Easter Wells

Oklahoma Writers' Project



[Date stamp: NOV 5 1937]


Age 83

Colbert, Okla.

I was born in Arkansas, in 1854, but we moved to Texas in 1855. I've

heard 'em tell about de trip to Texas. De grown folks rode in wagons

and carts but de chaps all walked dat was big enuff. De men walked and

toted their guns and hunted all de way. Dey had plenty of fresh game

to eat.

My mother's name was Nellie Bell. I had one sister, Liza. I never saw

my father; in fact, I never heard my mammy say anything about him and

I don't guess I ever asked her anything about him for I never thought

anything about not having a father. I guess he belonged to another

family and when we moved away he was left behind and he didn't try to

find us after de War.

My mammy and my sister and me belonged to young Master Jason Bell. We

was his onliest slaves and as he wasn't married and lived at home wid

his parents we was worked and bossed by his father, Cap'n William Bell

and his wife, Miss Mary.

After we moved to Texas, old Master built a big double log house,

weather-boarded on de inside and out. It was painted white. Dey was a

long gallery clean across de front of de house and a big open hall

between de two front rooms. Dey was three rooms on each side of de

hall and a wide gallery across de back. De kitchen set back from de

house and dey was a board walk leading to it. Vines was planted 'round

de gallery and on each side of de walk in de summer time. De house was

on a hill and set back from de big road about a quarter of a mile and

dey was big oak and pine trees all 'round de yard. We had purty

flowers, too.

We had good quarters. Dey was log cabins, but de logs was peeled and

square-adzed and put together with white plaster and had shuttered

windows and pine floors. Our furniture was home made but it was good

and made our cabins comfortable.

Old Master give us our allowance of staple food and it had to run us,

too. We could raise our own gardens and in dat way we had purty plenty

to eat. Dey took good care of us sick or well and old Mistress was

awful good to us.

My mammy was de cook. I remember old Master had some purty strict

rules and one of 'em was iffen you burnt de bread you had to eat it.

One day mammy burnt de bread. She was awful busy and forgot it and it

burnt purty bad. She knowed dat old Master would be mad and she'd be

punished so she got some grub and her bonnet and she lit out. She hid

in de woods and cane brakes for two weeks and dey couldn't find her

either. One of de women slipped food out to her. Finally she come home

and old Master give her a whipping but he didn't hurt her none. He was

glad to git her back. She told us dat she could'a slipped off to de

North but she didn't want to leave us children. She was afraid young

Master would be mad and sell us and we'd a-had a hard time so she come

back. I don't know whether she ever burnt de bread any more or not.

Once one of de men got his 'lowance and he decided he'd have de meat

all cooked at once so he come to our cabin and got mammy to cook it

for him. She cooked it and he took it home. One day he was at work and

a dog got in and et de meat all up. He didn't have much food for de

rest of de week. He had to make out wid parched corn.

We all kept parched corn all de time and went 'round eating it. It was

good to fill you up iffen you was hungry and was nourishing, too.

When de niggers cooked in dere own cabins dey put de food in a sort of

tray or trough and everybody et together. Dey didn't have no dishes.

We allus ate at de Big House as mammy had to do de cooking for de


I never had to work hard as old Master wanted us to grow up strong.

He'd have mammy boil Jerusalem Oak and make a tea for us to drink to

cure us of worms and we'd run races and get exercise so we would be


Old Mistress and old Master had three children. Dey was two children

dead between Master Jason and Miss Jane. Dey was a little girl 'bout

my age, named Arline. We played together all de time. We used to set

on de steps at night and old Mistress would tell us about de stars.

She'd tell us and show us de Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Milky Way,

Ellen's Yard, Job's Coffin, and de Seven Sisters. I can show 'em to

you and tell you all about 'em yet.

I scared Arline and made her fall and break her leg twice. One time we

was on de porch after dark one night and I told her dat I heard

something and I made like I could see it and she couldn't so she got

scared and run and hung her toe in a crack and fell off de high porch

and broke her leg. Another time while de War was going on we was

dressed up in long dresses playing grown-ups. We had playhouses under

some big castor-bean bushes. We climbed up on de fence and jest for

fun I told her dat I seen some Yankees coming. She started to run and

got tangled up in her long dress and fell and broke her leg again. It

nigh broke my heart for I loved her and she loved me and she didn't

tell on me either time. I used to visit her after she was married and

we'd sure have a good visit talking 'bout de things we used to do. We

was separated when we was about fifteen and didn't see [HW: each]

other any more till we was both married and had children. I went to

visit her at Bryant, Brazos County, Texas and I ain't seen her since.

I don't know whether she is still living or not.

I 'members hearing a man say dat once he was a nigger trader. He'd buy

and trade or sell 'em like they was stock. He become a Christian and

never sold any more.

Our young Master went to de War and got wounded and come home and

died. Old Master den took full charge of us and when de War ended he

kept us because he said we didn't have no folks and he said as our

owner was dead we wasn't free. Mother died about a year after de War,

and some white folks took my sister but I was afraid to go. Old Master

told me iffen I left him he would cut my ears off end I'd starve and I

don't know what all he did tell me he'd do. I must a-been a fool but I

was afraid to try it.

I had so much work to do and I never did git to go anywhere. I reckon

he was afraid to let me go off de place for fear some one would tell

me what a fool I was, so I never did git to go anywhere but had to

work all de time. I was de only one to work and old Mistress and de

girls never had done no work and didn't know much about it. I had a

harder time den when we was slaves.

I got to wanting to see my sister so I made up my mind to run off. One

of old Master's motherless nephews lived with him and I got him to go

with me one night to the potato bank and I got me a lap full of

potatoes to eat so I wouldn't starve like old Master said I would. Dis

white boy went nearly to a house where some white folks lived. I went

to de house and told 'em I wanted to go to where my sister was and dey

let me stay fer a few days and sent me on to my sister.

I saw old Master lots of times after I run away but he wasn't mad at

me. I heard him tell de white folks dat I lived wid dat he raised me

and I sure wouldn't steal nor tell a lie. I used to steal brown sugar

lumps when mammy would be cooking but he didn't know 'bout dat.

On holidays we used to allus have big dinners, 'specially on

Christmas, and we allus had egg-nog.

We allus had hog-jowl and peas on New Years Day 'cause iffen you'd

have dat on New Years Day you'd have good luck all de year.

Iffen you have money on New Years' Day you will have money all de


My husband, Lewis Wells, lived to be one-hundred and seven years old.

He died five years ago. He could see witches, spirits and ghosts but I

never could. Dere are a few things dat I've noticed and dey never


Dogs howling and scritch owls hollering is allus a warning. My mother

was sick and we didn't think she was much sick. A dog howled and

howled right outside de house. Old Master say, "Nellie gonna die."

Sure nuff she died dat night.

Another time a gentle old mule we had got after de children and run

'em to do house and den he lay down and wallow and wallow. One of our

children was dead 'fore a week.

One of our neighbors say his dog been gone 'bout a week. He was

walking and met de dog and it lay down and stretch out on de ground

and measure a grave wid his body. He made him git up and he went home

jest as fast as he could. When he got dere one of his children was


Iffen my left eye quiver I know I'm gwineter cry and iffen both my

eyes quiver I know I gwinter laugh till I cry. I don't like for my

eyes to quiver.

We has allus made our own medicine. Iffen we hadn't we never could

astood de chills and fevers. We made a tea out'n bitter weeds and

bathed in it to cure malaria. We also made bread pills and soaked 'em

in dis tea and swallowed 'em. After bathing in dis tea we'd go to bed

and kiver up and sweat de malaria out.

Horse mint and palm of crystal (Castor-bean) and bullnettle root

boiled together will make a cure fer swelling. Jest bathe de swollen

part in dis hot tea.

Anvil dust and apple vinegar will cure dropsy. One tea cup of anvil

dust to a quart of vinegar. Shake up well and bathe in it. It sure

will cure de worse kind of a case.

God worked through Abraham Lincoln and he answered de prayers of dem

dat was wearing de burden of slavery. We cullud folks all love and

honor Abraham Lincoln's memory and don't you think we ought to?

I love to hear good singing. My favorite songs are: "Am I A Soldier Of

The Cross", an "How Can I Live In Sin and Doubt My Savior's Love." I

belongs to de Baptist church.

Easter Jackson Ed Allen Des Arc Interviewed By Miss Irene Robertson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail