Mary Island





Interviewer: Pernella M. Anderson

Person interviewed: Mary Island

626 Nelson Street, El Dorado, Arkansas

Age: 80





"I was born in Union Parish, Louisiana in the year of 1857, so the white

folks told me, and I am eighty years old. My mama died when I was two

years old and my aunty raised me. She started me out washing dishes when

I was four years old and when I was six she was learning me how to cook.

While the other hands was working in the field I carried water. We had

to cook out in the yard on an old skillet and lid, so you see I had to

tote brush and bark and roll up little logs such as I could to keep the

fire from one time of cooking to the other. I was not but six years old

either. When I got to be seven years old I was cutting sprouts almost

like a man and when I was eight I could pick one hundred pounds of

cotton. When it rained and we could not go to the field my aunty had me

spinning thread to make socks and cloth, then I had to card the bats and

make the rolls to spin.



"My auntie was a slave and she lived in the edge of the field. Of course

I was born a slave but didn't know much about it because my aunty did

the bossing of me but I had a pretty hard time. Our wash tubs, water

buckets, bread trays and such were made out of tupelo gum logs dug out

with some kind of an axe and when aunty would wash I had to use the

battling stick. I would carry the wet clothes to a stump and beat them

with that battling stick and we hung the clothes out on bushes and on

the fence. We used water from a spring.



"In my young days all we wore was homespun and lowel.[HW: ?] We lived

in a log house with a dirt floor and the cracks was chinked with mud and

our bed was some poles nailed against the wall with two legs out on the

dirt floor, and we pulled grass and put in a lowel[HW: ?] bed tick. My

aunty would get old dresses, old coats, and old pants and make quilts.



"I never went to school a day in my life. No, the back of my head has

never rubbed against the walls of a schoolhouse and I never did go to

Sunday School and I never did like it. And I didn't go to church until I

was grown and the church that I did attend was called the Iron Jacket

Church. Now they call it the Hard Shell Church. I believe in foot

washing. I don't go to church now because there is no Hard Shell church

close around here."





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