Sunday, January 17, 2016

Finding Onchetubbe, A Choctaw Man

I had never heard the name Onchatubbee, or Anchatubbee until 1991, when I found my great grandmother's Dawes application file. My Great grandmother was Sallie Walton. She was a Dawes enrollee, and her mother was Amanda Perry Hunt. I have had much of this information well documented since 1991.


National Archives publication M1186,

Source: Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Dawes Census Cards for Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 [database on-line]. 

Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2014. Original data: Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1186, 


On the reverse side of Sallie's Dawes Card her mother was identified as Amanda "Hunt". Her father was identified as Eastman Williams.

(Source: Same as above)

But, in the Dawes interview, Sallie gave a brief statement about her mother and when asked her mother's full name, she stated that her mother was "Amanda Anchatubbee."



"Anchatubbee?" Well that name was completely unfamiliar to me, and there were no living elders to ask about the name.  Well, I knew that Anchatubbee is clearly a Choctaw name---but where did it come from? I knew that Sallie's mother Amanda had married a man called John Hunt in the latter part of the 1880s but no additional records have surfaced with that name, nor with anything that resembled Anchatubbee.

So where did that name come from?

Was Amanda's father named Anchatubbee?

Did Amanda marry a man by that name? And if so, would that have been Sallie's father?

In 1999, a cousin shared with me a letter that had been written to my gr. grandmother in 1923. The letter was written by W. B. Billy a well known Choctaw living in the town of Howe, Oklahoma. The letter was written to Sallie in 1923, and it is telling her about her own family. It mentioned her mother Amanda, her grandparents Kitty and James, and possibly Sallie's father. In that letter was a sentence pointing out that Amanda, her mother, had at one time married a man called "Onchetubbee."
So there he was. I recognized that Onchitubbee was the name that Sallie has used for her mother Amanda Anchatubbee. The letter pointed out that Onchetubbee was my gr. gr. grandmother Amanda's husband.




Many questions came to my mind, the first being why Sallie did not know this about her family. Was she not raised around them?

The letter also pointed out to Sallie that it was not certain whether Onchetubbee was her father or not, but it was noted in the letter that her grandfather James Crow was full Choctaw.

With all of the questions in my head, I at least learned from that letter that "Onchitubbee", or "Anchatubbee" was clearly a name related to the family. So anytime I saw a list of Choctaws from the Skullyville, or Sugar Loaf areas of the Choctaw Nation, I would seek his name, just to see if he was enumerated. But the name of this man never appeared.

For the next twenty five years, Anchatubbee would simply be the name of a man who married my gr. gr. grandmother. Did he live nearby? Far away? Was he associated with the Perrys? The Perry family was Choctaw family to whom my family was associated, during and after slavery.

But now, thanks to the partnership between the Oklahoma Historical Society, and Ancestry, there is a new opportunity to examine records more easily. The decision to digitized many of the Oklahoma Historical society records has brought a new opportunity for those researching the history of the Oklahoma based Indian Tribes. I zoomed in on a unique collection of these records. It is called, the Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Marriage, Citizenship and Census Records 1840-1927. I wrote about this collection in a previous article.

So, while on Ancestry going through more of the records in this amazing collection, I was first drawn to an image that summarized the numbers of citizens, including Freedmen, in the Choctaw Nation in 1867 and 1868. Although this image was only a summary, with a numerical count it still provided useful data on the numbers of people of color in the Choctaw Nation.

SourceAncestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Marriage, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Indian Marriage and Other Records, 1850–1920. Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Image: CTN 04 Choctaw Citizens and Freedmen Image 25/455


One reel of microfilm interested me, because it reflected the Sugar Loaf community where my Perry clan had resided.


The heading on the 1868 Choctaw census reflected the numbers of people in various categories. Indian males, Indian females, Free persons of color, freedmen from other states or tribes, and numbers of pieces of property such as livestock owned. 

The only names represented on the document were the names of male heads of house. In this case I recognized the name of Nail Perry, who was part of the Perry clan in that area, and who also testified for my great grandparents in their application on the Dawes roll. And what a surprise to note the name that appeared directly underneath that of Nail Perry. There, on a list of names from 1868 was a man called Onchetubbee!





Onchetubbe!! This was the very first time that I had ever noticed the name of Onchetubbe on a document, after over 25 years of researching this family. Though it began with an "O" and not an "A" I realized that this was the same name. And I had possibly found my the source of the mystery name from the Dawes interview. And here in 1868 the name appears. (Thank you Ancestry!)

As it turns out, in 1874 another census was taken in the Choctaw Nation. And there, in Sugar Loaf, once again the name appeared.





The  same roll of microfilm contained the 1896 Choctaw Census. I did find the Perry Clan listed in Sugar Loaf County but beyond that, nothing more reflected Onchetubbe. His name no longer appeared, and he may have, by that time, passed away. But finding him in those two odd census years 1868 and 1874, in the Choctaw Nation still pleased me.

After 25 years of looking for and asking about Anchatubbe, or Onchatubbe, finally, after taking time to comb through this fairly new collection on Ancestry, I finally saw this man's name.

Although I don't have a lot of data to share about Onchatubbee, but at least now I have evidence on paper that reflects this man. He is said to have married Amanda Perry, my gr. gr. grandmother. 

Is he an ancestor? He may have been only a step father to my Sallie, thus not a direct ancestor at all. However, finding his name still provides satisfaction: 

-Onchetubbe was part of the small community in what is now rural LeFlore county, once known as Sugar Loaf. 
-Onchetubbe was part of the small circle of people in the Perry clan, around whom some of my ancestors live. 
-And Onchetubbe was part of the circle of people whose names I call as my ancestors 

And now as he continues his walk with the ancestors, I can also call his name.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Pre-Citizenship Records of Choctaw Freedmen

The Choctaw Nation made an official move to adopt their formal slaves as citizens in 1885. An official census was conducted and later produced the first official document reflecting the population of Choctaw Freedmen. In order to determine who was going to be considered eligible for citizenship, preliminary data was collected. And now these records are available on Ancestry and can be used to tell more of the story of Choctaw Freedmen.

Source: CTN 07 Choctaw Citizens and Freedmen Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Marriage, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Original data: Indian Marriage and Other Records, 1850–1920. Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


These records are extremely useful for African American genealogists, with Choctaw Freedmen ancestors, because they lay out the family structure as it was in 1885. Keep in mind that this was more than a decade before the Dawes Commission started, and therefore these records provide a unique opportunity for Freedmen researchers to look at the family much earlier in time.

To Find These Records:

The 1885 Choctaw Freedmen census records themselves in their entirety can be accessed on Ancestry. One can tell by looking at the microfilmed images, that entire ledgers were copied. I am zooming in on some of the pages found Ancestry, to show the kinds of data collected by the Choctaw Nation in the 1880s.

On Ancestry, the collection is called: Oklahoma and Indian Territory Marriages, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927. There are more than 800 pages in this database.The most useful pages in this collection are the first 285 pages of this 816-page collection.

The beginning of the collection starts with an area simply called "1st District". This census is significant because it reflects the composition of the family as it was in 1885. On the left side of the page, the categories reflected the names of the persons enumerated, including the head of the household, the names of the children and their age range.

Source: Same as above


The second side of the ledger reflect additional data, including the nationality of the citizen being enumerated, the former slave holders for those who had been enslaved, and also additional information about real property and livestock owned.

Sourc: Same as above

The value of looking at this record is that it reflects the family more than a decade before the Dawes Rolls. In some cases people died between 1885 and 1898, so there are some names shown of people who never made it to the Dawes Rolls. Many of whom were in their 60s and older, died before the Dawes enrollment process began, so this is the opportunity to see the family grouping even earlier. Unlike those whose families lived in the United States after freedom, families in Indian Territory do not have the benefit of having been enumerated on the 1870 and 1880 census schedules. So this record from 1885 is useful.

A Case Study - Searching for My Perry Ancestors
I was able to locate my own ancestors on the document, but interestingly, the document created more questions than it answered.

My great grandmother Sallie Walton was named after her grandmother Sallie who was frequently also called "Kitty". I see an older Sallie who is possibly my "Kitty", on the record, as my Sallie's mother Amanda Perry. I recognize the name of others such as Jackson Perry Sallie's uncle, (who would later be known as Jackson Crow), and the name of Davis Frazier, an orphaned cousin appears with the family. But my own Sallie was not there, on the document.

Surprisingly another name that has often been noted on early documents appeared--that of the Flacks. And the Sallie that I saw was not Sallie or Kitty Perry, but a Sallie "Flack". On the ledger it said that Eliza Flack was said to be the slave holder before emancipation. If this is my older Sallie (or Kitty) this is new information, because the Perry's were said to be the exclusive Choctaw slave holders of the family. Yet, this record from a decade earlier than the creation of the Dawes roll, suggests something else. However, there is no evidence, so the Sallie Flack could also be a simple accident of geography--and perhaps she was a mere neighbor, and not connected.

A decade later when the Dawes roll data was collected, an interview with Nail Perry, a well known Choctaw Indian in the Sugar Loaf area of the nation, stated that Sallie's mother Amanda was freed under his sister Emeline Perry.

Yet, here is Eliza Flack who is listed on this 1885 document at the slave holder before emancipation. So the greater question arises--who are the Flacks? Are they connected to my family? Seeing Eliza Flack as a previous slave holder proves a new avenue of research to pursue.

Source: Same as above


Some Elected To Leave the Nation

In that collection are several volumes or ledgers of records, and volume 3 contained the names of people who opted to leave the Nation and not be adopted into the tribe. The expectation was that they were going to get a $100 payment in addition to relinquishing their citizenship. And surprisingly, the name of Kitty Perry, my gr. gr. gr. grandmother appeared on that list.

There was an" X" by her name and a notation (see arrow on bottom right) in the lower right corner. Kitty had submitted papers to identify who she was for her to be deemed eligible for the $100 per capita payment. This notation is not made with other most other names on this ledger. So now, the question arises---who was Lizzie Perry? Was this a relative of Nail Perry, or Emeline or others in the Perry clan?

Kitty's name later appeared a few pages later on a small list of less than 10 people who had submitted identification papers.


As one moves through the ledger there are other categories, of Choctaw Freedmen, some of whose citizenship was deemed "doubtful", and more pages with Freedmen from additional districts such as Red River, Red Oak and more.

Notes About the Collection
These documents reside at the Federal Records Center in Ft. Worth Texas. They were microfilmed in the 1970s and can be found on CTN 07 at the Oklahoma Historical Society. And they are all now digitized on Ancestry. When locating the Ancestry digitized collection, look specifically for CTN07 which was the Oklahoma Historical Society number

In order to find them on Ancestry easily, one must locate the collection called, "Oklahoma and Indian Territory Marriage, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927". (I have occasionally found it easier to access from outside of Ancestry via Google. By typing in the name of the collection on Google, it is easier for me to locate the database, which will take me directly to the database that I want to see.) There are additional rolls of Indian Territory Freedmen, that I shall list on another blog.

The value of exploring earlier records is immeasurable. Some researchers might be tempted to focus exclusively on only the Dawes records, and feel that looking at earlier records is not valuable. Nothing could be father from the truth. As genealogists, and researchers, we should see ourselves as storytellers, and as we seek to tell the stories of the ancestors, each and every document bearing their name should be studied and analyzed to see if additional facts from the past can be unlocked and brought to light.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Nominal Slaves" in the Choctaw Nation

Source: Slave Schedule 1860 Choctaw Nation, Kiamichi County
Lands West of Arkansas, 1860 Slave Schedule
Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, National Archives for the State of Arkansas,  RG 105 Reel 53, Arkansas
Accessed online at Internet Archive

While working on a project studying slave holders in the Choctaw Nation, I noticed that there were a few slaves who were identified in Choctaw country as "nominal" slaves. The term "nominal" slaves suggests that these were persons who were recorded as  "enslaved" but who had certain privileges unavailable to others in the same state, township, or region. Slaves from Indian Territory are recorded at the end of the collection of Arkansas slave schedules that were microfilmed in the 1970s. 

Nominal slaves often had rules that were unique and that applied to them, and their fragile status. One might assume by the term "nominal" that they were enslaved in name only. However, when looking at some of the rules, it is evident that their status was still closely guarded and noted by all parties around them. A good example comes from the Georgia state archives, were some of the laws that affected "nominal slaves" in that state were spelled out. 

"Supreme Court Decision states that a slave can be removed to another state by the executor(s) of the will to be set free providing all estate debts of the late owner have been paid....An Act to prevent free persons of color from being brought into the state. Penalty is to be sold back into slavery. Those aiding free blacks coming into the state will be fined at least $1,000 and face possible imprisonment. Burden of proof rests on the free black." (1)

In the case coming out of Indian Territory, at first I noticed that there were a few isolated slaves, who were said to have been "nominal" slaves. 


In this case, an elderly man said to be 100 years old and blind was recorded as a "nominal" slave. In his case he was most likely a slave only in name, as an elderly man who was vision impaired would have been able to perform little if any work for the Choctaw slave holder. 

I continued to look through the pages reflecting the enslaved, and I was surprised when I found the slaves of Susan Colbert of Kiamichi (often written Kiamitia). There was a fairly large group of slaves and their status was clearly spelled out on the document.



In addition a small notation pertaining to these slaves was recorded on the side margin:


The notation reads:

"Twenty four of these negroes marked Nominal Slaves were sold into slavery for term of twenty five years to avoid being expelled from the Nation, by an act to that effect) and were bought  by James Colbert. Mr. F. R. James thinks the sale was made in 1848."



Scholar Loren Schweninger wrote an interesting article about nominal slaves. His studies indicated that s, “While the precise number of these master-less slaves remains a matter of speculation, contemporaries in some cities believed they represented a sizable population group, at least as large as the legally free Negro population. (2) 

In the case of Choctaws, there was not a large number of free Negroes living in Choctaw communities. The largest group was the the Beams family, and their stories were well documented by Daniel Littlefield. Their status was fragile, since slave catchers continued to haunt them for over thee decades even in Indian Territory.

Now nothing suggests that the nominal slaves listed on the 1860 slave schedule actually had much freedom, but as "nominal" slaves and with the notation being made it is clear that there was some kind of distinction between them and other slaves, even though they were listed as slaves of Susan Colbert. (Her name was on the bottom of the previous page.) On the same document there are tick marks that suggest that they may have been out of the area, because the column used to reflect "fugitives" were also clearly marked on the same slave schedule.

A very interesting listing of a slave came from Blue County in the Choctaw Nation, and it reveals another kind of relationship that existed between some slaves and slave holders. Note the following entry, shown below, where there was a slave of Emily Lucas. The one slave she owned was described as a mulatto male about 26 years old.  There is an asterick ( * ) next to the entry bearing the slot representing the enslaved man.


At the bottom of the page of this slave schedule, is an explanation, and it is a fascinating note about the man written by the census enumerator.

Slave Schedule 1860 Choctaw Nation, Blue County
Lands West of Arkansas, 1860 Slave Schedule

Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, National Archives for the State of Arkansas, 

RG 105 Reel 53, Arkansas 

Accessed online at Internet Archive

It reads: 

"This slave, I am informed was born free, but gave his half sister (who is a white woman and wife of a Choctaw) a bill of sale for himself for 99 years that he might remain in the Choctaw Nation."

In this case the free born man, wished to remain near his family and therefore allowed his half sister to "own" him, so that he would not be expelled from the community where he had always lived. His desire to be close to family was strong, and it appears that as a free man living and working on his own, he might not have been able to do so. So he is enumerated therefore as a slave to his own sister.
.  
Choctaw leader Israel Folsom's slaves were also enumerated in with an interesting note. Apparently he did not wish to reveal details about his slaves.


Slave Schedule 1860 Choctaw Nation, Blue County
Lands West of Arkansas, 1860 Slave Schedule

Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, National Archives for the State of Arkansas, 

RG 105 Reel 53, Arkansas 

Accessed online at Internet Archive

The notation about Israel Folsom reads:

"Refused to answer and filed is objections in writing, which are herewith submitted. I have however obtained the accompaniing (sic) description of his slaves from other persons, which I have good reason to believe is in the mean, correct, and I trust will be satisfactory."
                                                                                              E.G. Corder
                                                                                             Asst. U. S.
                                                                                                Marshal



Israel Folsom


It is not clear why Folsom refused to have the slaves described, or what reasons that he gave.

Were they also nominal slaves?

Was there possibly a relationship that went beyond master-slave with the families reflected? 

Was his gesture to not provide data one of self focus or to be seen as a protective effort? 

There are no clear answers in this case. And, the written objections shared by the enumerators, are most likely lost to time, considering the passage of time, and the time between data collection and the preservation of the records in the late 1970s.

However, slavery among Choctaws is one of the lesser studied subjects in western frontier history. It is also not studied as an aspect of Oklahoma history, of African American history, nor of Indian Territory history. It is also noted that nothing reflecting black chattel slavery appears on any official Choctaw sites, but this is not uncommon to among the five slave-holding tribes and their websites. Slavery is, in fact never mentioned as part of the history of what would become Oklahoma. But it did happen nevertheless, and the occurrence of the institution of slavery is still worthy of study, and hopefully within more years, the works of scholars like Dr. Jessie Shrier (who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Choctaw slaves), will be seen more frequently.

Included among those works yet to be seen will hopefully be slavery in all of its many complexities, including nominal slaves in the Choctaw Nation, and among the other slave holding tribes.


1. (GL 1855 Vol 1 Page 539 Sequential # 537) 1859

2.  Loren Schweninger. Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990), 34.

3. Littlefield, Daniel "The Beams Family: Free Blacks in Indian Territory", Journal of Negro History January 1946, p 17-35


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blacks, Enslaved and Free in the Choctaw Nation Before Removal


Pages Reflecting Choctaw Before Removal
Treaty of 1830 Document  CTN 1  



Recently, news from Oklahoma was released that Ancestry has recently added over 3 million images of Indian Records. This has emerged from a partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society, and these millions of images are now online for review. So many of these records contain amazing images for review. For those who study the history and lives of those once enslaved in Choctaw communities, there are also amazing records to explore.

Among some interesting records were those that became part of the American State Papers. Some of the pages reflected early census records of Choctaws made in the months before removal to the west began.

CTN 01 Choctaw Citizens and Freedmen
Additional Source Information:  Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Marriage, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Original data: Indian Marriage and Other Records, 1850–1920. Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Most of the pages contained names of Choctaw citizens and showed how much land they had owned prior to the removal to the west. Among data collected were names collected at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit in 1830.

CTN 01 Choctaw Citizens and Freedmen
Additional Source Information: Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Marriage, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Indian Marriage and Other Records, 1850–1920. Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Records Before Removal - Surprises Found
In 1830 prior to the first Removal of Choctaws to the west a census was taken in various communities known to be Choctaw villages, towns and settlements. I decided to look at some of them, and became very interested when I recognized the names of people who would later settle in Sugar Loaf, and Skullyville. Names like Folsom, Brashears, and others were among them. What came as a surprise was that there are few pages in the collection that reflected slaves, not by name, but in affiliation with their Choctaw slave holders. It should be noted that this is one of the earliest documents reflecting slaves held by Choctaw Indians.

I expected to only see the names of Choctaws who owned farms as the document says. And for some reason I did not expect any reflection of slaves. But surprisingly when one of the listed Choctaw citizens had owned slaves it was indicated on the document.

The names of the enslaved were not listed, but the numbers of slaves held by the slave holder were reflected.

Source: Same as above.

There was even a summary page indicating the number in the population enumerated, including the number of slaves.

(Source: Same as above)

I continued to browse through the collection and looked at the old Moshulatubbe District, in Mississippi.

Source: Same as above. Image 613 of 764


I was surprised to find that some Choctaws had several dozen slaves and they were counted in this same record set.

Though there were no names of the enslaved, the number of persons enslaved were recorded. Among the large slave holders were members of the Pitchlynns who were prominent Choctaws. (Peter Pitchlynn later became principal chief of the Choctaw Nation.)


Source: Same as above.  Image 617 of 764

Many were listed with a small number of slaves, some with as few as 1 slave.

Source: Same as above

Some Familiar Surnames
One page caught my attention because it contained families with surnames of people who later relocated to Indian Territory. Brashears, and Moncrief were among those names. And these were persons who later had slaves that would later live in what is now eastern LeFlore County, Oklahoma, around Ft. Coffee and Spiro. (Descendants of the Moncrief slaves now live in the same LeFlore County community today as part of the large Eubanks families.)

Names underlined later moved to Indian Territory. Descendants of their slaves now live in LeFlore County, today.
Source: Same as above.  Image 628 of 764


One record was interesting as it reflected an interracial marriage.
Source - same as above.   Image 628 out of 764


Family of Sally Tom, An African-Choctaw Blended Family

Image 629 reflected the family of Sally Tom and her family. Sally Tom was a free woman of color, a Black woman who lived within this Choctaw community. Her daughter had married a white man Thomas Ware. Joshua O'Rare had married another one of Sally Tom's daughters. Jim Tom was part of the same clan and was said to be a "half breed Negro" who had an Indian wife. Meanwhile, Jim Blue lived with the same family clan and he too was described as a "Negro man" with "an Indian wife."

Family of Sally Tom Source same as above. Image #629 of 764



The Perry Clan in Mississippi

Among the surnames connected to my Choctaw Freedmen ancestors, are the names Perry, Davis and Frazier. My gr. grandmother Sallie, her mother Amanda and Amanda's mother Kitty were slaves of the Perry's. It is believed that Kitty emigrated with the Perry's to Indian Territory in the early 1830s. They are said to have lived in the Yalobusha area before removal. As a result one image truly interested me, which was a clan of Perrys living in "Yellow Busha" at the time of removal. Several who lived within this family group were Perry's and there were also some Fraziers. Could this be the same family of Perry's connected to my family? And interestingly there was a James Davis. My great grandfather was a slave of a Choctaw man called Jim Davis, and I could not help but wonder if this was the same Jim Davis who would later become my great grandfather's slave holder.

 I don't have enough evidence to determine any of this, however, I was excited to find Perry's and Fraziers and Davises living in Mississippi together. And with all of those specific surnames there were enslaved people living with them as well.

Source: Same as above. Image 646 of 764


Bean Family - a Free Black Family

Daniel Littlefield wrote an in depth paper in 1976 about the saga of the Bean family. This was a family of free Blacks who lived in the Choctaw Nation. When the head of the house who was white passed away, his free mulatto wife and children whom he had declared free before his death, were persecuted by the children from Bean's first wife. The children of the first wife who was a Choctaw woman, put out a warrant to have Nelly and her children captured as slaves and sold on the auction block. Their saga to evade capture and live freely lasted for more than 2 decades

What a surprise to see Nelly and listed in this early Choctaw census. The notation clearly points out that they were free, and that all of the children were born in the Nation.

Source: same as above  Image 657 of 764


The Importance of These Records
Having access to these little known records from the Choctaw Nation have provided a rare glimpse into some of the Choctaw citizens and slaves prior to removal which began in the winter of 1830-31. This rare glimpse does let the researcher know about the presence of slaves as well as free people of color living among Choctaws in Mississippi. Hopefully others will study these pages and use them as a spring board to find out more of the story of African descended people living among Choctaw people and places.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Forgotten Records From The Freedmen School of the Brazil Community, Choctaw Nation


Many years ago, at one of the Family History Centers, I decided to see what records from the local community in Eastern Oklahoma I could find. I did find a reel of microfilm that reflected some of the "Colored Neighborhood Schools" in the Choctaw Nation. I saw a community close to my hometown of Ft. Smith Arkansas, and was delighted to find a school record from Ft. Coffee Neighborhood Freedmen School and was thrilled to find my grandfather's name on the school roster.

Well, a few years ago, while on a trip to Salt Lake City I decided to explore the records again, but more in depth. I found the same records and, in fact wrote an article about the schools. In that article I shared the names of children from Skullyville county in Cedar Groves, Clarksville, Dog Creek, Ft. Coffee and Oppussum Creek.

Since that time, I have gone back to Salt Lake City and was able to capture even more information about the Freedmen schools. It became clear that the Freedmen were quite anxious to have their children educated, and so many settlements and hamlets had schools, and the children were quickly enrolled when the opportunity was presented to them.

This piece reflects the documents and records of enrollment of Freedmen children from the Brazil community, which eventually became part of LeFlore County in eastern Oklahoma. These are also among the earliest records reflecting education for children in pre-statehood Oklahoma. These documents reflect sporadic years between 1888-1898.



Among the records were three receipts reflecting payments made by Jimmie Eubanks and Lizzie Scott for "services rendered" on behalf of the Freedman School.

This roster reflects the children enrolled in February of that year.






May  Roster


In later years, in the 1890s Nettie Quick was the teacher who submitted monthly reports.




By October 1895 the school reports contained more detail such as daily attendance of the children indicated by the small marks reflecting the daily schedule.



By 1898 some of the students were still enrolled and new families had settled. The teacher was now R. P. Berry. Enrollment was down slightly, but it is noted that some months enrollment was higher in the same community.


The community of Brazil is now long gone and nothing remains of the old school house, either. A map from 1905 reflects this part of the old Choctaw Nation, and most of the old settlements of Freedmen allotted lands have changed hands.

 Nothing on the current landscape points out the tiny settlement of families that once resided there, and who struggled so hard so that their children could get an education. Thankfully a few school records did survive to provide evidence of this tiny community as they made their way on the western frontier, in Indian Territory and within a few year, the state of Oklahoma.

Some of the descendants of the Brazil community moved into Ft. Coffee, Spiro, Poteau, Pocola, and nearby Ft. Smith, Arkansas.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Choctaw Freedmen: Dunford Family Legacy from the Choctaw Nation Back to Africa

Zach Dunford, Enrollment Card
NARA Publication M1186 Choctaw Freedmen 909

Zach Dunford lived in Jackson County in the southern part of the Choctaw Nation. He was the son of Dock Dunford and both had at one time been enslaved by the wealthy Robert Jones.


Choctaw Nation Map

This is an interesting family case for two reasons. The Dunfords had been enslaved by Robert Jones, who was one of the largest slave holders in the Choctaw Nation, and possibly the wealthiest slave holder in Indian Territory. At one time, Jones was said to have held over 200 people enslaved. (1)


In 1899 Zach appeared in front of the Dawes Commission to apply for enrollment for himself, his daughters and grandchildren. His wife Catherine was deceased at the time of his application.

Close up view of larger enrollment card


The Dunfords lived in Jackson County and the township of Jackson as well. The enrollment card for the family is a good example of how data can lead to more information about the family. It is noted that Zach Dunford's wife and the mother of the children is not listed on the card, however, the reverse side of the card points out that she was deceased. But interestingly, it appears that Zach Dunford's parents were still living. This is known because the usual notation of "Dd" meaning "deceased" does not appear on the card, suggesting that his parents may have still been living.

Reverse side of Choctaw Freedman Enrollment Card 909

On the front of the card, addition information is provided which leads the attentive researcher to even more data about the family and it clearly points to additional documents.

(Notes on card point out that the grandchildren were enrolled later. Also there is a reference to a marriage record that was submitted to the Dawes Commission.)

I decided to examine the Application Jacket that corresponds to this family file to see if I could find information regarding the Zach Dunford's marriage, since his wife was now deceased. What was contained in the file was a hand written document that revealed the sworn testimony of Zach's mother Charity Dunford who was at that time in her 80s.  And within that statement she spoke to the marriage of Zach to his wife Catherine and she stated that she was a witness to the marriage.

Statement of Charity Dunford, mother of Zach Dunford
National Archives Publication M1301 Choctaw Freedman file 909

Unexpected Surprises

While reading Charity Dunford's statements, two things stood out in my mind. First of all here was an 80 year old woman giving testimony for her son. This 80 year old woman was one of the oldest living Choctaw Freedmen to have been interviewed by the Dawes Commission. Being approximately 80 years old, this meant that she was born approximately in the 1820s and was living several years before the Removal of Choctaws to the West. Was she born in Mississippi, or had she been brought to Mississippi, and then later purchase by Choctaws and taken west?

The second surprise which was caught me by surprise was reading the statement where Charity Dunford describes her son's marriage to wife Catherine. The marriage was performed by Sam Walters. That was my great grandfather, Samuel Walters. The family surname eventually evolved into Walton, but while he was a traveling preacher and active Minister of the Gospel, he used the name Walters.

Marriage Performed by Sam Walters, (my gr. grandfather)


Jack Dunford's Siblings

Enclosed in the same file was a statement by Eliza Garrett. She identified herself as Zach Dunford's sister, and she too witnessed their marriage performed by Sam Walters.



In many cases, one document leads to another, and with these two statements are the possibilities that were files on Eliza Garrett and her family, and a file for the mother Charity.

Since Charity was still living at the time of the Dawes process, the next question was could Charity Dunford's enrollment file be found? Considering her age at the time this would truly open doors for the Dunford family research.

I decided to check the database and was quite pleased to discover that both of Zach's parents were indeed Dawes enrollees, and they were listed on Choctaw Freedman card, 814.

Zack Dunford's parents Dock and Charity were enrolled on Choc. Fr. card 814


The Oldest Freedman Enrollee?

Upon closer examination it is amazing to see that Dock Dunford was said to have been over 100 years old. 

When they applied it was 1899 and he lived to be placed on the final roll, thus making him possibly the oldest former slave to have survived through the Dawes process!

It is clearly understood that ages are often a mere estimate especially when one is researching people once enslaved, so even with a margin or error of 5 or more years, clearly Dock Dunford was extremely old at the time.

I decided to see if he could be found on the Federal census, since there was a Federal census conducted in the Choctaw Nation in 1900.

From Africa to Indian Territory

Sure enough, in the 1900 census Dock Dunford, and Charity, parents to Zack and Eliza, were enumerated in 1900. Their birthplace was said to have been in the Carolinas--Dock, in South Carolina, and Charity in North Carolina. But what a surprise to also see that Dock's mother was said to have been born in Africa!

Source Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: Township 7, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory; Roll: 1852; Enumeration District: 0116; FHL microfilm: 1241852.

This is the first time I have found a person enumerated in Indian Territory with an African born parent. His mother's birthplace was listed as Africa. In the case of Dock Dunford, he was truly one generation away from Africa.

The back side of his enrollment card revealed the name of his mother, Mollie Patterson. 
Reverse side of Choctaw Freedman Card 814

So many things come to mind while looking at her name on the card. If she was born in Africa, then it is clear that her name was not Mollie---and that she would have had an African name when she arrived in this land. But the cruelties of slavery stripped her birth name, and she had to die in a foreign land with a name of Mollie, and the name of the person who claimed her as his property, Joshua Patterson. 

One can only imagine the heartache in her own life, as a survivor of the Middle Passage, and the loss of everything familiar to her. Mollie is known to be a nickname for Mary, and for this dear African woman I can only pray that her entire life was not pain filled. A simple prayer for her, comes to mind, "Oh Mary, don't you weep".

But finding an African ancestor of this Dunford family line warms my hear if not for this one reason: At least the memory of Mollie was retained when the 100+ year old Dock could call her name, and state the land of her birth, somewhere on the African continent.  

There is so much more to the legacy of the Dunford family. It is a one with strong roots and a strong legacy. Hopefully the Dunford family and Garretts, Harris and others connected to this southern Oklahoma line, are still celebrating their rich Oklahoma History where they lived to see freedom, their rich Choctaw Nation legacy where for several decades of their family history was tied, their passage through South Carolina, and their strong African legacy as well. 

The sons and daughters of this Oklahoma family have a worthy story to tell, and it is one that if pursued even further, will lead to fascinating places in their family history.


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1.  Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society Link: SOURCE