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Interview with William Calhoun Lesslie, October 12, 1973

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Title:
Interview with William Calhoun Lesslie, October 12, 1973
Creator:
Lesslie, William Calhoun ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Catawba Indians -- Florida
Kataba Indians -- Florida
Catawba Oral History Collection ( local )

Notes

Funding:
This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Catawba' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

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SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT


UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


In cooperation with the Catawba Nation


INTERVIEWEE: Mr. W. C. Lesslie
INTERVIEWER: Emma Echols


DATE: October 12, 1973




















E: This is Emma Reid Echols, Route 6, Box 260, Rock Hill, South Carolina.
I'm working on the oral history of the Catawba Indians. I'm visiting in
the home of Mr. Lesslie. Mr. Lesslie, would you give me your full name?

L: William Calhoun.

E: William Calhoun Lesslie. What's your address?

L: It's Rock Hill, Route 6.

E: Now how old are you Mr. Lesslie?

L: I'm eighty-four.

E: Eighty-four. You know a lot of things to tell us about the Indians.
Let's go back when you were a little boy. What do you remember about the
Indians on the reservation when you were a little boy? Have you ever
hunted or played with them?

L: When I was fifteen or eighteen, somewhere along in that age, I went hunting
with John Brown, aEn] Indian who was aEn] excellent shot at birds, and
he would kill as many as three or more on a rise. That's when the covey
waste is flushed. He had one of the best trained dog that I have ever seen
and I haven't seen one as was better. And he was called Early Brown. You
remember Early, don't you? They were living on a square mile or reservation
set aside by the state of South Carolina at that time. They lived in small
homes.

E: Were they log home houses or were they just timber?

L: Log, no. They were not log. Practically all of them were just wooden homes,
but they were small, most all of them was. But one of the reasons was that
they just didn't have an opportunity to make very much money. They hauled
wood off the reservation to Rock Hill and sold it for buying purposes or
heat. They used that money for a living, partly, and the state of South
Carolina appropriated a certain amount. It was divided out among them by
Catawba Indian agent. Practically all of them are good swimmers. They
live right at the river and they could swim. There was two Canty boys,
Henry, and--I've forgotten his name right now.

E: Was it Alonza or Frank?

L: Frank. In that time, we didn't have a drug addict in South Carolina. People
sold laudanum, I believe it was, and some other things. They got to be
addicts to that, and Frank was burned to death in a fire down there. Just







2







a woods fire, a field of fire. He was evidently helpless at that time
and that's where he died. I heard he died a natural death. Not too many
of them, though, used any of that kind of dope, but that family just happened
to be one that did, the mother and the two daughters.

E: The white people brought in the whiskey and things of that kind.

L: They would go to town, they'd come out here to Lesslie and....

E: To the store.

L: Yes, into the store and buy.

E: What was it like on the reservation in terms of food in those days, parti-
cularly the quail? John Brown shooting the quail. There were plenty
of quail. What other...?

L: They fished some and they were good at it. Catawba River at that time was
not polluted as it is now and the fish were good. You could catch them.
They would fish, seine and some of them put baskets in. They'd catch 'em
in baskets.

E: Do the men do the fishing or do the women do the fishing?

L: The men, mostly. I really don't know about the women. They may have, but
the men couldn't get jobs at that time and they had time on their hands.

E: The Indians lived on a square mile that you spoke of. Tell us about what
kind of land it was.

L: The upland part of it was waste and pine forest in pine trees and bay.
Most dug it, but it was rocky and poor land all over sides. The river
bottom was very fertile and they even rented some of that to white people
that lived nearby. They rented it and got a certain share of their rent.
But it was very little that they could get off of the reservation besides
wood. They used and sold practically all of it.

E: Did they have any fruit trees of any kind, do you remember?

L: No, none to amount to anything, I'd say. I did see a few apple trees in
the air. Their roads were just poorly kept.

E: With red clay roads?

L: Red clay roads, practically, and it was a long time before they even got
the top soil and good bridges in there.

E: Do you remember the old church or the old schoolhouse, either one?






3








L: Oh, yes.

E: Tell us the size and what those looked like.

L: The schoolhouse was built more on the long shotgun type schoolhouse and
it was not very large because most of the parents didn't cause their chil-
dren to go to school at that time, very much. I don't know why.

E: There probably was just one teacher, wasn't there?

L: Yes, usually one teacher.

E: Now whereabouts is that school located?

L: It was located right....

E: In reference to the old well, where was it located?

L: It was located close to the old well. Yes ma'am, it was located close to
it. There was two roads crossed and they were not in the center of the
reservation, but it was practically in the center of the homes in the reser-
vation.

E: Now the old church was very similar to that. It was also a small little....

L: Yes, it was very small.

E: Do you remember any of the teachers at the school? Who were the first
teachers you remember? Mrs. Wheellock was one teacher, then Miss Macie
Stevenson was one. The two Lesslies taught for a short time down there.

L: Yes.

E: Well, that's a long time.

L: I really don't recall.

E: You mentioned Arthur Wheellock being the famous football player from Car-
lyle, Pennsylvania. He had trouble with Mr. Brown one day, didn't he?

L: Yes.

E: Tell us about that.

L: The Indians-I don't know as they were any worse than the white people as
far as that goes. A certain type of white people would get high on Sat-
urday afternoon usually because that would be when they have a little money







4








to buy with the whiskey. He and John Brown both got pretty high one Sat-
urday evening. Into the night they got into a fight and John Brown
pulled...

E: Wheellock.

L: ...Wheellock ear practically off. All besides his lobe. They said they
put the ear up on the mantel until morning, called for the doctor and
wanted him to sew it on. Dr. Hill was their doctor at that time and Dr.
Hill said that he pretended to be a doctor, but he wasn't any harness maker,
and he couldn't sew that on and make it stay.

E: Tell us more about Dr. Hill. I believe he traveled first of all in horse
and buggy.

L: Yes ma'am. He traveled in a horse and buggy a long time. Finally then,
he got a Model-T Ford, I think it was. That's what he used for a long time.
Dr. Hill was not a man that was easily excited or didn't seem to have fear.
He was down at the reservation at different times. They would have fights,
but Dr. Hill, he didn't run off. He stayed. He stayed right there. Dr.
Hill was really a smart doctor in his day. He went one time as a witness
in York on some case and he testified about a blow to the brain. Some other
doctors there that didn't know him wanted to know who he was and how he
knew about the different parts of the anatomy. He was really a smart man.
He did drink some. At that time practically all of the doctors had patients
near where they could go see him. He had quite a practice to make a living.

E: Did he come lots of times at night to treat the Indians or spend the night
with them?

L: The doctors at that time did a lot of the nursing. We didn't have nurses
in this country. I believe even the white people didn't have nurses. They
would stay here, give them the medicine and watch the results.

E: He carried his own little bag and mixed his medicine.

L: He carried his bag with him, yes. He had medicines with him and they didn't
have many of the medicines we have today.

E: Did you ever see his little bag of surgical instruments? I understand he
had a long black bag he had his surgical instruments in and another little
bag that he had his medicines in. Did you ever see his surgical instru-
ments?

L: I never have seen all of them. I've seen him use some, but on people who
were warned especially. I remember a patient had what they call a car-
buncle on the back of his neck and it was a fierce looking thing. He
lanced it and I witnessed that, but I never have just seen the whole bag
of it. He had it, but he just took out what he needed.







5







E: When the Indians would need him they would have to go in a wagon or on
horseback to get him, wouldn't they? There would be no telephones at
that time.

L: Yes, ma'am, that's right. That's the way they went. Some of them would
work their doctor bills out, too. I believe it was Frank Canty that went
over to Dr. Hill and plowed his garden for him. He was plowing [with] Dr.
Hill's horse. The horse stepped on his vegetables and Dr. Hill said,
"Frank, don't let that horse step on my vegetables." He talked to him a
time or two like that and Frank said, "Take your old horse. The debt is
settled."

E: The debt is settled.

L: Yes, "You take your old horse. The debt is settled." It was then he
went to Winston.

E: What other Indians do you remember down here? You mentioned the Cantys
and the Browns. What other Indians do you remember?

L: Blues and there was some Owls down there one time. I don't know whether any
of them are there now.

E: No, there's some that are buried in the ancient cemetery and the Owl family
is a very prominent family up in Cherokee land.

L: Yes.

E: Tell me what you remember about the Owl family. I'd like to hear.

L: I really don't know anything specially about them, but I just knew that
they were there.

E: What do you know about Chief Blue?

L: Chief Blue? Chief Blue was the leader of the Indians for a number of years.
They elected him as chief and he guided them through a time when they
needed someone to look after their interests: getting money for them from
the state and things like that, and then just general supervision. In the
reservation they had practically their own laws of what they should do and
what they didn't, unless it was a murder or something. The white officers
didn't go in for just minor things. They got through their chief and in
their meetings. It worked very well, I thought.

E: I'm sure you've heard him do his war dances or his yells, haven't you?

L: I've heard him give his yells, yes ma'am, and I heard one of the oldest
Indian women one time. She was with Sam Blue. She could speak several







6








of the Indian languages. Of course, I couldn't understand any of them,
but she could. I'm trying to think of who she was.

E: Well, he had a wife and a sister, I believe, who both spoke the language.

L: Yes. When the settlers first settled here, they had to use their language
of their own. But they soon got to where, talking with the whites, they
could use the English language, more or less. They just found that the
Indian language just faded away because everybody was speaking English, all
of them.

E: Did you ever hear them sing in their language?

L: No, ma'am. I never have.

E: Mr. Lesslie, you've seen so many changes over here. Do you remember any of
the Indians that lived around Lesslie? Do you remember any of the ones
that worked on the Neely's Creek Church, for instance, as carpenters?

L: I know there was some, but I don't really recall their names right now.

E: Did you see the pottery? Did you ever come by to trying to sell pottery
for your wife?

L: Yes ma'am. They did that and the pottery was made. They didn't have any.
It was baked in stoves, wasn't it?

E: In the fireplaces. Like an open fireplace.

L: In the fireplace, yes ma'am. Most of it had smoke on sides of it. It was
nice work, I thought.

E: Do you remember the prices that they charged at that time?

L: It was very small.

E: Those were hard years for the Indians to get food and clothing and so forth.

L: Right.

E: How did they live? Was there any way they could make a living?

L: They managed. Some of them worked outside the reservation, but they didn't
have jobs in Rock Hill until later. There's so many of them now work in the
Rock Hill industry. They make good money now, but at that time it was just
a hard life.

E: They were never farmers. They didn't do much to raise their own.







7







L: They didn't do much farming, no. They made some of them.

E: You never went to school with any of them. They all had their own private
school, didn't they?

L: Yes, I never did go to school with the Indians.

E: Did you ever play games with them? Ball with them? Anything like that
with them?

L: Oh yes. We used Lesslie school at one time and the Indians played baseball.
They'd come to our Lesslie school and play one game and would go to the
reservation and play another. Neither one of us had good baseball fields.
Most of them was in pastures just temporarily laid off, but we had a good
time playing the game. Some of the Indians were good at it.

E: They could run fast, couldn't they?

L: Oh yes, ma'am. They could run fast.

E: Do you remember any of the names of any of those Indian boys who played
baseball with?

L: Bill Canty were one and Early Brown, and....

E: Alfred Harris, was he one of them?

L: Yes ma'am. He was one of them. I just don't recall many of them. Along
about that time, they were beginning to associate with the whites, and the
whites with them more and more. I reckon you heard the saying about the
Indians way back how they classed these people. They said the Indians
and the white man and the Indian's dog, and the nigger. That's the way
they classed it.





Full Text

PAGE 1

SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with the Catawba Nation INTERVIEWEE: Mr. W. C. Lesslie INTERVIEWER: Emma Echols DATE: October 12, 1973

PAGE 2

E: This is Ennna Reid Echols, Route 6, Box 260, Rock Hill, South Carolina. I'm working on the oral history of the Catawba Indians. I'm visiting in the home of Mr. Lesslie. Mr. Lesslie, would you give me your full name? L: William Calhoun. E: William Calhoun Lesslie. What's your address? L: It's Rock Hill, Route 6. E: Now how old are you Mr. Lesslie? L: I'm eighty-four. E: Eighty-four. You know a lot of things to tell us about the Indians. Let's go back when you were a little boy. What do you remember about the Indians on the reservation when you were a little boy? Have you ever hunted or played with them? L: When I was fifteen or eighteen, somewhere along in that age, I went hunting with John Brown, a[nJ Indian who was a[nJ excellent shot at birds, and he would kill as many as three or more on a rise. That's when the covey waste . is flushed. He had . one of the best trained dog that I have ever seen anq I haven't seen one as was better. And he was called Early Brown. You remember Early, don't you? They were living on a square mile or reservation set aside by the state of South Carolina at that time. They lived in small homes. E: Were they log home houses or were they just timber? L: Log, no. They were not log. Practically all of them were just wooden homes, but they were small, most all of them was. But one of the reasons was that they just didn't have an opportunity to make very much money. They hauled wood off the reservation to Rock Hill and sold it or buying purposes or heat. They used that money for a living, partly, and the state of South Carolina appropriated a certain amount. It was divided out among them by Catawba Indian agent. Practically all of them are good swimmers. They live right at the river and they could swim. There was two Canty boys, Henry, and--I've forgotten his name right now. E: Was it Alonza or Frank? L: Frank. In that time, we didn't have a drug addict in South Carolina. People sold laudanum, I believe it was, and some other things. They got to be addicts to that, and Frank was burned to death in a fire down there. Just

PAGE 3

2 a woods fire, a field of fire. He was evidently helpless at that time and that's where he died. I heard he died a natural death. Not too many of them, though, used any of that kind of dope, but that family just happened to be one that did, the mother and the two daughters. E: The white people brought in the whiskey and things of that kind. L: They would go to town, they'd come out here to Lesslie and E: To the store. L: Yes, into the store and buy. E: What was it like on the reservation in terms of food in those days, parti,;_ cularly the quail? John Brown shooting the quail. There were plenty L: of quail. What other ? They fished some and they were good at it. not polluted as it is now and the fish were They would fish, seine and some of them put in baskets. Catawba River at that time was good. You could catch them. baskets in. They'd catch 'em E: Do the men do the fishing or do the women do the fishing? L: The men, mostly. I really don't know about the women. They may have, but the men couldn't get jobs at that time and they had time on their hands. E: The Indians lived on a square mile that you spoke of. Tell us about what kind of land it was. L: The upland part of it was waste and pine forest in pine trees and bay. Most dug it, but it was rocky and poor land all over sides. The river bottom was very fertile and they even rented some of that to white people that lived nearby. They rented it and got a certain share of their rent. But it was very little that they could get off of the reservation besides wood. They used and sold practically all of it. E: Did they have any fruit trees of any kind, do you remember? L: No, none to amount to anything, I'd say. I did see a few apple trees in the air. Their roads were just poorly kept. E: With red clay roads? L: Red clay roads, practically, and it was a long time before they even got the top soil and good bridges in there. E: Do you remember the old church or the old schoolhouse, either one?

PAGE 4

3 L: Oh, yes. E: Tell us the size and what those looked like. L: The schoolhouse was built more on the long shotgun type schoolhouse and it was not very large because most of the parents didn't cause their chil dren to go to school at that time, very much. I don't know why. E: There probably was just one teacher, wasn't there? L: Yes, usually one teacher. E: Now whereabouts is that school located? L: It was located right E: In reference to the old well, where was it located? L: It was located close to the old well. Yes ma'am, it was located close to it. There was two roads crossed and they were not in the center of the reservation, but it was practically in the center of the homes in the reser vation. E: Now the old church was very similar to that. It was also a small little L: Yes, it was very small. E: Do you remember any of the teachers at the school? Who were the first teachers you remember? Mrs. Wheellock was one teacher, then Miss Macie Stevenson was one. The two Lesslies taught for a short time down there. L: Yes. E: Well, that's a long time. L: I really don't recall. E: You mentioned Arthur Wheellock being the famous football player from Carlyle, Pennsylvania. He had trouble with Mr. Brown one day, didn't he? L: Yes. E: Tell us about that. L: The Indians-I don't know as they were any worse than the white people as tar as that goes. A certain type of white people would get high on Sat urday afternoon usually because that would be when they have a little money

PAGE 5

,-------------------------------------------4 to buy with the whiskey. He and John Brown both got pretty high one Sat urday evening. Into the night they got into a fight and John Brown pulled E: Wheellock. L: Wheellock ear practically off. All besides his lobe. They said they put the ear up on the mantel until morning, called for the doctor and wanted him to sew it on. Dr. Hill was their doctor at that time and Dr. Hill said that he pretended to be a doctor, but he wasn't any harness maker, and he couldn't sew that on and make it stay. E: Tell us more about Dr. Hill. I believe he traveled first of all in horse and buggy. L: Yes ma'am. He traveled in a horse and buggy a long time. Finally then, he got a Model-T Ford, I think it was. That's what he used for a long time. Dr. Hill was not a man that was easily excited or didn't seem to have fear. He was down at the reservation at different times. They would have fights, but Dr. Hill, he didn't run off. He stayed. He stayed right there. Dr. Hill was really a smart doctor in his day. He went one time as a witness in York on some case and he testified about a blow to the brain. Some other doctors there that didn't know him wanted to know who he was and how he knew about the different parts of the anatomy. He was really a smart man. He did drink some. At that time practically all of the doctors had patients near where they could go see him. He had quite a practice to make a living. E: Did he come lots of times at night to treat the Indians or spend the night with them? L: The doctors at that time did a lot of the nursing. We didn't have nurses in this country. I believe even the white people didn't have nurses. They would stay here, give them the medicine and watch the results. E: He carried his own little bag and mixed his medicine. L: He carried his bag with him, yes. He had medicines with him and they didn't have many of the medicines we have today. E: Did you ever see his little bag of surgical instruments? I understand he had a long black bag he had his surgical instruments in and another little bag that he had his medicines in. Did you ever see his surgical instru ments? E: I never have seen all of them. I've seen him use some, but on people who were warned especially. I remember a patient had what they call a car buncle on the back of his neck and it was a fierce looking thing. He lanced it and I witnessed that, but I never have just seen the whole bag of it. He had it, but he just took out what he needed.

PAGE 6

----------------------------------------------------5 E: When the Indians would need him they would have to go in a wagon or on horseback to get him, wouldn't they? There would be no telephones at that time. L: Yes, ma'am, that's right. That's the way they went. Some of them would work their doctor bills out, too. I believe it was Frank Canty that went over to Dr. Hill and plowed his garden for him. He was plowing [with] Dr. Hill's horse. The horse stepped on his vegetables and Dr. Hill said, "Frank, don't let that horse step on my vegetables." He talked to him a time or two like that and Frank said, "Take your old horse. The debt is settled." E: The debt is settled. L: Yes, "You take your old horse. The debt is settled." It was then he went to Winston. E: What other Indians do you remember down here? You mentioned the Cantys and the Browns. What other Indians do you remember? L: Blues and there was some Owls down there one time. I don't know whether any of them are there now. E: No, there's some that are buried in the ancient cemetery and the Owl family is a very prominent family up in Cherokee land. L: Yes. E: Tell me what you remember about the Owl family. I'd like to hear. L: I really don't know anything specially about them, but I just knew that they were there. E: What do you know about Chief Blue? L: Chief Blue? Chief Blue was the leader of the Indians for a number of years. They elected him as chief and he guided them through a time when they needed someone to look after their interests: getting money for them from the state and things like that, and then just general supervision. In the reservation they had practically their own laws of .what they should do and what they didn't, unless it was a murder or something. The white officers didn't go in for just minor things. They got through their chief and in their meetings. It worked very well, I thought. E: I'm sure you've heard him do his war dances or his yells, haven't you? L: I've heard him give his yells, yes ma'am, and I heard one of the oldest Indian women one time. She was with Sam Blue. She could speak several

PAGE 7

6 of the Indian languages. Of course, I couldn't understand any of them, but she could. I'm trying to think of who she was. E: Well, he had a wife and a sister, I believe, who both spoke the language. L: Yes. When the settlers first settled here, they had to use their language of their own. But they soon got to where, talking with the whites, they could use the English language, more or less. They just found that the Indian language just faded away because everybody was speaking English, all of them. E: Did you ever hear them sing in their language? L: No, ma'am. I never have. E: Mr. Lesslie, you've seen so many changes over here. Do you remember any of the Indians that lived around Lesslie? Do you remember any of the ones that worked on the Neely's Creek Church, for instance, as carpenters? L: I know there was some, but I don't really recall their names right now. E: Did you see the pottery? Did you ever come by to trying to sell pottery for your wife? L: Yes ma'am. They did that and the pottery was made. They didn't have any. It was baked in stoves, wasn't it? E: In the fireplaces. Like an open fireplace. L: In the fireplace, yes ma'am. Most of it had smoke on sides of it. It was nice work, I thought. E: Do you remember the prices that they charged at that time? L: It was very small. E: Those were hard years for the Indians to get food and clothing and so forth. L: Right. E: How did they live? Was there any way they could make a living? L: They managed. Some of them worked outside the reservation, but they didn't have jobs in Rock Hill until later. There's so many of them now work in the Rock Hill industry. They make good money now, but at that time it was just a hard life. E: They were never farmers. They didn't do much to raise their own.

PAGE 8

----------------------------7 L: They didn't do much farming, no. They made , some of them. ---E: You never went to school with any of them. They all had their own private school, didn't they? L: Yes, I never did go to school with the Indians. E: Did you ever play games with them? Ball with them? Anything like that with them? L: Oh yes. We used Lesslie school at one time and the Indians played baseball. They'd come to our Lesslie school and play one game and would go to the reservation and play another. Neither one of us had good baseball fields. Most of them was in pastures just temporarily laid off, but we had a good time playing the game. Some of the Indians were good at it. E: They could run fast, couldn't they? L: Oh yes, ma'am. They could run fast. E: Do you remember any of the names of any of those Indian boys who played baseball with? L: Bill Canty were one and Early Brown, and E: Alfred Harris, was he one of them? L: Yes ma'am. He was one of them. I just don't recall many of them. Along abou t that time, they were beginning to associate with the whites, and the whites with them more and more. I reckon you heard the saying about the Indians way back how they classed these people. They said the Indians and the white man and the Indian's dog, and the nigger. That's the way they classed it.