The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
"You wants to know how old I is? I'se lived a long time. I'se goin' on 104. My gran'mammy was over 100 years. My mamma was 100. My pappy was 96. They was twelve chilluns. I don't know if any of my sisters or brothers is livin'. Don't know if one of my friends back in my boy days is livin'. I'se like a poor old leaf left hangin' to a tree.
"Yes—I sho do member back befo' the war. I was borned on the Dr. Waters place about twelve miles out of Pine Bluff on the east side of Noble Lake. My gran'mammy and gran'pappy and my mamma and my pappy were slaves on de Walker plantation. I was not bought or sold—just lived on de old plantation. I wasn't whipped neither but once I mighty near got a beatin'. Want to hear about it? I likes to tell.
"Dr. Waters had a good heart. He didn't call us 'slaves'. He call us 'servants'. He didn't want none of his niggers whipped 'ceptin when there wasn't no other way. I was grown up pretty good size. Dr. Waters liked me cause I could make wagons and show mules. Once when he was going away to be gone all day, he tole me what to do while he was gone. The overseer wasn't no such good man as old master. He wanted to be boss and told me what to do. I tole him de big boss had tole me what to do and I was goin' to do it. He got mad and said if I didn't do what he said I'd take a beating. I was a big nigger and powerful stout. I tole the overseer fore he whipped me he's show himself a better man than I was. When he found he was to have a fight he didn't say no more about the whipping.
"I worked on de plantation till de war broke. Then I went into the army with them what called themselves secesh's. I didn't fight none, never give me a gun nor sword. I was a servant. I cooked and toted things. In 1863 I was captured by the Yankees and marched to Little Rock and sworn in as a Union Soldier. I was sure enough soldier now. I never did any fighting but I marched with the soldiers and worked for them whatever they said.
"We marched from Pine Bluff on through Ft. Smith and the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. Then we went to Leavenworth Kansas and back to Jefferson County, Arkansas. And all that walking I did on these same foots you see right here now.
"On this long march we camped thirty miles from Ft. Smith. We had gone without food three days and was powerful hongry. I started out to get something to eat. I found a sheep, I was tickled. I laughed. I could turn the taste of that sheep meat under my tongue. When I got to camp with the sheep I had to leave for picket duty. Hungrier than ever, I thought of that sheep all the time. When I got back I wanted my chunk of meat. It had been killed, cooked, eat up. Never got a grease spot on my finger from my sheep.
"When time come for breaking up the army I went back to Jefferson county and set to farmin'. I was free now. I didn't do so well on the land as I didn't have mules and money to live on. I went to Dersa County and opened up a blacksmith shop. I learned how to do this work when I was with Dr. Waters. He had me taught by a skilled man. I learned to build wagons too.
"I made my own tools. Who showed me how? Nobody. When I needed a hack saw I made it out of a file—that was all I had to make it of. I had to have it. Once I made a cotton scraper out of a piece of hardwood. I put a steel edge on it. O yes I made everything. Can I build a wagon—make all the parts? Every thing but the hubs for the wheels.
"You say I don't seem to see very well. Ha-ha! I don't see nuthin' at all. I'se been plum blind for 23 years. I can't see nothin'. But I patches my own clothes. You don't know how I can thread the needle? Look here." I asked him to let me see his needle threader. He felt around in a drawer and pulled out a tiny little half arrow which he had made of a bit of tin with a pair of scissors and fine file. He pushed this through the eye of the needle, then hooked the thread on it and pulled it back again threading his needle as fast as if he had good eyesight. "This is a needle threader. I made it myself. Watch me thread a needle. Can't I do it as fast as if I had a head full of keen eyes? My wife been gone twenty years. She went blind too. I had to do something. My patches may not look so pretty but they sure holt (hold).
"You wants to know what I think of the way young folks is doing these days? They'se goin' to fast. So is their papas and mammas. Dey done forgot dey's a God and a day of settlin'. Den what dances pays de fiddler. I got religion long time ago—jined de Baptist church in 1870 and haven't never got away from it. I'se tried to tote fair with God and he's done fair by me.
"Does I get a pension? I shure do. It was a lucky day when de Yankees got me. Ef they hadn't I don't know what'd become of me. After I went blind I had hard times. Folks, white folks and all, brought me food. But that wasn't any good way to get along. Sometimes I ate, sometimes I didn't. So some of my white, friends dug up my record with the Yankees and got me a pension. Now I'm setting pretty for de rest of my life. Yes—O yes I'se older dan most folks get. Still I may be still takin' my grub here when some of these young whiskey drinkin razzin' around young chaps is under the dirt. It pays to I don know of any bad spots in me yet. It pays to live honest, work hard, stay sober. God only knows what some of these lazy, triflin' drinkin' young folks is comin' to."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives