UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWEE: Mrs. Jessie Dugan
INTERVIEWER: Dr. Samuel Proctor (I)
DATE: October 24, 1973
I: Would you tell me your name, please?
D: Jessie Dugan.
I: You're Jessie Dugan. We're doing an interview here with
Mrs. Dugan, and we're in the Cherokee Council House. This
is Wednesday, October 24, and she and I are talking about
some of her experiences. Mrs. Dugan, how old are you?
I: Where were you born?
D: I was born at Ravensford. It's on up the river here. There
used to be an old town there, and my father worked for the
railroad when the train run up through here.
I: What'd he do for the railroad?
D: Well, I don't really know. That's been a long time. All I
know is that he did work for the railroad.
I: And y'all were living up at Ravensford when you were born. What's
the date of your birth?
D: June 16, 1922.
I: How long did you live at Ravensford?
D: I never did ask.
I: When you moved, were you still a small child?
I: And you moved where?
D: To Birdtown.
I: And you grew up in Birdtown. What kind of a community was Birdtown
then when you were growing up in the 1920s?
D: Well, it was a good community.
I: Was it a village?
I: Larger than that?
D: Uh-huh [yes],we were scattered around.
I: Try to remember your house in Birdtown and describe it.
D: Well, it was an old house; I don't know how old it was. But
it had three rooms, and it was built in the shape of an L--
went in the kitchen, through a bedroom, and on into another
I: Was it a house that your father rented?
D: No. My mother died when I was five years old, so I had to
live with my grandfather until they put me in boarding school.
I went to Birdtown School and went a year or two, and they took
me out and put me in boarding school up here.
I: What was your father's name?
D: Lloyd Owl.
I: So you're related to the Owl family. What was your mother's name?
D: Well, her name was Lillian Arch. Her mother was an Arch. But
the Murphy family raised her, and she went by the name of Lillian
I: How much Indian are you?
D: Well, I don't know exactly. They got me on the roll as 5/8.
I: What white grandparents did you have?
D: My grandmother was white, the one that raised me--my father's mother.
My grandfather was half-white.
I: What was your grandmother's name that raised you?
D: Mittie Owl.
I: Where was she from?
D: In Cherokee County somewhere.
I: Do you happen to know how she and your grandfather met and got
D: Well, I've heard them talk. He lived down in there, too, and
they got acquainted. And back then if a white woman or a white
man married a Indian or part-Indian, they had to slip off. I
know they had to run off to get married. They went back over
in Tennessee somewhere and got married.
I: And they came back here then?
D: I don't know how long it was before they come up in here, but
they both lived down in there before they were married, I reckon.
I: Can you remember them telling any stories about their early life?
D: Well, yeah. I've heard my grandma tell an awful lot of scary tales.
I: What do you mean, scary tales?
D: Things that had happened, you know, around places where she lived.
I: Like what?
D: Oh, I don't know. She might have been telling us kids tales--hearing
things in the loft. You know, like it'd drop from the top of the
house down into the loft. They called the upstairs the loft. Kind
of hearing things a-walking around and being outside and hearing
things holler, and it scared her. And the way she talked, my grand-
father was away from home a whole lot. He'd politick a lot. You
know, back then you had to go to Asheville a lot of times, and maybe
they'd be two or three days getting there and back.
I: What kind of politicking was he doing?
D: Well, just in the elections, I reckon.
I: He was an Indian man, wasn't he?
D: Yes, half-Indian.
I: Why would he be involved in politics?
D: I don't know what it was; that's what I understood it to be.
I just never had thought much about it, but that's what I
thought it was.
I: How'd he make a living?
D: He was a farmer.
I: And you say your mother died when y'all were living at Ravensford?
D: No, she died after we moved to Birdtown.
I: She's buried at Birdtown?
I: And you went to live with your grandmother, Mrs. Mittie Owl. And
your grandfather was a farmer, but he was also a politicking man.
D: I reckon that's what he done when he went off. I've heard her
talk of him going off to Asheville. I won't say that's exactly
what he done, but that's what I thought he was a-doing from just
hearing her talk.
I: Did your grandmother run the family, then?
D: No, no. He wasn't gone that much.
I: And your daddy in the meantime was working on the railroad?
D: Yeah, he worked on the railroad.
I: After you left Ravensford and he came to Birdtown, he still
continued to work on the railroad?
I: Your father's still living, isn't he? Does he live with you?
D: No, he lives on Loose Creek. I live on Cooper's Creek. He lives
across the mountain on Loose Creek.
I: How many did your grandmother raise besides you?
D: She raised twelve children of her own and me and my brother.
Of course, most of her children were just about grown when
she took us. We're all alive but one.
I: Was it a hard life as you remember it?
I: You had plenty to eat?
D: We surely did. Yeah, my grandfather always had horses and a
wagon. They had cows, hogs, chickens. I don't remember it
being any harder than anybody else had it.
I: Everybody was poor, but you really weren't starving or anything?
D: Oh, no, no.
I: You had something to wear and you went to school?
D: We had something to wear, and we always had plenty to eat.
I: Were there lots of relatives?
D: Well, no. Back when I remember, there weren't too many of the
boys at home. The older ones had married, you know, and left.
I: I want to get back to some of the scary stories your grandmother
told you. Can you think of one that she might have told you?
D: Oh, she told us one, me and my brother, when we was little. There
was a screech owl always coming into person's house, an old Indian
man, and every night it'd be there. One night he got aggravated
at the owl hollering out in the tree. So he got his gun, and he
shot it. That owl flew off and got a bunch of leaves to put in that
wound. The next morning they found an old Indian man dead, and
there was a bunch of leaves in his side where he'd been shot.
I: So the belief was that the owl was really somebody that was human.
D: Yeah. Of course, she didn't believe in anything like that. That
was a tale thatI guess she'd heard somebody else tell.
I: But isn't that the kind of tale that's been told around here in
Cherokee country about birds or animals who are really human beings?
D: Oh, yeah. They claim way back years ago some of the old
people might have believed that this man could conjure. They
called them conjuremen. They could turn themselves into
different things like birds or animals. I didn't believe in
things like that.
I: Are there any conjuremen around today?
D: No, not that I know.
I: Are there people who still believe in this?
D: There probably are.
I: Old people living up in the mountains?
D: I guess they still believe in things like that.
I: How long have you been working at the museum?
D: Since last April.
I: You like it?
D: Yes, sir.
I: What do you do at the museum?
D: Well, I guide part of the time, and then when somebody has to be
off, I open up the museum and sell tickets. During the summer I
opened up two days a week, and I have to sell tickets and things
like that when I'm on the other lady's day off. I have to take
I: Jessie, tell me about your own family. Who is your husband?
D: James Dugan.
I: He's an Indian?
I: He's a white man. How many children do you have?
I: What does your husband do?
D: He's a driller. He works on construction, and he runs a drill.
I: Jessie, how did it happen that you married a white man?
D: Well, because I loved him, I reckon.
I: Where'd you meet him?
I: In Cherokee?
D: He lived right up the road. There was an old house there, and
that's where he lived.
I: What were the Dugans doing here in Cherokee?
D: Well, they lived here. He's lived here all of his life. He lived
up there at Ravensford.
I: His father was a farmer, too?
I: So it was a farm family.
D: Uh-huh [yes]. He rented down there after the park took over the
buildings up there. He worked for the park, my husband's father
did, and he lived in that house up there that belonged to the park.
That's before the Indians bought that up there--traded it for
whatever they got. His daddy worked for the park. He lived up
in there all of his life.
I: How'd you happen to meet your husband--at school?
D: No, it was here in Cherokee. He lived right up there; he's been
around in here all of his life.
I: Did you run into any special problems as an Indian woman marrying
a white man?
D: Well, his people didn't like it, but they never did mistreat me.
I: Where did you get married?
D: No. Justice of the Peace married us.
I: Why didn't you get married here?
D: We just didn't want to.
I: Was it this problem of Indian-white marriage?
D: Yeah, to a certain extent. We could have got married here.
But you could go to Georgia to get married right then. Up
here you had to wait on the blood test and everything, and
down there you didn't.
I: Jessie, how do you feel about intermarriage today, about your
D: Well, I've got two girls that married Indian boys. That's up
to the kids; it's not for me to say.
I: You don't care about that any more like your parents might have.
D: No. Of course, I wouldn't try to pick for my children. I
picked who I wanted; let them do the same.
I: Is this a prevalent attitude that today the old feeling has pretty
I: Do you think there's still this antagonism, white and Indian,
D: There might be a little bit, but nothing like it was when
I: The resentment is gone, isn't it?
D: Yes. Well, they can't hardly say anything anymore because
the biggest part of the fathers and mothers have got part
Indian blood in them and the other one hasn't. The children
are mixed. [Of] the girls that I went to school with, the
biggest part of them married whites or mostly whites.
I: Jessie, do you speak Cherokee?
D: No, sir.
I: Why not?
D: It never was taught at home. I just never spoke it.
I: Did anybody in your family speak Cherokee?
I: What about your children? Are they trying to teach their children
now, or are they being taught in the schools?
D: My oldest boy has got a little boy going down here and the rest
of them go to public school.
I: Where is the public school?
D: Over where my daughter lives on Soco. She sends her to Quallah.
I: How do the children get to school from Soco?
D: The school bus runs up there and picks them up and takes them to