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Interview with John Simpson, November 5, 1985

Material Information

Title:
Interview with John Simpson, November 5, 1985
Creator:
Simpson, John ( 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.

Record Information

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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E: This is Emma Reed Echols, Route 6, Box 26A, Rock Hill, South
Carolina. I am recording the oral history of the Catawba
Indians, November 5, 1985. Your name is John S. Simpson and this
is Route 3, Rock Hill. Now how hold are you Mr. Simpson?

S: Eighty-one.

E: So, you have a lot of memories of the Catawba Indians. Tell me
about when your father and mother used to bring you out here in
the summer.

S: As soon as school was out he built this cabin down there on what
we called Lilly River. It is the forty-acre island down there.
We would come down here and spend the summer fishing and running
up and down the river. Then, when the flood came, it washed that
island just as clean as this floor. There was not a tree left on
that island. I found some of the Spanish arrowheads that my
daddy has in his collection where the road had washed up.
This cabin we had was on a high hill. That hill must be seventy-
five to eighty feet above the river. That water came up under
the big porch. It must have been twenty or thirty feet wide; the
length of the whole cabin, out over the hill like that.

E: What kind of things did you find when the water finally went
down?

S: Well, we found a lot of shards of pottery and a good many
arrowheads. I found some of the finest spear points my daddy has
in his collection.

E: What destruction did you see on the river? Did you see houses,
or cotton, or anything going down?

S: I saw houses go down, cotton go down, big oil tanks go down,
everything go down.

E: What about loss of life?

S: Around here there was no loss of life, that I know of. Now maybe
there has been some; it seems like I have heard that up in North
Carolina there might have been some loss of life. But, as far as
I am concerned, I have never heard of any.

E: Did the waters affect any of the places the Indians lived?

S: Not over here, when they were on the reservation. I do not think
it affected them.

E: I have heard and have seen pictures after the bridge was washed
away, did you see that destruction around the bridge?

S: I saw the bridge wash away.

E: That was a huge bridge between here and Charlotte.



1









S: No, between here and Lancaster. Right across the old hill place
here. The road went right through. It is water now, the seed
orchard and the road went right across there. The old pillars of
the bridge are still out there in the road, as far as I know.

E: Well, how did people get from here across the river? Did they
have boats?

S: They had to go down to the Indian Ferry and go across.

E: So, the Indians would take them across?

S: I believe, there was an old Indian that ran that ferry, I am not
sure.

E: John Brown?

S: Yes, I believe it was.

E: They did not cross where the bridge was?

S: No, way down below Catawba Junction, where they took the ferry
run.

E: Now, if you lived several summers out there, you played around
with some of the Indian boys.

S: No, I never did see them.

E: Did they ever come to your house to swap or to sell their pottery
in the area?

S: They used to come to daddy's office. They used to bring their
stuff up there; bringing arrowheads and stuff. I remember one
time I went to the house and there were two barrels full of
arrowheads.

E: That was at your father's house in Rock Hill?

S: Old arrowheads that were cracked and broken, no good. I remember
there were two barrels full of them. They used to bring their
arrowheads up there to him. Of course, if they had a tooth ache
or something he would pull a tooth for them. He would never
charge them. You know, back then, he got a chicken for pulling a
tooth or a dozen eggs. That is about all you got. Dentists do
not do that now.

E: Now, his office was where Belk's store is today, Alachua, is that
not right?

S: That is right.

E: There is a newspaper account of a little Indian boy who wanted to
go to school in Carlyle and your father hid him in the office.
Tell me about that.


2










S: I do not know anything about that. Just what you have heard,
that is all I have heard.

E: You do not have any idea who that Indian boy was?

S: No, I do not.

E: That is a fascinating story. Your father Ebony hid him in the
office.

S: I have heard him say that he hid an Indian boy in the office.

E: The father and mother were searching up and down the streets to
find their boy. Do you have any idea how old that little boy
was?

S: No.

E: Now, late that evening the train was coming through Rock Hill
heading North, and then your father took that little boy down and
put him on that train.

S: I do not know, that was before my time. I was just a little kid
at that time, and I do not remember. Now, my brother might know.

E: I have seen the newspaper account and it does not give a name.
But that little boy was determined to get an education and I
suppose he got it.

S: I never did know who it was or anything about it.

E: Now, where your house is, what land around here belongs to your
father? How much land did you all have?

S: My father bought this land down here from an old man, McGuire,
during the Depression. My brother was in the real estate
business and he bought the ground where I am. Miss Turner lives
over yonder, he bought all of that. This part back in here, is
where my nephews live. He bought all of this for $900.

E: How many acres would that be?

S: It must have been a couple hundred.

E: For $900?

S: Back during the Depression, in the 1930s, that was a fortune.

E: That was. Now, how many acres did you have on your place here?

S: I have got approximately thirty acres. My brother and myself and
the two nephews, we own that over there. I think it is about 290
acres.



3








E: Well, you have not said the Indians will take your land away from
you.

S: It does not even bother me. My nephew down there, it worries him
to death. Yes, it just worries him still. I told him a thousand
times, I said, "They are not going to come and take your place."
He is so scared, he told me they are going to come and take his
place. I said, "It will never be settled in my lifetime,
anyway."

E: That is right. I do not think it is going to be settled in mine
either. They are still talking about it and writing about it,
but I do not think it will ever be settled.

S: I hear it is coming up on December 16. They are going to take it
to the Supreme Court and see if they can sue.

E: That is right. Now when you were a little boy growing up in this
friendship community, with the whites, some blacks, and the
Indians, what was it like? What was the farm like?

S: Yes. My daddy had share croppers on the farm. See we lived in
town, and he had share croppers down there and we would come out
on a Thursday afternoon. He would take Thursday afternoon off
and we would spend the afternoon and just look around.

E: Then in the summer you would come and live out here the whole
time.

S: That is right.

E: Did you have a garden?

S: No, we did not have any garden.

E: Did you get to know any of the little Indian boys.

S: No.

E: You did not get to know any of them. What Indians do you know
here, now?

S: To tell you the truth Miss Echols, I am one of these people who
try to spend their time tending to their own business and not
messing with anyone else's.

E: That is a good way.

S: I go up to Harry Neale's a lot and I say, "Harry, who is that
fellow?" He says that is Indian so and so. I say, "Well, I do
not know him. I do not know any of them." I used to know an old
Indian that worked for the county, Bill something, I do not know
what his last name was. That was the only Indian that I really
knew. But I used to do a lot of work for Mr. Earl Glasscock,
when he was with the county and I knew old Indian Bill, he worked


4








when you could get him sober enough.

E: Did a lot of Indians on the reservation drink?

S: That is right. Old Candy is what his name was. They were the
last full-blooded Indians, old Henry Candy.

E: A good many of the Candys are descendants of Henry Candy and they
are all up there. Their talent is making pottery. They are
smart. They had to struggle to get an education, though.

S: Now, old Henry, he was more or less a drunkard, as I remember.

E: Do you collect or have you collected any of the old Indian
pottery or arrowheads? Or, does your brother have all of that?

S: He has all of it. I do not keep anything.

E: Well, when I get around to see him I am going to get him to show
me some of the things that you have got in there.

S: I doubt if he knows because I would just take and give them to my
daddy and that would be it, you know.

E: When you were out there, in the summertime, which church did you
attend? Friendship Methodist?

S: No, we went to an Episcopal Church. My mother was Episcopalian
and she raised us all in an Episcopalian church.

E: Now, the Indians had their own church?

S: That is right.

E: Quite different from the rest of you and they never attended any
churches around here, I do not think. Did you ever know any
people who taught at the Indian schools?

S: I think she is dead now, though, what was her name? Sara Jones.

E: She married a Robinson.

S: Sara used to teach there.

E: And Mrs. Cornish was another one who taught there. Then they
moved that school to the top of the hill where that little church
was. The Indians have completely redone that school. It is nice
looking now.

S: They have built a beautiful church down there?

E: Yes sir, they had a lot of help.

S: Oh, yes. No doubt about that. I know the contractor and he told
me that when they finished the church, they wrote a check for it


5








and that was it.

E: How much do you think that church cost?

S: I think it was $100,000 and something.

E: I do not know, it should be more in the millions.

S: I did not know that there were that many members down here.

E: They told me that the money came from Salt Lake City, out west.

S: Well, I did not know that there were that many members down here.

E: There are not that many members. But, there is this big
beautiful church up on the Chester Highway.

S: Yes.

E: It is almost exactly like this one. Now there is still some fine
persons among the Indians. The only trouble is that, the old
ones that I used to know are gone.

S: This crowd now, I do not know any of them. Because to tell you
the truth I just stay here and tend to my own business. I go to
town two or three times a week and then I come home. I go as far
as my nephew's house and back, that is about as far as I go.

E: People know you around here; that you are a friend. I had no
trouble finding you this afternoon. The most interesting thing
you told me is about that flood on the Catawba River. Now it
must have destroyed all the crops?

S: Yes, all the bottom land. It just took all of that. And down
here at the Kaler's, where that bridge was, there was a big
ebbing in the river. It went around like this and the sand piled
up. I would expect that the sand was 50-100 feet deep. It is
still down there and I think during the war they hauled sand out
of there for a long time. The curve of the river just followed a
kind of ebbing. All of that bottoms down there was just covered
with sand.

E: It was several years before that bridge was completed to get
traffic going in the other direction over towards Lancaster.

S: Well, they never did put that bridge back. Cliff told me that
during the war some outfit came down there and got steel out of
the river. I was not here, I was in the navy.

E: Now, there is a railroad bridge also, was it washed away?

S: I think the railroad bridge was up above Rock Hill. The regular
bridge was below the bridge to Charlotte. Somebody told me that
they pushed a bunch of freight cars onto the bridge to try and
hold it down. They said the bridge and those cars are still down


6








in the river. I do not know.

E: Now that was a time of destruction everywhere.

S: They say up in North Carolina, they have the same thing today.

E: They had a big flood there?

S: A big flood up there.

E: Well, I am really glad to have met you. That was interesting
about all of those arrowheads underneath your father's home in
Rock Hill.

S: I do not know where they come from, school kids used to gather
them up.

E: Did your brother say what he is going to do with all of those
things that he has in his little house?

S: Miss Echols, I have been trying to talk to him and these two
nephews. I am eighty-one and we are not going to be here for
long. What I want to do is put that in a museum somewhere, while
we are still living. He had talked to that lady that was out
there. She has left there now, I understand. She was going to
try to make arrangements to put the cases up there and give us
keys for them. Now, at one time, they wanted to just put stuff
on tables. You know how long that would last.

E: That is right.

S: He will not consider anything like that.

E: Your family has a very valuable collection and the finest one in
Rock Hill.

S: Well, I think so. We have got Reverend Davis' bible out there
and a letter from Jefferson Davis, an old piano. My mother wrote
to a manufacturer in England, and I do not know whether you saw
that letter that she got back from them. They destroyed the
records every 100 years and did not know how old it was. Some of
her people brought that from England, that old piano.

E: You have a wonderful heritage to be proud of. You have two
nephews living, Bill and Bob?

S: Bob is an adult.

E: Well, I know your nephew Bill, and I know your brother quite
well. When I go and visit them I am going to pick up on some of
this and add more to what you have said today.

S: I am sorry, I just did not know. I will tell you, Miss Echols,
that never interested me much.



7









E: Well, you have told me about that flood and nobody else has told
me about it, so I am glad to hear about it.

S: All of this stuff has never interested me much, I never did take
much interest in it.

E: Well, I am glad to have met you and talked with you today.

















































8





Full Text

PAGE 1

E: This is Emma Reed Echols, Route 6, Box 26A, Rock Hill, South Carolina. I am recording the oral history of the Catawba Indians, November 5, 1985. Your name is Johns. Simpson and this is Route 3, Rock Hill. Now how hold are you Mr. Simpson? s: Eighty-one. E: So, you have a lot of memories of the Catawba Indians. Tell me about when your father and mother used to bring you out here in the summer. S: As soon as school was out he built this cabin down there on what we called Lilly River. It is the forty-acre island down there. We would come down here and spend the summer fishing and running up and down the river. Then, when the flood came, it washed that island just as clean as this floor. There was not a tree left on that island. I found some of the Spanish arrowheads that my daddy has in his collection where the road had washed up. This cabin we had was on a high hill. That hill must be seventy five to eighty feet above the river. That water came up under the big porch. It must have been twenty or thirty feet wide; the length of the whole cabin, out over the hill like that. E: What kind of things did you find when the water finally went down? S: Well, we found a lot of shards of pottery and a good many arrowheads. I found some of the finest spear points my daddy has in his collection. E: What destruction did you see on the river? Did you see houses, or cotton, or anything going down? S: I saw houses go down, cotton go down, big oil tanks go down, everything go down. E: What about loss of life? S: Around here there was no loss of life, that I know of. Now maybe there has been some; it seems like I have heard that up in North Carolina there might have been some loss of life. But, as far as I am concerned, I have never heard of any. E: Did the waters affect any of the places the Indians lived? S: Not over here, when they were on the reservation. I do not think it affected them. E: I have heard and have seen pictures after the bridge was washed away, did you see that destruction around the bridge? S: I saw the bridge wash away. E: That was a huge bridge between here and Charlotte. 1

PAGE 2

S: No, between here and Lancaster. Right across the old hill place here. The road went right through. It is water now, the seed orchard and the road went right across there. The old pillars of the bridge are still out there in the road, as far as I know. E: Well, how did people get from here across the river? Did they have boats? s: They had to go down to the Indian Ferry and go across. E: So, the Indians would take them across? S: I believe, there was an old Indian that ran that ferry, I am not sure. E: John Brown? S: Yes, I believe it was. E: They did not cross where the bridge was? S: No, way down below Catawba Junction, where they took the ferry run. E: Now, if you lived several summers out there, you played around with some of the Indian boys. S: No, I never did see them. E: Did they ever come to your house to swap or to sell their pottery in the area? S: They used to come to daddy's office. They used to bring their stuff up there; bringing arrowheads and stuff. I remember one time I went to the house and there were two barrels full of arrowheads. E: That was at your father's house in Rock Hill? S: Old arrowheads that were cracked and broken, no good. I remember there were two barrels full of them. They used to bring their arrowheads up there to him. Of course, if they had a tooth ache or something he would pull a tooth for them. He would never charge them. You know, back then, he got a chicken for pulling a tooth or a dozen eggs. That is about all you got. Dentists do not do that now. E: Now, his office was where Belk's store is today, Alachua, is that not right? S: That is right. E: There is a newspaper account of a little Indian boy who wanted to go to school in Carlyle and your father hid him in the office. Tell me about that. 2

PAGE 3

S: I do not know anything about that. Just what you have heard, that is all I have heard. E: You do not have any idea who that Indian boy was? S: No, I do not. E: That is a fascinating story. Your father Ebony hid him in the office. S: I have heard him say that he hid an Indian boy in the office. E: The father and mother were searching up and down the streets to find their boy. Do you have any idea how old that little boy was? S: No. E: Now, late that evening the train was coming through Rock Hill heading North, and then your father took that little boy down and put him on that train. S: I do not know, that was before my time. I was just a little kid at that time, and I do not remember. Now, my brother might know. E: I have seen the newspaper account and it does not give a name. But that little boy was determined to get an education and I suppose he got it. S: I never did know who it was or anything about it. E: Now, where your house is, what land around here belongs to your father? How much land did you all have? S: My father bought this land down here from an old man, McGuire, during the Depression. My brother was in the real estate business and he bought the ground where I am. Miss Turner lives over yonder, he bought all of that. This part back in here, is where my nephews live. He bought all of this for $900. E: How many acres would that be? S: It must have been a couple hundred. E: For $900? S: Back during the Depression, in the 1930s, that was a fortune. E: That was. Now, how many acres did you have on your place here? S: I have got approximately thirty acres. My brother and myself and the two nephews, we own that over there. I think it is about 290 acres. 3

PAGE 4

E: Well, you have not said the Indians will take your land away from you. s: It does not even bother me. My nephew down there, it worries him to death. Yes, it just worries him still. I told him a thousand times, I said, "They are not going to come and take your place." He is so scared, he told me they are going to come and take his place. I said, "It will never be settled in my lifetime, anyway." E: That is right. I do not think it is going to be settled in mine either. They are still talking about it and writing about it, but I do not think it will ever be settled. s: I hear it is coming up on December 16. They are going to take it to the Supreme Court and see if they can sue. E: That is right. Now when you were a little boy growing up in this friendship community, with the whites, some blacks, and the Indians, what was it like? What was the farm like? S: Yes. My daddy had share croppers on the farm. See we lived in town, and he had share croppers down there and we would come out on a Thursday afternoon. He would take Thursday afternoon off and we would spend the afternoon and just look around. E: Then in the summer you would come and live out here the whole time. s: That is right. E: Did you have a garden? S: No, we did not have any garden. E: Did you get to know any of the little Indian boys. S: No. E: You did not get to know any of them. What Indians do you know here, now? s: To tell you the truth Miss Echols, I am one of these people who try to spend their time tending to their own business and not messing with anyone else's. E: That is a good way. s: I go up to Harry Neale's a lot and I say, "Harry, who is that fellow?" He says that is Indian so and so. I say, "Well, I do not know him. I do not know any of them." I used to know an old Indian that worked for the county, Bill something, I do not know what his last name was. That was the only Indian that I really knew. But I used to do a lot of work for Mr. Earl Glasscock, when he was with the county and I knew old Indian Bill, he worked 4

PAGE 5

when you could get him sober enough. E: Did a lot of Indians on the reservation drink? S: That is right. Old Candy is what his name was. They were the last full-blooded Indians, old Henry Candy. E: A good many of the Candys are descendants of Henry Candy and they are all up there. Their talent is making pottery. They are smart. They had to struggle to get an education, though. S: Now, old Henry, he was more or less a drunkard, as I remember. E: Do you collect or have you collected any of the old Indian pottery or arrowheads? Or, does your brother have all of that? s: He has all of it. I do not keep anything. E: Well, when I get around to see him I am going to get him to show me some of the things that you have got in there. S: I doubt if he knows because I would just take and give them to my daddy and that would be it, you know. E: When you were out there, in the summertime, which church did you attend? Friendship Methodist? S: No, we went to an Episcopal Church. My mother was Episcopalian and she raised us all in an Episcopalian church. E: Now, the Indians had their own church? S: That is right. E: Quite different from the rest of you and they never attended any churches around here, I do not think. Did you ever know any people who taught at the Indian schools? S: I think she is dead now, though, what was her name? Sara Jones. E: She married a Robinson. S: Sara used to teach there. E: And Mrs. Cornish was another one who taught there. Then they moved that school to the top of the hill where that little church was. The Indians have completely redone that school. It is nice looking now. S: They have built a beautiful church down there? E: Yes sir, they had a lot of help. S: Oh, yes. No doubt about that. I know the contractor and he told me that when they finished the church, they wrote a check for it 5

PAGE 6

and that was it. E: How much do you think that church cost? S: I think it was $100,000 and something. E: I do not know, it should be more in the millions. S: I did not know that there were that many members down here. E: They told me that the money came from Salt Lake City, out west. s: Well, I did not know that there were that many members down here. E: There are not that many members. But, there is this big beautiful church up on the Chester Highway. s: Yes. E: It is almost exactly like this one. Now there is still some fine persons among the Indians. The only trouble is that, the old ones that I used to know are gone. S: This crowd now, I do not know any of them. Because to tell you the truth I just stay here and tend to my own business. I go to town two or three times a week and then I come home. I go as far as my nephew's house and back, that is about as far as I go. E: People know you around here; that you are a friend. I had no trouble finding you this afternoon. The most interesting thing you told me is about that flood on the Catawba River. Now it must have destroyed all the crops? S: Yes, all the bottom land. It just took all of that. And down here at the Kaler•s, where that bridge was, there was a big ebbing in the river. It went around like this and the sand piled up. I would expect that the sand was 50-100 feet deep. It is still down there and I think during the war they hauled sand out of there for a long time. The curve of the river just followed a kind of ebbing. All of that bottoms down there was just covered with sand. E: It was several years before that bridge was completed to get traffic going in the other direction over towards Lancaster. S: Well, they never did put that bridge back. Cliff told me that during the war some outfit came down there and got steel out of the river. I was not here, I was in the navy. E: Now, there is a railroad bridge also, was it washed away? S: I think the railroad bridge was up above Rock Hill. The regular bridge was below the bridge to Charlotte. Somebody told me that they pushed a bunch of freight cars onto the bridge to try and hold it down. They said the bridge and those cars are still down 6

PAGE 7

in the river. I do not know. E: Now that was a time of destruction everywhere. S: They say up in North Carolina, they have the same thing today. E: They had a big flood there? s: A big flood up there. E: Well, I am really glad to have met you. That was interesting about all of those arrowheads underneath your father's home in Rock Hill. S: I do not know where they come from, school kids used to gather them up. E: Did your brother say what he is going to do with all of those things that he has in his little house? S: Miss Echols, I have been trying to talk to him and these two nephews. I am eighty-one and we are not going to be here for long. What I want to do is put that in a museum somewhere, while we are still living. He had talked to that lady that was out there. She has left there now, I understand. She was going to try to make arrangements to put the cases up there and give us keys for them. Now, at one time, they wanted to just put stuff on tables. You know how long that would last. E: That is right. S: He will not consider anything like that. E: Your family has a very valuable collection and the finest one in Rock Hill. s: Well, I think so. We have got Reverend Davis' bible out there and a letter from Jefferson Davis, an old piano. My mother wrote to a manufacturer in England, and I do not know whether you saw that letter that she got back from them. They destroyed the records every 100 years and did not know how old it was. Some of her people brought that from England, that old piano. E: You have a wonderful heritage to be proud of. You have two nephews living, Bill and Bob? S: Bob is an adult. E: Well, I know your nephew Bill, and I know your brother quite well. When I go and visit them I am going to pick up on some of this and add more to what you have said today. S: I am sorry, I just did not know. I will tell you, Miss Echols, that never interested me much. 7

PAGE 8

E: Well, you have told me about that flood and nobody else has told me about it, so I am glad to hear about it. S: All of this stuff has never interested me much, I never did take much interest in it. E: Well, I am glad to have met you and talked with you today. 8