The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Mattie Fannen, Forrest City, Arkansas Age: 87
"My mother was named Silla Davis. She had four children. Her owners was Jep Davis and Tempy Davis. She died and he married her niece, Sally Davis. He had fifteen children by his first wife and five more by his second wife. Wasn't that a plenty children doe? Mama was a field hand. She ploughed in slavery right along. My father was named Bob Lee (Lea?). I never knowed much about him. His folks moved and took him off. Mother was sold but not on a stand. She belong to Bill Davis. He was Jep's brother. They said Bill Davis drunk up mother and all her children. He sold Aunt Serina to a man in Elberton, Georgia and all he had left then was grandma. He couldn't sell her. She was too old and Aunt Kizziah and Aunt Martha lived with her. Mother was born in Georgia. When a child was sold it nearly grieved the mothers and brothers and sisters to death. It was bad as deaths in the families. Jep Davis had forty or fifty niggers. He had six boys. They all had to go to war. They was in the Confederate army. Billy Davis was his daddy's young overseer. He had been raised up with some of the nigger boys then come over them. They wouldn't mind his orders. He tried to whoop them. They'd fight him back, choke him, throw him on the ground. Then the old man would whoop them. We all wanted 'em all to come home but Billy. Billy Davis got killed at war and never come home. His sisters was afraid some of the nigger boys raised up with him on the place would kill him and wanted Jep to make him stay at the house. Jep Davis was a good master and he was bad enough.
"I seen mama whooped. They tied some of them to trees and some they just whooped across their backs. It was 'cordin' to what they had done. Some of them would run off to the woods and stay a week or a month. The other niggers would feed them at night to keep them from starving.
"Jep Davis made a will after his first wife died and give out all his young niggers to his first set of children. His young wife cried till he destroyed it. She said, 'You kept the old ones here and me and my children won't have nothing.' I was willed to Miss Lizzie. They was fixing the wagon for me to go in. I wanted to go to Jefferson on the train. I told them so. I wanted to ride on the train. I never did get off. His young wife started crying. Miss Lizzie lived with her brother. They didn't want this young woman to have their father and he did. They kept a fuss up with her and all left. Then he divided the land.
"I nursed for his second wife, Miss Sally. I was five years or little older when I started nursing for his first wife. I nursed for a long time. I don't like children yet on that account. I got so many whoopings on their blame. I'd drap 'em, leave 'em, pinch 'em, quit walking 'em and rocking 'em. I got tired of 'em all the time.
"Me and Zack (white) was raised up together. He was one of the old set of children. The baby in that set. I'd set on the log across a branch and wait till Zack would break open a biscuit and sop it in ham gravy and bring it to me after he eat his breakfast. One morning the sun was so bright; he run down there crying, said his mama was dead. He never brought me no biscuit. He had just got up. I was five years old. I said I was glad. Emily was the cook and she come down there and kicked me off the log and made my nose bleed. I cried and run home. My mother picked me up in her arms, took me in her lap and asked me about it. I told her I was glad 'cause she kept that little cowhide and whooped me with it. They took me to the grave. She wanted to be buried in a pretty grave at the side of the house off a piece. She was buried there first. There was a big crowd. I kept running up towards the grave and they would pull me back by my dress tail. She was buried in a metal coffin. Susan was the oldest girl. She fainted. They took her to a carriage standing close. The whole family was buried there. Took back from places they lived to be buried in that graveyard. That was close to Nuna, Georgia.
"When the old man Jep Davis married again, Miss Sally must have me sleep in her room on a pallet so I could tend to the baby. The older girls would pick me and I would tell them what they talked about after they went to bed.
"When the War come on, the boys and Jep Davis dug a hole in the henhouse, put the guns in a box and buried them. They was there when the War ended. They had some jewelry. I don't know where they kept it. They sent all of the niggers fifteen miles on the river away from the Yankees. Not a one of us ever run off. Not a one ever went to the War or the Yankees. Jep Davis had been to get his mail on his horse. A Yankee come up at the gate walking and took it. He asked for the bridle and saddle but the Yankee laughed in his face. We never seen our horse no more. 'Babe' we called her. She was a pretty horse and so gentle we could ride her bare back.
"Jep Davis was religious. They had preaching at his church, the Baptist church at Nuna, for white folks in the morning and a white preacher preach for the niggers at the same church in the evening. He'd go to prayer meeting on Wednesday night and Thursday night he would come to the boys' house and read the Bible to his own niggers. We would sing and pray. He never cared how much we would sing and pray but he never better ketch 'em dancing. He'd whoop every one of 'em.
"I learned same of the ABC's in playing ball with the white children. We never had a book. I never went to school in my life. The boys not married but up grown lived in a house to their own selves. They got cooked fer up at Jep Davises house till they got a house built for them and give them a wife. Maybe they would see a woman on another plantation and claim her. Then the master had to talk that over.
"Jep Davis had been to town. He got a notice to free his niggers. He had the farm bell rung. We all went out up to his house. He said, 'You are free. Go. If you can't get along come back and do like you been.' They left. Went hog wild. I was the last one to go. He said, 'Mattie, come back if you find you can't make it.' I had a hard time for a fact. I had a sister married in Atlanta. I went with them in 1866. I married to better my living. We quit. I met a man come to Arkansas and sent back for me when he got the money. I was in Atlanta thirty years. I was married in Arkansas in 1895. Been here ever since 'ceptin' visits back in Georgia. My husband was a good farmer and a good shoemaker. He left me six good rent houses and this house here when he died." (She has an income of forty dollars per month-rent on houses.) "He was a hard worker.
"I'd go to see my white folks after freedom. I loved 'em all.
"Jep Davis died out of the church. Him and Jack (Robertson, Robson, Robinson?) was deacons together in the Baptist church and their farms j'ined. Jack had two boys, John and Ed. Ed was killed by Hinton Right over his sister Mollie. Then she married Hinton Right. The quarrel started at La Grange but they had a duel during preaching on the church yard at the Baptist church at Nuna, Georgia. Jack was mean. He had a lot of Negroes and a big farm. He had two boys and four girls. Jennie died. Florence and Lula, old maids; John and Ed and Mollie.
"Jack caused Jep Davis to be put out of the church 'cause he said after freedom he didn't believe in slavery. He always thought they ought to be free but owned some to be like all the other folks and to have a living easy. He was afraid to own that, fear somebody kill him before freedom. When Jack was sick, Jep went to see him. He wouldn't let Jep come in to see him and he died.
"I worked in the field, washed and ironed. I never cooked but a little. In Atlanta when my first baby could stand in a cracker box I started cooking for a woman. She was upstairs. Had a small baby a few days old. I didn't have time to do the work and nurse and get my baby to sleep. It cried and fretted till I got dinner done. I took it and got it to sleep. She sent word for me to leave my baby at home, she wasn't going to have a nigger baby crying in her kitchen and messing it up. She was a Yankee woman. I left and I never cooked out no more.
"I never had no dealings with the Ku Klux. I was in Atlanta then. I heard my mother say they killed and beat up a lot of colored people in the country where she was. Seem like they was mad 'cause they was free.
"Times was hard after freedom. Times is hard now for some folks. Times running away with the white and black races both. They stop thinking. The thing what they call education done ruined this country. The folks quit work and living on education. I learned to work. My husband was a good shoemaker. We laid up all we could. I got seven houses renting around here. I gets about forty or forty-five dollars a month rent. It do very well, I reckon."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives