Friday, December 15, 2017

Joseph "Stick" Ross, Cherokee Freedman

Driving through the area around Tahlequah, Oklahoma, one will pass a small road with an interesting name. Stick Ross Mountain Road. For many who are part of the Freedmen community in an near the city, his name is well known. Although no known image of him survives, he clearly left his footprints upon the land where he lived. 

In early years of his life, he was enslaved by Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross. But upon release from bondage, Stick Ross became involved in the affairs of the local area and left an impression on the community.

Like many people freed from enslavement, participation in the larger society in which he lived was desired. The right to live, vote, and participate in events around him were a strong interest for him. Joseph "Stick" Ross, as well as other freedmen had a similar vision. Before the century would end, he would see himself involved in the affairs of his local area, and also the tribal council itself. He was one of several men once enslaved, to serve their nation. His reputation as an advocate for the freedmen and for the nation as a whole was noted when he was elected to the Cherokee tribal council in 1893. He followed the footsteps of others such as Joseph Brown, Frank Vann, Samuel Stidham, and Jerry Alberty. Ned Irons would later join this circle of Freedmen leaders.

Dawes Card
From the Dawes card Stick Ross appeared in front of the commission in 1901. He was applying for himself, his wife Nancy, son Malcolm, daughters Julia, Amanda, Patsy, and son Clem. It was clearly noted on the card that he was at one time, enslaved by John Ross. Wife Nancy had been enslaved by David Rowe.

Notes on the front of the card point out that his name had previously been inscribed on earlier rolls as "Joseph" Ross. On the back of the card, it is learned that his parents were Hector and Sallie Ross, and both had also been enslaved by Chief Ross. Nancy's parents were Johnson and Edna Rowe.

The Dawes Interview

The application process was not a complicated one for Stick Ross. Questions were asked pertaining to the family members, and who was seeking enrollment and the ages of the children. Earlier rolls were examined and he and the others were found on the 1880 Authenticated Cherokee census. It appears that the process was a smooth one for him, and there were no issues to challenge. Perhaps the reputation of Ross himself as a known tribal leader may have had some influence on the smoothness of the enrollment process. All were subsequently enrolled.

Land Allotment Jacket
Placement of one's name on the Dawes Rolls made one eligible to apply for and receive land allotments. The documents below, reflect the allotment made to Stick Ross himself. One can also see the homestead application, the questions asked, and answers received.

Stick Ross remained in the Tahlequah area, and for years the Ross family land was atop a large hill. As the road led to his land, it became known as Stick Mountain Road. The hill itself was later named Stick Ross Mountain Road. During his lifetime he was a man who obtained other pieces of land and is said to have donated the land for Ross Cemetery, where he is buried. Sadly, his grave is not marked. In recent years however, a marker was placed in the Ross Cemetery to honor his final resting place being there upon the land. 

In 2008, some of the descendants of Stick Ross visited the cemetery that bears their Ross surname, and had a small monument placed there in honor of him. Ross was also said to have donated the land for this Tahlequah Freedmen burial ground. Though almost 90 years after his death, a memorial stone was placed in his honor. His influence on the community, shall not be forgotten.

This is the 40th article in a 52 week 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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Caesar Bruner - Seminole Band Leader

(Photo courtesy of Susie Moore, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

One cannot present a profile of Seminole families without mention of the name, Caesar Bruner. He was the leader of the Bruner band--the band chief in fact. And, in addition, his legacy is one that continues to this day. Bruner is also one of the few leaders from Indian Territory for whom there is also a photo image of him that survives.

At the time of the Dawes Commission, Ceasar was already an old man, who had arrived with the contingent of Seminoles from Florida. He like Abraham and others lived among the maroons, and later with the Indians who later arrived in the Territory after the Seminole wars. Bruner, like another compatriot, Dosar Barkus ended up being not only a band leader, but also spoke on behalf of many Freedmen who appeared in front of the Dawes Commission in the 1890s and early 1900s. His word was accepted when he spoke on their behalf.

Little is written however, about Bruner's own family history and it is seldom mentioned. in particular his own parents and siblings if they are known. As a result I decided to give a brief overview about his life.

From The Dawes Card

Caesar Bruner lived his life before the Civil War as a free man. He was the son of parents from Alabama and Florida, who came to the Territory during the years of removal. Having been born and having lived among Seminoles as well as Creeks Bruner spoke the language of both the native people as well as English.

 His parents at one time were said to have been enslaved, although that can be disputed to a great degree as well. However, the status given to him on the Dawes Card is interesting. This man, a leader in the tribe, a free man, never enslaved, was still put recorded as a "Freedman". So his placement as a "freedman" is seemingly incorrect, because he was not "freed" from bondage, having not been enslaved. His name was recorded on Seminole Freedman card, #740, Field #133.On his card in fact in the column reflecting the name of the slave holder, it is clearly written that he was a free man.

Seminole Freedman #740 Field Card #133
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 parents were said to have been William Bruner and Affie Bruner. According to the information on the Dawes card, they had once been enslaved by Tom Bruner a Seminole. 

Siblings of Caesar Bruner
Of course many of the interviews are missing and not available for examination. Thankfully from an interview of a nephew of Caesar Bruner a bit more is learned about the family. 
From the 1937 interview with Benjamin F. Bruner, the names of some of the siblings of Caesar were learned. Ben F. Bruner was interviewed as part of the Indian Pioneer project. He spoke about his life, and his own family.

Ben Bruner was part of the Bruner clan and like Caesar, was he too born free. And at the time of the Dawes enrollment, he lived in the same community as Caesar.

In the interview with the Pioneer project, he spoke of his own father John, and when they came to Indian Territory. His interview also reflects a more intimate relationship between Seminoles enslaved and free, and of the contact between those who were enslaved and those who were identified as full Seminoles. In addition, the relationship between Seminoles and Creeks is also noted in this excerpt from his interview. And in that interview he mentions his father John's siblings by name.

From this excerpt we learn that Ben's father John, and had siblings who were PerryCaesar and Will. Clearly Caesar is among them. It also has to be pointed out that the brother "Perry" he mentions is actually Paro Bruner, often called Perry even some by Bruner descendants today.

But note---Paro Bruner was actually enrolled as a Creek and he was the very first Creek Freedmen to enroll on Census Card #1. Also he is another Freedman leader for whom a rare photo image actually exists as well. When examining the card for Paro Bruner---it is clear that he and Caesar Bruner were siblings--same father and the same mother. His parents were William Bruner and Affie Bruner--the same two people who were the parents of Caesar Bruner.

(Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society)

Enrollment Card for Paro Bruner front and back
Creek Freedman Card #1
(Source: Same as for  census card images above)

The interview with Ben Bruner also left another significant clue about Caesar Bruner. He mentioned that Caesar along with Perry and Will left Indian Territory,and went north (meaning into Kansas) during the Civil War. I checked to see if Caesar served in the military in the Union Army. What a surprise that to see that he did not serve in the military as a soldier, but worked for the military as an official interpreter.

National Archives and Records Administration. U.S., Civil War Pension Index:
General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934
 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000.

General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934
. Washington, D.C.:
National Archives and Records Administration. T288, 546 rolls.

He filed for a pension later in life, but was not awarded the pension, however, the record shows that he applied for his service having been an interpreter. After his death his wife Nancy also applied, but she too was later denied a widow's pension. And a second card reflects the brother William, who was a soldier. He enlisted in the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry. That unit was later re-designated as the 79th US Colored Infantry. In his own case, he applied for a pension and received it.

(Source: Same as above image)

Application Jacket

Usually the Dawes Commission records contain an application jacket that corresponds with the enrollment card. However, similar to that of the Creeks many of the Seminole files are empty. The jackets exist, but they are clearly marked empty and unfortunately in the case of this band leader, his file was also empty. Although he was interviewed many times when other Freedmen members of his band applied, his file was an empty one years later.

National Archives Publication M1301

Applications for Enrollment
(Also accessed from, Native American Collection, Choctaw Freedmen)

It is difficult to imagine how the words of a tribal leader would be lost, but some of his words were preserved in the interview when he appeared to select his land allotment. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 

1884-1934[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2014.
Original data: Department of the Interior. Office of Indian Affairs. Five Civilized Tribes Agency. 

Applications for Allotment, compiled 1899–1907. Textual records. Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75. 
The National Archives at Fort Worth, Texas.

(Source: same a above)

And sure enough each member of his immediate family was able to select their small 40 acre parcels of land, each. On this particular document one can see Caesar's name along with wife Nancy, and granddaughter Effie on this land record. Although they received only 40 acres each, it should also be pointed out that Bruner had other adult children as well. However, it does appear that in some other cases from other bands that Seminoles identified as "by blood" their acreage was larger. How extensive that pattern was is not known. But the large Bruner clan did occupy much land after the process ended.
(Source: Same as above)
It is well known that the large extended family of Bruners settled in the lands around Turkey Creek. An older settlement area known as Brunertown was the area where this large clan of Seminoles lived for many years and then after the allotment process ended they lived around Turkey Creek. He died in 1923 and is buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery in Seminole County Oklahoma. His descendants live around the country.

(Courtesy of Charles Gibson)

The legacy of Caesar Bruner is an interesting one, going back to his own family in the Seminole Nation, in Florida, and also part of Alabama. By following the footprints that he left in the records, his journey was massive. His parents and siblings all survived the Seminole wars, and began a new life with family in Indian Territory. He was a leader to his community and was a major patriarch to his family and clan.

As one who spoke the Muscogee language of the area, and served the Union army as an interpreter, and was able to move comfortably among both Seminole and Creek communities. His brother Paro Bruner was a leader among Creek Freedmen while Caesar himself became band chief of the Bruner band. His life spanned a good portion of the 19th century during a period of disenfranchisement and hardship, and extended into the early years of the 20th century. He lived to see the world change, to make a difference, and because of him an amazing legacy remains. 

This is the 39th 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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Minnie Grayson Allen, Creek Freedman

As challenging as it is to research families from the Creek Nation, it is still worthwhile to explore the records and families presented as part of the Dawes records. One of the many lessons when studying records from Indian Territory is how many people from one nation lived in another part of the Territory, and with Creek Freedmen such was also the case.

With Creeks one will always see a reference to "tribal towns" which in many cases did not reflect where they lived. One "belonged" to a town while living in another nation's jurisdiction geographically. The case of Minnie Allen is a such a case. In this case Minnie Allen was a Creek belonging to North Fork Town, but resided in Stonewall, in another nation entirely.

Minnie Grayson Allen resided in the heart of the Chickasaw Nation. She was only 21 years of age, and was a member of North Fork Town. Her name had previously been mentioned on the Dunn Roll, the 1890 Roll and the 1895 Roll. At that time on the much earlier Dunn Roll her name was listed as Minnie Grayson.

Creek Freedman Card #1461, Field Card #1617
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 Daniel Grayson, and her mother's name was Sallie Grayson. Her father Daniel was also a member of North Fork Town. He had at one time been enslaved by Robert Grayson. Her mother Sallie, though deceased at the time, was said to have been Chickasaw Freedman.

(Same as above)

Minnie and Siblings
Because of the Chickasaw Status of the mother, I decided to look for a possible tie to Chickasaw Freedmen. In addition, the fact that Minnie resided in Stonewall, I felt a need to look. Surprisingly, Minnie's family was located on a "cancelled" Chickasaw Freedmen card.

Sure enough, right there in Stonewall was a card reflecting Minnie and all of her siblings on the card. They were all siblings on the card--Mary, Minnie, Curtis, Hattie, Pearl, and Mary's six month old child Wallace Frazier. All were on Chickasaw Freedman Field Card, #67
Chickasaw Freedman Card #67

Upon close examination, it is clear why this card was cancelled, as all of the people whose names are inscribed on the front of the card were actually transferred to Creek Cards.  Notes on the bottom of the card as well as written on the right side of the card, in red, highlight the final outcome and the specific cards in the Creek Nation where they were later enrolled.
(Close Up of notes on front of card

On the back side of the card, it is clear that the are all children of Daniel and Sallie Grayson. Also on this card it is revealed that Sallie Grayson had also been enslaved at one time by Winchester Colbert.

(Same as above)

One small note on the bottom of the front side was also revealing, for it noted that there was a testimony made by Daniel Grayson. That suggested that Daniel Grayson the father was still living as I  had suspected. I then took a look again at the Creek cards, and sure enough, the children listed with Minnie on the cancelled Chickasaw card, Hattie, Curtis and Pearl, were found on a Creek Freedman card, listed with their father Daniel, on Creek Freedman Card #873, Field Card #893.

Another generation found
On the back side of Daniel Grayson's card, were the names of his parents. March Grayson, and Rachel Grayon, of North Fork Town. It was noted that Rachel's name had appeared on the Dunn Roll. Again, noting that Rachel was not said to have been deceased, I examined the Creek Freedmen cards again, and to my surprise, I saw an elderly woman of 75 years living. I cannot determine whether or not she is the right Rachel. (That particular Rachel was living in the Brush Hill community which is near Checotah. And she was enrolled on Creek Freedman card, #831, Field #851. Listed with her were grandchildren and a great granddaughter.

Rachel was a member of North Fork Town. Her slave holder was at one time, Jno (John) Hogeneat(?). The mother of the children was Lizzie Grayson from North Fork Town, and Lizzie had once been enslaved by Robert Grayson, the same person who had enslaved others in this particular Grayson line.

Creek Freedman Card #831, Field #851
Source: Same as above

Both of Rachel's parents were long deceased, her father Jerry having died before the Civil War. Her mother Angeline, died in Mississippi. 

Source: Same as above

From Land Allotment Jacket

From the Land Allotment jacket the "voice" of Minnie Allen can be found. She had lived for many years in the Chickasaw Nation, but her application was that of an applicant to the Creek Nation. It was noted that her mother Sallie was a Chickasaw citizen, but clearly her father was a Creek, and had belonged to North Fork. She was not certain of her father's status as a Creek, but upon examination her father's name as well as her own name was found upon the members of North Fork Town. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes,
[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2014.

She was asked about her knowledge of the Curtis Act and what tribe specifically was she electing to enroll and receive land allotment. She clearly stated that she was electing to be enrolled as one from the Creek Nation.
(Same as above)

Other documents appear in the file, including papers reflecting their clarification of the status of her mother Sallie Grayson who was deceased, and of the Chickasaw Nation.

(Same as  above)

However, other items in the file reflect that Minnie and the others did get to select their allotments. From a simple file reflecting a young woman, the history of a family going back multiple generations was found. Hopefully some remnants of their legacy remain upon the soil of the Creek Nation where their history is strongly rooted.

(Source of the two documents: Same as above)

This is the 38th 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.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Stevenson Families of the Chickasaw Nation

One of the more complex and fascinating sets of  family lines comes from the Stevensons who were Freedmen of the Chickasaw Nation. The challenge in researching these families stems from the fact that several families all had a wife or mother called Elsie Stevenson. These families were large, several of them lived in Pickens County, and some in the same town as well.

Years ago, when exploring the records of Chickasaw Freedmen, I first noticed that there were what appeared to be several dozen people in Pickens County whose mother was called Elsie. At first examination I assumed that all of these families came from the same Elsie. However, now with quicker access via digitization, I have had a chance once again to study the Stevensons and the various Elsie Stevensons and have finally been able to sort them out.

Among the Stevenson men were some leaders such as Mack Stevenson, of Woodard, in Pickens County who was known to be one of the "leading men" among Chickasaw Freedmen. He was, in fact a leader of the Chickasaw Freedmen's Association, along with Charles Cohee, Isaac Kemp, and George Hall.1

The other Stevenson families, were also large in number and produced families of influence among Freedmen in Chickasaw country, including the Homedy family, Kemps and other lines. These Stevenson families are outlined here.

To sort them out, I have given them a family number as a method of distinguishing one family of Stevensons from another.

(Family #1) Family of Mack and Elsie Stevenson, Woodard, I.T.  

In September 1898, Mack Stevenson appeared in front of the Dawes Commission. He appeared to enroll his wife and several of his children. His wife was Minerva, but Minerva was not the mother of the children on the card. Their mother was identified as Elsie Stevenson, on the back side of Chickasaw Freedman Card #192 and by this time, Elsie the mother of the children, was deceased.

The names on the card were Mack, and his wife Minerva, and all of his children by Elsie--Hardy, Robert, Rena, Etta, Ella, Allen, and Ella's son, Lennie Murry.

It should be pointed out that several lines are drawn through the names, as some of them had died before the enrollment process completed. Those who died before enrollment was completed were Rena, Etta, and Ella.

Mack Stevenson had once been enslaved by Joseph Colbert, and likewise Elsie (whose name appears on the back of the card) was also enslaved by the same Chickasaw Colbert, referred to as "Joe" Colbert. His wife Minerva who was living at the time was enslaved by Susan Burks.

Mack's parents were Hardy James, who was enslaved by Robinson James. His mother was Creasy Colbert enslaved by the same Joseph Colbert, mentioned above.

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

There is no indication when Elsie died, but their youngest son, Allen was 19 and she would have been living at the time of his birth in 1881.

There were other adult children who enrolled on their own, such as daughter Rosa who married Tillroy Allen who was not a Chickasaw citizen. To track down the many lines that were identified during the Dawes Enrollment era, I have looked at many cards and have found as many children of this line as I could. So far the children of Mack and Ella Stevenson are:

On Card #192: Children: Hardy Stevenson, Robert Stevenson, Rena Stevenson, Etta Stevenson, Ella Stevenson, Allen Stevenson. (Grandson Lenny Murry was also on the card)

On Card #506 Adge Stevenson, wife Minerva, and children, Etta Stevenson, Docia Stevenson, Norata Stevenson, Emmet Cears Stevenson, and Arrene Stevenson.

On Card #619: Malinda Stevenson married Edmund Homedy, and from this family a large family emerged. The Homedy family lived in Berwyn, and 11 children were part of the Homedy clan. The Homedy children were all grandchildren of Mack and Elsie Stevenson. They were: Solomon, Royal, Simon, Anetta, Thomas, Amanda, Jeanie, Mary, Frank, Clarence and Lawrence. Edmund Homedy had been enslaved by Sam Colbert, and Malinda, was enslaved by the same man who enslaved her parents--Joe Colbert.

On Card #635: Lula Stevenson Hall Lula was a daughter of Mack and Ella, who was enrolled with her son Jamison Hall, and daughters Rose Arvilla and Henrietta.

For reference, the additional cards reflecting the children of the Elsie & Mack Stevenson lines are presented here.

Card #506 Adge Stevenson

Card #619 Malinda (Stevenson) Homedy

Card #635 Lula Stevenson Hall

Card #637 Rosa Stevenson Allen

Application Interview Adge Stevenson:

National Archives Publication M1301

Applications for Enrollment
(Also accessed from, Native American Collection, Choctaw Freedmen)

Application Interview Edmund Homedy
(same as above image)

Application Interview Lula Stevenson Hall

Same as above image

******  ******  ******

Family #2 - Family of Elsie (Bynum) Stevenson  

Living also in the same community of Woodford, was another Elsie Stevenson. She was 67 years of age and she was enrolled on her own card, alone. She had once been enslaved by Chickasaw Tennessee Bynum.

Chickasaw Freedman Card # 586
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

Her parents were Daniel and Kersander (Cassandra?) Bynum. Both of her parents had also been enslaved by Tennessee Bynam. Both parents were, at that time, deceased.

Source: Same as above

Application for Enrollment
From the application jacket one can see that Elsie Stevenson, like many others was the victim of the Dawes Commission failure to capture the interviews verbatim of many Chickasaw Freedmen. Her application appears to consist of the typical "summary" that is found with many files of Freedman applicants who appeared in front of the commission.

In her "interview" she mentions that her husband is deceased and the time was September 1898. She also points out that she has children, but only mentions daughter Lily Davis who was the widow of Louis Davis who was a US Citizen and not a Chickasaw citizen. Lily's children were also mentioned in the file. The result was that she was enrolled.

National Archives Publication M1301

Applications for Enrollment
(Also accessed from, Native American Collection, Choctaw Freedmen)

Elsie's Daughter Lila Davis

Lila Elsie's daughter also lived in Woodford, I. T., and she enrolled her own children.  Her husband Louis was a US Citizen from whom she was separated at the time. Daughter Lila's card number is #587 and she appears to enroll her children Willard, and Luke. Lila's father was Manuel Pickens who was deceased. And of course her mother was Elsie Stevenson, and both she and her mother were former slaves of Tennessee Bynum. 

Chickasaw Freedman Card #587
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

Family #3 A younger Elsie

Much of the story of the Stevenson clan is that so many of them lived in the same town. This is noted because living in the same town of Woodford, in Pickens there was younger Elsie Stevenson who had married into the Stevenson family. She was married to Louis Stevenson, and was only 24 years old at the time of enrollment. She and husband Louis are found on Chickasaw Freedman Card #588.

Their children were Garfield Stevenson, Rufus Stevenson, and Isora Bell Stevenson. Her husband Louis was not the son of Mack & Elsie. His father in fact was Dave Stevenson, who was once enslaved by Tennessee Bynum. That name, of course is recognized because Tennessee Bynum was the slave holder of Elsie from Family #2.

This younger Elsie was the daughter of Ben and Martha Wright. Her father Ben was deceased at the time, but mother Martha was still living and was enrolled on card #
Dave, who was the father of Louis Stevenson was still living at the time and he was enrolled on Chickasaw Freedman Card #579. Like Elsie from family #2, he too was once enslaved by Tennessee Bynum.

For Louis and the younger Elsie (family #3) a small abbreviated interview was found in the application jackets. Also in the jacket was a birth record of the younger child Isora Bell who was added the card before the rolls closed.

A More Complicated Story
And to make some of the research of the Stevenson clan more complicated there is another Elsie Stevenson who lived in the Chickasaw Nation who was actually a Choctaw Freedman when she applied, but it was noted that members of her family were all Chickasaw. She was a slave also of the Colberts, and was the age to have been a contemporary of Mack and Elsie (from family #1).  That particular Elsie Stevenson was the daughter of Mobile and Lena Stevenson (often referred to as Lanie Stevenson). This Elsie died before the Dawes process ended. However, one cannot write about the Stevenson without including a major part of the family story coming from Mobile and Lanie (Lena) Stevenson.

Much of their story is well documented already by the descendants on an amazing and data-rich website called Our Shared Family History. From that site, one will learn that this particular line of Stevenson are documented as far back as the 1820s prior to removal. This clan that descends from Mobile and Lanie is one of the more thorougly researched lines and the descendants are to be commended for their work.

This branch of Stevensons is also known for their large family reunions, in addition to their detailed  website, with documents and images.

The Dawes Enrollment cards clearly reflect a large family structure among the Stevensons, but when one examines the cards, one also sees a community of inter-connected families. And while reading and learning more about the saga endured by Chickasaw Freedmen and how hard they fought for the right to remain in the land of their birth, another story of community resilience and fortitude is found.

The role that Mack Stevenson and others played in the struggle for basic human rights to live on their own soil, is well documented. The community story of the Stevensons, and other large clans such as Kemps, Cochrans, Colberts, Wrights and othersothers, is a story that cannot be overlooked any more.

This effort to simply sort out the Stevenson clan and to differentiate the several Elsie Stevensons from each other is a small attempt to put these families back on the historical landscape where their roots are firmly planted.

There are numerous families such as the various Stevenson families that come from Indian Territory. Some are celebrated among the various families and others have histories long buried with time. Hopefully other families will begin to explore how families and communities thrived during years of challenge, and find strength from the rich stories to be found.

May they never be forgotten and may their legacy continue.

 This is the 37th 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.

1 Littlefield, Daniel F., The Chickasaw Freedmen, A People Without a Country, Westport Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1980, p. 166