Narrative of John Wooley

Transcribed by Linda Durr Rudd

JOHN WOOLEY was born October 29, 1855 to Reason and Elizabeth Buie Wooley. He lived all his life in the Caseyville-Wesson communities. According to the 1860 Copiah slave schedule, his father owned six slaves. John died August 2, 1942.

Mr. John Wooley, of Caseyville, MS, lives over a few of his experiences of years ago. He is eighty-three years old and has been confined to a rolling chair for over a year with rheumatism.

“I was only five years old when the War between the States was being fought. I remember hearing the roar of the great guns in Natchez when the war was over. My father did not join the army as he was disable by rheumatism, but he did his part at home; he fed all the soldiers that stopped, and stabled their horses. He had to kill two or three soliders for deserting the army and stealing his hogs out of his fields.

I do not remember much about the slaves being freed, but some of them hated to tell papa they were leaving him, so they slipped off during the night. Before they were declared free, some of them would form groups and try to run away. A Dr. Johnson, living this side of Natchez, would way-lay these run-away slaves and killed several of them. It was said he cut their heads off. He did cut the head of one off and put it on the end of a long, sharp stick and stuck this up at the cross roads so the slaves would see it and get scared and go back to their owners.

I had to walk three and one-half miles to school, “the old McMillian place,” and a neighbor’s boy, McNeal, living just beyond us walked with me. The first thing I learned in school was this little verse; Twinkle, twinkle little star how I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high like a diamond in the sky--- and here his memory failed him.

One day my teacher, Miss Juliah Furlow, sent me, in company with two little girls, to get water for the school. I got my bucket full and came on up ahead of the two little girls. When I entered the room, Miss Furlow asked, “Where did you leave the two girls?” “They are coming,” I answered. Then one of the little girls came in, and Miss Furlow asked her, “Where is your partner?” The answer was: “She’s coming.”

I’ll never forget a whipping Mr. Isaac Anding gave me. A boy of foreign birth was in my class at school and was mortally afraid of a frog or lizard. One day at recess, I slipped in and put a lizard in one of his books, in a few minutes the bell rang and school took in; this boy opened his book and out ran the lizard; the boy screamed and every child in that room roared. Mr. Anding asked who did it, but no one answered; then he took each of us personally and asked about it. When he got to me and I thought how the boy jumped up and yelled, and this thought made me laugh. Mr. Anding did not go any farther then; he gave me a whipping I’ll never forget. I told my playmates that when I grew to be a man I was going to settle up with Anding. After I was grown, Mr. Anding would ask me every time I’d see him if I was ready to give him that whipping. I told him that was forgotten.

One Saturday after I was married, I decided I’d go turkey hunting. As I drew near the “bluff”, as we called the big gullie, I heard turkeys flying from the ground into trees and gobbling, but could never get a good shot at any of them. About sundown, I heard one on the ground, and slipping around, I saw a big gobbler fly into a tree and start eating the beech nut buds, but there was no chance to shoot. The moon was coming up then and I kept on slipping around the tree until I got the turkey between me and the moon; then I took aim and fired; the turkey between me and the moon; then I took aim and fired; the turkey fell to the ground and I picked him up. It was getting night and I knew my wife would be uneasy about me, so I yelled as loud as I could to console her, and started home. She met me at the door and asked, “You killed a turkey didn’t you John?” “Yes, bless your soul, I did,.” I answered.

The first money I ever earned turned out to be no good. My father told me he would give me twenty five cents for every quail I killed. well, one morning I went quail hunting and killed one dollar worth. The next day news came in that the Confederate money was no good; it had “gone dead on us.” I boiled around about until my father said he would replace it for me. This he did. I don’t remember what I did with it.

One morning I went to my bird traps and took a little colored boy with me. He stumbled and almost fell. I made this song and sang to him; Bookety, lookety, strawberry time, look out little boy and don’t fall anytime.

We found three birds, partridge, in my trap.


John's Mississippi Death Certificate #1942-12471
1860 Copiah County Federal Census
1860 Copiah County Slave Schedule
Lincoln County Source Material for MS History, Vol. 2, pages 184-186.

Remembering Their Names