Friday, September 27, 2013

Plantation Excavation in the Choctaw Nation

Three years ago, I wrote an article about the Robert Jones plantation archaeological project. I have been talking about the project in recent weeks and what a surprise to see that there was an update yesterday of the excavation project on the Jones Plantation.

This is the largest slave plantation west of Arkansas and it is historically significant, although not widely known, and under studied and researched.

The home was the site of Robert Jones, a wealthy Choctaw Indian who owned more than 500 slaves before the Civil War.

Robert Jones and wife, Susan Colbert Jones

After the war,the home fell into disrepair and was burned in 1915. Now 98 years later an effort is being made to learn more about the estate, and the people who lived there.

The project I hope will begin to tell stories of the enslaved as well as the slave holders and reveal aspects about their lives that shall reflect more of the history lost to time, erosion and human memory.

As artifacts are pulled from the soil, I also hope that the project will expand, as there are so many questions to ask.

* Have remains of the slave cabins been found as yet? Robert Jones had at least 15 on his largest farm, and finding those will reveal a lot yet undiscovered about the lives of Choctaw slaves.

A small notation on the 1860 Slave schedule indicates that 
Choctaw slaveholder Robert Jones had 15 slave cabins on his property.
Source: 1860 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules [database on-line]. 
Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010.

* Were slaves buried in any known place? 

* And what can be gleaned about their lives so far from the excavation?

The hard work continues, and I hope that there will be collaboration from many in the Oklahoma community. The Oklahoma Archaeology Society invites and welcomes assistance from the community on their excavation projects. This work is so important, and may someday lead to more facts about the lives of the much under studied enslaved Black men, women and children, of the Choctaw Nation.
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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Negro Convention in the Creek Nation

Partial Image of Leading article from Muskogee Cimeter
September 27, 1907  p. 1

In September of 1907 Black Men who were known in the Creek Nation as leaders convened in Muskogee for a major meeting. The gathering was reported in the press simply as "the Negro Convention". The September 27 issue of The Muskogee Cimeter a Black newspaper in Muskogee provided a good listing of who the representatives were from various communities in the Creek Nation. Since the article described the convention as the "Negro" Convention, the list of dignitaries in attendance, provides the reader a virtual who's who among African Creeks.

The group was a temporary one at the time of the meeting, but permanent committees were developed at that meeting. An impressive list of names of various persons in attendance and appointed to new rols appeared in the article. This list is significant, as it provides an interesting glimpse in to pre-Oklahoma statehood society and culture among the "estelusti" of the Muscogee Creeks.

In addition, very little can be found in many current texts about this Muskogee convention in 1907
Since legibility is not sharp from the article, the names are transcribed below. (Note that on the Finance committee, the communities where the various member lived was included.)

Committee on Resolutions:
 Capt. A.V. Jones
 George Robinson
 P.A. Lewis
 J.A. Roper

Committee on Delegates
E.D. Nickens
P.A. Lewis
Steve Grayson
P.B. Hudson
L.A. Bell

Committee Finance:
Jake Simmons, Haskell
H.D. Reed, Lee
William James, Chase
J.H. Stevens, Beggs
S. L. James, Sapulpa
L.E. Willis, Tullahassee
E. L. McShann, Tullahassee
George Wade, Wybark
Dr. Evans, Ft. Gibson
Dr. Smith, Clarksville
P.B. Hudson, Gatesville
Alex Perryman, Gatesville
J.H. Reeves, Rentie
J.E. Thompson, Clearview
Mose Grayson, Henryetta
Frank Haygood, Sharp
R.J. Chatman, Bald Hill
Rev. N. A. Robinson, Rentiesville
F. P Brinson, Rentiesville
J.H. Lewis, Porter
E. L. Barber, Red Bird
John Simmons, Coweta
L.A. House, Coweta
O.W. Gurley, Tulsa
W. Watson, Grayson
J. F. Davis, Rex
J. Fonville, Rex
O. W. Bradley, Boley
Henry Taylor, Boley
F.M. Haynes, Boley
M. C. Perry, Checotah
Lone Landrum, Checotah
J. N. Jackson, Eufaula
G. P. Phillips, Eufaula
Wm. Vann, Newby
Frank Knolls, Bristow
Noah Alberty, Lonetia or Wagoner
A.R. Penn, Loetia or Wagoner
J. A. Roper, Okmulgee
Steve Grayson, Okmulgee
Felix Driver, Taft
W. B. Riley, Taft
John D. Phelps, Wagoner
W.D. Huggins, Wagoner
P.A. Lewis, Inola
L.E. Nero, Broken Arrow
Morris J. Sango, Muskogee
J. H. Smith, Muskogee
J.T. Trimble, Muskogee
L. W. Sango, Muskogee
L.W. Fue, Muskogee

Additional committees were formed and a vast array of speeches were made. The convention was also well attended by a large number of other members of the Creek Nation

"The entire Creek Nation was represented, and visitors from other nations present."

Excerpt from article from Muskogee Cimeter
September 27, 1907  p. 1

Not much is known what kind of impact that this convention had, and it has most likely faded from the historic memory of many who now reside in Oklahoma, as well as of those who have this fascinating history and heritage. Descendants of the Creek Freedmen, may also want to take note and quite possibly many of their ancestors were among those persons present at the big Negro Convention-a gatehring of African Creeks.

It is clear that the activities of persons living in Muscogee Creek country were vast, and this article is being shared so that more of that history can be uncovered, studied and appreciated.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Series: The First Freedmen Enrollees: Choctaw Freedman Card #1 Simon Clark

Choctaw Freedman Card #1
NARA Publication M1186  Record Group 75 Roll 49

As pointed out in the first post in this series, the first enrollees in each category were often persons of influence. We saw in the enrollment case of John H. Ross, from the Cherokee Nation, that a former slave of Chief John Ross was the very first case heard by the Dawes Commission among Cherokee Freedmen.

With Choctaw Freedmen, the process began in the Ada/Stonewall community for Choctaw Freedmen. However, it is fascinating to note that the persons enrolled on this card did not have the lowest roll numbers. Simon Clark applied on behalf of his family, but one will notice that the final numbers assigned to them were a much higher number, than the 1 through 5 respectively. That is because his case was contested for a while before a final decision was made on the enrollment of his family.
Notation made on Enrollment Card #1

Nevertheless, Simon Clark was a man of influence in the mostly Chickasaw town of Ada where he lived. Though his Dawes Application was that of a Choctaw Freedman, he lived in Chickasaw country in the years after the Civil War.  His influence and status in the community came from the fact that he was also a Civil War soldier.  He was a known freedom fighter, having achieved that status during the war, in the years before freedom was granted to slaves in both tribes, Clark had seized his own freedom and enlisted in the Union Army.

For Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen enlistment was not a common as it was for Cherokee and Creek Freedmen. That meant having to travel through hostile country before making it to Kansas to enlist. But Simon Clark, along with a cousin Aaron Newberry and others did make it to Kansas, an enlisted.

Enlistment data from Union Soldiers Service Record

Clark had enlisted in the 2nd Kansas Colored in Ft. Scott, Kansas. The unit was later re-designated as the 83rd US Colored Infantry.

Simon Clark's parents were Jacob Clark, and Tena Clark. Before freedom, Simon was enslaved by Jincy Cochran. His mother was also enslaved by Jincy Clark, but his father had been enslaved by John Newbury.

In his enrollment interview, Clark explained that he was originally enslaved by Bob Cochran and upon the slaveholder's death, he became enslaved by Cochran's widow, Jincy Cochran. Although his interview was one of those "summarized" interviews that occurred frequently in Chickasaw County, there is still useful data to be found in the small packet.

Interview found in Simon Clark Application Jacket
Choctaw Card #1
NARA Publication M1301

In the years immediately after the Civil War, Simon Clark moved around Indian Territory, before returning to his how in the Ada/Stonewall community. He lived near Skullyville and Ft. Coffee before returning to the Ada community.

In 1889, Simon Clark applied for and received a military pension for his service in the Union Army. After his death in 1901, his wife also applied for and received a pension.

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

Clark died in April of 1901, verified by his daughter Cornelia Clark.

Death Record found in Simon Clark Application Jacket  Choctaw Card #1
NARA Publication M1301

There is more to be told about Simon Clark and an upcoming trip to the National Archives, will involve examining his Civil War pension file.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Series: The First Freedmen Enrollees - Cherokee Freedmen on the Dawes Rolls

Cherokee Freedmen Card #1
NARA Publication M1186 Record Group 75 Roll 23
Fold 3 Image:

When the process of enrollment for citizens of the Five Civilized Tribes began, persons who were leaders or perceived leaders within various communities were often among the very first enrollees. Although various persons are studying the various Five slave holding tribes individually by tribe, the events that affected their slaves should also be studied.

In the case of the Freedmen, some had once been enslaved by wealthy and prominent leaders of the tribe. As those once enslaved by tribal leaders they maintained some status withing the local community where they lived as well. In many such cases the Dawes enrollment was a simple and smooth process. However, in the case of the Ross family of the Cherokee Freedmen first family, what should have been a simple case, it quickly became complicated, especially to get a female child called Elnora enrolled.

In the case of the first Cherokee Freedmen to enroll, John H. Ross, was on Card #1 and he had a roll number of #1.

The application of the Ross family was first made in May of 1900. John H. Ross the head of the household was the son of Stephen Ross, a former slave of Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross. 

Principal Chief John Ross
Slave holder of the Family of John H. Ross.

John H. Ross' mother's name was Emily Humphrey who was still living at that time. This family of Ross Freedmen, lived in Tahlequah. The mother Emily had been enslaved by John Riley, another citizens of the Cherokee Nation. 

John H. Ross, was also submitting an application on behalf of his son, John Ross Jr. His daughter by a previous marriage was later added to the card.

The Dawes Application packet reveals more information about the family.

Cherokee Freedmen Application Jacket #1
NARA Publication M1301 Record Group 75 Roll 285
Fold 3 Image:

Second page of John Ross Interview

Note that a year later in 1901, Emily Humphries, the mother of John H. Ross appeared in front of the Dawes Commission to enroll her granddaughter Elnora. Elnora was also a daughter of John H. Ross. The child Elnora's mother had died several years before and was living with the grandmother. However, since she was a daughter to John H. Ross Elnora was added to his Enrollment Card, and entered as Cherokee Freedman Roll #3.

The case became a bit more complicated when in 1902, John H. Ross appeared to enroll an Elnora Ross. There was much curiosity as to whether Elnora was a child of Peggie or Dora (who had died earlier) or whether they were the same. Several questions were addressed to John about the child (or children) Elnora.  It was later revealed that there were indeed two children called Elnora. 

However, several years later, in 1906 Emily Humphries the grandmother was still living and was still working to get her granddaughter Elnora enrolled. Her son John H. Ross had died and Emily was the caretaker of the child Elnora. The file also contained a death record for son John H. Ross. This is a pre-statehood record of John H. Ross's death.

 Pre-statehood death record for John H. Ross, Cherokee Freedman #1

Cherokee Freedmen Application Jacket #1
NARA Publication M1301 Record Group 75 Roll 26
Fold 3 Image:

Eventually the issue pertaining to the child Elnora was resolved and she was added as Cherokee Freedman #3 on her father's card.

The case of the Ross family being enrolled first, most likely stemmed from the fact that John H. Ross was a son of one of the most prominent families in the Cherokee Nation. Whatever status that the Ross family had--the case was not an open and shut enrollment case. The status of the child Elnora made the case complicated.

After Elnora's enrollment case was resolved, the issue of land was later complicated by the fact that lands allotted for John Ross Jr. and sister Elnora were impeded as non-citizens had already begun settling on the land. It is not clear if they were truly "intruders" but land assigned to them were disputed for some time. Guardians were appointed for the two minor children, but the record does not indicate clearly whether the two Ross children ever received their allotments. Many cases of guardians were reported in the years after statehood, where Freedmen and Indians by blood lost land to guardians, and land grafters and swindlers. Hopefully the Ross's did get some of the lands allotted to them, but the allotment files did not present a clear resolution of the outcome of their case.

Nevertheless, this glimpse into the legal process as it affected the first Cherokee Freedmen from Card #1 is an interesting one, and the tenacious researcher will want to study to see how many slaves the Ross's had. Chief John Ross's dozens of slaves are reflected in the 1860 Slave Schedule. The researcher will want to learn more about slavery in the Cherokee Nation, and to learn how they thrived.

Much will be learned by also following the life of Emily Humpries, the grandmother who also came with the Cherokees on the Trail on Tears as one of their slaves. Her life story will open more doors for the family in the future. She is enrolled on Freedman Card #235. As one who came from"the old country"   researcher will learn more by studying as much as possible about slaves who also came on the forced migration with their Indian masters. Forced westward against their will for a second time, her is a unique story to tell.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mississippi Choctaws in Indian Territory

The Daily Armoreite July 16, 1903

The primary purpose of the Dawes Application process, was to determine eligibility of citizens of the Five Tribes, to receive land allotments. The applications and interviews reflect the process that citizens went through, in proving that they were eligible for land. Once all lands were allocated the remainder of lands would be available for settlement for those entering Indian Territory and becoming citizens of the soon to be state of Oklahoma.

The formerly enslaved populuation---the Freedmen were part of this process and their applications for enrollment as well as their applications for their land allotments are among the thousands of files to research.  And all of the various categories of Indians in the territory are reflected.  Among them are Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole citizens By Blood, Freedmen, Intermarried Whites, New Borns & Minors. AND--- a seldom mentioned category is that of Mississippi Choctaws.  

Article 14 of the Treay of Dancing Rabbit did provide the opportunity for persons to remain in the state of Mississippi and become citizens of the United States. However, it is not mentioned that many also went through the same Dawes enrollment process, and they did receive land allotments. Many ended not only proving eligibility for Indian Territory lands, but also selected lands around Ardmore, Tishomingo, and Chickasha and Minco areas.  An article in an Ardmore Oklahoma newspaper covered the time when many of the Mississippi Choctaws actually arrived in the Territory to make selections of their lands. Though their presence was said to have been a temporary one and was expected to be so, some of the allotment records indicated that there were cases were lands were selected, and were inhabited later by those deemed eligible.

Dawes Enrollment Card of Baptiste Taylor, M1186 Enrollement Card #10

This Mississippi Choctaw Card reflects an approved applicant and note on card illustrates a presence in the Ardmore area an no return to Mississippi.

There was an original process that applicants went through as well, and many applicants also had cards reflecting where in Mississippi they had lived before selecting lands in Indian Territory. In this case, the same individuals are reflected on this earlier card.

Dawes Enrollment Card of Baptiste Taylor Miss Choctaw Identified

The family however, went through an extensive process, although they had just arrived in the Territory.  They settled around the Tishomingo community, and although the family was identified as a Mississippi Choctaw Family By Blood, they lived within the same community occupied by many Freedmen families from the Territory.

Document from Allotment File of Baptiste Taylor  
The records whether for enrollment, or for land, reflect much about the past. Those who lived near our ancestors are part of that story, and in many communities, relationships, friendships and associations occurred across color and cultural lines. All of the people in the same communities, are a part of the story.

With time, more stories of African & Native ties from the very communities that were so diverse will put all people on their appropriate historical landscape.

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