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

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