Waters Mcintosh

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Waters McIntosh

1900 Howard Street, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 76

"I was born July 4, 1862 at 2:08 in the morning at Lynchburg, Sumter

County, South Carolina.


"My mother was named Lucy Sanders. My father was named Sumter Durant.

Our owner was Dr. J.M. Sanders, the son of Mr. Bartlett Sanders. Sumter

Durant was a white man. My mother was fourteen years old when I was born

I was her second child. Durant was in the Confederate army and was

killed during the War in the same year I was born, and before my birth.


"When I was a year old, my mother was sold for $1500 in gold, and I was

sold for $500 in gold to William Carter who lived about five miles south

of Cartersville. The payment was made in fine gold. I was sold because

my folk realized that freedom was coming and they wanted to obtain the

cash value of their slaves.


"My name is spelled 'Waters' but it is pronounced 'Waiters.' When I was

born, I was thought to be a very likely child and it was proposed that I

should be a waiter. Therefore I was called Waters (but it was pronounced

Waiters). They did not spell it w-a-i-t-e-r-s, but they pronounced it

that way.

How Freedom Came

"My mother said that they had been waiting a long time to hear what had

become of the War, perhaps one or two weeks. One day when they were in

the field moulding corn, going round the corn hoeing it and putting a

little hill around it, the conk sounded at about eleven o'clock, and

they knew that the long expected time had come. They dropped their hoes

and went to the big house. They went around to the back where the master

always met the servants and he said to them, 'You are all free, free as

I am. You can go or come as you please. I want you to stay. If you will

stay, I will give you half the crop.' That was the beginning of the

share cropping system.

"My mother came at once to the quarters, and when she found me she

pulled the end out of a corn sack, stuck holes on the sides, put a cord

through the top, pulled out the end, put it on me, put on the only dress

she had, and made it back to the old home (her first master's folk).

What the Slaves Expected

"When the slaves were freed, they got what they expected. They were glad

to get it and get away with it, and that was what mother and them did.

Slave Time Preaching

"One time when an old white man come along who wanted to preach, the

white people gave him a chance to preach to the niggers. The substance

of his sermon was this:

"'Now when you servants are working for your masters, you must be

honest. When you go to the mill, don't carry along an extra sack and put

some of the meal or the flour in for yourself. And when you women are

cooking in the big house, don't make a big pocket under your dress and

put a sack of coffee and a sack of sugar and other things you want in


"They took him out and hanged him for corrupting the morals of the


Conditions After the War

"Immediately after the War, there was a great scarcity of food. Neither

Negroes nor white folk had anything to eat. The few white people who did

have something wouldn't let it be known. My grandmother who was

sixty-five years old and one of the old and respected inhabitants of

that time went out to find something for us to eat. A white woman named

Mrs. Burton gave her a sack of meal and told her not to tell anybody

where she got it.

"My grandmother brought the meal home and cooked it in a large skillet

in a big cake. When it got done, she cut it into slices in the way you

would cut up a pie and divided it among us. That all we had to eat.


"The white people in those days built their houses back from the front.

In South Carolina, there were lots of farms that had four to twelve

thousand acres. From what mother told me, Master Bill's place set back

from the road. Then there was a great square place they called the yard.

A fence divided the house and the yard adjoining it from that part of

the grounds which held the barn. The yard in front and back of the house

held a grove.

The square around the house and the Negro quarters were all enclosed so

that the little slaves could not get out while parents were at work. The

Negroes assembled on the porch when the gong called them in the morning.

The boss gave orders from the porch. There was an open space between the

quarters and the court (where the little slaves played). There was a

gate between the court and the big house.

"On the rear of the house, there was a porch from which the boss gave

orders usually about four o'clock in the morning and at which they would

disband in the evening between nine and ten--no certain time but more or

less not earlier than nine and not often later than ten. Back of the

house and beyond it was a fence extending clear across the yard. In one

corner of this fence was a gate leading into the court. Leading out of

the court was an opening surrounded by a semi-circular fence which

enclosed the Negro quarters.

"The cabins were usually built on the ground--no floors. The roofs were

covered with clapboards.

"When I was a boy we used to sing, 'Rather be a nigger than a poor white

man.' Even in slavery they used to sing that. It was the poor white man

who was freed by the War, not the Negroes.


"There wasn't any furniture. Beds were built with one post out and the

other three sides fastened to the sides of the house.

Marrying Time

"I remember one night the people were gone to marry. That was when all

the people in the community married immediately after slavery.


"We had an open fireplace. That was at Bartlett Sanders' place. He had

close on to three thousand acres. Every grown person had gone to the

marrying, and I was at home in the bed I just described.

"My grandfather's mother[HW: ?] had a chair and that was hers only. She

was named Senia and was about eighty years old. We burned nothing but

pine knots in the hearth. You would put one or two of those on the fire

and they would burn for hours. We were all in bed and had been for an

hour or two. There were some others sleeping in the same room. There

came a peculiar knocking on grandmother's[HW: great grandmother?] chair.

It's hard to describe it. It was something like the distant beating of a

drum. Grandmother was dead, of course. The boys got up and ran out and

brought in some of the hands. When they came in, a little thing about

three and a half feet high with legs about six or eight inches long ran

out of the room.

Ku Klux Klan

"Whenever there was a man of influence, they terrorized him. They were

at their height about the time of Grant's election. Many a time my

mother and I have watched them pass our door. They wore gowns and some

kind of helmet. They would be going to catch same leading Negro and whip

him. There was scarcely a night they couldn't take a leading Negro out

and whip him if they would catch him alone. On that account, the Negro

men did not stay at home in Sumter County, South Carolina at night. They

left home and stayed together. The Ku Klux very seldom interfered with a

woman or a child.

"They often scared colored people by drinking large quantities of water.

They had something that held a lot of water, and when they would raise

the bucket to their mouths to drink, they would slip the water into it.

White Caps

"The white caps operated further to the northwest of where I lived. I

never came in contact with them. They were not the same thing as the Ku



"In South Carolina under the Reconstruction, we voted right along. In

1868 there were soldiers at all of the election places to see that you

did vote.

Career Since the War

"In 1881 I married. The year after that, in '83,[HW: ?] I merchandised a

little. Then I got converted. I got it in my head that it was wrong to

take big profits from business, so I sold out. Then I was asked to

assist the keeper of the jail.

"In 1888 I went to school for the first time. I was then twenty-six

years old. By the end of the first term, I knew all that the teacher

could teach, so he sent me to Claflin University. I left there in the

third year normal.

"When I returned home, I taught school, at first in a private school and

later in a public school for $15 a month.

"A man named Boyle told me that he had some ground to sell. I saved up

$45, the price he asked for it. When I offered it to him, he said that

he had decided not to sell it. I went to town and spent my $45. A few

days later, he met me and offered me the place again. I told him I had

spent my money. He then offered it to me on time. There was plenty of

timber on the place, so I got some contracts with a man named Roland and

delivered wood to him. When I went to collect the money, he said he

would not pay me in money.

"A man named Pennington offered me 20¢ a day for labor. I asked if he

would pay in money.

"He replied, 'If you're looking for money, don't come.'

"I went home and said to my wife, 'I am going to leave here.'

"I came to Forrest City, Arkansas January 28, 1888. I farmed in Forrest

City, making one crop, and then I entered the ministry, and then I

preached at Spring Park for two years.

"Then I entered Philander Smith College where I stayed from 1891-1897. I

preached from the time I left Philander until 1913.

"Then I studied law and completed the American Correspondence course in

Law when I was fifty years old. I am still practicing.

Wife and Family

"In 1897, when I graduated from Philander, my wife and six children were

sitting on the front seat.

"I have eleven sons and daughters, of whom six are living. I had seven

brothers and sisters.

"My wife and I have been married fifty-six years. I had to steal her

away from her parents, and she has never regretted coming to me nor I

taking her."

Interviewer's Comment

"Brother Mack" as he is familiarly and affectionately known to his

friends is a man keen and vigorous, mentally and physically. He attends

Sunday school, church both in the morning and evening, and all

departments of the Epworth League. He takes the Epworth Herald, the

Southwestern Christian Advocate, the Literary Digest, some poultry and

farm magazines, the Arkansas Gazette, and the St. Louis Democrat, and

several other journals. He is on omnivorous reader and a clear thinker.

He raises chickens and goats and plants a garden as avocations. He has

on invincible reputation for honesty as well as for thrift and thought.

Nothing is pleasanter than to view the relationship between him and his

wife. They have been married fifty-six years and seem to have achieved a

perfect understanding. She is an excellent cook and is devoted to her

home. She attends church regularly. Seems to be four or five years

younger than her husband. Like him, however, she seems to enjoy

excellent health.

Washington Dozier Watt Mckinney facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail