Rev Frank T Boone
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Rev. Frank T. Boone
1410 W. Seventeenth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
[HW: Free Colonies]
"I was born in Nansemond County, Virginia on my father's place near the
center of the County. I was born free. We were members of the colonies.
You know there were what is known as Free Colonies. They were Negroes
that had always been free. The first landing of the Negroes in America,
they claimed, formed a colony. The Negro men who came over, it is said,
could buy their freedom and a number of them did.
"But I didn't become free that way. My ancestors were a white man and an
Indian woman. He was my great-grandfather. None of my family have been
slaves as far back as I know.
"There was one set of white people in Virginia called Quakers. Their
rule was to free all slaves at the age of twenty-one. So we got some
free Negroes under that rule. My mother who was a Negro woman was freed
under this rule. My father was always free.
"My grandmother on my father's side owned slaves. The law was that
colored people could own slaves but they were not allowed to buy them. I
don't know how many slaves my grandmother owned. I didn't know they were
slaves until the War was over. I saw the colored people living in the
little houses on the place but I didn't know they was slaves.
"One morning my grandmother went down to the quarters and when she came
back she said to my aunt, 'Well, the slaves left last night.' And that
was the first I knew of their being slaves.
"My father's name was Frank Boone. I was named for him. My mother's name
was Phoebe Chalk. I don't know who her mother and father were. She said
that her mother died when she was a child. She was raised by Quaker
people. I presume that her mother belonged to these Quaker people.
"On our place no grown person was ever whipped. They was just like one
family. They called grandmother's house the big house. They farmed. They
didn't raise cotton though. They raised corn, peas, wheat, potatoes, and
all things for the table. Hogs, cows, and all such like was raised. I
never saw a pound of meat or a peck of flour or a bucket of lard or
anything like that bought. We rendered our own lard, pickled our own
fish, smoked our own meat and cured it, ground our own sausage, ground
our own flour and meal from our own wheat and corn we raised on our
place, spun and wove our own cloth. The first suit of clothes I ever
wore, my mother spun the cotton and wool, wove the cloth and made the
clothes. It was a mixed steel gray suit. She dyed the thread so as to
get the pattern. One loom carried the black thread through and the other
carried the white thread to weave the cloth into the mixed pattern.
"I don't know how large our place was. Maybe it was about a hundred
acres. Every one that married out of the family had a home. They called
it a free Negro colony. Nothing but Negroes in it.
"My father volunteered and went to the army in 1862. He served with the
Yankees. You know Negroes didn't fight in the Confederate armies. They
was in the armies, but they were servants. My father enrolled as a
soldier. I think it was in Company F. I don't know the regiment or the
division. He was a sergeant last time I saw him. I remember that well, I
remember the stripes on his arm. He was mustered out in Galveston,
Texas, in 1865.
"The house I was born in was a log house, sealed inside. The cracks were
chinked with dirt and mud, and it was weather boarded on the outside.
You couldn't tell it was a log house. It had two rooms. In them times
you didn't cook in the house you lived in. You had a kitchen built off
from the house you lived in just like you have servant quarters now. You
went across the yard to do your cooking. The smokehouse was off by
itself. Milk was off by itself too. The dairy house was where you kept
the flour and sugar and preserves and fruit and pickles and all those
kind of things. No food was kept in the house. The milk house had
shelves all up in it and when you milked the cows the pans and bowls and
crocks were put up on the shelves. Where it was possible the milk house
was built on a branch or spring where you could get plenty of cold
water. You didn't milk in the milk house. You milked in the cow pen
right out in the weather. Then you carried it down to the milk house and
strained it. It was poured out in vessels. When the cream rose it was
skimmed off to churn for butter.
"Feed for the stock was kept in the corn crib. We would call it a barn
now. That barn was for corn and oft'times we had overhead a place where
we kept fodder. Bins were kept in the barn for wheat and peas.
Slaves on Other Places
"I seen the slaves outside the colonies. I was little and didn't pay any
attention to them. Slaves would run away. They had a class of white
people known as patrollers. They would catch the slaves and whip them. I
never saw that done. I heard them talking about it. I was only a child
and never got a chance to see the slaves on the places of other people,
but just heard the folks talking about them.
Within the Yankee Lines
"When the War broke out, the free colored people became fearful. There
was a great deal of stuff taken away from them by the Confederate
soldiers. They moved into the Yankee lines for protection. My family
moved also. They lost live stock and feed. They lost only one horse and
then they came back home. I can see that old horse right now. He was a
sorrel horse, with a spot in his forehead, and his name was John. My
father was inside the Yankee lines when he volunteered for the service.
I don't know how much he got or anything about it except that I know the
Yankees were holding Portsmouth, Norfolk, Hampton Roads, and all that
Expectations of the Slaves
"I could hear my mother and uncle talk about what the slaves expected. I
know they was expecting to get something. They weren't supposed to be
turned out like wild animals like they were. I think it was forty acres
and a mule. I am not sure but I know they expected something to be
settled on them.
What They Got
"If any of them got anything in Virginia, I don't know anything about
it. They might have been some slaves that did get something--just like
they was here in Arkansas.
"Old Man Wilfong, when he freed Andy Wilfong in Bradley County,
Arkansas, gave Andy plenty. He did get forty acres of land. That is
right down here out from Warren. Wilfong owned that land and a heap more
when he died. He hasn't been dead more than six or seven years. I
pastored him in 1904 and 1905. There were others who expected to get
something, but I don't know any others that got it. Land was cheap then.
Andy bought land at twenty-five and fifty cents an acre, and sold the
timber off of it at the rate of one thousand dollars for each forty
acres. He bought hundreds of acres. He owned a section and a section and
one-half of land when he was my member. He had seven boys and two girls
and he gave them all forty acres apiece when they married. Then he sold
the timber off of four forties. Whenever a boy or girl was married he'd
give him a house. He'd tell him to go out and pick himself out a place.
"He sold one hundred and sixty acres of timber for four thousand
dollars, but if he had kept it for two years longer, he would have got
ten thousand dollars for it. The Bradley Lumber Company went in there
and cut the timber all through.
"Wilfong's master's name was Andrew Wilfong, same as Andy's. His master
came from Georgia, but he was living in Arkansas when freedom came.
Later on Andy bought the farm his master was living on when freedom
came. His master was then dead.
Right After the War
"My mother came back home and we went on farming just like we did
before, raising stuff to eat. You know I can't remember much that they
did before the War but I can remember what they did during the War and
after the War,--when they came back home. My folks still own the old
place but I have been away from there sixty-one years. A whole
generation has been raised up and died since I left.
"I came out with one of my cousins and went to Georgia (Du Pont)
following turpentine work. It was turpentine farming. You could cut a
hole in the tree known as the box. It will hold a quart. Rosin runs out
of that tree into the box. Once a week, they go by and chip a tree to
keep the rosin running. Then the dippers dip the rosin out and put it in
barrels. Them barrels is hauled to the still. Then it is distilled just
like whiskey would be. The evaporation of it makes turpentine; the rosin
is barreled and shipped to make glass. The turpentine is barreled and
sold. I have dipped thousands of gallons of turpentine.
"I came to South Carolina in 1880 and married. I stayed there seven
years and came to Arkansas in 1888. I came right to North Little Rock
and then moved out into the country around Lonoke County,--on a farm. I
farmed there for five years. Then I went to pastoring. I started
pastoring one year before I quit making cotton. I entered the ministry
in 1892 and continued in the active service until November 1937. I put
in forty-five years in the active ministry.
"I first went to school at a little log school in Suffolk, Virginia.
From there I went to Hampton, Virginia. I got my theological training in
Shorter College under Dr. T.H. Jackson.
"I never had any experience with the Ku Klux Klan. I seen white men
riding horses and my mother said they was Ku Kluxes, but they never
bothered us as I remember. They had two sets of white folks like that.
The patrollers were before and during the War and the Ku Klux Klan came
after the War. I can't remember how the Ku Klux I saw were dressed. The
patrollers I remember. They would just be three or four white men riding
Nat Turner Rebellion
"I have heard the 'Nat Turner Rebellion' spoken of, but I don't know
what was said. I think the old people called it the 'Nat Turner War.'
"Lawyer Whipper was one of the best criminal lawyers in the state. He
was a Negro. The Republican party had the state then and the Negroes
were strong. Robert Small was a noted politician and was elected to go
to Congress twice. The last time he ran, he was elected but had a hard
fight. The election was so close it was contested but Small won out. He
was the last nigger congressman. I heard that there were one or two
more, but I don't remember them.
"When I first went to South Carolina, them niggers was bad. They
organized. They used to have an association known as the Union Laborers,
I think. The organization was like the fraternal order. I don't know's
they ever had any trouble but they were always in readiness to protect
themselves if any conflict arose. It was a secret order carried on just
like any other fraternal order. They had distress calls. Every member
has an old horn which he blew in time of trouble. I think that sane kind
of organization or something like it was active here when I came. The
Eagles (a big family of white people in Lonoke County) had a fight with
members of it once and some of the Eagles were killed a year or two
before I came to this state.
Voting and Political Activities
"I voted in South Carolina, but I wasn't old enough to vote in Georgia.
However, I stumped Taliaferro County for Garfield when I was in Georgia.
I lived in a little town by the name of McCray. The town I was in, they
had never had more than fifteen or twenty Republican votes polled. But I
polled between two hundred and three hundred votes. I was one of the
regular speakers. The tickets were in my care too. You see, they had
tickets in them days and not the long ballots. They didn't have long
ballots like they have now. The tickets were sent to me and I took care
of them until the election. In the campaign I was regularly employed
through the Republican Campaign Committee Managers.
"According to preparation and conditions there were less corruption then
than there is now. In them days, they had to learn the tricks. But now
they know them. Now you find the man and he already knows what to do.
"Back in that period, nearly all the songs the Negro sang considerably
were the spirituals: 'I'm Going Down to Jordan,' 'Roll Jordan Roll.'"
Rev Eli Boyd Rev Handy Williams