Victoria Mcmullen

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Victoria McMullen

1416 E. Valmar, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 54

Occupation: Seamstress

"My mother was born March 16, 1865, and knew nothing of slavery.

"Both my grandmothers and both grandfathers were slaves. My father was

born in the same year as my mother and like my mother knew nothing of

slavery although both of them might have been born slaves.

"I knew my mother's mother and father and my father's mother, but I

didn't know my father's father.

"He was from Texas and he always stayed there. He never did come out to

Louisiana where I was born. My mother was born in Louisiana, but my

father was born in Texas. I don't know what county or city my father was

born in. I just heard my grandmother on his side say he was born in


"During the War (he was born in '65 when the War ceased), Grandmother

Katy--that was her name, Katy, Katy Elmore--she was in Louisiana at

first--she was run out in Texas, I suppose, to be hidden from the

Yankees. My father was born there and my grandfather stayed there. He

died in Texas and then Grandma Katy come back to Louisiana with my

father and settled in Ouachita Parish.

"Grandma Katy was sold from South Carolina into Louisiana to Bob

McClendon, and she kept the name of Elmore who was her first owner in

South Carolina. It was Bob McClendon who run her out in Texas to hide

her from the Yankees. My grandfather in Texas kept the name of Jamison.

That was the name of his master in Texas. But grandma kept the name of

Elmore from South Carolina because he was good to her. He was better

than Bob McClendon. The eastern states sold their slaves to the southern

states and got all the money, then they freed the slaves and that left

the South without anything.

"Grandma Katy had Creek Indian blood in her. She was of medium size and

height, copper colored, high cheek bones, small squinchy eyes, black

curly hair. Her hair was really pretty but she didn't curl it. It was

just naturally curly. She was a practical nurse as they call it, but she

did more of what some people call a midwife. They call it something else

now. They got a proper word for it.

"They got it in these government agencies. That is what she was even in

slavery times. She worked for colored people and white people both. That

was after she was freed until she went blind. She went blind three years

before she died. She died at the age of exactly one hundred years. She

treated women and babies. They said she was a real good doctor in her

day. That is been fifty-four years ago. [I will be fifty-four years old

tomorrow--September 18, 1938.] In slavery times my grandma was almost as

free as she was in freedom because of her work.

"She said that Bob McClendon was cruel to her. Sometimes he'd get angry

and take the shovel and throw hot ashes on the slaves. And then he'd see

them with blisters on them and he would take a handsaw or a flat plank

and bust the blisters. Louisiana was a warm country and they wouldn't

have much clothes on. When the slaves were freed, he went completely

broke. He had scarcely a place to live.

"I seen him once. Be look like on old possum. He had a long beard down

to his waist and he had long side burns too. Just a little of his face

showed. He was tall and stooping and he wore his hair long and uncut

down on his neck. You know about what he looked like. He had on blue

jeans pants and brogan shoes and a common shirt--a work shirt. He wore

very common clothes. When they freed the Negroes, it broke him up

completely. He had been called a 'big-to-do' in his life but he wasn't

nothing then. He owned Grandma Katy.

"Grandma Katy had a sister named Maria and a brother named Peter. He

owned all three of them. I have seen all of them. Grandma Katy was the

oldest. She and Uncle Peter stayed close together. He didn't have no

wife and she didn't have no husband. But Aunt Maria had a husband. She

lived off from them after freedom. It was about twelve miles away. My

great-aunt and great-uncle--they were Maria and Peter--that was what

they were. Uncle Peter died first before I left Louisiana, but Aunt

Maria and Grandma Katy died after I came to Arkansas. Grandma Katy lived

four years after I came here.

"After they was free and my father had gotten large enough to work and

didn't have no horse, my grandma was going 'round waiting on women--that

is all she did--all the rest of the people had gotten large and left

home. Papa made a crop with a hoe. He made three bales of cotton and

about twelve loads of corn with that hoe. He used to tell me, 'You don't

know nothin' 'bout work. You oughter see how I had to work.' After that

he bought him a horse. Money was scarce then and it took something to

buy the place and the horse both. They were turned loose from slavery

without anything. Hardly had a surname--just Katy, Maria, and Peter.

"I knew more about the slave-time history of my mother's folks than I

did about my father's but I'll tell you that some other time. My

grandmother on my mother's side was born in Richmond, Virginia. She was

owned by a doctor but I can't call his name. She gets her name from her

husband's owners. They came from Virginia. They didn't take the name of

their owners in Louisiana. They took the name of the owners in Virginia.

She was a twin--her twin was a boy named June and her name was Hetty.

Her master kept her brother to be a driver for him. She was sent from

Virginia to Louisiana to people that were related to her Virginia

people. She called her Louisiana mistress 'White Ma;' she never did call

her 'missis.' The white folks and the colored folks too called her

Indian because she was mixed with Choctaw. That's the Indian that has

brown spots on the jaw. They're brownskin. It was an Indian from the

Oklahoma reservation that said my mother belonged to the Choctaws.

"She rode from Virginia to Louisiana on a boat at the age of twelve

years. She was separated from her mother and brothers and sisters and

never did see them again. She was kept in the house for a nurse. She was

not a midwife. She nursed the white babies. That was what she was sent

to Louisiana for--to nurse the babies. The Louisiana man that owned her

was named George Dorkins. But I think this white woman came from

Virginia. She married this Louisiana man, then sent back to her father's

house and got grandma; she got her for a nurse. She worked only a year

and a half in the field before peace was declared. After she got grown

and married, my grandfather--she had to stay with him and cook and keep

house for him. That was during slavery time but after George Dorkins

died. Dorkins went and got hisself a barrel of whiskey--one of these

great big old barrels--and set it up in his house, and put a faucet in

it and didn't do nothin' but drink whiskey. He said he was goin' to

drink hisself to death. And he did.

"He was young enough to go to war and he said he would drink hisself to

death before he would go, and he did. My grandma used to steal

newspapers out of his house and take them down to the quarters and leave

them there where there were one or two slaves that could read and tell

how the War was goin' on. I never did learn how the slaves learned to

read. But she was in the house and she could steal the papers and send

them down. Later she could slip off and they would tell her the news,

and then she could slip the papers back.

"Her master drank so much he couldn't walk without falling and she would

have to help him out. Her mistress was really good. She never allowed

the overseer to whip her. She was only whipped once in slave time while

my father's mother was whipped more times than you could count.

"Her master often said, 'I'll drink myself to death before I'll go to

war and be shot down like a damn target.' She said in living with them

in the house, she learned to cuss from him. She said she was a cussin'

soul until she became a Christian. She wasn't 'fraid of them because she

was kin to them in some way. There was another woman there who was some

kin to them and she looked enough like my grandma for them to be kin to

each other. We talked it over several times and said we believed we were

related; but none of us know for sure.

"When the slaves wanted something said they would have my grandma say it

because they knew she wouldn't be whipped for it. 'White Ma' wouldn't

let nobody whip her if she knew it. She cussed the overseer out that

time for whipping her.

"When grandma was fourteen or fifteen years old they locked her up in

the seed house once or twice for not going to church. You see they let

the white folks go to the church in the morning and the colored folks in

the evening, and my grandma didn't always want to go. She would be

locked up in the seed bin and she would cuss the preacher out so he

could hear her. She would say, 'Master, let us out.' And he would say,

'You want to go to church?' And she would say, 'No, I don't want to hear

that same old sermon: "Stay out of your missis' and master's hen house.

Don't steal your missis' and master's chickens. Stay out of your missis'

and master's smokehouse. Don't steal your missis' and master's hams." I

don't steal nothing. Don't need to tell me not to.'

"She was tellin' the truth too. She didn't steal because she didn't have

to. She had plenty without stealin'! She got plenty to eat in the house.

But the other slaves didn't git nothin' but fat meat and corn bread and

molasses. And they got tired of that same old thing. They wanted

something else sometimes. They'd go to the hen house and get chickens.

They would go to the smokehouse and get hams and lard. And they would

get flour and anything else they wanted and they would eat something

they wanted. There wasn't no way to keep them from it.

"The reason she got whipped that time, the overseer wanted her to help

get a tree off the fence that had been blown down by a storm. She told

him that wasn't her work and she wasn't goin' to do it. Old miss was

away at that time. He hit her a few licks and she told old miss when she

came back. Old 'White Ma' told the overseer, 'Don't never put your hands

on her no more no matter what she does. That's more than I do. I don't

hit her and you got no business to do it.'

"Her husband, my grandfather, was a blacksmith, and he never did work in

the field. He made wagons, plows, plowstocks, buzzard wings--they call

them turning plows now. They used to make and put them on the stocks. He

made anything-handles, baskets. He could fill wagon wheels. He could

sharpen tools. Anything that come under the line of blacksmith, that is

what he did. He used to fix wagons all the time I knowed him. In harvest

time in the fall he would drive from Bienville where they were slaves to

Monroe in Ouachita Parish. He kept all the plows and was sharpening and

fixing anything that got broke. He said he never did get no whipping.

"His name was Tom Eldridge. They called him 'Uncle Tom'. They was the

mother and father of twelve children. Six lived and six died. One boy

and five girls lived. And one girl and five boys died--half and half. He

died at the age of seventy-five, June 6, 1908. She died January 1920.

"I came out here in January 1907. I lived in Pine Bluff. From Louisiana

I came to Pine Bluff in 1906. In 1907 I went to Kerr in Lonoke County

and lived there eight years and then I came to Little Rock. I farmed at

Kerr and just worked 'round town those few months in Pine Bluff.

Excusing the time I was in Pine Bluff and Little Rock I farmed. I farmed

in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana."

Victoria Adams Victoria Sims facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail