Molly Finley

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Molly Finley, Honey Creek

3-1/2 miles from Mesa, Arkansas

Age: Born 1865

"My master was Captain Baker Jones and his pa was John Jones. Miss

Mariah was Baker Jones' wife. I believe the old man's wife was dead.

"My parents' name was Henry ("Clay") Harris and Harriett Harris. They

had nine children. We lived close to the Post (Arkansas Post). Our

nearest trading post was Pine Bluff. And the old man made trips to

Memphis and had barrels sent out by ship. We lived around Hanniberry

Creek. It was a pretty lake of water. Some folks called it Hanniberry

Lake. We fished and waded and washed. We got our water out of two

springs further up. I used to tote one bucket on my head and one in each

hand. You never see that no more. Mama was a nurse and house woman and

field woman if she was needed. I made fires around the pots and 'tended

to mama's children.

"We lived on the Jones place years after freedom. I was born after

freedom. We finally left. I cried and cried to let's go back. Only place

ever seem like home to me yet. We went to the Cummings farm. They worked

free labor then. Then we went to the hills. Then we seen hard times. We

knowed we was free niggers pretty soon back in them poor hills.

"I was more educated than some white folks up in them hills. I went to

school on the river. My teacher was a white man named Mr. Van Sang.

"Mama belong to the Garretts in Mississippi. She was sold when she was

about four years old she tole me. There had been a death and old

mistress bought her in. Master Garrett died. Then she give her to her

daughter. She was her young mistress then. Old mistress didn't want her

to bring her but she said she might well have her as any rest of the

children. Mama never set eyes on none of her folks no more. Her father,

she said, was light and part Enjun (Indian).

"John Prior owned papa in Kentucky. He sold him, brother and his mother

to a nigger trader's gang. Captain Jones bought all three in Tennessee.

He come brought them on to Arkansas. He was a field hand. He said they

worked from daylight till after dark.

"They took their slaves to close to Houston, Texas to save them. Captain

Jones said he didn't want the Yankees to scatter them and make soldiers

of them. He brought them back on his place like he expected to do. Mama

said they was out there three years. She had a baby three months old and

the trip was hard on her and the baby but they stood it. I was her next

baby after that. Freedom done been declared. Mama said they went in

wagons and camped along the roadside at night.

"Before they left, the Yankees come. Old Master Jones treated them so

nice, give them a big dinner, and opened up everything and offered some

for them to take along that they didn't bother his stock nor meat. Then

he had them (the slaves) set out with stock and supplies to Texas.

"Mama and papa said the Jones treated them pretty well. They wouldn't

allow the overseers to beat up his slaves.

"The two Jones men put two barrels of money in a big iron chest. They

said it weighed two hundred pounds. Four men took it out there in

barrels and eight men lowered it. They took it to the family graveyard

down past the orchard. They leveled it up like it was a grave. Yankees

didn't get Jones money! Then he sent the slaves to Texas.

"Captain Jones had a home in Tennessee and one in Arkansas. Papa said he

cleared out land along the river where there was panther, bears, and

wild cats. They worked in huddles and the overseers had guns to shoot

varmints. He said their breakfast and dinner was sent to the field, them

that had wives had supper with their families once a day, on Sundays

three times. The women left the fields to go fix supper and see after

their cabins and children. They hauled their water in barrels and put it

under the trees. They cooked washpots full of chicken and give them a

big picnic dinner after they lay by crops and at Christmas. They had

gourd banjos. Mama said they had good times.

"They had preaching one Sunday for white folks and one Sunday for black

folks. They used the same preacher there but some colored preachers

would come on the place at times and preach under the trees down at the

quarters. They said the white preacher would say, 'You may get to the

kitchen of heaven if you obey your master, if you don't steal, if you

tell no stories, etc.'

"Captain Jones was a good doctor. If a doctor was had you know somebody

was right low. They seldom had a doctor. Mama said her coat tail froze

and her working. But they wore warm clothes next to their bodies.

"Captain Jones said, 'You all can go back on my place that want to go

back and stay. You will have to learn to look after your own selves now

but I will advise you and help you best I can. You will have to work

hard as us have done b'fore. But I will pay you.' My folks was ready to

'board the wagons back to Jones' farm then. That is the way mama tole me

it was at freedom! It was a long time I kept wondering what is freedom?

I took to noticing what they said it was in slavery times and I caught

on. I found out times had changed just b'fore I got into this world.

"Some things seem all right and some don't. Times seem good now but wait

till dis winter. Folks will go cold and hungry again. Some folks good

and some worse than in times b'fore."

Interviewer's Comment

Gets a pension check.

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