Monday, February 14, 2011

Following the Paper Trail of our Ancestors

Sallie Walton- Choctaw Freedwoman 
Her data is on  Dawes Card Choc. Freedman 777

When telling the stories of our ancestors, it is important that we collect as many documents as we can to telrl their stories.  Having ancestors from Indian Territory does make it even more challenging as the paper trail can seem to get a bit fuzzy before the Dawes Era.

As a result, it makes documentation all the more critical.  

My great grandmother was Sallie Walton and she was an original Dawes enrollee. She was born in 1863 and died in 1961, at 98 years of age.  I was fortunate to know her, and have warm memories of her, from my childhood.  When I discovered her Dawes Card at the National Archives, it was a surprise for me to learn that in my lifetime that I had known someone who had been born a slave. She and her mother, were slaves in the Choctaw Nation.

Close Up of Dawes Card, Reflecting Sallie's mother's slave owner Emeline Perry. Thankfully, the descendants of Emeline Perry, and  Nail Perry have a strong interest in the same history and they are most gracious in joining in the search to learn more about the Perry family, the Perry slaves, and the Perry history.  

I learned a bit about her, and the enslavement of her mother, and her mother's freedom from the interview. A man closely associated with Sallie and her mother indicated that Sallie's mother was a slave of his sister.

The Perry's were not extremely wealthy people, apparently Nail Perry had one male slave and his sister Emeline, who later married into the Folsom family also  had one slave. That one slave was Sallie's mother, Amanda.  I found Nail Perry and his sister Emeline on the 1860 Slave Schedule and it reflected their ownership of their slaves.

1860 Federal Slave Schedule Reflecting the slaves of Nail Perry  & his sister Emeline Perry Folsom, in the Choctaw Nation, Sugar Loaf County

Little was known about her personal life when she was young, and who she considered her family outside of her husband and children.  But about 3 years ago a good friend and colleague in Van Buren Arkansas, phoned and asked me who was Davis Frazier?  I did not recognize the name. She had discovered a World War I Draft Card, and the card mentioned Sallie Walton as next of kin to man registering for the draft.

Draft Card of Davis Frazier, related to Sallie Walton. The card was discovered by researcher Tonia Holleman of Van Buren, Arkansas.  I am most grateful to her for this discovery.

There is no doubt that the Sallie that he mentioned was his relative and that she was my gr. grandmother Sallie. Although I had never heard of him in family history, and his name was never mentioned, the Sallie that he listed as a close relative was my Sallie. She lived in LeFlore County for most of her life, and she resided particularly in the community around Howe, Oklahoma. Since Davis Frazier was born in the 1870s,  he would not have been a Civil War veteran, and  he does not appear to have lived outside of the community.  His exact relationship to Sallie is still not known, but he is another piece in the family puzzle.

When Davis Frazier went to the Dawes Commission for his interview---Robert Benton, a well known Choctaw in the Sugar Loaf area, testified and confirmed that Davis Frazier did have ties to the Nation.

Dawes Interview of Davis Frazier, Choctaw Freedman File #671
National Archives Publication M1301

In addition to the personal papers found in official respositories such as archives, there are often papers and documents that can be found among family documents as well.

One family treasure kept neatly for many years among family papers, was a plat map that reflected my gr. grandmothers Sallie Walton's home.

Plat Map Reflecting property of Sallie Walton, 1912

Close Up Image of Plat Map

Close Up View of Plat Map

Sometimes these paper documents reflect much more than names and places.   They reflect the struggles of a family to make a claim for a home, they reflect the responses made by the family to be counted, and they reflect untold stories of the desire to remain in the places that they knew as home.

These interviews, old family papers and so much more allow us to give thought to the motivation behind their traveling to be interviewed, their taking the time, and their response to the times as they changed around them.  I treasure those documents from my own family history and continue the search for more.

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