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Person Interviewed: William Hutson
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
When a feller gets as old as me it’s a keep easier to forget things than it is to remember, but I ain’t never forget that old plantation where good old Doctor Allison lived back there in Georgia long before the war that brought us slaves the freedom.
I hear the slaves talking about noon maters when I was a boy. They wasn’t talking about Master Allison though, ’cause he was a good man and took part for the slaves when any trouble come up with the overseer.
The Mistress’ name was Louisa (the same name as the gal I was married to later after the war), and she was just about as mean as was the old Master good. I was the house boy when I gets old enough to understand what the Master wants done and I does it just like he says, as I reckon that’s why we always get along together.
The Master helped to raise my money. When I was born he says to her (my Mammy tells me when I gets older): “Cheney”, the old Master say, “that boy is going be different from these other children. I aims to are that he is. He’s going be in the house all the time, he ain’t going work in the fields; he’s going to stay right with me all the time.”
They was about twenty slaves on the plantation but I was the one old Master called for when he wanted something special for himself. I was the one he took with him on the trips to town. I was the one who fetch his the cooling drink after he look about the fields and sometimes I carry the little black bag when he goes a-doctoring folks with the misery away off some other farm.
The Master hear about there going be an auction one day and he figgered maybe he needed some more slaves if they was good ones, so he took me and started out early in the morning. It wasn’t very far and we got there early before the auction started. Reckon that was the first time I ever see any slaves sold.
They was a long platform made of heavy planks and all the slaves was lined up on the platform, and they was stripped to the waist, men, women, and children. One or two of the women folks was bare maked. They wasn’t young women neither, just middle age ones, but they was built good. Some of them was well greased and that grease covered up many a scar they’d earned for some foolishment or other.
The Master don’t buy none and pretty soon we starts home. The Master was riding horseback, – he didn’t ever use no buggy ’cause he said that was the way for folks to travel who was too feeble to sit in the saddle – and I rode back of him on another horse, but that horse I rides is just horse while the Master’s was a real thoroughbred like maybe you see on race tracks down in the South.
That auction kept bothering me all the way back to the plantation. I kept seeing then little children standing on the flatform (platform), their mammy and pappy crying hard ’cause their young’uns is being sold. They was a lot of heartaches even they was slaves and it gets me worried.
I asked the Master is he going to have an auction and he jest laugh. I ain’t never sold no slaves yet and I ain’t going to, he says. And I gets easier right then. I kind of hates to think about standing up on one of them platforms, kinder sorry to leave my old mammy and the Master, so I was easy in the heart when he talked like that.
The plantation house was a big frame and the yard was shaded with trees all around. The Master’s children – four boys and two girls – would play in the yard with me just like I was one of the family. And we’d go hunting and fishing. There was a creek not far away and they was good fishing in the stream and squirrels in the trees. Mighty lot of fun to catch them fishes but more fun when they is all fried brown and ready for to eat with a piece of hot pone. Ain’t no fish over taste that good since!
One thing I sort of ponders about. The old Master don’t let us have no religion meetings and reading and writing is something I learn after the War. Some of the slaves talk about meeting ’round the country and wants to have preaching on the plantation. Master says MO. He preacher around here. to tell about the Bible and religion will be just a puzzlement, the Master say, and we let it go at that. I reckon that was the only thing he was set against.
That and the Yankees. The Master went to the War and stayed ’til it was most over. He was a night sick men when he come back to the old place, but I was there waiting for him just like always. All the time he was away I take care around the house. That’s what he say for me to do when he rides away to fight the Yankees. Lot’s of talk about the War but the slaves goes right on working just the same, raising cotton and tobacco.
The slaves talk a heap about Lincoln and some trys to run away to the North. Don’t hear much about Jeff Davis, mostly Lincoln. He give us slaves the freedom but we was better off as we was.
The day of freedom come around just any other day, except the Master say for me to bring up the horses, we is going to torn. That’s when he hears about the slaves being free. We gets to the town and the Master goes into the store. It’s pretty early but the streets was filled with folks talking and I wonder what makes the Master in such a hurry when he comes out of the store.
He gets on his horse and tells me to follow fest. We gets back to the plantation he sounds the born calling the slaves. They come in from the fields and meet ’round back of the kitchen building that stood separate from the Master’s house. They all keeps quiet while the Master talked “You all is free now, and all the rest of the slaves is free too. Nobody owns you now and nobody going to whup you anysore!” That was good nows. I reckon. but nobody know what to do about it.
The crops was mostly in and the Master wants the folks to stay ’til the crop is finished. They talk about it the rest of that day. They wasn’t no celebration ’round the place, but they wasn’t no work after the Master tells us we is free. Nobody leave the place though. Not ’til in the fell when the work is through. Then some of us go into the town and gets work ’cause everybody knows the Allison slaves was the right kind of folks to have around.
That was the first money I earn and then I have to learn how to spend it. That was the hardest part ’cause the prices was high and the wages was low.
Then I moves on and meets the gal that maybe I been looking for, Louisa Baker, and right away she takes to me and we is married. Ain’t been no other woman but her and she’s waiting for me wherever the dead waits for the living.
I reckon she won’t have so long to wait now, even if I is feeling pretty spry and got good use of the feets and hands. Ninety-eight years brings a heap of wear and some of these days the old body’ll need a long time rest and then I’ll join her for all the time.
I is ready for the New Dey a-coming!