Rochelle Allred Ward - Cherokee Freedwoman
My mother, Lottie Beck, was belonging to old master Joe Beck when I
was born about 1847, on the Beck farm in Flint District of the old Cherokee
Nation. That a mighty long time ago and lots of things my old mind won't
remember, but I never forgot the old Beck Mill place because I done many a
cooking there and watch the mill grind up the corn and wheat for the Indian's
meal and flour.
Before I tell about the mill I want to tell about paw; Jim he was named, and
belong to Sarah Eaton, who must have stole him when he about eight or nine year
old from his folks in Georgia and brought him out here, maybe to Fort Gibson
near as he could tell. That make paw born about 1827 because he was a young man
grown to full grown when he met my maw.
He come to the mill place for his mistress, that the way he always tell about
it, and the only girl he see right off was Lottie, one of the Beck slave girls,
but they was lots more on the place, only he could see no one but Lottie and
fall in love with her. She feel the same way about him; she asked old Master Joe
to buy Jim Eaton so's they can marry, build a cabin.
Master Joe want to know if the young slave a good worker, and when Jim Eaton
say, "I is the best cane stripper and field man in the whole country,"
the master offer Sarah Eaton $500 for her slave boy and that done bought him. So
he come to the Becks, change his name to Jim Beck and keep it ever since.
My paw always told me he was part Indian account of his mama was a Cherokee
Indian girl name Downing; that make my paw some kin to Chief Downing who was a
big man among the Cherokees after the Civil WAr when the Indians stop fighting
Two of my sisters Sabra and Celia was both real light in color, but my brothers
was all dark. They was named Milton, Louie, Same, Nelson and Dennis.
Well the old mill had done been built by some of the Becks when they first come
out to this country a long time before I was born. Some of Master Joe's kin they
was; all over this country was Beck families, but other folks come in here too,
one of them new settlers run the old mill for awhile until he died. I hear his
name when I was a young girl, seem like it was Hildebrand; different from all
them Indian names anyways.
We all done move away from the mill place during the war, but bad things happen
around the old place after the war and I hear about it the way folks tell it
When the old miller die his wife marry one of the men who work in the mill, but
an Indian name Proctor (Zeke) work up a grudge for the woman's husband and fix
up to kill him. When the Indian come to the mill and start a ruckus with the
man, his wife mix in and get shot. Seem like she jump in front of the Indian
when he try to shoot and get the bullet herself. She died; that cause lots more
trouble and it was a long time before it was settled and folks stop killing each
After my paw come with the Becks they make him a kind of overseer. There was
several families living in the little log cabins on the farm, and all these
slave families look to my paw for the way to do things. The mistress say,
"Whatever Jim do is alright." She trusted him and she saw he was a
good worker and would do the right thing.
None of the Beck slaves was sold, but paw said he seen slaves sold off. He told
us children, that was after war, "We was all good Negroes, that why the
Becks keep us. And we ought to be glad, because I see sorrow at the auctions,
and crying, when the mother sold off from her child, or when the child is took
away from her."
The mistress always get us anything we need; even after the war, and she come
down to where we live around Fort Gibson, and bring cloth for our dresses and
help make them, and one time she said she was going to bring her old Bible down
for paw to get all the children's ages, but she died before she could get back
the next spring.
Some of the slaves work around and get money and pay this money to their master
for freedom, so there was some freed before the close of the war. Some others
try to run away after the war start, and maybe they get caught like the one man
who hide in a house around the old mill. Some said he was a freedman too, but
anyways some of the Confederates find him in the old house, take him off to
Texas and sell him. They got a big price for him, $5000 they said, but it was
Confederate money and that kind of money got worthless as a cotton patch without
But the patrollers didn't bother nobody with a pass and when anybody leave the
Beck place it was with a pass. But lots of slaves was stole and the masters fix
up to get their slaves out of the hills and take them to Fort Gibson for safety.
The Confederate soldiers was there then. (1862)
The mistress was getting old and she cried terrible when all the slaves leave in
the night for the fort. Everybody loaded in the ox wagons, hating to leave the
mistress, but they all have to go.
We camped around the garrison place at Fort Gibson and there was no buildings
there like there is now. The soldiers was all camped there in tents. They was
all 'confederate soldiers and I mean there was lots of soldiers camped in the
The Negroes piled in there from everywheres, and I mean threw as lots of them,
too. Cooking in the open, sleeping most anywhere, making shelter places out of
cloth scraps and brush, digging caves along the river bank to live in. There was
no way to keep the place clean for there was too many folks living all in one
place, and if you walk around in the nighttime most likely you stumble over some
Negro rolled up in a dirty blanket and sleeping under a bush.
I never was where the fighting went on, but I heard the cannon go "Bum!
Bum!" and the little guns go "Bang!" in all directions. I seen
the soldiers come in after the fights; they be all shot up with blood soaking
through the clothes, trying to help each other tie on a bandage--the awfulest
sights I ever see.
The generals have some young boys, I guess they was soldiers, herding the horses
a little way south of the fort. The one day a scout come riding in and yell,
"The Federals is coming!" All the soldiers run for the horses and
gallop out for the mountain south from the fort. I hear that fighting, guns
speaking in the hills, and the Federals was whipped. Lots of them killed and
some of them captured and brought back to the fort, and some got away.
Some folks say that while the war is on the Federals take charge of the old Beck
mill. Guess they stole the grain too, for to make meal, anyway they kept the
soldiers in food when the other folks was starving. They captured one of the
Confederate boy and made him run the mill.
Master Joe Beck died during the war by a horse kick, and after the war
everything so upsettled that folks don't know what to do. For a while we lived
on Carroll Branch near Fort Gibson and I nursed around first one family and
Then come a time of cholera; people die all that season, and the dead--seem like
they pass and pass all the time---was carried in little two wheel wagons pulled
by a mule to a burying place out near the National Cemetery. Lots of soldier die
and sometime after the cholera die out, their bodies was moved to the National
Cemetery and the slaves was buried back in the woods to the north.
The Federals tried to catch the cholera germs. They kill beef & hung the
pieces high up in the air, leave the meat for days and days, out in the
open---say it catch the germs but I don't know.
Mostly in my coming up time we didn't know what doctoring was. Some of the older
men and women used to dig roots and get different herbs for medicine; them
medicines cure the chill fever and such.
When I married Amos Allred, a State man from Freeport, Texas, more than seventy
year ago, we had to get signers before old Judge Walker at Fort Gibson could say
the words. I get seven signers, all of them Cherokee Indians and who know I was
a good slave woman. We divorced a long time later and I married a State man from
Mississippi, Nelson Ward. There was thirteen children, but I done forget all the
names: some was Amos, Susie, Jess, Will, Frank, Lotte, Cora.