Works Progress Administration (WPA) Transcriber's Notes

I have transcribed the handwritten documents as literally as possible. Some terms in the interviews are not in common usage, and some would be offensive if used in a contemporary document. Readers are reminded that these transcripts reflect the exact words of the interviewee or the interviewer as written in 1940-1941.

I have noted variant spellings using "[sic]", but I did not try to note grammatical constructions that differ from current usage for they are generally obvious and not easily taken for a typographical error in transcription.

In some cases, I imposed logical capitalization because some of the interviewers mixed upper and lower case letters in words throughout the text.

I also added commas in a few cases to clarify the meaning (usually in a list of items, or where spacing or other cues in the original conveyed meaning lost when typed).

Each transcription reflects the numbers and answers to questions as they appeared on that transcription. The numbering of questions is another area of possible confusion. The answers to the questions were numbered by the interviewers (but the questions are not listed). Occasionally the interviewers omitted numbers or renumbered answers to questions following those they had skipped. For example, in the interview with George Washington (Lonoke County), the interviewer skipped the number 9, but the question there for number 10 is apparently the same as question number 9 on the master form. The numbers for subsequent questions on that questionnaire answer sheet continue to be inconsistent with the numbering of questions on the master form.

Originals of these documents are preserved in the United States WPA Historic Records Survey Collection, Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville:

Box No. * County of
Interviewee No. of
Pages **
66 Crawford Childs, Recebba
(Mrs. Jessie Childs)
3, handwritten
66 Crawford William, Author 2, handwritten
96 Hempstead Johnson, Chess 3, typewritten
96 Hempstead McKinley, A.R. 5, handwritten
96 Hempstead Mitchell, Ben 3, typewritten
96 Hempstead Moore, Primus 3, typewritten
96 Hempstead Reed, Lawston 3, typewritten
96 Hempstead Royal, Emma
(Mrs. John Royal)
3, typewritten
96 Hempstead Smith, William 3, typewritten
96 Hempstead Sutton, Malinda
(Mrs. Eligah Sutton)

3, typewritten
96 Hempstead Tellington, Frank 6, handwritten
123 Johnson Newton, Pate 19, handwritten
251 Washington Blakeley, Adeline 4, typewritten
266 Yell Edwards, Laura Jackson (Mrs. John Edwards 1, typewritten
266 Yell May, Ike 3, typewritten
266 Yell Parker, Harry 6, handwritten
ov 6 Lonoke Washington, George 1, handwritten

*Box number, in the United States WPA Historic Records Survey Collection, Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.

**Letters after number of pages indicate if the report is typewritten (T) or handwritten (H)

Master Questionnaire Form



(may also be used for interviews with persons
other than early settlers)
  1. Early settler's name
  2. Address
  3. Present occupation (most of the old timers are now retired).
  4. Previous occupation or occupations.
  5. Date of birth.
  6. Place of birth.
  7. Married? To whom? When? Where?
  8. If an immigrant give particulars. City and country of derivation, name of ship on which arrived, etc.
  9. How long has the individual resided in Arkansas?
  10. If not a native tell of the voyage to Arkansas. Boat? Wagon train? etc.
  11. Why did the individual come to Arkansas?
  12. Get details of construction of early homes. (In the southern and southeastern parts of the state chimneys were frequently built of clay and split wood or trimmed branches due to the scarcity of stone and the lack of brick kilns. Some of the more pretentious houses were built with brick imported up the rivers. In the northwestern part of the state stone houses occurred much more frequently. Pay particular attention to these and similar regional differences.)
  13. What form of lighting was used in the early days? Pine knots? Tallow dips? Candles poured at home? Oil or fat lamps? etc.
  14. When were electric lights first used in your community?
  15. What kind of fuel was used? (This was wood in most parts of the state, of course, because it was plentiful and convenient, but in some of the western counties coal may have appeared early.
  16. What kinds of food did the early settlers have? Were fish and game depended upon for the meat supply? Was game plentiful? What kinds?
  17. What kinds of clothes were worn and how manufactured?
  18. Were there any interesting customs or incidents connected with early courtships? Was bundling ever practiced? (It is highly improbable but possible.) Were charivaries (usually pronounced ‘shivaree' in Arkansas and the lower Mississippi Valley territory) frequent?
  19. Compare some early food, clothing, etc. prices with those of today. (Since staples were usually bought in barrels, hogsheads, bushels, and similar large units, present prices will have to be quoted on the same basis.)
  20. What were some of the incidents pertaining to the sharing of food and other supplies in times of common need?
  21. What were some early cultivated crops? Domesticated animals? (For instance, when did tomatoes cease to be known as ‘Love Apples,' regarded as poisonous? When moved from the flower garden to the vegetable garden?)
  22. What were early farm implements? Any homemade? If purchased, where? Prices?
  23. What were early industries in the community?
  24. What were some native wild plants used as food or for flower gardens? (For example: mullein, sassafras roots, sweet gum resin, sun-flower seed, paw-paws, sumac berries, poke salad-- or salet, or salud. There are stories told of various food substitutes used during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods. These might supply interesting sidelight.)
  25. Relate interesting incidents of the early days. Tell of childhood impressions and memories. Tell of group activities such as house raisings and warmings, quilting bees, corn huskings, brush arbor meetings, dances, games, socials, hunts and game drives, hog killing, sorghum making, play parties, and the like. Compare early farm and town life with that of today. Tell any experiences relating to the Indians, their customs and habits.
  26. Tell of early methods of combating forest fires, town or building fires.
  27. Get origin of place and thing names such as hills, valleys, rivers, soughs, bayous, plants, animals, etc.
  28. Tell of early taverns, hotels, boarding houses, stagecoach stations, boat landings, etc.
  29. Tell of early schools.
  30. Location of school? Late?
  31. Name of teacher?
  32. How were funds provided? Tuition? How much? Was payment made in kind?
  33. School books used? Title? Author? (Many of the old plantations maintained tutors either for individual families or groups of families. Sometimes ‘school' was conducted on the premises for darkies'[sic] youngsters. Check on such information.)
  34. What constituted the reading matter of the early settlers? Books? Magazines? Newspapers? Get titles and authors.
  35. Where was the first telegraph station in the community? When established?
  36. Tell of the early "Horse cars.' When were trolley cars substituted? When buses?
  37. When and where was the first automobile seen?
  38. When and where was the first train seen?
  39. When and where was the first airplane seen?
  40. When did automotive busses[sic] begin interurban operation? (Give descriptions on the five foregoing.)
  41. Early theatrical performances? Local people? Traveling stock companies?
  42. Tell of any important local celebration in memory of any individual or event.
  43. Does the individual recall any early historical character such as Sam Houston, Co. James Bowie, former President Zachery[sic] Taylor, the James boys, etc.?
  44. Tell of any duels. Where were they fought? By whom? Why?
  45. Tell of any feuds. Who was involved? Where? Why?
  46. Tell of any early tombstone inscriptions. Where?
  47. Tell of any bank robberies, stage holdups, executions of horse thieves or other impromptu executions, including lynchings. Give details.
  48. Tell of Civil War days, giving the fullest detail possible.
  49. Tell of any battles, skirmishes, forays, etc., witnessed.
  50. Tell of Reconstruction, the Carpetbaggers, scalawags, etc.
  51. Get all information possible regarding the original Ku Klux Klan or similar organizations.
  52. Tell of any participation in the establishment of any religious or fraternal organizations.
  53. Tell of any military affiliations.
  54. Tell of any Indian mounds, cliff dwellings, caves, etc., that may be recalled. Get as accurate information as possible regarding artifacts, particularly such things as calendar stones, mortars, pottery, baskets, etc.
  55. Tell of any other historic sites.
  56. What is total number of descendants?
  57. What are names and addresses of sons and daughters?
  58. Name some of the grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, if any.
  59. Tell of any books, diaries, journals, sketches, or newspaper articles the individual has written. Give details.

The above questionnaire is intended solely as a skeleton outline to assist the interviewer in giving his subject leads. It is improbable that any one individual can answer all the questions fully but it is advisable to ask them all anyway. Record the answers on plain paper numbering the answers to correspond with the above questions, if possible.


Do not limit yourself to the above questions. If the subject goes off on any tangent follow it to see if it is of historical interest. Remember to get Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why on every possible question. As regards matters of location, such as Indian sites, early buildings, tombstones, etc., be as definite and detailed as possible. Give pertinent data i.e., whether or not buildings are now occupied and if so by what or whom, and in either case, in what state of preservation and repair.


AEC 12/2003