Willie Johnson

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor

Person interviewed: Willie Johnson (female)

1007 Izard, Little Rock, Arkansas

Age: 71

"My father said he had a real good master. When he got up large enough

to work, his master learned him a trade. He learned the mechanic's

trade, such as blacksmithing and working in shops. He learned him all

of that. And then he learned him to be a shoemaker. You see, he

learned him iron work and woodworking too. And he never whipped him

during slavery time. Positively didn't allow that.

"My father's name was Jordan Kirkpatrick. His master was named

Kirkpatrick also. My father was born in Tennessee in Sumner County.

"My father married in slave time. You know, they married in slave

time. I have heard people talking about it. I have heard some people

say they married over 'gain when freedom came. My father had a

marriage certificate, and I didn't hear him say anything about being

married after freedom. I have seen the certificate lots of times. I

don't know the date of it. The certificate was issued in Sumner

County, Tennessee.

"My father and mother belonged to different masters. My mother's

master was a Murray. She had a good many people. Her name before she

married was Mary Murray. I don't know just how my mother and father

met. The two places weren't far apart. They lived a good distance from

each other though, and I remember hearing him tell how he had to go

across the fields to get to her house after he was through with the

day's work. The pateroles got after him once. They didn't catch him,

so they didn't do anything to him. He skipped them some way or


"I have heard them say that before the slaves were set free the

soldiers were going 'round doing away with everything that they could

get their hands on. Just a while before they were set free, my father

took my mother and the children one night and slipped off. He went to

Nashville. That was during the War. It wasn't long after that till

everybody was set free. They never did capture him and get him back.

"During the War they went around pressing men into service. Finally

once, they caught him but they let him go. I don't know how he got


"I can remember he said once they got after him and there was a white

man and his family living in the house. He rented a room from the

white man. That was in Nashville. These pateroles or whatever they was

got after him and claimed they were coming to get him, and the old man

and the old woman he stayed with took him upstairs and said they would

protect him if the pateroles came back. I don't know whether they came

back or not, but they never got him.

"My father supported himself and his family in Nashville by following

his trade. He seems to have gotten along all right. He never seemed to

have any trouble that I heard him speak of.

"I was born in 1867 in Nashville, Tennessee, about half a block from

the old Central Tennessee College[G]. I think it became Walden

University later on, and I think that it's out now. That's an old

school. My oldest sister was graduated from it. I could have been if I

hadn't taken up the married notion.

"I got part of my schooling in Nashville and part here. When I left

Nashville, I was only a child nine years old. I only went to school

four sessions after we came out here. I didn't like out here. I wanted

to stay back home. My father came out here because he had heard that

he could make more money with his trade here than he could in

Nashville, which he did. He was shoeing horses and building wagons and

so on. Just in this blacksmithing and carpenter work.

"I wanted to learn that. I would stay 'round the shop and help him

shoe horses. But they wouldn't let me take it up. I got so I could do

carpenter work pretty good. First I learned how to make a box

square--that is a hard job when a person doesn't know much.

"I never heard my father say anything about the food the slaves ate. I

have heard him talk about the good times they had around hog killing.

His master raised sweet potatoes and corn and wheat and things like

that. I guess they ate just about what they raised.

"My father never was a sharecropper. He knew nothing of rural work

except the mechanical side of it. He could make or do anything that

was needed in fixing up something to do farm work with. I have seen

him make and sharpen plows. The first cotton stalk cutter that was

made within ten miles of here was made by my father. The people 'round

here were knocking off cotton stalks with sticks until my father began

making the cutter. Then everybody began using his cutter. That is, the

different farmers and sharecroppers around here began using them. I

was scared of the first one he made. He made six saws or knives and

sharpened them and put them on a section of a log so that it could be

hitched to a mule and pulled through the fields and cut the cotton

stalks down.

"My mother's old master was her father. I think my father's father was

a Negro and his mother was an Indian. My mother's mother was an

American woman, that is, a slavery woman. My mother and father were

lucky in having good people. My mother was treated just like one of

her master's other children. My father's master had an overseer but

he never was allowed to touch my father. Of course my mother never was

under an overseer."

[Footnote G: [HW: Central Tennessee College estab. about 1866-7.]]

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