Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Brick Wall ~ William Hadley LIGON

William Hadley LIGON, my brick wall! Hadley as he came to be known, appears to have been born in many places at various times and yet there is very little that is basically known about this man, my fraternal great grandfather.

The first mention of Hadley was not contained in a census document but an application for citizenship in the Chickasaw Nation by his wife Bettie. The application was originated in 1896 prior to the "Twin Territories" of Oklahoma and Indian becoming the state of Oklahoma in 1907.

This application made in 1896 discussed many aspects of Hadley's wife and her desire to be transferred to the Chickasaw by blood roll, and it was in this document Hadley was mentioned as the father of Bettie's children. Mable, Nathaniel, Clarence, Mitchell, and Gladys who were the only children born prior to the 1900 census.

The next opportunity for me to gather information about my great grandfather was through the 1900 census. Here again, circumstances have a way of requiring a great deal of critical thinking in order to locate ancestors who stubbornly hide in places without leaving an obviously paper trail, but that's just me talking.

As you can see from this excerpt of the 1900 census, the spelling of our surname is juuuuust a little bit different, not too mention the spelling of Hadley. I file this under the category of what my friend Lisa Lee ( would call, "speling dosnt kount."

The information contained in this document does have some information that sheds some light on Hadley that I've attempted to follow in hopes of locating other members of his/our family. The census tells me that Hadley was born in Missouri, his father was born in Virginian and his mother in Alabama.

Right off the top this is misleading information because the woman at the bottom of the page Margaret Ann Wilson was not Hadley's mother but the mother of Hadley's wife Bettie. I guess one could speculate who offered this information and my thinking is it wasn't Hadley.

The plot thickens....

In my efforts as a family historian I had to pursue this search for the parents and any siblings of Hadley so naturally I consulted the 1910 Census for further information. Unfortunately, "my life ain't no crystal stair."

There does appear to be some consistency on where Hadley was born with the notation of Missouri as his birth place. However since Margaret Ann Wilson no longer resided in the home, the information regarding his parents has changed..........not necessarily for the better.

Now I learn Hadley's father was born in the United States. On the surface this doesn't say a lot but as I consider it further, it may be more indicative of the way Hadley or the person who offered this information had an understanding that the state of Oklahoma being only three years old at the time of this census was not a part of the United States  and Hadley's father was clearly not born in Indian Territory.

As a result of this information I have tried to locate someone that meets the description of Hadley in the early Missouri records but I have not had any success. It is extremely difficult to locate his parents and siblings without a name of an individual that I can tie to him.

The fact that indications tell me Hadley was born in Missouri as was his mother, there is some hope but from all indications he was born before the Civil War and it is not known where he was prior to 1884 when he is known to have been in Indian Territory and fathered of one child by Bettie; named Mable.

There are a few things that stand out for me regarding the age of Hadley that make it problematic to narrow my search for the right family prior to his arrival in Indian Territory circa 1884. In the 1900 census he has a birthday in September of 1852. In the 1910 census his birth date is in September of 1860, the headstone at the top of the page has his birth year as 1856 all within a ten year range that is not unusual but clearly not consistent.

The next document that adds more confusion concerning Hadley's origins and birthplace is his certificate of death. The witness on his certificate is one of his daughters Lucille Gladys LIGON-ANDERSON.

There is one other aspect of this document that adds to my frustration on locating this line of my family, after seeing census after census indicate that Hadley was born in Missouri it now is revealed on his Certificate of Death that he was born in Texas in 1850!!!

Again; at least the range of years on his birth are within a ten year span, but having him born in Texas becomes another brick in the wall that stymies my research. Despite the information about Hadley being born in Missouri, I have a feeling he may have actually been born in Texas.

The research continues...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Racism 2.0

I've been watching the fallout from the "Lies, Subterfuge and Video Tape" of the Shirley SHERROD episode and it dawned on me that aside from the television talk show host, the people trotted out to discuss the issue of "race" have for the most part been black, African American..........Negroes!

One must ask the obvious who else should be involved in this discussion?

Apparently the Obama administration and the people who advise him have not understood that it is not necessarily his responsibility ALONE to deal with issues of race. Why he got involved in the Henry Gates episode is beyond me. Why his administration bailed on Van Jones was disgraceful! Apparently they got what they needed with ACORN when he got elected that it was convenient to watch as this organization was destroyed by the same "Lies, Subterfuge and Video Tape" that has occurred in the Shirley SHERROD incident.

Perhaps what many people are concluding that this is a teachable moment should look to the issue of recruiting some new teachers?

I would also ask you to google Tim Wise and watch some of his videos pertaining to issues of race and privilege.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Indian Territory Freedmen Have in Common With Shirley Sherrod

This woman who’s fathered was murdered by the Klan found when she was a young woman, Ms. Sherrod found herself in the middle of a high profile political scam by detractors of the Obama administration based totally on lies and distortions of the truth. This distortion of the truth could easily describe the lies perpetuated by the leaders of the Five Slave Holding Tribes known as the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee) and Seminole Nations along with most notably the National Congress of American Indians.

Ms. Sherrod found it in her heart to overcome her own failings as it related to her ability to accept responsibility when asked to assist a “white” farmer in keeping his family farm. Ms Sherrod was conflicted with the dilemma of doing nothing for the man and his family based on her personal history of racial injustice and the murder of her father by whites when she was a young woman living in the south.

This story is reflective of the story of Indian Territory Freedmen and their descendants regarding the lies being told today and throughout history that would see the freedmen and their descendants being ostracized by the tribes that held the freedmen in slavery and later removing them from the citizenship rolls based on their "African" descent.

This unfortunate history demonstrates just how divisive race can be in this country and specifically among the Five Slave Holding Tribes. Historically the tribes resisted the inclusion of their former slaves and descendants once they were emancipated and this attitude has continued to contemporary times.,8599,1635873,00.html

The Chickasaw nation has been the most racist in it’s attitudes towards the freedmen and their descendants based on the premise that if allowed in the nation they posed a threat to take over the leadership of the nation and cause some kind of harm that comes with their inclusion in the history and body politic of that nation.

The Creek nation is also guilty of posing as an aggrieved “minority” only to see them oppose the rights of Freedmen descendants from enjoying their rights based on a treaty for their citizenship. Like the Creek, Seminole and Cherokee nations the Choctaw tribe adopted their former slaves and descendants as citizens with the rights and privileges as such but today, they tell a different story concerning the rights of these descendants today.

This effort by the Five Slave Holding tribes is similar to the Shirley Sherrod story with the respect that unless you hear all of the story you walk away thinking you know the truth of this situation and support statements like those coming from the leader of the Cherokee nation and the National Congress of the American Indian that “non-Indians” should not be members of “Indian” tribes:

Like the Sherrod incident, we have a teachable moment in Indian Country that should allow reasonable people to take the time to digest all of the facts concerning the history of African chattel slavery among the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee) and Seminole Indians.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday...Gladys LIGON-NERO

Born in 1895 in Woodford, Indian Territory; Gladys was an original Dawes enrollee as a child. She lived in the "country" as the locals called the area where her original land allotment was located.

In 1995 my father and I traveled through the rural area of Ardmore, Oklahoma and discovered what my father believed to be the remnants of her old home still standing.

We were also fortunate to be able to visit Mt. Olive Baptist Church where Gladys was a member for many years. We can only hope her memory will live on through the lives of people she touched during her life time.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

1887 Letter to Commissioner of Indian Affairs

 We have a remarkable document in which various Chickasaw Freedmen leaders stated that in 1866 the Chickasaw Freedmen would have willingly left the nation but in the twenty years following their “emancipation” they had “become attached themselves to the country” and “not willing to move now unless the Government thought if best.”

This is one statement that clearly demonstrated how the United States government again failed to address the issues of Chickasaw Indians adopting their former slaves according to the Treaty of 1866. This negligence contributed to the subsequent detrimental effects of forty years with Chickasaw Freedmen living in a country that did not respect their rights as humans and did not respect their rights under the Constitution of the United States and refused to adopt them as citizens in the "nation of their birth."

The fact that the Indian agent and other governmental representatives continued to misrepresent the desires of the freedmen preventing them from participating in the land give away that Americans participated in during the land runs of Oklahoma. Had they been permitted to acquire land like the Americans, the Chickasaw Freedmencould have acquired one hundred and sixty acres of land on par with the Seminole, Cherokee Creek freedmen as well as the settlers who did not have treaty rights in Indian Territory is suspicious.

Each leader represented a Chickasaw Freedmen settlement estimated that a population between 200 to 250 people lived within the settlement. Additionally agent Owens defined and named these settlements more descriptively. These men estimated that between two to three thousand “Chickasaw Negroes were farming and owned stock with all the appearance of well dressed “fairly prosperous. “

The leaders clearly counted heads before they approached Agent Owens to arrive at that number. Later we will see how remarkably accurate the population figures appear to be by the reaction and reluctance of the Chickasaw legislature to adopt the freedmen. One other glaring fact is mentioned in this letter that also deserves examination; the Chickasaw Indians “received $55,000 on account of these Freedmen.”

This latter fact had significant repercussions because it was a part of the Treaty of 1866 and should have required a specific action by the United States government to provide for the removal of the Chickasaw Freedmen to a land of their own according to the treaty provisions. The fact that the Chickasaw did not adopt the freedmen as the Choctaw nation did for their former slaves in 1885 yet accepted their portion of the $300,000 that was central to the treaty meant the United States government failed to live up to the agreement.

Back to the population figures; the Choctaw’s and Chickasaw’s argued that their slave population at the time the Treaty of 1866 was signed numbered 3,000. The fact that twenty years later there were approximately three thousand Chickasaw freedmen is not an unreasonable number considering they tended to reproduce faster than the Indians and when you look at the numbers of actual Chickasaw freedmen on the final Dawes roll, they numbered approximately 4,500 men, women and children. Which meant that in the twenty years since the leaders of the fifteen Chickasaw freedmen communities gave an informal census of their population they increased between 800 to 1500 people, not unreasonable considering the influx of “state Negroes” in the population figures.

The reaction to this population is what I believe is the true basis for the Chickasaw Nation never adopting their former slaves and descendants. The Chickasaw government leaders concluded that the former slaves could one day control the nation’s government with the assumption that would be detrimental and intolerable for them as a nation.

Agent Owens’ response to this quandary is another revealing aspect of this letter that deserves a great deal of scrutiny. Agent Owens recommended “the fourth article of the treaty of 1866 should be carried out as soon as suitable legislation can be had on that subject.” He pointed out that “a fertile country immediately adjacent to the Chickasaw Nation and on the north and west of the Pottawattamie country, on the Canadian River which might be occupied by these people under the Treaty with the Creeks.”

The fact the Chickasaw nation accepted their portion of the $300,000 earmarked in the Treaty of 1866 meant that it should have triggered the very suggestion United States Indian Agent Owens was suggesting demonstrates just how remarkable this document bearing the names of notable Chickasaw Freedmen leaders truly is and how the issue of land and citizenship was shaped almost one hundred and twenty five years ago due to the failure of Congress.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Surname Saturday...House Miscellaneous Document 46 (42-2)

In January of 1872; almost six years following their emancipation; approximately three hundred Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen petitioned the United States Congress to forfeit the $300,000 negotiated in the Treaty of 1866 and pay it to the “freedmen of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation.”

This is probably one of the first actions by a group of freedmen indicating they were willing to forgo citizenship in either nation because the tribes failed to adopt them as citizens according to the treaty.

Many people fantasize about the relationship between Native Americans and “African-Americans” as if it was based on some mutual admiration. The truth about the relationship of the former slaves of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations was a bit more complex and adversarial to say the least.
In House Miscellaneous Document 46, the freedmen who applied their mark to this petition in 1872 had no illusions about where they stood as residents of either nation:

This action which was clearly part of the ambiguous treaty signed by the United States and the two tribes should have required the U.S. government to comply with the treaty by awarding these families their share of the $300,000 so the former slaves could relocate on land they could call their own.

“Your petitioners claim that the Choctaw Nation, in refusing to ratify the third article of the treaty of 1866, forfeited all right and claim to the $300,000, as specified therein, and ask that said $300,000 may be paid to the freedmen of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation.”

I find this particularly interesting when you consider in a few years the United States would open up areas in Oklahoma Territory for settlers to homestead in the late 1880’s. Another curious aspect of this time was the fact that the Chickasaw Nation would pass an act to adopt its former slaves and their descendants. Senate Miscellaneous Document 95; 43rd Congress, 3rd Session was a letter sent to Congress for ratification and would have put into law the adoption of Chickasaw Freedmen and their descendants as citizens in the nation of their birth.

We don’t know how many of these families actually received money from the $300,000 and we don’t know how many relocated but we are fortunate to have an extensive list of names from which we can perform research and determined who remained and were alive during the Dawes enrollment proceedings.

The two petitions to Congress provide a window into the history of Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen that has to be explored for other ramifications. Naturally people will ask the question on if the Chickasaw legislature passed an act to adopt their former slaves why Congress didn’t ratify it.
The language of the treaty was clearly ambiguous and optional for the Choctaw and Chickasaw nation adopting their former slaves and that should have made the fiduciary responsibility of the United States paramount to protect these men, women and children who were less than seven years removed from slavery. Congress demonstrated more concern for the Indians who were enslavers but showed little concern to enforce and ratify an agreement the freedmen had no input into.

Taken in that light it is a remarkable document we have in House Miscellaneous Document 46. These former slaves were aware of their rights under the Treaty of 1866 and sought to exert their rights to the funds earmarked as part of that agreement.

Why didn’t Congress ratify this agreement? Why didn’t they provide the funding and relocate these individuals who were legally entitled to the funds? Who was actually responsible for not fulfilling the treaty and are there any ramifications for the Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen descendants today? These are just a few of the questions that possibly need to be addressed by the descendants, the tribes and Congress today.

What about the people involved in this action? Who were they? Is it possible to identify them and their family today? This may be the greatest contribution the document provides family historians as well as genealogist. There are four pages of names of the head of household printed in this document, they represent over three hundred individuals and we can determine if some of them survived to be included in the Dawes enrollment process a quarter century later.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday's Fractious Flickers...

I don't know why I always liked this movie/musical; it may have something to do with my passion for Indian Territory today, who knows? It's just one of those things that stayed with me for all these years. Of course it is also images like these that mislead people on the entire history of Oklahoma.

Most people don't realize there were many people, including people of African descent already living in what is now called Oklahoma "where the wind comes rushing down the plain!" well before the "Sooners" arrived.

Makes you go, hmmmmmmm?