The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor Person interviewed: Sarah Wells 1012 W. Sixteenth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Age: 84 Occupation: Field hand
"I was born in Warren County, Mississippi, on Ben Watkins' plantation. That was my master-Ben Worthington. I don't know nothin' about the year but it was before the war-the Civil War. I was born on Christmas day.
"Isaac Irby was my father. I don't know how you spell it. I can't read and write. I can tell you this. My mother's dead. She's been dead since I was twelve years old. Her name was Jane Irby. My name is Wells because I have been married. Willis was my husband's name. I have just been married once. I was married to him fifty years. He has been dead thirteen years the fifteenth of October. I don't know how old I was when I was married. But I know I am eighty-four years old now. I must have been about twenty or twenty-one when I married.
"The slaves lived in log houses, dirt chimneys, plank floors. They had beds made out of wood-that's all I know. I don't know where they kept their food. They kept it in the house when they had any. The slaves didn't have to cook much. Mars Ben had a slave to cook for them. They all et breakfast together, and lunch in the fiel'.
Food and Cooking
"There was a great big shed. They'd all go up there and eat-the slaves would all go up and eat. I don't know what the grown folks had. They used to give us children milk and corn bread for breakfast. They'd give us greens, peas, and all like that for dinner. Didn't know nothin' about no lunch.
Work and Runaways; Day's Work
"My mother and father worked in the field hoeing, plowing and all like that-doing whatever they told 'em to do. They raised corn and ground meal. Some of the slaves would pick five hundred pounds of cotton in a day; some of them would pick three hundred pounds; and some of them only picked a hundred. IF YOU DIDN'T PICK TWO HUNDRED FIFTY POUNDS, THEY'D PUNISH YOU, put you in the stocks. If you'd run off, they put the nigger hounds behind you. I never run off, but my mother run off.
"She would go in the woods. I don't know where she'd go after she'd get in the woods. She would go in the woods and hide somewheres. She'd take somethin' to eat with her. I couldn't find her myself. She take somethin' to eat with her. She didn't know what flour bread was. I don't remember what she'd take-somethin' she could carry. Sometimes she would stay in the woods two months, sometimes three months. They'd pay for the nigger hounds and let them chase her back. She'd try to get away. She never took me with her when she ran away.
Buying and Selling
"My mother and her sister were bought in old Virginny. Ben Watkins was the one that bought her. He bought my father too. Then he sold my father to the Leightons. Leighton bought my father from Ben Watkins for a carriage driver. I was never bought nor sold. I was born on Ben Watkins' plantation and freed on it.
"I've heered them say the pateroles is out. I don't know who they was. I know they'd whip you. I was a child then. I would just know what I was told mostly.
How Freedom Came
"The Yankees told my mother she was free. They had on blue clothes. They said them was the Yankees. I don't know what they told her. I know they said she was free. That's all I know.
"Sometimes the soldiers would do right smart damage. They set a lot of houses on fire. They done right smart damage.
"I have seen Jeff Davis. I never seen Lincoln. They said it was Jeff Davis I seen. I seen him in Vicksburg. That was after the war was over.
Ku Klux Klan
"I have heered about the Ku Klux, but I don't know what it was I heered. They never bothered me.
Right after the War
"Right after the war, my mother and father hired out to work. They did most any kind of work-whatever they could get to do. Mother cooked. Father would generally do house cleaning. Mother didn't live long after the war.
"I lost my finger because of blood poisoning. I had a scratch on my finger. Pulled a hangnail out of it. I went around a lady who had a high fever and she asked me to sponge her off and I did it. I got the finger in the water that I sponged with and it got blood poisoned. I like to have died.
"I was married and had three children when my father died. I don't know what he died with nor what year.
"My mother had had seven children-all girls. I had seven children. But three of mine were boys and four were girls. Ain't none of them living now.
"My son was living in Little Rock and he kept after me to come here and I come. After I come, he left and went to Kansas City. He died there. I used to do laundry work. I quit that. I commenced to do sellin' for different companies. I sold for Mack Brady, Crawford & Reeves, and a lot of 'em.
"I don't know what I think about the young people. They ain't nothin' like I was when I was a gal. Things have changed since I come along. I better not say what I think."
The interviewee says she is eighty-four, and her story hangs together. Her husband died thirteen years ago, and they had been married fifty years when he died. She "recollects" being about twenty years old when she married. She says she was about twelve years old when her mother died, one year after the close of the Civil War. This data seems to be rather conclusive on the age of eighty-four.
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives