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.
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