Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Stevenson Families of the Chickasaw Nation

One of the more complex and fascinating sets of  family lines comes from the Stevensons who were Freedmen of the Chickasaw Nation. The challenge in researching these families stems from the fact that several families all had a wife or mother called Elsie Stevenson. These families were large, several of them lived in Pickens County, and some in the same town as well.

Years ago, when exploring the records of Chickasaw Freedmen, I first noticed that there were what appeared to be several dozen people in Pickens County whose mother was called Elsie. At first examination I assumed that all of these families came from the same Elsie. However, now with quicker access via digitization, I have had a chance once again to study the Stevensons and the various Elsie Stevensons and have finally been able to sort them out.

Among the Stevenson men were some leaders such as Mack Stevenson, of Woodard, in Pickens County who was known to be one of the "leading men" among Chickasaw Freedmen. He was, in fact a leader of the Chickasaw Freedmen's Association, along with Charles Cohee, Isaac Kemp, and George Hall.1

The other Stevenson families, were also large in number and produced families of influence among Freedmen in Chickasaw country, including the Homedy family, Kemps and other lines. These Stevenson families are outlined here.

To sort them out, I have given them a family number as a method of distinguishing one family of Stevensons from another.

(Family #1) Family of Mack and Elsie Stevenson, Woodard, I.T.  

In September 1898, Mack Stevenson appeared in front of the Dawes Commission. He appeared to enroll his wife and several of his children. His wife was Minerva, but Minerva was not the mother of the children on the card. Their mother was identified as Elsie Stevenson, on the back side of Chickasaw Freedman Card #192 and by this time, Elsie the mother of the children, was deceased.

The names on the card were Mack, and his wife Minerva, and all of his children by Elsie--Hardy, Robert, Rena, Etta, Ella, Allen, and Ella's son, Lennie Murry.

It should be pointed out that several lines are drawn through the names, as some of them had died before the enrollment process completed. Those who died before enrollment was completed were Rena, Etta, and Ella.

Mack Stevenson had once been enslaved by Joseph Colbert, and likewise Elsie (whose name appears on the back of the card) was also enslaved by the same Chickasaw Colbert, referred to as "Joe" Colbert. His wife Minerva who was living at the time was enslaved by Susan Burks.

Mack's parents were Hardy James, who was enslaved by Robinson James. His mother was Creasy Colbert enslaved by the same Joseph Colbert, mentioned above.

The National Archives at Ft. Worth, Ft. Worth Texas 1868-1914
NAI Number: 251747
Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75

There is no indication when Elsie died, but their youngest son, Allen was 19 and she would have been living at the time of his birth in 1881.

There were other adult children who enrolled on their own, such as daughter Rosa who married Tillroy Allen who was not a Chickasaw citizen. To track down the many lines that were identified during the Dawes Enrollment era, I have looked at many cards and have found as many children of this line as I could. So far the children of Mack and Ella Stevenson are:

On Card #192: Children: Hardy Stevenson, Robert Stevenson, Rena Stevenson, Etta Stevenson, Ella Stevenson, Allen Stevenson. (Grandson Lenny Murry was also on the card)

On Card #506 Adge Stevenson, wife Minerva, and children, Etta Stevenson, Docia Stevenson, Norata Stevenson, Emmet Cears Stevenson, and Arrene Stevenson.

On Card #619: Malinda Stevenson married Edmund Homedy, and from this family a large family emerged. The Homedy family lived in Berwyn, and 11 children were part of the Homedy clan. The Homedy children were all grandchildren of Mack and Elsie Stevenson. They were: Solomon, Royal, Simon, Anetta, Thomas, Amanda, Jeanie, Mary, Frank, Clarence and Lawrence. Edmund Homedy had been enslaved by Sam Colbert, and Malinda, was enslaved by the same man who enslaved her parents--Joe Colbert.

On Card #635: Lula Stevenson Hall Lula was a daughter of Mack and Ella, who was enrolled with her son Jamison Hall, and daughters Rose Arvilla and Henrietta.

For reference, the additional cards reflecting the children of the Elsie & Mack Stevenson lines are presented here.

Card #506 Adge Stevenson

Card #619 Malinda (Stevenson) Homedy

Card #635 Lula Stevenson Hall

Card #637 Rosa Stevenson Allen

Application Interview Adge Stevenson:

National Archives Publication M1301

Applications for Enrollment

(Also accessed from, Native American Collection, Choctaw Freedmen)

Application Interview Edmund Homedy
(same as above image)

Application Interview Lula Stevenson Hall

Same as above image

******  ******  ******

Family #2 - Family of Elsie (Bynum) Stevenson  

Living also in the same community of Woodford, was another Elsie Stevenson. She was 67 years of age and she was enrolled on her own card, alone. She had once been enslaved by Chickasaw Tennessee Bynum.

Chickasaw Freedman Card # 586
The National Archives at Ft. Worth, Ft. Worth Texas 1868-1914
NAI Number: 251747 Record Group Title: 

Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75

Her parents were Daniel and Kersander (Cassandra?) Bynum. Both of her parents had also been enslaved by Tennessee Bynam. Both parents were, at that time, deceased.

Source: Same as above

Application for Enrollment
From the application jacket one can see that Elsie Stevenson, like many others was the victim of the Dawes Commission failure to capture the interviews verbatim of many Chickasaw Freedmen. Her application appears to consist of the typical "summary" that is found with many files of Freedman applicants who appeared in front of the commission.

In her "interview" she mentions that her husband is deceased and the time was September 1898. She also points out that she has children, but only mentions daughter Lily Davis who was the widow of Louis Davis who was a US Citizen and not a Chickasaw citizen. Lily's children were also mentioned in the file. The result was that she was enrolled.

National Archives Publication M1301

Applications for Enrollment

(Also accessed from, Native American Collection, Choctaw Freedmen)

Elsie's Daughter Lila Davis

Lila Elsie's daughter also lived in Woodford, I. T., and she enrolled her own children.  Her husband Louis was a US Citizen from whom she was separated at the time. Daughter Lila's card number is #587 and she appears to enroll her children Willard, and Luke. Lila's father was Manuel Pickens who was deceased. And of course her mother was Elsie Stevenson, and both she and her mother were former slaves of Tennessee Bynum. 

Chickasaw Freedman Card #587
The National Archives at Ft. Worth, Ft. Worth Texas 1868-1914
NAI Number: 251747 Record Group Title: 
Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75

Family #3 A younger Elsie

Much of the story of the Stevenson clan is that so many of them lived in the same town. This is noted because living in the same town of Woodford, in Pickens there was younger Elsie Stevenson who had married into the Stevenson family. She was married to Louis Stevenson, and was only 24 years old at the time of enrollment. She and husband Louis are found on Chickasaw Freedman Card #588.

Their children were Garfield Stevenson, Rufus Stevenson, and Isora Bell Stevenson. Her husband Louis was not the son of Mack & Elsie. His father in fact was Dave Stevenson, who was once enslaved by Tennessee Bynum. That name, of course is recognized because Tennessee Bynum was the slave holder of Elsie from Family #2.

This younger Elsie was the daughter of Ben and Martha Wright. Her father Ben was deceased at the time, but mother Martha was still living and was enrolled on card #
Dave, who was the father of Louis Stevenson was still living at the time and he was enrolled on Chickasaw Freedman Card #579. Like Elsie from family #2, he too was once enslaved by Tennessee Bynum.

For Louis and the younger Elsie (family #3) a small abbreviated interview was found in the application jackets. Also in the jacket was a birth record of the younger child Isora Bell who was added the card before the rolls closed.

A More Complicated Story
And to make some of the research of the Stevenson clan more complicated there is another Elsie Stevenson who lived in the Chickasaw Nation who was actually a Choctaw Freedman when she applied, but it was noted that members of her family were all Chickasaw. She was a slave also of the Colberts, and was the age to have been a contemporary of Mack and Elsie (from family #1).  That particular Elsie Stevenson was the daughter of Mobile and Lena Stevenson (often referred to as Lanie Stevenson). This Elsie died before the Dawes process ended. However, one cannot write about the Stevenson without including a major part of the family story coming from Mobile and Lanie (Lena) Stevenson.

Much of their story is well documented already by the descendants on an amazing and data-rich website called Our Shared Family History. From that site, one will learn that this particular line of Stevenson are documented as far back as the 1820s prior to removal. This clan that descends from Mobile and Lanie is one of the more thorougly researched lines and the descendants are to be commended for their work.

This branch of Stevensons is also known for their large family reunions, in addition to their detailed  website, with documents and images.

The Dawes Enrollment cards clearly reflect a large family structure among the Stevensons, but when one examines the cards, one also sees a community of inter-connected families. And while reading and learning more about the saga endured by Chickasaw Freedmen and how hard they fought for the right to remain in the land of their birth, another story of community resilience and fortitude is found.

The role that Mack Stevenson and others played in the struggle for basic human rights to live on their own soil, is well documented. The community story of the Stevensons, and other large clans such as Kemps, Cochrans, Colberts, Wrights and othersothers, is a story that cannot be overlooked any more.

This effort to simply sort out the Stevenson clan and to differentiate the several Elsie Stevensons from each other is a small attempt to put these families back on the historical landscape where their roots are firmly planted.

There are numerous families such as the various Stevenson families that come from Indian Territory. Some are celebrated among the various families and others have histories long buried with time. Hopefully other families will begin to explore how families and communities thrived during years of challenge, and find strength from the rich stories to be found.

May they never be forgotten and may their legacy continue.

 This is the 38th article in a 52-article series devoted to sharing histories 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 ongoing project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

1 Littlefield, Daniel F., The Chickasaw Freedmen, A People Without a Country, Westport Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1980, p. 166


Anonymous said...

Thanks Angela this articles makes us all appreciate their struggles especially at todays Seasons Blessings BM

Anonymous said...

Thanks you, Mrs. Walton- Raji This knowledge must be kept alive. I descended from Elsie daughter Amanda.