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Polly Colbert

Choctaw Freedwoman  
Age 83

Colbert, Oklahoma
Page 33

        "I am now living on de forty-acre farm dat de Government give me and it is just about three miles from my old home on Master Holmes Colbert's plantation where I lived when I was a slave.

        Lawsy me, times sure has changed since slavery times! Maybe I notice it more since I been living here all de time, but dere's farms round here dat I've seen grown timber cleared off of twice in my lifetime. 'Dis land was first cleared up and worked by niggers when dey was slaves. After the War nobody worked it and it just naturally growed up again all wid all sorts of trees. Later, white folks cleared it up again , and took grown trees off'n it, and now day are still cultivating it but it is most wore out now. Some of it won't even sprout peas. 'Dis same land used to grow corn without hardly any work but it sure won't do it now.

        I reckon it was on account of de rich land dat us niggers dat was owned by Indians didn't have to work so hard as dey did in de old states, but I think dat Indian masters was just naturally kinder anyway leastways mine was.

        My mother Liza was owned by de Colbert family and my father, Tony was owned by de Love family. When Master Holmes and Miss Betty Love was married, dey fathers give my father and mother to dem for a wedding gift. I was born as Tishomingo, and we moved to de farm on Red River soon after dat and I been here ever since. I had a sister and a brother, but I ain't seen dem since den.

        My mother died when I was real small, and about a year after dat my father died. Master Holmes told us children not to cry, dat he and Miss Betsey would take good care of us. Dey did, too. Dey too us in de house wid dem and look after you jest as good as dey could colored children. We slept in a little room close to them and she allus seen dat we was covered up good before she went to bed. I guess she got a sight of satisfaction from taking care of us cause she didn't have no babies to care for.

        Master Homes and miss Betsy was real young folks but dey was purty well fixed. He owned about 100 acres of land dat was cleared and ready for de plow and a lot dat was not in cultivation. He had de woods full of hogs and cows and he owned seven or eight grown slaves and several children. I remember uncle Shed, Uncle Lige, Aunt Chaney, Aunt Lizzie, and Aunt Suzy just as well as if it was yesterday. Master Holmes and miss Betsey was both half -breed Choctaw Indians. Dey had both been away to school somewhere in de states and was well educated. Day had two children but dey died when dey was little. Another little girl was born to dem after the War, and she lived to be a grown woman.

        Dey sure was fine young folks and provided well for us. He always had a smokehouse full of meant, lard, sausage, dried beans peas, corn, potatoes, turnips and collards banked up for winter. He had plenty of milk and butter of all of us too,

        Master Holmes always say "A Hungry man can't work" And he allways saw to it that we had lots to eat.

        We cooked all sorts of Indian dishes: Tom-fuller, pashofa, hickory-nut grot, Tom-budha, ash-cakes, and pound cakes besides vegetables and mat dishes. Corn or corn meal was used in all de Indian dishes. We made hominy out'n de whole grains. Tom-fuller was made from beaten corn and tasted sort of like hominy.

        We would take corn and beat it like in a wooden mortar wid a wooden pestle. We would husk it by fanning it and we would den put in on to cook in a big pot. While it was cooking we'd pick out a lot of hickory-nuts, tie em up in a cloth and beat em a little and drop em in and cook for a long time. We called dis dish hickory-nut grot. When we made pashofa we beat de corn and cook for a little while and den we add fresh pork and cook until de meat was done. Tom-budha was green corn and fresh meat cooked together and seasoned wid tongue or pepper-grass.

        We cooked on de fire place wid de ports hanging over de fire on racks and den we baked bread and cakes in a oven-skillet. We didn't use soda and baking powder. We'd put salt in de mail and scald it wid boiling water and make it into pones and bake it. We'd roll dese cakes in wet cabbage leaves and put em in de hot ashes and bake em. We cooked potatoes and roasting ears dat way also. We sweetened our cakes wid molasses, and dey was plenty sweet too.

        Day was lots of possums and coons, and squirrels and we nearly always had some one of these to eat. We'd parboil de possum or coon and put it in a pan and bake him wid potatoes round him. We used de broth to baste him and for gravy. Hit sure was fine eating dem days.  

        I never had much work to do. I helped 'round de house when I wanted to and I run errands for Miss Betsy. I liked to do things for her. When I got a little bigger my brother and I toted cool water to de field for de hands.

        Done't none of Master Holmes' niggers work when dey was sick. He allus saw dat they had medicine and a doctor iff dey needed one. 'Bout de only sickness we had was chills and fever. In de old days we made lots of our own medicine and I still does it yet. We used polecat grease for croup and rheumatism. Dog-fennel, butterfly-root, and life-everlasting boiled and mixed and made into a syrup will cure pneumonia and pleursy. Pursley-weed, called squirrel physic, boiled in to syrup will cure chills and fever. Snake-root steeped for a long time and mixed with whiskey will cure chills and fever also.

        Our cloths was all made of homespun. De women done all de spinning and de weaving but Miss Betsy cut out all de clothes and helped wid de sewing. She learned to sew when she was away to school and she learnt all her women to sew. She done all the sewing for de children, Master Holmes bough our shoes and we all had 'em to wear for de winter. We all went bearfoot in de summer.

        He kept might good teams and he had two fine saddle horses. He and Miss Betsy rode 'em all de time. She would ride wid him all over de farm and dey would go hunting a lot, too. She could shoot a gun as good as any man.

        Master Holmes sure did love his wife and children and he was so pround of her. It nearly killed 'em both to give up de little boy and girl. I never did hear of him taking a drink and he was kind to everybody, both black and white, and everybody liked him. Dey had lots of company and dey never turned anybody away. We lived about four miles from de ferry on Red River on de Texas Road and lots of travelers stopped at our house.

        We was 'olowed to visit de colored folks on de Eastman and Carter phantations dat joined our farm. Eastman and Carter was both white men dat married Indian wives. Dey was good to dey slaves, too, and let 'em visit us.

        Old Uncle Caleb Colbert, Uncle Billy Hogan, Rev. John Carr, Rev Baker, Rev, Hogue, and old Father Murrow preached for de white folks all de time and us colored folks went to church wid dem. Day had church under brush arbors and we set off to ourselves but we could take part in de singing and sometimes a colored person would get happy and pray and shout but nobody didn't think nothing bout dat.

        De Patrollers was de law, kind of like de policeman now. Dey sure never did whip one of maser Holmes niggers for he didn't allow it. He didn't whip em hisself and he sure didn't allow nobody else to either. I was afraid of de Ku Kluxers too, and I spects dat Maser Holmes was one of de leaders iffen de truth was known. Dey sure was scary looking.  

        I was scared of de Yankee soldiers. Dey come by and killed some of our cattle for beef and took our meat and lard out'n de smokehouse and dey took some corn too. Us niggers was awful mad. Wd didn't know anything 'bout dem fighting to free us. We didn't specially want to be free dat I knows of.

        Right after the War I went over to Bloomfield Academy to take care of a little girl, but I went back to Maser Holmes and Miss Betsey at de end of two years to take care of de little girl dat was born to dem and I stayed with her until I was about fifteen. Master Holmes went to Washington as a delegate, for something for de Indians, and he took sick and died, and dey buried him dere. Poor Miss Betsy nearly grieved herself to death. She stayed on at de farm till her little girl was grown and married. Her Negro men stayed on with her and rented land from her and dey sure raised a sight of truck. Didn't none of her old slaves ever move very far from her and most of them worked for her till dey was too old to work.

        I left Miss Betsy purty soon after Master Holmes died and went back to de Academy and stayed three years. I married a man dat belonged to Maser Holmes cousin. His name was Colbert, too. I had a big wedding Miss Betsey and lot of white folks come and stayed for dinner. We danced all evening and after supper we started again and danced all night and de next day and de next night. We'd eat awhile and den we'd dance awhile.

        My husband and I had nine children and now I've got seven grandchildren. My husband has been dead a long time.

        My sister Chaney, lives here close to me, but her mind has got feeble and she can't recollect as much as I can. I live with my son and he is mighty good to me. I know I ain't long for dis world, but I don't mind for I has lived a long time and I'll have a lot of friends in de other world and I won't be lonesome.

Contributed by M. Dawson, May 2002


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