Perry Madden

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Perry Madden, Thirteenth Street, south side,

one block east of Boyle Park Road, Route 6,

Care L.G. Cotton, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: About 79

Birth and Age

"I have been here quite a few years. This life is short. A man ought to

prepare for eternity. I had an uncle who used to say that a person who

went to torment stayed as long as there was a grain of sand on the sea.

"I was a little boy when slavery broke. I used to go out with my

brother. He watched gaps. I did not have to do anything; I just went out

with him to keep him company. I was scared of the old master. I used to

call him the 'Big Bear.' He was a great big old man.

"I was about six years old when the War ended, I guess. I don't know how

old I am. The insurance men put me down as seventy-three. I know I was

here in slavery time, and I was just about six years old when the War



"I got my first learning in Alabama. I didn't learn anything at all in

slavery times. I went to school. I would go to the house in slavery

tine, and there wouldn't be nobody home, and I would go to the bed and

get under it because I was scared. When I would wake up it would be way

in the night and dark, and I would be in bed.

"I got my schooling way after the surrender. We would make crops. The

third time we moved, dad started me to school. I had colored teachers. I

was in Talladega County. I made the fifth grade before I stopped. My

father died and then I had to stop and take care of my mother.

An "Aunt Caroline" Story

"I know that some people can tell things that are goin' to happen. Old

man Julks lived at Pumpkin Bend. He had a colt that disappeared. He went

to 'Aunt Caroline'--that's Caroline Dye. She told him just where the

colt was and who had it and how he had to get it back. She described the

colt and told him that was what he come to find out about before he had

a chance to ask her anything. She told him that white people had it and

told him where they lived and told him he would have to have a white man

go and git it for him. He was working for a good man and he told him

about it. He advertised for the colt and the next day, the man that

stole it came and told him that a colt had been found over on his place

and for him to come over and arrange to git it. But he said, 'No, I've

placed that matter in the hands of my boss.' He told his boss about it,

but the fellow brought the horse and give it to the boss without any


Family and Masters

"My old master's slaves were called free niggers. He and his wife never

mistreated their slaves. When any of Madden's slaves were out and the

pateroles got after them, if they could make it home, that ended it.

Nobody beat Madden's niggers.

"My father's name was Allen Madden and my mother's name was Amy Madden.

I knew my grandfather and grandmother on my mother's side. My

grandfather and grandmother never were 'round me though that I can


"When the old man died, the Negroes were divided out. This boy got so

many and that one got so many. The old man, Mabe Madden, had two sons,

John and Little Mabe. My mother and father went to John. They were in

Talladega because John stayed there.

"My father's mother and father fell to Little Mabe Madden. They never

did come to Alabama but I have heard my father talk about them so much.

My father's father was named Harry. His last name must have been Madden.

"My grandfather on my mother's side was named Charlie Hall. He married

into the Madden family. He belonged to the Halls before he married. Old

man Charlie, his master, had a plantation that wasn't far from the

Madden's plantation. In those days, if you met a girl and fell in love

with her, you could git a pass and go to see her if you wanted to. You

didn't have to be on the same plantation at all. And you could marry her

and go to see her, and have children by her even though you belonged to

different masters. The Maddens never did buy Hall. Grandma never would

change her name to Hall. He stayed at my house after we married, stayed

with me sometimes, and stayed with his other son sometimes.

"My mother was born a Madden. She was born right at Madden's place. When

grandma married Hall, like it is now, she would have been called Hall.

But she was born a Madden and stayed Madden and never did change to her

husband's name. So my mother was born a Madden although her father's

name was Hall.

"I don't know what sort of man Mabe was, and I only know what my parents

said about John. They said he was a good man and I have to say what they

said. He didn't let nobody impose on his niggers. Pateroles did git

after them and bring them in with the hounds, but when they got in, that

settled it. Madden never would allow white people to beat on his


"They tried to git my daddy out so that they could whip him, but they

couldn't catch him. They shot him--the pateroles did--but he whipped

them. My daddy was a coon. I mean he was a good man.

Early Life

"My brother was big enough to mind gaps. That was in slavery times. They

had good fences around the field. They didn't have gates like they do

now. They had gaps. The fence would zigzag, and the rails could be

lifted down at one section, and that would leave a gap. If you left a

gap, the stock would go into the field. When there was a gap, my brother

would stay in it and keep the stock from passing. When the folks would

come to dinner, he would go in and eat dinner with them just as big as

anybody. When they would leave, the gap would stay down till night. It

stayed down from morning till noon and from one o'clock till the men

come in at night. The gap was a place in the rails like I told you where

they could take down the rails to pass. It took time to lay the rails

down and more time to place then back up again. They wouldn't do it.

They would leave them down till they come back during the work hours and

a boy that was too small to do anything else was put to mind them. My

brother used to do that and I would keep him company. When I heard old

master coming there, I'd be gone, yes siree. I would see him when he

left the house and when he got to the gap, I would be home or at my


Occupational Experiences

"I have followed farming all my life. That is the sweetest life a man

can lead. I have been farming all my life principally. My occupation is

farming. That is it was until I lost my health. I ain't done nothin' for

about four years now. I would follow public work in the fall of the year

and make a crop every year. Never failed till I got disabled. I used to

make all I used and all I needed to feed my stock. I even raised my own

wheat before I left home in Alabama. That is a wheat country. They don't

raise it out here.[HW: ?]

"I came here--lemme see, about how many years ago did I come here. I

guess I have been in Arkansas about twenty-eight years since the first

time I come here. I have gone in and out as I got a chance to work

somewheres. I have been living in this house about three years.

"I preached for about twenty or more years. I don't know that I call

myself a preacher. I am a pretty good talker sometimes. I have never

pastored a church; somehow or 'nother the word come to me to go and I go

and talk. I ain't no pulpit chinch. I could have taken two or three

men's churches out from under them, but I didn't.

Freedom and Soldiers

"I can't remember just how my father got freed. Old folks then didn't

let you stan' and listen when they talked. If you did it once, you

didn't do it again. They would talk while they were together, but the

children would have business outdoors. Yes siree, I never heard them say

much about how they got freedom.

"I was there when the Yankees come through. That was in slave time. They

marched right through old man Madden's grove. They were playing the

fifes and beating the drums. And they were playing the fiddle. Yes sir,

they were playing the fiddle too. It must have been a fiddle; it sounded

just like one. The soldiers were all just a singin'. They didn't bother

nobody at our house. If they bothered anything, nothing was told me

about it. I heard my uncle say they took a horse from my old manager. I

didn't see it. They took the best horse in the lot my uncle said. Pardon

me, they didn't take him. A peckerwood took him and let the Yankees get

him. I have heard that they bothered plenty of other places. Took the

best mules, and left old broken down ones and things like that. Broke

things up. I have heard that about other places, but I didn't see any of


Right after the War

"Right after the War, my father went to farming--renting land. I mean he

sharecropped and done around. Thing is come way up from then when the

Negroes first started. They didn't have no stock nor nothin' then. They

made a crop just for the third of it. When they quit the third, they

started givin' them two-fifths. That's more than a third, ain't it? Then

they moved up from that, and give them half, and they are there yet. If

you furnish, they give you two-thirds and take one-third. Or they give

you so much per acre or give him produce in rent.


"I was married in 1883. My wife's name was Mary Elston. Her mother died

when she was an infant. Her grandmother was an Elston at first. Then she

changed her name to Cunningham. But she always went in the name of

Elston, and was an Elston when she married me. My wife I mean. I married

on a Thursday in the Christmas week. This December I will be married

fifty-five years. This is the only wife I have ever had. We had three

children and all of them are dead. All our birthed children are dead.

One of them was just three months old when he died. My baby girl had

three children and she lived to see all of them married.


"Our own folks is about the worst enemies we have. They will come and

sweet talk you and then work against you. I had a fellow in here not

long ago who came here for a dollar, and I never did hear from him again

after he got it. He couldn't get another favor from me. No man can fool

me more than one time. I have been beat out of lots of money and I have

got hurt trying to help people.

"The young folks now is just gone astray. I tell you the truth, I

wouldn't give you forty cents a dozen for these young folks. They are

sassy and disrespectful. Don't respect themselves and nobody else. When

they get off from home, they'll respect somebody else better 'n they

will their own mothers.

"If they would do away with this stock law, they would do better

everywhere. If you would say fence up your place and raise what you

want, I could get along. But you have to keep somebody to watch your

stock. If you don't, you'll have to pay something out. It's a bad old

thing this stock law. It's detrimental to the welfare of man."

Perry Lewis Perry Sid Jemison facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail