Joe Bean - Cherokee Freedman

(Joe Bean was interviewed in the winter of 1937-38, at his home in Hulbert Oklahoma when he was 89 year of age.)

During the time they come to fighting in the Civil War, I was about twelve year old. That make me about 89 years old now, and the year about 1849, when I was born on the Dick Bean plantation over at Lincoln, Arkansas, about 20 miles southwest of Fayetteville.

My father was named Joe Bean, and mother was name Cosby Bean and when she died about 15 year back, she was 112 years old. She was a Cherokee Indian slave, come here from Georgia when the Indians did, but I don' know her master' name, I mean the Indian master. Some time old Master Bean buy her that' all I know about it.

Our old slave family was a big one, most of them is now dead, but I remember the names, all except two of the little children who died early, having no names. Dere was Anderson, Mary, Sarah, Cinda, Martha, Rochelle, and Christie; some of the girls still living.

The master was Dick Bean the mistress was Nancy Bean' dey both dead now, the master gone first someday before the war closed, while his young son Dick the Second, was fighting for the South. He come through the war safe enough and live to raise his own son, Dick the Third (I always calls him) who lets me live in this one-room log cabin on his farm, God Bless his soul!

The old master's house in Arkansas was a big six-room, two story, place on pine planks, wid a porch all around the house. Not far from the big house was a rock building used for the looms; in dere dey made cloth and thread and dey make it for anybody what come dere with cotton or wool. I helped throw the thread in the loom and I get the dye stuff; the walnut bark for black, the post oak bark that mixing with the copperas for yellow, the log wood mixing with alum for the red-brown colors.

I remember the old slave cabins all just alike setting in a row with a box-elder tree growing in the middle of the yard. The cabins was only one room, without windows, facing the south, with a fireplace in one end. Six of dem cabins fill up the yard, near as I get to it now.

The flooring was rough plank, 'cept round the fireplace where the stones reach out, and where we eat from the wooden dished on the floor. Lots of good eats for old master didn't hide out the vegetables and the meats, dey always handy in the smokehouse and wide open for the slaves when de needs. It. The beds was made of posts put together wid wooden pegs, corded rope for the springs covered with cowhide first and then a homespun tick filled wid grass straw. Cover dat wid a homespun quilt and you got the bed.

During the slave times Master Bean had two horses, a bay trotter and a brown single-footer, mighty fine travelers dem riding horses. We ride on the squirrel hunts, me on the bay, master close behind on the brown, waiting for me to sight up a squirrel. Dem was the best days of all.

But dem days go when the fighting stars, and we starts to moving around. The First move was to Dardanelle way from Fort smith close by the Arkansas River, on a place where lied the old master's married daughter Eliza. Dat's where master died.

He stayed shut up in the house a long time before he died. Dat worry me, thought maybe he already died. Worry me too, because I always used to put on the master's hoses and tie em for him and bring drinks of spring water to cool him after a long ride, and then I figures to find out is he living or not.

They won't let nobody in the room just break me up because I was near crazy to be with him when he's sick and need me. So I go around the house and rolls me up a barrel to the window of his room, and there he was laying on the bed by the window and I knock on the glass so he'll turn and see me.

"Joe, Joe, come here!" I hear him like it was yesterday. "Take bucket to he spring an get Master Dick a fresh drink. They let me take the water to him, and I recollect that was about the last thing I get to do for good old Master Bean.

(...............for the sake of space, some of this narrative has been deleted at this part, and continuing with the next paragraph)

Right after the war, I come to Ft. Gibson. Camped in a tent house made of elm bark. A creek Indian drifter moved out and we moved in. Lived about one half mail from the garrison. Been around here ever since. One I lived in Jesse James. Cave at McBride switch they call ii nowadays. Another time I live on a patch of ground where folks say "Cherokee Bill" (Crawford Goldsby hanged in 1896 by Judge Parker) had battle with officers of Fourteen Mile Creek.

When I get to thinking about slave days I always remember of the slaves that run away. Master Bean had a white overseer, but he didn't allow for no whippings, cept maybe he cuff a young one around it he done something real mean, or maybe sometimes he sell one for the same reason. Whippings, like some of them rich owners did, No! The old master's hide get all turned around if somebody hit a Negro. He'd let nobody chunk em around.

But the ones that run away, well, they get the dogs after em. Book hounds they called em, and if a slave be gone two days, say, the dogs was used to track , and the masters would say, "If we don't catch them on this farm, catch em on the next!"

(...............for the sake of space, some of this narrative has been deleted at this part, and continuing with the next paragraph)

A black wool suit and a white poplin shirt, that's my wedding clothes. Go them from the store a Fort Gibson, I married Louisa Alberty, she was a free. Worked for Reverend Dunkin, she did, who was our preacher at the wedding. Married Mary Rogers the next time.

There was lots of children, can't remember all the names. Minnie, Linda, John, Jack, Tom Potum, lots more than that, can't remember.

I belong to the colored Baptist church because I want a good resting place when I go;, if they is such a place as Hell it don't see like such a good resting place to me.

Joe Bean speaks of life in Indian Territory, including the famous African Indian outlaw Cherokee Bill. More information about Cherokee Bill can be found in the book "Black, Red and Deadly. Black and Indian Gunfighters of Indian Territory, by the noted writer, Art T. Burton.