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May first, 1845, had been ushered in; our third crop of grain and vegetables was growing finely. During the preceding winter the farm had been enlarged and materially improved, the most of the labor having been performed by the students. We had also inclosed a pasture at the upper end of the cane­brake, between the farm and the river. Having purchased a few cows, we were prepared to live more comfortably than at any time before.

The buildings at New Hope were inclosed, and would be completed in time to receive female pupils at the commencement of the next session. The buildings of the female institute were substantial frames, one story high, with porches in front and rear. They were planned with special reference to the manualla­bor system, as it was intended that the girls should be instructed in plain and fancy sewing, the duties of the kitchen, the dairy, the laundry, and the mysteries of housekeeping in general. Mr. Goode had put the buildings under contract before leaving, and, when at Cincinnati, had purchased the articles for furnishing that department of the school. The services of Dr. E. G. Meek and Mrs. E. Meek were already secured for the New Hope branch of the Academy.

After Mr. G. had left us we found matters did not move on quite so smoothly as formerly; Davis, one of the pupils, and Anderson, a farm hand, disagreed, so that we had to separate them, and sending Davis to the fields, we placed another lad to assist Anderson. The students complained that their chamber work was not done, and that even their clothes were not washed. On making inquiry of Charles he told us that Louisa was sick, and that Ellen, his daughter, was not able ‘to do all of the work. He thought it important that we should procure another woman to assist in the labor. Knowing the peculiarities of Louisa, I believed that the sickness was feigned; that it was only a ruse to shun duty; and as we paid them ample wages we could not consent to be imposed upon. “Charles,” said I, “if Louisa is sick she must have medicine. We have had serious cases of pneumonia among the boys, and it is very important to take the disease in time; your wife may possibly have the same; I will go with you immediately and examine the symptoms.” When we entered the cabin she was taken by surprise, for I had never been inside of her door before. She was the picture of health, entirely free from fever, with not the slightest indication of sickness. She knew not what to do to get out of the trouble. I assured her that if she were sick it must be an attack of pneumonia; and although the symptoms were not clearly developed, yet it was safe to be prompt in the use of the remedies. Charles procured a bandage and a basin, and in a few minutes she was depleted to the amount of fourteen ounces of blood. I remarked to her on leaving, that, if she were not relieved by the next morning, we should apply a large blistering plaster, and administer liberal doses of tartarized antimony. But the prescription worked like a charm her health was perfectly restored, and we had no occasion to use the lancet, or even mention the blistering process.

Charles, the cook, is entitled to a paragraph in these sketches ; he was, indeed, an important member of the mission family, having been employed even before the first session of the school was opened. He had once been a slave, but was then a free man, having bought his own freedom. At Fort Smith, where he had lived for years, his reputation for integrity and morality was without a blemish. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and thought, by the colored people, to possess rare gifts in exhortation and in prayer. Charles was usually faithful and trustworthy, yet a little watching did him good, as it served to lessen his temptation to do wrong; it also reminded him of his appropriate place and duty. Almost immediately after our superintendent left us Charles was charged with delinquency; as it was an unpleasant task to administer reproof to one whose head was becoming gray with years, the complaints were passed over in silence for a number of days. It finally became necessary to correct the matter, and let him know, that, although Mr. G. was gone, the work must still be done with promptness and regularity.

 

It devolved upon me to administer reproof; it was, indeed, a painful duty. Charles was past the meridian of life, and I felt myself to be altogether too young to assume the authority of a master. He was, indeed, much less frightened than myself. I managed to state to him what was wrong, reminded him of his duty, and the consequences of continued neglect. The reproof was given with an emphasis that commanded respect. Charles was silent, but evidently moved; when he replied it was with becoming deference: “I’se tried all my life to be good boy; hab carved monsous heap of marsters, an allus please ‘em. I sarve as fust cook five year in de army, an allus keep de keys, an marster never say, you do wrong. But I ‘se tried an I ‘se worried with dem Injun boys. They ‘s desput sarcy, ‘deed they is. I’se tried monsous hard to be good boy, ‘deed I hab! But ‘scuse me dis here time, an I ‘le do better, I’le bar it all!” And he did do better, for he was an excellent negro, all things considered. True, Mrs. Goode thought he would occasionally steal a little, and then lie a little to escape detection; and I have no doubt but she was correct in her observation and her judgment in the case. But then he could scarcely conceive it to be very wrong to take from the whites, remembering of how much he himself had been robbed by them. Besides, to take flour, sugar, butter, and fruit to make rich pastry for his wife and children, in his judgment, could be no great crime.

Charles would have scorned the thought of stealing; the word would have aroused his indignation He might safely have been trusted with uncounted gold. He was a man of prayer; in the evening, when the work of the kitchen was finished, we would hear his voice in the brushwood, on the hillside, where he performed the duty of prayer; he doubtless enjoyed daily communion with God. Whatever might have been his delinquencies and foibles during the day, he sought pardon and mercy before he slept at night.

His notions of duty and morality were not clear and consistent, but as nearly so as we could reasonably suppose, when we reflect what the training and life of the slave must be. The institution of slavery is founded upon iniquity and injustice; it is, perforce, a system of robbery. From infancy to age the slave is the victim of fraud, deceit, and falsehood. His history is a life-long struggle between oppression and self-defense.

Receiving such treatment at the hands of men professing to be the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, how could he be prepared to discriminate clearly between right and wrong? When we know the school of morals in which he has been taught, the mantle of charity must cover a multitude of sins.

Soon after we left the mission we received intelligence of Charles’s death. We doubt not he has gone to that blessed home “where the voice of the oppressor is not heard ; the small and the great are there, and the servant is free from his master.”

 



MLA Source Citation:

Benson, Henry C. Life Among the Choctaw Indians and Sketches of the South-West. L. Swormstedt & A. Poe. 1860. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 22 July 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/our-work.htm - Last updated on Oct 7th, 2012


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