Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Perry Madden, Thirteenth Street, south side,
one block east of Boyle Park Road, Route 6,
Care L.G. Cotton, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: About 79
Birth and Age
"I have been here quite a few years. This life is short. A man ought to
prepare for eternity. I had an uncle who used to say that a person who
went to torment stayed as long as there was a grain of sand on the sea.
"I was a little boy when slavery broke. I used to go out with my
brother. He watched gaps. I did not have to do anything; I just went out
with him to keep him company. I was scared of the old master. I used to
call him the 'Big Bear.' He was a great big old man.
"I was about six years old when the War ended, I guess. I don't know how
old I am. The insurance men put me down as seventy-three. I know I was
here in slavery time, and I was just about six years old when the War
"I got my first learning in Alabama. I didn't learn anything at all in
slavery times. I went to school. I would go to the house in slavery
tine, and there wouldn't be nobody home, and I would go to the bed and
get under it because I was scared. When I would wake up it would be way
in the night and dark, and I would be in bed.
"I got my schooling way after the surrender. We would make crops. The
third time we moved, dad started me to school. I had colored teachers. I
was in Talladega County. I made the fifth grade before I stopped. My
father died and then I had to stop and take care of my mother.
An "Aunt Caroline" Story
"I know that some people can tell things that are goin' to happen. Old
man Julks lived at Pumpkin Bend. He had a colt that disappeared. He went
to 'Aunt Caroline'--that's Caroline Dye. She told him just where the
colt was and who had it and how he had to get it back. She described the
colt and told him that was what he come to find out about before he had
a chance to ask her anything. She told him that white people had it and
told him where they lived and told him he would have to have a white man
go and git it for him. He was working for a good man and he told him
about it. He advertised for the colt and the next day, the man that
stole it came and told him that a colt had been found over on his place
and for him to come over and arrange to git it. But he said, 'No, I've
placed that matter in the hands of my boss.' He told his boss about it,
but the fellow brought the horse and give it to the boss without any
Family and Masters
"My old master's slaves were called free niggers. He and his wife never
mistreated their slaves. When any of Madden's slaves were out and the
pateroles got after them, if they could make it home, that ended it.
Nobody beat Madden's niggers.
"My father's name was Allen Madden and my mother's name was Amy Madden.
I knew my grandfather and grandmother on my mother's side. My
grandfather and grandmother never were 'round me though that I can
"When the old man died, the Negroes were divided out. This boy got so
many and that one got so many. The old man, Mabe Madden, had two sons,
John and Little Mabe. My mother and father went to John. They were in
Talladega because John stayed there.
"My father's mother and father fell to Little Mabe Madden. They never
did come to Alabama but I have heard my father talk about them so much.
My father's father was named Harry. His last name must have been Madden.
"My grandfather on my mother's side was named Charlie Hall. He married
into the Madden family. He belonged to the Halls before he married. Old
man Charlie, his master, had a plantation that wasn't far from the
Madden's plantation. In those days, if you met a girl and fell in love
with her, you could git a pass and go to see her if you wanted to. You
didn't have to be on the same plantation at all. And you could marry her
and go to see her, and have children by her even though you belonged to
different masters. The Maddens never did buy Hall. Grandma never would
change her name to Hall. He stayed at my house after we married, stayed
with me sometimes, and stayed with his other son sometimes.
"My mother was born a Madden. She was born right at Madden's place. When
grandma married Hall, like it is now, she would have been called Hall.
But she was born a Madden and stayed Madden and never did change to her
husband's name. So my mother was born a Madden although her father's
name was Hall.
"I don't know what sort of man Mabe was, and I only know what my parents
said about John. They said he was a good man and I have to say what they
said. He didn't let nobody impose on his niggers. Pateroles did git
after them and bring them in with the hounds, but when they got in, that
settled it. Madden never would allow white people to beat on his
"They tried to git my daddy out so that they could whip him, but they
couldn't catch him. They shot him--the pateroles did--but he whipped
them. My daddy was a coon. I mean he was a good man.
"My brother was big enough to mind gaps. That was in slavery times. They
had good fences around the field. They didn't have gates like they do
now. They had gaps. The fence would zigzag, and the rails could be
lifted down at one section, and that would leave a gap. If you left a
gap, the stock would go into the field. When there was a gap, my brother
would stay in it and keep the stock from passing. When the folks would
come to dinner, he would go in and eat dinner with them just as big as
anybody. When they would leave, the gap would stay down till night. It
stayed down from morning till noon and from one o'clock till the men
come in at night. The gap was a place in the rails like I told you where
they could take down the rails to pass. It took time to lay the rails
down and more time to place then back up again. They wouldn't do it.
They would leave them down till they come back during the work hours and
a boy that was too small to do anything else was put to mind them. My
brother used to do that and I would keep him company. When I heard old
master coming there, I'd be gone, yes siree. I would see him when he
left the house and when he got to the gap, I would be home or at my
"I have followed farming all my life. That is the sweetest life a man
can lead. I have been farming all my life principally. My occupation is
farming. That is it was until I lost my health. I ain't done nothin' for
about four years now. I would follow public work in the fall of the year
and make a crop every year. Never failed till I got disabled. I used to
make all I used and all I needed to feed my stock. I even raised my own
wheat before I left home in Alabama. That is a wheat country. They don't
raise it out here.[HW: ?]
"I came here--lemme see, about how many years ago did I come here. I
guess I have been in Arkansas about twenty-eight years since the first
time I come here. I have gone in and out as I got a chance to work
somewheres. I have been living in this house about three years.
"I preached for about twenty or more years. I don't know that I call
myself a preacher. I am a pretty good talker sometimes. I have never
pastored a church; somehow or 'nother the word come to me to go and I go
and talk. I ain't no pulpit chinch. I could have taken two or three
men's churches out from under them, but I didn't.
Freedom and Soldiers
"I can't remember just how my father got freed. Old folks then didn't
let you stan' and listen when they talked. If you did it once, you
didn't do it again. They would talk while they were together, but the
children would have business outdoors. Yes siree, I never heard them say
much about how they got freedom.
"I was there when the Yankees come through. That was in slave time. They
marched right through old man Madden's grove. They were playing the
fifes and beating the drums. And they were playing the fiddle. Yes sir,
they were playing the fiddle too. It must have been a fiddle; it sounded
just like one. The soldiers were all just a singin'. They didn't bother
nobody at our house. If they bothered anything, nothing was told me
about it. I heard my uncle say they took a horse from my old manager. I
didn't see it. They took the best horse in the lot my uncle said. Pardon
me, they didn't take him. A peckerwood took him and let the Yankees get
him. I have heard that they bothered plenty of other places. Took the
best mules, and left old broken down ones and things like that. Broke
things up. I have heard that about other places, but I didn't see any of
Right after the War
"Right after the War, my father went to farming--renting land. I mean he
sharecropped and done around. Thing is come way up from then when the
Negroes first started. They didn't have no stock nor nothin' then. They
made a crop just for the third of it. When they quit the third, they
started givin' them two-fifths. That's more than a third, ain't it? Then
they moved up from that, and give them half, and they are there yet. If
you furnish, they give you two-thirds and take one-third. Or they give
you so much per acre or give him produce in rent.
"I was married in 1883. My wife's name was Mary Elston. Her mother died
when she was an infant. Her grandmother was an Elston at first. Then she
changed her name to Cunningham. But she always went in the name of
Elston, and was an Elston when she married me. My wife I mean. I married
on a Thursday in the Christmas week. This December I will be married
fifty-five years. This is the only wife I have ever had. We had three
children and all of them are dead. All our birthed children are dead.
One of them was just three months old when he died. My baby girl had
three children and she lived to see all of them married.
"Our own folks is about the worst enemies we have. They will come and
sweet talk you and then work against you. I had a fellow in here not
long ago who came here for a dollar, and I never did hear from him again
after he got it. He couldn't get another favor from me. No man can fool
me more than one time. I have been beat out of lots of money and I have
got hurt trying to help people.
"The young folks now is just gone astray. I tell you the truth, I
wouldn't give you forty cents a dozen for these young folks. They are
sassy and disrespectful. Don't respect themselves and nobody else. When
they get off from home, they'll respect somebody else better 'n they
will their own mothers.
"If they would do away with this stock law, they would do better
everywhere. If you would say fence up your place and raise what you
want, I could get along. But you have to keep somebody to watch your
stock. If you don't, you'll have to pay something out. It's a bad old
thing this stock law. It's detrimental to the welfare of man."
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