Mary Gaines


Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Mary Gaines

Brinkley, Arkansas

Age: Born 1872

"I was born in Courtland, Alabama. Mother was twelve years old at the

first of the surrender.

"Grandfather was a South Carolinian. Master Harris bought him, two more,

his brothers and two sisters and his mother at one time. He was real

African. Grandma on mother's side was dark Indian. She had white hair

nearly straight. I have some of it now. Mother was lighter. That is

where I gets my light color.

"Master Harris sold mother and grandma. Mother said she was fat, tall

strong looking girl. Master Harris let a Negro trader have grandma,

mother and her three brothers. They left grandpa. Master Harris told the

nigger traders not divide grandma from her children. He didn't believe

in that. He was letting them go from their father. That was enough

sorrow for them to bear. That was in Alabama they was auctioned off.

Master Harris lived in Georgia. The auctioneerer held mother's arms up,

turned her all around, made her kick, run, jump about to see how nimble

and quick she was. He said this old woman can cook. She has been a good

worker in the field. She's a good cook. They sold her off cheap. Mother

brought a big price. They caught on to that. The man nor woman wasn't

good to them. I forgot their names what bought them. The nigger traders

run her three brothers on to Mississippi. The youngest one died in

Mississippi. They never seen the other two or heard of them till after

freedom. They went back to Georgia. All of them went back to their old

home place.

"In Alabama at this new master's home mother was nursing. Grandma and

another old woman was the cooks. Mother went to their little house and

told them real low she had the baby and a strange man in the house said,

'Is that the one you goiner let me have?' The man said, 'Yes, he's

goiner leave in the morning b'fore times.'

"The new master come stand around to see when they went to sleep. That

night he stood in the chimney corner. There was a little window; the

moon throwed his shadow in the room. They said, 'I sure do like my new

master.' Another said, 'I sure do.' The other one said, 'This is the

best place I ever been they so good to us.' Then they sung a verse and

prayed and got quiet. They heard him leave, seen his shadow go way.

Heard his house door squeak when he shut his door. Then they got up easy

and dressed, took all the clothes they had and slipped out. They walked

nearly in a run all night and two more days. They couldn't carry much

but they had some meat and meal they took along. Their grub nearly give

out when they come to some camps. Somebody told them, 'This is Yankee

camps.' They give them something to eat. They worked there a while. One

day they took a notion to look about and they hadn't gone far 'fore

Grandpa Harris grabbed grandma, then mama. They got to stay a while but

the Yankees took them to town and Master Harris come got them and took

them back. Their new master come too but he said his wife said bring the

girl back but let that old woman go. Master Harris took them both back

till freedom.

"When freedom come folks shout and knock down things so glad they was

free. Grandpa come back. Master Harris said, 'You can have land if you

can get anything to work.' Grandpa took his bounty he got when he left

the army and bought a pair of mules. He had to pay rent the third year

but till then he got what they called giving all that stayed a start.

"Grandma was Mariah and grandpa was Ned Harris. The two boys come back

said the baby boy died at Selma, Alabama.

"Grandpa talked about the War when I was a child. He said he was in the

Battle of Corinth, Mississippi. He said blood run shoe mouth deep in

places. He didn't see how he ever got out alive. Grandma and mama said

they was glad to get away from the camps. They looked to be shot several

times. Colored folks is peace loving by nature. They don't love war.

Grandpa said war was awful. My mother was named Lottie.

"One reason mother said she wanted to get away from their new master, he

have a hole dug out with a hoe and put pregnant women on their stomach.

The overseers beat their back with cowhide and them strapped down. She

said 'cause they didn't keep up work in the field or they didn't want to

work. She didn't know why. They didn't stay there very long. She didn't

want to go back there.

"My life has never been a hard one. I have always worked. Me and my

husband run a cafe till he got drowned. Since then I have to work

harder. I wash and iron, cook wherever some one comes for me. When I was

a girl I was so much like mother--a fast, strong hand in the field, I

always had work.

"Mother said, 'Eat the beans and greens, pot-liquor and sweet milk, make

you fat and lazy.' That was what they put in the children's wooden trays

in slavery. They give the men and women meat and the children the broth

and dumplings, plenty molasses. Sunday mother could cook at home in

slavery if she'd 'tend to the baby too. All the hands on Harrises place

et dinner with their family on Sunday. He was fair with his slaves.

"For the life of me I can't see nothing wrong with the times. Only thing

I see, you can't get credit to run crops and folks all trying to shun

farming. When I was on a farm I dearly loved it. It the place to raise

young black and white both. Town and cars ruined the country."

Interviewer's Comment

Owns two houses in among white people.

Mary Frazier Mary Gladdy facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail