Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Family of Serena & Perry Cohee, Chickasaw Freedmen - Celebrating Freedman Families

The family of Serena and Perry Cohee is a fascinating one from the Chickasaw Nation. The documents reflecting this family also illustrate how Freedmen of the various nations intermingled and lived blended cultural lives. In addition, the records also reflect the way Freedmen from this nation were treated when appearing for the Dawes Commission. 

Serena Cohee (later known as Serena Brown) appeared in front of the Dawes Commission in September 1898. She was a resident of Pontotoc County and resided near Purcell, Indian Territory. By looking at the card, it appears that she applied on behalf of herself and her children, Eddie, Washington and Annie. A one year old child's name was added at a later date--Myrtle Lee Brown. (A notation to the side indicates that Myrtle was born in December 1901.)

National Archives Publication M1186
Chickasaw Freedman Card #348

The National Archives at Ft Worth; Ft Worth, Texas, USA; Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs;
 Record Group Number: 75

On the reverse side of the card, more about Serena is revealed. Her father's name was "Washn" Mays. His name is clearly an abbreviation for "Washington". He had been enslaved by Sam Colbert. Her mother was Susan Brown, also enslaved by the same Chickasaw slave holder, Sam Colbert.

The father of the Cohee children was Perry Cohee, but it is noted that at the time of Serena's appearance at the Dawes Commission, he was deceased. Serena had clearly remarried, by the time Myrtle was born, and her father's name is shown as Emanuel Brown.
(Source: Same as above image)

Serena's interview, as such, is presented as a simple statement. The full testimony given by Serena is not included in the Dawes packet. This was the case of many Chickasaw Freedmen. In fact it was later noticed after some time, that Chickasaw Freedmen cases were being "modified" by some of the Dawes commissioners and their true interviews having been replaced by these short statements. In many situations some of those Freedman cases with brief statements were later challenged by attorneys investigating the enrollment process for Freedmen and inquiries were later made as to why the testimonies were not included in the official files. Such is the case with this file, however, much more still can be found even with the modified testimony.

It is important to keep in mind that the Freedmen of this nation were never adopted by their former slave-holding nation, and they had lived for over three decades without a country. Abbreviated statements such as found in the Dawes application packet for Serena and her family, are quite frequently found in this collection of Chickasaw Freedman documents. See the page below.

(The single "interview" contained in Susan Cohee's file)
National Archives Publication M1301
Application Jacket for Chickasaw Freedman 348 U.S., Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 
[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.

The youngest child's name (Myrtle) is not included, because at the time, she had not yet been born. But among the additional items in the file was the birth affidavit for Myrtle. From this document much more can be learned, in spite of the limited data in the abbreviated interview. 

Myrtle was born in 1901 in Purcell. By this time, Serena had re-married, and her husband was a Emanuel Brown, and he is listed as the father of the child Myrtle. However, it should be noted that on one portion of the card, Emanuel was said to have been a Chickasaw Freedman. But the bottom portion of the same document says that Emanuel Brown was actually a Creek by blood.
(Source: same as above image)

Two other documents are part of the Application jacket, but not further mention of Emanuel Brown. 

(Source: Same as above)

(Source: Same as above)

The statements about Myrtle's husband Emanuel is intriguing and conflicting. He was listed as a Chickasaw Freedman and then as a Creek. So, I decided to see if more could be learned about him. Was he Creek, or was he Chickasaw? And was he a citizen by blood or classified as a "Freedman?"

Emanuel Brown's Creek Family

A search was made on the Oklahoma Historical Society database for Dawes enrollees. There was an Emanuel Brown on the rolls, and he was of the Creek Nation. Another search was made just in case of a spelling difference to see if a "Manuel", or "Emmanuel" may have been on the roll from either Creek or Chickasaw nations. There was a "Manual" Brown, but this child was a Creek New Born, and not an adult. There was no one on the roll with the name Emmanuel spelled with two "m"s, so, it appears that Emanuel Brown the adult male, was the husband of Serena and father to Myrtle. And that Emanuel Brown was a Creek Freedman.

Being curious about Emanuel Brown's ancestry, I decided to study the enrollment card of Emanuel Brown, which was an amazing exercise. He was born about 1868 after the Civil War, so he was clearly not born enslaved. He had also been previously listed on one of the "Old Series" Creek Cards. And prior to that he was on the 1895 roll as "Manuel" Brown.

National Archives Publication M1186
Creek Freedman Card #1441

The National Archives at Ft Worth; Ft Worth, Texas, USA; Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs;
 Record Group Number: 75

Emanuel's father was a Chickasaw Freedman, Jack Brown, who was, by that time deceased. His mother was Amelia Hutton, who was apparently still living at the time of the Dawes enrollment.

(Source: Same as above image)

Manuel's mother was Amelia Hutton, daughter of Peter and Creasy Wolf of Canadian Town. They had at one time been enslaved by Wm. Reed. Amelia's husband was Joe Hutton, son of Jim Grayson and Venus Grayson of North Fork Town. With this information, clearly, there is much more that can be learned, because the Hutton family has had much research conducted on the family line,  by many individuals over the years. And studying the history of that line will take the family history down another unique path. With a rich Creek history of Amelia and her ancestry and also by studying more about the old tribal towns of the Creek Nation, so much more will be learned. It is also important to note that Creek history is an amazing one, with much contact between many families. The tribal towns are equally as rich and this knowledge of the family's ties to Canadian Town, and even Ketchapataka Town through her husband Joe.

Back to Serena Cohee Brown

A small notation appeared at the end of the abbreviated interview to take note of Chickasaw Freedman card #344. That was the enrollment card of Susan Brown--Serena Cohee's mother.

National Archives Publication M1186
Chickasaw Freedman Card #344

The National Archives at Ft Worth; Ft Worth, Texas, USA; Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs;
 Record Group Number: 75

(Reverse side of card)
(Source: same as above image)

Only two pages are found in the application jacket of Susan Brown. And it too, appears to be an abbreviated interview as there are no questions and answers in detail. However---the summary is still useful and quite valuable to the family research. The brief "statement" made by Amelia reflects an extensive family with quite a complex structure. Each new branch can lead the researcher to much more on the family line.
National Archives Publication M1301
Application Jacket for Chickasaw Freedman 344 U.S., Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 
[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.

The remaining document in the file is a memorandum simply stating that Susan was enrolled by the Dawes Commission. However, this is significant, as it entitled her to receive her own land allotment, and that even at her mature age, she was not removed from the rolls because of having died before the rolls closed.

The structure of the Chickasaw ancestry of Serena's mother Susan connects to others as well in the family. And the fact that her mother Susan was living, she did receive her land allotment, and by searching the land records, her allotment certificate was also found. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1884-1934 
[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2014.
Original data: Department of the Interior. Office of Indian Affairs. 
Five Civilized Tribes Agency. Applications for Allotment, compiled 1899–1907.

Susan Brown, her daughter and other children and grandchildren including Cohees, Stevenson and others were a cohesive family living in the Purcell area of the Chickasaw Nation. Other families were the Mays, Alexanders, and Bruners. And this family even with such a small file, is one that extended into the Creek and also Seminole Nations. They survived many obstacles that were placed in the paths of the Freedmen of that nation. It is not known if they were able to retain their land for in subsequent years many families lost their land do to the efforts of many to swindle the people from their land. But it is evident that this family did survive to receive their land, and eventual American citizenship that came with Oklahoma statehood.

So, clearly, the file of Serena Cohee, and her extensive family is a fascinating one to research. Her husband Perry most likely has ties to the other Cohee Freedmen families. By following the clues left on the documents it leads the researcher to the Creek Nation, to the Tribal towns, including Canadian Town and Kethaptaka town.

Clearly the descendants of the Cohees, and Browns and Huttons have an amazingly rich history and much to celebrate as they survived removal, enslavement, freedom, and finally a nation to call their own.
This is the third in a series devoted to sharing families once enslaved in Indian Territory. The focus  is on Freedmen from the Five Civilized Tribes, and are part of the effort to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

An "Ancestral Time Line" Reflected

In a previous article I shared with my readers the results of one of the autosomal tests that I have taken. Included was an image of the ethnic percentage breakdown revealed through that kind of test.
Having taken an autosomal DNA test with both Ancestry and 23andMe, I often find the visual tools offered by the testing companies to be useful and fun to examine.*

Many of us in the DNA genealogy community have shared similar charts illustrating our DNA ethnic percentages, and it has been interesting to see the breakdown. And for myself having a documented tie to the Five Civilized Tribes, both "Freedmen" and "By Blood" the results expected, were confirmed. But it is always important to point out that DNA testing is only a tool and it reflects sometimes a mere recombination of DNA markers from the ancestors and not the entire genealogy of anyone. In other words, it does not replace research, for it is genealogical research that will tell the stories that we seek.

Recently, in social media, a timeline that 23andMe provides reflecting the time period in which a particular ethnic group most likely entered your ancestral line. I decided to look at my own results on 23andMe, and found the data to be consistent with what my research has revealed. I found the illustration to be quite fascinating and although for each and every group. Although no genealogy is ever "complete" I still found the illustration to be fun to examine, and not in contrast to data already collected. The time line was somewhat consistent with some of the research of my well documented lines.

 Of course the time span is quite broad, but looking at the Native American ancestry, on my own time line, it does coincide with the life span and the period of exposure that my African ancestors had to the documented Native ancestor. I do point out that most features on the three major autosomal testing sites should be considered simply tools, and DNA testing for genealogical insight is still in its infancy. So there is nothing conclusive, or detail-specific from the time line. And research most definitely continues on all of my lines, and the effort to document the family and to tell the story is one that continues.

But for those who have taken autosomal tests with 23andMe, AncestryDNA or  FamilyTreeDNA there are numerous tools to explore as they may assist one with providing other insights into the past, and can give one more to add to the family narrative.

*(Note that several years ago some DNA tests were conducted in Oklahoma for those wishing to illustrated Native American DNA. However the test utilized was not an autosomal tests, so many who took those tests received "false" negative reports. Autosomal tests are more reflective of the ethnic percentages of one's ancestral background and it is suggested that individuals take one of those three autosomal tests available.)

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Family of Becca & James Carter, Seminole Freedmen

(This is the second in a series devoted to sharing families once enslaved in Indian Territory. The focus will be Freedmen from the Five Civilized Tribes. They are also part of another effort to document 52 families in 52 weeks. Theirs is an amazing story of survival and adaptation to life on the frontier. Though seldom mentioned, the Oklahoma Freedmen have a rich story to tell and this is a small effort to tell some of them.)

Enrollment Card of Becca Carter and Family
National Archives Publication No. M1186, Semionle Freedman Card No 623
The National Archives at Ft Worth; Ft Worth, Texas, USA; Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number: 75

Becca Carter was the mother of several children and she appeared in front of the Dawes Commission to enroll herself and her children. This was a family of Seminole Freedmen and the enrollment card clearly illustrates the structure of the Seminole Nation. The tribe itself has always been structured by bands. With this particular family it is clear that they are part of the Dosar Barkus band. That band was and still is one of the two "Freedman" bands in the Seminole Nation to day.

On the card it is pointed out that her husband was a Creek Citizen, explaining why his name is not on the front of the card. It is also noted that one of her daughters (Rachel) later married by the time the rolls were finalized and became the wife of Nero Noble. Becca was 45 years old at the time and thus was born before slavery had ended in Indian Territory. She was said to be the slave of Eliza Bowlegs.

Note that there was no date on the enrollment card, but it is obvious that she appeared after 1897, because it was noted that she and the family had previously been enrolled as members of the Barkus band on the 1897 roll.
(Source: Same as above. Color Images accessed from Ancestry)

The reverse side of the card reveals more of Becca Carter's history. Her father was Cyrus Davis, and her mother was Polly Carter. The slave holder of both of her parents was Eliza Bowlegs. Both of her parents were also at one time, members of the Dosar Barkus band. Her husband's name was James Carter and he is listed as the father of the children in the household.  A notation points out that he was "free born". However not much more is known of him.  (A quick search of Dawes Records does not provide information on James Carter's enrollment as a Creek Freedman.)

 Unfortunately, the Dawes Packet for Seminole Freedmen Card No. 623 is not available. A range of Dawes packets are said to simply be "empty" and her packet is among the empty ones.

So the question arose whether additional information about the family could be found. I decided to follow the few clues left on the front of the card. First, since it was noted that Becca and her family was previously enrolled in 1897, I decided to see if that roll could be located.

Thankfully, on Ancestry, there is an extensive collection of records from Oklahoma and Indian Territory, beyond the Dawes Rolls. One of those extensive collections is called "Indian Censuses and Rolls 1851-1959. This covers a period of more than a century, and it includes records from the Five Civilized Tribes.

There was a section of documents reflecting  the 1895 Seminole Census. Sure enough Becca called "Becky" was there on that roll with her children. They were separated by "band" and the Dosar Barcus band contained a column where the name of the spouse of the enrolled person was listed. Clearly it can be seen that "Jim" is written a side column, Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959 [database on-line].
Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

Original data: Selected Tribal Records. The National Archives at Fort Worth, Fort Worth, Texas.

The document came from a small collection from Fort Worth Texas with earlier records from the Seminole Nation. Thanks to a partnership with the National Archives, and also with the Oklahoma Historical Society, that 1895 Seminole census document is now available. (The page reflecting page 60 of 467 images on Ancestry.)

Since this set of records contained both 1895-96 Seminole Census and 1897 Seminole census, Becca and her family was indeed found on the 1897 census Roll as well.

(Item appears as image 107 of 467 in same record set mentioned above.)

So although the Dawes packet was not available, could other things about the family be learned. The front site of the census card did note that Becca's children had later become parents. On the bottom of the card were notes on where to find the children of Becca's children.

(Close up of image on front of Dawes Card)
National Archives Publication M1186
The National Archives at Ft Worth; Ft Worth, Texas, USA; Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number: 75

The Seminole Newborn collection reflected the enrollment of a grandchild of Becca Carter--that of Alec Carter. Alec was the son of Philip Carter, Becca's son. In that file was an extensive interview plus a birth record for the child. 

(National Archives Publication M1301 Application Packet Seminole Freedman 95)
Also in this file, James Carter, Becca's husband James appears and gives a testimony as well. As was indicated earlier, James was identified as a Creek citizen. Apparently Becca and James were separated, as he mentions that he had another child, Maria Jackson whose mother was not enrolled.

Like most Dawes records the descendants of Becca Carter have a well-documented one, even in spite of the fact that the enrollment packet is missing for the family. By searching the earlier census records, and also by following the clues in the New Born files, one can get a better glimpse of the family makeup, and the individuals whose stories are to be told.

For further research, land allotment records and other records still unexplored will yield even more about the children of Becca and James Careter a Freedman family from the Barkus band of the Seminole Nation.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Family of Emma & William Davis, Cherokee Nation-Celebrating Freedman Families

(As part of a new series on this blog, a family from Indian Territory will be celebrated and a portion of their history will be shared. The goal is to honor 52 families in 52 weeks for the new year. With this being the second week there will be 2 families honored this week, and then 1 family per week afterwards. The intention is to illlustrate and share the amazing resilience of the families that descend from persons once enslaved in Indian Territory. Theirs is an amazing story of survival and adaptation to life on the frontier. Though seldom mentioned, the Oklahoma Freedmen have a rich story to tell, and this is a small effort to tell some of their stories.)

The Davis Family of Hayden, Cherokee Nation

Enrollment Card of Emma Davis Family
National Archives Publication Number (M1186 Cherokee Freedman Card No.936
The National Archives at Ft Worth; Ft Worth, Texas, USA; Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number: 75

(Reverse side of card)
Source : Same as above

By looking at the enrollment card, Emma Davis appeared in front of the Dawes Commission on May 30, 1901 to enroll herself and her children as Cherokee Freedmen. Emma was 43 years of age and had been enslaved by George Whitmire. At the time of her appearance at the Dawes Commission, she was living in the Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation. Her enrollment card reflects a large family with her children Joseph, William Jr., Bertie, Chester, Julia, Jennette, Henry, Oscar, Carrie, and later, infant Lottie. (Lottie's name was added in October of that year, after birth affidavits were submitted.)

The family had been enumerated earlier, in the Cherokee Nation as evidenced by the notation of how they were previously on the Kern Clifton Roll, a roll taken several years earlier. The enrollment card also indicates that they had representation for them by attorneys Melette and Smith, in Vinita.

The reverse side of the card contains more data on the family. Emma was the daughter of Issac Glass, and Betsey Whitmire. Her father Isaac was a Freedman, who was deceased at the time she made her application, and her mother also deceased was at one time enslaved by George Whitmire of the Cherokee Nation.

Emma's husband was William Davis who was also a Cherokee Freedman of the Cooweescoowee District. He was at one time enslaved by Robert French.

The Dawes Interview

The Interview that accompanies this file contains amazingly rich genealogical data. Also it appears that William Davis, Emma's husband was actually the one who spoke on behalf of the family. It is not certain why his name is not on the same card. Nevertheless the data is quite rich, because the exact dates of birth are included, in addition to specific questions about the children were addressed.

Interview from Application Jacket of Cherokee Freedman File No 936
National Archives Publication M1301

In the interview, William Davis goes into detail about the family's status, and points out how they were recognized as Cherokee citizens. He provides data about his slave holders Bob and Margaret French. Bob French, he pointed out was white and his wife was Cherokee. In addition,  he also shares information about his own parents and siblings. He describes how they were taken to Ft. Gibson during the war, but returned to their own community at the end of the war.

There is much discussion and later analysis in the file that contains even more family data. Included was mention of William Davis' own father Jackson Davis who also has a card. (D463)

The file contained additional information including a birth affidavit for children, Oscar, Carrie and Lottie.

Birth Affidavit for Oscar Davis
Source: National Archives Publication M1301 Cherokee Freedman No 936

Source: National Archives Publication M1301 Cherokee Freedman No 936

Birth Affidavit for Lottie Davis:
Accessed on Fold3:

A final interview is included in the Dawes file. Joseph Davis appears to be a grown son of Emma and William, and his interview is also included with this file. 

Source of image:

On the enrollment card (see 1st image above) William Davis's name does not appear. However, it turns out that he did have a card of his own, and was subsequently rejected by the Dawes Commission, however, it is still valuable to study and to include with the family data. (A future article will feature the extended Davis family.)

The file of the Davis family of Hayden, Cherokee Nation is a genealogically rich one. There are other records that will reflect more information that for the family, but this data from this initial file provides a rich beginning for the family research.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Oklahoma Vital Record Index to Open January 9th 2017

Great news for Oklahoma genealogists! The Vital Records Index for the state of Oklahoma will open up on Monday January 9th.

This will be a free searchable index of births and deaths. From that site you will then have the option of ordering official copies of the original record. In addition, you have the option of searching by name, date (of birth or death), county and gender! And note that the only set of records that are not part of this database appear to be marriage records. However, still having access to birth and death will provide a much needed boost for many Oklahoma ancestored researchers.

 Of course many who research Dawes records know that there are some pre-statehood vital records to be found among the many application packets. In addition one can also find marriage records among that collection. However, being able now to access a searchable index is a wonderful new tool that Oklahoma based families will appreciate.

Researchers from bordering states and from communities near the state line are also encouraged to use this database. In some cases young couples would cross the state line to marry, and one may find a "missing" marriage record in that database as well.

This link will provide easy access to the Vital Records Index.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Remembering Freedmen Schools in Oklahoma

When visiting Oklahoma, one does not see mention of the African American schools in Indian Territory, before statehood, but they were there. Few of the actual buildings remain--but the schools established by and for those once enslaved in the five Indian tribes, were a testament to the earnest desires of former slaves of the Indian slave-holding tribes to have a better future for their children.

Some of the schools lasted till well after statehood, and were eventually merged with the public school legally segregated after statehood. Other schools were small "neighborhood schools" for Freedman children in tiny rural settlements, scattered through the countryside. Some of them were day schools, while others were boarding schools with dormitories for girls and boys and live in staff on expansive grounds.

Today they are all gone, with only a few fragments of buildings that provide hints to a once thriving past. In the early 1900s Oklahoma's education policies established after statehood created a separate and un-equal system, where Black children from the Five Civilized Tribes, had to then depend on the establishment of the newly created state for their education. This also changed things within their communities as they could no longer find direction from trustees coming from the local population. But thankfully, a few images of some of the institutions long gone can be found.

Meanwhile, as descendants of Indian tribal Freedmen are working hard to construct their family narrative, it should be noted that these schools, played a part in the family's history. A few school rosters exist, and thankfully as researchers can now find the names of their ancestors on those few rosters, allowing another dimension to the lives of the Freedmen families to be told.

Tullahassee Mission School

              (Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society) 
This school was originally established as a school for Creek Indian children. After a fire in the 1880s the main building was rebuilt and the school was then given to Creek Freedmen and the Indian Children were removed to Wealaka Mission. (1)
- - - - -

Cherokee Negro High School

Not too far away in the Cherokee Nation was the Cherokee Negro High School located northeast of Tahlequah in a small area known as Double Springs. The school was destroyed by fire in 1916.

Evangel Mission

Evangel Mission was a boarding school on Agency Hill in Muskogee. The school was for Creek and Creek Freedmen orphaned children. It was described once as a school for "friendless" children and was founded in 1883

Tushka Lusa Academy

In the Choctaw Nation, there were two boarding schools for Freedmen. There was Tushka Lusa (meaning Black Warrior) which was located in Talihina. To the southern part of the Nation was Oak Hill Academy, under the direction of the Presbyterian Church. Oak Hill was located near Valiant, I.T.

Oak Hill Academy

Choctaw Freedmen Neighborhood Schools

Apart from the boarding schools there were the small neighborhood schools that the Choctaw Nation established for the freedmen as well. Some few schools rosters remain and they are useful for descendants of those Freedmen from the small rural communities in eastern Oklahoma.

Brazil Freedman School, Skullyville, Choctaw Nation

Though few remnants of the schools themselves exist in Oklahoma, there are scattered school rosters that can be found of the Choctaw "Colored Neighborhood Schools," such as the one illustrated above from the old Brazil Neighborhood school in what is now Le Flore County Oklahoma. The schools were usually small in size, and they appeared in communities were small clusters of Freedman families with school aged children resided.

In 2011 I wrote an article highlighting a few of the Choctaw Nation Freedman schools, none of which exist today. The schools were: Cedar Grove, Clarksville, Dog Creek, Fort Coffee, Opossum Creek, neighborhood schools.

Remnants of the Schools in Today's Oklahoma
Only one building still exists today of the many schools in Indian Terrritory. That is Evangel Mission, which is now a popular museum in Muskogee

Evangel Mission - Five Civilized Tribes Museum

The building today is known as the Five Civilized Tribes, Museum, and although there are many historical markers on the grounds of the museum, for some reason there is nothing pointing to its history as a school for Creek Freedmen. Hopefully someday the history of this building will be told in its entirety.

Dawes Academy
 In Ardmore Oklahoma, not far from Calvary Baptist church two steps and a few loosely strewn rock are all that remain of Dawes Academy, a school where many Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen attended.

Tullahassee - Flipper Davis or Tullahassee Mission

In Tullahassee, a series of abandoned buildings are referred to simply as the old school. The ruins do not resemble early photos of Tullahassee Mission, but they could be still part of the old school from another angle different from photos of the past. In later years, the school was later part of Flipper Davis College run under the direction of the AME church until the 1930s. Is this part of the the old Flipper Davis Institute? It is not certain and the specifics of this building have not yet been found. However, Tullahassee is one of Oklahoma's Black towns, and only two institutions were said to have been located there.

The educational history of the African American population in eastern Oklahoma is a strong testament to the desire of those once enslaved in Indian Territory to grow, thrive and prosper. As many researchers work to tell more of the story long omitted from Oklahoma's history, the story of these schools should be a part of that narrative. It is the narrative of a people, of Five tribes, and of a state on the western frontier.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

William Taylor McGilbry, A Creek Freedman at Hampton Institute

20 Years's Work of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute
Hampton, Normal Press 1893 p 218 U.S., College Student Lists, 1763-1924 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original data: College Student Lists. Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society.

Image Source: Same as above.

The fascinating piece above came from William Taylor McGilbry, from the Creek Nation. He enrolled at Hampton Institute and left during his final year at the school. He is one of the first Freedmen from Indian Territory, that I have ever documented as having attended the Institute during the 1880s.

Looking back at Indian Territory and the educational opportunities in general, it is noted that the Freedmen had a strong desire for education, and they had struggled in each of their respective nations, to have schools established for their children. One of the few opportunities for primary education for Creek Freedmen was Evangel Mission, a school for Creek and Indian children. I wrote an article about Evangel Mission school several years ago. This was mostly for Creek orphans, and the education was primary education with no option for secondary school or higher.

Evangel Mission School

McGilbray matriculated in the 1880s and left Hampton for the last time in 1884. He may have returned only briefly to the Territory, as he eventually lived and worked in Long Island, NY for many years. He had chosen to work in agriculture and horticulture and as late as 1910 he was still working as a gardener for a single employer in Flushing New York. Whether he had obtained training before attending Hampton is not known.

Looking back at the years before he left for Hampton, there were very few options for him to be educated beyond primary school,in the Creek Nation, in the early 1880s. And by that time there was a good amount of traffic from Indian Territory to Hampton, Virginia because of the Indian school that flourished for many years on the campus of the institute. It is possible that the movement among many from the territory Hampton,  may have been his motivation to enroll at Hampton. Most of the students from Indian Territory were not from the Five Tribes, but from other nations, such as Sac and Fox, Pottawatomie, Kiowa and others.

Other education options
Education for Freedmen of all tribes was a constant goal expressed by the once enslaved African Americans from all of the slave holding Indian Tribes after freedom. I located some rosters of students from the Choctaw Nation, "neighborhood schools" and in 2006 compiled the rosters of students in Skullyville County, into a small booklet.

As William McGilbry attended the Hampton School, I became curious to learn more about the Indian school at Hampton, because including not only numbers, but also how they fared, how many actually complete their training,what became of them after their Hampton years. Another fascinating book, called, Education for Life, the Story of Hampton Institute. The book provides some interesting data to study.

Peabody, Francis, Greenwood, Education for Life. The Story of Hampton Institute, Garden City, New York, 1918 p. 372

Close Up of Enrollment data. Source: Same a previous image

Apparently during the years that McGilbry attended enrollment was steady and strong. But as time moved on to the 20th century, the Indian school declined in numbers. Even more startling was the number of graduates and the low numbers. There may have been many factors, including education background prior to enrollment, and of course adjustment to a new place, new climate and a new language.

Professional and Occupations of students after leaving the school varied. For males the work was mostly agricultural, and for female students much of the work was domestic work. Both illustrations below from the same text reflect those numbers.

Peabody, Ibid p 376

Peabody Ibig, p 377

McGilbry lived for many years in New York, but began to come back to Oklahoma so settle once again. He traveled back and forth for some time, working as a gardener for a single employer.

Year: 1910; Census Place: Queens Ward 3, Queens, New York; Roll: T624_1065; Page:1B; Enumeration District: 1290

Though much is not known about the life of William McGilbry in later years. However seeing his small statement and bio in the book about the Institute, shines a light on a story yet to be told---the struggle for literacy among Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes.