J N Gillespie

--- 11 1938

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: J. N. Gillespie

1112 Park Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 75

"I was born near Galveston, in Texas, January 19, 1863, so they tell me.

I been in this town and been living right here at 1112 Park Street for

fifty-three years and ain't never had no trouble with anybody.

"My grandparents were Gillespie's. My grandma was an Indian woman. She

was stolen off the reservation--her and her daughter. The daughter was

about twelve years old and big enough to wait table. Both of them were

full blooded Cherokee Indians. My grandma married a slave, and when she

growed up, my mother married a slave; but my mother's parents were both

Indians, and one of my father's parents was white, so you see about

three-fourths of me is something else. My grandmother's name before her

first marriage was Courtney and my mother's first name was Parthenia.

"When they were stolen, they were made slaves. Nick Toliver bought 'em.

He was their first master, far as I heard 'em say. After old man Nick

Toliver died, Tom Brewer bought my mother. Toliver and Brewer were the

only two masters she had.

"After freedom came, my grandma took back her own name, Gillespie.

Grandma's second husband was named Berry Green. She was free and in the

Indian reservation when she married Gillespie, but she was a slave when

she married Berry Green.

"After my mother came to be of age, she married a man named Willis. He

was a slave. That is why I am like I am now. If my grandma had stayed

in the nation, I never would have been a slave, and I wouldn't need to

be beatin' around here trying to get just bread and meat.

"After freedom, she taken her mother's name by her free husband,

Gillespie, and she made her husband take it too. That how I got the name

of Gillespie."

Occupation of Forefathers

"After they were made slaves, my grandmother cooked and my mother waited

table and worked as a house girl. My grandma used to make clothes too,

and she could work on one of these big looms."


"My mother told me that when the boys would go out to a dance, they

would tie a rope across the road to make the horses of the patrollers

stumble and give the dancers time to get away. Sometimes the horses'

legs would be broken."

Subject's Occupation

"I wants to work and can't get work; so they ain't no use to worry. I

used to cook. That is all I did for a living. I cooked as long as I

could get something for it. I can't get a pension."

Slave Houses

"I didn't see no log houses when I growed up. Everything was frame."

Right After the War

"Right after the War, my mother stayed around the house and continued to

work for her master. I don't know what they paid her. I can't remember

just how they got free but I think the soldiers gave 'em the

notification. They stayed on the place till I was big enough to work. I

didn't do no work in slave time because I wasn't old enough."

Choked on Watermelon Seeds

"One day I was stealing watermelons with some big boys and I got choked

on some seeds. The melon seeds got in my throat. I yelled for help and

the boys ran away. Old Tom Brewer made me get on my hands and jump up

and down to get the seeds out."

Leaving Galveston

"I was a small boy, might have been seven or eight years old, when I

left Galveston. We came to Bradley County, here in Arkansas. From

Bradley my mother took me to Pine Bluff. After I got big I went back to

Texas. Then I came from Texas here fifty-three years ago, and have been

living here ever since, cooking for hotels and private families.

"I never was arrested in my life. I never been in trouble. I never had a

fight. Been living in the same place ever since I first came here--right

here at 1112 Park Street. I belong to the Christian Church at Thirteenth

and Cross Streets. I quit working around the yard and the building

because they wouldn't pay me anything. They promised to pay me, but they

wouldn't do it."

Interviewer's Comment

Gillespie has an excellent reputation, as indeed have most of the

ex-slaves in this city. He is clear and unfaltering in his memory. He is

deliberate and selects what he means to tell. He is never discourteous.

He is a little nervous and cannot be held long at a time. Indian

characteristics in him are not especially prominent, but you note them

readily after learning of his ancestry. He is brown but slightly copper

in color, and his profile has the typical Indian appearance. He is a

little taciturn, and sometimes acts on his decisions before he announces

them. I cultivated him about three weeks.

J Dunbar J Roberts facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail