Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Burning of Lucy, A Choctaw Slave

Who was Lucy?
Not much is really known about Lucy. She was simply a Black woman enslaved in the Choctaw Nation.

The few facts that are known about her, are that she was the mother of eight children, and she was allowed as were other slaves, to worship at the local Presbyterian Church of their Choctaw Masters. And she was said to have been a member in good standing in the church. (This was also the church attended by noted leader Cyrus Byington who created the Choctaw dictionary.)

In 1858 an incident took place involving one of the slaves of Robert Harkins, a leading Choctaw leader who also held her as a slave. A confrontation had occurred between Harkins and a male slave called Prince. The confrontation ended with Harkins, the slave holder being killed.

For several days Harkins was simply missing, but then his absence was noted, and inquiries began. The male slave was confronted and at first denied any knowledge, but eventually admitted to the slaying of Harkins. During his confession he also stated that Lucy was involved and had planned the killing.

Lucy denied this vehemently and it is stated that much evidence was revealed that proved that she was not involved. However, Indian Territory and the Choctaw Nation were slave country. Harkins widow Lavina, wanted revenge for husband's death, But the slave who admitted to killing Harkins, then committed suicide, so there was no guilty party to execute. But Lavenia, the grieving widow, demanded that someone pay for the death of her husband.

The culture of Slave America prevailed and in spite of Lucy's vehement denials and arising doubts of any guilt, Lucy was sentenced to death. The decision was, that a black life had to pay for the death of Harkins. It was decided that she would be executed and the most cruel method was selected---she was to be burned alive!  She was to be burned along with the body of the now deceased slave Prince, who had admitted to the killing. Southern sentiments towards black life prevailed  in Lucy's case, and this is one of the earliest incidents were the culture of "lynching-as-entertainment" was recorded.

Word spread quickly throughout the Territory--a slave woman was going to be burned alive. No outrage was expressed, and nothing was done to prevent her demise, and in fact curiosity was aroused. The burning of Lucy was going to be entertainment, and people from many miles around were said to have packed up the family to come and watch Lucy burn. Her death was simply entertainment.

So the burning of this poor Black woman, was destined to become entertainment. Sadly "lynching as entertainment" would spread throughout the south and lynching culture prevailed till the middle of the 20th century. Such events would occur, without prosecution, and the lives of those with roots in a slave environment would pay the price of simply living.

Aftermath in the Community
Not much more was known of this story--Lavina the grieving widow in the Presbyterian church kept her good standing with the church. Because of the ties to the Presbyterian church, and the involvement of many affiliated church leaders, with the people involved,  the story of the Burning of Lucy was kept hidden for over a year from Presbyterians leaders, who had missions well established in the Choctaw Nation. It was feared that had church leaders learned of the Slave burning involving prominent members of their mission in Choctaw country, that many of their efforts may have been jeopardized.

Sadly, for many reasons, Lucy, and her tragic end have been erased, almost entirely from the pages of Indian Territory history, Choctaw History, Oklahoma history and American history.

But the impact of the burning of this woman had to have reached the lives of the enslaved people in Choctaw Country.

My gr. grandparents and their loved ones were among those enslaved in Choctaw country.
Did they know Lucy?
Or had they heard of her?
Did they have to watch her execution?
Did they have to weep in silence as one of them was lead unfairly to a painful death?
Or did the story come to them via the slave communication network?

The answers will never be known---but Lucy--whose children were most likely scattered and divided among other slaves, deserves to have her story told and to have her name called. It is said that she spoke of her innocence till her last breath.

Nevertheless, she paid the price, paid by so many for simply having lived, been enslaved and accused.

May Lucy's spirit be free, and may there be joy somewhere for her descendants whoever they are and wherever they may be.

More information:
Further reading about this incident can be found in the following works:

William McLoughlin, "The Choctaw Slave Burning": A Crisis in Mission Work Among the Indians. Journal of the West (no. 13), 1974, 114-115

Master's Thesis:
Fortney, Jeffrey L. Jr. Slaves and Slaveholders in the Choctaw Nation 1830-1866. Denton Texas
Digital Library 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In Search Of a Slave Called Jake, There Came a Soldier Called Jacob

Some time ago,  I went in search of Jake Hall, a man who was the father of Squire Hall of Skullyville. Jake Hall was enslaved on the Hall plantation in the Choctaw Nation, in 1860. Between 1860 and 1861 it is said that there was a slave insurrection when several of the slave holder's family members had been killed.

As the enslaved men on the Hall plantation attempted to seize their freedom, they were met with resistance by the Hall family and the overseer. Several of the Hall men subsequently died in the altercation. According to one of the stories from the Indian Pioneer Papers, Jake Hall intervened in some way, was able to stop the fighting and prevented further bloodshed. Little else is mentioned about him except that he died during the Civil War.

According to the interview, Walker Folsom took over the Hall slaves after the insurrection ended. The slave holder had died, and Walker Folsom is said to have become the owner or guardian of the slaves. I decided to see if I could find Walker Folsom on the slave schedule, and I did find a small group of slaves listed under his ownership.

Walker Folsom is shown owning several slaves, in 1860

But upon close examination of the Skullyville Slave Schedule, I see that Jos. R. Hall is listed as the owner of 20 slaves. And among those slaves is a man in his late thirties who would have been forty by 1863. Jacob Hall enlisted in 1863 in the Union Army and his age was said to have been forty.

1860 Slave Schedule reflecting persons enslaved by Jos. R.  Hall, of Skullyville, Choctaw Nation.

This many have possibly been the list of the Hall Plantation slaves prior to the uprising and the only list of Hall slaves.

Finding this list of slaves on the slave schedule is special because this census was conducted in November of 1860. This suggests that the uprising was most likely in 1861. Details about the uprising are few, and I wondered about his role in ending it. The interview suggested that the overseer had started the uprising, though not much more is known.

Was Jake the enslaved man being depicted as somehow being a "loyal slave", or was he simply minimizing blood shed in a violent situation?

Could anything else be learned about Jake Hall?

There was one possibility and I decided to pursue it. It was stated that Jake died before the end of the Civil War.

Could there have been a Jake Hall who might have enlisted in the Union Army, and possibly have served in the US Colored Troops?

Did he yearn for freedom like his comrades in the uprising?

Could any more be learned about this man?

Did he simply wait for freedom to come?

Or was there another aspect to this man?

I had to revisit what I knew--little though it was. The Halls lived in Skullyville in the northern part of the Choctaw Nation and directly south of the nearby Cherokee Nation border to the north. And to the east, they were bordered by the town of Ft. Smith Arkansas.

Considering their location, there were several possibilities. There were a good number of men from Indian Territory who enlisted in the Union Army who had gone into Kansas early in the war. These men enlisted in one of two regiments--the First and Second Kansas Colored Infantries. (By mid 1863, these regiments were re-designated as the 79th and 83rd US Colored Infantry respectively.)

I also know that there was a regiment that was also organized in the city of Ft. Smith, which was the 11th US Colored Infantry. Since Skullyville was closer to Ft. Smith geographically I looked at the names of soldiers who enlisted in the 11th US Colored Infantry first. But there was no soldier in the 11th USCT whose name was Jake Hall or Jacob Hall.

I then searched the 79th and I saw the name of a soldier called Jacob Hall. But was he the same person as Jake Hall from the Choctaw Nation?

The details about Jake Hall's origin were not clear, because in the military papers, it was recorded that Jacob Hall of the 79th was born in Alabama. I did take note however, that in his Indian Pioneer interview, Squire Hall indicated that his father was not born in Indian Territory.

Was he possibly the same man? The profile of Squire Hall said that his father was possibly from Mississippi. But did Squire Hall really know this? Squire was an infant when his father died, so he never knew him, nor had a conversation with him. And this man Jacob Hall indicated that he was born in Alabama. But the county he named does not exist.

From Service Record of Jacob Hall, 79th US Colored Infantry
Source:  HERE. 

In the 79th, I noticed additional soldiers with the Hall surname. Could they have been connected? I was quite surprised to notice that two of the other soldiers indicated that they were born in the Choctaw Nation, and in fact in Skullyville, the same community where Squire Hall and his father Jake were said to have lived. I also noted that Cesar and William were young enough to have possibly have been the sons of the elder Jacob Hall.


Though I was not certain that I had the right Jacob Hall, I do believe that t these two soldiers Cesar and William were most likely from the Hall plantation, with their ties to Skullyville, I.T. Though they enlisted on different days, the possibility was there that I had located two additional formerly enslaved men all from the same estate in the Choctaw Nation.

Other records in the Jacob Hall military service file suggest that he enlisted in the 1st Kansas Colored when the regiment was in Ft. Blount, Cherokee Nation. This places the soldier Jacob, in Indian Territory, and close to the same place where Jake the slave had lived--the Choctaw Nation. In fact his enlistment occurred in an area close to the Choctaw Nation. That part of the Cherokee Nation was not far from the northern part of the Choctaw Nation--the same area where the old Hall estate was located.

This muter-in roll document reveals that Jacob Hall was mustered into the Union Army while in Indian Territory. This reveals his presence in Indian Territory before enlistment.

One additional fact about Sqiure Hall's father Jake, was that he died before the war ended leaving his wife, Squire's mother Eliza with three young children still at home, whom she had to raise alone.  For this to be the same man I had to learn whether this soldier Jacob survived the war. If he did, it was unlikely that he would be the father of Squire Hall.

I examined the military service records, and found what I was seeking. The soldier Jacob Hall who served in the 79th US Colored Infantry died before the unit was mustered out of service. The cause of death was typhoid, and the soldier died in January 1864.

Excerpt of Discharge document revealing the date of death for Jacob Hall

Jake Hall was said to have died during the war. This soldier Jacob Hall, died during the war, in Ft. Smith Arkansas after contracting typhoid.

The relationship between Jacob Hall and the other two soldiers Cesar and William is not known, but there is the possibility that they were related. It is clear that they most likely knew each other, because they all served in the same company of the same regiment. William enlisted in the same place as Jacob, and Cesar enlisted in nearby Ft. Smith.

Jacob Hall enlisted in the Union Army in Indian Territory. He enlisted in the same geographic area where two other men enlisted. All of the men were in the same company of the same regiments. The two younger men Cesar and William were born in fact in Skullyville and there is a possibility by their surnames that they may have been enslaved on the estate of Jos. R. Hall.

Jake Hall, father of Squire Hall, was said to have died during the Civil War. Jacob Hall the soldiers in the 79th died in November of 1864, during the years of the Civil War. There is a very strong possibility that Jake Hall the slave was Jacob Hall the soldier.

If that is the case, then my other questions were answered. The man said to have assisted in bringing a insurrection to an end, was the same man who also seized the moment when he could become a free man and to fight for the freedom of others. Perhaps during those few short months of his service he experience life and tasted freedom. He was able to transform himself and seize dignity as a freedom fighter, a status which enslavement would have never provided.

Jacob Hall the soldier won his battle, and died, though of disease, he died with dignity and for a cause.

I started out looking for one man who was part of a slave insurrection in the Civil War. I found a man who was a freedom fighter and a man who did not live to see freedom in the Territory, as death by disease shortened his life. And I found two other men, also men of Skullyville, who enlisted when freedom was close within grasp for them as well.

However, the desire for freedom evidenced by the uprising in 1861 clearly made an imprint on all of the Hall slaves, and on Jacob Hall as well.

This man, believed to the the father of Squire Hall, made a name for himself, not as a "loyal slave", but he was one who was his own man, and who also had the fire of freedom in his chest and on his mind.

These men, with their roots planted in Indian Territory, have long been forgotten by so many in the area where they lived, but hopefully these few documents and facts will reveal their fight for dignity and life and the right to live as free men, whether in the Choctaw Nation, or wherever their spirit and desires would take them.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Remembering Isaac Alexander an Oklahoma Freedman Who Fought At Honey Springs

Document from Service Record of Isaac Alexander, an Indian Territory Freedman who
enlisted in the Kansas Colored and who fought at Honey Springs.

This week marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Honey Springs, sometimes called the Gettysburg of the west. This battle was won by Union soldiers and the actions of the Kansas Colored were particularly noted when they charged through and pushed confederate regiments away and helped to save Ft. Gibson.

I became interested in learning the names of some of the Indian Territory Freedmen from either the Choctaw or Chickasaw Nation, as their contribution to this important battle should be known. I looked at the name of Isaac Alexander, because this man later distinguished himself during the post-Civil War years when he and others fought for the rights of Freedmen as citizens, especially in the Chickasaw Nation.

The surprise is that Isaac Alexander was a man of mature years, and was allowed to enlist in the Union Army in spite of his age. One cannot help but ask, what inspired this man to enlist to fight? How was he allowed to be mustered in? Was he physically up for the job? And of course how did he fare as a soldier?

Quite simply Isaac Alexander was born in the Chickasaw Nation and enlisted in the spring of 1863. He was promoted to the rank of Sgt, which suggests that there were some skills that merited this promotion. By looking at other soldiers in the regiment, he has to be clearly one of the oldest men to not only serve, but also to see battle as a Union Army soldier.

As I looked at his Civil War service record, I realized that he was present and actively serving when the 1st Kansas Colored fought at Honey Springs. However, in addition, I also noticed that his story was significant for another reason. 

By most standards, Isaac Alexander was "too old to fight.". Yet, he was allowed to enlist, and to serve. He would be with the regiment as Island Mound, Poison Springs, Cabin Creek and Honey Springs. He was elevated to Sergeant and clearly had important duties as a leader. Though committed to three years of service, age eventually caught up with Isaac Alexander and he was allowed be discharged a year early, in 1865.

Image Source: Fold 3

The unique story of this old man who was an active Freedom Fighter should be studied and told. Though forgotten by many, the descendants of this man are urged to learn how an old man yearning to be free would be proactive, and chose to fight for his own freedom when the chance came to do so. He is part of the large clan of Kemps and Alexanders in Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. He is an unsung and forgotten hero. Perhaps his is a story whose time has come.

Enlisting in Kansas, and having seen battle at Island Mound Missouri, Poison Springs Arkansas, Cabin Creek and Honey Springs, the toll of war had to take its toll on his body. His age was the primary reason he was discharged early, as the document above illustrates.The the actions of a courageous man of advanced years, clearly illustrate the determination and spirit of the men of the Kansas Colored. It also reflects the spirit of all of the men of the US Colored Troops. 

This is a story of a man determined to breathe free air before he died, and when he could, he seized the moment, and became his own man. He would emerge in the following years as a leader in the Freedmen community as he continued to fight for equality and status of Indian Territory's Freedmen.

Isaac Alexander is one of many unsung heroes of the Civil War.. Let us keep his legacy alive as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of  Honey Springs.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Appreciating the Civil War Legacy of Choctaw Freedmen

Simon Clark was the first person admitted by the Dawes Commission as a Choctaw Freedman. He was a man of influence in his community and he was a leader as well among the Freedmen. However, beyond his history as a post Civil War leader, was the fact that Simon Clark was also a Freedom Fighter. He served in the 2nd Kansas Colored, which was later redesignated as the 83rd US Colored Infantry.

Often the soldiers from Indian Territory are overlooked when discussion of Civil War is mentioned. Less discussion arises when those who were enslaved are mentioned. However, it has been noted by a few historians that men from the Creek and Cherokee Nation enlisted in the Indian Home Guards as well as the Kansas Colored regiments.

However, fewer references are made when the soldiers came from the Choctaw Nation. But there were some who were Union soldiers and although their numbers were smaller, they should be acknowledged.

So far, some have been found in the 11th US Colored Infantry (Old), the 79th US Colored Infantry, the 83rd US Colored Infantry and the 54th US Colored Infantry. The participation of enslaved men from the Choctaw Nation should be presented. They participated in acts of resistance, and enrolled when given the chance to fight for their own freedom.


Caesar Hall is believed to have been living on the Hall plantation during the time that there was a slave uprising. Not much is really known about his role, however, there is the strong possibility that the spirit of resistance carried forth for him as he enlisted in the Union Army when opportunity presented itself. He lived in the Skullyville area of the northern part of the Choctaw Nation.

William Hall was another slave from the Skullyville Community. This area is not far from Ft. Smith Arkansas so when the opportunity presented itself, able bodied men from Skullyville took advantage, seized their freedom and enlisted in the Union Army.

The Newberry name is famlliar to many who research Chickasaw Nation history. Some Chickasaw Freedmen however, were actually born in the Choctaw Nation. Later enrolled as Chickasaws, the birthplace of Choctaw country is still noted on the enlistment records, such as for Aaron Newberry.

Like many soldiers, their enlistment put them face to face with danger. Some lost their lives. Others were gravely wounded. Richmond LaFleur (LeFlore) was one who would become severely wounded, suffering amputation of a wound and bringing about early discharge. 

Some of those who enlisted in the Union Army did not return to the Territory, choosing instead to begin a new life in neighboring states. As a result many will not be found on Dawes Rolls, for they chose to move away from the communities where they were once enslaved and begin a new life as free men.

 It should be noted that there are others who later lived in Choctaw communities after the war, and who were born in other states and later sold to Choctaws as slaves. Men such as Mobile Boyd and others are also honored as Union soldiers who lived in Choctaw country.

As additional men who enlisted in the Union Army from the Choctaw Nation are found the list will be amended. However, their service is noted and appreciated, and hopefully their legacy will not be lost.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wiley Homer, Minister, Educator and Leader Among Choctaw Freedmen

Enrollment Card of Wiley Homer with photo superimposed.
Source of Card: NARA Publication M1186, Choctaw Freedman Card 491

Reverse side of enrollment card reflecting information on parents

     Born about 1851 in the Red River Valley of the southern part of the Choctaw Nation, Wiley Homer was the son of two Choctaw slaves, Isom McCoy and Adaline Shoals. Little is known how he became separated from his parents and became a slave of the Homas, a Choctaw family, but it would be their surname that he would retain throughout his life, even after the Treaty of 1866 which brought freedom to Wiley and to his parents.

      His father was from the nearby Chickasaw Nation, and his mother Adaline was from Kiamitia and was last enslaved by William Roebuck but at one time enslaved as a Shoals. Wiley grew up in the cattle country and saw many of the cattle drives that ran through the southern part of the Choctaw Nation. During his teenage years and shortly after freedom began his effort to educate himself, and to teach himself how to read, by learning the names of the various cattle brands and what ranches they represented.

     He was said to begin by drawing outlines of the cattle brands in the sand. And eventually he became so skilled that his employer hired him to find stray cattle of his with the "A.B." brand. He demonstrated by writing in the sand that he could do that and his intelligence was duly noted by those for whom he worked.

     The book Choctaw Freedmen, Oak Hill Academy reveals a great deal about leaders in the southern part of the Choctaw Nation. According to author Robert Flickinger, after freedom came, the young Wiley Homer obtained a small primer and first reader and began to earnestly study. It was no longer illegal for slaves to learn to read and Wiley took full advantage of the opportunity to learn. Evenings and spare time were spent trying to read, and with time he was given a small catechism and religious book which would launch his life into a new direction. Though working as a farm hand during those difficult year right after freedom, all free time he would spend pouring through pages, learning new words, and writing, often in the dust, to improve upon his skill.

     One summer Wiley was given the privilege of having a true teacher, and he was limited to these instructions only on Sabbath afternoons, after all church services were over. But he devoured his lessons and learned how to read Biblical names and places correctly, and also perfected his skills in language and reading. In exchange for these lessons he had to split 250 oak rails. Though a enormous task, this was a small price to pay for learning.

     His skills in reading then lead to him becoming well sought by Freedmen in the community, to read and occasionally write for many former slaves. This precious skill also lead to his becoming a leader in the small church community that developed. Within a few short years, while still in his early twenties, Wiley Homer became an elder in his church, which was sponsored by the Presbyterian missionary outreach.  He was the elder of Beaver Dam and Hebron Churches in Grant, Indian Territory.

     In 1914, the book Choctaw Freedmen, Oak Hill Academy, by Robert Flickinger contained a fascinating biography of Wiley Homer, and his service to the Freedmen religious community of that part of the Choctaw Nation, which was largely Presbyterian.

      "In 1893 he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Choctaw and assigned the pastoral care of Beaver Dam and Hebron churches. On Sept. 28, 1895, by the same Presbytery, meeting at Oak Hill Academy, now known as the Alice Lee Memorial, he was ordained to the full work of the gospel ministry. He continued to serve Beaver Dam, his old home church, until Oct. 1, 1912, when, after a pastorate of twenty years, he was honorably retired from the active work of the gospel ministry. In 1904 he secured the erection of a commodious chapel at Grant that, during the next five years, served also as the most convenient place for holding the neighborhood school. After serving Hebron about ten years on alternate Sabbaths, in connection with Beaver Dam, he relinquished that field and served Sandy Branch and Horse Prairie, each a short period."

     As a young man, Wiley Homer had married Laney Colbert not long after freedom. They had ten chilldren but only five lived to adulthood, Susan, Mary Shoals, Hattie Lewis, Sarah Williams and Lincoln Homer. When his wife Laney died, he then remarried a second wife, Rhoda with whom he had additional children.

     In 1912, he retired from the Presbytery, from active ministry. For many years, his name was often mentioned as a leader and orator, but as the 20th century melted away, much of his influence on the religious life as well as the literacy of former slaves from the Choctaw Nation was simply forgotten.

Presbytery of Kiamitia 1914 (Wiley Homer stands to the right), Garvin, Oklahoma

     Stories such as the story of Wiley Homer are important, because if one relies solely upon the data from the Dawes cards and Dawes interviews, much will be lost. Wiley Homer's life should be remembered for he gave so much of his life to the community, and his legacy should endure. His Dawes application jacket revealed nothing of his efforts to bring knowledge to those once enslaved. His Dawes application in fact only focused upon the fact that he had once been enslaved, and by whom. His rich legacy was simply not mentioned, and of no interest.

     But Wiley Homer was truly a man of influence in the communities around Grant and Garwin, and  many learned to read because of his inspiration, and his legacy affected many Freedmen families for years, although now his name is almost forgotten. Many attended Oak Hill Academy because he encouraged other families to have their children educated.

Therefore, his life is shared here, so that perhaps this small piece of the Choctaw Freedmen history, this small piece of Oklahoma History and even this small piece of Black Presbyterian history, will also be remembered.

Wiley Homes  with members of the chapel at Grant, I.T. in 1904
Source: The Choctaw Freedmen, by Robert Elliott Flickinger, 1914

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Remembering Squire Hall, Forgotten Lawman from the Choctaw Nation

Image of unidentified lawman from Indian Territory

Just west of Ft. Smith Arkansas, one finds the small town of Ft. Coffee, Oklahoma, one of the many historically black towns in that state. And a small garden near one of the residents' home is the actual cabin site where a man of distinction and honor once lived in his small cabin. His name was Squire Hall, and his history has been overlooked.

He was a Choctaw Freedmen, who lived near the old Choctaw settlement of Skullyville for most of his life. His amazing history was revealed in an interview from the Oklahoma Pioneer Papers, which are part of the Western History Collection of the University of Oklahoma. He was a son of a man called Jake Hall, who died during the Civil War. It was said that Jake assisted the Hall family when some were wounded during what was part of a slave uprising in 1861. Jake later died during the Civil War.

Source: University of Oklahoma, Western History Collection, 
 Indian Pioneer Papers, Volume 37, Interview with Squire Hall
Source: Same as above

Squire was a young child at the time and after the Civil War he lived with his mother when they were allowed to remain in the same community and live on a small parcel of land in Skullyville community in the Choctaw Nation. 

He spent his young years learning how to handle horses and cattle, and basically worked as a cowboy on the large ranches in the area. He spent much time in the interview describing how they would handle wild horses and he admitted that chasing horses was something that he truly loved, more than attending the local neighborhood schools.

Source: Same as above

His distinction came from the fact that he also served as a deputy sherriff in his part of the Choctaw Nation. The area eventually became what is now LeFlore County, Oklahoma.

Source: Same as above

If not for this interview, nothing else about this man who served for four years as a deputy sheriff would be known. 
How was he received when on duty? 
Was he respected as a lawman? Was he feared?  
Are there records to be found that reflect those years when we was a deputy sheriff?

This is probably one of those mysteries without answers, but he served the frontier during the era of other black lawmen who served the Western District Court of Arkansas. But his service was to the Choctaw Nation. 

Will more be found? 
Will his name be remembered in local county histories? 
Will his name be revered by the townspeople and fellow Freedmen? 

Only if his story is continually told.

Squire Hall eventually took his own land allotment as a Choctaw Freedmen and remained in what is now Ft. Coffee for the rest of his life. Several of his descendants also live in the Ft. Coffee Community today.

Source: Same as Above

The enrollment card of Squire Hall, is found among the Dawes Cards of Choctaw Freedmen. He and his wife are listed on Choctaw Freedmen Card #704.

Source: National Archives Publication M1186, Enrollment Cards 
for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914.

The reverse side of the card confirms the name of his father and mother.

Source: Same as above card

By studying the enrollment cards,one can see that there was a family tie to the Hall family, although his Dawes card only reflects his relationship to Walker Folsom. There are many genealogical clues that encourage further study, especially when combined with data from the Pioneer Papers Interview.

No photos have surfaced of this fascinating man from Choctaw country, but hopefully more data will allow his name to be said and his story to unfold and for him not to be forgotten.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Enslaved in the Choctaw Nation. A Partial Look at the 1860 Slave Schedules

Image from Slave Schedule 1860. Boktuklo County, Choctaw Nation
( 1860 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Eighth Census of the United States, 1860. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1860. M653, 1,438 rolls.)

The first Federal census that recorded families enslaved in Choctaw communities was the Federal Slave Schedule of 1860. Like those who were enslaved in the United States, Choctaw slaves were record in the same manner, with only gender age, and complexion. Only the name of the Choctaw slave holder was captured in this records. Finding the records can be an effort because many of the Choctaw Nation pages, as well as other parts of Indian Territory, are actually embedded within the pages for Arkansas. They were considered to be simply "Lands West of Arkansas"  however, one will find slave schedules for each slave holding tribe to be intact and full of data.

Before dismissing this document as being of little genealogical value, it is important to note that the slaves schedule is truly worth studying, because a number of facts can be learned. The slave schedule captured data regarding age, gender, and complexion (black or mulatto) but it also recorded the number of slave houses on the premises, and whether or not there were any fugitives---runaway slaves.

Close up view of data captured on 1860 Slave Schedule

Two things stand out when looking at the larger page above. Clearly those who were prominent in the nation held slaves. William Durant and Peter Pitchlynn, noted Choctaw leaders appear above on that particular page in Boktuklo County. Leading chief Peter Pitchlynn held over 60 people enslaved. They ranged in age from 60, to several young children.  

Also there was clearly some resistance among the enslaved people. Of the 60 slaves held by Peter Pitchlynn,  a third of his slaves had escaped, seeking freedom. Such a large level of "fugitives" suggests that the enslaved, like all people had the burning desire for freedom. A majority of the fugitives were also young, who may have had the health to have made and escape worth taking.

In Blue County some very unusual is found. 

Emily Lucas is listed as a slave holder and she has 1 male slave. Note that an asterisk (*) appears in the margin next to her name. An asterisk at the bottom of the page contains more unique data about this slave, and one can only feel the anguish for this man.

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

This young man wanted to remain in the Choctaw nation and found a strategy that might prevent his being sold away from those familiar to him.  He sold himself to his own sister. Her ownership of her half brother might have given him some degree of protection from sale, especially since there was a term of 99 years stipulated in the agreement.

Likewise on the same document, it appeared that Israel Folsom was not enthusiastic about cooperating when the census enumerators made inquiries about his slaves. Apparently Asst. US Marshals obtained the data needed.

"Refused to answer and filed his objectives in writing which are herewith submitted. I 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  

There is no question that one who has an interest in studying the lives of the enslaved population in the Choctaw Nation, will find the Slave Schedules will prove to be most enlightening.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Choctaw Freedmen - A Rich History and Legacy

Images of Choctaw Freedmen family from Skullyville and descendants

There were more than 1600 cards of enrolled Choctaw Freedmen on the Dawes Rolls. These 1600 cards represented more than 5000 individuals who had either been enslaved in the Choctaw Nation, or were children and grandchildren of those persons enslaved in the Choctaw Nation.  By the time of the Dawes Commission several thousand applicants had appeared in front of the commission, in application for land allotments that would be given to them.  What remains today is a plethora of records, reflecting a history rich in family data, and missing history. The history of Choctaw Freedmen belongs on many landscapes, American history, Choctaw History, and African American history. The persons whose history is reflected on this blog have long been overlooked, and today's scholars, from Harvard to Stanford and institutions in between would make an amazing contribution to historiography by studying the history of Choctaw Freedmen.

My ancestors were among those persons identified as Freedmen of the Five Tribes, and the purpose of this goal is to share the fascinating aspects of their history, their culture, and their legacy.

The Choctaw Freedmen lived in a land that today has forgotten them, so it is the goal to present this history so that descendants of Choctaw Freedmen, scholars of Choctaw history, and students of early Oklahoma history will find unique,  and will find worthy of inclusion on the pages of history.

This image represents Choctaw Freedmen Card #1-Simon Clark; Choctaw Freedman Card #704; and Choctaw Freedman Card #1602. Simon Clark's Card was the very first card of the Choctaw Freedmen cards, and Archie Newton's card was the very last Choctaw Freedman Card (It should be pointed out that there are many additional categories of cards among Choctaw Freedmen also.)