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The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project

Harriett Robinson

Age 95 Years

500 Block N. Fonshill,
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I was born September 1, 1842, in Bastrop, Texas, on Colorado River. My pappy was named Harvey Wheeler and my mammy was named Carolina Sims. My brothers and sisters was named Alex, Taylor, Mary, Cicero, Tennessee, Sarah, Jeff, Ella and Nora. We lived in ceder log houses with dirt floors and double chimneys, and doors hung on wooden hinges. One side of our beds was bored in the walls and had one leg on the other. Them white folks give each nigger family a blanket in the winter.

I nussed 3 white chillun, Lulu, Helen Augusta, and Lola Sims. I done this before that War that set us free. We kids use to make extra money by toting gravel in our aprons. They'd give us dimes and silver nickels.

Our cloths was wool and cotton mised. We had red rustic shoes, soles on half inch thick. They'd go a-whick a-whack. The mens had pants wid one seam and a right-hand pocket. Boys wore shirts.

We ate hominy, mush, grits and pone bread for the most part. Many of them ate out of one tray with wooden spoons. All vittles for field hands was fixed together.

Women broke in mules, throwed 'em down and roped 'em. They's do it better'n men. While mammy made some hominy one day both my foots was scalded and when they clipped them blisters, they just put some cotton around them and catched all dat yellow water and made me a yellow dress out of it. This was 'way back yonder in slavery, before the War.

Whenever white folks had a baby born den all de old niggers had to come thoo the room and the master would be over 'hind the bed and he'd say, "Her's a new little mistress or mastet you got to work for." You had to say, "Yessah Master" and bow real low or the overseer would crack you. Tehm was slavery days, dog days.

I remember a slavery time we had stages. Them devilish things had jest as many wrecks as cars do today. One thing, we jest didn't have as many.

My mammy belonged to Master Colonel Sims and his old mean wife Julia. My pappy belonged to Master Meke Smith and his good wife Harriett. She was sho' a good woman. I was named after her. Master Sam and Master Meke was partners. Ever year them rich men would send so many wagons to New Mexico for different things. It too 6 months to go and come.

Slaves was punished by whip and starving. Decker was sho' a mean slave-holder. He lived close to us. Master Sam didn't never whip me, but Miss Julia whipped me every day in the mawning. During the war she beat us so terrible. She say, "You master's out fighting and losing blood trying to save you from them Yankees, so you kin git your'n here." Miss Julia would tame me by my ears and butt my head against the wall. She wounted to whip my mother, but old Master told her, naw sir. When his father done give my mammy to Master Sam, he told him to to beat her, and iffen he got to whar he just had to, jest bring her back and place her in his yard from whar he got her.

Whate folks didn't 'low you to read or write. Them what did know come from virginny. Mistress Julia used to drill her chillun in spelling any words. At every word them chillun missed, she gave me a lick 'cross the head for it. Meanest woman I ever seen in my whole life.

The skin I got now, it ain't my first skin. That was burnt off when I was a little child. Mistress used to have a fire made on the fireplace and she made me scour the brass round it and my skin jest blistered. I hest had to keep pulling it off'n me. 

We didn't had no church, though my pappy was a preacher. He preached in the quarters. Our baptizing song was "On Jordan's Stormy Bank I Stand" and "Hark From The Tomb." Now all dat was before the War. We had all our funerals at the graveyard. Everybody, chillun and all, picked up a clod of dirt and throwed in on top the coffin to help fill up the grave.

Talking 'bout niggers running away, didn't my step-pappy run away? Didn't my uncle Gabe run away? The frost would jest bite they toes most nigh off too, whiles they was gone. They put Uncle Isom, my step-pappy, in jail and while's he was in there he killed a white guardman. Then they put him in the paper, "A nigger to kill," and our Master seen it and bought him. He was a couble-strengthed man, he was so strong. He'd run off so help you God. They had the blood hounds after him once and he caught the hound what was leading and beat the rest of the dogs. The white folks run up on him before he knowed it and made them dogs eat his ear plum out. But do't you know he got away anyhow. One morning I was sweeping out the hall in the big house and somebody come a knocking on the front door and I goes to the door. There was Uncle Isom wid rags all on his head. He said, "Tell old master heah I am." I goes to Master's door and say, "Master Colonel Same, Uncle Isom said heah eh am." He say, "Go 'round to the kitchen and tell black mammy to give you breakfast." When he was thoo' eating they give him 300 lashes and, bless my soul, he run off again.

When we went to a party the nigger fiddlers would play a chune dat went lak this:

I fooled Old Mastah 7 years
Fooled the overseer three;
Hand me down my banjo
And I'll tickle you bel-lee

We had the same doctors the white folks had and we wore asafetida and garlic and onions to keep from taking all them ailments.

I 'memeber the battle being fit. The white folks buried all the jewelry and silver and all the gold in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Orange, Texas. Master made all us niggers come together and git ready to leave 'cause the Yankees are coming. We took a steamer. Now this was a slavery time, sho' 'nuff slavery. Then we got on a steamship and pulled out to Galveston. Then he told the captain to feed we niggers. We was on the bay, not the ocean. We left Galveston and went on train to Houston. 

One, my sister Liza, was mulatto and Master Colonel Simms's son had 3 chillun by her. We never seen her no more after her last child was born. I found out though that she was in Canada.

After the War, Master Colonel Sims went to git the mail and so he call Daniel Ivory, the overseer, and say to him, "Go round to all the quarters and tell all them niggers to come up, I got a paper to read to 'em. They're free now, so you kin git you another job, 'cause I ain't got no more niggers which is my own." Niggers come up from the cabins nappy-headed, jest lak they gwine to the field. Master Colonel sims Say, "Caroline (that's my mammy), you is free as me. Pa said bring you back and I'se gwina do just that. So you go on and work and I'll pay you and your three oldest chillun $10.00 monthly a head and $.00 for Harriett." that's me, and then he turned to the rest and say, "Now all you'uns will receive $10.00 a head till the corps is laid by. "Don't you know before he got half way thoo', over half them niggers was gone.

Them Klu Klux Klans come and ask for water with their false stomachs and make lak they was drinking three bucketsful. They done some terrible things, but God seen it all and marked it down.

We didn't had no law, we had "bureau." Why, in them days iffen somebody stole anything from you, they had to pay you and nor the Law. Now they done turned that around and you don't git nothing.

One day whiles master was gone hunting, Mistress Julia told her brother to give Miss Harriett, me, a free whipping. She was a nigger killer. Mastet Colonel Sam come home and he said, "Your infernal sons o'bitches don't you know there is 300 Yankees camped out here and iffen they knowed you whipped this nigger the way you done done, they'd kill all us. Iffen they find it out, I'll kill all you." Old rich devils, I'm her, but they is gone.

God choosed Abraham Lincoln to free us. It took one of them to free us so's they couldn't say nothing.

Doing one 'lection they sung:

Clark et the watermelon
J. D. Giddings et the vine!
Clark gone to Congress
An' J. D. Giddings left behind.

They hung Jeff Davis up a sour apple tree. They say he was a president, but he wasn't, he was a big senator man.

Booker T. Washington was all right in his way, I guess, but Bruce and Fred Douglass, or big mens, jest sold us back to the white folks. 

I married Haywood Telford and had 13 chillun by him. My oldest daughter is the mammy of 14. All my chillun but four done gone to heaven before me.

I jined the church in Chapel Hill, Texas. I am born of the Spririt of God sho' nuff. I played with him seven years and would go right on dancing at Christmas time. Now I got religion. Everybody oughts to live right, though you won't have no friend iffen you do.

Our overseer was a poor man. Had us up before day and lak-a-that. He was paid to be the head of punishment. I jest didn't like to think of them old slavery days, dogs' days.





Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03

2018 OKGenWeb

updated 01/10/2016

Linda Simpson, State Coordinator
Mel Owings, Assistant Coordinator