Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Stewart, Charley

Charley Stewart is of mixed blood, Indian, white and Negro. He has straight features, straight black hair turning gray, high cheek bones, and is colored like an Indian. He is five feet and ten inches tall and weighs 150 pounds. He lives alone in a little three-room house which he owns. He has no relatives. He lives on the northern outskirts of Gulfport. He has lived here about forty years and says he helped build the first brick houses in Gulfport. He is a mortar-maker and has always been able to make a living until the past few years. He suffers from high-blood pressure, is now very feeble and has to walk with a cane. He tells what he can remember of life as a slave, and what his mother has told him, as follows:

"I was bawn in Bolivar County, Alabama, Oct 4, 1852. My father's name was Robert Stewart. He was a white man. My mother was named Ann. She was part Indian. Her father was a Choctaw Indian and her mother a black woman--a slave.

She was born in Richmond, Va. Her name was Ann Lewis. Robert Stewart bought her and brought her to Alabama, and she tuk de name of Stewart. I was jest seven year old when de war ended, so I mostly remembers whut dey tole me--and dey didn't tell chillun much in dem days.

My mother was de cook and I was de only chile she had. Stewart didn't have no other slaves but us. He jest hired his niggers frum other people. He waz a mean white man and whupped us aplenty.

Old Miss was name Anne and sometime she tell on me and get me whupped, too. Dey had one daughter name Alice. Den Old Mis' had three chillun when she marry Marsta. She was a widow. Dey is all dead now.

I kin remember the pat-a-rollers. Dey kotch de niggers whut run away from der masters. Dey never did git atter me cause I stayed close to my mammy. Dey run dem wid hounds--and de niggers had to climb trees to keep de hounds frum bitin' dem.

When de war was over, Old Masta jest set dar in de chair and ses: "You-all is free now." De Yankees come in der blue coats. Dey went in de smokehouse and tuk whut dey please, and den dey kill 'em a beef. Dey stayed all night in de yard. Dey didn't say anything to me, but--"Good mawnin'"--I didn't know whut it wus all about, but my mammy jest shouted when dey tole her she was free, an' about a week atter dat she left. Some white folks hired her to cook. Dey was good to her and me. She stayed wid dem folks 'bout a year--den she married Tom Pickett. Dey didn't marry in slavr'y times. Old Masta jest give dem a "strip"--dat is a paper wid writin' on it. Dey didn't keer wether der niggers was married or not. Dats all I knows anything 'bout.

Slav'ry times was purty hard on most of us. I wuzn't old nuff to do much but tote water to de fiel' hans, and go git de cows ever evening, but my mammy had to work hard.

I saw old man Stewart lots of times after de war but he never paid no 'tention to me. My mother died over 50 years ago. She been dead over a month 'fore I knowed anything 'bout it. She died in Birmingham and my ole stepdaddy didn't let me know nothing bout it.

I always made a good livin' cause I had a trade. I could make mortar when I was 14 years old. My old woman has been dead 7 year, and since den I have lived by myself. I'd been dead long ago effen I'd a been a slave 'specially effen I'd b'longed to old man Stewart. De old folks is ketching a hard time now, and some of dem is having a harder time dan dey did in slav'ry times, but I'd ruther be free, fer freedom means something to a man."

In a second interview with Charley, he stated that his father was a white man named Robert Stewart. His mother was part-Indian. Her name was Ann, and for the reason her Mistress was also named "Anne"--they called her"Diff." Stewart did not own a plantation of his own; he rented from someone else. He only owned two slaves, Robert stated, his mother and himself; that he hired slaves from other plantations to do his work. Charley describes him as a "very mean man". His mother came from Richmond, Va, but he doesn't remember who her master in Virginia was. She was tall and straight and did not talk much. As he said, "She 'tended to her own business, and didn't bother wid nobody else." Charley says:

"Dey usta say dat I was de very picture of my mother. I don't guess I look anything like my daddy. He never did anything fer me anyway--but tried to kill me one day when he beat me wid a buggy trace. When freedom come my mother was glad enough to leave him. I saw him once or twice after the war, and he said, "Howdy, Charley!" and went on. He never give me nothin.'"

"My mother was quiet. She didn't have much to say to nobody. I don't remember hearin' her sing much, but one of them was:

"My knees is worn, a'waggin' up Zion hill!"

A w-a-g-i-n' u-----p Zi-o-n Hi--l--l!"

Anudder one was:

"My f-a-t-h-e-r id-l-e-d his t-i-m-e aw-a-y,

An' went on d-o-w-n t-o h-e-l-l!"

(Stewart, Lydia, from SOURCE MATERIAL FOR MISSISSIPPI HISTORY, Walthall County, from microfilm)

Top Of Page