Ervin E Smith

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Ervin E. Smith

811 Ringo Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 84

"I have been in this state for forty-nine years. I will be here fifty

years on the fifteenth of December.

"I was born in Ebenezer Township, York County, South Carolina, on the

twenty-ninth day of April, in 1854. That makes me eighty-four years old

on Friday. I was born on Good Friday--on Good Friday at six o'clock in

the morning.

"I am telling you what I was instructed all of my life. My father, W.D.

Smith, and my mother, Haria, told me these things. My mother carried a

nickname, Salina, all her life, but her real name was Haria.

"I'll tell you how they happened to keep such good records. We had a

little advantage over the other people of that day. My father never

got any school education, but his brothers instructed him--his

half-brothers. They were white. They was good, too. I mean them brothers

thought just as much of me as they did of anybody else. So my father

got pretty good training. He got it from his brothers and that's how he

learned to keep such good records.


"I am told my mother cooked for one family for forty-two years. Her

maiden name was Haria Harris. She was three-fourths white. She come from

the Indian tribe--old Catawba Indians. Her own daddy was a white man,

but her Grand daddy on her mother's side was an Indian.

"I am told that the old fellow bought my mother when she was fifteen

years old. Finally he got hold of both my father and my mother. Both of

them put together didn't have half colored blood. He must have loved

them a lot to work so hard to get them together. My father was half

white, but his mother was a mulatto woman (Interpreter's comment--This

should make him a quadroon)[TR: sentence lined out.]; and my mother's

great-grandmother was a colored woman.

"I never knew much about race troubles. The best friend I ever had was

an old white grandmother. I was carefully shielded from all unpleasant


Fort Sumter

"I was looking at the men when they were getting ready to get on the

train to go to Fort Sumter. Mr. John White, Captain John White, I knew

him personally. He was one of our neighbors. That was in Ebenezer that

he was one of our neighbors. The soldiers going to capture Fort Sumter

caught the Columbia and Augusta train going to Charleston. Looked like

to me there was ten thousand of them. John White was the captain and

Beauregard [HW: here Gustave Toutant Beauregard.] was the general.

"I didn't see the fighting because it was too far away. It was about

eighty miles from us where they got on the train to Fort Sumter. They

got on the train at Rock Hill. Rock Hill was a city--small city--real

close to Ebenezer. We lived near Rock Hill. They was adjoining towns.

Patrollers and Good Masters

"The only patrollers I knew of was some that come on the place once and

got hurt. My mother had a brother Hobb and the patroller tried to whip

him. Hobb knocked all his front teeth out with a stick. Ches[TR:?] Wood

was the name of the patroller. It was like it is now. There were certain

white people who didn't allow any of their niggers to be whipped. I

never seen a patroller on my place. I have heard of them in other

places, but the only one to come on our place was the one Uncle Hobb

beat up. He had to take it, because you couldn't put anything over on

Harris' plantation. My people was rich people. They didn't allow anybody

to come on their places and interfere with then--their niggers.

"I have heard my mother say that no white man ever struck her in her

life. I have had uncles that were struck. Two of them, and both of them

killed the men that struck them. Uncle Saul killed Edmund Smith and

Uncle George killed Ed McGehee. Uncle George's full white sister (his

half-sister) sent him away and saved him. They electrocuted Uncle

Saul--they executed him.

"White men struck them and they wouldn't take it. They didn't do nothin'

at all to Hobb Baron. He got to his boss and the white folks was 'fraid

to come there after him. All of this was in slavery. My people ain't

never had no trouble with anybody since freedom; white people would get

mad with my uncles and try to do something to them, and they wouldn't

take it.

"There were three races in the neighborhood where I was raised--niggers,

Indians, and white folks. They never sent the Indians out until 1876

when I was a grown man. They sent them over there to Utah when it became

a state. I had a lot of Indian friends that went along at that time.

"Bad blood was mixed up there and you couldn't do nothing to anybody and

get away with it.

First Pair of Shoes

"I can remember the first pair of shoes my uncle gave me. They had a

little brass on the top of the toes to keep you from kicking them out

and skinning them up. That was way back yonder in the fifties.

Bible and Church in Slave Time

"White people taught their niggers what Bible they wanted them to know.

"'Who made you?'


"'Why did He make you?'

"'For his own glory.'

"'Why ought you to love God?'

"'Because He made me and takes care of me.'

"That was all the Bible they wanted you to learn. That, and just a few

more things. I could state them all.


"In 1866, everybody that was less than sixteen years old in South

Carolina had to go to school. The little fellows that had been slaves

had to go to school, and they got some education. You will hardly find

an old man from South Carolina around my age who can't read and write.

There was one hundred sixty pupils in my school. All boys. I never went

to a mixed school--a school where they had boys and girls both.

"The first school I attended was in Ebenezer. I went to high school in

Macklenburg. Miss Sallie Good and Miss Mattie Train, Elias Hill, and

David G. Wallace--all of these were my teachers. They were all white

except Elias Hill. He was the only colored teacher in that section of

the country--at that time.

"When I finished high school, I went to Biddle University. Biddle was

a boys' school. It was in Charlotte, North Carolina. They had a girls'

school in Concord, North Carolina. Biddle is still running, but it has

another name. Dr. Mattoon was president of Biddle then and Dr. Darling

was president of the girls' school.


"The first murder ever I saw was Violet Harris killed Warren Fewell. It

come over a family quarrel some way. They fell out over something. She

was not related to him. It was done right at the fence at her gate. She

cut him with a butcher knife--stuck him just once right through the

heart. That is the first murder I ever saw. They were both colored. The

War was just winding up. It happened in Ebenezer. I don't recall that

they punished her.

"I have seen a white man killed by a white man, and I have seen a

colored man killed by a colored man; but I have never seen a colored man

killed by a white man or a white man killed by a colored man. I have

seen them after they were killed, but I never seen the killing. I have

seen both races killing their own, but I have never seen them killing

across the races.

"About fifty years ago, I saw a young man come in the church and kill

another one. Just come in and shot him. That is been fifty years

ago--back in 1881 in Ebenezer.

"Rock Hill, South Carolina, from 1876 to a while later, bore the name

'Bloody Town.' They killed a man there every Saturday night in the

year--fifty-two times a year they killed a man. They had to send for the

Federal troops to bring them down. They didn't just kill colored people.

They killed anybody--about anything."

Enoch Beel Essex Henry facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail