This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: George Ransom
Interviewer: Janie Maynor Locklear
May 9, 1973
L: This is Janie Maynor Locklear with the Doris Duke Foundation
American Indian Oral Histories Program under the auspices of the
University of Florida. Today is May 9, 1973, and I am at the
home of Mr. George Ransom on Highway 711 just about two miles
west of Pembroke. I am visiting in his home and present with us
is his wife, Mrs. Bessie Ransom. Mr. Ransom could you tell me
how old you are?
R: Well, I guess I can.
L: How old are you?
L: When were you eighty-seven?
R: The sixteenth of last June.
L: Where were you born, Mr. Ransom?
R: [I was] born here on the Henry Gotham place.
L: Is that near Pembroke?
R: Just east of Pembroke.
L: What was your mother and father's name?
R: My mother was named Sally Jane and My father was named Robert. A
lot of them called him Bob.
L: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
R: I had five sisters and one brother.
L: What were your sister's names?
R: Dolly--she was the oldest--Mary, Anne, and Lucy. The little girl
that died, they never named her, of course.
L: And your brother's name was what?
L: Now, how many of you are still living? Just yourself?
R: Just one.
L: How many children do you have, Mr. Ransom?
R: We had about twelve or thirteen of them.
L: Did you, at one time, live down around Fairmont?
R: I was raised down there.
L: You were born near Pembroke and then your family moved?
R: My mother moved because my father was killed in Marlborough
County. It used to be Marlborough County but they changed it to
L: I did not know that. So, now it is Scotland County.
R: Yes. John T. Fletcher's place was south of Laurinsburg and that
is where my daddy was buried.
L: So then your family moved to Fairmont after that?
R: My mother moved back down here. My daddy had built a house on
this place over yonder and stayed there. He had to get away from
there. The old man put it all in Benny's hands, you know, to
look after. My daddy was young. My uncle would not leave his
place. But my daddy wanted to make some money, I suppose, so he
moved off. He went up in Scotland, in Marlborough County, to
quarry. That is where he got killed.
L: Then you moved to Fairmont?
R: No. Moved back down there.
L: Oh, okay.
R: We moved back down to the same old house. We had to leave there
to live. My mother had a sister--Mahoney's mother, Mary Ann was
her name, Bill Locklear's wife--and she moved down and stayed
with them one year, in the house with them. She moved out after
one year and went over there on John Roland's place and cooked
for Gordon Wiggins.
L: Was Gordon Wiggins a white man?
R: Yes, he was a white man. Old man Wiggins stayed out from Hickory
L: Can you remember when Pembroke used to be called Scuffletown?
R: Yes, oh yes.
L: Do you have any idea why they started calling it Pembroke?
R: They just wanted to change the name of it, just like a lot of
things that are changing. They changed it to Pembroke.
L: So when you were a little boy, Pembroke was called Scuffletown?
L: Can you tell me a little bit about the churches around here? Do
you know anything about how the churches were organized? Did
they, at one time, have white missionaries come around here to
teach? Do you remember?
R: I do not know anything about that. The only church that was
around here in this community was New Hope.
L: So, it was one of the first ones around here.
R: My old grandmother used to ride a horse across the river to go to
Hope's. That is the way she came to the church, she would ride a
L: What were your grandparent's name?
R: I will have to study on that a little bit. I know it, too.
Allen Lowery and Polly Lowry.
L: And what relation were they to the famous Henry Berry Lowry?
R: They were his mother and father.
L: They were Henry Berry Lowry's mother and father and your
R: That is right.
L: So your mother was Henry Berry's sister?
R: That is right, the baby girl.
L: The baby girl in the family.
R: There were only two girls in the family. Dick Oxendine's wife
stayed here in Lumberton. Used to have a store there in
L: She was Henry Berry's sister?
R: Yes. Of course, he was raised right there in the family. I know
a whole lot about him, he was a little elder than me.
L: When you were a young boy growing up, I know you heard your
mother talk about Henry Berry. What did you hear about Henry
Berry? What kind of person did you find he was?
R: Well, he was a person that tended to his own business. He did
not bother nobody that did not bother him.
L: Can you tell me what you learned were the reasons behind him
doing some of the things that he did? What happened to his
father and brother?
R: They were killed.
L: How were they killed?
R: Bobby McKenzie had them killed.
L: Is it true that they had to dig their own graves?
R: Yes. They took them down to the flat over where the little
church is. They had Grandmother, Aunt Hattie, Uncle Gene and two
or three more locked up in the smokehouse. You see, Grandaddy
and Uncle Billy were working in the shop. They came and got them
and locked them up in the smokehouse. Then they decided to go
back and get Granddaddy and Uncle William. When they went back,
Uncle William cut that rope and ran. They shot him. Crippled
him. They carried them down there in the Flat and made them dig
L: Have you ever been to those graves? Are they marked?
R: No, they are not.
L: Would it be possible to find them, do you think?
R: No. It has been cleared and MacKenzie never seen them.
L: Oh, you mean it is a field now?
L: It is a shame that there were not markers put onto graves like
R: That is right.
L: These people that did this, they were called the Home Guard?
L: What was the Home Guard? Were they something like Vigilantes or
R: Yes. They had authority.
R: If you did not do like they said, they could take you out and
L: So, they made the laws themselves and the Indian people did not
have any say about anything then, did they?
R: No, not a bit.
L: If something happened to them, they really did not have any place
to go then did they?
R: No. Did not have any help at all.
L: The man that you said had them killed, what was his name?
R: Bob MacKenzie.
L: What was he, at the time, sheriff or something?
R: Well, he was a kind of a leader. If he did not like you he could
just go out and get him up a crowd of men and take you out and
give you a good whipping or kill you. There would be nothing to
it. He had a hundred men at that house the morning that he shot
L: How old was Henry Berry when they shot his brother and father?
R: I do not know.
L: Was he a young boy then?
R: Yes. Well, he was a young man, but he was married. He was
married to Aunt Rhoda. Rhoda Strong.
L: Now, is it true that he vowed at that time to get even with those
people that killed his father and brother, or did you ever hear
that he did this?
R: No. He never did vow it then, somehow or another.
L: What about the courts back then, did they have them? Do you
know whether they had any courts where they put people on trial?
Did you ever hear tell of any of the Lowry gang being on trial?
L: But they did hang one of them, did they not?
L: I believe his name was Simon Oxendine. Where did Henry Berry and
his wife live?
R: They stayed over here on the sand gulch.
L: Over here near the sand cut?
R: Yes. Mark Sanderson's place.
L: Who were some of the children that Henry Berry had, do you know
any of them?
R: No, I do not especially know them. You see, at that time, we
were so far apart that we never did get to see any of our
kinfolks that lived up there. We stayed down around Fairmont and
they stayed up in here to Saddletree.
L: What about the times that he broke out of Jail? I know one time
he broke out of jail from Wilmington. Did you ever hear him talk
about those times?
R: Yes. He broke jail at Wilmington and came home.
L: He came back home?
R: Yes. He said when he came through Lumberton, day was breaking.
They took the chains and shackles off his arms and legs when he
came through there.
L: Did you ever hear him tell about the time that Rhodie went into
jail and took him a gun or something?
R: No, I never did hear nothing about that.
L: Did you ever hear him talk about the Maclaine man that was a
preacher back then?
R: No, I never did hear my mother say anything about that.
L: What was the general feeling in your family about what happened
to Henry Berry?
R: Everyone of them disliked it, you know. They could not help
L: What do you think people now-a-days feel about Henry Berry? Do
you think most Indian people feel that he was sort of a hero?
R: Yes, he was a hero all right.
L: Do you think more Indian people feel good toward what he did,
rather than feel he was outlaw?
R: Yes. If he had not broke up some of the mess that was going on,
there would not have been any Indians around here at all.
L: You feel like they would have just killed us all off?
R: Yes. They was scared to go too far with it, because they knew
Henry Berry, if he took a notion to kill them, why, that is what
he would do.
L: What do you think happened to Henry Berry? Do you think he was
R: No, not killed.
L: Do you think he left?
R: He was carried away from here.
L: You think he was taken away?
R: Yes. They sent to headquarters to bring a troop of soldiers out
there to get him. General Gorman, he was a general and he came
and got off at...
R: No, it was on the Cates, about where my daddy ran a store out
there at Mossneck. He ran a store there for awhile, then they
took it away from him.
L: So, when the general got off, that is where he got off the train,
R: Yes. He got off there and he made it to Grandmother's down at
the Sinclair place.
L: That was Henry Berry's mother?
R: He went to her and talk with her. He told her that he did not
come here to kill Henry Berry. He came here to take him away
from here. She said, Well, sir, you cannot hardly carry him
off because he has got a scar on his face that will betray him."
He told grandmother, he said, "You can take that off." So that
was the last of that.
Do not know whether he ever took it off or not. But he stayed at
Grandmother's all day long that day, shooting robins out of the
shade tree. And whenever he got through and counted them up, he
says, "Here now, take them and clean them and eat them. That is
the last thing you will get from my hand." so he went on and
carried Aunt Rhoda part of them, and told Rhoda, he said, "Get
out, Rhoda, and clean these birds and cook them. I want to eat
them with you, because it will be the last thing that you will
ever eat from my hand." She cleaned the birds and they cooked
them and then he got up and left. He told her goodbye, and she
never did see him any more.
My grandmother never did see him anymore. So there was no
killing or anything. They got word out that he had shot himself,
while drawing the load out of the gun. They said his brains flew
up on the crib door. Well, they had a rigmarole, and Uncle
Patrick said they told him to come out and see Henry Berry. They
said, "This is the last time you will see him." Rhoda said, "I
do not want to see him. Carry him on." Uncle Patrick never did
L: That is just what people talked.
R: That is what people talked. People made up things and told them.
Well, you see, they had to, just like a few of them going to slip
across and away from here. You could get two or three to go out
and say, "Well, George got killed last night." Then someone
would say, "What did you do with him?" The would say, "We buried
him." Then, everybody believed it, that I was killed. That is
the way it was with Uncle Henry Berry.
Now, Uncle Steve, you know, at the Thomases, they did not go off
with him when he went. He had his rations cooked up and put away
to leave the next day to go where Uncle Henry Berry was. He got
killed that night. The Hawkins boys killed him in a whiskey
wagon. And Uncle Thomas, I do not know how he got killed, but he
was killed and that was the last of them. John Applewhite was
with them, and there was three or four of them. I do not know
their names. I know John Applewhite. I know he was with them.
L: He was one of the Lowry gang.
R: Yes. He was one of the gang. He was a mix-blooded person. He
was a mixture of Indian and nigger.
L: Do you know what happened to him? Do you know what happened to
any of the Lowry gang, any of the people that followed him?
There is one that is buried over there at the sand cut. Which
one was that?
R: Well, old Dunahoe killed Boss Strong. Boss and Allen, that was
Aunt Rhoda's brothers. They went to Aunt Rhoda's that night.
There was a girl there that Boss was hanging around. He was
laying with his head toward the door--had his feet in this girl's
lap. Old Dunahoe slipped up there and got in the chimney corner
and shot him through the cat hole. That used to be the style--
have hole cut in the door so the cat could come in. But they did
not get his body. Dunahoe did not get his body. He went crazy.
L: Who did, Dunahoe?
R: Yes, he went plumb crazy. That is what they told me.
L: Tell me a little about some of the things that you did when you
were a child. Tell me something about some of the little games
you played. Remember anything you used to play as a child? Did
you go to school Mr. Ransom?
L: Did they have any schools around here?
R: Yes. When I was about ten years old they started school out
there at the Henderson School.
L: Now, where was that?
R: Down there on Gerald Pitman's place. They had a schoolhouse
L: Where is Gerald Pitman's place?
R: You know where Henry Berry and Dolly stayed down yonder?
R: That was Gerry Pitman's place. The schoolhouse was right off
east from where they stayed. Just a short distance.
L: And Henderson was the teacher? Who was Henderson? Did you not
say Henderson's school?
R: That was the name of the school.
R: I do not know why they named it the Henderson School, but that is
what they called it.
L: Did they have Indian teachers at all?
R: Yes. I went there just about a month once. Got to where I could
spell baker. Got up that far, where I could spell baker. Never
have forgot how to spell that, B-A-K-E-R, baker.
L: Did you have books?
R: Yes. We had Blueback spelling books.
L: Blueback spelling books.
R: That is all the books they had.
L: Do you remember, somebody was telling me yesterday they used to
have a school out there at Saint Anna Church. Do you remember
R: Yes. They had a school out there.
L: And when they had that one out there, did they have this one here
at New Hope at the same time?
R: No, it was all the same thing. They built a college there, you
see. The Henderson School was not the Henderson School, but I do
not know who they named that school after, Hopewell.
L: That was at New Hope?
R: Yes, that was the name of the church that was there.
L: Right. So, I guess they named it after the church. Can you
remember back when they moved the school on to Pembroke there to
where the college is now? Remember anything about the Indian
people buying ten acres of land there? Were you living here
then, or down around Fairmont?
R: Down around Fairmont.
L: You were not living here. When did they start having school down
that way for Indian people--Indian school? When was that? Can
you remember when they started that school down in Fairmont?
R: No, the niggers and the Indians went together.
L: They went together?
R: They all went to the same school.
L: Was that when your children were growing?
L: That was before.
R: Yes. They had not separated us from the other little school.
Sister Mary, who went to Dogwood School, Dogwood Church, you have
heard tell of it?
R: She went to school there. Annie, never could get Annie to go to
school. She never would go to school.
L: When you were a boy growing up, did you farm?
R: Yes. I went on the farm from when I was about ten years old.
L: What crops did you grow?
R: Cotton and corn.
L: Cotton and corn. Wonder why people did not grow tobacco back
R: Well they started in it then. They started growing tobacco then.
I know when the first tobacco I ever saw was on the Mitchell
L: And where would you carry it to sell it, then?
R: We would carry it to Mullins.
L: Mullins, South Carolina. On a horse and wagon?
R: On a horse and wagon, I have hauled it there myself.
L: How long would it take you to get there?
R: Well, we would leave home after dinner. Got loaded up and leave
and go. We would camp out that night and get in there the next
morning before the sale. But if you did not leave home with time
enough to get down there before they closed, you would go and
stay until the sale was over and went back home in the wagon. I
drove a horse and cart down there.
L: What did you do to the tobacco at that time to get it ready for
R: We graded it and tied it.
L: But you do not have to do that anymore, do you?
L: Did you cure it the same way that you do now?
R: Handled it the same way--throw it in the tobacco barn.
L: Now, what about your cotton? What did you do with it?
R: We picked it and had it ginned.
L: Where did you carry it, where did you get it ginned?
R: Well, what cotton that I seen ginned, there was a gin over there,
that they called Joe Parker's gin. There was another gin over
L: And where was it, near here?
L: Down around Fairmont?
R: Down below McDonald there. Just about a mile from where McDonald
L: And what about your corn?
R: Used it, gathered it, and put it away--put it in the crib.
L: Used it?
R: Used it to live on, something to eat.
L: Could you grow as much as you had land to grow on?
R: Yes. There was no regulation on it.
L: What type of things did you eat when you were a boy growing up?
R: Oh, meat and bread.
L: Flour bread?
R: I did not know anything about flour bread until I was a pretty
big boy. My mother cooked cornbread nearly everyday and turnip
greens. We would work there and come to McLain's over there and
pick cotton. McLain's wagon would carry the cotton hands to town
when it was Saturday to get the groceries. That would last until
the next week. My mother had a twenty-four pound sack of flour.
L: What would she cook out of it?
R: She would cook biscuits out of it. We would cook biscuits
generally in the oven. Had a lid to go on top of it. Take and
build a fire and heat that lid, and heat the oven good and hot.
Then put the lid on top of it, and put coals on top of the lid to
brown the biscuits. We had some of the best biscuits you ever
L: I will bet they were good.
R: They would be brown.
L: What type of meats? Did you have cows on the farm so you could
L: You had plenty of beef?
R: Cows and hogs.
L: Everybody more or less raised their own food then, did they not?
R: Everybody did.
L: Do you think things are getting better about the way Indians are
R: Yes. Much better now than it was when I was a little boy. Had to
mind how you talked.
L: Had to sort of look up to white people?
R: That is right. Had to Mister and Mrs. Had to use the name of
L: When you were a boy growing up did you know any white children?
R: Oh, yes.
L: Did you ever play with any?
R: No, sir! Their parents would not let them.
L: I know somebody was telling me the other day that they never knew
any white children until they grew up and went away.
R: Well, this is the Indian section right in here. The Indians
owned this land in here. You see, down around Fairmont, the
white folks used to own that land down there.
L: Yes. So you were around them a little more than what they were
here around Pembroke.
R: Yes. I worked with them. Worked with them many a day.
L: On the farm?
R: On the farm, for five cents a day.
L: After your father died and you had your mother and sisters to
look after, what did your family do about finding a way to
survive, making a living?
R: We worked by the day.
L: And were you responsible for doing that?
R: No. I worked, but Sister Dolly was the oldest one, and she was
the leader of the crowd. My mother could send her off to do a
day's work and the children with her. We children with her, we
had to do what she said to do.
L: So all of you worked, then, like that--by the day?
R: Yes, we worked by the day.
L: Now, when you grew up a little bit older, you started working on
the McClellan farm?
R: We run a farm. The white man had the land and he would give you
so much land and you could tend it and get half of it, or a
L: And how old were you the first time you did that?
R: I was about twelve or fourteen years old when I went to farming
L: How much money did you make when you were working by the day?
R: Different prices. Fifty cents a day, in some places, seventy-
five cents in others.
L: So, did you know a lot of people or have you known a lot of
people that have lost their land to white people here in the
R: No, I did not know anything about that. They did not talk or
tell the children what was happening, here.
L: Then, did your family ever buy a farm or own land?
L: You did not own any land until you grew up and bought it
R: Well, we were entitled to it, but they took it away from us. Our
own people took it.
L: Your own people?
R: Uncle Sink too my mother's.
L: Took your mother's share then.
L: Was that land that she was supposed to inherit?
R: Well, we had a feather bed. Uncle William bid off the feather
bed at a sale. He brought it home and told my mother that she
could have it. Whenever my grandmother died and they were
dividing up the stuff, Uncle Sink said, "I am going to have the
feather bed. I bid off that feather bed myself." My mother
said, "No, you did not. William bid it off and give it to me.
The only way that you can get that feather bed is to sign me your
land--your part of the land here." Mother did not know the value
of land, what land was going to turn out, you see. If she had
gotten it, she would not have been able to afford the taxes. She
would have lost it with taxes because she could not raise enough
on it. There was no house on it or anything. She could not have
stayed near Uncle Sink anyway. She wanted to get just as far
away from him as she could get.
L: I see. How did people get mail when you were a boy? They did
not have a mail carrier, did they?
R: Yes, they did.
L: Did they?
R: Yes, carried it from here out the stage road.
L: On the stage road?
R: Yes, it went through over here, crossed the river around Covered
Bridge and took the Chicken road.
L: And they would leave letters at the house?
R: Oh yes. You would meet the mailman, you could go meet him.
L: When you said stage road, were you talking about a stage line
like you see on TV? A stage coach?
R: Well, yes. No, he rode a horse
L: That was just the name of the road.
L: I did not know that. Well, Mr. Ransom, is there anything else
that you can remember that you would like to tell me about?
Anything that happened to the Indians that people might not
remember or know about? How Indian people used to be treated, or
anything else you would like to tell me?
R: No, not that I know of.
L: What about the future? What do you think the future of the
Indian people is going to be? Do you think it looks good? Think
there is still going to be improvements made for Indians?
R: I hope there will be. I will not live to see it, but I hope they
will pick up. It has come a long ways since I was a boy.
L: It sure has.
R: I walked to school. I walked there and back, four miles. I
walked to school and had to cross the swamp. I had to leave home
before daylight--just at light--and I would get to that swamp. I
had to get on them footlogs and crawl across.
L: What about the winters when you were a boy? Can you tell a
difference in the winters?
R: Yes, ma'am.
L: What is the difference?
R: It was worse.
L: You mean you had colder [winters] and more snow?
L: How deep do you remember the snow ever being? Did it ever get up
to your knees?
R: Well, I seen it up to your knees, but just where it drifted up.
I know that because my mother was standing out a Sam Smith's and
she was washing. That is the way she made her living. She would
wash for white folks.
L: Would she use a wash pot?
R: Yes and a scrub board.
L: Did she work for the same people or did she work by the day?
R: Well, we moved there to Sam Smith's. She moved there to wash for
him and clean up around the house. We stayed there till sometime
in the spring.