Rogers, Will Ann
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Will Ann Rogers R.F.D., Brinkley, Arkansas Age: 70
"I was born three years after the surrender. I was born at Fryers Point, Mississippi. The reason I ain't got the exact date when I was born, my ma put it down in the Bible and the house burned up and everything in it burned to ashes. No mam she got somebody what could write real nice to write all the names and ages for her.
"When ma was a young woman, she said they put her on a block and sold her. They auctioned her off at Richmond, Virginia. When they sold her, her mother fainted or drapped dead, she never knowed which. She wanted to go see her mother lying over there on the ground and the man what bought her wouldn't let her. He just took her on. Drove her off like cattle, I recken. The man what bought her was Ephram Hester. That the last she ever knowed of any of her folks. She say he mated 'em like stock so she had one boy. He livin' down here at Helena now. He is Mose Kent. He was born around Richmond, Virginia jes' lack dat she say.
"When it nearly 'bout time for freedom a whole army of Yankees come by and seed Mose working. They told him if he come go wid them they give him that spotted horse and pair red boots. He crawled up on the horse an' was gone wid 'em for a fact she said. She started right after them, following him. She followed them night and day. She nearly starved, jess begged 'long the road all she could. I heard her say how fast she have to walk to keep on trail of 'em and how many nights. She say some nights when they camped she would beg 'round and try to fill up. But she couldn't get to Mose without them seein' her. When they got to Fryers Point she went an' got him. They jess laughed and never give him nuthin'. They left that army fast as they could she say.
"She married at Fryers Point. She had jes' one boy and I had four or five sisters. They all dead but me and Mose. He think he 'bout ninety years old. He come here to see me last year. He sho is feeble.
"How come I here? When I was fourteen years old my family heard how fine this State was and moved to Helena. I lived at Moro and Cotton Plant. Then, the way I come here was funny. A man come up there and say a free train was comin' to go back to Africa. All who wanted to go could go. My pa sold out 'bout all we had an' we come here lack they say. No train come yet goin' to Africa as I seed. My pa give the white man $5.00 to pay fer the train. Tom Watson was one of 'em too. He was a sorter leader 'mong 'em wantin' to go back. Well when the day come that the train due to start everybody come to the depot whar the train going to stop. There was a big crowd. Yes mam, dressed up, and a little provisions and clothes fixed up. Jes' could take along a little. They say it would be crowded so. We stayed around here a week or two waitin' to hear somethin' or be ready to go. Most everybody stayed prutty close to the depot for two or three days. Yes mam there sho was a crowd-a whole big train full from here 'sides the other places. I jes' stayed here an' been here ever since. The depot agent, he told 'em he didn't know 'bout no train going to Africa. The tickets was no good on his trains.
"How I owns this place, I'll tell you. A man here had all dis land 'round here (Negro town) laid off. He couldn't sell none of his lots. They wouldn't buy his lots. So he got after me. We had made a good crop, so I got up the money and bought this place. One hundred dollars is what I give him. Others then started to settlin' in and about close to my place.
"I guess it was Spotsells in Virginia what raised her. She say her name was Lizzie Spotsell Johnson. Then when Ephram Hester bought her they learned her to do about in their house. She cooked and swept and knocked flies and tended to the children. She stayed with 'em a pretty long time till she run off and went to Fryers Point.
"She may have told us about the Nat Turner rebellion but I don't remember it. They sung a lot in my mother's time. Seemed lack they was happier than we are somehow. She sung religious songs and one or two field songs. I don't recollect 'em now.
"I never did vote. I never cared nuthin' about it. Some of 'em 'round here wouldn't miss votin' for nothin'.
"Lawd me, chile, the times is done run ahead of me now. I'm so fur behind I never expect to catch up. I don't pay no more attention to the young folks, the way they act now, 'an I do my little dog there. They don't want no advice and I would be afraid I would 'vise 'em wrong. When my children come I tell 'em you are grown and you knows right from wrong. Do right. That's all I know to say.
"The way I am supported is my husband gets all the jobs he able to do and can and the governmint give me an' him $10 a month. We has a little garden."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives