Elizabeth Brannon

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Elizabeth Brannon, Biscoe, Arkansas

(Packed to move somewhere else)

Age: 40 plus

"I was born in Helena, Arkansas. Grandma raised me mostly. She was born

up in Virginia. Her name was Mariah Bell.

"Grandmother was sold more than once. When she was small she and her

mother were sold together to different buyers. The morning she was sold

she could see her mother crying through the crowd, and the last she ever

seen her mother she was crying and waving to her. She never could forget

that. We all used to sit around her and we would all be crying with her

when she told that so many, many times. Grandmother said she was five

years old then and was sold to a doctor in Virginia. He made a house

girl of her and learned her to be a midwife.

"She told us about a time when the stars fell or a time about like it.

Her master got scared in Virginia. His niece killed herself 'cause she

thought the world was coming to on end. Mama of the baby was walking,

crying and praying. Grandmama had the baby. She said it was a terrible


"When grandmama was sold away from her own mother she took the new

master's cook for her mother. I live to see her. Her name was Charity

Walker. She was awful old. Grandmama didn't remember if her mother had

other children or not. She was the youngest.

"Grandmama was sold again. Her second master wasn't good as her doctor

master. He didn't feed them good, didn't feed the children good neither.

He told his slaves to steal. Grandmama had two children there. She was

pregnant again. Grandpa stole a shoat. She craved meat. Meat was scarce

then and the War was on. Grandpa had it cut up and put away. Grandmama

had the oldest baby in the box under her bed and the youngest child

asleep in her bed. She was frying the meat. She seen the overseer across

the field stepping that way. Grandpa left and grandmama put the skillet

of meat in the bed with the baby and threw a big roll of cotton in the

fire. The overseer come in and looked around, asked what he smelled

burning. She told him it was a sack of motes (cotton lumps). Grandpa was

Jim Bell. His master learnet him to steal and lie. He got better after


"Grandmama never would let us have pockets in our aprons and dresses.

Said it was a temptation for us to learn to steal. She thought that was

awful and to lie too.

"Grandmama and grandpa and mama and her sister, the baby, died. Come

with soldiers from Virginia to Helena, Arkansas on a big boat. They

nursed soldiers in the hospital in the last of the War. Grandpapa died

in 1895. He had heart trouble. He was seventy-five years old then.

Grandmama died in 1913. She was awful, awful old. Grandmama said they

put her off on College and Perry streets but that wasn't the names of

the streets then. She wore a baggin dress and brogan shoes. Brass-toed

shoes and brass eyelets. She would take grease and soot and make shoe

polish for them. We all wore that dress and the shoes at times. I wore

them to Peabody School in Helena and the children made so mich fun of

their cry (squeaking) till I begged them to get me some better looking

shoes for cold rainy spells of weather. I wore the dress. It was strong

nearly as leather.

"When she was sold the last time she got a marble box and it had a small

lock and key. It was square and thick, size of four men's shoe boxes.

When she come to Arkansas she brought it filled with rice on the boat.

She kept her valuable papers in it. Our house burned and the shoes and

box both got away from me. Her oldest girl died after the surrender and

was never married. Never had children.

"On College and Perry streets the hospital was cleared away and grandpa

bought the spot. It has had two houses rot down of his own on it. It has

been graded down and a big brick house stands there now.

"She used to tell how when meat was so scarce she'd be cooking. She'd

wipe her girls' faces with the dishrag. One of them would lick her lips.

Make other children hungry for meat to see them so greasy. They hadn't

had any meat.

"Grandmama told me her doctor master bought them shoes for her, and I

think they gave her the marble box. The children teased me so much

grandmama bought me some limber sole shoes.

"Auntie was good they said and mama was mean so they said. Auntie died

after surrender. We'd tell grandmama she ought to put the skillet on

mama. She said the good Lord took care of her baby that time. Mama would

get so mad. She would whoop us for saying she ought to put the hot

skillet on her.

"Grandmama was a midwife with black and white for forty-five years in

Helena. She worked for Joe Horner, Mr. Leifer, Mrs. E.M. Allen. Mama had

seven children, and grandmama raised Will Marshal (colored). He works at

D.T. Hargraves & Sons store now in Helena. He started a delivery boy but

now he is their main repair man.

"Grandmama was a strong woman. Mama worked out at some places I told

you. Grandmama worked. Grandmama always had a pretty flower yard. She

did love pretty flowers.

"Mama minded grandmama like one of us. She was a good woman. None of us,

not even the boys, ever had pockets in our clothes. Grandmama made them

for us. She taught us not to lie and steal. She thought it was the worse

thing you could do. She was loved and respected by white and black till

she died down at Helena in 1913. They are all buried down there."

Elizabeth Alexander Elizabeth Hines facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail