The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project
Age 93 yrs.
Lawd help us, I sho' remembers all about slavery times for I was a grown woman, married and had one baby, when de War done broke out. That was a sorry time for some poor black folks but I guess Master Frank Colbert's Negroes was about as well off as the best of em. I can recollect things that happened way back better than I can things that happen no. Funny aint' it?
Frank Colbert, a full-blood Choctaw Indian, was my owner. He owned my mother but I don't remember much about my father. He died when I was a little youngun. My Mistress' name was Julie Colbert. She and master Frank was de best folks that ever lived. All the negroes loved master Frank and knowned jest what he wanted done and they tried their best to do it, too.
I married Isom Love, a slave of Sam Love, another full-blood Indian that lived on a 'jining farm. We lived on master Frnaks's farm and Isom went back and forth to work fer his master and I worked ever day fer mine. I don't spect we could of done that way iffen we hadn't of had Indian masters. They let us do a lot like we pleased jest so we got our work done and didn't run off.
Old Master Frank never worked us hard and we had plenty of good food to eat. He never did like to put us under white overseers and never tried it but once. A white man come through here and stopped overnight. He looked 'round the farm and told Master Frank that he wasn't gitting half of what he ought to out of his rich land. He said he could take his bunch of hands and double his amount of corn and cotton.
Master Frank told him that he never used white overseers, that he had one negro that bossed around some when he didn't' do it his self. He also told the white man that he had one negro named Bill that was kind of bad, that he was a good worker in his own way. The white boss told him he wouldn't have any trouble and that he could handle him all right.
Old Master hired him and things went very well for a few days. He hadn't said anything to Bill and they had got alnog fine. I guess the new boss got to thinking it was time for him to take Bill in hand so one morning he told him to hitch up another team before he caught his own team to go to work.
Uncle Bill told him that he didn't have time, that he had a lot of plowing to git done that morning and besides it was customary for every man to catch his own team. Of course this made the overseer mad and he grabbed a stick and stared cussin' and run at Uncle Bill. Old Bill grabbed a single-tree and went meeting him. Dat white man all of a sudden turned 'round and run fer dear life and I tell you, he fairly bust old Red River wide open gitting away from there and nobody never did see hide nor hair of him round to this day.
Master Colbert run a stage stand and a ferry on Red River and he didn't have much time to look after his farm and his Negroes. He had lots of land and lots of slaves. His house was a big log house, three rooms on one side and three on the other, and there was a big open hall between them. There was a big gallery clear across the front of the house. Behind the house was the kitchen and the smoke house. The smoke house was always filled with plenty of good meat and lard. They would kill the polecat and dress it and take a sharp stick and turn it up their back jest under the flesh. The would also run one up each leg and then turn him over on his back and put him on top of the house and let him freeze all night. The next morning they'd pull the sticks out and all the scent would be on them sticks and the cat wouldn't smell at all. They'd cook it like they did possum, bake it with taters or make dumplings.
We had plenty of salt. We go that from Grand Saline. Our coffee was made from parched meal or wheat bran. We made it from dried sweet potatoes that had been parched, too.
One of our choices dishes was "Tom Pashofa" an Indian dish. We'd take corn and beat it in a mortar with a pestle. They took out the husks with a riddle and a fanner. The riddle was a kind of sifter. When it was beat fine enough to got through the riddle we'd put it in a pot and cook it with fresh pork or beef. We cooked our bread in a Dutch oven or in the ashes.
When we got sick we would take butterfly roots and live-everlasting and boil it and make a syrup and take it for cols. Balmony and Queen's Delight boiled and mixed would make good blood medicine.
The slaves lived in log cabins scattered back of the house. He wasn't afraid they'd run off. The didn't know as much as the slaves in the states, I reckon. But Master Frank had a half-brother that was as mean as he was good. I believe he was the meanest man the sun ever shined on. His name was Buck Colbert an he claimed he was a patroller. He was sho' bad to whip Negroes. He'd stop a Negro and ask him if he had a pass and even if they did he'd read it and tell them they had stayed over time and he'd beat em most to death. He'd say they didn't have any business off the farm and to get back there and stay there.
One time he got mad at his baby's nurse because she couldn't git the baby to stop crying and he hit her on the head with some fire tongs and she died. He wife got sick and she sent for me to come a take care of her baby. I sho'd didn't want to go and I begged so hard for them not to make me that they sent an older woman who had a baby of her own so she could nurse the baby if necessary.
In the night the baby woke up and got to crying and Master Buck called the woman and told her to git him quiet. She was sleepy and was sort of slow and this made Buck mad and he made her strip her clothes off to her waist and began to whip her. His wife tried to git him to quit and he told her he'd beat her iffen she didn't shut up. Sick as she was she slipped off and went to Master Frank's and woke him up and got him to go and make Buck quit whipping her. He had beat her so that she was cut up so bad she couldn't nurse her own baby anymore.
Master Buck kept on being bad till one day he got made at one of his own brothers and killed him. This made another of his brothers mad and he went to his house and killed him. Everybody was glad that Buck was dead.
We had lots of visitors. They'd stop at the stage inn that we kept. One morning I was cleaning the rooms and I found a piece of money in the bed where two men had slept. I thought it was a dime and I showed it to my mammy and she told me it was a five dollar piece. I sho' was happy fer I had been wanting some hoops fer my skirts like Mistress had so Mammy said she would keep my money till I could send fer the hoops. My brother got my money from my mammy and I didn't git my hoops fer a long time. Miss Julie give me some later.
When me and my husband got married we built us a log cabin about half-way from Master Frank's house and Master Sam Love's house. I would go to work at Master Frank's and Isom would go to work at Mister Sam's. One day I was at home with jest my baby and a runner come by and said the Yankee soldiers was coming. I looked 'round and I knowed they would git my chickens. I had 'em in a pen right close to the house to keep the varmints from gitting 'em so I decide to take up the boards in the floor and put 'em in there as the wall logs come to the ground and they couldn't git out. By the time I got my chickens under the floor and the house locked tight the soldiers had got so close I could hear their bugles blowing so I jest fairly flew over to old Master's house. Them Yankess clumb down the chimbley and they got every one of my chickens and they killed about fifteen of Master Frank's hogs. He went down to their camp and told the captain about it and he paid him for his hogs and sent me some money for my chickens.
We went to church all the time. We had a both white and colored preachers. Master Frank wasn't a Christian but he would help build brush-arbors free us to have church under and we sho' would have big meetings, I'll tell you.
One day Master Frank was going through the woods close to where the Negroes was having church. All on a sudden he started running and beating his self and hollering and the Negreos all went to shouting and saying "Thank the Lawd, Master Frank had done come through!" Master Frank after a minute say, "Yes through the worst of them." he had run into a yellow jacket's nest.
One night my old man's master sent him to Sherman, Texas. He aimed to come back that night so I stayed at home with jest my baby. It went to sleep so I set down on the steps to wait and ever minute I thought I could hear Isom coming through the woods. All a sudden I heard a scream that fairly made my hair stand up. My dog that was laying out in the yard give a low growl and come and set down right by me. He kept growling real low.
Directly, right close tot he house I heard that scream again. It sounded like a woman in mortal misery. I run into the house and made the dog stay outside. I locked the door and then thought what I must do. Supposing Isom did come home now and should meet that awful thing? I heard it again. It wasn't more'n a hundred yards from the house. The dog scratched on the door but I dissent open it to let him in. I knowed by this time that it was a panther screaming. I turned my table over and put it against the opening of the fireplace. I didn't aim fer that thing to come down the chimbley and git us.
Purty soon I heard it again a little mite further away---it was going on by. I heard a gun fire. Thank God, I said, somebody else heard it and was shooting at it. I set there on the side of my bed fer the rest of the night with my baby in my arms and praying that Isom wouldn't come home. He didn't come till about nine o'clock the next morning and I was that glad to see him that I jest cried and cried.
I ain't never seen many spirits but I've seen a few. One day i was laying on my bed here by myself. My son Ed was cutting wood. I'd been awful sick and I was powerful weak. I heard somebody walking real light like they was barefooted. I said, "Who's data?"
He catch hold of my hand and he has the littlest hand I ever seen, and he way, "You been mighty sick and I want you to come and go with me to Sherman to see a doctor."
I say, "I ain't got nobody at Sherman what knows me."
He say, "you'd better come and go with me anyway."
I jest lay there fer a minute and didn't say nothing and purty soon he say, "Have you got any water?"
I told him the water was on the porch and he got up and went outside and I set in to calling Ed. He come hurring and I asked him why he didn't lock the door when he went out and I told him to go see if he could see the little man and find out what he wanted. he went out and looked everywhere but he couldn't find him nor he couldn't even find his tracks.
I always keep a butcher-knife near me but it was between the mattress and the feather bed, and I couldn't get to it. I don't guess it would have done any good though fer I guess it was jest a spirit.
The funniest thing that ever happened to me was when I was a real young gal. Master and Miss Julie was going to see one of his sisters that was sick. I went along to take care of the baby fer Miss Julie. The baby was about a year old. I had a bag of clothes and the baby to carry. I was riding a pacing mule and it was plumb gentle. I was riding along behind Master Frank and Miss Julie and I went to sleep. I let the bag of clothes and never missed it. Purty soon I let the baby slip out of my lap and I don't know how far I went before I nearly fell off myself and just think how I felt when I missed that baby! I turned around and went back and found the baby sitting in the trail sort of crying. He wasn't hurt a mite as he fell into he grass. I got off the mule and picked him up and had to look fer a log so I could get back on again.
Jest as I got back on Master Frank rode up. He had missed me and come back to see what was wrong. I told him that I had lost the bag of clothes and I sho' kept awake the rest of the way. I wasn't going to risk losing that precious baby again! He was sho' a sweet baby though.
Jest before the War people would come through the Territory stealing negroes and selling 'em in the states. Us women das sent git fur from the house. We wouldn't even go tot the spring if we happened to see a strange wagon or horsebacker. One of Master Sam Love's women was stole and sold down in Texas. After freedom she made her way back to her fambly. Master Frank sent one of my brothers to Sherman on an errand. We didn't know whether he run off or was stole and sold.
I was glad to be free. What did I do and say? Well, I jest clapped my hands together and said, "Thank God Almighty, Is free at last!"
I live on the forty acres that the government give me. I have been blind for nine years and don't git off my bed much. I live here with my son, Ed. Isom has been dead for over forty years. I had fifteen children, but only ten of them are living.
Contributed by M. Dawson, May 2002