Walker, Henry (information)
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Irene Robertson Subject: Ex-Slave-Hunting Story:-Information
This information given by: Henry Walker Place of Residence: Hazen, Arkansas Occupation: Farmer. Age: 78 [TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
Henry Walker was born nine miles south of Nashville, Tennessee. Remembered the soldiers and ran to the windows to see them pass. One day he saw a lot of soldiers coming to the house. Henry ran in ahead and said out loud, "them Yankeys are coming up here." The mistress slapped Henry, hid him and slammed the doors. The soldiers did not get in but they did other damage that day. They took all the mules out of the lot and drove them away. They filled their "dugout wagons" with corn. A dugout wagon would hold nearly a crib full of corn. They were high in front and back and came down to a point, nearly touched the ground between the wheels. The wheels had pens instead of axles in them.
The children ran like pigs every morning. The pigs ran to eat acorns and the children-white and black-to pick up chestnuts, scaly barks and hickory nuts. There were lots of black walnuts. "We had barrels of nuts to eat all winter and the mistress sold some every year at Nashville, Tennessee. The woods were full of nut trees and we had a few maple and sweet gum trees. We simmered down maple sap for brown sugar and chewed the sweet gum. We picked up chips to simmer the sweet maple sap down. We used elder tree wood to make faucets for syrup barrels. There were chenquipins down in the swamps that the children gathered."
Henry Walker said that they were sent upon the hills to find ginsing and often found long beds of it. They put it in sacks and a man came and bought it from the mistress. The mistress' name was Mrs. Williams. She kept the money for the ginsing and nuts too when she sold them.
Henry said he ate at Mrs. Williams', but the other children ate at the cabin. On Saturday evening the horn would sound and every slave would come to get his allowance of provisions. They used a big bell hung up in a tree to call them to meals and to begin work. They could also hear other farm bells and horns. Colored folks could have dances if they would get permission. Some masters were overseers themselves and some hired overseers. Patty Rell was a white man and the bush-wackers give us trouble sometimes.
On January first every year everybody ate peas and "hog jole" and received the new rules. The masters would say, "don't be running up here telling me on the overseer." They had a bush harbor church and the white preacher came to preach to black and white sometimes. They taught obedience and the Golden Rules. No schools-Henry said since freedom the white men had cheated him out of all he had ever made, with pen-and-ink. He rather be whipped with a stick than a writing pen. He said Mr. and Mrs. Williams were good people. Henry learned to knit his socks and gloves at night watching the grown people. They made a certain number of broches every night. He liked that.
Henry said Mr. Williams let him carry his gun hunting with him and taught him how to shoot squirrels. They were plentiful. He had a lot of dogs. The master went to the deer stand and Henry managed the twelve hounds. He didn't like to fox hunt. About a hundred men and thirty dogs, horns, etc. out for the chase. They came from Nashville and in the country. A fox make three rounds from where he is jumped and then widens out. They brought "fine whiskey" out on the chases.
When they had corn shuckings one Negro would sit on the fence and lead the singing, the others shuck on each side. The master would pour out a tin cup full of whiskey from a big jug for each corn shucker, and Mrs. Williams would give each a square of gingerbread.
Mr. Williams set aside a certain number of acres of land every year to be cleared, fenced and broke for cultivation by spring. Six or eight men worked together. They used tong-hand sticks to carry the logs to the piles where they were burning them. A saw was a side show, they used mall, axe and wedge. After the log rolling there would be a big supper and a good one. The visitors got what they wanted from the table first. "That was manners."
"We took turns going to the Methodist church at Nashville with Mr. and Mrs. Williams. They went in the fine carriage and the maid held the baby but anybody else rode along behind on horseback. The carriage horses were curried every day, kept up and ate corn and fodder. Mr. and Mrs. Williams came to Nashville to big weddings and dances often."
After Henry Walker came to Hazen, Colonel Yopp had him feed his dogs and attend him on big fox hunting trips. Since Colonel Yopp died January 1928 Henry seldom, or perhaps has never sung the song he sang to Colonel for dimes if he needed a little change. He learned the song and whoop back in in slavery days. He said William Dorch (colored boy) took it up from hearing him sing for Colonel Yopp and would write it for me and sing it and give it with the old Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee whoop.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives