Slave Narrative of Nellie Johnson
Person Interviewed: Nellie Johnson
I don’t know how old I is, but I is a great big half grown gal when the time of the war come, and I can remember how everything look at that time, and what all the people do, too.
I’m pretty nigh to blind right now, and all I can do is set on this little old front porch and maybe try to keep the things picked up behind my grandchild and his wife, because she has to work and he is out selling wood most of the time.
But I didn’t have to live in any such a house during the time I was young like they is, because I belonged to old Chief Rolley McIntosh, and my pappy and mammy have a big, nice, clean log house to live in, and everything round it look better than most renters got these days.
We never did call old Master anything but the Chief or the General for that’s what everybody called him in them days, and he never did act towards us like we was slaves, much anyways. He was the mikko of the Kawita town long before the war and long before I was borned, and he was the chief of the Lower Creeks even before he got to be the chief of all the Creeks.
But just at the time of the war the Lower Creeks stayed with him and the Upper Creeks, at least them that lived along to the south of where we live, all go off after that old man Gouge, and he take most of the Seminole too. I hear old Tuskenugge, the big man with the Seminoles, but I never did see him, nor mighty few of the Seminoles.
My mammy tells me old General ain’t been living in that Kawita town very many years when I was borned. He come up there from down in the fork of the river where the Arkansas and the Verdigris run together a little while after all the last of the Creeks come out to the Territory. His brother old Chili McIntosh, live down in that forks of the rivers too, but I don’t think he ever move up into that Karita town. It was in the narrow stretch where the Verdigris come close to the Arkansas. They got a pretty good sized white folks town there now they call Coweta, but the old Creek town was different from that. The folks lived all around in that stretch between the rivers, and my old Master was the boss of all of them.
For a long time after the Civil War they had a court at the new town called Coweta court, and a school house too, but before I was born they had a mission school down the Kawita Creek from where the town now is.
Earliest I can remember about my master was when he come to the slave settlement where we live and get out of the buggy and show a preacher all around the place. That preacher named Mr. Loughridge, and he was the man had the mission down on Kawita Creek before I was born, but at that time he had a school off at some other place. He git down out the buggy and talk to all us children, and ask us how we getting along.
I didn’t even know at that time that old Chief was my master, until my pappy tell me after he was gone. I think all the time he was another preacher.
My pappy’s name was Jackson McInotsh, and my mammy name was Hagar. I think old Chief bring them out to the Territory when he come out with his brother Chili and the rest of the Creek people. My pappy tell me that old Master’s pappy was killed by the Creeks because he signed up a treaty to bring his folks out here, and old Master always hated that bunch of Creeks that done that.
I think old man Gouge was one of the big men in that bunch, and he fit in the war on the Government side, after he done holler and go on so about the Government making him come out here.
Old Master have lots of land took up all around that Kavita place, and I don’t know how much, but a lot more than anybody else. He have it all fenced in with good rail fence, and all the Negroes have all the horses and mules and tools they need to work it with. They all live in good log houses they built themselves, and everything they need.
Old Master’s land wasn’t all in one big field, but a lot of little fields scattered all over the place. He just take up land what already was a kind of prairie, and the niggers don’t have to clear up much woods.
We all live around on then little farms, and we didn’t have to be under any overseer like the Cherokee Negroes had lots of times. We didn’t have to work if they wasn’t no work to do that day.
Everybody could have a little patch of his own, too, and work it between times, on Saturdays and Sundays if he wanted to. What he made on that patch belong to him, and the old Chief never bothered the slaves about anything.
Every slave can fix up his own cabin any way he want to, and pick out a good place with a spring if he can find one. Mostly the slave houses had just one big room with a stick-and-mud chimney, just like the poor people among the Creeks had. Then they had a brush shelter built out of four poles with a roof made out of brush, set out to one side of the house where they do the cooking and eating, and sometimes the sleeping too. They set there when they is done working, and lay around on corn shuck beds, because they never did use the log house much only in cold and rainy weather.
Old Chief just treat all the Negroes like they was just hired hands, and I was a big girl before I knowed very much about belonging to him.
I was one of the youngest children in my family; only Sammy and Millie was younger than I was. My big brothers was Adam, August and Nero, and my big sisters was Flora, Nancy and Rhode. We could work a might big patch for our own selves when we was all at home together, and put in all the work we had to for the old Master too, but after the war the big children all get married off and took up land of they own.
Old Chief lived in a big log house made double with a hall in between, and a lot of white folks was always coming there to see him about something. He was gone off somewhere a lot of the time, too, and he just trusted the Negroes to look after his farms and stuff. We would just go on out in the fields and work the crops just like they was our own, and he never come around excepting when we had harvest time, or to tell us what he wanted planted.
Sometimes he would send a Negro to tell us to gather up some chickens or turkeys or shoats he wanted to sell off, and sometimes he would send after loads of corn and wheat to sell. I heard my pappy say old Chief and Mr. Chili McIntosh was the first ones to have any wheat in the Territory, but I don’t know about that.
Along during the war the Negro men got pretty lazy and shiftless, but my pappy and my big brothers just go right on and work like they always did. My pappy always said we better off to stay on the place and work good and behave ourselves because old Master take care of us that way. But on lots of other places the men slipped off.
I never did see many soldiers during the war, and there wasn’t any fighting close to where we live. It was kind of down in the bottoms, not far from the Verdigris and that Gar Creek, and the soldiers would have bad crossings if the come by our place.
We did see some whackers riding around sometimes, in little bunches of about a dozen, but they never did bother us and never did stop. Some of the Negro girls that I knowed of mixed up with the poor Creeks and Seminoles, and some got married to them after the war, but none of my family ever did mix up with them that I knows of.
Along towards the last of the war I never did see old Chief come around any more, and somebody say he went down into Texas. He never did come back that I knows of, and I think he died down there.
One day my pappy come home and tell us all that the Creek done sign up to quit the war, and that old Master send word that we all free now and can take up some land for our own selves or just stay where we is if we want to. Pappy stayed on that place where he was at until he died.
I got to be a big girl and went down to work for a Creek family close to where they got that Checotah town now. At that time it was just all a scattered settlement of Creeks and they call it Eufaula town. After while I marry a man name Joe Johnson, at a little settlement they call Rentesville. He have his freedmen’s allotment close to that place, but mine is up on the Verdigris, and we move up there to live.
We just had one child, named Louisa, and she married Tom Armstrong. They had three-four children, but one was named Tom, and it is him I live with now. My husband’s been dead a long, long time now.