Wesley Graves


Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Wesley Graves

817 Hickory Street, North Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 70

[HW: [Father Taught Night School]]

"My father's white folks were named Tal Graves. My mother was a McAdoo.

Her white folks were McAdoos. Some of them are over the river now. He's

a great jewelryman now.

"I was born in Trenton, Tennessee. My father was born 'round in

Humboldt, Tennessee. My mother was born in Paris, Tennessee and moved

out in the country near Humboldt. He met my mother out there and married

her just a little bit before the War. He was a slave and she was too.

"He didn't go to the War; he went to the woods. He got to chasing

'round. His young mistress married. She married a Graves. That was the

name we was freed under. She was a Shane.

"She educated my father. When she come from school, she would teach him

and just carry him right on through the course that way. That was a good

while before the War. Her father gave him to her when she married

Graves. He was a little boy and she kept him and educated him. Graves

ran a farm. I don't know just what my father did when he was little. He

was raised up as a house boy. Very little he ever done in the field. I

don't know what he did after he grew up and before freedom came. After

peace was declared, he taught in night school. He preached too. His

first farming was done a little after he come out here. I was about

seven years old then. That was in the year 1873.

"My mother's full name was Adeline McAdoo. Before freedom she did

housework. She was a kind a pet with the white folks. She didn't do much

farming. My mother and father had six children--five boys and one girl.

All born after freedom. There were three ahead of me. The oldest was

born before the War, not afterward.

"In my country where I was raised the Negroes weren't freed until 1865.

My uncle, Jim Shane--that is the only name I ever knew him by--, he ran

away and come to this country and made money enough to come back and buy

his freedom. Just about time he got himself paid for, the War closed and

he would have been freed anyway. The money wouldn't have done him no

good anyhow because it was all Confederate money, and when the War

closed, that wasn't no good.

"My father ran away when the War broke out. His master wanted to carry

him to the army with him and he run off and stayed in the woods three

years. He stayed until his little mistress wrote him a letter and told

him she would set him free if he would come home. He stayed out till the

War closed. He wouldn't take no chances on it.

"The pateroles made my father do everything but quit. They got him about

teaching night school. That was after slavery, but the pateroles still

got after you. They didn't want him teaching the Negroes right after the

War. He had opened a night school, and he was doing well. They just kept

him in the woods then."

Ku Klux

"There was a bunch of Ku Klux that a colored man led. He was a fellow by

the name of Fount Howard. They would come to his house and he would call

himself showing them how to catch old people he didn't like. He told

them how to catch my old man. I have heard my mother tell about it time

and time again. The funny part of it was there was a cornfield right

back of the kitchen. Just about dusk dark, he got up and taken a big

old horse pistol and shot out of it, and when he fired the last shot out

of it, a white man said, 'Bring that gun here.' Believe me he cut a road

through that field right now.

"They stayed 'round for a little while and tried to bully his people.

But the old lady stood up to them, so they finally carried her and her

children in the house and told her to tell him to come on back they

wouldn't hurt him. And they didn't bother him no more.

"My mother's master told my mother that she was free. He called all the

slaves in and told them they were free as he was. I don't think he give

them anything when they were freed. He was a kind a poor fellow. Didn't

have but six or seven slaves. He offered to let them stay and make

crops. My father had a better job than that. Did you ever know Bishop

Lane out in Tennessee? My father and he were ordained at the same time

in the some C. M. E. Church. Then he moved to Kentucky and joined the

A. M. E. Church. My father died in 1875 and my mother in 1906.

"I have been married forty-seven years. I married on the twenty-sixth

day of December in 1889. I heard my mother and father say that they

married in slavery time and they just jumped over a broom. I don't

belong to no church. I am off on a pension. I got a good job doin'

nothing. My pension is paid by the Railroad.

"I put up forty-four years as a brakeman and five years on ditching

trains before I went to braking. My old road master put me on the

braking. A fellow got his fingers cut off and they turned his keys over

to me and put me to braking and I went there and stayed.

"I have two children. Both of them are living--a girl and a boy. I have

had a big bunch of young people 'round me ever since I married. Raised

a couple of nephews. Then my two. All of them married. That is my

daughter's oldest child right there. (He pointed to a pretty brownskin


"My father died when I was eight, and I was away from home railroading

most of the time and didn't hear much about old times from my mother. So

that's all I know.

"I have lived right here on this spot for forty-three years. About 1893

I bought this place and have lived here ever since. This was just a big

woods and weed patch then. There weren't more than about six houses out

here this side of the Rock Island Railroad.

"I commenced voting in 1889. Cast my first ballot then. I never had any

trouble about it."

Wes Woods Wester Thomas facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail