Ida Blackshear Hutchinson
MAY 11 1938
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Ida Blackshear Hutchinson
2620 Orange Street, North Little Rock, Arkansas
"I was born in 1865 in Alabama in Sumter County on Sam Scale's place
near the little town called Brushville (?)." [HW: Bushville or
Parents and Grandparents
"My father's name was Isom Blackshear. Some people call it Blackshire,
but we call it Blackshear. His master was named Uriah Blackshear. I have
heard him say so many times the year he was born. He died (Isom) in 1905
and was in his eighty-first year then. That would make him born in 1824.
His birth was on the fourth day of May. People back in them days lived
longer than we do now. My grandfather, Jordan Martin, lived to be one
hundred sixteen years old. Grandpa died about nine years ago in Sumter
County, Alabama. He was my grandfather on my mother's side.
"My grandfather on my father's side was Luke Blackshear. He was born in
Alabama too, and I suppose in Sumter County too. He died in Sumter
County. He died about five years before the Civil War.
"My mother was born in North Carolina. Her name was Sylvia Martin before
she married my father. She was a Blackshear when she died. She died in
1885. The white people went out in North Carolina and bought her, her
mother, Nancy, and her father, Jordan, and brought them to Sumter
County, Alabama. My mother's mother was an Indian; her hair came down to
Luke Blackshear (Breeder)
"My grandfather on my father's side, Luke Blackshear, was a 'stock'
"Isom Blackshear, his son, was a great talker. He said Luke was six feet
four inches tall and near two hundred fifty pounds in weight. He was
what they called a double-jointed man. He was a mechanic,--built houses,
made keys, and did all other blacksmith work and shoemaking. He did
anything in iron, wood or leather. Really he was an architect as well.
He could take raw cowhide and make leather out of it and then make shoes
out of the leather.
"Luke was the father of fifty-six children and was known as the GIANT
BREEDER. He was bought and given to his young mistress in the same way
you would give a mule or colt to a child.
"Although he was a stock Negro, he was whipped and drove just like the
other Negroes. All of the other Negroes were driven on the farm. He had
to labor but he didn't have to work with the other slaves on the farm
unless there was no mechanical work to do. He was given better work
because he was a skilled mechanic. He taught Isom blacksmithing,
brickmaking and bricklaying, shoemaking, carpentry, and other things.
The ordinary blacksmith has to order plow points and put than on, but
Luke made the points themselves, and he taught Isom to do it. And he
taught him to make mats, chairs, and other weaving work. He died
sometime before the War."
"Isom Blackshear, Luke's son and my father, farmed until he was eighteen
years old, and was a general mechanic as mentioned when I was telling
about my grandfather Luke, for sixty odd years. Up to within seven
months of his death, he was making chairs and baskets and other things.
He never was in bed in his life until his last sickness. That was his
first and his last. Never did he have a doctor's bill to pay or for his
master to pay,--until he died. He worked on the batteries at Vicksburg
during the War.
"Isom ran away three times. He was a field hand up to eighteen years.
The overseer wanted to whip him. Isom would help his wife in the field
because she couldn't keep up with the others and he would help her to
keep the overseer from whipping her. He'd take her beside him and row
his row and hers too. He was the fastest worker on the place. The
overseer told him to not do that. But Isom just kept on doing it anyway.
Then the overseer asked Isom for his shirt. When they whipped you them
days they didn't whip you on your clothes because they didn't want to
wear them out. Isom said he was not going to take off his shirt because
his mistress gave it to him and he wasn't going to give it to anybody
else. Then the overseer stepped 'round in front of him to stop him,
because Isom had just kept on hoeing. Isom just caught the overseer's
feet in his hoe and dumped him down on the ground and went on hoeing his
own row and his wife's. He called his hoe 'One Eyed Aggie.'
"The overseer said, 'You think you done something smart' and he went for
his master. The overseer was named Mack Hainey. His master came out the
next morning and caught Isom. Isom has often told us about it.
"'First thing I knowed, he had his feet on my hoe and he said, "Isom,
they tell me you can't be whipped." "I'd be willing to be whipped if I'd
done anything." "Huh!" said my master, "Right or wrong, if my
overseer asked you for your shirt give it to him."'
"He held a pistol on him. They made him pull off his shirt and tied him
up to a gin post. The overseer hit him five times and kept him there
till noon trying to get him to say that he would give his shirt to him
the next time. Finally Isom promised and the overseer untied him. When
the overseer untied him, Isom took his shirt in one hand and the
overseer's whip in the other and whipped him almost all the way to the
big house. Then he ran away and stayed in the woods for three or four
days until his old master sent word for him to come on back and he
wouldn't do nothing to him.
"When he went back, his master took him off the farm because he and my
father was nursed together and he didn't want Isom killed. So from that
time on, my father never worked as a field hand any more. And they put
Isom's wife as a cook. She couldn't chop cotton fast enough and they
couldn't handle Isom as long as she was in the field; so they put her to
washing, and ironing, and cooking, and milking.
"The second time father ran away was once when they missed some
groceries out of the storeroom. Master asked him if he took them because
he made the keys to the place and not a person on the place but him
could know anything about getting in there. He didn't own it, so they
tied him up and whipped him two days. When night come they took him and
tied him in his house and told his wife that if he got loose they would
put the portion on her. He didn't try to get loose because he knowed if
he did they would whip her, so he stayed. At noon time when they went to
get the dinner they poured three buckets of water in his face and almost
drowned him. Then after dinner they came back and whipped him again.
Finally he said, 'I didn't do it but nothing will suit you but for me to
say I did, so I will say I did it.' So he owned up to it.
"A few days later Mr. Horn who owned the adjoining plantation came over
and asked him if he had missed anything,--any rations he said. Old
master told him 'Yes' and went on to explain what had been taken and
what he had done about it. Then Mr. Horn took Mr. Blackshear over to his
house and showed him the rations and they were the one he had whipped my
old father about. Then Blackshear came back and told my father that he
was sorry, that he never had known him to steal anything. He turned him
loose and apologized to him but he made him work with the bloody shirt
that they whipped him in sticking to his back.
"The third time he ran off he was in the army working on the batteries
at Vicksburg. He worked there till he got to thinking about his wife and
children, and then he ran off. He got tired and hungry and he went to
Mopilis and give himself up. The jailer written to his master, that is
to his mistress, about it, and she got her father to go and see about
him and bring him home. They'd had a big storm. The houses were in bad
shape. The fences was blown down. The plows was broken or dull and
needed fixin'. And they were so glad to see Isom that they didn't whip
him nor nothin' for runnin' away.
"Isom's mother was named Winnie Blackshear. She was Luke's wife. She was
a light brownskin woman and weighed about one hundred fifty pounds. I
have seen her, but Luke was dead before I was born. Grandmother Winnie
has been dead about twenty years now. She labored in the field.
"My mother's mother was named Nancy Martin and her father was named
Jordan Martin. We kept a Jordan in the family all the way down. Both of
them farmed. They were slaves.
"There were fourteen children of us,--eleven sisters and three brothers.
The brothers were Jordan, Prince, and John. The sisters were Margaret,
Eliza, Nancy, Tempy, Bell, Abbie, Caroline, Frances, Dosia, Mattie,
Lucy, Louisa, Ida."
"They say Negroes won't commit suicide, but Isom told us of a girl that
committed suicide. There was a girl named Lu who used to run off and go
to the dances. The patrollers would try to catch her but they couldn't
because she was too fast on her feet. One day they got after her in the
daytime. She had always outran them at night. She ran to the cabin and
got her quarter which she had hid. She put the quarter in her mouth. The
white folks didn't allow the slaves to handle no money. The quarter got
stuck in her throat, and she went on down to the slough and drowned
herself rather than let them beat her, and mark her up. Then patrollers
sure would get you and beat you up. If they couldn't catch you when you
were running away from them, they would come on your master's place and
get you and beat you. The master would allow them to do it. They didn't
let the patrollers come on the Blackshear place, but this gal was so
hard-headed 'bout goin' out that they made a 'ception to her. And they
intended to make her an example to the rest of the slaves. But they
didn't get Lucy."
Death of Sixty Babies
"Once on the Blackshear place, they took all the fine looking boys and
girls that was thirteen years old or older and put them in a big barn
after they had stripped them naked. They used to strip them naked and
put them in a big barn every Sunday and leave them there until Monday
morning. Out of that came sixty babies.
"They was too many babies to leave in the quarters for some one to take
care of during the day. When the young mothers went to work Blackshear
had them take their babies with them to the field, and it was two or
three miles from the house to the field. He didn't want them to lose
time walking backward and forward nursing. They built a long old trough
like a great long old cradle and put all these babies in it every
morning when the mother come out to the field. It was set at the end of
the rows under a big old cottonwood tree.
"When they were at the other end of the row, all at once a cloud no
bigger than a small spot came up, and it grew fast, and it thundered and
lightened as if the world were coming to an end, and the rain just came
down in great sheets. And when it got so they could go to the other end
of the field, that trough was filled with water and every baby in it was
floating 'round in the water drownded. They never got nary a lick of
labor and nary a red penny for ary one of them babies."
Experiences just after the War
"Mother had been a cook and she just kept on cooking, for the same
people. My father he went to farming."
"My father said that the patrollers would run you and ketch you and
whip you if you didn't have a pass, when you was away from the
pass.[HW: place?] But they didn't bother you if you had a pass. The
patrollers were mean white people who called themselves making the
niggers stay home. I think they were hired. They called their selves
making the niggers stay home. They went all through the community
looking for people, and whipping them when they'd leave home without a
pass. They said you wasn't submissive when you left home without a pass.
They hounded Lucy to death. She wouldn't let 'em get her, and she
wouldn't let 'em get her quarter."
Ku Klux Klan
"I have seen the Ku Klux. I have washed their regalia and ironed it for
them. They wouldn't let just anybody wash and iron it because they
couldn't do it right. My son's wife had a job washing and ironing for
them and I used to go down and help her. I never did take a job of any
kind myself because my husband didn't let me. The regalia was white.
They were made near like these singing robes the church choirs have. But
they were long--come way down to the shoe tops. That was along in the
nineties,--about 1890. It was when they revived the Ku Klux the last
time before the World War. In the old days the patrollers used to whip
them for being out without a pass but the Ku Klux used to whip them for
"Way back yonder when I was in Alabama, too, I can remember the Ku Klux
riding. I was a little child then. The Republicans and Democrats were at
war with each other then and they was killing everybody. My brother was
one of them they run. He could come out in the daytime, but in the night
he would have to hide. They never got him. He dodged them. That was
'round in 1874. In 1875, him and my uncle left Alabama and went to
Louisiana. They called him a stump speaker. They wanted to kill him.
They killed Tom Ivory. He was the leader of the Republicans--he was a
colored man. His father was white but his mother was a Negro. His father
educated him in slavery time. He had been up North and was coming back.
They knew he was coming back, so they went up the creek and waited for
him--his train. They flagged it down, and some one on the train
commenced hollering, 'Look yonder.' Ivory stepped out on the platform to
see what they were hollering about, and all them guns started popping
and Ivory fell over the end of the platform and down on the ground. He
was already leaning over the gate when they fired. Then they come up and
cut his tongue out before he died. They said if they got him that would
stop all the rest of the niggers. You see, he was a leader.
"Niggers was voting the Republican ticket 'long about that time. They
just went in gangs riding every night--the Ku Klux did. Ku Kluxing and
killing them they got hold of.
"The police arrested all the men that had anything to do with Tom
Ivory's killing. The leader of the killers was a white man they called
Captain Hess. I never knowed how the trial came out because we left
there while they was still in jail."
How Freedom Came
"I heard my mother say that when the Refugees came through Sumter
County, Alabama, she wasn't free but was 'sot' free later. The refugees
came through along in February. Then the papers was struck and it went
out that the niggers all was free. Mother's master and my oldest brother
who had stayed in the War with his master four years came home. The
refugees was in there when he got home. They went on through. They
didn't tarry long there. Then the papers came out and the next day,
master called all the hands up to the big house and told them they was
free. Mother was set free in the latter part of February and I was born
June 5, 1865, so I was born free."
"We left Alabama in the same year Tom Ivory got killed. More than fifty
colored people left on the train and come off when we did. People was
leaving Alabama something terrible. I never did know what happened to
Tom's killers. I heard afterwards that Alabama got broke, they had to
pay for so many men they killed."
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