Lucian Abernathy Marvell Interviewed By Watt Mckinney
Interviewer: Watt McKinney
Person interviewed: Lucian Abernathy, Marvell, Arkansas
"I was borned in de 'streme norf part of Mississippi nigh de Tennessee
line. You mought say dat it was 'bout straddle of de state line and it
wasn't no great piece from where us libed to Moscow what was de station
on de ole Memfis en Charston Railroad. My white folks was de Abernathys.
You neber do hear 'bout many folks wid dat name these times, leastwise
not ober in dis state, but dere sure used to be heap of dem Abernathys
back home where I libed and I spect dat mebbe some dere yit en cose it's
bound to be some of the young uns lef' dar still, but de ole uns, Mars
Luch en dem, dey is all gone.
"Mars Luch, he was my young boss. Though he name was Lucian us all
called him Luch and dat was who I is named for. Ole mars, he was name
Will and dat was Mars Luch's pa and my ole miss, she name Miss Cynthia
and young miss, her name Miss Ellen. Ole mars an' ole miss, dey just had
de two chillun, Mars Luch and Miss Ellen; dat is what libed to be grown.
Mars Luch, he 'bout two year older dan me and Miss Ellen, she 'bout two
year older dan Mars Luch. Miss Ellen, she married er gentman from
Virginny and went dar to lib and Mars Luch, he married Miss Fannie
"Miss Fannie's folks, dey libed right nigh us on to 'j'ining place and
dem was my ole man's peoples. Yas sah, boss, dat ole man you see settin'
right dar now in dat chere. She was Ella Keith, dats zackly what her
named when us married and she named fer Miss Fannie's ma. Dat she was.
Us neber did leave our folkses eben atter de War ober and de niggers git
dey freedom, yit an' still a heap of de niggers did leave dey mars' and
a heap of dem didn' an' us stayed on an farmed de lan' jus' like us been
doin' 'cept dey gib us a contract for part de crop an' sell us our grub
'gainst us part of de crop and take dey money outen us part of de cotton
in de fall just like de bizness is done yit and I reckon dat was de
startin' of de sharecrop dat is still goin' on.
"Soon atter Mars Luch good and grown an' him an' Miss Fannie done
married, ole mars and ole miss, dey bofe died and Mars Luch say he gwine
sell out an' lebe 'cause de lan' gittin' so poor and wore out and it
takin' three an' more acres to make a bale and he tell us all dat when
we wind up de crop dat fall and say, 'You boys mebbe can stay on wid
whoever I sell out to er if not den you can fin' you homes wid some one
close if you wants to do dat.' And den he says dat he gwine fin' him
some good lan' mebbe in Arkansas down de riber from Memfis. Mighty nigh
all de ole famblys lef' de place when Mars Luch sole it out.
"My pappy and my mammy, dey went to Memfis and me wid 'em. I was growed
by den and was fixin' to marry Ella just es soon es I could fin' a good
home. I was a country nigger en liked de farm an' en cose wasn't
satisfied in town, so 'twasn't long 'fore I heered 'bout han's beein'
needed down de riber in Mississippi and dats where I went en stayed for
two years and boss, I sure was struck wid dat lan' what you could make a
bale to a acre on an' I just knowed dat I was gwine git rich in a hurry
an' so I writ er letter to Ella en her peoples tellin' dem 'bout de rich
lan' and 'vising dem to come down dere where I was and I was wantin' to
marry Ella den. Boss, and you know what, 'twasn't long afore I gits er
letter back an' de letter says dat Ella an' her peoples is down de riber
in Arkansas from Memfis at Bledsoe wid Mars Luch an' Miss Fannie where
Mars Luch had done moved him an' Miss Fannie to a big plantation dey had
bought down dere.
"Dat was a funny thing how dat happened an' Bledsoe, it was right 'cross
de riber from where I was en had been for two years an' just soon es I
git dat letter I 'range wid a nigger to take me 'cross da riber in er
skift to de plantation where dey all was and 'bout fust folkses dat I
see is Ella an' her peoples en lots of de famblys from de ole home place
back in Tennessee an' I sure was proud to see Mars Luch en Miss Fannie.
Dey had built demselves a fine house at a p'int dat was sorter like a
knoll where de water don' git when de riber come out on de lan' in case
of oberflow and up de rode 'bout half mile from de house, Mars Luch had
de store en de gin. Dey had de boys den, dat is Mars Luch and Miss
Fannie did, and de boys was named Claude an' Clarence atter Miss
Fannie's two brudders.
"Dem was de finest boys dat one ever did see. At dat time Claude, he
'bout two year old and Clarence, he 'bout four er mebbe little less.
Ella, she worked in da house cooking for Miss Fannie an' nussin' de
chillun and she plumb crazy 'bout de chillun an' dey just as satisfied
wid her as dey was wid dere mama and Ella thought more dem chillun dan
she did anybody. She just crazy 'bout dem boys. Mars Luch, he gibe me
job right 'way sort flunkying for him and hostling at de lot an' barn
and 'twasn't long den 'fore Ella and me, us git married an' libs in a
cabin dat Mars Luch had built in de back of de big house.
"Us git 'long fine for more dan a year and Mars Luch, he raise plenty
cotton an' at times us ud take trip up to Memfis on de boat, on de Phil
Allin what was 'bout de fineist boat on de riber in dem days and de one
dat most frequent put in at us landin' wid de freight for Mars Luch and
den he most ginally sont he cotton an' seed to Memfis on dis same Phil
"I jus' said, boss, dat us git 'long fine for more dan a year and us all
mighty happy till Miss Fannie took sick an' died an' it mighty nigh
killed Mars Luch and all of us and Mars Luch, he jus' droop for weeks
till us git anxious 'bout him but atter while he git better and seam
like mebbe he gwine git ober he sadness but he neber was like he used to
be afore Miss Fannie died.
"Atter Miss Fannie gone, Mars Luch, he say, 'Ella, you an' Luch mus'
mobe in de big house an' make you a bed in de room where de boys sleep,
so's you can look atter 'em good, 'cause lots nights I gwine be out late
at de gin an' store an' I knows you gwine take plumb good care of dem
chillun.' An' so us fixed us bed in de big house an' de boys, dey
sleeped right dar in dat room on dere bed where us could take care of
"Dat went on for 'bout two years an' den Mars Luch, he 'gun to get in
bad health an' jus' wasted down like and den one night when he at de
store he took down bad and dey laid him down on de bed in de back room
where he would sleep on sich nights dat he didn' come home when he was
so busy an' he sont a nigger on a mule for me to come up dar an' I went
in he room an' Mars Luch, he say, 'Lissen, Luch, you is been a good
faithful nigger an' Ella too, an' I is gonna die tonight and I wants you
to send er letter to Miss Ellen in Virginny atter I is daid en tell her
to come an' git de boys 'cause she is all de kin peoples dat dey habe
lef' now cepn cose you an' Ella an' it mought be some time afore she
gits here so you all take good en faithful care dem till she 'rives an'
tell her she habe to see dat all de bizness wind up and take de boys
back wid her an' keep dem till dey is growed,'
"Well, boss, us done jus' like Mars Luch tell us to do an' us sure feel
sorry for dem two little boys. Dey jus' 'bout five an' seben year old
den and day sure loved dere pa; day was plumb crazy 'bout Mars Luch and
him 'bout dem too.
"'Bout two weeks from time dat Mars Luch daid, Miss Ellen come on de
boat one night an' she stayed some days windin' up de bizness and den
she lef' an' take de boys 'way wid her back to Virginny where she libed.
Us sure did hate to 'part from dem chillun. Dat's been nigh on to sixty
years ago but us neber forgit dem boys an' us will allus lobe dem. Dey
used to sen' us presents an' sich every Christmas for seberal years and
den us started movin' 'bout an' I reckon dey don' know where we's at
now. I sure would like to see dem boys ag'in. I betcha I'd know dem
right today. Mebbe I wouldn't, it's been so long since I seen 'em; but
shucks, I know dat dey would know me."
Louvenia Huff Lucinda Davis