SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with the Catawba Nation
INTERVIEWEE: Annie Brock
INTERVIEWER: Emma Echols
DATE: June, 1972
E: This is Emma Reid Echols, Route 6, Box 260, Rock Hill, South
Carolina. I'm recording the oral history of the Catawba Indian
people. I'm visiting in the home of Mrs. Brock. Mrs. Brock
taught for a number of years in the Catawba Indian schools, and
she has many happy memories. Mrs. Brock, will you give me your
full name and your address?
B: My name is Annie Walton Brock, and I live at 125 Reed Street,
Rock Hill, South Carolina.
E: Now, according to the records, I believe you taught in 1947-48,
1948-49, 1949-50. Will you tell me how you happened to begin
teaching at the Catawba Indian school? I believe Mrs. Fay
Cornwell called you up, is that right?
B: Yes, she did. She was a friend of mine. I had known her in
school, and she'd been teaching there for several years. She
called me one afternoon late in the summer, and asked me if I'd
be interested in teaching at this school. I told her I would
see about it later. She called back several times to let me know
that she was really interested, and that there was a place there
if I would like to have it. So I went down one day to visit and
see what the situation was. It was such a good chance for me to
do a missionary type of work, that I accepted right away.
This school is located down on what we call the old Indian
reservation. It's a natural setting--trees have never been
pruned, and I enjoyed this little touch of the natural countryside
that we don't see in the city. The roads were very, very bad,
especially in rainy weather. We had to go out and pick up our
children in the morning. Mrs. Cornwell had a pickup truck, and
she loaded the back of it with as many children as she could;
then I came along behind her and picked up the rest of the
children. She had the first, second, and third grade; and I had
fourth, fifth, and sixth. She had more children than I did at
the time I started. I guess I had around a dozen in a classroom
of mixed grades.
E: The roads then were nothing but red clay with puddles of water all
over them. How did you ever have faith enough to go through those
B: Well, the rural mail carrier asked me that once when I had a
chance to talk with him. He said, "Mrs. Brock, I've seen you
go through roads that I wouldn't attempt myself. I don't see
how you got back. Could you tell me?"
I said, "Yes. Through prayer." That really carried me
through with a lot of situations, you know, in working with
E: Was this mail carrier Mr. Ernest Patton?
B: Yes, yes.
E: I believe his wife had taught there several years before you,
so he knew quite well the conditions of those roads.
Tell me how your classroom looked in that school, and
where you got your provisions--your books and supplies?
B: Well, to begin with this was an old three room type of building:
a main entrance, which was one classroom, and sort of a T-shaped
building formed the other two rooms. One on the right hand side
was my classroom, and on the left was the little kitchen. Inside
it was very...well, let's say shabby. It was unpainted boards
on the inside; desks that had been there for years and years
before I came, and no heating arrangements except a big stove
that we had to make a fire in it in the morning when we arrived.
The older boys were very good about helping us get the wood and
get the fire started.
We had our little chores to do before we could ever start
class. We had to plan what we were going to have for lunch that
day, and some of the older girls would take charge fixing lunch
while we went ahead and worked with the younger children. And
then, when they were free, we would work with them.
E: Were you cooking on a little oil stove in that little kitchen there?
B: Yes, a little oil stove.
E: I suppose you had things easy to prepare, such as soup and sand-
wiches, that sort of thing, would you now?
E: Maybe some hot chocolate?
E: There was very few cows on the Indian reservation at that time,
so I imagine the children would enjoy anything you would give
them in the milk line?
E; Mrs. Brock, I've heard from many of the Indians how very talented
you were in the art, and how much they enjoyed the things they
did in art in your classes. Can you tell me some of the things
you did, or do you remember?
B: Well, I'm not sure that I remember. I know that I did love to
work with art. I was an art major in Winthrop, and I always
tried to stress that line. I felt that these boys and girls
should have some chance to express the talent of their race,
because they're wonderful with their clay work. But the boys
and girls in the class that I worked with had no interest in
carrying that on, so at times I was trying to stimulate an
interest and get them going in that line. Later on, after we
moved...let's see, we stayed in that school two years, I believe
it was, and then they built a new school for the Indians.
In that school we had Arazada Sanders, and she took over
the cooking...the lunchroom for us, and that give us a little
more time with the children. She herself is very talented in
her pottery work, and has, I believe, carried it on more than
maybe any other Indian woman on the reservation. We would get
her to come and try to work with the boys and girls, and show
them the old methods that she used.
E: She would bring her own clay and her own smoothing stones--things
of that kind?
B: Yes, yes. She would work with the children, and show them. You
know, these children didn't have a great deal of pleasures of life.
I had a friend of mine who was teaching in North Carolina, and
she was working with third grade, and they were carrying on a
project about the Indians. We got together, and she was teaching
very rich children at the time, and she asked how could they be of
help to our school. I said, "Well, I think they would like to
have a piece of the Indian pottery." So she went back and talked to
her children, and they were thrilled to buy a piece of pottery.
We got Arzada and one of her friends to help make thirty or
forty pieces of pottery, and these children in North Carolina
bought them, which helped Arzada. Then, at Christmastime they
wrote and said that they had had such a wonderful experience,
they wanted to send the children something on the reservation.
So we always had a Christmas program and a gathering at the school-
I had bought a good many things myself for the children, and
I told my husband about it. At one time he was in theatrical work,
and so I said, "I hate to ask you this, but would you be Santa
Claus?" That thrilled him to death. He was a rather heavy-set
man, and he could play the part real well. He got makeup,
and fixed his face, and bought a mustache and fastened it on.
At the last of our program he came out, and the children
were just so thrilled they didn't know what to do. He looked
so real in his costume. One child said, "I know he was the
real thing, because when I pulled, his whiskers didn't even
come off!" They were very pleased to have all these gifts,
and they were much nicer things than these children could have
We had a real nice Christmas then, and we had Chief Blue
down to talk to the group. We asked him about Christmas long
ago. He said, "Well, maybe you won't believe it, but we used
to have our Christmas gathering right on the grounds where the
schoolhouse was." He said it was different from the way they
have it now. He said the tribes would get together, and the
men would have contests--hunting; shooting with the bow and
arrow--and there was dancing.
He said that they believed in a Supreme Being; not so much
as we believe in God, but someone supreme and more powerful.
He said they had their different dances, and he would show us.
He was very fond of doing the Bear Dance--sort of a shuffle that
he would do. And that was also interested to the young Indian
boys and girls, as well as the teachers and all the others that
were gathered there to see him do these things.
E: Did the boys and girls pick up any of those dances from Chief
Blue, or any songs...chants?
B: Not a great deal, which to me was a disappointment. I wanted
to see them do those things, but they did not seem to.
E: Did all the children and their families respect and revere Chief
Blue, did it seem to you?
B: It seemed to me they did. When you say the head or chief of the
tribe, I believe that's the way he stood in their opinion.
E: What about the discipline of these children? Did you have any
difficulty in winning the confidence of the children?
B: As far as discipline, I found them real well to work with. There
were no disciplining problems like we have in the schools today.
They were pleasant children after they got to know you. Before
they were really acquainted with you, you got the feeling that
you were there and they respected you, but they did not accept you.
You had to work hard to be accepted, and when you were accepted,
then everything went smoothly.
E: Do you remember any special names of the Indians you taught?
They seem to remember you so well.
B: Well, I'm sorry that I might let them down. I haven't forgotten
them, but I don't remember all the names. Of course, Chief Blue;
and then there were several families of Browns and Sanders that I
remember. I can't remember all of the names of the students.
I wished I had. I remember a Louis Sanders, and a Vivian Sanders,
and a Mohave Sanders. I always liked the name Mohave; it seemed
very Indian to me.
E: Do you have any idea where that name came from?
B: Well, I do not know. Of course, the Mohave desert.... I have
an idea that the Latter Day Saints came into the community, and
most of the Indians worshipped with that faith, and I believe
some of it came through them.
E: What did you think about your visiting in Indian homes as you
remember them? Was there a great deal of poverty and lack of
fuel and food in those homes?
B: Yes, the homes were very, very meager. Sometimes only two rooms;
maybe if they were a little better off, they had three rooms.
Furniture was very scarce, and everything was scant in the home.
One particular home I remember did not even have windows; they
had openings cut into the side of the house with hinged wood for
closing in bad weather.
E: Then did they heat with an open fireplace?
B: Sometimes they did; some few had their little stoves. They had
plenty of wood around, but they had to do their own cutting and
collecting of the wood.
E: Very few had any gardens or fruits, or anything of that kind, did
B: No, not too much.
E: And they had very few cows and chickens at this time?
B: Uh, huh.
E: Years ago, I believe, they had the roots that they do not
have now. Now, as you have seen the changes in Rock Hill
and the school systems--and these Indians have been completely
integrated; and they're working now in industries--what do you
think of the future of the new Catawba Indians?
B: I should think that the future of the new Indians is very, very
good. A few years back I was being admitted to a hospital
myself, and after one of the girls took down the admittance
information, she turned and she said, "I don't believe you
remember me." And I said, "No, I don't." She told me that
she was one of the girls that had been quite young when I was
there, and had grown up.
I said, "Why, I'm so glad you spoke to me. I would never
have known you." And I asked her how long she'd been at the
She said, "Oh, this is just during the summer that I'm
working here in the office. I'm going to the university...
getting my degree."
They went to Salt Lake City. The majority of them that
could, went there for their college degree. She was a very
charming and attractive person. I have heard that some of the
boys have finished and done real well. We had one boy that
was such a great ball player on the team here in Rock Hill.
E: Did you know any of the boys who went to Carlisle, Pennsylvania
B: No, I do not remember any of those.
E: Do you remember the name of the girl at the hospital who was a
former student of yours?
B: I'm sorry; I cannot recall.
E: Well, we may find her name later.
B: I hope so.
E: I believe you're working in the Fort Mill schools. Are there
many Indians in that area living there, as far as you know?
B: No, I have been over there in that school...this is my
sixteenth year, and I haven't come across any so far.
E: Do you think the people have changed in their attitude toward
education of the Indian now?
B: Yes, I do. When I first started to teach, I had my friends
to tell me that if they had to teach a Indian, that they would
give up; that they wouldn't teach anymore. The idea was almost
like the race situation of the present day; they felt the same
way about it. I'm glad to say I did not.
E: You felt that what you were doing was real missionary work, didn't
B: Yes, I did. And I loved it for that reason. I wanted to be of
service to these people. I felt very close to them. Maybe the
fact that when I was a child there was a great open field behind
our house, and I loved to play Indian. I had an Indian costume--
my daddy made me a bow and arrow, and I was quite a tom-boy. We
would spend all day Saturday in the fields, and we would cook our
lunch over an open fire. So there was something that I had from
the very beginning that made me want to be with these people.
E: Well, I can see how they would love you, and I see why you love
Did the children ever talk about their own race, or anything
about their own people? Were they proud or were they...what
B: No, they didn't seem to talk about it. They did not seem to
really know too much about it. They seemed to be a downtrodden
sort of people. They had lived that way for so many years, and
I think that's where they got this attitude that they had.