Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: August 24, 1937
Name: Sarah Ann Harlan
Post Office: Tishomingo, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: January 30, 1829
Place of Birth: Sumter County, Alabama
Father: Sampson Moncrief Place of Birth: Information on father: French and English descent Mother: Place of birth: Information on mother: some degree of Indian blood
Field Worker: Amelia F. Harris Interview # 8248
BIOGRAPHY OF SARAH ANN HARLAN
This Interview was dictated by Sarah Ann Harlan in 1913 when she was 84 years old and the manuscript is owned by Julia V. UNDERWOOD of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Saran Ann Harlan was born in Sumter County, Alabama, January 30, 1829, her father, Sampson MONCRIEF, being of French and English descent and her mother being of some degree of Indian blood. She spent all of her youth in the states of Louisiana and Alabama and in a fine interview dictated by Mrs. Harlan she gives page after page of colorful family history in those southern states. After her marriage to Frasmus Bryant HAWKINS, and after a trip by her parents to visit her brother [William] in the western country she and her husband decided to come to the Indian Country.
There was a great opening in the west, and this being about the time the pale faces were wanting to get the Indians all out of Mississippi and Alabama, a bill was passed to have the Government move us. The Government made appropriations to move us all west, paying our expenses and furnishing one year's rations, issued as the soldiers were issued, every three months. This applied to our Negroes as well as to ourselves. We began to make preparations. There were men who contracted for this work. They went around among the Indians enrolling their names, ages, etc.; and then set the date to leave, traveling by boat. The emigration agents sent the Indians by deck passage.
We emigrated under Lewis & Bridges. We had always traveled by boat, but never by deck passage. We made arrangements with the agent to let us travel our usual way and we would pay the difference ourselves between that and deck passage. We did not think it wise to take deck passage; we had never been used to such a way of traveling. The agent knew that such Indians as we were, and many others just like us, could not stand deck passage. This was in January 1850.
We took the boat at McDowell's landing. When we got there we found pale faced Indians there, too. We then made our start for the west down Tom Bigbee Bayou River to Mobile, Alabama. There we crossed Lake Ponchartrain between Mobile and New Orleans.
Cholera was raging in New Orleans, and we were anxious to take the first boat out. It was an old boat and not a very safe one, by the name of Alvardo. We had not gone up the Mississippi very far, when we found we were not in a first-class boat. Nevertheless, we would have taken anything to get away from the cholera. We found that nearly all of the officers and hands were thieves. We had a single brother along, and they broke into his trunk and stole a number of articles. After this, he brought his money and gave it to one of my sisters saying, "I sleep so soundly I am afraid I'll be robbed." We kept this very quiet, and kept a watch out. One night we saw one of the captain's boys with a little fancy hat that my mother had sent to my brother's little boy we lived in the west. Then my husband and my sister's husband went to the captain and said, "Here is the one who has broken into our brother's trunk." So, the captain made the boy produce all the little trinkets and things that belonged to my brother. We had very great fear, for we knew we were among a den of thieves. We traveled on; and in a night or two Mr. MCCARTY, my brother-in-law, found that his state room was being broken into. We tried to keep good watch; and when this fellow reached in to grab the trunk, my brother-in-law struck out at him with a pocket knife and cut his arm, so that stopped him. Then he awoke all the rest of us, and notified us of what was going on.
We expected to be murdered. We traveled on a little farther, and one very foggy night, the river being very high and the levee breaking in some places, our boat ran upon the levee and tied us up for two days. We signaled every boat that passed, but no one would come to our aid. We learned in after years that steamboats were like everything else: they had a monopoly, and they would not pull us off. Finally, a White River boat came to our rescue. This boat being loaded with salt in sacks, the officers pressed passengers and all into service, carrying sacks, the officers had them to carry sacks from the bow to the stern of the boat. They were a half a day getting us off; but we were glad to get off, for we thought our boat would sink.
In those days, we did not pay our passage until we got to the end of the journey. So the captain had to beg the passengers to help him out by paying half of their fare in order that he might pay the captain of the White Rover boat to pull him off, and we did so. I was the only one of my sisters who was anxious to see and know everything that was being done, and I know this to be so.
There was not much sleeping done by the men from there to the mouth of the Arkansas River. We found we were in another den of thieves. Where the Mississippi backed up into the Arkansas River there was a sea of water: nothing but water as far as the eye could penetrate. An old steamboat was tied upon the wharf to receive passengers and freight, and it was a dismal looking place. Napoleon was the name of this place at the mouth of the Arkansas River. Finding that we were among thieves and cut throats, none of us slept that night but the children. None of us undressed. We landed about dark, and had to stay all night. The next morning, an Arkansas boat came along, the Western Water Lady, it was called, so we took passage on her. There were so many drifts and so much danger on the Arkansas River that we made slow progress. It took us a whole week to get up to Ft. Smith.
My oldest sister's baby was very sick with congestion of the brain. There was a French doctor on the boat who took care of it, and he finally told me it would not recover. So just as we pushed off from Van Buren, the baby drew its last breath.
On this boat I saw, for the first time, a drunken woman. I thought we had struck the other world. She was really boisterous and as we were distressed over the baby's death, I undertook to command her, and quiet her down, she was a well dressed woman, about half breed Cherokee, and very large. She brought out an oath, and grabbed me and said, "I'll throw you overboard." My husband and brother-in-law caught her; the captain came running, and told her if he heard another word out of her he would put her out. They locked her up, but she got out; so the captain stopped about a mile above Ft. Smith and shoved her right out in the timbers and left her. I said, "No, don't do that, there are no houses near; she will get lost." But he said, "She will find a place."
We ran on up to Ft. Smith, landed there, and while the cargo was being unloaded, we had a coffin made. There were no undertakers in those days. We had to have a little rough coffin made as quickly as possible.
About ten miles above Ft. Smith the boat landed at Ft. Coffee; this was late in the afternoon. Captain WHITE remarked to us at dinner, "You must not drink to much spring and well water" you have been drinking Mississippi and Arkansas water so long it will make you sick." I thought of the good well of water at Ft. Coffee that my mother told me about. I had my husband buy me a pitcher and tin cup to take up there with me. Ft. Coffee was an old abandoned fort which had been turned over to the Choctaws for a school. We camped in what was known as the old guard house, right on the bank of the Arkansas River, and our brothers went to bury the infant.
While they were gone, my niece, Helen, and myself went up on the high bluff to the fort, and asked permission to get a pitcher of water. The old minister, Reverend William MCALESTER, greeted us very pleasantly. "Get all the water you want," he said, asking if we were immigrants. "Oh yes, we are Indians," I said, and we entered into conversation. He asked where we were from, and when we told him, he shook hands with us. He was an old Mississippi missionary who had followed the Indians west, always as a missionary from the Methodist Church. Well, we did as the captain had requested; did not even drink as much as a half pint of the water. We went back under the hill to our camping place. Just as I stepped into the hall, I held out the pitcher, saying to my sister, "take it;" and I fell, knowing nothing for many days.
The school at this place kept a doctor; so my sister sent a Negro running for Dr. WILLIAMS; also for our husbands who were burying the baby. The doctor told them it was cholera. My niece who went with me for the water, took cholera soon after I did, and was a corpse before twelve o'clock that night. I suppose I had a flash of memory, as my sister told me in after days, that she went to my trunk to see what she could find to lay her darling daughter out in. I spoke up and told her there were two spots of laudanum spilled on the dress she selected. After I recovered from the cholera, a fever set in that was called in those days winter fever. A runner was sent to my brother who lived in the west and he and his wife came immediately to us. My sister-in-law took my baby back home with her, and my brother got wagons to move the whole crew out to his ranch. All were taken but myself; the doctor saying it would not do to move me. I remained there with my husband and one servant for about ten days. Then my brother came with an ambulance, put a bed in it, and started with me to his house. My mind all right now, I requested them to take me to see my baby's grave, thinking my baby was dead because I did not see it.
They said "Oh no, your baby is well." But they went by the cemetery, and my husband said, "You see this is the grave of the baby, Lewis Oliver, and this is Helen's." "Oh," I said, "Oh! Oh, is she gone?" and cried, but was too weak to know my loss.
Going along, I said to my brother William, "Whose large farm is this?" Yours, Sis, if you want it," he said. I was raised up and looked around. I said, "Tell me, what do you see? This is prairie." All over the prairie as far as I could see were herds of cattle. I said, "Tell me, brother, who does it belong to." "To no one sister," he said, "It is public for everybody's cattle to range on." I thought to myself, "They are right good people to furnish such good places for people's cattle to range on."
When I got to my brother's house, my baby did not know me; didn't want anything to do with me; but clung to my sister-in-law, who was a dear, sweet, good woman. In a few days her baby and the baby of my sister, Mrs. MCCARTY, took the cholera and died within a few minutes of each other. That was a sad sight for a sick woman to see. I began to think everybody must die. I still thank the Lord that those two babies were the last. I remained at my brother's house a month. My sister-in-law put my baby in her baby's place.
When the day came for me to go to my little home, she clung to my baby and said, "Oh, I cannot give it up." Still, it was mine. We three sisters had to be separated then. My husband and I had to rent a place that was improved. Such improvements as they were; little log cabins stuck all around there in a place the size you would call a lot now. There were not many well built houses then; and the Indians did not know how to build them. They just stuck them around in groups.
We were all well, now; so we had to make a report in person to Skullyville, to the agent, whose name was RUTHERFORD. He was agent for the Choctaw Indians. His clerk's name was Tom DRENNEN. Our three families went. There we were enrolled the second time. These enrollments were sent by our agent to Washington City, there to be recorded forever. This closed the chapter of our enrollment.
Our rations consisted of meat, bread, salt, coffee and sugar. We had the privilege of taking a whole year's meat rations in live cattle, instead of drawing the beef issues. We preferred the cattle, that we might have plenty of milk and butter. The other rations we drew, which were amply sufficient. We drew the same rations for our Negroes that we did for ourselves. My husband, not knowing much about farming, began the carpenter's trade; and Skullyville commenced to put on a new dress of civilization. He had all he could do. We lived just one mile from Skullyville.
The Government furnished free blacksmith shops. I do not know just how it was (they were in districts and there were so many to the district), but one shop was in Skullyville, run by a Choctaw by the name of Jerry WARD. He was paid $40.00 a month to do the blacksmithing for all the Indians. He did not make any charges; his work was free to the Indians. He thought he was getting big wages; but we would not think so now. To stand at an anvil and bellows from sunrise to sunset for $40.00 a month! Nevertheless, he made money. There was nothing much to spend money for except firewater, as the Indians called it. Whiskey is what the pale faces call it.
Not many days would I spend without tears. I would brace up every morning and think; "Well, I'll not cry this day." The Indians who could talk English would come to see me. And sometimes an old full blood Indian would come to my house, his horse loaded with venison hams, and give me one. I would tell him I had no money. He would shake his head and say, "Me want no money."
Indians used to divide the last quart of corn they had with each other; but they have learned better in this day and time.
"Well," I said, "I must adapt myself to the ways of these people. I have come here, and in Rome I must do as Rome does." So, not long after this, there came a lot of Indian women to invite me to a quilting. Quilting was the order of the day, then, and they always had a big pow-wow. The men furnished the meat and barbecued it and game as well. Well, I went to the first one, and saw barbecued beef, hogs, and venison, and thought it was enough to satisfy an army. I was always treated royally. The Indians kept coming until I verily believe there must have been six or seven hundred people at this quilting.
They had arbors all over the ground and the quilts were hung in them. They were beautifully pieced. Here I prided myself that my mother had taught me to quilt beautifully; I knew my quilting would not be criticized. An old lady by the name of HALL, who ran a hotel in Skullyville, and who, by the way, was my brother's mother-in-law [Margaret Hall Moncrief], was one of the examiners of the quilting. When she got to me she said "Well, you quilt fine." I remarked to her "Mother taught me to quilt."
Now, you see this was bordering on civilization, perhaps. Prizes were given to the best quilters. I received a strand of white and red beads. They were real pretty. I wish that I had had sense to preserve those beads. Even to this day I watch bead counters to see if I can duplicate those beads. I would enjoy myself at all of these big gatherings; but they failed to drive the tears away.
I said to my husband one evening, "Tomorrow is the Sabbath and you can't work. Let us rise early and go across the Poteau River to visit my sisters, and you know they always have preaching there in the arbor." So we went; and in crossing the river (my husband and I were on horseback, everybody rode horseback in those days) he carried our little girl and went ahead telling me to wait, to let him cross and I could come after. He plunged in, and not knowing the exact spot there the ford was, went into very deep water. I thought he and the baby were gone forever. He held onto the baby, and when he could speak, [said] "Don't come until I examine the stream better." I said, "Oh, I can come."
But he would not hear to it. He took the saddle off the horse, put it on the ground, and sat the baby on it, giving her a little switch to play with while he examined the river. When he came over to where I was, he found the river very shallow just about five feet above the place where he went in. We crossed over, and I laughed and told him he had taken an immersion; for he was soaked to the skin. I wished to go back, but he said, "Oh, no, I'll dry out before we get there. Fortunately, I had plenty of dry clothes for the baby.
I could have so much more to tell my sisters than they could me, as I was placed right amongst the elite of the country, and they were right in the sticks with the full bloods. Well I told them all my experiences and pleasures and my party going. My sister, Mrs. McCarty, said "Yes, I bet you see it all." "Well, why not," I said, "If I've got to stay in this God forsaken country, I am going to make the very best of it."
They were much better situated than I. They had each other, lived in the same yard, and could talk their troubles over; but I was off in one corner to myself and would be afraid to express myself for fear I would make enemies. My new friends liked the country and were all enjoying themselves. I could see it in every move.
My sisters rarely, if ever, came to see me, but I must come to see them every month. When I would get after them about coming to see me, they would say, "Oh well, you have just one child, and you can very easily come, while we have a lot of children."
Soon after this, I was invited to a big Indian Cry. Now, I shall give an explanation of this; for it has passed off the stage of action now. In those days, after they had buried their dead, in about six or twelve months, according to the age of one buried, they would have what they called an Indian Cry. The meaning of this was that the mourning must be stopped after this Cry. Well, of course, I went, since it came on Sunday and my husband could go with me.
"We will just see what they do," we said. They prepared lots to eat on these occasions. Then all would gather at the grave, bring the mourners and best friends, cover their heads with their blankets, and squat around the grave and cry: "Elitok Kunei," which meant "they are gone forever, and can't come back anymore." They carried on this weeping for one or two hours, then all proceeded to the long tables. Those who had charge of the eating did not take part in the Cry, but prepared everything; and if there were a lot of white Indians or white people, who often came from curiosity, they would place them at the table first, then call others and say "Everybody come and eat." The Indians who had charge of the day pointed out with a stick who could go to the table.
It is should be a woman mourning for her husband or a man for his wife, they were at perfect liberty, now, to marry again. They were very particular about these rules being conformed to, love or no love. I had always been a good mixer, and I was anxious to see my sisters and tell them about one of these pow-wows.
My sisters were loved by the people that could get in touch with them, but they always thought they had too much work to do to get time for anything of that kind; but I was very different, and I am to this day; and time shows that ever since I was a child I loved wild nature.
The next thing that comes up, is the Indian ball play. You may talk about the excitement of ball playing in this day, but there is nothing that can be more exciting than the Indian ball play. The women take an active part in it. They have buckets and buckets of water; each woman has a brush and she runs and sprinkles the men to keep them cool, as they are naked except their breechcloths. Sometimes they kill one another in these games but it is not through anger; but it was the order of the day to hit your post dead or alive. If a man was wounded, they carried him to a shade and bathed and worked with him. If he had no internal injury, he usually got well. They keep this ball play up for three or four days. I always liked to see them play. I like to watch them in this day.
They had a great many camp meetings in those days. Everybody expected to go and camp and "carry his dogs." I always went to everything of the kind, and always enjoyed it. I am sorry I can't say that my tribal people are as hospitable now as in bygone days. Take the Indian in his original life, and he is as honest as the stars that shine at night. If he made a debt with you and told you that in so many moons he would pay you, he would come right to the day and pay up. But I would like to see one now, make a debt with a promise to pay in so many moons and come and pay it. No, indeed, he has learned too many of the ways of the pale face for that.
The next incident of any note was when my father came to Skullyville, after some Negroes that had been mortgaged to him back in Alabama. I was away from home when he came, having gone over to my sisters. He talked awhile with the Negroes, and told them to tell me he would be back the next day, which was on Monday. My husband was in Skullyville at work. I did not know what my father came out west for, and did not ask him; but he spoke of leaving and going to my brother's. I said, "Well, aren't you going to stay with me some?" He said, "Yes, I guess I can." So we had his horse put up. Then he opened up and told me what he had come for.
The Indians who owed him were willing to give the Negroes up, he showing a mortgage; it was all right with them. They turned those Negroes, young women and young men over to my father. He wanted one of my brothers-in-law or my brother to go with him and carry those Negroes to Ft. Smith. My brother was sick, so he could not go. Being afraid he would have some trouble with the Negroes, he asked me if I thought my husband would go with him and stay until he took the boat. I told him I could not say until he came in at night. I said nothing to my husband about the matter, wishing to let my father talk to him about it, as I knew how opposed he was to my marrying Mr. HAWKINS, and wanted to see and know how my husband would feel in regard to going. So I said nothing. I think my father looked for me to be spokesman, but I was determined he should do his own engineering. After supper, he broached the subject of going away, and was very uneasy lest he might have trouble getting the Negroes away, knowing they loved their Indian masters. He said, "I do not know what I'll do unless I can get you to go. I may have to remain there a day or two before I can get a boat." My husband said, "Well, I'll see if I can go, I'll just ride over to Skullyville and see if I can go, and make arrangements in regard to my work." He did, and the boss let him off for a few days.
I then had to speak, as I am always full of talk, so I asked my father why Mr. MCLAIN or Mr. MCCARTY couldn't go? They had just as much time to spare you as my husband had. "Yes, I know that, daughter," he said, "but favors sometime go by kisses you know." I said, "Oh yes, I know that, and I am glad my husband can give that much time to you."
They left the next day, staying in Ft. Smith some two or three days, before my father's boat came. I did not say anything to father, but I thought, "Why couldn't he give those Negroes to me, he had so many at home."
The third day, late in the evening, I walked down the road and saw my husband coming, leading his horse. He came up and I said, "What does this mean?" "Well," he said, "There was an auction sale of Government bacon on hand at Ft. Smith, and your father bought one hundred pounds, since it sold at two cents a pound."
Whenever there is an auction of Government meat, you may know it is condemned. My father was to leave that night, so he turned this one hundred pounds of bacon over to my husband. Not wanting to wait to hunt a wagon the next morning my husband put it on his horse and walked and led the horse home. This was fifteen miles from Ft. Smith. I suppose my father thought it was quite a gift. It was very good bacon. You know the Government never uses anything but the very best, and with the least flaw, its condemned. While it may be good, if it doesn't suit the Government it is condemned.
I said to my husband that I thought it very strange my brothers-in-law could not go and do this favor for my father when he had done so much for them.
He said "Oh, well, that is nothing, to spare a few days to accommodate an old gentleman; this is all right."
About this time we were going to leave Skullyville and go over on the other side of Poteau River. I, being determined to investigate things, went over to look at the place that we were to buy. It was right in a quarter* of where my sisters were. [*Colloquial for quarter of a mile. - Field Worker] While over there I said to my brothers-in-law, "Why is it that neither of you could go with my father and guard the Negroes until he left on the boat?" Their remark was, "Well, you know your father has got plenty of money, and he doesn't think our time is worth anything. Why didn't he hire a guard?"
"Let me see if I can think why he didn't," I said. "I can tell you why, he was afraid to trust just anybody."
My brothers-in-law laughed and said, "What did he give your husband for going with him?" "Oh, he gave him a hundred pounds of bacon."
They, teasing me, turned to my husband saying, "Hawks, you could have made money enough in two hours to buy that."
"Yes, I know that," he said, "But to tell you the fact, I really felt sorry for the old gentleman. It is about as my wife said, he was afraid to trust anybody except one of the family."
They said, "Did you expect him to give you one or two hundred dollars?"
"Even that was more than I expected," he said. I turned to my husband and said, "Go bring that half side of meat for I want you all to see what good meat it is. This is much better than we buy at Skully if it is condemned."
Well, we made the trade of the place, and the next year, which was 1851, we moved onto it. The spirit of progress had started in that country then, and my husband could get lots of work, and the Negroes could then raise little patches of corn and potatoes. We moved in January, and on March fourth the stork brought me a little baby boy, so we adopted him and kept him.
When this baby was twelve days old, my husband took a violent spell of hemorrhage of the lungs. I thought he would die before I could get assistance. I sent for my brothers-in-law, and they started a runner for a doctor, fifteen miles away. The doctor came, but my brothers-in-law and I had administered little simple remedies and check the hemorrhage; but fever set up. I watched the doctor's countenance and saw that he was not cheerful. The second day he came, he told my brothers-in-law it was a hopeless case. My husband did not live many days. He was a consumptive, and the hemorrhage being so great, he never revived from it. He was conscious that he must die. He talked, and told me a great deal, remarked that I must do the best I could, and that the little baby boy would soon come to him. My husband was a very religious man, and a true, devoted Christian. He died that night.
We had no embalmers in those days. He died in the first part of the night, and being cold, it was in March, I plead with them to keep him over twenty-four hours, so they did. Those were very bad days for me. I knew not what to do, or how to do. But I had such good brothers-in-law and sisters, that with their assistance and my determination, I got on very well; I know, now, that I did; but then I thought it was very hard sailing.
In a year from this time, my brother-in-law, Mr. McCarty, had to make a trip back to Alabama; so my mother wrote me that I must come home with him to see her. I studied about it considerably, but went. I talked to my brother-in-law on the way home saying "I don't want to remain in that old country." You see I had become reconciled to living in the West, and asked him if my parents wanted me to stay at home, if he would help me out. He said he would.
Sure enough, my parents did want me to stay' but I told them I did not see how I could, saying, "Brother Robert knows that all my little affairs in the West need attention." They asked him if I could stay. He said I could, but really thought I ought to go back and attend to my own affairs, as "that is her country now." But they still thought I could manage it. I told them I could not stay, as I would lose my citizenship in regard to annuity. Annuity was a payment of so much per capita once a year, and to get your share, you had to stay in the Choctaw Nation. We made business the excuse to keep me from staying with my parents. I spent six weeks with my dear mother. On this trip I had a talk with my mother in regard to our ancestry and learned quite a good deal about it and made a memorandum of it so that I would know in after years who we were. One evening as I leaned against her lap, I suddenly saw a vision of my mother in a white sheet out in our big field. I exclaimed and told her. She then told me I was born to see visions - had a veil over my face when I was born. My mother was in perfect health, yet she remarked to me the evening before I left that I would never see her again.
I said, "Mother, I am coming home every year to see you." But, Alas! I never saw her again. A year and a half from that time I received the sad tidings that she had gone.
Well, my father wrote to me to come home to take charge of the house and little sister and brother. I did not really want to go, mother being gone it would not seem like home. My two sisters prevailed on me to go and take care of our little sister and brother. I looked on Ft. Smith that night with blinding tears, as the boat pulled out. I went very much against my will, but duty must be done regardless of will. I remained there about two years. Then my father left home saying, "I am going to the Choctaw Nation and select a place and have it improved and then move everything out west."
He went, and sent my brother-in-law, Mr. McCarty, back to Alabama to sell off, and wind everything up, and move the Negroes all West.
The Negroes were very much opposed to moving; did not want to go West; thought they would go to their death. My father instructed my brother-in-law that if I did not want to go by private conveyance, to send me back by water. I wanted to go by water, but the Negroes plead with me to go by carriage with them, as it would be so lonely for them and if I would go with them, I would not even have to get out of the hack until the tent was put up and everything ready. It was a long tedious drive. Some days in the Mississippi bottom, we would travel very slowly; and one day we traveled only five miles.
We came to a beautiful lake called Moon Lake. We stayed over there a day, the Negroes doing up the washing and the men fished. We had a nice time. A gentleman living near the lake found that we were from Alabama. He was very kind to us, offering us everything we needed, and asked me and my sister-in-law, Sampson Moncrief's wife, to stay in his house at night. I thanked him very kindly, and told him it would spoil me to stay in a house. The next day we moved on, and a little Negro boy about five years old in a wagon ahead of us was playing with other little Negroes with he fell out. Both wheels of the wagon ran over him and crushed his breast bone through. I got out of the hack and gathered the little fellow in my arms, and he said, "Oh! Miss Sarah I am going to die." Close by was a house, but not a place to camp. The man there directed us to a place further on where there was a spring and a creek and a good place to camp, and told my brother where to go for a doctor. We drove on and soon after getting to camp, my brother came with a doctor. He examined the boy, said there was no hope for him. He bandaged him and I asked him to give him some quieting powders, which he had. The boy died that night, the Negroes had been very happy until then. That threw a damper over them.
And right here let me relate a little incident in regard to where we camped the night before, in a graveyard. My brother-in-law dreamed a dream, which he told to the old Negro, Leah, whom we called mammy. "Now you must interpret this dream"
Said she, "Marse Robert, you may think as you please of it but you are going to have very serious trouble before another sun rises." Sure enough, the little Negro was killed.
You know such things are considered superstitious, but the Bible says that "Your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams." Nevertheless, that dream came true when that death occurred. The Negroes sang no more for many days. Before that, they would walk along and sing songs; they walked all the way but we never traveled over fifteen miles a day.
Well, we came to a place and asked for a good camping ground. We were directed to where there was a splendid camping place, and the men directing us said there was a house build in the shape of a 'U'. Brother Robert said, "We won't stay in that house, that is no cabin." So, the tent was pitched where there was a fine spring of water.
Curiosity seized me to examine the house, so I went all through it. It was a magnificent house and was elegantly furnished. In one room there was a beautiful mahogany dresser, and beautiful tables and chairs. There was a dancing room in one wing, but everything showed it had been abandoned. The doors were unlocked. The fine hearths downstairs and up had all been dug up as though they were trash. In one room was a cotton mattress which had been torn up, and there was a great deal of blood mixed with the cotton.
My brother-in-law came and I remarked to him, "I know what this house has been used for. This is on the Military Road. I just bet you this had been on of the Murrell Clan's stopping places."
I proceeded to the dining room expecting to find a find mahogany table in there, but found only a stained pine table with very nice benches on each side. I said, "There were not many women here, they did not have a nice table."
I search diligently for a scrap of paper of some kind to give a clue to the occupants of the house; but could find nothing. There was a beautiful mahogany table in one room with four drawers in it. I have never seen one since just like it. It might have been a gambling table.
We did not stay in the house that night' but I said "I am going back and look the house over." My brother, Sam, was very mischievous, and said, "You might see a ghost." I said, "You had better not scare me, I am going to take a pistol." So I had some Negroes around, so that if anything happened I could call them. I looked around all I wanted to, and went back to camp.
We always rose early, so, by the time it was daybreak, we were ready to move on. I said, "I must go take a look at Murrell's house again. My brother-in-law and brother insisted that I must not go; but I went and explored it again. I had made my exploration and was in the hall about to start out, when in stepped a ruffian. He brought out an oath, and said "I can't keep this house locked." He had a large bunch of keys and began trying to lock the doors. I said, "Every door was standing open when we got here yesterday evening." He said "People persist in breaking this house open." I got out on the porch and said, "You don't seem to have any keys to fit the doors. You are a spirit from the lower world." Then I left.
Just then, a Negro man approached on an old mule, which looked as if it had come out of Noah's ark, calling hogs. I said, "What does this mean? This fine house with all this fine furniture?"
"Well," he said, "They thought they would go to Granada and educate their children." I said, "It looks strange that they would leave this fine furniture."
There wasn't a sign of a hog around there anywhere and it didn't look as though there ever had been. He talked awfully loud. I said, "There is some mystery about this house and something wrong." When I got back to the camp, the folks said, "Come, come, let us start." I would have given five dollars to know the history of that house.
We did not stop at Granada. Our next difficulty was crossing the Mississippi River. We were making for Helena, as we knew there was a steam ferryboat there; but we missed it, and got a ferry called Delta. We crossed there, which was a very dangerous piece of business; but we got into it before my brother-in-law could see how dangerous it was. They just had a common ferry boat, and used oars. It took them one day to take one load across and go back. So there we were, half on one side of the river and half on the other. Well, we were three days crossing and getting all together again. And the road brought us to Helena where we should have crossed. There we laid in supplies again. Now, we were in Arkansas. We cross the White River.
We got along very well then. We passed through Grand Prairie, which is now a flourishing country. When we crossed it, I remarks, "Well, this is the most God forsaken country I ever saw." There was one lone cabin about the middle of the prairie. It took us two days to cross. We camped at this cabin. Two very old people lived in it. The weather was cold, and there was snow and sleet on the ground. I begged them to let me sleep on the floor. They just had a puncheon floor, and they gave me permission to sleep there. Not many know what a puncheon floor is. Well it is logs split open with the flat side up and the rough side down. I was very tired and cold, and slept as though I had been in a downy bed. My brother-in-law paid this man ten dollars for wood for camp fire for the night and morning. My two brothers, myself, and the family, drove to the nearest belt of timber where we stopped and built fires and waited for the others to come. I quickly jumped out, gathered brush while the boys felled some trees. We soon had a big fire. I said to my Negro mammy and to my sister-in-law, "Let us cook a big dinner to warm them up when they come." So we did. It was like cooking for a regiment. We had everything ready when they came. We were always in the habit of having a big kettle of whiskey stew every morning, my brother-in-law giving it out to the Negroes according to age and size. This was to keep sickness from getting into camp. This morning we omitted it and took it for dinner. They gave me a great deal of credit for cooking dinner. I told them it was a necessity more than pleasure. We remained there that afternoon.
After we passed Ft. Smith, it commenced snowing again. The Negroes had never been used to snow lying on the ground, and they were very much dissatisfied. That night we got to my brother-in-law's place and pitched tents, but thanks to goodness I did not have to tent that night. There were so many Negroes it was impossible to house them except in tents. The evening of the next day my sister sent for me. I was glad to get away for once, for I wanted a little retirement. There I made my home. In those days Negroes hired for a mere pittance. I hired mine out, and got five dollars a month for each grown Negro.
In those days we had no ready made clothing. Everything was home made. I remember I made some fine linen shirts for a couple of doctors, Dr. BUMFORD and Dr. SHUMARD. The bosoms were in very dainty plaits, making them very elaborate, and they were all made by hand.
During my stay back in Alabama a friend of mine in Arkansas by the name of John PATTON moved into a part of the country called James Fork, buying land there. It was pretty well settled, but the people were as ignorant as rats. Mr. Patton came to me and wanted me to teach school. I told him I could not teach school. He said, "Yes you can, there are about forty children there that don't know their A B C's." I asked them why he didn't teach them. He said he had to work on his farm. He insisted, so I agreed.
He went around and got up the school by subscription. They came on Saturday with a wagon and took me out there to teach. I found it just as he had said. There were grown girls there who did not know a letter in the book. Some of them were right pretty girls, but knew so little. They never had seen Ft. Smith. I felt very sorry for them. Some years later this same gentleman who asked me to go to James Fork, came again and wanted me to go teach, and I went. I found them as ignorant as I had left them.
I commenced this school in the summer. In September I took sick. I worried on with the school until the first of October, when I was taken bedfast. I was carried to Mr. McCarty's, and called Dr. SPRING. When I became convalescent, my sister thought best for me not to try it again, as that was a malarial country.
About this time I made the acquaintance of Aaron HARLAN who paid his addresses to me. My sisters and brothers thought very well of him. I weighed the matter well, and feared it was a big undertaking. He was a widower with six children, and I a widow with two. I told him I was afraid I could not fill the place of a mother, and that I would not be the cause of motherless children leaving their home. I told him if I could not fill the place, and gain their love, that sometime when he was away on one of his trips, I would leave and change my name; it would be my real name, but he would never find me.
He said, "I know my children love you, they have said as much to me often." And to my great joy they did, and I loved them. No one ever could have told which were mine. We were both determined to fill our places and we did. We were married in November 1855. We lived happily. Never were step-children more devoted to stepmother.
About this time the Choctaw Nation was in a very flourishing condition. My husband took a trip away out into the Chickasaw Nation to see how business was in that country. He was a merchant in Ft. Smith, and business had become dull.
He found the Chickasaw Nation an ideal place for his business. He made arrangements that fall to move out. He went out and secured a house, found a very worth young man there by the name of G. B. HESTER whom he left in charge while he came back to send his stock of goods to Tishomingo. He left me with the children at our home, after starting all his wagon loads of goods from Ft. Smith. He, himself, started to go to Tishomingo, but fell sick on the road and sent a runner for me with a request to send Doctor Springs. It was sixty miles to where he was, at a place known as the Narrows. It was a wide gap in the mountains. I told the doctor to go as hard as he could on horseback. I overtook him; I was in a hack with a gentleman named William AINSWORTH. The doctor's horse had given out. He got in the hack with us. We left his horse at an Indian's house. He told the driver he must get him there that night, which he did. We reached there about ten o'clock, and found my husband very sick with pneumonia. We stayed there about ten days, the doctor remaining thereabouts all the time. Then he said by being careful with him and traveling very slowly we could take him home. He got in the hack with us and went until he came to where his horse was. He found his horse all right. There he left us as he could travel so much faster. We journeyed on slowly. My husband seemed to be improved, and regretted that he could not go on to Tishomingo, as there was a big annuity there paying $150.00 per capita, which made business good.
Mr. Hester proved a good salesman, and would write telling my husband how many thousand dollars he had taken in. Replenishing the stock was like starting a new store. We again made preparation to move, but my husband was not yet well. About this time, my father was missing. A Negro man came and told us he had been gone so many days, and that his pony had come home alone. Later his dog came home, and searching parties followed him to the fork of the Poteau and Arkansas Rivers, but without success. My two brothers-in-law had gone back to Alabama to settle up the business there. It was night when the message came and I told my husband he must go. It was ten miles to where my father lives.
We sent out runners and offered a reward of $10,000.00 for my father's body. The country was full of searchers, but he was never found. The river was frozen from bank to bank. There was a search of three days and during that time we sent a young man to Ft. Arbuckle for my oldest brother to come and take charge of the estate. This was in January 1856. This prevented our moving to Tishomingo for the time being.
My brother came and we still persisted in the search for my father. We hired men to search the banks and borders of the Poteau and Arkansas Rivers, but no sign of him could be found. There were no banks in Ft. Smith at this time, and my father, having quite a sum of money, always carried it with him. He was traced by his dog that followed him down into the Poteau bottom, where the Arkansas and Poteau make a bend that brings them close together. We supposed he was murdered for his money. We never could find any trace of it, although we knew he had about $20,000.00 in gold.
Some people thought the Negroes murdered my father, but a statement we had from a Mr. WARREN who saw him and talked with him as he was going to Ft. Smith, convinced us that the Negroes did not commit the murder. My brother, William Moncrief, took my father's estate in charge. My husband and I would have nothing to do with it. My brother had great difficulty in settling the estate owing to the attitude of my two oldest sisters. Five of the children had gotten all our mother's estate save that the other five had received one Negro each. My brother showed by papers left by the dead man, that these two eldest sisters had received so much more than he, myself and had one other sister, had ever received, and he insisted that my sisters and brothers should come to his figures in regard to what they had received.
My brother took the Negroes to Memphis, Tennessee, and sold them on the block.
Well, after about four months of hard work, he succeeded in settling the estate of Sampson Moncrief with all the heirs, my two sisters being compelled to let the property which was advanced to them come in as part and parcel of their share.
My brothers-in-law came back from Alabama, and if they disliked it they never said anything to me.
I had given them power of attorney to collect the balance of my payments in Alabama on my land, which they brought and turned over to me. It was two thousand dollars. Right after my brothers-in-law came back, one of them, James MCLAIN, sickened and died of Pneumonia.
After his death we were again made ready to move to Tishomingo, my husband having gone out frequently to look after the business. We started on our moves by wagon. The creeks getting up, delayed us so my husband said he would have to go on and leave me to manage the train of wagons. We traveled on, and struck quite a large prairie. It commenced sleeting, and we drove on to an Indian house. They had a very comfortable looking house. I stopped, asked to stay in one room and pay for it, but they refused me. I thought I knew what was the matter. I said,
Why I am not a white woman I am an Indian. Do you know certain people in this country?" Finally I asked her if she knew Major Harlan. She said she understood he married an Indian woman. I told her I was the woman. So I stayed all night. She gave me a large room with a fireplace saying, "get all the wood you want." That shows you what Indian blood is. It sticketh like a brother.
I got everything she had to sell. She was willing to give. Then she wanted me to exchange with her, such things as candles and matches. The next morning she did not want any pay for the room, but I said, "Oh, yes, you would have made a white woman pay, why not me?" She admired a very pretty skirt that I had, and wanted it. They were not poor people; her husband was a large ranch man, but I gave her the skirt, and said to her, "You wanted to drive me out in the snow thinking I was a white woman." "I don't turn any of them out now," she said, "if they have no bread, I give them bread, and a place to sleep."
We arrived at Tishomingo about nine o'clock one night. This was the second time I ever saw a drunken woman. My husband said, "Don't say anything to offend her." She was inclined to make trouble. They called it a hotel where I stopped, but I called it just a camping ground. I was very much afraid of this woman. She showed she had a bad heart and the very best friend I had, she considered her worst enemy. I would always try to say something to make her smile. My friend said she did not believe this woman would dislike me so much if she and I were not such good friends. I said; "I am sure I could never take up with her." But long years after, I met this same woman and she had become very religious; I can't say I loved her, but I pitied her. She was a great deal older than I was. She had spent the best part of her life serving Satan.
When we went to Tishomingo, we first rented some of the cabins there, and then engaged carpenters to build us a home. There we remained until pretty near the close of the war.
Before I left Arkansas for the Chickasaw Nation, one of my brothers married my husband's second daughter. I left the oldest and third daughters in school at St. Anne's Academy, Ft. Smith. The oldest girl became dissatisfied and wrote me she was going to quit school and stay with her married sister until school closed, which was in May, when they would come home.
I had always promised myself to give my children an education; I have always felt the great need of it myself. There was an academy about three miles away, but that was only for the Chickasaws. I did not want to send the children away to school, as they were all small except this daughter; so we wrote to friends in Bonham, Texas, to know if they could tell us where we might get a governess. They told us of a widow by the name of SCANDAL, whom I wrote to, and secured her services. She was a very well educated lady, with the exception of French, Latin, and music, which was a disappointment, as my third daughter, Belle, was well advanced in those three studied. She only stayed with us five months, so I sent Belle back to Ft. Smith to take up these studies again in St. Anne's Academy.
After this, we got a young lady from Georgia, a Miss Lizzie FULTON. She was well qualified in everything except in music. I kept her for about two years, then sent my daughter, Belle, back to St. Anne's Academy. It was, at that time, the only good school in Ft. Smith.
About this time the Government of the United States made a contract with a company by the name of Butterfield, to run a stage line, carrying the United States mail and passengers from Rockford, Illinois, to San Francisco, California, running direct through the Indian Territory. We thought this a grand thing that now we could get mail, and it would come through so much faster. We considered it a well equipped road.
About this time, my husband went east to buy goods, and fell sick at Ft. Smith, sending a young man by the name of Henry FALCONER after me with word not to come by stage, but to come in a buggy and bring ten thousand dollars. This ten thousand dollars was to pay the balance on the stock of goods he had purchased. We traveled the one hundred sixty miles, staying over night at Indian houses, the Indians saying as they unloaded the buggy, "Iskuli heap," lots of money. They knew I had lots of money, but I had no fear of being robbed.
When I got to Ft. Smith, I found my husband quite sick. I stayed a week. He said I had better leave the buggy at Mr. McCarty's, that he could bring the buggy home, and that I could go back in the stage.
Well, that stage was pretty rough riding. It was progression, and it sure shook you up and made you think progression. It went within twenty miles of our home. I knew everybody, and it was no trouble to get some one to take me home.
My husband was sick quite a long time. I stayed at home a few weeks, then told my children I must go and see how their father was getting along. I went, and found him no better. Dr. Spring and Dr. MAIN were attending him. He was at the St. Charles Hotel. I went out into the city the second day, I say city, it did look like a city then. It did not look like the place I first saw in 1850. While out on my walk, I went into a Dr. KAYSER's office. This Dr. Kayser married a niece of mine. I told him I did not think my husband was getting any better. Dr. Kayser was a splendid physician, but a man with a dreadful temper. The doctors of Ft. Smith did not have much to do with him except in dangerous cases. He told me he could cure my husband; but would have nothing to do with him in connection with the other doctors. When I went back to the hotel, I talked to my husband in regard to Dr. Kayser, telling him that when the other doctors came next time to discharge them and try him. But when they came they told him that they had done all they could for him; but had not been able to arrest the disease. They were good friends of my husband, and told him to get anyone he wanted.
Dr. Kayser wanted him moved across the Poteau to his house where he could be kept entirely free from excitement. He was pleased, and so was I. Late that evening, we ordered a splendid hack from the livery stable and took him over. Dr. Kayser told him it would take a long time to cure him, but he would be a well man. In a few days, he put a silk cord as large as my finger through my husbands back, and would move it twice a day. I stayed there a week and then took the stage for home. The conductor told me that they were loaded, and that the company was not compelled to take extra passengers, advising me to go over to Skullyville. That would be the next stand. I went out late in the evening, hiring a buggy to take me out. I knew they would have to stay all night in Skullyville and eat breakfast there. This was in January, and very cold weather. Next morning, I heard the horn just about daybreak. I began to dress. Pretty soon the door opened and a lady came in. It was dark, just had a candle light; coal oil in those days we knew nothing about. There was a lady stopping at the City Hotel who wanted to go to Paris, Texas. I had written her a note and suggested that we hire a rig and go on. She was a widow, and I, thinking this was the woman, because she was dressed in mourning, said, "are you the widow that was stopping at the City Hotel?" She straightened up and very indignantly said, "I am no widow." I told her that there was a widow who wanted to leave for Paris, and that I had proposed to her that we hire a conveyance.
She seemed so indignant that I said, "It would not hurt you if you were a widow, and how do I know but that you are?"
Just then the bell rang for breakfast. I was planning to get even with her. I know that was not right, but I did it. We were seated at the table. In that day, they always had cornbread for breakfast, as well as biscuit[s], the bread being made in loaves. I knew she was a Yankee. I did not take any myself, but passed it to her; she took a loaf in her hands, and took two or three gazes. I said, "If you want any of it, break a piece off or cut it off, the rest would like to have some." She took a piece, handed the loaf back, and I helped myself.
Col. LEFLORE, a lawyer and friend of mine, saw that there was something wrong, but asked no questions. He said, "I must fix a rock for you today, it is so cold." He prepared the rock and put it in the stage. When the conductor yelled, all aboard, she ran and jumped into the stage, pulled the rock over by her, and put her feet on it. Col. LeFlore remarked what a hard trip it would be on me, and asked if the rock would keep hot until we got dinner. I turned to her, pulled the rock from under her feet, and said, "This rock was put here for my special benefit. If you can derive any benefit from its being under my feet, all right." I had not yet got all the revenge I wanted.
We traveled all day, did not stop for dinner, but stopped the next run for supper. We changed horses every ten or twelve miles and drivers too, but not conductors. The conductor called out supper for those in the stage. I knew this place and knew they never had decent meals.
When we went in, I saw a half dozen eggs lying on the bed and put those eggs in the fireplace to cook. When I came back in, I pulled them out, dropped them in a pan of water and then put them in my hand satchel. Miss CLARK, the lady whom I had offended by calling [her] a widow, ran off and forgot to pay for her supper. I called to her and said, "Come back and pay for your supper, even if you are a Yankee. It's only twenty-five cents." I wanted to catch her.
Well, we traveled on, miring down and prizing out, miring down and prizing out. She had traveled all the way from Rockford, Illinois, and finally got awfully sleepy. I said, "If you want to sleep, lie down on my lap and I will let you sleep." That was the first word I had said to her after calling her down. She thanked me very kindly, and told me she was on her way from Rockford. When day was just breaking, I said, "I am very sleepy; wish you would get up." She asked me to lay my head in her lap, which I did and went to sleep.
We soon came to the creek. Campers along the creek said to the driver, "the creek is swimming," but they drove in. I was asleep when the water splashed all over the stage. We were immersed in water. I jumped up and said, "What does all this mean?" I soon saw that we were in great danger, and the curtains were all keyed down with iron rods. I heard voices on the bank. There was a gentleman on the stage going to Texas. I asked him if he could save us ladies. He said he was afraid we might drown him. I said, "You haven't any heart, or you would risk that." Death was staring us in the face. I asked him if he had a knife. He said, "Yes, do you want to kill me?" I said, "No, do you think I would send my soul to hell for such a little pea looking object as you?" He opened it and handed it to me. I ripped the curtain open from top to bottom. Then I said, "Oh, is there not a man who can save us?" One of the campers said, "I'll try."
He plunged in. He was on a very small gray mule. Getting up as near the stage as he could, he turned the mule loose and said, "Now, I am a good swimmer, but can't get any closer. You leap. If you don't catch anything, you shall not drown." I said, "I am going first, I have got too much to live for."
I believe in protecting self first. I made a leap. I grabbed him by the neck and we both went under. He then carried me out until we struck bottom, and led me on to where water was about knee deep.
"Now," I said, "Do save the other lady." She was almost frozen when he got her out, and so was I. But I had been used to those things, living in a pioneer country.
I said to this man, "I have no money here, but if you will give me your name, I will leave it in the Merchant's store in Boggy Depot." I wrote his name on a piece of paper with a piece of rotten wood. These depots, in that day and time, were just places used for rations. The conductor went to the next station to get [a] harness. He thought that by evening the water would be down so he might get the stage out.
We stayed all day on this bleak prairie. Toward the middle of the day, I saw a wagon coming which I knew was a freight wagon. There was an old Negro driving it that I knew well. He belonged to Indians. I called to him to know if he could make us a fire. He got some wood and built us one, then took his ax and cut some poles, went to his wagon and took out some blankets and stretched around them to protect us from the wind. The conductor got back late in the evening, and pulled the stage out. Everything was wet. The old Negro had some coffee and eggs. He made us coffee in an old black kettle, and had an old cup to drink from. He boiled the eggs in the coffee. I was glad to get something hot; but Miss Clark refused to drink the coffee because she thought it wasn't clean.
Then we had about eleven miles to drive to the next station. I knew the lady who kept the stage stand. She had just moved there. Her son had a small store. The conductor told her she would have to provide dry clothes for us; then he went to the store and got a bottle of liniment, brought it to her and told her to rub us with it. He also brought two glasses of stuff called painkiller, and told her to have us drink that so we would not get sick. We drank it; but I thought it would burn me up.
By this time, I began to get pretty well acquainted with Miss Clark, and found I had a heart for her. She told me she was from Vermont, having been educated at Port Edwards. There they educated poor girls, found positions for them, and sent them wherever they could find a place for them. Then the girls were to send back one half their monthly wages until their education was paid for.
Well, I was in need of a governess, at this time, and in talking to her, I saw she was the teacher I wanted; so begged her to go home with me. She was on her way to Bonham, Texas, to teach in an academy. I told her what I would give her, which was fifteen dollars more than she was to get at this academy. But she said she had a written contract and could not think of going back on it. She asked me why I could not send my children to Bonham. I told her I would write my husband. I jokingly said: "You know we have been baptized, all our sins are washed away."
She said: "I know I love you now where I hated you before." I said: "Ditto, Sister." That was the thirtieth day of January, my birthday.
I wrote my husband about my great adventure and asked him what he thought about sending my little daughter and his little daughter to Bonham. He told me to do as I pleased. My third step-daughter was still in Ft. Smith. She came home' so I made arrangements to take them all to Bonham to school that fall.
Meantime other experiences came to me. Just before the war I was in the store one day when a band of Comanche Indians galloped up to the door and dismounted. I will say right here, they do not mount a horse on the side a white man does. They mount from the opposite side. They rushed into the store, which frightened me very much, but my husband told me there was no danger. He had once been connected with a trading company by the name of Caldwell and Coffey. He was one of the men to go with this company out on what was called Cross Timbers, among those wild Indians, to trade for buffalo and pelts of all kinds; and while with them he learned to talk some words, but mostly signs.
He soon found out that they wanted to find what was known as the McCullough Camps on Blue Creek. While talking, an old gray Indian eyes my husband very closely; finally, he threw his arms around him, talking and making signs that he recognized him as one of the Caldwell and Coffey Company men. I was very much frightened at his grabbing my husband, but my husband said; "Be not afraid, they won't hurt me."
They talked a little while, then took out their pipe of peace, filled it, and the Chief, I suppose he was, took the first draw of smoke, passing it around to all his companions. They then returned it to the Chief, and he handed it to my husband. He drew three long puffs of smoke. They laughed and patted him, saying, "Good warrior."
My husband being a very large man, they made signs saying that he could do so much. Pretty soon, he said to me, "I have got to go with those people to McCulloughs Camp on Blue. Don't be afraid, nothing bad will happen to me." He soon had his horse saddled, and off they went; it was about thirty miles and they reached there that night. These Indians were not as ignorant as people thought they were. They wanted to join the Southern Army, saying, "We keep pale face from coming into the Indian country on our side."
Jeff David being President, the head man of the band named him Jeff Davis. They came back to Tishomingo and gave what is called the War Dance. Everybody from the surrounding country came to see the War Dance. The people of Tishomingo gave them their beef. They soon butchered them; not much cooking. They would throw the meat on the fire and just heat it and then eat it like wolves. We learned afterwards that they killed many Kansas people. Soon after this, Texas raised great armies for the Southern cause. They rushed for the Indian Territory to capture the forts with belonged to the United States, or, you might say where they were built for the protection of the Five Civilized Tribes.
The Federals were making preparations to abandon the forts. There was an officer by the name of STURGES at our house when the courier brought the word that the Texans were marching on Ft. Quachita. My husband soon had the officer's horse saddled, also one for himself, and went to Ft. Ouachita. This was about eleven o'clock at night. My husband was contractor for these forts, for beef, corn, and hay, and hastened to Ft. Ouachita in order to get all of his papers duly signed in regard to those contracts. This officer had been married twice, and said before he left our house that he could not fight on either side, his first wife being a Cherokee and a Southerner, and his second wife being from New York and owning many bonds in railroads there. He said he would go to Europe, and he did.
They next day the road was lined with Federal Soldiers going to Ft. Arbuckle. As my husband did not come in, I felt very uneasy, and called to one of the officers to know where he was. This same drunk woman I told you about, Mrs. MCLAUGHLIN, did not give the officer time to answer, but called out to me saying, "They are cutting him up and loading the cannons with him." I made no reply, but a sergeant said, "He is all right." You may know she was not a good woman, following the soldiers around.
My husband got in that evening. He was out a great many thousand of dollars at Ft. Ouachita, Ft. Arbuckle and Ft. Cobb on these contracts. He went at once to Ft. Arbuckle to get things straightened up, that he might get his money. While there, they got word that the Texas soldiers were marching on Ft. Arbuckle. The sutlers store at Ft. Ouachita was run by a man by the name of VANCE. A. A. MEYER ran the sutlers store at Ft. Arbuckle.
The Government officers called them together to make a contract with Vance, Meyer and Harlan, to move the soldiers' wives and children to Ft. Scott, Kansas. This was a pretty risky business, but the Government owed these three men so much money that they had to risk it. The contract was that they move all the women and children and all their apparel but not even a shirt or anything pertaining to soldier's apparel. The officers and soldiers retreated, by double quick time, to Ft. Scott.
My husband and the other men had quite a time with the women, as the men had just been issued uniforms and canteens; but they did not allow them [to] put [them] in. They knew that the Southern soldiers would attack them, and search; so everything was left there.
My husband sent me a message that he, Meyer and Vance were going to move the soldiers' wives and children to Ft. Scott. Well, I did not think of his going so far, but determined I would see him again. I knew the road he would travel; so I got a gentleman friend of mine by the name of PRIEDY to go with me. The route I would take was through the mountains and through little trails. We started one morning, bright and early, with about forty miles to drive. We drove very fast and made the trip by dark.
We went to a place called Cochran's Station. There we remained three days before they came. They had forty miles to travel, but as they said, they would drive a few miles and then the Confederates would stop them, unload and burst open all the boxes, searching for weapons and ammunition. My husband, Meyer and Vance would always state to the Confederates why they were moving, that the Government owed them so much and that was the only resort to get money, so they would load up and start on. The third day they drove, they had two or three broken wagons and had to remain at Cochran's Station to get the wagons fixed. I foolishly wanted to go on with them. Mr. Vance said, "Yes you may have my buggy."
My husband, being a man of good judgment and having a good deal of foresight, said, "No, that won't do. You must go back home and take care of the children and run the business." He knew that I took great interest in seeing that there was a good profit made on everything.
Well they started north and I started back to Tishomingo. We made the trip in a day going back, but did not get home until in the night; this was in May. I did not see my husband again until the first of September and rarely got any word from him
When they got to Ft. Scott, the Government could not settle with them. From there they went to St. Louis, and failed to get a settlement there. The three men were very much disappointed, and had to go to Washington City. There they remained, trying to get their money. My husband found, after being [there] several months, that they would have to pay a little bribe money to get the papers signed. No sooner did they find that out, then they paid a bribe of fifteen hundred dollars' the papers were signed and they were ready to start home. They were still there when the first guns fired at Ft. Sumpter.
Then was the trying times for them, to know how to get back. They found a young man by the name of BURDETTE, who was a Southern man, and wanted to get back, but was in debt one thousand dollars to the Government. If he could get that settled up, he would be in a position to go back, and would be quite a protection to them, as he was a lieutenant in the United States Army and wore a uniform.
So, the three men paid the thousand dollars. He was to come with them to Ft. Smith as a protection. He was a good deal of assistance to them, because of this uniform. They came to St. Louis. There they bought hack and team and came through Kansas.
When they got into the Creek Nation, to a place called Eufaula, the would-be officer of the Creeks arrested them. There their lives were at stake. But a genuine Southern Creek by the name of MCINTOSH took them in charge, quieted his men down and told my husband and his companions he would have to send an escort with them to Ft. Smith, as they would meet many bands of Southern scouts.
They got within about one days drive of Ft. Smith, when they told the guards to go back. They could fire sixty times without reloading. They had smuggled these firearms from St. Louis.
They got to Ft. Smith about midnight. There were guards out who hailed them. My husband recognized one voice; that of Mr. NICHOLS, asking him who he was. "Don't you know my voice?", he answered. Then Mr. Nichols recognized him; so they crossed over in a boat.
Now comes my experience. I had got word, or rather Mrs. Meyer had, that our husbands were prisoners in Pennsylvania. I sent her word that I was going to Ft. Smith to see what we could do. She asked me to wait until she came from Ft. Arbuckle. We were great friends and our husbands were like brothers. I waited for her, thinking two heads were better than one, but she did not know how to plan, nor what to do. I told her we would go to the headquarters of the Southern Army and see what they could do for us. We went but she was sick on the trip all the way. We should have made the trip in three days, by driving hard; but taking care of her, it consumed six days, and the great suspense almost made me lose what little sense I had. She would be delirious at night. There were no doctors on the road to call on, so I had to give the little things I had, to try to help her. You may believe I was glad when we reached Ft. Smith, where I could turn her over to friends, and she could get medical aid.
Then I set about to see what I could do. I went back into the Indian Territory about thirty miles, to where the Indian Regiments were camped, commanded by General COOPER, who was our old Indian Agent. He told me I could get a pass through the Federal lines, but he would rather I would wait until the first of September. This was in August. He said that he would be down to Ft. Smith by that time and fix up papers so that we could pass through the Southern Army, to the Northern Army, and proceed north.
I had all preparations made to start. Such a wild chase it was, with only my fifteen year old stepson to go with me, by private conveyance! About three o'clock in the morning, the morning we were to start, I was aroused by my brother-in-law, Mr. COLEMAN, who brought word that Mr. Harlan was up at his house. I was staying with my brother, George Moncrief. My brother-in-law and brother lived only three quarters of a mile apart.
The children and I hurried to Mr. Coleman's to see Mr. Harlan. I could hardly believe he was there; but to my great joy he was. Well, we did not make preparations to go home for several weeks.
During that time, my husband wanted me to make a fine Confederate flag, which was known as stars and bars. I had quite a time finding material at Ft. Smith and Van Buren to make this flag. It was made of silk handkerchiefs, and cost $5.00. But I succeeded, and a Mrs. SLAUGHSON of Ft. Smith helped me to make it, I paying for her assistance.
We made preparations then to start back to our home. My sister, Mrs. McCarty, her husband, and family went with us as far as Buck Creek, where the Confederate Soldiers were camped, who were Choctaw Indians. I gave this flag to them. We stayed there a few days, then proceeded on our way to Tishomingo. When we arrived at home, we found everything all right with the business. We always left our Negroes to look after everything, never locking anything from them. They always took as good care of things as I would myself.
In the fall of this year (1861) I took the children to Bonham to school. There had been three boys and three girls, but a short time before I took them to Bonham, my own little boy fell from a horse, the injuries from which proved fatal. He lived only a week. It was very hard when the time came to take them all away. I started them in the first of September and told them I would come and see them at Christmas.
My oldest stepdaughter was at home with me. We made presents before Christmas and cooked a lot of good things for them to eat, as I knew children always liked to have something to eat from home.
On our way, we overtook a man in a carriage. He tried to keep ahead of us. I told my driver to get ahead of him as we were in a hurry. The man would not let us pass. I again told my driver to get ahead of him, which he did. The man said, "Well, I'll give it up, you can beat me."
We got into Bonham and went to the house where my children were boarding with a Mrs. SIMMS. But, alas! I found one sick with boils. The room was very dirty.
The teacher sent the children on home to me before school closed. The oldest daughter said they did not wait on her brother, Jackson. I could see that he was not treated right, and I said, "I won't stand for this." He had some fever. I called in a doctor to treat him. I did not know what to do. I wanted my children treated right. I spent a week, and having carried so much for them to eat, they did not eat much at the table and Mrs. Simms remarked about it. One of them said, "Oh, mamma brought us lots of good things to eat." It was pretty hard work for me not to say something, but I had been trying for a long time to conquer myself.
I went to the principal of the school, Mr. CYRUS, and said, "I think I will have to take my children home. I am not satisfied with the way they are situated here." I told him how they were being treated. He was very sorry, and said he wished he could take them to his home.
One night about one o'clock, I heard a rap at my door. I asked who was there. Someone said, "Mrs. Harlan, open the door and let us in; we have very important business with you." I let them in, lighted a lamp and built a fire. It was Miss WILSON and Miss CLARK. They said they had good news for me, that Mr. Cyrus had informed them that he would have to cut down expenses in the school, and would have to let one of them go. After talking the matter over between themselves, it was decided that if I wanted to take my children home, and still wanted Miss Clark as a governess, she would go with me. After discussing the matter of salary, I finally offered her seventy-five dollars per month, one half in gold, the other in Confederate money. She agreed to this, and went away saying that she would stay as long as I wanted her. We decided we had better have a contract. I wrote it out. It was a funny little contract. My husband laughed at me when he read it.
I told Mrs. Simms of my arrangements, and that I had hired a conveyance to take my children home. It took us two days to get home. We stayed all night at a stage stand on the stage line. The Negroes saw us coming down the long slope in sight of home, and said, "Marse, Mistress is coming home, and has got all the children with her, and Miss Clark is with them.:"
We had a joyous time when we got home. Miss Clark stayed with us three years. Then her father became sick, and was dying with consumption; so she wanted to go home. I told her I did not think she could get home before the close of the War. School was out, and my husband took her money and bought cotton for her. She went to Eagle Pass, Texas, to try to run the blockade there.
My oldest stepson wanted to go into the army. We did not want him to go, but the Negroes told me I had better let him go, as he was planning to run away. So we let him go.
The War was progressing rapidly, and I wanted to get away from Tishomingo; not on account of the War, but on account of an Indian man wanting to marry one of the Negroes. We finally kept her in the house to try to keep him from coming to see her. My husband sent word that he had called on the United States officers, and that it was unlawful for an Indian to have a Negro wife. That made him very angry with my husband. I knew this Indian to be a very treacherous man, and knew he had threatened my husband's life; so I told him we must leave.
We sold out, and the very day we sold, in the evening, another Indian killed this bad Indian. And there we were; we could not then call the trade off, so we moved to Paris, Texas, and sent the children to school. We stayed one year in Paris, then I found a governess that would suit me. I did not know what to do. I was in Paris, and all my Negroes and property were in the Choctaw Nation; the Negroes begging me to come back. I told my husband my health was very poor, and that the Negroes would prepare the buildings for us if we should return, which they did. I had a little cabin prepared for a school house, employing Miss Alice HUNT as governess. So we went back to the Choctaw Nation on Red River. My husband was employed in the Army as Assistant Forage Master, and would only be at home on furloughs for a few days. With the assistance of one old intelligent Negro and his wife, with whom I could counsel, we made good crops; and having a great deal of stock, we were well provided with everything, as we thought. But finally, the time came, when such things as coffee, starch, bluing and soda began to give out. As to sugar, we had a great abundance of that in hogsheads. So, I took some teams and went over into Texas, visiting the town of Sherman, Kentuckytown, Farmington and McKinney, buying what I could find, in the way of clothing.
I bought goods from one yard to hundreds of yards, and everything except coffee. That I could not find. A friend of mine, whom I knew I could trust, was going to Eagle Pass, Texas, and I knew that coffee down there was selling at one dollar per pound. Nevertheless, I gave him one hundred dollars in gold to bring me one hundred pounds of coffee, which he did. This was in the second year of the War. I said it must stretch through the War, which it did; but part of the time, I had parched okra and parched sweet potatoes, only taking coffee once a day.
While at McKinney after buying everything I could find and after having about cleaned up the town, I was arrested by the Provost Marshal, I felt a little tenderfoot on this proposition, but a lawyer by the name of ESTES came to my rescue.
I tried to be very brave, and while this Provost Marshal was taking down my name, age and weight, and where I lived, I laughed and told him to take it down accurately, so my husband could find me with the War closed.
Mr. Estes investigated those papers stating who I was etc., and wrote me a note telling me the next morning just to go down to the public square, order my teams and drive out and say nothing to the Provost Marshal, saying: "If they stop you the second time I'll be at your service."
I slept very soundly that night, and paid up my bill the next morning with the hotel man, saying I was going to leave the town. He said: "Aren't you a prisoner?" I said: "Maybe you think so, but I don't." But I was very careful not to give Mr. Estes away. As I drove out, such shouting I never heard for a poor Indian. Every man was shouting, and one man was pounding on a barrel shouting: "Hurrah for the Choctaw Nation." I kept my handkerchief waving at them. I inquired through a friend of Mr. Estes how much he charged for his advice and, to my surprise, he said he charged nothing. I felt pretty good when I got out of there, but still felt a little ticklish for fear I might be arrested again.
The next trip I made over in Texas to buy goods, I could not find any soda, bluing nor starch. We could substitute flour for starch, but did not know what to do about the other things. A druggist in Bonham gave me some indigo seed. I knew that was what bluing was made of, but did not know the process. Nevertheless, I planted the seed. When it was just blooming, the old Negro man with whom I always counseled, cut it down, put it in barrels and pounded it like making kraut, then he said let it rot, so we did, and I tell you it beat any jockey club smell I ever smelled. Then he put it under a press and pressed the juice out, strained it, put it in a boiler and boiled it for two days, from ten gallons down to one, until it was thick like syrup, then put it in dishes and set it in the sun to dry; it evaporated and became hard. We tried it in water, and to our great joy found it just what we wanted; but it took work. We had enough of it to do us through the War, every once in a while giving somebody a teaspoonful of it. A piece as big as a pea was sufficient for a big washing.
After doing without soda for so long, and having white light bread and beaten biscuits, I became pretty tired of it and wanted soda biscuits, so had the Negroes cut down some hickory wood, burn it to ash and made a strong lye, which we boiled, and boiled and boiled. Finally, it thickened; then we poured it in dishes and kept it in the sun until it became very hard. So we had these two articles to do us through the War.
My husband and stepson, who were in the War, would come home once in a while on a furlough. I would never know when they were coming only by the loud call of my stepson, yelling: "How's Islicki." [which means my mother] "I want lots to eat, lots of good nipi." [meat] We were always rejoiced to see him coming, always came with "Coopers brand" on horseback, and what they called campers itch. I always prepared with an ointment of calomel and lard, which was a certain cure with two applications. When he would start home the boys would say: "You are going to the hospital." I always kept everything necessary for any little disease of army life. He always brought home a horse to be doctored.
Well, finally, the cruel war closed. You may call it a Civil War but I fail to see anything akin to civility. One evening about dark I heard the well known voice of my son. He was in rags and only a piece of a cap, but just as happy as though he were dressed in broadcloth, saying: "I have gone through three years of it and not a scratch have I."
In a few days, the Government notified us that our Negroes were free. We did not know they were free until a Government courier brought us word after the War was over. My husband called the Negroes around him and told them they were free, that they were no more his. The Negroes were surprised, said nothing but stood and looked at him in awe. At last, the old Negro Soloman said: "Marster, what must we do?" My husband said" "You have got to think and do for yourself now." Poor darkeys, they knew not what to do. He told them to go back to their cabins and counsel with one another and decide what they would do, saying, "I will make you a proposition right now, but you go and study the matter over and weigh it well." He offered them half the crop for another year and furnish everything. In a few days, they made their appearance at the porch and said they would stay. He told them he would leave his nephew there to boss them. But they said, "No Marster, he don't know how to boss. If Mist'es will stay with us we will stay." I had been separated so much from my husband that I was not willing and rebelled against it. One old Negro came to me and sat on the steps at my feet and said: "You know that young man don't know nothing, you stay with us." Then he bowed his head and wept. I said, "Well, let me study about it awhile." I studied the matter over for a couple of days, when my husband said we must get matters straightened out, that he must get into business again. I eventually consented to remain on the farm with the Negroes until they could raise and harvest their crop.
The Federals has possession of Ft. Smith and were sending out runners through the country making Negroes believe that everything was paved with gold; so a lot of young Negroes in our neighborhood banded together, anxious to get among the people that had freed them, thinking that they would have nothing to do but dress in fine linen and bask in glory. Two of my flock made a break. They took two of my best horses and left for Ft. Smith. I started to pursue them to get the horses, and could have overtaken them, but came to a friend's house and he advised me to let them go, saying there were other Negroes with those two and they were bad Negroes, that my own would not kill me, but the bad ones might. I hated to give it up, my disposition being such that when I undertook anything I wanted to carry it out, but I gave up. I got my husband word that they were gone. He was on his way to Ft. Smith when he received my message. While there, one of the Negroes, my carriage driver, came to the door of the St. Charles lobby and called out, "Marster." My husband did not know who it was but looked around and saw Andrew and called: "Hello Andrew, what are you doing here? I am astonished to see you so ragged." Andrew said, "I can't get enough work to do to pay for what I can eat." He asked my husband for a dime to buy something to eat. My husband turned to the landlord of the hotel and said, "Give this colored gentleman all he can eat and I will pay for it. Andrew said, "Marster, I want to tell you something when you are by yourself." My husband told him to eat a hearty supper then they would talk. After supper, Andrew said, "I got your horse here but I have had to work so hard to get enough to pay the horse's board that I cannot get enough to feed and clothe myself. I knew it was not my horse and tried to get it back to you but could not. Bill sold the other horse, but I know where it is and can help you get him." He delivered the horse into my husband's hands before a Federal officer saying "This horse is not mine; I only took it to ride here because I thought you white folks would give me a big job. I didn't steal, I was raised better than that. I never had to steal, I always had plenty." This was a great assistance to my husband in getting the other horse.
These were horses that went through the War. My husband sold one of them, but the other belonged to my son; so he sent him home. The year I spent with the Negroes on the farm seemed like three years; I had been away from home so long. At the end of the year, the younger Negroes did not want any stock nor produce; only wanted money, so, I bought all their produce and nearly all the stock. Two old Negroes, knowing they had to leave that home and hunt one somewhere else, took a pair of mules and a wagon and other things they needed for farming, and moved about one hundred miles away. I left them on the place; and when I left them, we had a big, big cry. People who never owned Negroes don't know how owners felt toward them. Especially, as good ones as we had.
Well, they were scattered to the four winds. Six of the Negroes, two young women and four young men said: "You have to have Negroes to wait on you; why not hire us?" I knew my husband could put them to good use gathering up cattle (he having taken a contract again with the Government to buy up cattle), so we took the Negroes and paid them what we would white men. They finally married and left us; going to the Indian country to make themselves homes. It was pretty hard for me to wait on myself, but I said: "Other women can do it and I can, too." Sometimes we would get out of hired help, and myself and daughters would cook, wash dishes and milk the cows, but we went at it with a good will, saying we would get used to it some day. But let me say right here, I never had got used to it. I feel better today to call a Negro to wait on me.
Well, time went on, and my husband was very prosperous in business. We did not yet decide where we would make our permanent home. Business with the Government was not as good now as before the War. Things seemed to be more prosperous in the eastern part of the Choctaw Nation; and, about this time, the Government decided it would have to make a new Treaty with the Five Civilized Tribes, viz., the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee Nations, the old one being null and void as the United States did not keep troops to protect the Five Civilized Tribes. So, they made arrangements with the Five Tribes to send delegates to Ft. Smith to meet officers of the Government.
There they made a new Treaty with the Indians, giving by this treaty intermarried whites equal rights with the Indians. The Choctaw and Chickasaws, however, were the only tribes to accept the intermarried white people as full adopted Indians, the other tribes refusing. So the Government made a treaty with the other Civilized Tribes on another basis.
This treat with the Choctaws gave all our former slaves forty acres of land. Prior to this treaty intermarried whites could carry on business only by payment of a license tax. The new treaty gave my husband a better opportunity of prospering in his business.
We moved to the Eastern part of the Choctaw Nation, and started in business at Skullyville. While living there, my own daughter, Julia Vermelle HAWKINS, was married to William C. FALCONER of Arkansas. At that time, a white man had to live in the Indian Territory twelve months before he could marry a Choctaw Indian, according to Choctaw laws. Consequently, they were married at the home of Mr. Falconer's mother, who then lived on the old Falconer place, near Ft. Smith.
I was not able to attend the wedding' but Mr. Harlan and his daughters went with her and Mr. Harlan gave her away. She was married by an Episcopal Minister. Many of the guests were surprised to learn that she was not Mr. Harlan's daughter.
A few weeks after the wedding, my daughter, Lorena, was born. Mr. Harlan and I had been married about thirteen years before this first baby was born.
My daughter, Vermelle, was immediately sent for because I was so sick that the doctors had no hope of my recovery. When she arrived, she exclaimed; "Oh, my mother must not die!" With the best of attention from Dr. FANNIN of Skullyville and Dr. Spring of Ft. Smith, I was soon on the road to recovery.
In about a year and a half, my daughter, Juanita, was born. These two children were idolized by my stepchildren. I often said to them: "You never got mad with me until these children came." They always took offense if I corrected Lorena and Juanita. I would tell my stepchildren that Lorena and Juanita were no better than they and my other children, Vermelle and Sampson, by my first husband, and I had made them obey me. But they, all being grown, seemed to think these children were perfect; but for all that, they had to be controlled. I think, myself, they were extra good children with so many to pet and spoil them and only one to command then; nevertheless, we were a very happy family. Before we moved to Tishomingo, a niece whom I had raised, Lila MCCLAIN, was married. There were no more weddings in the family until after Mr. Harlan's death.
About this time, the first railroad and telegraph wires were put through the Five Civilized Nations, running north and south. The fever seized my husband to go to a trading point on this line. He was always seeking something better; and, that being the first opportunity of the kind through our country, he selected a place and started moving on through the nations with the railroad as it was constructed, using a tent storehouse for his business. When we got to a certain place, thirty miles from the Texas line, knowing that would be the next place for business, the civil engineer told him that would be an established depot.
He immediately staked out a place, directed by the civil engineer, and left the business in charge of Mr. JEWELL; came back home and sold out and moved to this place, which he named Caddo. There we made our last home. I still have property in the town and a farm adjoining it. My husband still had a good deal of business in connection with the Choctaw Nation and had to go to Washington very often, leaving the business in the hands of this gentleman; as he thought. I never did like the man from the start, and told my husband that man would never do, but he had so much confidence in him. When my husband was away I saw how matters were going, and wrote him urging him to come home and attend to the business there, that I was confident that under Mr. Jewell's management we would be bankrupt. He finally came, but too late; we were bankrupt. He had learned that all men are not honest and all is not gold that glitters. The man was a jewel in name, but not in reality.
He soon saw that it was worse than when the Negroes were freed. We had capital then to go into business again, but now we had nothing, and he was too proud to ask for help. But I told him it was not as dark as he thought. There was a big business being done at that time by the railroad, (it being a carrier for all western traffic) and it employed a good many men. They had often asked me to board them, the hotels were so poor; but as I did not have to do such things at that time I refused. After that catastrophe, I made up my mind to take them, consulting with my stepdaughters in regard to it; never minding my husband because I knew he would oppose it. We decided to take the railroad men to board, and I went to the depot to see the man in charge, telling him he knew our situation now, and asking him if they wanted to change boarding houses. He said, yes, if I would take them, saying they had a force of fifteen men, and wanted to know when they could come. This was the last of the week so I told them they might start in on Sunday, the first day of the week, if they would pay in advance, as I did not want to ask credit from the merchants. They gladly accepted, and came, paying the same as at the hotels, five dollars a week, board only.
I felt real mean over taking the whole responsibility of providing for the family and not consulting my husband; still, I felt I was doing right. I arranged with the stores to use a pass book so I could know at night what my expenses were during the day. My husband was very sore over it. I said to him; "You have had such a hurt you are hardly able to walk; what better can we do?" He was a very proud man and proud of his family. He thought it very humiliating for me to open a private boarding house. The man that took our store came to board with us, too, making twenty men in all. They seemed to be losing business on account of so many trains of wagons from the west. They wanted my husband to take charge of the business again, but he did not like the idea of working under someone else. I urged him to accept it, as he was well enough for a few months at least. He accepted it and was paid a good salary, but being used to having the entire management of business for so long, he chafed under it. Finally he saw quite a good opening for business, about eighty five miles west of this place. I was seriously opposed to his going on account of his health, but he thought that in a few months, he would have a business established so that we could move out there. I never felt that it was the right move; and, alas, it was not. There were no public conveyances through that country and in a few months, a runner came for me to go home at once to White Bead Hill as my husband was very sick. When I think of it now, I think I surely had no nerves, or if I had, they were of iron. I started at night, the runner having a note to show to the people on the road his mission so they would furnish us with fresh horses. The runner made the trip in thirteen hours. I started at nine o'clock at night with it raining all the way; and, changing horses every ten or fifteen miles; I made it in twelve hours. At a store called Cherokee, about ten miles from where my husband was, I had my driver ask some men standing on the porch how my husband was. One of them said that when he passed there he was dying. Language fails me to describe my feelings. I had my two little baby children with me, my stepdaughters wanting me to take them, saying papa would be so disappointed if I didn't. I hardly realized at this moment that I had them with me. I urged the driver to hurry. The men were so shocked at my distress they did not think to warn us that the bridge across the Ouachita River was not safe. We came to it and rushed frantically across. Just as we reached the last abutment, crash it went right in the middle of the river. We had not noticed that the men from the store were following us and yelling to us not to cross. Just as it fell in, the driver halted, looked back and saw them coming. But providence had saved us. We dashed wildly on. Within a mile of the place we came into an open prairie and down grade. Before we reached the spot I could see my husband's corpse laid out. I said to my little children' "I wish we could have gone down with the bridge." The oldest little girl, who was not quite seven years old, said to the driver, "Drive up to that house, mamma is dead." I said, "No, I am not dead, darling." She knew I had taken brandy with me and called for water to fix some for me and told me to drink it, which I did. I think it was very thoughtful of her.
My husband had died perfectly conscious. He said he knew I would want to take his remains back to Caddo and he did not want me opposed. He said, "I am not afraid to die. I have but one thing that bothers me. That is leaving her with two little children to raise. She has raised all of mine." Calling on his son-in-law, he said: "Will you help her educate them? That is the height of her ambition. She educated the others. Then we were amply able. Now, I leave her penniless." The son-in-law, when I got there, said, "Why not bury him here?" I said, "No, I have a place for him at home; I will never consent." So we left the next morning at four o'clock with his remains, and a long, rough road it was. I did not think much about my little children's comfort until the second day. The 6th of April, 1876, we reached home. I was met by a great crown of friends and acquaintances. Just as the sun was setting in the west he was lowered into his grave. It was a bitter cold day.
I saw in after years that it was a blessing to me that I was left to depend on myself for everything. If I had had wealth, as I had in years past, it would have been a curse, instead of a blessing.
My boarders were gentlemen. They quit the house while I was away, but said they were coming back. In a week's time they all came back. They soon found it would not do to offer assistance. They liked iced tea, and when I told them I could not afford it, they made me a proposition, saying they would furnish the ice if I would furnish the tea. I agreed to this but, after a few days told them I did not feel right about their furnishing the ice. They said that they did not have to pay for it; that the railroad furnished more than they could use.
It was while we were living here at Caddo that I allowed an old sack of paper to be burned, not realizing that it contained the papers necessary to prove my right to $60,000.00 which Mr. Harlan's heirs should have received from the Government for helping the Choctaws to get what was called "Net proceeds" money still due them for property left in Alabama. That was a most unfortunate bonfire.
About this time, my third stepdaughter, Belle, married a Mr. E. C. MCLAUGHLIN, who was a very excellent man; he was truly a son to me. In a few years they moved to Colorado. His wife had never been separated from the family except a few weeks at a time, and it was a sore trial for her, but she had an own sister who worked in a millinery store in Ft. Smith and this sister, Josephine, decided to go to Colorado with them, thinking she could find something to do.
Shortly after this, while Lorena and Juanita were in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, at Douglas College, I thought I would make a visit to my daughter, Mrs. Falconer. While making my preparation, I received a letter from her urging me to come immediately, as her eldest daughter, Belle, was very low with pneumonia.
This was in the month of January, and it was bitter cold weather. I traveled as far as Muskogee on a train; but from there I went in an open hack to Ft. Smith. When I reached the Arkansas River, across from Ft. Smith, I found to my horror that it was frozen over and there I waited from 9 A. M. to 4 P. M. By that time a passage large enough for the ferry boat had been cut in the ice. We crossed and had just landed when a tremendous avalanche of ice broke loose and shot up into the air about twenty feet. A steamboat which was fast in the ice was demolished. It was a very thrilling moment to me for if the ferry boat had not landed just when it did, we would all have been crushed to death.
I am very superstitious and believe in dreams. Having had a presentiment in a dream, I was very anxious to reach my daughter. I felt as though there was great trouble to befall me.
On reaching Ft. Smith I was rushing to the livery stable to hire a rig, when I met an old friend, a Mr. MILLER. I asked him how my granddaughter was. He said she was out of danger. I then said, "How is Vermelle, my daughter?"
He took my arm and led me into Sheriff Henry Falconer's office, which was nearby. I asked Henry about Vermelle. He would not tell me that she was near to death. He rushed me into his brother's rig and said, "Take her to Mag's" (meaning Mrs. M. A. McKinley's) "as quick as you can." Such riding I had never done before! When we reached there, I ran in and found my daughter was indeed near death. This was Saturday night, and she passed away Monday at 2 P. M.
She was buried in the Falconer graveyard, near Ft. Smith. She left six children, three boys and three girls, named Henry, Mary Bell, Susan E., William C., Julia Vermelle, and Erasmus Bryant. Knowing that my son-in-law needed me, I went home with him and his children. I stayed six months. Expecting my daughters home from school, I then made preparations and returned to my home in Caddo, taking with me my two youngest grandchildren. A few weeks after reaching home the baby died.
In the fall, my daughters returned to school. I then went back to my son-in-law, staying with him a short time. I returned home again, taking with me three grandchildren, the other two being away at school. I kept them a few years until the oldest girl was old enough to manage the household. Their father was anxious to have his children at home with him; so they returned home.
About this time, the Ft.. Smith and Western Railroad was surveyed and it crossed the M. K. & T. Railroad where the town of Crowder is today. My son-in-law, Dr. CROWDER, thought he saw quite an opening at this crossing so he platted a town site which he called Crowder City. This little town derived its name from my son-in-law, Dr. Crowder. There he did well selling lots.
The stork visited my daughter, and left a little boy. He was a very delicate child, and soon tuberculosis developed. His mother, before many weeks elapsed, was stricken with the same terrible disease. Then the doctor and myself took mother and child in quest of health for them. From Monte NE, Arkansas, wither we first went, we journeyed to San Antonio, first stopping at Atoka to file a claim on some land for her two little boys, and herself. Both mother and child died.
I have reared a number of children that were not my own; and when I look back upon this, it gives me great joy to think I did for those who had no mother and no money. I do not say this in self-praise; it is even so. Two women are still living who are not related to me whom I took care of from childhood to womanhood. I often hear of the great praise they give me for being a mother to them, which fills my old heart with joy. In connection with rearing these girls, I was rearing my own two little girls that I had by my last husband, making four girls in the house at once.
After these two girls left me, I just had my own two baby daughters. My greatest anxiety was to educate them. I would often say that if I could educate them and see them married to good men, my work would be done. Well, I gave them a pretty good education, but not such as I had given my first daughter and my stepchildren, for I had not the means. School facilities became better, but still no free schools; so I worked and managed and the first good school I sent them to was the Daughters College in Kentucky, near Harrodsburg, where they remained one year.
The eyes of the younger one gave her trouble. Her sister wrote me in regard to it and I wrote the Principal to take her to Cincinnati to a good oculist, but this he did not do. When she came home she could hardly see; but after resting her eyes, they gained strength. The next year, I sent them to Kirdwood, now a suburb of St. Louis. Her eyes failed again. This school being run by a lady, Mrs. KAIRN, I wrote this lady to take her to the best oculist in St. Louis. She did so, and stopped her from studying but kept her in the classes where she could learn by listening. The doctor there told her the trouble was caused from catarrh, advising her to go to Hot Springs. I did not send here then, but sent my girls to school in Sherman, Texas, the next year. An oculist there treated this youngest daughter, but told her it was better that she go to Hot Springs; so I sent her. Her eyes never were good and yet she had the most brilliant eyes one ever saw.
Just here, before I close, I will give a short genealogical account of the families of my sisters and brothers which may interest the rising generations. My oldest sister, Susanna, was married to James M. McLain. At this time there are three daughters and one son living: Mrs. Bowers, Mrs. Lyman Moore, George McLain and Mrs. John Quinn. The last named, Lila, I raised from a little girl, seven years old.
The second sister, Mary Ann, married R. S. McCarty; her children are as follows: Mrs. Nancy Hill, Mrs. Helen Marr Haley, Mrs. Lela Dawson, Mrs. Laura McHan, Mrs. Cora Leard, Mrs. Cordelia Lowry, Wesley McCarty and Robert S. McCarty.
Then a brother, William Moncrief, who died leaving five children. I do not know anything about them except that they live in Oklahoma somewhere.
Then George Moncrief, who had one daughter and two sons, Mrs. Katy Culbertson, Reynolds Moncrief and George Moncrief.
I, Sarah Ann, married first, E. B. Hawkins, by who I had two children, Julia Vermelle and Sampson Philanders. My second husband was Aaron Harlan, who having six children, with my two made quite a family of us. After these children were about grown there were two little girls born to us, Lorena Harlan, now Mrs. W. F. Kelly, and Juanita Harlan, who married Dr. W. E. Crowder. Only two of my stepchildren are living: Mrs. Catherine Elizabeth Rooks and Mrs. Martha Josephine Wynne. My eldest daughter, Julia Vermelle Hawkins, married W. G. Falconer. She died at the age of thirty six. Mrs. Crowder died at the age of thirty three and my little boy, Sampson, died at the age of six years and eight months. Mrs. Lorena Kelly is my only living child. I have lots of nephews and nieces. I drift from one to another, all wanting me to make a permanent home.
I am, at the writing of this, with my granddaughter, Julia Vermelle Falconer Underwood, at Stuttgart, Arkansas, where I meet lots of nice people, and very sociable ones.
My daughter thinks it hard that I do not stay with her all the time. As I said before, I made a mistake in ever breaking up my own home, and should not advise any one to do it.
And now the story of my life is near its end.
Much of what I have related is made up of trifles, and it often seems that to have been an actor in these trifling things is all that I have been here for.
Still, when I take a retrospective view of all my life, I find a good many bright rays shining through the dark clouds.
I know I have tried hard to do right, and to do unto others as I wish them to do unto me.
Transcribed and submitted by Sandi Carter <SandKatC@aol.com> 03-2000