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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PORJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with the Creek Nation East of The Mississippi
Interviewee: Girlie Rolin
Interviewer: J. Anthony Paredes
Date: August 15, 1972
P P: I am in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Tracy Rolin, interviewing Mrs. Girlie
Rolin and Mrs. Florence Tullis about customs having to do with babies
and that sort of thing. Perhaps, Mrs. Tullis, you could begin by talking
about the practice of midwifing, which you used to do.
T: Well, mostly whenever I was a midwife was just they needed me, you know,
and they would come to get me and then I would go help them out. See,
they got where they would not let us midwives doctor without license and
I never did have no license; and so I was scared and what I done, I done
just to help the people out, because I did not have no license or nothing.
P: How long ago was that that they started requiring to have a license?
T: Way back when Aunt Bessie was living. Girlie, how long back was that?
R: They did not have a license.
T: Joyce started out that work.
R: Yes, but Joycie had to get license.
P: Well, what year was that?
T: I do not know though.
P: Well, maybe if you could remember some of the children that you helped to
bring into the world, before they required license, and about how old
they are now. That would give some idea.
T: Well, some of the children that I helped bring into the world is long
about thirty, and some of them twenty-five and some younger than that.
Some twenty, but the oldest ones, I reckon is about thirty.
P: How did you learn to be a midwife?
T: Just being around with the other women, with the women folks, and just
watching them. That is the way I learned.
P: I have never seen a baby being born, so is there anything special that a
midwife had to know?
T: Yes, they are right smart that you have to know. It is things that you
should know, and if a person did not know what they was doing, you let a
person lie there and die. I knowed people that would let them lie there
and die before they would give up for a doctor to come.
P: When you were a midwife, where was the nearest doctor that you cold get?
T: In Atmore.
P: Was there one particular doctor that you usually used?
T: Well, no sir. not one Darticular doctor, but one particular doctor mostly
P: How about your children, Mrs. Tullis, how many?
T: I hav had all mine at home but one?
P: With a doctor with all those or a midwife?
T: No, midwife with one of mine and the other two was with doctors. One was
in the hospital, the others were a doctor at home.
P: I was going to ask you, back in the days when all babies were born at home,
In the room with the mother was there ever anybody else besides the midwife?
T: Yes sir, there sure was.
T: Lots a time, there would be two or three in there.'
P: Would they ever let the men in there?
T: No, they would not hardly let the men in there.
R: well, the men would be around but not right in there with them.
T: Well, sometime they had to have the men in there. Women folks had such a
hard time back in them time. Now, Marie, this girl that stays with me,
when her first one was born they had to have men folks too to help with
her, didn't they?
R: She had convulsions.
T: She had convulsions; they had to hold her until the baby was born.
P: When you were midwifing and back in the old days, what did they use to
cut the cord with?
P: Scissors? Did you bandage it or anything afterward?
T: Oh, yeah. See, you tied it together each way, you know, they tied it each
way before they ever cut it. Then they cut it in between in there and, and
all and then they bind it together.
P: You know, I have seen in the movies sometimes like in a western show or
something, when a baby's getting ready to be born, they always say, "boil
some water." What is that boiled water for?
T: That is to clean your instruments to where there will not be be germs on it,
see? You are supposed to have your hands clean you see, and your finger-
nails. When I would go to do something like that, I would cut my finger-
nails off just as close as I could bet them and have me some lysol water
fixed and all that to where I could keep my hands washed between that
lysol water where there would not be germs on my hand, you see, to get
on the little baby or on the mother.
S P: Now you say you learned midwifing from just watching?.
T: Watching older people, Being around, watching people,..
P: Was there any particular one older person that you were apprenticed to
for a while, or was-it just lots of different ones?
T: Just lots of different ones, I seen lots of it before I ever offered to,
you know, to catch any babies myself. I was just caught one night. How
come me, I reckon to ever catch a baby by myself that night. A man come
to my house, we just had moved off down in Florida, and this man come to
my house and he was near about scared to death. And he said, "Lady, I
come over here to get you to go over to my house." He said, "My wife is
sick, and I want you to go over there. She is fixing to have a little
baby and I want you to go over there." He said, "The..doctor ain't come.
I sent at him but he ain't come."
Well, when I got over there, there was one little baby done born. The
first ones I ever caught in my life was twins. When I got over there and
there was one done born and he said, "Well, Lord, what in the world."
Like to have scared the man to death sure enough when that one was born
and wife looked the same as ever, you know, And I said, "Oh, well, she
is just gonna have twins." Well, he looked like he did not know what to
do then. So I went ahead and doctored her, and directly another one was
born. And then she had twins. No doctor never did come.
* P: And that was your first one?
T: That was my first ones.
P: How many babies have you caught in your entire life?
T: Well, I have not exactly kept up with them, you know, but I have caught a
good many of them. I just could not hardly tell you how many, but I have
caught around fifty, sixty, seventy-five. I have caught five for one
woman, I know.
P: Five from the same woman? Have you caught babies for all races of people,
or just Indian people?
T: No, I have not caught no babies for no Indian people. I never did catch
no Indian babies. All I have ever caught babies for was for white people.
I ain't never caught none for none of my race of people and no colored
P: Were there ever, Mrs. Rolin, any midwives other than Indian midwives who
used to help Indian women have babies?
R: Yes, their was.
T: Yes, because there used to be midwives, colored ladies, and they depended
on them as well as they did anybody else, because they were good midwives.
P: Who were some midwives in your time? Ones who caught most of the Indian.
T: What was her name, Old Aunt Emma?
R: Emma Johnson.
P: Emma Johnson?
R: We always called her old Aunt Emma Johnson, and old colored lady. She
caught more of them than anybody else until Joycie learnt how. Then
Joycies down here, Calvin's wife, she learnt how by watching Aunt Emma
Johnson, and then she went to catching babies.
P: Have you ever known of a case of a woman who was say, caught off by her-
self or at home and there was not anybody around and who had to have a
baby by herself without anybody to help her?
T: Yes, sir.
P: Has that happened often in the past?
T: Not much, but it was happening one time. It happened to sister Girlie
P: Tell me about that, Mrs. Rolin.
S R: Well, this was a daughter,. Marie, she.was staying with:me at the time the
baby was to be born. Dan McBhee lived here at the time, he went to get a
midwife but he did not get too far away from the house before the baby
P: And you had to help do it, did not you?
R: I had to get the baby and pick it up, she...
P: You had to cut the cord, too?
R: No, I did not do that. It was born-- she was out on the porch, so I had
to pick up this afterbirth and get the baby and everything. And she
walked by herself to the bed. I got the baby up, and all this other,
taking him to the bed until the midwife got there.
P: Back in the days before babies were born in hospitals, what did the Indian
people in particular do, if anything, to help the mother's pain when she
was having the baby?
R: Well, I was just fixing to tell you that. Not long ago when, the lady
got sick in the community to have a baby, all the women around mostly
came and stayed. And while they was having those children, they would
have to catch a hold of them and' just let them bear to these pains to have
that child. Just have to hold them down sometimes.
P: And if it was bad, that's when a man would have to come and help hold?
S R: Yes, if they could not, others would have to help.
T: And they did not know much to give them but some kind of tea. When my
first baby was born my daddy stayed out in the woods down in the swamp-
near about all night to getting some kind of what kind of tea was that,
Girlie? What kind of bark was that daddy got, hunting on the tree? I
never will forget it.
R: Bay tree?
T: Bay tree.
P: Bay tree, Bay tree bark?
R: Bar tree bark.
P: And that was to kill the pain?
T: Oh, no, that was to bring it on. That was to make my pains more severe
to bring the baby to he born.
P: And your daddy did that for you? Is that in any sense traditional, that
a girl's father gets that for her, or anybody?
R: Well, just most anybody'.
* T: Just anybody that was there, you know, My daddy was there and he went
to get it and he got it for me.
P: One more question on midwifing. Did a midwife or anybody help the mother
or talk to the mother, say several days before her time was due? What
would the tell her?
T: Well, back in them times, the mother would talk to the daughters, and tell
them about what they had to do and how they would have to bear to the
paines and all. They still do that.
P: What I was asking about, was anything like what they call pre-natal care
now, when you go to a doctor for several weeks before the baby is born to
have check-ups and things. Was there anything like that?
T: No sir, see they was not no such-
R: Wait for your time.
P: You just wait until the time came.
T: They did not go to doctors then, back in them times; no, they did not go
P: Well, how old is your last one that was born in a hospital now?
P: So she is about 23. Would you say that it was.about 1950 that most of
the women from out here started having babies in hospitals?
R: Well, Linda was born in there in 1948. Ths was the child I had late in
T: One of our babies that is dead was born th the hospital, too, was not
R: Well, that is what I am telling you, I have not done told about the one
that was dead but she was born in a hospital in 1950. Linda was born in
P: She was born in a hospital too?
T: Yes, she was.
P: But before about 1948, were there many Indian babies born in hospitals,
do you think?
T: Not many.
P: Well, I am gonna give Mrs. Rolin a chance to talk at length here. The
next thing I wanted to ask about is if you could tell me in all the de-
tails that you can remember about this custom of the mother staying in
Sbed and then carrying the baby around the house, how that went.
R: Well, they always wanted the mother to stay in bed nine days. And the
ninth day, they wanted them to get up and go around the house. They
thought after then they would be able to be up and down. Put something on
their kead, they did not want them to go out...
P: Would it have to be a hat or a bonnet or?
R: I did not mind. One of them, just something on their head. Way of
taking care of theirself, they thought, not be out bareheaded.
P: Was it thought that being bareheaded was bad for the mother's health or
R: Yes, thought maybe she may take cold or something.
P: And she would go outside and walk around the house?
R: That is right.
P: How many times would she walk around the house?
R: Just once.
P: And that was on the ninth day after the baby was born?
R: That is right.
S P: Now was this the time at which the baby was carried around the house,
R: Well, I believe it was, was not it, Florence? The ninth day they always
taken the baby around the house.
P: And who took the baby around the house?
R: They's alot of people.
T: Just whoever wanted to take it around the house. If I wanted to take one
around there, I would go around with the baby and come back with the baby.
And then the mother would go.
P: I see. So the mother and the baby did not go at the same time?
T: The mother and the baby did not go at the same time.
P: Now I have heard some say that whoever it is that carries the baby, the
baby's supposed to take after that person?
T: Have ways like it, I will tell you that. Because there are many one of
P: What was that, Mrs. Rolins?
R: The one taking it around, it is pretty well true. With our children seems
like that we have had.
P: Mrs. Tullis, what kind of ways are you talking about? The baby would grow
up to have.
T: Well, you know. It would take ways after you.. Like if you would get mad
about something, or be quick-tempered, or something like that, well, that
child-would take ways back like that after you. That is what I was talking
P: Could either a man or a woman carry the baby?
T: Yes, woman or man either one.
P: Now could a man carry a girl baby?
S T: Yes.
P: And a woman could carry a man baby?
T: Uh, huh, for a baby did not make no difference.
P: Now did the mother have any choice in who carried her baby around?
T: Well, yes, some of them did. Some of them sure did.
P: How did that work?
T: Well, lots of them did not want them to take them around the house because
they did not want them to have ways like them you know; that is the reason.
P: Would they come right out and say, "No, I do not want you to take my baby."?
T: No, I ain't never known them to do that, but they would not want them to
carry them around the house. They would get by it some way or another.
P: I cannot imagine. How would they get by it? (laughter)
R: Well, there is one carried one of my babies around. She was a good woman
now, understand, but she sursed and a lot of them get mad and had such a
temper, you know.
P: But you could not stop her from carrying?
R: No, I could not stop her.
T: She wanted to carry it around. I let her take it around the house.
P: Was it usually a relative that carried the baby or not?
T: Not every time.
P: It was not necessarily kinfolk that did that? Now after that was done,
was there anything else special that was done like that?
R: Well, they always wanted a woman to stay in the house a month. They did
not want her to do much but take care of herself. Did not want to sweep,
mop, or nothing like that.
P: Just yesterday somebody was telling me that whoever carries the baby is
supposed:to talk to the baby. 'Have" you ever heard of that?
P: I think it was John Lee McGhee was saying that whoever carries the baby
talks to the baby, and is not supposed to tell what he says to the baby.
Have you ever heard that?
T: I did not never know that.
P: Maybe that is a Hog Fork custom?
T: Maybe that is where they done that.
P: So old customs like this, they might he different from say, here and
Head of Perdido?
T: Yes, they was different.
P: Now when the baby was carried, was that immediately after the mother
walked around, or would that be a little Bit later, or what?
T: It would be immediately after the mother went around.
P: What about the father during this time? Was he involved in this in any
R: No, he would mostly be away working.
P: When the mother and the baby was carried around, how many other people
would go with her? Was there any set number or anything?
R: No. No set number.
T: No set number.
P: Now let's say if there were a whole bunch of people at the house when the
person who was gonna carry the baby said he wanted to carry the baby.
Would he go by himself, or she go by herself, or would others?
S T: Sometimes one would walk around and the other one would walk around with
them. They would say, "Well, I am gonna go anyhow," and they would go
around with them too. They would go around anyhow because they wanted to
go around with them because they would not let them tote the baby. They
would go around anyhow.
P: Do you recall ever happening that there was any people that had hard feel-
ings over not being able to carry a particular baby around?
R: I do not think so, no.
T: I do not remember, nobody ever-- I have had lots of them to say "I wish
I had not never let her carry my young child around the house."
P: Because of the way the child grew up?
T: "She has got ways just like her:"
P: Now let me ask you what happened to this custom when babies started being
horn in the hospital?
R: Well, I do not believe, since they was born in the hospital we did that.
Because I do not remember Linda being taken around the house.
P: You cannot think of a single case of a baby born in a hospital that was
5 carried around?
T: Uh, huh. They just brought them out. They did not carry them around the
" R: Not that I know of.
P: Now do you think the same rules apply with the person who carries the
baby out of the hospital. Do you think that the baby will grow up to
have that person's ways?
R: Oh, yes. They feel that way.
T: The one that carries them out, they still feels that way with them.
P: Right now, do you think people feel that way?
R: I do not know .of them taking:them around the house anymore.
P: That is all gone now, they do not do that anymore. Do you remember back
when you were small, the older people talking about this custom described
long years -before you were born?
T: Well we do not know. That is as far back as we can remember.
R: Well, Grandma Treacy was a midwife and so was Aunt Lizzy.
T: I know.
R: Daddy's sister, Lizzy Jackson, was a midwife. Now she delivered one of my
P: That was another thing I needed to ask. Did the midwives stay at the house
for awhile after the baby was born? How long?
R: Yes, well, Aunt Lizzy, where I was living at the time, she stayed about
four or five days. She really stayed with me.
P: This custom of carrying babies around the house, do you happen to know
whether that was something that was strictly Indian, or did you ever know
of white people or colored people doing that too?
R: No, I never did know of anybody else doing it.
T: No, I never knew somebody else doing it.
P: The only people you have known to ever do that were Indian folks?
T: That is all we ever paid any attention to doing it, was Indian.
P: You spoke of the mother having to have her head covered. Was there any-
thing like that about the baby?
R: Well, that baby was all wrapped up, you see.
P: Did people used to put bonnets on babies, years ago?
T: Long dresses.
P: Boys and girls?
T: Long dresses. They wore long dresses, too.
P: Now one thing I wondered about, at this Episcopal church here they
christen babies, when they are babies. Could you tell me about how that
is usually? Back when the Episcopal church first came, and there ever
been any other churches that christened babies?
R: Never did when they were smaller. Waited till they got up about twelve
years old before they would baptized them.
P: How did people around here feel about that idea of baptizing babies?
R: Well, when they first came here they all felt all right. But later some
of them, you know, I cannot think of any babies that was baptized when
they first came in here.
P: In alot of places folks make special clothes for their baby to be baptized
in. Do you all do that here, too?
R: No, we did not at that time.
P: Uh, huh.
R: Later we grew up to that, but we did not.
P: Can you think of any other customs that people used to have about bring-
ing up a child proper? Was there ever anything special attached to the
babies first teeth or anything like that?
R: No, I do not believe.
T: No, sir, they just had old rules that they went by. They would put things
around the babies' necks, you know, to keep them from cutting teeth hard
and things like that.
P: What kinds of things do they put around their necks?
R: They put buttons around their necks, and go out and dig this sassa-
some weeds, you know, in the field and make beads and put around their
P: Now was that for the baby to chew on?
T: No, it would just be around their necks, And they would claim it would
keep them from having a hard time cutting their teeth.
P: What kind of weed was that,.did you say?
T: What is it, Girlie? Name of that medicine? You know, I cannot think of
R: Was not it sassafras?
P: Was it something called "tredsass".
R: I believe that is what it is called.
P: I have heard some talk about it. And you make the beads out of roots of
T: Uh, huh. It has got a little hole in it. Stick the needle through it
and just make a bead, and then they put nine shirt buttons around the neck.
P: Nine. shirt buttons and those beads?
T: Uh, huh.
R: One or the other, maybe.
T: One or the other.
P: It would be nine beads or nine shirt buttons. A couple of people have
told me about putting mole feet around the babies necks. Have you ever
heard of that?
T: Oh, yes.
P: Tell me how that is done.
R: Well, they dug them up and then they died. They have little, little
hide and let it dry, you know.
P: Oh, they would let the hide dry.
P: And then what would they do?
R: That is when they would put it around the neck.
P: The whole hide?
T: No, see they would put a string through it, you know, put a string through
it and then put it around it neck.
P: The whole hide of the mole or just part of it?
T: No, just through his foot.
P: Through the foot, I see.
R: They used to put hog jaw teeth, too, around the Baby's neck.
T: Yes, Hog jaw. When they kill the hog and they cook those jowls.
R: That last old tooth in there, they would save that, put it around a child's
mine never did wear any, but I have seen the old one's does,
P: All these things we are talking about, they were not for the baby to chew
on, they were just....
T: Just around there to keep them from having a hard time cutting their
P: What about any other medicines for babies, like for hives, for example.
T: They give them lots of tea for that.
P: what kinds of tea for hives?
T: Well, I give mine mostly asafetida tea.
R: Horse-mint tea.
T: And, give them horse-mint tea. And, give them a little whiskey. I would
put a drop or two of whiskey in a little bit of a sweetened water and give
R: And the red bark tea?
P: Red bark tea? What kind of tree?
T: Red oak?
P: Read oak? And that is good for hives, Too?
R: Yes. Made a tea of that.
T: You know babies had what they call Boll hives, too.
P: Boll hives?
T: Yes, sir. Because Aunt Tild had one to die. The doctor said boll hives
killed it. And you, sycamore -- isn't it sycamore?
S T: Yes, Sycamore bark is good for that.
P: Made up into a tea?
T: Take the bark off of the north side of the tree, and take it and make
tea out of it, that is good for that.
P: What about diaper rash? Back in the old days was that a problem babies
T: Yes, but they did not have nothing like they got now for diaper rash.
Back in olden days they went out to the stumps, where they stumps was,
and got them some rotten wood, and would beat it up fine and put in a
thin cloth, and make them some powder out of it, and that is what they
had for diaper rash. That was what cured the diaper rash on babies back
in olden times.
P: What did people make diapers out of back then? Anything special?
T: Just anything they could... as they could get their hands on.
P: Would they ever make diapers out of flour sacks?
T: Yes, sure did. Old sheets and...
P: Was there ever a time around here when people used to, grown-ups, make
cloths out of flour sacks? Those flour sacks that have designs and flowers
* and things on them?
R: There used to be big sacks like, what did you call them, Florence, made
dresses out of?
T: Well, they was feed sacks. That was bought for feed sacks, you know, but
they was flowered sacks. You could buy them. They was just printed cloth
you know, they used to buy them and make the clothes out of.
P: What about "trash"? I have heard about "thrash" as another baby disease.
T: Yes, that is another baby one.
P: How do you cure that one?
T: Well, olden people way back yonder did not know much about it. Way back
yonder when they would doctor the "trash", I knowed my momma to take the
old fryer, and take here a clean white rag and put some vaseline on this
rag, and get this smut off of a fryer. Put it on the fire and let it get
smutty, and she would take that off there and mop that in that baby's
mouth and just have it little mouth just wet as it could be.
P: Now I have heard about some people who had special skill in curing
T: Yes, our Aunt Bessie did.
R: Roberta's mother. Aunt Bessie?
that I would use because he was the one that would always help me because
I did not have no license, see.
P: Who was that doctor?
T: Dr. Peavy, Well, there was another doctor was pretty good too: Dr.
CcKinley. He was an old doctor and I had a good many friends and he did,
too, I thought one time I was gonna get into it for catching one baby,
but this woman's brother knew him and got him to send off a birth certifi-
cate for me. That is all that saved me, too, getting into it. They was
talking about, you know, turning me up, some of their people did, you know.
And her brother knew him and got him to send a birth certificate off for
me and all, and that was all there was to it.
P: But years ago there were some babies that did not have birth certificates?
T: Did not have none, no. Did not have any.
P: And maybe that is why-some of;the people around .here do not know how old
T: That is how come they do not. Back when I was born, there was not no birth
certificates for none of us back in the olden people most of the time.
P: But you told me the other day how you and your family knew how old you
T: Yes, my daddy always kept up with it in the Bible. He put it down in the
Bible with out family.
P: Mrs. Rolin, how many of your children were born with a midwife, at home?
P: Two? The rest were born in a hospital?
R: Well, no, at home ...
P: At home with a doctor?
R: With a doctor.
P: Did you have any children in a hospital?
P: That was your last one?
R: Yes, that was Linda Gail.
P: And how old is she?
R: She was born in 1948. She is twenty.
SP: Uh, huh.
R: People in the community, oh, she doctored them, with thrash. Anybody
had a little baby and got the thrash would come to her. And she did tell
me the little verse she used to- no, she never did tell us. She said
she did want to tell somebody just before she died but she did not. Now
she did the same thing, She got a washcloth, and got this off the frying
pan, and she said something and wiped that child's mouth out.
P: Do you know if it was a Bible verse or what?
R: Well, I just really do not know. But she did tell me one time for burns.
P: For burns. What was the one for burns?
R: She would say, "Two little angels come from Noah. One brought fire, and
the other brought frost. Go out fire and come in frost." I still do that
if I get a little burn.
P: And that is for just anybody who is burned.
R: Yes. For anybody that is burned.
P: Now people who are good at curing a particular thing like "thrash", is
there anything special about them that makes it possible for them to cure
R: Well, we always said, Aunt Bessie was a good woman. She tried to live a
a good life, but other than that I did not know.
P: Have you ever heard anyone say that somebody that is good at curing thrash
has to be somebody that is never seen their daddy?
T: Uh, huh. I have heard that, too.
P: Say it in your words.
T: Yeah, they say, anybody that is never seen their father, that they can tell,
blow their breath in a child's mouth, take it and blow it in there mouth
three times, and they say it will cure the thrash on them. Because I know
them old people brings their babies down to my home, to J. C., one of my
nephews, he has never seen his father, and they bring their babies down
there and gets J. C. to blow his breath in their mouths to cure the thrash
P: Years ago, did the Indian people out here ever use colored people for
taking care of thrash and things like that?
T: No, they never have.
P: Did they themselves ever doctor white or colored babies?
SR: Aunt Bessie did. She doctored white children.
P: Did she?
R: She sure did. Well, they never did deal with the Indian children, well
it is much different than what it was then, was not it, Florence? When
one died? They would dress, have it at home and things, you know. They
did not have no funeral home. They always kept them home. Sit up with
P: How long would they sit up with them?
R: Well, for about two nights and one day. If he died, the day maybe the
night, they would keep him the next day and then the next day they would
have the funeral.
P: Back in the old days did you have tp report a death to the County Coroner
and get a death certificate?
T: Well, way back yonder they did not, but they did get where they had to.
Years back they did not, but then they did get where they had to report
P: Did people used to build their own coffins out here?
T: Yes, they have done it.
R: Some have.
P: Now I have heard, I guess it was Father Merkle or somebody, talking about
how funerals amongst the Indian people, he is seen. As people go by they
put their hands on their....
T: Uh, huh.
P: Tell me about that.
T: Yeah, and you know, when they was a funeral-- used to lay people out, they
laid people out on like a board or something, they did not take them to
the funeral home. They would lay them out on boards, you know, a table,
or like this.
P: In a house?
T: In the home. And all things like that. And most everybody now near about
it, if I know anybody, and I go to a funeral and near about it now I near
about puts my hand on anybody. It is when I go to a funeral and see them,
always say you will not study about them, and you will not dream about
them, that is the reason why.
R: And then they will not worry you.
T: And they will not worry you. They say.
P: If you put your hand on them?
T: If you put your hand on them. That was a-old rule; reason why people
always do that. They day if you put and all, and if they see you touch
them, they would not bother you.
P: And you will not think about them later on?
T: You won't study about them, you know, like you would if you did not.
That is what made people do that.
P: Now, I know among my people when somebody dies, there is usually a big
feed at the house. Did you all do that? Did you have alot of people
bring food and things?
T: Yes, Yes.
R: We do now, but we used to did not.
T: Used to did not.
P: You did not? When did you start doing that?
T: Well, it is been several years ago.
P: How did that get started?
* T: Well, I do not know, sir, could not hardly tell, just people just got to a,
you know, sitting up and people would go at night and buy stuff, I reckon,
and then people got where they would.
R: Thought it was best for each other to fix something.
T: Fix something and carry to have to eat. They got to where now, people do
not cook where there a funeral now, everybody cooks and carries it and
keeps plenty of food cooked to the house.
P: If somebody was dying, and they were still living, but people could tell
they were gonna die, would alot of people come to the house or not?
R: Yes, sure would. Lot's of them if they thought one was gonna die.
R: House would be full.
P: How long... would they just come for a short while, or stay, or what?
R: They would come stay until mostly he did die or thought be got better.
T: He would passed away.
R: They would stay with him.
SP: Do either of you remember going to a funeral where there was not actually
a real preacher there but somebody else took charge? Tell me about that.
T: Yes, I have went to a where they had--a funeral and there was not a
preacher there. They just, you know, talked and said a few words and
all, and told about the person.
R: Something nice.
T: Yeah, they would not say much, just what all they think.
P: When a person was being taken to the cemetery, how was that done?
T: Mostly in way back years ago it used to be in wagons and then it got to
be taken in trucks.
P: Would it be just like it is now with everybody going along behind?
T: Yes, uh, huh.
P: In wagons or.....?
P: Do you ever remember a time when a person was carried to the cemetery on
foot and the pallbearers would carry them all the way from the house to
T: No, sir, do not remember.
P: Has there always been the custom of selecting pallbearers for funerals?
P: Now if a baby dies, as a baby, is theefuneral the same as if he was a
P: One thing we talked about the other day and I wanted to ask you to talk
about is picking names for babies. How did you all for example decide on
names for your babies?
T: Well, I do not hardly know myself how they done that.
R: They would pick out their own names, mostly.
P: Has there ever been a preference for naming children after somebody?
R: Well, I was named after someone.
SP: Uh, huh..
T: Yes, there is lots of them that are named after people, you know, picked
names and named after people. The would say, "name. them.after so-and-so,"
you know-. They have books now with names in them, you know. In a hospital
they will give you a book now- and you pick out the name in a book now in
the hospital if you want to name the baby there.
P: Now the Episcopal Church has godparents, of course.
P: Before the Episcopal Church came here was there ever anything like god-
parents that people had?
T: No, sir.
P: There was not somebody that would stand up for the baby at church or any-
thing like that?
R: Sure was not. All my children were baptised in the Episcopal Church.
P: I have noticed in the various churches I have gone to that taking a
birthday offering seems to be an important thing. Has that always been
T: Well, no, it has not-always been, but it has been for several years back.
9 It started several years back. But it has not always been.
P: Years ago, did people have any little party to celebrate birthdays or
T: No. Used to not celebrate them.
R: Now, you know they have got where they do, but years ago...... but we
used to work our birthdays, you know, and we could not look forth to a
P: Would, like for a child, would her mother make a cake or anything like
R: They would make a cake.
T: Or something like that, you know.
P: Speaking of celebrating things, would you two ladies tell me about old-
fashioned Christmas that you used to have years ago, what you did then?
R: That means when we were children?
P: When you were children, yes.
R: Well, when it was Christmas time, we were glad to see Christmas. We did
not get fruit and stuff like we do now.
. P: Hu,huh.
R; And when you would see Santy Claus come that Christmas Eve night, he
always brought us fruit,
P: Did you put up stockings?
R: Yes, we hung stockings, or put a box under the bed, or something so he
should put the stuff in it.
P: You sometimes put a box under the bed instead of the stocking?
T: No, did not have no Christmas.
P: When was the first Christmas tree that you can remember?
R: I do not know if there was back after the Episcopal people came around,
cannot you Florence?
T: We sure did not have none when we grew up.
P: When was the first Christmas trees you could remember, Mrs. Rolin?
R: Well, I think that was in 1929.
S P: And the Episcopal Church started those?
R: Yes. We did not know what a christmas tree was.
P: Mrs. Tulis, I did not get on the tape what you said about your mother
decorating for Christmas. Would you say that again, please? Or your
T: She would decorate with a holly bush--the limbs, you know, around in the
house, with the red berries on it. Because it said if you decorate with
a holly bush, the limbs, that you would have a good Christmas. And I
used to do the same thing I used to hunt me a holly bush tree if I could
find one, with the red berries on it.
P: Speaking of holly, do you remember holly ever being used as a medicine of
T: No, sir. Did not use it for medicine.
P: What about New Year's Day? Was there any special thing about New Year's
Day when you were young?
T: Now, sir, I do not know anything special on New Year's Day.
R: Yes, we always cooked blackeyed peas and hog jowls. They said if you had
that on New Year's you would have good eats all year.
P: If you had hog jowls and black-eyed peas, good eats all year.
P: Can you think of any other customs or beliefs people used to have about
bring good luck?
R: They used to nail these old horse shoes up on there house, and if you had
one of those you would have good luck all year.
P: Were there ever any customs about when a young couple got married, things
people would do to try and make sure they had good luck in their marriage?
R: No, I do not believe ....
T: No, sir, I do not remember nothing.
P: Well, from what we have said then it would seem like when a baby was born,
that is when the biggest kind of custom was carrying the baby around.
R: Yes. When this lady got sick, you would send to the old-cal Dr. Peavy--
was our main old doctor, and he used to say when the apple got ripe, you
know, it would fall, you know, meant you call the doctor.
P: When the apple got ripe it would fall.
R: It would fall, yes.
P: A minute ago, Mrs. Tullis, or quite a while ago, you mentioned that the
first baby you caught was twins. Do you remember whether there was ever
any special beliefs about twins, whether there was anything attached to
being a twin, whether that was thought to be good or bad or special some-
T: Well, no sir, I did not never have no idea of nothing like that. It is
like you said, they come twins when you do not think it sometime, then
again, it do not.
P: The other thing that you were telling about the other day, I asked you if
people used to build craddles for babies and you said some, but where did
the baby usually sleep.
T: Well the babies always slept with the mother.
P: Until they were how old?
R: Well, about two years old.
P: Two years old. We were also talking the other day about baby bottles.
When did people start using baby bottles around here.
R: It has been since the younger-aged people.
T: That has not Been so many years ago since they been raising the babies on
* P: Well, a lot of young women now are going back to breast feeding.
T; Yes lots of them going back to the feeding the breast babies.
P: When you were having children, about what age did most women try to wean
R: When they are most two years old.
P: Two years old?
T: Uh huh.
P: Years ago before there were baby bottles, what would happen if a mother
did not have any milk for her baby?
T: Well then, that is when they had to give them bottles. They could tell
by the way the baby growed and how it filled out, whether it was getting
anything to eat from the mother. And if they would not fill out like
they ought to, then the doctors would put them on the bottle.
P: What would happen though, years before they had the baby bottles?
T: I just do not know what happened.
* P: Was it ever the case that some other woman who had a baby would she take
T: Yes sir, because right down here there is two children raised right down
here. This one that runs this store down here (Martha Jackson) and a boy,
a man that lives right down there was raised because his momma died.
R: No her momma died. Otha Martin.
T: Otha Martin's momma raised Galley, cause her momma died. And they both
were the same age, so she taken Calley and raise here from the breast, too.
P: But even years ago, most women, if they had to, could get bottles and
R: Seems like we did not have to put them on bottles. They always raise the
children on the breast.
P: Do you remember whether there was ever any special diet that a mother was
supposed to eat before or after the baby came?
T: Yes sir.
S P: What was it?
T: Me, I lived off of mostly just eggs and grits and rice.
R: Till it was a month. old, was not it?
T: They would not let us have nothing to eat like they do now.
P: Uh huh.
T: My mother would not let me have nothing to eat hardly. Not, you know,
peas and things like that. They did not let us have things like that to
P: Did they have any special reason for that?
T: Well they would claim it would give the baby the colic. Because if we
eat it would give the haby the colic and make it sick.
P: Yh hun, so eggs and grits and rice....
T: Grits and rice and chicken and dumplings is mostly what I eat for a month,
till my baby was a month old.
P: I am back to babies again. But before the baby was born, would the mother
have to stay in bed or did she just keep right on with her activities?
T: No, just go right on up to the time.....
" "R: She was able to keep going right up to the.....
T: Long as she was able to go.
P: Another thing that I remember from our conversation the other day, was
you were talking about the measles and how people used to keep their houses
dark and all. Would you talk about that again?
T: Yes, when people had measles or things like that, I do not know, people
were scared of disease more, than they are now. People used to think the
children had measles, they put them in the bed and they kept them in there
till they knowed they was alright.
P: You said the kept the house dark?
T: That was when they had them babies.
P: Uh huh..
T: That is when them babies was little was when they kept the house dark.
And that is wehn you did not see nobody wear glasses all the time, neither.
I know when my ma, times would come using light like that, you did not
see no light in my momma's house when she had a little baby. All the
light was clear out of the house when. And you did not see people either
where they had to have a pair of glasses time they got up to fifteen and
twenty years old.
P: Rut on the nineth day the Baby would go outside.
T: Yes sir.
T; They went outside.
R: They went out.
P: One more thing on babies, back in the days before they had all this baby
food and so forth, what did mother's do to get their babies on solid food.
What kind of things did they give them?
R: Well, they did not get much after that breast, until they got a month old.
And then they would give soups and....
T: Cornbread, beans.
P: NowI remember my mother talking about how, when she was growing up in
North Alabama, mothers sometimes used to chew the babies food for him be-
forehand. Do you remember if they used to do that?
R: Uh huh, lots of mothers used to chew their food for their babies.
P: How about grits and things?
T: Right, that is what I used to feed mine.
P: We were talking a long time ago about sofkee, did you ever give sofkee to
T: No, I never did give sofkee to babies.
P: But you did say once that that was something that sick people used to....
T: Yes sir, that is what sick people used to eat. I did not know of anybody
had to have it. Reen Rolin was the onliest person that lived, that was
Aunt Bessie's sister, she was the:onliest person I ever knowed that knowed
how to make it. And she could make some of the best sofkee that you ever
eat, and I do not know of nobody else knows how to make it, do you?
R: No, not around here.
T: I do not know of nobody now.
P: But both of you all did eat it when you were young.
T: Yes, we did. Yes, we made it, yes sir.
R: Used to cook the old lye corn, boil in a wash.pot.
T: Wash pot.
P: To make hominy?
P: Uh, huh.
R: That would make it and then, you know, wash the corn clean. After we
thought we had washed it so many times, we would clean it then and then
T: Called it "big grain hominy."
P: "Big grain hominy." Now is that what grits are made out of big grain
T: Well yeah, it is made out of corn just like that. It is just ground,
grits is just groung up fine, you know. But it is made out corn, just
like corn meal. Grits is made out of corn, just what big grain hominy's
made out of.
P: Well, I cannot seem to think of anymore about babies or anything like that.
The other night you were telling about a bunch of different plants, for
different diseases and things. Could you remember those again and tell
it to me? We went out and got some low bush myrtle.....
T: Yes, that was the low bush myrtle. Well we mentioned about the gopher
grass, you know.
R: It was good for the kidneys.
T: And what else was it we mentioned about?
R: Horse mint tea.
T: Yes, Horse mint tea.
R: Good for a cold. And the yellowroot ( g. Ranunculacueas ) was good for
pellagra, some how.
T: Yes, I knew yellowroot was good for the pellagra. That is a wonderful
medicine, is yellowroot if you could get it.
P: Is it good for anything besides pellagra?
T: I do not know, sir, whether -it is or not, but it is really well they say
it is good now for pellagra. I do not know.
SP: I think you mentioned fever grass?
T: Yes, that is right. (probably spicebush, g. Lindera benzoin) Fever
R: Was good for the fever. And like what is it now?
P: Local grass, was it?
T: What was that other kind of?
P: Sassafras (g. Sassafras albidum)
R: Sassafras tea, yes.
P: Sassafras tea.
T: And he said he would drink sassafras tea.
P: And you said your mother used to give that to you for what?
T: For your blood. To purify your blood in the spring of the year, momma
used to make us some of it in the spring of the year and feed it to us.
That was good to purify your blood. Sassafras tea was in the spring of
P: I have heard some people mention something called pinetop tea.
T: From little old pine trees out there.
R: These pine trees right out here.
P: Yes? The green needles?
T: Yes, green ones, un hun.
P: And that is good for what?
T: Good for bad colds. You take a bad cold and make you some, and it is
good. It tastes good too, I like it. Sweeten it, you know, boil it.
R: Shucks was good for tea, too.
P: Corn shucks?
S R: Corn shucks.
P: One thing that I have not heard anybody talk about at all, and that is
any medicine for sores or cuts on you or any thing like that. Did you
ever know of any medicines for that that people used to make?
T: Well, no, I do not believe I do know. I do not know no medicine that
theymade for sores.
P: What about sore eye that children, or pink eye that children used to get?
Any medicines for that?
T: No, I do not know, .... pink eye.
R: Seems like there was some, but I cannot think of it.
T: They boiled some, there is so much I forgot till I ....
P: Now, one thing I have noticed is that people like yourself seem to know
an awful lot about these different medicines, yet there were people called
the medicine man like Norman....
P: Did they just know more than other people or what?
R: Well he just kept up with these roots more than we did, you see, studied
them. When we forgot them Norman was getting them, you see.
P: He just remembered all of them?
T: Yes, sir, he remembered them.
R: He remembered all of them and he got them.
P: Uh huh.
R: Now you would not think it, my legs used to hurt me, feet would burn me,
and he told me to get a quart of vinegar and a pack of needles, white
vinegar, and put those needles in this vinegar. Let them stay so long
and make a linament and rub with it.
P: Uh huh. Just from the sewing needles you are talking about?
R: Yes, and rub your legs.
T: And it will eat them needles up, I mean that vinegar will eat them needles
P: Till they just disappear?
T: Disappear, there will not be nothing in that. Good linament too. She
* used to rub with it all the time.
P: In addition to herb medicines like that, has there ever been much faith
healing and things like that around here?
T: Well, yes sir, they....
P: That is some of the ligament right there.
T: And the needles was put in that.
P: Smells different than just plain vinegar.
R: It does.
T: There was pack put in there. Pack put in it....
R: Colored it.
T: Turned it that color.
P: And it does work you say?
R: Yes, it is good.
S T: You are talking about faith doctor, or faith work. One time I was sick,
that is reason Marie is with me today. When my baby girl was born, she
was three weeks old. Well I taken down with a hurting, I believe it was
in this side, and I just could not do nothing. And I stayed home, down
at my home a week, and Girlie here come down there. My husband could not
go to work, and he was working in the shipyard. And she would come down
there that Sunday. He had to stay home to tend to the baby, cause I
could not tend to the baby or nothing else, and my other two boys were
small. And she begged him to let me come stay with her, and for him to
go back to work. So he decided that he would let me come up here and
stay a week with her. Well, while I was up here, Girlie begged Marie to
go-did not beg her, asked her, to go stay with me till I got better, or
stay a week or two with me. She just want to stay two weeks with me. So
she went, and she been with me now ever since then, and that has been
twenty-nine years ago.
As I started to say, I had went to, I reckon, every doctor around here
near about it, had not I? And just spent money and spent money and
medicine was not doing me no good. Did not seem like no medicine I would
take did no do me no good. And Mr.-Charlie Hall was carrying a bunch to
DeFuniak Springs, Florida ever two weeks on a pick-up truck over there to
a faith doctor. So some of them said to me why did not I go. Well, when
I would have a spell with this side it would just hurt me so bad, it just
looked like I could not hardly live. And I just could not hardly stand
it. So my husband, he was afraid for me to go. He was afraid I could
D not make a trip over there. But I kept saying I wanted to go. I was
gonna go try. And so, me and one of my nephew's wives, she wanted to go
too, decided we were going. We saw Mr. Hall about going with him, and he
said, yes, we could go. And we went.
I made four trips to him. The first trip I went, I did not have very bad
spell that whole day. Seemed like to me I had a spell but it was not
very bad, you know, it was light. It did not hurt me too bad and all.
And so then, in the next two weeks, we went back again. Well, I made
four. trips to him, thank God, in them four trips I made to that doctor
he only charged a dollar. He did not charge nothing, be we give him a
dollar each time we went. And them four trips, thank God, I ain't never
had to have nothing else done to my side.
P: Did he just pray, or lay on hands?
T: His wife was crippled, a bus had hit her and cut her leg off or something.
Anyhow, she was one-legged. And should sit by the bed. He had a bed for
the women folks in one or two rooms. And the one room was for women, one
was for the men. He put you on the bed, and they lie you on the bed.
And he would start at your head up here like this with his thumb and he
would come down with his thumbs just like that. He would come down, right
on down with his thumb, right down like that, and then he went, till he
would go out, right out to the bottom of your feet. And you could feel
that man when he would go, was going down on you, I do not know how, it
felt just like electricity going through you. I do not know what he had.
I did not see nothing on him or nothing, but.....
SP: Was he a preacher at a church, too?
T: No sir, he just came to be a faith doctor, he did not claim to be no
preacher or nothing.
P: Well, he must have been pretty famous if people were coming up from here
once a week down there.
T: Once every two weeks we went.
P: And it was Mr. Hall that started taking people?
T: Uh huh, he was the one carried, he carried a pick up truck load.
P: Uh huh.
T: But, Lord have mercy, you could not hardly get to see that preacher, I
mean that doctor there, but people was-there. The was coming from every-
where to see him. And so I went and made them four trips. And what got
me, I just kept getting better and better from the first trip I made. I
kept a getting better and better, and thank God, till I got. I guess I
got alright. Thank God I ain't been bothered with it no more.
P: Was this doctor white?
S T: He was white.
P: Other than real faith healers like that, has it every been the practice,
say somebody's real sick, to have a prayer service for them?
P: Now where are those usually conducted?
T: Well, most anywhere's wherever there's sick folks.
P: At church or in homes?
T: In homes.
R: In his home and wants them to come into pray they will just send for them.
P: Is that led by a preacher, or can just a group go?
T: Group can go and pray, you know, but they mostly get s their main head
manager of, like Mace, you know, to go with a manager.
P: Has there ever been anybody here amongest the Indian people who was a real
faith healer that you know of?
T: No, I do not know of any.
P: Well, I do not think I have asked everything there is to ask, but thank
Syou very much.