The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project
We strongly recommend that you read the information below from the Library of Congress explaining the language used in these interviews.
Age 110 Yrs.
Fort Gibson, Oklahoma
I ws born in Arkansas under Mr. Abraham Stover, on a big farm about twenty miles north of Van Buren. I was plumb grown when the Civil War came along, but I can remember back when the Cherokee Indians was in all that part of the country.
Joe Kye was my pappy's name what he was born under back in Garrison County, Virginia, and I took that name when I was freed, but I don't know whether he took it or not because he was sold off by old Master Stover when I was a child. I never have seen him since. I thing he wouldn't mind good, leastways that what my mammy say.
My mammy was named Jennie and I don't think I has any brothers or sisters, but they was a whole lot of children at the quarters that I played and lived with. I didn't live with mammy because she worked all the time, and us children all stayed in one house.
It was a little one room log cabin, chinked and daubed, and you couldn't stir us with a stick. When we went to eat we had a big pan and all ate out of it. One what ate the fastest for the most.
Us children wore homespun shitrs and britches and little slips and nobody but the big boys wore any britches. I wore just a shirt until I was about 12 years old, but it had a long tail down to my calves. Four or five of us boys slept in one bed, and it was made of hewed logs with rope laced acrost it and a shuck mattress. We had stew made out of pork and potatoes, and sometimes greens and pot liquor, and we had ash cake mostly, but biscuits about once a month.
In the winter time I had brass toed shoes made on the place, and a cloth cap with ear flaps.
The work I done was hoeing and plowing, and I rid a horse a lot for old Master because I was a good rider. He would send me to run chores for him, like going to the mill. He never beat his negroes but he talked might cross and glared at us until he would nearly scare us to death sometimes.
He told us the rules and we lived by them and didn't make trouble, but they was a neighbor man that had some mean negroes and he nearly beat them to death. We could hear them jollering in the field sometimes. They would sleep in the cotton rows, and run off, and them they would catch the cat-o-nine tails sure nuff. He would chain them up, too, and keep them tied out to trees, and when they went to the field they would be chained together in bunches sometimes after they had been cutting up.
We didn't have no place to go to church, but old Master didn't care if we had singing and praying, and we would tie our shoes on our backs and go down the road close to the white church and all set down and put our shoes on and go up close and listen to the service.
Old Master was baptized almost every Sunday and cussed us all our on Monday. I didn't join the church until after freedom, and I always was a scoundrel for dancing. My favorite preacher was old Pete Conway. He was the only ordained colored preacher we had after freedom, and he married me.
Old Master wouldn't let us take herb medicine, and he got all our medicine in Van Buren when we was sick. But I wore buckeye on my neck just the same.
When the War come along I was a grown man, and I went off to serve because old Master was too old to go, but he had to send somebody anyways. I served as George Stover, but everytime the sergeant would call our "Abe Stover" I would answer "Here>"
They ha me driving a mule team wagon that Old Master furnished, and I went with the Sesesh soldiers from Van Buren to Texarkana and back a dozen times or more. I was in the War two years right up to the day of freedom. We had a battle close to Texarkana and another big one near Van Buren, but I never left Arkansas and never got a scratch.
One time in the Texarkana battle I was behind some pine trees and the bullets cut the limbs down all over me. I dug a hole with my bare hands before I hardly knowed how I done it.
One time two white soldiers named Levy and Briggs come to the wagon train and said they was hunting slaves for some purpose. Some of us black boys got scared because we heard they was going to Squire Mack and make a reward for catching runaways, so me and two more lit out of there.
They was eleven negro boys served in my regiment for their masters. The first year was mighty hard because we couldn't get enough to eat. Some ate poke greens without no grease and took down and died.
How I knowed I was free, we was bad licked, I reckon. Anyways we quit fighting and a Federal soldier come up to my wagon and say: "Whose Mules?" :Abe Stover's Mules," I says, and he tells me then, "Let me tell you, black boy, you are as free now as old Abe Stover his own self!: When he said that I jumped on top of one of them mules' back before I knowed anything!
I married Sarah Richardson, February 10, 1870, and had only eleven children. One son is a deacon and one gradson is a preacher. I am a good Baptist. Before I was married I said to the gal's old man, "I'll go to the mourners' bench if you'll let me have Sal. and sure nuff I joined up just a month after I got her. I am head of the Sunday School and deacon in the St. Pauls Baptist church in Muskogee now.
I lived bout five miles from Van Buren until about twenty years ago when they found oil and then they run all the negroes out and leased up the land. They never did treat negroes good around there anyways.
I never had a hard time as a slave, but I'm glad we was set free. Sometimes we can't figger out the best thing to do, but anyways we can lead our own life now, and I'm glad the young ones can learn and get somewhere these days.
Contributed by M. Dawson, May 2002