Mattie Fannen

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Mattie Fannen, Forrest City, Arkansas

Age: 87

"My mother was named Silla Davis. She had four children. Her owners was

Jep Davis and Tempy Davis. She died and he married her niece, Sally

Davis. He had fifteen children by his first wife and five more by his

second wife. Wasn't that a plenty children doe? Mama was a field hand.

She ploughed in slavery right along. My father was named Bob Lee (Lea?).

I never knowed much about him. His folks moved and took him off. Mother

was sold but not on a stand. She belong to Bill Davis. He was Jep's

brother. They said Bill Davis drunk up mother and all her children. He

sold Aunt Serina to a man in Elberton, Georgia and all he had left then

was grandma. He couldn't sell her. She was too old and Aunt Kizziah and

Aunt Martha lived with her. Mother was born in Georgia. When a child was

sold it nearly grieved the mothers and brothers and sisters to death. It

was bad as deaths in the families. Jep Davis had forty or fifty niggers.

He had six boys. They all had to go to war. They was in the Confederate

army. Billy Davis was his daddy's young overseer. He had been raised up

with some of the nigger boys then come over them. They wouldn't mind his

orders. He tried to whoop them. They'd fight him back, choke him, throw

him on the ground. Then the old man would whoop them. We all wanted 'em

all to come home but Billy. Billy Davis got killed at war and never come

home. His sisters was afraid some of the nigger boys raised up with him

on the place would kill him and wanted Jep to make him stay at the

house. Jep Davis was a good master and he was bad enough.

"I seen mama whooped. They tied some of them to trees and some they just

whooped across their backs. It was 'cordin' to what they had done. Some

of them would run off to the woods and stay a week or a month. The other

niggers would feed them at night to keep them from starving.

"Jep Davis made a will after his first wife died and give out all his

young niggers to his first set of children. His young wife cried till he

destroyed it. She said, 'You kept the old ones here and me and my

children won't have nothing.' I was willed to Miss Lizzie. They was

fixing the wagon for me to go in. I wanted to go to Jefferson on the

train. I told them so. I wanted to ride on the train. I never did get

off. His young wife started crying. Miss Lizzie lived with her brother.

They didn't want this young woman to have their father and he did. They

kept a fuss up with her and all left. Then he divided the land.

"I nursed for his second wife, Miss Sally. I was five years or little

older when I started nursing for his first wife. I nursed for a long

time. I don't like children yet on that account. I got so many whoopings

on their blame. I'd drap 'em, leave 'em, pinch 'em, quit walking 'em and

rocking 'em. I got tired of 'em all the time.

"Me and Zack (white) was raised up together. He was one of the old set

of children. The baby in that set. I'd set on the log across a branch

and wait till Zack would break open a biscuit and sop it in ham gravy

and bring it to me after he eat his breakfast. One morning the sun was

so bright; he run down there crying, said his mama was dead. He never

brought me no biscuit. He had just got up. I was five years old. I said

I was glad. Emily was the cook and she come down there and kicked me off

the log and made my nose bleed. I cried and run home. My mother picked

me up in her arms, took me in her lap and asked me about it. I told her

I was glad 'cause she kept that little cowhide and whooped me with it.

They took me to the grave. She wanted to be buried in a pretty grave at

the side of the house off a piece. She was buried there first. There was

a big crowd. I kept running up towards the grave and they would pull me

back by my dress tail. She was buried in a metal coffin. Susan was the

oldest girl. She fainted. They took her to a carriage standing close.

The whole family was buried there. Took back from places they lived to

be buried in that graveyard. That was close to Nuna, Georgia.

"When the old man Jep Davis married again, Miss Sally must have me sleep

in her room on a pallet so I could tend to the baby. The older girls

would pick me and I would tell them what they talked about after they

went to bed.

"When the War come on, the boys and Jep Davis dug a hole in the

henhouse, put the guns in a box and buried them. They was there when the

War ended. They had some jewelry. I don't know where they kept it. They

sent all of the niggers fifteen miles on the river away from the

Yankees. Not a one of us ever run off. Not a one ever went to the War or

the Yankees. Jep Davis had been to get his mail on his horse. A Yankee

come up at the gate walking and took it. He asked for the bridle and

saddle but the Yankee laughed in his face. We never seen our horse no

more. 'Babe' we called her. She was a pretty horse and so gentle we

could ride her bare back.

"Jep Davis was religious. They had preaching at his church, the Baptist

church at Nuna, for white folks in the morning and a white preacher

preach for the niggers at the same church in the evening. He'd go to

prayer meeting on Wednesday night and Thursday night he would come to

the boys' house and read the Bible to his own niggers. We would sing and

pray. He never cared how much we would sing and pray but he never better

ketch 'em dancing. He'd whoop every one of 'em.

"I learned same of the ABC's in playing ball with the white children. We

never had a book. I never went to school in my life. The boys not

married but up grown lived in a house to their own selves. They got

cooked fer up at Jep Davises house till they got a house built for them

and give them a wife. Maybe they would see a woman on another plantation

and claim her. Then the master had to talk that over.


"Jep Davis had been to town. He got a notice to free his niggers. He had

the farm bell rung. We all went out up to his house. He said, 'You are

free. Go. If you can't get along come back and do like you been.' They

left. Went hog wild. I was the last one to go. He said, 'Mattie, come

back if you find you can't make it.' I had a hard time for a fact. I had

a sister married in Atlanta. I went with them in 1866. I married to

better my living. We quit. I met a man come to Arkansas and sent back

for me when he got the money. I was in Atlanta thirty years. I was

married in Arkansas in 1895. Been here ever since 'ceptin' visits back

in Georgia. My husband was a good farmer and a good shoemaker. He left

me six good rent houses and this house here when he died." (She has an

income of forty dollars per month--rent on houses.) "He was a hard


"I'd go to see my white folks after freedom. I loved 'em all.

"Jep Davis died out of the church. Him and Jack (Robertson, Robson,

Robinson?) was deacons together in the Baptist church and their farms

j'ined. Jack had two boys, John and Ed. Ed was killed by Hinton Right

over his sister Mollie. Then she married Hinton Right. The quarrel

started at La Grange but they had a duel during preaching on the church

yard at the Baptist church at Nuna, Georgia. Jack was mean. He had a lot

of Negroes and a big farm. He had two boys and four girls. Jennie died.

Florence and Lula, old maids; John and Ed and Mollie.

"Jack caused Jep Davis to be put out of the church 'cause he said after

freedom he didn't believe in slavery. He always thought they ought to be

free but owned some to be like all the other folks and to have a living

easy. He was afraid to own that, fear somebody kill him before freedom.

When Jack was sick, Jep went to see him. He wouldn't let Jep come in to

see him and he died.

"I worked in the field, washed and ironed. I never cooked but a little.

In Atlanta when my first baby could stand in a cracker box I started

cooking for a woman. She was upstairs. Had a small baby a few days old.

I didn't have time to do the work and nurse and get my baby to sleep. It

cried and fretted till I got dinner done. I took it and got it to sleep.

She sent word for me to leave my baby at home, she wasn't going to have

a nigger baby crying in her kitchen and messing it up. She was a Yankee

woman. I left and I never cooked out no more.

"I never had no dealings with the Ku Klux. I was in Atlanta then. I

heard my mother say they killed and beat up a lot of colored people in

the country where she was. Seem like they was mad 'cause they was free.

"Times was hard after freedom. Times is hard now for some folks. Times

running away with the white and black races both. They stop thinking.

The thing what they call education done ruined this country. The folks

quit work and living on education. I learned to work. My husband was a

good shoemaker. We laid up all we could. I got seven houses renting

around here. I gets about forty or forty-five dollars a month rent. It

do very well, I reckon."

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