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John G Hawkens

From: More Arkansas

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: John G. Hawkens
Biscoe, Arkansas
Age: 71

"I was born in Monroe County, Mississippi December 9, 1866. My parents
was Frances Hawkens. She was a half white woman. I was told my daddy was
a white man, Mr. Young. Mother was a cook and house woman. Grandmother
was a field woman. She was dark but had some Indian blood in her. I
believe they said it was part Choctaw Indian. I don't remember a

"Lamar County, Alabama was across the line from Monroe County,
Mississippi. One of the Hawkens girls (white girl) married a man in
Mississippi. The master had three boys and one or two girls. Grandmother
was sold to the Hawkens and mother was born there in Alabama. There was
another woman they owned called Mandy. They was all the slaves they
owned that I knowd of.

"When the War come on, the old man Hawkens was dead. His widow had three
sons but one was married and off from her home somewhere. All three boys
went to war. Her married son died in the War.

"One son went to war but he didn't want to go. He ask his mother if she
rather free the Negroes or go to war. She said, 'Go fight till you die,
it won't be nothing but a breakfast spell.' He went but come back on a
furlough. He spent the rest of the time in a cave he dug down back of
the field. He'd slip out and come to the house a little while at night.
It was in the back woods and not very near anybody else.

"Aunt Mandy, another old man, grandmother and my mother lived in a house
in the yard, two of us was born in slavery. My sister Mandy was fifteen
years old when slavery ended.

"The way we first heard about freedom, one of the boys come home to stay
but no one knew that when he came. He told sister Mandy cook him a good
supper and he would tell her something good. She cooked him a good
supper and set the table. He set to eat and she ask him what it was. He
told her, 'All the slaves are free now.' From that on it was talked. We
left there. My mother and sister Mandy told me I wasn't born. We went to
Mississippi then. I was born over there. Some sharecropped and some
worked as renters.

"Sister Mandy told so many times about carrying fire in a coffeepot--had
a lid and handle--to the son in the cave. She'd go across there, a
meadow like and a field, calling the sheep for a blind so if the cavalry
spied her they would think she had a little feed for the sheep. The
cavalry was close about. It was cold and the young master would nearly
freeze in his cave.

"Mother said they was good to them. They never touched them to beat them
but they all went from early till late. They all worked and the old
mistress too.

"Two of mother's children was slave born. Sister Mandy is dead but my
brother George Hawkens is on 1114 Appenway, Little Rock. He can tell you
more than I know. Two of us was born after slavery. We all had the same
father--Mr. Young. He lived about two miles from Hawkens and had a white
wife and family. I carried water to the field where he worked and talked
a little with him. I saw him when he was sick. He had consumption. I
heard when he died and was buried. He never did one thing for us
children. Mr. Young and the Hawkens was partners some way in the
farming. Mr. Young died young.

"When her son told my sister Mandy at supper table, 'All the slaves are
free now', old mistress jumped up and said, 'It's not recorded! It's not

"Mr. Wolf was a man, old, old man on a big plantation. He had one
hundred slaves. He didn't know his slaves when he met one of them. He
had overseers. He talked with his slaves when he met one about and they
would tell him, 'You're my master.' They said during the War the old man
had cotton seed boiled down for his slaves to eat. The War was about to
starve them all out. Oil mills were unheard of at that time.

"The War brought freedom and starvation both to the slaves. I heard old
people say they died in piles from exposure and hunger. There was no
let-up to their work after freedom.

"All my family came from Mississippi to Forrest City, Arkansas together.
I married the first time there. My wife died. Then I married at
Brinkley, Arkansas. We have one boy living in Lee County. He's my only

Interviewer's Comment

J. G. Hawkens is the whitest Negro I have ever seen. He has blue eyes
and straight hair. He was fishing two days I went to see him.

Next: Lizzie Hawkens

Previous: Matilda Hatchett

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