Mary Lindsay - Chickasaw Freedwoman

Mary Lindsay was interviewed in 1937. Because she was left in Texas by her former mistress, she and her children missed out on the allotments she lost land that she might have been entitled to had she returned to the territory earlier. Though as a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, many of her privileges would have been limited. She was residing with her daughter, Georgia Freeney in Tulsa Oklahoma at the time of her interview.

My slavery days wasn't like most people tell you about, 'cause I was give to my young Mistress and sent away to Texas when I was jest a little girl, and I didn't live on a big plantation a very long time.

I got an old family Bible what say I was born on September 20, in 1846, but I don't know who put de writing in it unless it was my mammy's mistress. My mammy had de book when she die.

My mammy come out to the Indian country from Mississippi two years before I was born. She was the slaves of a Chickasaw part-breed name Sobe Love. He was the kinfolks of Mr. Benjamin Love, and Mr. Henry Love what bring two big bunches of the Chickasaws out from Mississippi to the Choctaw country when the Chickasaws sign up de treaty to leave Mississippi, and the whole Love family settle 'round on the Red River below Fort Washita. There whar I was born.

My mammy say de have a terrible hard time again the sickness when they first come out into that country, because itw as low and swampy and all full of cane brakes, and everybody have the small pox and the malaria and fever all the time. Lots of the Chickasaw families nearly died off.

Old Sobe Love marry her off to a slave named Wiliam, what belong to a full-blood Chickasaw man name Chic-a-lathe, and I was one of de children.

De children belong to the owner of the mother, and me and my brother Frianklin, what we called "Bruner" was born under the name of Love and then old Master Sobe brought my papy William, and we was all Love slaves then. My mammy had two more girls, name Hetty and Rena.

My mammy name was Mary, and I was named after her. Old Mistress' name was Lottie, and they had a daughter name Mary. Old Master Sobe was powerful rich and he had about a hundred slaves and four or five big pieces of that bottom land broke out for farms. He had negroes all on the places but he didn't have no overseers, jest hisself and he went around and seen that everybody behave and do they work right.

Old Master Sobe wa a mighty big man in the tribe, and so was all his kinfolks, and they went to Fort Washita and to Boggy Depot all the time on business, and leave the Negroes to look after old Mistress and the young daughter. She was almost grown along about that time, when I can first remember about things.

'Cause my name was Mary, and so was my mammy's and my young Mistress, too, Old Master called me Mary-Ka-Chubbee to show which Mary he was talking about.

Miss Mary have a black woman name Vici what wait on her all the time, and do the carding and spinning and cooking 'round the house, and Vici belong to Miss Mary. I never did go round the Big House, but jest stayed in the quarters with my mammy and pappy and helped in the field a little.

Then one day Miss Mary run off with a man and married him, and old Master Sobe neraly went crazy! The man was name Bill Merrick, and he was a poor blacksmith and didn't have two pair of britches to his name, and no other reasson. 'Cause he was a white man and she was mostly Chickasaw Indian.

Anyways, old Master Sobe wouldn't even speak to Mr. Bill, and wouldn't let him set foot on the place. He jest reared and pitched around, and threatened to shoot him if he set eyes on him, and Mr. Bill took Miss Mary and left out for Texas. He set up a blacksmith shop on the big road between Bonham and Honey Grove, and lived there until he died.

Miss Mary done took Vici along with her, and pretty soon she come back home and stay a while, and old Master Sobe, kind of soften up a little bit and give her some money to git started on, and he give he me, too.

Dat jest nearly broke my old mammy's heart and pappy's heart, to have me took away off from them, but they couldn't say nothing and I had to go along with Miss Mary back to Texas. When we git away from the Big House I jest cried and cried until I couldn't hardly see, my eyes was so swole up, but Miss Mary said she gwine to be good to me.

I ask her how come Master Sobe didn't give her some of the grown boys and she say she reckon it because he didn't want to hlep her husband out none, but jest wanted to help her. If he give her a man her husband have him working in the blacksmith shop, she reckon.

Master Bill Merrick was a hard worker, and he was more sober tha most the men in them days, and he never tell me to do nothing. He jest let Miss Mary tell me what to do. They have a log house close to the shop, and a little patch of a field at first, but after a while he git more land, and then Miss Mary tell me and Vici we go to help in the field too.

That sho' was hard living then! I have to git up at three o'clock sometimes so I have time to water the hosses and slop the hogs and feed the chickens and milk the cows, and then git back to the house and git the breakfast. That was during the times when Miss Mary was having and nursing her two children, and old Vici had to stay with her all the time. Master Bill never did none of that kind of work, but he had to be in the shop sometimes, until way late in the night, and sometimes before daylight, to shoe people's hosses and oxen and fix wagons.

He never did tell me to do that work, but he never done it his own self, adn I had to do it if anybody do it.

He was the slowest one white man I ever did see. He jest move round like de dead lice fallin off'n him all the time, and everytime he go to say anything he talk so slow that when he way one word you could walk from here to way over there before he say de next word. He don't look sick, and he was powerful strong in his arms, but he acts like he don't feel good jest the same.

I remember when the War come. Mostly by the people passing 'long the big road, we heard about it. First they was a lot of wagons hauling farm stuff into town to sell, and then purty soon they was soldiers on the wagons, and they was coming out into the country to git the stuff and buying it right at the place they find it.

Then purty soon they commence to be little bunches of mens in soldier clothes riding up and down the road going somewhar. They seem like they was mostly young boys like, and they jest laughing and jollying and goin on like they was on a picnic.

Then the soldiers come round and got a lot of the whtie mena dn took them off to the WAr even iffen they didn't want to go. Maste Bill never did want to go, cause he had his wife and two little children, and anyhways he was gitting all the work he could do fixing wagons and shoeing hosses, with all the traffic on de road at that time. Master Bill had jest two hosses, for him and his wife to ride and to work to the buggy, adn he had one old yoke of oxen and some more cattle. He got some kind of paper in town and he kept it with him all the time and when the soldiers would come to git his hosses or his cattle he would jest draw that paper on em and they let em' alone.

By and by the people got so thick on the big road that they was somebody in sight all the time. They jest keep a dust kicked up all day and all night cepting when it rain, adn they git all bogged down and be strung all up and down the road camping. They kept Master Bill in the shop all the time, fixing the things they bust trying to git the wagons out'n the mud. They was whole families of them with they children and they slaves along, and they was coming in from every place because the Yankees was gitting in their part of the country, they say.

We all git migthy scared about the Yankees, coming but I don't reckon they ever git thar 'cause I never seen none, and we was right on the big road and we would of seen them. They was a whole lot more soldiers in them brown looking jeans, round about jackets and cotton britches a faunching up and down the road on their hosses, though. The hoss soldiers would come b'iling by, going east all day and night, and then two three days later on they would al come tearing by going west! Dey acted like dey didn't know whar dey gwine, but reckon dey did.

Den Master Bill git sick. I reckon he more wore out and worried than anything else, but he go down with de fever one day and it raining so hard Mistree and me and Vici can't neither one go nowhar to git no help.

We puts peach tree poultices on his head and wash him of all the dtime, until it quit raining so Mistress can go out on de road, and then a doctor man come from one of the bunches of soldiers ands see Master Bill. He say he going be all right and jest keep him quiet, and go on.

Mistress have to tend de children and Vici have to take care of Master Bill and look after the house, and dat leave me all by myself wid all the rest of everything around the place.

I got to fee all the stock and milk the cows and work in the field too. Dat the first time I ever try to plow, and I nearly git killed too! I got me a young yoke of oxens I broke to pull the wagon, cause Vici have to use the old oxens to work the field. I had to take the wagon and go about ten iles west to a patch of woods Master Bill owned to git fire wood, cause we lived right on a flat patch of prairie, and I had to chop and haul the wood by myself, I had to git postoak to burn in the kitchen fireplace and willow for Master Bill to make charcoal out of to burn in his blacksmith fire.

Well I hitch up them youn goxen to the plow and they won't follow the row, and so I go git the old oxens. One of them old oxens didn't know me and took in after me, and I couldn't hitch em up. And then it begins to rain again.

After the rain was quit I get the bucket and go milk the cows, and it is time to water the hosses too, so I starts to the house with the milk and leading one of the hosses. When I gits to the gate I drops the halter across my arm and hooks the bucket of milk on my arm too, and stats to open the gate. The wind blow the gate wide open, and it slap the hoss of the flank. That was when I nearly got killed!

Out the bhoss go through the gate to the yrad, and down the big road, and my arm all tangled up in the halter rope and me dragging on the ground!

The first jump knock the wind out of me and I can't git loose, and the hoss drag me down the road on the run until he meet up with a passel of soldiers and they stop him.

The next thing I knowed I was laying on the back kitchen gallery, and some soldiers was pouring water on me with a bucket. My arm was broke and I was stove up so bad that I have to lay down for a whole week, and Mistress and Vici have to do all the work.

Jest as I getting able to walk round here come some soldiers and say they come to git Master Bill for the War. He still in the bed sick, and so they leave a parole paper for him to stay until he git well, and then he got to go into Bonham and go with the soldiers to blacksmith for them that got the cannons, the man said.

Mistress take on and cry and hold onto the man's coat and beg, but it don't do no good. She say they don't belong to Texas but they belong in the Chickasaw Nation, but he say that don't do no good, cause they living in Texas now.

Master Bill jest stew and fret so, one night he fever git way up and he go off into a kind of a sleep and about morning he died.

My broke arm begin to swell up and hurt me, adn I git sick with it agian, and Mistress git another doctor to come look at it.

He say I got bad blood from it how come I git so sick, and he git out his knife out'n his satchel and bleed me in the other arm. The next day he come back and bleed me again two times, and the next day one more time, and then I git so sick I puke and he qit bleeding me.

While I still sick Mistress pick up and go off to the Territory to her pappy and leave the children thar for Vici and me to look after. After while she come home for a day or two and go off again somewhere else. Then the next time she come home she say they been having big battles in the Territory and her pappy moved all his sutff down on the river, and she home to stay now.

We git along the best we can for a whole winter, but we nearly starve to death, and then the next sprig when we getting a little patch planted Mistress go into Bonham and come back and say we all free and the War over.

She say "You and Vici jest as free as I am, and alot freer I reckon, and they say I got to pay you if your work for me, but I ain't got no money to pay you. If you stay on with me and help me I will feed and home you and I can weave you some good dresses if you card and spin the cotton and wool." Well I stayed on, cause I dind't have no place to go, adn I carded and spinned the cotton and wool, and she make me just one dress. Vici didn't do nothing but jest wait on the children and Mistress.

Mistress go off again about a week, and when she come back I see she got some money but she din't give us any of it.

After a while I asked her ain't she got some money for me, and she say no, ain't she giving me a good home? Den I starts to feeling like I ain't treated right.

Every evening I git done with the work and go out in the back yard and jest stand and look off to the west towrads Bonham, and wish I was at that place or some other place.

Den along come a negro boy and say he working for a family in Bonham, an he git a dollar every week. He say Mistress got some kinfolks in Bonham and some of Master Sobe Love's negroes living close to there.

So one night I jest put the new dress in a bundle and set foot right down the big road a-walking west, and don't say nothing to nobody !

It's ten miles into Bonham, and I gits in town about daylight. I keeps on being afraid, cause I can't git it outn my mind I still belong to Mistress.

Purty soon some negroes tell me a negro name Bruner Love living down west of Greenville, and I know that my brother Franklin, cause we all call him Bruner. I don't remember how all I gits down to Greenville, I know I walks most the way, and I finds Bruner. Him and his wife working on a farm, and he say my sister Hetty and my sister Rena what was little is living with my mammy way back up on the Red River. My pappy done died in time of the War and I didn't know it.

Bruner take me in a wagon and we went to my mammy and I lived with her until she died and Hetty married. Then I married a boy name Henry Lindsay. His people was from Georgia, and he lived with them way west at Cedar Mills, Texas. That was right close to Gordonville, on the Red River.

We live at Cedar Mills until three of my children was born and then we come to the Creek Nation in 1887. The last one was born here.

My oldest is named Georgia on account of her pappy. He was born in Georgia and that was in 1838, so his whitefolks a got a book that say. My next child was Henry. We called him William Henry, after my pappy and his pappy. Then come Donie, and after we come here we had Madison, my youngest boy.

I lives with Hnery here on this little place we go tin Tulsa. When we first come here we got some land for $15 an acre from the Creek Nation, but our papers said we can only stay as long as it is the Creek Nation. Then in 1901 comes the allotments, and we found out our land belong to a Creek Indian, and we have to pay him to let us stay on it. After while he makes us move off and we lose out all around.

But my daughter Donie git a little lot, and we trade it for this place about thirty year ago, when this town was a little place.