Collected by the Federal Writers Project, Works Progress Administration
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person interviewed: Matilda Hatchett
424 W. Twenty-fifth Street,
North Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: Between 98 and 100
I was born right here in Arkansas about nine miles from Dardanelles (Dardanelle) in Sevier County. I think it's Sevier. No, it was Yell County. Yell County, that's it. You put the Dardanelles there and if they get that they'll get the Yell part. Can't miss Yell if you get Dardanelles.
I wish I could get holt of some of my old white folks. Maybe you can find 'em for me. There's one big policeman here looks like them but I don't know whether he is or not. The first white owners that I knowed was Jackie George in South Carolina. That is where I heard them talkin' about him comin' from. I wasn't born there; I was born here. I wasn't born when he come from South Carolina. His wife was named Nealie. He was just like a ole shoe. Never whipped me but one time in my life.
I'll tell you about it. This is what they whipped me for. Me and my brother, Sam, had to water the horses. I didn't have to go with Sam, but I was big enough to do that. We had one ole horse named John- big ole horse. I would have to git up on a ten-rail fence to git on him. One day I was leading ole John back and I got tired of walking. So when I come to a ten-rail fence, I got up on ole John. I got up on 'im backwards and I didn't have hold of no bridle nor nothin' because I was lookin' at his tail.
An' 'nother one, 'Man, she's sittin' on the horse backwards. And ole John was amblin' along nippin' the grass now an' then with his bridle draggin' and me sittin' up on his back facin' his tail end slippin' and slidin' with every step.
Ole John was gentle. But they were scairt he would throw me off. 0le missis come out the gate and met him herself, 'cause she was 'fraid the others would 'cite him and make him throw me down. She gentled him and led him up to ole master. They was careful and gentle till they got me off that horse, and then ole master turned and lit into me and give me a brushin'.
That's the only whippin' he ever give me. But that didn't do me no good. Leastwise, it didn't stop me from ridin' horses. I rode ole John ever chance I could git. But I didn't ride him backwards no more.
We used to wear homespun dresses. I have spun a many a yard and wove it. Did you ever see a loom? I used to have a wheel, and my children tore it up some way or 'nother. I still have the cards. We done our own knittin' and spin our own thread and knitted our socks and stockings.
The white folks lived in pretty good houses and we did too. They lived in big log houses. The white folks' houses had piazzas between the rooms. That Haney didn't build them houses. His daddy, Tim Haney, built 'em. The Haney's come in by Tim bein' Thad's father. Thad married Jackie George's daughter- Louisa George. George was her daddy and Haney was her husband.
There were four rooms besides the piazza. On one side, there was a big room built out of lumber. On the other side, there was a big room that a doctor lived in. There was a great big kitchen west of the piazza. The kitchen was about fifteen by fifteen. I know it was that large because we'd all eat at the same time. The old man, Tim, owned about thirty niggers. After he died they were all divided out among the boys. Every boy took his part of the land and his part of the niggers. But I wasn't at his house then. I was livin' with ole Jackie George. The white folks hadn't moved together then.
But I went to ole Tim Haney's funeral. The old white woman fainted and they rubbed her with camphor and stuff and had her layin' out there. I wasn't old enough to cry over him and wouldn't anyhow because I didn't care nothin' much about him. But I would have cried for my ole master though, because I really loved him.
I saw the soldiers when they come through our place. The first start of us noticin' them was this. I was always up to the white folks' house. Thad was goin' back to the Rebel army. Ole master tole my dad to go git 'im a hat. He'd got 'im one and was ridin' back with Thad's hat on top of his'n. Before he could git back, here come a man jus' a ridin'.
Thad finished his breakfast and then he ran on out and got with the Federals. He didn't Join 'em. He Jus' fooled 'em. The bridge was half a mile from our house and the Yankee army hadn't near finished crossing it when the head of it reached us.
Them folks stood 'round there all day. Killed hogs and cooked them. Killed cows and cooked them. Took all kinds of sugar and preserves and things like that. Tore all the feathers out of the mattress looking for money. Then they put ole miss (Nealie Haney) and her daughter (Louisa Haney) in the kitchen to cookin'.
Ma got scairt and went to bed. Dreckly the lieutenant come on down there and said, 'Auntie, get up from there. We ain't a goin' to do you no hurt. We're after helpin' you. We are freein' you. Aunt Dinah, you can do as you please now. You're free.'
Next mornin' they all dropped off goin' down to take Dardanelles. You could hear the cannons roarin' next day. They was all night gettin' away. They went on and took Dardanelles. Had all them white folks runnin' and hidin'.
The Secesh wouldn't go far. They would just hide. One night there'd be a gang of Secesh, and the next one, there'd come along a gang of Yankees. Pa was 'fraid of both of 'em. Secesh said they'd kill 'im if he left his white folks. Yankees said they'd kill 'im if he didn't leave 'em. He would hide out in the cotton patch and keep we children out there with him. Ole mis' made him carry us.
We was freed and went to a place that was full of people. We had to stay in a church with about twenty other people and two of the babies died there on account of the exposure. Two of my aunts died, too, on account of exposure then.
The soldiers didn't take anything that night but food. They left all the horses, What they took was what they could eat. But they couldn't catch the turkeys. The lieutenant stayed around all the time to make the soldiers behave themselves, The meals he made my ole mis' and her daughter cook was for the officers.
Yes Lawd! I have been here so long I ain't forgot nothin'. I can remember things way back. I can remember things happening when I was four years old. Things that happen now I can't remember so well. Bit I can remember things that happened way back yonder.
I learnt to read a little after peace was declared. A ole lady, Aunt Sarah Hunly, learnt us how to spell and then after that we went to school. I went to school three weeks. I never went to school much.
Didn't git no chance to learn nothin' in slavery. Sometimes the children would teach the darkies 'round the house their ABC's. I've heard of folks teachin' their slaves to read the Bible. They didn't teach us to read nothin'. I've heard of it, but I've never seen it, that some folks would cut off the first finger of a nigger that could write.
Father' a Children Freed Before Emancipation
My father had some children that were set free. They lived down on river bottom. Their ole master was named ole Crow. He died and set niggers free. He had four slaves. He had five. If any of you know Philo Pointer, his father was one of 'em. They set him free, His daughter- Crow's daughter- wanted the niggers and they would break the ole man's will. They furnished them a wagon and set them free. They come by my father's place and he killed his hog and fed them and they put the rest of it in the wagon and went on to the free state. I've got an old piece of a dish them boys give my mama, It's done broke up to a piece now, but I saves that.
Patsy Crow was the name of the girl that was freed, and one of the boys was named Joe Crow, and the others I don't know what it was, I guess it was Jim. Their old master had left a will givin' them the wagon and tean because he knew it wouldn't be possible for them to stay there after he died. He said he didn't want his niggers to be under anybody after he died. Wills was wills in them days. His daughter wanted them niggers, but they didn't give them to her. They set them free and sent them off.
Wants to See Her People
I nursed three children for Thad Haney and Louisa, his wife. Them girls' mamma was: the oldest was Julia; the next one was named Erma; and the youngest one was named Virginia. If I can find them and see them again, I'll be so happy. I jus' want to meet them one more time- some of them- all of them if they're livin'; but I know they can't all be living.
I think I'm between ninety-seven and ninety-eight years old. They had an old-age contest in Reverend Smith's time. They had Reverend Coffee and another man here since Reverend Smith. The pastor we have now is Yates. Our church is Lee Chapel A.M.E. Church. The contest was in 1935 I think and the people all agreed that I was the oldest colored woman in North Little Rock. They said I was ninety-six years old then. That would make me about ninety-eight years old now. But I saw my children afterwards and they said I was a year older. I used to have my age in the Family Bible and my husband's too, but it got burnt up. Accordin' to them I oughta be about ninety-nine or a hundred.
My folks didn't raise no cotton. They raised about two bales a year. Didn't have nobody to raise it. Thirty slaves were not enough for that. And they didn't care nothin' about it nohow. They had forty-six acres of land in wheat and lots in corn end potatoes, They raised cows, hogs, horses, turkeys, chickens, and everything else. Even had peafowls. The geese used to run me 'round many a day.