Rebecca Brown Hill

MAY 31 1938

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Rebecca Brown Hill

Brinkley, Arkansas

Age: 78

"I was born October 18, 1859 in northeast Mississippi in Chickasaw

County. It was close to the Fulton Road to Houston, Mississippi. My

folks belong to C. B. Baldwin. After 'mancipation papa stop calling

himself Jacob Baldwin and called himself Jacob Brown in his own pa's

name. Mama was named Catherine Brown. The same man owned them both. They

had twelve children. They lost a child born in 1866. I had two brothers

sent to Louisiana as refugees. The place they was sent to was taken by

the Yankees and they was taken and the Yankees made soldiers out of

them. Charlie died in 1922 in Mobile, Alabama and Lewis after the War

joined the United States army. I never saw any grandparents. Mama was

born in Baltimore and her mother was born there too as I understood them

to say. Mama's father was a white Choctaw Indian. He was a cooper by

trade. His name was John Abbot. He sold Harriett, my grandma, and kept

mama and her brother. Then he married a white woman and had a white

family. Her brother died. That left her alone to wait on that white

family. They cut her hair off. She hated that. She loved her long

straight black hair. Then her papa, John Abbot (Abbott?), died. Her

brother run off and was leaving on a ship on the Potomac River. A woman

lost her trunk. They was fishing for it and found mama's brother

drowned. He had fell overboard too.

"Mama took a bucket on her arm to keep the stealers from gagging her.

She knowed if she had a bucket or basket they would not bother, they

would know she went out on turn (errand) and would be protected. They

didn't bother her then. She went down to the nigger trader's yard to

talk awhile but she was making her way off then. Sometimes she went down

to the yard to laugh and talk with some she knowed down there. She said

them stealers would kill 'em and insect (dissect) 'em. But they didn't

get her. But might as well, Jim Williams owned that nigger yard. He put

her on a sailboat named Big Humphries. She was on there hard sailing,

she said, twenty-four days and nights. Jim Williams stole her! On that

sailboat is where she seen my papa. When they got to New Orleans a white

man from Baltimore was passing. He seen my mama. He ask her about her

papers. She told him she had been stole. He said without papers Jim

Williams couldn't sell her. He told Jim Williams he better not sell that

woman. Jim Williams knowed she was crazy about my papa. He hired him out

and ask her if she wanted to go with him. He got pay for both of them

hired out. It was better for him than if he owned her. When they had two

children, Jim Williams come back out to Chambers County, Alabama where

he had them hired out. He ask her if he would agree to let him sell her.

He was going to sell papa and the two children. She said she had seen

them whooped to death in the yards because they didn't want to be sold.

She was scared to contrary him. She had nobody to take her part. So she

let him sell her with papa and the two children. Jim Williams sold her

and papa and the two children to Billy Gates of Mississippi. Jim

Williams said, 'Don't never separate Henry and Hannah 'cause I don't

have the papers for Hannah.' Then they lived in the prairies eighteen

miles from Houston, where Billy Gates lived. Mama done well. She worked

and they treated her nice. Eight of us was born on that place includin'


"I was raised up in good living conditions and kept myself so till

twelve years ago this next August this creeping neuritis (paralasis)

come on. I raised my niece. I cooked, washed and ironed, and went to the

field in field time.

"Master Billy Gates' daughter married Cyrus Brisco Baldwin. He was a

lawyer. He give mama, papa and one child to them. Master Billy Gates'

daughter died and left Miss Bessie. Mr. C. B. Baldwin married again. He

went to war in the 'Six Day Crowd.' Miss Bessie Baldwin married Bill

Buchannan at Okolona, Mississippi. Mama went and cooked for her. They

belong to her. She was good as she could be to her and papa both. One

time the overseer was going to whip them both. Miss Bessie said, 'Tell

Mr. Carrydine to come and let us talk it over.' They did and she said,

'Give Mr. Carrydine his breakfast and let him go.' They never got no


"Mama was white as any white woman and papa was my color (light

mulatto). After freedom they lived as long as they lived at Houston and

Okolona, Mississippi. She said she left Maryland in 1839.

"Some blue dressed Yankees come to our shack and told mama to bake him

some bread. I held to her dress. She baked them some. They put it in

their nap sacks. That was my first experience seeing the Yankees.

"They come back and come back on and on. One time they come back hunting

the silverware. They didn't find it. It was in the old seep well. The

slaves wasn't going to tell them where it was. We washed out of the seep

well and used the cistern water to drink. It was good silver. They put

it in sacks, several of them, to make it strong. Uncle Giles drapped it

down in there. He was old colored man we all called Uncle Giles. He was

no kin to me. He was good as could be. I loved him. Me and his girl

played together all the time. Her name was Roxana. We built frog houses

in the sand and put cool sand on our stomachs. We would lie under big

trees and watch and listen to the birds.

"When Mr. Billy Gates died they give Henry, my youngest brother, to his

son, John Gates. Henry, a big strong fellow, could raise a bale of

cotton over his head.

"One time the Yankees come took the meat and twenty-five cows and the

best mules. They left some old plugs. They had two mares in fold. Uncle

Giles told them one mare had buck-eye poison and the other distemper.

They left them in their stalls. We had to tote all that stuff they give

out back when they was gone. All they didn't take off they handed out to

the slaves. There was some single men didn't carry their provisions back

to the smokehouse. Everybody else did. They kept on till they swept us

all out of victuals. The slaves had shacks up on the hill. There was six

or eight pretty houses all met. Mr. Gates' house was one of them.

"Freedom--Capt. Gehu come and sent for all the slaves to come to Mr.

John Gates. We all met there. He said it was free times now. We lived on

and raised peas, corn, pumpkins, potatoes. The Yankees come and took off

some of it. That was the year of the surrender. Mama moved off the hill

in a man's home what moved to town to look after the house for them. It

was across the road from Master John Gates' house. We worked for the

Gates a long, long time after that. We worked for the Baldwins and

around till the old heads all dead. I come to Clarendon, Arkansas,

eleven o'clock, eleventh of May 1890. I have no children. I raised my

sister's baby. She died. I live wid her now. She's got grandchildren. I

get ten dollars from the Welfare a month. I buy what I needs to eat with

it. I helps out a sight. I had a baby girl. It died an infant.

"The place they refugeed Charlie and Lewis was to Opelousas, Louisiana.

It was about the first part of the country the Yankees took.

"Ku Klux--They never bothered us but in 1876 I seen them pass. My nephew

was a little boy. He said when they passed there was Jack Slaughter on

his horse. He knew the big horse. They went on. The colored men had left

their wives and children at home and went up to Red Bud Church

(colored). We seen five pass but others joined on. They had bad times. A

colored man killed a Ku Klux named Tom Middlebrook. One man got his foot

cut off wid a ax. Some called them 'white caps.' I was scared of

whatever they called theirselves.

"The younger set of folks seems more restless than they used to be. I

noticed that since the last war (World War). They ain't never got

settled. The women is bad as the men now it seems. Times is better than

I ever had them in my life."

Rb Anderson Interviewed By Samuel S Taylor Rebecca Hooks facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail