Saturday, June 17, 2017

Family of Mattie & Johnny Crittendon, A Chickasaw & Choctaw Family


This family coming out of the Chickasaw Nation is a fascinating one reflecting how many families in what became southern Oklahoma were inter-connected. Some families clearly extended beyond their tribal affiliation, and some families were bi-racial as well as bi-cultural as well. The Crittendon family history provides a good opportunity to study the inter-connected nature of people living in the territory now known as Oklahoma. Social norms of the day would affect them as much as they affected all Freedman families from the Five Tribes. This family from the Chickasaw Nation, stands out clearly as one. that has a story beyond many assume Freedmen to have from Indian Territory.

Starting with the mother Mattie, one finds that she appeared in front of the Dawes Commission in September 1898 for herself and for a child Julius who was 1 year at the time. The name of a third person Ada was later added to the card. Unfortunately, the child Julius would pass away before any final decision was made, and thus a line is drawn through his name.

There is, however, much more to see from the notes and from the reverse side of the card.

Chickasaw Freedman Card #854

The National Archives at Ft. Worth Texas USA

Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes  1898-1914
NAI Number 251747, Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group Number: 75


(Reverse side of same card above)


Mattie's parents were Henry and Serena Wilkens. Her father Henry was deceased at the time, but her mother Serena was still living and her mother was at one time, enslaved by Chickasaw Ne-Ok-te.

Back on the front of the card, more information was noted, and is highlighetd below. The father to the children Julius and Ada was Johnny Crittenden, who was from the Choctaw Nation. However, it should be noted that there is some seemingly contradictory information on the card. One note says that the father Johnie Crittenden was a Choctaw Freedman. The second note makes a reference to the enrollment card of Johnie, the father, and that he was enrolled on Choctaw card number #1557. (see images that follow) That card is the card of a Choctaw by blood, and not a Freedman card.

Close up view of note from front of card

Looking closely on the back side the Mattie's husband, the father of her children is identified, and in the column where the slave holder of the father is identified, it is clear that the father of the children is identified as being Choctaw Indian, and not one who was enslaved.

Close Up View of data on Reverse side of card.

Johnny Crittendon is Mattie's husband and he is enumerated on his own card, which is Choctaw card number 1557. His father was Jack Crittendon and his mother was Sissy Crittenden. And a notation on the card confirms that Johnny Crittenden is the father of Mattie's children. (see images below)

Choctaw Nation, Choctaw Roll By Blood Card# 1557

The National Archives at Ft. Worth Texas USA

Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes  1898-1914
NAI Number 251747, Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group Number: 75


(same as above)

Looking closely at the upper right hand corner of the file, Johnny's mother is mentioned and she was not deceased. Sissy Crittendon was her name and she resided is Kiamitia, I.T.


I decided to look and see if Sissry Crittendon could be found, and sure enough there she was on the Choctaw Roll by blood living in Kiamitia as reflected on Johnny's card.

Choctaw Nation, Choctaw Roll (by blood) #1561


From the Enrollment Applications:
Oddly, there is very little in the application file of Sissa Crittendon. Her interview is missing and only a letter pertaining to intermarried citizens, and the birth affidavit of Mary Crittendon, where Sissa is mentioned as the midwife attending the birth.

In the file pertaining to Mattie it comes as no surprise that Mattie was victim to the on going policy of ill-treatment by the commission. Her detailed interview is not in the file--merely one of the usual "summaries" consisting of 2-3 sentences about the family. The task was the keep those identified as freedmen "in their place", entitling them to less land and future restrictions as citizens of the nation they knew as home.

Here is the notorious "summary" placed in her file.


Applications for Enrollment
National Archives Publication M1301
File Chickasaw Freedman #854


In addition, a very odd letter pertaining to Johnny's status as a "Freedman" though it is clear that he was a citizen by Blood. Of course it is understood that the African Ancestry in the family line, reflects the "issues" presented  in the letter.

(same as above)

(same as above)

The bottom line of course is that Johnny did eventually get his land and clearly much more than others in his family classified as Chickasaw Freedmen. Hopefully the family was able to live for many years on their joint land and to thrive in the Territory and into the statehood years as a family living on its own land.

Oklahoma and Indian Territory Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes 1884-1934
Database on line, via Ancestry.com Operations Inc 2014

same as above


(same as above)

This family was both Choctaw and Chickasaw. They lived within and under the laws of their respective nations, and their tie to the land, to the nation of their birth is strong. Despite efforts of the nations to deny their presence, the records speak to their history and to their legacy as a family. Hopefully the tie to the land was maintained for many years.

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(This is the 18th article of a 52-article series devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Terriotry, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes and these posts are part of an on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.)

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