A Little History

Oklahoma Slave Narrative

  Noah Perry

That is the truth all right for I still remember the good and the bad times we had before and just after the war of the rebellion. We had a lot harder time after the war than when we lived wid our old Master. He always looked after us in every way and we didn't have any thing to worry about. We always had plenty to eat and to wear and if we got sick he saw to it that we had plenty of attention and medicine. I was born in slavery on the plantation of Master William Gore, near Summerville, Georgia. Master William and his wife Miss Sallie owned my mother and my brother and me. My father, Ben Perry, belonged to Squire Perry who owned a plantation about a mile from us. He came to see us often and spent every Saturday night and Sunday wid us. Sometimes he'd come in the middle of the week but as he had to be back on his master's farm so early in the morning to go to work he didn't come very often when the days was short. Mother and father both had kind masters who never whipped them but looked after them good and give them a good home in return for the work they did for them. Once father come over to see us. His master didn't care for him coming and he didn't get no pass from him before he left. A patroller got after him and father started running down across the orchard and the patroller right after him. Father ducked under a crooked peach tree and the patroller didn't see it in time and he hit it wid his head and it knocked him out cold. Father didn't stay to see if he got taken care of but went on home. Old Squire Perry gave orders that father was not to be meddled with any more as he didn't have to have a pass. They never did bother him any more. Mother's rightful owner was Old Man Gore, Master William's father. He had two big plantations and he gave one to Master William and the other to his other son, Master Frank. He give each of his son's a equal number of slaves but always kept a claim on mother and us kids. He had a little house near the big house and when he was visiting Master William he stayed in this little house and mother kept house for him. He usually stayed about six months and we'd get to live at the little house all that time. He thought about as much of me as he did his own grandchildren. Sometimes when they'd get after me to whip me he would take me to his room and keep me away from them. Sometimes he'd make me a pallet and keep me all night. They sure didn't whip me neither. I loved him a lot, too. When he left to go stay with his son Master Frank mother would put everything to rights and lock up and we'd go back to Master William's to stay till he come back again. Mother liked to stay with him, too, as she didn't have to work so hard there and she was her own boss. Our white folks lived in a fine house. It was a two-story building facing the south and it had a big gallery across the front and one on the east. A big wide hall went clear through the house both upstairs and down and there was rooms on each side of this hall. There was a basement with four rooms in it. The house-help lived down there. The house set up on a hill and was painted white. You could see it for a long distance. A long winding road lead up to the house from the main big road. There was big shade trees all around the house and the barn. The quarters was below the house about three hundred yards. We had a nice house in the quarters. It was made out of logs but it was well made and had a good floor and was good and warm. Mother was a good field hand as she was young and strong. She usually run the plow. She liked to plow and made such a good hand at it that the overseer let her plow all the time if she wanted to. She never took much foolishness off of any of the other hands neither. One day one of the men got mad at me and whipped me. When she come home of course I told her about it. He went to the barn and hid when he saw her coming. She went out there and drug him out and give him a good thrashing. He never bothered us kids any more either. Mother spanked us good and proper though. One time I was up at the big house playing with Master William's boys and we got into a fuss about something and I went home. Walter followed me and I run and got over the fence into our yard. Walter climbed on the fence to jump over and I say to him, "Don't you come in this yard, I left your house to keep from fighting and I want you to go on back home." But Walter never paid no attention to what I said and he kept on coming. I picked up a rock and throwed it and hit him right on the forehead. He fell off that fence just like he was shot off and he just lay there and sort of trembled. I just knowed I'd killed him. Lawsy, I was scared. I run down through the woods lot and hid in some buckeye bushes. I could hear Miss Sallie screaming and saying, "He's killed my Walter, he's killed my Walter." I just laid there and shook. Purty soon here come Master William looking for me. He come so close that I thought sure he could hear my heart beat but he had to give it up. I was afraid to go to the house for I thought they would kill me. Finally mother come home from the field. Master William told her about it and told her she had to whip me. She wanted to know where I was. They told her I was in the woods somewhere and she commenced calling me. I decided that if mother was at home she wouldn't let them kill me as she always had taken my part so I went to the house. She sure dusted my britches for me but I didn't mind that like I would have Master William. Walter has that scar till this day if he is still living. We played together after that just like nothing ever happened. The war come on and times got purty scarey. Master Frank went to the army but Master William didn't. I guess he was too old. The Yankees come along and took all the able-bodied colored men to the army. Father went as a cook and it was a many long day before we ever saw him again. Our family was all broke up after dat. Master William took what niggers he had left and refugeed us to Macon, Georgia. Things was so bad in northern Georgia that he decided to stay there, so he took over a place and we raised rice. We stayed there about five years after the war. Master William decided to go back and see about his old home and he loaded his household goods, tools, niggers, and everything he had onto a freight train and we went back home. The farm was awful run down and all his nigger men and young women quit him so Master William had a hard time rebuilding it. Father had come back after the war and couldn't find us so he married again. Mother and us two boys just stayed on with Master William till I was about fourteen years old. Mother married again and my father come and took me to live with him. My stepmother had four boys of her own. One of them was grown but the other three were at home with father and her. Her oldest son was a school teacher. They had belonged to a man that taught them all to read and write and even sent the boys to school. He made an awful smart man. I went to school to him and learned all I ever learned at school. I went to another man but I was so scared of him that I couldn't learn. He felt so big that he could teach school that he beat on us kids all the time. He'd make us set on a stool and wear a dunce cap, too. I also went to school to a white teacher that come down from the north. He was smart and I could a learned from him but the Ku Kluxers made him quit teaching us so he went back home. It was the sorriest day of my life when I went to live with my father. My stepmother just fairly hated me and she done everything she could to make my life a misery to me. She was fairly good to me if father was at home but if he was gone I had an awful time. She wouldn't let me wash my face and hands till her boys all washed. One morning I waited and waited for them to wash and I got tired so I set the pan down in the kitchen door and squatted down to wash. She come up behind me and kicked me out in the yard. Father was out feeding the pigs and he saw it and here he came to the house. I had told him how they treated me but he acted like he hated to believe me but he had to believe his eyes. He come in and cleaned out the whole bunch. This didn't stop them though for every time he left home it was the same thing over again. One day father was gone from home and I done something and she took a big hank of cotton thread and put it around my neck and hung me up to a joist. I thought my time had come for I knew there wasn't anybody there that cared whether I lived or died. One of my aunts come up to the back and hollered for my stepmother. She let me down and told me if I told it she would kill me. I believed her and I didn't tell it. I knew she wanted to kill me bad enough. She took sick and died not long after that and that was the only time in my life that I ever said that I was glad that a person was dead. I said it and I sure meant it. I went back to Master William's to live after that. He give me ten dollars a month and my board to work for him. I stayed with him till I was about twenty-five years old and I married and rented a place for myself. Bob Perry, one of my stepmother's son that always seem to have it in for me worse than any of the boys, married and had two children. His wife died and he had her buried. The day of the funeral he told me, "Noah, I've always wanted to have my way and now I'm gonna do it from now on. You can just mark my words." Well sir, he left that day and none of us ever seen him again. He went off and left his children. My wife and me took his little girl and kept her till she was a grown woman. I tried my best never to be mean to her and I never told her how her grandmother and daddy used to treat me. I think that is one reason that I have always been sort of lucky was that I always tried to be better to people than they was to me. The country there begun to be thickly settled and I hope my Pappy to buy and pay for 80 acres of land. I took my family and moved to Texas. We didn't stay there but three years and we come to Oklahoma or Indian Territory as it was then. My wife didn't like it here and I told her she could go back to her mother's if she wanted to that I was going to stay here. We had lost our little girl and just had one child, a boy, so she took him and went back. I been living here by myself ever since. My boy would come out to see me but would go back to his mother. He was killed in France during the World War. My wife is still living. While I lived in Texas I worked for an old lady named Aunt Patsy Caraway. Every body called her Aunt Patsy. She owned a nice farm and lived by herself. Her family was all dead. She was lonesome and lots of nights my wife and I would go in to her room and set by the fire and listen to her tell of her life in the early days there. She was born in North Carolina she said and married and they come to Texas soon after that. Her husband died when their children was all young and she had to work hard to make a living for them. She was a little woman I don't suppose she would weigh more than 115 or 120 pounds. A lot of the things she told us seemed kind of hard to believe but I guess they was true any way I will tell you what she told me and you can take it or leave it. She and her husband had settled on a place and started to improve it. They were doing very well and her husband took sick and after a long time he died. She had no one to help her with making a living for her children so she just worked harder. She had a few head of cattle that had a free range and she also had some hogs that had free range. She lived close to a swamp and the hogs did well on the mast. The hogs raised themselves in the woods and she always had plenty of meat, milk and butter. She also raised lots of bees and they had honey the year round. They raised corn for bread and used honey for sugar as they didn't know what it was to have coffee or sugar or flour. She usually had honey to sell and they spun and wove their clothes. By every body working they managed to keep going. Her farm lay right at the edge of a big swamp and was about fifteen or twenty miles from Beaumont, Texas. This swamp was a regular jungle and she had some of it cleared and had her farm there. She had about twenty acres cleared and in cultivation. The house set back on a hill. She said wild beasts of almost every kind ranged the swamps at the time they settled there and you could believe it, too, as it looked plenty wild then. Black bear was plentiful. They feasted on her young calves and pigs and she had a hard time with them. One day she said the dogs began to bark and run as if something terrible was around and she took her gun and keep mooching them along till finally they came to bay down in the swamp. She went on to see what they had and found a big black bear. She shot it and butchered it and brought it home. She had to make several trips on horseback and found a ready sale for it at a good price. She always made the trip to town in one day, always on horseback and carried whatever she had for sale. She said that once she even took her churn full of milk and churned it as she rode along the road. When she got to Beaumont her churning was done so she sold her butter and milk and returned home that evening with whatever produce she needed. She said that one night she heard something out in the yard and she went out to see what it was. She went to the smokehouse door and she saw a Mexican lion in the smokehouse. It gave a loud scream and run out the door past her and was so scared that it kept on running. I asked her if she wasn't afraid and she said, "Afraid, what is that? I never saw one of them things. I couldn't afford to be afraid for I was the man and the woman of the family." I left there and come to the mines at Krebs and I been here ever since. I never had no trouble till just here lately. A boy was living here with me and we got along good for he was a good boy. He was keeping company with one of my nieces. One night I was setting here by the fire and he come running in and said, "Uncle Noah, let me have your gun, quick!" I said, "I can't let you have my gun, you might kill somebody." He said, "That's just what I want it for, so let me have it." I always kept it leaning against the wall behind the door and he grabbed it and started by me and I grabbed hold of it and told him that I couldn't let him have my gun to kill anybody that I'd be just as guilty as he was and besides he didn't need to kill anybody. He kept jerking on the gun, a shotgun, and I kept holding on to it. He give a big jerk and it went off and shot him in the stomach and killed him right then. They arrested me and I stayed in jail for 24 days. The good Lord knows that I didn't kill him. We was good friends and besides I wouldn't a killed nobody. My lawyer says he don't think it ever will come up any more but I just worry about it all the time. I never had no trouble in my young days and it looks hard for me to have this to worry about in my old days. I bought me a Bible and I reads it a lot. I ain't never been converted but I wants to be.