A Little History

Oklahoma Slave Narrative

  Daniel Webster Burton

I was born March 14, 1848, on a plantation on Red River near old Shawnee town, Choctaw Nation, near where the town of Idabel now stands.  My father was Sam Burton, a slave, owned by an Englishman by the name of Alfred Murray who married a Chickasaw woman who, in reality, was owner of the slaves when she married Alfred Murray. He did not believe in slavery but, as she owned the slaves, he assumed charge of them and would not permit a white man slave driver on the place. All the slaves under him were on the honor system, and my father was made overseer of the plantation, as Alfred Murray was a lawyer and had considerable practice in Texas which kept him away from home a good part of the time.  My mother was Betsy Burton, half blood Chickasaw Indian.  I was reared on the plantation in slavery under conditions as I have stated and was about seventeen years of age when emancipation came and we were set free.  During slavery days all the slaves went by the name of their master, but after emancipation my father assumed his family name.  About one year before we were made free, our master called all his slaves to him and talked to us, and told us that we would soon be as free as he was, and in appreciation of his slaves, he was going to divide a portion of his plantation estate with my father, Sam Burton, and two other old slaves by the name of Andy Murray and Jake Murray. Unfortunately, just after the close of the war and before he had adjusted his affairs as he wished, Alfred Murray died and we slaves were free but like a bunch of lost sheep, we knew not where to go or what to do. Not until then did we fully realize what a wonderful master we had had and how much he had done for all of us. We lived well and all of his slaves had money, as our master allowed each slave ten acres of land to tend as his own, and at harvest time, the tenant received the entire yield of these acres to dispose of as his own.  There was an abundance of game in this country at that time, such as deer, wild turkey, bear, wolves, panther and small game too numerous to mention and we never knew what it was to want for fresh wild meat of our own choice. I have sold as much as $90.00 worth of hides and furs to fur buyers at one time. We had everything we wanted. We made our own clothes from home spun cloth made on the looms at home. We made our own shoes.  I have tanned many a deer skin which could be used for coats and jackets and other purposes.  There was a white man by the name of Joe Briley who operated a mercantile business across Red River in Texas opposite the Murray plantation and this Joe Briley was a great friend of Murray's. Briley also owned and operated two steamboats, namely: Little George and Big George. These boats, during the cotton season, would load cotton along Red River at all the plantations and transport it to New Orleans, and return with a general cargo of freight for the river towns and plantations that were situated along Red River in those days.  Plantation owners and slave holders, other than Alfred Murray, situated in the vicinity of Shawnee town were Henry Harris and Isaac Hampton, then Zack Colbert's plantation several miles north of Shawnee town, near Doaksville.  That part of the country was disturbed very little from the strife of the Civil War, though there were many refugees in the Choctaw Nation from the Creek and Cherokee Nations.  After emancipation and the death of our master and mistress, a brother of our master by the name of Frank Murray came from Texas and assumed charge of the plantation, and soon thereafter the property was taken from him by the Choctaw Nation. At that time my parents with their seven children, including myself, left the old home and moved to a place near Shawnee town and established a home of our own where my parents spent their remaining days; also five of the children died at that place and are buried in the old Shawnee town graveyard where many of the old pioneers rest.  The old Shawnee town and Clarksville road crossed Red River on a ferry at my master's plantation and was the only road between the Shawnee town district and Clarksville, Texas, where my master had a town home and where he spent the most of his time.  About 1867 I was married to Sallie Colbert, the daughter of Zack and Rachel Colbert. Zack Colbert was a Chickasaw plantation owner and slave holder and Rachel Colbert was one of his slaves.  There were four children born to us, two of whom are now living, namely: Reverend G. H. Burton of Muskogee and Reverend G. F. Burton, now pastor of the C. M. E. Church at Shawnee, Oklahoma.  After my life had been blessed with fifty-six years of her faithful companionship, my wife passed on from this world in 1923.  About twenty-five years ago my eye sight began to fail and the last several years I have been totally blind, but I am thankful for my past ninety-one years of life, as I have lived a life of a christian and have reared my family in a christian home and have two sons that are in the service of the Lord as ministers of the gospel. Therefore, regardless of my seeming affliction of blindness, I have so much to be thankful for while I sit and dream of the happy past and wait for the call of my great Creator.