Freedmen Community Project Chickasaw Nation
Akers Township 1910
Recently I was contacted by a friend who was one of the first persons I met when I began researching my family’s genealogy and history. We met at the old Oklahoma Historical Society and he was knowledgeable about the Chickasaw freedmen. I had never met him before but like a lot of people I began to meet in Oklahoma he quickly thought I “looked like a LIGON.”
When I would meet various people in Ardmore it was always someone who could just look at me and make the connection to the LIGON family and I thought it was weird because no one knew me but my cousins and I had not visited the state since I was probably about five or six years old. But somehow John BAILEY knew exactly who my family was and we became quick friends as he began to share some of his research with me.
It is amazing how many lives have intersected with me and this research and it has been more years than I care to count since I last saw Mr. BAILEY. It was because of his research I became familiar with the Jesse and Dora McGEE connection to the Chickasaw Freedmen and their connection to my research about my great grandmother Bettie LIGON.
At this time we were in the little research room in OHS and he showed me a document and stated this was important to my research but at the time I really didn’t know what he meant or how to apply the information but I accepted it and tried to figure out what it meant through the years.
It took me some years before I could put this document into context because as a single document it didn’t really provide a great deal of information that I could connect to my research other than the name of my great grandmother Bettie and many other people were listed on it and from everything I could figure out there was a decision made in the main case that apparently applied to all of the names listed on this document?
Years later I was looking through the interview packets of Chickasaw Freedmen and discovered the file pertaining to the children of Jesse and Dora McGEE. This was another case of freedmen who had a Chickasaw father and made an attempt to be transferred to the Chickasaw by Blood roll. As my research became more focused the other names on this document became familiar as other people who sought to be transferred to the Chickasaw or Choctaw by blood rolls.
These were individuals who clearly had made arguments before the Dawes Commission that they were erroneously placed on the freedmen roll when they should have been rightfully placed on the Choctaw or Chickasaw by blood roll relative to their ancestor’s nation of birth.
And so the other day I received an email from Mr. BAILEY asking me if I knew “there was a LIGON living with the ABRAM’S?” You know you’ve been doing research for a long time when you knew immediately what document to look for and what he meant when he said it. I knew there was a census document in 1910 that enumerated my grandfather’s brother as a “hired hand” for the Ed ABRAM family and they were all on the 1910 Indian Population Schedule for Akers Township in what was now the state of Oklahoma.
|M1301 McGEE, Annie Chickasaw by Blood Card #1846 p29|
I decided to refresh my memory and take a look at the census document since I’m doing a series on Freedmen communities; especially because this is a segment of the freedmen community I’m very familiar.
Understand this is now 1910 just three years after Oklahoma became a state. It becomes another snapshot in the evolution of the freedmen, their communities and their children coming of age when their citizenship has finally been established in the new state and the United States after years of having no country to call their own as former slaves of the Chickasaw Indians.
These were men and women who would have received forty acre land allotments and now find themselves navigating a new state that incorporated segregation as the first act of their legislature. The freedmen were already familiar with segregation from the hands of the Chickasaw Indians because they were never adopted as citizens in the nation of their birth.
They knew segregation because of all the southern whites who had migrated to southern Indian Territory and integrated with the Chickasaw Indians maintain a level of oppression on the former slaves and their descendants who now had a little land but no political power. This was Akers Township in communities named Woodford, Newport and Milo where Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen established their homes.
So you see Mr. John BAILEY has got me thinking again how are these people connected? Why is my grandfather’s brother working as a hired hand on someone else’s farm? What happened to his land, does he still own it? Who are the ABRAMS and why are they on the Indian Population Schedule, okay I knew that one from my earlier research but you get my meaning?
|1910 US Census India Population Schedule Oklahoma ED 35 p14A|
It is important to look at the larger community to understand what challenges the Chickasaw Freedmen encountered as they began the transition from Freeman to United States citizen and through the 1910 US Census we begin to see that transformation.
Some of the former slaves and their descendants settled in the rural communities of Woodford, Newport and Milo located in the Akers Township census tract. They were not the only people in this community which was mixed with whites, “Chickasaw Indians.” The first family enumerated on this particular census form in enumeration district #35 was a Chickasaw family but if you look closely the head of that family was born in Pennsylvania and he was listed as white. His wife and their children were all listed as Indian and except for one child they were erroneously said to be born in Oklahoma.
When you take a look at the Dawes card for this family a couple of things stick out and are worth noting. The husband clearly has no Indian blood or ancestry and yet he is enumerated on a Chickasaw by blood card as an “Intermarried White.” Nothing unusual there because when you go through the Chickasaw by Blood Dawes cards you will discover a great deal of people without Chickasaw ancestry listed on the blood roll as an “Intermarried White,” male and female.
This type of enrollment should be noted because I can’t think of one case where the Freedman or Negro husband of a Chickasaw woman was allowed to be enrolled as an “intermarried freedmen” or “intermarried Negro” but I’m still looking!
My point is this is another example of the racial aspects of Indian identity. Granted there are “numerous” cases where people descended from “Freedmen” or “Negro” fathers were given citizenship by blood in the nation but those fathers were denied the same “legal” status that white men enjoyed?
|M1186 Chickasaw by Blood Card #546|
Ironically on this and the next page of this Indian Population schedule there are two examples of mixed African-Chickasaw children being recognized as Chickasaw but one of their parents was treated quite differently than “Six Shooter Johnson.”
On line 17 of the same Indian Population Schedule you see the name of Edward ABRAM, his wife Amanda their daughter Riva and son Thomas. The children of Ed and Amanda continue on the next page with their children Vina, Elward, Jesse and J.B. You will also note the name of the person that prompted this article, Nat. LIGGON (sp. LIGON.)
|1910 US Census Indian Population Schedule Oklahoma ED 35 p14B|
Clearly the census enumerator made a distinction on the “race” of Ed as being black and the rest of his family as “Indian” but remember when you look at the Dawes cards for this family there is an entirely different story on how the Dawes Commission and Chickasaw Nation treated the husband of Amanda ABRAM and John JOHNSON a white man from Pennsylvania. JOHNSON was about the same age as Edward ABRAM but I’m almost certain, Ed had lived in the Chickasaw Nation much longer than John “Six Shooter” JOHNSON. JOHNSON was accepted as a citizen and a man that lived his entire life in Indian Territory was denied that status despite being married to a Chickasaw woman.
Well again it is good to revisit your research at times because sometimes things look differently when you have been away and hopefully learned more to put things in better context and over the years I have learned a little more about the ABRAMS, Nathaniel LIGON and surprised, surprise look at who else is enumerated on the 1910 census and living near the ABRAMS!
|M1186 Chickasaw Freedman Card #699 Front|
The families of John and Hattie BROWN as well as the family of Florence McGEE are on the Indian Population Schedule and in the course of my research I have come across these families and their connection or familiarity with the LIGON family if any?
Amanda ABRAM and her children are recognized Chickasaw citizens but unlike intermarried whites Amanda’s citizenship could not benefit her husband in becoming an “intermarried” citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. This is another example of racial politics in the Chickasaw nation and how it adversely affected their former slaves and descendants.
Now the ABRAM’S may have been fortunate because of Amanda’s acceptance as a Chickasaw Indian. She would have been entitled to the monetary equivalent of three hundred and twenty acres of land as well as her children. Her husband on the other hand would have received the monetary equivalent of forty acres based on his status as a Chickasaw Freedman. I know what you’re thinking doesn’t Ed benefit from his wife and children’s land holding? When you look at the historical record he did have some influence in the final decision of the entire family’s land allotments.
|Application for Allotment |
Five Civilized Tribes 1899-1907
According the census tract this area of southern Oklahoma is known as Akers Township but the residents like Edward ABRAM probably knew it as Woodford, Indian Territory when they enrolled with the Dawes Commission in 1898.
The front of Ed’s card provides some important information about him and his family and their recognition as Chickasaw citizens on Chickasaw by blood card #610. There is also a note about another child who was enumerated on Chickasaw New Born card #92.
This is an example of how the freedmen were part of the Chickasaw nation despite what seems to be every attempt by the tribe to distance themselves from their former slaves was not fool proof. There were supposed to be laws against the “intermarriage between a Chickasaw Indian and a Negro” but as we can see by Amanda’s age; this didn’t matter to her parents Steve STEPHENSON and Molsie MAHARDY in 1865/66.
Who knows why or how Amanda’s parents became a couple but one thing was clear Amanda was recognized as a Chickasaw Indian which allowed all of her children to be recognized as Chickasaw Indians and citizens. It would be nice to know the descendants of Edward and Amanda ABRAM are currently recognized as Chickasaw Indians and citizens?
|Chickasaw by Blood Card #610|
I can’t leave this part of the story without saying a few words about my grand uncle Nathaniel LIGON. He was not recognized as being a Chickasaw Indian despite being enumerated on the Indian Population Schedule of 1910. His mother did challenge the Chickasaw Nation about her rights as a Chickasaw by blood citizen beginning in 1896 when she applied for citizenship as the daughter of a recognized citizen.
Many of my followers will recognize the name Bettie LIGON and the lawsuit Equity Case 7071 but this is not the time or place to tell her story. However it is clear from all the available documents Bettie and her family were familiar with the ABRAMS because they lived in generally the same community of “freedmen” and “African-Native” people in the Newport, Woodford and Milo area of Akers Township. It isn’t strange to see one of Bettie’s sons working on a nearby farm like the Abrams and considering they had a rather large land holding I’m sure they could use Nat’s help.
I am a little curious as to why he wasn’t working his own land but as you look at the census form you will note Nat was divorced at the time and who knows what happened to that marriage? As a researcher it does offer a clue about him and what happened in the short span of ten years since he was enumerated with his mother and father on the 1900 census? It also begs the question what happened to the land he was allotted as a Choctaw Freedman?