Saturday, November 17, 2018

Researching Native American Slaveholders

 
Portion of a sample Slave Schedule from Choctaw Nation


Do you have ancestors who were enslaved in Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole Nations? 

When you find that first Freedman Dawes Card and see the name of the slave holder, what can you do to learn more?
Is there a way to find out more about the life and history of the person who enslaved your ancestor in Indian Territory?

The Dawes records reflecting those who ancestors were Oklahoma Freedmen quickly find that there is a unique challenge that they have. For them, there is no easy way to research the history of the slave holder. The basic reason is because from 1870 till 1900, data for the Federal Census was not collected in Indian Territory.

Unlike those whose ancestors were enslaved in the United States, there are decades where federal census records simply don't exist. And likewise, there was no county courthouse where vital records, and land records were held in those pre-statehood years. So, when trying to learn more about who the slave holder was, from the Five Civilized Tribes--many Freedmen descendants are at a loss of what to do next, and where to go to find out more about the slave holder.  So how does one find out more about the slaveholders from Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole nations?

Here are five suggestions that might be useful for Fr eedmen descendants to use.

1) Search the slave holder's family on the Dawes Card database.When searching the Dawes records on Ancestry, try typing in the name of the slave holder. For Freedmen that name is on every enrollment card. And on the reverse side of Freedmen cards, even the name of the slaveholder of each of the parents is also revealed. Even if the slave holder was deceased by the time of the Dawes Commission, (1898-1914) there is a possibility that the slave holder's descendants were on the Dawes Roll. With the Ancestry database, the names of the parents of Dawes enrollees is a part of the indexed database. By studying the slave holder's family, then one will learn more about the family of the slave holder, and in many cases, their history since removal.

2) Locate the slaveholder's family on any of the tribe's pre-Dawes rolls. Numerous records abound from Indian Territory for each of the five tribes. This is especially the case with records from the 1890s, and 1880s. These records can shed more light on that family.

3) Find the Slave holder's name on the 1860 Slave schedule. This pre-civil war document is part of the federal census and provides a head count of all people enslaved. The only names on these records are those of the slave holders, and this can be quite significant for the researcher.

Firstly, keep in mind that the 1860 slave schedule reveals the actual number of people held in bondage for that year. In some cases the actual "owner" of record may have been the wife or the widow of the head of house. Secondly, by studying the numbers of enslaved people, the researcher may be able to glean more information about the kind of community that the ancestor being held in bondage may have lived. If they were slaves of Robert Jones, for example they experienced a southern plantation kind of life with the big house and slave quarters. On the other hand if the slave holder only had a small number of enslaved people then the life experience may have differed.
Note---with slave schedules, it is important to use them properly. Many people will look at the record and try to guess which person is their ancestor, by making a mathematical calculation. This is not an appropriate use of the record. A document with no name should never be used to declare that an ancestor is reflected on the record. A "guess" is not genealogical evidence, and does not meet the standards of genealogical proof.

4) Include the Indian Pioneer Papers in your research. This collection, which is part of the Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma should be a standard part of  your genealogical research. This is a 116-volume collection of interviews with people from Indian Territory. People who were "early" residents of the territory or descendants of the early residents were interviewed in the 1930s. This amazing collection of white, black and Indian people should be a standard database used by Oklahoma genealogists. This collection is fully digitized, and searchable, and much valuable data can be studied. In many cases, slave holder data is discussed on multiple levels.

5) Study the Civil War participation of the slave holder. Many slave holders were confederate sympathizers in the war, and served in one of the numerous Indian Confederate regiments. (A fully detailed article on Civil War regiments is being developed in a separate article for this blog.)

Beyond the wonderfully rich data that one finds among the Dawes records, it is imperative that for Freedmen research, that the narrative can be expanded by examining the slave owner's history. The life of the ancestor while enslaved, during the war, and during those early days of freedom will unravel many of the untold mysteries in the family's history. Hopefully the unspoken relationship between the slave holder and the families once enslaved will be explored, and will allow the researcher to tell more of this little studied history.



Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Free People and Property in Post Civil War Indian Territory

In the years after the Civil War, many citizens of Indian Territory used the services of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen's Bureau. Some needed the Bureau for assistance as they settled into war torn land they once knew as home. For some, the Bureau assisted them with life as free people for the first time. For others, they needed rations, that were provided, and for others, there was an issue of lands abandoned during the War.

Of course, for those once enslaved in Indian Territory the Bureau was a place where many resources could be found. But a group of Creeks who were of African ancestry who were not enslaved also appealed to the Bureau in western Arkansas for assistance. These were people who were born free, and not enslaved. They had lived in the Seminole & Creek Nation as free people, but during the Civil War and the time of conflict, many had to abandon their own lands for safety. Prior to the war, they had settled on lands and had worked their own lands for years, but once the conflicts and issues of the war came closer to their home, like many, they took refuge in Kansas to avoid the chaos and devastation brought by war. After the surrender, many wished to return home, but found much of their property destroyed.

Lewis Moore, who was a leading man of color, first made the inquiry to the bureau officials, inquiring about compensation for the lands that they had abandoned. The officials in the Fort Smith Field office were not certain and in fact wrote to their superiors with the same inquiry. A copy of a letter written about Seminole and Creek people was found among the papers of the Fort Smith Field office of the Bureau. The letter appears below.


The letter was written by the Superintendent of the Fort Smith Field Office of the Bureau, and sent to his superior in Little Rock at the Bureau office there.

There is no response among the letters from the Fort Smith Field office addressing the rights of people and property in the Territory. But the answer can still be learned simply but understanding the bureau, the jurisdiction, and the actions taken.

The bureau, did oversee the issue of abandoned lands in the United States, but the bureau did not restore lands to people in Indian Territory. That is also complicated by the fact that among the Five Civilized Tribes, land was not "owned" in private parcels of land, and private ownership did not take place in the Territory until the Dawes allotment process began in the 1890s.

So although there was no official response found to the letter above, the letter is still revealing as it is one that pertains to the rights of free people of color in the Territory, and it is reflective of a time of post Civil War re-adjustments that were made by all who lived in the Territory.



Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Institute to Feature Oklahoma Freedmen in 2019





MAAGI – The Teaching Institute
For 2019 – Announcing: A New Track
Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes

For the very first time, MAAGI will become the first genealogy institute to offer a track devoted entirely to the Freedmen from Indian Territory and the Five Tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations. This is focus in the genealogy community, is long overdue as the Oklahoma based Freedmen are uniquely the largest group of African-descended people with the most provable ties to any Native American tribe. For three days the participants will take 12 classes, all devoted to methods of researching the documenting the history of this most under-discussed population.

FACULTY:
Terry Ligon (Blogger, researcher, Chickasaw Freedman Researcher)
Dr. Janice Lovelace (Retired Professor, Choctaw Researcher)
Ron Graham (Genealogy Researcher, Lecturer, Creek Researcher)
Nicka Smith (Blogger, Ancestry Researcher, Author Cherokee Researcher
Angela Walton-Raji (Author, Blogger, Podcaster Choctaw Freedman Researcher)

TOPICS:
·        Basic Records for Freedman Research
·        Chickasaw Freedmen and Equity Case 7071
·        Before the Dawes Rolls – Exploring Earlier Freedmen Records
·        Military Records & the Oklahoma Freedmen – USCTs and Indian Home Guards
·        Creek Freedmen Records – Dunn Roll, Old Series, Per Capita Payments and Dawes
·        The Case of Joe & Dillard Perry
·        Finding Ike Rogers and other Cherokee Freedmen
·        Oklahoma Freedmen and Pioneer Papers
·        Freedmen Settlements – From Tribal Towns to Freedman Settlemants
·        Freedmen Before Statehood – Associations, Societies, and Educators
·        Freedman Schools. Their History and Their Records
·        IT Freedmen and the Arkansas Freedman’s Bureau
·       The Freedmen Stevensons & Other Large Family Clans
For more information: www.maagiinstitute.org

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Sanders Family - Freedmen of the Choctaw Nation

This final piece in my 52-week blogging effort focuses on the Sanders family of the Choctaw Nation. The names of the children were found on Choctaw Freedman New Born Card #230. Their mother Louisa, was already enrolled on a regular Choctaw Freedman Card. George Sanders was the head of the family at the time, and the children of this family, are an extension of the family of Samuel and Sallie Walton.

They are the grandchildren of Sallie Walton, through her daughter Louisa, who was on Choctaw Freedman card #777 with the rest of the Walton family. 



Choctaw Freedman Enrollment Card #777
The National Archives at Ft. Worth Texas 1868-1914, NAI Number:  251747
Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75

Louisa Ingram married George Sanders and with her husband she had several children, including the three children on the enrollment card #320 of Choctaw Freedmen. John Henry, Ethel and Eastern were the three oldest children. Two other children Bennie and George were later born, but they were born after the rolls closed and were never added to the file.



Choctaw Freedman Newborn Card #230

Among some family records an old photo was located taken at a small country school in the Choctaw Nation. Easter Sanders identified who her siblings were before she passed away in 1999. 



Sanders Children in Old Family photo

Personal Collection

The Application Jacket

The first items found in the application jacket were three birth affidavits for each of the Sanders children. John Henry, Ethel and Easter Sanders all had birth records that were recorded. A surprise for me was to learn that my great grandmother Sallie was listed as the midwife attending the births of her grandchildren.



National Archives Publication M1301, Applications for Enrollment
(Also accessed from Fold3.com, Native American Collection, Choctaw Freedmen



(Same as above)


(Same as above)


 The interview was conducted with George Sanders the husband to Louisa. Questions were initially focused on the parents of Louisa Ingram. Louisa was previously enrolled on Choctaw Freedman Card #777 with Sallie Walton who was her mother. Her step father Samuel, and her brothers Houston and Sam Jr. were also on the same card. However the focus remained on her father who he was. Sanders was asked if he knew anything about John Williams as her father and his reply was that he did not. He mentioned that Samuel Walton had raised her and she always called him Pa.

Questions were also asked regarding Louisa's mother Sallie. In that exchange a references was made to a nickname that they used for Sallie. Sometimes they called her "Kittie".

Upon reading about her nickname I personally recall an uncle visiting the home speaking with Sallie, and him asking her "didn't they used to call you Kitty?" I remember that conversation from my childhood only because I thought it so odd. I recall that she did not reply, but she simply smiled at him, when he called her that name.

(I would only learn later that "Kitty" was also the name of her grandmother--her mother Amanda's mother's name was "Kitty Perry." I would also learn in a court document when Nail Perry would state that Kitty was sometimes called "Old Kit".)

Again the questions would drift back to the identity of Louisa's father.


(Same as above)


There was some concern whether papers had been submitted on time to enroll the children. George Sanders pointed out that he did mail in papers for Ethel and they had been submitted many months before. They became part of the official file as evidence for the case.



(Same as above)
It appears that in spite of the mother's status as an enrolled Choctaw Freedman, the fact that a deadline had been missed, put the children in jeopardy of being enrolled as Choctaw citizens. The stipulation was focusing on  submission of an application for the children prior to November 1906 and even the evidence submitted on Ethel's behalf, the case was denied. Appeals were made but the decision made "adverse" to the applicants was upheld.



(Same as above)

The Sanders family still had access to land that was obtained through the enrollment of Sam and Walton, and Louisa's brothers Houston, and Sam Jr.  For many years, this Sanders lived in what became Le Flore County Oklahoma, around Heavener Oklahoma  as George the father worked in the mines. He and Louisa raised their children in Le Flore County, where they remained well into the 1940s. 

Their close cousins the Waltons had moved into Fort Smith to obtain high school education for the Walton sons, Samuel Louis, and Richard Daniel . They, like the Sanders remained in Fort Smith. And meanwhile, another branch of the Sanders line moved to Bakersfield California where they remain to this day.

Descendants Today

Through Bennie Sanders and daughter Ruthie Sanders Bradley, the family continues to thrive in Western Arkansas. Through George Sanders Jr., the line continues through the families now based in Bakersfield California.

 Within various families branches of the extended family, the ties to the cultural base in which they lived remained strong. Sallie, the family matriarch was always known to be Choctaw, as she spoke the language, and practiced many cultural traditions. Many of her great grandchildren from both Sanders and Walton branches, recall her teaching them words and phrases in Choctaw. Her brother "Uncle Joe" would occasionally visit the family in Arkansas, and some elders still recall his visits.

Ethel, the one of the daughters of George and Louisa died as a young girl at the tender age of nine years. John Henry lived to adulthood, and worked as a mechanic for Texaco in Poteau Oklahoma for most of his life with his wife Augustus Sanders a popular school teacher in the black school in Poteau. Easter Sanders lived to be 91 years of age and died in 1999 in McAlister Oklahoma.




Easter Sanders - Personal collection

The family always knew and spoke of their Grandma Sallie and considered her to be a traditional Choctaw woman. Cousins in California who descended from George and Louisa throughout the years spoke of having been denied their rights as Choctaws, since their mother Louisa had been enrolled.

I first made contact with some of the California Sanders cousins who descended from George Sanders, one of the younger children of Louisa and George. Their father George had asked in his final days that they continue the family's quest to prove their Choctaw history. 


There is no land to obtain now, and admission to the nation will not come to them, but through history, their history and documented tie to the land of their father's birth has been completed. Born of the Choctaw Nation, their roots are already proven, and hopefully they will find  peace knowing that their ties are there and cannot be denied.

-John Henry, Ethel, Easter,  and later George and Ben were the children of George and Louisa Ingram Sanders.
-Louisa  was the daughter of Sallie Walton
-Sallie was the daughter Amanda Perry.
-Amanda was the daughter of Kitty Crow
-Kitty  whose parents are unknown came with the Perrys clan from Yalobusha County Mississippi on the Trail of Tears.

Kitty was the oldest person enslaved in the Perry clan, and Kitty, Amanda, and Sallie would not see freedom until 1866. Their ties to the Choctaw Nation before and after removal are strong and are well documented and the descendants of all from George Sanders Sr. to Ruthie Sanders Bradley can know that their history is strongly rooted upon the soil, and upon the pages of history.


These families are important to me, because they, like myself, all descend from Sallie Walton. Our legacy is a strong one, and status on the roll or not--we have a history that deserves to be told, to be honored and to be celebrated.

This is the 52nd article in a 52 article devoted to sharing histories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus has been on the Five Civilized Tribes, and these posts have been part of an ongoing project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

The Family of Joe and Belle Davis -Cherokee Freedmen

Sons of Joe and Belle Davis, Cherokee Freedmen, Courtesy of Steve Spencer Top row: Willie Davis, Joseph Davis, Curtis Dan Davis, Middle Row: Jim Davis, Thomas Davis, Bottom Row: Carl Davis, Charles Davis, John Davis

The Davis family of Vinita, in the Cherokee Nation has a very rich history. Joe Davis the patriarch appeared in May 1901 to enroll his family as Cherokee Freedmen. He provided the names of each of his children, Sadie, Willie, Thomas, Joseph, Dan, Carl, and Charles. Two other sons not on the card were adults and had enrolled on their own card. It is recorded that Joe had at one time been enslaved by Kinnie Davis.

There are additional notes on the card referring to more information on the family. The Davis family names had also appeared on the Kern Clifton Roll--referred to at the K.C. roll. In the lower left part on the page it is noted that there are other relatives to be found on Cherokee Freedmen cards #1200-1204.

The National Archives at Ft. Worth, Ft. Worth Texas 1868-1914
NAI Number: 251747, Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75

His father was Tom Faught and his mother's name was Betsy Davis. Tom Faught had been a slave and was enslaved by Peggie Faught, and his mother Betsy was once enslaved by Wm. A. Davis. The family resided at that time in the Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation. It can be assumed that Joe took the name of his mother as the family name was not Faught. No other information is provided on Tom Faught, other than the name of the slave holder.

Also note--the family was originally placed on the "Doubtful" card as there was a concern about their eligibility for enrollment. Their names were later moved to an approved card in 1904.

(Same as above)

Application Jackets

Joe Davis was interviewed on May 16, 1901 in Vinita, Indian Territory in the Cherokee Nation. The questions began immediately about Joe Davis and his status as a recognized Cherokee Freedman. His name dd not appear on the 1880 roll of authenticated Cherokee Freedmen, which immediately made the commissioners willing to find reason to prevent his enrollment as a Cherokee citizen. He identified his wife and children when asked, and identified also the name of the Cherokee who enslaved him--Kinney Davis. His mother Betsey had died before 1880. 



National Archives Publication M1301,
Applications for Enrollment
(Also accessed from Fold3.com, Native American Collection, Choctaw Freedmen)

In front of the committee, he presented a record of the family, and he indicated that the record that he had was abandoned by the Davis slave holding family when they had left it the estate at the end of the war. This is more than significant----Joe because he shared a document--a book that contained the names of all of the slaves held by the his family's slaveholders. The document is not found in this packet, and it can be assumed that he took it back and kept it. But on this page it is clearly stated, that he shared a book with the examining committee.

It should be pointed out, that few if any slave records from Indian Territory have ever survived, and at this time, , the Davis family still retained what they were able to found--a record confirming their own enslavement. It this record still exists by the descendants it should be preserved or placed in a county or state archives or museum, because its is a very rare slavery era record coming from Indian Territroy before it became Oklahoma. 

On that page, Joe Davis was asked about the slave owner Kinney Davis. The document states:
Q. You were a slave of Kinney Davis?
A. Yes sir.
Q. Is Kinney Davis here?
A. No sir. Here is his family record, every slave that was on there. (Produces a book.)
Q. How did you happen to get Kinney Davis family record?
A. We was the last ones that left the place, me and my mother, and we carried this off, my mother give it to me.
 This is probably the only case that may exist where a man once enslaved was able to prove the status of enslavement by producing the record that bore his name on the page!

 Joe Davis was then asked about his name not being on the authenticated 1880 roll of Cherokee citizens. His tone is one again of confidence. When pointed out that it was strange that his name did not appear on that roll, he replied that it as not that strange to him.


A beautiful expression of love

The most striking remark then follows when asked about his marriage to wife Belle. He was asked when they married, and he produced a marriage certificate from 1876. He was asked if this was his first marriage.

Q. Was Bell Davis your first wife?
A. Yes sir, she was the only woman I ever loved in my life.
Q. You love her yet, do you?
A. I love her yet, still harder.


This kind of tenderness is rarely seen in Dawes interviews, particular since many of the commissioners were known to be harsh and hostile to the Freedmen being interviewed.



(Same as above)

In this file, one gets a remarkable story of the movement of Joe Davis after the war. He pointed out in the previous page that he learned the barbering trade in the early 1870s and continues to document the various places where he lived and where. Between Vinita, Fort Gibson, Cabin (Cabin Creek), Texas and other places he lived and moved throughout the Territory.


(Same as above)

As much as Davis was moving around over the years, he was also resourceful. He acquired property and had owned one piece of land since the late 1860s.

(Same as above)

Others were called in to testify for Joe Davis--George Vann, William Tucker, and Amy Bean. There was a need to verify that he was truly recognized as a Cherokee and that people had recognized him over the years.
(Same as above)

 Another fascinating interview occurs when Amy Bean was sworn in. Joe Davis himself becomes the interviewer. He asks Amy how long they had known each other. She says that they knew each other during the time of the Civil War. Interestingly he also asks a fascinating question regarding where and what they did during the Civil War. Her reply again was remarkable and their exchange in general was amazing.

Q. What did we do during the war?
A. You know what we done, we hid in the mountains to keep the rebels from taking us off. 


A long analysis of the status of the family followed with the decision to remove their names off the doubtful roll and to enroll them as Cherokee Freedmen.

(Same as above)

Three birth affidavits are included in the file for the younger children, Dan, Carl and Charles.

Birth Record for Dan Davis(Same as above)

Birth Record for Carl Davis(Same as above)

Birth Record for Charlie Davis
(Same as above)

A final interview in the file appears with Emmet Skinner. He was a close acquaintance of Joe Davis and spoke of how they met first in Texas and later back in the Cherokee Nation. Again like the other interviews, the reader gets an amazing glimpse of life in a western frontier town in a small Cherokee town such as Vinita. Skinner himself was not a Freedman and possibly not a Cherokee citizen, as he appears in some census years as white and confirms that he was from Texas. Nevertheless his interview also reflects movement and life on the frontier as his father was a cattleman.

(Same as above)

He clearly knew Joe Davis well, and he spoke even with knowledge about the location of Joe Davis's barber shop. This was a clear friendship and relationship that was one of two who had known each other for many years.
 (Same as above)

(Same as above)

The file ends with other smaller memos including one with the resolution to enroll the family of Joe Davis as Cherokee Freedmen.

(Same as above)

Also an interesting recruitment poster also appears in this file. This flyer was widely distributed and one ended up in the Davis family's application jacket and is included here.



(Same as above)



Courtesy of Steve Spencer

There is much more that can be shared about this family, but these basic items are share here to record their story. Special thanks to the late Steve Spencer, great grandson of Joe and Belle Davis, who allowed me to research and document his history in 2007. Hopefully these records from the Cherokee Nation, will be a part of the family's narrative permanently and that their story will endure. May they be forever remembered and these stories are shared in Steve's memory.

**********

This is the 51st article in a 52-article series devoted to sharing histories 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 ongoing project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Family of Doran and Mary Ann Bruner- Seminole Freedmen

From the town of Sasakwa, the family of Doran and Mary Bruner appeared in front of the Dawes Commission to enroll as Seminoles. On the enrollment card, the father Doran was born a free man in the Territory, yes, as was done with so many--he was placed on the Freedman Roll. Their children were Alice, Ellen Iona, Eva, Georgeann, Geo. Washington, Manda and Lizzie. Another child was born in 1905 named Parah Bruner, whose enrollment card is the third image below. This entire family was part of the Ceasar Bruner band of Seminoles.

Seminole Freedman Card #640 Field Card #33
The National Archives at Ft. Worth, Ft. Worth Texas 1868-1914,  NAI Number: 251747
Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75


Doran Bruners' father was Dan Bruner and his mother was Rachel Bruner, and like so many especially those from the Sasakwa settlement, his parents had at one time been enslaved by John Jumper. Doran. Mary Ann's father was Ginford Thompson and  her mother's name was Minerva. Both of her parents were once enslaved by Judge Thompson.


Son Parah's name was placed on Seminole New Born Freedman card #7. Both parents' names appear on the card. The "new born" category appears in most of the tribes, but in many cases some names were simply added on the front of the original family enrollment cards, and in other cases they were placed on new born cards such as this case.

Seminole New Born Freedman Card #7
The National Archives at Ft. Worth, Ft. Worth Texas 1868-1914,  NAI Number: 251747
Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75

Thankfully, a small interview does exist for this family. There was most likely additional data, because the only focus of this one interview pertains to the death of one of the children. Clearly questions, about the history and parentage of the father and mother would have been taken at the time, but in this case the only document to remain in the file pertains to proving the death of one of the children.

Like many of the Seminole Freedmen a spokesman was called to testify on their behalf. In this case, the band chief Caesar Bruner himself came to testify to verify that one of the children had died. Caesar confirmed that Georgeann had died, and that he was at the family home after the funeral. Also note that Ben Bruner also came to testify for the family. Ben Bruner was also an officer for the Bruner band of Seminoles.


Application for Enrollment NARA Publication M1301 Seminole Freedman #33
(Also accessed from Fold3.com, Native American Collection)

Thankfully there were no complications in the enrollment of this Bruner family. They were allowed to enroll without any challenges made by the Dawes commissioners. Their enrollment however, was that of Seminole "freedmen" although the father was born a free man. Nevertheless, having been approved, they were eligible for the allotment of land they which they accepted. 

Land Allotment Records

The names of the family are shown on this first image as they applied for their land allotment.


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.


Much of the data found in the allotment records contain legal description 

(Source: Same as above)

(Source: Same as above)


Most importantly the end of this story is summed up in the final question asked, "Will you accept these lands for yourself, your wife and children as final allotments to the Seminole Nation?" His response was clear, "Yes sir."
(Source: Same as above)

Like the story of many, the family was now a land-owning family, and were able to face their future moving ahead. Statehood came and like all families they now faced a new future in a new state of Oklahoma, and new country--The United States to call their own. Their legacy however, as Seminoles, like those of all of the Five Tribes was one well documented through complicated years of war, peace and challenge. This Bruner family, like others of their band, like others of the same nation, and like others from Indian Territory, have a richly documented history, reflecting legacy, endurance and continuity. May they always tell their story.

 This is the 50th article in a 52-article series devoted to sharing histories 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 ongoing project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Julia Hershey and Family - Creek Freedmen

Researching families from the Creek Nation is not without its difficulties. This is particularly when one finds that so many of the interviews of families are simply missing. They were misplaced, and never microfilmed and now lost to time. Therefore when one finds some remarkable stories in the application jackets that were preserved they should be share as they provide so many insights in the lives of people in the 19th century in Indian Territory.

Such is the case of Julia Hershey (Hersche) from Muskogee. She appeared in front of the Dawes Commission in September 1898. Data from her enrollment card is simply and one might think that hers was an uncomplicated case.

She was 54 years of age when she applied for enrollment as a Creek Freedman. On Field Card #1222 her name is found along with that of her son John Pyles who was 18. Was a member of Arkansas Town and had been enslaved by Lookin Barnett. Some notations on the front of the card indicate that she had been placed on earlier rolls over many years.

Creek Freedman Card #1222
The National Archives at Ft. Worth, Ft. Worth Texas 1868-1914
NAI Number: 251747
Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75

On the reverse side of the card the names of her parents are found. Her father was Alex Barnett and her mother was Rosa Barnett who had died during the years of the Civil War. Lish Pyles was her son's father, and he was not a citizen of the Creek Nation. 

(same as above)

The Application Jacket

To say that the data contained in her application jacket was plentiful does not say enough. There is information about her as an applicant, but the 33 pages contained in the jacket go far beyond the ordinary that one typically sees. Personal data about her life was there. But in addition, one can read about the process that people went through, the various  people that they met and even some of the witnesses on her behalf reflect the relationships that people had with others from beyond their family circle and even their community. Many had formed relationships and friendships with those from other tribes as well.

Personal Data about the applicant.
Initially personal data about Julia and her life was extracted. Her mother was Rosa Black who had married Alex Barnett. It also turns out that at one time Julia also used the name Pyles, which was the surname of Rosa's husband. Julia had already said that her son's father was Lish Pyles, but the question was asked if her son's surname was taken after her mother's husband which she replied, "yes".

There was also an interest in the surname Black and that sometimes the name Blackdirt was used. This would be asked again later.


National Archives Publication M1301
Applications for Enrollment
(Also accessed from Fold3.com, Native American Collection, Choctaw Freedmen)

The next witness on her behalf was a Cherokee woman whose name was Nannie Murray. Nanny Murray was asked about her knowledge of Julian and the family and she pointed out that she knew that Julia's mother was enslaved by Granny Black. (The reference to Granny Black also appears in the first interview above.) She was then asked to confirm the relationship of Julia to Granny Black the slave holder. Nannie pointed out that she never was at the home of Granny Black, but her own grandmother used to visit Granny Black and Granny Black used to visit them. She learned from those visits in her childhood that Granny Black owned her mother "Rhody" and that Rhody had three children.

(same as above)

Again there were questions about the tie of Julia to the Blacks and Nannie confirmed that Granny Black used to make references to "her colored folks" frequently. She was then asked if she knew Charlotte Blackdirt, which she said at first she did not know. But then she replied that she knew that Charlotte had married a Lewis, but was not sure if Granny Black had owned Charlotte. When asked why she referred to her as "Aunt Charlotte" she pointed out that many people of color referred to other in that way.

(same as above)

Arkansas Town Officials Testify for Julia

Willie McIntosh was the next witness. It turns out that he had an official role in his town as he served as Secretary for the Arkansas Colored Town. He was present when citizens came to draw the various payments over the years and verified that he knew her. He also asked if he knew a Julia who was part of the Derishaw family, which he did not. He verified that he knew that Julia drew the money and was asked more than one time how he was certain of it. He was then presented with a document and asked if it was in his hand-writing. He pointed out that it was not done by his hand, but it was copied from his own book. There then seemed to be satisfaction enough that Julia was qualified for enrollment.
(same as above)

A year later, Julia appeared again in front of the commission. She was asked about her parents. Alex was Barnett was enslaved by Larkin (Lookin) Barnet and her mother was enslaved by Granny Black. Her mother died before the war ended, although it was not mentioned where.

(Same as above)

Julia then tells the story of her life during and after the war. She was taken south to Texas, but after peace was declared and the treaties signed, she traveled with a group of scantily clad Indians back to Fort Gibson. She remained there for a while before making her way to the Old Agency in Muskogee.
(Same as above)


The questions continued and Julia was then asked to tell other parts of her story, describing when she married Lish Pyles, and where she moved. She mentioned several places that she had lived and the details were more detailed than one would usually find. Others who knew her were called. and the reader gets a glimpse not only of Julia's life, but of life after the Civil War for many former slaves.

As a reader one can see the movement of people across the country side, some to Fort Gibson, and others to other settlements. Some were in search of family and others in search of a way to make their life. Julia described how she had moved from Fort Gibson to Muskogee, and how many times she appeared for payments to Creeks. She also described having her name put on the Dunn Roll. Following that were multiple pages about her receiving various payments over the years. Various payments from "Bread money" and other payments made over the years. She was grilled continuously about who distributed the funds to her, and where. Then witnesses were called to verify that she was truly the same Julia. These questions continued for pages in the file.

The Town King Testifies

One of the more fascinating interviews in Julia's file came from Gabriel Jamison was called. He was the town king for Arkansas Colored Town. The line of questioning was focused on Julia's name on the Arkansas  Colored Town roll. When asked if her name was there and how it was done, he decided to describe the entire process of creating the town roll. His description provides for the reader a clear insight into exactly how things happened from inside of this Creek town.
(Same as above)

Many pages were devoted to why Julia's name was left off several rolls from the  $29 payment roll to the "Omitted" Roll. and for those whose ancestors went through the process it will be worthwhile to explore each and every page of this lengthy file.

Oddly, as detailed as the file was, the ending to the case was abrupt. Julia was recalled again, and was asked about the exact age of her son, and why some data conflicted with other data. She pointed out that at times her mind would come and go and she was not sure. She was then directed to present any additional testimony on June 12th for her next interview. And thus the file ended.

(Same as above)

The abrupt ending of the file does not diminish the file, nor the case. In fact the rich data contained on those pages far outweigh the seemingly short ending. Julia Hershey was clearly a woman of the Creek Nation and clearly her case was eventually approved and not rejected. She left behind an amazing narrative describing her life from the end of the war, her travels back to Fort Gibson and her life over the years. As the nation changed, her status changed, and she was a witness to the many changes within Indian Territory.

She got her land as did her son. This Creek woman whose education was limited survived. From her file, we see part of her life described before emancipation. We see the early days of freedom as her life was changed. We also see the years spent as circumstances required movement sometimes for word and other times to find something better. Her relationship with the tribe is apparent, and the relationship of former slaves to the land and the community was strong. From this simple woman's files, so much can be learned. May her Creek descendants come to read, embrace and grow from her story.

(The entire file of Julia Hershey can be found in Application Jacket #1222, in microfilm collection M1301 at the National Archives. It can also be accessed online at Ancestry.)


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 This is the 49th article in a 52-article series devoted to sharing histories 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 ongoing project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.