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: Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Marriage, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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: Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Marriage, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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.