Sunday, April 16, 2017

Family of Will and Judy Brown, Choctaw Freedmen


The Brown family from the Choctaw Nation is an interesting family case presented on two separate enrollment cards. Will and Judy Brown were married and lived in Luk-fah-la, Indian Territory. They lived together as husband and wife, with their extensive family, and yet they appear on two different enrollment cards.

Will is listed on Choctaw Freedman enrollment card number 284, and his wife Judy is listed on enrollment card number 285. Each card also mentions that the spouse is also an enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation. (see image below)

(Choctaw Freedman Card #284 and 285 - Front side
For full citation see images below)


The Browns lived in Lukfala in the Choctaw Nation, not far from Broken Bow, Oklahoma. They resided with three children, Otha and Onnie and their youngest son Crockett. In addition, they petitioned for their nieces and nephews to also be enrolled. The nieces and nephews were Arabella, Polly, Luther, Alvin, Conley, Clay, and Lovely.

Early history

Since the slavery was abolished in 1866 by treaty with the United States, Will, who was only 33 at the time of the Dawes enrollment, was too  young to have been enslaved or have any memory of it. However, both of his parents Tony and Jennie, were enslaved and they were enslaved by the Pitchlynn family. Will's parents were both slaves of Tom Pitchlynn. The Pitchlynns were a very prominent family within the Choctaw Nation.  Matt Brown, who was Will's brother and father to the other children in the household, had also been enslaved by Tom Pitchlynn.

Choctaw Freedman Card #284
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



The family lived in Eagle County, and the nieces and nephews had been enrolled earlier out of Towson County. The parents of Will Brown were Tony and Jennie Brown. Vina was the mother of the two older boys, Otha and Onnie. Judy, his current wife was the mother of Crockett.
Matt Brown was the father of the nieces and nephews, and he was at that time, deceased, thus Will Brown was appearing on their behalf. The mother of Will's two older children, who was Vina, was not a Choctaw citizen, nor was the mother of Matt Brown's children. (See following image.)

(Source: Same as for above image)

Judy's Card

Judy Brown's card was bearing only two names--hers and an infant Beulah Brown. Judy's parents were Ben and Lucy Pitchlynn. Both had been enslaved. Her father had been enslaved by Choctaw Chief Peter Pitchlynn, and both she and her mother was enslaved by Calvin Howell. (Calvin Howell was married to Rhoda Pitchlynn, who was related to Peter Pitchlynn, the tribe's principal chief.)
Her youngest child at the time, Beulah was recorded on the same card as Judy.


Choctaw Freedman Card #285
(Source: Same as for above image)


(Source: Same as for above image)


More Ancestors Found!
Looking at the reverse side of Will's card, his parents are listed. It was noticed however, that unlike brother Matt, who was deceased, there was no indication that Tony Brown---Will's father had died. 

(Source: Same as for previous images)

As a result, Tony Brown was indeed still living, and he also had a Dawes Card! Both Will and Jennie were on the same card, living also in Eagle Township with additional members of the Brown family as well. 

(Source: Same as for previous images)

In the household with Tony and Jennie were three additional children, Rufus, Tom, and Amandy. A line is drawn through Amandy's name for she died before the enrollment process ended. A note pertaining to Amandy indicates that she died in February 1902, and thus cancelled her enrollment. Another daughter Amy Lewis is mentioned on the card, however, she was then married to Monroe Lewis who was also an enrolled Choctaw Freedman. In addition, two of Amy's children are also enrolled on the same card.
The reverse side of the card is most revealing, because more ancestors names are revealed. Although Will did not name his father--he pointed out that his mother's name was Polly Linscom, and she had lived in Columbus Mississippi.

This is so significant, because at the time these documents were created---Tony Brown was 72 years old. That means that he was born about 1827. The Choctaws did not move to Indian Territory until 1831, thus he was clearly born in Mississippi. In addition---he points out exactly who his mother was and where she lived!

It is quite rare to find a reference to a birth place of Indian-held slaves prior to removal to the west--and in this case, Tony Brown pointed to the community exactly where his mother Polly lived. Columbus Mississippi!

(Source: Same as for previous images)

Jennie's parents were Buckleys--Abraham and Jennie Buckley. Both were deceased, and there is the likelihood that both died in Mississippi, by the remarks pertaining to their enrollment.

Judy's Parents

Judy was enrolled on her own separate card, so zooming in on her parental data it is also noticed that HER parents Ben and Lucy Pitchlynn were also still living! 

So, could another enrollment card also be found for them? Well, not only were cards found reflecting her parents, but also they still lived! More information, and more ancestral data for this family is there to be found!

The answer is yes! Both Ben and Lucy were enrolled on Choctaw Freedman card in the same community of Eagle County of the Choctaw Nation. And to the delight of any researcher both sets of parents for each of them was listed on the reverse side of the card.


(Source: Same as for previous images)

(Source: Same as for previous images)


Judy's parents Ben and Lucy Pitchlynn were clearly a part of the Pitchlynn estate, for decades, and their association through slavery clearly pre-dated the removal of Choctaws to the west. Ben's parents were Adam and Judy Pitchlynn, and Lucy's parents were Abram and Judy Buckley. It is also interesting to note the naming pattern within the family as some of the names of their children and grandchildren would match the names of their own elders and loved ones.

Lucy's parents were Hannibal Pitchlynn, and Dicey Howell. Hannibal was enslaved by the Pitchlynns and Dicey was enslaved by Calvin Howell. (Also note that among the slaveholders, the Pitchlynns and Howells were closely affiliated families.)

By following the cards for both Will and Judy, and for Will's father Tony, so much more has been learned about the family history.


The Dawes Application Jacket 

Several pages were found in the application Jacket. The actual formal interview of Will Brown was also included in the file. His interview confirmed that he also was speaking on behalf of his brother's children. The end result was that they were all enrolled together.


National Archives Publication M1301
Choctaw Freedman File 284
Image Accessed through Fold3.com


(Source: same as above)

(Source: same as above)


Judy's Enrollment Card




National Archives Publication M1901
Choctaw Freedman File #285


Source: same as for above image

Source: same as for above image


Will's fathers Tony Brown's  application packet contained only a handful of items, including one of the abbreviated Freedman interviews. The actual text of a longer more detailed interview no longer exists. Other papers were letters pertaining to the enrollment of grandchildren living in the household with him at the time.
National Archives Publication M1301, Application Jackets
Choctaw Freedman File #216

What the file consists of, is a brief exchange of simple questions and answers with few details. Thankfully with the data obtained from the enrollment cards so much more can be gleaned from these records.
The Brown family of Eagle County has a fascinating history! Thanks to the data found on the enrollment cards, so much more has been learned. As simple as the Dawes application jackets were, having the names of both sets of parents, and even the names of the grandparents of both Will and Judy was revealing. The data also reflected the exact community where the enslaved family was located in Mississippi, before removal to the west with Choctaw slave holders.

The family has a rich legacy and the survival of Will, Judy and even Will's parents speaks to the resilience of this family and their determination to survive. What a joy to research their files and to go back two more generations beyond Will and Judy!  May their family continue to thrive and grow stronger.
* * * * *     * * * * *     * * * * *
This is the 12th 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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great History! enjoyable read