Henry Fitzhugh

Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins

Person Interviewed: Henry Fitzhugh

Aged: 90

Home: Rooms at 209 Walnut Street

Several "colored" districts are scattered throughout Hot springs. On

Whittington, within a block of the First Presbyterian Church and St.

Joseph's Infirmary stand the Roanok Baptist and the Haven Methodist

(both for colored). Architecturally they compare favorably with similar

edifices for whites. Their choirs have become nationally famous. Sunday

afternoon concerts are frequent. Mid-week ones are not uncommon. At such

times special sections are reserved for whites, and are usually filled.

Visitors to the resort enjoy them immensely.

Across the street a one-time convent school has been converted into a

negro apartment house. A couple of blocks up Whittington, Walnut veers

to the right. It is paved for several blocks. Fronting on concrete

sidewalks are houses, well painted and boasting yards which indicate

pride in possession. Some are private homes, some rooming houses and

some apartments. Porch flower boxes and urns are mostly of concrete

studded with crystals.

Finding Henry Fitzhugh wasn't easy. The delivery boy at the corner chain

store "knows everybody in the neighborhood" according to a passer-by. He

offered the address 209. That number turned out to be an old, but

substantial and well cared for two story house. Ringing the bell

repeatedly brought no response.

A couple of women in the yard next door announced that to find Fitzhugh

one had to "go around back and knock on the last door on the back

porch." This procedure too brought no results. Another backyard observer

offered the suggestion that Fitzhugh was probably down at the restaurant


School had just been dismissed. Two well dressed negro children walked

along together, swinging their books. "Can you tell me where the

restaurant is?" asked the interviewer, stopping them. "Do you mean the

colored restaurant?" one of the tots asked, not a whit of embarrassment

in her manner, no servility, no resentment--just an ordinary question.

"It's right over there."

The restaurant proved to be large, well lighted, scrupulously clean.

Tables were well spaced and quite a distance from the counter. Sunshine

streamed in from two directions. Fitzhugh was sitting just outside

talking to the boot-black.

"Yes, ma'am, I's Henry Fitzhugh. Can't work no more since I got hit by

an automoble. Before that I had a shoe-shine place myself. But I can't

work no more. Yes 'um I gets the pension. I gets $10 a month. It's not

much, but I sort of get by. I's got my room up at 209 and I gets my

meals down here at the restaurant. Yes ma'am, pensions seem to be coming

in pretty regular now.

Been in Hot Springs a long, long time. Come here in 1876. I remembers

lots of the old families here. What yo say your name was? Your Mother

was a Dengler? Sure, I remembers the Denglers. Mr. Dengler had a

soda-water shop. I remembers him.

When I first come, soon as I was able, I cleaned up for Captain Mallard.

Cleaned up all along Central in that block he was in.

How'd I come to Hot springs? I was sick. I had rheumatism. Was down with

it so bad the doctor had done give me up. He'd stopped giving me

medicine. But the lady I was working for, she run a hotel in Poplar

Bluff. They put me on a stretcher and they put me in the baggage car and

they brought me clean on in to Hot Springs. They bathed me at the free

bath house. I started getting better right away. 'Twasn't long before I

was well and able to work. I stayed right on here in Hot Springs.

Yes, ma'am I's all Arkansas. I was born near Little Rock. Ain't never

been out of the state but twice. Then I didn't stay long.

I worked on a farm that belonged to Mr. J.B. Henderson. He was an uncle

to Mr. Jerome Henderson what was in the bank and Mr. Jethro Henderson

what was a Judge.

No, the war didn't bother us none. We wasn't afraid. We heard the shots,

but it seemed just like a whole lot of fire crackers to us. Guess we

just didn't have sense enough to be afraid. Fighting we did [HW: hear

was] near Pine Bluff--the Baxter-Ware trouble. We seen the soldiers when

they come through Mt. Pleasant, right smart bunch of them. They was

Confederates. We didn't see none of the Yankees.

My father was killed during the war. Went off to help and never came

back. My mother, she died when I was a baby. She was lying down in her

cabin before the fire--lying on the hearth, letting me nurse. The door

was open and a gust of wind blew her dress in the fire. She dropped me

and she screamed and run out into the yard. Old Miss saw her from the

house. She grabbed a quilt and started out. She got to my mother and she

wrapped her in the quilt to smother out the fire. But my mother done

swallowed fire. She died. That's the story they tell me. I was too

little to know.

I guess I was about eleven when I went into the fields. What's that,

pretty young? I didn't go because they made me. I went because I wanted

to be with the men. Wasn't nobody around to play with. We was the only

family on the farm. It was a pretty good sized farm and they had lots of

children. There was Miss Sally and Miss Fanny and Miss Ella and Miss

Myrtle and Miss Hattie. Then there was four boys.

Stayed on with the folks three years after the surrender. They treated

me good and gave me what I wanted. Treated me nice--very nice--my white


Then I went on down to Marshall--way down in Texas. There I worked for

the high sheriff. Drove his carriage for him and cleaned up around the

yard. I worked for him a whole year then I went back to Arkansas and

then went up in Missouri. Wasn't there long before I got sick. I was

working for a woman who had a hotel. She was good to me. Mighty good she


Yes ma'am. There has been lost chances I has had to do more than I has.

But I's sort of satisfied. There's been lots of changes in Hot Springs

since I come. I used to know all the white folks and all the colored

folks too. Can't do that today. Place has got too big.

Joe Golden? Yes, I does--I knows Joe. He used to have a butcher shop

over on Malvern. Quite a man, Joe was. I hasn't seen him in a long time.

How is he? Pretty good? That's fine.

"I remembers Mc--McLeod's Happy Hollow." (Hot Spring nearest approach to

a Coney Island in the earlier days). "I remembers that they used to have

the old stage coach there what the James and Younger brothers held up.

Sort of broken down it was, but it was there.

Law, law, them was the times. I'll never forget when Allen Roane brought

in the news. Allen drove a sort of a hack. He come on into town and he

whipped up his horse and he run all over town telling about the hold-up.

Allen lived just next door to where I does now."

Down the street passed a colored woman, her head held high. Passing the

porch where the aged negro man and the young white woman sat talking she

paused and gave what was suspiciously like a sniff. Fitzhugh grinned.

"She's sanctified," he explained.

"Did you ever hear of Tucky-Nubby? He was an Indian. Bob Hurley used to

bring him to Hot Springs every year. What medicine shows they used to

have here. Ain't seen nothing like it lately, everybody knowed

Tucky-Nubby. Lots of those medicine shows--free shows, used to come

here. But Bob Hurley and Tucky-Nubby was the most liked.

Yes, ma'am, I'm all alone now. My sister married a man a long, long time

ago. She didn't live but a couple of years. I's had four children. One

of them died when it was born. One died when it was three. One lived

until it was seven. One son he lived to be grown. He went to the war.

Got as far as camp. One day I got a word saying that he was sick. I went

but before I could get there he had died. That left me alone.

What's that? Been married once? I been married eleven times. But it

was ten times too many. Besides they is all dead, so you might say that

I's been married only once.

Yes, ma'am. Thank you ma'am. The quarter will come in powerful handy.

When you tries to make out on $10 a month a little extra comes in

powerful handy. Thank you ma'am. I enjoyed talking to you, ma'am."

Henry F Pyles Henry Gladney facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail