Mrs Lou Fergusson

Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins.

Person Interviewed: Mrs. Lou Fergusson

Aged: 91

Home: With daughter Mrs. Peach Sinclair, Wade Street.

[Jan 29 1938]

Zig-zaging across better than a mile of increasingly less thickly

settled territory went the interviewer. The terrain was rolling--to put

it mildly. During most of the walk her feet met the soft resistance of

winter-packed earth. Sidewalks were the exception rather than the rule.

Wade Street, she had been told was "somewhere over in the Boulevard".

Holding to a general direction she kept her course. "The Boulevard",

known on the tax books of Hot Springs as Boulevard Addition, sprawls

over a wide area. Houses vary in size and construction with startling

frequency. Few of them are pretentious. Many appear well planned, are in

excellent state of repair and front on yards, scrupulously neat,

sometimes patterned with flower beds. Occasionally a building leans with

age, roof caving and windows and doors yawning voids--long since

abandoned by owners to wind and weather.

Up one hill, down another went the interviewer. Given a proper steer

here and there by colored men and women--even children along the way,

she finally found hereself in front of "that green house" belonging to

Peach Sinclair.

Two colored women, middle aged, sat basking in the mild January sunlight

on a back porch. "I beg your pardon," said the interviewer, approaching

the step, "is this the home of Peach Sinclair, and will I find Mrs. Lou

Fergusson here?"

"It sure is," the voice was cheerful. "My mother is in the house. Come

around to the front," (the interviewer couldn't have reached the back

steps, even if she had wanted to--the back yard was fenced from the

front) "she's in the parlor."

Mrs. Lou turned out to be an incredibly black, unbelievably

plump-cheeked, wide smiling "motherly" person. She seemed an Aunt

Jemimah grown suddenly old, and even more mellow. "Mamma, this young

lady's come to see you. She wants to talk to you and ask you some

questions, about when--about before the war." (The situation is always

delicate when an ex-slave is asked for details. Somehow both interviewer

and interviewee avoid the ugly word whenever possible. The skillful

interviewer can generally manage to pass it by completely, as well as

any variant of the word negro. The informant is usually less squeamish.

"Black folks," "colored folks", "black people", "Master's people", "us"

are all encountered frequently.)

Five minutes of pleasant chatter preceeded the formal interview. Both

Mrs. Sinclair and her guest (unintroduced) sat in on the conference and

made comments frequently. "Law, child, we bought this place from your

father. He was a mighty fine man." Mrs. Sinclair was delighted to find

her guest to be "Jack Hudgins daughter." And later in the chat, "You

done lost everything? Even your home--that's going? Too bad. But then I

guess at that you're better off than we are. I've been trying for nearly

a year to get my mother on the old age pension. They say she has passed.

That was way along last March. Here it is January and she hasn't got a

penny. No, I know you can't help. Yes, I see what you're doing. But if

ever you does get on the pensions work--I'm going to 'hant'[A] you." (a

wide grin) [Footnote A: "Hant" was an intentional barbarism.]

The old woman rocked and smiled. "Yes, ma'am. I'm her oldest, alive. She

had 17 and 15 of them lived to grow up. But I'm about as old as she is,

looks like. She never did have glasses--and today she can thread the

finest needle. She can make as pretty a quilt as you'd hope to see.

Makes fine stitches too. Seems like they made them stronger in her day."

A nod of delighted approval from Mrs. Fergusson.

"I was born in Hempstead County, right here in this state. The town we

were nearest was Columbus. I lived around there all of my life until I

come here to be with my daughter. That was 15 years ago. Yes, I was born

on a farm. From what I know, I'm over ninety. I was around 20 when the

war ceaseted.

The man what owned us was named Ed Johnson. Yes, ma'am he had lots of

folks. Was he good to us? Well, he was and he wasn't. He was good

himself, wouldn't never have whipped us--but he had a mean wife. She'd

dog him, and dog him until he'd tie us down and whip us for the least

little thing. Then they put overseers over us. They was most generally

mean. They'd run us out way fore day--even in the sleet--run us out to

the field.

Was the life hard--well it was and it wasn't. No, ma'am, I didn't get

much learning. Some folks wouldn't let their black folks learn at all.

Then there was some which would let their children teach the colored

children what they learned at school. We never learned very much.

You see, Master didn't live on the place. He lived bout as far as from

here to town" (fully two miles) "The overseer looked after us mostly.

No, ma'am I don't remember much about the war. You see, they was afraid

that the fighting was going to get down there so they run us off to

Texas. We settled down and made a crop there. How'd we get the land?

Master rented it.

We made a crop down there and later we come back. No, ma'am we didn't

stay with Mr. Johnson more than a month after there was peace. We come

on in to Washington. No, ma'am, I never heard tell that Washington had

been the Capitol of Arkansas for a while during the War. No, I never did

hear that. Guess it was when we was in Texas. Then we folks didn't hear

so much anyway.

We stayed in Washington most a year. Was I with my Mother? No, ma'am I

was married--married before the war was thru. Married--does you know how

we folks married in them days? Well the man asked your mother. Then you

both asked your master. He built you a house. You moved in and there you

was. You was married. I did some washing and cooking when I was in

Washington. Then we moved onto a farm. I sort of liked Washington, but I

was born on a farm and I sort of liked farm life.

We didn't move around very much--just two or three places. We raised

cotton, corn, vegetables, peas, watermelons and lots of those sort of

things. No ma'am, didn't nobody think of raising watermelons to ship way

off like they does in Hempstead county now. Cotton was our cash crop. We

rented thirds and fourths. Didn't move but three times. One place I

stayed 15 years.

I been a widow 40 years. Yes, ma'am. I farmed myself, and my children

helped me. Me and the owners got along well. Made good crops, me and the

children. I managed to take good care of them. Made out to raise 15 out

of the 17 to be grown. There's only 5 of them alive now.

Hard on a woman to run a farm by herself. Well now, I don't know. I made

out. I raised my children and raised them healthy. I got along well with

the farm owner. You might know when I was let to stay on one place for

15 years. You know I must have treated the land right and worked it


Yes ma'am I remembers lots. Seems like women folks remembers better than

men. I've got a good daughter. I'm still strong and can get about good.

Guess the Lord has been good to me."

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