Oklahoma Writers' Project
[Date stamp: AUG 16 1937]
Lawd help us, I sho' remembers all about slavery times for I was a
grown woman, married and had one baby when de War done broke out. That
was a sorry time for some poor black folks but I guess Master Frank
Colbert's niggers was about as well off as the best of 'em. I can
recollect things that happened way back better than I can things that
happen now. Funny ain't it?
Frank Colbert, a full blood Choctaw Indian, was my owner. He owned my
mother but I don't remember much about my father. He died when I was a
little youngun. My Mistress' name was Julie Colbert. She and Master
Frank was de best folks that ever lived. All the niggers loved Master
Frank and knowed jest what he wanted done and they tried their best to
do it, too.
I married Isom Love, a slave of Sam Love, another full-blood Indian
that lived on a jining farm. We lived on Master Frank's farm and Isom
went back and forth to work fer his master and I worked ever day fer
mine. I don't 'spect we could of done that way iffen we hadn't of had
Indian masters. They let us do a lot like we pleased jest so we got
our work done and didn't run off.
Old Master Frank never worked us hard and we had plenty of good food
to eat. He never did like to put us under white overseers and never
tried it but once. A white man come through here and stopped
overnight. He looked 'round the farm and told Master Frank that he
wasn't gitting half what he ought to out of his rich land. He said he
could take his bunch of hands and double his amount of corn and
Master Frank told him that he never used white overseers, that he had
one nigger that bossed around some when he didn't do it hisself. He
also told the white man that he had one nigger named Bill that was
kind of bad, that he was a good worker but he didn't like to be
bothered as he liked to do his own work in his own way. The white boss
told him he wouldn't have any trouble and that he could handle him all
Old Master hired him and things went very well for a few days. He
hadn't said anything to Bill and they had got along fine. I guess the
new boss got to thinking it was time for him to take Bill in hand so
one morning he told him to hitch up another team before he caught his
own team to go to work.
Uncle Bill told him that he didn't have time, that he had a lot of
plowing to git done that morning and besides it was customary for
every man to catch his own team. Of course this made the overseer mad
and he grabbed a stick and started cussing and run at Uncle Bill. Old
Bill grabbed a single-tree and went meeting him. Dat white man all on
a sudden turned 'round and run fer dear life and I tell you, he fairly
bust old Red River wide open gitting away from there and nobody never
did see hide nor hair of him 'round to this day.
Master Colbert run a stage stand and a ferry on Red River and he
didn't have much time to look after his farm and his niggers. He had
lots of land and lots of slaves. His house was a big log house, three
rooms on one side and three on the other, and there was a big open
hall between them. There was a big gallery clean across the front of
the house. Behind the house was the kitchen and the smokehouse. The
smokehouse was always filled with plenty of good meat and lard. They
would kill the polecat and dress it and take a sharp stick and run it
up their back jest under the flesh. They would also run one up each
leg and then turn him on his back and put him on top of the house and
let him freeze all night. The next morning they'd pull the sticks out
and all the scent would be on them sticks and the cat wouldn't smell
at all. They'd cook it like they did possum, bake it with taters or
We had plenty of salt. We got that from Grand Saline. Our coffee was
made from parched meal or wheat bran. We made it from dried sweet
potatoes that had been parched, too.
One of our choicest dishes was "Tom Pashofa", an Indian dish. We'd
take corn and beat it in a mortar with a pestle. They took out the
husks with a riddle and a fanner. The riddle was a kind of a sifter.
When it was beat fine enough to go through the riddle we'd put it in a
pot and cook it with fresh pork or beef. We cooked our bread in a
Dutch oven or in the ashes.
When we got sick we would take butterfly root and life-everlasting and
boil it and made a syrup and take it for colds. Balmony and queen's
delight boiled and mixed would make good blood medicine.
The slaves lived in log cabins scattered back of the house. He wasn't
afraid they'd run off. They didn't know as much as the slaves in the
states, I reckon. But Master Frank had a half brother that was as mean
as he was good. I believe he was the meanest man the sun ever shined
on. His name was Buck Colbert and he claimed he was a patroller. He
was sho' bad to whup niggers. He'd stop a nigger and ask him if he had
a pass and even if they did he'd read it and tell them they had stayed
over time and he'd beat 'em most to death. He'd say they didn't have
any business off the farm and to git back there and stay there.
One time he got mad at his baby's nurse because she couldn't git the
baby to stop crying and he hit her on the head with some fire-tongs
and she died. His wife got sick and she sent for me to come and take
care of her baby. I sho' didn't want to go and I begged so hard for
them not to make me that they sent an older woman who had a baby of
her own so she could nurse the baby if necessary.
In the night the baby woke up and got to crying and Master Buck called
the woman and told her to git him quiet. She was sleepy and was sort
of slow and this made Buck mad and he made her strip her clothes off
to her waist and he began to whip her. His wife tried to git him to
quit and he told her he'd beat her iffen she didn't shut up. Sick as
as she was she slipped off and went to Master Frank's and woke him up
and got him to go and make Buck quit whipping her. He had beat her so
that she was cut up so bad she couldn't nurse her own baby any more.
Master Buck kept on being bad till one day he got mad at one of his
own brothers and killed him. This made another one of his brothers mad
and he went to his house and killed him. Everybody was glad that Buck
We had lots of visitors. They'd stop at the stage inn that we kept.
One morning I was cleaning the rooms and I found a piece of money in
the bed where two men had slept. I thought it was a dime and I showed
it to my mammy and she told me it was a five dollar piece. I sho' was
happy fer I had been wanting some hoops fer my skirts like Misstress
had so Mammy said she would keep my money 'til I could send fer the
hoops. My brother got my money from my mammy and I didn't git my hoops
fer a long time. Miss Julie give me some later.
When me and my husband got married we built us a log cabin about
half-way from Master Frank's house and Master Sam Love's house. I
would go to work at Master Frank's and Isom would go to work at Mister
Sam's. One day I was at home with jest my baby and a runner come by
and said the Yankee soldiers was coming. I looked 'round and I knowed
they would git my chickens. I had 'em in a pen right close to the
house to keep the varmints from gitting 'em so I decided to take up
the boards in the floor and put 'em in there as the wall logs come to
the ground and they couldn't git out. By the time I got my chickens
under the floor and the house locked tight the soldiers had got so
close I could hear their bugles blowing so I jest fairly flew over to
old Master's house. Them Yankees clumb down the chimbley and got every
one of my chickens and they killed about fifteen of Master Frank's
hogs. He went down to their camp and told the captain about it and he
paid him for his hogs and sent me some money for my chickens.
We went to church all the time. We had both white and colored
preachers. Master Frank wasn't a Christian but he would help build
brush-arbors fer us to have church under and we sho' would have big
meetings I'll tell you.
One day Master Frank was going through the woods close to where
niggers was having church. All on a sudden he started running and
beating hisself and hollering and the niggers all went to shouting and
saying "Thank the Lawd, Master Frank has done come through!" Master
Frank after a minute say, "Yes, through the worst of 'em." He had run
into a yellow jacket's nest.
One night my old man's master sent him to Sherman, Texas. He aimed to
come back that night so I stayed at home with jest my baby. It went to
sleep so I set down on the steps to wait and ever minute I thought I
could hear Isom coming through the woods. All a sudden I heard a
scream that fairly made my hair stand up. My dog that was laying out
in the yard give a low growl and come and set down right by me. He
kept growling real low.
Directly, right close to the house I heard that scream again. It
sounded like a woman in mortal misery. I run into the house and made
the dog stay outside. I locked the door and then thought what must I
do. Supposing Isom did come home now and should meet that awful thing?
I heard it again. It wasn't more'n a hundred yards from the house. The
dog scratched on the door but I dassent open it to let him in. I
knowed by this time that it was a panther screaming. I turned my table
over and put it against the opening of the fireplace. I didn't aim fer
that thing to come down the chimbley and git us.
Purty soon I heard it again a little mite further away--it was going
on by. I heard a gun fire. Thank God, I said, somebody else heard it
and was shooting at it. I set there on the side of my bed fer the rest
of the night with my baby in my arms and praying that Isom wouldn't
come home. He didn't come till about nine o'clock the next morning and
I was that glad to see him that I jest cried and cried.
I ain't never seen many sperits but I've seen a few. One day I was
laying on my bed here by myself. My son Ed was cutting wood. I'd been
awful sick and I was powerful weak. I heard somebody walking real
light like they was barefooted. I said, "Who's dat?"
He catch hold of my hand and he has the littlest hand I ever seen, and
he say, "You been mighty sick and I want you to come and go with me to
Sherman to see a doctor."
I say, "I ain't got nobody at Sherman what knows me."
He say, "You'd better come and go with me anyway."
I jest lay there fer a minute and didn't say nothing and purty soon he
say, "Have you got any water?"
I told him the water was on the porch and he got up and went outside
and I set in to calling Ed. He come hurrying and I asked him why he
didn't lock the door when he went out and I told him to go see if he
could see the little man and find out what he wanted. He went out and
looked everywhere but he couldn't find him nor he couldn't even find
I always keep a butcher-knife near me but it was between the mattress
and the feather bed and I couldn't get to it. I don't guess it would
have done any good though fer I guess it was jest a sperit.
The funniest thing that ever happened to me was when I was a real
young gal. Master and Miss Julie was going to see one of his sisters
that was sick. I went along to take care of the baby fer Miss Julie.
The baby was about a year old. I had a bag of clothes and the baby to
carry. I was riding a pacing mule and it was plumb gentle. I was
riding along behind Master Frank and Miss Julie and I went to sleep. I
lost the bag of clothes and never missed it. Purty soon I let the baby
slip out of my lap and I don't know how far I went before I nearly
fell off myself and jest think how I felt when I missed that baby! I
turned around and went back and found the baby setting in the trail
sort of crying. He wasn't hurt a mite as he fell in the grass. I got
off the mule and picked him up and had to look fer a log so I could
get back on again.
Jest as I got back on Master Frank rode up. He had missed me and come
back to see what was wrong. I told him that I had lost the bag of
clothes but I didn't say anything about losing the baby. We never did
find the clothes and I sho' kept awake the rest of the way. I wasn't
going to risk losing that precious baby again! I guess the reason he
didn't cry much was because he was a Indian baby. He was sho' a sweet
Jest before the War people would come through the Territory stealing
niggers and selling 'em in the states. Us women dassent git fur from
the house. We wouldn't even go to the spring if we happened to see a
strange wagon or horsebacker. One of Master Sam Love's women was stole
and sold down in Texas. After freedom she made her way back to her
fambly. Master Frank sent one of my brothers to Sherman on an errand.
After several days the mule come back but we never did see my brother
again. We didn't know whether he run off or was stole and sold.
I was glad to be free. What did I do and say? Well, I jest clapped my
hands together and said, "Thank God Almighty, I'se free at last!"
I live on the forty acres that the government give me. I have been
blind for nine years and don't git off my bed much. I live here with
my son, Ed. Isom has been dead for over forty years. I had fifteen
children, but only ten of them are living.
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