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Interview with Mae Powell

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Item’s are ‘child’ level descriptions to ‘parent’ objects, (e.g. one page of a whole book).

  • Powell 1 WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA TOMORROW BLACK ORAL HISTORY PROJECT Interviewee: Mae Powell Interviewer: Lorraine Crittenden County: Swain Date: August 12, 1986 Duration: 1:15:26 Lorraine Crittenden: Mae would you say something so I can make sure I am picking you up? Mae Powell: 1-2-3- testing, I'll say that too. I: OK. Mae has your family always lived in North Carolina? MP: Yes. I: Where? MP: In Swain County. I: What about your grandparents? MP: They lived in Swain County too. I: Both sets of grandparents? MP: My mother’s people. I don't know too much about. My mother died when I was just a baby and my father never told us any history on her. I do remember my grandmother and I really don’t know where she game from unless it was Graham County. I: Graham County? MP: Yes, she lived in Graham County and I think that was where my mother was born. I: Snowbird? MP: Yes, I guess it was I: Would you trace your family tree back as far as you can on your mother’s side? Powell 2 MP: As far as I can go back is my grandmother. I: And her name? MP: It was Nellie Blythe I: And was she from Graham County? MP: As far as I know she was. I: How did she get to Swain County? MP: Well, I don’t know exactly how unless, well I reckon, she might have been a slave, I am not sure. And they, when they was freed you know, she left Robbinsville over in there and went to Swain County. I: Was your grandmother black? MP: Yes, she was. That’s about all I can remember of her because I was young when she died too. I: What about your grandpa on your mother’s side? MP: I didn’t know him. I: What about his name? MP: No. I think he was my step grandfather his name was Elic. E-L-I-C, I guess. I can just barely remember him. I: Blythe MP: Yes. Elic Blythe I: Do you remember after slavery how they earned a living? MP: Farming. I: Where? MP: Swain County, I guess. That's where they lived. My grandmother used to live down there on the Coleman farm on Governor’s Island. When she left there I believe she went to Canton. I: Oh. Powell 3 MP: That’s where she died at was in Canton. Cause she was living with [Cartey Howell]. That is about all I can remember. I: This is on your mother’s side, right. And they earned a living by farming? MP: Yes. I: Did your grandmother earn a living outside the home? MP: I think she did days work. I: Was the farming your grandfather did just for family or did he sell some of it? MP: It was just for his family. I: Well how did he earn money to buy things that he couldn’t grow? MP: Well I guess they sold - they chickens, eggs things to buy, coffee and you know things that they couldn't grow. I guess that was the way it was carried on. I: Do you know if he owned that land? MP: Yes he did. They owned it until they ran them of it. I: In Birdtown? MP: That's right. They paid taxes on it for so long. It was called theirs at that time. OK. Let’s talk about your grandparents on your father's side. What was your grandmother’s name on your father’s side? MP: Morning Emilyne. I: Coleman? MP: She was a Gibson. I: Gibson? MP: Uh huh. I: Where was she from? MP: I believe Swain County, I never heard her talk about living anywhere else. I: I know I've heard her called Aunt Morning, was she not a slave? Powell 4 MP: No, she wasn't a slave. I: Was she black? MP: Partially, I think she white, Irish or something in her. I: Oh. Do you think she was born in Swain? MP: I think so. I: Do you know who her parents where? MP: Well her father was Uncle Wash Gibson. I: Wash? MP: Well I guess it was Washington as far as I know, I never did see him. Wash Gibson was her father and where he came from I don't know. That’s where my grandmother and all her children were born in Swain County. I: Her husband was Wash Gibson? MP: No her father was. Grandmother’s father was Wash Gibson and her husband was Harrison Coleman. I: Was he born and raised in Swain County? MP: Yes, Cherokee I guess. Cause he was half Indian you know. I: He was? MP: Yes, uh huh. I: Did they live in Birdtown in Swain County or on the reservation? MP: They lived on the reservation because he was down there in Birdtown too then. It was called reservation on down in Birdtown. I: Now why did they move from Birdtown to Bryson City? MP: They moved from Birdtown to Canton. I: Oh. MP: They left Birdtown and went to Canton. Powell 5 I: Why did they leave Birdtown? MP: Well because the Indians took the land from them. I: I though you said they owned the land? MP: Well they did, but somehow or another the Indians they was fighting against the slavery blood and my great grandmother was a slave. I: And what was her name? MP: Oh what was it Rodey - Becky let me think I believe it was Becky it was. She was a slave and that was what the Indian were fighting against was the slavery blood. I: So they didn't want anyone with slavery blood on the reservation? MP: That's right. So they took the land. I: Did your fore parents not try to fight it? MP: They did, but it didn't do no good to fight the government you know. And of course the government was in there so they just all moved off. I: And they left there and went to Canton? MP: Yes they did. I: What did they do when they left Cherokee and went to Canton? MP: My father was a carpenter, he built houses. I: Now did he build houses all over the town? MP: As far as I know he did. Mostly in the community though I guess. I: Where did he learn his trade? MP: He just took it up, he didn't go to school or anything for it. I: Did he ever stay with someone or some of their family members who taught him his trade? MP: No, he never did say. I: Did you own your home in Canton? Powell 6 MP: He did, uh huh. I left Birdtown before he did. My daddy, we lived on the Ela side and grandfather and them lived on Birdtown is the way that was. I: Oh. MP: Because they got to voting after they would let the Indians vote you know we voting in Ela and then the rest of them voted in Birdtown because they lived in Birdtown and I married and left before they left from up there. I: How old were you when you married? MP: Seventeen. I: Okay. Can you think of anything else about your fore parents? How they earned a living and how much education they had? MP: Well I guess back then I imagine I think my father went through the fourth grade back then. I: Could he read and write? MP: Oh yes. My mother I don't know nothing about her. I guess she could read and write, I imagine. I: You said she died when you were young? MP: Yes, I was a baby when she died. I: Well who raised you? MP: My father married again. He married Anna Thomas. I: While you were living on the reservation did you attend the reservation school? MP: No, I didn't. I: Where did you go to school? MP: Birdtown to a black school. I: How many black families were there in Birdtown? MP: Well, all of were counted as black you know because all of grandfather's children and sane of the Thomas’ lived there and went to school there, Jim Thomas well I guess you may know Albert, they're his p:u-ents and uncle Bill Mosely, I guess you know Grover I guess and his father or stepfather whatever he was and he taught school uncle Bill did. Powell 7 I: Bill? MP: Bill Mosely, that was Grover’s stepfather. We had a black school of course none of grandpa’s grandchildren went to the Indian school. Grandpa’s children went to the Indian school in Bird town. I: So you had two schools in Birdtown? MP: Yea. Uh huh. I: At that time his children were considered Indians or Black? MP: They -were considered Black. I: How did they go to that school? MP: Who Grandpa’s children? I: Right. MP: Well, I don't know, no maybe they were considered because they let them go to the Indian school. But you see all of grandpa’s children were negros and that’s where all the negro blood come in at you see and the reason they wouldn’t let the grandchildren go because it had too much negro in them I guess and not enough Indian because my father was fourth, he had a fourth and of course that left me with an eighth. I: Right. So that wasn't enough to go to the Indian school. MP: That right. I: So once your father moved to Canton he worked as a carpenter? MP: That's right. I: Did your mother or stepmother work outside the home and who raised you MP: Stepmother raised me. I think she did work outside the home doing domestic work. I: Were your brothers and sisters older or younger? MP: They were older, I was the baby of the crowd. Both of them left when they were young and went to Ohio? I: Who are you speaking of now? Powell 8 MP: My brother and sister. I: Why did they leave? MP: Well, you know why children leave home. I: Were they in search for better employment or better living? MP: Better living I guess so they went north. Out of the family I was the only one who stayed here. I: Oh. How much education were you and your brother and sister able to get? MP: My brother quit school around the sixth grade cause he quit to help work on the farm. My sister and I finished the seventh grade at Birdtown. I: So when you went to Canton you were finished with school? MP: I didn’t go to Canton. I: You didn't. MP: No. Well after I married I lived in Canton a while, not long. I: Well, what did you do from the time you said you finished the seventh grade? MP: I married then. I: Well I don't believe I understand fully. Did you miss a lot of school or something. MP: Well if you go to school there was no compulsive toward school back then. I: OK. Once you have mastered the basic education do the teacher give you extra work. What did she do for the teenage children? MP: Well we did writing and plain stuff. I’ll tell you what, I went to school one year to a lady teacher and all the other time was just this one teacher Uncle Bill Mosely and he died and they got a lady and she was from Waynesville I think. Then I was married when they got another school teacher and that's the one that Uncle Calvin married. You've heard talk about Lela, Uncle Calvin's wife, she was a Wittenburg from Sylva. I: From Sylva, what was Uncle Calvin's last name? MP: Coleman. She was a teacher and she taught there. I: So you say it was repetition or she just gave you more difficult work the longer you stayed? Powell 9 MP: Well I guess it's just plain work, you know reading, writing, arithmetic. I: How long was the school year? MP: Was it nine months or six months, I believe nine months but I'm not sure. I: I had heard at one time it was six months and therefore it took longer to finish school. MP: I just don’t remember. I: Now was the school in your community where you grew up or did you have to walk? MP: I walked about two miles. I: So it wasn't far? MP: No. I: Did you father own your home? MP: Yes. I: Did you father own horses? MP: Yes he had a team of horses and he did haul wood and sale you called it acid or pulp wood. I: Where would he take it to? MP: Ela. That where the train was and they would pick it up there. I: So he did that as well as farming? MP: Yes. That was part of the living, you know to buy stuff that we didn't raise? I: By the standard those days were you well off? MP: We wasn't rich, but we had plenty to eat, you know we had plenty such as it was farm stuff and we always had nice enough clothes to wear. I: You said that your father was a carpenter, do you remember anyone else in your family who had same special skills like that? MP: Let's see. I don't believe so. Powell 10 I: Do you remember anybody outside of your family in the black community who had special skills? MP: Let's see. No I can’t think of anybody. I: Was there a blacksmith in the community? MP: No. I: Was there someone you could turn to if you had a problem with the law to seek advice? Who was considered the leaders in the community at that time? MP: Well I guess it was my grandfather, Harrison Coleman. I: What did he do? MP: He was just a fanner. I: But he was a leader? MP: Yes, Uh huh. I: Was religion a big part of your lives? MP: Yes, it was. I: Do you recognize changes today in the customs from those of yesterday, has the church changed that much? MP: No, I don't believe it has. I: What was the typical Sunday? MP: Sunday School and preaching service and that was morning and of course if revival was going on then we'd go at night. Didn't have night service on Sunday. I: How often did revivals run then? MP: I guess about once a year. I: Would it be just for the people in Bryson or from neighboring towns? MP: If they wanted to come it was for the community there then people who wanted to came in to the revival. I: Those who came say from Canton or Sylva Powell 11 MP: They didn’t come that far. I: What about Sylva. MP: No. Maybe from Bryson City and that is about all. A lot of times the Indians or white people would come I: Do you remember any times that whites or Indians would come to just your regular church? MP: Oh yes. We had some Indians that would come just about every Sunday that we had service, you know. I: Who was the minister then? MP: Well let's see. Willy Love he was one and Page, I don't know much about him, I think he taught one year there. That's when Stilla and Ella Owle and them was going to school and I wasn't going then. He was a preacher and a teacher too. I: Oh. MP: Then, Jim Petty he preached there and what was the other a Rogers from Cullowhee. His name was Hamp Rogers from Cullowhee. I: Hamp Rogers? MP: Yes. He pastored the church for awhile. I: OK. The preacher was he usually the teacher at the school too? MP: No. Just this one that I know of was both. The Mosley was just a teacher and was the one who stayed so long. I: OK. Can you think of any other ways in which the religious practices have changed. I'm thinking of the communion service. MP: Well, back then they had communion and they would have what they called church news and it was every three months. I: Was this a Baptist church? MP: Yes. They would have [inaudible] on Saturday and we'd have communion on Sunday. Back then the church deacon’s wife made the bread, now they use the fancy stuff, you know. They made their own wine so it was real wine. I guess that's the only change I would think about in the religious part. Another thing they had back then if someone in the community that belonged to Powell 12 the church if they sinned or anything they had to go before the church and make an apology they don’t do that know very much. I: What kind of sin? MP: If they had a child out of wedlock you know. Or if they found out they was drinking they, were drunk or stealing, anything found guilty of they had to go before the church and make an apology, they don’t do that now. I: As they say in front of God and everybody? MP: That's right. I: Were people ostracized from the church if the woman didn't cane up and say I was wrong or whatever. MP: Yes she was turned out of the church. Now they say you can't kick someone out of the church. Back then, if a woman had a child out of wedlock if she didn't get up and make her acknowledgement she was turned out of the church. I: But once she made the announcement it was ok. MP: It was ok, uh huh. She announced that she had done wrong and it was accepted. I: Do you remember any of the other social or cultural events in the community like celebrations for Fourth of July, the end of school, any special customs you had then. MP: At the end of school they had programs you know plays and Fourth of July I don't remember anything being done of the Fourth of July. I: There were no special cookouts. MP: No. I: What about ballgames? MP: Well the young kids and some family members would play ball on Sunday evenings, go on hikings, the young people, you know. I: What else did the young people do for fun? MP: I guess that was all. I: No marbles? MP: Oh yes, and hide-and-go-seek, tag and all of that. Powell 13 I: OK. Let's imagine it's a cold winter evening and you have your wood in and it's dark outside and you and your brother and sister are in the house with your parents. How did you entertain each other? MP: We had games we played in the house. I remember one we played called tic-tac-toe. It was a set of cards you make, it went up to 19 two sets of 19 and were drawn out of the house kind of like cards you play today. It was a fun game. Then riddles. I: Now that you mention on riddles, was there a storyteller in the community? MP: Yes, my great uncle, Jack Coleman. I: Now, did he tell stories about people in the community, ghost stories or what? MP: A lot of them were ghost stories that he had ventured, you know he was my great grandmother’s brother. I believe he was born a slave too. He would tell stories about what he had done, you know about ghost stories in the woods, bears and panthers and things, you know he would tell those kinds of stories. I: Did he tell then at his home or did he come to your house? MP: Well he stayed with different ones. He stayed with grandpa awhile then with one of the members, Uncle Johnny Coleman awhile. He did live by himself as far as I know. I: When did he tell the stories? MP: He would come to your house and spend the night and then he would tell these stories. I: So he was known as the storyteller? MP: That's right. I: Was there anyone who was musically inclined? MP: Let's see. Not in my family. But in grandma's family. Some of them played the organ, Aunt Birdie played the organ. The rest of them I don't know if they made music at all. Uncle Jack picked the banjo. Uncle Dale Thomas picked too, he lived in Canton. He married Aunt Becky Coleman and he picked the banjo and Jack beat the tambourine. That's all I know. I: Did you ever hear how any of them were taught the music? MP: No, just by ear, I think. They all seemed to like music, but they like me never learned much about it or were not trained. I: Can you tell me a little more about your family life? Powell 14 MP: My life, my family? I: Yes. MP: Well we worked, went to school, went to church on Sundays and I guess that’s about it. I: What kind of house did you have? MP: When I was growing up in Ela we had a three-room house upstairs and kitchen what we called a front room now a living roan and upstairs and that was our house until I was nearly grown and my father built a house himself. It had four rooms, it was a plank home not log. He was also a rock mason. He built chimneys and rock walls. I: Did he just pick that trade up too? MP: Yes. I: During that time where did he get the rock? MP: Well, when he would build the wall for someone else they would furnish it, you know. If he was building a chimney he would work with brick too. He built his first house and built the chimney I guess before I was born, the second house he built he built his own chimney fireplace too. I: Now Harrison was your grandfather? MP: That is right. I: Now. Would you say that he was an example of a leader in the past? If someone had to speak up for the rights of black people would he be the one? MP: Yes, I would think so. I: Would you give me an example of leaders in the black community today? MP: Oh. Let’s see. You mean here in Murphy? I: Yes. MP: Who are the leaders. The only one I can think of has died Frank [Settle]. He was a leader and… I: What about the young people? MP: I don't know of any. Wait I can too, wait a minute Frank Thomas Blunt, maybe. Powell 15 I: I think he was a minister am I right? MP: Yes. I imagine he would speak up and maybe also let me think he was a Sumerrose, why can't I think of his first name. They call him Tack but I know that wasn't his real name, I believe it was John, John Sumerrose, Jr. and he would speak up, I guess that's about all. I: Would it be a fair statement that in your childhood years the leaders in the community were the minister and the teacher? MP: Yes, I think so. I: Is that true today? MP: I think so. I: So you think the minister? What about the teacher? MP: Well I would imagine, but I am not in school of course, so I can’t hardly tell the truth now about them, but I know the teacher that was here before was good in the community. I: In your family, was there someone who pursued an education and became a professional teacher, lawyer, doctor in your family now? MP: You mean brothers or sisters or grandparents? I: Yes. MP: My aunt, Nancy Thornt was a nurse, she was an RN. I: Where did she receive her education? MP: She went to Cherokee and then they sent her to Hampton, Virginia. I: Is that where another Indian school is? MP: I'm not sure. I think it is. I: Well now was she Indian? MP: Well she was half, I mean she was fourth. I: She went to the Indian school as far as it would go? MP: That’s right. then they sent her to college in Hampton then she married and her family moved to Connecticut and then she came back her and stayed awhile after her husband died. Her Powell 16 husband was from Atlanta I think, I never did see him. He died and she stayed awhile in Canton with aunt Birdie out there, but then she went back to maybe one of her children and she died. But now she was a nurse and none of the rest of them did anything outstanding. I: In your community was there a special person with talents of working with the ill even though he wasn't an RN or a doctor or a medicine man or woman? MP: My grandmother was good and she was called a midwife. Back then they didn't go to the hospital like they do now. That was grandmother Coleman. I: Which one? MP: Morning Coleman. She was a midwife and she delivered all the babies around in the community. Then I think her mother was also a midwife cause I would hear them talking about her delivering babies. I: Did she receive pay for this? MP: No, it was all free, no pay. I imagine that - I don't whether anybody ever paid her or not, I just don't know. But then my stepmother was a pretty good midwife and a doctor, nurse. Back then in the communities, it made no difference who got sick, the older adults went to help them out. I: What do you mean by help them out? MP: Wood carried in, or go to the store, or anything like that to help. Sit up at night, give medicine all night long. I: Was there a hospital there then. MP: One in Cherokee. Didn't make no difference whether white or black. People loved back then. Love they neighbor. They would go and do whatever they could. I know when I was coming along, there was a white family who lived next door to us and they all got sick with the flu, when it was raging so and they all got down with the flu and we would go down and get water from the spring, get in wood and my stepmother would go and make soup and cook for them, you know. Take a big pot of potato soup and give them, you know. That’s the way I was brought up. We would kill on our own meat. Kill a pig, then everybody in the community got a mess of that meat then you had plenty left. I: So you would share with the neighbors? MP: That's right. That's the way it was carried on back then. I: Would you say there was much interaction between the races then? MP: I don't think so. Powell 17 I: Once you moved to Bryson City did the whites and blacks meet? MP: No, not like they did in Birdtown. I: So in Bryson City it was different. MP: That's right. I: once you left Birdtown and you went to Canton, what were the relationships like there? MP: Well I don't know. I guess it was pretty good because as far as I know. I didn’t stay in Canton too long. I left, went to Canton and stayed awhile. Carl worked in the mills there. I: Who is carl? MP: My husband, Carl Powell. He worked in the mill there for awhile. Then he got hurt and we had to leave there. Then we came back to Ela, Swain County where I was raised at and we stayed there awhile. Then we left there and come to Murphy. I: Did he find work here, is that why he came? MP: Yes, he worked here. First one thing then another. He worked on public job. I: What are sane of the historical events you can remember such as were any of your relatives in World War I? MP: My uncle. I don't think he went to combat, but he was in World War I. That's as far as I know. I: Do you remember anything else about that period of history? MP: No. I: What about the depression? MP: Oh, I was here in Murphy then. I: So you were married? MP: Yes. I: Did you have a family? MP: Yes. Jean. Powell 18 I: So you only had the one child? MP: Yes. Carl worked for what was called WPA, you know. Made what little was made, wasn't much then but we got by with it. Of course, we was buying this place here then. We had hogs and stuff and I worked out, I did days work, washing and ironing and such as that. I: How were you paid? MP: Well for a good size washing, you'd get about about a dollar and a half. I: When he started working with WPA, how much did he make? Was it 50 cents a day, very little. I: Fifty cents? MP: Yes, that's right. I don't know the difference now, but I'm telling you it would go much further than it would go today. You could get a sack of flour for seventy-five cents which would last two weeks. It was hard but we got along. I: Do you think it was harder for the black family than the white family? MP: I think so. It has always been that way because they always have had it easier than the black families. I: Do you think they were given the best jobs first? MP: Sure. I: Do you happen to know if the pay was the same for the blacks and whites with the WPA? MP: I think so. I never did hear of any discrimination. I: Do you remember when welfare was started? MP: No, I don't believe I do cause I don't think any of the blacks here in Murphy were ever on Welfare. I: I see. OK. Do you remember the period of time when you were rationed stamps? MP: Oh yes. I: When was that? MP: That was World War II, I believe. You had to have stamps for sugar or shoes. That was a bad time. Powell 19 I: Were times hard for the rich and the poor? Were the rich issued rationing stamps? MP: Probably weren't. I don't guess so. They could pull things you know. The rich helps the rich you know. I: Do you remember anything else special about that time? MP: No, I don't think so. I: Usually during war times work is plentiful, is that true? MP: Yes I guess it was in the Second World War, I can’t remember too much about the first one. You always have sane though who don't want to work. I: Were any of your family members in World War II? MP: No. My older brother was in World War I. I: How did things go after the War here in Murphy? MP: I think things went awful smooth here in Murphy. I: How was voting rights? MP: I have always voted. Here they would come and ask you and if you didn't have a car they'd take you to vote. As far as buying votes, I don’t think so, or rather they never did buy mine. I: Right. Ok. What are some of the benefits resulting from the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. Martin Luther King? MP: Well, I think the blacks had more rights, they go and eat wherever they wanted. They could go in the front doors and they didn't have to go in the back of the cafes and eat and they could go to motels, hotels and I think that was good. I: If you traveled to Ohio in your younger days, did you set on the back of the bus? MP: No. I sat anywhere on the bus I wanted to after the Civil Rights. Of course, I didn't go before. We had a car then. I: For example, if you wanted to go to Ohio were there places to stop and ea.t and use the restroom? MP: I imagine so, but you probably would have to go in the back door. I: Is there one incident you remember because of your race? Powell 20 MP: No, I can’t think of one. I: Did anything bad happen to any of your family? MP: Not that I know of. I: How do you feel the roles of black people in society and our community have changed over the years? MP: I think they are better now that since the Civil Rights. I: Can you give me an example? MP: It's better pay, I guess it's more… well now it's like ah… I: What about your daughter Jean? MP: You mean her job? Yes, it’s a better job. I know way back then she couldn’t do what she is doing now. Because she is the only black there is down there. I: Were you able to give Jean a college education? MP: Well I believe it was 18 months nursing in Atlanta. She finished high school in Hickory. I: Why Hickory? MP: Well at that time they weren't integrated here you know and didn't have a high school here so she went to school there. I: Was there a relative there? MP: No. I'll tell you the way she went down there. There was a white family that were from here and they wanted her to go and stay with them and go to school and she worked in the home. So she finished high school there. Then she left there and went to Grady's in Atlanta. I: Did she live in Atlanta for awhile or did she came back home? MP: She came back home. I: Was there a job for her as a nurse here in Murphy? MP: Yes, she worked at General Hospital here in Murphy as a nurse. Then she, after it closed out she worked for the four-square. Then it was the Waynesville Headquarters and is now in the family planning and that is what she is doing now. She used to go to Waynesville and work and she would visit homes and carried people to the doctor. Powell 21 I: Did you in your working years work for one family or for many families? MP: I worked for several families, I didn't stay with one for a real long time. I guess the last family I guess I worked five or six years. I: What did you say your husband did for a living? MP: Construction work. I: Did he have to move about the country? MP: He worked in Fontana and he left and worked in Tennessee on the TVA down there, helped move the dam there, and in Robbinsville or Fontana. That's what kind of work he did. I: Do you remember any black persons who owned stores, dry cleaners? MP: Yes, there was a black store in the community in Texana. Arthur Allen ran a black store over there and who else, the Wiley’s were in the cleaning business and Frank Siler worked in cleaner all the time, he didn't own the place, just worked there. I: What about in your family, the Coleman family? MP: No. I: Was there a member in the family who was considered wealthy? MP: No. I: How are you related to Birdie Coleman? MP: She's my aunt on my father's side. I: Did many of the Coleman's move to Canton? MP: Well, let's see Birdie and them, my grandma was living then, Morning, Uncle Pete, Uncle Dale moved to Canton, of course Uncle Johnny stayed up there in Ela. I: Why did they move to Canton? MP: Had nowhere else to go. That was after they got run off the reservation up there you know. I: Where did they work in Canton? MP: I don't know, I wasn't there then. I was here in Murphy married. I: So you were married? Powell 22 MP: Uh huh. I: Can you think of any other person or any other information you want to share with us about your life here in Murphy or Ohio that I haven't asked you? Anything about your relatives or fore parents? MP: I can’t think of any of them. I think I went over them. I: Would you say that life was easier for your family because you were lighter skin and Indian heritage? MP: Yes, I think so. We lived on the reservation and we get provisions to go to the hospital in Cherokee. My sister had an operation up there in Cherokee, didn't cost her anything. Wasn't a surgical doctor there, she had to hire one from Bryson City or Whittier and Aunt Becky had several children in the hospital. We'd go up there and they would distribute medicine like turpentine and castor oil and anything like that. Just given to you, salt and Sulphur and all that stuff like you get now over-the-counter. It was because of the partial Indian heritage. I: Can you remember any other advantages of living on the reservation? MP: It finally got down to where they stopped the Indians maybe they didn't have to pay land taxes, you know. You didn't have to buy the land either did you. Back then if you wanted a piece of the Indian property you would just take it up or swap with some of the others. I think that was definitely an advantage. If you get sick, the doctor would cane, he was from Cherokee his office was there. He would care from Cherokee to Birdtown to visit you if you were sick. I: Did your family retain any of the Indian culture? MP: No, I don't guess they did. I: What about planting food by the moon and so forth? MP: Oh yea, still today I still believe in the moon and I still go by the signs for planting your garden. Certain you do with one moon, certain you do another. My family always went by the signs. They believed in that. So I kept that part of my Indian culture. I: So did you pass it on to Jean? MP: She don't believe too much in it. I: But your family did? MP: My brothers, sisters, yes they did. I: What else from the Indian culture did your family retain? Powell 23 MP: I don't know unless it was making baskets. We made baskets, bead work. I: Did you? Members of your family? MP: Yes. I: Which ones do you remember? MP: Me and ley sister made Indian baskets. I: Did you go out and get the cane? MP: Yea. We make it out of splint wood. I: Can you tell me about that? MP: Yes. We would go to the woods and get these certain trees down, mainly oak. Split it up and dress it up and make the splits out and dye them. I: What did you use for dye? MP: If we didn't have dye you get out of the store, we would use green walnut hulls and I think straw was good, wheat, straw. Mostly you could buy dye out of the store. I: Did you make these baskets to sell? MP: No, for home. I: Who taught you that? MP: I guess we just took it up ourselves, you learn things yourself, you Know, maybe you see somebody else doing it. I know when my uncle, my grandfather’s brother cane from Tennessee he wasn't Indian but he made baskets out of round splits and we would put bottoms in chairs. He made baskets out of tiny round like reed baskets. I've seen my daddy bottom chairs and make brooms out of broom straw. I know how it was done, but I have never done it you know. I: This was all for practical use at home? MP: That's right. I: Do you have any of those baskets now? MP: I have more that I made let me see where is my basket. I made it I didn't make it out. Let me show you sane of my things. [break] Powell 24 I: So the wood carving you do now, your father did? MP: Yes, uh huh. He did that. I: Have you ever tried to sell it? MP: I have been offered money, but I won’t sell it. I am too stingy with it. I: You were taught to knit with four needles. Was that wooden needles? MP: No, you can buy them. I: Like needles of today? MP: That's right. Here's something else I did. I did this. I: Oh my goodness. That's pretty. MP: Here’s my needles. I: They look like pick-up-sticks. MP: They are different size. That's what I learned to knit with. Then Jean taught me how to read direction and I learned to read the directions then I could just go along with most anything I want to. I made Jean two or three pair of socks with the four needles. They would shear the sheep and then card it then grandma would spin the cheifspin wheel. That’s where they'd make the long strings, you know. I: Right. MP: She had a spin wheel. So they did their own. I: Did they use this yarn for anything other than socks? MP: I don't know whether they did or not. When her children were coming along, I think they made what they call weaving. Then they made their own cloth for their own clothes and you take my grandfather when my daddy was coming along ah they didn’t have nothing to buy. They raised their own tobacco, they had to buy snuff and sugar and coffee, but they raised tobacco. I: Did they sell it? MP: I guess they did after what they needed for themselves. I: Did they use tobacco? Powell 25 MP: Yes, chewing tobacco. Of course they couldn't make the snuff, they would have to buy it. I imagine when he came along they used a lot of candles for light. When I came along, we used lamp oil, you know these plain oil lamps. I: Were these candles made at home? MP: I think so. I have heard then talk about it. Of course not when we were coming along we had hogs, milk and butter and when they killed the hog we had our lard, they called it “lard” then. There wasn't much to buy except coffee and sugar and snuff. Aunt Kelley was good on making the clothes. I: My great grandmother? MP: That's right. She had a machine and bought the cloth and would make them. I: Did you learn how to sew? MP: Yes. I: When you were learning, did you have a pattern as we know a pattern today? MP: No, would lay something else down to cut by, you know maybe a dress or something and cut by it. You didn't buy the paper pattern like you do now. I: Was there anyone in your family who could see a beautiful dress in the store window and go hare and copy that? MP: I guess Aunt Kelley could do pretty good and then Aunt Bertie was good too. She sewed real nice. I guess she could do that too. I know Aunt Kelley could. She made Lillian and myself a beautiful white embroidered dress to wear to the association in Franklin. We went there in a wagon and took it all day to get there. Went on a Friday. I never will forget that. Came back on Monday morning. At that time uncle Johnny Coleman lived in Franklin at that time. I: Did he? MP: Yea. We went to his house. Of course now my stepmother’s home was in Franklin. Her mother lived there. We stayed there at uncle Johnny’s on Friday night and then we came back to uncle Johnny’s on Sunday night and left out there Monday and came back to Ela. We bought some peaches. They were just about that big! We just had a good time. I: When you were growing up to you remember fry bread? MP: Oh yes. I fry bread now. I think it is real good. I have even fried biscuit bread. Have you ever fried that? I: No, I will have to have the recipe for that. Powell 26 MP: Just make up the biscuit and turn it over in the frying pan. Put a little grease, not too much grease, put a little grease, keep a little grease in the pan, it browns better with a little grease in it you know. Jean was just crazy about it. I remember one Sunday and I was cooking dinner and that was before Dave separated and the oven went out and I had dinner all ready but the bread. So I just made it up and turned it over the stove. I: Did you ever learn to speak any of the Cherokee language? MP: Just a word or two. Now my daddy could speak a right smart because they went to the Indians a lot because they went to Birdtown school over there. What little I have learned was from here. But I about forgot it now. We used to go to the ballgames, what they call Stickball games. I never did see then do those dances unless they had one before they played ball. Then when they had the fair in Cherokee they always had the stickball games and we'd always go to that. The bow-and-arrow they had that too. My uncle Calvin made a blow gun and of course my brother and me of course would have the bow-and-arrow and we'd make it ourselves. I: Did you use this just as a sport or for hunting. MP: Just playing. I: Did you grandfather ever hunt for wild meat? MP: I don't know if he did or not, my father did but they used guns back then, not the bow-and-arrows. I guess he would. I don't know if he could kill anything with a bow-and-arrow or not, but anyway we used to play with them.
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