Fanny Johnson

Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins

Person interviewed: Fanny Johnson

Aged: 76

Home: Palmetto (lives with daughter who owns

a comfortable, well furnished home)

As told by: Mrs. Fanny Johnson

"Yes ma'am. I remembers the days of slavery. I was turned five years

old when the war started rushing. No ma'am, I didn't see much of the

Yankees. They didn't come thru but twice. Was I afraid? No ma'am. I

was too busy to be scared. I was too busy looking at the buttons they

wore. Until they went in Master's smoke house. Then I quit looking and

started hollering. But, I'll tell you all about that later.

My folks all come from Maryland. They was sold to a man named Woodfork

and brought to Nashville. The Woodfork colored folks was always

treated good. Master used to buy up lots of plantations. Once he

bought one in Virginia with all the slaves on the place. He didn't

believe in separating families. He didn't believe in dividing mother

from her baby.

But they did take them away from their babies. I remember my

grandmother telling about it. The wagon would drive down into the

field and pick up a woman. Then somebody would meet her at the gate

and she would nurse her baby for the last time. Then she'd have to go

on. Leastwise, if they hadn't sold her baby too.

It was pretty awful. But I don't hold no grudge against anybody. White

or black, there's good folks in all kinds. I don't hold nothing

against nobody. The good Lord knows what he is about. Most of the time

it was just fine on any Woodfork place. Master had so many places he

couldn't be at 'em all. We lived down on the border, on the

Arkansas-Louisiana line sort of joining to Grand Lake. Master was up

at Nashville, Tennessee. Most of the time the overseers was good to


But it wasn't that way on all the plantations. On the next one they

was mean. Why you could hear the sound of the strap for two blocks. No

there wasn't any blocks. But you could hear it that far. The "niggah

drivah" would stand and hit them with a wide strap. The overseer would

stand off and split the blisters with a bull whip. Some they whipped

so hard they had to carry them in. Just once did anybody on the

Woodfork place get whipped that way.

We never knew quite what happened. But my grandmother thought that the

colored man what took down the ages of the children so they'd know

when to send them to the field must have wrote Master. Anybody else

couldn't have done it. Anyhow, Master wrote back a letter and said, 'I

bought my black folks to work, not to be killed.' And the overseer

didn't dare do so any more.

No ma'am, I never worked in the field. I wasn't old enough. You see I

helped my grandmother, she is the one who took care of the babies. All

the women from the lower end would bring their babies to the upper end

for her to look after while they was in the field. When I got old

enough, I used to help rock the cradles. We used to have lots of

babies to tend. The women used to slip in and nurse their babies. If

the overseer thought they stayed too long he used to come in and whip

them out--out to the fields. But they was good to us, just the same.

We had plenty to wear and lots to eat and good cabins to live in. All

of them wasn't that way though.

I remember the women on the next plantation used to slip over and get

somthing to eat from us. The Woodfork colored folks was always well

took care of. Our white folks was good to us. During the week there

was somebody to cook for us. On Sunday all of them cooked in their

cabins and they had plenty. The women on the next plantation, even

when they was getting ready to have babies didn't seem to get enough

to eat. They used to slip off at night and come over to our place. The

Woodfork people never had to go nowhere for food. Our white folks

treated us real good.

Didn't make much difference when the war started rushing. We didn't

see any fighting. I told you the Yankees come thru twice----let me go

back a spell.

We had lots of barrels of Louisiana molasses. We could eat all we

wanted. When the barrels was empty, we children was let scrape them.

Lawsey, I used to get inside the barrel and scrape and scrape and

scrape until there wasn't any sweetness left.

We was allowed to do all sorts of other things too. Like there was

lots of pecans down in the swamps. The boys, and girls too for that

matter, was allowed to pick them and sell them to the river boats what

come along. The men was let cut cord wood and sell it to the boats.

Flat boats they was. There was regular stores on them. You could buy

gloves and hats and lots of things. They would burn the wood on the

boat and carry the nuts up North to sell. But me, I liked the sugar

barrel best.

When the Yankees come thru, I wasn't scared. I was too busy looking at

the bright buttons on their coats. I edged closer and closer. All they

did was laugh. But I kept looking at them. Until they went into the

smoke house. Then I turned loose and hollered. I hollored because I

thought they was going to take all Master's sirup. I didn't want that

to happen. No ma'am they didn't take nothing. Neither time they came.

After the war was over they took us down the river to The Bend. It was

near Vicksburg----an all day's ride. There they put us on a plantation

and took care of us. It was the most beautifulest place I ever see.

All the cabins was whitewashed good. The trees was big and the whole

place was just lovely. It was old man Jeff Davis' place.

They fed us good, gave us lots to eat. They sent up north, the Yankees

did, and got a young white lady to come down and teach us. I didn't

learn nothing. They had our school near what was the grave yard. I

didn't learn cause I was too busy looking around at the tombstones.

They was beautiful. They looked just like folks to me. Looks like I

ought have learned. They was mighty good to send somebody down to

learn us that way. I ought have learned, it looks ungrateful, but I


My mother died on that place. It was a mighty nice place. Later on we

come to Arkansas. We farmed. Looked like it was all we knowed how to

do. We worked at lots of places. One time we worked for a man named

Thomas E. Allen. He was at Rob Roy on the Arkansas near Pine Bluff.

Then we worked for a man named Kimbroo. He had a big plantation in

Jefferson county. For forty years we worked first one place, then


After that I went out to Oklahoma. I went as a cook. Then I got the

idea of following the resort towns about. In the summer I'd to [TR:

go?] to Eureka.[D] In the winter I'd come down to Hot Springs.[E] That

was the way to make the best money. Folks what had money moved about

like that. I done cooking at other resorts too. I cooked at the hotel

at Winslow.[F] I done that several summers.

Somehow I always come back to Hot Springs. Good people in Eureka.

Finest man I ever worked for--for a rich man was Mr. Rigley, [TR:

Wrigley] you know. He was the man who made chewing gum. We didn't have

no gas in Eureka. Had to cook by wood. I remember lots of times Mr.

Wrigley would come out in the yard where I was splitting kindling.

He'd laugh and he'd take the ax away from me and split it hisself.

Finest man----for a rich man I ever see.

Cooking at the hotel at Winslow was nice. There was lots of fine

ladies what wanted to take me home with them when they went home. But

I told them, 'No thank you, Hot Springs is my home. I'm going there

this winter.'

I'm getting sort of old now. My feet ain't so sure as they used to be.

But I can get about. I can get around to cook and I can still see to

thread a needle. My daughter has a good home for me." (I was conducted

into a large living room, comfortably furnished and with a degree of

taste--caught glimpses of a well furnished dining room and a kitchen

equipment which appeared thoroughly modern--Interviewer)

"People in Hot Springs is good people. They seem sort of friendly.

Folks in Eureka did too, even more so. But maybe it was cause I was

younger then and got to see more of them. But the Lord has blessed me

with a good daughter. I got nothing to complain about, I don't hold

grudges against nobody. The good Lord knows what he is doing."

[Footnote D: Eureka Springs, Ark.]

[Footnote E: Hot Springs National Park]

[Footnote F: rustic hotel on mountain near village of Winslow, Ark.]

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