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Millie Garnes

Age 86 Years
McAlester, Oklahoma

 

Way down below, way down below,
Gwine to see my yaller gal,
Way down below.
Way down below, way down below,
Gwine to see my yaller gal,
Way down below.

She could make the nicest hoecake
Out of Indian corn,
Make the nicest music on the old dinner horn
Dance the nicest polka,
One her heel and toe<
Gwine to see my yaller gal,
Way down below.

Dat was one of the songs us young folks used to sing at dances and other shin-digs when I was a girl. We sung lots of others, too, but I remember this one better for some reason. I guess it is because it has such a good dance tune to it. I sure did like to dance and never missed one if I could help it. Dey would have log rollings, quiltings and sech and after supper us young folks would dance and sing, sometimes all night.

I was born near Noonan, Georgia and was born in slavery. Our old Master was Terry Harris and his wife was Miss Mary. They had several children. Their oldest son, Jimmie, was killed in the war and they had another grown son, Judson, and a grown daughter, Caroline. Their two little girls, Adelaide and Sallie, was about my age and we played together so much that I thought that I was white, too. I et at the same table with dem and slept on a pallet in their room. We never had a cross word and played from daylight till dark. We played with our dolls, jumped the rope and played hide and seek. Dey had boughten dolls but I had a rag doll dat Miss Mary made for me. Their dolls had pretty cloths but I thought my doll was just as nice as theirs was and we made it pretty cloths, too.

After the war my parents moved about forty miles from our white folks but we went to see dem at least twice a year. Us children was always glad to see each other and started right in playing. Father and mother visited with old Master and Miss Mary. It always seemed like we was going back home when we started back to the old plantation for a visit.

The house was built in a T-shape and had a big gallery across the front and one on each side of the back, one on the east and one on the west side. Back of the house was a big well, with a well house over it. We drawed water with a windlass. Dere was a spring, too, just below the house and we had a milk house dere. We would take the milk in large crocks or jars and tie a cloth over dem and set dem in a wooden trough. The water from the spring would overflow and run through the trough and cool the milk. It was always nearly as cold as ice even in the hottest weather.

Once during the war some Yankees soldiers come to our house and said dey was hunting guns. Dey just walked in without knocking and nother had just finished baking a lot of pies and put dem out on a shelf to cool. Dey said, "Are you cooking dem pies for rebels?" She say, "No, I make dem for my white folks and the field hands."

Den he asked her if she would sell him one of the pies and she told him dat she would ask her mistress. Old Miss told her to let dem have as many as dey wanted. Mother went back and give him a pie and den he asked her for some milk. I went to the milk house and brought back a big crock full of milk covered with a rich cream and I was going to give it to mother to skim. He took the crock from my hands and he and his buddy went and set down in the shade of one of the trees in the yard. He broke the pie in two and each one took time  about drinking out of the milk. When dey had finished, dey brought the crock back and paid moher for the pie and the milk. Old Miss let mother keep the money for herself.

If the soldiers come and wanted anthing you had better let dem hae it or dey just took what theywanted. One of our neighbors had a cellar full of cider and wine and the soldiers heard about it. One day a whole passel of dem come dere and asked for some wine. She didn't want to let dem have the key. She finally give it to dem and dey went down and drunk all they wanted. Dey went away and about a week later come back again and said, "Kind Mistress, Whar's de key to your cellar?" She didn't say a word but give dem de key and after they drunk what dey wanted dey went away and never bothered her anymore.

Dere was a man dat lived near us dat had a fine home and lots of niggers, but he was always scouting around all the time. He never stayed at home. He rode a black pony and hid out in the woods all the time. Dat pony sure was sell trained for his master could hide in the deep woods or in a canyon and dat horse wouldn't make a sound. I remember he come to our house one time and asked father if he could set by the fire till two o'clock. Father told him he could and we all sent to bed but father. He set up and talked to him till he got ready to go. He left about two o'clock jest like he said.

His mother died and he went to the funeral. Some of his friends happened to see some men in the crowed that had been looking for him and give him a signal and he give dem the slip. Dey finally caught him and I remember they put a barrel over his head and marched him up and down the street and a gang of children run along behind him making fun of him. I never knew what he done, nor what dey finally done with him.

We had lots of money after the war. Us children played with great rolls of it. It was Confederate money and wasn't worth nothing. I've seen rolls of i as big as my arm. At first dey could use it and it just kept getting lower and lower in worth till finally it got to where it wasn't worth nothing. My mother bought her the goods to make her a worsted dress and give two hundred dollars for it.

My father was sold lots of times but only twice on the sale block. He was bad to run off and he was sold lots of times in the woods. He was brought to that country with a gang of slaves in chains. He was bought by some speculators and dey had a big drove dat dey was taking to Louisiana to be sold in the Delta country for the cotton fields. Father was sold to a man at Noonan, Georgia. Dis man was so mean to him that he run off. Dey hunted for him with dogs but didn't catch him so his master sold him to another man dere in the woods. He was finally captured and his new master wasn't no better to him that his old one was. He whupped him mighty hard and give him hard tasks to do. If he didn't do the work that he was 'lowanced to do he was whupped. His master said he was gonna break his nasty mean, stubborn will or kill him trying. He run off again and this time Master Terry Harris bought him in the woods again. Dey caught him again and Master Terry told him dat he wasn't gonna lay the weight of a whup on him again if he would settle down and go to work. Master Terry was as good as his word and father didn't give no more trouble. He married my mother right after dat.

My mother belonged to the Allen family. Dey wasn't good to none of their slaves either. Mother had to work from daylight to dark. She would work in the field all day and wash for the family at night. Dey wouldn't 'low her to lose o time out in the field in the day time. She had to use the battling bench and stick to clean the clothes and dey had to be clean, too, I can tell you.

I've see scars on her back where she had been whupped. She was whupped till she was unconscious lots of times. Dere was scars on her feet, too, where she went barefooted on frozen ground and cut her feet.

After father and mother married, Master Terry made a trade with mother's master and bought her from him unbeknownst to mother and father. Was dey both happy when he took her to his plantation to live for good! all us children was born on the Harris plantation and we never knowed any unkindness. Mother done the cooking here and never worked in the field any more except when dey was short handed.

We was allowed to go to church every Sunday evening and we could visit on joining farms when the work was all done.

When the war was over father and mother stayed a year with Master Terry and den he leased some land and cleared it up and built us a house. Father still worked for Master Terry and he paid us in meat, lard, corn and other food stuff. We never did go hungry but got along purty fair. Miss Mary give mother a start of chickens.

We finally moved about forty miles from dem and didn't get to see dem often but we sure did enjoy visiting dem though.

We had to use make-shift things to keep house with. I'd like to see you women trying to keep house on the things that we had to work with. Dey cooked on a fireplace in pots hanging on racks over the fire and baked bread and cakes in a dutch oven, a sort of skillet with a deep lid that you piled full of live coals.

Dey either used a battling bench and stick when they washed or they rubbed the cloths clean between two rocks. We finally got us some wooden tubs and a wooden rubboard after I was about grown. 

I married when I was twenty-two. I didn't have no wedding, just went and got married. We had seven children. My husband has been dead for a long time.

Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03


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