SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with the Catawba Nation
INTERVIEWEE: Miles Huffman Lineberger
INTERVIEWER: Emma Echols
DATE: April 4, 1972
E: Mr, Lineberger, what is your full name?
L: Miles Huffman Lineberger, I was named for Miles Huffman
over at Dallas [North Carolina], He was one of the first
teachers of the University of North Carolina.
E: That's interesting. What is your address here?
L: Route 1, Catawba, South Carolina.
E: Have you always lived here?
L: Well, practically; we moved to Gastonia [North Carolina] in
1900. There weren't any schools in our county. There
were six in our family, and mother said we just had to
send those boys and girls to school. We moved to Gastonia
so that they could go to school, If you remember, 1900
was the first year they had free schools in Rock Hill, and
Gastonia was the same, We moved to Gastonia because my
grandfather gave my mother a house and lot there, and
we stayed all right,
All the fellows done well but me. Two of my brothers
were doctors, and my cousin, Gregg Cherry, was the governor
of North Carolina. I don't think they ever regretted moving
where they could go to school.
These Indians are always..,take up for 'em..,I mean
they were a people that were friendly to any strangers who
come by, The just take tem in and keep 'em just like they
were part of the family, even if they didn't know 'em. I
couldn't help but admire 'em, to a certain extent, for that
because they needed it for theirselves. There wasn't any
of 'em rich, In fact I don't think they ever did get a
square deal, They're the only tribe in the United States
that's not on the government payroll now. My ol' folks
say they didn't get on the government payroll because they
fought with the Confederacy, And those Yankees hold that
against them yet,
E: You remember lots of the older Indians that are still living,
and you lived right on the edge of a reservation over here,
L: That's right, just a few miles up here,
E: And how far are you from the Catawba River?
L: Well, my place just about a mile from the river then; you
see it doesn't quite join now. There's one place just about
a mile from the river.
The Indians have always, since I've know lem, run
a ferry. The Indians liked the water, and they run, operate
the ferry. They were more dependable, I mean dependable in
that someone was always there. Even if he'd go, heMd leave
somebody to run the ferry. And when they'd hire a white man,
at the salary they paid, he'd take a notion some day, light
out, and go get drunk. He wouldn't leave a friend, there
wouldn't be anybody there, but the Indians would always
leave somebody there to put you across.
E: This ferry that's close to your land, did it have a certain
L: Well, this ferry here, this upper one, was called Ashe's
Ferry, Mr, Bill Ashe built it to come over to his plantar
tion. His plantation joins ours here near the river, The
other ferry, on the public road, was known as the old
Curritan Ferry, There used to be a big family of Curritans
that lived, most of them lived, on the other side of the
river. They owned land on both sides of the river, and they
called that Curritan s Ferry.
E: How far apart were Ashe's Ferry and Curritan's Ferry?
L: Well, it wasn't more than a mile or two, but youtd have to
go way around,
E: Who were some of the ones who used to operate the ferry?
Tell me about how the ferry would be operated,
L: John Brown operated it longer than anyone I knew, I remember
that in the First World War when the flu was so bad, he
lost six boys; he buried six boys, Then after he got so he
couldn't run it, Early Brown run it. That's his boy, and he
run it a good many years,
The county took it over and hired a man, but they never
could hire anybody that was dependable. They didn't pay 'em
enough, A white man, he'd just walk off and go to town, and
stay all day. But the Indians would always stay there.
E: Now John Brown was a big, tall Indian, was he not?
E; Now what about Early, his son?
L; Early was more chunky; he was fat sort of, you know, He didn't
do anything much. Early was a...they're a good people,
Like I say if anybody come along hungry, they'd take 'em in
and feed 'em. They never did accumulate anything, the
E: We it customary for them to have large families,,.you spoke
of John Brown having a large family?
L; Yeah, They always had a good many children. Later on, a
good many of them went to Cherokee [North Carolina], and some
of them live in Cherokee now that were originally Catawba
Indians. They had better facilities and everything at
Cherokee, and they had more of a market for their pottery,
Several of them made this pottery with their hands, you
know, and could sell it there, Tourists come by Cherokee
more than they did here,
E: Would these men who operated the ferry, would they have
enough education to count their money and to make change
for people who come across the ferry?
L; Oh, yes. They could count the money and make change. They
didn't require 'em to keep too good of books because they
just allowed lem to charge ten cents, With their little
salary, they'd just let them.... I don't think the county
supervisor ever come by to get it and just let 'em have that
to buy 'em a little something with.
E: They wouldn't make very much at that?
L: No, they wouldn't make much.
E; Now did they cultivate the land, the river bottoms, and the
land close by that was fertile, did the Indians?
L: No, except just a little garden that the women would work
with the hoe. They didn't farm any, In fact, they didn't
farm much up at the reservation. The older ones had some
land they worked there on the river, but for the last
crowd or two there they, like white folks, got to buying their
E; You think they didn't have any ambition, or they had lost
their ambition not to have cattle or chickens or gardens,
Had they lost that ambition to take care of themselves?
L: Well, they would have a little truck patch, but they didn't
try to do too much, I don't know what was the cause of it.
I was a boy myself then and didn't pay too much attention
E: Did you ever go hunting with the Indian boys in the forest?
L: I used to have a family of them lived there on the farm with
me, and they would hunt with a slingshot. He'd just walk
a terrace, you know, with a slingshot, and he killed two.or
three rabbits any evening he wanted to with a slingshot.
He was a good worker, He and I milked some cows, and he'd
be up before daybreak, helping me every morning milk those
cows. He was a good worker,
E: Who was that Indian you are speaking of?
L; I can't remember right now.
E: You never saw them shoot any of their arrows or use the blow-
L: No. They had guns, but he used his slingshot mostly to hunt
E; What about fishing? Did they really know how and where to
catch the fish in the river?
L: Oh, yeah, They could catch fish. They really fished.
There's a story that they could go when they wouldn't be
biting for the white men, but they could go and catch them.
They knew where they were or something.
E: Were there many animals to hunt on the reservation at the
time? What did you hunt...mostly rabbits, squirrels, or
L: Well, rabbits and squirrels. There wasn't nowhere much
farming done. The old reservation that the state of South
Carolina gave them was just an old rocky hill land; it
wasn't worth working except a few patches of bottom land,
They had a little bit of bottoms that would make corn,
but most of it was just too rough and bad, They'd just
pick out a little spot and have a garden, but it wasn't
really worth working.
E: What kind of houses did they live in?
L: At first, they had mostly just little log houses that they
hewed out of little trees. Later they built 'em out of
planks, when saw mills had lumber made,
E: When they had those log houses, would they have a dirt floor?
L; I never was in one of them dirt floor houses,
E: And then their chimneys would be made from stone, rather
L: They could build a chimney out of mud and sticks, and it
would hold. I don't know how they did it, I don't know
whether they formed it with their hands, or had trowels,
but they could just mix up that clay and put some sticks
in that mud to hold it 'till it dried, and then they could
build pretty comfortable little houses, just with mud.
E: What size house would they be?
L: Most of 'em was just two rooms. They'd have a one room with
a little 'L' like for a kitchen, generally built off to one
side of it--like a shed room we called it, It was mostly
just a big room, just the length of the logs, you know, and
they'd have a door in each end and a window in the side,
E: And then they would sleep on pallettes on the floor?
L: Mostly just quilts they would put down on the floor. The
old Indians always liked these fancy colored blankets, and
if they'd get hold of any money, they'd buy 'em a red blanket,
E: Then what would they have to eat? Was food scarce for them?
L: They ate mostly game, rabbits and squirrels, and the best of
them had good gardens, some corn.,,.
E: Did they have any fruit trees on the reservation?
L: They had some. There wasn't too much, but all those old
ones had a few apple trees and a few peach trees around the
garden or something,
E: Did they make their own soap at that time?
L: Well, they did make a soap that was similar to a soap that
the white people made about that time; we called it lye
soap, You'd just take grease and the lye out of oak ashes,
you know,,,I mean that'd form a lye, and they could make a
soap out of that.
E: Then I suppose you remember the hard times during the flu
epidemic, when so many of them died here, The white people
did a great deal to help at that time,
L: Well, I'll tell you, by me being so close to them, that they
looked like they didn't do enough--they didn't do what they
could have done. They could have helped them more I think,
They did some, and they got along with the white people
good, and they never did have no trouble. But the fact is
the white people at that time didn't have too much,
E; The poverty was everywhere,
E: And so many were ill at the same time,
L; That's right,
E; Shortly after that you had the flood of,,,well, let's see.,.
the flu epidemic was in 1918, and the flood of 1916 I believe
E; Tell what you remember about the flood on the Catawba River,
and what the Indians did then,
L; Well, this one Indian was living at the river: John Brown was
still there, I think, The county built him a little house,
on the other side, on a hill there, and they stayed there.
They took care of the ''flat', pulled it out, and when the
river rose, they didn't let it get away. As soon as the
river went back down, they could cross,
I remember it very well because my first baby was born
at the time of the high water. Dr. Massey was a doctor,
and he told me that he was going over to his farm; he had
a farm over on the Waxhaw. He said that if I need a doctor.,,
the river was rising so fast. He knew that the bridges and
everything,,.wouldn't be no way to cross,
He said, "You just get any doctor you want and tell 'em
I said for 'em to come on down there."
I went to my little brother-in-law, who was sick at our
house at that time. I went to the Catawba and had Will
Simpson phone Elli Simpson to come down. The roads was so
bad that I waited there with my buggy to take him over to
the house. He didn't want to go. He found out Dr. Massey
had been the doctor, you know, and Will Simpson had to per-
suade him to go ahead, because Dr. Massey was over the river
and couldn't get back, You know, doctors are peculiar, they
won't come around on another doctor's patients. He did all
he could, and of course, the little fella died, but it wasn't
E: Now, up and down the Catawba River all the bridges were washed
away, and then the Indians, I believe, had to ferry people '
across, because they had the only ferry they could take them
across, Isn't that true?
L: Well, yeah. Mostly, they was Indians, There was a railroad
trestle washed away; there was several. I had a little boat
I'd used to fish in, and I let Mel Caldwell use it to put
'em across, Mostly, it was the Indians; they had the best
boat. They could handle it better than most people.
E: Did they expect the Indians to take them across on their
flats when the railroad bridges washed away?
E: From here all the way down to Landsford '[South Carolina] was
total destruction, wasn't it? Cattle and cotton and everything
else in the river.
L: That's right, Let's see, it was so much higher than it ever
had been when there was fixed, Now, I had a good many
stacks of hay I had hauled back to the hill and stacked
it, and it floated off. The river was forty-four foot
high, and we never had over about a twentyrfive foot river,
And those little stacks of hay just floated off.
E; How did this affect the Indian Reservation, the people on
the reservation? Did it affect their crops, their land, or
L: Oh, yes, It took everything. They didn't have any houses,
I don't think, down in the river bottoms, but crops they
had, it took it all.
E: Now, tell me what you remember about the churches that were
on the reservation. Some of them are gone today, What
are the earliest churches? What ones do you remember?
L: The first church I remember there was a Methodist church
on one side of the road and a Presbyterian church on the
other side. Back in those days, the Methodist church still
has a ruling; they build a church, the expansion program,
or whatever they call it, and after three or four years
when they get started, they look for 'em to assume their obli-
gations and pay the conference claims and different things,
The Indians didn't do so, They just abandoned them.
There was a period then of about twenty-five years when
there wasn't any churches.
These Mormons come in here; that's when they got
started. Two Mormon elders always went together, The
two would go together, and they'd come, I'd say, every
weekend. They'd spend the night with the chief, or some
of the other Indians where they could, and they'd meet in
someone of the houses. They got a pretty good little crowd
built up. Every weekend they'd come and have preachin'.
These Mormon leaders from Salt Lake City come out here,
That was 01' Chief Blue's time. They built that little
Mormon tabernacle they've got out there now. Nice little
I have seen some of our Methodist preachers who thought
it was terrible to have a Mormon church right there, that
close to Friendship Methodist Church. When you think about
it now, our own church abandoned them, and the Mormons come
in there, I think they deserve credit, instead of condemning
E: Now, the Presbyterian church was also in there. I believe
Reverend Jones was the minister, do you remember him?
E: I think the church was moved across the road, and it was
used as a dwelling for awhile. That was the early church.
What about the school? Your daughter, Nell Lineberger,
taught in the school for awhile. What do you remember
about the early school?
L: Well, they were like our early white schools. There wasn't
too much school, but they did what they could, I mean they
had just a little building there, wasn't much. I think
the state or the county probably built it for them.
I don't know, but it wasn't but just a little school
building. And they hired the teachers,
Even our white school, I remember when we didn't have
much. In fact, when I was a boy, my father's, and 01' Man
Brown Ferguson's plantations joined, In the only school
we had, they hired an old chevelle, named Norman Elder,
from over in Waxhaw [North Carolina]. He'd come over here
and teach school. He'd stay at our house a week, We had
a little tenant house out there. The Ferguson children
would come over there, and we'd have school in that house.
And the next week he'd go over to Mr, Ferguson's and stay,
and they had a little house sort of like ours. And we'd
walk over there. We'd do that for a month or two in the
winter; that would be all the school we had, That's the
reason we moved to Gastonia, didn't have any schools. First
school in this neighborhood was a little Raleigh school
E: Uh huh.
L; See, the Raleighs were always pretty influential in this part
of the country. I mean Captain Raleigh in Rock Hill and
his family, you know, and the first school we had was the
Raleigh's up here.
E: Now that was just for the white children, no Indians or no
L: No, Well, they did have some nigra schools later on, but
they didn't have much at first. When the schools were first
started, they weren't supported much by the state, and it was
just farmers and the land owners would support it. And, of
course, by the nigras not having any property, they didn't
support much, and they didn't get much school, It wasn't
that they didn't want them to do it, but what little they
had, I reckon, they.felt like they ought to educate their
own children. Then later on they took more interest in it,
after the state got to supporting it a little bit more,
E; What do you remember about the Indian school? There was
first of all a one-room school building, You remember the
picture I showed you? They had added another room and
then finally a kitchen on it. You remember that building
that was finally burned, I believe? Your daughter taught
in that school, didn't she?
L: Yeah, it was burned. That was the old school, I don't
remember the year, but it was..,then they built this other
one, a pretty good sized school.,,still there,
E; That's right. I believe they use that for recreation pur-
L: I think they..,yeah, The Indians do,
E: Do you remember any of the early teachers of the school?
Now your daughter taught there, but before her day I be-
lieve Mr, and Mrs, Sparks from Catawba both taught at the
Indian school. And Mrs, Hall Spencer taught them a short
time, all those from your community here,
L: Yeah, but I just knew they taught; that's about all I know
about it, I know Mrs, Spencer, Mrs, Sparks, and Joe Sparks
did teach up there awhile,
E: You were speaking of the Indians and the Negroesa moment
ago. What did the Indians think of the Negroes, and what
did the Negroes think of the Indians? You've worked with
both of them?
L: Well, the Indians, if any white man came by there, they'd just
take him in and keep him, but they didn't associate too much
with the nigras. Now, you take a white man--that's the rea-
son there's so many, I mean, they intermarried. I mean the
white man, a lot of them fellows, that I think did it because
the Indians had a little pension coming every year, They
married the little Indian girl, and then their children
would get in on the pension list.
E; Uh huh.
L; But they never did marry any nigras,
E: Was there ever any.record that they ever married any Negroes?
L; No, they never did marry nigras.
E: You remember some of these-you mentioned some of the ones,
John Brown and Early Brown, Let's see some of the other
Indians you used to remember; what you remember about
L: 01' Ben Harris, the one they called Toad Harris, Frank
Canty, and Henry Canty,
E: What do you remember about Ben Harris?
L; Ben was sort of a leader; he was a big Indian,
E: Now, they tell me that Ben never had a chance to go to school,
but that he learned to read from Miss Molly Culp. You remem-
ber where the Culps used to live?
L: Yeah, right there joinin' the Nation, There's a farm right
E: And that she loaned him the book, she kept him to reading it,
and then he started a personal school for Indians, So
you really remember him, now don't you?
L: Yeah, I knew him.
E; What did he look like? What was he like?
L: He was a little heavier than John Brown. He was sort of a
chunky. My recollection is, when I know him, he was getting
a little older, He was sort of a heavy set little fellow.
He was a pretty good-sized man, but he wasn't tall like some
of the Indians. He was just average,
E: Now, his brother was Robert Harris, is that right?
L; Yeah, he was Robert Harris,
E: Now, did he looked a little different? He was a smaller man,
wasn't he, than Ben?
L; Yes, like I say, any white man would come there, and associate
with them. Then sometimes there'd be three or four in the
same family and all have different fathers.
E; Yes, actually that would be very mixed up. Now, I believe
Ben Harris's widow was married, Is she still living? Did
you ever know Mary Harris?
L: Mary Harris? There was a Mary Brown, but I didn't know those
Harrises as good as I did the Browns,
E: She's now ninety-seven. She's an old, old lady, and I believe
she has some of her children are living. Ida, remember Ida?
E: And Nancy is the one they nicknamed October, and Sally?
L: That Sally used to visit Early Brown; Early lived down on
our place, Sally was down right smart, I knew her pretty
E: Did you know Richard Harris?
E: I believe he was in his thirties.
E: He went overseas; the only Indian that went abroad, Richard
Harris,.in his thirties,
L: Yeah, I remember Richard, I think Early Brown was in the army,
but I donTt think he ever went overseas, I don't know whether
he was drafted or volunteered. One of those Brown boys were.
E: I think you're right, but I believe he.,..
L: He didn't go overseas.
E: He didn't go overseas. Now what about the Canty family? You
say you remember them?
L; There was two twins,.Henry and Frank, and they were great big
tall Indians, They haul a load of wood back.then. Indians
had 'em a mule, good many of 'em. They'd cut a load of
wood, haul it to Rock Hill, and sell it for a dollar. And
they'd get 'em a pint of whiskey with their dollar,
E: Oh really, that didn't leave much for the family, did it?
Well, what about the reservation, was there plenty of timber
on it at that time?
L: Originally, it was, but they cut all the best of it. Some
sawmill fellows got in there and took the best of it, I
mean they give lem just a little bit of money, you know, and
cut it! They cut and hauled as long as there was anything
fit to cut, and sell it for wood,
E: You remember when there were so many trees, and when they cut
timber. You also remember when they had cattle, and when
they finally sold their cattle, You raised cattle yourself.
What about that cattle deal; did the Indians get a fair deal
L: No, I don't, In fact, a whole lot of that land that they
bought for 'em, give 'em more land, was scattered around,
It wasn't together, I mean. Just some friend of the poli-
tician that had a place he wanted to sell, you know, they'd
buy it, and they bought a good deal way up here in Rock
Hill, the old Springstein place, you know, Well, it was a
good place if it had a been joinin' them. They never did
benefit much from it because it was way up there. They
bought 'em some cattlem-the government promised 'em some
money, and they bought a bunch of it-and then not tendin'
to it and preparing' any feed, They never did do anything
about it, and, I mean, it didn't profit 'em anything,
E; They finally sold it for around eight dollars a head, I be-
lieve, That was a very small amount to get.
L: Yeah, they didn't get anything out of it worth anything at
E; You were talking about the Indians you remember. You remem-
ber Idle Sanders, Albert Sanders, and Chief Blue?
L: That's right,
E; Chief Blue used to walk all around this country, getting
herbs to make his.medicine, Did you ever know him, ever
see him, or ever know of those kind of things he did?
L; Well, all those old ones, they'd gather herbs and dry 'em
out, make medicine out of different ones, 01. Chief was
one of the oldest ones that I knew, The old ones knew a
whole lot of things, in fact, our doctors, our good doctors,
most of their medicine is really made from herbs.
E; That's right. What do you remember especially about Chief
L: He was a good worker, I knew him all the time, and he was
chief. He cut cord wood, anything to make a dollar. He
worked hard, tend to his own business, and tried to make
the younger Indians behave, But he didn't do a very good
job; he couldn't, But he did the best he could for tem,
01' Chief Blue was a good man; I knew him,
E: He had a large family to look after, too,
L: Yeah, that's right.
E: What other men, chieftains, do you remember especially? Of
course, Chief Blue was chief a long time,
L: Yeah, he was the one longer than any I knew, He was about
really the last; they had one of those younger fellows that
was elected chief, but they never did do anything much.
Chief Blue was really about the last active one that did
much. He'd go to Columbia when the legislature was in
session, go to see the governor, and get a little appropri-
ation increase some times, He tried to represent his people
the best he could.
E; Do you know of any of his children?
L: Yeah, Nelson Blue and I see he had several,..,
L; Nelson and Leroy, they were the two I knew more than...
E: Did you know Moroni George?
L; Moroni George, He was the one that lived with me, And he
lived in a little house up the road there, and he had
gone to one of these Indian schools somewhere, He took
this course in dairy, sort of like our Clemson College course,
and he was a graduate, He was good, and he helped me a lot,
about my barns and things. He worked several years with
E; Did he have a family?
E; Who were some of his children?
L: He had girls; I canlt-remember their names,
E; He's still living; you knew that?
L; Yeah, but he's just about helpless I understand, He just
sits around all the time,
E; He lives in a trailer up on the new part of the reservation.
L; I don't know exactly where he lives,
E: I haven't been to see him yet, but I want to go see him.
I bet he'd remember you as well as you remember him.
L: Yeah, One of his boys,,,right behind the tech school,
there's one family or two that lives right in there,
E: There's several of those Georges back of there, Landrum
George. Is that his son?
E; A different family?
E: I haven't learned all those yet. Mr, Lineberger, how have
times changed for the Indians, from the time you remember
them as a boy, and the way you remember them today?
L; Well, of course, then they didn't have,.,very little of anything
until these young ones.went to working in these plants
around Rock Hill, Charlotte, and different places, They
make, of course, the same money that other people make,
and they built nice little homes, They've got several
real modern little homes up there, and most all of them have
automobiles, They live a whole lot better, just like every-
body else, from what they did because they couldn't buy any
stuffwthey wasn't able. I think they've advanced faster
maybe than some of the white people because they didn't have
anything practically to start with. You go through there
now, and you see some nice little homes, a few very nice
homes, and a whole lot of comfortable little homes, I
think they've done well, for the chance they had,
E: And they now have a chance at an education, like all other
L; Yeah, they can go to the public schools just like anybody
else. A lot of people resented that at first, but I think
most of them really enjoyed being with them because they're
just that type of people that like to mix with people.
E; Do you think the Indians have a pride in themselves now?
Are they proud to be a Catawba Indian?
L: The old ones were, yes, These young ones, most of Tem, seem
to be proud to tell you that they're Catawbas, I never have
seen one that seemed to be ashamed of it,
E: So you think this is a better day for the Catawba Indians
from now on, don't you?
L: I think so, I just wish that our people in authority would
of done a little bit more for 'em to tell you the truth,