Abbie Lindsay

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Abbie Lindsay

914 W. Tenth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 84

[HW: cf. Will Glass' story, No. ----?]

"I was born June 1, 1856; the place at that time was called Lynngrove,

Louisiana. It was just about a mile from the post office, and was in

Morehouse Parish in the first ward--in the tenth ward I mean.


"My father was named Alec Summerville. He named himself after the

Civil War. They were going around letting the people choose their

names. He had belonged to Alec Watts; but when they allowed him to

select his own name after the war, he called himself Summerville after

the town Summerville (Somerville), Alabama. His mother was named

Charlotte Dantzler. She was born in North Carolina. John Haynes bought

her and brought her to Arkansas. My father was an overseer's child.

You know they whipped people in those days and forced them. That is

why he didn't go by the name of Watts after he got free and could

select his own name.

"The name of my mother's mother was Celia Watts. I don't know my

grandfather's first name. Old man Alec Watts' father gave my mother to

him. I didn't know anything about that except what was told to me.

They bought her from South Carolina. They came to Louisiana. My father

was bought in South Carolina too. After the Haynes met the Watts,

Watts married old man Haynes' daughter. He gave my father to his

daughter, Mary Watts. She was Mary Watts after she was married. She

was Mary Haynes before. Watts' father gave my mother to Alec Watts.

That is just the way it was.

"My mother and father had three children to live. I think there were

about thirteen in all. There are just two of us living now. I couldn't

tell you where Jeffrey Summerville, my living brother, is living now.

Slave Houses

"The slaves lived in hewed-log houses. I have often seen hewed-log

houses. Have you ever seen one? You cut big logs and split them open

with a maul and a wedge. Then you take a pole ax and hack it on both

sides. Then you notch it--cut it into a sort of tongue and groove

joint in each end. Before you cut the notches in the end, you take a

broad ax and hew it on both sides. The notch holds the corners of the

house-ties every corner. You put the rafters up just like you do now.

Then you lathe the rafters and then put boards on top of the rafters.

Sometimes shingles were used on the rafters instead of boards.

"You would finish off the outside of the walls by making clay cakes

out of mud and filling up the cracks with them. When that clay got

hard, nothing could go through the walls. Sometimes thin boards were

nailed on the inside to finish the interior.

Furniture and Food

"They had planks--homemade wooden beds. They made tables and chairs.

They caned the chairs. They made the tables with four legs. You made

it just like you would make a box, adding the legs.

"A little house called the smokehouse was built in one of the corners

of the yard. They would weigh out to each one so much food for the

week's supply--mostly meat and meal, sometimes rice. They'd give you

parched meal and rye too.

"Sometimes they had the slaves cook their food in the cabins. Mostly

all the time. My people ate in the kitchen because my mother was the

cook and my father was the yard man. The others mostly cooked at

home--in their cabins.


"My mother and father worked around the house and yard. Slaves in the

field had to pick a certain amount of cotton. The man had to pick from

two to three hundred pounds of cotton a day if he wasn't sick, and the

woman had to pick about one hundred fifty. Of course some of them

could pick more. They worked in a way of speaking from can till can't,

from the time they could see until the time they couldn't. They do

about the same thing now.


"I remember the time the white folks used to make the slaves all come

around in the yard and sing every Sunday evening. I can't remember any

of the songs straight through. I can just remember them in spots.

'Give me Jesus, you can have all the world

In the morning when I arise, Give me Jesus.'


* * * * *

'Lie on him if you sing right

Lie on him if you pray right

God knows that your heart is not right

Come, let us go to heaven anyhow.'


* * * * *

'The ark was seen at rest upon the hill

On the hills of Calvary

And Great Jehovah spoke

Sanctify to God upon the hill.'

(First verse)

* * * * *

'Peter spied the promised land

On the hill of Calvary

And Great Jehovah spoke

Sanctify to God upon the hill.'

(Second verse)

There was lots more that they sung.

"They could go to parties too, but when they went to them or to

anything else, they had to have a pass. When they went to a party the

most they did was to play the fiddle and dance. They had corn huskings

every Friday night, and they ground the meal every Saturday. The corn

husking was the same as fun. They didn't serve anything on the place

where I was. I never knew them to serve anything at the corn shuckings

or at the parties. Sometimes they would give a picnic, and they would

kill a hog for that.

Life Since Freedom

"Right after the war, my father hired me out to nurse. Then I stayed

around the house and helped my stepmother, and the white girls taught

me a little until I got to be thirteen years old. Then I got three

months' schooling in a regular school. I came here in 1915. I had been

living in Newport before that. Yes, I been married, and that's all you

need to know about that. I got two children: one fifty-three years

old, and the other sixty.


"I don't have much thinking to do about the young people. It's a lost

race without a change."

Interviewer's Comment

"Mother" Lindsay is a Bible-reading, neat and clean-appearing,

pleasant-mannered business woman, a little bulky, but carrying herself

like a woman thirty years. She runs a cafe on Ninth Street and manages

her own business competently. She refers to it as "Hole in the Wall."

I had been trying for sometime to catch her away from her home. It was

almost impossible for me to get a story from her at her restaurant or

at her home.

She doesn't like to sit long at a time and doesn't like to tell too

much. When she feels quarters are a little close and that she is

telling more than she wants to, she says, "Honey, I ain't got no more

time to talk to you; I got to get back to the cafe and get me a cup of


Will Glass, who has a story of his own, collaborated with her on her

story. He has an accurate and detailed memory of many things. He is

too young to have any personal memories. But he remembers everything

he has been told by his grandparents and parents, and they seem to

have talked freely to him unlike the usual parents of that period.

Aaron-ford Abe Harris facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail