James Morgan

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: James Morgan

819 Rice Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 65

"During the slave time, the pateroles used to go from one plantation to

the other hunting Negroes. They would catch them at the door and throw

hot ashes in their faces. You could go to another plantation and steal

or do anything you wanted if you could manage to get back to your old

master's place. But if you got caught away from your plantation, they

would get you. Sometimes a nigger didn't want to get caught and beat, so

he would throw a shovel of hot ashes in the pateroles' faces and beat it


"My daddy used to tell lots of stories about slavery times. He's been

dead forty-three years and my mother has been dead forty-one

years--forty-one years this May. I was quite young and lots of the

things they told me, I remember, and some of them, I don't.

"I was born in 1873. That was eight years after the War ended. My

father's name was Aaron and my mother's name was Rosa. Both of them was

in slavery.[TR: sentence lined out.] I got a brother that was a baby in

her lap when the Yankee soldiers got after a chicken. The chicken flew

up in her lap and they never got that one. The white folks lost it, but

the Yankees didn't get it. I have heard my mother tell all sorts of

things. But they just come to me at times. The soldiers would take

chickens or anything they could get their hands on--those soldiers


"My mother married the first time in slavery. Her first husband was sold

in slavery. That is the onliest brother I'm got living now out of

ten--that one that was settin' in her lap when the soldiers come

through. He's in Boydell, Arkansas now. It used to be called Morrell. It

is about one hundred twenty-one miles from here, because Dermott is one

hundred nine and Boydell is about twelve miles further on. It's in

Nashville[HW:?] County. My brother was a great big old baby in slavery

times. He was my mother's child by her first husband. All the rest of

them is dead and he is the onliest one that is living.

"I was a section foreman for the Missouri Pacific for twenty-two years.

I worked there altogether for thirty-five years, but I was section

foreman for twenty-two years. There's my card. Lots of men stayed on the

job till it wore them out. Lewis Holmes did that. It would take him two

hours to walk from here to his home--if he ever managed it at all.

"It's warm today and it will bring a lot of flies. Flies don't die in

the winter. Lots of folks think they do. They go up in cracks and little

places like that under the weatherboard there--any place where it is

warm--and there they huddle up and stay till it gets warm. Then they

come out and get something to eat and go back again when it cools off.

They live right on through the winter in their hiding places.

"Both of my parents said they always did their work whatever the task

might be. And my daddy said he never got no whipping at all. You know

they would put a task on you and if you didn't do it, you would get a

whipping. My daddy wouldn't stand to be whipped by a paterole, and he

didn't have to be whipped by nobody else, because he always did his


"He was one of the ones that the pateroles couldn't catch. When the

pateroles would be trying to break in some place where he was, and the

other niggers would be standing 'round frightened to death and wonderin'

what to do, he would be gettin' up a shovelful of ashes. When the door

would be opened and they would be rushin' in, he would scatter the ashes

in their faces and rush out. If he couldn't find no ashes, he would

always have a handful of pepper with him, and he would throw that in

their faces and beat it.

"He would fool dogs that my too. My daddy never did run away. He said he

didn't have no need to run away. They treated him all right. He did his

work. He would get through with everything and sometimes he would be

home before six o'clock. My mother said that lots of times she would

pick cotton and give it to the others that couldn't keep up so that they

wouldn't be punished. She had a brother they used to whip all the time

because he didn't keep up.

"My father told me that his old master told him he was free. He stayed

with his master till he retired and sold the place. He worked on shares

with him. His old master sold the place and went to Monticello and died.

He stayed with him about fifteen or sixteen years after he was freed,

stayed on that place till the Government donated him one hundred sixty

acres and charged him only a dollar and sixty cents for it. He built a

house on it and cleared it up. That's what my daddy did. Some folks

don't believe me when I tell 'em the Government gave him a hundred and

sixty acres of land and charged him only a dollar and sixty cents for

it--a penny a acre.

"I am retired now. Been retired since 1938. The Government took over the

railroad pension and it pays me now. That is under the Security Act.

Each and every man on the railroad pays in to the Government.

"I have been married right around thirty-nine years.

"I was born in Chicot County, Arkansas.[TR: sentence lined out.] My

father was born in Georgia and brought here by his master. He come here

in a old covered ox wagon. I don't know how they happened to decide to

come here. My mother was born in South Carolina. She met my father here

in Arkansas. They sold her husband and she was brought here. After peace

was declared she met my daddy. Her first husband was sold in South

Carolina and she never did know that became of him. They put him up on

the block and sold him and she never did know which way he went. He left

her with two boys right then. She had a sister that stayed in South

Carolina. Somebody bought her there and kept her and somebody bought my

mother and brought her here. My father's master was named McDermott. My

mother's last master was named Belcher or something like that.

"I don't belong to any church. I have always lived decent and kept out

of trouble."

Interviewer's Comment

When Morgan said "there is my record", he showed me a pass for the year

1938-39 for himself and his wife between all stations on the Missouri

Pacific lines signed by L.W. Baldwin, Chief Executive Officer.

He is a good man even if he is not a Christian as to church membership.

James Lucas James Reeves facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail