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.

1 comment:

Shelby said...

Ms. Angela, how can I get a copy of your Skullyville schools compilation?