A Little History

Oklahoma Slave Narrative

  London Law Hemmett

 I was born in Georgia, on the banks of Flint (To - To) river. That was December 15, 1849. My father was John Hemmett and my mother was Celia Law. They were both from North Carolina, and was taken away from their parents before they were grown.  There was three brothers - Tom, Henderson and Billie; and five sisters name of Sarah, Ann, Jane, Martha and Jennie. Before the war we had a nice frame cabin in Georgia.  I married Julia Ann Brown who was a slave girl of General Brown. Married 67-year ago. My wife is dead now, and she was 101 year old when she died. We been together all the time and raised 13 children. Some of them is dead. The only living ones are Ann, Peggy, Maggie, Martha, Savana and a boy George.  The old master was George Law. He had two sons, John and Andy. The two near market places in Georgia was Linden and Douglasville. I remember there was a corn field right where most of Atlanta is now.  When the Civil War started the master moved to near Jefferson, Texas. That was a big cotton market place in them days. There was about fifty of us slaves with the master. We come to the Texas country and settled in the woods. Spend all the day clearing out the thickets. Clean up the ground for farming.  We split the logs and built log cabins and made cabins for the slave families. The master had a two room house, hall in the middle. We had to build a barn, fence in some of the land with split rail for fences. Each slave family had their own cabin. The fireplace for cooking was made of mud and sticks. We never saw a stove like they got now. We dug a well but before we got it finished I had to carry water from a spring. I never like to tote water since then.  The master had two four wheel wagons. My father made them. The whole thing was of ash wood put together with wooden pins, no nails or screws in them days. Everybody traveled in ox wagons. It was slow goings and took days to get anywhere. Sometimes the men would ride the oxen like they was horses. I was a big chunk of a boy and would drive the wagons to market at Jefferson.  We children never heard of money in the old days. We helped to make clothes. The older folks wore dresses and pants but the young ones just had a long tail cotton shirt.  None of the slaves on our place ever tried to runaway. The Law's were good white people. The old mistress always see that everybody get plenty to eat.  The master had the slaves build a church place. It was called the Law Chapel and the master preached in it. He was Methodist. But since the Confederate War (as he calls it) I been a Baptist.  I remember about people going to War. I heard them talking about Vicksburg and Shiloh and I saw soldiers once marching along and the master said there was 17,000 in the bunch. He said they were going to Honey Springs. (That is in the "now Oklahoma").   When peace was made the overseer called all the slaves up and Master George Law said, "You slaves are all free by law and bloodshed. Go do as you please. Make money. Take your family and build a house. Farm and raise all you can for to eat. Trust in the Lord and he will show you the way through this world of wilderness."  We was all glad to be free from slavery even though we didn't understand why we were free. It was great to have our own liberty. What earning we got was our own and we never had money before freedom. We worked for just anybody. Traveled around and moved to the north. Not far, but we crossed the Red River and come to Checotah. There was plenty of work to do, but not much money. The best hands got seventy-five cent a day, the rest twenty-five and fifty cents. Mostly I picked cotton.  We come on to Muskogee and I use to ride the stage coach from there to Fort Gibson and it connect there for Tahlequah and on to Stilwell and Fort Smith.  The first year after the war we lived mostly on hunt game like rabbits and possums. We "fire hunted" at night. That's by building a big fire and waiting for the game to get curious and come up to see the light. Then we trap 'em with branches or else club 'em while they're watching the fire.  The greatest man that ever lived was Lincoln. I keep his picture on the wall. Booker Washington was the best colored educator.