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Person Interviewed: Francis Bridges
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Place of Birth: Red River County, Texas
Date of Birth: 1864
I was born in Red River County, Texas in 1864, and that makes me 73 years old. I had myself 75, and I went to my white folks and they counted it un and told me I was 73, but I always felt like I was older than that.
My husband’s name is Henry Bridges. We was raised up children together and married. I had five sisters. My brother died here in Oklahoma about two years ago. He was a Fisher. Mary Russell, my sister, she lives in Parish, Texas; Willie Ann Poke, she lives in Greenville, Texas; Winnie Jackson, lives in Adonia, Texas, and Mattie White, my other sister, lives in Long Oak, Texas, White Hunt County.
Our Master was named Master Travis Wright, and we all ate nearly the same thing. Such things as barbecued rabbits, coon, possums baked with sweet potatoes and all such as that. I used to hang round the kitchen. The cook, Mama Winnie Long, used to feed all us little niggers on the flo’, jest like little pigs, in tin cups and wooden spoons. We ate fish too, and I like to go fishing right this very day.
We lived right in old Master Wright’s yard. His house sat way up on a high hill. It was jest a little old log hut we lived in a little old shack around the yard. They was a lot of little shacks in the yard, I can’t tell jest how many, but it was quite a number of ‘am. We slept in old-fashion beds that we called “corded beds”, ’cause they had ropes crossed to hold the mattresses for slats. Some of ’em had beds nailed to the wall.
Master Travis Wright had one son named Sam Wright, and after old Master Travis Wright died, young Master Sam Wright come to be my mother’s master. He jest died a few years ago.
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My mother say dey had a nigger driver and he’d whip ’em all but his daughter. I never seen no slaves whipped, but my mother say dey had to whip her Uncle Charley Mills once for tell a story. She say he bored a hole in de wall of de store ’til he bored de hole in old Master’s whiskey barrel, and he caught two jugs of whiskey and buried it in de banks of de river. When old Master found out de whiskey was gone, he tried to make Uncle Charley ‘fess up, and Uncle Charley wouldn’t so he brung him in and hung him and barely let his toes touch. After Uncle Charley thought he was going to kill him, he told where de whiskey was.
We didn’t go to church before freedom, land no! ’cause the closest church was so far — it was 30 miles off. But I’m a member of the Baptist Church and I’ve been a member for some 40-odd years. I was past 40 when I heerd of a Methodist Church. My favorite song is “Companion.” I didn’t get to go to school ’til after slavery.
I ‘member more after de war. I ‘member my mother said dey had patrollers, and if de slaves would get passes from de Master to go to de dances and didn’t git back before ten o’clock dey’d beat ’em half to death.
I used to hear ‘am talking ’bout Ku Klux Klan coming to the well to get water. They’d draw up a bucket of water and pour the water in they false stomachs. They false stomachs was tied on ’em with a big leather buckle. They’d jest pour de water in there to scare ’em and say, “This is the first drink of water I’ve had since I left Hell.” They’d say all sech things to scare the cullud folks.
I heerd my mother say they sold slaves on what they called an auction block. Jest like if a slave had any portly fine looking children they’d sell them chillun jest like selling cattle. I didn’t see this, jest heerd it.
After freedom, when I was old enough then to work in the field, we lived on Mr. Martin’s plantation. We worked awful hard in the fields. Lawd yes’n! I’ve heard ’bout shucking up de corn, but give me dem cotton pickings. Fry’d pick out all de crop of cotton in one day. The women would cook and de men’d pick the cotton. I mean on dem big cotton pickings. Some would work for they meals. Then after dey’d gather all de crops, dey’d give big dances, drink whiskey, and jest cut up sumpin terrible. We didn’t know anything ’bout holidays.
I’ve heard my husband talk ’bout “Rev head an’ bloody bones.” Said whenever dey mothers wanted to scare ’em to make ‘en be good dey’d tell ‘en dat a man was outside de door and asked her if she’d hold his head while he fizzed his back bone. I don’t believe in voodooing, and I don’t believe in hants. I used to believe in both or ’em when I was young.
I married Jake Bridges. We had a ordinary wedding. The preacher married us and we had a license. We have two sons grown living here. My husband told me that in slavery if your Master told you to live with your brother, you had to live with his. My father’s mother and dad was first cousins.
I can ‘member my husband telling me he was hauling lumber from Jefferson where the saw mill was and it was cold that night, and when they got half-way back it snowed, and he stopped with an old cullud family, and he said way in the night, a knock come at de door —woke ‘en up, and it was an old cullud man, and he said dis old man commence inquiring, trying to find out who dey people was and dey told him best dey could remember, and bless de Lewd, ‘fore dey finished talking de found out dis old cullud man and de other cullud woman an’ man dat was married was all brothers and sisters, and he told his brother it was a shame he had married his sister and dey had nine chillun. My husband sho’ told me dis.
I’ve heerd ’em say dey old master raised chillun by those cullud women Why, there was one white man in Texas had a cullud woman, but didn’t have no chillun by her, and he had this cullud woman and her old mistress there on the some place. So, when old Mistress died he wouldn’t let this cullud woman leave, and he gave her a swell home right there on the place, and she is still there I guess. They say she say sometime, she didn’t want to Negro men smutting her sheets up.
I think Abraham Lincoln was a good man, and I have read a whole lots ’bout him, but I don’t know much ’bout Jeff Davis. I think Booker T. Washington is a fine man, but I aint heerd so much about him.