Slave Narrative of Victoria Taylor Thompson

Person Interviewed: Victoria Taylor Thompson
Age: 80

My mother, Judy Taylor, named for her mistress, told me that I was born about three year before the war; that make me about 80 year old so they say down at the Indian Agency where my name is on the Cherokee rolls since all the land was give to the Indian families a long time ago. Father kept the name of ‘Doc’ Hayes, and my brother Coose was a Hayes too, but mother, Jude, Patsy, Bonaparte (Boney, we always called him), Lewis and me was always Taylors. Daddy was bought by the Taylors (Cherokee Indians); they made a trade for him with some hilly land, but he kept the name of Hayes even then. Like my mother, I was born on the Taylor place. They lived in Flint District, around the Caney settlement on Caney Creek. Lots of the Arkansas Cherokees settled around there long times before the Cherokees come here from the east, my mother said. The farm wasn’t very big, we was the only slaves on the place, and it was just a little ways from a hill everybody called Sugar Mountain, because it was covered with maple sugar trees, and an old Indian lived on the hillside, making maple sugar candy to sell and trade. Master Taylor’s house had three big rooms and a room for the loom, all made of logs, with a long front porch high off the ground. The spring house set to the east, in the corner like. Spring water boiled up all the time, and the water run down the branch which we crossed on a log bridge. On the north side of the front porch, under a window in the mistress’ room, was the grave of her little boy who was found drowned in the spring. The mistress set a heap of store by that child; said she wanted him buried right where she could always see his grave. She was mighty good. So was the master good, too. None of us was ever beat or whipped like I hear about other slaves. They fix up a log cabin for us close by the big house. The yard fenced high with five or six rails, and there was an apple orchard that set off the place with its blooming in the spring days. Mother worked in the fields and in the house. She would hoe and plow, milk and do the cooking. She was a good cook and made the best corn bread I ever eat. Cook it in a skillet in the fireplace I likes a piece of it right now! Grub these days don’t taste the same. Sometime after the war she cook for the prisoners in the jail at Tahlequah. That was the first jail I ever saw; they had hangings there. Always on a Friday, but I never see one, for it scare me and I run and hide. Well, mother leave us children in the cabin while she gets breakfast for the master. We’d be nearly starved before she get back to tend us. And we slept on the floor, but the big house had wood beds, with high boards on the head and foot. Mother took me with her to weaving room, and the mistress learn me how to weave in the stripes and colors so’s I could make up one hundred kind of colors and shades. She ask me the color and I never miss telling her. That’s one thing my sister Patsy can’t learn when she was a little girl. I try the knitting, but I drop the stitches and lay it down. Some of the things mother made was cloth socks and fringe for the hunting shirt that daddy always wore. The mistress made long tail shirts for the boys; we wore cotton all the year, and the first shoes I ever saw was brass toed brogans. For sickness daddy give us tea and herbs. He was a herb doctor, that’s how come he have the name ‘Doc.’ He made us wear charms. Made out of shiny buttons and Indian rock beads. They cured lots of things and the misery too. I hear mother tell about the slaves running away from mean masters, and how she help hide them at night from the dogs that come trailing them. The high fence keep out the dogs from the yard, and soon’s they leave the runoffs would break for the river (Illinois), cross over and get away from the dogs. The master had a mill run by oxen, the same oxen used in the fields. They stepped on the pedals and turn the rollers, that how it was done. There was another mill in the hills run by a white man name of Uncle Mosie. One day he stole me to live in a cabin with him. He branded a circle on my cheek, but in two days I got away and run back to the Taylors where I was safe. When the war broke out my daddy went on the side of the South with Master Taylor. They was gone a long time and when they come back he told of fighting the Federals north of Fort Gibson (it may have been the battle of Locust Grove), and how the Federals drove them off like dogs. He said most of the time the soldiers starved and suffered, some of them freezing to death. After the war I was stole again. I was hired to Judge Wolfe, and his wife Mary took good care of me and I helped her around the big two story house. She didn’t like my father and kept him off the place. One day an Indian, John Prichett, told me my daddy wanted to see me down by the old barn, to follow him. He grabbed me when we got back of the barn and took me away to his place where my daddy was waiting for me. We worked for that Indian to pay for him getting me away from Judge Wolfe. That was around Fort Gibson. That’s where I married William Thompson, an uncle of Johnson Thompson, who was born a slave and lives now on Four Mile Branch (near Hulbert, Okla.) There was seven boys; where they is I don’t know, except for my boy George Lewis Thompson, who lives in this four room house he builds for us, and stays unmarried so’s he can take care of his old mammy. I been belonging to church ever since there was a colored church, and I thinks everybody should obey the Master. He died, and I wants to go where Jesus lives. Like the poor Indian I saw one time waiting to be hung. There he was, setting on his own coffin box, singing over and over the words I just said: “I wants to go where Jesus lives!” There’s one thing before I go. My time is short and I wants to go back to the Taylor place, to my old mistress’ place, and just see the ground where she use to walk that’s what I most want, but time is short.

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007-2024. The WPA Slave Narratives must be used with care. There is, of course, the problem of confusion in memory resulting from (73+ years) of the participants. In addition, inexperienced interviewers sometimes pursued question lines related to their own interests and perspectives and attempted to capture the colloquialism of the informant's speech. The interviews provide fascinating insight and surprisingly candid information, however.

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