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.
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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
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

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
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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

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

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.

(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

(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.

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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.

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.