Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit Salt Lake City to attend the 2006 AAHGS Conference. While in Salt Lake I was also able to take advantage of the Family History Center and to use some records that I do not have access to in Maryland.
These were school records from the Choctaw Nation. My interest specifically was in possibly locating names of children who attended the Freedmen Neighborhood Schools. To my delight there were rosters of students from several schools. My interest was Skullyville County, a community where my gr. grandparents Sam and Sallie Walton lived.
I found five such schools. These schools were created specifically for children of the former slaves in the Choctaw Nation--the Choctaw Freedm
The schools were established after they had been officially adopted by the Choctaw Nation, into the tribe, in 1885. The nations had agreed to the adoption of the Freedmen after the Civil War and was one of the terms of the Treaty of 1866. After a good amount of resistance occurred initially and a lengthy discussion of funds (over $300,000 ) was allocated to the Choctaw and Chickasaws to be used for Freedmen matters. After adoption took place, the question arose again as it had since emancipation---how can education be provided for these African-Choctaw children?
It was decided that neighborhood schools be established within the nation, to provide education for the children. I was pleased to find several pages reflecting names of children, of teachers and of the superintendents of several schools among some of the records.
I was particularly happy to see the name of my grandfather---Samuel Walton Jr. on one of the school rosters as well!
The schools were Cedar Grove, Clarksville, Dog Creek, Ft. Coffee, and Opossum Creek Schools. The records are by no means complete as they do not reflect many consecutive years and they were not year-round records. They are mere rosters--but yet they still tell a story of the children who were earnestly seeking to learn.
The only community that still exists today is Ft.Coffee, Oklahoma an historically black town that was recently incorporated a few years ago as an official township in LeFlore County. Ft. Coffee lies in extreme eastern Oklahoma, not far from the Arkansas/Oklahoma border. I am happy to share some of the rosters here.
The population in the Cedar Grove area was a diverse one where some of the children were citizens of the Chickasaw Nation and as well as Choctaw Nation. (A notation of the bottom of the roster indicated that some of the children attending Cedar Grove school with crossmarks near their names, were Chickasaw Freedmen.)
Near the top of the Cedar Grove Roster, the Boyd Children are Chickasaw Freedmen,
indicated by the crossmarks near their names.
When the schools operated, each month the teacher and superintendent would prepare attendance rosters and submit them to the County offices of the Nation.These monthly school rosters were filed by the teacher and trustee, with the County Judge. The document above was filed with Ed Lanier, county judge of Skullyville County and also signed by him.
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Clarksville Neighborhood School was smaller in student enrollment. All of the children in this school were Choctaw Freedmen:
Staff of Clarksville Neighborhood School
Some of the descendants of Battese families are fully enrolled citizens of the Chickasaw Nation.
Roster of Children in Clarksville Neighborhood School
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Staff of Dog Creek Neighborhood School. These names are still known among LeFlore County families. Moses Parker also oversaw the affairs of another Freedman School. (see below)
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Ft. Coffee Neighborhood School was in the one community that still exists today. However, like the other schools, the buildings no longer stand.
The two staff members, were Moses Parker and Squire Hall.
These names are still spoken in Ft. Coffee today where their descendants reside.
Roster of Students from 1896
I was pleasantly surprised on one of the pages for the Ft. Coffee School, to see my grandfather's name among the students.
Page reflecting the name of my grandfather Samuel when he was a small child
attending the Choctaw Neighborhood School, in Skullyville
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Opposum Creek Neighborhood School
Roster of Students from Opposum Creek Neighborhood Scohols
Although all of these schools are gone and the landscape reflects nothing of their having been there. Thankfully a few pages of school records remain to assist us with telling the story.
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Salt Creek - A Freedman School in Indian Territory
Source: Archives & Manuscripts Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society