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Person Interviewed: Matilda Poe
Location: McAlester, Oklahoma
I was born in Indian Territory on de plantation of Isaac Love. He was old Master, and Henry Love was young Master. Isaac Love was a full blood Chickasaw Indian but his wife was a white woman. Old Master was sure good to his slaves. The young niggers never done no heavy work till day was fully grown. Dey would carry water to de men in de field and do other light jobs ’round de place. De Big House set way back from de road ’bout a quarter of a mile. It was a two-story log house, and the rooms was awful big and they was purty furniture in it. The furniture in de parlor was red plush and I loved to slip in and rub my hand over it, it was so soft like. The house was made of square logs and de cracks was filled out even with the edges of de logs. It was white washed and my but it was purty. They was a long gallery clean across de front of de house and big posts to support de roof. Back a ways from de house was de kitchen and nearby was de smokehouse. Old Master kept it well filled with meat, lard and molasses all de time. He seen to it that we always had plenty to eat. The old women done all de cooking in big iron pots that hung over the fire. De slaves was all served together. The slave quarters was about two hundred yards back of de Big House. Our furniture was made of oak ‘cepting de chairs, and dey was made out of hackberry. I still have a chair dat belonged to my mammy. The boys didn’t wear no britches in de summer time. Dey just more long shirts. De girls wore homespun dresses, either blue or gray. Old Master never hired no overseer for his slaves, but he looked after ‘on hisself. He punished dem hisself too. He had to go away one time and he hired a white man to oversee while he was gone. The only orders he left was to keep dem busy. Granny Lucy was awful old but he made her go to the field. She couldn’t hold out to work so he ups and whips her. He beat her scandalous. He cut her back so bad she couldn’t wear her dress. Old Master come home and my, he was mad when he see Granny Lucy. He told de man to leave and iffen he ever set foot on his ground again he’s shoot him, sure! Old Master had a big plantation and a hundred or more slaves. Dey always got up at daylight and de men went out and fed de horses. When de bell rang dey was ready to eat. After breakfast dey took de teams and went out to plow. Dey come in ’bout half past ‘leven and at twelve de bell rung agin. Dey eat their dinner and back to plowing dey went. ‘Bout five o’clock dey come in again, and den they’d talk, sing and jig dance till bedtime. Old Master never punished his niggers ‘cepting dey was sassy or lazy. He never sold his slaves neither. A owner once sold several babies to traders. Dey stopped at our plantation to stay awhile. My mammy and de other women had to take care of dem babies for two days, and teach dem to nuss a bottle or drink from a glass. Dat was awful, dem little children crying for they mothers. Sometimes dey sold de mothers away from they husbands and children. Master wasn’t a believer in church but he let us have church. My we’d have happy times singing an abouting. They’d have church when dey had a preacher and prayer meeting when dey didn’t. Slaves didn’t leave de plantation much on ‘count of de Patrollers. De patroller was low white trash what jest wanted a excuse to shoot niggers. I don’t think I ever saw one but I heard lots of ‘em. I don’t believe in luck charms and things of the such. Iffen you is in trouble, there ain’t nothing gonna save you but de Good Laud. I heard of folks keeping all kind of things for good luck charms. When I was a child different people gave me buttons to string and we called them our charm string and wore ‘em round our necks. If we was mean dey would tell us “Old Raw Head and Bloody Bones” would git us. Grand mammy told us ghost stories after supper, but I don’t remember any of dem. I never did know I was a slave, ’cause I couldn’t tell I wasn’t free. I always had a good time, didn’t have to work much, and allus had something to eat and wear and that was better than it is with me now. When de war was over old Master told us we was free. Mammy she say, “Well, I’m heading for Texas.” I went out and old Master ask me to bring him a coal of fire to light his pipe. I went after it and mammy left pretty soon. My pappy wouldn’t leave old Master right then but old Master told us we was free to go where we pleased, so me an’ pappy left and went to Texas where my mammy was. We hover saw old Master any more. We stayed a while in Texas and then come back to de Indian Territory. Abe Lincoln was a good man, everybody liked him. See, I’ve got his picture. Jeff Davis was a good man too, he just made a mistake. I like Mr. Roosevelt, too