Affidavit of an Arkansas Freedman

[Helena, Ark., July 30, 1866]

State of Arkansas
County of Phillips
Edward Smith (Cold) being duly sworn deposes and says that I contracted with and to work for C. A. Norton (at Alexa Va) who represented himself as a proprietor of a Plantation in Arkansas.  I was then brought to Laconia Landing Ark and put to work on a Plantation which proves to be owned by a man by the name of Geo T. Fournoy.  Norton left there the next day and I have not seen him since.  Nineteen (19) hands were there crouded into two (2) small rooms and one of those were used for cooking purposes   About two thirds (2/3) of the nineteen were down sick at one time and no medical attention was given them save what the proprietor and his Supt would give they both being ignorant of the quallities of Medacine.  Becoming tired of the treatment I was receiving &c I together with William H Morton (cold) John Giles and Morris Smith (cold) left the Plantation on the night of the 26″ inst for the purpose of reporting the facts of the case to the Supt of Freedmen at Helena   after traveling about fifteen miles from said plantation we were overtaken by G. G. Flourney Paul Rice and M. P. Hunter all armed and with dogs–ordered Morris Smith (cold) and John Giles (cold) whom they caught to turn back   they did so, but myself and William H Morton made our escape through the woods and after hiding away until the 28″ inst we then started for Helena and was over taken on Sunday morning the 29″ inst by the same party of men that we escaped from this about 14 miles from Helena.  With pistols drawn they said if we moved a step they would blow our brains out   After tieing our hands behind us Geo T. Fournay struck me three times over the head with his pistol and then ordered us to keep out of the way of their horses and started us toward home on a very fast gait   Flournay took from me my Contracts, Due Bills, against him, and Seven Dollars and Ten cents ($7.10) in money and a lead pencil saying at the same time that he would take charge of them   I never have ask for nor received the same since   Paul Rice then threatened to give a cold woman (who give Morton and I our breakfast) a good overhauling saying that he would learn her better than to feed run away niggers.  Morton and I were taken as far back as Mr Casteels Plantation where we were released by a party of cold men who were armed (having been going a hunting)   They ordered Flournay & Party to leave us which they did at full speed.  We were then untied by the cold men and brought to (Helena

Edward Smith

Affidavit of Edward Smith, 30 July 1866, enclosed in 1 Lt. S Hersey to Bv't Major Gen'l J. W. Sprague, 7 Aug. 1866, H-26 1866, Letters Received, series 231, AR Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. Sworn before a Freedmen's Bureau officer. A representation of a seal that appears at the top of the affidavit has been omitted. Immediately following Smith's affidavit are an affidavit by William H. Morton confirming Smith's account and an affidavit by James Finlay, one of the five freedmen who had liberated Smith and Morton from their captors; both are dated July 30, 1866. In a covering letter of August 7, Lieutenant Sylvanus Hersey, the bureau's assistant superintendent at Helena, informed the bureau's assistant commissioner for Arkansas that on July 31 he had fined George T. Flournoy $25 and Paul Rice $15 for assault and battery and had also canceled their contracts with the freedmen and directed them “to either report at this office to settle with the Freedmen or to send the accounts for settlement–” The accounts had yet to arrive, however; meanwhile Smith and Morton, who were still waiting, were sick, unable to work, and “in a suffering condition.” “The parties to whom they were hired Live at Laconia some sixty miles below here,” Hersey wrote, “And the Bureau is powerless to act in the matter except by letter which does no good.” Enclosed in the same covering letter is a summary of the proceedings against Flournoy and Rice, which took place on July 31 in the presence of a man the defendants had sent to represent them; through him, they admitted that they had pursued and tied the freedmen but pleaded “that the case was an urgent. one and they acted as they thought they had a right under the circumstances.” No reply to Lieutenant Hersey's letter has been found in the assistant commissioner's letters-sent volumes.

Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 824–25.