Patsy Perryman - Cherokee Freedwoman
Patsy Perrman was interviewed in 1938 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Her narrative
was not included in the original publication on the WPA Slave Narratives,
because it was never forwarded to Washington, and the original copy remained in
the Oklahoma state archives. It was included in the recent work, The WPA
Oklahoma Slave Narratives, published in 1996 and edited by T. Lindsay Baker, and
Julie Baker. Like many of the Black Indian narratives, reveal, many former
slaves were simply abandoned when they finally freed their slaves. Many former
slaves could not return to their homes or to the Territory that they knew as
home in a timely manner since they had no money and means to travel. This was
later used against them by many of the nations that chose to punish their former
slaves for not returning "on time" to later make claims in their
respective nations as citizens. No longer valuable as slaves, their Indian
compatriots literally threw them away. This attitude sadly prevails today in the
fruitless attempts of freedman descendants to make citizenship claims while
whites with 1/700ths blood are revered and welcomed into their nations. Sadly
the negative attitudes towards self are also reflected in this narrative. The
harmful effects of ownership of human beings is reflected vividly in this brief
My mother didn't know how old any of her children was; she told me I was born
about three year before the War, and dat the same thing she told my sister
Victoria about her age, so I claim the age of eighty and hope to live along like
mother who died last year (1937), 115 years old.
The Taylor place, where I was born , was in the Caney Creek settlement, near
Walkingstick Spring, in the old Flint District of the Cherokee Nation. The
Taylor family was Cherokees and the mistress and master always treated us mighty
good. We didn't know what whippings were, only what he heard about other slaves
getting beaten for trying to run away or too lazy to work.
My mother had always been with mistress Judy Taylor and she was the only mother
my mama ever had, least the only she could remember for her own mother (my
grandmother) died when she was three days old. She was raised by the Indians and
could talk Cherokee.
There was two boys and three girls; myself, Jude and Victoria, "Boney"
(Bonaparte) and Lewis. Father belonged to some other man for a long time; he
would get a pass to visit with mother and us children, then go back the next
day. The Taylors bought him so that we could all be together.
My brother Lewis married a full-blood Indian woman and they got lots of Indian
children on their farm in the old Cherokee country around Caney Creek. He's just
like an Indian, been with them so much, talks the Cherokee language, and don't
notice us Negroes any more.
The last time I saw him was thirty years ago when he come to see mamma at the
agency. We started out walking and pretty soon he dropped behind, leaving me to
walk in front. I looked back and there he was standing in the middle with his
"What's the matter brother Lewis?" I wanted to know. "Sister
wants you to come on, " I told him.
"I darn tired looking at Negroes!" he said keeping his eyes shut tight
and I knew just how he felt.
That's what I use to tell Mistress Taylor when I leave my own mammy and run to
the mistress, crying to stay with her, even after the peace come that set us
"Honey" Mistress Judy say kindly, "stay with your own mammy, she
cries for you."
And I would cry some more, keeping my eyes shut all the time, for like my
brother said, "I tired looking at Negroes."
The Taylor house was a beautiful place to live; it was a long double log house,
weather boarded with a yard of clover under the big oak tress that made plenty
of shade. I use to pick up leaves to keep the yard clean and sweet smelling and
go to the big spring close to the house for water.
Besides helping that way I would feed the chickens, take care of the children
and sometimes I would get money for it and buy candy; Once I bought a doll.
When I was little, Victoria and me would go hunting for rabbits and quail birds
in the snow. In the summer we catch terrapins, roast them over the fire for some
good eating. Mostly we had bean bread and bean dumplings with corn bread. Making
corn bread was a big job. First the corn had to be soaked, then put in a mortar
and pounded to meal with a pessel " beating the meal" is what my mammy
Cotton clothes for summer, wool clothes for winter, with knitted stocking and
gloves made my Mammy and Mistress Taylor. For Sunday our dress was calico and
our bonnets was trimmed up with corn stalks. Our shoes were home made, with
brass toes and braided soles to keep the flint rocks from cutting through the
The main crops were corn and cotton and if they were big ones, the master would
hire Negroes to come in and help with the work. There was nobody around the
place but Indians and Negroes; I was a full-grown girl before I ever saw a white
There was no way to learn reading and writing; I was a big girl when I learn the
letters and how to write, and tried to teach mammy but she didn't learn, so all
the writing about allotments had to be done by me. I have written many letters
to Washington when they gave the Indian lands to the native Indians and their
Mammy said the patrollers and "Pin" Indians caused a lot of trouble
after the war started. The master went to war and left my mistress to look after
the place. The Pins came to the farm one day and broke down the doors, cut
feather beds open and sent the feathers flying in the wind, stole the horses,
killed the sheep and done lots of mean things.
Then mistress took her slaves and went somewhere in Texas until after the war.
She started back to the old home place, but wasn't going to take us with her
until mammy cried so hard she couldn't stand it and told us to get ready. We
drove through in an ox wagon and sometimes had to wait along the way because the
streams were flooded and we couldn't ford.
We found the old house burned to the ground when we got back and the whole place
was a ruin. There was no stock and no way for any of us to live. The mistress
told us that we were free anyway and to go wherever we wanted to.
We went to Fort Gibson and then to Tahlequah; mammy earning our way cooking at
both places. Victoria was hired out to Judge Wolfe and that's where she was when
father had her stolen. We was all worried about her for a time, until we found
out she was with him.
My first husband was Charley Clark, a full-blood Creek Indian, living on the
river near Yohola; the next man was black African, but we couldn't get along so
I let him go, and married Randolph Perryman, who, like Charley Clark, is dead
now. I never had any children.
I am glad slavery is over and I do not want to see any more wars. Lincoln freed
us, but I never liked him because of the way his soldiers done in the south.