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Stephen S. Slaughter Oral History Interview

 

Stephen S. Slaughter

Oral History Interview with
Stephen S. Slaughter

Neighbor of the Truman family in Grandview, Missouri, and longtime acquaintance of the Trumans.

Raymore, Missouri
April 19, 1984
by Niel M. Johnson


[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Appendicies | List of Subjects Discussed]


Notice
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened August, 1984
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Appendicies | List of Subjects Discussed]



Oral History Interview with
Stephen S. Slaughter

Raymore, Missouri
April 19, 1984
by Niel M. Johnson

[1]

JOHNSON: Mr. Slaughter, would you tell me when and where you were born?

SLAUGHTER: I was born on our farm one mile south of Hickman Mills, on October 14, 1901. I was brought up on the farm and went to the local Hickman Mills schools.

JOHNSON: What are your parents' names?

SLAUGHTER: My father was Orlando Y. Slaughter, born in Jackson County, August 9, 1854. He was born over on the Rule farm, near an ice house in a valley.

JOHNSON: What was your mother's maiden name?

SLAUGHTER: My mother was Elizabeth Miller Havron,

[2]

born in Bedford, Indiana, in 1863.

JOHNSON: Can we have the names of your brothers and sisters?

SLAUGHTER: My oldest brother was Homer Havron Slaughter. He was born on the Hedges farm when father was renting it. He went to West Point and became a colonel. He was in Ekaterinburg the day after the Czar was murdered.

JOHNSON: Yes, it is in the book.* He was in Russia.

SLAUGHTER: The food was still on the table.

My second brother was "Doc" William Miller Slaughter. He was also born on the Hedges farm. He was an osteopath in Kansas City. My third brother, John Marion Slaughter, was born on the Raytown farm that my father had bought about 1887. They lived at Raytown until 1900 when Father sold the Raytown farm and bought the Hedges farm and moved back. Seth was born in Raytown too. He went to the University of Missouri one year, then to Culver-Stockton one year, then to Drake University

*Stephen S. Slaughter, History of a Missouri Farm Family: The O.V. Slaughters, 1700-1944. Harrison, N.Y. : Harbor Hill Books, 1978.

[3]

in Des Moines. After graduation from Drake he went to the University of Chicago and got a master's degree. He became a minister. My brother John bought the controlling interest in the Hickman Bank in Hickman Mills. He died in January 1961.

JOHNSON: Do you have any sisters?

SLAUGHTER: I'm getting to it. There were eight of us in the family. You have to work through the boys first. The first five were all boys. Minor was born in Raytown, graduated from the local schools, and went to the University of Missouri in engineering. He was in World War I. He died of TB in 1926 when thirty years old. Then there was my sister Ruth, the sixth child. Ruth was born in Raytown in 1898. She graduated from the University of Missouri and then went to New York to study music. She was a music teacher, and married Robert D. Barry.

I was next. I went to the local schools, to Hickman Mills and Ruskin. I went to New York,

[4]

to Columbia University in 1925. I thought I'd go into the academic world with a degree in history. I was offered a job teaching in Long Island University in the summer of 1929 and didn't take it. It never occurred to me that the Depression was coming on. When I tried to get a job in 1931-32, there were no jobs. You just don't understand if you haven't lived through that time. There were no jobs. In the meantime, I became interested in different things, in art and pictures. I went into photography.

I was a late bloomer. I gained these interests later. And I became interested in writing.

JOHNSON: Have you named all of your sisters?

SLAUGHTER: No, I've got another sister, a younger one, Eunice. She's in Arlington, Virginia. She was born in Hickman Mills. She went to Drake University one semester, and graduated from the University of Missouri. She taught school. She married Joseph A. Logan in 1943. Her husband died in September 1981. They had no children.

[5]

Eunice and I have no children,

JOHNSON: Have we named them all now?

SLAUGHTER: I've named them all; eight of them.

JOHNSON: Then you were the next to the last?

SLAUGHTER: Next to the last.

JOHNSON: Where did you go to school, grade school and high school.?

SLAUGHTER: I went to local schools, to Hickman Mills grade school and Ruskin high school. I got an A.B. from Drake University in Des Moines. I got a master's degree at Columbia University.

JOHNSON: In what field?

SLAUGHTER: It was American history but I never took American history classes at Columbia. I just took the exams. That was one problem actually. I took what I wanted -- sociology, economics, psychology...I wrote a thesis in American history, and took the exams. I became interested in the Reformation, in the lives of the Protestant sects. It was a segment

[6]

of the growing feeling for democracy actually, in local self-government, and the idea hasn't been developed fully even yet. But I became interested in it, and nobody else at Columbia was interested. I had been working on my own, and so that's another reason why I never finished my education.

JOHNSON: But you got a master's. When?

SLAUGHTER: I did get a master's. In 1928.

JOHNSON: Okay. Then what did you do after that? After you got your master's?

SLAUGHTER: I continued my work in history, and got whatever material I could. There was a lot of material at Union Theological Seminary, a certain section on the Reformation. I studied at the Harvard library one summer, and the New York Public, and Columbia library. I went over to England and studied at the British Museum, at the Records Office in London, and spent the winter, seven months, in Norwich, England. I studied Robert Browne, the father of Congregationalism. I took notes and came back.

And as I say, by that time the Depression was

[7]

on, and I needed some money. I just backed into photography; there was some money in it. There was a chance for a job. It was interesting. It's fascinating.

JOHNSON: When did you get into photography?

SLAUGHTER: There was no definite date; I don't know when I bought my camera. I stayed in New York. I had been in New York from 1925 on, for 57 years, until coming back here in 1982.

JOHNSON: So you came back to New York City?

SLAUGHTER: Yes. Twenty-five years in New York City, and 32 years in Tarrytown.

JOHNSON: So you got a job in photography in New York City?

SLAUGHTER: Yes. I worked for other people, and worked for myself. I did almost all the work for Columbia University; I did work for all the pictures of the Manhattan Project, identification pictures, and things of that sort.

[8]

JOHNSON: Do you mean the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb?

SLAUGHTER: Yes. Well, I had to take a picture of everybody that worked there at Columbia on this project. I took a lot of famous people, knew who they were.

JOH'N'SON: Now they were at different places. Did you go to the University of Chicago and work there too?

SLAUGHTER: No. They had a local unit there at Columbia, and I think all the pictures I took were in the Columbia buildings.

JOHNSON: And you wrote up the captions and commentaries, whatever for your photographs? Did you manage to do some writing with your photography?

SLAUGHTER: Not in connection with the photography. My writing was all outside that.

JOHNSON: You didn't do photo essays, for instance?

SLAUGHTER: I was just a photographer as far as they were concerned.

[9]

JOHNSON: I see. Were you free lance, or were you employed by the university when you were a photographer?

SLAUGHTER: They expected me to take the pictures but I had no contract with them.

JOHNSON: Is that right?

SLAUGHTER: Oh, no, I could refuse anytime.

JOHNSON: They just paid you for what you did do?

SLAUGHTER: I just knew them.

JOHNSON: You weren't on their payroll?

SLAUGHTER: No. Oh no.

JOHNSON: So you were free lance.

SLAUGHTER: I was free lance, sure.

JOHNSON: For how many years did you do that?

SLAUGHTER: Off and on until I went to Tarrytown in 1950. I don't know whether I kept my contact with Columbia, or whether I was more independent

[10]

at that time. I did a lot of writing you know.

JOHNSON: On the side?

SLAUGHTER: On the side, yes.

JOHNSON: And you had it published, some of it published?

SLAUGHTER: Some of it published, yes.

JOHNSON: In magazines?

SLAUGHTER: Yes, You know, anything that didn't pay me anything, I could get published without any trouble. But I sent only one article to The New Yorker, the only thing I ever sent, and they sent me a check for $200 for the thing.

JOHNSON: What year was that?

SLAUGHTER: I don't know; in the thirties.

JOHNSON: You didn't save the article?

SLAUGHTER: Yes, it's somewhere. I can find it.

JOHNSON: So you got published in The New Yorker.

[11]

SLAUGHTER: Yes.

JOHNSON: Well, that's a real honor.

SLAUGHTER: Well, I wrote very well. It wasn't that. It was what I was interested in writing most people weren't interested in. I would have been a writer, but the problem was making a living at it.

JOHNSON: What was the subject you liked to write about mostly? What was the subject you wrote about for The New Yorker?

SLAUGHTER: I don't know the year, but I was curious about that Navy yard, the Brooklyn Navy Yard. So I went over there one morning and just walked in. Nobody stopped me. You know, after I was there prowling around, I began talking to a fellow. He seemed to be footloose, and he began asking me questions. He found I didn't have a pass. He was an officer, and he took me up before the captain and they queried me. Finally, they turned me loose, and I wrote up that episode. I sent it in to The New Yorker. Well, of course, they were

[12]

interested in it, and they published it. But I never went back to the Navy yard.

Well, one of the comical things about it is that it was such a secret, and he told me all about that ship that they were building. I didn't know what ship it was, and he told me. It was a well-known ship, one of the important ships.

JOHNSON: Was it an aircraft carrier, or a battleship?

SLAUGHTER: I didn't know what it was. He told me it was the North Carolina, a big battleship.

JOHNSON: So you were there through the war years, in New York City, through the forties.

SLAUGHTER: Yes, I was there.

JOHNSON: And you probably were doing some photographic assignments related to the war effort, I suppose.

SLAUGHTER: No, I don't think so; it was just the Manhattan Project. Nobody knew what that was. The students at Columbia who had volunteered and were working in it -- they were scientists -- but they didn't

[13]

know what they were working on.

JOHNSON: They were in the physics department I suppose.

SLAUGHTER: The only thing I knew, I took a picture of Urey.

JOHNSON: Harold Urey?

SLAUGHTER: Yes, I knew that name, and then this fellow who was head of the whole thing.

JOHNSON: Groves, Leslie Groves.

SLAUGHTER: Groves! Got into an argument with Groves.

JOHNSON: What about?

SLAUGHTER: I think I belittled the Army someway.

JOHNSON: And he reacted?

SLAUGHTER: I think so. And I apologized.

JOHNSON: Okay, so then in 1950 you moved to Tarrytown, New York.

SLAUGHTER: Yes. I bought a photographic studio

[14]

there.

JOHNSON: You did general photography.

SLAUGHTER: Did everything.

JOHNSON: Did you do weddings and that sort of thing?

SLAUGHTER: Yes, but I took portraits mostly, and commercial work. If somebody had an auto accident, they would call me. I'd go and take that. I did a good deal of building photos, of progress on construction. Every month I'd go over to a building, and take a picture. It would take six months to build the thing or more.

JOHNSON: So you kept a photographic record of Tarrytown's history from 1950 to...

SLAUGHTER: Yes, until 1968. I took a lot of pictures. I turned them all over to Tarrytown before I left, to their historical society. I must have had hundreds of pictures I took.

JOHNSON: How long were you there in Tarrytown?

SLAUGHTER: Well, 32 years.

[15]

JOHNSON: Until you retired.

SLAUGHTER: Yes, I retired in '68, But I stayed in Tarrytown until 1982, I lived in New York City from '25 to the fall of 1950. Wait a minute; I bought that studio and I commuted for a while. We moved up in July of '51, but I was there everyday from '50 on, and we moved up in '51. We rented an apartment until the spring or summer of '54 when we bought a house. We lived in that house until we left on April 29, 1982. My wife fell and broke her shoulder the day we were to move. So, we stayed with a neighbor a few more days and we got here May 5th. We were due May 6th, and an apartment was open for us and we had to be here.

JOHNSON: Right here, this same apartment?

SLAUGHTER: This same apartment. We would have stayed longer in Tarrytown, but we had sold our house and the people were moving in. My wife was in no shape to travel and it was the most miserable trip we ever had in our lives. I was as worn out as she was.

[16]

JOHNSON: It's a nice place here, isn't it?

SLAUGHTER: It's a nice place. I'm glad we came.

JOHNSON: You're back in your home country, so to speak. Do you think of Hickman Mills as hometown?

SLAUGHTER: I came back a stranger.

JOHNSON: How about your brothers and sisters? Had they all moved away? Any of them still live in this area?

SLAUGHTER: They've all died, except for my younger sister in Arlington, Virginia. I have a cousin, one first cousin in Kansas City, S. D. -- Colonel S. D. Slaughter. I have some second cousins in Kansas City, Kansas.

JOHNSON: Are you related to Roger Slaughter who was involved in politics in the thirties?

SLAUGHTER: No. There are about twelve or more distinct Slaughter families and not related as far as I know. I've called up some of them.

[17]

JOHNSON: We'll back up again. You said you were born in 1901. Can you pinpoint where you were born?

SLAUGHTER: On the farm. I could probably find the range number and the township.

JOHNSON: Okay, as related to the Truman farm.

SLAUGHTER: We had a common boundary of, I think, 7/8ths of a mile.

JOHNSON: In which direction?

SLAUGHTER: We were north; they were south.

JOHNSON: Okay, just north of the Truman farm.

SLAUGHTER: Yes. And we were half a mile from Grandview Road, to the east. There was just a fence between us and the Trumans, a rock fence.

JOHNSON: When did your father buy that farm, do you know?

SLAUGHTER: He rented that farm first, in 1880, I believe. Sol Young had the adjacent farm then,

[18]

and I think Father first met Sol Young when he rented that farm. One morning he went out to the pasture and a fellow pulled up on horseback, on a beautiful horse, swung his horse around and said, "Hello, Slaughter, huh? My name is Sol Young. You're from the Davenports? The Davenports are good stock." He turned on his horse and rode away. He didn't mention that father's father was a poor businessman, but the Davenports were good business people.

JOHNSON: Who did your father rent that land from?

SLAUGHTER: He rented it from George Hedges.

JOHNSON: I'm looking at an 1877 plat map; you maybe have seen this. I have outlined the Young land. Here's the Young farm and I don't see the Slaughter name.

SLAUGHER: No, but the names Charles Miller and George Hedges are there on the north. Charles Miller; he's my great.-grandfather.

JOHNSON: Yes, here's the George Hedges farm. So this

[19]

land right in here would have been the Slaughter farm.

SLAUGHTER: Charles Miller owned 270 acres east of the Hedges land. He deeded 110 acres on the west by the Hedges property to my mother. He deeded 160 acres on the east to his granddaughter, Mother's cousin, Cora Miller. The house I was born in, our farm house, was on the Hedges property and was enlarged by my father after he bought the farm. When my father met Sol Young he was a renter. He courted my mother when he was renting the farm. My mother had come from Indiana as a child.

JOHNSON: So Sol Young met your father right here on this Hedges land, at the boundary.

SLAUGHTER: Sure. This was a rock fence. Yes, this was a rock fence.

JOHNSON: That was a rock fence where it says Harriett L. Young; just on the north side of that was a rock fence.

[20]

SLAUGHTER: That's right.

Sol Young also owned land west of the Grandview Road. It doesn't show it here. He owned land beyond this railroad, the Frisco.

JOHNSON: I know. So maybe that was purchased later; this was in '77.

SLAUGHTER: Well, I drew a map for Tom Heed, a correct map. I think you'll find I'm the only man that could draw a map for Tom.

JOHNSON: I suppose. So this was the first connection between the Slaughters and the Trumans -- your father meeting Sol Young.

SLAUGHTER: I think it was his first meeting with Sol Young, but he knew the Trumans much before that.

JOHNSON: Oh, he did?

SLAUGHTER: Oh yes.

My grandfather Elijah F. Slaughter kept a journal, a diary, and much of the material in it is in my published family history. A neighbor,

[21]

Will Parrish, stopped one evening, February 15, 1879, and said Mrs. Truman had died. Two of Elijah's children, Ida and Steve, went to the funeral. That was Harry's grandmother; that was A. S. Truman's wife.

JOHNSON: Anderson Shipp Truman's wife?

SLAUGHTER: Yes.

Elijah F. Slaughter was born in Tennessee but spent most of his early life in Kentucky, as, I believe, Sol Young and the Trumans did.

JOHNSON: So Elijah attended the funeral of...

SLAUGHTER: His children did, Aunt Ida and Uncle Steve; they attended the funeral. The Trumans are mentioned a number of times in my grandfather's journal. They knew each other from the early days. The Davenports came into Missouri, Jackson County, in 1837, and they were the ones that Sol Young knew.

JOHNSON: I notice there is a mention here on page 70 of your book, an entry apparently by Elijah,

[22]

February 26, 1874, "Bought of Will Truman clover seed. 1 bushel $6.00."

SLAUGHTER: Yes, cost a lot didn't it?

JOHNSON: And then, August 13, 1879, "John Truman bought the hogs of Steve that he bot [sic] of his grandfather and is to give $27.00." Yes, their connections go way back don't they?

SLAUGHTER: They go way back. That's why we felt close to the Truman family.

JOHNSON: Is this 1874 entry the first documented connection?

SLAUGHTER: I would think so.

JOHNSON: Are there any stories that your father or uncles told you, that aren't published in your book on the Slaughter family, that involved the Trumans. Any mention of them during the Civil War for instance?

SLAUGHTER: No, there's nothing about the Civil War

[23]

that I remember, because my immediate family was not in the Civil War. Elijah was affected by Order Number 11, and he had to move. A lot of people were affected by that. They were southerners you know.

JOHNSON: Do you know where he lived at the time that he had to move out of the county?

SLAUGHTER: Yes, he moved out of the county, I think down to Cass County. That was where Uncle Steve was born. He always said he was born on the Grand River, and they all moved back to Jackson County after he was born. I do not know the exact dates Elijah bought his farm but it was after the Civil War, perhaps as early as 1865 or 1866 for the first 60 acres. Elijah was a poor businessman. He rented, he squatted the first years of their marriage.

JOHNSON: Elijah you say rented land?

SLAUGHTE: He rented land, yes. He squatted; he lived wherever he could. Grandma got a few

[24]

dollars together and they paid $400 for 60 acres there at 87th, just to the west of Blue Ridge Boulevard. There's a Santa Fe Trail marker right there at the Blue Ridge right-of-way. Just across there to the north and west was grandpa's farm. He bought 60 more acres there later, and twenty acres of timber, but they finally had 120 acres at 87th Street. The 20 acres of timber were about a mile to the east of the 120 acres.

JOHNSON: Would that be west or north of the Hedges?

SLAUGHTER: Oh, that's north. Oh yes, seven or eight miles -- almost half way to Independence.

JOHNSON: The Hedges farm, that became the nucleus for the Slaughter farm?

SLAUGHTER: Yes. I have a little pamphlet here I wrote.

JOHNSON: This is the Historical Society Journal of Jackson County, July-September 1983.

SLAUGHTER: And in the article I give much of the

[25]

history of this farm. Sam Gregg owned it, and Hedges bought it from Sam Gregg. I mention Vivian Truman in there, because Vivian married Louella Campbell. I had given a poster dated about 1890 to the Historical Society.

JOHNSON: 1884?

SLAUGHTER: All right. And Dr. Bryant was mentioned in the poster. He was the chairman of a political meeting, and his daughter Anna Bryant was the mother of Louella Campbell who married Vivian Truman. So, the poster ties up the names of Hickman, Bryant, Gregg, Hedges, Truman, Slaughter and was the foundation for the article.

JOHNSON: Like I say, it's quite a thing that you were living there on the farm before Harry Truman went out there. Of course, he had lived there as a boy very briefly, about three years, but after working at the bank he came out to the farm in the spring of 1906. By this time you were already five years old. What was your first recollection of

[26]

ever seeing Harry Truman?

SLAUGHTER: Oh, I remember it very well.

JOHNSON: Well, we want to be sure and get that down.

SLAUGHTER: Well, it was threshing time, and I was at the yard fence on our farm with my sister. Threshing is a big time for kids, and there was Harry Truman. How I knew it was Harry I don't know. I guess my older sister knew. Anyway he was there, and he was on a wagon, a team of horses. No team of horses that the Trumans had was ever very fat. They were thin horses. But Harry was standing up in a bundle wagon, and he had a white Panama hat on. It was a soft hat, but a Panama, white. I don't know why I remember that, but it was different; it was different from what most of them wore. Harry never looked unkempt.

JOHNSON: He was wearing this white Panama hat.

SLAUGHTER: Yes, white Panama hat.

JOHNSON: A straw -- made of straw?

[27]

SLAUGHTER: Oh yes, it was straw. I don't know whether you've ever seen a Panama hat or not. It was softer than other straw hats. The brim was wider so you could just pull it down.

JOHNSON: When do you think this was? Could you put a date on that?

SLAUGHTER: It was the first time I ever saw Harry Truman, to remember.

JOHNSON: Do you have any idea when that was?

SLAUGHTER: I know I was young. I couldn't read, I'm sure of that. That was before I went to school.

We swapped work threshing with the Trumans for years. That's how I ate in the Trumans' house a number of times.

JOHNSON: He'd come over to work on the threshing crew?

SLAUGHTER: Yes. Now that's the only time he ever followed the threshing crew. He never did that again so far as I remember. I remember this distinctly, because I remember the conversation at the table. Harry Truman, contrary to what

[28]

most people get from reading the paper, had a personality and charisma. People remember him. They talked about him at the table. Perhaps he was seated at another table in another room or he had eaten and left, but they talked about him. He was new in the neighborhood; they had never seen him before. It was all complimentary, everyone of them. I remember that. As a kid I listened.

JOHNSON: And you say this was before you were even going to school?

SLAUGHTER: I didn't go to school until I was nearly eight years old.

JOHNSON: So this would have had to have been before 1909, maybe the first or second year he was on the farm?

SLAUGHTER: I would say it was the first year Harry was on the farm.

I didn't go to school early, but I think I can remember the first day I walked.

[29]

JOHNSON: Do you remember any of the other people that were there that day?

SLAUGHTER: They were neighbors.

JOHNSON: Who did you swap work with, that you remember?

SLAUGHTER: Well, Charlie Johnson lived just across the road, we swapped with him; we swapped with the Trumans; we swapped with the Babcocks; we swapped with the Hornbuckles, Roy and Bob. They were bachelors and later got married.

JOHNSON: Charlie Johnson also you say?

SLAUGHTER: He rented the Washer farm. He rented for some years; he had a daughter, Alma; a daughter Sarah -- Sarah Frances, we called her; and a crippled boy, Arlie, who died.

JOHNSON: They lived there a number of years then on that farm.

SLAUGHTER: Yes. Alma married Ed Young, a veterinarian. Sarah Frances married Harold Makin. Harold Makin

[30]

died just a year or so ago. He had an auto agency in Grandview, and his son runs it now. Sarah Frances is still alive. And Ed Young, the boy that Alma married, was the veterinarian that came out to vaccinate those hogs when Harry came down and helped us that morning. It's in the book, but I don't think I mention Ed Young's name; I just mention Harry's name.

JOHNSON: Was this before Hall had the thresher?

SLAUGHTER: Oh, no. Hall had that thresher as far as I know from the very beginning. I don't remember anybody threshing for us except Leslie Hall.

JOHNSON: So it was Leslie Hall's machine that was there that day, his threshing machine?

SLAUGHTER: Oh, it was bound to have been. I would think so. And he had a relative, or maybe just a friend, named Eugene Myers, who often helped him. Leslie had some boys.

JOHNSON: Yes, I've got their names.

So your first recollection is on this threshing

[31]

crew. That’s early all right. He even seemed to be dressed up when he was working, you say?

SLAUGHTER: He wasn’t dressed up, but he didn’t look like the other farmers, that’s what I mean.

JOHNSON: He didn’t wear the bib overalls so far as you recall.

SLAUGHTER: I don’t think I ever saw him in my life in bib overalls.

JOHNSON: And he didn’t wear blue jeans. He wore work pants of some sort?

SLAUGHTER: Work pants, but I would say they were pants that he had bought for his social life but he later wore them on the farm. They were not pressed.

JOHNSON What was the next instance that you can recall?

SLAUGHTER: So far as I know, he never was on the threshing crew again. I was not on the threshing crew until I was older. I would see him

[32]

across the fence, plowing corn. Sometimes he'd drop down to see my father for something of mutual interest.

JOHNSON: Were you a water boy for the crew when you were there with Truman?

SLAUGHTER: Oh, I wasn't water boy then.

JOHNSON: You didn't take water out to them?

SLAUGHTER: I was only four or five years old, you see.

JOHNSON: But you did say something to him. Of course, you wouldn't remember what it was.

SLAUGHTER: Oh no, of course not. I was a kid.

JOHNSON: Did he kid you? Was he the type that would kid the little kids?

SLAUGHTER: No, I don't think so. He was a polite, courteous man. He never swore, not in our house. And Margaret, the other night on TV, said she had never heard him say a cuss word in her life. And

[33]

I was glad to hear it, because it was sure the impression he gave to us, and he was in our house a number of times.

JOHNSON: What could you say about those visits? What do you recall about those visits?

SLAUGHTER: They always had something to do with the farm. Once I know it was about the road. We were wanting a macadam road built. We had only a dirt road.

Father thought that maybe Harry could help us on persuading the county court to build a macadam road. I remember that was one thing. There were informal things that you might need to see a neighbor about. We used the phone after we put it in. In 1906 we put the phone in.

JOHNSON: Was that when the Trumans got a phone, do you think?

SLAUGHTER: I expect so. That's when we put ours in, in 1906. They put it in about the same time.

We bought an automobile in 1912. I don't think they bought one until 1913.

[34]

JOHNSON: These were, as you say, probably just involving some farm matters, informal?

SLAUGHTER: Not things that you would remember specifically.

JOHNSON: I notice you had a windmill installed in 1909, but the Trumans apparently never did put in a windmill. They didn't have one did they?

SLAUGHTER: Never did.

JOHNSON: Do you have any idea why they didn't put in a windmill?

SLAUGHTER: You know, they didn't have much spare money. The Trumans were always strapped. I would think maybe a little bit of that. I don't understand quite why they were so short of money.

JOHNSON: Did you know anything about the law suits? That apparently would have been one of the reasons; the lawyer's fees and so on.

SLAUGHTER: I maybe could tell you about that a bit, I mean my father was quite a supporter of Mat

[35]

and Harry.

JOHNSON: Mat is Martha? Martha Ellen?

SLAUGHTER: Harry's mother. As a youngster I never knew her name was Martha. They always called her Mat. Father testified for them, and one of the jurymen said to father, "You know, if you hadn't testified this case would have gone against the Trumans."

JOHNSON: Your father.

SLAUGHTER: Yes, he told my father that.

JOHNSON: What kind of testimony was that, do you know?

SLAUGHTER: I have no idea, but my father was a persuasive man, and he knew he was right. They were good people; they were good neighbors, and why shouldn't we support them? As I understood it, the sons of Sol Young, who would benefit by a change in the will, were irresponsible, not the kind of people my father admired. Father much preferred to have the farm go to Mat and Harrison.

[36]

JOHNSON: Did they have reputations as playboys?

SLAUGHTER: Well, I think they drank a bit, and maybe gambled a bit. My father was very strict.

JOHNSON: Strict about gambling, drinking and that sort of thing? Sol Young didn't seem to be that strict?

SLAUGHTER: No. Sol Young had a world of ability. And yes, he was a good businessman, and he was a dependable person, not a fellow that would play loose ends with anybody. He was a good man; whatever else he was, he was a dependable man. His word was good.

JOHNSON: How about John Anderson Truman, Harry's father?

SLAUGHTER: Oh, John Anderson Truman was a hard working man. My, he got up early, he worked hard, and he would wear overalls. He always came with the threshing crew, always ran a grain wagon. They always sent one or two bundle wagons, but John

[37]

always ran a grain wagon. He was a little man, a hard worker, with skinny horses. They were good horses, but they only had one or two good riding horses.

JOHNSON: You were 13 years old when he died, so you're recollecting him being short, and so on.

SLAUGHTER: Saw him every summer. I'd see him across the fence. It was mostly pasture, that south part, back part of our place.

JOHNSON: Was he known to be calm or rather feisty, or…

SLAUGHTER: He reacted quickly; had a quick temper. Yes, I guess you would call him feisty; he acted quickly. There is nothing against the man. He worked hard and he was honest. He made a good neighbor. They all made good neighbors. It fell to my father's lot to keep the fences up; he just took that for granted.

JOHNSON: On that fence between the two farms. Is

[38]

that rock fence still there, or remnants of that rock fence still there?

SLAUGHTER: Goodness no! Almost nothing has any resemblance to what it was then. When 71 was built, all the rock in the whole neighborhood, and even before that, was taken for other macadam roads. People needed the rock. None of that was left.

JOHNSON: Why do you think Harry wasn't on the threshing crews after that first time?

SLAUGHTER: I don't think he was ever on a threshing crew again. I don't think that he was on the crew at home. If he had been I would have remembered it. He worked in the fields from time to time but he was never a regular part of the farm work force. Not as I remember it. He helped his mother. He played the piano; he'd talk; he'd go around and oversee things a bit.

JOHNSON: Kind of a manager type do you think?

[39]

SLAUGHTER: Especially after his father died, he was. I was surprised in his letters that he talks about the hard labor he did. I didn't see that much hard labor. He worked; he worked from time to time; he wasn't lazy, he worked. His mother said he could make the straightest corn rows in the state, and they were straight, I will say that. But he didn't spend all that time in the field; he had hired hands.

JOHNSON: Do you remember him before he had a car going down the road in a buggy, or carriage? Remember ever seeing him in a carriage or buggy?

SLAUGHTER: No, I saw him on horseback. He never came to see us in a carriage. Harrison Young came in a buggy with his mother.

JOHNSON: I wonder what ever happened to that carriage.

SLAUGHTER: I don't know. That was just a buggy that Harrison and his mother were in.

JOHNSON: Kind of a two seater?

[40]

SLAUGHTER: No, just a buggy, one horse. To me a carriage has two seats and is pulled by two horses. A buggy has one seat.

JOHNSON: It wasn't one of these surreys with a fringe on top?

SLAUGHTER: Oh, it had a top on it, but no fringe. I believe Curt or Will Campbell had a carriage with a fringe on top.

JOHNSON: Do you think it was a surrey?

SLAUGHTER: It was my recollection that it was just a plain buggy. We had a carriage and we had a buggy.

JOHNSON: You had a kind of a surrey type carriage?

SLAUGHTER: Yes, with two seats, front and back, and took two horses. We used two horses on it. But the buggy just took one horse.

JOHNSON: But with Harrison Young, you just remember that one horse and buggy?

SLAUGHTER: I just saw Harrison Young that one time

[41]

that I remember. Harrison lived out there on the farm a good part of the time, but his home, I believe, was in Kansas City.

JOHNSON: He was a large man, apparently, compared to say John Anderson Truman,

SLAUGHTER: Oh yes, he would weigh 75 pounds more than John Truman. He was a good-sized man.

JOHNSON: I notice too, you built a silo in 1911 and there's no silo on the Truman farm.

SLAUGHTER: They never had a silo.

JOHNSON: Again maybe because of the economics, the costs?

SLAUGHTER: I would think so. They just didn't manage that farm well. They didn't manage that farm well and I don't know why they didn't make more money from it. It was good