A Little History

Oklahoma Slave Narrative

  Henry Clay

I was bo'n in Centerpoint, Howard County, Arkansas, October 5, 1853, so dey tel me; dats all I know'd 'cep' what dey tel me for de truth.  Well, its kinda surprise for someone to come around to talk to me. I never gits to talk to anybody much; folks don't care nothing bout me; dey all calls me de drunkard, gambler, horse thief and murderer. I'se been practically all dem things to. I'se been a wicked man ever since my first wife died. I confessed religion in 1863 and lived like a gentleman until de death of my wife; den I felt lak everything I had was gone so I jes started getting drunk, gambling and raising hell. I'se never fooled with any woman to mount to nothin since my wife died; I jes got drunk, gambled and forgot about de women. I've made lots o' money gambling and selling whiskey. I've seed de time when I could write a check for five thousand dollars any day. Cose I ain't got nothin' now. Jes lak I made it I let it get away from me, jes dat quick. I got in jail once bout some whiskey. I had a fellow to build me a barn right dare on dat corner, (1st and Central) and underneath dat barn I had him to build a place for me to hide my whiskey. I done good business for a long time den I decided to have me a house build so got dis same fellow dat built de barn to figger wid me on de house. Well, he knew I had plenty money so he tried to skin me, so I got anudder fellow and he figured de house three hundred dollars cheaper. Well, I let him build it for me. Now here's what happened: dat other low down rat, jes cause I wouldn't let him skin me out o' my money he went to the sheriff's office and told him about dis place he built fo me to keep my whiskey. Well, de sheriff come out dere and began to look around fo de stuff and when he found de place, it was locked in. He told me to unlock it and he would tare de place up, pore out de whiskey, and let me go. Cose you know I was lak most Niggers would be wid a little money; I cussed him out, told him dat was my place and he better not put his dam hand on it. He didn't say a word; he jes went back got some mo fellows and dey come dere, broke dat place open and carried away seven hundred and seventy-five dollars worth of whiskey for me. Well dey put me in jail and I stayed dere one hundred and fifteen days. It cost me a lot o' money to keep from going to the penitentiary. I gave ole Norman Pruitt nigh five thousand dollars to git me out of it.  Ah! kid, I tel yo I am George Washington Claridy; I'se been into a little o' everything; I know de ropes. Cose dey call me a murderer, but I ain't never killed nobody. De jes put dat on to it case I'se such a wicked fellow. I ain't no count now. I'se such a wicked fellow. I ain't no count now. I jes drag around; I don't ask nobody fo nothin'. I ain't never a asked anybody for a dime in my life. I gits a little $21.50 check from de pension folks each month and I makes dat last me.  Now you want me to tell you somethin' about slavery times: sorry I got away from you in de beginning, but I jes lak to tel folks de kind o' life I've lived. Well, my father and mother was named Cats and Clarenda Claridy. Dey came from South Carolina, I don't know what place; all I know is jes South Carolina. I have two brothers and two sisters; cose one brother and one sister is jes half brother and sister to me, case after my pa went to de war and never did come back, my mother had dese two kids by another man. Now James and Ann Claridy was my whole brother and sister, and John and Arena was my half brother and sister. I don't know what their last name is case I never did know what the fellows name was my mother married the second time.  We were good livers on plantation, ole Master laked us a lot. He let us live in de best house on de plantation. It was as good as a lot o' dese little shacks you see over here now. De beds was alright; cose we slept on straw mattresses but dat didn't make no diffunce to us; dey slept mighty fine.  Well, I don't recollect nothin' bout my grandmother, only a little dat my grandfather told me. Now, I know a lots bout him cose we stayed on with ole Master for six months after freedom den we started to workin on halves for a nudder fellow down there in Arkansas. We started out hoping dat we would soon be able to buy us a farm of our own, so we began saving every dime we could git our hands on, and we did dat for eight years, den my grandpa got down wid de rheumatism. Dere was a ole lady in dat country dat was a good doctor fo dat kind a stuff; so we sent for her. She came over dere and doctored on my grandpa and it seemed to have done lots o' good; so after dat, we would send for her every two or three days, and he kept on getting better and better. Now we jes kept our money in a sack hanging on de wall and every time she came, I would git de sack off of de wall, pay her and put it back. So finally, one day after Pa had got up enough to wald and thought he could make it alright from then on. We decided we would go out and git the ole lady some vegetables to take home wid her. While we were gone, I be-doggone if that ole lady didn't git that sack and we haven't seen or heard from her since. We had purty near a thousand dollars in that sack too.  Wel, I'll tell you how I feel bout religion. Now I jined the church once, but I soon found out dat most o' de folks in dere didn't have religion, even de preacher. De biggest thing they want is money. Since I'se found dat out de only thing I do is read my Bible every day and try to treat my fellow man right; cose I tel you I don't believe in dis here singing and shouting on Sunday and raising de devil wid yo neighbor on Monday.  I neber did no nothin bout Abraham Lincoln, Jeff Davis and dem fellows. I jes heard bout 'em. Cose dey was mighty big men from what I could hear.  Wel, I'll tell we lived mighty good in slavery time days, dat is, our family did, but, even at dat price, I would hate to have to go over it again; yes sir I sho' would.