Jennie Butler

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Jennie Butler

3012 Short Main Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: Between 103 and 107

[HW: Nurses ? ? ?][TR: Illegible]

"I was born February 10, 1831 in Richmond, Virginia. I was a nurse

raised by our white folks in the house with the Adamses. Sue Stanley

(white and Indian) was my godmother, or 'nursemother' they called em

then. She was a sister-in-law to Jay Goold's wife. She married an Adams.

I wasn't raised a little nigger child like they is in the South. I was

raised like people. I wasn't no bastard. My father was Henry Crittenden,

an Indian full blooded Creek. He was named after his father, Henry

Crittenden. My mother's name was Louisa Virginia. Her parents were the

Gibsons, same nationality as her husband. My 'nursemother' was a white

woman, but she had English and Indian blood in her. My mother and father

were married to each other just like young people are nowadays. None of

my people were slaves and none of them owned any slaves.


"In Richmond, they lived in a little log cabin. Before I had so much

trouble I could tell you all about it, but I never forget that little

log cabin. That is near Oak Grove where Lincoln and Garfield and Nat

Turner met and talked about slavery.


"We had oak furniture. We had a tall bed with a looking glass in the

back of it, long bolsters, long pillow cases just like we used to make

long infant dresses. There were four rooms in the cabin. It was in the

city. The kitchen was a little off from the house. You reached it by

going through a little portico.


"We ate bananas, oranges, hazelnuts, apples, fruit for every month in

the year for breakfast, batter cakes, egg bread. The mornings we had egg

bread we had flesh. For dinner and supper we had milk and butter and

some kind of sweetness, and bread, of course. We had a boiled dinner. We

raised everything-even peanuts.


"We made everything we wore. Raised and made the cloth and the leather,

and the clothes and the shoes.

Contacts with Slaves and Slave Owners

"I don't know nothin' about slavery. I didn't have nothin' to do with

them folks. We picked em up on our way in our travels and they had been

treated like dogs and hadn't been told they were free. We'd tell em they

was free and let em go.

Leaving Richmond

"All I can tell you is that we come on down and never stopped until we

got to Memphis, and we tarried there twenty-five years. We came through

Louisiana and Georgia on our way out here and picked up many slaves who

didn't know they was free. They was using these little boats when we

came out here. In Louisiana and Georgia when we came out here, they

weren't thinkin' bout telling the niggers they were free. And they

weren't in Clarksville either. We landed in Little Rock and made it our



"Christian work has been the banner of my life-labor work, giving

messages about the Bible, teaching. Mostly they kept me riding--I mean

with the doctors. When we were riding, the doctors didn't go in a

mother's room; he sent the rider in. They call em nurses now and handle

them indifferently. The doctor jus' stopped in the parlor and made his

money jus' sitting there and we women did all the work. In 1912, I gave

up my riding license. It was too rough for me in Arkansas. And then they

wouldn't allow me anything either.

"Now I have a poor way of making a living because they have taken away

everything from me. I prays and lives by the Bible. I can't get nothin'

from my husband's endowment. He was an old soldier in the Civil War on

the Confederate side and I used to get $30 a month from Pine Bluff. He

was freed there. Wilson was President at the time I put in for an

increase for him in the days of his sickness. He was down sick thirty

years and only got $30 a month. The pension was increased to $60 for

about one year. He died in 1917, March 10, and was in his ninetieth year

or more from what he told me. The picture shows it too.


"Paying my taxes was the votin' I ever done. They never could get me to

gee nor haw. There wasn't any use voting when you can see what's on the

future before you. I never had many colored friends. None that voted.

And very few Indians and just a few others. And them that stood by me

all the while, they're sleeping.

Thoughts of Young People

"Don't know nothin' bout these young folks today. Don't nothin' spoil a

duck but his bill. I have had a hard time. I am heavy and I'm jus'

walkin' bout. A little talk with Jesus is all I have. I'll fall on my

knees and I'll walk as Jesus says. My heart's bleeding. I know I'm not

no more welcome than a dog.

"I pays for this little shack and when you come to see me, you might as

well come to that kitchen door. I ain't going to use no deceit with

nobody. I'll show you the hole I have to go in."

Interviewer's Comment

I understand that Sister Butler gets a pension of $5 a month. Although

her voice is vigorous, her mental powers are somewhat weak. She cannot

remember the details of anything at all.

She evidently had heard something about Nat Turner, but it would be hard

to tell what. The Nat Turner Rebellion, so called, a fanatical affair

which was as much opposed by the Negroes as by the whites, took place in

Southampton County, Virginia, in August and September 1831, the same

year in which Jennie Butler claims birth. She would naturally hear

something about it, but she does not remember what.

She had a newspaper clipping undated and minus the reading matter

showing her husband's picture, and another showing herself, February 10,

1938, The Arkansas Democrat.

Jefferson Franklin Henry Jennie Ferrell facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail