Harriett Mcfarlin Payne

Interviewer: Mrs. Annie L. LaCotts

Person interviewed: Harriett McFarlin Payne

Dewitt, Arkansas

Age: 83

"Aunt Harriett, were you born in slavery time?"

"Yes, mam! I was big enough to remember well, us coming back from Texas

after we refugeed there when the fighting of the war was so bad at St.

Charles. We stayed in Texas till the surrender, then we all come back in

lots of wagons. I was sick but they put me on a little bed and me and

all the little chillun rode in a 'Jersey' that one of the old Negro

mammies drove, along behind the wagons, and our young master, Colonel

Bob Chaney rode a great big black horse. Oh! he nice-looking on dat

horse! Every once and awhile he'd ride back to the last wagon to see if

everything was all right. I remember how scared us chillun was when we

crossed the Red River. Aunt Mandy said, 'We crossin' you old Red River

today, but we not going to cross you any more, cause we are going home

now, back to Arkansas.' That day when we stopped to cook our dinner I

picked up a lot little blackjack acorns and when my mammy saw them she

said, 'Throw them things down, chile. They'll make you wormy.' (I cried

because I thought they were chinquapins.) I begged my daddy to let's go

back to Texas, but he said, 'No! No! We going with our white folks.' My

mama and daddy belonged to Col. Jesse Chaney, much of a gentleman, and

his wife Miss Sallie was the best mistress anybody ever had. She was a

Christian. I can hear her praying yet! She wouldn't let one of her

slaves hit a tap on Sunday. They must rest and go to church. They had

preaching at the cabin of some one of the slaves, and in the Summertime

sometimes they had it out in the shade under the trees. Yes, and the

slaves on each plantation had their own church. They didn't go

galavanting over the neighborhood or country like niggers do now. Col.

Chaney had lots and lots of slaves and all their houses were in a row,

all one-room cabins. Everything happened in that one room,--birth,

sickness, death and everything, but in them days niggers kept their

houses clean and their door yards too. These houses where they lived was

called 'the quarters'. I used to love to walk down by that row of

houses. It looked like a town and late of an evening as you'd go by the

doors you could smell meat a frying, coffee making and good things

cooking. We were fed good and had plenty clothes to keep us dry and


"Along about time for de surrender, Col. Jesse, our master, took sick

and died with some kind of head trouble. Then Col. Bob, our young

master, took care of his mama and the slaves. All the grown folks went

to the field to work and the little chillun would be left at a big room

called the nursing home. All us little ones would be nursed and fed by

an old mammy, Aunt Mandy. She was too old to go to the field, you know.

We wouldn't see our mammy and daddy from early in the morning till night

when their work was done, then they'd go by Aunt Mandy's and get their

chillun and go home till work time in the morning.

"Some of the slaves were house negroes. They didn't go to work in the

fields, they each one had their own job around the house, barn, orchard,

milk house, and things like that.

"When washday come, Lord, the pretty white clothes! It would take three

or four women a washing all day.

"When two of de slaves wanted to get married, they'd dress up nice as

they could and go up to the big house and the master would marry them.

They'd stand up before him and he'd read out of a book called the

'discipline' and say, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy

heart, all thy strength, with all thy might and thy neighbor as

thyself.' Then he'd say they were man and wife and tell them to live

right and be honest and kind to each other. All the slaves would be

there too, seeing the 'wedden'.

"Our Miss Sallie was the sweetest best thing in the world! She was so

good and kind to everybody and she loved her slaves, too. I can remember

when Uncle Tony died how she cried! Uncle Tony Wadd was Miss Sallie's

favorite servant. He stayed in a little house in the yard and made fires

for her, brought in wood and water and just waited on the house. He was

a little black man and white-headed as cotton, when he died. Miss Sallie

told the niggers when they come to take him to the grave yard, to let

her know when they got him in his coffin, and when they sent and told

her she come out with all the little white chillun, her little

grandchillun, to see Uncle Tony. She just cried and stood for a long

time looking at him, then she said, 'Tony, you have been a good and

faithful servant.' Then the Negro men walked and carried him to the

graveyard out in a big grove in de field. Every plantation had its own

graveyard and buried its own folks, and slaves right on the place.

"If all slaves had belonged to white folks like ours, there wouldn't

been any freedom wanted."

Harriett Hill Harrison Beckett facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail