Ellis Jefson

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Ellis Jefson (M. E. Preacher),

Hazen, Ark.

Age: 77

"My father was a full blood African. His parents come from there and

he couldn't talk plain.

"My great grandma was an Indian squaw. Mother was crossed with a white

man. He was a Scotchman.

"My mother belong to old man John Marshall. He died before I left


"Old Miss Nancy Marshall and the boys and their wives, three of em was

married, and slaves set out in three covered wagons and come to Holly

Springs, Mississippi in 1867.

"Blunt Marshall was a Baptist preacher. In 1869 my grandma died at

Holly Springs.

"I had two sisters Ann and Mariah. Old Miss Nancy Marshall had kin

folks at Marshall, Texas. She took Ann with her and I have never seen

her since.

"In 1878 we immigrated to Kansas. We soon got back to Helena. Mariah

died there and in 1881 mother died.

"Old Miss Nancy's boys named Blunt, John, Bill, Harp. I don't know

where they scattered out to finally.

"All my folks ever expected was freedom. We was nicely taken care of

till the family split up. My father was suppressed. He belong to

Master Ernman. He run off and went on with the Yankees when they come

down from Virginia. We think he got killed. We never heard from him

after 1863.

"In 1882 my white folks went to Padukah, Kentucky. They was on the run

from Yellow Fever. They had kin up there. I stayed in Memphis and

nursed. They put up flags. Negroes didn't have it. They put coffins on

the porches before the people died. Carried wagons loads of dead

bodies wrapped in sheets. White folks would meet and pray the disease

be lifted. When they started vomiting black, there was no more hopes.

Had to hold them on bed when they was dying. When they have Yellow

Fever white folks turn yellow. I never heard of a case of Yellow Fever

in Memphis mong my race. Dr. Stone of New Orleans had better luck with

the disease than any other doctor. I was busy from June till October

in Memphis. They buried the dead in long trenches. Nearly all the

business houses was closed. The boats couldn't stop in towns where

Yellow Fever had broke out.

"I never seen the Ku Klux.

"I never seen no one sold. My father still held a wild animal instinct

up in Virginia; they couldn't keep him out of the woods. He would

spend two or three days back in there. Then the Patty Rollers would

run him out and back home. He was a quill blower and a banjo picker.

They had two corn piles and for prizes they give them whiskey. They

had dances and regular figure callers. This has been told to me at

night time around the hearth understand. I can recollect when round

dancing come in. It was in 1880. Here's a song they sung back in

Virginia: 'Moster and mistress both gone away. Gone down to

Charleston/ to spend the summer day. I'm off to Charleston/early in

the mornin'/ to spend nother day.'

"I used to help old Miss Nancy make candles for her little brass lamp.

We boiled down maple sap and made sugar. We made turpentine.

"I don't know about the Nat Turner Rebellion in Virginia. We had

rebellions at Helena in 1875. The white folks put the Negroes out of

office. They put J. T. White in the river at Helena but I think he got

out. Several was killed. J. T. White was a colored sheriff in Phillips

County. In Lee County it was the same way. The Republican party would

lect them and the Democratic party roust them out of office.

"In 1872 I went to school 2-1/2 miles to Arkansas Post to a white

teacher. I went four months. Her name was Mrs. Rolling. My white folks

started me and I could spell to 'Baker' in the Blue Book Speller

before I started to school. That is the only book I ever had at

school. I learned to read in the Bible next.

"In 1872 locust was numerous. We had four diseases to break out:

whooping cough, measles, smallpox; and cholera broke out again. They

vaccinated for smallpox, first I ever heard of it. They took matter

out of one persons arm and put it in two dozen peoples arms. It killed

out the smallpox.

"In 1873 I saw a big forest fire. It seemed like prairie and forest

fires broke out often.

"When I growed up and run with boys my color I got wicked. We gambled

and drunk whiskey, then I seen how I was departing from good raising.

I changed. I stopped sociating with bad company. The Lord hailed me in

wide open day time and told me my better life was pleasing in his

sight. I heard him. I didn't see nuthin'. I was called upon to teach a

Sunday School class. Three months I was Sunday School leader. Three

months more I was a licensed preacher. Ordained under Bishop Lee,

Johnson, Copeland--all colored bishops at Topeka, Kansas. Then I

attended conference at Bereah, Kentucky. Bishop Dizney presided. I

preached in Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Alabama, Tennessee,

Mississippi, and Arkansas. I am now what they call a superannuated


"One criticism on my color. They will never progress till they become

more harmonious in spirit with the desires of the white people in the

home land of the white man. I mean when a white person come want some

work or a favor and he not go help him without too much pay."

Ellis Jefferson Ellis Ken Kannon facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail