SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with the Catabaw Nation
INTERVIEWEE: Lucille McGhee
INTERVIEWER: Emma Echols
DATE: December 14, 1971
E: This is Emma Reid Echols, Route 6, Box 260, Rock Hill, South
Carolina. I'm working on the oral history of the Catawba
Indians. I'm now visiting and I'll let the lady identify her-
self. Will you give me your full name and address?
M: Lucille Blue McGhee. I live on Route 3, Box 77, Rock Hill.
E: Now you one time worked, but I believe you're helping your hus-
band in the store now. Where was it you worked?
M: Randolph Yarns, twenty-one years there.
E: And now you're helping your husband in the store here that's
located in the Red River community?
E: What about your family?
M: I have one son. He's twenty years old. He's married and they
have a month-old baby.
E: And who lives with you?
M: My son and my father.
E: And your father is who?
M: Nelson Blue.
E: When was it your mother died?
M: In 1969, in July.
E: What was your mother's name?
M: "Liz" Leola Watts Blue.
E: So your father lives with you. We'll be talking with him later.
I believe you lived for about fourteen years on the reservation
and you seem to have some good memories. Will you tell me about
your early childhood, going to school, your teachers, anything
you remember about your early life?
M: Well, the first teacher I can remember was Mrs. Ernest Patton.
Then the next teacher I had was Mrs. Hall Spencer, and Elder
Wilder was the next. I wanted to tell you about Mrs. Hall
Spencer, who used to catch frogs and put 'em in our desks and
E: How did Mrs. Spencer come to school over those bad roads those
M: They sometimes went by horse and buggy.
E: And I believe Mrs. Ernest Patton would have to travel the same
M: They did.
E: Her husband was the mail carrier?
M: Yes. He delivered the mail in horse and buggy.
E: Do you remember any of the books you used, or anything your
teachers taught you? You were in the school with three rooms,
is that right?
E: Then you have another teacher, did you not? Jim Bailey?
M: Elder Johnson was the next teacher.
M: After Elder Wilder was Johnson.
E: And then, after that, who did you have?
M: James Bailey and his wife. She taught awhile until she got
pregnant and so had to quit.
E: That school prepared you for high school? Or how many grades
did you go through?
M: Yes. I finished the ninth grade down there.
E: Do you remember how many children you'd have in the classroom?
M: Oh, 'bout thirty-five, forty, something like that.
E: That was a big crowd to have.
E: What sort of desks did you have? Are they homemade or were
they nice desks?
M: Well, they were large desks. Two sit together.
E: What about your lunch? Did you eat at school, or did you go
home for lunch?
M: We went home for lunch.
E: You didn't live very far away, did you?
M: No, we didn't live but just a short ways.
E: How did you know when the time was to come back to school?
M: They had a big bell they'd ring, up in a tower of the school
E: And I suppose one boy would have the job of being the bell-ringer?
E: What special jobs did you have at school?
M: We also had to sweep the school and keep it clean. One class
would have it one week and another class would have it the
next week. All of us was big enough, you know, to clean.
M: We'd have to clean it up.
E: Later on, they had a lunch program, but you were not there when
they started the lunch program...
E: ...in the school, were you?
E: Then, after you left school, what did you do after that?
M: We moved to Rock Hill, and Iwent to work at the industrial mill.
E: And that's where you met your husband, I believe, wasn't it?
E: When you were a little girl, did you ever try to make pottery
with your mother or with your grandmother?
M: Yes, Iused to help my mother. We'd go across the river to get
clay, lotta times, to make pottery out of it. Then we'd have
another place, wasn't too far where we lived, we'd go get clay
and I helped her to make the pottery. You'd have to have it
soft to begin with. You'd just have to build so much if you're
gon' build a large piece and let it kinda set up 'fore you'd
build on some more to that. Then, after it got dry, not real
dry, but dry enough that you could handle it, well then we'd
take knives and trim it and scrape it 'til we got it down
even and got it shaped like we wanted it. Then we'd use what
they call the rubbing rock, a real slick rock. I still have
two of those.
E: Were those your mother's or your grandmother's?
M: They were my grandmother's, my mother's mother's.
E: Then, what'd you do after that? Somehow you fired it?
M: Well, we had to let it dry so many days. I've forgotten just
how many days it would have to dry like that to get good and
dry, three or four days probably. Then we'd go out and gather
up chips of different kinds of wood and burn them in the fire-
place. And then we'd burn them so long, about three or four
hours. Then mom would take out a piece and just tap it with
a little stick or a little paddle of some kind, so it wouldn't
break. It would ring a certain sound, and then it was good
and dry and burned enough.
E: How did you sell your pottery?
M: We used to go up to Winthrop College and spread down blankets
and things and set out there and sell it. I've went up there
lots of times with Aunt Sally Gordon. That was my grandfather's
E: She must have made beautiful pottery. I've heard that she did.
E: Then what did you do for games or fun? Do you remember anything
that you did for entertainment?
M: Yes. We used to have quilting parties of the ladies. I was
a child, but I can remember real well. Have quilting parties.
Sometimes they'd give the quilt to someone that was in need
and lotta times they'd go to each other's house and help one
another quilt their quilts. Then we had box suppers they called
them. And we'd everybody carry a lunch, making up funds for
something, for the church or school or something like that.
Then we'd have cake walks. We'd charge so much for the cake
E: You'd go round and around the table with the cake on it? Was
that they way you do it?
M: Yes, they had a little bell they'd ring and whichever one was
that.... They'd have something touching you. You'd go by and
whichever one was there touching a broom (I believe it was a
broom they used), well that's the one that won the cake, the
couple that won the cake.
E: Do you remember your mother or your grandparents speaking any
of the Catawba Indian language?
M: Yes, I can remember hearing a lot of it, but I never did learn
much about it. Aunt Sally Gordon used to tell me lots. I used
to spend a lotta nights with her, and she'd sit down and tell
me stories about the Indians way back and tell me about the
Indian language. But I guess I was small and just didn't take
an interest in it then which I should have.
E: Do you remember any of the stories she told you at all? Were
they about animals or were they about people?
M: She'd tell me about how they'd go out hunting and fishing and
how they'd catch the game for food.
E: What about the food? Do you remember any of the words for any
of the foods you had?
M: Yes. They called salt "tuss", and any kind of meat was "wijo."
But other than that, I don't remember.
E: Do you remember any of the words for apple or peach or any of
E: Do you remember what they used for cornbread?
M: Yes, they called it "custon."
E: How were these food prepared around the fireplace?
M: My mother had a skillet and it had three legs on it and a lid
and a long handle. And she'd break out a lot of live coals
and sit that skillet on there and put coals on the lid, and
that's the way she baked us bread. And we'd bake sweet pota-
toes in the ashes in the fireplace.
E: How'd you prepare your meats?
M: She cooked a lot of meats in the skillet, too, same way.
E: She must have been a good cook for those few things that you
had in those days.
E: What do you think about the future of your people now? Things
have changed so much, what do you think of the future of the
Catawba people now? Is it better than it used to be?
M: In some ways it is. But I feel like back then when I was growing
up, that was the good old days.
E: You say you remember the good old days. Tell me something about
those good old days that you liked.
M: Well, I feel that the condition the homes were in at that time
was lots healthier than what we have now. We had cracks that
we could see through the floor, see the chickens walk around
the house. And we didn't have any screens on our windows, we
just had wood shutters. And in the winter time we shut the
shutters and only light we had was lamps and lanterns, things
like that. And we had to carry our water from about a mile.
There and back would be about a mile.
E: Did the mosquitos and flies bother you?
M: We didn't have mosquitos and flies like we have now. I guess
that's one thing why we was healthy.
E: Do you remember many children being ill during your childhood
or, well, during the cold winter time?
M: Most people was, yes.
E: What about the doctors who came down to the reservation to see
the sick people? Who were they?
M: Doctor Hill is the only one I can remember. He was our community
doctor, I guess you'd call it, for years.
E: He delivered the babies?
E: You're one of his babies, were you not?
M: Yes, I imagine so.
E: Then Doctor Blackburn, I believe, was another doctor?
M: Yes, he was the next doctor we had.
E: How did those doctors travel around in the reservation?
M: Well, I can remember when there was a baby going to be born,
the father would always get the horse and buggy and go get
Doctor Hill. I have known him to spend the night. He'd just
lie down, you know, and maybe be at the home all night or all
day. Then they would take him back. Most people would go
after him like that.
E: Since your little homes were very small, were there enough beds
for all the children to sleep in at that time?
M: We had three rooms in our house and all five, six of us was
E: When there was need in your Catawba community, what would you
do to help each other?
M: Well, just anything that needed to be done. We'd go help and
shuck corn. We'd go to one corn-house one day and the next
day we'd go to somebody else. If they had hogs to kill, we'd
kill hogs and give each other some of the meat that was needed.
I remember we even gathered up sweet potatoes, go and help the
next fella to get on his crop, you know, anything we had to do
that needed to be done.
E: Well, what would happen when a person would lose their home
by fire? What would you do then?
M: We always would go and help to rebuild. I remember when Chief
Blue's home was burned. Well, a lotta people went to help out.
And if anyone was sick and their homes needed repair, they'd
do that, too. I remember an uncle I had that they put a new
top on his home because he was down sick and unable to help
E: Do you remember anything you used to do as a child around
Christmas? Was it just like it is today, or was it different?
M: It was very much different. We didn't know what a fruit or
toys was until Christmas. We'd get fruit and candy and nuts
and maybe a couple 'a toys, sometime just one. But we really
enjoyed Christmas then. And after we got big enough, we'd
have fireworks. They's mostly the Roman candles and sparklers.
E: What sort of Christmas celebration did you have at the church?
M: Oh, it was wonderful. We'd go and have singing and, lots of
times, we'd have the manger scene and sing Christmas carols.
They're always good programs at Christmas.
E: What were some of the things you'd do to help your mother?
M: Well, we always helped with the laundry and we used to make
our own soap that we washed with. And we'd make it outdoors
on a big pot. Called it lye soap. And then we'd go out in
the woods and cut bushes to sweep our yard with, dogwood trees,
bushes. We'd tie 'em together and kept our yard swept real
clean. We'd go out and gather broom straws to make our brooms
out of to sweep the house with.
E: Did you also find nuts out in the forest you'd bring home for
E: Hickory nuts and...
E: ...walnuts, scaly bark nuts, too?
M: Yes, scaly bark and walnuts, hickory nuts.
E: What sort of dolls did you have as a little girl? Did your
mother ever make you a doll?
M: Yes, we had rag dolls.
E: And you'd get that for Christmas?
M: We'd get one for Christmas and an orange and an apple and some
fruit and nuts. We really enjoyed Christmas back then.
E: Tell me about some of the people that you used to know, your
friends down there, some white friends or Indian friends.
M: Well, all the Indian children, of course they kinda stuck to-
gether always, played together. We had one family that moved
in down there, a Mrs. Thatcher that had married Bob Harris,
and all her children went to school with us. There was four
boys and one girl went to school with us.
E: They were white children? And they...?
M: Yes, they were from Tennessee.
E: Then what other white friends do you remember? Do you remember
M: Mrs. Fred Lawrence.
E: Now where did you go to, what store would you go to buy provisions
when you needed them?
M: Mr. Ed Neely.
E: Now that would be a couple 'a miles from where you live, would
M: About three miles, I believe, the whole way.
E: Would you walk to the store?
M: Lotta times we would. Sometimes we'd go in a buggy and sometime
in a wagon.
E: What things did you buy at the store and how did your father
buy those things?
M: We would always buy flour by the barrel; and we usually raised
the hogs for lard, shortening. We made our meal. We raised
corn and he carried the corn to the mill. We'd shell it, he
would carry the corn to the mill to have it ground for meal.
We'd always buy big bulks of everything, like rice, sugar.
We'd always get maybe twenty-five pounds each to do us. We'd
usually buy enough in the fall would run us through the winter.
E: Do you own your own home now? Are you paying for your own home?
M: We're paying for it, yes.
E: What part did you get when the Indian lands were divided up?
Did you get a part of that?
M: I got six acres.
E: Oh, that's wonderful. I'm glad you've gotten land.
E: That means you can hand it down to your family.
E: And you can buy your land and get a deed to his land?
M: Yes, I have a deed for it.
E: Now on the reservation, the homes down there cannot have a
deed to them, is that correct?
M: On the old reservation, no.
E: Do you think many of your friends took the land instead of the
M: I believe there's more of 'em took money than land.
E: And the money soon disappears, doesn't it?
E: But you're so fortunate to have your home and to have your business
here. Now what other Indians are living in this community around
Red River that you know of?
M: Well, the nearest family is the Robins.
E: Who is the oldest Indian that you know of, and what full-blooded
Indians do you know?
M: Aunt Zelda Harris, I guess, is the only one I know that's full,
E: Her father was full-blooded Indian and she's a full-blooded
M: And her husband was, too.
E: I believe she's ninety-six years old?
E: How old is your father?
E: Eighty-one. And he remembers many things, too. We'll be talking
with him a little bit later.