Louise Pettis

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Louise Pettis, Brinkley, Arkansas

Age: 59

"My mama was born at Aiken, South Carolina. She was Frances Rotan. I was

born at Elba, South Carolina, forty miles below Augusta, Georgia. My

papa was born at Macon, Georgia. Both my parents was slaves. He farmed

and was a Baptist preacher. Mama was a cook.

"Mama was owned by some of the Willis. There was three; Mike, Bill, and

Logie Willis, all brothers, and she lived with them all but who owned

her I don't know. She never was sold. Papa wasn't either. Mama lived at

Aiken till papa married her. She belong to some of the Willis. They

married after freedom. She had three husbands and fifteen children.

"Mama had a soldier husband. He took her to James Island. She runned off

from him. Got back across the sea to Charleston to Aunt Anette's. She

was mama's sister. Mama sent back to Aiken and they got her back to her

folks. Aunt Anette had been sold to folks at Charleston.

"Grandma was Rachel Willis. She suckled some of the Willis children.

Mama suckled me and Mike Willis together. His mama got sick and my mama

took him and raised him. She got well but their names have left me. When

we got sick the Willis women would send a hamper basket full of

provisions, some cooked and some to be cooked. I used to sweep their

yards. They was white sand and not a sprig of grass nor a weed in there.

"Mama and papa was both slavery niggers and they spoke mighty well of

their owners.

"Papa said in slavery times about two nights in a week they would have a

dance. He would slip off and go. Sometimes he would get a pass. He was a

figger caller till he 'fessed religion. One time the pattyrollers come

in. They said, 'All got passes tonight.' When they had about danced down

my daddy got a shovelful of live coals and run about scattering it on

the floor. All the niggers run out and he was gone too. It was a dark

night. A crowd went up the road and here come the pattyrollers. One run

into grapevines across the road and tumbled off his horse. The niggers

took to the woods then. Pa tole us about how he studied up a way to get

himself and several others outer showing their passes that night. Master

never found that out on him.

"During the War they sent a lot of the meat to feed the soldiers on and

kept the skins and sides. They tole them if the Yankees ask them if they

had enough to eat say, 'See how greasy and slick I is.' They greased

their legs and arms to make them shine and look fat. The dust made the

chaps look rusty.

"Papa saved his young mistress' life. His master was gone to war. He had

promised with others to take care of her. The Yankees come and didn't

find meat. It was buried. They couldn't find much. They got mad and

burned the house. Pa was a boy. He run up there and begged folks not to

burn the house; they promised to take care of everything. Papa begged to

let him get his mistress and three-day-old baby. They cursed him but he

run in and got her and the baby. The house fell in before they got out

of the yard. He took her to the quarters. Papa was overstrained carrying

a log and limped as long as he lived.

"Pa was hired out and they was goner whoop him and he run off and got

back to the master. Ma nor pa was never sold.

"We had a reason to come out here to Arkansas. A woman had a white

husband and a black one too. The black husband told the white husband

not come about there no more. He come on. The black man killed the white

man at his door. They lynched six or seven niggers. They sure did kill

him. That dissatisfied all the niggers. That took place in Barnwell

County, South Carolina. Three train loads of us left. There was fifteen

in our family. We was doing well. My pa had cattle and money. They

stopped the train befo' and behind us--the train we was on. Put the

Arkansas white man in Augusta jail. They stopped us all there. We got to

come on. We was headed for Pine Bluff. We got down there 'bout Altheimer

and they was living in tents. Pa said he wasn't goiner tent, he didn't

run away from South Carolina and he'd go straight back. Mr. Aydelott got

eight families on track at Rob Roy to come to Biscoe. We got a house

here. Pa was old and they would listen at what he said. He made a speech

at Rob Roy and told them let's come to Biscoe. Eleven families come. He

had two hundred or three hundred dollars then in his pocket to rattle.

He could get more. He grieved for South Carolina, so he went back and

took us but ma wanted to coma back. They stayed back there a year or

two. We made a crop. Pa was the oldest boss in his crowd. We all come

back. There was more room out here and so many of us.

"The schools was better out there. I went to Miss Scofield's College.

All the teachers but three was colored. There was eight or ten colored

teachers. It was at Aiken, South Carolina. Miss Criley was our sewing

mistress. Miss Criley was white and Miss Scofield was too. I didn't have

to pay. Rich folks in the North run the school. No white children went

there. I think the teachers was sent there.

"I taught school out here at Blackton and Moro and in Prairie County

about. I got tired of it. I married and settled down.

"We owns my home here. My husband was a railroad man. We lives by the


"I don't know what becoming of the young generation. They shuns the

field work. Times is faster than I ever seen them. I liked the way times

was before that last war (World War). Reckon when will they get back

like that?"

Louise Mckinney Louise Prayer facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail