Mary Jones

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Mary Jones

1017 Dennison, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 72

"I was born on the twenty-second of March, 1866, in Van Buren,

Arkansas. I had six children. All of them were bred and born at the

same place.

"I was born in a frame house. My father used to live in the country,

but I was born in the town. He bought it just as soon as he come out

of the army and married right away and bought this home. I don't know

where he got his money from. I guess he saved it. He served in the

Union army; he wasn't a servant. He was a soldier, and drawed his pay.

He never run through his money like most people do. I don't know

whether he made any money in slavery or not but he was a carpenter

during slave times and they say he always had plenty of money. I guess

he had saved some of that too.

"My mother was married twice. Her name was Louisa Buchanan. My father

was named Abraham Riley. My stepfather was named Moses Buchanan. My

father was a soldier in the old original war (the Civil War)--the war

they ended in 1865.

"I disremember who my mother's master was but I think it was a man

named Johnson. I didn't know my father's people. She married him from

White County up here. Her and him, they corresponded mostly in letters

because he traveled lots. He looked like an Indian. He had straight

hair and was tall and rawboned and wore a Texas hat. I had his picture

but the pictures fade away. My father was a sergeant. He died sometime

after the war. I don't remember when because I wasn't old enough. I

can just remember looking at the corpse. I was too small to do any


"My mother was a nurse in slavery times. She nursed the white folks

and their children. She did the housework and such like. She was a

good cook too. After freedom, when the old folks died out, she cooked

for Zeb Ward--you know him, head of the penitentiary. She used to cook

for the Jews and gentiles. That her kind of work. That was her

occupation--good cook. She could make all kinds of provisions. She

could make preserves and they had a big orchard everywhere she worked.

"I have heard my mother talk about pateroles, jayhawkers, and Ku Klux,

but I never knew of them myself. I have heard say they were awful

bad--the Ku Klux or somethin'.

"My mother's white folks sold her. I don't know who they sold her to

or from. They sold her from her mother. I don't know how she got free.

I think she got free after the war ceased. But she had a good time all

her life. She had a good time because she was a good cook, and a good

nurse, and she had good white folks. My grandma, she had good folks

too. They was free before they were free, my ma and grandma. They was

just as free before freedom as they were afterwards. My mother had

seven children and two sets of twins among them. But I am the only one



"They say that I'm too old to work now; so I can't make nothin' to

keep my home goin'. I have five children living. Two are away from

here--one in Michigan, and another in Illinois. I have three others

but they don't make enough to help me much. I used to work 'round the

laundries. Then I used to work 'round with these colored restaurants.

I worked with a colored woman down by the station for twelve or

fifteen years. I first helped her wash and iron. She ironed and hired

other girls to wait table and wash dishes and so on. Them times wasn't

like they are now. They'd hire you and keep you. Then I worked at a

white boarding house on Second and Cross. I quit working at the

laundries because of the steady work in the restaurants. After the

restaurants I went to work in private families and worked with them

till I got so I couldn't work no more. Maybe I could do plenty of

things, but they won't give me a chance.

"I have been married twice. My second husband was John Jones. He

always went by the name of his white folks. They were named Ivory. He

came from up in Searcy. I got acquainted with him and we started going

together. He'd been married before and had children up in Searcy. He

got his leg cut off in a accident. He was working over to the shop

lifting ties with another helper and this man helping him gave way on

his side and let his end fall. It fell across my husband's foot and

blood poison set in and caused him to lose his foot and leg. He had

his foot cut off at the county hospital and made himself a peg-leg. He

cut it out hisself while he was at the hospital. He lived a long while

after that. He died on Tenth and Victory. My first husband was Henry

White. He was a shop worker too--the Iron Mountain.

"We went to school together. I lost my health before I married, and I

had to stop going to school. The doctor was a German and lived on

Cross between Fifth and Sixth. He said that he ought to have written

the history of my life to show what I was cured of because I was

paralyzed two years. My head was drawed 'way back between my

shoulders. I lived with my first husband about six years. He died with

T.B. in Memphis, Tennessee. He had married again when he died. We got

so we couldn't agree, so I thought it was best for him to live with

his mother and me to live with mine. We quit under good conditions. I

had a boy after he was separated from me.

"I don't know what to say about the people now. I don't get 'round

much. They aren't like they used to be. The young people don't like to

have you 'round them. I never did object to any of my children gettin'

married because my mother didn't object to me.

"I know Mr. Gillespie. (He passed at the time--ed.) He comes to see me

now and then. All my people are dead now 'cept my children."

Interviewer's Comment

Brother Gillespie has a story turned in previously. Evidently he is

making eyes at the old lady; but the romance is not likely to bud. She

has lost the sight of one eye apparently through a cataract which has

spread over the larger part of the iris. Nevertheless, she is more

active than he is, and apparently more competent, and she isn't

figuring on making her lot any harder than it is.

Mary Johnson Mary Jones facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail