Thursday, November 9, 2017

Timeline Thursday-Blacks Among the Five Slave Holding Tribes 1906-1913

April 1906-Five Tribes Bill established final enrollment deadline of March 4, 1907. Claimants
Muskogee Democrat p4c4-5
were allowed one more chance for appeal. The bill placed a 25-year restriction on 'full blood' land.

November 1906 - The department of the interior reverses the decision of Tams Bixby relating to new born Choctaw freedmen: giving those under 21 years of age, who were living on March 19, 1906 a right to enrollment

February 1907-Senate Investigation into the “Official Conduct” of William O. Beall, Secretary to the Commissioner of the Five Civilized Tribes. (Senate Document 357; 59th Congress, 2nd Session)

February 1907-Resolution of Constitutional Convention of Oklahoma remonstrating against the passage of the bill to authorize the so-called Frisco Railway Company to consolidate and merge certain small branch lines in the Indian Territory.

March 1907-Five Tribes' governments cease operations. All rolls were closed.

April 1907-A vigilance committee of the citizens of Waurika posted notices to the Negroes to vacate the community within twenty four hours.

April 1907-The suit Bettie Ligon et al., (Equity Case 7071) filed in the United States Court at Ardmore Saturday evening(April 13th) involving property worth probably $15,000,000, attracts attention as one of the most gigantic pieces of litigation in the history of the Indian Territory. The litigants sought to be transferred from the Choctaw or Chickasaw Freedmen rolls to the respective by blood roll. 

May 1907-Tulsa, May 29, Judge William Lawrence, in a special court session here today, denied the intervention set up by Joseph H. Tiger, a Creek freedman, in the case of Smith and Fewell, versus .S. S. Steele. The decision is far reaching, effecting 5,000 Creek freedmen.

July 1907-Some 2,000 Cherokee freedmen who have lost out in the citizenship courts but are still in possession of lands on which they have lived for years are to be ejected by the United States Indian Agent.

November 16, 1907- Oklahoma Territory as well as Indian Territory became a memory on this date with the signing of the statehood proclamation by President Theodore Roosevelt, Oklahoma became the 46th State.

April 1908-Muskogee; Since the “Jim Crow” law went into effect in Oklahoma it has been observed that the Negroes established a boycott on the street car company.

April 1908-Muskogee, OK, Justice Wright of the United States Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus compelling the Secretary of the Interior to place Lillie Lowe and six other Cherokee freedmen, who had been stricken from the rolls by the Dawes Commission, back on the rolls, and give them allotments.

May 1908-Congress removed restrictions on all Tribal allotments to whites, some 'mixed-bloods' and freedmen. Restrictions were retained for 'full blood' and some mixed bloods. More than 11,000 requests to remove restrictions were filed the first year.

June 1908-Hominy: The importing of Negro laborers in this section has given rise to intense feeling of opposition among white citizens, who are against the populating of the state with the black race

San Francisco Call p34 c3 February 24, 1907
September 1908-George Washington, an aged Negro of Okmulgee is preparing to call a state convention of Negroes to take up the proposition of colonizing Liberia with Oklahoma Negroes.

September 1908-Judge A. H. Huston in the district court at Guthrie declared unconstitutional the Oklahoma separate school law providing separate school boards and separate schools for Negroes in the new state.

October 1908-U. S. Court of Appeals ruled that Bettie Ligon and family are freedmen and not of Chickasaw and Choctaw blood. Records from Dancing Creek Treaty in Mississippi of 1830 were introduced to show that the Ligon's were lineal descendants, if they were of blood they would be entitled to 320 acres, freedmen received only 40 acres.

February 1909-A Muskogee grand jury indicts Gov. Charles Haskell and three others, charging fraud in a Muskogee and Tulsa town lot scheme.

March 1909 – Race Riot: Hickory Grounds; Negroes, Indians; Militia Sent.

May 1909-Washington. The court of claims has rendered a decision which will give one thousand four hundred Cherokee Freedmen applicants, a chance to go into court and prove that they were unjustly rejected by the Dawes Commission when they were entitled to enrollment and allotment

July 1909-NAACP founded.

July 1909-Lynching murder of Albert Turner

July 1910-Regarding the “Negro disfranchisement,” which is a live issue in Oklahoma, Ex-President Roosevelt asserts that neither state nor party can afford to disfranchise Negroes by indirection

June 1911-Charles Cohee and other freedmen have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court contesting the judgment rendered against them in favor of Turner & Wiggins Negro attorneys

September 1911-The Negroes of Colbert, Oklahoma have organized for mutual protection against the efforts of the whites to drive them from that part of the country.

July 1912-Attorney General West will go to Muskogee Friday and represent the state in proceeding instituted before U. S. Judge Ralph K. Campbell, to compel the registration of Negroes in eastern counties, without regard to their qualifications under the “Grandfather Clause.”

July 1913-Believing that the Grandfather Clause and the Jim Crow Law was placed on the statute book to make life as uncomfortable as possible for them, 125 or more Negroes will leave Oklahoma City in September to go to Monrovia, Liberia.

December 1913-Fifteen hundred Negroes residing along the Ft. Smith and Western Railway, have completed arrangements to sail for Africa the first of the year.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Warrior Wednesday Charles COHEE President Chickasaw Freedmen Association

Graphic created by Terry Ligon © 2011-2017

Charles COHEE was born in February of 1848 he was considered to be part Chickasaw and part African descent. His wife Mary was mixed white and African descent. His father was a free man who it was said, appeared to look like an Indian with long straight hair. Charles Sr. came to Indian Territory with the Chickasaws around 1837. He attended the Chickasaw Council’s and acted as their interpreter.

M1186 #171F Chickasaw Freedmen Charles COHEE
M1186 #171R Chickasaw Freedman Charles COHEE

Charles COHEE Jr. became a prominent leader among the freedmen in his community of Berwyn and Dresden. In 1891 COHEE and Freedman Marcus HAMILTON traveled to Washington, D.C. to voice their concerns to Congress and the President of the U.S.

Senate Miscellaneous Document 24 (53rd Congress, 3rd Session)

In 1894 Chickasaw Freedmen held a convention and established contracts with attorneys named MULLEN and BELT who were hired to secure allotments for the Chickasaw freedmen and if failing to do that, they were instructed to negotiate and secure land for the freedmen some where else.

Senate Miscellaneous Document 24 (53rd Congress, 3rd Session) p28

The Committee of Chickasaw Freedmen’s Association which included Isaac C. KEMP, George W. HALL and Mack STEVENSON brought to the attention of U.S. Congress that the Freedmen did not participate in the creation of the Treaty of 1866 and therefore insisted the United States fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to protect the rights of the Chickasaw Freedmen.

Senate Miscellaneous Document 24 (53rd Congress, 3rd Session) p 36

The United States represented by the Dawes Commission began work to dissolve the Five Civilized Tribes in 1898, Charles COHEE, now the President of the Chickasaw Freedmen’s Association called for a convention to meet at the Dawes Academy near Berwyn on August 4th and 5th of the same year to pass several resolutions to fight for their rights under the Treaty of 1866.

Senate Miscellaneous Document 24 (53rd Congress, 3rd Session) p 37

The “Twin Territories” became the state of Oklahoma in 1907, in less than a year in April of 1908 Charles COHEE was deceased. Throughout his life Charles COHEE served the Chickasaw Freedmen and his community by representing their interest and desire to become citizens in the nation of their birth. His example of leadership is something we can learn from today as we preserve and highlight his legacy as a leader among the African and African-Native people of Indian Territory.

Senate Miscellaneous Document 24 (53rd Congress, 3rd Session) p 38

This is a re-post of a previous article with minor revisions.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Freedmen Community Project Chickasaw Nation Akers Township 1910

Freedmen Community Project Chickasaw Nation
Akers Township 1910

Part One

Recently I was contacted by a friend who was one of the first persons I met when I began researching my family’s genealogy and history. We met at the old Oklahoma Historical Society and he was knowledgeable about the Chickasaw freedmen. I had never met him before but like a lot of people I began to meet in Oklahoma he quickly thought I “looked like a LIGON.”

When I would meet various people in Ardmore it was always someone who could just look at me and make the connection to the LIGON family and I thought it was weird because no one knew me but my cousins and I had not visited the state since I was probably about five or six years old. But somehow John BAILEY knew exactly who my family was and we became quick friends as he began to share some of his research with me.

It is amazing how many lives have intersected with me and this research and it has been more years than I care to count since I last saw Mr. BAILEY. It was because of his research I became familiar with the Jesse and Dora McGEE connection to the Chickasaw Freedmen and their connection to my research about my great grandmother Bettie LIGON.

At this time we were in the little research room in OHS and he showed me a document and stated this was important to my research but at the time I really didn’t know what he meant or how to apply the information but I accepted it and tried to figure out what it meant through the years.

It took me some years before I could put this document into context because as a single document it didn’t really provide a great deal of information that I could connect to my research other than the name of my great grandmother Bettie and many other people were listed on it and from everything I could figure out there was a decision made in the main case that apparently applied to all of the names listed on this document?

 Years later I was looking through the interview packets of Chickasaw Freedmen and discovered the file pertaining to the children of Jesse and Dora McGEE. This was another case of freedmen who had a Chickasaw father and made an attempt to be transferred to the Chickasaw by Blood roll. As my research became more focused the other names on this document became familiar as other people who sought to be transferred to the Chickasaw or Choctaw by blood rolls.

These were individuals who clearly had made arguments before the Dawes Commission that they were erroneously placed on the freedmen roll when they should have been rightfully placed on the Choctaw or Chickasaw by blood roll relative to their ancestor’s nation of birth.

And so the other day I received an email from Mr. BAILEY asking me if I knew “there was a LIGON living with the ABRAM’S?” You know you’ve been doing research for a long time when you knew immediately what document to look for and what he meant when he said it. I knew there was a census document in 1910 that enumerated my grandfather’s brother as a “hired hand” for the Ed ABRAM family and they were all on the 1910 Indian Population Schedule for Akers Township in what was now the state of Oklahoma.
M1301 McGEE, Annie Chickasaw by Blood  Card #1846 p29

I decided to refresh my memory and take a look at the census document since I’m doing a series on Freedmen communities; especially because this is a segment of the freedmen community I’m very familiar.

Understand this is now 1910 just three years after Oklahoma became a state. It becomes another snapshot in the evolution of the freedmen, their communities and their children coming of age when their citizenship has finally been established in the new state and the United States after years of having no country to call their own as former slaves of the Chickasaw Indians.

These were men and women who would have received forty acre land allotments and now find themselves navigating a new state that incorporated segregation as the first act of their legislature. The freedmen were already familiar with segregation from the hands of the Chickasaw Indians because they were never adopted as citizens in the nation of their birth.

They knew segregation because of all the southern whites who had migrated to southern Indian Territory and integrated with the Chickasaw Indians maintain a level of oppression on the former slaves and their descendants who now had a little land but no political power. This was Akers Township in communities named Woodford, Newport and Milo where Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen established their homes.

So you see Mr. John BAILEY has got me thinking again how are these people connected? Why is my grandfather’s brother working as a hired hand on someone else’s farm? What happened to his land, does he still own it? Who are the ABRAMS and why are they on the Indian Population Schedule, okay I knew that one from my earlier research but you get my meaning?

1910 US Census India Population Schedule Oklahoma ED 35 p14A

It is important to look at the larger community to understand what challenges the Chickasaw Freedmen encountered as they began the transition from Freeman to United States citizen and through the 1910 US Census we begin to see that transformation.

Some of the former slaves and their descendants settled in the rural communities of Woodford, Newport and Milo located in the Akers Township census tract. They were not the only people in this community which was mixed with whites, “Chickasaw Indians.” The first family enumerated on this particular census form in enumeration district #35 was a Chickasaw family but if you look closely the head of that family was born in Pennsylvania and he was listed as white. His wife and their children were all listed as Indian and except for one child they were erroneously said to be born in Oklahoma.

When you take a look at the Dawes card for this family a couple of things stick out and are worth noting. The husband clearly has no Indian blood or ancestry and yet he is enumerated on a Chickasaw by blood card as an “Intermarried White.” Nothing unusual there because when you go through the Chickasaw by Blood Dawes cards you will discover a great deal of people without Chickasaw ancestry listed on the blood roll as an “Intermarried White,” male and female.

This type of enrollment should be noted because I can’t think of one case where the Freedman or Negro husband of a Chickasaw woman was allowed to be enrolled as an “intermarried freedmen” or “intermarried Negro” but I’m still looking!

My point is this is another example of the racial aspects of Indian identity. Granted there are “numerous” cases where people descended from “Freedmen” or “Negro” fathers were given citizenship by blood in the nation but those fathers were denied the same “legal” status that white men enjoyed?

M1186 Chickasaw by Blood Card #546

Ironically on this and the next page of this Indian Population schedule there are two examples of mixed African-Chickasaw children being recognized as Chickasaw but one of their parents was treated quite differently than “Six Shooter Johnson.”

On line 17 of the same Indian Population Schedule you see the name of Edward ABRAM, his wife Amanda their daughter Riva and son Thomas. The children of Ed and Amanda continue on the next page with their children Vina, Elward, Jesse and J.B. You will also note the name of the person that prompted this article, Nat. LIGGON (sp. LIGON.)

1910 US Census Indian Population Schedule Oklahoma ED 35 p14B

Clearly the census enumerator made a distinction on the “race” of Ed as being black and the rest of his family as “Indian” but remember when you look at the Dawes cards for this family there is an entirely different story on how the Dawes Commission and Chickasaw Nation treated the husband of Amanda ABRAM and John JOHNSON a white man from Pennsylvania. JOHNSON was about the same age as Edward ABRAM but I’m almost certain, Ed had lived in the Chickasaw Nation much longer than John “Six Shooter” JOHNSON. JOHNSON was accepted as a citizen and a man that lived his entire life in Indian Territory was denied that status despite being married to a Chickasaw woman.

Well again it is good to revisit your research at times because sometimes things look differently when you have been away and hopefully learned more to put things in better context and over the years I have learned a little more about the ABRAMS, Nathaniel LIGON and surprised, surprise look at who else is enumerated on the 1910 census and living near the ABRAMS!

M1186 Chickasaw Freedman Card #699 Front

The families of John and Hattie BROWN as well as the family of Florence McGEE are on the Indian Population Schedule and in the course of my research I have come across these families and their connection or familiarity with the LIGON family if any?

Amanda ABRAM and her children are recognized Chickasaw citizens but unlike intermarried whites Amanda’s citizenship could not benefit her husband in becoming an “intermarried” citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. This is another example of racial politics in the Chickasaw nation and how it adversely affected their former slaves and descendants.

Now the ABRAM’S may have been fortunate because of Amanda’s acceptance as a Chickasaw Indian. She would have been entitled to the monetary equivalent of three hundred and twenty acres of land as well as her children. Her husband on the other hand would have received the monetary equivalent of forty acres based on his status as a Chickasaw Freedman. I know what you’re thinking doesn’t Ed benefit from his wife and children’s land holding? When you look at the historical record he did have some influence in the final decision of the entire family’s land allotments.

Application for Allotment
Five Civilized Tribes 1899-1907
Family Search 

According the census tract this area of southern Oklahoma is known as Akers Township but the residents like Edward ABRAM probably knew it as Woodford, Indian Territory when they enrolled with the Dawes Commission in 1898.

The front of Ed’s card provides some important information about him and his family and their recognition as Chickasaw citizens on Chickasaw by blood card #610. There is also a note about another child who was enumerated on Chickasaw New Born card #92.

This is an example of how the freedmen were part of the Chickasaw nation despite what seems to be every attempt by the tribe to distance themselves from their former slaves was not fool proof. There were supposed to be laws against the “intermarriage between a Chickasaw Indian and a Negro” but as we can see by Amanda’s age; this didn’t matter to her parents Steve STEPHENSON and Molsie MAHARDY in 1865/66.

Who knows why or how Amanda’s parents became a couple but one thing was clear Amanda was recognized as a Chickasaw Indian which allowed all of her children to be recognized as Chickasaw Indians and citizens. It would be nice to know the descendants of Edward and Amanda ABRAM are currently recognized as Chickasaw Indians and citizens?

Chickasaw by Blood Card #610 

I can’t leave this part of the story without saying a few words about my grand uncle Nathaniel LIGON. He was not recognized as being a Chickasaw Indian despite being enumerated on the Indian Population Schedule of 1910. His mother did challenge the Chickasaw Nation about her rights as a Chickasaw by blood citizen beginning in 1896 when she applied for citizenship as the daughter of a recognized citizen.

Many of my followers will recognize the name Bettie LIGON and the lawsuit Equity Case 7071 but this is not the time or place to tell her story. However it is clear from all the available documents Bettie and her family were familiar with the ABRAMS because they lived in generally the same community of “freedmen” and “African-Native” people in the Newport, Woodford and Milo area of Akers Township.  It isn’t strange to see one of Bettie’s sons working on a nearby farm like the Abrams and considering they had a rather large land holding I’m sure they could use Nat’s help.

I am a little curious as to why he wasn’t working his own land but as you look at the census form you will note Nat was divorced at the time and who knows what happened to that marriage? As a researcher it does offer a clue about him and what happened in the short span of ten years since he was enumerated with his mother and father on the 1900 census? It also begs the question what happened to the land he was allotted as a Choctaw Freedman?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Freedman Community Project HUTCHINS-McKINNEY-NAIL-SPINGS

Freedmen Community Project Choctaw Nation
Township 2 North, Range 20 East

One of the areas I focus on quite a bit are the efforts of numerous Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen who claimed to have parents or ancestors that were considered citizens of these nations and possessed “Choctaw or Chickasaw blood.” The application by the McKINNEY family in May of 1899 appears to be one of those cases also known as “transfer cases.”

This may explain why Robert McKINNEY, his wife and five children were enumerated on the Indian Population Schedule in 1900 just a year following their application to the Dawes Commission as Choctaw Freedmen?

Looking at the front of the card for this family you would not get a sense of that and the United States census in 1900 does not give you any idea of the blood connection but when you look at the rear of Choctaw Freedman card number 649 there is some glaring evidence that tends to show up on many cards for people who informed the Dawes Commissioners they possessed Choctaw or Chickasaw blood ancestors.

M1186 Choctaw Freedman Card #649 Front

Claims of Choctaw ancestry by people who were identified as freedmen had great difficulty being recognized as someone who possessed “Indian Blood” based on several factors; chief among them was they had a mother who was considered to be “Negro” or a former slave.
There were several cases where this rule was not adhered to and children of Choctaw or Chickasaw men were successful in having their children transferred to the so called blood rolls. The majority of those cases seem to be successful when the father was alive and made an effort to have his children recognized as citizens of his nation.

Looking at the rear of card #649 it is clear when asked; Lila McKINNEY provided information about her parents and the fact that her father was considered to be a Choctaw Indian named La-pu-na-bi (I’m not sure of the spelling.) She also had no problem of naming her mother Tena HAMPTON who was enslaved by Nicholas HAMPTON. Unfortunately Lila’s father was deceased in 1899 but it appears her mother Tena may have a Dawes card.

M1186 Choctaw Freedman Card #649 Rear

M1301 Choctaw Freedman Card #649 p.3

M1301 Choctaw Freedman Card #649 p5
The date of the letter is very important because 1907 was the year the Dawes Commission wanted to close shop and the books on Indian Territory to make way for Oklahoma statehood. That would have been delayed if cases like Lila McKINNEY’S were transferred to the blood roll and require the commission to reallocate thousands of acres of land.

Clearly the Dawes Commission and for that matter the tribal governments for their own reasons were going to put obstacles in the way of someone being properly recognized as a citizen and  their response demonstrate how complex they constructed a system  that would frustrate many people who should have been placed on the blood roll when they sought proper recognition as Choctaw by blood.

You will recall on the rear of the McKINNEY Dawes card Lila informed a commissioner her father was a Choctaw Indian in 1899. If all things were fair, at that point she and or her husband should have been informed that she and her children should apply as Choctaw by Blood. That clearly did not happen and Lila as well as her children was not recognized as Choctaw Indians.

The usual thing would be to determine if they had been recognized as a Choctaw before, if they received a per capita payment as Choctaw, was Lila’s name written on a payment roll and if her mother was considered a freedwoman all of these things would prevent her from receiving the three hundred and twenty acres allotted to anyone who was a “recognized” Choctaw by blood.

Of the four documents in the file on Robert and Lila McKINNEY there was one that is titled MEMORANDA which seems to have been used to make notes of pertinent information derived from the applicant during the interview process.

You will note on this document there is space that asks the question about the person’s name, their tribal affiliation and their parents. Despite the fact the name of Lila’s father was given and the fact it was noted on the card he was a Choctaw Indian absolutely nothing is recorded on the MEMORANDA to reflect that fact. Practically every other vital piece of information is present, the names and ages of the children were provided and their Dawes enrollment numbers.

As members of this community we don’t know how this family viewed itself but with some luck we can hope there are family members who can provide more insight into the McKINNEY family and how they interacted with their neighbors in Tushkahomma?

US 1900 Census Indian Population Schedule Choctaw Nation T2N, R20E; ED97 p4B

In an effort to develop an understanding of the community that is defined in the census as Township 2 North, Range 20 East we can look at the names listed and their Dawes Card in hopes the documents will reveal who these people are and if they are related?

As most genealogist know when conducting general research it is wise to look at pages before and after you ancestor with hopes of picking up additional family members. This is no different when conducting research in Indian Territory and we are fortunate that most of the freedmen applied to the Dawes Commission together which meant a lot of times their Dawes Card will be in close proximity to each other. That continues to work when conducting census work and it is very evident in the case of the McKINNEY family.

Delila McKINNEY aka Lila is shown to have given birth to five children and they were all alive at the time of the census enumeration. The family of John and Jennie HUTCHINS is the name of the people who were enumerated just before the McKINNEY’S. Jennie HUTCHINS is their daughter and she is enumerated on Dawes Choctaw Freedman card #655.

We see again how this small rural community of freedmen maintained their ties and as each generation succeeded the other they added new life and vitality to their community. This is illustrated with the notation on Jennie’s card that when she applied for her land allotment she did so with her daughter Ada in 1899. It is also noteworthy to point out that Jennie gave birth to other children following her application and their names could be found on Minor Choctaw Freedman card #256.

M1186 Choctaw Freedman Card #655 Front

M1186 Choctaw Freedman Card #655 Rear

M1186 Minor Choctaw Freedman Card #256
Which came first, the town or the railroad? I say this because if you look at the map of this area in the Choctaw Nation there is a railroad line that just so happens to coincide with the towns that the McKINNEY family settled.

Just south of Tushkahoma is a town called Standley in Jacks Fork County and this is where one of Robert and Lila’s son’s named Joshua settled with his family. Joshua was enumerated on Choctaw Freedmen card #650 which if you have been paying attention is the card after his parents when they enrolled for their land allotment.

The 1900 census confirms the fact that the mother of Joshua’s daughter was a “non-citizen” woman named Ida. We don’t have a great deal of information on Ida, other than she was born in India Territory and her father was born in Missouri according to the census. However when you look at the testimony given to Dawes Commissioner NEEDLES Joshua testifies his wife was a “state woman.” So there is some conflict to where Ida was born, in the United States or Indian Territory?

M1186 Choctaw Freedman Card #650 Front

I haven’t mentioned it but in light of the recent ruling in favor of granting citizenship to Cherokee Freedmen which was given to them and the Choctaw Freedmen by treaties signed in 1866 you will note this card and the others provides information on the “tribal enrollment” number of all the people listed on it. What it means is Joshua and Nancy McKINNEY were Choctaw citizens at the time of their enrollment and I hazard to say that today if they have any descendants, those descendants are not citizens of the Choctaw nation based on the Treaty of 1866 as they should be?

Again, these people lived in a community that was located in the shadow of the Choctaw Nation capitol, some of them shared Choctaw ancestry and yet there is the distinct possibility none of their descendants is recognized as a citizen in the Choctaw Nation, the nation of their ancestor’s birth. 

US 1900 Census Indian Population Schedule Choctaw Nation T2N, R20E; ED 97 p4b
US 1900 Census Indian Population Schedule Choctaw Nation T2N, R20E; ED97 p5A
Freedmen families applied for their land allotments at the same time and it appears in many cases they tended to live near each other as extended families. I suspect this would have provided them with support in running a farm and raising their children? In the case of the McKINNEY family we see that illustrated by the 1900 United States census record as well as the Dawes cards which were prepared just a year earlier in 1899.

Choctaw Freedman card #648 is the family of Joe and Lucy NAIL nee McKINNEY and from the rear of the card we learn Lucy is the younger sister of Robert McKINNEY who is enumerated on Dawes card #650.

M1186 Choctaw Freedman Card #648 Front
Just by looking at the front of the card you don’t get the sense that there is anything “remarkable” about this family and that’s okay but with the freedmen of Indian Territory there seems to always be something “remarkable” about them if you looked past the surface.

The NAIL family is different for at least one reason but it reveals itself on the rear of Choctaw Freedman card #648. Joe NAIL informed the Dawes Commission he was the son of a deceased Choctaw Indian named Ona-by. When you search through his M1301 interview packet there is no mention of his father but they did note his mother was a Choctaw slave.

After I looked through some other resources there was no mention of Joe NAIL attempting to be transferred to the Choctaw by Blood roll and it would have been interesting to read that testimony but instead it appears the family moved on and lived their lives in the shadow of the Choctaw Capitol as Choctaw “citizens” based on their tribal enrollment numbers on the card; #2637, #2638, #2640 and #3042. I might add those who did have a tribal enrollment number had it at least since 1896 when the Choctaw nation conducted a census of all of the nation’s citizens.

M1186 Choctaw Freedman Card #648 Rear
M1186 Minor Choctaw Freedman Card #265
We come now to the last family enumerated on this census document and with a little digging we discover their connections to the McKINNEY name if not family. Levi SPRING and his children are enumerated on Choctaw Freedman card #653

The record indicates Levi was the offspring of a Choctaw Indian named Lewis SPRING and an enslaved woman named Jennie McKINNEY both parents were deceased at the time of the Dawes enrollment process. However I could not find any evidence Levi or his children made efforts to be transferred to the Choctaw by blood roll.

Levi did have a connection to the McKINNEY name based on his mother but there is no evidence she was related to the other McKINNEY’S and that will require the descendants of this wonderful freedmen family to research further and maintain their family’s legacy.

Clearly all of these families migrated to this area and banded together out of need or based on their familial ties. It is quite possible that because of a single enslaver or a family of Choctaw enslavers they had a bond that extended after they were emancipated because of the Treaty of 1866 signed by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations? What we know from just this meager record base is these former slaves of Choctaw Indians had a need to live in close proximity to each other and began the process of living in two worlds, Choctaw and Freedmen.

M1186 Choctaw Freedman Card #653 Front
M1186  Choctaw Freedman Card #653 Rear

M1186 Minor Choctaw Freedman Card #65
1860 Arkansas Slave Schedule Choctaw Nation Towson County

Jesse McKINNEY held at least twenty people in bondage in 1860 on the eve of the Civil War coming to Indian Territory. For the descendants of Robert McKINNEY, his siblings and his children this may prove to be a valuable document to put the pieces of their family and community back together?