Hannah Travis

Interviewer: S.S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Hannah Travis,

3219 W. Sixteenth,

Little Rock, Ark.

Age: 75

Occupation: Housewife

"The Jay Hawkers would travel at night. When they came to a cabin, they

would go in and tell them that owned it they wanted something to eat and

to get it ready quick. They stopped at one place and went in and ordered

their dinner. They et the supper and went away and got sick after they

left. They got up the next morning and examined the road and the horse

tracks and went on. They all thought something had been given to them,

but I don't guess there was. They caught my mother and brought her here

and sold her. If they caught a nigger, they would carry him off and sell

him. That's how my mother came to Arkansas.

"I don't know what year I was born in. I know the month and the day. It

was February tenth. I have kinder kept up with my age. As near as I can

figure, I am seventy-three years old. I was 18 in 1884 when I married. I

must have been born about 1864, I was brought up under my step father;

he was a very mean man. When he took a notion to he'd whip me and mother


"My mother was born somewheres in Missouri, but whereabouts I don't

know. One of her masters was John Goodet. His wife was named Eva Goodet.

He was a very mean man and cruel, and his wife was too. My grandmother

belonged to another slaveholder and they would allow her to go to see my

mother. She was allowed to work and do things for which she was given

old clothes and other little things. She would take em and bring em to

my mother. As soon as she had gone, they would take them things away

from my mother, and put em up in the attic and not allow her to wear

them. They would let the clothes rot and mildew before they'd let my

mother wear them. If my mother left a dish dirty--sometimes there would

be butter or flour or something in the dish that would need to be

soaked--they would wait till it was thoroughly soaked and then make her

drink the old dirty dish water. They'd whip her if she didn't drink it.

"Her other master was named Harrison. He was tolerable but nothing to

bragg on.

"After she was Jayhawked and brought down South, they sold her to John

Kelly, a man in Arkansas somewhere. She belonged to John Kelly and his

wife when freedom came. John Kelly and his wife kept her working for

them without pay for two years after she was free. They didn't pay her

anything at all. They hardly gave her anything to eat and wear. They

didn't tell her she was free. She saw colored people going and coming

in a way they wasn't used to, and then she heard her Mistress' youngest

daughter tell her mother, 'You ought to pay Hannah something now because

you know she is free as we are. And you ought to give her something to

eat and wear.' The mother said, 'You know I can't do that hard work;

I'm not used to it.' After hearing this my mother talked to the colored

people that would pass by and she learned for shor enough she was


"There was a colored man there that they were keeping too. One Sunday,

they were taking him to church and leaving my mother behind. She said to

them, 'Well, I will be gone when you come back, so you better leave Bill

here this morning.' Her old mistress said to her, 'Yes; and we'll come

after you and whip you every step of the way back.' But she went while

they were at church and they did not catch her either.

"The Saturday before that she made me a dress out of the tail of an old

bonnet and a big red handkerchief. Made waist, sleeves and all out of

that old bonnet and handkerchief. She left right after they left for

church, and she dressed me up in my new dress. She put the dress on me

and went down the road. She didn't know which way to go. She didn't know

the way nor which direction to take. She walked and she walked and she

walked. Then she would step aside and listen and ask the way.

"It was near night when she found a place to stay. The people out in the

yard saw her pass and called to her. It was the youngest daughter of

Mrs. Kelly, the one she had overheard telling her mother she ought to

set her free and pay her. She stayed with John Kelly's daughter two or

three days. I don't know what her name was, only she was a Kelly. Then

she got out among the colored people and got to working and got some

clothes for herself and me. From then on, she worked and taken care of


"From there she went to Pocahontas and worked and stayed there till I

was about fifteen years old. Meanwhile, she married in Pocahontas. Then

she moved to Newport. When I was fifteen, I married in Newport. My

mother supported herself by cooking and washing. Then she got a chance

to work on a small boat cooking and doing the boat washing, and there

would be weeks that some of the deck hands would have to help her

because they would have such a crowd of raftsmen. Sometimes there would

be twenty or thirty of them raftsmen--men who would cut the logs and

raft them to go and bring them down the river. Then the deck hands would

have to help her. I too would have to wash the dishes and help out.

"I went to school in Pocahontas and met my future husband (Travis). I

brought many a waiter to serve when they had a crowd. I took Travis to

the boat and he was hired to wait on the men. When they had just the

crew--Captain, Clerk, Pilot, Engineer, Mate, and it seems there was

another one--I waited on the table myself. I help peel the potatoes and

turn the meat. When we had that big run, then Mr. Travis and some of the

others would come down and help me. The boat carried freight, cotton,

and nearly anything might neer that was shipped down to town. Pocahontas

was a big shipping place.

"My mother said they used to jump over the broom stick and count that

married. The only amusement my mother had was work. I don't know if she

knowed there was such a thing as Christmas.

"Mother's little house was a log cabin like all the other slaves had.

"They didn't give her anything much to eat. They was farmers. They

raised their own cattle and hogs. The niggers did the same--that is, the

niggers raised everything and got a little to eat. They had one nigger

man that was around the house and others for the field. They didn't

allow the slaves to raise anything for themselves and they didn't give

them much.

"The slaves made their own clothes and their own cloth. They would not

let the slaves have anything much. To keep them from being stark naked,

they'd give them a piece to wear.

"Mama got to see her mother in 1885. When I married she left and went to

Missouri and found her sister and half-sister and her mother and brother

or cousin. She found her sister's oldest daughter. She was a baby laying

in the cradle when mama ran through the field to get away from a young

man that wanted to talk to her.

"My grandmother was a full-blooded Indian. Her husband was a French

Negro. Nancy Cheatham was her name.

"The Ku Klux never bothered us. They bothered some people about a mile

from us. They took out the old man and whipped him. They made his wife

get up and dance and she was in a delicate state. They made her get out

of bed and dance, and after that they took her and whipped her and beat

her, and she was in a delicate state too.

"There was a man there in Black Rock though that stopped them from

bothering anybody. He killed one of them. They went to the train. They

was raging around there then. He got off the train and they tried to

take him to jail. The jail was way out through the woods. He hadn't done

anything at all. They just took hold of him to take him to the jail

because he had just come into the town. They had tugged him down the

road and when they got to the woods, he took out his gun and killed one

of them, and the rest left him alone. The man who was killed had a wife

and four or five children. They sent the nigger to the penitentiary. He

stayed there about a year and come out. That broke up the Ku Klux around

Black Rock and Portia. They never seemed to get much enjoyment out of it

after that.

"I heard from different ones' talk that a big hogshead full of money was

given to the Negroes by the Queen, but they never did get it. I think

they said the queen sent that money. I reckon it was Queen Victoria, but

I don't know. But the white folks got it and kept it for themselves.

"Didn't nobody have any rights then. They would just put em up on a

block and auction them off. The one that give the most he would take em.

Didn't nobody have no schooling only white folks. The white children

would go to school but they didn't allow her to go.

"Once there was a slave woman. They worked her day and night. She had a

little log cabin of her own. The spirit used to come to her at night and

tell her if she would follow them she wouldn't have to work all the rest

of her life. At first she was scared. But finally, she got used to them

and she listened to them. She got directions from them and followed

them. She went up into the loft and found a whole lot of money hid

there. She took it and built her a new house and used it. I heard my

grandmother tell this. That was my step-grandmother named Dilsey.

"One of my bosses had a lot of money and he hid it in a cave. They tried

to find it and to make my mother tell where it was hid, but she didn't

know and couldn't tell. They came back several times and tried to find

him at home but they couldn't catch him. That was in Missouri before

freedom came.

"I hate my father. He was white. I never did have no use for him. I

never seen him because Mama was jayhawked from the place. I never heard

my mother say much about him either, except that he was red-headed. He

was my mother's master. My mother was just forced. I hate him."

Hannah Plummer Happy Day Green facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail