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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
: This is tape four, side one, andi-re-4-s Lew Barton recording for the Doris
Duke Foundation Oral History Program. I am going to ask my daughter, Mrs.
John Brayboy to read this interview for me, the source and the date. This is
especially interesting to me because it's about what is referred to locally as
the "shake." The Iedian people date a lot of things by the shake, which
was a minor earthquake, and this account is about that and other things.
Anyway, she will give the complete story and I think the story speaks for
itself. Will you give the name of the paper and the date it was published?
fIB: The Robessonian, April 3, 1964. Shake of 1886 recalled by Lew Barton. There
was a rumbling sound and then another. I was thrown crosslegged.. It came in
two shocks like that. The people around me thought the end of the world
had come and began to cry and scream and pray. There was some mighty big
promises made to God in that day of the Shake in 1886. I was interviewing
Mac Lucas of John's Station, Scotland County. He was seventy-five at the
time, nine years ago. "Did you make any great big promises, Mr. Lucas' I
asked. He either did net hear me or just pretended that he hadn't. I was
eleven years old when that happened. His faint brown eyes were bright as hI'
memory crystal clear recalled the incident. I had been pulling boxes, me
and a friend of mine away down in the swamp. He explained what pulling boxes
meant in that day. It had something to do with skinning the bark off pine
trees, cutting a trench on one side and catching the pine sap to be made into
turpentine. It was a big source of revenue in this section of the state
at that time. He lived in Robertson then. He told me that people also raised
indigo, rice, and the inevitable crop of smelly gourds in that day. For / h'/T/N
some beer and roasted sweet potatoes were considered top delicacies and often
were on the table. "Had no dippers or big spoons back then son, you dipped
the food out of the iron pot that hung over the firing gourds. You drank water
out of gourds. There's never been anything -o make water taste as good as
a gourd could. We just threw a hearth full of potatoes in and roasted them
in the coals. Sometimes we'd have a possum or coon or maybe a fat osBy
squirrel." Then he told me about Free Joe The story really took place
I found out, so I listened attentively while he unwound the yarn. Icum Locklear
had a son whose name was Joe. One day as they sat on the piazzo, father and
son, Icum pointed to a full grown sheep that grazed near them on the yard.
Son, you're about nine years old now. See that sheep out there in the yard.
Think you could shouldehim? I don't know, Papa. I guess I could if I had
to. Well, I'll tell you what I'll do. Go out that and lift that sheep up and
put him on your shoulderand I'll set you free forever. You mean I'll never
have to obey you no more? Never have to go to field when you say?
Nothing like that? That's right. I just don't believe you are man enough
to shoulder that sheep. But I would like to see you try it. Honest, Pap,
you really mean it? Icum assured his son that he was in dead egnest. The
boy walked out on the yard, backed up a little way to size up the animal,
then laid hold upon it. He wrestled with the animal, then miraculously enough
actually succeeded in laying that furry beast to his shoulder. All of the
old timers who remember the incident say that Icum Locklear never broke his
promise to his son as long as he lived. He turned the boy loose and for
a while it was feared the lad would run wild. But no such thing happened.
He grew up to be a respected member of the community. A member of Free Joe's
relatives still live in ie Prospect section. Mr. Lucas called my attention
to the old Stuart Pond on Long Swamp on Maxton Route Three. He remembered
when logs were sawed into lumber, cotton was ginned and corn meal was ground
all at the same pond. All the machinery, of course, was powered by water.
It took a long time to saw off a board with the old mill, he recalled. The
saw was like a straight stick with a single tooth on each end. If you carried
corn to be ground, you might have to wait until someone else got his cotton
ginned or got lumber sawed. I can still see the old fashioned cotton press
that was pulled by mules. Logs were floated down to the mill in the small
stream. Mr. Lucas remembers cutting sap ties as a boy and selling them to
the railroad men. He said that on the day that the Charl ton earthquake
came, August 31, 1886, the hickory nuts were shaken from the trees. There
was two distinct shocks. The first one knocked him spraddle-legged after
which he walked about one hundred yards before the next shock occurred.
Since the first school for Indians was established in 1885, I was anxious
to know if education had made any great difference in the years that followed.
Mr. Lucas was sure that it had. People were mean in the old days. There
was hardly ever a public gathering that didn't have .a fight or two. They
are mean yet, but nothing like the old days. Why, then it was nothing unusual
to see a fight at the churches. People just couldn't get together without
scrap ng. Seems like they are getting used to each other now.
L: I think that this interview with MackLucas (I believe tiat his name is
spelled Mack instead of Mac. They usually speak the name Mack in our valley
in that way.) ... The reason the Shake or the minor earthquake is so important
is that the Lumbee Indians date occurrences by the Shake. In other words,
it is a point in time to which they can look back. Somebody will say or used
to say anyway, "how old were you at the time of the Shake? how long was
that after the Shake?" In this way it became a central place or central
point in our history and this is important because this is the way the Indians
reckon time. They reckoned time by some great occurrence that took place in
their history in days past. New this is one method of doing it and this is
directly connected with Oral History or tradition. This is exactly the way it
was done and of course tradition is unwritten history. Somebody might
argue with that, but that is what it was. It was Oral History or tradition
that was more important tithe Indian than anybody else because he realized the
importance of it and very solemnly when a child reached a certain age the
Indian parents would call the children to their knee and impress upon them
the important facts relating to their lives that they felt that they should
-4- I/S 1, 4. i,
remember' 7e facts related to their Indian-ness, their status, or their
position among other groups. Many things are told to children in this way)
and it's still done today to some extent, although thank heavens we have
books and we have records today that we didn't have in the days past.
I want my son Ricky to read you an article which appeared in an old newspaper
called the Lumberton Argus. This article comes from the July 28, 1905,
edition of the Lumberton Argus, which no longer publishes but which is a
very important newspaper in the history of Robetson County because it was
edited by none other than John Charles McNeil, the very well known poet and
the first editor of the Lumberton Argus and he was editor of the Lumberton
Argus at the time he wrote this. He was born near Waygram; he was known
nationally; he was honored from one side of this state to the other and it,
is upon his word and upon other sources as well that the name Lumbee is
established. This is why that this is important. John Charles McNeil, the
poet, was so important to the history of this part of the country that I
want to impress it very much upon the mind of the reader. Just recently two
volumes of his poetry were reprinted by the University of North Carolina Press
at Chapel Hill. One was called Lyrics of Cottonland and another was called
'ir -5'6,/,5il', oL c
Songs Sad, Songs Merry or something like that .Tdon t remember exactly which
/r *' A\
came first, Songc-Mer y--r-Sngs--Sad-. Anyway, here is this story or this
comment made about Lumbee River tha4 shows not only the Indians loved the
river, but white people loved the river too, because John Charles McNeil was
certainly a white man. Well, he was the greatest scholar ever produced by
this county. There's no doubt about that. We did have a governor produced by
this county, but I still repeat my description of him. He was the greatest
scholar. He was a literary scholar true, but he was also a historical
scholar. I want you to hear this for yourself. Rick, I hope you can read
this well. Now Rick you have this article in your hand and I want you to
tell me what the source of this article is; in other words, where did it
come from? What is written on it? Will you read me what is written on this
article please, and then go ahead.
R: From Lumberton Argus, July 28, 1905, Lumber River, by John Charles McNeil.
Riding about the Lumber River to a man who has spent his summers in delight's
dalliance with her is like writing about a sweetheart. She is as coquetish,
as subject to change, as teasing as any girl 4d4-ever a SS__ And no
human angel ever possessed more variable hues and tints and shadows in her
misty eyes than this unconscious float whether a reflection of flags and
reeds and rushes or if below her banks and the yellow of gravel bottom
is shallow places darkens gradually to the black depths. She is a tortuous
delicious fleetbut she does not deserve the punishment put upon her by
(jo, that perverted that suggests
geographersXXXXIOKhave FKKwsKS her sweet Indian name of Lumbee which is something/
choking sawdust, rotting slabs, the shrill scream of the secular sight.
L: Excuse me right there Rick, now he is saying here,...he is referring here of
course, this is the description of Lumber River in contrast with the Lumbee
River. Will you please continue Rick?
R: Though she be now weded to civilization, she should not have been robbed of her
L: Now Rick, you are only thirteen, let me now interject this note here. Do you
know what he means what he means when he says she was robbed of her maiden
name? Which maiden name is he talking about?
R: Her name was Lumbee River but when she was married to civilization she
was changed to Lumber River.
L: Good. Go ahead Rick. Thank you for that footnote Rick,
R: But herplaymates know that she is as reckless of her name as the rose is.
She is just as wild wandering about in her solemn sweat as she was when the
Indians dubbed her Lumbee. Her old HSKgl&K /except the Indian have never
deserted her. The coon, the possum, the wildcat,-Lumbertonians MXMXx3[8
KMM the writer's interest in wildcats4-the mink, otter, turkey, iMKduck,
heron, - known as the hyern, and the flyer of the creek, the kingfish,
and they will never desert her.
SHe is saying that her oid friends, the river creatures, that is the friends
other than the Indians. In other words, this word in this concept means her
other friends other than the Indians. He is not really saying here that the
Indians have deserted her. Do you read it that way?
R: Yes sir.
L: He is saying that her other friends other than the Indians have never deserted
her. There isn't any comma there is there?
L: It's a straight reading. Her other friends other than the Indians, in other
words, in addition to the Indians, have never deserted her. Would you please
continue? I am sorry to interrupt you so much but this is very important.
R: And they will never desert her for there is no way to eoet them from their
swampy realm. They know how to take care of themselves. The naturalist
Extinction of the wood ducks say "Oh he is
such a gentle unsuspecting birdand he is at the mercy of the sportsman."
That was some other wood duck, not the A' -- (costume
that steals about the cr(V1f7 and among the tussocks.
L: With that I will interject another footnote. As you know a tussock is
the roots of treewhich have grown out of the ground into the water. That
is what we refer to as tussocks. Go ahead.
R: Among the tussocks of the Lumbee fr whips long out of reach overhead. He
is everything but unsuspecting and watchful. I have KHMNR at baited places
half a day for him to come. That buddy and I were quick as the thunder.
L: Hold it right there Rick please. Excuse me for interrupting you again but
this definitely shows the intimacy between John Charles McNeil and the river.
Here he has and is certainly showing affection as he lies along the banks
of the river dangling his hook into the water,and he did this as a child
and now he is writing as a man, as an educated man and as the editor of
the Lumberton Argus. Continue please.
R: Let the yellow flies do their worst. At last I would see him gliding at
the shallow among the big bowls of gum and cypress. He would make the
L: Just a moment, a gum tree is called the eucalyptus tree.
R: He would not take the air for it, Pilently as he came he slid away and gave
0 v5nc27"S t4 0 `l --
me a chance to crush a mosquito. es cautiously dowd te-tream of
"a foggy morning ?h ,'Jjr1 to creep up on him aa-the waters grasses only to hear
"a startled scream and the whistle of his /f around the
L: Now this is a man writing realisticly about the river and at this pointthe
poet is not writing as a poet. He is describing the yellow fly and the other
things that poets usually don't write about when they are writing a poem.
You can see that he is being very realistic and he is describing this with
photographic reality because he refers to the yellow fly and certainly no
yellow fly has ever been considered to be poetic. Some of them really do
exist along the Lumbee River up to this day. They are very distracting
when you sit down to fish and a yellow fly bites you. If you don't know
what a yellow fly is and one bites you, you will certainly have a frightening
R: But these stragglers about her trail are not her familiars. They-ere cl
a bass, known locally as trout or chud, the pickerel, the red belly, the
sand perch, and the glazed face -----,o These are her household.
The cat which inhabits our waters and moves like A- /) ir f ,
the Negro by night, deserves no celebration here. The bass of late years
seem to he able to increase in proportion as the pickerel decreased. The
red belly is good to eat, but he is rather /3ier nEi He thinks
too much of his hide. You must set your hooks for him and go away back
out of sight and sit on a log until you see your pole tugging. But the
bass and pickerel are not such precious cowards. They will not give a
good fAfc bait to go by if the shadow of a man is on the pool.
When the troll rolls around the surface flashing up the drop from its
shiney rings all think about is which will be the first to arrive. But
the denizens of the swamp and stream are not all the charms which this sweet-
heart stream has to offer. Her swimming is a delight and a panacea of boating
amid her bird tijY) Jsolitudes cannot be equalled elsewhere. There is undying
romance in au /e p ahead and way down
below. Squads of boys /u '' i C v '
obstructed with mountains of debris worked with the upmost gusto in order
at last to see the remainder of the pile yielded to the water's shoulder
and stampeded to the open stream below. In summer all the thrushes seem to
seek th$ cathedral swamp. The air is wYM MRftr with the scent of /reN/wood
blossoms and bathed with water's honeysuckle and musical with the busy bliss
of bees. There is never a time when wonders do not wait in wakes and
copses, some furred animal never seen before, some secluded colony of snakes,
some wren nest built securely above her and eddy some strange new flower
worth taking home fr the girls. Lumber River is a second mother, XKXXXXK a lesser
X lover MXP to all the dwellers on her countryside. And whatever the prose
7f t f the boy who has spent some idle years with her
should never regret his lot. And whatever happiness awaits him, it cannot
eclipse her XSXKM memory nor divorce him from her heart. Come summer, I throw
myself on her breast again and feel her cool soft arms around me.
L: That's the end of the article?
R: Yes sir.
L: This article was reprinted in the 1951 (February 1, 1951) historical edition
celebrating the eightieth anniversary of the publication of the Lumberton, N. C.,
obrs n of which J. A. Sharp, Jr., wa. editorand this is the end of this
article. Thank you very much Rick. You did real well. I'm proud of you. A
great gift of nature and people are very disrespectful. People ignore it,
people pollute it, people even argue about the name, people even dispute the
fact that it had an Indian name. This irritates me very much because I went
to a lot of trouble to find out all these things. I studied the history of
this river and of these people for eighteen years before I ever sat down to
write my book. When people come into this area and spend three days, they go
back and write their book and this makes me so irritated I could spit. YouD i
know, they ignore all the time that has been spent by people who love this
river. They ignore people like John Charles McNeil who loved this river. He
was a white man but he loved this river and he knew every inch of it. He went
swimming in it, he fished along its banks, he loved it as ardently as any
Indian could ever love -c. He was a white man, but I love him because he
,foved this area and he loved its people and he understood its people. I
mean to tell you that he understood all its people. Not just his people, but
the black people and the Indian people. He was a man of great understanding,
and I respect and admire this man so tremendously. He was such a scholar. It
is a shame and disgraceful that he is ignored in relation to this and sometimes
people write from as far away as Raleigh who have never even visited this area,
some of them. They say "oh this is a name popularized by John Charles McNeil,"
and they pass it off in this way and this isn't true at all. John Charles
McNeil popularized the name all right, but he did so in pointing out that this
was the Indian name. What I am trying to do is to establish John Charles
McNeil as an authority on this thing. He is the best authority in the history
of this county on this particular thing cause nobody has ever been closer
to this river, nobody has ever been closer to its people, nobody has ever
known thessthings better than he or sought them out. I hope that anybody
who writes about this river will certainly consider him an authority because
he was an authority on this river. There's no doubt about that. He is the
oldest authority except for the colonial records which did establish, they
did make contact or use Drowning Creek as a focal point. Ladees, for example,
are said to be so many yards or feet or miles or what have you, in relation to
Drowning Creek. So in the early days the white people had absolutely nothing
to do with Indian people of this area. There was no relationship at all between
them. There was no communication, no nothing, it was as though the Indians were
heathen people as though the Indian people were nothing. They didn't count for
anything. So they were not consulted. The first argument recorded in the
white man's record with relation to this valley is that a white surveyor came
and started surveying land. The Indians alone occupied the area before they
came and so there was an argument and this white surveyor was shot. Evidently
by the Indians, naturally they were prejudiced about it. They were prejudiced
towards the Indians because of this incident which is natural enough. This
is not unnatural and nobody knew how many Indians there were and actually
nobody gave a darn how many Indians there were. The only time they became
interested in the Indians was during a state of war. Then the only Indians
they counted or tried to get figures on were the fighting men. They didn't
care how big the families were or any of the facts relating to the family.
All they were worried about was i-f-Ghe-were going to have trouble with these
people and if so how many fighting men do they have and how many people are
we concerned about. This was their only concern until many, many, many years
later and only nt---hey are beginning to take an interest in other things.
The Indian has always been regarded as somebody who is opposed to them and
it is very sad that he has been considered to be an alien in his own land
for so many years. As I said in my book the most ironic story in American
history, much of all that America ever was, for much of all that America is,
forever more shall be, Americans, all Americans, are indebted to the American
Indians and our group of Indians is not so much different than these other
groups because we form a part of that. Now excuse me for preaching, but this
subject is very close to my heartland I get very irritated when people try to
prove tie contrary. This is not the only reference to the river. So whomever
writes about this area I hope they will take EKI....be scholarly enough and
honestly enough to take into account that the original name of this river,
the original name of this valley, was the Lumbee River Valley and this was
the Lumbee River. Now excuse me again for being preachybut I just had to
say this. I want to point out again that Drowning Creek refers to the upper
portion of Lumber River and you uust remember that the Lumber River, as it
-7 z LUK e d tl4R A
now is called on the mapshas its rise in Moore County which is upstream from
us, far upstream from us and it flows down from Moore County where it begins
as a mere trickle and naturally it broadens as it comes downstream until
it reaches =-rt County at one end and emerges from Robertson County
from the same end after weaving its way all over the county and watering
this fertile valley which has been called second in richness only to the
soil of the Nile River Valley. Now Ricky, you are only thirteen.and you
have read this article by John Charles McNeil. Have you ever read this
article before today?
L: Then you have just read it as we recorded. Now Rick, as a boy with
a boy's mind, and I haven't prompted you in this, would you please be
kind enough to tell me in your own words what you understand from this
article by John Charles McNeil. In your own words and in your own way,
and in your own language, Rick, I would like you to give us your impression
if you could. Whatever you say is all right. If you disagree with me please
disagree with me if you disagree with anything you have heard me say during
the course of this recording. Will you do that for me please?
R: Well, see it's about this boy who lived along the river and swam in it,
fished in it. He loves the river, but then he haq to move. As he grew up
he always remembers the river and he loved it and no matter what happens,
he 'd always love to come back if he could. When he finally does come back,
he writes a story sorta like the story of his life about the river.
L: That's good Rick. Do you think...what do you think the first name of the
river was, judging from what --e.MN. said and what you just read? What
do you think about it, now forget that you are a Lumbee Indian boy. Just think
about it as though you had never heard about anything of this area ever
before and tell me wha you think was the first name of the river?
R: Well, the way he put it, it was Lumbee and then these geographers decided to
call it Lumber RiverAcause lumber logs and trees were floated down to the
mill that way because they are easier to transport. So they just decided
to call it Lumber River, but it originally was Lumbee.
L: Well thank you very much Rick, there you. have it as it was the testimony
of my thirteen year old son. Of course, I have to admit that Rick loves
the river too, becausee he loves to go swimming. Rick,/you love to-vswem
in the river?
R: Yes sir, that's about the best place that you can get in the water.
L: Isn't that about the best part of your summer?
R: Yea--especially in the river. I like to go swimming. It's fun in the
L: Rick, are you afraid of the river?
L: Were you ever nearly drowned in it?
L: When was this?
R: Last summer-It was me, Connia, my sister, and her two little boys were out
aIxiaMg playing. One of her two little boys had this candy that floated
away and I went to get itand I stepped i a great big hole and almost drowned.
L: Rick, would you say then that Lumber River is a dangerous river?
R: Not if you know where you are going and what you are doing.
To beginners it is.
L: But you didn't do that. That's a good answer. Daddy is very pleased that
you do love the river and who is it that encourages you to go swimming ...
do I encourage you to go swimming or do you ask me to take you swimming and
your brothers and so on?
R: I ask anybody who will go with me. As long as I get there.
L: This is the happy part of your summertime, Rick?
R: Yes sir.
L; Well that's great Rick. Thank you very much. You are very sweet and very
understanding. I'm sure that you have added much to our argument that the
river is indeed close to all of us and that it was first called the Lumbee
River instead of Lumber River. Thank you so much Rick. You have been so
kind and ;Lways helping and you have never complained about anything. Daddy
is very proud of you for it. Thank you Rick. That will be all.
Well, this concludes side one, tape four of the recordings prepared for the
Doris Duke Foundation. Thank you very much, Rick.