Sunday, February 26, 2017

Family of John Kemp, Oldest Chickasaw Freedman

On September 1898, John Kemp of Wynnewood, Indian Territory appeared in front of the Dawes Commission to enroll himself and several members of his family. His goal was to enroll his wife, Meline and their children Gabriel and Louis P.  An interesting note appears on the bottom of his card about a "petition to transfer". This may suggest that he was on the list known to some as Bettie's List--a list of hundreds of Chickasaw Freedmen requesting to be transferred to the Blood Roll, having had at least one parent or grandparent, to have been of Chickasaw blood.

On the reverse side of the card, the names of the parents are found. John's father was a man known simply as "Louis", and his mother was a woman referred to only as "Jennie". (See images below.)

National Archives Publication M1186
Chickasaw Freedman Card No. 274
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

Source: Same as for above image

His file deserves attention because he was 98 years old at the time, and John Kemp was the oldest Chickasaw Freedman to be enrolled. He was a man who by his age would have been among Chickasaws in Mississippi, long before their removal and arrival in the west. His was a life that was able to endure the horrors and cruelties of slavery, as one of the many people enslaved by Jackson Kemp.

For one to have been so old, I became curious to learn more about the man, his life and his family. As a slave was his life a difficult one, and could more be learned?

Would his Dawes interview reveal much detail, or as a Chickasaw Freedmen who were mistreated and neglected by their own nation during the Dawes process, would he have one of the notorious "summaries" in his interview?

I pulled up his Dawes application packet, and was surprised to see more than a 2-3 sentence summary. What the file contained was again a summary, but several summaries about his children--all of them. Included among the names of his children are the names of his daughters who were then married, with different surnames. This amazing list of his children is even further enhanced, as he goes on to then name his sons and daughters their spouse, as well as the names of their children. This is one of the few Chickasaw files that goes into that much detail on a Freedman family.

Because of the extensive detail on the record, the children and their families deserve to be cited here.

Children of John Kemp:
  Malinda Kemp Sears
  Emily Kemp Allen
  Lottie Kemp
  Larena Kemp
  Jennie Kemp Blue
  Ebenezer Kemp
  Smith Kemp
  Gabriel Kemp
  Louis Park Kemp

  Additional children:
   John Kemp
   George Reynolds
   Adline Kemp Collins (name added from additional source below)
In addition to the names of John Kemp's children are the names of the grandchildren, providing even more data for the Kemp family researcher. Combined with the enrollment cards, the case of John Kemp contains 4 generations of data.

National Archives Microfilm Publication M1301
Chickasaw Freedman File No 274
Images accessed through

(same as for above image)

(same as for above image)

I could not help but wonder why so much information was asked of John Kemp, when countless others had the well known "abbreviated" files. The age of the man is a marvel in itself, and perhaps because he was an elder among the freedmen, that he may have been interviewed so extensively. Thankfully this is one of the more unique files that document multiple generations of a large clan of Kemps from Chickasaw country.

It should be noted that the Kemps were a large clan among Chickasaw Freedmen families and there are others, who are possibly related to John Kemp that deserve equally as extensive research to determine if there are even more connections to the Kemp clan. The families of Henry Kemp and Isaac Kemp for example are worth studying to see if there were connections to the John Kemp family clan.

(This family clan is quite extensive and most likely interacted socially and possibly married into to two other large family clans from the Chickasaw Freedmen community--the Stevensons, and the Cochrans. Those families were from the Ada and Stonewall communities, but chances are strong that many did have contact with each other.)

Could more be learned about John Kemp?

What additional resources might there be to learn more about the man himself? The answer would come from the Indian Pioneer Papers, which are part of the Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma.

I know that since he was the oldest Chickasaw Freedmen on the Dawes Roll, and I know he would not have lived till the 1930s to be interviewed by the Indian Pioneer Project--but what a wonderful surprise to see that one of his sons was interviewed. Ebenezer Kemp was interviewed by the Indian Pionner project---an undertaking in the 1930s to interview citizens who had ties to Oklahoma before statehood.

The interview of John's son Ebenezer is quite fascinating and reflects some of the life of John Kemp and his family in the years after the Civil War.

University of Oklahoma, Western History Collection, Indian Pioneer Papers
Item accessed from:

(Source: Same as previous image)

(Source: Same as previous image)

(Source: Same as previous image)

More on John Kemp was found when I read another interview from the Pioneer papers from the Western History Collection. Another daughter of John Kemp was Adeline Collins who was interviewed in July 1937. Her father was also John Kemp.

The piece is heartbreaking to read, for she described a whipping given to her father John under the orders of Jackson Kemp the slave holder. It answers the question about John's life while enslaved and reading about the whipping that the other slaves were forced to watch, describes the horrors of Black chattel slavery as practiced in Chickasaw country.

(Source: Same as previous image)

(Source: Same as previous image)

(Source: Same as previous image)

(Source: Same as previous image)

Both Adeline Collins and Ebenezer Kemp spoke of life after slavery when the father worked for a Mr. Garner (or Galner). A study of the 1860 slave schedule reflected the name of a Mr. Galner for whom John may have worked after freedom from bondage.

I was also curious to see what kind of community that John lived in while enslaved. Was he living among a large community of enslaved families, or was he part of a single household of slaves. I was surprised to see the size of the community of people enslaved by Jackson Kemp. He held over 60 men, women and children in bondage, as his human chattel.

Note: Slave Schedule of Indian Territory found at end of Arkansas Slave Schedule
National Archives Publication M653 Roll 54 Image No 776 Chickasaw Nation.
Accessed from Internet Archive: HERE

It should be pointed out that among the many enslaved people reflected as being held by Jackson Kemp, about 20 of them were listed as "fugitives". In other words they were seeking freedom and had runaway from the estate of Jackson Kemp. They were people of all ages, which suggests that some fled with their children. Could John have been among them? One of the oldest slaves held by Kemp was a 60 year old woman. Was John among others who fled? Was this older woman related to him? 

Close up of previous image.

The life of John Kemp, is the story of a man who survived removal to the west with Chickasaws, a slave whipping as a younger man, made it freedom, and later lived through the years of  westward expansion and the continuing trials endured by Chickasaw Freedmen.

In spite of hardship as a man enslaved, his story is a remarkable story of resilience and a desire to survive. John Kemp was able to live to not only experience freedom for himself, but also to see his children and grandchildren enjoy life in freedom. In the post war years the Kemp family clan lived near Blue Creek, then Cherokee Town, and with time, there was final settlement in and around Tishomingo and later Wynnewood.
*****  *****  *****
(This is the 7th article in a series devoted to sharing families held as slaves in Indian Territory (now known as Oklahoma). The focus is on Freedmen from the Five Civilized Tribes and are part of the efforts in 2017 to document 52 families om 52 weeks.)

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Family of Alexander and Mary Nivens,Cherokee Freedmen - Celebrating Freedmen Families

In April of 1901 Alexander Nivens appeared in front of the Dawes Commission, for the purpose of enrolling himself, wife Mary and their six children as Cherokee Freedmen. His children were Samuel, Charles, John, Wheeler, June and Amelia. Alexander was 60 years of age at the time, and his wife Mary was 48. The four youngest children were all under 18 years. Both Alexander and Mary were both born before slavery was abolished in the Cherokee Nation. Alexander had been enslaved by Cherokee John Nivens, and Mary had been enslaved by Cherokee John Adair.

National Archives Publication M1186 Cherokee Freedman Card #31 Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Dawes Census Cards for Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

Reverse side of Card
(Source: Same as Above)

Both Alexander and Mary had been previously enumerated on the 1880 Roll of Authenticated Cherokees, and also on the 1896 Cherokee Census Roll.
1896 Cherokee Roll Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959 [
database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Selected Tribal Records
The National Archives at Fort Worth, Fort Worth, Texas.

In addition to Alex and the six children on the card above, two additional children Alex and Mary, who were then grown and with their own families also appeared in front of the Dawes Commission, each with their own families.

Richard Nivens, appeared for himself and his wife Annie and their children, and another son, Callis appeared for himself and his wife Emma and their children. Richard and Callis were both sons of Alexander and Mary Nivens. Annie, the wife of Richard was the daughter of Anderson and Sarah Bean. Callis's wife Emma was the daughter of Jimmie and Patsy Dennis. Emma's mother Patsy was the slave of George Sanders. (Her father Jimmie was not a Cherokee citizen.)

National Archives Publication M1186 Cherokee Freedman Card 35

(Reverse side of Callis's card)

National Archives Publication M1186  Cherokee Freedman Card #34

Reverse side of Richard Nivens Card


The questioning of Alexander was the standard with questions about himself, place of birth, wife and the names of his children. There was some interest about the status of his wife's parents and if they had been slaves or not. Alexander answered all questions easily and pointed out when asked, that he did know that Mary's parents were slaves, and that he even remembered that her mother Judy was a slave. Mary's family had been taken south during the Civil War, but returned to the Ft. Gibson area when freed.

National Archives Publication M1301 Cherokee Freedman Packet #31
(Source: Same as above)

(2nd page of interview in Niven Packet)

Random memorandum found in same packet.

Mary, wife of Alexander, was interviewed in the 1930s for the Indian Pioneer interview project. Her interview provide a small glimpse into life during those first years of freedom. She also spoke about the time when a cholera epidemic had affected the community, and she had lost so many family members. Because there was so much loss of life she even wished that she would succumb to the same disease affecting the area. Her final days were spent with her grown son Samuel. The land allotment that the family once had, was no longer in the their possession, and she simply described the loss of land sadly as simply being "all gone, now."

Original data: Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian and Pioneer Historical Collection Foreman, Grant, ed. 
Indian Pioneer History Collection. IPH 1–40, microfilm, 
40 rolls. Indian Archives Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

(Source: same as above page)

The Nivens lived in the Hulbert Okalhoma community for many years. A quick look at the 1920 census records reflected the Nivens living in the same community of Neros, Pettits, and Fords, all well known Cherokee Freedmen families. These would have been the times when they were living on their land allotments that were later lost or sold away from the family.

1920 Federal Census, Hulbert, Oklahoma

There are a few land records that reflect the family's receipt of land allotments. 

( Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 
1884-1934 [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2014.
Images 394 and 395 of 431)

The Nivens remained in Oklahoma in the 1930s, but by 1940 Callis and family had relocated to Labette County Kansas, and had settled in the town of Parsons. The family may have moved on to other places now that many decades have passed, but theirs is a strong legacy coming out of the Cherokee Nation. They survived enslavement, witnessed the post Civil War years of resettlement and adjustment, and worked the land of their birth for several decades. As westward expansion opened up in the Territory, they claimed their land and worked their land for some time before moving away. Having moved to places beyond Oklahoma, it is hoped that the Nivens legacy is is still a strong legacy of family and resilience and sustenance.

(This is the 6th article in a series devoted to sharing families once enslaved in Indian Territory. The focus is on Freedmen from the Five Civilized Tribes and are part of the effort in 2017 to document 52 families in 52 weeks.)

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Family of Piner and Rachel Clayton, Choctaw Freedmen (Celebrating Freedmen Families)

Coming from the Skullyville area of the Choctaw Nation, the Piner Clayton appeared in front of the Dawes Commission to enroll himself and his family as Choctaw Freedmen, on June 14th  of 1899. I took an interest in this family because they lived in the Skullyville area, near Oak Lodge, which is the same community of my own ancestors, who lived nearby. Being so close in the same Oak Lodge area, of Skullyville, I cannot help but wonder if they knew each other. That community is now known as Spiro, Oklahoma. The family was later approved for enrollment in 1903 except the youngest child whose enrollment came much later.

National Archives Publication M1186 Choctaw Freedman Card #749
National Archives at Ft. Woth, Ft. Worth Texas USA; Enroloment Cards for the Five
Civiliaed tribes 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747; Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affair; Records Group 75

On an earlier roll created in 1896 the card reflects that the Claytons were enrolled as being from Skullyville. However upon closer examination of the card, a faint pencil line was drawn through the word Skullyville and the community of Jack's Fork was written faintly above it.

Close up of card from above.

Piner was enrolling his children only, for his wife was not a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. The children were Willie, James, Diamond, Ana and Argutha. Piner was 49 years old at that time, and he and his family had been once enslaved by Thomas Ainsworth before the Civil War.

Piner Clayton's parents were Sylvester Clayton, and Minnie Clayton. Nothing is known about Sylvester Clayton except that he was deceased at the time of the Dawes enrollment. Piner's mother Millie was also deceased by that time,, but it is known that she was also enslaved by Tom Ainsworth.

Reverse side of Enrollment Card

Source: Same as top image above.

The interview for the Clayton file was not an extensive one. Most of the focus in the file appeared to be for the youngest child, Argutha. Argutha's case was added because he was born after the father Piner had initially appeared in front of the Dawes Commission.

National Archives Publication M1301 Application Jacket
Application Jackets Choctaw Freedman #749
Image Obtained from

Included also in the file was a birth affidavit for the youngest child Argutha. (Note that by 1910, the child was referred to in the federal census as "Augustus.")

(Source: Same as previous image)
In an effort to learn more about the family the Federal census of 1900 and 1910 were examined. In 1900 the family was enumerated in Mountain township, in the Choctaw Nation. However, by the time of the 1910 census the family had relocated to Braden. (Braden was and is still called "Braden Bottoms" by those living in what is now LeFlore County, Oklahoma.)

1900 Census Reflecting Clayton Family

1910 Census Reflecting Claytons in Braden Township

The move to the Braden Bottoms could have possibly been due to the Claytons being approved for land allotment and for having selected their land by 1910. The applications for allotment were examined and an extensive files for the Clayton family appeared for Piner and the children. Because Argutha's roll number was out of sequence on the enrollment card (see above) his land allotment application was conducted later, but he too received land as did each of the members of the Clayton household.

Sample of land record of Piner Clayton. Each member of the family excluding Rachel the mother,  
received their own land, and each had a file with the land descriptions and plat map.

The Clayton Family lived for several decades in the eastern Oklahoma community in LeFlore County. Some eventually moved to Oklahoma. This strong family has deep Oklahoma roots that continue to thrive both on Oklahoma soil and places beyond.


(This is the 5th article in a series devoted to sharing families once enslaved in Indian Territory. The focus is on Freedmen from the Five Civilized Tribes and are part of the effort in 2017 to document 52 families in 52 weeks.)