Saturday, August 1, 2015


Recently I received an email through the Find A Grave website from someone who called themself “Chickasaw Elder.” In the email they felt the need to tell me my great grandmother Bettie was in fact not the daughter of the man she knew as her father to her dying day as a Chickasaw Indian named Robert Howard Love.

Let me back up a bit, the first email I received seemed innocent enough; Chickasaw Elder at first made a “suggestion” regarding the memorial I established for Bettie Ligon at:

This was the original email I received with some editing for clarity,
“Hello, I am not asking for any changes. My Question is do you know of any decimation for Bettie Ligon being the daughter of Robert Howard love. Any help you may offer would be most welcome. I have been using Chickasaw Loves and Allied Families by Marie Garland King as source info when doing research “
Chickasaw Elder

Why this individual was interested in Bettie was not clear but I attempted to respond to the inquiry as best I could within reason until I could determine their true interest. When I attempted to respond via Find A Grave I discovered C.E.’s email had been disabled so I found another method of responding and sent this email.

“Not sure if you are the person that sent me an email about Bettie Love-Ligon but you failed to supply me with an email to discuss your question. Also your message capability is disabled on Find A Grave so I couldn't respond on your page “
This was the follow-up email.

Mr. Terry for some reason this was sent to another family member. Please use this e-mail address . I am the Chickasaw Elder you are referring to .
I come from a very well-known Chickasaw /Choctaw family . My great aunt Martha Bynum. She was the wife of Overton” Sobe” Love.
Robert Howard Love uncle of husband of 2nd great grand aunt                                                                                                                                              He was not the father of Bettie Ligon

I can send to you several Ligon family members that you maybe interested in .Respectfully  Robert was not the father of   Bettie Ligon

Since this was the first time I can recall someone from the Chickasaw Nation engaging me in a discussion on the genealogy of the Love family I had to bite and responded again hoping to conduct a meaningful conversation about each other’s research and discoveries in hopes I could receive some answers about Robert Howard Love and his connection to my great grandmother Bettie. So I responded with this email:

I'm intrigued how much you have on the LIGON family members you refer to and how you are certain Robert Howard Love was not the father of Bettie Love-Ligon.

I am familiar with some of the surnames you mention that are related to your family's history BYNUM, COLBERT and others, I am also familiar with the Marie Garland book and have a copy of it given to me by an employee at OHS about a hundred years ago.  :-)

Quite frankly you are the first Chickasaw that has attempted to engage me in a conversation about this history and I truly appreciate the gesture; however I would really like to know how you are definitive Bettie was not the daughter of Robert Howard Love?

Hope to hear more about your history and what you can contribute to the record of Bettie Love-Ligon.
Well it was not long before Chickasaw Elder revealed himself with a name and sent me this little reply:

I am not certain nor definitive your words that Bettie was not the daughter of Robert Howard love.  I just can not find any documentation for it. I am aware that this was not uncommon for slaves during this time in tribal history.  In fact my Indian family Bynum, Harkins, Johnston, Thompson,Love and Colbert had many slaves they often took their owners last name. Some were placed in the will of their owner sad but true. One example would be John A Bynum my 4th great grandfather         
beloved wife Tennessee - one negro woman Kisnader and her four children: Emaline, Isaac, Charles and Rebecca; household and kitchen furniture Beloved sons Turner Bynum and John R. Bynum - negro man Jeffery, man Isaac, woman Amy and her daughter Jane, a girl Patience, boy Booker, boy Josiah.

This does not indicate the above were family members . In Bettie’s case she may have been family but respectfully without documentation it’s pure conjecture at this point. I have done research on the Ligon family Only because they married into the Duty side of my extended family. You maybe interested to know that Chickasaw LT Governor Jefferson Keel has several Ligons in his direct family line.


John Cole

It was beginning to appear my friend was deliberately being vague so I decided to engage in a more in-depth and meaningful conversation with hopes I could get something of substance on his belief Robert Howard Love was not the father of Bettie. This was my response:

Greetings John,

I'm sure you are aware that because Chickasaws held people of African and African-Native descent as slaves the institution and laws that it was predicated on did not specifically generate documentation that would establish the child of a slave and their owner or any other Chickasaw for that matter. The laws of the tribe strictly forbade miscegenation between "Chickasaws and any one of Negro descent."

The idea that there would be documentation for something that would allegedly have a Chickasaw violate tribal law would be enough of a deterrent to prevent someone from declaring their paternity in a written document.

Having said all of that you need only look at the 1860 Slave Schedule for Arkansas and see there were numerous anecdotal evidence of "mixed race children" in the Chickasaw Nation. Furthermore and too the point, Bettie Ligon represented approximately 2000 other individuals who claimed to have a Choctaw or Chickasaw ancestor and as you say, they didn't have the documentation of their ancestry despite their claims.

I think it a little to simplistic to argue a point that on the surface is built with a certain disingenuous need for documentation when practically everyone on the Dawes by Blood roll did not have "documentation" of their birth and ancestry. The criterion was based solely on what tribal elders/members/family established based on marriage (which was "allegedly" prohibited between a "Negro" and Chickasaw.)

As I recall Bettie was born in 1865 and her father Robert Howard Love died circa 1889 and as you say there is no record (that I have been able to locate) that has him claiming her as his daughter but there is a wealth of documentation of Bettie making a claim that she was his daughter. One of the witnesses to this was Robert Howard Love's servant Simon Love, who stated he heard Robert Howard Love in fact did claim Bettie as his daughter. Clearly that would be hearsay but you see the predicament of someone like Bettie trying to prove their ancestry in a climate that was adverse to such a claim, especially during the enrollment period when Bettie would have been entitled to 320 acres of land as opposed to the forty given to "freedmen."

Since you have done research on the Ligon line I would be interested to know which Ligon family in particular you are referring to. There were a few in Indian Territory that were enrolled on the Dawes Rolls but I have only identified two families in the Chickasaw Nation and they were on the freedmen rolls and not related as far as I can determine.
The other Ligon family that I'm familiar with that may be who you are referring to came out of Cooke County, TX near Gainesville and they were part of the (don't hold me to this one I don't have my notes in front of me) Dr. Steven S. Ligon (not sure of first name.) He came to TX by way of MO & KY as I recall and there was a Bettie Ligon in this family though not the same person.

John I know it is practically impossible for anyone who had an ancestor on the freedman roll to claim ancestry as a Chickasaw but it is (in my opinion) disingenuous to argue  about "documentation" when there was little ever produced as in Certificates of Birth and the like in 1830, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890, and even 1900. For many people the Dawes Rolls may be the first documentation of birth. It was not until Oklahoma became a state and a few years later that "official" vital records were created. So I see that argument misleading and one that if applied to everyone descendant on the Dawes Roll would have a few people being stricken as we speak.

Despite all of that and all of the prohibitions on miscegenation I'm sure you would not be surprise to know that there were many (no numerous) cases of mixed "marriages" that resulted in African-Chickasaw children. I could name many who are on the rolls today despite there being laws that would have/should have prohibited this.  John you know as well as I do that the determinate reason for them being on the rolls today is they had a female ancestor who was "recognized" (not documented) as a "Chickasaw by blood" and that is the main reason their descendants are on the rolls today.

I'll have to check on that reference you made about Kissander BYNUM I recall there may have been some of her descendants that claimed Chickasaw ancestry, but don't quote me.I haven't had my head in these records for a while so forgive me if I'm a little rusty on the history. It has always intrigued me about the manner in which people viewed this history especially those in the nation because there is from what I see a different slant on what is and isn't part of the history and how it is accepted or rejected as part of "tribal history."

I lost a dear friend last year 83 years young who was an enrolled citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and I miss our discussions on this history and her particular view. She was the grand daughter of a woman who had a father on the freedman roll and a great grandmother who was "recognized" as a Chickasaw. Again, that recognition came from the only documentation being on a payroll, it didn't document paternity or maternity. In other words the Chickasaws like the other tribes practice the antebellum tradition of determining the so called race of an individual on the so called race of the mother; they in fact ignored the contribution of the father and made all sorts of "reasons" to justify basically disowning their own people because of racial prejudice.

It is my opinion what continues today when the idea that there is no evidence or documentation to establish paternity when that documentation would have been rejected if the father were Chickasaw and the mother someone of "African" ancestry. Quite frankly it is a bogus argument built to deceive.

I attached some documents from a file that was an affidavit given by Simon Love for an Application for Chickasaw Citizenship in 1896 by Bettie Ligon. You may find it interesting.

His response to this was very interesting to say the least. I read and re-read my response and for the life of me I don’t know why he felt I implied he was being a bigot? Yet he feels the need to go there with some interesting folks as his references, especially former Oklahoma Speaker T.W. Shannon who I share some ancestry.


I received your e-mail it was very well written and to the point. Well done. Now let’s establish some ground rules. First if you are implying that I am being a bigot, I suggest you contact TW Shannon, former Oklahoma Speaker of the House, a Black Chickasaw and a Close and Trusted Friend, also JC Watts Former US Congressmen and the Pastor who gave the Sermon at My Mothers Funeral.

Next, I did not set the rule of law for the Chickasaw Nation at the time they were written. I think Dawes Commission and Tribal Elders did. I believe all of your concerns have been addressed in court (The Cherokee Tribe) comes to mind. As far as Bettie is concerned here is what I have from Ancestry.
Here are some links at

 John Cole

As you can see this was not going well as I had hoped but I find it “interesting” that someone would only look at the Dawes Records and conclude that was the entire story that established an ancestor, my ancestor’s genealogical history.

Like I said in a response, I have viewed practically EVERY Choctaw and Chickasaw Dawes Card, Freedmen AND by Blood to the point a lot of these names I know like the back of my hand. Yet Mr. Cole suggests that because the ONLY records (he knows about) are the Dawes Commission enrollment cards.

He has taken one aspect of this story and concluded without a doubt there is no possibility that Bettie was not the daughter of Robert Howard Love. He has evidently never seen her Certificate of Death where the informant declared Robert Howard Love to be Bettie’s father. Mr. Cole has probably never heard about Equity Case 7071 where Bettie and approximately 1600-2000 people claimed to have an ancestor who was Chickasaw by Blood only to be placed on the Dawes Freedmen Rolls that Mr. Cole bases his argument on as “Proof” that a person like Bettie had no documentation of who her father was.

I would like to think Mr. Cole took the time to look at the Congressional Record Serial Set to see the volume of material that attempted to address the issue of citizenship by blood in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations only to be forgotten in the history told by those two nations when people like Mr. Cole rely just on Dawes Records as proof someone fathered by a Chickasaw during the ante-bellum period of their history “had no record” of what their identity may actually be.

I’m not sure what his intentions were but he does give himself away when he pretty much concludes by more priceless misdirection when I responded with the following response:

What research have you done regarding Bettie Love-Ligon to motivate you to approach me with this subject and your conclusions? I don't see what you hope to accomplish with this determination and you had to have some idea I would reject your thesis.

I was simply Asking for your Help to complete My family Tree NOTHING More THEN That !
It is very unfortunate that people can’t have honest and frank discussions about the history of slavery among the Five Slave Holding Tribes and understand that a lot of what transpired needs to be researched, analyzed and put in its proper perspective.

As I said before, there may never be the kind of documentation that Mr. Cole seeks to satisfy his point that someone may have Chickasaw blood that did not get enumerated on the Dawes by blood rolls. He and the citizens in the nation need to be honest about their complicity in the travesty of not recognizing the children of Chickasaw males who had a mother of African or African-Native descent.

Let me conclude with this little tidbit. Recently I came across an astounding document that was brought on behalf of a son of Robert Howard Love, by a white woman seeking recognition as a Chickasaw by blood. Clearly there was substantial documentation of this child being the illegitimate son of Robert Howard Love, documentation that in some ways mirrors the documentation of Bettie but it went further.

This documentation demonstrated clearly that Robert Howard Love declared this child to be his even out of wedlock and while he was married to another woman. The documentation established the Love adopted the child as his son leaving him with 640 acres of land with instructions to have him educated.

However there was one aspect about this case that was very revealing. The first page to the file was a question of law; and that was whether the Chickasaw Nation recognized an illegitimate child of a MALE Chickasaw as a citizen by blood!

The conclusion that was issued established without a doubt citizenship by blood was inherited whether by the father or mother, IT DIDN’T MATTER! If you had a Chickasaw ancestor by blood, YOU WERE CHICKASAW!

What was more astounding was the decision was based on a judgment by Robert Howard Love’s own brother Sam Love, who was the District Judge at the time of the ruling over a citizenship issue involving land and Robert Howard Love and someone Robert argued was not a Choctaw citizen based on being an illegitimate child.

“Love denied that Mrs. Roff was a legitimate child and she was not entitled to citizenship. The district Judge, to the best of my recollection, was Sam Love, full brother to Bob Love. He said the rule was, didn’t make any difference how they were Indians, whether by lawful marriage or not if they proved up any Indian blood were entitled to all of the rights of citizens and over-ruled Bob Love’s motion and went to trial.”

This is why the Dawes Commission and the tribes abused the system that would have recognized the litigants in Equity Case 7071 their rightful claim to citizenship. They were held to a degree of proof that the majority of children of enslaved women could never produce and was not present in their Dawes enrollment “summations.” It is also this kind of proof that citizens in the tribes today rest their case on, if a person appears on the freedmen roll then that “proves” they don’t have “Indian” blood. 

I tell you, the more I try to get away from this stuff they keep trying to pull me back in...