The Slave Narrative Collection
An OKGenWeb Special Project
Rochelle Allred WardMy mother, Lottie Beck, was belonging to old master Joe Beck when I was born about 1847, on the Beck farm in Flint District of the old Cherokee Nation. That a mighty long time ago and lots of things my old mind won't remember, but I never forgot the old Beck Mill place because I done many a cooking there and watch the mill grind up the corn and wheat for the Indian's meal and flour.
Route 2, Box 9, Fort Gibson, Oklahoma
Before I tell about the mill I want to tell about paw; Jim he was named, and belong to Sarah Eaton, who must have stole him when he about eight or nine year old from his folks in Georgia and brought him out here, maybe to Fort Gibson near as he could tell. That make paw born about 1827 because he was a young man grown to full grown when he met my maw.
He come to the mill place for his mistress, that the way he always tell about it, and the only girl he see right off was Lottie, one of the Beck slave girls, but they was lots more on the place, only he could see no one but Lottie and fall in love with her. She feel the same way about him; she asked old Master Joe to buy Jim Eaton so's they can marry, build a cabin.
Master Joe want to know if the young slave a good worker, and when Jim Eaton say, "I is the best cane stripper and field man in the whole country," the master offer Sarah Eaton $500 for her slave boy and that done bought him. So he come to the Becks, change his name to Jim Beck and keep it ever since.
My paw always told me he was part Indian account of his mama was a Cherokee Indian girl name Downing; that make my paw some kin to Chief Downing who was a big man among the Cherokees after the Civil WAr when the Indians stop fighting amongst themselves.
Two of my sisters Sabra and Celia was both real light in color, but my brothers was all dark. They was named Milton, Louie, Same, Nelson and Dennis.
Well the old mill had done been built by some of the Becks when they first come out to this country a long time before I was born. Some of Master Joe's kin they was; all over this country was Beck families, but other folks come in here too, one of them new settlers run the old mill for awhile until he died. I hear his name when I was a young girl, seem like it was Hildebrand; different from all them Indian names anyways.
We all done move away from the mill place during the war, but bad things happen around the old place after the war and I hear about it the way folks tell it then.
When the old miller die his wife marry one of the men who work in the mill, but an Indian name Proctor (Zeke) work up a grudge for the woman's husband and fix up to kill him. When the Indian come to the mill and start a ruckus with the man, his wife mix in and get shot. Seem like she jump in front of the Indian when he try to shoot and get the bullet herself. She died; that cause lots more trouble and it was a long time before it was settled and folks stop killing each other.
After my paw come with the Becks they make him a kind of overseer. There was several families living in the little log cabins on the farm, and all these slave families look to my paw for the way to do things. The mistress say, "Whatever Jim do is alright." She trusted him and she saw he was a good worker and would do the right thing.
None of the Beck slaves was sold, but paw said he seen slaves sold off. He told us children, that was after war, "We was all good negroes, that why the Becks keep us. And we ought to be glad, because I see sorrow at the auctions, and crying, when the mother sold off from her child, or when the child is took away from her."
The mistress always get us anything we need; even after the war, and she come down to where we live around Fort Gibson, and bring cloth for our dresses and help make them, and one time she said she was going to bring her old Bible down for paw to get all the children's ages, but she died before she could get back the next spring.
Some of the slaves work around and get money and pay this money to their master for freedom, so there was some freed before the close of the war. Some others try to run away after the war start, and maybe they get caught like the one man who hide in a house around the old mill. Some said he was a freedman too, but anyways some of the Confederates find him in the old house, take him off to Texas and sell him. They got a big price for him, $5000 they said, but it was Confederate money and that kind of money got worthless as a cotton patch without no hoeing.
But the patrollers didn't bother nobody with a pass and when anybody leave the Beck place it was with a pass. But lots of slaves was stole and the masters fix up to get their slaves out of the hills and take them to Fort Gibson for safety. The Confederate soldiers was there then. (1862)
The mistress was getting old and she cried terrible when all the slaves leave in the night for the fort. Everybody loaded in the ox wagons, hating to leave the mistress, but they all have to go.
We camped around the garrison place at Fort Gibson and there was no buildings there like there is now. The soldiers was all camped there in tents. They was all 'confederate soldiers and I mean there was lots of soldiers camped in the tents.
The negroes piled in there from everywheres, and I mean threw as lots of them, too. Cooking in the open, sleeping most anywhere, making shleter places out of cloth scraps and brush, digging caves along the river bank to live in. There was no way to keep the place clean for there was too many folks living all in one place, and if you walk around in the night time most likely you stumble over some negro rolled up in a dirty blanket and sleeping under a bush.
I never was where the fighting went on, but I heard the cannon go "Bum! Bum!" and the little guns go "Bang!" in all directions. I seen the soldiers come in after the fights; they be all shot up with blood soaking through the clothes, trying to help each other tie on a bandage--the awfulest sights I ever see.
The generals have some young boys, I guess they as soldiers, herding the horses a little way south of the fort. The one day a scout come riding in and yell, "The Federals is coming!" All the soldiers run for the horses and gallop out for the mountain south from the fort. I hear that fighting, guns speaking in the hills, and the Federals was whipped. Lots of them killed and some of them captured and brought back to the fort, and some got away.
Some folks say that while the war is on the Federals take charge of the old Beck mill. Guess they stole the grain too, for to make meal, anyway they kept the soldiers in food when the other folks was starving. They captured one of the Confederate boy and made him run the mill.
Master Joe Beck died during the war by a horse kick, and after the war everything so unsettled that folks don't know what to do. For a while we lived on Carroll Branch near Fort Gibson and I nursed around first one family and another.
Then come a time of cholera; people die all that season, and the dead--seem like they pass and pass all the time---was carried in little two wheel wagons pulled by a mule to a burying place out near the National Cemetery. Lots of soldier die and sometime after the cholera die out, their bodies was moved to the National Cemetery and the slaves was buried back in the woods to the north.
The Federals tried to catch the cholera germs. They kill beef & hung the pieces high up in the air, leave the meat for days and days, out in the open---say it catch the germs but I don't know.
Mostly in my coming up time we didn't know what doctoring was. Some of the older men and women used to dig roots and get different herbs for medicine; them medicines cure the chill fever and such.
When I married Amos Allred, a State man from Freeport, Texas, more than seventy year ago, we had to get signers before old Judge Walker at Fort Gibson could say the words. I get seven signers, all of them Cherokee Indians and who know I was a good slave woman. We divorced a long time later and I married a State man from Mississippi, Nelson Ward. There was thirteen children, but I done forget all the names: some was Amos, Susie, Jess, Will, Frank, Lotte, Cora.
Contributed by M. Dawson, May 2002