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.