Monday, July 24, 2017

Dallas Pitchlynn and Family, Choctaw Freedmen

In April of 1999, Dallas Pitchlynn, of Eagletown, Indian Territory, appeared in front of the Dawes Commission on behalf of himself, his children and two of his grandchildren. His children were Victoria, Garfield, Louis and Fannie, Medora, and the two grandchildren were James Walker and Tommy Pitchlynn. Later a note added to the card points out that Medora died in 1900 and James died in 1901.

Dallas Pitchlynn was 54 year old at the time, thus, was born in 1845. He was enslaved by Peter Pitchlynn, who would later become principal chief of the Choctaw Nation.

Choctaw Freedman Card Number #325

The National Archives at Ft. Worth: Ft. Worth, Texas USA;

Enrollment Cards for theFive Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747
Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number: 75



Dallas Pitchlynn's mother was Millie Pitchlynn, and his father was unknown. She too was enslaved by Peter Pitchlynn. The mother of his children was Rose Pitchlynn, but by 1899, she was deceased. The father of Dallas Pitchlynn's grandson James Walker was Henry Walker who was not a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. James's mother was Medora. Grandson Tommy's parents were Victoria Pitchlynn, and Albert William.



(Reverse side of card)

Source: Same as Above

The interview process was a short one, and there did not appear to be controversy about the enrollment of the family.

Application Jacket, Choctaw Freedman #345

Ancestry.com, U.S. Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes 1898-1914

[database on-line] Provo, UT, USA Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2013


As expected the usual records are found in the allotment jacket applications, along with plat maps, memos and letters. A few samples are presented here.
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.



(Source: same as above)

Dallas Pitchlynn lived till 1920, and it is from a probate record from Oklahoma where an interesting issue regarding the heirs and the acquisition of property arose. According to the probate record, the heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn were the members of his family, as would be expected. There was an issue that arose however, when the will was contested by Hans and Herman Dierks who claimed that they had purchased the property from the heirs prior to the death of Dallas Pitchlynn.

Apparently the heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn did not appear on October 20th, and a preliminary ruling referred to the non-appearance, because the addresses of the parties was not known. A first ruling by the county judge stated that they (the family of Dallas Pitchlynn) were in default, 







 However, a second ruling on the same date in August 1921 declared the descendants of Dallas Pitchlynn to be the legal heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn. A copy of this ruling also appeared in the press as well.

Probate records (McCurtain County, Oklahoma), 1903-1965

Author: McCurtain County (Oklahoma). Court Clerk; Probate Place: McCurtain, Oklahoma


It is not known what the eventual outcome of the case was. Did they retain their land for much longer? Did the family eventually leave and migrate away from Oklahoma? Did the Dierks ever own or occupy that land after the lawful heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn were located? Did the Pitchlynn descendants ever occupy the land themselves?

These questions may or may not be answered, but there is a story nevertheless, of life, legacy and land that deserves to be explored. Hopefully the descendants of Dallas and Rose Pitchlynn  did prevail and they were able to pursue life's goals and that they were able to continue life's journey with success, land ownership and prosperity.
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This is the 21st article in a 52 article series devoted to sharing histories and stories 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 on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cato Vann and Family, Cherokee Freedmen

Cato Vann, lived a good portion of his life in the Illionois District of the Cherokee Nation, near the small town of Vian Oklahoma.  He was born in the 1850s, and both he and his mother were enslaved by Cherokee Polly Vann,. Cato Vann Happeared in 1901 to enroll his son Roand, and seven daughters, Narcissus, Thursday, Ella, Nannie, Annie, Rebecca, and Estella, as Cherokee Freedmen. The family appeared on Cherokee Freedman Card #319, and the family was also enumerated on the 1896 Roll as a note on the front of the card indicates. 

Cherokee Freedman Card #319
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



On the back side of the card, it is revealed that his father was Jesse Foreman, and his mother was Mary Vann. His father was enslaved by Cherokee Johnson Foreman and his mother had been enslaved by Polly Vann. Cato's wife was Rachel Vann, and she was a Creek Freedman.

(Reverse side of card)
Source: Same as above

Application Jacket, Cherokee Freedman #319
Ancestry.com. U.S., Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

(same as above)

(same as above)


(same as above)

(same as above)

(same as above)

(same as above)


Most of the documents in the file were standard documents pertaining to the enrollment of Cato Vann and his children. There was however an ongoing issue regarding the allotment of the lands to Cato Vann and family. Apparently S. H. Mayes and another party, were accused of having worked together to secure some of the land of Cato Vann. The Land Allotment file, consists of more than 200 pages of documents, and it contains more than 30 pages of an interview regarding the transaction between Mayes, and Vann. In one of the interviews it was stated that Vann had given a plat map to Mayes, to hold, but when it was returned the document was not the same one.

Upon first glance, some of the records in the allotment jacket simply reflect the allotment selections of the various members of the Vann household. But about 100 pages into the Land Allotment file an extensive series of interviews and reports reflect a transaction that resulted in several acres of Cato Vann's land being obtained by Mayes.

In addition, it is worthy to note that Cato Vann took up on himself some of the questioning of Mayes and others-acting on his own behalf, interrogating one of the witnesses.

Sample of Cross-Examination made by Cato Vann regarding land.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.


(same as above)


The file is worth reading, as the file illustrates how people many in the Territory made arrangements with those whom they knew, and later lost their land. It is not clear without a close study of the land records what the outcome was of the issue, but the interviews that number over 100 pages are worth reading and examining. They show different aspects between freedmen and other Cherokees, and the social contact among people at the turn of the 20th century.

There are many families of Cherokee Freedmen, and this story of Cato Vann, and his mission to secure land for himself and family exemplifies one of a man acting on behalf of his loved ones.
His story is one of hundreds of untold stories to be told that reflect the history and life of the Freedmen of Indian Territory.

This is the 20th article in a 52 article series devoted to sharing histories and stories 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 on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Benjamin Bruner & Family History, Seminole Freedmen



From the Seminole Nation comes a cases that clearly illustrates how important it is to go beyond the one document. Benjamin F. Bruner lived in the Seminole Nation most of his life. His mother came from Florida and his father was Creek. On the Dawes enrollment card, he was the only one listed on the card, and one might think that there would not be much more to find beyond the card to reveal details about his life. Yet--there was so much more to truly find.

Thankfully, an obituary, saved by a descendant of Benjamin Bruner leads to the story of a fascinating man. With this obituary and a bit of research more information about a man who lived well into the 20th century, a rich story of his life unfolds.

Benjamin Bruner Obituary, Used with permission of Charles Gibson
Accessed on http://www.seminolenationindianterritory.org



This portion of the rich Bruner famly history is that of a man born into the Seminole Nation, whose mother was a Seminole by blood and his father was enslaved by a Creek Indian. He lived most of his life in the Seminole Nation, but was educated at a mission school for Indians and former slave children. attended Hampton Institute for a while before returning to his native Oklahoma.

Although the school he attended was not mentioned, there is a strong chance that he attended the Creek Seminole College in Boley.


(courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society)


He was from an extremely dynamic family and his uncle Cesar was the leader of what would become later the Bruner band of Seminoles. The Bruner band continues to exist today as one of 14 bands within the Seminole Nation.

However, to look at his Dawes card, it only contains basic information. In addition, his mother was a Seminole by blood, yet, Benjamin, in spite of his contributions to the tribe and his presence for decades as a citizen, he was placed on the Freedman Roll.

Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes  1898-1914
NAI Number 251747, Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group Number 75
Seminole Freedman Card # 828, Field Card #221


(Reverse side of card)


More details about his life and family were also found in his interview that are part of the Indian Pioneer Papers.

The University of Oklahoma Western History Collection, Digital Collections,
Indian Pioneer Collection, Volume 12, Interview with Ben F. Bruner

(Same as above)


(same as above)

Benjamin Bruner was also able to secure land, and his land records reflecting his selection of land are reflected in the interview below.

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

The Bruner family is a distinguished one with a detailed and rich history. It is wonderful that the family remembers his legacy, and that the story of Benjamin Bruner, and his part of the nation to which he was born, can still be told and can be shared.


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This is 20th article in a 52-article devoted to sharing histories and stories 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 on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fannie Rentie Bumpus & Family - Creek Freedmen



Fannie Rentie has an amazing history. She was the daughter of Picket and Mary Rentie, and during her lifetime she was known by multiple names. Among her surnames were Rentie, Chapman, Island, Bumpus, and Ensley. In spited of her multiple names and records in scattered places, her story is still a rich one to tell.

On her Dawes enrollment card, nothing appears to be very complicated about her story. Her personal data is recorded on Creek Freedman Field Card number 584. She resided in Boynton area. She was the daughter of Pickett Rentie and Mary Rentie. She appeared in front of the Dawes Commission in 1898 for herself and her children Alice, and George. Alice would later pass away before the enrollment process was completed. Her husband at the time was Willis Bumpus, father of the two children.

Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes 1898-1914
NAI Number 251747, Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group Number 75
Creek Freedman Field Card #584

Reverse side of same card


 And as a member of the Creek Nation, many of the records pertaining to her Dawes Case are not available with the application jacket. However, much more can be obtained about Fannie, nevertheless. In fact the issue about her many surnames can be found in the Land Allotment records (which are all online on both Ancestry and Family Search.) There were numerous interviews about the land she was to receive, the condition of the land, improvements upon it and more.

In 1903, when she was being interviewed regarding her selection of land, she was then Fannie Ensley. There was much discussion about her parcel of land. She was making a selection for her daughter Ann who had not yet passed away. Also present was Thomas Ensley, who was at that time her husband.

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.

(same as above)

However, more interesting details about Fannie and her parents and their lives within Creek culture and community are found with her interview made in the 1930s as part of the Indian Pioneer Project. She was interviewed in 1937 and she told fascinating aspects of her life. She made several references to old communities that had ceased to exist in the 1930s, including Old Agency.


The University of Oklahoma Western History Collection, Digital Collections, 
Indian Pioneer Collection, Volume 17,  Interview with Fannie Rentie Chapman 



Same as above
(Same as above)

As mentioned earlier, her land allotment file was full of data, as there was much controversy about her right to certain parcels of land. At the end of her interview she makes mention of the fact that she lived on her land for many years, but later lost the land. (If one is a descendant of Fannie Rentie Chapman Bumpus, Ensley, then they are strongly encouraged to obtain the allotment application file. Dozens of pages are contained pertaining not only to the land itself, but also to the various husbands, that Fannie had and the names she used when some of the land transactions occurred.)

Fannie's interview for the Indian Pioneer project will take the reader more deeply in the life of late 19th century pre-Oklahoma life. And the interview speaks vividly to multiple aspects of life within the Creek Nation, for Freedmen as well as for all individuals living near Muskogee and the now gone community of Old Agency.

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(This is the 19th article of a 52-article series devoted to sharing histories and stories 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 on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Family of Mattie & Johnny Crittendon, A Chickasaw & Choctaw Family


This family coming out of the Chickasaw Nation is a fascinating one reflecting how many families in what became southern Oklahoma were inter-connected. Some families clearly extended beyond their tribal affiliation, and some families were bi-racial as well as bi-cultural as well. The Crittendon family history provides a good opportunity to study the inter-connected nature of people living in the territory now known as Oklahoma. Social norms of the day would affect them as much as they affected all Freedman families from the Five Tribes. This family from the Chickasaw Nation, stands out clearly as one. that has a story beyond many assume Freedmen to have from Indian Territory.

Starting with the mother Mattie, one finds that she appeared in front of the Dawes Commission in September 1898 for herself and for a child Julius who was 1 year at the time. The name of a third person Ada was later added to the card. Unfortunately, the child Julius would pass away before any final decision was made, and thus a line is drawn through his name.

There is, however, much more to see from the notes and from the reverse side of the card.

Chickasaw Freedman Card #854

The National Archives at Ft. Worth Texas USA

Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes  1898-1914
NAI Number 251747, Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group Number: 75


(Reverse side of same card above)


Mattie's parents were Henry and Serena Wilkens. Her father Henry was deceased at the time, but her mother Serena was still living and her mother was at one time, enslaved by Chickasaw Ne-Ok-te.

Back on the front of the card, more information was noted, and is highlighetd below. The father to the children Julius and Ada was Johnny Crittenden, who was from the Choctaw Nation. However, it should be noted that there is some seemingly contradictory information on the card. One note says that the father Johnie Crittenden was a Choctaw Freedman. The second note makes a reference to the enrollment card of Johnie, the father, and that he was enrolled on Choctaw card number #1557. (see images that follow) That card is the card of a Choctaw by blood, and not a Freedman card.

Close up view of note from front of card

Looking closely on the back side the Mattie's husband, the father of her children is identified, and in the column where the slave holder of the father is identified, it is clear that the father of the children is identified as being Choctaw Indian, and not one who was enslaved.

Close Up View of data on Reverse side of card.

Johnny Crittendon is Mattie's husband and he is enumerated on his own card, which is Choctaw card number 1557. His father was Jack Crittendon and his mother was Sissy Crittenden. And a notation on the card confirms that Johnny Crittenden is the father of Mattie's children. (see images below)

Choctaw Nation, Choctaw Roll By Blood Card# 1557

The National Archives at Ft. Worth Texas USA

Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes  1898-1914
NAI Number 251747, Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group Number: 75


(same as above)

Looking closely at the upper right hand corner of the file, Johnny's mother is mentioned and she was not deceased. Sissy Crittendon was her name and she resided is Kiamitia, I.T.


I decided to look and see if Sissry Crittendon could be found, and sure enough there she was on the Choctaw Roll by blood living in Kiamitia as reflected on Johnny's card.

Choctaw Nation, Choctaw Roll (by blood) #1561


From the Enrollment Applications:
Oddly, there is very little in the application file of Sissa Crittendon. Her interview is missing and only a letter pertaining to intermarried citizens, and the birth affidavit of Mary Crittendon, where Sissa is mentioned as the midwife attending the birth.

In the file pertaining to Mattie it comes as no surprise that Mattie was victim to the on going policy of ill-treatment by the commission. Her detailed interview is not in the file--merely one of the usual "summaries" consisting of 2-3 sentences about the family. The task was the keep those identified as freedmen "in their place", entitling them to less land and future restrictions as citizens of the nation they knew as home.

Here is the notorious "summary" placed in her file.


Applications for Enrollment
National Archives Publication M1301
File Chickasaw Freedman #854


In addition, a very odd letter pertaining to Johnny's status as a "Freedman" though it is clear that he was a citizen by Blood. Of course it is understood that the African Ancestry in the family line, reflects the "issues" presented  in the letter.

(same as above)

(same as above)

The bottom line of course is that Johnny did eventually get his land and clearly much more than others in his family classified as Chickasaw Freedmen. Hopefully the family was able to live for many years on their joint land and to thrive in the Territory and into the statehood years as a family living on its own land.

Oklahoma and Indian Territory Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes 1884-1934
Database on line, via Ancestry.com Operations Inc 2014

same as above


(same as above)

This family was both Choctaw and Chickasaw. They lived within and under the laws of their respective nations, and their tie to the land, to the nation of their birth is strong. Despite efforts of the nations to deny their presence, the records speak to their history and to their legacy as a family. Hopefully the tie to the land was maintained for many years.

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(This is the 18th article of a 52-article series devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Terriotry, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes and these posts are part of an on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Levi and Eliza Carney & Family, Choctaw Freedmen

In June 1899, Levi Carney appeared in front of the Dawes Commission to enroll his wife Eliza, daughters Mary and Frances, and a niece Edna Choate and her daughter Myrtle Powell. They were residents of San Bois. Levi was born enslaved and was held by Choctaw Jesse Jones, and wife Eliza was enslaved by Thomas LeFlore.

Levi's parents were Jerry and Sealy Carney. His father Jerry Carney was once enslaved by Storm LeFlore, and Sealy Carney was once enslaved by Jesse Jones. Eliza Carney's father was Nelson Harris, but her mother's name was not known.

The National Archives at Ft. Worth, Texas, USA;
Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914;
NAI Number 251747; Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number : 75
Choctaw Freedman Card #769


Source: Same as above image

The application jacket consisted of 16 pages, with the first interview made of Levi exclusively. It was a simple interview without complication. Levi explained that one member of the household was is niece and she was the daughter of his sister Julia. Julia was at one time enslaved by Kelley Frazier. This family file is an example during the years of enslavement, parents and in some cases even siblings were enslaved by different people. Levi and one of his parents were enslaved by Jesse Jones, his mother by Thomas Le Flore, and his sister by Kelley Frazier.


National Archives Publication M1301,

Cherokee Freedman File #769
Accessed on Fold 3


A second set of interviews are found in the file, with the commission seeking clarification about the parentage and status of the children of Edna, and also whether parents of the  two younger nieces were indeed married. A document was provided confirming that the couple was married. In addition a birth record for Myrtle was also included in the file.
Source: Same as above

It should also be noted that this interview occurred in 1904, several years after the initial application was made. Among those interviewed were: Nick Powell, husband of Edna, (Levi's niece), Levi Carney, Amos Choate, (Edna's brother). The interviews were short and not complicated. Amos Choate's interview was primarily for clarification about Myrtle  - Edna's daughter 

Source: Same as above image


Source: Same as above image


Source: Same as above image


Source: Same as above image

Mrytle was enrolled after the inquiry was made about her, and a letter was sent to the family about her status. 





Document reflecting the marriage of Edna Choate and Nick Powell
Source: Same as above images


The Carney family of San Bois was admitted without complication as Choctaw Freedmen. Like many  I. T. Freedmen, they have a connection to other families within the nation as well. This family of San Bois had a tie to some of the Choates from the Skullyville area, in the northern part of the Choctaw Nation.  Like many families reflected in the records, the file continually are a link to others in the same community and all are part of the larger family narrative.

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This is the 17th article of a 52-article series devoted to sharing histories and stories 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 on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.