Thursday, August 24, 2017

Freedmen Community Project Choctaw Nation Part III

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


1896 Map Choctaw Nation

In the shadow of the Choctaw Nation Capitol was a community that included many former slaves of Choctaw Indians living in Tushka-Homma, Indian Territory. Part of this community resided in census district number 97, described as Township 2 North, Range 20 East in 1900.

Looking at the people who settled this area is interesting when you compare the United States census with the Dawes Freedman cards because they become snapshots of the people who developed the community and Choctaw Nation. Because this area was so close to the seat of power in the Choctaw Nation it can be instrumental in seeing who lived in the Freedmen community and how they interacted with other citizens in the Choctaw Nation?

By using the Dawes cards in conjunction with the U.S. census it becomes easier to identify the community and the freedmen who lived there because the two documents are separated by two years. The Dawes cards only provide us with a snapshot of the former slaves and their descendants but with the addition of the census documents we get to see how the whites and Indians intermingled in the same community. These communities probably will never be identified as “All Black Towns” but their importance to the history and culture of Black America, the Choctaw Nation and the state of Oklahoma should not be ignored. 

One census document that helps identify a family that resided in this area of the Choctaw Nation is the 1900 Census Indian Population Schedule for Township 2 North, Range 19 East, Enumeration District 97, page 8B. Curiously one of the names on the list is James WATERS who is described as black, 50 years of age and born in Indian Territory.

1900 US Census Choctaw Nation Indian Territory Township 2 North, Range 19 East p8B

Generally speaking the Indian Population Schedules were created specifically for the enumeration of the Native American population, so to have a “black family” listed on one though not unusual it is something that catches the eye. With the census and the Dawes card it provides more insight into the people of that community and we see clearly this was an integrated community of blacks and Indians living in Tushka-homa, Indian Territory.

M 1186 Choctaw Freedman Card #1538 Front WATERS, James

The census list the wife of James WATERS as Eliza but when you look at the Dawes card for James it provides some very interesting information on his wife and why she was not listed as a Choctaw Freedwoman. Their child is listed and fortunately there are notes that provide enough information to dig a little deeper into the history of Eliza WATERS who sought recognition as a Cherokee Freedman.

This is information that illustrates just how fluid the communities of freedmen were in Indian Territory and how freedmen from other nations moved about and established family ties. Eliza apparently was not successful in establishing her citizenship in the Cherokee Nation but that did not prevent her from living a life among the Choctaw Indians with her husband James and their children. It would be interesting to see what is in the Denied #1040 file for Eliza’s application for citizenship as a Cherokee Freedmen.

Again the use of the Dawes allotment cards is useful because you will note on James’ card there is a notation about “children of No. 1 see NB (New Born) Apr. 26, 06 Card No. 346.” I’m sure you have noticed the ages of the people on the census form are not the same as those on the Dawes Card but there is enough evidence on the card that establishes the fact that the people on the census are the same people associated with Choctaw Freedman Card #1538.

There is something else about the census card and again goes to establish who lived in these communities and how they developed families and relationships. There is a grand daughter in the WATERS household in 1900 that isn’t listed on the Dawes card by the name of Virginia FOLSOM, clearly James had another relationship before Eliza and there were children from that relationship that have established families. Who were Virginia’s parents and are they alive or dead? We know from James’ file he had a son by his first wife named Bob WATERS and at the time of James’ allotment application Bob was “in the Pen” was Viriginia his child?

I know for some researchers it will be note worthy that James and at least two other individuals may have served in the Civil War! James admits to “run off and to to the Federal army.” He names the two men that ran off with him as Ramsey and Charles TILLY. Were they Choctaw Freedmen? Did they all actually serve? Are their any records of their service? These are the things that will help flesh out the people in this community and how they eventually settled among the Choctaws in the shadow of the nations capitol. For the record, on page 4 James informs the commissioner he was discharged October 1, 1865 from the First Kansas Colored Regiment! If James did serve in the Civil War as part of the First Kansas Colored there is a good chance he was at the Battle of Honey Springs in July of 1863? What happened to the TILLY’S?

Minor Choctaw Freedman Card #346 WATERS, Jimmie & Flora

There is another interesting aspect of the census that may provide some insight into the interactions of the people in this community and it is in the form of an affidavit in the M-1301 #1538. One of the persons to witness the statement given by Joe LEWIS about the child of James and Eliza WATERS to the Dawes Commissioner was someone that appears to be named S. J. SPRING. If you look at the census schedule with the WATERS family just below him were two heads of household who had a first name that began with the letter S, both enumerated as Choctaw Indians.

The affidavit may also reveal something about the community in which the WATERS’ and SPRING’S resided. As you read the document Mr. LEWIS indicates “he was living near mine no. 2 Hartshorne, I.T.” I’m not certain but this seems to indicate this was near a mining town?

M 1301 Choctaw Freedman #1538 WATERS, James p. 30

Looking at the index for Choctaw Indians on the Dawes Roll there are two people who may be one of the witnesses to the affidavit; Solomon SPRING age 25, Choctaw by Blood Card #1898 and Siney SPRING age 53, Choctaw by Blood Card #1903. 

There is so much that is interesting about this family that deserves more attention than I have given it and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a little bit about Eliza WATERS nee MUSKRAT. Eliza sought citizenship in the Cherokee Nation based on her history as a Cherokee Freedwoman.

M 1301 Choctaw Freedman #1538 p. 13 WATERS, James

Eliza’s father’s name was Robert MUSKRAT and attempted to prove his ties to the Cherokee nation by demonstrating he had been on one of their payrolls. Robert thought he had been placed on the rolls in 1880 but when the commissioner examined those records his name did not appear on it. It was not until the commissioner examined the Kern-Clifton pay roll did Robert and his children appear. It doesn’t appear from the records of the Cherokee rolls that Robert and his children were ever adopted in the nation as Cherokee Freedmen.

M 1301 Choctaw Freedman #1538 p. 8 WATERS, James
We see again how diverse the communities of freedmen were in Indian Territory by the example of just this one family. James and Eliza WATERS were from two different Indian nations; Choctaw and Cherokee. James was a veteran of the Civil war as a USCT member of the First Kansas Colored Regiment and assuredly he has a record on file for any of his descendants to obtain.

We don’t know all there is to know about this family but somewhere there are people who have a connection to the family and the community and their story deserves being told so it too can become a part of the patchwork quilt of Indian Territory Freedmen.

Why not join the group and initiate a discussion on this unique history on the Facebook page:

Index of Names

Freedmen Surnames

Enslaver Surnames


Indian Territory Place Names


Thursday, August 17, 2017


As someone who researches the former slaves of Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians I’m struck with the contemporary issue of confederate monument removal throughout the nation. Many have advocated for the removal of these monuments and somehow I have not heard a peep out of those in Indian Country about the removal of those monuments that apply to the Five Slave Holding Tribes known as Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Indians.

For many in this country there is little awareness of Native Americans fighting on the side of the confederacy to maintain the culture of black chattel slavery and yet throughout the nation a new awareness and conversation has arisen that should be a part of the same conversation as “Indian mascots?”

I began my morning writing another article on the community of Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen and it occurred to me the community of former slaves have a history attached to the same conversation of confederate monuments that are present in the state of Oklahoma today.

Just like the silence of their history attached to slavery little conversation exists of the Five Slave Holding Tribes attachment to the Civil War and the confederate states of America, why? The events that followed the war of the rebellion affected the lives of thousands of black people who were enslaved and oppressed by Native Americans have played a part in how that community of descendants have progressed since that time. It is clearly a history that many in the state of Oklahoma continue to cling to and yet we hear very little if anything from the Native American community, why?

Today there are many people looked upon as heroes and leaders in the pages of history of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and they have never been challenged as Native American oppressors, why? Men like Robert McDonald JONES were considered one of the largest slave owners in the Choctaw Nation yet he was a Tribal Representative of the Confederate Congress. I would hope there are no monuments erected for this oppressor.

1860 Arkansas Slave Schedule Choctaw Nation Red River 
There are men like Douglas Hancock COOPER whose mother was related to John HANCOCK  that signed the Declaration of Independence and he had a rather interesting life among the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. COOPER led Native American troops in battle on the side of the confederacy, he was adopted as a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and held many slaves prior to the Civil War; I wonder if there are monuments to this man and the regiments he led in rebellion?

Chickasaw Freedman Card# 1468 Front - JOHNSON, Maggie

Chickasaw Freedman Card# 1473 Front - CLARK, Silla

So what is the point of this article? In a time when the history of the Civil War has been forced in the public spotlight as a result of the events that are unfolding throughout the nation around the issue of “Confederate” monuments, it is worth noting that this is also an issue for Native Americans and Indian Country.

If those in the Native American community want to have the moral authority to advocate for the ending of Native American mascots they should have the strength of a moral compass to address their history of oppression of black people because of the history and culture of chattel slavery.

Perhaps an effort can be undertaken to identify these sites and monuments? If you know of any please leave that information in the comments section.


Atoka Museum & Confederate Cemetery

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?