Sunday, November 28, 2010

Earlier Map Discovered on Mysterious Negro Settlement in Indian Territory

On August 8 of this year I posted an article about an interesting African American settlement located on the banks of the Canadian River, in what is now Cleveland County Oklahoma.

In that article, the earliest map was that I had found was a map from 1879 revealing a settlement simply referred to as the Negro Settlement.  This settlement was reflected for several decades, and then as suddenly as it appeared---it disappeared from the maps and from the pages of history. In fact, it never appeared on the pages of the state's history.

Mr. Jason Clark, a California based researcher, who owns  land in the nearby town of present day Slaughterville Oklahoma saw the article and wrote to me after reading the article.  While on a recent trip home to Oklahoma, he did some searching at the courthouse, and he located an earlier map of the same area. This map reflected a similar location, to a degree, with two interesting notations on that map: one reflected Negro Huts,  designation "Negro Huts" and less than a mile away, on home of the map, noted as "Negro House."
Was this a boarding house, or a structure for one family?  Right above the notation for Section 29 were the
"Negro Huts".  The question is---were the "huts" on this earlier map reflecting the same settlement?

Like the other maps, there was a road coming from a northeasterly direction, but nothing called the Cheyenne Agency Road. The road on this earlier map was simply referred to as a Wagon Trail.

This was less than 10 years since the end of the Civil War, and also for the release of slaves from bondage in nearby Chickasaw Nation.  Many Chickasaw Freedmen did live several miles to the south of this point, but this was not in a Chickasaw Freedmen, community. It was south and west of any Seminole Freedmen areas, and it was not near any Choctaw Freedmen areas.

So the  mystery still continues as to what this community was, and who the inhabitants might have been.  Were the Negro Huts simply near the designated Negro House by accident or was there a relationship between the occupants?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hagar Meyers - Unsung Heroine of the Green Peach War

A Close up of Hagar Meyers on a Census Record

Her name has not appeared in many places.  But she might be the very person who brought the Green Peach War to an end and saved hundreds of lives in the process. Her name was Hager Myers, a Creek Freedwoman.

Hagar Meyers in 1930 census is shown living with son H.S. in Muskogee, Oklahoma

What is her story? Can she be found? Does she have descendants?

The one reference to her is found in the Indian Pioneer Papers.  A elder gentleman, Scott Waldo McIntosh was interviewed for the W. P. A project.  He was a Creek Citizen and he was part of the faction of Creeks that followed Isparhecher, during the years of the Green Peach War. He was also the son of William McIntosh a Creek leader, and in addition---he was also a Creek Freedman. Having been close to the Creek leaders, many incidents he witnessed first hand.  His telling the story of the Green Peach War was an interesting piece to read---but he made a reference to a woman, that possibly brought the war to an end, and she is the focus of my search.

He spoke of Isparhecher, or "Spieche" (the way the name is often pronounced). In his interview he stated:

The man telling this story, was Scott Waldo McIntosh, also a son of William McIntosh. He had been present during many critical events that occurred in the latter 19th century in the Creek Nation, and his interview was extensive, numbering more than 20 pages.

(The narrative switches sometimes from his voice to that of the interviewer speaking about Mr. McIntosh.) It is quite clear that Mr. McIntosh had a strong sense of historic preservation as he spoke about the need to care for the old burial sites as well as the battle grounds. Then he made another appeal for the recognition of Hager Meyers:

Source: Excerpts from Indian Pioneer Papers
Interview with Scott Waldo McIntosh, 
(Vol. 58 Interview #6559)

Considering that Mr. Harrison had been with Isparhecher during the Green Peach War and was there when they did surrender, he had no need to invent the story, and it is quite possibly accurate. With that being so---can anything be learned more about Hagar?

I am not certain as to when she died and where she is buried.  There does not appear to be a burial for her in Ft. Gibson, though Mr. McIntosh had suggested it. She is probably buried at Old Agency Cemetery, which has fallen into a state of neglect and disrepair. It is the community where she lived, and quite possibly is where she is buried.

In 1930, Hagar and her husband John Myers were living with their son, H.S. Myers, in the Muskogee area. Some twenty years earlier, in 1910, Hagar and husband John, were in the Agency community in the Muskogee area.

1910 Census, Muskogee Oklahoma

In 1900, they lived next door to their oldest son, Henry, still in Muskogee, in the Creek Nation.

1900 Census, Muskogee Oklahoma

Since there was no Federal Census prior to those years, Hagar, might possibly be found on the Dawes Rolls:
Sure enough on Creek Freedman Card #1057, John and Hagar are found.

The reverse side of the card reveals information about her parents. Her father was Harry Lewis, and her mother Diana Kernal was a slave of Creek Indian, Sukey Kernal, Her husband John was the son of G.A.G. Myers, who was a US Citizen and not a citizen of any of the tribes in Indian Territory.

Unfortunately---as many of the Creek interviews are missing---there is no interview for the family.

In the 1936 City directory for Muskogee Oklahoma, Hagar Myers is found living in Rte. 1 in the Agency community.

Entry from 1936 Muskogee City Directory

Nothing more is known about this woman, who apparently lived a quiet life, and died where she had spent most of her life. Without a small reference to her, by a witness to the surrender of Isparhecher in the Green Peach War, her name would not be known. But the actions of this woman forcing her way behind the lines, to get a message to Isparhecher, a massacre was prevented and lives were saved.

It is hoped that someday some descendants of the Meyers line may produce a photo of this woman. Her life was a simple and humble one.

She showed courage one day during a time of conflict, and worked her way through a line of soldiers to deliver a message of Isparhecher.  Lives were saved, and someday her name, thanks to Scott Waldo McIntosh, we can call her name.

May you continue your rest in peace Hagar Meyers.  
Many are here today, for the courage you showed on one day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Freedmen of Tishomingo, Struggle to Educate their Children

1887 Letter pertaining to the Freedmen of Tishomingo
Source: National Archives, College Park MD

More than $300,000 were given to the Choctaw & Chickasaw people to assist in determining the fate of their former slaves.  Many in the tribe wanted to simply remove the former slaves to the Leased District. This would remove all traces of slavery having occurred on their soil. The tribes were eventually given Federal US funds to assist with this process, but the agreement was not honored, the Freedmen received no assistance, and 20 years later, their fate had not yet been determined. The  funds were received and apparently used, but not for the benefit of the Freedmen, and so many in 1887, remained still destitute with an undetermined future.

The letter above indicates that in the 1880s, the primary concern for those in Tishomingo, was the children. They wanted their children to be educated, so they would not grow up illiterate and without opportunity.
Some 20 years after freedom came, the Freedmen of the Chickasaw Nation were in a very sad state.

Many resided now in a land where they were resented for their freedom, and and at the time that the slaves were freed in 1866 (a full year after the Civil War) many were simply turned loose with no provisions, no money, and after a lifetime of servitude, no skill in negotiating pay for work.  Some wanted to leave and live in peace, others wanted to remain in the land of their birth, and where their parents and loved ones were buried

Most shared one primary desire, however----they wanted their children to learn. Teachers, were in need as much as food, clothing and shelter, and their needs were so strong that they sent a representative to Washington to plea on their behalf.  The representative was W. N. Jackson, and he traveled meet officials in the U.S. Indian Service, and to speak on their behalf.

The letter continues to describe their fate, and it was acknowledged in this letter that this impoverished population had continued to suffer from poverty, and neglect.

2nd page of letter from US Indian Service
Source: National Archives, College Park MD

The struggles continued for the Freedmen, of all of the tribes, but there were unique struggles in store for those in Chickasaw Freedmen communities.  Generations later, many chose to leave "Little Dixie" as the region was called by those who suffered under state enforced Jim Crow laws. However, there are a few documents that remain, that reflect the struggles of a people who were determined to live, raise their children in dignity and to move ahead.   

Today, many of the descendants of the Freedmen of Tishomingo and many other communities, now study to find those long buried stories, including those stories of their family struggles to survive.  

This letter reflects a very small portion of that larger story.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Looking for Lindy's Son. The Search for a Choctaw Slave

Very little data is available describing the lives of the African slaves of Indian Territory. However, an often over-looked source of data comes from the Indian Pioneer Papers, that interviewed early white, black and Indian Citizen about their lives and their families.  Many of the people interviewed often related stories of what they knew of slaves, owned by their own  family, or referred to some of their former slaves who were still living.

In the case of Chirstine Bates (nee Folsom) she spoke about her life in the Choctaw Nation, and how her father, a preacher eventually amassed property and including 50 slaves.

She describes the perils of life during the Civil War, and she then mentions of of the former slaves by name.  Lindy Butler was one, who Ms. Bates recalled, and she pointed out that Lindy, the slave had born 21 children. One of the children was still living at the time of the interview (in the 1930s)

Well, as a genealogist and researcher, I became interested in Lindy Butler and her children.  How amazing that she was able to bear so many children while she was a slave.  She undoubtedly contributed to the wealth of the slave master significantly, as her children, her issue would have belonged to him. Unless of course they were leased out to another family as often happened with slaves---they could be given away or rented or sold at the whims of the slave owner.  Lindy was probably long deceased in the1930s, but there was a reference to one of her children---Ed. And Ed, as one of her children, was probably only a small boy by the time that emancipation came. The fact that the daughter of the slave owner was aware of not only "Aunt Lindy Butler" but that she knew what had become of at least one of her children, suggests that all contact might not have been hostile after freedom came.

So, could I find Ed in the records?  As the son of  a Choctaw slave, he would have been a Choctaw Freedmen himself.  Could I find his file?

I began to search to find Ed Butler, son of Lindy Butler, a Choctaw slave.

Using the Native American CD, created by the Friends of OHS that contains a searchable database of all Dawes Rolls enrollees, I examined the surname Butler.  There were 2 possibilities. Two Freedmen were named Ed Butler.

Either of the two Eds could have been, the right one, for both were in their 40s.  Either might have been the son of "Aunt Lindy", the slave.  In addition both of those men, were clearly put on a Freedman Roll, because there was a policy--even if the former slave had the blood of the slave owner---the data was not to be shown.  (This policy now contributes to the exclusion policy practiced by the 5 slaveholding tribes to this day.  The years of forced labor meant nothing, then and now, and those with documented ties to the tribes, if they are African slave descendants, are they are forbidden admission to the nation where their ancestors lived, toiled and died.)

Considering therefore, that it was decided during the Dawes Enrollment years to never include data about any Indian parentage if the person had any Negro blood, to find the right Ed, (son of Lydia) in this case meant a careful examination of the records was required. Seeing the names of these two "Eds" on the Dawes Rolls with the blood category being left blank, meant therefore, that they were indeed Freedmen.  But Freedmen from which tribe?

I looked first at Ed Butler on Card 1039.  Going farther into the database indicated that he was Choctaw Freedman.

Could I find him among any records? Could Ed, the Choctaw Freedman be Lindy Butler's son?  I had to examine his Dawes Card.

Enrollment Card of Ed Butler, Choctaw Freedman

At first glance this might not have been the right Ed Butler.  He was a former slave, in the Choctaw Nation. He lived in Atoka and was enrollment with his children.  However, the card states that he had been enslaved by someone called, "Mrs. Robb.  Hmm........the reverse side of the call would have more information.

Side 2 of Enrollment Card of Ed Butler, Choctaw Freedman

On this side, information pertaining to the parents of Ed Butler can be found.  His father's name was Lemon Butler.  His mother's name was Linda Butler.  Linda-----as in Lindy?

If Linda was possibly the same Lindy-----then this was one of her 21 children!!!

BUT----who was Mrs. Robb?? I then realized that many times children and their parents did could have had different owners.  And in the case of a woman who may have been widowed--remarriage before her death could have occurred, also.  So Mrs. Robb is a mystery.  But there was another clue---Israel Folsom, the slaveholder.

Known in the Choctaw community, to be an ordained minister, Israel Folsom was a man of prominence in Blue County, where he lived.  I was surprised to also find an image of him, actually several images of him.

Israel Folsom

Enrollment Card of Christine Bates, interviewee 
of Indian Pioneer Papers and daughter of Israel Folsom

I had to also stop and reflect.  Israel Folsom had a relative--possibly a cousin---Joel Folsom.  Joel Folsom was the son of Solomon Folsom, also in the same clan of Choctaw Folsoms.  I mention Joel only because he married Emeline Perry--whose family was the slaveholding family of my ancestors

Biographies of Israel Folsom, indicate that he was well respected by most who knew him, and one can only hope that the fate of his slaves was not one of harsh treatment or misery.

At the time the census enumerators came into his community to count the slaves to put on the Slave Schedule, it does appear that he was not cooperative and the census enumerator had to obtain information on his slaves from others. (See note on side panel, below.)

Slave Schedule 1860, Blue County, Choctaw Nation
Note made alongside that of Israel Folsom

Side Panel of Nation, pertaining to the slaves of Israel Folsom

I was pretty confident that I had found the right Ed Butler, son, of Linda (Lindy) Butler, who was a slave of Israel Folsom.  But---there was another Choctaw Freedman with the same name.  To be sure, it was imperative that I investigate the other Ed Butler, as well. It was evident that the other Ed Butler was not the son of Lindy, slave of the Folsoms. this Ed Butler was enslaved by another leading Choctaw---Peter Pitchlynn.

Ed Butler, former slave of Peter Pitchlynn

It also appears that the parents of Ed Butler were also Pitchlynn Slaves.

Reverse side of Ed Butler's Enrollment Card
reflects his parents who were both enslaved by Peter Pitchlynn

So, I had found in the records, Ed Butler, son of Lindy Butler.  I only hope that in his lifetime, his fate and that of his children were remarkably different.  By statehood, they would have been entitled to schools, and a few more opportunities.  Did they remain in the region after statehood?

 The descendants of Ed and Lindy will have to tell the rest of that story. Hopefully someday they will discover their history and tell what happened to the next generations.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Old Choctaw Plantation Part of Oklahoma Archaeology Site

Robert Jones, Choctaw Slaveholder and Wife Susan Colbert Jones
Source: Oklahoma Historical Society 

A large antebellum plantation in the Choctaw Nation, is now being explored for the long forgotten history lying on it's soil. Robert Jones was a wealthy plantation owner, and said to have been the largest slave holder in the Choctaw Nation.

An announcement from the Oklahoma Historical Society mentioned a current dig, that began October 7-10th of this year, at the site where the home of Robert M. Jones is said to have been. The announcement from OHS indicated that two state agencies were involved, including the Oklahoma Archealogical Survey, and the Ft. Towson Historic site. Volunteers also from the Oklahoma Anthropological Society were also involved in the effort. A spring dig at the will take place as well. One of the goals of the dig, was to actually locate the site of the original Jones home. Apparently the original home was destroyed in a fire in 1912. The report from the OHS Extra, an electronic newsletter, indicate that the home site was found.

There is no indication as to whether any remains of slave cabins or other artifacts from the slavery era were actually sought by participants, but I would hope that all who have an interest in the entire history being told, will also tell the story of the slaves, and will encourage the exploration more in depth history of the antebellum black presence on what is now, Oklahoma soil.

Therefore, I am compelled to ask the questions:

Who were the slaves of Robert Jones and his wife Susan?
Where did they live?
Did any who survived ever refer to him or her as their slave holders?
And what was their life like?

Well Robert Jones had several plantations:
 Walnut Prairie Farm
 Shawneetown Farm,
 Kiamitia County Farm
 Lake West Farm (Blue County)

Yes, many of his slaves did survive, and quite a few mentioned him as their slave owner during the years of the Dawes Commission. What follows is a Dawes Enrollment Card of one of the slaves of Robert Jones.

Enrollment Card of Nip Tucker, Janis, I.T.
He was born a slave of Robert Jones

Reverse side of Nip Tucker Enrollment Card
Both of his parents were also enslaved by Robert M. Jones

 Robert Jones had African slaves working on all of his estates. The slave schedules from 1860 provide a glimpse into the vast numbers of slaves that he owned.

The Slaves of Robert Jones - 1860

Robert Jones Slaves Shown on 1860 Slave Schedule
(Walnut Farm and Kiamitia farms shown)
Source: National Archives 1860 Slave Schedule, Choctaw Nation

More slaves of Robert M. Jones.
These slaves are a continuation of those enslaved at Shawneetown
Source: National Archives 1860 Slave Schedule, Choctaw Nation

End of Robert Jones' slaves listed in Shawneetown, 
and list of those enslaved at Kiamitia.
Source: National Archives 1860 Slave Schedule, Choctaw Nation

A closer look at his farm in Shawneetown, makes one pause only wonder what the quality of life must have been for the female slave in her 90s, counted with no name---but only as property.  One must ask---what service could a 90 year old woman have provided for Robert Jones and Susan Colbert Jones, his wife?

Close up view of some of the slaves listed on slave schedule, owned  by Robert M. Jones,  
living in Shaweetown, Red River County, Choctaw Nation, 1860.

The current archeological project at the old Jones estate sounds interesting, and the remains of the old home were actually found by workers on the dig. 

My hope is that there will be more exposure about the project and strong encouragement of the initiative.  Hopefully historians, anthropologists, archaeologists will jump at this opportunity to explore slavery in an area that has never been studied in depth---slavery in the west---in Indian Territory.  

Like all subjects, the study of slavery in Indian Territory, merits objective examination and involvement by scholars of many disciplines.