Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cato Vann and Family, Cherokee Freedmen

Cato Vann, lived a good portion of his life in the Illionois District of the Cherokee Nation, near the small town of Vian Oklahoma.  He was born in the 1850s, and both he and his mother were enslaved by Cherokee Polly Vann,. Cato Vann Happeared in 1901 to enroll his son Roand, and seven daughters, Narcissus, Thursday, Ella, Nannie, Annie, Rebecca, and Estella, as Cherokee Freedmen. The family appeared on Cherokee Freedman Card #319, and the family was also enumerated on the 1896 Roll as a note on the front of the card indicates. 

Cherokee Freedman Card #319
The National Archives at Ft Worth; Ft Worth, Texas, USA; Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747;
Record Group Title: 
Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number: 75



On the back side of the card, it is revealed that his father was Jesse Foreman, and his mother was Mary Vann. His father was enslaved by Cherokee Johnson Foreman and his mother had been enslaved by Polly Vann. Cato's wife was Rachel Vann, and she was a Creek Freedman.

(Reverse side of card)
Source: Same as above

Application Jacket, Cherokee Freedman #319
Ancestry.com. U.S., Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

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Most of the documents in the file were standard documents pertaining to the enrollment of Cato Vann and his children. There was however an ongoing issue regarding the allotment of the lands to Cato Vann and family. Apparently S. H. Mayes and another party, were accused of having worked together to secure some of the land of Cato Vann. The Land Allotment file, consists of more than 200 pages of documents, and it contains more than 30 pages of an interview regarding the transaction between Mayes, and Vann. In one of the interviews it was stated that Vann had given a plat map to Mayes, to hold, but when it was returned the document was not the same one.

Upon first glance, some of the records in the allotment jacket simply reflect the allotment selections of the various members of the Vann household. But about 100 pages into the Land Allotment file an extensive series of interviews and reports reflect a transaction that resulted in several acres of Cato Vann's land being obtained by Mayes.

In addition, it is worthy to note that Cato Vann took up on himself some of the questioning of Mayes and others-acting on his own behalf, interrogating one of the witnesses.

Sample of Cross-Examination made by Cato Vann regarding land.Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1884-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2014.


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The file is worth reading, as the file illustrates how people many in the Territory made arrangements with those whom they knew, and later lost their land. It is not clear without a close study of the land records what the outcome was of the issue, but the interviews that number over 100 pages are worth reading and examining. They show different aspects between freedmen and other Cherokees, and the social contact among people at the turn of the 20th century.

There are many families of Cherokee Freedmen, and this story of Cato Vann, and his mission to secure land for himself and family exemplifies one of a man acting on behalf of his loved ones.
His story is one of hundreds of untold stories to be told that reflect the history and life of the Freedmen of Indian Territory.

This is the 20th article in a 52 article series devoted to sharing histories and stories 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 on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

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