My mother was Susie BECK, a Cherokee and the daughter of Charlotte DOWNING and Ellis BECK. She was born in Georgia. My father was Albert McGHEE. I do not remember their dates of birth.
My mother was about twelve years old when they were forced to leave Georgia. I have heard her say that before they left their homes there the white people would come into their houses and looked their things over. When they found something that they liked, they would say "This is mine, I am going to have it". When they were gathering their things to start they were driven from their homes and collected together like so many cattle. Some would try to take along something which they loved, but were forced to leave things of any size.
The trip was made in covered wagons and this made many of the women very sick, but they were forces along, just the same. When they reached streams or rivers, they didn't want to cross but they were dragged on to the boats. Grandmother always remembered it.
I have often heard my grandmother say; "Some day you will be taxed out of your homes here", just as we eventually were.
When they reached Indian Territory they found the country to be very wild, and they had no place to live. The prairies were covered with tall grass, the timber was big and thick, but there was lots of wild game; turkey, deer, wild pigeons, prairie chickens, squirrels and rabbits were numerous. My family started looking the land over but since they were suppose to draw rations to live on for the first year, they didn't want to move too far away. They settled on the Long Prairie near where my mother later married my father, Albert McGhee.
After selecting a location for their farms,my grandparents and their neighbors set about building their families a shelter. Timber was plentiful so they began to cut logs. When they had enough for a house they would help each other put them in place. The cracks between the logs were daubed with mud and anything they could devise was used for a roof. The women began to gather berries and wild fruit, and dried them for winter use. They did get a little seed, so they tried to raise what they could the first year, and each year it became a bit easier. Life was hard in those days. They had to cook all of their food in the fireplace in an iron skillet with a lid, and if they had any light, it was from a grease light.
Looms were made and also spinning wheels. These were used by the women to spin yarn for home use and weave the cloth used for clothing. They were making the best of it and trying to make a home for their families. They added to their crude one and two room log houses as they could, and cleared more ground from crops each year. They were getting more live stock on the range around them when the war came.
THE CIVIL WAR
After the war was on, parties <"Bushwhackers"> were always coming by and trying to get the men folks into the war, often killing them if they would not join. Grandfather Ellis BECK and others made their way to Texas leaving the women behind, not thinking it would last too long. My grandfather died in Texas, though some money from him was sent to his family. When the men would come to our house and ask if there were any menfolks there, mother would not lie but would say that they had "gone south".
Food was scarce and sometimes when they would have a dinner ready for us to eat, the soldiers would ride up and eat all of it, leaving us with nothing. The chickens were kept under the house and if we wanted one we would have to crawl under to house to catch them.
Mr BRODIE kept the mill nearby and sometimes the women would make him give them some meal when they didn't have any. He had a hog that had been fattened by running around the mill. Rachel SMITH had a bulldog that was trained to kill hogs, and when thing got desperate, they killed and butchered BRODIE's hog. Afterward he asked them to share the meat with his family, which they did.Another woman was hiding apples and the other women forced her to share with them. Sometimes these women would find a stray cow, knock it down, kill and butcher it.
Things got so hard that several of the women and their children started to Texas to join their husbands, but I don't remember why they did not make it. I do remember hearing my mother tell of stopping on the road at a big, fine house that had been deserted. Sometimes they would stay at one of these deserted houses for weeks, until something would happen that caused them to move on quickly. We children would draw pictures on the walls in these houses. One member of our home was my father's fourteen year old brother, Dave McGHEE. My mother would often put him in dresses and he would play with the girls so the Bushwhackers would not take him off. I have heard my mother say that she helped lay out a dozen men during this time.
MOTHER'S FAMILY My mother was married three times; first to Albert McGHEE and they had four children. Next she married Alfred HALFBREED and had one son; Webster. Later she married a Mr. RILEY who had a store on Grand River Prairie. I do not remember his first name, but he had a son named Jack. He built mother a new house and he owned lots of Texas cattle. She stayed there until she had to go to the toll gate on the Illinois River to care for her mother and Iran BECK, who lived with her mother, who was blind. Grandmother and mother had kept the gate when I was small and most of the days when I was not away living in boarding school, I lived there.
SCHOOL DAYS When I was nine years old, my mother sent us children to live with Mrs BUTLER and Mrs SNAIL's and go to the Butler School on Honey Creek . She paid our board with yearlings . Our first teacher was Mrs WADE. From there we were sent to Mac's Mission for three terms and boarded with Cecelia TIGER- about a quarter of a mile from the school. After that we went back to the school on Honey Creek.