TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW OF MITCHEL BALLARD
Conducted by Brandi Nwagbara
(assisted by Jackie Burnside, January18, 2000 Berea College, BST/SOC211 class)
Nwagbara; Mr. Ballard, when did you and your family come to Berea?
Ballard; Me and my family? Oh, I was born in Berea, and my father was here right after
Nwagbara; Was your father born here in Berea?
Nwagbara; What kinds of work did you and your family do?
Ballard; My family, was originated in West Virginia, I left Kentucky in 26. And I went to West Virginia and spent about 50 years there. I haven't had a whole lot of time in Kentucky, other than the later years. Before then I was right here, I was born here and I went to school here. I went to school in Berea. And I left here and went to Frankfort Kentucky and went to school there a couple of years and another two years at Dunbar High school in Lexington and from there to West Virginia and went to school in West Virginia State College, in Charleston West Virginia. And got married and then stayed in west Virginia on up to the last five or six years and I been back here since.
Nwagbara; Can you tell me about attending Berea College?
Ballard; No, no, that was before my time. It wasn't before my time either, but my mother and father went to school, but when it come to us they had separated the schools then.
Burnside; If your parents went to Berea [ ]
Ballard; That's right Yah. When the Day Law came in, that eliminated me as far as going to college.
Burnside; Do you remember your parents talking about going to school at Berea, what was that like?
Ballard; Oh yah. It was very interesting to them, they got along fine there.
Burnside; Do you know how far they went gradewise?
Ballard; Well, I don't know. The grading system was different I guess. Of course my mother after going to school there, taught school in Kentucky in the County. My aunt went to school there and taught school there and she taught school in Berea. So I don't know how far they went, but far enough I guess they could teach grade schools.
Nwagbara; What's kinds of community events took place?
Burnside; Well maybe we can come back to that since we've been talking about his
parents. (? ?)
Nwagbara; What year were you born in?
Burnside; Were you born at home in a house?
Ballard; I was born in the house
Burnside; Where was that house located?
Ballard; Right here.
Burnside; This house?
Ballard; Not this house, but in this spot.
Burside; In this spot. Wow! Who were the neighbors back then?
Ballard; Well, I don't know. Course more than likely, our family. See my grandfather..
Burnside; On your dad's side?
Ballard; On my dad's side, was the first black man to buy property in Berea.
Burnside; What was his name?
Ballard; Henry Ballard, and I don't know how much the property was but he raised all
his family here and they scattered out (? ?)
Nwagbara; What was your father's name?
Ballard; John Ballard.
Nwagbara; And your mother's?
Ballard; My mother's name was Sally Mitchell Ballard.
Burnside; Do you know much about the Mitchell's side
Ballard; Yah. They was living in Lexington Kentucky.
Nwagbara; Do you remember your grandmother on your mother's side?
Ballard; Yah my grandmother was named uhhhhh, my grandfather was named Henry
Mitchell and my grandmother was named uhhh, what was her name?
Burnside; Could it have been Eliza or something like that?
Ballard; Let me see, Lou. Lou.
Ballard; Lou Mitchell.
Nwagbara; What about your grandmother on your father's side?
Ballard; Letís see, I don't remember her name (? ?)
Nwagbara; Do you attend church here in Berea?
Nwagbara; What church is that?
Ballard; Middletown Baptist Church. I'm the oldest member there.
Burnside; Do you remember your parents talking about going to church?
Ballard; It's the same church, Middletown. You know where it is.
Burnside; Right, so they probably helped get it started.
Ballard; Well, probably so. They probably were organizers; it's 107 years old.
Burside; ( ? ?)
Nwagbara; Do you have any fond memories of attending that church?
Ballard; You mean do I have any members there. Yah I have a lot of cousins.
Nwagbara; Did they live in the same neighbor, or did your family live around you?
Ballard; Well, no. We just lived in this little neighborhood. It was different neighbor
hoods. There was what you called Black Bottom at that time. Some of them lived
there and some lived in other places like Possum Kingdom. You know crazy names like that. And down this way is Middletown and small areas all around in there.
Nwagbara; What kind of work did your mother and father do? (don't)
Ballard; My father did concrete work. And my mother was just a housewife. She taught
school for a while.
Nwagbara; She taught at Berea College?
Ballard; No, she taught in the county schools.
Burnside; Do you remember any old cemeteries right here in this area?
Nwagbara; In front of the post office?
Ballard; I know there were several old cemeteries around, before they built the main
cemetery up here at up here at (? ?) and different areas. There weren't any names,
just parts you know, like over here where my mother was buried. Quite a few
people were buried over there, even some of the people from the college, but I
don't know it's kind of lost.
Burnside; Do you remember the name of it?
Ballard; Wasn't any name to it. Just a plot there where people are buried in.
Burnside; Is that area marked?
Ballard; I don't know whether it is or not. I don't know whether it is still there or not or
if it is very well taken care of. After they built this one, they just forgot about
that one over there I guess.
Burnside; Is that the one up the street that goes out around the curve?
Burnside; Back over behind where the auto store is?
Ballard; Yah, it's over in this area, back around that curve there. Do you know anything about it?
Burnside; I haven't been there, I just heard people say that there was one over there.
Ballard; Yah, there was one over there, but I kind of lost track of that and there wasn't
any name to it. And they could use it so it more or less got out of reach.
Nwagbara; What were some things do you remember doing for fun? (don't)
Ballard; Do you know where the little park is up here right at the corner? We played croquet on weekends. That was about the limit of our school activity. Wasn't
much for people to do as far as sports and what not.
Nwagbara; Did you attend school here in Berea? (don't)
Ballard; I went to school here in Berea until I finished the eighth grade. That was as far
as we could go here.
Burnside; Where was that building located?
Ballard; Do you know where the Methodist Church on Chestnut is? Well that street goes down a hill, and it goes down by the church and then down another hill. Now our school sat right to the left on the left side of the street, right in sight of the church.
Burnside; Is that Fee street by the Methodist Church over the hill?
Ballard; I don't know the name of that street now. I haven't gotten around too much around here since I been here.
Burnside; Do you remember what year you moved back to Berea?
Ballard; About five or six years ago I think? Do you remember the year, I think I met
you when you were staying at the dorm?
Burnside; Did we have Rachael yet?
Ballard; I believe so. I don't know, how old was Rachael?
Burnside; She's seven now. It would have been at least six years ago.
Ballard; Well, that's right, it was around five or six years ago. I could find it.
Nwagbara; Do you remember any white families that stayed in the neighborhood?
Ballard; Yah. There was the Wilson family, and Issacs.
Nwagbara; This was before you moved to Virginia?
Ballard; Yah, that was in my younger years. That was between the time I went to school
here and the time that I left.
Nwagbara; Did you get along with them? I mean with the children?(don't)
Ballard; Yah they had children. The Issacs had children. I'm trying to think of somebody else. The Asborrows. They were just kind of scattered around. A few people
here and there. Everybody got along pretty well.
Nwagbara; Did you play with them as a child?
Ballard; Oh yah.
Nwagbara; Do you remember any tragedies that took place at that time?
Ballard; At that time? No, I don't remember anything particular at that time.
Nwagbara; What kind of changes do you see since you've moved back to Berea?
Ballard; Oh, gosh there have been lots of changes. Just about everything has changed since the time that I left. Back in the school days, the passenger trains ran through
here then, and all the students came to Berea by train. And the baggage would be hauled from the deport to the dorm by a horse and wagon. One of the big
changes was transportation.
Burnside; Do you remember who used to help haul the luggage?
Ballard; Yah, Mr. George Reynolds.
Burnside; Do you remember who his people were?
Ballard; Yah. His granddaughter was Neece[Juanita Huguely] Family. Neece mother was
his granddaughter I think. They all lived together at the end of the street up here.
Do you know where ( ? Lit?) lives.
Burnside; Right, at the end of Jefferson Avenue. That's where they live?
Ballard; Yah, that's where. They're an old family.
Burnside; Now, you and Juanita have been neighbors a long time?
Ballard; Well yah, her mother and I went to school together back in the day.
Burnside; After you graduated the eighth grade.. Did they call it the Berea Colored School?
Ballard; I imagine that's what they go by, I don't remember any names, other than the Berea Colored School. We only went to school about six months out of the year.
Burnside; When would you have started school? Would it have been in September?
Ballard; Yah it started after gardening or farming season was over. Kids use to have to get out of school and help with the farm and gardening work. When I got out of high
school, students were going to college. Students were so far back behind, it took for ever to get out of the eighth grade. I was trying to think of what age I was
when I got out. I know I got out of high school around 1928. I went to Frankfort the first two years.
Burnside; You went where now?
Ballard; Frankfort Kentucky.
Burnside; To what is Kentucky State now?
Ballard; Kentucky State yah. I went there two years.
Burnside; Did you live in the residence home on campus?
Ballard; I lived on campus the first year. The second year, I lived on campus, but I
worked in the city in Frankfort. I had a little job. People around there liked to
give you jobs during schooling. The first year I worked as a (pa? ?) at the college
in the boarding rooms and all. They had some fine teachers there.
Burnside; Do you remember who was president of Kentucky State while you were there?
Ballard; Yah, he was a graduate of Berea College.
Burnside; There was a Hathaway who was a Berea graduate who was President there andthere was one other I forgot his name. How about one of your favorite teachers
there, do you remember any of their names.
Ballard; Yes, Mrs. Ellison. She was Indian.
Burnside; Asian Indian or American Indian?
Ballard; I think she was American Indian, but I knew she was Indian. And she taught languages, Latin.
Burnside; What other kind of jobs did you have at Kentucky State?
Ballard; I worked at the power plant.
Burnside; When you finished there where did you go?
Ballard; I worked there two, then I came to Lexington. I stayed with my grandparents and went to Dunbar High school for two years.
Burside; Was that the Ballards?
Ballard; That was the Mitchells.
Burside; Oh that was the Mitchells? Grandpa Henry and Lou?
Ballard; Yes, Grandpa Henry and Lou Mitchell.
Burnside; So they had moved to Lexington by then?
Ballard; No, they were always in Lexington.
Burnside; Do you know where about in Lexington?
Ballard; 620 Sallar Street.
Burnside; Settle? SETTLE?
Ballard; No, SALLAR I guess. That's right across the street from the University of Kentucky.
Burnside; What kind of work did the Mitchells do?
Ballard; My grandfather was a janitor at one of the buildings. I got his picture here some place. Oh yah, right there. You see the smallest man right there?
Burnside; Which one is he?
Ballard; Smallest one, Henry Mictchell. Now all these fellows here, the University would give them their own building. Now, he was the janitor of the science building. And
every one of took care of a building of their own.
Burnside; So is this him here?
Ballard; Yah, that's him, Henry Mitchell. I don't know how they managed to get that picture of him; I guess somebody took it for him.
Burnside; So being short comes in from the Mitchell's side? How about the Ballards?
Were they tall or medium height?
Ballard; Medium height.
Nwagbara; By the time you attended Frankfort College was it still segregated?
Ballard; Yah. I'm still trying to think of the presidents name at that time. I can't think of it all. I don't have a picture of my grandmother, I don't have a good picture of him,
I just happened to have that one. I got pictures of my grandfather on my father's side.
Burnside; Do you have them handy? Linda said she was going to help to get them out.
Ballard; On that desk there, underneath there is a couple of old framed pictures.
Burnside; So you have a sister, Myrtle?[Reading the Back of picture] Did you have a brother named John H.
Ballard; Yah. That was my younger brother, he is dead.
Burnside; Where did he live?
Ballard; He lived in Dayton.
Burnside; Do you know where he grew up.
Ballard; No, no no. My grandfather was a slave.
Burnside; This is Henry Ballard. Ok he was the one who was a slave?
Burnside; Do you remember who his owner was?
Ballard; No. I guess evidently it was a Ballard. He doesn't look much like a black man does he?
Burnside; He doesn't, he looks like he could pass for white.
Ballard; Probably was.
Burnside; And Henry was the one who bought the first land here in Berea?
Ballard; He's the one.
Burnside; And Henry's wife was Elsie?
Ballard; Elsie, uh ha.
Burnside; So she is much more browner.
Ballard; Yes she seems to have a lot of Indian blood in her.
Burnside; Well he's well dressed up, he's got on a nice coat. Do you remember how old he was when he died?
Ballard; No, I even know how I happened to get a hold of those pictures. No, my cousin had, she lived next door to my aunt.
Burnside; What was your aunt's name?
Ballard; Melissa Ballard.
Burnside; So she was...
Ballard; She was my father's sister.
Burnside; And she has a daughter and you got them from her daughter?
Ballard; No, they were just in the family.
Burnside; Now did Melissa stay around here and work?
Ballard; Yah, she worked for President Frost. She was a housekeeper for President Frost, and she did hair in the inner city. And some lady, I don't know who it was, of
course it is just hearsay to me, but she kept a diary of some of the people she was close to and was doing hair. They took her diary and was going to write a book.
And she never did get hold to the stuff anymore. These people are something else. They take advantage of good nature.
Burnside; Do you know what kind of work did Henry Ballard do when he came to Berea?
Ballard; No, I don't. Evidently, farming. That's about all the people knew about. But I never did find out how he made his living.
Burnside; How about your dad?
Ballard; He was a cement layer.
Burnside; Do you know where he learned how to do that?
Ballard; No, I guess he just more or less picked it up. A lot of the members of the family worked at that trade. I think he built that wall coming down the hill, you know
Burnside; On Broadway Street here?
Ballard; Yah, coming down starting at the top of the hill and coming on down to the hill.
Burnside; Right, the old jail? He built that wall?
Ballard; Yah, he built that wall. He and the Welch family.
Burnside; They used to have a funeral home?
Burnside; When black people died did they get embalmed when you were growing up?
Ballard; No, I doubt whether anybody got embalmed or not. My father used to work with undertaker Bob Chrisman. He was the white undertaker.
Burnside; ( ? ?)
Ballard; It's the same old building. He had quite a few blacks work for him. Frank Tribble..
Burnside; Is that a black man?
Burnside; Frank Tribble?
Ballard; Yes, my dad worked for him. My dad would go up into the mountains and bring the bodies in. They would have to go over night when they would bring bodies into the funeral homes on horse and waggon.
Burnside; Long trip?
Ballard; One would drive, one would get back in the hearse, and they'd keep going. Isn't that some. I guess the stories they would tell me.
Burnside; Who was one of your favorite friends when you were growing up.
Ballard; Well quite a few. Almost all of us were friends, we did about the same thing. We ran around together. I guess one of my closest friends was the Campbell family.
Burnside; Where did they live?
Ballard; What's the name of this street up here?
Ballard; Jefferson, yes.
Burnside; Did they live right on the main street?
Ballard; They live on Jefferson, that's going on the same street the Denny's lived on.
Burnside; Before you cross the railroad here?
Ballard; It didn't go across the railroad, it just went to the corner. Quite a few colored people lived on that street. In fact about all of them. The Campbells and Wallkers and Reynolds and the Morans. Quite a few colored people lived on that street.
Nwagbara; Did you ever attend the church in Farristown?
Ballard; Yah, visiting.
Nwagbara; (? ?)
Ballard; Well, I was a member of the baptist church here, but we would go and visit different churches. During the rallies we would go from one Sunday to another, from one rally to another.
Burnside; Tell us about the rallies.
Ballard; Well, they used to have the rallies on Sunday. And everybody brought something. Of course most of the rallies was in the summer. And then they had all kind of food.
Nwagbara; Do you remember the name of the oldest pastor, that you could remember?
Ballard; Yah, his name was Reverend Baker. He was from Winchester.
Nwagbara; How often did you attend the rallies?
Ballard; Generally through the summer months. We would go from one church to another, from one Sunday to another.
Burnside; When you went to Farristown how would yall get there?
Ballard; Horse and buggy.
Burnside; You road the same, why to (??)
Ballard; Same place. You could catch a train and go to Farristown.
Burnside; Which way did you like to travel better?
Ballard; I have to say the train, but you could catch the train going but you might have to walk back. We use to catch the train and go to Slate Lick, it was about eight or nine miles south of here. We would go up there and play croquet all day on Sunday
Burnside; Now that Slate Lick was it North of here?
Balllard; South of here.
Burnside; Is that in Madison County?
Ballard; I guess it was Madison. I think it is. I don't know.
Burnside; Were there people you knew out there in Slate Lick or was it just a place to...?
Ballard; No, it was just a place to croquet. It was kind of a park like kind of place. And it had sulfur water or sulfer springs.
Burnside; Would you say that was about eight miles from here?
Ballard; I'd say about something like that. You could catch a train and be there in about five or six minits, of course you had to walk back.
Burnside; Wich way would you walk back?
Ballard; The railroad.
Burside; Do you remember any of the black people that worked on the railroad?(don't)
Ballalrd; Quite a few blacks worked on the railroad.
Burnside; How did you decide what kind of work you wanted to do while in school?
Ballard; I didn't have any particular thing in mind, I was just going to school. Of course after I went to West Virginia, I got job through the summer, I guess instead of going back to school I just stayed there and worked and never did go back to finish it. So the first ten years I worked with the hotel corporation, then the next twenty five years I worked for the city on the city fire department. The next ten years I worked for the Trojan steele company in Charleston. So I never did get back to school as far as creating a profession. I went from one job to another. I enjoyed it though.
Burnside; Do you have any advice for young people like Brandi?
Ballard; Well, the main thing is to stay in school. Go on and get your education, and then its hard to tell you what you should do because you never know. What you have in mind, you might find something different and better. You never know what tommorow gone bring. Of course it's good have something in view that you, but even if you get in that field you might find something better. There are so many fields out here now, that it is hard to decide. They open up so much you know. And just about anything you want to do you more or less can do it. The opening is there.
Burnside; Do you remember when the (??)
Ballard; That was after... what year was that? I know I had gone. I know one thing I do remember, when they built the school in Berea and opened it there in Middletown, the city was still charging us school tax. The blacks didn't work up enough nerve to go court and stop that. They were charging them city tax and the school wasn't in the city. There wasn't any city school for blacks.
Burnside; Did it take a couple of years? Were they doing it for a couple of years?
Ballard; I don't know how long it went on, but they decided they were going to do something about. So they finally had to go to court. It was told to me. Then they finally settled it out of court.
Burnside; Do you remember who helped to get that organized among the black people?
Ballard; My father was one. I don't know who else was helping him. It was a group.
Burnside; Do you remember hearing about the Berea College student that shot one of the black students here?
Ballard; Yes, that was my half brother. I think I was in school in Frankfort at the time.
Burnside; Is that something you could talk about?
Ballard; Well, I don't remember what the settlement was or whether it was any settlement. That was Elizabeth Denny's Father.
Burnside; What was his name?
Ballard; Roosevelt Ballard.
Burnside; You all have the same father but not the same mother?
Ballard; That's right. He worked for the college. They were arguing about something the day before, as I was told.
Ballard; Samson, that's Samson. He never was that friendly, he was the worse thing that ever I saw. Talk about curiosity that's one that is sure about him.
Nwagbara; Do you remember your parents talking about Berea College.
Ballard; They were unhappy about what happened.
Nwagbara; Are you talking about the Day Law?
Ballard; Yah, the Day Law. Even the student body voted on whether they wanted to separate the school or not, and the whole student voted to keep it as it was, but that still didn't help.
Nwagbara; So race relations were good between blacks and whites?
Ballard; Yah, they got along fine. They didn't want to separate. I don't know too much about it. This is here say you know.
Burnside; Did any of your relatives have to serve in the army?
Ballard; No, I was working on the fire department, and I didn't have to go because my job protected me.
Burnside; What about your brother John?
Ballard; He had a government job, working for defense, so he didn't have to go.
Burnside; Well we will call an end to our interview and we appreciate you working with us and sharing with us.
Ballard; I'm sorry I couldn't help you more.
Burnside; Well, you've been a big help. We learned a lot of new information.(??)