Emma Oats

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person Interviewed: Emma Oats (Mulatto)

Holly Grove, Ark.

Age: 90 or older

"I was born in St. Louis. My mother died when I was little. I never

knowed no father. (He was probably a white man.) Jack Oats raised me.

Jim Oats at Helena was his son. He is still living. He come through here

(Holly Grove) not long ago. I was raised on the Esque place.

"I was fraid of my grandma. I wouldn't live with her. I know'd her. She

was a big woman, big white eyes, big thick lips, and had 'Molly Glaspy

hair,' long straight soft hair. She was a African woman. She made my

clothes. I was fraid of her. I never lived with her. My folks was all

free folks. When my mother died my uncle took us--me and brother. He

hired us out and we got stole. Gene Oglesby stole us and brought us to

Memphis to Joe Nivers. I recken he sold us then. Then they stood me up

in the parlor and sold me to Jack Oats. They said I was 'good pluck.'

Joe Nivers sold me to Jack Oats for $1,150.00 when I was four years old.

My brother was name Milton Smith. I ain't seen him from that day till

this. Joe Nivers kept him, I recken. I come here on a 'legal

tender'--name of the boat I recken. I know that. I recken it was name of

a boat. I got off and Thornton Walls, old colored man, toted me cross

every mud hole we come to. He belong to Bud Walls' (white man at Holly

Grove) daddy. When we got home Jack Oats and all of em was there.

"I slept on a pallet and lounge and took care of their children. I

played round. Done bout as I pleased. They had a cook they called Aunt

Joe--Joe Oats. We had plenty to eat and wear. They dressed me like one

their children. We had good flannel clothes. When she washed her

children she washed me too. When she combed their hair she combed mine

too. She kept working with it till I had pretty hair. Some of her

children died. It hurt me bad as it did them. All I done was play with

em and see after em. Their names was Sam, John, Dixie, Sallie, Jim. I

went in the hack to church; if she took the children, she took me. I was

a good size girl when she died. The last word she spoke was to me; she

said, 'Emma, take care of my children.' Dr. John Chester was her doctor.

"Oats come here from North Alabama. Will Oats, Wyatt Oats, and Jack

Oats--all brothers.

"When mistress living we took a bath every Friday in a sawed-intwo

barrel (wooden tub). The cook done our washing. We had clean fresh

clothes. We had to dress up every few days. If we get dirty she say she

would give us lashes. She never give me none, I never was sassy (saucy).

That what most of em got 10 lashes, 25, 50 lashes for.

"When I was bout grown I went to school a little bit to James A. Kerr

here at Holly Grove. I was good and grown too.

"I was settin' on the gate post--they had a picket fence. I seen some

folks coming to our house. I run in the house and says, 'Miss Mai Liza,

the Yankees coming here!' She told her husband to get in the bed. He

says, 'Oh God, what she know bout Yankees?' Miss Mai Liza say, 'I don't

know; she's one of em, I speck she knows em.' One of the officers come

in and asked him what was the matter. He said he was sick. He had boils

bout on him. He had a Masonic pin on his shirt. He showed it to the

officer. He asked Lou and Becky and all the servants if he hadn't been

bushwhacking. They all said, 'No.' He said he wanted something to eat.

They went to the well house and got him some milk.

"They camped below the house. They went to their store house and brought

more rations up there in a wagon. Lou cooked and she had help. She set a

big table and they had the biggest dinner. They had more hams. They had

'Lincoln Coffee' there that day. It was a jolly day. They never et up

there no more or bothered round our house no more. The officer had

something on his bare arm he showed. He said, when he went to leave,

'Aunt Lou, you shall not be hurt.'

"Mr. Oats had taken long before that day all his slaves to Texas. He

took all but Wash Martin. They went in wagons and none of them ever come


"Miss Callie Edwards was older than Miss Henrietta Jackson. They kept

Wash Martin going through the bottoms nearly all time from their houses

at Golden Hill to Indian Bay. They kept him from one place to the other

to keep him out of the war. They hired him out to school Miss Henrietta.

Miss Callie Edwards died then they give him to Miss Henrietta.

"During the war Mrs. Keeps come up to our house. They heard a gun. She

was jes visiting Mrs. Oats. Mrs. Keeps went home and the bushwhackers

had killed him. He was dead.

"I never seen no Ku Klux in my whole life.

"I remember the stage coach that run every two or three days from Helena

to Clarendon.

"I don't remember bout freedom. Dr. Green, Hall Green's daddy, told his

colored folks they was free. They told our folks. I heard em talking

bout it. I was kept quiet. It was done freedom, fore I knowed it. I

stayed on and done like I been doin'. I stayed on and on.

"When I was grown I come here to school and soon married. I washed and

ironed and cooked all over Holly Grove. I was waiting on the table at

the boarding house here at Holly Grove. Mr. Oats was talking bout naming

the town. They had put the railroad through. I ask em why didn't they

name the town Holly Grove. It was thick with holly trees. They named it

that, and put it up on the side of the depot. That way I named the town.

"My folks give me five acres of land and Julia Woolfolk give a blind

woman on the place five acres. I didn't know what to do wid it. I didn't

have no husband. I was young and foolish. I let it be.

"My husband farmed. I raised my family, chopped and picked cotton and

done other things along with that. I have worked all my life till way

after my husband died.

"My husband could jump up, knock heels together three times before he

come down. He died May 12, 1909. He was 83 years old February 16, 1909.

"I never voted. I never heard my husband say much bout voting. I know

some colored folks sold their voting rights. That was wrong.

"I lived at Baptist Bottoms two years. It lack to killed me."

Wyatt Oats and Miss Callie Edwards owned the husband of Emma Oats. She

was married once and had two girls and two boys--one boy dead now. Emma

lives at one of her daughters' homes.

Emma Morris Emma Sanderson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail