|Missy Carroll interviewed Miss Agnes Oglesby in 1977 when Oglesby was 103 years old. This is part two of the interview. In the interview, Miss Oglesby uses a racial epithet many may find offensive. Nevertheless, in the interest of accuracy, we have not censored it. Read Part 1.
Transcribed by Ben Boulden.
MC: Who were your beaus?
AO: Bill and, who was that boys name. Down at the post office. Oh, he had a good job down there. I cant think of the name. And the Kennedys. There were three Kennedy boys. Honey, I cant think of them.
MC: Was that the only place they would have dances?
AO: No, they had a place. It was kind of a free-for-all place. I dont remember where that was. It was a place where anybody and everybody could dance.
MC: What other things did you do when you were younger?
AO: Ill tell you what we did. We played tennis. Everybody in my home. We had croquet and tennis. We played croquet and tennis.
MC: The homes were very big with a lot of furniture. Was there a lot of space?
AO: What street would that be on? In the attic, there is an old canopy that was on the bed that they now have at that show place. They have my furniture but they havent got the canopy. That canopy in the attic, in this house, that I have left. There were five (ornaments?) on that bed. Now that ought to be put back.
MC: Where did all that furniture come from? From Mississippi?
AO: Oh, lord no, I dont know. It came from five generations back. I wish we had never left Mississippi. We lived in a small town in Mississippi. He left on my account. It was a very, very small town. Mr. Echols was a good friend of him. He was always begging him to come to Fort Smith. Mr. Echols was a wonderful man.
MC: What do you mean he left on your account?
AO: (Inaudible response).
AO: What members of the Echols are living here now?
MC: Theres Mont Echols.
AO: He was a man who married a woman with three children. He married a woman who had three children. I dont remember what their names are. Im good at remembering some things but no names. (Reading a piece of paper?) What did you mean when you said Your dad left Mississippi on your account? Oh, (she laughs). Well, it wasnt on my account. It was on Mr. Echols account. They had been close friends all their lives from when they were children. He had an office over most of the state and never could come. Mr. Echols came soon though. Mr. Echols and father both were from country farms. Mr. Echols had Bill and the girl. He had just three children.
MC: Tell me about your mother.
AO: She had red hair. Her name was Lulu Bell Miller. I think there are some Millers still here. Im sure there are a good number of the Miller family here.
MC: You said she was an organizer. Did she organize clubs?
AO: Yes, yes, plenty of clubs. The Wednesday Club, the Fortnightly. I wouldnt say. Youd have to go back to the clubs to find out. I know she organized the Wednesday Club, and I think the Fortnightly. You ask them. The Fortnightly will have it. The Wednesday Club she organized that. Their were church organizations. She didnt anymore mind going to the saloon, the jail. Not in the slightest. It was the strangest thing on Earth. She had not the slightest objection to go to any, any place.
MC: She didnt care what people thought.
AO: You have to have their permission now. She had a hand like this, like a Shepherds Crook. Shed go to the jail. Theyd say, Mrs. Oglesby, well take care of your cane. Why honey, I had escaped prisoners stay in my home. I dont know if you know it or not. I hate to say it. They were against the Indians. They were. And the ones who were against the Indians were dirty themselves. So we had two ditry (???).
MC: Did your father feel about this the same way as you do?
AO: Father practiced law, and it was a hard thing in those days. There were the Indians to attend to and the white people. Let me tell you something. In history, the white people never treated the Indians right. Honey, they were driven off their homes. I remember that. I know that. They were not treated right. We had in our home, we always had about four or five, I reckoned youd call servants. They were not treated like servants. They did their duty and we always had four or five. They did what they were given to do. And they were given, I can see it now, a wide porch and servants quarters and a servants dining room. The servants dining room. There was a passage between the two. The servants were served just what they were in the house. They had the same food, the same things as a child. As a child, I thought it was the finest thing in the world. I had a nurse there.
MC: You had a nurse.
AO: The way the house was built there were four rooms. One, two, three, four rooms. Two rooms here and two rooms above it. They had an open place, then two rooms here and two room above. Then an open place and a servants quarters. That made eight rooms. The servants quarters were right there. And honey, I reckon I had a different feeling. I just that a servant was another member of the family.
MC: Were they Negro or white?
AO: They were Negro and white. We made no difference in Negroes. I had a Negro nurse who nursed me. What was her name? I felt no difference.
MC: Thats odd being from Mississippi, Mississippi being a slave state, that you felt that way. I
AO: Mississippi was a place where they were good to their servants. Ohhh, you bet their servants were treated right. We treated them with the greatest respect and affection.
MC: You dont often hear that. You usually hear the opposite.
AO: I never came in contact with any bad niggers. They were treated with as much respect as anybody. I never thought of them as different. They were just servants.
MC: Why were white people used as servants?
AO: Its impossible to talk to me. I cant hear. Now, when the niggers came to America. Half of them stayed in the North. All of them came south because they were employed in the place of servants. Many people looked down on them. In my home, there was no distinction. They were regarded as just as honest and just as good. We had the greatest respect for them. They say that there were niggers in the South, but not the South that I knew. I never knew of a family that treated their servants badly. They were treated with courtesy and respect. I knew many, many families in Mississippi. I never knew of a single case where a nigger was mistreated. They were treated with love and respect. Oh, how I loved my old nurse. She used to punish me. She had a cabin out in the yard, far from the house. (Recording interrupted). She would decide what the punishment would be. I would be sent out to her house. She had a big bed. I would go out and climb up on that top bed and rollover and drop down in there. I was always delighted when I was punished because I would have so much fun. I would pull out the trundle bed and I would rollover and (yelp.) I loved those Negro women. That was a punishment (sarcasm). People have the idea that Negroes were mistreated. They were never mistreated in any family I knew. They were always sweet and obedient. They didnt feel that they were mistreated. I dont think they did.
MC: Are you getting tired?
AO: I wish I had known you were coming. Ive written down some things, dont you know.
MC: Let me come back another time.
AO: If I can get that, I can remember some of the names. I resent them saying Southern people were unkind. Of all the families that I knew, they took pride in their Negroes like they did their diamonds and jewel. I never knew a case where a nigger was mistreated. ... Our family, when we came over from Scotland, half of them stayed north. One of them was the governor of Illinois. They wanted to stay north, dont you know. That war was a horrible thing. But there was a feeling between them. The South was closer built, our family, our servants. Our family was whacked right in two. Some stayed North and some stayed South.
MC: Ill leave you some paper and you go over your notes. Ill come back some other time.
AO: Ill have a grand cleanup and throw away everything I have. I didnt know people were interested in it. The niggers are pushing so hard now youd be surprised. Theyre pushing with the wrong idea. The niggers today have their feelings, but I dont know what it is.
MC: Ill come back another time and well talk some more.
RECORDED STATEMENT FROM INTERVIEWER MISSY CARROLL:
A week after this visit, I tried two more times to record a visit with Miss Oglesby. We wanted to be factual about names and dates, but she didnt know where her notes were and didnt want to be recorded. We contacted the Trust Department at Merchants National Bank but they did not know anything about the notes. I also contacted Ira and Lucy Oglesby and they did not know where the notes were either. In my conversation with Ira and Lucy Oglesby, they wanted to know what was on the tape. With their help, and also with the help of Carolyn Pollan, the following information is more factual.
Ms. Agnes Oglesby was born Jan. 2, 1874 in Senotobia, Mississippi. Her father, Ira Dancy Oglesby, and Mr. Echols were indeed friends. If you have listened carefully to this recording or read the typescript, you will notice several variations in their story of coming to Fort Smith. The fact is Mr. Echols arrived first and Mr. Oglesby came later. The Oglesbys came to Fort Smith in December 1893 when Agnes was 19 years old. City directories show in 1894 the Oglesbys lived at 723 North Fifth. In 1897, the address is listed as 419 North Sixth. In 1898, the address is 311 North Sixth. In 1900, the address is listed at 321 North Sixth. In 1900, Ms. Agnes went to Europe and spent a year. She returned September 1901. There is an article in the newspaper dated September 21, 1901 that tells of her trip. Ms. Agnes did visit the saloons in town but it was to collect money for the poor. As for the jail, she may have, but it was her mother who went quite often to take food to the women prisoners, one of whom was Belle Starr. Miss Agness mother was Louise Isabel Miller. She was born March 6, 1851, in Hernando, Mississippi. She was married Feb. 8, 1852, in Sardis, Mississippi. She died May 23,1943, in Fort Smith, Arkansas. She was on the Board of Lady Managers of Belle Point Hospital in Fort Smith, Arkansas. She was first vice president of the Varina Jefferson Davis Chapter of the UDC. She was one of the founders of the museum, the Old Commissary, and one of the workers of the museum. The fatther of Miss Agnes Oglesby was born August 13, 1851, probably in Georgia. He was the city attorney and died in Fort Smith, Arkansas on Dec. 11, 1919. The city directory of 1919 lists the address as 211 North 17th. Miss Agnes Oglesby lived here until 1945 or 1948 when she moved to her brothers home at 221 North Sixteenth. We must remember that Miss Agnes is 103 years old and her mind was not as alert as what it once was.