Doc Quinn

Texarkana District


Name of Interviewer: Cecil Copeland

Subject: Social Customs--Reminiscences of an Ex-Slave

Subject: Foods

This Information given by: Doc Quinn

Place of Residence: 1217 Ash Street, Texarkana, Arkansas

Occupation: None [TR: also reported as Ex-slave.]

Age: 93 [TR: also reported as 94.]

[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]

[TR: Repetitive information deleted from subsequent pages.]

Several months ago, I called at 1217 Ash Street, Texarkana, Arkansas

where I had been informed a voluble old negro lived. An aged,

gray-haired, negro woman came to the door and informed me her father was

in the wood shed at the back of the house. Going around to the wood shed

I found him busily engaged in storing his winter supply of wood. When I

made known my mission he readily agreed to answer all my questions as

best he could. Seating himself on a block of wood, he told this almost

incredible story, along with lengthy discourses on politics, religion

and other current events:

"I wuz born March 15, 1843, in Monroe County, Mississippi, near

Aberdeen, Mah Mahster wuz Colonel Ogburn, one ob de bigges' planters in

de state of Mississippi. Manys de time he raised so much cotton dat dem

big steamers just couldnt carry it all down to N'Awlins in one year.

But den along came de Civil War an' we didn't raise nothin' fo' several

years. Why? Becase most uf us jined the Confederate Army in Colonel

Ogburn's regiment as servants and bodyguards. An' let me tell yo'

somethin', whitefolks. Dere never wuz a war like dis war. Why I 'member

dat after de battle of Corinth, Miss., a five acre field was so thickly

covered wid de dead and wounded dat yo' couldn't touch de ground in

walkin' across it. And de onliest way to bury dem wuz to cut a deep

furrow wid a plow, lay de soldiers head to head, an' plow de dirt back

on dem."

"About a year after de war started de Mahster got one ob dese A.W.O.L.'s

frum de Army so we could come to Miller County, where he bought de place

on Red River now known as de Adams Farm.

"When we fust came here dis place, as well as de rest ob de Valley, wuz

just a big canebrake--nothin' lived in dere but bears, wolves, and

varmints. Why de Mahster would habe to round up de livestock each

afternoon, put dem in pens, and den put out guards all night to keep de

wolves and bears frum gettin' em. De folks didn't go gallivatin' round

nights like dey do now or de varmints would get them. But den we didn't

stay here but a few months until de Mahster's A.W.O.L. wuz up, so we had

to go back and jine de army. We fought in Mississippi Alabama, Georgia,

and South Carolina."

"When de war ended de Mahster moved us to Miller County, but not on de

Adams farm. For de man whut used to own de farm said Uncle Sam hadn't

made any such money as wuz paid him for de farm, so he wanted his farm

back. Dat Confederate money wuzn't worth de paper it wuz printed on, so

de Mahster had to gib him back de farm. Poor Massa Ogburn--he didn't

live long after dat. He and his wife are buried side by side in Rondo


"Not long after de negroes wuz freed, I took 86 ob dem to de votin'

place at Homan and voted 'em all straight Democratic. On my way back

home dat evenin' five negroes jumped frum de bushes and stopped me.

Dey 'splained dat I wuz too 'fluential wid de negroes and proceeded to

string me up by de neck. I hollers as loud as I could, and Roy Nash and

Hugh Burton, de election officers, just happen to be comin' down de road

and hear me yell. Dey ran off de niggers and cut me down, but by dat

time I had passed out. It wuz several weeks befo' I got well, and I can

still feel dat rope 'round my neck. Iffen dey had known how to tie a

hangmans knot I wouldn't be here to tell you about it."

"It wuzn't long after dis dat I jined Colonel' Baker's Gang for

'tection. 'Colonel' Baker wuz a great and brave man and did mo' fo de

white folks of dis country den any other man. Why iffen it hadn't been

fo' him de white folks couldn't hab lived in dis country, de negroes wuz

so mean. Dey wuz so mean dat dey tied heavy plow shoes aroun' de necks

ob two little white boys and threw dem in de lake. Yes suh. I wuz dere."

"And another time I wuz wid a bunch of niggers when dey wuz plannin' on

killin a white man who wuz a friend ob mine. As soon as I could I slips

away and tips him off. When I got back one ob dem niggers looks at me

suspicious like and asks, "where yo been, nigger?" I wuz shakin' like a

leaf in a storm, but I says: "I ain't been nowhere--just went home to

get some cartridges to help kill dis white man."

"Not long after I jined Colonel Baker's Gang, we wuz comin' frum Fulton

to Clipper through de Red River bottoms. De river wuz overflowin' an' as

we wuz crossin' a deep, swift slough, Colonel Baker and his horse got

tangled up in some grape vines. Colonel Baker yelled, and I turned my

mule around and cut all de grape vine loose wid my Bowie knife. Dere

ain't nothin' like a mule for swimmin'. Dey can swim circles aroun' any

horse. As long as he lived, Colonel Baker was always grateful to me fo'

savin' his life."

"De Colonel hated de sight ob mean niggers. We would ride up to a negro

settlement, and tell de niggers we wuz organizing a colored militia to

catch Cullen Baker and his gang. Most ob de negroes would join, but some

ob dem had to be encouraged by Colonel Baker's big gun. De recruits

would be lined up in an open field fo' drilling. And dey sho wuz

drilled. Colonel Baker and his men would shoot them by the score. Dey

killed 53 at Homan, Arkansas, 86 at Rocky Comfort, (Foreman) Arkansas, 6

near Ogden, Arkansas, 6 on de Temple place, 62 at Jefferson, Texas, 100

in North Louisiana, 73 at Marshall, Texas, and several others."

"All of de big planters wuz friendly to Cullen Baker. I have carried

supplies many times frum de big plantations--Hervey, Glass, and

others--to Cullen Baker. De Colonel always carried a big double-barrel

shotgun. It must have been de biggest shotgun in de world, not less den

a number eight size. He whipped 16 soldiers at Old Boston wid dis gun

one time."

"I saw Colonel Baker killed. We had just arrived at his father-in-law's

house and I wuz in the horse lot, about 50 yards from de house, when Joe

Davis. Thomas Orr and some more men rode up."

"De Colonel wuz standin' by de chimney an did not see dem come aroun' de

house. Dey killed him befo' he knew dey wuz aroun'. One ob de men asked

Mr. Foster, "Where at dat d--n nigger?" I ducked down and crawled in

under de rail fence and ran--I didn't stop 'til I wuz deep in the

Sulphur River bottoms. Every minute my heart seemed like it wuz goin'

to jump right out uv my mouth. I wuz the worst scared nigger that ever


"I have lived many years since dat time. De times and ways of livin'

have changed. I 'member killing deer where the Texarkana National Bank

stands, way befo' Texarkana wuz even thought of. This place wuz one of

my favorite deer stands. Nix Creek used to be just full ob fish. What

used to be the best fishing hole aroun' here is now covered by the

Methodist Church (Negro), in East Texarkana. Dr. Weetten had a big

fine home out where Springlake Park is. He wuz killed when thrown by a

buckin' horse. All of de young people I knew den have been dead many



The question of eating special food on a particular day immediately

brings in mind Thanksgiving Day, when turkey becomes the universal dish.

Perhaps no other day in the year can be so designated, except among a

few religious orders when the eating of meat is strictly prohibited on

certain days.

The belief that negroes are particularly addicted to eating pork is well

founded, as witness the sales of pork to colored people in most any meat

market. But who could imagine that cotton-seed was once the universal

food eaten in this vicinity by the colored people? That, according to

Doc Quinn, a former slave, and self-styled exmember of Cullen Baker's

Gang, was the custom before and shortly after the Civil War.

The cotton-seed would be dumped into a hugh pot, and boiled for several

hours, the seed gradually rising to the top. The seed would then be

dipped off with a ladle. The next and final step would be to pour

corn-meal into the thick liquid, after which it was ready to be eaten.

Cotton-seed, it must be remembered, had little value at that time,

except as livestock feed.

"Yes suh, Cap'n," the old negro went on to explain. "I has never eaten

anything whut tasted any better, or whut would stick to your ribs like

cotton-seed, and corn-meal cake. Rich? Why dey's nuthin dat is more

nutritious. You never saw a healthier or finer lookin' bunch of negroes

dan wuz on Colonel Harvey's place.

"I 'member one time tho' when he changed us off cotton-seed, but we

didn't stay changed fo' long. No suh. Of all de grumblin' dem niggers

did, becase dey insides had got so used to dat cotton-seed and corn-meal

dey wouldn't be satisfied wid nothing else."

"One mornin' when about forty of us niggers had reported sick, de

Mahster came down to de qua'ters. 'Whut ailin' ye' lazy neggers?' he

asked. Dem niggers los' about fifty pounds of weight apiece, and didn'

feel like doin' anything. 'Mahster,' I say. 'Iffen you'll have de wimmen

folks make us a pot full of dat cotton-seed and corn-meal, we'll be

ready to go to work.' And as long as I work fo' Colonel Harvey, one uv

de bes' men whut ever lived, we always had cotton-seed and corn-meal to


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