Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Family and Legacy of Lucinda Davis, Creek Freedwoman

Photo: Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society

National Archives Publication M1186
Creek Freedman Card #825
Color image accessed through Ancestry

(Source same as for above image)

The Davis family of Broken Arrow is a family with an amazingly rich history, and Muscogee Creek culture. Much of the history and rich culture of the family is found apart from the cards above and will be discussed.

Anderson Davis appeared at the Dawes Commission hearings with the purposed of enrolling his family as Creek Freedmen. He was 45 years of age at the time, but it appears that quite possibly, Anderson Davis was not born enslaved, but was aactually born a free man. However, his wife, Lucinda was born enslaved and she was enslaved by a Mucogee Creek Indian known as "Tuskena" or as she called him, Tuskaya-hiniha.

Anderson's parents were Joseph Davidson, and Becky Marshall. They too were not listed on the card with a slave holder, suggesting that they too were also free born. There were many Creeks who were of African Ancestry, who were born free and lived as free people in the tribe, and it appears that Anderson and his family were among them.

But Lucinda's family was different. She herself was born enslaved, and her parents, were in fact enslaved by Creek Leader Opotholeyahola. From the enrollment card it is also clear that the family members all belonged to Arkansas Town in the Creek Nation, and their story is one that is clearly entrenched in the tribe.

Selection of Land:

Anderson Davis also applied for land allotments for his family and he went through several interviews pertaining to their selection of land. Several records appear in those files reflecting the selection of land and the persons to whom the land would be allotted.

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.
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 as for above image

The Land Allotment Jackets reveal much detail about his selection of land for himself and for others in the household. Because many of the interviews are similar and ask the same questions, I include one of the interviews here below.

Source: Same as for above image

Source: Same as for above image

Source: Same as for above image

Lucinda's Story

More can can learned about Lucinda Davis and her life story, because  she was interviewed in the 1930s as part of the WPA Slave narrative project. Her interview is one of the most out-standing because of the history and culture that she described in her interview. Though not sure of her birthplace, she was born in the Creek Nation, and her parents were enslaved by Opothleyaholo. But she was separated from her parents, as she however, was sold to an old Creek man, Tuskaya-hiniha.

 She begins her narrative with two small poems after which she begins to tell her life story. She must have spoken with a heavy Muscogee accent, because it was clear that English was not her mother tongue. She begins with a reference to the small poems.

The WPA Oklahoma Slave Narratives
Editors T. Lindsay Baker, Julie Philips Baker
Contributor United States. Work Projects Administration
Edition illustrated
Publisher University of Oklahoma Press, 1996
ISBN 0806128593, 9780806128597

She describes also the status of Tuskaya-hiniha, within the Creek Nation. He was a man of stature among the Upper Creeks and she provided much detail about her life with Tuskaya-hiniha. He had a daughter whose husband had died, who was living with them. The old man's daughter Luwina had given birth to a baby, and Lucinda, while still a child herself, was purchased to look after the child. 

(Source: same as for above image)

Her life as a slave to old Tuskaya-hiniha was well described. He was old and his eyesight had begun to fail. During that time as his vision worsened, some of the other slaves began to slip away and seize their own freedom. She goes on in her interview, wehre she describes her life as a  young girl, with no childhood, whose task it was was to tend to other children. When sold to Tuskaya-hiniha, he had poor eyesight and occasionally, once his sight failed, one her tasks was also to lead him around.

Her interview also provides a glimpse into life in a small Creek settlement, including naming practices among them. In addition, mentions that something about the status of her parents changed, as they obtained freedom, which unfortunately did not affect her own status. So she was still here, still enslaved, and separated from her parents. Her childhood consisted of tending to the young grandchild of her slave master.

Growing up as a Creek, and working inside the home, Lucinda learned how to make traditional dishes. She describes many of them from sofki, to other methods of making corn based dishes

Her description of tasks of slaves who were weavers are interesting to read funeral and burial services were vivid and she described traditional Creek ways of life. 

Funerals and Burials

     For those with Civil war interests, she was a near neighbor and practically an eye witness to the Battle of Honey Springs. She described how she saw Indians on route to the battle with their gray colored clothing on horseback carrying a flag with a large "criss-cross" on it. She and the old master joined hundreds of others fleeing the battle zone as they headed out onto the Texas road going southward to flee the battle. She described seeing the same gray-clothed soldiers fleeing the battle being pursued by men in blue uniforms in a rapid chase.

She goes on to describe how they got onto the Texas road and headed south. Later they camped and listened to the battle sounds throughout the night.

 The most heart touching portion of her story was when she was finally retrieved and taken back to her parents from whom she had been separated for so long. She described the men coming up to the old slave older, speaking in "English talk" and how she was, as a result put on a horse and later met by her parents who had been searching for her.

(Source: All images from her narrative are from the same source listed above.)

There is more to the story of Lucinda Davis. By the time she had several children, statehood approached, and the Dawes Land Allotment process had begun. Her husband Anderson applied for, and receive land allotments for himself, wife Lucinda, and their children.

The story of Lucinda Davis is well documented, but the story of Lucinda as a girl, then the years of her marriage, their large family and their selection of land has never been presented together. She mentions her children in the interview, and that most had died by the 1930s. By presenting her case along with the enrollment cards and land records above, a larger part of the story was known.

Lucinda Davis was a strong Creek woman, and she was a strong African descended woman. She held strongly to her culture, and her mother tongue which was the Muscogee language. Hopefully her final days were peaceful. No information about her death, but her narrative is one to be shared by many who wish to learn about the lives of those seldom mentioned---those once enslaved in Indian Territory. Those who wish to know about the customs of Muscogee people will learn a lot from her narrative, and those who wish to read about a woman who was a survivor from a period that brought much pain, will grow from reading her story.
Thankfully, the details of her life during and after freedom will speak to her resilience and to her fortitude. We should all grow from her strength, and her story.

**********     **********     **********
(This is the 9th article in a series devoted to sharing families of those held as slaves in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, and are part of a personal goal in 2017 to document 52 families in 52 weeks.)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Family of Randall Butler, Choctaw Freedmen. Honoring Freedman Families

 In April 1899 Randall Butler appeared on behalf of his family to enroll his family has Choctaw Freedmen. He resided in the town of Harris, Indian Territory, and lived in Red River County. He represented himself, his wife Louvenia, and his sons Joe, Johnny, Earle, Ollie, and Frances. He was 49 years old at the time, and he had been born in the Choctaw Nation, and he and his family were all enslaved by Choctaw Chief Peter Pitchlynn.

Randall's father was Hannibal Butler and his mother was Mary Butler and they were both enslaved by Choctaw Chief Peter Pitchlynn.

National Archives Publication M1186 Choctaw Freedmen Card #329
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

Reverse side of card
Source: Same as above imag

Peter Pitchlynn was a major slaveholder as reflected in the 1860 Slave Schedule from the Federal Census.

The interview with the Dawes Commission was not especially long but it was still interesting to read. In his interview one can see a certain attitude from Commissioner Needles when he speaks to Mr. Butler. The commissioner asks about his movement after freedom, but he refers to Butler having been "turned loose" meaning after having his freedom. 

National Archives Publication M1301 Choctaw Freedman Jacket #329

Butler is then asked about his children and the mothers of the children. His first wife who was the mother of Joe the oldest son, was also enslaved by a Choctaw. Also his current wife Louvenia was the daughter of two Choctaw Freedmen. Louvenia was the mother of the other children and her being the mother was indicated on the card. (see card above)

Randall Butler also admitted that he had another child, but when asked if the mother was a "states woman", meaning born in the United States and not in Indian Territory, it was quickly determined that the child would not be eligible for enrollment, due to the status of the mother.

(Source: Same as for above image)

The interview and initial application for the Butler family was made in 1899, but sadly son, Joe would not live to be enrolled, nor receive his land allotment. A notice of his death was included in the application jacket from August 1902. because of notice of his death being received, that explains the red line drawn through Joe's name on the enrollment card above. (see first image)

Although the application jacket did not have much data, there does seem to be more that can be gleaned from the land allotment applications. Like many of these files there is data about the land allotment and where the land was to be. Included in those papers were even some allotment certificates of members of the Butler family. 

Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 
1884-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 

It should be noted that these records are classified by the roll number of the person and not their card number. If one looks at the enrollment card (see 1st image) one will find the Butler family on enrollment card number 329. However, the roll number is listed to the left of their name. In Randall Butler's case, his roll number was actual 626. The allotment applications are listed by roll number, and not by card number. This is because each person who was eventually approved when the rolls closed, received a land allotment--including children.

However, what makes the file unusual is that stamped boldly across the allotment certificate are the letters indicating that the land selected was "Relinquished" by Randall Butler himself. And among the files of all in the household--the land was "relinquished".

(Source: Same as for the image above)

Now looking at the case of Randall Butler and the entire family, it appears that land was allotted to them, acres were selected, but for some reason later relinquished.

However an interview was included in the file that explained why the land was relinquished after having been allotted. Apparently some of the lands selected were actually made in error by Butler himself and he later explained how this happened, in the interview. The selection was made in error, because the lands had already belonged to Henry Goodloe who had already begun making improvements upon 20 acres of the land.

Source: Same for 3 previous images

Henry Goodloe himself also testifies and indicates that he and his wife are Chickasaw Freedmen, and that he was planning to select the 20 acres in question for his daughter, Lucy Goodloe. (I also noticed that Henry Goodloe (Goodlow) was a Choctaw Freedman, but during the questioning it was asked if he was a Chickasaw Freedmen, and he replied that he was. Goodloe was enrolled as Choctaw Freedman, but his enrollment card indicated that he was transferred from a Chickasaw Freedman card. Because these interviews occurred before the rolls were officially closed and all decisions made, Goodlow did speak truthfully for he was at the time, Chickasaw Freedman.

(2nd page of interview)

One might assume that all land issues were resolved, however, there was another document in the file that caught my attention. Apparently there was a challenge made for the same land, made by a minor, who was Choctaw by blood. The challenge was made by Maggie Whiteman, a minor contestee.
A document in the allotment jacket indicated that a decision  was made about the 20 acres in question, and that the land in question was to be awarded to Randall Butler.

(Source: Same as above)

There are many more pages to the allotment file, including one in which Randall sought to combine parcels of land so that they may be adjoining parcels of land.

For anyone interested in examining the case further, detailed study of the and records will reflect the years during and after the rolls closed when Freedmen as well as other citizens of the nations began their life anew as land owners. Statehood would eventually come to the territory, and would bring additional challenges as Freedmen along with others struggled to maintain ownership of their land.

The case of Randall Butler and his family reflects a new era in Indian Territory and one can see from slavery to statehood the steps taken by Freedmen families and others as they settled on their own lands, and moved into a new century, a new state, and a new destiny.

This is the 8th article in a series devoted to sharing families of those 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 in 52 weeks.