Chickasaw Freedmen #483
Chickasaw Freedmen #483
|M1186 Chickasaw Freedmen Card #483 front CLAY, Henry & Isabella|
My research of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen of Indian Territory over the years continually reminds me just how connected our ancestors were. The men and women in these communities were clearly tight and responsible to each other in so many ways that it leaps from the pages of their documentation.
Henry CLAY was a leader in his community of Woodford and was known to the people in the nearby communities like Milo, Berwyn, Springer and Homer. If you just stopped at the information on the Dawes Card you would get a small sense of his family and some its origins but that doesn’t really tell you who this man was and how he came to be a leader in his community.
The generation before him bore witness to a group of men and women who shortly after being “emancipated” submitted a memorial to congress expressing their desires for inclusion as citizens in the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations[i]. These men and women became the example for people like Henry CLAY who was politically active as a member of the “Convention Committee of Twelve” that strategized for their enrollment and land allotments under the Curtis Act.[ii] The convention occurred on August 4 and 5, 1898 which is a time that is synonymous with “Emancipation Day” in Indian Territory.
Unfortunately Henry died prior to 1902 and did not receive a land allotment but in his land application packet his certificate of death provides some revealing and supportive information on how connected the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen were to each other. First let me point out that on the rear of Henry’s Dawes card it reveals his parents and the parents of his wife Isabella. At first blush nothing appears extraordinary. It is not until you look at the rear of the card that things begin to get interesting for researchers like me.
|M1186 Chickasaw Freedmen Card #483 rear CLAY, Henry & Isabella|
It is unfortunate we don’t have information concerning Henry’s father but we do see his mother was named Malinda ALBERSON. The information that is interesting and has significance to me is the parents of his wife Isabella. His wife is the “half-sister” of Bettie LIGON and the daughter of Cornelius PICKENS and Margaret Ann WILSON nee ALEXANDER.
I have to ask the question how did these men and women relate to each other? What was the nature of their conversations regarding their status as freedmen and in Bettie’s case “mixed African-Chickasaw? What happened to Isabella after the death of her husband Henry? More importantly for me now is who are the descendants of Henry and Isabella CLAY and where are they now?
There was another example of just how close these two sisters may have been and it was discovered in the same application for a land allotment that Henry never received. Because Henry died prior to a certain date in 1902 his wife was obligated to document his death in the form of an affidavit, signed, notarized, witnessed and sent to the Dawes Commission. I was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar name AND signature of Bettie LIGON on that affidavit:
|Land Application Packet CLAY, Henry #1974 p2|
These types of documents in my humble opinion form the basis for the first group of vital statistics for Indian Territory and the state of Oklahoma as it entered the United States in November of 1907.
That makes the information vital (pun intended) for researchers and for me it illustrates the relationship Bettie had with her sister Isabella.
This document provides facts that Henry died one-hundred eighteen years ago last month. It also demonstrates for me that my great grandmother Bettie LIGON could write her own name and the signature looks just like her signature on the brief of Equity Case 7071.
I hope to locate the records that provide us some insight into the Convention of Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen that was held on August 4th and 5th of 1898. If we are lucky they will provide us with some idea of how our ancestors thought and the methods they used to fight for their rights as citizens within the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations. As a leader I hope to see something specific to Henry CLAY that will add to his biography as a leader among the Chickasaw Freedmen.
There is one document that may have more insight into Henry CLAY, it is in the M-1301 Interview Packet that implies Henry spent some time as a soldier in the War of Rebellion. There is some corroboration in the interview packet for another freedmen who had what appears to be a colorful past; Henry McCOY aka Henry SHANNON.
|M1301-Chickasaw Freedmen #483 CLAY, Henry p2|
In this document from Henry’s M-1301 Application Packet he makes a statement that he followed Henry McCOY to Fort Gibson and worked their until about Christmas. It is the next statement that may require some additional research but he states, “I was wounded in the winter before peace was made…”
Was that a reference to his involvement in the war? Is there evidence that Henry CLAY and Henry McCOY were soldiers in the USCT? Were they forced to work for their confederate Chickasaw Indian enslavers? Is there a record of either one of these men filed that will provided details of their service and efforts to gain their freedom from enslavement by the Chickasaw Indians?
Clearly, this is like so many other Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen stories, our ancestors deserve more research so their story becomes included as part of the wider history of blacks on this continent. The Chickasaw Freedmen’s story tends to be left out of the story of black America. As an enslaved people, they don’t show up on many of the maps that attempt to illustrate “slave states.”
Indian Territory was not a part of the United States which demonstrates just how important Henry CLAY, his story, his descendants and the communities they lived in are to Indian Territory history, American history, and more importantly Black History!
Residence: Woodford, Indian Territory
· Enslaved by Jincy LOVE
Parents: Father Unknown, Mother-Malinda ALBERSON
· Mother enslaved by Captain ALBERSON
Spouse: Isabella CLAY nee PICKENS
· Enslaved by: John CRINER
· Parents: Cornelius PICKENS (Deceased) & Margaret A. WILSON
o Enslaved by: Edmond PICKENS & Robert WILSON
o See New Born #472
o See New Born #380
· Lou Creasy
· St. Paul
Surnames Appearing in this Article:
Places Appearing in this Article:
- Berwyn, Indian Territory
- Chickasaw Nation
- Fort Gibson
- Homer, Indian Territory
- Milo, Indian Territory
- Newport, Indian Territory
- Pickens County, Indian Territory
- Springer, Indian Territory
- Woodford, Indian Territory
[i] Senate Executive Document 82; 40th Congress, 2nd Session
[ii] The Chickasaw Freedmen a People Without a Country, Dr. Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. p178