Uncle William Baltimore Interviewed By Rs Taylor

Interviewer: R.S. Taylor

Person Interviewed: Uncle William Baltimore

Resident: Route #1, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Jefferson County. Age: 103.

"You wants to know how old I is? I'se lived a long time. I'se goin' on

104. My gran'mammy was over 100 years. My mamma was 100. My pappy was

96. They was twelve chilluns. I don't know if any of my sisters or

brothers is livin'. Don't know if one of my friends back in my boy days

is livin'. I'se like a poor old leaf left hangin' to a tree.

"Yes--I sho do member back befo' the war. I was borned on the Dr. Waters

place about twelve miles out of Pine Bluff on the east side of Noble

Lake. My gran'mammy and gran'pappy and my mamma and my pappy were slaves

on de Walker plantation. I was not bought or sold--just lived on de old

plantation. I wasn't whipped neither but once I mighty near got a

beatin'. Want to hear about it? I likes to tell.

"Dr. Waters had a good heart. He didn't call us 'slaves'. He call us

'servants'. He didn't want none of his niggers whipped 'ceptin when

there wasn't no other way. I was grown up pretty good size. Dr. Waters

liked me cause I could make wagons and show mules. Once when he was

going away to be gone all day, he tole me what to do while he was gone.

The overseer wasn't no such good man as old master. He wanted to be boss

and told me what to do. I tole him de big boss had tole me what to do

and I was goin' to do it. He got mad and said if I didn't do what he

said I'd take a beating. I was a big nigger and powerful stout. I tole

the overseer fore he whipped me he's show himself a better man than I

was. When he found he was to have a fight he didn't say no more about

the whipping.

"I worked on de plantation till de war broke. Then I went into the army

with them what called themselves secesh's. I didn't fight none, never

give me a gun nor sword. I was a servant. I cooked and toted things. In

1863 I was captured by the Yankees and marched to Little Rock and sworn

in as a Union Soldier. I was sure enough soldier now. I never did any

fighting but I marched with the soldiers and worked for them whatever

they said.

"We marched from Pine Bluff on through Ft. Smith and the Indian

Territory of Oklahoma. Then we went to Leavenworth Kansas and back to

Jefferson County, Arkansas. And all that walking I did on these same

foots you see right here now.

"On this long march we camped thirty miles from Ft. Smith. We had gone

without food three days and was powerful hongry. I started out to get

something to eat. I found a sheep, I was tickled. I laughed. I could

turn the taste of that sheep meat under my tongue. When I got to camp

with the sheep I had to leave for picket duty. Hungrier than ever, I

thought of that sheep all the time. When I got back I wanted my chunk of

meat. It had been killed, cooked, eat up. Never got a grease spot on my

finger from my sheep.

"When time come for breaking up the army I went back to Jefferson county

and set to farmin'. I was free now. I didn't do so well on the land as I

didn't have mules and money to live on. I went to Dersa County and

opened up a blacksmith shop. I learned how to do this work when I was

with Dr. Waters. He had me taught by a skilled man. I learned to build

wagons too.

"I made my own tools. Who showed me how? Nobody. When I needed a hack

saw I made it out of a file--that was all I had to make it of. I had to

have it. Once I made a cotton scraper out of a piece of hardwood. I put

a steel edge on it. O yes I made everything. Can I build a wagon--make

all the parts? Every thing but the hubs for the wheels.

"You say I don't seem to see very well. Ha-ha! I don't see nuthin' at

all. I'se been plum blind for 23 years. I can't see nothin'. But I

patches my own clothes. You don't know how I can thread the needle? Look

here." I asked him to let me see his needle threader. He felt around in

a drawer and pulled out a tiny little half arrow which he had made of a

bit of tin with a pair of scissors and fine file. He pushed this through

the eye of the needle, then hooked the thread on it and pulled it back

again threading his needle as fast as if he had good eyesight. "This is

a needle threader. I made it myself. Watch me thread a needle. Can't I

do it as fast as if I had a head full of keen eyes? My wife been gone

twenty years. She went blind too. I had to do something. My patches may

not look so pretty but they sure holt (hold).

"You wants to know what I think of the way young folks is doing these

days? They'se goin' to fast. So is their papas and mammas. Dey done

forgot dey's a God and a day of settlin'. Den what dances pays de

fiddler. I got religion long time ago--jined de Baptist church in 1870

and haven't never got away from it. I'se tried to tote fair with God and

he's done fair by me.

"Does I get a pension? I shure do. It was a lucky day when de Yankees

got me. Ef they hadn't I don't know what'd become of me. After I went

blind I had hard times. Folks, white folks and all, brought me food. But

that wasn't any good way to get along. Sometimes I ate, sometimes I

didn't. So some of my white, friends dug up my record with the Yankees

and got me a pension. Now I'm setting pretty for de rest of my life.

Yes--O yes I'se older dan most folks get. Still I may be still takin' my

grub here when some of these young whiskey drinkin razzin' around young

chaps is under the dirt. It pays to I don know of any bad spots in me

yet. It pays to live honest, work hard, stay sober. God only knows what

some of these lazy, triflin' drinkin' young folks is comin' to."

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