Ellen Fitzgerald

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person Interviewed: Ellen Fitzgerald

Brinkley, Ark.

Age: 74

"Mama was named Anna Noles. Papa named Milias Noles. She belong to the

Whitakers and he belong to Gibbs. Noles bought them both. They was both

sold. Mother was born in Athens, papa somewhere in Kentucky. Their

owners, the Noles, come to Aberdeen, Mississippi.

"Grandma, papa's mama, was killed with a battling stick. She was a

slender woman, very tall and pretty, papa told me. She was at the

spring, washing. They cut a tree off and make a smooth stump. They used

a big tree stump for battling. They had paddles, wide as this (two hands

wide--eight or ten inches) with rounded-off handle, smoothed so slick.

They wet and soap the clothes, put em on that block-tree stump and beat

em. Rub boards was not heard of in them days. They soaked the clothes,

boiled and rinsed a heap. They done good washing. I heard em say the

clothes come white as snow from the lye soap they used. They made the

soap. They had hard soap and soft soap, made from ashes dripped and meat

skins. They used tallow and mutton suet too. I don't know what was said,

but I recken she didn't please her mistress--Mrs. Callie Gibbs. She

struck her in the small part of her back and broke it. She left her at

the spring. Somebody went to get water and seen her there. They took her

to the house but she finally died. Grandpa was dead then. I recken they

got scared to keep papa round then and sold him.

"I was born first year of the surrender. Moster Noles told them they was

free. They didn't give them a thing. They was glad they was free. They

didn't want to be in slavery; it was too tied down to suit em. They

lived about places, do little work where they found it.

"We dodged the Ku Klux. One night they was huntin' a man and come to the

wrong house. They nearly broke mama's arm pullin' her outen our house.

They give us some trouble coming round. We was scared of em. We dodged

em all the time.

"I was married and had a child eight years old fore I come to Arkansas.

I come to Brinkley first. I was writing to friends. They had immigrated,

so we immigrated here and been here ever since. When I come here there

was two big stores and a little one. A big sawmill--nothing but woods

and wild animals. It wasn't no hard times then. We had a plenty to live


"My husband was a saw mill hand and a railroad builder. He worked on the

section. I nursed, washed, ironed, cooked, cleaned folks houses. We done

about right smart. I could do right smart now if white folks hire me.

"The night my husband died somebody stole nearly every chicken I had. He

died last week. We found out it was two colored men. I ain't needed no

support till now. My husband made us a good living long as he was able

to go. We raised a family. He was a tolerably dark sort of man. My girls

bout his color."

The two grown girls were "scouring" the floor. Both of them said they

were married and lived somewhere else.

Ellen Cragin Ellen Godfrey facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail