Elmira Hill

Interviewer: Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: Elmira Hill

1220 North Willow

Pine Bluff, Ark.

Age: 97

"I'm one of em. Accordin' to what they tell me, I think I'll be

ninety-eight the ninth day of February. I was born in Virginia in

Kinsale County and sold from my mother and father to Arkansas.

"The Lord would have it, old man Ed Lindsey come to Virginia and brought

me here to Arkansas. I was here four years before the Old War ceasted

and I was twelve when I come here.

"I was right there standin' behind my mistis' chair when Abe Lincoln

said, 'I 'clare there shall be war!' I was right here in

Arkansas--eighteen miles from Pine Bluff when war ceasted. The Lord

would have it. I had a good master and mistis. Old master said, 'Fore

old Lincoln shall free my niggers, I'll free em myself.' They might as

well a been free, they had a garden and if they raised cotton in that

garden they could sell it. The Lord bless His Holy Name! We didn't know

the difference when we got free. I stayed with my mistis till she went

back to Virginia.

"Yes, honey, I was here in all the war. I was standin' right by my

mistis' chair. I never heard old master make a oaf in his life, but when

they brought the paper freein' the slaves, he said, 'Dad burn it.'

"I member a man called Jeff Davis. I know they sung and said, 'We'll

hand old Jeff Davis to the sour apple tree.'

"I been here a long time. Yes, honey, I been in Arkansas so long I say I

ain't goin' out--they got to bury me here. Arkansas dirt good enough for

me. I say I been here so long I got Arkansas 'stemper (distemper).

"My old master in Virginia was Joe Hudson. My father used to ketch

oysters and fish. We could look up the Patomac river and see the ships

comin' in. In Virginia I lived next to a free state and the runaways was

tryin' to get away. At Harper's Ferry--that's where old John Brown was

carryin' em across. My old mistis used to take the runaway folks when

the dogs had bit their legs, and keep em for a week and cure em up. This

time o' year you could hear the bull whip. But I was lucky, they was

good to me in Virginia and good to me in Arkansas.

"Yes, chile, I was in Alexandria, Virginia in Kinsale County when they

come after me by night. I was hired out to Captain Jim Allen. I had been

nursin' for Captain Allen. He sailed on the sea. He was a good man. He

was a Christian man. He never whipped me but once and that was for

tellin' a story, and I thank him for it. He landed his boat right at the

landin' on Saturday. Next day he asked me bout somethin' and I told him

a story. He said, 'I'm gwine whip you Monday morning!' He wouldn't whip

me on Sunday. He whipped me and I thank him for it. And to this day the

Lindsey's could trust me with anything they had.

"I was in Virginia a play-chile when the ships come down to get the

gopher wood to build the war ships. Old mistis had a son and a daughter

and we all played together and slep together. My white folks learned me

my A B C's.

"They come and got me and carried me to Richmond--that's where they sold

em. Sold five of us in one bunch. Sold my two brothers in New

Orleans--Robert and Jesse. Never seed them no more. Never seed my mother

again after I was sold.

"Yes, chile, I was here in Arkansas when the war started, so you know I

been here a long time.

"I was here when they fit the last battle in Pine Bluff. They called it

Marmaduke's Battle and they fit it on Sunday morning. They took the old

cotehouse for a battery and throwed up cotton bales for a breastworks.

They fit that Sunday and when the Yankees started firin' the Rebels went

back to Texas or wherever they come from.

"When we heard the Yankees was comin' we went out at night and hid the

silver spoons and silver in the toilet and buried the meat. After the

war was over and the Yankees had gone home and the jayhawkers had went

in--then we got the silver and the meat. Yes, honey, we seed a time--we

seed a time. I ain't grumblin'--I tell em I'm havin' a wusser time now

than I ever had.

"Yankees used to call me a 'know nothin' cause I wouldn't tell where

things was hid.

"Yes, chile, I'm this way--I like everbody in this world. I never was a

mother, but I raised everbody else's chillun. I ain't nothin' but a old

mammy. White and black calls me mamma. I'll answer at the name.

"I was married twice. My last husband and me lived together fifty years.

He was a preacher. My first husband, the old rascal--he was so mean to

me I had to get rid of him.

"Yes, I been here so long. I think the younger generation is goin' the

downward way. They ain't studyin' nothin' but wickedness. Yes, honey,

they tell me the future generation is goin' a do this and goin' a do

that, and they ain't done nothin'. And God don't like it.

"My white folks comes to see me and say as long as they got bread, I got


"I went to school the second year after surrender. I can read but I

ain't got no glasses now. I want you to see this letter my mother sent

me in 1867. My baby sister writ it. Yes, honey, I keeps it for


"Don't know nothin' funny that happened 'ceptin stealin' my old master's

company's hoss and runnin' a race. White chillun too. Them as couldn't

ride sideways ridin' straddle. Better not ride Rob Roy--that was old

master's ridin' hoss and my mistis saddle hoss. That was the hoss he was

talkin' bout ridin' to the war when the last battle was fit in Helena.

But he was too old to go to war.

"Well, goodbye, honey--if I don't see you no more, come across the


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