The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project
R. C. Smith
One morning in May
I heard a poor rebel say;
"The federal's a home guard
Dat called me from home..."
I wish I was a merchant
And I could write a fine hand,
I'd write a love letter
So she would understand.
I wish I had a drink of brandy,
And a drink of wine,
To drink wid dat sweet gal
How I wish dat she was mine.
If I had a drink of brandy
No longer would I roam,
I'd drink it wid dat gal of mine
Dat wishes me back home.
Ive heard the soldiers sing that song a heap of times. They sung it kind of lonesome like and I guess it sort of made them home sick to sing it. Us niggers learned to sing it and it is about the only one I can sing yet. I remembers the words to another one we used to sing but I've forgot the tune but the words go like this:
Old man, old man,
Your hair is getting gray,
I'd foller you ten thousand miles
To hear your banjo play
I never was much at singing though. I guess my voice is just about wore out just like my body.
I've always had good health and I never had a doctor in my life. In the last three or four years I've had some pains from Rheumatizm. I think all our sickness is brought on by the kidneys and I made my own kidney medicin and allus stayed well.
I used to get a weed called hoarhound, it grows everywhere wild. I'd make a tea and drink it and it would cure the worst kind of kidney ailment. Peach tree leaves tea and sumac side tea also were good kidney medicines. These were old Indian remedies.
My father was half Cherokee Indian. His father was bought by an Indian woman and she took him for her husband. She died and my grandfather, father and Auntie were bought by John Ross. He later bought up a lot of land claims from some Indian people named Tibets and he paid for the claims with slaves. My father was in this trade. Ross kept my grandfather till he died and he gave my auntie to one of his sisters. All of her offspring live up around Tahlequah now. My father played with cornelius Boudinot when he was a child. Cherokee Bill was my second cousin.
My auntie hated being a slave. She had to take care of the babies on the farm while their mothers worked in the field. Some times she would git cranky and wouldn't speak to anybody for a week. This only made it harder for her but I guess she just couldn't help it.
My father was a big man, he weighted around 225 lbs. He had never been treated bad and it was purty hard for him to git used to being a slave. His master ordered him to be whupped and he wouldn't stand for it and he put up such a fight that they had him took to Fayettesville, Arkansas, and put in jail and held them there for sale. Didn't anybody want a big unruly ox of a nigger so he stayed in jail a long time.
Presley R, Smith was the jailer and he was kind to pappy. They was two outlaws in jail at the same time pappy was and one day e overheard them plotting to git out. They planned that when the jailer brought their meal to them that they would overpower him and take his keys and git out.
Sure enough when he came in that evening one of them knocked him down. No sooner than he done it my pappy waded in and took them by surprise and laid them both out. He kept them both from escaping and killing the jailer. Smith went right out and hunted up pappy's owner and give him $600 for him.
Pappy's owner was more then glad to sell him as he considered him a bad old darky. Smith took him home and never from that day on did he have a bit of trouble with him. He never allowed his grown slaves to be whupped and when they went away from home he didn't write them no passes either. The partollers didn't pay them no mind for they knowed Smith took care of his own niggers. We was all known as "Smith's free niggers."
My mother was give to Smith by his father when he married.
Our family didn't live in no quarters but we lived in one open room of the big house. The house was built in the shape of an "L" A big white house, three rooms across the front and three in the "L." We lived in the back one of the "L." A big gallery ran clean across the front and one went down the "L." the kitchen was away from the house but was joined to it by a plank walk. All around the house was big trees what we called "Heavenly trees" but the right name for them was Paradise trees. They made a heavy shade. Old Mistress had lots of purty flowers and they was a row of Cedars from the gate to the house. The house was built in a rocky place and up above the house pappy built a stone wall and we had a garden on the level place along side of the wall. We called it the high place. There was enough level ground for a nice size garden. We also had a peach and apple orchard. We raised figs, too.
Master Smith always remembered about my father saving his life and he was good to him. Pappy learned the stone mason's trade and old Master let him hire out and he let him keep the money that he made.
Old Master's children went to school and they would come home and try to learn us everything they learned at school. I couldn't be still long enough to learn anything but my pappy and mammy both learned to read and write.
Old master Smith was elected County Clerk and he held the office till the War broke out and for a while after. There wasn't much work for my pappy to do as he just looked after the garden and yard so old Master let him work at his trade as stone mason all over the country. Old master was reasonably wealthy and very prominent, He owned a big farm but it wasn't all in cultivation. He had nine slaves besides our family and they worked the farm. Pappy took care of the yard and garden and barn and mammy done the cooking. Us children run errands, minded the flies off the table at meal-time and also mended them off Old Mistress when she took her nap. We also brought the cows or calves and as soon as we got big enough we helped mammy with the milking. None of us worked very hard except mother. I think back and I don't hardly remember ever seeing her setting down unless she was sewing or weaving. Poor thing, hard work was all she ever knowed.
Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03