Lee Guidon

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Lee Guidon

Clarendon, Arkansas

Age: 89

"Yes maam I sho was in the Cibil War. I plowed all day and me and my

sister helped take care of the baby at night. It would cry and me

bumpin' it. [In a straight chair, rocking.] Time I git it to the bed

where its mama was it wake up and start cryin' all over again. I be so

sleepy. It was a puny sort o' baby. Its papa was off at war. His name

was Jim Cowan an' his wife Miss Margaret Brown 'fore she married him.

Miss Lucy Smith give me and my sister to them. Then she married Mr. Abe

Moore. Jim Smith was Miss Lucy's boy. He lay outen the woods all time.

He say no needen him gittin' shot up and killed. He say let the slaves

be free. We lived, seemed lack, on 'bout the line of York an' Union

Counties. He lay out in the woods over in York County. Mr. Jim say all

they fightin' 'bout was jealousy. They caught him several times but ebry

time he got away frum 'em. After they come home Mr. Jim say they never

win no war. They stole and starved out the South.

"They didn't want the slaves talkin' 'bout things. One time I got ruffed

up and I say I was goin' to freedom--the wood whar Mr. Jim be--and I

recollect we was crossin' over a railin' fence. My ma put her hand over

my mouth like dis, and say you don't know anything 'bout what you sain'


"I neber will forgit Mr. Neel. He was all our overseer. He say 'Lee Good

Boy' plows so good. He never spoke an unkind word in his life to me.

When I haf to go to his house he call me in an' give me hot biscuits or

maybe a potato. I sure love potato [sweet potatoes]. He was a good old

Christian man. The church we all went to was made outer hand hewd

logs--great big things. My pa lived in Union County on the other side

the church.

"He lived to be 103 years old. Ma lost her mind. They both died right

here with me--a piece outer town. He was named Pompey and ma Fannie. Her

name 'foe freedom was Fannie Smith, then she took the name Guidon.

"After freedom a heap of people say they was going to name their selves

over. They named their selves big names then went roaming 'round lack

wild, huntin' cities. They changed up so it was hard to tell who or whar

anybody was. Heap of 'em died an' you didn't know when you hear 'bout it

if he was your folks hardly. Some of the names was Abraham an' some

called their selves Lincum. Any big name 'ceptin' their master's name.

It was the fashion. I herd 'em talking 'bout it one ebenin' an' my pa

say fine folks raise us an' we goiner hold to our own names. That

settled it wid all of us.

"Ma was a sickly woman all her life. They kept her 'round the house to

help cook and sweep the yards. Not a speck of grass, not a weed growd on

her yard. She swep it 'bout two times a week. It was prutty and white.

The sand jes' shined in the sun. Had tall trees in the yard.

"I can't recollect 'bout my papa's master cause I was raised at my

mama's master's place. He said many and many a time Joe Guidon never

had to whoop him. After he growd up he never got no whoopins a tall.

Joe Guidon learned him to plow an' he was boss of the plow hands. His

wife was named Mariah Guidon. He say she was a mighty good easy woman


"Saturday was ration day and Sunday visitin' day. But you must have your

pass if you leave the farm an' go over to somebody elses farm.

"When I was a boy one thing I love to do was go to stingy Tom's still

house. His name was Tom Whiteside. He sure was stingy and the meanest

white man I ever seed. I went to the still house to beat peaches to make

brandy. It was four miles over there and I rode. We always made least

one barrel of peach brandy and one of cider. That would be vinegar

'nough by spring. 'Simmon beer was good in the cole freezin' wether too.

We make much as we have barrels if we could get the persimmons. He had a

son name Bill Whitesides.

"Once an old slave woman lost her mind. Stingy Tom sent her to get a

Bull tongue and she chased after one of the bulls down at the lot try

in' to catch it. She set his barn fire and burned thirteen head of

horses and mules together. Stingy Tom had the sheriff try to get her

tell what white folks put her up to do it. He knowed they all hated him

cause he jes' so mean. The old woman never did tell but they hung her

anyhow. There was a big crowd to see it. Miss Lucy jes' cried and cried.

She say Satan got no use for Stingy Tom he so mean. That the first

person I ever seed hung. They used to hang folks a heap. The biggest

crowds turned out to see it.

"The old woman's son he went to the woods he so hurt cause they going to

hang his ma.

"The Missouri soldiers were worse than the Yankees. They waste an' steal

your corn and take your horses. They brought a little girl they stole

and let Stingy Tom have her. He kept her and treated her so mean. They

thrash out wheat and put it on big heavy sheets to dry. The little girl

had to sit outen the sun an' keep the chickens offen it. I seed him find

her 'sleep and hit hard as he could in the face wid big old brush. It

was old dogwood brush wid no leaves on it. He wouldn't let that little

girl have no biskit on Sunday mornin'. Everybody had all the hot biskit

they could eat on Sunday mornin'. Well after freedom, long time, her

aunt heard she was down there and come an' got her. She grow up to be a

nice woman. Them same Missouri soldiers took Henry Guidon (younger

brother of Lee Guidon) off. Stole him from the master--stole his mule.

They was so mean. They found out when they shoot, the mule so scared it

would throw Henry. They kept it up and laughed. Course it hurt Henry.

Liable to kill him. They say they making a Yankee soldier outen him that

way. One night before they got too fur gone he rode off home. They burn

whole cribs corn. Could smell it a long ways off. They was mean to


"I recken I do know 'bout the Ku Kluck. I knowed a man named Alfred

Owens. He seemed all right but he was a Republican. He said he was not

afraid. He run a tan yard and kept a heap of guns in a big room. They

all loaded. He married a southern woman. Her husband either died or was

killed. She had a son living wid them. The Ku Kluck was called Upper

League. They get this boy to unload all the guns (16 shooters). Then the

white men went there. The white man give up and said, 'I ain't got no

gun to defend myself wid. The guns all unloaded an' I ain't got no

powder and shot.' But the Ku Kluck shot in the houses and shot him up

like lace work. He sold fine harness, saddles, bridles--all sorts of

leather things. The Ku Kluck shure run them outen their country. They

say they not going to have them 'round and they shure run them out, back

where they came from.

"Charles Good had a blacksmith. They [the Missouri soldiers] opened a

fence gap when they came through. They took him, tied him to a tree and

shot him in the face with little shot. He suffered there till Wednesday

when he was still living. They tied him to the tree wid his own

gallowses. They was doubled and strong. Then some of them went down

there and finished up the job beating him over the head with the guns

till he was dead. The Ku Kluck broke up every gun they could find. They

sure better not ketch a gun at the quarters of colored folks. They whoop

him and break up the gun. Ask him where he got that gun and start more

bad trouble.

"They packed a two-story jail so full of men they had orders to turn 'em

out. Then they built a high fence 'bout eight foot tall and put 'em in

it. They had lights and guards all 'round it. They kept 'em right out in

the hot sun in that pen. That's where the Yankees put the Ku Klucks.

Then they had trials and some was sent to Albany for three years and

eight years and the like. They made glass at Albany. Them Yankees

wouldn't let 'em have no bonds. Then the white folks told them they

needn't settle among them. They owned all the land and wouldn't sell

them a foot for nuthing. A heap of lawyers and doctors got in it. That

fence was iron and bob wire. The Ku Kluck killed good men, but


"We stayed on like we were 'cause we done put in the crop and the Ku

Kluck never did bother us. We made a prutty good crop. Then we took our

freedom. Started workin' fer money and part of the crop.

"I married in 1871. Me and Emma went to bed. Somebody lam on the door.

Emma say 'You run they won't hurt me.' I say 'They kill me sure.' We

stayed and opened the door. They pull the cover offen her looking. They

lifted up a cloth from over a barrel behind the bed in the corner. I say

that are a hog. He say we right from hell we ain't seen no meat. Then

they soon gone. The moon shining so bright that night. They were lookin'

for my wife's brother I heard 'em say. They say he done something or


"Charleston was the nearest a army ever come to me but I seed a heap of

soldiers on the roads. One road was the Rock Hill road.

"One man I heard 'em talk cheap about had the guns and powder. They shot

holes in the walls. He climbed up in the fireplace chimney and stood up

there close to the brick. It was dark and they couldn't see him. They

looked up the chimney but didn't see him. It was a two-story chimney.

Lady if you ain't never seen one I can't tell you just how it was. But

they shot the house full of holes and never harmed him.

"For them what stayed on like they were Reconstruction times 'bout like

times before dat 'ceptin' the Yankees stole out an' tore up a scanlus

heap. They tell the black folks to do something and then come white

folks you live wid and say Ku Kluck whoop you. They say leave and white

folks say better not listen to them old Yankees. They'll git you too fur

off to come back and you freeze. They done give you all the use they got

fer you. How they do? All sorts of ways. Some stayed at their cabins

glad to have one to live in an' farmed on. Some runnin' 'round beggin',

some hunting work for money an' nobody had no money 'ceptin' the Yankees

and they had no homes or land and mighty little work fer you to do. No

work to live on. Some goin' every day to the city. That winter I heard

'bout them starving and freezing by the wagon loads.

"I never heard nuthing 'bout votin' till freedom. I don't think I ever

voted till I come to Mississippi. I votes Republican. That's the party

of my color and I stick to them long as they do right. I don't dabble in

white folk's buzness an' that white folks votin' is their buzness. If I

vote I go do it and go on home.

"I been plowin' all my life and in the hot days I cuts and saws wood.

Then when I gets outer cotton pickin' I put each boy on a load of wood

an' we sell wood. Then we clear land till next spring. I don't find no

time to be loafing. I never missed a year farming till I got the Brights

disease an' it hurt me to do hard work. The last years we got $3 a cord.

Farmin' is the best life there is when you are able.

"I come to Holly Springs in 1850, stopped to visit. I had six children

and $90 in money. We come on the train. My parents done come on from

South Carolina to Arkansas. Man say this ain't no richer land than you

come from. I tried it seven years. I drove from there, ferried the

rivers. It took a long time. We made the best crop I ever seed in 1888.

I had eight children, my wife. I cut and hauled wood all winter. I soon

had three teams haulin' wood to Clarendon. Some old men, [white men]

mean things! Learned one of my boys to play craps. They done it to git

his money.

"When I owned most I had six head mules and five head horses. I rented

140 acres of land. I bought this house and some other land about. The

anthrax killed nearly all my horses and mules. I got one big fine mule

yet. Its mate died. I lost my house. My son give me one room and he

paying the debt off now. It's hard for colored folks to keep anything.

Somebody gets it frum 'em if they don't mind.

"The present times is hard. Timber is scarce. Game is about all gone.

Prices higher. Old folks cannot work. Times is hard for younger folks

too. They go to town too much and go to shows. They going to a tent show

now. Circus coming they say. They spending too much money for

foolishness. It's a fast time. Folks too restless. Some of the colored

folks work hard as folks ever did. They spends too much. Some folks is

lazy. Always been that way.

"I signed up to the Governmint but they ain't give me nuthin' 'ceptin'

powdered milk and rice what wasn't fit to eat. It cracked up and had

black somethin' in it. A lady said she would give me some shirts that

was her husbands. I went to get them but she wasn't home. These heavy

shirts give me heat. They won't give me the pension an' I don't know

why. It would help me buy my salts and pills and the other medicines

like Swamp Root. They won't give it to me."

Leah Garrett Lenneth Jones facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail