Patterson, Frank A.
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Frank A. Patterson 906 Chester Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 88
"I was born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1850. My father was born in Baltimore, Maryland. My mother and father was sold into Bibb County, Georgia. I don't know how much they sold for. I don't know how much they paid for them. I don't know how much the speculator asked for them. Used to have them in droves and you would go in and pick 'em out and pay different amounts for them.
"I was never sold. My old boss didn't believe in selling slaves. He would buy 'em but he wouldn't sell 'em. I'll say that much for him.
"I belonged to a man named Thomas Johnson Cater.
"They lived in log houses. Some of them had weatherboard houses but the majority of them was log houses. Two doors and one window. Some of them had plank floors. Some of them had floors what was hewed, you know, sills. They had stick and dirt chimneys. Some of them had brick chimneys. It depended on the master-on the situation of the master.
"They just had bunks built up side the wall. The best experienced colored people had these teester beds. Didn't have no slats. Had ropes. They called 'em cord beds sometimes. They had tables just like we have now what they made themselves. Chairs were long benches made out of planks. Little kids had big blocks to sit on where they sawed off timber.
"They had what they called a cupboard to keep the food in. Some of them had chests made out of planks, you know. That is the way they kept it. They put a hasp and steeple on it so as to keep the children out when they was gone to the field.
"They give 'em three pounds of meat a week, peck of meal, pint of molasses; some of them give 'em three to five pounds of flour on a Sunday morning according to the size of the family. The majority of them had shorts from the wheat. Some of the slaves would clean up a flat in the bottoms and plant rice in it. That was where they would allow the slaves to have truck patches.
"Some few of them had chickens that was allowed to have them. Same of them had owners that wouldn't allow their slaves to own chickens. They never allowed them to have hogs or cows. Wherever there was a family that had a whole lot of children they would allow them to have a cow to milk for to get milk for their children. They claimed the cow, but the master was the owner of it. It belonged to him. He would just let them milk it. He would just let them raise their children off of the milk it gave.
"There was no child ever had a pair of shoes until he got old enough to go in the field. That was when he was twelve years old. That is about all I know about it.
"I never went to school in my life. I got hold of one of them old blue back spelling books. My young boss gave it to me after I was free. He told me that I was free now and I had to think and act for myself.
Signs of War
"Before the War I saw the elements all red as blood and I saw after that a great comet; and they said there was going to be a war.
Memories of the Pre-War Campaign
"When Fillmore, Buchanan, and Lincoln ran for President one of my old bosses said, 'Hurrah for Buchanan,' and I said, 'Hurrah for Lincoln.' One of my mistresses said, 'Why do you say, 'Hurrah for Lincoln?' And I said, 'Because he's goin' to set me free.'
"During that campaign, Lincoln came to North Carolina and ate breakfast with my master. In those days, the kitchen was off from the house. They had for breakfast ham with cream gravy made out of sweet milk and they had biscuits, poached eggs on toast, coffee and tea, and grits. They had waffles and honey and maple syrup. That was what they had for breakfast.
"He told my old boss that our sons are 'ceivin' children by slaves and buyin' and sellin' our own blood and it will have to be stopped. And that is what I know about that.
"At the close of the War, we had refugeed down in Houston County in Georgia.
"Sherman's army came through there looking for Jeff Davis, and they told me that they wasn't fightin' any more,-that I was free.
"They said, 'You ain't got no master and no mistress.' They et dinner there. All the old folks went upstairs and turned the house over to me and the cook. And they et dinner. One of them said, 'My little man, bring your hat 'round now and we are going to pay you,' and they passed the hat 'round and give me a hat full of money. I thought it wasn't no good and I carried it and give it to my old mistress, but it was good.
"They asked me if I had ever seen Jeff Davis. I said 'No.' Then they said, 'That's him sittin' there.' He had on a black dress and a pair of boots and a mantilla over his shoulders and a Quaker bonnet and a black veil.
"They got up from the dining table and Sherman ordered them to 'Recover arms.' He had on a big black hat full of eagles and he had stars and stripes all over him. That was Sherman's artillery. They had mules with pots and skillets, and frying pans, and axes, and picks, grubbing hoes, and spades, and so on, all strapped on those mules. And the mules didn't have no bridles but they went on just as though they had bridles. One of the Yanks started a song when he picked up his gun.
'Here's my little gun His name is number one Four and five rebels We'll slay 'em as they come Join the ban' The rebels understan' Give up all the lan' To my brother Abraham Old Gen'l Lee Who is he? He's not such a man As our Gen'l Grant Snap Poo, Snap Peter Real rebel eater I left my ply stock Standin' in the mould I left my family And silver and gold Snap Poo, Snap Peter Real rebel eater Snap Poo, Snap Peter.' "And General Sherman gave the comman', 'Silence', and 'Silence' roared one man, and it rolled all down the line, 'Silence, silence, silence, silence.' And they all got silent.
How Freedom Came
"They had a notification for a big speaking and that was in Perry, Georgia. Everybody that was able throughout the State went to that convention where that speaking was. And that is where peace was declared. Every man was his own free agent. 'No more master, no more mistress. You are your own free moral agent. Think and act for yourself.' That is how it was declared. I didn't go to the meeting. I was right there in the town. There was too many people there. You couldn't stir them with hot fire. But my mother and father went.
What the Slaves Expected
"They didn't expect anything but freedom. Some of them didn't have sense enough to secure a home for themselves. They didn't have no sense. Some of them wasn't eligible to speak for themselves. They wanted somebody to speak for them.
What They Got
"I don't know that they got anything.
Immediately After the War
"Right after the War, I stayed with the people that owned me and worked. They give me two dollars a month and my food and clothes. I stayed with them five years and then I quit. I had sense enough to quit and I went to work for wages. I got five dollars a month. And I thought that was a big salary. I didn't know no better. I learnt better by experience.
Negroes in Politics
"Just after the War, the Republicans used to have representatives at the state convention. After the Democrats got in power, they knocked all that in the head. Colored people used to be on juries. But they won't let them serve now. (Negroes served on local grand jury last year.)
"I knew one nigger politician in Georgia named I.B. Simons. He was a school-teacher. He never held any office. I knowed a nigger politician here by the name of John Bush. He had the United States Land Office. When the Democrats got in power they put him out. I knowed another fellow used to be here named Crockett Brown. He lived in Lee County, Arkansas. He was a Congressman. I don't know whether he ever got to the White House or not. I ain't never seen no account of it. I can't tell you all any more now.
Memories of Fred Douglass
"I knowed Fred Douglass. I shook hands with him and talked with him here in Little Rock. They give him the opera house. We had the first floor. The white folks had the gallery. That was when the Republicans were in power.
"He said: 'They all seem to be amazed and dumbfounded over me having a white woman for a wife.' He said, 'You all don't know that my father was my mother's master and she was as black as a crow. Don't it seem natural that history should repeat itself? have often wondered why he liked such a black woman as my mother. I was jus' a chip off the old block.'
"I voted for U.S. Grant. He was the first President we had after the Civil War. I shook hands with him twice in Little Rock. He put up at the Capitol Hotel and I was a-cooking there.
"I voted for McKinley. I saw him too. I had a walking cane with his head on it. That is about all I remember right now. He was the one that got up this gold standard. He liked to put this state under bayonet laws when he was working under that gold standard. The South was bitterly against him.
"I followed cooking all my life. I have had the white peoples' lives in my hand all my life. I worked on the Government boat, Wichita. It went out of season and they built a boat called the Arkansas. I cooked on it. Captain Griffin was the master of it. When it went out of service, Captain Newcome from the War Department transferred me over to the Mississippi River on the Arthur Hider (?). My headquarters were in Greenville, Mississippi. It was far from home, so after nine months I quit and came home (Little Rock). Captain Van Frank give me a position on a dredge boat and the people were so bad on there I wouldn't stay. I came away. I wouldn't stay 'mongst 'em.
"I want you to know that I am a Christian and I want you to know I ain't got no compromise with nobody on God's word. I ain't got but one way and that is the way Jesus said:
Come unto me all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. He that believeth on me shall be saved.
You all fix anything anyway you want. I ain't bothered 'bout you.
"My people were good Christian people."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives