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Slave Narrative of George Fortman

Interviewer: Lauana Creel Person Interviewed: George Fortman Location: Evansville, Indiana Place of Residence: Cor. Bellemeade Ave. and Garvin St. Evansville, Indiana Occupation: Professor of faith in Christ, Janitor Ex-Slave Stories District 5 Vanderburgh County Lauana Creel INDIANS MADE SLAVES AMONG THE NEGROES. INTERVIEWS WITH GEORGE FORTMAN Cor. Bellemeade Ave. and Garvin St. Evansville, Indiana, and other interested citizens “The story of my life, I will tell to you with sincerest respect to all and love to many, although reviewing the dark trail of my childhood and early youth causes me great pain.” So spoke George Fortman, an aged man and former slave, although the history of his life reveals that no Negro blood runs through his veins. “My story necessarily begins by relating events which occurred in 1838, when hundreds of Indians were rounded up like cattle and driven away from the valley of the Wabash. It is a well known fact recorded in the histories of Indiana that the long journey from the beautiful Wabash Valley was a horrible experience for the fleeing Indians, but I have the tradition as relating to my own family, and from this enforced flight ensued the tragedy of my birth.” The aged ex-slave reviews tradition. “My two ancestors, John Hawk, a Blackhawk Indian brave, and Racheal, a Chackatau maiden had made themselves a home such as only Indians know, understand and enjoy. He was a hunter and a fighter but had professed faith in Christ through the influence of the missionaries. My greatgrandmother passed the facts on to her children and they have been handed down for four generations. I, in turn,...

Slave Narrative of John W. Fields

Interviewer: Cecil Miller Person Interviewed: John W. Fields Location: Lafayette, Indiana Place of Birth: Owensburg, KY Date of Birth: March 27, 1848 Age: 89 Place of Residence: N. 20th St., Lafayette, Indiana Cecil C. Miller Dist. #3 Tippecanoe Co. INTERVIEW WITH MR. JOHN W. FIELDS, EX-SLAVE OF CIVIL WAR PERIOD September 17, 1937 John W. Fields, 2120 North Twentieth Street, Lafayette, Indiana, now employed as a domestic by Judge Burnett is a typical example of a fine colored gentleman, who, despite his lowly birth and adverse circumstances, has labored and economized until he has acquired a respected place in his home community. He is the owner of three properties; un-mortgaged, and is a member of the colored Baptist Church of Lafayette. As will later be seen his life has been one of constant effort to better himself spiritually and physically. He is a fine example of a man who has lived a morally and physically clean life. But, as for his life, I will let Mr. Fields speak for himself: “My name is John W. Fields and I’m eighty-nine (89) years old. I was born March 27, 1848 in Owensburg, Ky. That’s 115 miles below Louisville, Ky. There was 11 other children besides myself in my family. When I was six years old, all of us children were taken from my parents, because my master died and his estate had to be settled. We slaves were divided by this method. Three disinterested persons were chosen to come to the plantation and together they wrote the names of the different heirs on a few slips of paper. These slips were...

Slave Narrative of James Childress

Interviewer: Lauana Creel Person Interviewed: James Childress Location: Evansville, Indiana Place of Birth: Nashville, Tennessee Date of Birth: 1860 Place of Residence: 312 S.E. Fifth Street, Evansville, Indiana Ex-Slave stories District #5 Vanderburgh County Lauana Creel JAMES CHILDRESS’ STORY 312 S.E. Fifth Street, Evansville, Indiana From an interview with James Childress and from John Bell both living at 312 S.E. Fifth Street, Evansville, Indiana. Known as Uncle Jimmy by the many children that cluster about the aged man never tiring of his stories of “When I was chile.” “When I was a chile my daddy and mamma was slaves and I was a slave,” so begins many recounted tales of the long ago. Born at Nashville, Tennessee in the year 1860, Uncle Jimmie remembers the Civil War with the exciting events as related to his own family and the family of James Childress, his master. He remembers sorrow expressed in parting tears when “Uncle Johnie and Uncle Bob started to war.” He recalls happy days when the beautiful valley of the Cumberland was abloom with wild flowers and fertile acres were carpeted with blue grass. “A beautiful view could always be enjoyed from the hillsides and there were many pretty homes belonging to the rich citizens. Slaves kept the lawns smooth and tended the flowers for miles around Nashville, when I was a child,” said Uncle Jimmie. Uncle Jimmie Childress has no knowledge of his master’s having practiced cruelty towards any slave. “We was all well fed, well clothed and lived in good cabins. I never got a cross word from Mars John in my life,” he declared. “When...

Slave Narrative of George W. Arnold

Interviewer: Lauana Creel Person Interviewed: George W. Arnold Location: Evansville, Indiana Place of Birth: Bedford County, Tennessee Date of Birth: April 7, 1861 Occupation: porter in a wholesale feed store This is written from an interview with each of the following: George W. Arnold, Professor W.S. Best of the Lincoln High School and Samuel Bell, all of Evansville, Indiana. George W. Arnold was born April 7, 1861, in Bedford County, Tennessee. He was the property of Oliver P. Arnold, who owned a large farm or plantation in Bedford county. His mother was a native of Rome, Georgia, where she remained until twelve years of age, when she was sold at auction. Oliver Arnold bought her, and he also purchased her three brothers and one uncle. The four negroes were taken along with other slaves from Georgia to Tennessee where they were put to work on the Arnold plantation. On this plantation George W. Arnold was born and the child was allowed to live in a cabin with his relatives and declares that he never heard one of them speak an unkind word about Master Oliver Arnold or any member of his family. “Happiness and contentment and a reasonable amount of food and clothes seemed to be all we needed,” said the now white-haired man. Only a limited memory of Civil War days is retained by the old man but the few events recalled are vividly described by him. “Mother, my young brother, my sister and I were walking along one day. I don’t remember where we had started but we passed under the fort at Wartrace. A battle was...

Slave Narrative of Henry Clay Moorman

Interviewer: William R. Mays Person Interviewed: Henry Clay Moorman Location: Franklin, Indiana Place of Birth: Breckenridge County, Kentucky Date of Birth: Oct. 1, 1854 Place of Residence: 427 W. King St., Franklin, Ind. William R. Mays District 4 Johnson County HENRY CLAY MOORMAN BORN IN SLAVERY IN KENTUCKY 427 W. King St., Franklin, Ind. Henry Clay Moorman has resided in Franklin 34 years, he was born Oct. 1, 1854 in slavery on the Moorman plantation in Breckenridge County, Kentucky. Mr. Moorman relates his own personal experiences as well as those handed down from his mother. He was a boy about 12 years old when freedom was declared. His father’s name was Dorah Moorman who was a cooper by trade, and had a wife and seven children. They belonged to James Moorman, who owned about 20 slaves, he was kind to his slaves and never whipped any of them. These slaves loved their master and was as loyal to him as his own family. Mr. Moorman says that when a boy he did small jobs around the plantation such as tobacco planting and going to the mill. One day he was placed upon a horse with a sack of grain containing about two bushels, after the sack of grain was balanced upon the back of the horse he was started to the mill which was a distance of about five miles, when about half the distance of the journey the sack of grain became unbalanced and fell from the horse being too small to lift the sack of grain he could only cry over the misfortune. There he was, powerless...

Slave Narrative of Joseph William Carter

Interviewer: Lauana Creel Person Interviewed: Joseph William Carter Location: Evansville, Indiana Age: 100+ Ex-Slave Stories 5th District Vandenburgh County Lauana Creel SLAVE STORY JOSEPH WILLIAM CARTER This information was gained through an interview with Joseph William Carter and several of his daughters. The data was cheerfully given to the writer. Joseph William Carter has lived a long and, he declares, a happy life, although he was born and reared in bondage. His pleasing personality has always made his lot an easy one and his yoke seemed easy to wear. Joseph William Carter was born prior to the year 1836. His mother, Malvina Gardner was a slave in the home of Mr. Gardner until a man named D.B. Smith saw her and noticing the physical perfection of the child at once purchased her from her master. Malvina was agrieved at being compelled to leave her old home, and her lovely young mistress. Puss Gardner was fond of the little mullato girl and had taught her to be a useful member of the Gardner family; however, she was sold to Mr. Smith and was compelled to accompany him to his home. Both the Gardner and Smith families lived near Gallatin, Tennessee, in Sumner County. The Smith plantation was situated on the Cumberland River and commanded a beautiful view of river and valley acres but Malvina was very unhappy. She did not enjoy the Smith family and longed for her old friends back in the Gardner home. One night the little girl gathered together her few personal belongings and started back to her old home. Afraid to travel the highway the child...

Slave Narrative of Adah I. Suggs

Interviewer: Lauana Creel Person Interviewed: Adah Isabelle Suggs Location: Evansville, Indiana Date of Birth: 1862 Stories from Ex-Slaves 5th District Vanderburgh County Lauana Creel 1415 S. Barker Avenue, Evansville, Indiana ESCAPE FROM BONDAGE OF ADAH ISABELLE SUGGS Among the interesting stories connected with former slaves one of the most outstanding ones is the life story of Adah Isabelle Suggs, indeed her escape from slavery planned and executed by her anxious mother, Harriott McClain, bears the earmarks of fiction, but the truth of all related occurences has been established by the aged negro woman and her daughter Mrs. Harriott Holloway, both citizens of Evansville, Indiana. Born in slavery before January the twenty-second, 1862 the child Adah McClain was the property of Colonel Jackson McClain and Louisa, his wife. According to the customary practice of raising slave children, Adah was left at the negro quarters of the McClain plantation, a large estate located in Henderson county, three and one half miles from the village of Henderson, Kentucky. There she was cared for by her mother. She retains many impressions gained in early childhood of the slave quarters; she remembers the slaves singing and dancing together after the day of toil. Their voices were strong and their songs were sweet. “Master was good to his slaves and never beat them” were her words concerning her master. When Adah was not yet five years of age the mistress, Louisa McClain, made a trip to the slave quarters to review conditions of the negroes. It was there she discovered that one little girl there had been developing ideas and ideals; the mother had taught...

Slave Narrative of George Taylor Burns

Interviewer: Lauana Creel Person Interviewed: George Taylor Burns Location: Evansville, Indiana Ex-Slave Stories District #5 Vanderburgh County Lauana Creel THE LIFE STORY OF GEORGE TAYLOR BURNS [HW: Personal Interview] Ox-carts and flat boats, and pioneer surroundings; crowds of men and women crowding to the rails of river steamboats; gay ladies in holiday attire and gentleman in tall hats, low cut vests and silk mufflers; for the excursion boats carried the gentry of every area. A little negro boy clung to the ragged skirts of a slave mother, both were engrossed in watching the great wheels that ploughed the Mississippi river into foaming billows. Many boats stopped at Gregery’s Landing, Missouri to stow away wood, for many engines were fired with wood in the early days. The Burns brothers operated a wood yard at the Landing and the work of cutting, hewing and piling wood for the commerce was performed by slaves of the Burns plantation. George Taylor Burns was five years of age and helped his mother all day as she toiled in the wood yards. “The colder the weather, the more hard work we had to do,” declares Uncle George. George Taylor Burns, the child of Missouri slave parents, recalls the scenes enacted at the Burns’ wood yards so long ago. He is a resident of Evansville, Indiana and his snow white hair and beard bear testimony that his days have been already long upon the earth. Uncle George remembers the time when his infant hands reached in vain for his mother, the kind and gentle Lucy Burns: Remembers a long cold winter of snow and ice when...

Slave Narrative of George Washington Buckner

Interviewer: Lauana Creel Person Interviewed: Dr. George Washington Buckner Location: Evansville, Indiana Date of Birth: December 1st, 1852 Ex-Slave Stories District #5 Vanderburgh County Lauana Creel A SLAVE, AMBASSADOR AND CITY DOCTOR [DR. GEORGE WASHINGTON BUCKNER] This paper was prepared after several interviews had been obtained with the subject of this sketch. Dr. George Washingtin [TR: Washington] Buckner, tall, lean, whitehaired, genial and alert, answered the call of his door bell. Although anxious to oblige the writer and willing to grant an interview, the life of a city doctor is filled with anxious solicitation for others and he is always expecting a summons to the bedside of a patient or a professional interview has been slated. Dr. Buckner is no exception and our interviews were often disturbed by the jingle of the door bell or a telephone call. Dr. Buckner’s conversation lead in ever widening circles, away from the topic under discussion when the events of his own life were discussed, but he is a fluent speaker and a student of psychology. Psychology as that philosophy relates to the mental and bodily tendencies of the African race has long since become one of the major subjects with which this unusual man struggles. “Why is the negro?” is one of his deepest concerns. Dr. Buckner’s first recollections center within a slave cabin in Kentucky. The cabin was the home of his step-father, his invalid mother and several children. The cabin was of the crudest construction, its only windows being merely holes in the cabin wall with crude bark shutters arranged to keep out snow and rain. The furnishings of this...

Slave Narrative of John Rudd

Interviewer: Lauana Creel Person Interviewed: John Rudd Location: Evansville, Indiana Place of Birth: Springfield, Kentucky Date of Birth: December 25, 1854 Age: 83 Ex-Slave Stories District #5 Vanderburgh County Lauana Creel TOLD BY JOHN RUDD, AN EX-SLAVE “Yes, I was a slave,” said John Rudd, “And I’ll say this to the whole world, Slavery was the worst curse ever visited on the people of the United States.” John Rudd is a negro, dark and swarthy as to complexion but his nose is straight and aqualine, for his mother-was half Indian. The memory of his mother, Liza Rudd, is sacred to John Rudd today and her many disadvantages are still a source of grief to the old man of 83 years. John Rudd was born on Christmas day 1854 in the home of Benjamin Simms, at Springfield, Kentucky. The mother of the young child was house maid for mistress Simms and Uncle John remembers that mother and child received only the kindliest consideration from all members of the Simms family. While John was yet a small boy Benjamin Simms died and the Simms slaves were auctioned to the highest bidders. “If’n you wants to know what unhappiness means,” said Uncle John Rudd, “Jess’n you stand on the Slave Block and hear the Auctioneer’s voice selling you away from the folks you love.” Uncle John explained how mothers and fathers were often separated from their dearly loved children, at the auction block, but John and his younger brother Thomas were fortunate and were bought by the same master along with Liza Rudd, their mother. An elder brother, Henry, was separated from...
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