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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
L: This is Janie Maynor Locklear with the Doris Duke Foundation and
American Indian Histories Program under the auspices of the
University of Florida. Today is November 27, 1972. I am riding
in a car between Pembroke and Lumberton, North Carolina, with
Mrs. Bessie Oxendine Ransom. Mrs. Ransom, could you tell me a
little bit about your birthday and how old you are? When you
R: I was born on April 11, 1896.
L: That makes you how old?
R: Seventy-six years old.
L: Mrs. Ransom, you come from a family of how many children?
R: I came from a family of eight children.
L: What were your parent's names?
R: My father's name is James Wesley Oxendine. My mother's name is
Eliza Jane Oxendine.
L: What are the names of your brothers and sisters?
R: My oldest brother's name is Charles W. Oxendine, now deceased.
My oldest sister's name is Eliza Ann Oxendine Hunt, now deceased.
My next oldest brother was William Henry Oxendine, now deceased.
L: What were the other brothers?
R: My next oldest brother was Thomas Hilliard Oxendine.
L: He is a retired school teacher is he not?
R: He is a retired school teacher. My next oldest sister was Maggie
Lee Oxendine Maynor, retired. And my next oldest brother was
Clifton Oxendine, now retired.
L: He retired from Pembroke State University?
R: [From the] state university, an assistant professor.
L: And then there was one other child.
R: My youngest sister Elizabeth Oxendine Maynor.
L: Mrs. Oxendine Maynor.
R: She is retired.
L: She is a retired school teacher is she not?
L: Mrs. Ransom can you tell me a little about your childhood? Where
were you born and [tell me] a little bit about your father's
experience. As I understand it he used to work some down in
Georgia. Were any of the children born down in Georgia, did any
of them live there?
R: Yes, there were three children born in Georgia. When they became
old enough to begin school, my mother and the children came home
L: You mean came back to Robeson County?
R: Came back to Robeson County to stay, and he remained in Georgia.
I believe he worked some in Florida.
L: What type of work was he doing?
R: He was a cooper at a turpentine business, [he] made barrels.
L: He originally left this area and went down to Georgia in order to
R: Yes, there was a debt on his father's estate which was willed to
him and he went down there to make money to pay off the debt.
L: What was his father's name?
R: His father's name was John J. Oxendine.
L: So after your mother returned home the other children were born
here in Robeson County?
L: Is that correct? Did your father continue working in Georgia or
did he eventually come back.
R: He worked there until about 1901.
L: Can you tell me a little bit about your education, as a child?
When did you start school and where. Under what conditions were
you being educated?
R: Well, when I was six years old I began school at what is now New
Hope Community, the old New Hope's place. [We] walked to school,
it was just about a mile.
L: What type of schooling arrangements did you have? Did you have a
local Indian teacher?
R: Yes, we had a local Indian teacher, a one room building.
L: Do you remember now who the teacher was?
R: W. L. Moore.
L: Then I guess all the children at that time were going to the same
R: No, we just had little beginners and as they advanced they were
separated by what they knew, we did not have grades.
L: While you were in school there at Pate, North Carolina, was it
possible for someone to finish high school?
R: No, not in that school.
L: Later on the school was moved to where?
R: Pembroke, North Carolina.
L: At that time, in what type building did you attend school when
the school was moved to Pembroke?
R: It was a two-story wooden frame building.
L: Can you give me some thought as to how far the Indian children
came to go to school there? Did they come from Saddle Creek
Community down around Fairmont or did those communities have
their own schools?
R: No, they did not. They had little one teacher schools. But if
they were up to about sixth or seventh grade they came to
Pembroke. They called it a high school. But it was really not a
high school at that time. But when they came up to what we say
now is the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, they came to
Pembroke. They walked a distance of anywhere from five to ten
L: Later on, after that two story building was not sufficient, the
real beginning of public education for this community...the
legislature appropriated aid and funds to build a brick building.
could you tell me a little bit about that.
R: I remember very well when that brick building was built. We had
a L. R. Barsack from Lumberton, he was a representative and he
put in a bill to get money to build a brick building for $75,000.
L: What is the name of that building?
R: Old Main.
L: Then, was this the beginning, at this time, was it possible to
get a high school diploma after Old Main was built?
L: Did you continue your education there at Old Main up until you
finished high school?
R: Yes, I continued there until I finished high school.
L: You know what year you finished high school?
R: No, I do not.
L: Upon finishing high school, after you left the Pembroke school
there, did you further your education anywhere?
R: Well, I taught school in the county for a few years. I began
teaching about 1914 in the county. I taught a short session in
South Carolina in 1913.
L: Did you go away at any time to some type of school?
R: After that, I had a teacher at the Pembroke high school from
Pennsylvania, Miss McCulough. She encouraged me to go to
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and take a business course. That was in
L: Tell me a little bit about that experience.
R: I took that course in business, stenography and shorthand,
typewriting. Then I remained in school there for practically a
year. At that time in the spring of 1919, there came a big
demand for workers in the War Risk Insurance business or
department in Washington, D. C. They sent to this school for
people to come and work in those offices. My sister and I were
both in school there, and so we had not graduated. But we came
on to Washington and worked. While we worked there in the War
Risk Insurance building we had a class to go to at night and
finish our business course.
L: Now which sister is that you are referring to?
R: Eliza Jane Oxendine.
L: She was later a Hunt?
L: I think she has told me on a previous occasion at that time you
saw a president come down Pennsylvania Avenue?
R: Oh yes. That was when John J. Perishing came home form overseas.
They had this big parade and we were privileged to see that
parade; the president and everything.
L: Do you remember which president it was?
R: 1918 or 1920.
R: Let's see what president was that?
L: Woodrow Wilson?
R: It must have been. Yes, Woodrow Wilson.
L: When you entered the business school in Pennsylvania were there
any entrance requirements? Did you have to fill out applications
to get in or did the teacher at that time help you get into
R: Miss McCulough helped us get in. I guess we did fill out some
L: Did you travel from here to Pennsylvania by train or just how did
R: Yes we went by train.
L: Did the two of you girls go alone?
L: About how old were you at that time?
R: About twenty-two.
L: How long did you work in Washington?
R: We worked practically a year.
L: Then what did you do following that period?
R: I came home and began to teach school.
L: Back to Robeson County?
R: Back to Robeson Count and taught school. [I] taught at Piney
Grove Indian School in Robeson County for the next year.
L: Can you tell me a little bit about when you did start teaching?
Do you remember anything about how much money you made?
R: [The] first months we taught for about $25 a month.
L: Twenty-five dollars a month. Did you have to drive long
distances to work or did you board?
R: We boarded when I was not teaching at home around Pate. When I
went to Lumberton or Arlington or places like that, I would go on
Sunday and spend the week and come home on the weekends.
L: Did you own a car at that time Mrs. Ransom?
R: In 1928, yes we had a car. My sister and I had one together.
L: Did you ever teach school when you had to commute by an
automobile. Did you ever have to ride the train to work or
R: No, I would always board. I would ride the train that goes by
and they would meet me.
L: Well, we were talking about teaching school here in Robeson
County. During your teaching career can you tell me any special
occasions that you might have had or what holidays were festive?
Did you have a May Day celebration or field days or what were the
traditional type celebrations that the children engaged in years
R: Well, we had what was called Commencement Day, that was the day
that we would meet at Old Main.
L: That was a county affair?
R: County Commencement. The grades would go there and they would be
a contest going on between the children of the lower grades to
see who had learned the most words. I remember that during one
of those commencement exercises, my brother's son, Thomas H.
Oxendine and another girl won out in that contest.
L: Was that a spelling bee of sorts?
R: They took the words from the primer to see how many words you
L: So this was a traditional thing. Now did only the Indian schools
participate in this?
R: That is right just the Indian schools for a few years. I do not
know just how long they [did this].
L: And it was called County Commencement?
L: Well, for about how many years did you teach?
R: I taught thirty-eight sessions. Over a period of forty-three
L: Did you live then in Robeson County, or did you leave the county
anymore to live?
L: You were married in what year Mrs. Ransom?
L: And who is your husband?
R: George Ransom.
L: What community was he from and where were you living at the time
of your marriage?
R: He was from Fairmont Community, near McDonald.
L: Were you teaching school at the time of your marriage?
L: Were you teaching down in that community?
R: No, I was teaching at Bethel Hills Community out from Lumberton.
L: Did you later teach down in Fairmont Community?
L: Did you live in that community after your marriage?
R: Yes, I lived there and taught there at Fairmont and Bethel and
L: Did you not later move to Pembroke Community?
R: After I married in 1934, I moved to the Pembroke Community in
L: What year did you retiree from teaching?
L: Can you tell me a little bit about the Indian school system? How
it later became a part of the total county school system, where
all three races are a part of the Robeson County school system.
Was this the case in the beginning of your teaching career?
R: Always as far back as I can remember.
L: With a county board of education that would rule over it?
R: That is right.
L: I know that Mr. Y. A. Talenent is the superintendent of Robeson
County schools presently. Can you remember any past
R: Yes. J. R. Poole of Lumberton, he was superintendent. I taught
with him for many years and I do not remember when I left the
county. The last four years I taught I was in Columbus County,
L: After Mr. Poole do you remember who succeeded him?
R: Yes, Mr. Pew.
L: Do you remember any other? Was there not a Mr. Littlefield at
R: Littlefield succeeded Pew.
L: It is quite evident that you have had a long teaching career. Is
there anything else that you would like to add about some of
these events, or some particular situation that might have
occurred while you were teaching that you think might be
beneficial for us to know? In your early childhood, Mrs. Ransom,
were you always encouraged to continue through school or did you
have to stay out of school a lot to work on the farm?
R: Well, I was encouraged to go on. Of course after I began to
teach then I did not attend college. I did my work toward a
college degree in summer schools and in extension places.
L: When did you receive your college degree?
L: At Pembroke State University?
L: When you were a child growing up you said you were encouraged to
continue your schooling, was it necessary for your father to keep
you out of school very much to work on the farm?
R: Not very much. He would let us go to school and if he really
needed us a whole lot he would come for us at the noon hour and
take us home to work.
L: Back then did you mind the nine month school system, or just how
did the school system work?
R: No, they had, for a good while, it was six months. Then finally
it went to eight months. I do not believe it was ever four
months, but I am not sure.
L: Did you not at one time run a short day session during the season
when the children did need to be on the farm?
R: Yes that is right. We would have a couple of months school in
the summer, maybe four in the winter, fall, and spring sessions.
Then we would have two months in the summer.
L: I see. You said you retired from teaching school in 1957. But,
before we discuss what you have done since retirement, I would
like to talk a little bit about some experiences that I have
heard you talk about when you were one of the few people in the
community at that time that did have a car. You did some
traveling, taking members of the community to different places?
Could you relate some of those experiences for us?
R: Yes, I would take several people to Duke Hospital. Either as
patients or to visit patients. I remember taking one child to
the welfare department by car to Gasonia, North Carolina (the
crippled children's hospital). I also took veteran's families to
Camp Jackson, South Carolina and the veteran's hospital at
L: What are some of the things that you do remember about the
situation with the Indian people here during the war and the
depression years? Can you remember any particulars that you
might like to tell us about that?
R: Well, many of the boys had to go to service, but there were some
that were excused because they had hardships in the families, had
wives and children, or their parents were disabled. They would
be excused. They would get out of going to the Army. I had two
brothers, they enlisted. But they were conscripted to go in
1917. They never did get anywhere, well, one brother got Fort
Jackson, South Carolina. He never was moved away from there. He
was going to the hospital corp. They of course could not afford
to let him go overseas because he started with that hospital.
Then they had the flu epidemic and he was kept busy there;
carrying, escorting, dead persons.
L: This was World War I.
R: Yes, World War I.
L: Was there any resentment, or what was the attitude of the Indian
people, in general, about having to serve in the armed forces.
As being Indian people, did they feel that the majority of people
felt like it was their patriotic duty? Was there any resentment,
like there is today amongst Indian people about having to pull
their time in the United States military service?
R: None that I heard of that amounted to anything. They were all
proud to go to the service.
L: Very good. You were teaching all during this time though were
L: What about supplies in schools? How did you go about getting
your text books and things like that?
R: We did not get very many supplies and we had to purchase the text
L: You mean the pupils?
R: Yes, the pupils. Parents had to buy the books, a pad of paper
and supplies for the teacher.
L: I see. What about desks and things of this sort, did it come
from the county?
R: Well, they got some make shift shelves and desks were some kind
of carton. In the early school teaching that I did, the
community men (carpenters) would come in and make the desks.
R: They were home made.
L: Now what about heating in the early days when you were in the one
room school, was that the teacher's responsibility to see that
the fire was made in time for the students to come?
R: Oh yes. Some time the smart students would come out and help
make the fire in the morning. We were using wood, and most of
the time they would go out in the woods. The boys cut the wood
and would bring it in. Then we would keep the heat going during
L: Well, it has been real interesting talking to you about the years
you did teach in the Indian schools in Robeson County. I would
like to talk with you about when you retired in 1957.
L: I would like to find out some of the things that you have done
since you retired from teaching school in 1956. Tell me a little
bit about what you have been doing and how you got started at
doing those type of things.
R: Well, since farmers began to be covered by social security after
1955, I began to help them go about filing out their farm income
tax so they would be able to draw benefits (social security
benefits). I did much of that work since 1956.
L: How did you ever get started doing something like this?
R: Well, I just wanted something to do. I just wanted to do
something more or less as a public service. And I began by
filling out my husbands papers for social security benefits and
at the same time I would take them to the central office which
was at Bethel at that time. I took the clients up to Bethel.
Sometimes making as many as five trips a week, and getting them
signed up for their benefits. I did not charge for this service,
it was just a matter of public service. If they felt like paying
me a little something, car expenses for going up there and back,
I would take it after they began to draw their benefits (just a
L: I guess most of the people were not able to give you anything at
R: No, they were just poor farmers.
L: Right. Most of them probably being share croppers.
R: Yes, they were mostly share croppers.
L: Tenant farmers.
R: A few landlords, but they were small farmers, they were not big
farmers. Nothing like that.
L: Tenant farmer mostly?
L: You said you might take them up to the social security office.
L: What problems have you run into about ages and this type thing
among the Indian people?
R: Yes, I would help them to establish their ages. If they did not
have an old family Bible say forty or fifty years before they
were eligible to draw and it had to be put in ink. I found many
of those old Bibles in the country that was filled out by the
school teacher, way back, you know. They would have school in
their community, and maybe they would go spend nights with these
people and while they were there they would get them to write the
children's names in the Bible. And the date of birth, they
always put it in ink. Because they were mostly school teachers
that was recording those names, and if they got a Bible like that
up there at the Federal Office, they would always accept that as
their age. Occasionally we would have to send to the Census
Bureau in Pittsburgh, Kansas. The office supplied me with blanks
and I would fill them out for them and send them to Pittsburgh.
L: What about the census back then, was that the first year?
R: Well, the 1880 census office records were burned. After that,
1890, we could always fill in, but if a person was born around
L: As a child do you remember anything about the census taker?
R: No, I did not remember those folks coming along mostly. I just
remember the school committeeman would come along and take the
census. But I did not know they did that, for I did not realize
the United States Census [did that].
L: What do you mean when you say the school committeeman?
R: Well, we had at that time, our little school had three
committeeman in the community of their own race. They would go
around every fall. One of them, the chairman of the committee or
the secretary, would go around and take all the children's names
that were eligible to start school that fall. They would put in
a register and the teacher had those children's names in the
L: I see what you mean. How have you found that in sending for ages
and records, how have you found that in the U. S. [Census]
Bureau's figures, do you normally find a person's age this way?
R: Yes, we mostly find the year they were born. They did not give
the month and the date. They would always give the year that
they were born and what family they were born in. They were
enumerated in a family of such and such a person, you know, the
man and wife.
L: So you did feel like that census takers back then...you do not
have any thought as to whether they were white people who came in
R: No, I do not know who did the taking of the census. I would
imagine it was white people because there were not too many of
the older people who were educated enough to have gone through
and made those records.
L: So you say you helped people sign up for their social security,
and this would necessitate things like filling back years income
tax and so forth?
R: Oh yes. After 1955 came around, they could not beyond 1955
because the law just came in 1955. This is for Farm Social
Security now, not for public workers. They would allow us to go
back three years and file their farm [income tax] if they were
delinquent. If they were sixty-five years old and they wanted to
start drawing right away, they could fill out the 1956 and go
back and fill out the 1955 and pay the penalty and the interest
and they would be eligible to start drawing.
L: Have you found out that most of the people, I am sure, are quite
appreciative. But if you had to estimate, how many people have
you helped sign up for Social Security in the past fifteen years
or so, what type of estimate would come off the top of your head?
I know you have not kept any records.
R: No, I did not keep the records, but the first few years I worked,
I would say the first five years, I probably helped 1,000 people.
Then since that time I still [probably helped] two or three
hundred a year.
L: Yes, you are still offering this service.
R: In the last six or seven years.
L: Can you remember any specific cases that seemed to be unique and
that you might have had trouble getting an age, and you finally
found out later on or something?
R: Yes, we had very many that we had a lot of trouble about getting
their ages. I remember one man which we could not find any
census record in the census office. He was born way back before
1880. We had trouble getting his age established. He tried to
establish his age by the date he got married. We searched all
through South Carolina, and we never could find where he got
married, or when he got married. So we finally had to get
affidavits signed here by some of the older people who were
almost as old as he is that remembered that he and his wife did
live together as man and wife. Even though they could never find
any record of his marriage, we got affidavits from two or three
people that know that he did live as man and wife so they, the
Social Security people, accepted that he was married to this
L: You have also continued to help these same people, to some degree
each year, when it comes time for them to file their income tax.
R: Oh yes, every year. I have some now waiting.
L: They always come to you to ask your assistance again.
L: I know you have done a couple other things other than trying to
help the community in this. Did you not do some part time work a
couple of times?
R: Yes, I worked with Suffox County.
L: Glenn County, Tri-county?
R: Tri-county Community Project, and the first work I did with them
was when we were getting medicare. People signed up for
medicare. If they reached sixty-five and was wanting to get
their medicare cards so that they would be eligible to get
hospitalization, which did not come about until 1966. I was
chairman of the committee of ten people in the county. I had ten
people working under me and I was the chairman. We were signing
up the people in the entire Robeson county.
L: I see.
R: Then I worked under the Man Power Program.
L: What did you do then?
R: That was more or less a surveying of the community, and the
section of the country, who was needing work. How the folks were
generally getting along and if there were those that were needing
work to do. We investigated their homes and if they were
working. Why they could not get out and get some kind of a job.
L: In your vast experience in dealing with the Indian people in
Robeson County, do you still see that there is a lot of poverty
existing in the County? I know there have been improvements, but
working with the people like you have, can you still see that
there is a lot of poverty?
R: Yes, I see that there are a lot of things that ought to be looked
after, and gone into, as to the aged people in the community.
Lots of those that are really aged and indigent that are not so
old, they are not capable of taking care of themselves. They
need people to help them to contact these social service centers
and places where they can get some help.
L: Right I see what you mean. You also were a Notary Public, is
R: Yes, I have used that just to help out the community. I have
lots of people come to me after night. There is no money in it.
But it is just a public service. People come to me after night
some time when it is inconvenient to get up with a Notary Public
in town or anybody. So they know that I have a sign out there on
the road. They know that I am a Notary Public. They come here
all time of the night.
L: Well thank you Mrs. Ransom. I think we have about finished. We
are back from our trip to Lumberton, North Carolina and we are
back at Mrs. Ransom's home. Approximately two miles out of
Pembroke on highway 710, near Harper's Ferry Church. It really
has been nice talking to you and thank you very much.