Sunday, January 29, 2012

This Week in Indian Territory January 29-February 04

“How much Negro wealth went into the building of Oklahoma?
It is only exceeded by the sweat, toil, and tears of … slaves’ free labor of more than 250 years!” Buck Franklin COLBERT, “My Life and an Era”

Muskogee Cimeter Feb.01, 1906 p4c2
January 30, 1896 – Wallace Roll; Shawnee, Delaware and Cherokee Indians. Compromise

January 29, 1897 – Blackwell, OK Laborers protest

January 31, 1901 – Todd Bill; Segregation, school law,

February 01, 1900 – The Colored voters of Kingfisher make resolutions to be free and independent of all political parties and to cast their votes with the party recognizing their political rights. (Editors note: I HEARD THAT!)

February 01, 1901 – Dates and places for enrollment of Cherokee Freedmen by Dawes Commission

February 01, 1901 – Negroes, Creek Indians; Mixed blood

February 02, 1901 – Enrollment Cherokee Nation Census; Treaty (July 19, 1866)

February 02, 1907Muskogee, I. T., Feb. 01. The Negroes in the various states of the Union, as well as the Indian Territory and Oklahoma are bringing to bear all their political strength to hold up the Choctaw and Cherokee nations for more than 500,000 acres of land and to assist Webster Ballinger, Albert J. Lee and their associates win a $2,500, 000 fee.

February 02, 1912 – After pending nearly ten years in various courts, the United States Supreme Court ruled that fifteen hundred freedmen were not entitled to enrollment on the Cherokee rolls. Between two and three million dollars were saved for the Cherokees by this decision.

February 03, 1907 – Allotment Choctaw Nation, Chickasaw Nation

February 03, 1898 – Agent Wisdom instructed to make application of payment of a few Shawnee, Delaware and Cherokee freedmen.

February 04, 1904 – Statehood; Davenport, J. S.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Save the Date, Saturday March 10, 2012

Hope to meet many Indian Territory Freedmen Descendants at this conference in Sacramento, California. Let me know if you can make it, perhaps we'll have time to speak before my two session at the end of the day.

Email me if you plan to attend maybe we can get a little Freedmen table together for lunch and get acquainted/re-acquainted?


Sunday, January 22, 2012

This Week in Indian Territory January 22 - 28

“How much Negro wealth went into the building of Oklahoma?
It is only exceeded by the sweat, toil, and tears of … slaves’ free labor of more than 250 years!” Buck Franklin COLBERT, “My Life and an Era”

Indian Chieftain January 22, 1891 p2c1
January 24, 1889 – The location selected for the colored high school is at a point on the Illinois and Tahlequah Districts lines, twelve miles from Tahlequah and eight miles from Ft. Gibson.

January 22, 1891 – United States Census Cherokee nation, Creek nation, Whites Indians

January 20, 1900 – Clubs: Political club, South McAlester, OK; organization.

January 24, 1901 – Dawes Commission; Attorneys

January 24, 1901 – Miller Bill; Segregation Railroad Companies

January 24, 1901 – Embry Bill; Segregation, Schools

January 22, 1909 – Five Civilized Tribes, Legislation on allotment, Reimbursement

January 27, 1905 – Cherokee Indians; National Council; Citizenship Attorneys, Payments

Indian Chieftain January 22, 1891 p2c5
January 28, 1910 – Judgment for $606,936.08 was allowed by United States Court of Claims today in the cases brought 7 years ago by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations against the U.S., as renumeration (sic) for lands allotted to the Chickasaw freedmen.

January 25, 1923 – Okmulgee: Seeking greater opportunities in agricultural pursuits and greater social and civic freedom, 15 negro families numbering 100 persons have left Okmulgee for San Luis Potosi, in Mexico, where they will take up farm lands provided for them, in a new Negro farm colony that is being established near the Mexico city.

January 26, 1938Muskogee: Colored Veterans of America; Charters

January 25, 1900 – The colored people of South McAlester have formed a political club. They will be so organized as to secure full representation in territorial convention.

January 27, 1900 – Choctaw Railroad Company; Railroad employees

January 25, 1901 – Negroes are barriers to their own progress. The greatest stumbling blocks in their pathway towards the top are given.

January 27, 1830 – Slave Sale; Sheriff’s sale, chattel sale

January 25, 1895 – Indian Appropriation Bill; Amendments, Cherokee Strip Payments

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lincoln J. RAGSDALE - Tuskegee Airmen

Lincoln J. RAGSDALE, a former citizen of Ardmore, Oklahoma was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen. He volunteered for the armed services during World War II and like so many other men from Oklahoma fought for the ideals of freedom that was denied them in segregated Oklahoma.

With all of the buzz about this movie being released today I thought it appropriate to highlight his involvement in the war as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The Ragsdale family did not have an ancestor enslaved in any of the Five Slave Holding Tribes but their impact on the community in Carter County was widespread.

His family operated funeral homes in several states beginning I believe in Arkansas prior to 1900. The family later moved to Ardmore and has operated funeral homes in Arizona and San Diego as well as Ardmore.

With the showing of "Red Tails" this weekend I thought it was apropos to put a face on the men this movie portrays.

You can read much more about this inspiring man at the link below.

Monday, January 16, 2012

In Honor of Martin Luther King and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

As I was going through my files and old research notebooks to get rid of some "clutter" I came across a program from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Thought I would share it so others could see if things that were important then have changed drastically over almost fifty years?

It might be interesting to know some of the genealogy of the people who form the list of dignitaries on the program.

Just think about it, these were the hot button issues about fifty years ago, it makes you go hmmmm? 
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Clearly the game has change but some things have remained the same?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This Week in Indian Territory January 15 - 21

“How much Negro wealth went into the building of Oklahoma?
It is only exceeded by the sweat, toil, and tears of … slaves’ free labor of more than 250 years!” Buck Franklin COLBERT, “My Life and an Era”

Indian Chieftain
January 15, 1891 p2c6
January 15, 1891 – (Act of Oct. 19, 1888) An article embracing the Act of Congress of October 19, 1888 (25 Statute, page 609) the sums to be appropriated by the Secretary of the Interior to distribute per capita first among such freedmen and their descendants as are mentioned in the 9th article of the treaty of July 19, 1866 Indians—Act of March 03, 1883 signed by Leo E. Bennett, United States Indian Agent
January 16, 1896 – Perry, OK schools rejections

“the sum of $75,000, or so much thereof as may be necessary, to be by the Secretary of the Interior distributed per capita, first among such freedmen and their descendants as are mentioned in the ninth article of the treaty of July 19th, 1866, between the United States and the Cherokee Nation of Indians”

January 15, 1897 – The Negroes of the Territory meet in Guthrie Jan., 22 to discuss the school question.

January 17, 1903 – Land Division; adopted whites, Cherokee Nation

January 17, 1903 – An article on Roosevelt’s dilemma, relating to closing of the Indianola post office, and other cases involving the Negro question.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday Love, McCoy, Mercer and Harrison...

Photo by Irene Smith-Rice
A few weeks I lost my mind and decided to do a little research on my wife’s genealogy. After a discussion with her, I decided to make an inquiry on and see if there was a photo of her parent’s headstones.

Unfortunately the cemetery in Norfolk, Virginia known as Calvary Cemetery did not have a complete documentation of the grave sites and of course the two I was looking for were nowhere to be found. Being the diligent family historian that I am, I constructed pages for the two and put in a request for their photos along with some grandparents who were located in the same cemetery.

Photo by Irene Smith-Rice
The first person to claim the assignment to photograph the headstones went two weeks and did not complete the task. After his window of opportunity expired, another volunteer by the name of Irene claimed the job and exceeding my expectations!

Not only did Irene capture every request I made, she had the insight to take photos of other grave in the general area that appeared to be associated with one of the names I provided.

As with most things everything you seek you don’t necessarily get and it applied in this case also. The one photo that could not be obtained was the headstone of Julia Mercer, my wife’s grandmother. This was only because there she does not have a headstone. Hopefully the family will be able to provide her with one in the future.
Photo by Irene Smith-Rice
What all of this reinforces for me is the power of the internet and especially those who volunteer to photograph headstones for

It was the people of that inspired me to photograph a cemetery in my area ( Union Cemetery )so other people would have the opportunity to have a photo of their ancestor’s and family members.

I would like to encourage others who have or know of a cemetery near them that is not photographed, to consider taking the time to document that cemetery and contribute their photos to

As a result of Irene’s gracious act of providing photos of my wife’s ancestor’s, I was able to make some new discoveries in the research of her family.

One of the more important photographs taken was Carrie Harrison Love, the niece of Julia Mercer, the grandmother of my wife.

This discovery began an interesting and confusing search into this family’s genealogy that opened many new avenues of discovery.

Photo by Irene Smith-Rice
What became confusing were the names of people in this family. What soon became obvious was a naming convention that added all of the confusion when it came to determining who exactly the person you sought.

Carrie was the perfect example of confusion. On the headstone were the dates of her birth and death. However, the only Carrie known at the time was the sister of Julia Mercer, Carrie Mercer. Additionally, their dates of birth were different and this had to be reconciled before we could say with certainty which Carrie belonged to this headstone.

According to the 1900 census for Norfolk, VA there was a Carrie Mercer who was the daughter of Frank and Mary Mercer. Carrie was clearly born about 1891 therefore in conflict with the dates on the headstone.

Then when I discovered the sister of Carrie Lilian Mercer Harrison, she had a daughter she named Carrie and who we have concluded is in fact the Carrie associated with the headstone.

1900 Census Norfolk, VA

It soon became clear (after a day or two) that there was some considerable repetition of names in this family, men and women that added some serious concentration when determining who was who in this family.

The names Julia, Carrie and Mary were repeated from generation to generation and siblings tended to name their children after their siblings.

1910 Census Norfolk, VA

We continue to see this tradition of naming children appear in the 1930 census which until it was sorted out only added to the confusion.

In 1930 we see a remarkable thing. The daughter of Mary A. Mercer (nee Saunders?) was living on the same block as her daughter Lillian. In Mary’s home was her daughter Julia and son Frank along with her grandchildren, including Corrine (Corean.) We also see Lillian thought enough of her sister to name a daughter after her.

1930 Census Norfolk, VA

What started with a simple photo request evolved to open some doors that will provide more insight into this family’s genealogical history?

Thanks again to Irene and!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

This Week in Indian Territory January 8-14

“How much Negro wealth went into the building of Oklahoma?
It is only exceeded by the sweat, toil, and tears of … slaves’ free labor of more than 250 years!” Buck Franklin COLBERT, “My Life and an Era”

Indian Chieftain January 14, 1897 p2 c3
January 11, 1895 – Governor Wm. C. Renfrow; Provisions in legislature concerning education and Negroes

January 14, 1897 – Payments; Cherokee Nation, Dew Moore Wisdom, Reports: Dew Moore Wisdom, United States Indian Agent, says he does not know when the Freedmen payment in the Cherokee Nation will begin or who will be their paymaster.

January 13, 1898 – A gang of looters of Tahlequah are trying to explain the $400,000 Negro compromise steal.

January 13, 1900 – Overton, I. T., has about 500 people, all Negroes. All the officials including the postmaster, mayor and town marshals are Negroes.

January 13, 1911 – Taxation/Land Rights: Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw Nation

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ten "Indian" Commandments?

When I see videos or articles attempting to demonstrate the "superior" moral character of Native Americans I go back to the history of the Five Slave Holding Tribes and their attempts to paint themselves as nations that live up to these ideals. It is difficult to square this circle once you know of their history of enslaving people of "African" descent.

It is extremely difficult to view the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Indians as a nation of people who hold to these values when they continually deny the inclusion of those who were dragged along the same so called "Trail of Tears" as slaves.

There is no evidence the Five Slave Holding Tribes adhere to the commandments articulated in this video. It would be a nice start if the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole nations began acknowledging their history and lack of moral character when it comes to the enslavement of people of African descent.

If the views presented in this video has any basis for the beliefs of those in the "Native American" community they would look at the history of the Five Slave Holding Tribes and begin with commandment number ten;

"take full responsibility for your actions."

Following that commandment numbers six and nine would then be appropriate;

"do what you know to be right." 

"be truthful and honest at all times."

For citizens of the Five Slave Holding Tribes today they have to look at their history to understand the actions by leaders today.
Unfortunately their actions continue to be rooted in the sordid and shameful history of black chattel slavery.

"show great respect for your fellow beings."

One can only conclude the commandments mentioned in this video are ideals that "Indians" hope to live up to and that's a good thing. However, based on the history of the Five Slave Holding Tribes, this is an ideal that does not appear to be embraced by the majority of their citizens and that is a scar that has yet to be healed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

I've been asked to present at this year's 7th Annual Family History Seminar in Sacramento, CA on researching "African-American genealogy in Indian Territory.

Would like to see reader's of my blog in the audience!!!

Monday, January 2, 2012

This Week in Indian Territory January 1-7

This Week in Indian Territory January 1-7

“How much Negro wealth went into the building of Oklahoma?
It is only exceeded by the sweat, toil, and tears of … slaves’ free labor of more than 250 years!” Buck Franklin COLBERT, “My Life and an Era”

Muskogee Cimeter January 4, 1906 p1c1&2

The newspapers in Indian Territory give a fuller picture of the life for blacks who lived there; the majority of the papers were published with a bias based on who the publisher was and their connection if any to the tribes.

In the case of the Muskogee Cimeter we have the point of view of a black newspaper that provides a snapshot of black life from their perspective. 

This is very important because in the majority of the articles published by people associated with the Five Slave Holding Tribes the news about blacks tends to be heavy on the negative stereotypes without a balanced approach to reporting the news.

However, all of these papers provide some background on what life was like for those formerly enslaved by the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations and this is why it is important we continue to study these important publications to provide the voice of Indian Territory Freedmen.

The articles illustrates over and over how little as changed in the attitudes of the citizens of the Five Slave Holding Tribes when it involves the history of blacks among them. There continues to be a resistance to the basic knowledge and history that these tribes engaged in chattel slavery that is the basis of present day freedmen descendant's advocacy for inclusion in the tribes their ancestor's were enslaved and subsequently received citizenship, with the arguable exception of the Chickasaw Nation.

We see in the Dawes Commission census numbers giving in 1906 how much the former slaves had become a part of the five tribes and this along with the race based biases of full-bloods, intermarried whites and mixed blood Indians proved to be the obstacle to full citizenship then and perhaps today?

In the case of the Chickasaw freedmen it was made clear before a congressional committee that based on the numbers of freedmen that almost equaled the number of Chickasaw's; including the freedmen could jeopardize the political and economic leadership in the nation.

I suspect this was not lost on the other tribes as they gave one excuse after another similar to what we see in the Cherokee nation today when they say the freedmen descendants are non-Indian and therefore not entitled to the citizenship given them as written in the Treaty of 1866.

These newspaper articles clearly bring to light the idea that the descendants on both sides of these issues have more common ground than some would like to admit. 

The sins of the fathers of the Five Slave Holding Tribes have been brought to light and it is time their son's and daughter's look at the history of their nation's with clear eyes and address some lingering issues that are not going away any time soon.