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.)