Thursday, August 3, 2017

Joe & Dillard Perry Chickasaw Freedmen & Chickasaws by Blood

One of the more intriguing stories of identity, race, and heritage comes from the story of two brothers, born in Indian Territory. Their story on the surface appears to be a simple one where an elder in the family registered her grandsons with the Dawes Commission. She had been enslaved in the Chickasaw Nation and was doing what many people did during the years of the Dawes enrollment process. She registered her family. The saga Joe and Dillard began when they were first enrolled and place on the rolls of Chickasaw Freedmen.

However, what emerged was a story that mirrored that of many others in Indian Territory. The two Perrys had a mother of African Ancestry, and their father was native American--Chickasaw Indian. The story is unique because the parents of the two young men had a true relationship and had planned to raise their family together.

In 1892, Charlie became ill and died, thus leaving Eliza with her two boys to raise alone. Having an extended that was quite large, Eliza received support from her mother Harriet, and it was Harriet the matriarch who appeared and enrolled the children. They were enrolled along with a large clan of other family members on Chickasaw Freedman Card #61.

On the front of the card, one can clearly see the names of the two grandchildren whose cases would later be challenged. Joe and Dillard have roll number 267 and 268. Because of the controversy, one can also note that an asterisk was placed near their numbers.

Chickasaw Freedman Card Number #61
The National Archives at Ft. Worth, Ft. Worth Texas  1898-1914,
NAI Number: 251747, Record Group Title: 
Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75

Reverse side of card

This is clearly a very large family and much rich genealogical data is found on the card, reflecting the spouses and children of those represented when the grandmother enrolled them. On the top card above the names of Joe and Dillard, is the name of their mother Eliza. Eliza would later be the one to request that her sons be placed on the Chickasaw roll by blood.


Close Up of Data on Card


The back side of the card also revealed the name of the Joe and Dillard's father Charley Perry, who was, by that time, deceased.

Close up on reverse side of card

Before looking at the application jacket, this case is one in which much is revealed in the various details found on the card itself. Some of the notations added after the initial interview are noted in red and they reflect various actions pertaining to the two young boys and how the commission acted upon them.

The back of the card contains more data about changes in their status. It should be noted that they originally began the process in 1898, when the grandmother appeared to enroll all of her children and grandchildren. Then the mother Eliza began a suit, because her husband was Chickasaw, by blood and she wanted them to be recognized as such. A decision was made in 1906 (see note below) to cancel their status as freedmen and transfer them to the rolls by blood.

An important footnote is written in red on the bottom of the front side of the card, directing the reader to a change in status for Joe and Dillard Perry, cancelling their status as Freedmen.
(same as above)

When they were transferred to the blood roll a card was completed for them as Chickasaws by blood. And as one can clearly see from the blood card---it was quickly canceled.



And one can tell by the notations on the front of the card how their case evolved. And the large stamp of course reveals a later decision as well.





From both the card "by blood" and the "Freedman" card it is clear that this was a complicated case. But then so much more about the case emerged when reading the application jacket. The details about Eliza, her marriage to Charley Perry, and the subsequent cold treatment by his relatives toward her are also reflected.

Several pages from the series of interviews are presented here. What emerges is the fact that Charles and Eliza had a relationship and had begun living together. But marriage between an Indian and one of African ancestry was forbidden by law and threat of punishment. As it turns out, Charlie and Eliza were arrested for cohabiting and were taken to Texas. Their crime? She was black and he was a Chickasaw Indian. It was pointed out during one of the interviews that she was also one quarter or one eighth Indian, however, the presence of African blood in her veins somehow in the eyes of the Chickasaw community and policy put a "stain" on the public perception of the couple and their right to have lived as husband and wife. Their marriage made their act of having a relationship with each other, a crime.

They had two children Joe and Dillard, and some of the witnesses from the Perry family said only that they had "heard" that there were two children, but had never met them. It was later stated that Charlie and Eliza married while in Texas, but another official objected, finding it inconceivable that a "negress" and an Indian would be allowed to marry while in Texas.

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 questioning began addressing the family background of Charlie Perry, and whether the witnesses had knowledge of the two boys Joe and Dillard being his sons. In addition, several people, including relatives all mention that Charlie would go away and live someplace else, for a while, but would only return to they Chickasaw family for short visits. 

(same as above)

A series of questions were addressed to the witnesses about not only the two young boys being the sons of Charlie Perry, but also several were asked about the mother and whether Charles was mentioned as being married to Eliza.

(same as above)

The grandmother Harriet also took the stand and spoke about her knowledge of the case of Charlie and Eliza. Harriet was the grandmother who went and registered the family from the beginning of the Dawes Enrollment Process.


(same as above)


(same as above)


(same as above)

(same as above)
Eventually after much discussion occurred about the status of Eliza and Charlie Perry's marriage, Eliza herself finally took the stand to speak.

(same as above)

When Charlie became ill, he was at the home of his Chickasaw Family. Eliza did go and visit him while he was ill, but clearly did not stay long for she was not really welcomed while there. Charlie died, and Eliza faced the future years without her husband, and began to negotiate life with her two children.

As stated, their Freedman grandmother originally enrolled them, but Eliza mentioned in her interview that she should consider suing on behalf of her sons, so she did file a lawsuit for the right of her sons to be enrolled as Chickasaw by blood. Their father Charlie, who was now deceased, was, in fact, a Chickasaw Indian. But the children were not accepted by their Chickasaw relatives and they were, in fact rejected by their Chickasaw grandmother, who admitted that she never knew them. There was deliberate avoidance of contact with the bi-racial children of their Chickasaw father, by his family.

What emerged was a story of challenges, and counter-challenges to be thrown in the face of the Perry children, despised for their African blood, and ignored although they carried the blood of their Indian fathers. So the children were enrolled as Freedmen, then cancelled as Freedmen, then enrolled as Chickasaws by blood, then cancelled as Chickasaws by blood, and re-enrolled as Chickasaw Freedmen. Theirs is a noteworthy cases, and it was not a unique case--there were others involving Choctaw as well as Chickasaw Freedmen. The case of Bettie Ligon also addressed the status of a woman who was originally as a Choctaw Freedman and her efforts to be enrolled as Chickasaws by Blood. That was the well known landmark case Equity Case 7071.

The story is a complex one, and in a future piece I shall focus on the genealogy of the larger family of Perrys, Taylors, Johnson, Bruners and other who comprised the structure of this one blended family of cultures, tribes, races and bloodlines. Truly, it can be said that the case of Joe and Dillard Perry continues to be a complex one for genealogists and students of Indian policy, law and sociology.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Dallas Pitchlynn and Family, Choctaw Freedmen

In April of 1999, Dallas Pitchlynn, of Eagletown, Indian Territory, appeared in front of the Dawes Commission on behalf of himself, his children and two of his grandchildren. His children were Victoria, Garfield, Louis and Fannie, Medora, and the two grandchildren were James Walker and Tommy Pitchlynn. Later a note added to the card points out that Medora died in 1900 and James died in 1901.

Dallas Pitchlynn was 54 year old at the time, thus, was born in 1845. He was enslaved by Peter Pitchlynn, who would later become principal chief of the Choctaw Nation.

Choctaw Freedman Card Number #325

The National Archives at Ft. Worth: Ft. Worth, Texas USA;

Enrollment Cards for theFive Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747
Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number: 75



Dallas Pitchlynn's mother was Millie Pitchlynn, and his father was unknown. She too was enslaved by Peter Pitchlynn. The mother of his children was Rose Pitchlynn, but by 1899, she was deceased. The father of Dallas Pitchlynn's grandson James Walker was Henry Walker who was not a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. James's mother was Medora. Grandson Tommy's parents were Victoria Pitchlynn, and Albert William.



(Reverse side of card)

Source: Same as Above

The interview process was a short one, and there did not appear to be controversy about the enrollment of the family.

Application Jacket, Choctaw Freedman #345

Ancestry.com, U.S. Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes 1898-1914

[database on-line] Provo, UT, USA Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2013


As expected the usual records are found in the allotment jacket applications, along with plat maps, memos and letters. A few samples are presented here.
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1884-1934
[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2014.



(Source: same as above)

Dallas Pitchlynn lived till 1920, and it is from a probate record from Oklahoma where an interesting issue regarding the heirs and the acquisition of property arose. According to the probate record, the heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn were the members of his family, as would be expected. There was an issue that arose however, when the will was contested by Hans and Herman Dierks who claimed that they had purchased the property from the heirs prior to the death of Dallas Pitchlynn.

Apparently the heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn did not appear on October 20th, and a preliminary ruling referred to the non-appearance, because the addresses of the parties was not known. A first ruling by the county judge stated that they (the family of Dallas Pitchlynn) were in default, 







 However, a second ruling on the same date in August 1921 declared the descendants of Dallas Pitchlynn to be the legal heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn. A copy of this ruling also appeared in the press as well.

Probate records (McCurtain County, Oklahoma), 1903-1965

Author: McCurtain County (Oklahoma). Court Clerk; Probate Place: McCurtain, Oklahoma


It is not known what the eventual outcome of the case was. Did they retain their land for much longer? Did the family eventually leave and migrate away from Oklahoma? Did the Dierks ever own or occupy that land after the lawful heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn were located? Did the Pitchlynn descendants ever occupy the land themselves?

These questions may or may not be answered, but there is a story nevertheless, of life, legacy and land that deserves to be explored. Hopefully the descendants of Dallas and Rose Pitchlynn  did prevail and they were able to pursue life's goals and that they were able to continue life's journey with success, land ownership and prosperity.
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This is the 21st article in a 52 article series devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, and these posts are part of an on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cato Vann and Family, Cherokee Freedmen

Cato Vann, lived a good portion of his life in the Illionois District of the Cherokee Nation, near the small town of Vian Oklahoma.  He was born in the 1850s, and both he and his mother were enslaved by Cherokee Polly Vann,. Cato Vann Happeared in 1901 to enroll his son Roand, and seven daughters, Narcissus, Thursday, Ella, Nannie, Annie, Rebecca, and Estella, as Cherokee Freedmen. The family appeared on Cherokee Freedman Card #319, and the family was also enumerated on the 1896 Roll as a note on the front of the card indicates. 

Cherokee Freedman Card #319
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 back side of the card, it is revealed that his father was Jesse Foreman, and his mother was Mary Vann. His father was enslaved by Cherokee Johnson Foreman and his mother had been enslaved by Polly Vann. Cato's wife was Rachel Vann, and she was a Creek Freedman.

(Reverse side of card)
Source: Same as above

Application Jacket, Cherokee Freedman #319
Ancestry.com. U.S., Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

(same as above)

(same as above)


(same as above)

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(same as above)


Most of the documents in the file were standard documents pertaining to the enrollment of Cato Vann and his children. There was however an ongoing issue regarding the allotment of the lands to Cato Vann and family. Apparently S. H. Mayes and another party, were accused of having worked together to secure some of the land of Cato Vann. The Land Allotment file, consists of more than 200 pages of documents, and it contains more than 30 pages of an interview regarding the transaction between Mayes, and Vann. In one of the interviews it was stated that Vann had given a plat map to Mayes, to hold, but when it was returned the document was not the same one.

Upon first glance, some of the records in the allotment jacket simply reflect the allotment selections of the various members of the Vann household. But about 100 pages into the Land Allotment file an extensive series of interviews and reports reflect a transaction that resulted in several acres of Cato Vann's land being obtained by Mayes.

In addition, it is worthy to note that Cato Vann took up on himself some of the questioning of Mayes and others-acting on his own behalf, interrogating one of the witnesses.

Sample of Cross-Examination made by Cato Vann regarding land.Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1884-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2014.


(same as above)


The file is worth reading, as the file illustrates how people many in the Territory made arrangements with those whom they knew, and later lost their land. It is not clear without a close study of the land records what the outcome was of the issue, but the interviews that number over 100 pages are worth reading and examining. They show different aspects between freedmen and other Cherokees, and the social contact among people at the turn of the 20th century.

There are many families of Cherokee Freedmen, and this story of Cato Vann, and his mission to secure land for himself and family exemplifies one of a man acting on behalf of his loved ones.
His story is one of hundreds of untold stories to be told that reflect the history and life of the Freedmen of Indian Territory.

This is the 20th article in a 52 article series devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, and these posts are part of an on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Benjamin Bruner & Family History, Seminole Freedmen



From the Seminole Nation comes a cases that clearly illustrates how important it is to go beyond the one document. Benjamin F. Bruner lived in the Seminole Nation most of his life. His mother came from Florida and his father was Creek. On the Dawes enrollment card, he was the only one listed on the card, and one might think that there would not be much more to find beyond the card to reveal details about his life. Yet--there was so much more to truly find.

Thankfully, an obituary, saved by a descendant of Benjamin Bruner leads to the story of a fascinating man. With this obituary and a bit of research more information about a man who lived well into the 20th century, a rich story of his life unfolds.

Benjamin Bruner Obituary, Used with permission of Charles Gibson
Accessed on http://www.seminolenationindianterritory.org



This portion of the rich Bruner famly history is that of a man born into the Seminole Nation, whose mother was a Seminole by blood and his father was enslaved by a Creek Indian. He lived most of his life in the Seminole Nation, but was educated at a mission school for Indians and former slave children. attended Hampton Institute for a while before returning to his native Oklahoma.

Although the school he attended was not mentioned, there is a strong chance that he attended the Creek Seminole College in Boley.


(courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society)


He was from an extremely dynamic family and his uncle Cesar was the leader of what would become later the Bruner band of Seminoles. The Bruner band continues to exist today as one of 14 bands within the Seminole Nation.

However, to look at his Dawes card, it only contains basic information. In addition, his mother was a Seminole by blood, yet, Benjamin, in spite of his contributions to the tribe and his presence for decades as a citizen, he was placed on the Freedman Roll.

Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes  1898-1914
NAI Number 251747, Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group Number 75
Seminole Freedman Card # 828, Field Card #221


(Reverse side of card)


More details about his life and family were also found in his interview that are part of the Indian Pioneer Papers.

The University of Oklahoma Western History Collection, Digital Collections,
Indian Pioneer Collection, Volume 12, Interview with Ben F. Bruner

(Same as above)


(same as above)

Benjamin Bruner was also able to secure land, and his land records reflecting his selection of land are reflected in the interview below.

Ancestry.com, Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1884-1934
[database on-line] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com  Operations, Inc, 2014

The Bruner family is a distinguished one with a detailed and rich history. It is wonderful that the family remembers his legacy, and that the story of Benjamin Bruner, and his part of the nation to which he was born, can still be told and can be shared.


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This is 20th article in a 52-article devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes and these posts are part of an on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fannie Rentie Bumpus & Family - Creek Freedmen



Fannie Rentie has an amazing history. She was the daughter of Picket and Mary Rentie, and during her lifetime she was known by multiple names. Among her surnames were Rentie, Chapman, Island, Bumpus, and Ensley. In spited of her multiple names and records in scattered places, her story is still a rich one to tell.

On her Dawes enrollment card, nothing appears to be very complicated about her story. Her personal data is recorded on Creek Freedman Field Card number 584. She resided in Boynton area. She was the daughter of Pickett Rentie and Mary Rentie. She appeared in front of the Dawes Commission in 1898 for herself and her children Alice, and George. Alice would later pass away before the enrollment process was completed. Her husband at the time was Willis Bumpus, father of the two children.

Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes 1898-1914
NAI Number 251747, Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group Number 75
Creek Freedman Field Card #584

Reverse side of same card


 And as a member of the Creek Nation, many of the records pertaining to her Dawes Case are not available with the application jacket. However, much more can be obtained about Fannie, nevertheless. In fact the issue about her many surnames can be found in the Land Allotment records (which are all online on both Ancestry and Family Search.) There were numerous interviews about the land she was to receive, the condition of the land, improvements upon it and more.

In 1903, when she was being interviewed regarding her selection of land, she was then Fannie Ensley. There was much discussion about her parcel of land. She was making a selection for her daughter Ann who had not yet passed away. Also present was Thomas Ensley, who was at that time her husband.

Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1884-1934
[database on-line].   Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2014.

(same as above)

However, more interesting details about Fannie and her parents and their lives within Creek culture and community are found with her interview made in the 1930s as part of the Indian Pioneer Project. She was interviewed in 1937 and she told fascinating aspects of her life. She made several references to old communities that had ceased to exist in the 1930s, including Old Agency.


The University of Oklahoma Western History Collection, Digital Collections, 
Indian Pioneer Collection, Volume 17,  Interview with Fannie Rentie Chapman 



Same as above
(Same as above)

As mentioned earlier, her land allotment file was full of data, as there was much controversy about her right to certain parcels of land. At the end of her interview she makes mention of the fact that she lived on her land for many years, but later lost the land. (If one is a descendant of Fannie Rentie Chapman Bumpus, Ensley, then they are strongly encouraged to obtain the allotment application file. Dozens of pages are contained pertaining not only to the land itself, but also to the various husbands, that Fannie had and the names she used when some of the land transactions occurred.)

Fannie's interview for the Indian Pioneer project will take the reader more deeply in the life of late 19th century pre-Oklahoma life. And the interview speaks vividly to multiple aspects of life within the Creek Nation, for Freedmen as well as for all individuals living near Muskogee and the now gone community of Old Agency.

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(This is the 19th article of a 52-article series devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes and these posts are part of an on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.)