Chaney McNair - Cherokee Freedwoman
Chaney McNair was interviewed in Vinita Oklahoma in 1939. She was
approximately 87 years of age. She was also interviewed as part of the Indian
My parents came from Georgia with the Cherokees. They came by boat I 'spect. I
don't know much about 'em. Can't even remember my mother; she died when I'se so
young. She belonged to Vina Ratliff. My father must have belonged to John Drew
but he was sold and sent to Mississippi long before the war.
I'se born in 1852 down below Tahlequah on the Ratliff Plantation. Yes, I'se born
a Ratliff. I remember the big log house of my marster and the little ones the
slaves lived in.
I got in to Mart McCoy's hands somehow. There was an attachment or bond or
something. He was sheriff down near Dwight Mission. I couldn't tell how come'-
we slaves didn't know nuthin' anyhow. Then Marster Ratliff got me back again.
I'se there for a while then sold to William Penn Adair. I remember the old Adair
Plantation. Marster Adar had his first wife then. The lived in a double log
house. There was two big rooms with an entry in between. Didn't you never see a
house with an entry? Well, you go in just like this: I walk in entry, I go this
way and there's the door of one room, then I go that way and there's the door of
You ask me why they didn't have no bigger house. Why they couldn't have done no
better. They hadn't had time. They was drove here in '35 and I lived there in
'62. They hadn't had much time to build much house, but it was warm. Them two
rooms had rock fireplaces, with a big rock heah. They had big mantle-boards
like. You don't see them none no more. They cooked on the kitchen fireplace;
baked the bread in a skillet laid in the coals. Everybody had fireplaces. I
never seen no stove till I got free up in Kansas. The bedstead had curtains all
around, I remember that, too. And there was a trundle bed for the children. You
slide it under the big bed in the day time. Never see them no mroe, either.
Marster William had about ten slaves. I remember the names of five, Francis,
Margaret, Tobe and Bean, not countin' myself. Francis and Margaret washed,
spinned and weaved. They wove lots and lots of goods. Didn't you never see no
weavin'? They carded the wool first make roll, then they put it, the cotton, on
a wheel and spin it round and round like this. They use their feet too. They
made bed spreads, sheets jeans for pants. Oh, we ain't no count now; we don't
know how to do nuthin'.
We lived in the Joe Martin community. I've heard tell how mean he was. Lots of
the Cherokees had slaves. There was the Adairs, William Penn, my Marster, Fran,
John, and George Washington, the Martins, the Drews, and old Dick Sanders. Most
of the Cherokees was good to their slaves but he crossed up with sometimes.
Mistress Sarah his wife, she was good to us, yes awful good to us. Them Adaris
was all smart people. I used to go and visit old Aunt Suzanna McNair (she was a
Bell.) We like to talk over old times. Washington Adair got shot one time. His
home was just a little ways from Marster William's all live close together.
Well, he set up his gun some way and it fell, and shot him right through the
leg. You just talk to some of his gran' children. They tell you I'se tellin' you
Does I believe in Spirits? Sure I do. This old flesh and bones goin' back from
what God make it, but our spirits never die. Sometimes the spirits of folks
what' dead come back. I've heard of haunted house where there was rappin's and
the like but I never did hear any myself. Tell you what I did see, more than
once. Back in Ft. Scott where I worked there's little girl, beautiful little
girl with long curls. I wondered why God made me black and that little girl so
white. Before I left she died, I saw her lyin' in the casket. Long time after
she came to me in a dream like. I saw a little girl with curls, all dressed in
white. Seemed like she was here a minute, then she walked out the door and was
gone. She come more than once and stand right here in that door. Sometime that
little girl goin' ocme back all dressed in white and take old Aunt Chaney out
the door and I won't never come back.