Mary Grayson

Oklahoma Writers' Project



Age 83 yrs.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

I am what we colored people call a "native." That means that I didn't

come into the Indian country from somewhere in the Old South, after

the War, like so many negroes did, but I was born here in the old

Creek Nation, and my master was a Creek Indian. That was eighty three

years ago, so I am told.

My mammy belonged to white people back in Alabama when she was

born--down in the southern part I think, for she told me that after

she was a sizeable girl her white people moved into the eastern part

of Alabama where there was a lot of Creeks. Some of them Creeks was

mixed up with the whites, and some of the big men in the Creeks who

come to talk to her master was almost white, it looked like. "My white

folks moved around a lot when I was a little girl", she told me.

When mammy was about 10 or 13 years old some of the Creeks begun to

come out to the Territory in little bunches. They wasn't the ones who

was taken out here by the soldiers and contractor men--they come on

ahead by themselves and most of them had plenty of money, too. A Creek

come to my mammy's master and bought her to bring out here, but she

heard she was being sold and run off into the woods. There was an old

clay pit, dug way back into a high bank, where the slaves had been

getting clay to mix with hog hair scrapings to make chinking for the

big log houses that they built for the master and the cabins they made

for themselves. Well, my mammy run and hid way back in that old clay

pit, and it was way after dark before the master and the other man

found her.

The Creek man that bought her was a kind sort of a man, mammy said,

and wouldn't let the master punish her. He took her away and was kind

to her, but he decided she was too young to breed and he sold her to

another Creek who had several slaves already, and he brought her out

to the Territory.

The McIntosh men was the leaders in the bunch that come out at that

time, and one of the bunch, named Jim Perryman, bought my mammy and

married her to one of his "boys", but after he waited a while and she

didn't have a baby he decided she was no good breeder and he sold her

to Mose Perryman.

Mose Perryman was my master, and he was a cousin to Legus Perryman,

who was a big man in the Tribe. He was a lot younger than Mose, and

laughed at Mose for buying my mammy, but he got fooled, because my

mammy got married to Mose's slave boy Jacob, the way the slaves was

married them days, and went ahead and had ten children for Mr. Mose.

Mose Perryman owned my pappy and his older brother, Hector, and one of

the McIntosh men, Oona, I think his name was, owned my pappy's brother

William. I can remember when I first heard about there was going to be

a war. The older children would talk about it, but they didn't say it

was a war all over the country. They would talk about a war going to

be "back in Alabama", and I guess they had heard the Creeks talking

about it that way.

When I was born we lived in the Choska bottoms, and Mr. Mose Perryman

had a lot of land broke in all up and down the Arkansas river along

there. After the War, when I had got to be a young woman, there was

quite a settlement grew up at Choska (pronounced Choe-skey) right

across the river east of where Haskell now is, but when I was a child

before the War all the whole bottoms was marshy kind of wilderness

except where farms had been cleared out. The land was very rich, and

the Creeks who got to settle there were lucky. They always had big

crops. All west of us was high ground, toward Gibson station and Fort

Gibson, and the land was sandy. Some of the McIntoshes lived over that

way, and my Uncle William belonged to one of them.

We slaves didn't have a hard time at all before the War. I have had

people who were slaves of white folks back in the old states tell me

that they had to work awfully hard and their masters were cruel to

them sometimes, but all the Negroes I knew who belonged to Creeks

always had plenty of clothes and lots to eat and we all lived in good

log cabins we built. We worked the farm and tended to the horses and

cattle and hogs, and some of the older women worked around the owner's

house, but each Negro family looked after a part of the fields and

worked the crops like they belonged to us.

When I first heard talk about the War the slaves were allowed to go

and see one another sometimes and often they were sent on errands

several miles with a wagon or on a horse, but pretty soon we were all

kept at home, and nobody was allowed to come around and talk to us.

But we heard what was going on.

The McIntosh men got nearly everybody to side with them about the War,

but we Negroes got word somehow that the Cherokees over back of Ft.

Gibson was not going to be in the War, and that there were some Union

people over there who would help slaves to get away, but we children

didn't know anything about what we heard our parents whispering about,

and they would stop if they heard us listening. Most of the Creeks who

lived in our part of the country, between the Arkansas and the

Verdigris, and some even south of the Arkansas, belonged to the Lower

Creeks and sided with the South, but down below us along the Canadian

River they were Upper Creeks and there was a good deal of talk about

them going with the North. Some of the Negroes tried to get away and

go down to them, but I don't know of any from our neighborhood that

went to them.

Some Upper Creeks came up into the Choska bottoms talking around among

the folks there about siding with the North. They were talking, they

said, for old man Gouge, who was a big man among the Upper Creeks. His

Indian name was Opoeth-le-ya-hola, and he got away into Kansas with a

big bunch of Creeks and Seminoles during the War.

Before that time, I remember one night my uncle William brought

another Negro man to our cabin and talked a long time with my pappy,

but pretty soon some of the Perryman Negroes told them that Mr. Mose

was coming down and they went off into the woods to talk. But Mr. Mose

didn't come down. When pappy came back Mammy cried quite a while, and

we children could hear them arguing late at night. Then my uncle

Hector slipped over to our cabin several times and talked to pappy,

and mammy began to fix up grub, but she didn't give us children but a

little bit of it, and told us to stay around with her at the cabin and

not go playing with the other children.

Then early one morning, about daylight, old Mr. Mose came down to the

cabin in his buggy, waving a shot gun and hollering at the top of his

voice. I never saw a man so mad in all my life, before nor since!

He yelled in at mammy to "git them children together and git up to my

house before I beat you and all of them to death!" Mammy began to cry

and plead that she didn't know anything, but he acted like he was

going to shoot sure enough, so we all ran to mammy and started for Mr.

Mose's house as fast as we could trot.

We had to pass all the other Negro cabins on the way, and we could see

that they were all empty, and it looked like everything in them had

been tore up. Straw and corn shucks all over the place, where somebody

had tore up the mattresses, and all the pans and kettles gone off the

outside walls where they used to hang them.

At one place we saw two Negro boys loading some iron kettles on a

wagon, and a little further on was some boys catching chickens in a

yard, but we could see all the Negroes had left in a big hurry.

I asked mammy where everybody had gone and she said, "Up to Mr. Mose's

house, where we are going. He's calling us all in."

"Will pappy be up there too?" I asked her.

"No. Your pappy and your Uncle Hector and your Uncle William and a lot

of other menfolks won't be here any more. They went away. That's why

Mr. Mose is so mad, so if any of you younguns say anything about any

strange men coming to our place I'll break your necks!" Mammy was sure


We all thought sure she was going to get a big whipping, but Mr. Mose

just looked at her a minute and then told her to get back to the cabin

and bring all the clothes, and bed ticks and all kinds of cloth we had

and come back ready to travel.

"We're going to take all you black devils to a place where there won't

no more of you run away!" he yelled after us. So we got ready to leave

as quick as we could. I kept crying about my pappy, but mammy would

say, "Don't you worry about your pappy, he's free now. Better be

worrying about us. No telling where we all will end up!" There was

four or five Creek families and their Negroes all got together to

leave, with all their stuff packed in buggies and wagons, and being

toted by the Negroes or carried tied on horses, jack asses, mules and

milk cattle. I reckon it was a funny looking sight, or it would be to

a person now; the way we was all loaded down with all manner of

baggage when we met at the old ford across the Arkansas that lead to

the Creek Agency. The Agency stood on a high hill a few miles across

the river from where we lived, but we couldn't see it from our place

down in the Choska bottoms. But as soon as we got up on the upland

east of the bottoms we could look across and see the hill.

When we got to a grove at the foot of the hill near the agency Mr.

Mose and the other masters went up to the Agency for a while. I

suppose they found out up there what everybody was supposed to do and

where they was supposed to go, for when we started on it wasn't long

until several more families and their slaves had joined the party and

we made quite a big crowd.

The little Negro boys had to carry a little bundle apiece, but Mr.

Mose didn't make the little girls carry anything and let us ride if we

could find anything to ride on. My mammy had to help lead the cows

part of the time, but a lot of the time she got to ride an old horse,

and she would put me up behind her. It nearly scared me to death,

because I had never been on a horse before, and she had to hold on to

me all the time to keep me from falling off.

Of course I was too small to know what was going on then, but I could

tell that all the masters and the Negroes seemed to be mighty worried

and careful all the time. Of course I know now that the Creeks were

all split up over the War, and nobody was able to tell who would be

friendly to us or who would try to poison us or kill us, or at least

rob us. There was a lot of bushwhacking all through that country by

little groups of men who was just out to get all they could. They

would appear like they was the enemy of anybody they run across, just

to have an excuse to rob them or burn up their stuff. If you said you

was with the South they would be with the North and if you claimed to

be with the Yankees they would be with the South, so our party was

kind of upset all the time we was passing through the country along

the Canadian. That was where old Gouge had been talking against the

South. I've heard my folks say that he was a wonderful speaker, too.

We all had to move along mighty slow, on account of the ones on foot,

and we wouldn't get very far in one day, then we Negroes had to fix up

a place to camp and get wood and cook supper for everybody. Sometimes

we would come to a place to camp that somebody knew about and we

would find it all tromped down by horses and the spring all filled in

and ruined. I reckon old Gouge's people would tear up things when they

left, or maybe some Southern bushwhackers would do it. I don't know


When we got down to where the North Fork runs into the Canadian we

went around the place where the Creek town was. There was lots of

Creeks down there who was on the other side, so we passed around that

place and forded across west of there. The ford was a bad one, and it

took us a long time to get across. Everybody got wet and a lot of the

stuff on the wagons got wet. Pretty soon we got down into the

Chickasaw country, and everybody was friendly to us, but the Chickasaw

people didn't treat their slaves like the Creeks did. They was more

strict, like the people in Texas and other places. The Chickasaws

seemed lighter color than the Creeks but they talked more in Indian

among themselves and to their slaves. Our masters talked English

nearly all the time except when they were talking to Creeks who didn't

talk good English, and we Negroes never did learn very good Creek. I

could always understand it, and can yet, a little, but I never did try

to talk it much. Mammy and pappy used English to us all the time.

Mr. Mose found a place for us to stop close to Fort Washita, and got

us places to stay and work. I don't know which direction we were from

Fort Washita, but I know we were not very far. I don't know how many

years we were down in there, but I know it was over two for we worked

on crops at two different places, I remember. Then one day Mr. Mose

came and told us that the War was over and that we would have to root

for ourselves after that. Then he just rode away and I never saw him

after that until after we had got back up into the Choska country.

Mammy heard that the Negroes were going to get equal rights with the

Creeks, and that she should go to the Creek Agency to draw for us, so

we set out to try to get back.

We started out on foot, and would go a little ways each day, and mammy

would try to get a little something to do to get us some food. Two or

three times she got paid in money, so she had some money when we got

back. After three or four days of walking we came across some more

Negroes who had a horse, and mammy paid them to let us children ride

and tie with their children for a day or two. They had their children

on the horse, so two or three little ones would get on with a larger

one to guide the horse and we would ride a while and get off and tie

the horse and start walking on down the road. Then when the others

caught up with the horse they would ride until they caught up with us.

Pretty soon the old people got afraid to have us do that, so we just

led the horse and some of the little ones rode it.

We had our hardest times when we would get to a river or big creek. If

the water was swift the horse didn't do any good, for it would shy at

the water and the little ones couldn't stay on, so we would have to

just wait until someone came along in a wagon and maybe have to pay

them with some of our money or some of our goods we were bringing back

to haul us across. Sometimes we had to wait all day before anyone

would come along in a wagon.

We were coming north all this time, up through the Seminole Nation,

but when we got to Weeleetka we met a Creek family of freedmen who

were going to the Agency too, and mammy paid them to take us along in

their wagon. When we got to the Agency mammy met a Negro who had seen

pappy and knew where he was, so we sent word to him and he came and

found us. He had been through most of the War in the Union army.

When we got away into the Cherokee country some of them called the

"Pins" helped to smuggle him on up into Missouri and over into Kansas,

but he soon found that he couldn't get along and stay safe unless he

went with the Army. He went with them until the War was over, and was

around Gibson quite a lot. When he was there he tried to find out

where we had gone but said he never could find out. He was in the

battle of Honey Springs, he said, but never was hurt or sick. When we

got back together we cleared a selection of land a little east of the

Choska bottoms, near where Clarksville now is, and farmed until I was

a great big girl.

I went to school at a little school called Blackjack school. I think

it was a kind of mission school and not one of the Creek nation

schools, because my first teacher was Miss Betty Weaver and she was

not a Creek but a Cherokee. Then we had two white teachers, Miss King

and John Kernan, and another Cherokee was in charge. His name was

Ross, and he was killed one day when his horse fell off a bridge

across the Verdigris, on the way from Tullahassee to Gibson Station.

When I got to be a young woman I went to Okmulgee and worked for some

people near there for several years, then I married Tate Grayson. We

got our freedmen's allotments on Mingo Creek, east of Tulsa, and lived

there until our children were grown and Tate died, then I came to live

with my daughter in Tulsa.

Mary Gladdy Mary Harris facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail