brudder Knox Sis Hannah, my mammy an' her two step chillun were down on de river washin'. De nigger stealers driv up in a big kerredge an' mammy jus' thought nothin' 'cause was ford near dere an' people goin' on de road stopped to water de stock an' res' 'while in de shade. By-me-by, man koaxed two biggest chillun to de kerredge an' gib dem some kinda candy. Odder chilluns sees dis an' go too. Two odder man walkin' 'roun' smokin' an' gettin' closer to mammy all de time. When he kin, de man in de kerredge got de two big step chillun in de kerredge wid him an' me an' Sis we clumb in too to see how come. Den de man holler "Get de ole un an' let's git from here." Wid dat, de two big men grab mammy an' she fought an' screeched an' bit an' cry but dey hit her on head wif someting an' drug her in an' throwed her on de floor. De big step chilluns dey begin to fight for mammy but one obe de men hit 'em hard an' off dey driv wid de horses under whip.

"Dis was near a place called Boggy Depot. Dey went down Red Ribber, crost de ribber an' on down in Louisan to Shrevepo't. Us jus' lef de close an' wash an' all. Down in Luzian us was put on what dey called de "block" an' sold to de highes' bidder. My mammy an' her three chillun brung $3,000.00 flat. De step chilluns was sold to somebody else but us was bot by Marse Riley Surratt. He was de daddy of Judge Marshall Surratt, him who got to be Judge here in Waco. Marse Riley Surratt had a big plantation. Don't know how many acres, but dere was a factory, gins an' big houses an' lots of nigger quarters. De house was right on de Texas-Louisiana line. Mammy cooked for de Surratt's. When Marse Riley bought her, she couldn't speak nothing but de Choctaw language. I was a baby when us lef' de Choctaw country an' I didn't learn the Indian language. My sister looked like a full blood Choctaw Indian, and she could pass for a real full blood Indian. Mammy's folks were all Choctaw Indians. Mammy's sisters was Polly Hogan, Sookey Hogan and she had a brudder Nolan Tubby. Dey was all well known in de Territory in de old days.

"Near as Marse Riley's books can come to it, I must of been born in 1859. It was up in de Territory. Us used a hay press to bale cotton on Marse Riley's plantation. It was run by two horses. Den us would take de cotton by ox wagons to Shreveport. Dere would be seven and eight wagons in a train wid three to four yoke of steers to each wagon. De cotton was sold in Shreveport. Us made lasses and cloth for close, and shoes an' lots of things on de plantation. Yessum, us made de lumber what we used. Old Marse Riley had a nigger keeper who made shoes an' old Marse could make 'em like sto' bot. Ifen he had to go to co't at

Carthage, he'd leave nigger to make shoes. De nigger quarters were a quarter of a mile long all strung out on de creek bank. Mammy was cook an' her cabin was next to de big house. De white folks had big fine kerredge an' purty hosses. Dey gibe big balls an' had supper goin' all night. Us had plenty to eat an' got lettle change offen de white gemmuns dem times. Us niggers had big dances wif suppers. Us had to get a pass to go visit on some other plantation. But us didn't go much. Mammy allus cry an' 'fraid of being stole agin'. An' she was worr'd when us gwine places.

"No'm don't 'member seein' none but us sold. Dere was a white man lib close to us but ober in Luzian. He had raised him a great big black man what brung fancy price on de block. De black man shore love dat white man. Dis white man would sell ole John---dat's de black man's name---on de block to some man from Georgia or other place fur off. Den atter awhile de white man would steal ole John back an' bring him home an' feed him good den sell him agin'. Atter he had sold ole John some lot of times, he coaxed ole John off in de swamp one day an' ole John was found dead several days later. De white folks said dat de owner killed him 'cause 'A dead nigger won't tell no tales."

"Durin' de Freedom War, I seed soldiers all over de road. Dey was breaking horses that dey had stolen. Us skeered an' didn't let soldiers sees us if could help it. Mammy cooked durin' de war an' after 'till I was 'bout sixteen. After Marse Riley Surratt died, I come to Waco in a wagon with Judge Surratt's brother, Marse Taylor Surratt. Dat was atter Freedom War. I have lived 'roun' Waco mos' all de time. Had hard time.

"When us come here Waco was jus' a little place an' lots of log houses. Mr. Neil McLennan an' Major Erath was big men here den. De wild turkeys and deer an' wolves was plentiful. 'Specially out on de Bosque hills. I come to Waco de same year dat Doctor J. D. Lovelace did an' he says that was in 1874. I married an us had six chilluns, four girls an' two boys. My wife was sick a lots. She been dead 'bout twelve or thirteen years. Us bought a little farm but I los' it.

"No'm I can't manage to read nor write case I only went to school one day. De white folks tried sometimes to learn me but I'se too thick headed.

Miss Effie Cowan, P.W. McLennan County, Texas Dist. #8 (March 12, 1938 (No))

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