Sunday, August 15, 2010

An Old Negro Settlement on the Edge of Indian Territory...

While reading the article about “An Old Negro Settlement on the Edge of Indian Territory” at first I was impressed with the use of digital technology in presenting this unique history. Subsequently I read a comment concerning the same article that piqued my interest about the settlement and the people who resided there even more.

The comment that got me re-interested in the article was; “the settlement was mainly of Chickasaw Freedmen, who were force to live outside of the Chickasaw Nation boundary.” Now I’ve done some extensive research on the Chickasaw Freedmen and I had never heard there was a group of Chickasaw Freedmen who were “forced” beyond the nations boundaries.
I have read many pleas to the United States Congress by Chickasaw Freedmen attempting to force the hand of the United States to remove them and pay the portion of the $300,000 that was earmarked for any Choctaw or Chickasaw Freedmen who “willingly” leaving the nation if not adopted as citizens with all of the rights and privileges as such.

However I’m open to there being another possibility on who these people were in the “Old Negro Settlement” but it occurs to me that there may be some methodology that can be utilized to determine the who constituted this particular population that according to the maps over the years and presented in Angela Walton Raji’s wonderful article resided along the banks of the Canadian River in Oklahoma Territory right across the river from the town of Purcell, Indian Territory.

Clearly, the area was located across the river and just north ofPurcell; Indian Territory meaning this small slice of land was located in Oklahoma Territory. There was another matter that caught my attention; the map maker noted the settlements and towns with little open circles to denote the location. The maps interchangeably used the name of Negro Settlement or Negro Huts but in no case could I definitively say there was that little circle noting that it was considered a permanent locality like Norman, Walker or Purcell.

I figured to test my theory I need something else that might help me pin down where exactly this settlement of Negroes was located and it suddenly hit me part of that answer was right there on the map.

If you look closely you can see numbers in a vertical column that get progressively larger as you go up or North on the map. My map depicts the “Twin Territories” of Oklahoma and Indian Territory in 1890. It is located on the wall in my “research room” at home and I look at it every time I go in to work on my research, blog or website. I also use the map to place push pins in the areas where freedmen lived to get a visual sense of where their populations resided and migrated in Indian Territory. And wouldn’t you know it also included this little settlement along the Canadian River known as the “Negro Settlement.”

Now the wheels were really turning in my head as I looked at this map that illustrated the “Township and Range” which could be very useful in determining where this settlement was and with a little luck, we might find out the people who resided in the area in the 1900 census records.

In a book I have that was recommended as a genealogist mush have; “Land and Property Research, in the United States by E. Wade Hone” it describes the term “township as a six mile square piece of land within the meridian. Ranges are imaginary lines running north-south; set six miles apart-the width of a township.”

So it was this depiction on the map that made me remember that what I was looking at was the township and range coordinates on my map that could help identify the “Old Negro Settlement.” When I took a closer look at the map it then became evident that the “Old Negro Settlement was located in Township 7, Range 1 West on this map, in Oklahoma Territory.

If you have done any census work in Indian Territory and the state of Oklahoma you recognize that in many cases, the census utilized Township and Range descriptions for the enumeration district instead of a town name. This was the information I thought would help locate this settlement and the people who resided there and possibly provide information that demonstrate if they were Chickasaw Freedmen.

Now with the knowledge that Walker Negro Settlement is located in Township 7, Range 1 West all I needed to do now is locate township and range in a census description and look for the black people enumerated there.

I looked through the 1890 “First Oklahoma Territorial Census” and the 1900 United States Census and as you might (or as I should have expected) the description of Township 7, Range 1 West did not provide positive results on what I was looking for.

The same result occurred when I looked through the 1900 census records of Cleveland County in which the area of Township 7, Range 1 West is located.

In the maps provided it “appears” the settlement is moving and changing names constantly. Having two decades of recognition on territorial maps one would feel reasonably certain that if the population was sizable enough to be named on a map, census enumerators could have found their way to the area and enumerate the population, especially when it appears the adjacent areas were being enumerated?

We might also conclude from the maps that in some circumstances the name Walker is detached from the settlement and on other maps it appears that it is one community named Walker Negro Settlements or Negro Huts.
It is in a later map that the two areas seem to be joined in 1893; with the location of “Negro Settlement now closer to the border of Township 8, Range 2 West.

Taking all of this information into consideration I directed my search on the two areas that would possibly meet these coordinates; (Township 7, Range 1&2 West and Township 8, Ranges 1& 2 West) with hopes they would yield some positive results.

Clearly Township 7, Range 1 & 2 West was located in the Lexington Enumeration District of Cleveland County in the 1890 “First Oklahoma Territorial Census” and the 1900 United States Oklahoma Territory Census.

One could question if in fact the settlement was in Township 8, Range 2 and does the census record corroborate this?

What the census records reflect is this population if it was an actual black community sandwiched between Lexington and Walker was probably transient or overlooked in both the 1890 Oklahoma First Territorial Census and the 1900 Oklahoma Territory census. The only sizable population of blacks in Oklahoma Territory was located in an area that is not reflected by the maps in the enumeration district known as Little River; (Township 9, Range 1 East) in 1900.

In the census district that comprises Township 7, Range 1 West (Lexington) the records don’t reflect a sizable black population as you would expect by looking at the maps. In this enumeration district the majority of people listed were noted as white. However there appears to be one more aspect to this research that must be mentioned.

One of the other enumeration districts in 1900 was Case in Cleveland County; it was the only other area other than Little River where a sizable population of blacks resided. The only issue with Case was there was no township and range information readily available. The other aspect about Case was the manner in which they described “blacks” in the area. They were noted with a “C” presumably for “Colored” in contradiction to the special instructions that were provided the 1890 enumerators on how to label the various “races” and nationalities. The existence of these "Special Instructions" also informs us that if there was a population of "Negroes" in the area, they would have been enumerated and more than likely placed on the census form as "B" for black.

With all of this information on this area and census records, we can come to some conclusions on this population with some certainty, it did not consist of Chickasaw Freedmen who were forced out of the Nation and until information surfaces to the contrary the only populations of blacks living near the area consisted of what has been described as “State Negroes.” The one place that could give us some additional clues on who resided in the area would be the nearby town in the Chickasaw Nation called Purcell...


  1. Interesting post on the Settlement!!

    Too bad there has not been more interest from the Archeological, (nor anthropological) community about this settlement. That is why I decided to make my first post about it on my blog as well.

    Perhaps we can generate interest from the academic community some day.

  2. I am doing research in an area just above 7N R1W. I have read what you wrote and want to add a few things that you might not have considered. Depending on the date of your maps that you are seeing, the county line changed. In 1889 the line for Cleveland was further west. 9N1W was the eastern boundary but after the opening of the Shawnee Pottawatomie lands in 1891 the line for Cleveland included 1E also. I noticed that you were looking at the records for 9N1E. This is the area that my family homesteaded and lived in for many years. They opened Knoles School there in 1895. I have seen the school records. It was a biracial school the whole time it was open. Cleveland County Genealogical Society has a lot of information on these schools. Stella was also biracial and Union was a "Colored" school. looking at the school maps the 1/2 schools were usually "Colored". Email me at and I can discuss this further. Also I am beginning to put my research on line. If you google Knoles Cemetery Cleveland County you will find my website and information. I am interested in the schools of this area and the cemeteries. I found in the newspaper in the early prestatehood days where every school had a cemetery. I now own one of them.


  3. By the way. If you have family that lived in the Little River area feel free to create a bio with or without photos and send it to me and I will post it on my blog. The Lambeth and Alexander families are looking for photos for me.

  4. population that according to the maps over the years and presented in Angela Walton Raji’s wonderful article resided along the banks of the Canadian River in Oklahoma Territory right across the river from the town of Purcell, Indian Territory. settlement quote