Monday, January 6, 2014

Supplement Freedmen Records With Pioneer Interviews - Case Study: Jack Campbell

National Archives Microfilm Publication M1186, Choctaw Freedman 1188 Front & Back

Jack Campbell of Skullyville appeared in front of the Dawes Commission in October of 1898. He applied for his himself and his family, including his wife Lillie and their seven children.

Clearly, when Mr. Campbell first enrolled the family, he was being interviewed as a Chickasaw Freedman, and his interview clearly illustrates the manner in which former Chickasaw slaves were treated. Their interviews are often found to be summaries and not verbatim statements taken under oath. This occurrence was later addressed when acts to defraud the former slaves were brought up before Congress, and several testimonies in the Congressional Record address interviews such as this.

The challenge when researching many of the records pertaining to Oklahoma Freedmen, is that they were as a population often treated differently during the enrollment process. Similar to those formerly enslaved people in the United States, persons with any degree of African ancestry often found that they were still being treated with the badge of slavery- even including those with blood ties to the same nations.  When it came to enrollment for Freedmen, they were to received substantially less land than their neighbors identified to be citizens "by blood". But nevertheless, this was an opportunity to obtain land before eventual statehood, so the Freedmen applied so that they would be eligible for land.

From a genealogical sense, the data is still quite useful to study. In many cases, as stated above, of Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen, one will find very short interviews in the applications jackets, which were at times, merely summaries of the data collected. The data however, found in the application jackets, can still provide useful information. Though in the case of Jack Campbell, the interview was brief, the jacket contained several birth affidavits in spite of the notably short interview.

Note that the family was at first enrolled as Chickasaw Freedmen. They were later transferred to the roll of Choctaw Freedmen.

This summary of the Jack Campbell interview is found in the Application Jacket. National Archives Publication M1301  Jack Campbell file, Choctaw Freedman 1188

However, the tenatious Freedman researcher is urged to look at other Oklahoma resources to find additional records that tell the story of the former slaves. In the case of Jack Campbell, he was interviewed by the staff of the Indian Pionner Papers, and more data about his life is outlined in a fascinating interview. In fact, not only is data about the life of Jack Campbell outlined, but much of his life in the late 1800s living on the western frontier among Choctaw and Chickasaws is described in colorful detail.

All documents came from the interview with Jack Campbell, and are part of the Indian Pioneer Papers of the Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma, Norman Oklahoma

When researching the Choctaw as well as Chickasaw Freedmen, the need to supplement the data found and sometimes not found in Dawes records can truly open doors to a life otherwise under studied and under reported when writing the family narrative.


  1. Thank you for this post Mrs. Angela Y. Walton _ Raji.....this is my grandmother's uncle! Zendre' Boyd

  2. Angela, this is my husband's great grandfather do you know anything about his mother Sarah reed

  3. Angela, this is my husband's great grandfather do you know anything about his mother Sarah reed

  4. Not directly. It would have to be researched to see if there is anything to find about her.