Tom Wylie Neal

Name of Interviewer: Irene Robertson

Subject: Ex-slaves--Dreams--Herbs: Cures and Remedies


This information given by: Tom Wylie Neal

Place of Residence: Hazen, Arkansas--Near Green Grove

Occupation: Farmer--Feeds cattle in the winter for a man in Hazen.

Age: 85

[TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]

His father and mother belonged to Tom Neal at Calhoun, Georgia. He

remembers the big battle at Atlanta Ga. He was eight years old. He saw

the lights, [saw the bullets in the air at night] and heard the boom,

boom of guns and cannons. They passed along with loaded wagons and in

uniforms. The horses were beautiful, and he saw lots of fine saddles and

bridles. His mistress' name was Mrs. Tom Neal. She had the property and

married Tom Neal. She had been married before and her first husband died

but her first husband's name can't be recalled. She had two

children--girls--by her first husband. Her second husband just married

her to protect them all he could. He didn't do anything unless the old

mistress told him to do it and how to do it. Wylie Neal was raised up

with the old mistress' children. He was born a slave and lived to

thirteen years. "The family had some better to eat and lots more to

wear, but they gave me plenty and never did mistreat me. They had a

peafowl. That was good luck, to keep some of them about on the place."

They had guineas, chickens and turkeys. They never had a farm bell. He

never saw one till he came to Arkansas. They blew a big "Conch shell"

instead. Mistress had cows and she would pour milk or pot-liquor out in

a big pewter bowl on a stump and the children would come up there from

the cabins and eat [till the field hands had time to cook a meal.][HW:?]

Wylie's mother was a field hand. They drank out of tin cans and gourds.

The master mated his hands. Some times he would ask his young man or

woman if they knew anybody they would like to marry that he was going to

buy more help and if they knew anybody he would buy them if he could.

The way they met folks they would get asked to corn shuckings and log

rollings and Mrs. Neal always took some of her colored people to church

to attend to the stock, tie the horses and hitch up, maybe feed and to

nurse her little girls at church. The colored folks sat on the back

seats over in a corner together. If they didn't behave or talked out

they got a whipping or didn't go no more. "They kept the colored people

scared to be bad."

The colored folks believed in hoodoo and witches. Heard them talking

lots about witches. They said if they found anybody was a witch they

would kill them. Witches took on other forms and went out to do meaness.

They said sometimes some of them got through latch holes. They used

buttons and door knobs whittled out of wood, and door latches with


People married early in "Them days"--when Mistress' oldest girl married

she gave her Sumanthy, Wylie's oldest sister when they come home [they

would let her come.] They sent their children to school some but the

colored folks didn't go because it was "pay school." Every year they had

"pertracted meeting." Looked like a thousand people come and stayed two

or three weeks along in August, in tents. "We had a big time then and

some times we'd see a colored girl we'd ask the master to buy. They'd

preach to the colored folks some days. Tell them the law. How to behave

and serve the Lord." When Wylie was twelve years old the "Yanks" came

and tore up the farm. "It was just like these cyclones that is [TR:

illegible word] around here in Arkansas, exactly like that."

His mistress left and he never saw her again. General [HW: John Bell]

Hood was the [TR: illegible word] he thinks, but he was given to Captain

Condennens to wait on him. They went to Marietta, Ga., and Kingston, Ga.

"Rumors came about that we were free and everybody was drifting around.

The U.S. Government gave us food then like they do now and we hunted

work. Everybody nearly froze and starved. We wore old uniforms and slept

anywhere we could find, an old house or piece of a house. In

1865-1869--the Ku Klux was miserable on the colored folks. Lots of folks

died out of consumption in the spring and pneumonia all winter.

"There wasn't any doctors seeing after colored folks for they had no

money and they used herbs--only medicine they could get."

Only herbs he remembers he used is: chew black snake roots to settle

sick stomach. Flux weed tea for disordered stomach. People eat so much

"messed up food" lot of them got sick.

Wylie Neal wandered about and finally came to Chattanooga. They got old

uniforms and victuals from the "Yanks" about a year.

Colonel Stocker come and got up a lot of hands and paid their way to

Memphis on the train. From there they were put on the Molly Hamilton

boat and went to Linden, Arkansas, on the St. Francis River. "He fared

fine" there. In 1906[TR: ?] he came to Hazen and since then he has owned

small farms at Biscoe and forty acres near Hazen. It was joining the old

Joe Perry place. Dr. ---- got a mortgage on it and took it. Wylie Neal

lives with his niece and she is old too so they get relief and a


"He don't believe in dreams but some dreams like when you dream of the

dead there's sho' goner be falling weather." He "don't dream much" he


He has a birthmark on his leg. It looks like a bunch of berries. He

never heard what caused it. It has always been there.

Tom Wilson Tony Piggy facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail