Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Jessie Belle Smith Maynor

Maynor, Jessie
Gardner, Susan
Date of Interview: 
Teaching; Indians of North America; Native Americans; Ten-Mile Center; Tobacco; Normal School; Pembroke; Red Men`s Lodge
Ms. Jessie Maynor was a teacher of first grade and kindergarten for thirty-nine years and is now retired. In the interview, Ms. Maynor describes childhood memories such as her mother bringing jelly biscuits to the children in the tobacco barn. She reads a statement that she had prepared prior to the interview about herself and her parents, her home town and the local schools she attended. She explains how she got her teaching certificates. She also speaks about her father being a member of the Red Men`s Lodge, which is a fraternal order that developed in Robeson County Indian communities in the early 1900s.
Pembroke, NC 1910-1995
Native Carolinian Indian Elders Collection
Collection Description: 
This project, originally sponsored by the American Indian Heritage Council of Charlotte, Inc., collected and preserved the life stories of Native North Carolina Indian people. Interviewers for the project were Dr. Susan Gardner, Associate Professor of English at UNC Charlotte and Vail Carter.
Interview Audio: 
SG (Susan Gardner): Well let's see if there's any indication that this actually is recording since there isn't a handy red light, I'm not so sure. RECORDING PAUSED, THEN RESUMED
SG: Yeah. As far as we know this is working and you had written this out for me. I'd love to hear it.
JM (Jessie Maynor): Yeah I said I wrote it out maybe I could remember it. Just to tell you who all's--.
SG: I think you remember it without that. [laughter] But, you told us too much last time we were here. I'm sorry Vail couldn't come this morning.
JM: And I told Vail that his granddaddy was my mother's uncle.
SG: Apparently this was news to him.
JM: He was my mother's, my mother's sister's brother.
SG: He was just so surprised. I don't know if you remember but the night we were here when you were talking about some of these, these relationships I said to Vail, "Is your head spinning now?" And it didn't really--. He didn't really answer.
JM: He just, we don't know our kin people. [laughter]
SG: That's it--. The next morning that we got together out of the Elder's gathering. He said, "You asked me last night if my head was spinning," he said, "it's been spinning ever since now that I realize that I'm related to so many people."
JM: And I had his oldest brother's children in first grade. And I got scared--. Did I tell him that Ted, about me giving Glenn a aspirin in school and he got to sweating and I got scared?
SG: Oh I bet you did.
JM: Oh and I run, I run--. I laid him down 'side of the radiator on a pillow and I went and got the principal and he said--, and I knew his mother and dad was working and all and he said, "just watch him all day if he gets any worse," said, "I'll call them." And he, when he went to sleep and sweated it off he got better.
SG: He was better. Good. Yeah because when students are in your charge--. [laughter]
JM: And I had Chico that worked at the University a long time.
SG: Oh really?
JM: Yeah.
SG: Yeah.
JM: And I had his, his other baby brother and I can't think of his name good. His baby brother I had but I didn't have Vail.
SG: You didn't?
JM: No.
SG: Did he not grow up here?
JM: Who? Vail did? Yeah. Yeah.
SG: He did.
JM: He grew up here, but I, I think he went, they got some new teachers at Chapel I think he went--. They, they had a bus that come and brought the first grade then but later they got to teaching over at--.
SG: Oh yes he's mentioned busing to me, yeah, yeah. You were telling me about your mother, how she married at sixteen.
JM: Yeah.
SG: Was that it? How old was your dad?
JM: He was ten years older than my mother.
SG: Oh.
JM: Yeah, she said he waited for her when she wore apron-- [pause]
SG: I know what you mean.
JM: neck, open-neck aprons.
SG: Uh-hum.
JM: Yeah that's what she said. He waited for her when she wore neck--, open-neck aprons.
SG: Uh-hum.
JM: She must have worn them when she was a little girl, her mother must have made her wear them. [laughter]
SG: How did he meet her? How did they know each other? Were they in the same--?
JM: They lived--. No they didn't have a school over there. They had a special school where they went to school when they were children.
SG: Where was that? For Indians?
JM: It was over there at the Ten-Mile Center where they had--
SG: Oh where they built the--?
JM: where the church is. It was close to there, it weren't right there, but it got burnt up.
SG: Uh-huh. Oh by accident or--?
JM: Yeah by accident. And they met in school I believe, I think they must have met in school.
SG: Yeah and you were talking about her taking snuff and two of your sisters. Yeah that's the thing I never get used to. [laughter]
JM: [laughter] Me neither. She told me she'd send them some snuff at the back of tobacco barns so they wouldn't be hungry.
SG: That was smart.
JM: But she didn't send them no snuff. She usually send them jelly. She kept jelly all the time 'cause we had fruit trees and grape vines and she'd sit up at night making that jelly and canning those peaches and all. And she'd send them a jelly biscuit. And my--, her grandson, after she got so, she was sick, she was sick in the bed four years we had to wait on her like a baby. And she called her grandchildren's name but she wouldn't call ours. That was the strangest thing, what when we'd do anything for her you know. And she'd like it she'd, "Thank you!" I say, "You don't need to thank us so nice you need to make us do it."
SG: [laughter]
JM: But she--. This Arley Gathey, her husband died, he got in a wreck and he died in Winston-Salem. He'd been dead a long time before Mama had. And we got her to stay with her. We paid her her social security. Or Mama paid her so much of, we paid it so much out of Mama's money
SG: Uh-huh.
JM: for her to take care of her and I paid her Social Security.
SG: I see, yeah.
JM: I was so happy and I'd go stay with her every weekend and she could go out and visit her children.
SG: Uh-huh.
JM: And I enjoyed that. And my brother lived exactly five years to the day in September the 12th from the date she died.
SG: For goodness sake.
JM: Yeah. And I go down there nearly every other weekend and help clean his house.
SG: Do people still go down there? Is there a house or are some of the people still there?
JM: My brother's boy bought it. He bought it.
SG: Oh. So it's still there?
JM: It's still there. The old house is still there.
SG: Oh I'd love to go see it some time.
JM: It'd be--. What they, he, when after mama died he tore the porch, there was a porch all the way around the house. He tore that down and they put water in the house after that. They had a outdoor toilet all the time and this boy that bought it, his moth--, his wife's mother stayed in it until last year she had a stroke and now she stays with him in the trailer.
SG: Oh I see. So is anybody in the house?
JM: Her son and his--,
SG: Oh I see.
JM: Yeah. They still--.
SG: Yeah.
JM: The tobacco barn is still there. The old tobacco barn.
SG: Yeah. They seem to last forever.
JM: You saw my mother in the old tobacco barn.
SG: Yes and I remember that picture.
JM: And that's the reason they stayed down there so long the other day when my sister called me at two o'clock and said they was down there. And they took a picture of the old house and the old tobacco barn and things. And then they stopped at the graveyard taking pictures of the grave. You know it was four o'clock when they got here.
SG: [laughter] I can imagine. Yeah. Do you want to read that?
JM: Yeah we've got to go hunt us some dinner for, for--.
SG: Yes we'll have to do that too. I'm seeing Reverend Simeon at two o'clock.
JM: Well we better hurry.
SG: Well it's only--. What is it?
JM: It's not eleven. It's about eleven.
SG: Yeah exactly. [laughter]
JM: Well the Pizza stu--, Hut don't start until eleven o'clock.
JM: Well I'll read this if you want me to call it just like it is.
SG: Yes.
JM: [reading a written statement] "I Jessie Belle Mit, Smith Maynor born to the, was the youngest, I, I've got it wrong. I Jessie Belle Smith was the youngest of twelve children born to James Haywood Smith and Josephine Godwin Smith. ( ) read a little bit of it. Nineteen, June 20th 1909. We lived in the country one, on a farm three miles from the little town on St. Paul's, North Carolina. One mile from where we lived was a church and a one-teacher schoolhouse, which all of the country children went to church and school. The name of this church and school was Antioch Church. [pause] Farmers begin to move in and the school got too small for the children. So the countr, the county built a three-teachers school for us. This schoolhouse was three miles from where my home and I had to walk. This schoolhouse was named Barker Ten-Mile. I was in the fifth grade in 1925. Stayed there and finished the seventh grade. This was this, this was Barker Ten-Mile. That was as far as they taught there. [sound of page turning] In the year 1928, I went to Pembroke Indian Normal School. And enrolled in the eighth grade I finished third, the four years of high school after which, that was as far as they had in high school. I took the two-year normal [pause] work that was up to then and got a B certificate. A B certificate and began teaching at the Pembroke graded school in the year 1935. In the year 1936 I married Dawley Maynor. I kept on teaching first grade at the Pembroke graded school for thirty, for thirty-seven years. And for two years I taught in the kindergarten. [pause] Retired in 1974 at thirty-nine years and six summers at one school."
SG: Would you like to hear it?
JM: Yeah let's see how many times I stopped and got wrong. RECORDING INTERRUPTED, THEN RESUMED
SG: No. I think what I really love is just hearing you talk you know rather, rather than read.
JM: OK. I stopped too many times.
SG: I had a question about the one-teacher school. Was that teacher an Indian person or a white person?
JM: Yeah they all, they were all Indian teachers.
SG: Even that long ago because I knew, you know, that yeah--. In the Normal School was that the only place you could do high school back then?
JM: Yeah. That was the only place that they had high school. They just had the seven, they'd teach to the seventh grade and then--.
SG: Uh-huh. So where did the Indian teachers get their training before the Normal School was set up I wonder?
JM: Well a lot of them went off to--, and I think maybe the name of the school where they went was, the Lowerys, they went to and Sonny Oxendine went too, it was--. Now what word? I can't think of the name of the school, but they went off to school.
SG: Yeah it just seems like there weren't very many choices around here at that time.
JM: There weren't. And if they finished at seventh grade they'd get a certificate to teach.
SG: Oh really? Yeah.
JM: Yeah.
SG: I see.
JM: They finished the seventh grade the county would give them a certificate and they could teach.
SG: I see. Yeah. Oh how much it's changed. [laughter]
JM: Yes it has. And we didn't have but the fourth grade, four years in the high school then. The eleventh grade is as far as we went in the high school.
SG: I see. Yeah. And that B certificate meant what? To teach the grade level that you were or--?
JM: Well that was, yeah the B was what I started with and then I went in afternoon classes and took extension courses. They didn't start until--I got it in there somewhere what year they started having afternoon classes, you know. And I went to afternoon classes since I've stayed here I could just run out to the school. I went to afternoon classes and night classes and it took me fourteen years to get my A and I marched in '52 with seven of my first grade children.
SG: Oh really. [laughter]
JM: When I got my A certificate.
SG: Uh-huh
JM: I marched with seven of them.
SG: Oh how wonderful, yeah. I know my dad and his mother graduated at the same time. She got her master's degree when he got his; he's a medical doctor. And I think he felt maybe a little bit outshone by his mother also graduating but I'm sure your first graders didn't feel like that. They must have been so proud. I was--.
JM: I've got a picture of them somewhere, let me see. RECORDING PAUSED, RECORDING RESUMED
JM: They're named over here but they're, I can't.
SG: Oh yes.
JM: Yeah. But that's--.
SG: Which ones were your--? Oh I suppose they've signed their names for the ones that--?
JM: Yeah.
SG: And where are you here?
JM: Right here.
SG: Oh my look at you.
JM: Fourteen years I worked for that A. And had seven of them first grade children in there.
SG: You were pretty determined.
JM: Yeah. I've got a picture.
SG: Yeah
JM: Let me see where it is.
SG: Is this the same picture but without the signatures?
JM: Yeah. That's the same picture. He, he sent it to me two or three times, Lindberg Martin. And here's--.
SG: Oh I see.
JM: That's the picture.
SG: Pembroke State class of 1952. Twenty-seven members. Imagine that, a class this small. [long pause] Yes I'm sure there was a lot of laughter.
JM: Maggie Lawless, Maggie Lawless was in there making Lindberg Martin and Jill (Sefus).
SG: I'm sure you never fell asleep in class or did you?
JM: No I didn't because I kept moving.
SG: Every once in a while I'll have a student who does, I'm still never sure what to do because I think on the one hand if they're that tired let them sleep they're not going to get anything out of this. [laughter]
JM: The women that I stayed with at the dormitory the first year she died the second year and she had a daughter. And Ms. Martin wanted to court her husband and she--, I was taking Home-Ec, and she'd send me to the house at one o'clock when I had to meet the Home-Ec class and go to sleep with the girl and I made an A in Home-Ec.
SG: Oh really! [laughter]
JM: And I tell her daughter, I tell her--. Her name is Mary Sue. I said, "Mary Sue I made a F from nursing you." She said, "I wish he'd have married that woman because they never did like the woman he married.
SG: Oh really.
JM: But she, she was the drama teacher and I when I was in high school she'd always have me in her plays. I'd play the child.
SG: Oh really.
JM: She'd like me and they both did the Home-Ec. teacher liked me so they wanted me to court for them. [laughter]
SG: Oh for heaven's sake. Did you court for some other people?
JM: No I didn't. I courted for them alright.
SG: Oh my heavens.
JM: Oh Mary Hamlin, she's dead now, she made a date for me for a quarter for Dawley.
SG: Oh no. [laughter]
JM: He liked to--. He didn't play ball but he, he called the ballgames and the diamond was right close to the dormitory and she, she was paying her way and she'd meet him out there and he said that if she'd make a date with me to go we had, we used to have shows there, you know, in the college when we was, in the first starting, and Ms. Rupert let us go to the show on Friday night. And he told Mary, he said, if you'll make a date with me I'll give you a quarter. So I told her she got me in trouble for a quarter.
SG: For just for a quarter [laughter]. He sounds pretty determined too. Both of you in your ways.
JM: We went together nine years.
SG: Nine years.
JM: Before we married.
SG: Really, wow.
JM: We were suposd--.
SG: What were you waiting for?
JM: Well I was seventeen years old when I--.
SG: When you started.
JM: And my sister, my, I had a hard time coming to school of course my mother weren't able to pay me so I worked on my way and so I determined. My sisters thought I was a little frisky you know. And I was determined to show them what I'd do. So I, with the help of the Lord I finished school and I got me a good husband.
SG: Oh I see. Yeah but nine years that's really something.
JM: We were supposed to get married when I was seventeen years old and I told him I was too young. So I told him that I had to finish college. So then I didn't marry him until I finished and taught for a year.
SG: Uh-huh.
JM: My mama said, "If you get married time you finish, said try to finish school." She said, "I wanted you to get your--, able to take care of yourself."
SG: Uh-huh.
JM: Because I had a hard time you know. Of course we had it pretty good. We always had a plenty to eat and plenty to wear but we had to work a lot.
SG: Hard work. Yeah.
JM: So I done what my momma said, and done what my heart told me to do. And he was patient.
SG: He must have been.
JM: Yeah but he finished, he finished the year after we got married he went and finished and renewed his certificate. He taught ten years, but he didn't like teaching because he was too strict.
SG: Oh really.
JM: They'd say, "Your husband he's got a bad temper. He'd, he'd--." But a lot of them said they liked him but a lot of them said that they was afraid of him.
SG: A disciplinarian.
JM: Yeah.
SG: Yeah I don't suppose he was like that at home? It sounds like you pretty well did what you--.
JM: He was strict. Well I miss him all but he just couldn't cope with the world today, the--, all the situation. I don't believe he could take it. Of course he, he was strict in his discipline.
SG: Really. Yeah, but he sounds like a most unusual man for his time and having you work.
JM: He loved to joke and have fun. He, he--. The young people in the church liked him, but in school he wanted them to do right and they dreaded him.
SG: Yeah that's different. Church is a bit voluntary but school you--. [laughter]
JM: But then we could do discipline but now we can't now.
SG: No.
JM: No I'd have stayed in jail I'd expect. [laughter]
SG: [laughter] I'm sure you would have been teaching in jail if that's where you wound up.
JM: But I had a good, I had good parents. I didn't have no trouble with my discipline. They tell you to discipline. They tell you if they didn't do right to paddle them.
SG: Did you ever get paddled?
JM: Did I ever get paddled?
SG: Yeah.
JM: No.
SG: Being so frisky.
JM: No way in school. The teachers all like me because they--, I was smart. In the teacher, in one teacher's school I'd sweep the floors and I'd do things like that. I always got along good I never did get a pad--. I got one lick in school, but Joe Smith's uncle's the one who give it to me. He's my cousin. And it was meant for another girl and I cried and cried and cried. And he petted me and petted me. But he just tapped on my shoulder. It didn't hurt, but I cried because I--.
SG: The disgrace.
JM: Yeah it just hurt my feelings. But he didn't mean to do it. It weren't for me because I was always nice, tried to be nice. My daddy gave me one lick as I can remember. Me and my sister would waste soap for making soap bubbles and he tapped us. He said, "I didn't buy soap for you to make soap bubbles playing with it." He said, "I bought you that to wash with." And so I'll never forget that but it didn't hurt. That's the only lickin' I ever got from him.
SG: Did your daddy have anything to do with the Red Men's Lodge? Do you know?
JM: Yeah.
SG: He did?
JM: Yeah.
SG: Yeah?
JM: Yeah. He had a feather suit
SG: Really?
JM: and after he died we children played with it. [laughter]
SG: Oh my. Did you know when you were children that he belonged to it?
JM: Yeah I knew it. But he'd keep it a secret you know. It was a secret.
SG: That's what I heard.
JM: Just the men.
SG: Yeah why just the men do you think?
JM: They had a secret club. I don't know what they'd do. They wouldn't let the women in on it.
SG: Would your mother know when he was going to meetings?
JM: Yeah we knew.
SG: Yeah I knew that but--. Yeah. Apparently they don't exist anymore? Is that--?
JM: No they do it back and forth. They had a meeting one time and they put something in the cornerstone. Some kind of documents and I don't know what it was but I, we went out to that meeting.
SG: Oh. Yeah?
JM: Yeah. It was a public meeting.
SG: Oh for heaven's sake.
JM: They, they, their lodge had it.
SG: Yeah. I didn't know they had any public meetings.
JM: They did that time when they put that documents in the cornerstone.
SG: Uh-huh.
JM: And I don't know what happened to it when they tore the school house down they took that stone down. I don't know whatever--. I guess they give it to some other leaders.
SG: I hope so. I mean I hope it wasn't just destroyed.
JM: But my daddy was dead then and the Chavis man, the head of it, was dead when they tore the schoolhouse down.
SG: So it's not there. Oh. The stories that schoolhouse could tell.
JM: Yeah I know it.
SG: If it was still there.
JM: They'd dress up. That was one time they'd dress up in those suits, those Red Men suits. They've been a talking about that Indian stuff ever since I was a baby.
SG: Really?
JM: And when Gathy was a baby, that was before I was born, they were saying that my aunt Dorrie she was real fair, and had red hair. They said, they were talking there at momma's house one time momma said they said, "Now how will Aunt Dorrie get in," said Gathia said, "push her in" and she just learning to talk. [laughter] Yeah they'd been doing this Indian meeting for years and years and years.
SG: What do you think about homecoming weekend then? It looks like being a big Indian festivity?
JM: Yeah. They have the whole week.
SG: Yeah. I'm hoping I can come down on the Saturday. I have a meeting in Charlotte in the morning but I hope I can get away then. But when you say, you know, "that Indian thing," what--, do you mean something like taking pride in it or--?
JM: Yeah. They would go around and have meetings. And people would donate money, and if they didn't have money they'd give them chickens, and give, give them some of their commodities, and things.
SG: And what was the money for?
JM: Some of them would go to Raleigh; they'd try to get a recognition. They've been doing that for years and years and years.
SG: A long time. Yeah. I know every year since I've been here that's been in the news.
JM: Yeah.
SG: Yeah. You mentioned last time we were together, you said the LRDA had made a lot of difference.
JM: Yeah, the LRDA, it's been about twenty something years, I guess.
SG: I think so.
JM: Yeah.
SG: Yeah.
JM: They, they had a meeting here and he told it, but I can't remember meetings much, and this man, this man has been the leader, this Arden man's been the leader a long time. And at first, him and the Indian leader weren't too--?
SG: Friendly?
JM: Friendly together. But they say they got together, they going to be together in the parade, I mean in the Homecoming.
SG: Oh, that'll be interesting to see.
JM: So, I don't know. But they had sent a lot of children to school, the LRDA has.
SG: Oh. Uh-huh. Yeah. Do you like Pembroke now? Do you feel at all homesick for the way it was?
JM: Yeah. Well now I couldn't get along down at the, on the farm, because I been here fifty, fifty-four years, right here in this house.
SG: That's longer than I've been alive. [laughter]
JM: Yeah, I know it. So I've enjoyed it. But it's a selfish house now I see because I got the upstairs, I got two bedrooms upstairs, and the office where Dawley--but it's empty, because it was for the Association, he had a machine up there, and he run programs and use the--and the tape recorder, and all that, so he--. And I got a--, he'd have a picture machine; he'd go around to the churches and show the films.
JM: Oh really? Yeah.
SG: But that was mine, 'cause I paid for it. But that there copying machine was the Association's, so he had to give it, when he quit. ( ).
SG: What were your--I don't know if duties is the word for it--but as a minister's wife?
JM: Well, I tried to do as many things that I felt like I needed to do, help the churches out. They did call me to do certain things for them. But I worked for the, mostly I worked for the camp, the day camps and the Sunbeam work. I never was a good public speaker.
SG: You don't think so? Being a teacher, I would think you'd be good.
JM: But I have made speeches once in awhile. I, we went to Stanley Jones (Arstrum) two different years
SG: Oh!
JM: and I enjoyed that. Ms. Livermore was our leader then. You didn't know that.
SG: No. I, I have heard about her, but that's it. Do you remember when Ella Deloria came to Pembroke?
JM: Yeah, I remember when it was.
SG: Did you know her? What was she like? She was working, doing some church-related thing, wasn't she?
JM: She was a doing the pageant at the college.
SG: Oh really?
JM: She had the first pageant there they had.
SG: Oh that's right, that drama.
JM: The drama.
SG: Was it an early version of "Strike at the Wind!" or was it different?
JM: Well, it was something like "Strike at the Wind!" Yeah.
SG: Yeah. I teach--.
JM: I was in high school then.
SG: Oh I see.
JM: I didn't remember too much about it. But Vail's daddy--he bought the copy, I thought.
SG: Oh really?
SG: I believe he did. Or some of them did.
SG: Huh. It'd be interesting to see that. I wonder if the college has any records of her visit.
JM: I don't know whether they have it or not. But John was part of it. I mean he was in it. He was in it. And a lot of the people around here were in it. But I was--I weren't. Mabel, Dawley's niece, was in it.
SG: Oh really? Yeah?
JM: Did you ever meet Mabel?
SG: No I haven't. I'd love to talk to her!
JM: She'll soon be in.
SG: Where is she? [pause] I mean does she live in Pembroke?
JM: Yeah she lives in Pembroke. Her husband was buried last year, her next husband. She had two husbands. And she lives up--not too far, but a little in front of where the old high school was. Right across from the--.
SG: Oh yes. Yeah. I see. Well Ella Deloria interests me because I teach a novel that she wrote that wasn't published during her lifetime, but the life of her people before reservation days especially is seen through the eyes of two women. And it's so interesting.
JM: If Vail's daddy was a living, he could tell you because he was, he was active among our men.
SG: It sounds like it.
JM: He was a smart man. He was the treasurer for the Association, I don't know how many years. He was a good man.
SG: Yeah.
JM: Smart. He was a smart man.
SG: So is Vail. [laughter]
JM: Yeah, he was a smart man.
SG: Did you feel what--with your husband being a minister, was he gone a lot?
JM: Well, he was gone a lot, yeah. He went to Mississippi one time to the conference.
SG: Oh my. Yeah. Did you ever go along on these trips?
JM: Not on these long trips. He went with us to Stanley Jones' (Arstrum) one year.
SG: Uh-huh.
JM: But that other year I went with Ms. Livermore, he didn't go.
SG: Did you know Ms. Davidson at all? Was that her name Mariana Davidson?
JM: Yeah, I knew Ms. Davidson. She lived right over there in this house by the--you can see it from my kitchen window. I knew Ms. Davidson. She was this missionary for the Methodists.
SG: Yeah. "Missionary" sounds so odd, doesn't it?
JM: Yeah it does.
SG: I mean, like you were a bunch of savages you know.
JM: That's what we called her at first, when she come here. Yeah she is. I liked Ms. Davidson.
SG: She seems to have been a real worker.
JM: She was.
SG: And especially with young people.
JM: Yeah.
SG: Well I don't know. Shall we hunt ourselves some lunch? Or--?
JM: We better go.
SG: What would you like to do?
JM: Yeah we'll go.
SG: Let me just disconnect this thing.
JM: I'll get this off--.