STORY OF MY LIFE
by Ella Harlan
I very well remember one little happy home[?], father & mother & six little children - two boys & three girls. I was the oldest child, born in a log cabin Muray County, Columbia, Tennessee on Oct 6, 1880. My mother wasnít very strong. She died when I was 8 years old. Thatís when I began my struggle through life. I have only a few short memories of her but Iíll never forget her kind face and sweet smile.
We lived in the Tebe Brinn[?] Hollow. One day some[?]of we children were playing with red pepper. We got it in eyes, we all cried and rolled on every bed so my mother got[?] sweet milk & rubbed it into our eyes. When she used ca???ns, we run like gray hounds. My mother was very cautious[?] about fire. I grew up in her foot steps. We started toward[?] her brother one day, she looked back & saw a blue ????. She went back the third time to make sure the house[?] was not in danger of fire.
We moved close to Squire Gray place. I hired to Gray to pick cotton. I tried to picked 60 lbs by noon. I would[?] tramped & tramped my basket. Sometimes I would get too[?] close to the edge & over cotton basket & myself would go.
We lived on this place for some time. My baby brother died there. His name was Thomas Grover. He was sick with bolds hives, so the doctor call it.
We attended school at a little place they call Clipper[?] Hill. I didnít get to school regular on account of my motherís health. My teacherís name was Sallie Cockell. She came to see my mother one day and she said to her that I did well in school to have to stay at home so much. I am not saying it boastfully, but I tried to stand [at the] head in classes. One day she gave me word Ďdressí to spell. I spelled Ďgressí. She gave it out to me again. I spelled Ďgressí again. Couldnít sound the letter d to save my life so they traped[?] ???e. I didnít think it was right to trap[?] a kid that couldnít talk plain. We played on a stump that I feel safe say it was 7 or 8 feet around more or less. We made several play house on that dear old stump. U can go to that ??gak now. Why should we tear down the little red school house?
My mother was in bad health. My father would turned the feather bed over for me as I was small. I would make it up. He always came in with a smile at noon. Had [to] cook his own dinner.
In the fall we moved to the Henry Mayberry place. My brother in law lives there now. My mother rode a black mare name Dollie. She carried the two baby children. Marvin?, Earley & myself followed. We got so tired & cried & cried & would say, "Mommie how much father is it?" She tried to console us. She said "look children,do you see that smoke over there? Thereís grandmaís". Her name was Jane Pickard. My fatherís mother. Finally we reached home. The house had a stairway. We wasnít used to it. So up & down the stair we would run. My grandmother put on bread for me. She said for me to see to it my mother went to bed. We only lived one week at this place. She call my father & passed out [died]. He call us children all up. I couldnít realize what I had lost. The undertaker came next day his name was Daks & Yickles from Columbia, Tenn. The firm still carries that name. I didnít like that man because he carried my mother off & buried her. I remember who led the song at the grave. It was Mr & Mrs Osie Parsons. They sang "I will rise & go to Jesus!". Little did I realize what I had lost. I was more interested in my little gingham dress more.
I kept house for two years for my father & four little children. We got along very nicely. I always had his meals on time. Although I could not tell what time it was, we milked & cooked. Daddy hired our washing done. My Grandma would come in, & said "Ella, you keep house nice". My father went [to] the thrasher. He worked for Mr. John Huffman. I remember one Saturday night coming from the thrasher, he got lost walked almost all night with a large water mellon. I remember our little family gathering around & eating. It seems as it was yesterday, nearly 60 years ago. Sunday was our lovely[?] day but my father & us 6 little children would go to see his mother. She would meet us at the door and kiss every on of us. I remember her pretty white beds & every thing so clean. She had a dirt floor in the kitchen. Kept every dish in the right place. Her plates had to be on the top shelf of her cubbord, she call it. She had a little strip of wood across the shelf, about as wide as my finger. She set each plate on the edge lapped over the other against the wall. She wouldnít let me wash dishes because I couldnít line the plates up like she did. My Grandma raised a good garden. Her boys pulled the plow. She held the bull tongue to lay off rows. She would plow with a double shovel. The boys would run to one side for fun. She would get angry with them. She wouldnít let a team in her garden only to break it up. I didnít get inside of that garden, I only peeked in.
I remember one snowy day my father took me on the highest hill, to saw my baby brother some little wagon wheels. We sawed & sawed. Some would be a little crooked & would saw more. The little tree was just large enough to make pretty little wagon wheels. The snow was up to my knees. I didnít mind it as I always help saw wood, build fence, [or] anything on a farm. He carried me to the field to thin corn early in the morning when the dew was heavy. When I got hold of the top of the corn & gave[?] a quick jerk, the corn would snap off at the joint. He has said to me "I had soon have you to thin my corn as any man"!
I remember far back holding little wooden leg for my father to half sole shoes, which later prepared me to be able to half sole all of my children shoes. I also remember using a grease lamp in our home.
Finely two years passed by and father married Sara Jane Goodwin. One of the best woman in the world. We loved her like our own mother. We didnít know any difference. I very well remember the day he married it was "Sunday". Two[?] boys[?] marred two cousins. We had a big wedding feast, invited a lot of guests. Along in the evening my baby brother got sick and went to bed. I was taking care of him. My father & his new mother came in[?]. I was so glad to have some one to help me share my responsibility.
To this union, two children were born Bessie & Luther.
Later on my father boarded me at uncle Ruffus Eskeros[?]. I went to Sawdust Valley school. He paid my board with hams, flower etc.
We moved to our little home place, lived on very happy for several years. I was about sixteen years old, I joined the Methodist Church. I went to Sunday School every Sunday. Oh, if I could go back to that dear old home to see my father & mother. Just a year ago my sister & I went back where the house once was. Just a few rocks where the chimney stood. We tarried a while and talked about things that had passed. We saw dates on the beach trees. I remember when we lived there we tapped sugar trees to get nectar. We got enough nectar out of those trees & boiled it down & made syrup. I really eat[?] this syrup with hot biscuits.
One day Grandmother & I got on old Dollie, and started out on a twelve mile trip to Columbia, to her daughter. When we got over close to the depot, the train came by, old Dollie got frighten, she raised up, we fell off. No one was hurt.
I spun wool rolls, carted cotton, help weave carpets, blankets, also knit stockings & socks. My step mother taught me how.
I also went & got green poles[?] & drag one half of a mile & put in forked post & lay the poles up on to stick beans. These days we put up wire. It seems everything we did was the hard way.
About that time, I met my better half Alexander Campbell Harlan. We got married Dec 26, 1901. We went house keeping on the same[?] farm I lived on when a little girl. Our home was on river branch that ended in duck river.
The 1902 flood ruined almost everything I had. It began raining & rained & rained. On Good Friday & Easter Sunday. Water, water was everywhere. I could stand in my door barely ??? the back water & by five oíclock, it was under my house. I would go around and say to my husband, we had better get out. He says [he] knows when the water gets out of banks. It next[?] came so fast, I could poke[?] my finger through a hole in the floor & touch water. My kitchen was a step lower than my living room. When I step down, the floor was floating. It was up to my knees. So my husband decided to lift our bed legs up on chairs & pile everything on the bed that we could. We went out to see about a good old Negro woman that lived near the river. She was in distress. The water was coming[?] so fast, we thought we would stay all night on the bluff & watch things. We got a large box about 10 x 12. Aunt Marragh & myself got in that box, and watch the water come[?] on up. What a long & dreadful night, as the water came up we would take our box to higher land. You could hear[?] rats plunge out of water. One got in the box with me & aunt Marragh, so we scattered for a while. Next morning, the water was getting higher & higher. So we decided to go & get, Duck River Anna[?], a large nice boat that a lot of fishermen had left on Mr. Joe Parronís land. It was so lucky to have this boat. So my husband & a darkie[?], went & got this boat & pulled it to our door. It was over waist deep. As I said, the bed legs was standing in chair. It was half way on my bed ticks, so they managed to put them in the loft. Next morning the water was still rising. They paddled Duck River Anna up close to the chimney & knocked out the gable end & took what they had in the loft & carried them to the barn. These things staid in the barn three months. My stove cabinet dishes & every thing left in the house was under the floor as the floor was floating. The last time I peeked in, out in the boat, I could see the little ring on my alarm clock, ???on & old time mantle board about five feet high sticking up out of the water. I set on that hill that night and cried & cried. Tonight everything I had was gone. I looked out in that big ocean. I saw an object I thought was one of my pillows. I hollered & said there goes one of my pillows. Someone said it is foam that has gathered up from the river. I would be standing & talking to my friends & the waves would come up over your shoe tops before you would notice it. The settlings[?] was a foot in my house. We got an old darkey that was here in slave time, to shovel out the mud, out of our house. No one could travel the road for months. We thought it was bad but there were people in [more] distress then we were. So many lost there lives. The Lord always knows best. We had some things left & plenty to live on. I noticed one thing, my hen house was under water. One old hen flew off of that high hill, on top of my house & peeped down to try to find her nest. She flew back disappointed & went to the barn and laid in on one of my feather beds. Believe it are not, the water was up on the lower side of my house that touch the boards. We tied our horses with clothes lines. Water was every where, everything floating quietly[?]. When they got every thing out of aunt Maragh house it was[?] floating up & down. She hollered out, "thank the Lord white folks, you have every thing on the bluff".
Aunt Maragh was a good old Negro mammie & had a lot of experience. She was put up an a block during slave time and sold for fifty dollars in Sawdust Valley, Tenn. She told me a lot of things that happen in slave time.
My first son was born Jan 7, 1903. I lay with my eyes set in my head for some time. I was between life & death. Blood poison set up. I never walk a step in 3 months. People came to see me far and near. They didnít have any hospital in Columbia, my home town. My Drís name was DeCorleus of Williamsport, Tennessee. My son weighed twelve and one half lbs. I had a complete laceration[?]. I named him John Marvin Harlan. I have never completely recovered as it caused an injured spine all my life.
1904. Abner Clyde was born. My Drís name was Ugene Radgell of Williamsport, Tennessee. He didnít get back to see me as soon as he said he would. When he came, he said I have treated you like a red headed step child. When he gave me ether, I sang every song. They said I sang "I am on my way to glory , donít you all want to go?" On the last, they said I got my song mixed up I said "I am on my way to Mexico."
I never had to worry about a living. My husband provided well until he got down with typhoid fever. We lived in Mt. Pleasant at that time. We had to come back to our little farm, as it left him with a weak heart. I remember when we got there, he got out to get a drink of water out of a little spring close by the house. He fell over with a spell. He was so weak. He soon got better. We went on to this brothers & spent the night. Next day we got help & got everything straightened out. He wasnít able to do hard work. He hired[?] the farm work & butchered beef & peddled for our living.
This is where I begin my struggling through life. On May 2, 1906 Curtice Earl was born. May 31, 1907 Campbell Allen was born.
One Sunday morning, we hitched a span of red mules to a buggie. We had a tongue to the buggie so on ??? went[?] to spend the days with my step mother. So my husband wanted a wagon next week, so he hitched the mules to the wagon and tied the buggy behind the wagon. So we started out. I had Marvin & Clyde in the buggy seat with me. Curtice Earl standing between my knees, Campbell Allen in my lap. So we was riding very nicely. So we started down the Harlan hill. The single tree got in buggie wheel. I never heard such a noise so both mules stuck their[?] ears straight in the air. We went down that hill in high, hat, suit[?] cases & everything went out, but myself & children. I did my job ???? I held fast to all four children. My husband held the lines tight and put his foot against the end gate, out he went, end gate & all. He went out strattled of the tongue. He still held to the mules. I couldnít see him. Part of the time, the buggie was up on the back end of the wagon & sometimes the full length of the tongue behind when we run down in a rut. We never got a scratch on one of us. My husband pulled one of the mules in a ditch, so that stop the race. Our friends came both ways to meet us, They said they heard me hollering, so that was all there was to it. Just a few[?] excited folks & a pair of first Monday[?] mules
We moved to the Will Kencade place that fall. We attended church at Liberty. Mr Summerly White built that Church. This man tanned hides & made their shoes. I have been to his home. His children told me that their father made the shoes they had on.
We mover close to the Esterís farm June 25, 1909. Porter Fulton was born. He was named after Dr. Porter of Columbia Tennessee. I was sick most of that year. I had gall stone for a long time and then a bone fellon[?] from that to chills. I went to my step motherís for a while. I soon got better.
In the fall we bought out little home & build our house. My husband butchered beefs out to build this house. This little home was humble & plain, but it was a mansion to me.
Aug 12, 1910, Paul Collens was born. I had six cases of hooping cough. Paul just 6 months old got his leg broken. He was tied down in bed with a pulley tied to his foot weighted down with a half of a brick. There he was tied head & feet & taking hooping cough. I couldnít do anything with him. Seems he would choke to death, so I call the Dr. They come and put his leg & body in plaster of paris. I could carry him around. That was much better. While we was waiting for the Dr, as I couldnít cook any breakfast as I was so nauseous[?], I gave him a lick[?] of frozen corn bread & he eat on that. I can see those precious little teeth trying to bite that bread. He had been sick all the summer. Looking for him to die, set up with him off & on for three months. My step mother bought & made his burying clothes.
We struggled along. We had a creek running through our place. I would never take time to go a foot log, I would just wade that creek to set out slips or[?] anything I wanted to do on the other side. Mostly carry a hammer or[?] a plowpoint or nails as the boys always holler for me. I would go to the creek wash all day long & rock the baby all the same time. I would try & raise everything in the vegetables line & go in the fall & peddled to make our living. I would take orders & go to the store & they would give me anything I needed.
On Oct 17, 1911 Sara Virginia was born. I was so happy because it was a girl. I shouted for joy!
Jan 10, 1913 Charles Mitchell was born. This little angel didnít live long. He died the following June. We set up with him for several months before he died. One evening before he died, I carried him out in the garden. The Dr told me that the fresh air was good for him so I lay him back on my left shoulder & planted corn with the other hand & went back in the same rows & planted beans. My sister came that evening & she came to the garden & said that I wouldnít have this little fellow out in this garden. I said that I have other children that has to eat. I must keep going & I felt the fresh air was good for him. I did everything in my power for this baby. We couldnít find anything to build him up. So the Dr told me to get goat milk. So I went to Mr. Tom Bell to get some. Mr & Mrs Bell came one evening & brought the milk. Mr Bell came in & says I will taste this milk before he give this to this baby.
One evening I missed Allen about dark. We had a creek running thought the place. The first thing I thought of was this creek, so I grab my lamp. Down the hill I went calling Allen every breath. I came back & next to a thicket three or four hundred yards away, there I found him, arms and legs across a plank, one end up in tree, sound asleep. That was all that was to it. A happy little fellow.
That year after Charles Mitchell died, my husband and I went to a Woodman Picnic Dinner at Dark Station. I enjoyed the day very much. They had several races, include sack races etc. I very well remember Dr Earnest Timmins speaking & telling jokes. After enjoying the races & a good dinner, about four oíclock we all met the train. My husband bought a big water mellon, to carry the children. When the train came we all tried to get on it at one time. Such pushing & shoving. That was the first time I ever rode a train & the last time. Quite a lot of excitement. I was in a rush to get to our little children, the first day I ever left them on a pleasure trip.
I was so closely confined to my home that I would be two years at a time before I was in a church, or[?] go anyplace. I never saw any amusement out side of home, not even a flower. One day I saw a little girl passed with a rose in her hand, I said "oh, is roses blooming"? I smelt of this little rose. Oh it thrilled me so much as I was starved for some beautiful things of life.
When my children grew up my home was surrounded with flowers that I had so longed for. My husband would take the little boys to the field and sit on a stump as he wasnít able. He said Allen would go in these brias[briars?] head & heels & they all would grub like a little men[?]. As he was disable, I had to take the lead. I saved clover seed & oats seed & planted most all of the farming.
This Xmas the children are planning on having a big xmas & a good time, I said children you should be more happier, as your children can get more than you all could. I remember one xmas we didnít have any money to spend so my husband & two of the little boys went to peddle some gray peas. They came back disappointed, didnít sell any. So we had to shift some other way.
May 9, 1916 Howard Leon was born. He didnít grow up[?] much. I was boiling pearl barley every morning at three thirty oíclock. I was trying to find something to help this baby.
When he was three weeks old, a man came to my home to get board. They where building a washer at the mines close to my home. I told him I needed to take boarders, but my husband wasnít able to get wood. I said I really didnít know what to tell you, I went out & talked, to my husband about it. He says "I donít know what to tell you. I am just[?] here. I cant get your wood, I cant promised you anything". I came back discouraged, but I told him to come on that I would try. When I went out to asked my husband, he was sitting there watching Marvin, the oldest boy lay off sweet potatoes rows. He was so small he had to stand on his tip toes. His daddy would say poor little fellow. These rows are as straight if I had made them. The biggest tears run down his cheeks. He wasnít able to be out there but was trying to do all he could. So this boarder came the second night, he said "Mrs Harlan, there are another boarder that wants to come". I said "bring him on. I can cooked for two as well as I can one". So they coming until I had 9 boarders. I washed their shirts for ten cents a piece, until I got my niece to come & help me. One wash & the other would cook. I sent dinner to the mines for these nine men in a two wheel wagon that the little boys made out of wood. So on they went with their little wagon saying humpty dumpty.[?] I always started them at eleven oíclock so they would have plenty of time. I went on to the mines to peddle. One woman said to me her husband worked with these borders that I always had plenty dinner. That encourage me. I kept them three months. I fed my family, paid the grocery bill & cleared ten dollars a week. The wolf was at my door, I kept struggled on.
My brother died in Jan. He spent the day at my home the night before he was killed at Century mines. He sang all day. It was a sad day to me. I was in bed with flu, my husband too. He sang "brothers & sisters up there, I want to go, donít you?" He went of of sight singing that song. Several said he came to the mine singing that song. He came to dinner to eat his supper & he went to put a plank under a box car, that went up a rope to the top of the washer. They was running with two strands of the rope. It was suppose to be five strands. Just as the box car reached the top of the washer, the rope broken. He was almost killed instantly. He joined Mt. Yebo Church in June, they told me he shouted[?] all over that. I hope to meet him some sweet day. He was my baby brother. I carried him on my back three long years before he ever walked.
We got a damaged suit against the Co when my brother got killed. Just $677.40. It was money I couldnít enjoy. We had a mortgage on our place of $375.00 it seems that we were going to loose this place. I would sell hens & every thing I could get off the place to pay interest. I would say I will work my fingers off before I would loose this place. We kept the interest all paid up & a little on the principal. So I paid this mortgage off this year with the money I couldnít enjoy. I had a little left so I bought me new buggy. They had woodmanís picnic at the CMA in Columbia. My husband & three children went in a buck board. My self and five children went in this new buggy. They had all kinds of races & different contest. So they hollered out for a woman had the most children on the ground to line them up. I lined them up as they came. I got the prize of $6.00 show tickets, I sold them on the grounds for $3.75. Mr Lonia Barker hand the tickets. He laughs & speaks to me about it sometimes. Marvin my oldest son, I think, won the sack race. Clyde won the crackers race, he eat the most in a certain time. I was happy. Won $6.75. There was a storm came up that evening[?]. We all went in the C.M.A. building to eat dinner & to be out of the rain & storm. Allen got lost from us in that big building so we hunted everywhere for him. Had the officers hunting him. Found him in the last story, just as happy as a lark, so that was my first trip in my new buggy.
May 25, 1917 my husband passed out [died] one stormy [night]. I will never forget that stormy night, he waked up coughing. I notice him getting weaker & weaker. I jumped out of bed and went to him, held his head up. He was so limber. I call him. He never answered. I tried to strike a match. I was so nervous I struck several before I got one struck. They would all break. I call all of the children up. They did take it so hard. It was thundering & lighting. The wind blew so hard, the window shades would stand straight out. They faided[?] out all over him. I had just a little oil in my lamp. Was all I had, the oil burnt out. We was all in the dark. My husband dead, 8 little orphans & myself all in the dark. Finely the storm ceased for a while. The oldest boy ran & got a good old Negro man. He came & brought me some oil. The boys went & got a white man. Was[?] all got there that night. I canít express my feelings. My baby just two years old following me calling "papa". I was trying to find some clothes to lay him out in. The white man, Negro, myself, & little boy carried him in another room. They dress him & lay him out. So the little boys went to a telephone to call our people. The storm turned & came back. I went on the porch calling the little boys thinking they might be blown away. A man held them there until the storm eased a little. I went in the room where he was laid out I said that "darkey, I believe we are going to be blown away". He says "oh no Mrs Harlan, I think not", but after he was laid out the wind came the second time. The window shades faded[?] all over him again. This baby boy cried the rest of the night. I couldnít console him no way. Left on a little farm of Ĺ acre, we started out to bury him. The baby cried all the way to the church. The undertaker stopped & asked me what was wrong with him. I said "he is crying for his daddy", so we stopped & got some crackers on the way. He calls "papa" the whole time his funeral was preached. The little boys taken it so hard, Allen would say "good by papa". A man shouted all over that church. When we got back home the first thing the baby did, went to the room his daddy was laid out in & call "papa". It seemed I couldnít stand all of my trouble. The lord never puts no more on then you can stand.
I hardly know what to start out at. I didnít have any corn in my crib, no meat in my smoke house. My corn was spiking up. 26 day of May. I taken all the little boys we raised all we eat & I tried to raise enough to peddle in the fall. I would get the children ready for school. They would helped me off with a little mule hitched to a buggy, full of everything to peddle. I would get in about eleven oíclock with pencils tablets & groceries. It last a few[?] days.
We finely got a little donkey that help me out around my home plowing my garden & hauling my water from the spring. We made us a little slide. We hitched him to it. We would go & get a load of beans tomatoes corn load of wood and on to the spring after a load of water. I would put the lines up on the harness, I would followed with my buckets to carry water to the slide, he would go right down to the spring, in the very same place every time. I would load up & carry everything to a little thicket. I would can every day. You see it was easy for me to can. I would take the bits out of his mouth, he would stand there all day & eat on cobs & shucks[?]. I had him ready, if I needed him for any thing & old darkey said to me "Mrs Harlan, that little smoke boils out of those tree tops every day". I knew winter time was coming. I was preparing for a rainy day.
My baby boy had pneumonia that winter. He lay between life & death for some time. The Dr said there wasnít much chance for him. He went through the crises one night and was limber as a rag. There was a fluid on his lungs. The Dr said he would haft to be taped, but it all absorbed & he grew to be strong.
My little boys had a lot of misfortune. Curtice Earl fell out of the barn & broke his arm. He was holding my horse that was hitched to a buggy. He got frightened and pulled the buggy over him & broke his shoulder. Marvin the oldest fell off of a fence & broke his arm. Allen cut a tree down & climbed up the tree before it fell. When it went down, broke his arm. Porter Hutton caught his heel[?] between two rocks it formed, L.B[?]. of the bone. So I got him ready a day & carried him to the hospital, he was to be operated on next morning at eight oíclock. We got up early & fed my mare 10 ears of corn. She eat it all. I went out to catch. She had lost her colt. So I sent out one of little boys to my sisterís to get her horse, & for her to stay with my children. So on[?] I went, but when I got there I went to his room. They was operation on him. There was a lady in his room that told me, when they come after him, he said "Mamma said she would be here". She told me he fainted over. I was doing my best to get there. So along in the afternoon the telephone rang. So one of the nurses came & said I was wanted on the telephone. It was my sister. She said to me that old Maud is dead. She died close to the door step. That was our family mareís name. I told her to have her buried or burned, that I couldnít tell when I could get off from the hospital. So when they operated on him, everything was O.K. So they let me off in the afternoon. I came home. Old Maud was laying with head laying on the door step. Look like she was looking at me. My sister said, "I am so glad you come I couldnít stay here with it"[?]. So she went home. I was there trying to get someone to haul her off but failed that night. Everyone can imagine what a nightís rest I had. Our old family mare dead on the door step and my little boy in the hospital. Such a life.
One day Mr Chatman & Mr Will White superintendent[?] of Armor Mines he came over to look at the water as they pump water from the pump station that joins my place. I told them to go on down the hill. I would follow in a little while, so they stopped at the foot of the hill, and was looking at my little boys farming. They said "Mrs Harlan, what have you got these little boys doing?" I said one was laying of rows with a bull_tongue and planting corn; One planting beans; one planting pumpkins seed. The other boy covering with a duble[?] shovel." I said Mr Chatman "when I get to the end with two little mules & five little boys the row is finished." I told him I didnít know of any better plans of farming. I didnít think then it could be beat. So Mr. Chatman taken off his hat & laughed. He says the boys didnít even break their gate when anyone came by. I said my father taught me to never stop when any one came by so I have taught them to keep a fast gate. If any boys came by I had a extra hoe for them. So they would soon take up the creek & that was the last of them. I told them they had to work [even] if they had to throw rocks over the fence & then throw them back. That is what my father said to me & I believed it.
One day I had Allen & Bob over into my field, so I went to see how the land was turning & to see if the plow was shedding[?]. When I got there they had my plow point hung under a satires[?] root. You know you canít move one of those roots. They had a stick whipping my mules & they had my turning plow beam bent. So they both get a good slashing with a satires[?] switch. So there I was with no plow & no money to get another plow. So we got this plow on a ground slide & started out to my brotherís to see what to do. One of my neighbors came by. His name was Will Gordwin. He says "Mrs Harlan that plow will never run right again." He says "I have one that you can have", so we were on to our job pretty soon.
In the fall when fruit ripens, I would hitched up my donkey to a ground slide. We would all go to Mr John Huffmanís orchard & dry apples on the sheare[?]. When twelve oíclock come we would eat our dinner under a big oak tree. I would let the boys rest for a while. Then we would get to our job again. Mrs. Hoffman would let me have the culls for 2.64 a bushel. Then we would go home with a slide full of[?] of apples to dry, enough cull apples to carry to school next week. We worked on Saturday, so they wouldnít miss school. Mrs. Hoffman give me a bucket of butter milk for dinner. That did help me so much. The Donkey brought lots of happiness in our little home. One of the older boys was ashamed to go after the donkey, so he sent of the little boys. My baby boy finished the 8th grade at school riding this little donkey. He created enthusiasm & laughter from people from all over the country. His picture was taken & carried far & near. I saw it in the court house in Columbus Tenn in Mr. Lee Thomasí office. When the boys brought him home he brayed, scared the chickens off of the yard. The first night he came he brayed close to my window. I thought Gabriel was blowing his trumpet. I never heard such a noise in all of my life. I jump out of bed. When we first got him he wouldnít cross water so the boys hitched up a pair of mules & tied a log[long?] chain to his neck & drug him across the creek & back & forth several times. I was there begging to quit for it looked like they was Downing him. He look like a drowned rat. My baby boy went to get the cows across the creek next morning on the little donkey. So when I got to the creek, he knew what the boys had done for him. He put both feet close to the edge of the water & paused for a while & jumped out in the middle of [the creek]. He did that for years & years. My baby boy fell off in the water ,
One day I hitched him up to a plow, a plow with a bull tongue to make me a walk. To lay brick, I had him by the bites[bit?]. One of the boys holding the lines, one holding the plow. So we started out the walk, to make a fur[?] to lay brick. I had large holes dug to put post in around my yard, but didnít have the post in. I guess they were three & one half feet deep. So when I got my donkey to the end of the walk, I turned around on the blind side & went in the hole up to my waist with one foot. One of the little boys hit the donkey. He jumped against me down in the hole he went with one leg. He taken part of the skin on my leg & my ankle. So there he was sitting right down on my neck & shoulder. He mashed the breath out of me. I could hardly speak. I could only speak with a whisper to get him off. So my seven sons & one daughter got him by the tail & lifted him up so easy. When they got him up it excited the donkey so he tore out down the hill drug[?] the bull tongue point in my slipper heel & taken it on the point & part of my dress. For a while I cried, I finely laughed. I said no little Jack would bluff me. So we went on to our little jobs. So you have heard a tail about a man having seven sons so he told them one day to get holt this stick & see how easy it was for all seven sons to work together. So you see, my seven sons got the Jack by the tail & pulled him so easy off of their mother. As a said I wouldnít let a Jack bluff me so I hitched up to a trouble[?] shovel & went in my garden to plow beans. So I leading him by the bits, I had my hand in a ring that was in his bridle. I had a ring hanging on the fence. The march wind was blowing strong, just about the time I got even with that ring, a puff of wind came. He started running. My hand went through that ring & broke my finger. The children would bellow "turn him loose". You see, I couldnít. My hand was tied hand & fast through that ring so he carried me over that garden. I thought my time had come, I had several lbs of dirt on my shoes where my toes dug in the dirt but couldnít turn a loose. I had hived some bees in the low side of the garden in a barrel. So my Jack ran against the barrel turn the bees over. I was hot & bare headed. The bees all came out got all over my head, so I let the Jack go where he pleased, through the garden. He went I hollered[?] "children get these bees out of my hair". So when they could catch me, they were trying to get the bees out, but when one moved[?] bees, I would fly. They like to pulled all my hair out of my head. I looked like a wolf with my hair standing straight out.
I hooked my Jack to a buck board. We all went to pick blackberries. We got seventeen gallons so we started back home. Mrs Pipkin was a long with her buggy & horse so we had a long hill to g down. It was call the Easter Harlan hill. This old donkey belong to the Harlan family. I told Mrs Pipkin for her to go down the hill first. If I started, my Jack would run over her as he wouldnít hold back to save my life. So I thought she was at the foot of the hill so I started. I put my foot against the spater[splatter?] board. Down the hill I went in high. I looked & saw that she wasnít quite to the bottom so I hollered "look out Mrs Pipkin". She through a head around to [see] how close I was to her. About that time I rubb her & he see[?] split the branch wide open, threw water all over me. Berries scattered everywhere. Oh, what a wonderful Jack. He learned to open my crib door & also open some of my gates. Why not care for this Jack? He saved my back for years & years, ready to do anything I call on him to do. Why not bless[?] this Jack. Jesus Christ rode one.
My baby boy had attack of pendiscsus (appendicitis). I was in bed when he had this attacked, so Dr Hogey came & carried him to the hospital, he was ruptured before they got him there. The Dr said he saw he was losing grounds, so he laid between life & death, 21 days. I was in bed, didnít get to go to see him until about two weeks. The Dr told my children he couldnít live until next morning. So he says, "call the boys from Detroit". Every one would come in my room. I would say how is my little darling? I saw out the window one day the Dr was turning his car. I said he has come to tell me that my little boy has passed out. When he came in I said "is my little boy dead?" He says "no, Mrs Harlan, he is holding his own. He is black under eyes but there are hopes as long as there is breath". He had to stay in the hospital for so long. Just before he had this attacked, he had a row of ocra in my garden. As always I give them something to raise in the garden. So Paul plowed his ocra & covered it all up. So the little boy cried & scratched his ocra out with his fingers. Paul says next day "momma, if he will get well & come home I will never cover anything else up". So he went down on the creek where he followed him plowing just before he was carried to the hospital. There was his tracks. He came home & says "Mamma, I can not stand it, there are his precious track so plain. Itís lonely down there. I must stay with you". Oh how my heart throb. He was always at my heels after his father died, we all look on him just a baby yet. One day I was having my molasses made, so I fixed most of the dinner for the hands. I left my niece to finish it. So I went to my mothers to can apples. So I hitched my little mule to express wagon with twenty five jars & a hog tied in this express wagon & also three little children on the spring seat. So on I went. When I got on the highway, my hog jumped out of the back of my little wagon. I was about to get the rope off of his feet, so I jump out, held the hog by the tail [and] the lines on my little mule until a man came by & help me get the hog in the wagon. So on we went. I had a big hill to go down, when I started down this hill, its name was Yebo hill, the shafts broke. The express wagon myself children & hog, went right on his back, I managed to hold him in the road, until I reached the foot of the hill. Some man came by & help me wire the shafts up so I finally made it to my step mother, & caned twenty five jars of apples & smok[?] hogs. I arrived home safely, found my molasses made & everybody happy.
When Armor Mines was under construction, all of my little boys worked up there. They all made very good. Allen was a little boy, so he watched the gates for fifty cents a day. But when the grocery bill was paid, there wasnít very much left. The oldest boys drove a team at the mines. One of the mules was shy of the tongue. I was up at three thirty oíclock every morning. I was happy but my mind was on that mule because I was afraid he would kill one of my boys. I would help back the mule up, get the gentile mule hooked up first & the breast chains in the tongue. He would begin running before we could get the traces hooked. Sometime one of the boys would hold the lines in the wagon, one would get a stick & get in the wagon & hook the traces that way. I held him by the noose. One morning he almost run over me. He run the wagon tongue in the fence. He was all right when we got him hot. He worked very quietly the rest of the day.
I had my little boys hoeing corn over in my field. They saw a spreadnatter[?] snake. So they was so upset by that snake they made a lot of racket & there went several little snakes down her throat. So they hadnít seen anything like that so they had a hoe. They deliberately cut her open, out run these little snakes. They run after one & it swam a creek that was close by them. Here they come to tell me, all excited. Of course I had to go. There she was just like they told me. So the farm is the best place on earth to raise boys & girl. I have raised seven sons and I never had to pay a fine.
It was a real task to get all there hair cut & ears washed to get ready for church Sunday.
I half sole all of their shoes until they got old enough to help me. I was one [of] Mr Samuels, best customers.
The first pair mules I bought, my two oldest boys were fifteen & sixteen years old. I sold a little mule I raised on the place. I taken this money & put it on a five hundred [dollar?] pair. Oh, the boys thought we were farming on a big scale! I give my note in the bank for the rest. The interest came it seems like every week, but it was ninety days. It cost me three dollars & seventy five cents. Oh how hard it was to pay as the little boys didnít have regular work. I had to sell chickens to pay the interest. I had to do that for years. My children needed clothes & food to eat. That was business. Marvin my oldest son went to Detroit & got a good job. One day I received a check in full to pay that note off. I went to town in high that morning & went to the bank. I said to Mr Henry Hulton, I want to see my note. He said your note isnít due, I said I have a check to pay in full. He said hop[?] hee[?]. I told him my son sent it to me. He said god bless that boy. They all, when they grew up, sent money to help educate them.
So my next son left. Was Curtice Earl he joined the navy Sept 22, 1922. It almost kill me as he was a minor & he needed a mother to guide him. He wasnít there long until they had the biggest rect [wreck] in history. Eleven ships went down. They were on their way to San Diego, Cal. They were in a big rush. They thought they were out in the middle of the ocean, but they were close to the edge. There were sharp rocks sticking up. The first ship hit the rocks & the rest of them piled on top. Bobbie, we call him, a nick name said, all men go to top deck & put on life preservers. He could see smoke, some crying, praying, hollering for help. So he stood there for a while. The captain said everybody look out for there selves. He was on U.S. Chauncey so he wrote me & said the last thing he thought of was mother & jump over board. The waves was so high & the ship was sinking. It suck him under the ship. Finely the waves came back & threw him upon some rocks close to a rail road. They didnít know where they was at first. Thought probably they were on some island until some of the boys discovered they were on a rail road. So part of the boys went each way down the rail road & flag the train down. So the train stopped & went to San Diego, Cal. Brought blankets to cover the boys up. Some was dead some hurt different ways. My son said he stood there & worked his arms & limbs to keep from freezing. That very night myself & daughter went to my neighborís house. It was the 9th of September. I was [thinking] about[?] my son. I said I wonder what my little boy is doing? When I received his letter he said the wreck was on the 9th. I surely was warned of it. He said one of the ships was on a rock out from the bank just a little ways. They would show a light, a dot a dash to cheer the boys up. They were sinking, my son said. When this ship hit this rock, one of the boys in the boiler room got glass in his eyes. He went crazy & jumped overboard. The boys lassoed him & the captain tied him to [the] deck. The captain on U.S. Chauncey, the ship my son was on, would say for gods sake get off that ship for it is sinking. He put his arms over a line that was tied from the ship to a large rock on the bank. They fired him because he left the boy that glass was in his eyes. My son help tie the line to a rock on the bank that save everybody on U.S. Chauncey, the ship he was on. He went back to his ship next day, swam a line that was tied to the rock on the bank & got his belongings, suit case & codack [Kodak] that he thought so much of. He never thought of any danger after he had went through with all he had. I saw a picture he taken with his codack [kodak] of all the wreck. They was loading caskets & bodies laying on the hill piled up laying across each other. He said the boys were all up that bluff crawling like flies out of molasses. He said his ship rocked back & forth on the rock & finely after he got his belongings out it sank. So, as I said, the train came & got all the boys that was saved & all the dead & carried them to Santiago [San Diego]. They were so nervous they leaped from one side of the car to the other. Some was wild. They were met there by the fathers, mothers, [and] sweet harts so anxious to see loved ones that was left. My son wrote me after he landed in San Diego & got over the shock. I came in home one evening. There was a letter from my son explaining all the wreck to me and saying the last thing he thought of was mother when he jumped over board. I cried & cried. My heart almost burst out of me a little orphan boy so far from me only sixteen years old. Next morning I started out to try & get this boy out of the Navy. So I went to Mr. Salmon of Columbia. He was planning on leaving for New York. He says Mrs Harlan, I will see that you will get your son. So in a fine day my son wrote to me & says Mamma if you are going to try & get me out, you had better hurry for I will soon be eighteen years old. I looked up my little mule & drove to find some one that knew his age because she was there when he was born. I find his reacher Mr Richard Mayfield. We all had to meet in Columbia & go before a not republic [notary public] & hold up our right hand & swear that he wasnít eighteen years old. I told the truth all the way through & the truth always wins the race. I had Mr. Hopkins a lawyer to write up an affidavit. We signed it & sent it to Mr Salmon in New York. So I waited & waited. I got restless because I couldnít hear from my boy. So I sit down & wrote Mr. Salmon that my son hadnít come & I couldnít hear a word from him & not to sent him by water. If I had thought of what I was doing, I wouldnít have written that for it was impossible. I had enough of water. He said I am going just now to see the Chief[?] & that you will soon get your son, but by water. Well they started him back. Just when they had a ship coming this way. They would sail up closed[close] & let my son off. When the Captain found out that he had been in that wreck, they would take him up in the office & asked him all kinds of questions. They did this all the way until they landed him in fortollopes[Fort Lauderdale?]. But they told him that little story he told that he was eighteen years old like to made them keep him. After he landed in the camps he had to be examined by a lot of doctors. He had a knot in his stomach but they overlooked it. He wouldnít tell it for he was afraid they would keep him in the hospital. He is sorry until today for you can feel that not [knot]. So I looked & looked for this son & one day he slipped in on me. I was half soling shoes. He open the door & there he was all dressed up in a sailor suit & a brogue[?] that we couldnít hardly understand him. What a happy home for me. All had that night gathered around our little fire side telling the places he had been & all about the wreck they had. The name of the place where the had the wrecks was called Level Jaw. There had been several wrecks about the same place. He had a book I read all about it. One place he told me about that he went through the Golden Gate.
In 1928 Allen went to U.T. [University of Tennessee]. He worked his way through school. The same year he won the silver loving up for running the cross country race of three miles. They said Harlan was a born stepper. One Dr in Columbia said to me Mrs Harlan had him stepping around on these hills was the cause of this. I washed every shirt & everything he wore to school. His clothes would come in the mail today at one oíclock & tomorrow at one oíclock I was waiting for the mail to sent them back. I didnít have any money but did all in my power for him. He said it was like air mail. It was love in every rub I made.
Nov 11, 1927 one morning my little girl went to school. She hollered back three times good by Mamma. She had to walk over a mile to meet the buss to go to high school. She met a negro, he asked her where her brother was, that he wanted to work for him. She said she was sacred to death of him the whole time he was talking to her. So as she walked on, he slipped up on her & grab her. She was not raised up with seven boys, she was a prettie good wrestler. He beat her in the head with a pistol & struck both thumb nails in her throat choking her. He tried to cram her cloak into her mouth. That is when she bit the ball of his finger off. She was strong. He was a small yellow negro. There was a sink hole close by where he caught her. He meant to pull her & throw her in this hole. She was walking all alone. There were other children on behind come on in a buggy, it was almost time for the class[?]. So he knew he had to rush before the other children caught up. So she pulled loose from him, she begin running to the highway. He cut through the field to go to his grandfather. She thought he was cutting through to catch her again. My brother lived up the pike a piece. He heard the hollering & crying so he said "sister, what is wrong with you?". "Have you had a wreck?" She said, "Uncle Marvin, a negro caught me". He had put in a telephone the day before this happens. He called sheriff Willy of Columbia. I was at home churning away, Mr Ben Woody passed by & asked me where was Clyde, one of my sons. I said "why?" Mr Ben, he said "not anything, Mrs Harlan". I walk out to him. He hung his head & said Sara was caught by a negro but not hurt bad. I begin running about a mile & one quarter when I passed one of my neighbors [who] said, "Mrs Harlan he tore part of her clothes off of her". There I was screaming at the top of my voice. My brother drove up & said "she is all right, just a little blood running out of her head". Her mouth was all bloody where he beat her. Her lips was cut & swollen & so bloody. When we got in the lane where he caught her, there were officers standing there guarding the place where she was caught. There was her flowers she had for her teacher, a dime I give her for her lunch, a book was up in a tree & the rest was over a fence where he had threw them. They had sent for the blood hounds & they didnít want anyone to trespass in that place as he knew other children was close behind. He was seen, three time by the neighbors in that neighborhood, watching to see just when he could catch her or some of the rest. So my brother carried me on to his home. They had her in bed. Dr Williamson was fixing up her head. I walked right in & said, "Oh sister speak to me". The Dr pushed me right on out in the kitchen, so when they let me in I sat by her bed. Didnít know at that time he had a pistol. She said, " Mamma, he had a little rusty pistol". So, here come the blood hounds. I stood on my brothers porch & watched them trailed this negro all across the field to his grandfatherís. He crossed the creek just beyond[?] where my son lives now. These hounds waded across & picked up the trail. They went right in his grandfathers house & raired up a dresser & yelled & yelled. That was when the officer found the pistol. On to the barn they went. There he was shucking corn. They said come out here & go with us. He said I have got to shuck corn as they came on with him. They pass a crew of men[?] working on a bridge. They said thatís the negro we saw running across the road after he caught my daughter, that he has pass this bridge this morning at six oíclock. People begun coming with guns, axes, crowbars & everything to fight with. It look like war had broke out. There I sat with my heart almost bursting out of me. Friends came to me speaking a word of hupky[sympathy?] to me. All at once here come the officers with the negro. He was smoking a cigarette. Oh I said, "sister, here they come, be sure you know he is the right one. They will killed him right here". I said I didnít believe I can stand it so they bring him up to the bed. He said "whatís this all about?" with a rough tremble voice. He was jerking all over, his face was jumping just like frog meat when you cut it up to fry, Oh lord, I have never went through such a misery in all of my life. After all of my trouble through life this hurt me worse. Sister as I always call her my only little girl, she had seven brothers & they all call her sister. It was sister, sister. She said your lips looks like it. I hardly know for sure, Oh I said, "Sister, be sure. I want the guilty party". The men would say "Mrs Harlan are you going to let this negro get away as all of these men saw him running at the bridge after he caught your little girl. We know he is the one." They carried him to the sun light & there were several scratches on his face where sister had scratched him. At that time the officers taken the pistol out their pocket & showed me the blood on the barrel & open the pistol & every shell had been snapped[?] at her but one. When he passed her, the officer showed me the pistol in presence of the negro & my little girl. They had taken the pistol out of the dresser drawer where the hounds had tread[treed?] it. It didnít snapped[?]. Her time hadnít come. It was the Lordís work. The officers untied his fingers where sister had bit it & asked whatís wrong with your finger. He said, "I help grandpa load a wagon bed this morning". So they went and asked his grandpa had the negro help load a wagon this morning. He said, "no". So you see he didnít know what his grandpa was going to tell. He tried to cram the cloak in her mouth is when she bit his finger. I will never forget that little green coat[?]. So they carried that negro in my brotherís dinning rooms to show to the people that the dogs knew his blood. They carried the blood hounds around there & how did they yelled & yelled. The room was full of men with guns & everything to fight. They were punching him in his sides with guns & pistols. They had him almost out of the window several times. Here would come men to me saying "Mrs Harlan they are taking this negro out of the window. Please come & asked them to let him back". I had to push my way through men guns pistols & everything to fight with. They were very nice about it so I would say "please let the law take its course". The men that came to me said the blood stain would be on my boys for life. They would let the negro back in every time I asked them. I had to go in there several times. Sheriff Willey would say "we will have his trial & we wont move him from Columbia". Finely they let the sheriff in the room & get him & out to the car. Off they went with cars following with hundreds of mad men. News had scattered everywhere, women had locked themselves up all day long with the shads [shades] down. So every thing was quiet at my brothers, after they carried the negro. About three oíclock, two men drove up, they said they flew in here & they would fly back. Someone told me they were from Ala. I never had seen them before. They said they wanted to see my little girl & asked some questions. So they did & on to town they went. & a crowd surrounded the court house. I heard latter on that they were trying to slip the negro off. They shot the car full of holes. We all went home & all went to bed. About twelve oíclock in the night someone knocked on my door. I got up & went to the door. These same two men said "we want to speak to your little girl". I said "she is nervous I hate to wake her up", so I call her. We walk out in the hall & talked to them for a while & handed each of us two pieces of rope and said "The niger is hanging off the court house. I want you all to remember us as a citizen". There was a neighbor come to my house next morning & said "he was hanging off the court house & that he was told to own up that he was guilty & that he made an honest confession".
Years passed swiftly, I was kept busy sending my children to school. My three oldest sons married later on as years passed by the other children grew up & married. Now they have good positions & happy families. I am bless with twenty grandchildren, I canít tell any difference between the love for them & my own children. After they all left, I spent most of my time fixing & planing on them coming home. Now I am 67 years old, I was so busy raising my family that I suddenly realize I have a sweet life filled to the brim.
Signed... Mrs A. C. Harlan