Lu Lee
of Navarro County, Texas


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Mr. Davy set up near to Blooming Grove in Cook County (Texas) [sic] only the calls it Navarro County now. His brother, Henry Cook was 'mongst the refugeers and he set up near by. Guess as how that's why they called it Cook County.

They built a big log house with four big rooms. They didn't have no shingles but covered the house with post oak boards. They built little log cabins over and about the land for the niggers.

Mr. Davy had lots of land too. He had lots of slaves. Onc't he had over a hundred of them but he sold them off down to fifty. Master had three boys and three girls. There was Sara, Betty, Becky, Tom, Jim and Bill. All those chilluns was by the first wife. Miss Helen was the second wife. She married bettering herself and she didn't never have nothing before. She got above herself and would have been worse if master didn't hold her down. Master was pretty old man and she was young. He was a good man and we loved him. When he had company all the little niggers think we got to lie down between his feet and pat and love his legs. He set a heap of store by us and he didn't b'lieve in the overseers and the slave drivers. He wouldn't even have a paddy-roller on the place.

I had three brothers and three sisters. I only got one brother left now. When I was a real little girl my dada, Alec Cook wanted to marry one of Thurman's niggers; a gal named Caroline. Well Mr. Davy Cook wont let him cause my mother is right to her time with the last baby. So my paw ran off and went down in the bottom lands and lived in a cave for three years before they found him. He lived right well and the niggers knew where he was but Mr. Davy dont know. He killed wild hogs, turkeys and deers and other meat and had just great big boxes of dried meat put up in that cave. Mr. Davy tried to run him with the blood hounds but when he went away he went through the prairie land and stepped all the way in fresh cow mess and its a sho' way to keep dogs off your trail 'cause it smells just like the grass. After the Civil war my dada married Caroline Thurman.

My mother just said to my paw, "Go ahead if you dont like me no more." My mother took soon to have the baby and she was bad in the time and Mr. Davy had to get Dr. Wheeler to her. She died when the baby was about three weeks old and Dr. Wheeler took the little girl to pay for the bill. Dr. Wheeler and his wife didn't have no chillun and they named the girl Sara and raised her in Waco.

I was real little and I went to my aunt's cabin to live and the chilluns fought me and grabbed the vittles 'fore I could get any. I cried and got so puny and beat up that the white folks had to take me to live in the house with them. I slept in a one-legged bed. They made it by nailing planks along the wall and setting up a leg in the middle of the end pieces.

We all lived real well. Master raised plenty. He had orchards of fruit and he raised cotton, corn, oats, and rice in the spring places. They hadn't ruined the land with them deep plows then so the land all wash away. The prairies were full of prairie chickens and the woods just full of every kind of wild game. When they see a wild cow that has a good bag they cut her off from the herd and bring her to the lot and tame and milk her. But for vittles we never wanted.

Just three miles from the place was Fifty Mile Thicket and it was full of every kind of varmint and panther. The prairies were full of wolves and varmints. Miss Helen used to make my sister and me herd sheep in the prairies and we was mortal scared of the wolves, panthers and wild cattle. We wasn't scared of the big droves of wild horses 'cause they run away if they see you. We kept big shepherd dogs with the sheep but once we were herding the sheep and we seen the wolves come down and grab a big, good sized calf in small time.

Every day we used to see the Indians pass the house. They tied they babies on jennies and jacks. They lived on the prairie; some had tents and some had wagons. Some times they wore clouts and I have seen them without nothing. They seemed right nice folks, leastways they didn't bother nobody. I seen the sojers come and drive them away to the frontier. They just herded them off in a hurry. One little Indian boy about six or seven that had been sick couldn't keep up with the way the sojers were driving them and gave out. My old master found him lying down 'cause he was so give out and he brought him home on his horse and gave him to the niggers to raise. He grew up and married one of my aunts. But there was something that always kept him a Indian. They was curious folks but I don't know but what they was nicer than white folks.

Now the animals; the deers and the panthers and game went off following after the Indians. Animals like the way Indians smell better than any other people. Panthers would jump on white folks and niggers but not on Indians. They always hung around where the Indians were camped. Most of the prairie chickens went looking after the Indians on the frontiers.

Old Master David wouldn't let Miss Helen whup us or work us too hard. We used to play a lot. We used to play a ring game where we sang:

"Ring around the rosie Squat little Josie."

We made mud pies and shuck dolls. There was a doll house we went into to play. We played with the white chilluns. I used to hear Master David call the chilluns and say, "You got your school books out there?" If they say, "Yes," then he tells them, "Bring your books in the house and then you can go back and play."

But the thing we chilluns liked best was hunting for babies. The old granny women used to tell us that they found the babies in the hollow logs and in holes in the ground. We would go in the woods and look in the hollow logs and dig in all the stump holes. We would come back and say we didn't find no babies. They told us we didn't dig deep nuf. We dug our little selves crazy. One day we was hunting for babies and we come up by a hollow log and we found a baby fawn. The old mammy deers would sometimes run the fawns so hard that they would lie down and sleep like they was dead. This fawn was sound asleep and we picked him up and when the old deer come up the dogs chases her off. We thought we had just found a baby deer instead of a folks baby and we were proud a as satan. We took the fawn home and he grew up to follow like a dog.

When old man Davy had company he would call us in to sing for them. His special song for us was:

"Way down is the good old Daniel Way down is the good old Daniel Way down is the good old Daniel We live in the Promised Land Bye and Bye Bye and Bye We will go there to see him We will go there to see him We will go there to see him And live in the Promised Land.

We didn't ever hear no preachin' on the place a'tall. But we used to have prayings in the different cabins. They sang at the prayings. I never did perfess religion though, 'til I was 'bout eighteen year old. They used to sing "Amazing Grace" and a real pretty tune called "Pity Lord."

"Show pity Lord Oh Lord forgive. Show pity Lord Oh Lord forgive. And let every penitent sinner live."

We didn't know nothing 'bout Sundays 'cept that was the day the niggers didn't go to the fields and we washed and ironed our clothes. We made our clothes---leastways the old women did. There was a loom house made out of logs and there was looms and spinning wheels. Two women, Elizabeth and Sue spun all the time. We dyed clothes with things out of the woods. I remember when folks died they built plank coffins and lined the inside with plain white cloth and the outside with black. They didn't have funerals in them days---they just buried the folks in a burying ground we had.

Mr. Davy was a powerful religious man though. He used to let us have dancing and singings on Saturday night. Then we had cornshucking parties. At the dances they used to have men with fiddles and they hollered out, "Get your partners for the ring dance." Then they had nuther dance where they have dancing up the sides from head to foot and prancing back. I forgets a lot about it. But they used to dance to a song called "Black Jack Grove." Master Davy said it was wrong to dance but he said "Seek your enjoyment; niggers got to pleasure themselves someway.

The niggers didn't use to marry nuther. The master would hold a broom up and have the bride jump over it and then he held it a little higher for the groom to jump. When they did that he said, "Salute your bride." And that was all there was to it.

There was a Carrol nigger wanted one of Master's gals and Colonel Carrol told him to ask Master. He come up and talked to Master 'bout it and Mr. Davy said he didn't like to stand 'twixt nobody, not even niggers, and so they married them. That nigger would get a pass and come over and stay with he gal and then he would say, "I am sorry but it is that certain time and I got to go."

Zeke Bosman was the only overseer we ever had. He was on the place and he spoiled a colored girl. Master found it out when she had a baby. He put her off in a house by herself and wouldn't let her see even her paw and maw. He ran Zeke Bosman off the place.

When women had babies they had old granny women on the place to look after them. They stayed in bed three days and got up on the fourth. But if they had a bad time they let them stay in bed four days. The women who had nursing babies did work around the house or in the spinning rooms so they be where they can suckle the babies. For the babies the granny women give them watermelon tea (pour hot water over watermelon seeds and let steep) to make they kidneys act. They give them catnip tea to break out the hives on them.

For other sicknesses we got herbs out of the bottom land. There was black jack poulticis for pains in the side and black haw leaves to make tea out of for the fevers. For a bad cold we would take a hog hoof and parch it and then pour hot water over it and make a tea. That was a sure cure for colds and high fevers.

I have known too of women that got pregnant and didn't want [sic] the baby and the unfixed themselves by taking calomel and turpentine. In them days the turpentine was strong and ten or twelve drops would miscarry you. But the makers found what it was used for and they changed the way of making turpentine. It ain't no good no more.

They used to take indigo to unfix themselves. We raised indigo in the garden for bluing the clothes. After the bloom would drop off we would take the stalk and beat it up and soak it in water and the blue would settle to the bottom just like starch. Then when you drained the water off and dried it you had bluing.

We never wanted for much where we lived. But a lot of pore niggers had it hard. There was a old man named Shaw was sho' a brutish man. All his niggers had to have passes to leave the place and he made them eat cotton seed. My grandmammy told me that he would beat the pregnant women and that he would have a hole dug in the groun' for they bellies to fit into so he could beat them proned out. She said that he beat one to death and that they had to come over and bury her in our graveyard. I remember when they done that.

When they first come to running ships on the sea before I was borned Master had sold a boy off to a man who runs a boat. They boy was the man's body servant and for long years he stayed on the sea. But his old mammy was at masters and he come home to see her. He was a curious man. He was a rocking and a reeling all the time. He was rolling fo'ards and back'ards like he was on the water. He used to sing a moanful song:

"Oh bury me not in the deep, deep sea Where the hody rots and the heart grows cold. Oh wait for me. Bury me not in the deep, deep sea. It matters not what we're often told. Where the body rots and the heart grows cold. For the sake of the fair that waits for me.

Master used to give the niggers a little patch where they raised 'taters and goobers. Some of them raised cotton. He let them sell what they made off they little patches and keep the money. Master right good that way.

One day Miss Helen said to me, "Them folks up north going to try to take our niggers. You going with 'em?" I said, "No'm Miss Helen, I ain't going no place." I didn't know what twas all about.

Right at that time I was eleven years old. They put me on the stile block. They called it the stile block 'cause it was three steps high. Mr. Henry Cook, Mr. Davy's brother bought me. Mr. Henry was a good man but I don't think he had all that b'longed to him. He wan't near as smart as Davy and he ain't as religious. He was a Hard -Shell Baptist, though. Miss Polly, his wife, was a good woman. They had seventy-five or eighty niggers and they was fair to good fixed. They house is standing down there today near to Blooming Grove.

I was working height then and I went to the fields to hoe and pick cotton. But they wan't hard on they niggers. You heared powerful talk of the war that was heading that way. And I seen straggling sojers going to whup the Yankees.

Mr. Jim and Mr. Bill, Master Davy's boys, went off with the Confederate Details. For a long time they was to the war. The Details didn't like the Cooks on account of them being from the North. Master Davy had to go down in the bottoms and live in a cave ust like my dada. The niggers kept him hid and kept him fed and they never mumbled out what they knowed.

The Ku Klux and the Paddyrollers was all around and doing meanness. They were just as onery and mean as the policemen are now. The never did nothing that amounted to nothing in they life so they think they is smart big mens when ten of them jump on pore nigger and beat the life out of him. Niggers had to lay mighty low. Their life wan't worth a five cent piece. The conscripters was going over the country too. What I says is that folks like that ought to be taught up better than such carrying on. Hitting them on the head won't do no good. God made all of them and they ought to be learned the good, kind ways of living.

The Federals come down in that country. We heared they was bad folks but they seemed right gentle like but for taking your horses and mules. They camped at a place near Raleigh. They took a horse away from my uncle and one from my brother and they took some mules from some mens I knowed.

I was over to Master Davy's house to see my grandmammy. She said there was a paper every men must read that the Federals done brought to that country.

Master Davy told Sallie Freeman and a woman named Mary to get all the niggers to the place. They rounded them up and they came to the front yard. Mr. Davy stood on the porch and said he was going to read a proclamation. He started out to read and he busted into crying and his daughter had to read the paper. She read a paper and then talked it to us. She says, "You is free mens and womens." A man I knowed named George cried out in a powerful voice:

"Free, free my Lord. Oh! free, free, my Lord. Free, free, free Oh my Lord. You will me free. And I was walking along one day and thunder and lightning rolled over my head and brought on a dreadful day. Free my Lord. Free, free, free! Free me Lord---free, free, free."

I felt it roll over my head too and I cried. I thought on it something fine to be free. Better than religion.

That night the niggers had a big corn shucking. They set up torches and poured tallow in bottles around twisted cloth and them on postes. They lit them all up and made a grand sight. They drank whiskey and danced and they sang: "Dram, dram, dram Old Master David, Old Master Henry. Dram, dram, dram. Oh bum-a-licha, bum-a-licha, bum bum Oh bum-a-licha, bum-a-licha, bum bum ho! Master David.

I went bak to Master Henry's house and he said he was going to take me and my sister to the free state of Brazil where they could keep slaves. I told my sister and we run away to go to my grandmammy's. We got on the prairie and some wild cows chases up and we clumb a tree. We had to stay there all day and all night. The next day a uncle of mine was coming along that way driving some cattle and we called him. He went after some white mens and they come and got the steers away from the tree. So we went on over to my grandmothers.

There was talk of forty acres and a mule for the niggers. They fooled them out on that. They say the Yankees was willing but the folks in the South want to starve the niggers out. The paddyrollers was worse than ever. They shot and killed Johnny Hines a white man I know. They killed Jim Cook, Master Davy's boy down on Jack's Branch. They said he said things he hadn't ought of. Master Davy sent after him and brought him home and they buried him there but they didn't have no funeral. Master Davy said they just high-tempered him away for no good cause. They killed a nigger boy named Henry just 'cause he wouldn't go off with some cattle men.

I was living in the cabin with my grandmammy and my aunt. One day my grandmammy fixed me some breakfast and my aunt's chilluns et it up. I spoke out and my aunt slapped me. After a while a white man named Rabe Scott came to our house. I asked him where he lived. He tuk me to the door and he says, "See that big elm on the high place off in the distance? You come to that tree and down through the prairie past the wild cattle grounds and over the hills is where I live. When are you coming to my house?" I said, "I didn't say I was coming to your house. I just wanted to know where you lived." The reason I say that is I don't want my aunt to know what's in my mind.

About five or six the next morning I run away and followed like he said. I come up on his place and he was in the cow lot. He called his wife, "Come here, Miss Bertha. Here is the little nigger girl I told you about." They didn't have nobody but themselves. They fixed me a bed and Miss Bertha had me card wool and she spun it and made me clothes. They gave me a lot of things and were good to me. The only thing, they left me at home when they went off and I used to cry when they did that. It was Christmas time when I come to they house. The next Christmas, Mr. Rabe came in and said, "Well Lu, its Christmas time. Do you feel like you want to go back to your kin?" I said, I b'lieved I did. He took a horse and gave me a gentle horse and I took all the things they give me and took me back to my grandmammy's. They seemed right glad to see me.

I went to work for Mark Burgess at Raleigh and worked there many a year. I married a Caldwell nigger when I was twenty-one. He wasn't much good. We had one child. He sold oats and corn that didn't b'long to him and got in trouble with the law. He had to leave. He slipped back to see me and asked me to go with him but I couldn't. Some one told on him but he had a fast horse and got away. I was glad 'cause I ain't seen so much in the law to think they are any better than them they chase.

I married again to a man named Will Green. He wasn't much good neither. We had three chilluns. He was jealous of me. But I never carried on in my life. Two of my chilluns died when they are babies.

I learned to be a granny woman. I got licenses from seven doctors. I birthed many chilluns. I always tell the women to set up on the ninth day to get their strength rightly.

Tucker Lee was the name of the last man I married. I guess I thought more of him. He was good and then not much good neither. He ran away with another woman. The brother of that woman came to me and told me he was going to kill him. I talked him out of it. I said, "He is hurting himself, maybe he will come back someday."

A few years later I am working at the house of the woman that raised Tucker and the undertaker from Tyler (Texas) phoned this lady and asked if she knew Tucker Lee. She said, "Course I do; he raised all my chilluns. He asked her to pay for his burying 'cause he is dead. She said, "I wouldn't give a nickel on his heart." I told her she didn't have a heart. I sent $10, 'cause that was all I had. I knew he had to be buried 'cause he couldn't just lay on the top of the ground.

One of the Shaws women I told about grew up and married a man near the house I saved money and bought. They had raised a nigger boy named High. When the man died he told Miss Bertha, his wife to give High a place long as he lived. High did the farm work and chores around the place. Miss Bertha had a mean boy and he was always mean to the niggers. He threw dish water on High's clean clothes and High slapped him. Miss Bertha came out and High ran away. She sent the law and men after him. She let on like he scared her. They caught High and killed him with a hoe handle. Then she come down to where he was lying dead and said, "You oughtn't to killed High. I just wanted him scared, and maybe locked up by the law for the night. She had him buried and took some folks to the funeral in her car. She asked me to go. I didn't go and even the white folks didn't think so much of her for it.

I cooked in the Government training school down at Blooming Grove and saved my money to send my grand-daughter to college. But she got married. And I got old. The $10 I get from the government every month ain't a lot but it helps me along. At least I don't starve and then I'm through now with everything and I'm ready to die and be done for all.

Interviewer: Sheldon F. Gauthier Tarrant County, Texas (December 2, 1937 (No))

*******

Lu Lee, 89, was born a slave of the Cook family, somewhere along the Texas-Louisiana state line. She now lives in Dallas, Texas, with her granddaughter.

"Both my granny and grandpa come out of Africa. They didn't know no better'n to love red, and the mens come in a ship and showed the red hankies and fooled them onto the ship. 'Fore they knowed it, they was in the chains and don't see the land no more. Davy Cook, my old master, was owner of the ship. Long as I 'member the niggers called them men the 'Red Hankies'.

"Master Cook was a northern man and he brung them to the United States. They lived in the north awhile and breeded more slaves, but I heared he didn't sell all the niggers and some trouble come up and he refugeed into Texas. They never could tell if I was borned in Louisiana or Texas They was along to the line and stopped and my mother went into the covered wagon and I was borned.

"Master Davy sot up near to Blooming Grove in Cook County, only they calls it Navarro County now. His brother, Henry Cook, was 'mongst the refugeers and he sot up nearby. Guess as how that's why they called it Cook County.

"They built a log house with four big rooms. Didn't have no shingles but covered the house with post oak boards. They built little log cabins over and about the land for the niggers. They had lots of land and slaves. Once they had a hundred but Master Davy sold off down to fifty.

"Miss Helen was master's second wife. She married betterin' herself and didn't never have nothin' before. She got above herself and would have been worse if master didn't hold her down. He was purty old man and she was young. He was a good man and we loved him and when he had comp'ny all the little niggers got between his feet and pat his legs. He sot a heap of store by us and didn't 'lieve in overseers and slave-drivers. He wouldn't even have a paddy-roller on the place.

"I had three brothers and three sisters but got only one brother left now. When I was real little my daddy, Alec Cook, wanted to marry one of Thurman's niggers, named Caroline, but master won't let him 'cause my mother is right to her time with her last baby. So paw run off and went down in the bottoms and lived in a cave three years. The niggers knew where but master didn't. Paw kilt wild hawgs and turkeys and deers and had great boxes of dried meat put up in that cave. Master Davy tried to run him with the bloodhounds but he couldn't cotch paw. After the war paw married Caroline Thurman, 'cause my mother took soon to have that baby and was bad in the time and she died. The doctor took the baby to pay for the bill and they named her Sara and raised her in Waco.

"After my mother died I went to my aunt's cabin and the chillen fought me and grabbed my victuals 'fore I'd git any. I got so puny the white folks had to take me to live in the house with them. We all lived real well. Master raised plenty. He had orchards and cotton and corn. The prairies was full of prairie chickens and the woods full of wild game. When they'd see a wild cow they cut her off and tame her. For victuals we never wanted.

"Just three mile from our place was Fifty Mile Thicket and it was full of every kind of varmint and panthers. My sister and me herded the sheep and was mortal scairt of wolves and panthers. The wild hosses run away if they'd see us.

"Every day we'd see Indians pass with babies tied on jennies and jacks. They seemed right nice folks and didn't bother nobody. The sojers come and druv them to the frontier and one little boy about six was so sick he got left and master found him and gave him to the niggers to raise. He growed up and married one of my aunts, but somethin' allus kept him a Indian. They was curious folks but I don't know but what they was nicer'n white folks.

"Animals don't hurt Indians. They like the way Indians smell better than other people. Panthers wouldn't jump the Indians. They'd hang round where the Indians camped.

"Old Master Davy wouldn't let Miss Helen whup us or work us too hard. We used to play a lot and make mud pies and shuck dolls. We played with the white chillen. I'd hear Master Davy call and say, 'You got your school books out there?' and his chillen say, 'Yes,' and then he tells them, 'Bring them books in the house and then you can go back and play.' You see, they didn't want us nigger chillen to larn readin' or writin', 'cause then we'd know what's gwine on. "We didn't never hear no preachin' them days, but we used to have prayin's in the cabins. We didn't know nothin' 'bout Sundays, 'cept it was a day us niggers didn't have to work in the fields and could wash and iron our clothes. The niggers didn't use to marry, neither. Master helt a broom up and the bride jump over it and then he'd hold it higher for the man. That's all they was to that.

"When a nigger woman had a baby she stayed in bed three days, or if she had a bad time, four days. Then she'd work round the house or in the spinnin' room.

"We got herbs out the bottoms. They was black jack poultice for pains in the side and black haw leaves to make tea out of for the fevers. For a bad cold we'd take a hog hoff and parch it and pour hot water over it and make tea. That's a sure cure for colds and high fevers. Women what didn't want they babies unfixed it by calomel and turpentine. Or they'd take indigo.

"Right when I was eleven year old they put me on the stule block. It was three steps high. Mr. Henry Cook bought me. He wasn't near as smart as Master Davy and he wasn't so 'ligious. They had eighty niggers and was fair to good fixed. I went to the fields to hoe and pick cotton.

"Then the sojers come and Master Davy had to go down in the bottoms and live in a cave. He had to hide 'cause he was a northerner. The niggers kept him hid and fed and never mumbled out what they knowed. The Ku Klux was all round and niggers had to lay mighty low. They life wasn't worth a five-cent piece.

"Then one day they tells us we're free. That night we sot up torches and poured tallow in bottles round twisted cloth and lit them all up and had a big corn shuckin'. They drunk whiskey and sung:

"'Dram, dram, dram, Old Master David, Old Master Henry, Dram, dram, dram. O, bum-a-licha, bum-a-licha, bum, bum O, bum-a-licha, bum-a-licha, bum, bum ho! Master David.'

"I went back to Master Henry's house and he said he'd take me and my sister to the free state of Brazil, where they could keep slaves. I told my sister and we run away to go to grandmammy's. We got out on the prairie and clumb a tree. Next day a uncle of mine come that way, drivin' cattle. He taken us over to my grandmammy."After awhile I went to work for Mr. Mark Burgess and stayed there many a year. I'd married a Caldwell nigger and he wasn't much good. He had to leave. I married again to a man named Will Green. He wasn't much good, neither. We had three chillen. He was jealous of me, but I never carried on in my life.

"I larned to be a granny woman and got licenses from seven doctors and birthed many chillen. Then I married Tucker Lee. He was the last. He was good at first and then not much good, neither. He run away with 'nother woman.

"I cooked in the government trainin' school down at Bloomington Grove and saved my money. And I got old. The $10.00 I git from the government every month ain't a lot, but it helps me along. At least I don't starve and then I'm through now with everything and ready to die and be done for all.

Interviewer: Alfred E. Menn Travis County, Texas District No. 9 (April 15, 1938 (No))

 


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