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D Davis




From: More Arkansas

Interviewer: Watt McKinney
Person Interviewed: D. Davis
R.F.D., six miles north of Marvell, Arkansas
Age: 85


Uncle D. Davis, an ex-slave, 85 years of age lives some miles north of
Marvell, Arkansas with a widowed daughter on a small farm the daughter
owns. Uncle D himself also owns a nice little farm some distance further
up the road and which he rents out each year since he is no longer able
to tend the land. This old negro, now old and bent from years of work
and crippled from the effects of rheumatism hobbles about with the
assistance of a crutch and a cane. His mind however is very clear and
his recollection keen. As I sat with him on the porch of his daughter's
home he told me the following story:

"Yes Sir, Mr. McKinney, I has been in Phillips County fer pas forty-five
years and I is now pas eighty-five. I wuz a grown en settled man when I
fust cum here en hed chillun nigh bout growd. Dats how cum me ter com
here on er count of one of my boys. Dis boy he cum befo I did en hed
done made one crop en dat boy fooled me ober here from Mississippi. Yo
know how dese young bucks is, allus driftin er roun en he hed done
drifted rite down dere below Marvell on de Cypress Bayou, en war wukin
fer Mr. Fred Mayo when he writ me de letter ter cum ober here. I guess
dat yo has heard of Mr. Fred Mayo dat owned de big plantation dere close
ter Turner. Well dat is de man whut ay boy wuz wid and atter I cum I
jined up wid Mr. Mayo en stayed wid him fer two years en I wud er ben
wid him fer good I rekkin iffen I hadn't wanter buy me er place of my
own, kase Mr. Fred Mayo he wuz a nathal good man en treted all he hands
fair.

"When I cided ter git me er little place of my own, I went en got
quainted wid Mr. Marve Carruth kase he hed er great name wid de niggers,
en all de niggers in dem days dey went ter Mr. Carruth fer ter git de
advice, en Mr. Carruth he hoped me ter git de place up de road whut is
mine yit. Dere neber wuz no white man whut wuz no better dan Mr. Marve
Carruth. No Sir dat is a fac.

"Yo see, Capn, I wuz borned en raised in de hills of Mississippi, in
Oktibbawa County not so fer frum Starkville, en dat wuz a ole country
time I hed got grown en de lan hit wuz gittin powful thin, en when I
cumed ter dis state en seen how much cotton de folks mekin on de groun,
en how rish de lan, I jist went crazy ober dis country en stayed rite
here en mobed my fambly rite off. Folkses hed cotton piled up all er
round dey houses en I cided rite off dat dis war gwine ter be my home
den.

"My ole Marster wuz Tom Davis en Capn dere warnt never no finer man whut
ever libed dan Marse Tom. Marse Tom wuz lubed by ebery nigger dat he
hed, en Marse Tom sho hed a passel of em. He had bettern two-hundred
head en de las one dey crazy bout Marse Tom Davis. He war rather old
frum my fust riccolection of im, en he neber libed meny years atter de
war. Marse Tom he owned a grete heap er lan. His lan hit stretch out fer
God knows how fer en den too he hed de big mill whut runned wid de water
wheel whar dey saw de lumber en grine de meal en de flour. Dey neber
bought no flour en dem days kase dey raised de wheat on de place, en all
de meat en nigh bout ebery thing whut dey hed er need of. Marse Tom he
tuk de best kine er care of his slabe people en he neber blebe in buyin
er sellin no niggers. Dat he didn't. He neber wud sell er one, en he
neber did buy but three. Dat is er fac, Capn, en one of dem three whut
he bought wuz "Henry" whut wuz my own pappy, en he buyed Henry frum Mr.
Spence kase Henry hed done got married ter Malindy, whut wuz my mammy.
Dat is whut my Mammy en Pappy dey bofe tole me.

"Marse Tom he neber jine de army kase he too old when de war brek out,
but Marse Phil he jined up. Marse Phil dat war Marse Tom's son, en de
onliest boy dat Ole Marster en Ole Mis hed, en dey jist hed one mo chile
en dat wuz de girl, Miss Rachel, en atter de war ober Miss Rachel she
married Capn Dan Travis whut cum from Alabama. Ole Marster he neber
laked Capn Dan er bit, en he jes bucked en rared er bout Miss Rachel
gwine ter git married ter dat Capn, but hit neber done him no good ter
cut up kase Ole Mis she sided wid Miss Rachel, en den too Miss Rachel
she hab er head of her own en she know her Pa aint gwine ter stop her.
Marse Tom he didn't lak Capn Dan kase de Capn he er big sport, en mighty
wild, en lub he whiskey too well, en den he a gamblin man besides dat,
do he sho war a fine lookin gentman.

"Whilst Marse Tom he too old ter jine up wid de army, he hired him er
man ter fite fer him in his place jes de same, en him en Ole Mis dey
neber want Marse Phil ter jine up, en sey dey gwine ter hire er man fer
ter tek Marse Phil's place so he won't hatter go, but Marse Phil he sey
he gwine ter do he own fitin, en eben do he Ma en Pa dey cut up right
smart bout Marse Phil goin ter de war, he up en jine jes de same. Marse
Phil he neber wuz sich a stout, healthy pussen, en he always sorter
sikly, en it warnt long fore he tuk down in de camp wid sum kine er bad
spell er sikness en died. Dat wuz sho tuf on Marse Tom en de Ole Mis fer
dem ter lose Marse Phil, kase dey put er heap er sto by dat boy, him
bein de onliest son dat dey got, en day so tached ter im. Hit mighty
nigh broke dem ole peoples up.

"No Sir, Capn, I betcha dat dere warnt airy uther er slabe-owning white
man ter be foun dat wuz er finer man, er dat was mo good ter he niggers
dan Marse Tom Davis. Now jes tek dis, dere wuz "Uncle Joe" whut wuz my
grand-pappy, en he wuz jes bout de same age as Marse Tom, en dey growed
up ter gedder, en dey tole hit dat Marse Tom's pappy git "Uncle Joe"
when he war jes a boy frum de speckle-lady (speculator) fer er red
hankerchief, dats how cheap he git im en, dat rite off he gib im ter
Marse Tom, en atter Marse Tom git up en growd ter be er man, en he pappy
died en lef him all de lan en slabes, en den atter er lot mo years pas,
en Uncle Joe done raise Marse Tom seben chillun, den Marse Tom he up en
sot Uncle Joe free, en gib him er home en forty acres, en sum stock kase
Uncle Joe done been good en fathful all dem years, en raise Marse Tom
all dem seben chillun, en one of dem seben wuz my own mammy.

"Capn, aint yo eber heard tell of de speckle-ladies? (speculators) Well,
I gwine ter tell yo who dey wuz. Dey wuz dem folkses whut dealed in de
niggers. Dat is whut bought em, en sole em, en dey wud be gwine round
thru de country all de time wid a grete gang er peoples bofe men en
womens, er tradin, en er buyin, en er sellin. Hit wuz jes lak you mite
sey dat dey wud do wid er gang er mules. Jist befo dese here
speckle-ladies wud git ter er town er plantation whar dey gwine ter try
ter do sum bizness lak tradin er sich matter, dey stop de crowd long
side er creek er pond er water en mek em wash up en clean up good lak,
en comb em up rite nice, en mek de wimmens wrap up dey heads wid some
nice red cloth so dey all look in good shape ter de man whut dey gwine
try ter do de bizness wid. Dats zackly de way dey do Capn, jes lak
curryin en fixin up mules fer ter sell, so dey look bettern dey actually
is.

"Whilst Marse Tom Davis hed oberseers hired ter look atter de farmin of
de lan, he hed his own way er doin de bizness, kase he know dat all he
niggers is good wukkers, en dat he kin pend on em, so de fust of ebery
week he gib each en ebery single man er fambly er task fer ter do dat
week, en atter dat task is done den dey fru wuk fer dat week en kin den
ten de patches whut he wud gib dem fer ter raise whut dey want on, en
whut de slabes raise on dese patches dat he gib em wud be deres
whut-sum-eber hit wud be, cotton er taters er what, hit wub be, dey own,
en dey cud sell hit en hab de money fer demselves ter buy whut dey want.

"Marse Tom he wud ride out ober de place at least once a week en always
on er Sattidy mornin, en ginerally he wud pass de word out mongst de
folkses fer em all ter cum ter de big house er Sattidy atter noon fer er
frolic. Ebery pussen on de place frum de littlest chile ter de oldest
man er woman wud clean dey selves up en put on dey best clo's for ter
"go befo de King", dats whut us called it. All wud gather in bak of de
big house under de big oak trees en Marse Tom he wud cum out wid he
fiddle under he arm, yo kno Marse Tom he war a grete fiddler, en sot
hisself down in de chere whut Uncle Joe done fotched fer im, en den he
tell Uncle Joe fer ter go git de barrel er whiskey en he wud gib em all
er gill er two so's dey cud all feel rite good, en den Marse Tom he
start dat fiddle playin rite lively en all dem niggers wid dance en hab
de bes kin er frolic, en Marse Tom he git jes es much fun outen de party
as de niggers demselves. Dats de kine er man whut Marse Tom wuz.

"I tell yo, Capn, my marster he sho treated his slabes fair. Dey all
draw er plenty rations once ebery week en iffen dey run out tween times
dey cud always git mo, en Marse Tom tell em ter git all de meal en flour
at de mill eny time dat dey need hit. Dats rite, Capn, en I sho tells
dis fer de truf, en dat is I say dat iffen all de slabe owning white
folks lak Marse Tom Davis, den dere wudn't ben no use er freedom fer de
darkies, kase Marse Tom's slabes dey long ways better off wid him in dey
bondage dan dey wuz wid out im when dey sot free en him dead en gone.

"At Chrismus time on Marse Tom's place dey wud hab de fun fer er week er
mo, wid no wuk gwine on at all. De candy pullin, en de dances wid be
gwine on nigh bout constant, en ebery one gits er present frum de
marster.

"All endurin of de war times, Marse Tom he neber raised no cotton er
tall but instid he raised de wheat, en de corn en hogs fer de
Confedrits, en de baggage waggins wud cum from time ter time fer de
loads of flour, en meal en meat dat he wud sen ter de army. De Yankees
sumhow dey missed us place en neber did fin hit, en do de damage er
bruning [TR: burning?] en sich dat I is heard dat dey done in places in
other parts of de state. We all heard one time dat de Yankees wuz close
er roun en wuz on de way ter burn Marse Tom's mill but dey got on de
wrong road en day neber did git ter our place, en us sho wuz proud er
dat too. Yit en still attar de war ober, Marse Tom, he had bout four
hundred bales er cotton on han at de barn en de Yankee govment dey sho
tuk dat en didn't pay him er bit fer dat cotton. I knows dat ter be er
fac.

"I members de war rail well, kase ye see, I wuz bout twelve year old
when hit ober. En de last two er three years of de trubble I wuz big
enuf ter be doin sum wuk, so dey tuk me in de big house fer ter be er
waitin boy round de house, en I slept in dar too on er pallit on de
floor, en er lot er times de Calvary sojers wud stop at Marse Tom's en
spen de nite, en I wud be layin on de pallit but wudn't be sleep, en I
cud hear dem talkin ter Marse Tom, en Marster he wud ax dem how de fite
cumin on, en iffen dey whippin de Yankees, en de Calvary sojers dey say
dat dey whippin de Yankees ebery day en killin em out, en Marse Tom he
sey "Yo is jes er big lie, how cum yo runnin er way iffen yo whippin dem
Yankees? Dem Yankees is atter yo, en yo is runnin frum em dats whut yo
doin. Yo know yo aint whippin no Yankees kase if yo wuz yo wud be atter
dem rite now stid dem atter yo". No Sir, dem Calvary sojers cudn't fool
Marse Tom.

"Yes sir, I tell yo, Capn, de slabes dey fared well wid Marse Tom Davis,
en dere wudn't neber ben no war ober de slabery question iffen every
body ben lak Marse Tom. All his peoples wuz satisfied en dey didn't eben
know what de Yankees en de Southern white folks wuz fitin er bout, kase
dey wuzn't worried bout no freedom, yit en still atter de freedom cum
dey wuz glad ter git hit, but atter dey git hit dey don't know whut ter
do wid hit. En atter de bondage lifted, Marse Tom he called em all up en
tell em dat dey free es he is, en dey kin lebe if dey want to, but dere
wuzn't nairy nigger lef de place. Dey ebery one stayed, en I spect dat
er lot of dem Davis niggers is rite dere till yit on dat same lan wid
whoever hit belongs to.

"When er slabe man en woman got married in dose days dere wuzn't no sich
thing as er license fer dem. All dey hed ter do wuz ter git de permit
frum de Marster en den ter start in ter libbin wid each udder. Atter de
freedom do, all er dem whut wuz married en libbin wid one er nudder wuz
giben er slip ter sho dat dey married, en ter mek dey marriage legal.

"Atter freedom cum ter de darkies, en de trubble all ober in de fitin,
en atter de surrender, Marse Tom he hed his whole place lined out by de
surveyor en marked off in plots er groun, en he sell er plot er forty
acres ter ebery fambly dat he hed, on de credik too, en sell em de stock
wid de place so dey kin all hab er home, en dey all set in ter buy de
lan frum Marse Tom, but hit warnt long atter dat till Marse Tom en ole
Mis bofe died, en dat wuz when Capn Dan Travis, Miss Rachel's husband,
he taken charge of de bizness en broke all de contracts dat de darkies
hed made wid Marse Tom, an dat wuz de las of de lan buyin on dat place,
en dat wuz de startin of de niggers er leavin de Davis place, wid Capn
Dan Travis in charge, en Marse Tom gone. But Capn Dan he en Miss Rachel
didn't keep dey place long atter her Pa dead, kase de Capn he too wild,
en he soon fooled all de money en lan off wid he drinkin en gamblin.

"Capn, did yo eber hear of de "Chapel Hill" fight dat de colored folks
en de white folks hed in Mississippi? I will tell yo bout dat fight en
de leadin up ter de trubble.

"Atter de war dey hed de carpet-baggers en de Klu Klux bofe, en de white
folks dey didn't lak de carpet-baggers tolerable well, dat dey didn't. I
don't know who de carpet-baggers wuz but dey wuz powful mean, so de
white folks say. You know sum way er udder de Yankees er de
carpet-baggers er sum ob de crowd, dey put de niggers in de office at de
cote house, en er makein de laws at de statehouse in Jackson. Dat wuz de
craziest bizness dat dey eber cud er done, er puttin dem ignorant
niggers whut cudn't read er write in dem places. I tell yo, Capn, dem
whut put dose niggers in de office dey mus not had es much since es de
niggers, kase dey mought know dat hit wudn't wuk, en hit sho didn't wuk
long. Dey hed de niggers messed up in sum kind er clubs whut dey swaded
dem to jine, en gib em all er drum ter beat, en dey all go marchin er
roun er beatin de drums en goin ter de club meetins. Dem ignorant
niggers wud sell out fer er seegar er a stick er candy. Hit wasn't long
do till de trubble hit broke out en de fite tuk place. De Klu Klux dey
wuz er ridin de country continual, en de niggers dey skeered plum sick
by dem tall white lookin hants wid dey hosses all white wid de sheets,
en sum sey dey jes cum outen dey grabe en er lookin fer er niggers ter
tek bak wid em when de day light cum. All de time de niggers habin dey
club meetins in er ole loose house dere at Chapel Hill, en de Klux er
gittin more numerous all de time, en de feelin mongst de white en de
black wuz er gittin wus en wus, en one night when de niggers habin er
grete big meetin, en er beatin dey drums en er carryin on, here cum de
Klu Klux er sumpin er shootin right en lef en er pourin de shots in ter
dat ole house en at ebery niggers dey see, en de niggers dey start er
shootin bak but not fer long, kase mos of em done lit out fer de woods,
dats is mos all whut ain't kilt, en dat wuz de bery las of de club
meetins en de bery las of de niggers er holdin de office in de cote
house. I heard bout de fight de nex morn in kase Chapel Hill hit warn't
fer frum whar I libed at dat time. I seed Dr. Marris Gray on de rode on
he hoss, en he hoss wuz kivered wid mud frum he tall ter he head. Dr.
Marris Gray he pulled up en sed, "Good mornin "D" is ye heard bout de
fite whut wuz had last nite at Chapel Hill" en I sey "No Sir Doctor,
whut fite wuz dat en whut dey fitin er bout?", en de doctor sey he
didn't know whut dey fightin bout lessin dey jes tryin ter brake up de
club meetin, en he went on ter say dat er heap er niggers wuz kilt en
also sum white folks too, en sum mo wuz shot whut ain't dead yit, en dat
he been tendin ter dem whut is shot en still ain't dead. En den I sey
"Doctor Morris wuz yo dere when de fightin goin on"?, en de doctor he
say "En cose I warn't dere yo don't think I gwine be roun what no
shootin tekin place, does yo"?, en I say "Naw Suh" en de doctor he rid
on down de rode den, but I knowed in my own mine dat Doctor Morris wuz
in dat fightin, kass he hoss so spattered up wid mud, en I seed er long
pistol barrel stickin out frum under he coat, en den sides dat I iz
knowed de doctor eber since I wuz a chile when Marse Tom uster hab him
ter gib de darkies de medicine when dey sik, en I seed him one night er
ridin wid de Klu Klux en heard him er talkin when I wuz hid in de bushes
lon side de rode when I cumin home frum catchin me er possum in de
thicket, en den Doctor Morris he wid General Forrest all throo de war en
he know whut fightin is, an he sho wudn't neber go outen his way to miss
no shootin."





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