Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hattie Jane, Part Two

Hattie Jane's Story, as told to her great grandson, Dr James Phillips

                                            James and His Wife Marilyn 
            My name is Jim Phillips, great great grandson of Sam Paul and Sarah Jane Lambert. 

            I had always lived near my great grandmother Hattie Jane. I called her Grams. My grandmother Dottie Opal Stewart Wilburn I called Momma. Grams was like my grandmother, and my grandmother Dottie was like my mother. My father was killed when I was two years old, and I had always slept in the bed with my Grandmother Dottie and grandfather Charlie Wilburn. My grandfather was Cherokee, tall about 6’2”, but a bent man because of sickness. He weighed about 140 Lbs. His lungs were greatly damaged in WWI, and even though he was only in his forties by his fifties he was an old man.

                                             Dottie and Charlie Wilburn

             My grandmother Dottie always watched after her mother Hattie. When she was sick she took care of her, and even when my grandmother was a young child she took care of all of her brothers and sisters and her mother.

            Dottie only went to school one year and that was the third grade. She only knew how to write in cursive. She taught me how to write in cursive before I ever went to school. Dottie was a great musician and vocalist. She could play a lot of musical instruments and the piano. If she heard a song one time she could sing and play it on and instrument.

            My grandparents taught me honesty. We lived a hard life but their word was iron. Their word meant everything to them. They would not lie for any reason, not for life or death. They would have died before they cheated a man out of a payment that they owed or break their given word.  

            In Oklahoma my grandfather was a bootlegger. That may sound funny these days being a bootlegger and honest. These people were Indians and they knew that just not everything this white government did was on the up and up. Every family heirloom I have handed down to me was bought with whiskey. A Remington 22 rifle, a 7 jewel Elgin pocket watch, and a steel skillet are the priceless family heirlooms. The watch is now lost. My grandfather was too sick to work but my grandmother worked in the fields as a field hand, for the railroad as an oiler, and did painting and household repair. She also cleaned houses and did laundry and ironing.

            My grandma and grandfather were very frugal. When they came to California they lived in tents in an Okie village they called Little Oklahoma, A lot of the country and western singers that would become stars lived in that village also.   

          It wasn’t long till my grandfather and mother had bought an acre of ground and built a little shack on it we called home. Our little shack did not even have a door, just a tarp flap over where a door should have been. We couldn’t find a piece of wood large enough for a door. The shack was about 10 ft by 12 ft put together out of wood that someone had thrown into the canal behind our shack. We had a wood stove to cook on to the right side of the shack a little closet built onto the right rear of the room and a bed to the left rear. A little table with a couple of boxes worked for chairs. We did not have electricity or running water. Our running water was in the canal ditch that ran by our house.

        This is me at about age ten with my pet chicken, Hoppy, in front of our shack

          Because we did not have an ice box we had no way to keep our beans cold or store them. When we came in from work in the summer time near Bakersfield, California where it gets above 110 degrees every day, the bean pot would just be boiling with fermentation. Grandma had to build a fire under the bean pot and make the beansboil for at least a half hour before we could eat them. Grandma Dottie would always throw in a pinch of baking soda. Grandma said that would keep us from getting a belly ache. (food Poisoning). We could only afford to eat beans, and we could not take the time to cook a fresh pot of beans everyday. It took too long and we had to work too many hours.  

          Of course we had two hole out house, which served for a garbage pit and restroom (Nowadays people dig up old out houses to find all kinds of treasures that fell down the hole). It was a major job to dig a new hole and to move the outhouse about every six months. 

After we had our shack and outhouse built, Grams (Hattie) came with her second husband Roscoe, and moved on the front of the property in a little blue and silver trailer.

                                                  Grams and Roscoe Russell

I spent a lot of time with Grams and Roscoe, Roscoe was my step great grandfather, He was good to me and I loved him, but I just never did call him grandpa.  The Russells, Corleys, Lamberts, and Pauls were all related, and Grams told me they were all part Indian. The Russells were Chickahomony from Virginia, and the Corleys were from Virginia also (there are some Corleys on the Chickasaw rolls). I don’t know exactly what kind of Indian the Lamberts were, but Grams said they were Indian also. They could have been Chickasaw, but I don’t know for sure. Some things are foggy after all these years.

My mother moved into a house next door with my Dad, but I lived with my grandparents even when my father was still alive. My great uncles and aunts all threw up little dwellings here and there. We had a regular old time Indian village erected in no time at all. 

My mother worked with my father James Phillips in used car lots and fruit stands and a gas station that they ran. I lived with Grandma and Grams.

Faye and James Phillips, my parents, in front of their service station and fruit stand, early '40's

Grams dipped Garrett snuff and always told me when I grew up that if I should use a little snuff I would never get worms or hemorrhoids. She was really serious about that. I took all the old Indian remedies whether I was sick or not, just like in the old days they used to say.

In this setting I got to hear all kinds of stories from Grams. My grandmother and Grams always did their laundry on a rub board and heated their water outside. Grams and Grandma would talk Chickasaw when no one else was around. They would just jabber away and I couldn’t understand a word that they were saying. I asked my grandmother what language that she was speaking and she would say Indian. She would not teach me how to speak Indian because my grandpa Charlie and Roscoe did not approve of it.

When one of us had something to eat everybody ate. Gram’s was a great cook cooking all types of Indian foods from the old days as they said. We ate rabbits, fish an occasional deer or bear, and crawdads that my uncles caught or killed. Grams always cooked outside when she lived in her trailer. Later she moved in next door and she had a regular stove and she cooked some things in the oven. In those days they threw away sheep heads and cow heads goat heads and hog heads, it seems that she always had one of them in the oven. She cooked chicken heads and chicken feet and chitlins from chickens and all the animal guts she could get.

When I stayed with grams she would tell me stories of her family when Roscoe was not around. Roscoe called Grams a black footed gut eater. Her sons would talk down to her in the same way and call her The Indian Sqaw or Jim Crow because she had some black brothers and sisters from Sam Paul’s Illegitimate Negro girlfriends. Grams had a picture of one of them which I now have.

Sam Paul's Negro children, Willie and baby (name unknown)

Grams, in spite of all of this degradation because of being Sam Paul’s daughter and an Indian, loved and cared for her children. I never saw her have a single conversation with anyone in the family but my grandmother Dottie and myself.

I will begin to tell you some of these stories in her words and through her eyes.

Hattie Jane's memories:

                                                 Jason and Ellen McClure

A few times in the early days of my life a dog would come up in the yard foaming at the mouth and Grams would take me in her little trailer and tell me about mad dogs with hydrophobia.  

She would say:   

Jimmy, my grandma’s first husband died of hydrophobia. You’ve got to stay away from them mad dogs and shoot 'um if you can and burn 'um plum up to kill the disease. My grandma's first husband was bit by a mad dog and he sent for his friend (This must have been Smith Paul, her grandfather), to look for a madstone to save his life. A mad stone could not be found anywhere. Our people had to leave our country back east so fast that many important medicines were left behind or lost on the trail on the way to Indian Territory.  

A madstone was the only known  cure for rabies in the early history of man. American Indians used them and passed this knowledge down to many old time white doctors that used folk medicines. Even in Europe and the Middle East madstones were used to cure rabid bites from animals and snake bites. To learn more about madstones go to Google and look up the “Lee Penny a madstone” you can learn much about the use of madstones for medical cures and their legitimate place in documented cures for hundreds of years in ancient medicine.  

Back to Hattie's story:  

My Grandpa Smith (Paul) was then told by Rev. Mc Clure to take him way out in the woods away from his family and friends. Jimmy, they took a length of strong chain and some locks. Rev. Mc Clure had them gather up a lot of dry wood and brush and stack it in a big pile. Rev. McClure said that grandpa could not bury him because the dogs and wolves might dig him up and carry on the hydrophobia, and more people would have to die. After they got everything ready, Rev. McClure put the chain around his neck and locked the lock tight so he couldn’t get loose and hurt anyone. Mc Clure was a good man from everything I have heard about him, and his son Tecumseh is a real good man too. He is my Uncle. I was always proud of Tecumseh the other Indians always liked him more that they did my father Sam Paul. Smith and Rev. Mc Clure laid out a pallet for him to lay on under this big tree and chained the other end of the chain to the tree trunk. The Reverend got real bad and Grandpa Smith could not bring himself to shoot him and to put him out of his miseries. The Reverend finally died, and grandpa Smith  put Mc Clure and all his personal effects upon the brush and wood pile and burned them completely up. Later grandpa Smith kept his promise to him to watch after his wife and children. Grandmother had three children by the Reverend Mc Clure: Catherine, Tecumseh and a baby that died.

Grams told me this story several times.

To be continued:
For more about Hattie Jane's grandmother, Ellen or Ela-Teecha, see the post of February 28, 2011, Indian Territory, 1845.

For more about Jason McClure, Ellen's first husband, see post of December 29, 2010, Jason McClure.

No comments:

Post a Comment