Patterson, Sarah J.
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Sarah Jane Patterson 2611 Orange Street, North Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 90
"I was born in Bartow County, Georgia, January 17, 1848. You can go there and look in that Bible over there and you will find it all written down. My mama kept a record of all our ages. Her old mistress kept the record and gave it to my mother after freedom.
"My parents were Joe Patterson and Mary Adeline Patterson. My mother's name before she married was Mary Adeline Huff. My grandfather on my mother's side was named Huff. My mother's sisters were Mahala, and Sallie. And them's the onliest two I remember. She had two brothers but I don't remember their names.
How Freedom Came
"I was living in Bartow County in north Georgia when freedom came. I don't remember how the slaves found it out. I remember them saying, 'Well, they's all free.' And that is all I remember. And I remember some one saying-asking a question, 'You got to say master?' And somebody answered and said, 'Naw.' But they said it all the same. They said it for a long time. But they learned better though.
"I have brother Willis, Lizzie, Mary, Maud, and myself. There was four sisters and one brother. I had just one child-a boy. He lived to be a grown man and raised a family. His wife had three children and all of them is gone. The father, the mother, and the children. I was a woman. I wasn't no man. I just had one child, but the Lord blessed me. I have three sisters and a brother dead.
"My old master's name was John Patterson and my old mistress was named Lucy Patterson. She had a son named Bill and a son named Tommy and a son named Charles, and a boy named Bob, and a girl named Marion. We are so for apart they can't help me none. I know Bob's boys are dead because they got killed in a fight in Texas.
Crippled in Slave Time
"I been crippled all my life. We was on the lawn playing and the white boy had been to the pond to water the horses. He came back and said he was going to run over us. We all ran and climbed up on the top of a ten rail fence. The fence gave 'way and broke and fell down with us. I caught the load. They all fell on me. It knocked the knee out of place. They carried me to Stilesboro to Dr. Jeffrey, a white doctor in slavery time. I don't know what he did, but he left me with my knee out of joint after he treated it. I can't work my toes and I have to walk with that stick.
"I was a tot when I seen the soldiers coming dressed in blue, and I run. They was very nice to the colored people, never beat 'em or nothin'. I was in Bartow County when they come through. They took a lot of things, but I can't remember exactly what it was. I 'tended to the children then-both the white and colored children, but mostly the white.
"My old master, John Patterson, never beat up the women and men he bossed.
"I have heard people talk about the pateroles raising sand with the niggers. Some of the niggers would say they got whipped. I was small. I would hear 'em say, 'The pateroles is out tonight.'
Ku Klux Klan
"I have seed the old Ku Klux. That was after freedom. They came 'round to my old master where my mama stayed. They were just after whipping folks. Some of them they couldn't whip.
"I used to get a little money from Mr. Dent long as he was living. I would go over there and he would give me a dollar or two. Since he's been dead, his wife don't have much to give me. She gives me something to eat sometimes but she doesn't have any money now that her husband is dead.
"I can't get up to the Welfare. Crippled as I am, I can't walk up and down those stairs, and I can't git there nohow. I been tryin' to git some one to take me up there.
"Mr. Pratt helps me from time to time, but he ain't sent me nothin' now in a good while. He's right smart busy, but if I go to him, I spect he'll stir up somethin' for me.
"I wouldn't never a left Bartow County, but the white people made out that this was a rich country and you could make so much out here, and we moved out here. We was young then. We came out on the train. It was a long time back but it was too far to came on a wagon. I don't remember just how long ago it was.
"I used to quilt until my fingers got too stiff. I got some patterns in there now if you want to see them."
The old lady took me in the house and showed me about a dozen quilts, beautifully patterned and made. She had also some unfinished tops. She says that she does not have much of a sale for them now because the "quality of folks" who liked such things well enough to buy them "is just about gone."
She is crippled and unable to walk with facility. She has a great deal of difficulty in getting off and on her porch. Still she does not impress one as feeble so much as just disabled in one or two particulars. She has a crippled knee, and both of her hands are peculiarly stiff in the finger joints, one more so than the other. If it were not for the disabilities, as old as she is, I believe that she could give a good account of herself.
I didn't have the heart to tell the old lady that her Bible record is not what she thinks it is. It is not the old original record which her mistress possessed. Neither is it the copy of the record of her mistress which her mother kept. From questioning, I gather that the old mistress dictated the original record to some one connected with her mother, might have written it out herself on a sheet of paper. From time to time, as new deaths and births occurred, scraps of paper containing them were added to the first paper, and as the papers got worn, blurred, and dog-eared, they were copied-probably not without errors. Time came when the grandchildren up in the grades and with semi-modern[HW:?] ideas copied the scraps into the family Bible. By that time aging and blurring of the original lead pencil notes, together with recopying, had invalidated the record till it is no longer altogether reliable.
The births recorded in the Bible are as follows and in the exact order given below:
Mary Patterson 10-11-1866 Harris Donesson 3-13- 72 Lilley Donesson 7-21- 85 Pearly Donesson 3-29- 92 Silvay Williams 8-29- 84 Beney Williams 11-24- 85 Millia A. Williams 12-30- 88 Joe Patterson 10- 3- 77 H. Patterson 7-29- 79 Maria E. Patterson 11-19- 81 Jennie Patterson 12-24- 84 Alex Patterson 7- 5- 86 James Patterson 6-20- 90 Janie Patterson 1-27- 60 Amanda Patterson 1-28- 63 James Rafield Walker 8-11- 99 Cornelius Walker 7-21-1902 Willie Walker 11-20- 03 Elias Walker 7-21- 11 Emmet Brown 1-23- 22 Leon Harris 12-13- 21 The following marriages were given:
May Lee Brown 2-26-1926 James Walker Brown 2-21- 35 Jennie Walker 6-20- 15 Lillie Jean Walker 12-6- 36 The name of Sarah Jane Patterson is not in the list. The list itself is not chronological. It is written in ink but in the stiff cramped hand to be expected of a school child not yet thoroughly familiar with the pen. The eye fixes on the name of Janie Patterson, 1-27-1860. It does not seem probable that this is correct if it is meant to be Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane could give no help except to answer questions about the manner in which the record was made.
These considerations led me to set the record aside in my own mind so far as Sarah Jane Patterson's age is concerned and to take her word. She has a very clear conception of the change from slavery to freedom. Her memories are blurred and indistinct, but she recollects that this matter was during slavery times and that during freedom. It seems that she had the care of the smaller children during slavery time-at the time she saw the soldiers marching through. This was not during the time of freedom, because she distinguished clearly the Ku Klux time. She would have to be at least eighty to have cared for children. Her tenacious memory of ninety may have some foundation, therefore.
Moreover where writing is done in lead pencil and hurriedly, six is often made to look like four and a part of eight may become blurred till it looks like a zero. That would account for 1848 being transcribed as 1860. There would be nothing unusual, however, in a Sarah Jane and a Jane. I neglected to cover that point in a question.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives