Nellie Johnson - Creek Freedwoman
At approximately 90 years of age, Mrs. Nellie Johnson was interviewed in
the summer of 1937. She lived with a grandson Tom Armstrong, but was interviewed
at the home of Thomas and Clara Watson.
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 the 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 MicIntosh and my pappy and mammy
have a big, nice clean log house to live in, and everything round it look better
than most renters 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 tow 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 aff
after the old man Gouge, and he take most of the Seminole, too. I hear of old
Tuskenugge, the big man of the Seminoles, but I never did see him, nor mighty
few of the Seminoles.
My mother tells me old Genera ain't been living in that Kawita Town very many
years when I was borned. He com up there from down on 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 fork of the rivers too, but I don't think he ever move up into
that Kawita town. It was in the narrow stretch where the Verdigris come close to
the Arkansas. They got a pretty good sized white folks town 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 all of them.
For a long time after the Civil War, the 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 round 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
others place. He got down out of the buggy and talk to all us children, and ask
us how we getting along.
I didn't even know at the time that told 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 McIntosh, and my mammy 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 Kawita 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 Negreos have all the horses and mules to work it
with. They all live in good log housese they built themselves, and have
everything they need.
Old master's land wasn't all in one big filed, but a lot of little fields
scattered all over the place. he just take up land what already was kind of
prairie and the negroes don't have to clear up much woods.
We all lived around on them 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 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 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 Rhoda. We could work a mighty big patch for own 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 they own.
Old Chief lived in a big log house made double with a hall in between, and alot
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 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
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 they
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 knowned of mixed up with the poor Creeks and Seminoles, and some got
married to them after the War, abut 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 Eufala town. After a while I marry a man
name Joe Johnson, at a little settlement they call Rentiesville. 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, names Luisa, and she married Tom Armstrong. They had
three-four children but one was named Tom and it is with him I live with now. My
husband's been dead a long, long time now.