Friday, August 11, 2017

Freedmen Community Project Part 2-Township 2 South, Range 1 West-GUNN, GAINES, BROWN

Freedmen Community Project
Township 2 South, Range 1 West
Homer & Elk Indian Territory

1900 Census Township 2 South, Range 1 West Chickasaw Nation ED 168 pg 28B

The Dawes card for the GUNN family provides a tremendous amount of information about the families who made up the community of freedmen. In many cases they become the first records for vital statistics because Indian Territory was not a part of the United States and records for birth and death were not officially kept until Oklahoma statehood.

Shortly after successfully getting his family placed on the freedmen roll in the Chickasaw nation Sam GUNN died on Christmas day of 1900. As you study the card more in depth it appears Hattie GUNN was approximately five months pregnant when her husband died and on April 13, 1901 Hattie gave birth to another daughter by the name of Samuel Dovy.

The card informs us that Samuel Dovy was enrolled as a Chickasaw Freedman in September of 1901 meaning she was born in time to receive a land allotment that her father would not receive because of his untimely death. 

Chickasaw Freedman Card# 364 Front GUNN, Sam & Hattie

I imagine with the loss of her husband the thought of raising a family in the shadow of the Arbuckle Mountains with a baby on the way Hattie GUNN nee GAINES had to rely on her community to pull her family through a difficult time. Interestingly if you locate an index of the Chickasaw Freedmen you will discover the majority of the people who carry the GAINES surname were in fact, Chickasaw Freedmen. Perhaps, that was the larger community Hattie relied on to help her family through the difficult period following her husband’s death?

Chickasaw Freedman Card# 364 Rear 

Chickasaw Freedman card# 364 provides additional information that helps support the idea that a community of former slaves and their descendants would develop a home in the nation of their ancestor’s birth. Simon and Mary GUNN would become the parents of children during the period of the Dawes land allotment and if their children were born before a certain date in 1902 they would also receive forty acres of land because they were descendants of former slaves held in the Chickasaw Nation. With this many people holding land that would exceed four hundred acres it is easy to see how they could develop a thriving farming community were their ancestors toiled as chattel slaves for Chickasaw Indians like James and Elsie GAINES.

After looking at the Minor Chickasaw Freedmen cards for Hattie and her daughter Mary additional information about this family helps tell their story of survival and community. First we learn that Hattie’s given name is actually Harriet and by 1904 she has remarried to a “non-citizen” named Tom BROWN. Their child Berrie BROWN unfortunately was born on January 28, 1904 which meant she was not eligible to receive a land allotment or be admitted as a Chickasaw Freedman.

Minor Chickasaw Freedman Card#151 BROWN, Berrie

Hattie’s daughter Mary gave birth to a child by the name of Arra Bertha GAINES on April 13, 1905 four years to the day after her father Sam GUNN died. Arra’s father was also a Chickasaw Freedman and he was enumerated on card #623.

Minor Chickasaw Freedman Card# 141 

Clearly there is a lot of information available throughout the Dawes cards and since the focus of this project is the community of freedmen it’s important to point out the places of residence written on the Minor Chickasaw Freedmen cards. Harriet/Hattie is still living in the Elk, Indian Territory community but her daughter has migrated to an area known as Lone Grove, Indian Territory which isn’t that far away. 

1896 Map Pickens County, Arbuckle Mountains and Surrounding Townships (Elk-Hennepin-Springer)

While I was reflecting on the information on Chickasaw Freedman card #364 it dawned on me the surname GUNN was one that has significance in my LIGON family history. I recalled one of my grandfather’s brothers married a woman named Alberta GUNN(S) in 1908 which generated a marriage license.

At the time Nathaniel (Nat) LIGON was twenty one years old and Alberta was about nineteen years of age in February of 1908. I had to make sure this was the same person so it was important to look at the communities Nat and Alberta lived in and if Alberta was on a Dawes allotment card. I knew Nat was on Choctaw Freedman card #106 and residing in Newport, Indian Territory which was near Homer but when I looked at the marriage license it stated Alberta’s residence was Lone Grove. Lone Grove was practically next door to Newport so the possibility of this being the person Nat married increased, at least in my opinion. 

When I examined an index of freedmen with the surname of GUNN there were a few and practically all of them were on Chickasaw Freedman card #364. Looking over the card I noticed the name Bert GUNN and she was listed as a ten year old female in September of 1898.

The force is strong with this one!

Just another example how this community of former slaves and their descendants intermarried and established family ties throughout the territory. This also demonstrates one of the earliest marriages in the new state of Oklahoma only three months after statehood. It also requires me too add a layer to my own genealogical history. 

Carter County Oklahoma Marriages 1891-1959 pg. 110

There is no evidence to date that Nathaniel and Alberta had any children and tragically it appears Alberta died just four years after marrying Nathaniel. My cousin Clayton BENJAMIN was instrumental in locating her grave site and we know Alberta’s body is interred in Mt. Olive Cemetery in Carter County, Oklahoma.

I want to impress upon those who read this story of the importance of working together in the effort to bring light to the stories of our ancestors. It was discovery of my cousin Clayton that brought attention to Alberta GUNN-LIGON and her burial site. With that information and this effort of telling the story of the freedmen communities I was able to connect the dots that put more flesh on the bones of this unique history. We are in a sense obligated to work together and tell this story for future generations.

I have always taken the position that if I concentrated on researching the larger story of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen the story of my family would emerge. This is just another example of how true that is and how wise my decision to research, discuss and publish this unique history continues to guide me on the path of my ancestor’s story.

Just when I thought I was finished with this story another interesting fact pops up unexpectedly. The aim of this series of articles is to demonstrate how the former slaves of Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians banded together and carved out an existence in a nation that was in many instances hostile to their presence. Despite that they interconnected assisted in the living processes that were common to early life in Indian Territory.

One of the basic fundamentals to their existence was life and death in the nation. As I was looking for the correct spelling and order in which Arra Bertha GAINES’ names I took a look at her M1301 file that would give me a firsthand account of the spelling of her name. 

In her file was a affidavit of birth submitted by her parents and the midwife that was present at the birth. In addition the affidavit required witnesses to the birth and knowledge of the parents to sign or provide their mark on the document. 

In what I would consider more evidence that this community in general had knowledge of one another and that my grandfather’s brother Nathaniel had a relationship with Alberta GUNN was provided by the signature of Nathaniel’s mother Bettie LIGON, my great grandmother was one of the witnesses.

You can’t make this stuff up

M1301 Minor Chickasaw Freedman GAINES, Arra Bertha Birth Affidavit

List of Surnames


  1. ABRAM
  3. BROWN
  9. GUNN
  10. HOOKS
  12. JONES
  13. LIGON
  14. LOVE
  16. PRICE
  17. SELVEY
  22. YATES
  23. YOUNG


1.             BROOKS
2.            BURKS
3.             BURNEY
4.            BYNUM
5.            COLBERT
6.            CRINER
7.             GAINES
8.            HARRIS
9.            HAWKINS
10.          JAMES
11.           KEMP
12.          LOVE
13.           McCLISH
14.          McLAUGHLIN
15.          NEWBERRY
16.          SMITH

Monday, August 7, 2017

Freedmen Community Project Chickasaw & Choctaw Freedmen JACKSON-JOHNSON-WILLIAMS


Township 1 South, Range 1 West

The Freedmen Community Project is something I’ve been working on for many years and finally decided to begin the process of assembling the necessary documents to publish the evolution of populations of former slaves and their descendants of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians.

In order to illustrate the growth and inter-relationships that developed following the Civil War up to Oklahoma statehood I have used primarily two main sources to illustrate how the former slaves formed communities that would define the lives and future for their families in the future.

One of the  first documents  created that defined the communities of former slaves was the Dawes Commission’s land allotment cards generated circa 1898-1899. These documents provided vital family information along with their places of residence that formed the foundation for the United States census records that would follow immediately in 1900.

It is my intent to reconstruct the communities in which these people many of whom were my ancestors and demonstrate how intricately their lives intersected and progressed to form the families that have lived throughout Indian Territory and the state of Oklahoma.

These documents in my opinion have the ability to demonstrate how our families assisted each other in making a way through the hardships in the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations when they were not truly welcomed after Civil War. Our families had to work together in an effort to secure homes and education for themselves and their children. I’m sure at the time they were not fixated on the legacy they would leave but I would like to think in the back of their mind the thought did occur, how will their children live and how would they prosper when so much around them said this was a hostile country?

I don’t know if there is any real “science” to what I’m doing but I have to believe it is necessary to tell the story of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen because it seems at least once a week I’m contacted by someone hoping to reconnect to the history of their family through the use of documents or through the use of DNA. What is becoming increasingly evident to me is the use of the documents along with the use of DNA science a lot of the stories we have heard in our families have a kernel of truth to them and if we can reconstruct those communities in which our ancestors lived their story can be heard.

As I continue this project and if I come across an ancestor of someone that reads this material I would greatly appreciate it if you have a portrait or an illustration of an original Dawes enrollee you consider submitting a copy to me. Again, it is my belief that we know these ancestors lived and died in a land that they called home but it would impact their story more if there was a face to put with that document and show they were more than just a name on a piece of paper.

You can forward that material to me at:

Please put Freedmen Community Project in the subject line so I don’t toss it in my spam folder.

1900 United States 12th Census Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory
Before going forward I think it is important to emphasize something about this census document that is unique to the people who were enrolled on the Dawes rolls, especially those who were freedmen. On just about every census record you see is a category with information on how many children a woman gave birth to and how many were still alive when the census was taken.

This information is important because it illustrates just how much land these families controlled and in the case of Levi and Rachel JOHNSON, they had nine children together of which eight were alive in 1900. When land was to be allotted in the next few years that meant this family had the possibility of controlling approximately four hundred and forty acres of land. It is astounding to know our ancestors held this much land and today there is probably a tiny fraction of their descendants having ownership of this land.

There is an interesting back story concerning Levi and Rachel JOHNSON and their land allotments. The land was award to a Chickasaw by blood Dawes enrollee. The records indicated that Levi had improved and fenced the land while the woman who sought the land was a Chickasaw who lived most of her life in the Choctaw Nation but was able to take the land previously cultivated and fenced by Levi.

Choctaw Freedman Card #31 Front Levi JOHNSON

The Dawes card for Levi JOHNSON indicates he was a Choctaw Freeman who was enslaved by Jincy COCHRAN and his place of residence was given as Homer, Indian Territory Chickasaw Nation. His card also provides information for his wife and children who were Chickasaw Freedmen on Dawes card #186.
Chickasaw Freedman Card #186 Front Rachel JOHNSON

Chickasaw Freedman Card# 186 Rear

As you view the Dawes card for Rachel JOHNSON it is important to take note of the information provided; who is listed on it, their relationship to the head of the household (usually the first person listed,) their ages and any vital statistics such as births and deaths.

You can see from Rachel’s card it runs the gamut of providing information that will assist in developing and reconstructing the community in which the Indian Territory freedmen lived in. We see Rachel’s children coming of age and beginning families of their own which meant in some cases more land that would have been allotted and controlled by members of this extended family if their children were admitted as original Dawes enrollees prior to 1902.

Again to show you just how connected and extended this family is the 1900 census three families listed on the same page; Levi and Rachel JOHNSON, Oliver and Margaret JACKSON as well as Jim and Martha WILLIAMS. On the surface if didn’t know it they might seem to be unconnected but by using the Dawes Commission records we learn that there is definitely a familial tie.

I have to point out something that is not obvious to those without a tie to this family. There are many cases that came about that challenged the idea that children of Indian men and freedmen or enslaved women did not possess “Indian blood.” The custom of the antebellum period of United States history dictated that if your mother was slave than her children would be classified as slaves, even if they were the children of white men. This was a custom that was followed for the most part in the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations.

One such case involved a Chickasaw Indian by the name of Jesse McGEE who fathered several children by a Chickasaw Freedwoman named Dora JACKSON. Oliver JACKSON was Dora’s brother and this demonstrates that these communities consisted of people who had blended families and though they were frowned upon by the citizens of the Chickasaw or Choctaw nations you will discover there were numerous blended families of African-Chickasaw people who were never recognized as being part of the tribe of their father’s. However in this case Dora and Jesse fought to have Jesse’s children and his descendants be recognized as “Chickasaw by blood.”

Chickasaw Freedman Card# 186 Front Oliver & Margaret JACKSON
Chickasaw Freedman Card# 186 Rear
Rachel JOHNSON and Margaret JACKSON are sisters and their parents are Jim (James) and Martha WILLIAMS. If you recall Rachel and Levi had nine children with eight of them living as of 1900, Margaret and Oliver JOHNSON had five children and four were alive as of 1900 and according to the same document Rachel and Margaret had eight siblings of which six were alive as of 1900 meaning there was a possibility of at least eighteen people controlling seven hundred and twenty acres of land! 

Let me put it another way, this family had land that would exceed one square mile, San Francisco, CA is only 49 square miles and we know there were more than four thousand Chickasaw Freedmen that were allotted land by the Dawes Commission. That's a lot of communities the size of San Francisco in Indian Territory? I think we owe it to the ancestor's to ask what happened to these communities?

Land Allotment Land Description James WILLIAMS

The document above is a description of the land allotted to James WILLIAMS by the Dawes Commission and indicates his forty acres is in Section 4, Township 1 South, Range 1 West which is known as Hennepin, Indian Territory. The document also gives a relative value for that land at three dollars per acre totaling one hundred and twenty dollars.

The Plat Map below provides another view of that physical description of the land owned by James WILLIAMS in ten acre parcels. Note again the land is located in Section 4, Township 1 South, Range 1 West. If you have done the math, you will note that section 4 consists of 640 acres of land and if the eighteen people who comprised part of this extended family had their land connected they would control one square mile of land.

Plat Map Property Allotted to James WILLIAMS 

Chickasaw Freedman Card# 180 Front James & Martha WILLIAMS

 It is important that when we look at the communities of Indian Territory Freedmen we take a holistic view of their families and how the political and social environment helped shape their lives and the lives of their descendants as Indian Territory began to turn into the state of Oklahoma. We hear a lot of Tulsa and how that community developed but very little is known about the rural communities like Hennepin, Homer, Milo, Newport and Berwyn Indian Territory just to name a few.

It is probably not unusual but because the people in these communities had so much shared history together as the former slaves of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians it would only be natural they intermarried among each other.

There was a great influx of so called “state Negroes” that migrated to the southern part of Indian Territory and intermixed with the freedmen but you can also see there were a lot of relationships of Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen that helped to provide an atmosphere for independence and inter-dependence that we don’t see today.

I have always enjoyed researching the history of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen because with the wealth of documentation available and the oral history of these families much can be learned on how a vast community of people who at one time controlled an enormous amount of land have lost their communities and land because their descendants may have forgotten their history.

Hopefully this project will stimulate more interest in these forgotten communities and possibly have the descendants of the original Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen reconnect to their history and communities?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Get To Know Your Own Rich Heritage-Black History Month

Get to know your own rich Heritage within your immediate Family during Black Heritage Month.

I was thinking about the above post on Facebook  as I was going through some school records for Oklahoma 1895-1914. In connection to "Black Heritage Month" and enriching our lives with our family heritage I thought I would illustrate how much we are NOT taught about "black history" and how researching our family history can be very rewarding.

Oklahoma School Records 1895-1936 Carter County Woodford District 36

This document is a census of the students attending school in rural Oklahoma circa 1914. At first blush it may seem like an innocent document but as you look deeper at the information and other documents that can be associated with it, a very deep understanding our family history can reveal so much that is not in any history book.

Before Oklahoma became a state in 1907 it was known as Indian Territory. Everyone on this document was alive at the time of Oklahoma statehood but they were not citizens of the United States until November 1907. Consider that for a moment, every individual on this document did not have a country they belong to.

The card does supply a great deal of other information that can either corroborate family history or reveal new information, dates of birth, what was the township and community where they lived Akers and Newport respectively.

The card reveals that the patriarch Hadley LIGGON was not able to write his own name, implying he could not read because he had to make his mark on this document. The fact Hadley could not read or write reminds us how our names can sometimes be misspelled based on someone else making assumptions about that spelling because there was no one to correct them?

One of the crucial things noted on this card is the designation that the people enumerated on it were Choctaw Freedmen. For those who are unfamiliar with this particular history the label is an indication that someone in this family had been enslaved by a Choctaw Indian and once they were “emancipated” they became freedmen of that Indian nation.

There are at least two other documents that can shed more light to this history and they consist of records that were generated about fifteen years earlier by the Dawes Commission. The first is known as a Dawes Card which list all the individuals who were applying and entitled to receive forty acres of land because they or an ancestor was enslaved by a Choctaw Indian.

NARA Record Group 75 M1186 Choctaw Freedmen Card #106 Front

There are three children listed on the school record that also appear on Choctaw Freedmen Roll Card number 106; Gladys, Shadrach LIGON and Sopha DOUGLAS. The other two children though not named specifically are none the less mentioned on Dawes card #106 in the notations that indicate they were newborns on other documents (NB# 163 and NB# 164.)

Record Group 75 M1186 Minor Choctaw Freedmen #163

Record Group 75 M1186 Minor Choctaw Freedmen #164
As you can see when you begin to put all of these documents together along with family oral history it is possible to establish a historical timeline and geography of were these ancestors lived and how they became integrated in their community of Newport, Chickasaw Nation. 

Again, all of these documents provide a window into some history that is well documented but not well known. It is and should be a vital part of what is deemed Black History, Native American History and more importantly, American History because so many lives would be enriched with this knowledge.