The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson Person interviewed: Henry Walker, Hazen, Arkansas Age: 80
I was born nine miles south of Nashville, Tennessee. The first I ever knowed or heard of a war, I saw a lot of the funniest wagons coming up to the house from the road. I called the old mistress. She looked out the window and pushed me back up in the corner and shot the door. She was so scared. I thought them things they had on their coats (buttons) was pretty. I found out they was brass buttons. I peeped out a crack it was already closed 'cept a big crack, I seed through. Well, the wagons was high in front and high in the back and sunk in the middle. Had pens in the wheels instead of axels. Wagon had a box instead of a bed. The wagons would hold a crib full of corn. They loaded up everything on the place there was to eat and carried it off. My folks and the other folks was in the field. Colored folks didn't like 'em taking all they had to eat and had stored up to live on. They didn't leave a hog nor a chicken, nor anything else they could find. They drove off all the cows and calves they could find. Colonel Sam Williams, the old master, soon did go to war then. The folks had a hard time making a living. Old mistress had four girls and her baby Ed was one day older than I was. The children of the hands played around in the woods and every place and stayed in the field if they was big enough to do any work. Old mistress had all the children pick up scaley barks and hickory nuts and chestnuts and walnuts. She put them in barrels. She sold some of them. She had a heap of sugar maple trees. They put an elder funnel to run the sap in buckets. We carried that and she boiled it down to brown sugar. She had up pick up chips to burn when she simmered it down or made soap. She kept all the children hunting ginsing up in the mountains. She kept it in sacks. A man come by and buy it. We hunted chenqupins down in the swamps. There was lots of walnut trees in the woods.
No the slaves didn't leave Colonel Williams. He left them. He brought me and Ed and we went back and moved to the old Williams farm on Arkansas River close to Little Rock. Then he sent for my folks. They come in wagons. They worked for him a long time and scattered about. I stayed at his house till he said "Henry, you are grown; you better look out for yourself now." Ed was gone. He sent all the girls off to school and Ed too. They taught me if I wanted to learn but I didn't care much about it. I went to the colored school and Ed to the white school. He learned pretty well. I never did like to 'sociate or stay 'bout colored folks and I didn't like to mind 'em. Old mistress show did brush me out sometimes and they called my mother to tend to me. When I was real little they drove the hands to the block to be sold out along the road. Old mistress say: "If you don't be good and mind we'll send yare off and sell you wid 'em." That scared me worse than a whooping. Never did see anybody sold. Heard them talk a heap about it. When one of them wouldn't work and lay out in the woods, or they wouldn't mind they soon got sold off. They mated a heap of them and sold them for speculation. No mam I didn't like slavery. We had plenty to eat but they worked for all they got. Had good fires and good warm houses and good clothes but I did not like the way they give out the provisions. They blowed a horn and measured out the weeks paratta for every family. They cooked at the cabins for their own families. There was several springs and a deep rock walled well at old mistress' house. Old mistress always lived in a fine house. I slept at my mother's house nearly all the time. She had a big family. White folks raised me up to play with Ed till I thought I was white. They taught me to do right and I ain't forgot it. I never was arrested. I married three times, bought three marriage license all in Prairie County. All three wives died.
I owns dis house 'cept a mortgage of $50. One of my boys got in a difficulty. I don't know where he is to get him to pay it off. The other boy he's not man enough either to pay it off.
I never did know jess when the Civil War did close. I kept hearing 'em say we are free. I didn't see much difference only when Colonel Williams come back times wasn't so hard. Then he sold out and come to Arkansas. Then each family raised his own hogs and chickens and finally got to have cows.
I was as scared of the Ku Klux Klan as of rattlesnakes. In Tennessee they come up the road and back just after dark. They rode all night and if you wasn't on your master's own land and didn't have a pass from him or the overseer they would set the dogs on you and run you home. Sometimes they would whip them. Take them home to the old master. I never heard of no uprisings. People loved each other better then than now. They didn't have so much idle time. There was always some work to be doing. When they didn't mind they run them with dogs and whipped them. The overseer and paddyrollers seed about that. The first day of the year everybody went up to hear the rules and see who was to be the overseer. Then they knowed what to do for the year. They never did kill nobody. No mam that was too costly. They had work according to their strength and age. The Ku Klux was to keep order.
I been living in Hazen forty or fifty years. All I ever have done was farm sometimes one-half-for-the-other and sometimes on share-crop.
I have voted but not lately. I votes a Republican ticket. I votes that way because it was the Republicans that set us free, I always heard it said. I jess belongs to that party. Seems lack we gets easier times when the Democrats reign. Colonel Williams was a Democrat.
The young folks are not as well off as I was at their age. They are restless and won't work unless they gets big pay and they spends the money too easy. The colored people are too idle and orderless. They fight and hate one another and roam around in too much confusion.
I gets from $3 to $8 last month from the Sociable Welfare. My children helps me mighty little. They got their own children to see after and don't make much.
Colonel Williams and Ed are both dead. They did give me a lot of fine clothes when I went to see them as long as they lived. I don't know where the girls hab gone. Scattered around. I oughter never left my good old home and white folks. They was show always mighty good to me.
I never could sing much. I used to give the Rebbel Yell. Colonel Yopp give me a dime every time I give it. Since he died I ain't yelled it no more. I learned it from Colonel Williams. I jess took it up hearing him about the place.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives