Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cornelius & Florence Nave, Cherokee Freedmen


This is a family whose story caught my attention in the 1990s. The Naves are an old family deeply rooted in the Cherokee Nation. I met a direct descendant of Cornelius Nave when a young woman working as a technician at the National Archives, mentioned to me that she had ties to the Cherokee Nation. After some discussion, it was noticed that she was directly tied to Cornelius and Florence Nave from Fort Gibson, in the Illinois district of the Cherokee Nation.

In 1901 Cornelius Nave appeared in front of the Dawes Commission. He was applying for enrollment on behalf of himself, wife Florence and their children Thomas, Dora, Charles, William, and Margaret. Cornelius' parents were Charles and Mary Nave. Charles Nave was enslaved by Cherokee Henry Nave, and wife Mary had been enslaved by Joe Vann.  Florence was the daughter of  Bob and Malinda Smith who had lived also in the Illinois district of the nation. Florence's father was enslaved by Bob Smith, and her mother had also been enslaved by Joe Vann. The "Joe Vann" referred to was Joseph "Rich Joe" Vann, who was a wealthy Cherokee living in Webber's Falls. This is also the same Joe Vann from whom several dozen slaves revolted in 1842, and tried to seize their own freedom and make a break for Mexico. (Unfortunately they did were not successful and were returned to bondage.)

The Nave family card is found among Cherokee Freedmen cards as number 138. It is indicated that their history was also recorded on the Wallace Roll. In addition, Florence was also listed on the 1880 Roll, under her maiden name of Florence Smith.


The National Archives at Ft Worth; Ft Worth, Texas, USA; 
Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; N
AI Number: 251747; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number: 75
Cherokee Freedman Card #138

(Source: Same as for above image.)


Their interview with the Dawes Commission was not complicated in any way. As he was born after the Civil War, it was confirmed in his interview that his parents had indeed been slaves of Cherokees. He named all of the children, when asked, and their case passed easily through the commissioners without challenge.

National  Archives Publication M1301
Cherokee Freedman File #138

Source: Same as image above


Included also in the file were two birth affidavits for the two younger children, William and Margaret. An image of the one for Margaret appears here.

Source: same as above

More information about Father's life while enslaved
More information about Cornelius Nave however, can be found in the fascinating interview conducted in the 1930s. He was interviewed by Ethel Wolfe Garrison as part of the slave narrative project. However, Cornelius himself was born long after the war, and was, in fact never enslaved at all. But his father Charles Nave was enslaved by Cherokees, and from this interview additional information about the family was shared.

It can be noted that Mary's father was Talaka Vann, one of Joseph "Rich Joe" Vann's slaves. (There is a possibility that Talaka Vann was one of the slave who were part of the 1842 Cherokee Slave revolt.)

"I was born after the War, about 1868, and what I know 'bout slave times is what my pappa told me, and maybe that not be very much. Two year old when my mamma die so I remember nothing of her, and most of my sisters and brothers dead too. Pappa named Charley Nave; mamma's name was Mary Vann before she marry and her papa was Talaka Vann, one of Joe Vann's slave down around Webber's Falls.

"My father was born in Tahlequah just about where the colored church stands on Depot Hill. His master Daniel Nave, was Cherokee. In the master's yard was the slave cabin, one room long, dirt floor, no windows. I think I hear 'em say mamma was born on Bull Creek; that somewhere up near Kansas, maybe near Coffeyville.

"Vinita was the closest town to where I was born; when I get older seem like they call it "the junction" on account the rails cross there, but I never did ride on the trains just stay at home.

"I remember that home after the war brought my pappa back home. He went to the war for three years wid the Union soldiers. But about the home--it was a double-room log house with a cooling-off space between the rooms, all covered with a roof, but no porch, and the beds was made of planks, the table of pine boards, and there was never enough boxes for the chairs so the littlest children eat out of a tin pan off the floor.

"That house was on the place my papa said he bought from Billy Jones in 1895. The land was timbered and the oldest children clear the land, or start to do the work while Pappa go back to Tahlequah to get my sick mamma and the rest of the family. Because mamma was sick then he brought her sister Sucky Pea and her husband, Charley Pea, to help around wid him.

"We lived there a long time, and I was old enough to remember setting in the yard watching the river (Grand River) go by, and the Indians go by. All Indians lived around there, the real colored settlement was four mile from us, and I wasn't scared of them Indians for papa always told me his master Henry Nave, was his own father; that make me part Indian and the reason my hair is long, straight and black like a horse mane.

"Some of the Indian families was Joe Dirt Eater, Six Killer (some of the Six Killers live a few miles SE of Afton at this time, 1938), Chewey Noi, and Gus Buffington. One of the Six Killer women was mighty good to us and we called her "mammy", that a long time after my mammy die though.

"Papa got the soldier fever from being in the War; no, I don't mean like the chills and fever, but just a fever to be in the army, I guess for he joined the regular U.S. Army after a while, serving five years in the 10th Cavalry at Fort Sill during the same time John Adair of Tahlequah and John Gallagher of Muskogee was in the army.

"Coming out of the army for the last time, Papa took all the family and moved to Fort Scott, Kansas, but I guess he feel more at home wid the Indians for pretty soon we all move back, this time to a farm near Fort Gibson.

"I never would hear much about the war that my father was in, but I know he fought for the North. He didn't tell us children much about the War, except he said one time that he was in the Battle of Honey Springs in 1863 down near Elk Creek south of Fort Gibson. That sure was a tough time for the soldiers, for father said they fought and fought before the "Seesesh" soldiers finally took off to the south and the northern troops went back to Fort Gibson. Seem like it take a powerful lot of fighting to rid the country of them Rebs.

"Another time his officer give him a message; he was on his way to deliver it when the enemy spy him and cry out to stop, but father said he kept on going until he was shot in the leg. Then he hide in the bushes along the creek and got away. He got that message to the captain just the same.

"When father was young he would go hunting the fox with his master, and fishing in the streams for the big fish. Sometimes they fish in the Illinois river, sometimes in the Grand, but they always fish the same way. They make pens out in the shallow water with poles every little ways from the river banks. They'd cut brush saplings, walk out into the stream ahead of the pen and chase the fish down to the riffle where they'd pick em up. Once they catch a catfish most as big as a man; that fish had eggs big as hen eggs, and he made a feast for twenty-five Indians on the fishing party.

"Florence Smith was my first wife and Ida Vann the second. All my children was from the first marriage: Thomas, Dora, Charley, Marie, Opal, William, Arthur, Margaret, Thadral and Hubbard. The last one was named for Hubbard Ross; he was related to Chief John Ross and was some kin to Daniel Nave, my father's master."

_________
Source:  Baker, T. Lindsay, and Julie P. Baker. 1996. The WPA Oklahoma slave narratives.

This interview with Cornelius Neely Nave is indeed full of detail about life for enslaved people living within Cherokee nation and within the culture of those who enslaved them. And there was clearly a reference to the fact that the family was also related to those who had enslaved them, so the relationship was one that had deep roots.

The Allotted Land


The land allotment applications have also been digitized, thanks to a partnership between Ancestry, the Oklahoma Historical Society, and the Federal Records Center in Ft. Worth Texas. Because of that partnership, the land allotment records can extend the family narrative significantly. Many people overlook that the Dawes enrollment process was to determine eligibility for land allotments for each person enrolled.

The files are rich and often as in the case of Cornelius Nave, one can see one of the few documents that reflect the actual signature of the head of household. These records reflect the actual application for each and everyone in the household eligible to receive land. This also included children. With the Naves, the father Cornelius submitted papers for each person in his household.

Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1
884-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2014.

Source: Same as for image above

In the enrollment part of the process, the Nave family, the enrollment case was handled smoothly, but the land allotment case was not without a few challenges. Cornelius applied for the land allotments for himself and the family, but his case was contested by Thomas A. Simpson, a man who had applied for and been rejected as a citizen by intermarriage. However several papers refer to the contested lands made by Simpson.

Source: Same as for image above

Source: Same as for image above

Source: Same as for image above


Source: Same as for image above

Source: Same as for image above


Additional papers in the file suggest that there was also an effort to contest Florence's land, but that was also later settled.

Clearly the land allotment records enhance the family story of Cherokee Freedmen as well as the Freedmen of the other tribes. This is a clear example of how multiple resources beyond the Dawes roll can tell the greater story of the family.

Chat With A Descendant of Corneilus Neely Nave

The basic research for the Nave family was conducted over 20 years ago, and I had a chance recently to ask a few questions about the family's reception on this history. Dawe Nave is a direct descendant who worked over 20 years ago at the National Archives, which was when we first met.

After some discussion I suggested that we look up her family among the Dawes Records, where her ancestors were found. Over the years we have kept in touch and after deciding to share some documents from the Dawes records about the Nave family, and recently, I reached out to her, and  decided to follow up and ask her some questions. She has graciously decided to share her responses with me.

1)   Q. Were you always aware that Cornelius Nave was one of your ancestors from family oral history?
       A. No

2)   Q. Did your family speak much about having ties to the Cherokee Nation?
       A. No. Just sporadic mentioning of "Indian Blood" in the family, in general 

3)    Q. Were any of the names from this history familiar to you before seeing the file of Cornelius
             Nave?
        A. I had begun conducting research into my father's paternal side of the family before actually
             finding the Cornelius Nave interview and had, up to this point been aware of Charles Nave Cornelius's
             father.)


4)    Q. Have you had a chance to visit Oklahoma since you learned about your ancestral ties to Cherokee Freedmen?
        A.  Yes.


5)    Q. Has knowledge of this history altered anything with your own view of history?
        A. I would say that this knowledge of my family history further informed rather than altered my own view
            of this history.

6)    Q. How has your family reacted to their Cherokee Freedmen history upon your sharing this
             history with them?

       A. For my father it was especially enlightening and special since he had been cut off from this
            side of his family from a very young age, therefore his knowledge of them was very limited
            until I shared the information with him that I'd found about them.


7)    Q. Have you or  your family members become citizens of the Cherokee Nation? If not, is this
              something you plan to pursue?

          A. No, I am not sure, yet.

8)    Q. Is there anything else to share about this Nave family?
       A. I'm still searching and learning more about my family, and until I further complete and/or answer more
           pertinent questions about them, I will decline.

(Thank you Dawn Nave, of Arizona for sharing your thoughts about your fascinating history, and I wish you well as you continue this journey into your amazing family history!)



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This is the 16th article of a 52 article series article devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Territory, no 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.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Fanny Turner and Family - Seminole Freedmen


In general there are challenges when researching Oklahoma-based families, especially those with ties to the Five Civilized Tribes. Within those records are those reflecting families from the various bands within the Seminole Nation. The research can be even  more challenging when researching Seminole Freedmen. There are records, and thankfully there are enrollment cards but when it comes to the application jackets and interviews, the files are quite slim and many interviews are in fact not in the file. Yet there are records to find and stories that can be gleaned from the records. Such is found in the file of Fanny Turner, of Earlsboro, Indian Territory.

Fanny and her husband Tom Turner lived with their family in Earlsboro Indian Territory. Living with Fanny and Tom were her other children from previous marriage---Jesse Brown and Nora Bruner. In addition their two youngest children Eva and Crisella were also in the house. They are all enrolled on Seminole Freedman card number 651.

Seminole Freedman Card #651

Because Fanny was a young woman at the time, she was born many years into freedom, but on the reverse side of the card, it is noticed that her mother had once been enslaved by Seminole Short Bird. her father was Cesar Payne, and it appears that he was not enslaved at all, for he too was born after the war. Her mother Dinah Walker was the parent said to have been enslaved.

When researching Seminole families the tribal band is the method of identifying persons who were citizens of the tribe. Fanny was a member of the Cesar Bruner band. Her father Cesar was a member of the Dosar Barkus band, and her mother was a member of the Bruner band, like Fanny. And all of her children was Bruner band members. Note that her husband was a US citizen and not enrolled in any of the tribes.
(Source: Same as for above image)

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The Application Jacket

The application jacket usually contains interviews of the applicants. Unfortunately there were only a few scant hand-written notes papers including one birth affidavit for Fanny's youngest child Crisella. Though good information, the missing interview could have provided more about the family itself. one small note simply contained the names of  Fanny's immediate family

National Archive Microfilm Publication M1301
Seminole Freedman File 651
Accessed from Fold3,com

Certainly the family that descends from Fanny Turner will be encouraged to find the birth record of Crisella, Fanny's youngest child. 


Source: Same as above image


(Source: Same as for two previous images)

But now with the enrollment  card, and the application jacket, what other resource could be out there to glean more information about the family? Finding more information  would require examining things all over again, in addition to expanding the search to other record sets. I decided to take 3 steps to find more data on the family:
1) Re-examine the enrollment card.  
2) Analyze the land allotment records to find more data.
3) Find the family in the Federal census or other records.

1--Re-examining the enrollment card. 
The back side of Freedmen enrollment card always contains additional information. The names of the parents are reflected and if the parents were enslaved the name of the slave holder is included. By analyzing the data on the card, it is noticed that there was nothing suggesting that Fanny's parents had died--so there was a strong possibility that they were still living at the time, and therefore would have had a card of their own. Fanny's parents were Cesar Payne and Dinah Walker. A check was made and both did have enrollment cards. 

Fanny's Father Cesar Payne:
As it turns out, her father Cesar Payne was still living at the time of Dawes enrollment, and thus there is a card reflecting him as well. He is enrolled on Seminole Freedman card number 684. He resided in the town of Sasakwa. His parents were Sam and Rebecca Payne, both of the Dosar Barkus Band. Sam and Rebecca were Fanny's paternal grandparents. This provides additional information for anyone researching the Payne family.


Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Dawes Census Cards for Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914
Seminole Freedman Card

(Source: Same as for above image)


It also appears that Sam and Rebecca had additional children besides Caesar. A search on the Ancestry database for the names of Sam and Rebecca Payne revealed that some additional cards on the family, which can be researched for more family data. The following image reflects those names of Dawes applicants listing Sam and Rebecca as parents.

For future reference--Polly Bruner is found on Seminole Freedman Enrollment card  #794, and was also a daughter of Sam and Rebecca. Precilla Grayson (married to a Creek Citizen), was another daughter of  Sam and Rebecca, and finally Gibson Payne was also a son of Sam and Rebecca Payne. He was enrolled on Seminole Freedman card #683. Both Precilla and Gibson were both married to citizens of the Creek Nation.

Index from Ancestry database 
And for future reference--Polly Bruner on Seminole Freedman Enrollment card  #794 was a daughter of Sam and Rebecca. Precilla Grayson (married to a Creek Citizen), was also a daughter of  Sam and Rebecca, and finally Gibson Payne was also a son of Sam and Rebecca Payne. He was enrolled on Seminole Freedman card #683. Both Precilla and Gibson were both married to citizens of the Creek Nation.

Fanny's Mother Dinah Walker
As was noticed, Fanny's mother was indeed alive during the years of the Dawes Commission.  She was a member of the Dosar Barkus band, and she had at that time, now married to a "states" man called Eugene Walker. Her husband before Walker was Jim Bennett who was by that time, deceased. Dinah's parents were Mack (no last name given) and Maria Foster, of the Dosar Barkus band, and one enslaved by Seminole Geo. Cloud.

There is much more to study and more people to follow based on data from this card. The descendants of Dinah extend into multiple families and the story of Fanny Turner's extended family is complex and full of data.

Year: 1910; Census Place: Econtuchka, Seminole, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1274
Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 0183; FHL microfilm: 1375287 (Accessed on Ancestry.com)
Seminole Freedman Card #650

Source: Same as for above image

2. Analyzing the Land Allotment Applications
The decision to study the allotment applications would prove to be very successful! Although the Application jacket was missing an interview, a two-page interview with Fanny Turner was found in that file! Good information about her, where she lived and with whom, as well as issues about the land itself was contained in that file.

   
Source: Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1884-1934
File for Fanny Turner
Accessed on Ancestry.com

This interview was detailed and provided great information about the family. There was discussion about the improvements made on the land, and so much more. It was also revealed that there were renters also living upon the same land where Fanny and her husband and children lived.


In addition, one critical piece of information was contained  in that file. Fanny died before receiving her allotment. Contained in that record was a notice that she had died in September 1904.
Death record for Fanny Turner
Source: Same as for above image



3. Examining Census and other records
The federal census also reflected the Turner family living in the Seminole Nation, in 1900. Husband, Tom, Fanny and the others are reflected there also.

Year: 1900; Census Place: Township 10, 
Seminole Nation, Indian Territory; Roll: 1854; Page: 5B
Enumeration District: 0070; FHL microfilm: 1241854
(Accessed on Ancestry.com)

And in 1910 the family is found now in the new state of Oklahoma that joined the union in 1907. Fanny was now deceased and Tom is reflected as a widower in that census year. He was most likely by 1910 living upon the land allotment of the family as his late wife and children were all members of the Barkus band. Both census years point out that Tom was a citizen of the US and not any of the tribes of Oklahoma, as he was born originally in Texas. 

Year: 1910; Census Place: Econtuchka, Seminole, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1274
Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 0183; FHL microfilm: 1375287 (Accessed on Ancestry.com)
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This file is a clear example of how extensive research can reveal many details about an ancestor's life when upon first glance the file is small. By re-examining the enrollment card two additional enrollment cards were found leading to the names of more ancestors for this family. In addition examination of the cards also reflect that extended families and children from previous relationships show how many families overlap in the same region.

This family is a strong Seminole family with strong Seminole identity being reflected in both the Barkus and the Bruner bands. In addition, their family did not live in isolation as some of the family members had a spouse in the Creek Nation. There is much more that can be gleaned from the Turner family of the Seminole Nation and hopefully these records will encourage Turner descendants to study more of its rich history. And in spite of the fact that the interview was not kept in the file, it is clear that more information about the Turner family was found. 

Thankfully, Fanny was interviewed for her land allotment before she passed away. Hopefully her descendants lived on their allotment for many years, and were able to thrive and build a life as statehood eventually came and a new chapter began.
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(This is the 15th article in a series devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as slaves in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, and these posts are part of a project goal to document 52 families in 52 weeks.)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Philip and Elzora Lewis A Creek Freedmen Family

Many people assume that ALL Indian tribal freedmen were enslaved or children of enslaved people. There were people of African ancestry who were free people, living within their tribe, and those whose mother was also free born, as well. The case of Philip and Elzora Lewis is an interesting example.

This family resided in Muskogee, Indian Territory. Both were born about 1869 long after the war had ended, and thus were not born enslaved. Philip's father belonged to Arkansas town, and there is no indication that his father had been enslaved. His mother was enslaved by Roly McIntosh a well known name in Creek history. But since his mother had been enslaved, one might assume that is why he was put on the Freedmen roll. Elzora's father was a Choctaw Freedman, which would have had no bearing at all on her status as a Creek. Her mother Bettie had been a "free born" woman, and thus should have made her eligible to be considered or treated differently, and not as a woman once enslaved. Sadly the concept of treating those once enslaved was so easily acceptable as being something acceptable, which is as it is still among the tribes today.

Of course the race-based policies of the Dawes Commission, as well as racially based policies that the tribes continue to embrace, put Elzora also on the Dawes roll as "Freedman" even though her mother was a free woman living as a Creek. Although it is often said that a child follows the status of the mother, clearly Elzora's mother was Creek, lived as a Creek, belonged to a Creek town. But---as is evidenced---she was classified as a Creek Freedman. The status of her mother is reflected on the second image--the reverse side of the enrollment card.

Creek Freedman Card #105
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 above)

Unfortunately, there is no Dawes Interview packet for the Lewis family. Within the Creek nation, many of the Dawes interviews are "missing" and simply not found among the microfilmed records. However, thankfully there is much more to learn about the Lewis family, and in fact, a far better interview with Elzora is found in the Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma. 

In January of 1937, Elzora was interviewed by the team working for the Indian Pioneer History project. Those interviews are part of the Western History Collection of the University of Oklahoma. And thankfully they are also digitized and online. Elzora's story is found there among them. Because she was able to speak freely, Elzora's interview was wonderfully rich with data about her family and far greater than the Dawes interview, wherever it may be, would contain.

Her life story and that of her parents is an amazing one. Her mother was the daughter of a Rolla Scott, a Creek who came to the Territory quite early. Elzora even had information about her father's parents--her grandparents, some of whom were reluctant to remove to the Territory.

Western History Collection, University of Oklahoma, Indian Pioneer Project
WPA Interview with Elzora (Fulsom) Lewis, June 28, 1933, Interview #6432


Elzora points out that she attended a "Baptist Missionary School located on Agency Hill, on Honor Heights in Muskogee.  People familiar with Honor Heights know that this was the site of the former Evangel Mission school for Creek children, and that this building is now known as the Five Civilized Tribes Museum.
(Source: Same as previous image)


(Source: Same as previous Image)

In her interview, we learn more about her family, because Elzora mentioned not only her children, but also her grandchildren who would have still been living in Muskogee at the time. It is hoped that their descendants are now aware of their rich history that has been well documented from multiple sources.

Elzora's Father - A Choctaw Freedman

From the Choctaw Nation, but also living the Creek nation, was Elzora's father Louis Folsom. He was admitted by the commission as a Choctaw Freedman. His own card can be found on Choctaw Freedman Card #466. His parents were Yap Colbert and Lydia Colbert. His parents were enslaved by Pittman Colbert, whereas he himself had been enslaved by Sampson Folsom. (He also has four additional Creek Freekmen children who are listed on Creek Freedman Card #360 on Field Card Number 370. They all reside in Checotah, in the Chambers household.)

Choctaw Freedman Card #466
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 image above)

Within Louis Folsom's Dawes packet are several interesting pages. There is an interview with him, and also an interview with one of his grown children, as well. His own interview was not complicated and a simple forthright one that cleared him through the Dawes enrollment process.


Another interview found in the file is with an adult daughter Lizzie. This daughter would have been a half-sister to Elzora Lewis. She was questioned about her father, and though she could not answer some of the questions about him, she was still enrolled on the same card with him. Also it comes out during Lizzie's interview that she resided in Goodland, and not in the same area with her father, nor with her half sister Elzora.

National Archives Publication M1301
Dawes Packet for Choctaw Freedman #466
Accessed on Fold3.com: https://www.fold3.com/image/260/54844206

(Source: Same as above image)


An interesting hand-written note also appears in the Dawes enrollment packet verifying the history of Louis Folsom, Elzora's father. Individuals who knew him since birth testified that he was indeed born where he stated that he was and that he had truly lived in the community stated. It should be pointed out that at the time of the Dawes interview, Louis Folsom was in his sixties, which makes these hand-written sworn statements even more amazing and important. In that letter, the three people quoted were able to provide the exact birthdate for Louis Folsom, Elzora Lewis's father. He was born in 1837 and those who signed the letter knew him from his earliest years.

Source: Same as above image

The family history of Elzora Lewis's family is a rich one, and it shows how inter-connected many of the Freedmen families were. Their often overlapped with citizens of other tribes, and they were aware of their histories and were able to prove who they were. Elzora and her family were strongly Creek in culture, lifestyle and identity. However, her father and half-siblings were Choctaw Freedmen.

From her interview with the Indian Pioneer project we learn on Elzora having been educated at Evangel Mission School (now the home of the Five Civilized Tribes Museum) and how deeply a part of the Creek Nation her life and history were.

This is a wonderful example of a rich family legacy, and it is also hoped that the descendants of Lizzie Williams as well as Elzora Lewis someday met, or will meet and can appreciate their shared history.

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This is the 14th article in a series devoted to sharing histories and stories 
of families once held as slaves in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma.
The focus of the series is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes and these posts
are part of a project goal of documenting 52 families in 52 weeks.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Family of Nellie Ligon, Chickasaw Freedmen


For anyone researching Chickasaw Freedmen, it can be a challenge to conduct the research in a thorough manner because in many cases the data was sparse in the application files. However, there are amazing clues to the family history to be found on the Dawes Cards, and by studying the additional members of the family.

Nellie Ligon lived in Pontotoc County of the Chickasaw Nation at the time of the Dawes Commission. She lived in the community of Wiley, I.T., and appeared for the interview on September 27, 1898. She applied for herself and her daughter Caroline Moore, with whom she also resided. She was 60 years old at the time, and had clearly been enslaved in her younger years. She was once enslaved by Chickasaw Elsie Harris, as was her daughter as well.

An interesting notation appears on the card describing the fact that there was a "Nellie Ligon Contested Case."


Ancestry.com. U.S., Native American Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 
1898-1914 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
Chickasaw Freedman Card N 827


From the reverse side of the card, it is noted that Nellie did not provide the name of her father and it was only noted that he was deceased at the time. Her mother's name was Tena Clifton, and she was also deceased at the time. There is no clear indication why the father's name was not mentioned. Considering Nellie's age, it is possible that like some who were once enslaved, the names of both parents was not always known. Nellie's mother Tena, had once been enslaved by Tokolski of the Chickasaw Nation.

Source: Same as above


Thankfully an interview was found in the file. With Chickasaw Freedmen, the commissioners ended up submitting abbreviated files as the final version. They were later interrogated about this practice of submitting interviews as short as 2-3 sentences. The file of Nellie Ligon was a file with some content.

Much of the focus on the file was placed on her status while enslaved and then freedmen. Her movement outside of the territory during the war was an area of focus and the length of time spent living in Indian Terriotory. Like many people enslaved during the Civil war, she was taken south, as a method of preventing any escapes while the turmoil unfolded in the Territory.

Nellie was asked who her owner was before the war, then who the owner was after the war, and whether or not she had been sold. (This was significant because had she been sold to someone in Texas then she may have been made ineligible for enrollment and a subsequent land allotment.)

National Archives Publication M1301, Application Jackets, compiled 1898-1914
Record accessed from Fold 3, Native American Collection, 
Chickasaw Freedmen Dawes Packets File #827


A witness was brought in to corroborate what Nellie said about her life as a Chickasaw slave. The witness was John Childers who knew Nellie for many years. He pointed out in his testimony that he knew Nellie had been a slave of "Granny Harris" as he referred to Eloise Harris the slave holder listed on Nellie's Dawes Card. It was recorded that Granny Harris was actually the grandmother of Governor R. M. Harris of the Chickasaw Nation.
Source: Same as for above image

There were additional letters in the file, but no additional interviews, so it was not clear upon first read exactly what the "contested" case was noted in a document above.


At the top of the page of the interview pertaining to Nellie, they would point to the related case. That was the case of her son, Frank, who also lived in Pontotoc, in the same town. Frank applied for himself and his wife Viney, a step son, and two children who were his wards, Turner Cheadle, and Bertie Love.

A note also points out that his status would depend upon the status of Nellie Ligon.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Native American Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 
1898-1914 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
Chickasaw Freedman Card N 864

Rich parental data is found on the reverse side of the card. Although Frank's father is not listed, Nellie Ligon is identified as his mother. Viney's parents were Randel Sticks and Anecky Henderson. The names of the parents of the step son, and the wards are also listed on the back of the card. Viney's mother was enslaved by Har-no-ta-tubby a Chickasaw. The ward Turner Cheadle's parents were listed and the mother was enslaved by another Chickasaw Serena Gray.

Source: Same as above image.

The application jacket of Frank Ligon contained some of the identical items found in the file of Nellie to that of Nellie, with two significant additions. One was another interview pertaining to Caroline Moore, Nellie's daughter. That interview was significant because all of Nellie's children were mentioned in that series of questions.




The primary concerns with Nellie's case focused on her movement to Texas during the war and the birth of Frank in Texas while she was taken and held there. There was the concern that perhaps she was sold which would have been the technicality to prevent her being allowed to enroll, and to choose her land allotment. In the file was a tender letter written by Nellie explaining her story.


After receipt of her letter and a series of memorandums that appear in the file, a decision in Nellie's favor was eventually made. Thankfully she persevered and was allowed to enroll, and subsequently select her land allotment.

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.

The file reflecting Nellie Ligon and her family are encouraging for the reflect a woman who was clearly the matriarch of her family face the commissioners in her interviews and to address the status of her family with passion and dignity. Seeing her live to select her land as well, reflects her strength, resilience and devotion to her family.

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This is the 13th article in a series devoted to sharing histories and stories of families 
once held as slaves in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma.
The focus of the series is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, and these posts 
are part of a project goal of documenting 52 families in 52 weeks.