Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lies they told me

Choctaw History has long relied on what was previously published. With the advent of the internet, and the availability of resources that were hitherto unknown, errors and inconsistencies in the established recorded history is often prevalent. As the interest in genealogy research has expanded, so has the proliferation of erroneous and misleading information available on the internet.

“My grandma was an Indian princess” or something along those lines is often how beginner genealogists start out. Never mind that the term has no place or significance, at least not in the sense that they mean it. A complete ignorance of native customs, and even more often, a reliance on sources that are largely oral in tradition, leads many a beginner astray. Though message boards in themselves are helpful as a tool to interact with others, with the vehemence that some chose to defend research that lacks primary sources, I often wonder whether the value of such a community has value altogether.

We all have theories and speculations that we make in order to further our research. It is a way to help find the other side of that brick wall. A careful, thorough research of these theories is paramount to furthering our research. That said, if I have a theory in my research, you will find it labeled as such, and often I will include the reason why.

While the Choctaw did not have royalty, it is undisputed that they did have a society with an elite class. The right to the status was somewhat inherited, however, the rise in status based on reputation and accomplishments was just as valid. Before the treaty of Doak's stand, the intermarriage of whites within the nation almost always involved marriage into an elite family.

What do I mean by elite? This was the upper echelon of the Choctaw society. It consisted of the Chiefs, their Speakers, the Hopaii or prophets, and the War Chiefs (Red Shoes). Below these were the Beloved Men, and then the Warriors who had proven themselves, and lastly, those who had not fought in battle. The Chiefs and the Hopaii were probably the most influential in each town. A Hopaii or War prophet was himself generally not a warrior.

When we consider the intermarriage of whites into the Choctaw (and other tribes), the basis of the intermarriage was based on advantages the union would bring. Though surely there were intermarriages during the French and British periods, it isn't until the Spanish period that we see the proliferation of intermarriages between white traders and the Choctaw sisters, daughters and nieces of the influential men of the nation. There is no way to estimate the percentage of whites who remained with their families, versus those that abandoned them, however, not all marriages lasted, in many cases the fathers later moved on, married white women, and there is no mention of their Indian children in their wills or estates.

If testimonies in the Court of Claims (1838-1846) are any indication, marriages of a short duration were not uncommon at all. There are several cases in the testimonies, that show a marriage may not have even lasted until the birth of the first child, or until the husband brought home another wife. If it is true that the Choctaws had a liberal view of divorce, that may help explain some things.

We have several “mixed” blood women who intermarry with white men at the close of the 18th century. Though the white settlements of Bayou Pierre and Cole's creek were close enough to offer some explanation for the unexplained white father's in some cases, when we look at the father's, the assumption that they would be involved in trade would appear to be a valid one.

Among the earliest traders established in the Choctaw nation by 1773 were Benjamin James and Thomas James, cousins from Virginia. By 1787 we have the following list of Traders Favre at Yanabe Louis at Outanoula, Chastang at Yazoo Loukfata and Petit Baptist at Bitabogoula in the Eastern. Western were Alex. Frazier and 3 employees at Yazoo, Louis Mulatto at Cushtusha (favre’s) Louis Leflore at caffetalaya, the Pitchlynn brothers at Tchanke, and Moses Foster at Mougouloucha. Additionally there was Louis Durant, Hardy Perry, and John Turnbull, all who also traded with the Chickasaw.

Thomas James lived near Bayou Pierre and the Big Black River receiving land grants there in 1775, in 1777 his kinsman Benjamin James also received a grant nearby. Benjamin James was however, more closely associated with the town of Chickasawhay. Another contemporary, Turner Brashears lived at the same village as Franchiamastubbee and Robert Welch lived somewhere near the Tombigbee.

In many cases, we know the families that these men fathered. In some cases, we even know the Choctaw leader they are associated with, but the rest is lost to history. What we can do though is look at not only the leaders of these villages, but the most influential of these leaders in the period between the Spanish Treaty of 1784 and the Treaty of Mount Dexter in 1805. While the examination can only yield speculation and not concrete facts, it can be illuminating as we move into the new generation, what I call the “new guard”, the Choctaws of change and the removal period.

Some of the most influential women of the period between 1770 and 1805 are the mother's of this generation. Among these women are, Susanna Vaughan, the wife of Zadoc Brashears, Shumaka, the grandmother of the McCurtain's and great grandmother of the Leflore's, Molly Nail, the wife of Henry Nail, Molly McDonald, the mother of Alexander Hamilton and James L. Mcdonald, and her sister, whose name is unknown, the mother of Robert M. Jones, Sophia Pitchlynn, the mother of Peter Pitchlynn, and the wives of Nathaniel Folsom.

Molly Nail, Sophia Pitchlynn, Molly McDonald and her sisters, and Susannah Vaughan were all mixed blood, the half breed children of white men and Choctaw women. Among all of these only one of the mother's has a name, Susannah Vaughan, whose mother Winifred was the wife of Thomas Vaughan. Though the Vaughan's don't appear to be influential, in respect that their names aren't among treaties, family members benefit greatly in the supplement to the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Molly Nail was the daughter of James Welch. We know little about him, except that sometime around 1805 he moved from what is now Washington County, Alabama to Fort Stephens, and that he was arrested by the Spanish during the American Revolution. A letter in the file of Milly Yates from Nitakechi names Milly, the daughter of Molly, as his niece.

Shumaka, perhaps the most proliferate maternal ancestor of Choctaw chiefs, was Choccohuma. Researchers of her line show she had children from a Choctaw and from James Cole, a resident of Cole's Creek, contemporary of Thomas James, and an interpreter at Hopewell. Shumaka's daughter, rumored to be Nahotima (though that wasn't published until after 1930), married John Cravatt and had daughters who became the wives of Louis Leflore. Shumaka was also the mother of Robert Cole and Hannah Cole, the wife of Daniel McCurtain. Another daughter was the wife of Garret Nelson.

Several historians link Shumaka to Apukshunnubbee as his sister, due in large part, because of the role her son, Robert Cole, had as his second in command. Traditionally, this role was filled by the nephew. However, there are some things that are not consistent with this theory. Not only was Shumaka Choccohuma, but the area in which she and her family lived, near Yalobusha, was on the borderline of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nation. Apukshunnubbee was from Octafalaya, and though it was closer to the Chickasaw nation than Yazoo, it wasn't literally right on the line.

Sophia Pitchlynn, the second wife of John Pitchlynn, was the daughter of Ebenezar Folsom and a sister of Chief Mushulatubbee. Some researchers give her the name of Nakita, but this is from a letter that asks if this is her name, and no where have I found the answer to that question. Sophia was also the half sister of Joseph Kincaid. There is some evidence that before she married John Pitchlynn, she was the mistress of John McKee.

There are two erroneous facts all over the internet and in books about John Pitchlynn and his family. The first is that he was orphaned at an early age. His father Isaac Pithlynn was alive in 1804, and there are two letters, one after his home was burned, and the other, thankful for his appointment as the official interpreter, written in his hand. The second is that his first wife was Rhoda Folsom, a sister of Nathaniel Folsom. This is a complete falsehood. John Pitchlynn's first wife was according to his daughter “almost a full blood, choctaw and chickasaw” and “kin to the Folsoms”. Nathaniel Folsom was a white man, so was his sister. The wife of John Pitchlynn was likely a sister or cousin of Nathaniel's wives.

According to Cushman, Nathaniel's wives, sisters were “nieces of Miko Puskush the father of mushulatubbee.” This is again, one of those errors that has been repeated. Mingo Mushulatubbee's father was Homomastubbee. While he could be the nephew of Mingo Poos Coos, it's hard to say that is true for sure. There were in fact, when he arrived to the nation, not one, but two Mingo PoosCoos in the Choctaw Nation. One lived at Kunsha and the other at Yazoo. With the letter of Nathaniel that Cushman included, it's confusing where exactly he lived.

Boktuklo isn't named as a location in most of the documentation. The Pooscoos who lived at Kunsha is probably the same one who said he was from “chickasaw half town” at the treaty of Fort Adams, and represented the “lower towns” in 1803. Chickasawhay river is about 20 miles north of Pante Creek and Kunsha, which is where Charles Juzan lived, and if that part of the letter is true, then the PoosCoos I just spoke of did live there. However, Homomastubbee did not. He lived further north. Also, Franchiamastubbee, the “French King” didn't live at Chickasawhay, though he could have had a family there, his home is further west.

Given the animosity between David Folsom and Mushulatubbee, I am not altogether sure that they were relatives at all. I think rather, that given we know the name of at least two of Pooscoos' nephews, and there isn't a mention of Homomastubbee (who was a Chief at that time also) in connection with him, that Mushulatubbee and Pooscoos are probably not related at all. The most prominent Chief in the Eastern district from the years 1784-1802 is Tuscana Hopaii.

I left Molly McDonald last for good reason. She is apparently the paternal half sister of my ancestor Peggy. We know there were a total of five sisters, Molly, Sally and the mother of Robert M Jones, all full sisters from the Western district, and Peggy and Delilah, full sisters from the Southern District. We also know from several sources, that Peggy is the daughter of Nahotima and a sister of the Choctaw chief's Okalahhoma and Tappenahoma, and that her Uncle was Pushmataha. The benefits and influence Peggy's children receive from the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek is thus easily explained.

Unlike the others, we have no idea who the father of these five women are. If we examine the relationships that the families have with the descendants of the traders whose families we do know, there doesn't appear to be a relationship. Based on the ages of their children, the girls were born in the 1770's. That leaves a very short list of who could be the father.It isn't, based on what we do know, a Perry, Durant, Carney, Folsom, Pitchlynn, Favre, Chastang, Baptiste or Foster.
Given the benefits that Molly and her children receive from 1816-1830, her mother is probably related to Apukshunnubbee. I can't prove it, but what we do know is that documentation of only two boys who were sent to live among the Quakers has been found, one for Apukshunnubbee's son who died in 1816, and the other for James L. McDonald, who was sent to the Quakers in 1818, but ended up living with Thompson Mckinney.
In the treaty of 1820, only people from the Western district were named in correspondence as beneficiaries. Molly McDonald was given one square mile, and her son, Alexander Hamilton (along with the petitions of George Turnbull, Greenwood Leflore and Alexander H. Mckee) had a petition that was encouraged by the commisioners to be accepted by the government. The only other beneficiary, Wesley Trahern (also received a square mile) was married to Delilah Brashears, a daughter of Susanna Vaughan.

Alexander Hamilton was enlisted in the army before his brother was sent to Washington in 1818, and he died not long after the treaty at Doak's stand. In 1830 his son, James D. Hamilton was given land in the supplement. It is from letters of Robert M. Jones and James McDonald that their relationship as first cousins is established. Both men also wrote letters on behalf of Peggy and Delilah naming them as relatives (Jones states Aunts) in hopes of getting their land sooner from the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

It is from letters on behalf of the heirs of Molly Mcdonald, that we can adequately determine that Peggy and Delilah are not maternal sisters to Molly. Simply put, Robert M. Jones only listed the heirs that came from the same mother as Molly. Between the list of heirs, and dawes testimony, and an article written about the early history of a trail through Copiah County, we know that Molly had a sister Sally who was married to a Mackey. Because he lists the wife of David Mackey as an heir, and in dawes testimony David Mackey and Robert M. Jones are named as cousins, I have determined that Sally was one of the wives of Middleton Mackey. Middleton had at least three children, Helen, Sally and Alexander with a woman named Shemohayi.

Alexander H. Mckee, the illegitimate son of John McKee was legitimized by an act of Alabama legislature in 1821. In his will, John gave Alexander 500 dollars a year for life, and left his estate to William P. Gould. From land records, it appears Alexander died without heirs a few years after his father. While a letter from James L. Mcdonald to Alexander H. Mckee does appear to show they knew each other well, it is impossible to determine if one of the sisters had a child with John McKee or not. We do know that in 1804 a letter was written to Mckee saying both women had left him (he had left the territory), and that Sophia had taken up with John Pitchlynn.

We don't know the names of either of Robert M. Jones parents. His letter that mentions the death of “old Uncle Sam Jones” would appear to show that he is a descendant of John Jones Sr. Given John Jones location, it would not appear that this parent is the mother, but the father, so we can thus rule out John Jones as a parent to Molly, Delilah, Sally, and Peggy. Turner Brashears was one of the most influential white men in the nation during his time, but he was married to a daughter of Tobaca, and then to another woman. Many give her the name Jane Tioka but this research is based on a court of claims testimony of an Apukshunnubbee who lived after the death of the Chief by that name.

There is good reason to believe that Apukshunnubbe was a nephew of Franchimastubbee, and of Tobaca by marriage, so Turner would have been a relative of Apukshunnubbee. His influence however faded quickly after the death of Franchimastubbee early in 1801. Given the documentation on the descendants of Turner Brashears, we can also effectively rule him out as a father of Molly and the rest of the girls as well. Alexander Frazier was another trader who lived among the choctaws that early. Though I found mention of his estate and a name for his son, I believe most of his descendants are among the Chickasaws. Though we can't rule him out entirely, it isn't a really strong possibility either.

The last trader, Thomas James is perhaps the best possibility. We know he lived and traded among the Choctaw as early as 1771 when he escorted a group through the area of Yazoo and the Big Black River. We know in 1784 he escaped to what is now Davidson County, Tennessee, where he died in the 1820's. His will doesn't mention any children in the nation, but then except for Benjamin James, I haven't seen any white man who left leave their children anything. He was at the right place, and at the right time. We probably will never prove the father of the Molly, Sally, Delilah, Peggy, and the mother of Robert M. Jones, but this is at this time the best theory I have.

Though everything published says Pushmataha was an orphan, there is ample evidence he was not. Not only is there letters to that effect in Washington D.C., but there is also the testimony of Okalahoma stating he was the nephew of Pushmataha in the court of claims. Gaines also mentioned a nephew in his reminisces. Why historians continue to write that he was an orphan baffles me. Especially given the first source of the story, Gideon Linceum who says he got the story from John Pitchlynn. For some reason John liked the orphan story, he used it for himself as well.

What is evident, that if in 1770's his sister married a white trader, that Pushmataha didn't just come out of no where. He was still a teen, so if marrying your niece, sister or daughter to a trader was what the elite did, then he was already part of that class. A look at the treaties and talks between 1784-1805 shows there aren't that many prominent Chiefs for the lower District. Mingo Poos Coos as we discussed lived in the vicinity of Kunsha and was named as it's Chief. (This is the same place where Pushmataha was Chief). There was also a Tootehomma from the lower district and an Alatala Homma from six towns that participated in most of the negotiations of this time.

Though he no longer signs as a principal chief, Tootehomma is still alive and signs the treaty of 1805. Mingo Poos Coos does not sign, but there is a person of that name on the trading debts in 1822 at the Choctaw trading post. Given the distinct identity of the six towns, and their representation as almost a seperate entity, Alatala Homma seems an unlikely relative. General Hummingbird, who was in fact a bit older than Pushmataha died in the Eastern district, and though it has been frequently published, he is not one and the same as the nephew of Pushmataha named Tappenahoma. Given that there was a Tappenahoma from the Eastern district on the early treaties, it is entirely possible that they shared the same name.

Because of a pesky and confusing testimony about Shanke and the family, if it's true she's a female relative (and I believe that is so), and since she moved from General Hummingbird's area to Charles Juzan's, it is possible that General Hummingbird was a relative of Pushmataha. Though it has often been written that Nitakechi is the nephew of Pushmataha, there is some problems with that. Even though traditionally the nephew became Chief, one (if not two, I have doubts on the two), of Pushmataha's nephews (Tappenahoma) was removed from office sometime late 1828 and early 1829.

It is important to remember the events of this time. The mixed blood contingent, and the full blood contingent were grappling for leadership. The Garlands descendants of Happy bird who is also supposed to be Pushmataha's sister were supporters of the mixed blood contingent. The Southern district, which included more than the Six towns, was pretty traditional. In fact, the Six Towns, and the Choctaws who moved to Hancock all came from this district, and a large portion of them did not remove.

Nitakechi who was chief of Blackwater, was a good choice, and his use of Pierre Juzan as a secretary/second had the bonus of including the traditional heir to the position. It's not that it isn't possible that Nitakechi is a nephew, it's just unlikely. His use of the Juzan's during this period was a smart move. Although they were educated like the rest of the mixed bloods, the Juzan's lent themselves to the fullblood side of the issue. They weren't involved in the politics of their mixed blood contemporaries, but rather, appear to have kept themselves apart from it. They also apparently maintained a close relationship with their maternal uncle's, Oklahoma and Tappenahoma.

There are even more rumored family members for Pushmataha and Nitakechi and Mushulatubbee than you can shake a stick at. The majority of the Mississippi Choctaw claimants that relate to these families are simply not true. I don't have the time nor space to go into that here, but a suggestion to the researcher's who claim to be a descendant of any of these men who never left Mississippi would be to look at your sources. Look at the dates when these people are born, and where they are born, and keep in mind that all three never were in South Carolina, Georgia or North Carolina. Neither Mushulatubbe or Pushmataha had children before 1805, and Nitakechi didn't have children before 1810. Also keep in mind that there is ample documentation of the family in the Choctaw nation.

It is also suggested that you read the testimonies in Congress about the dawes and the lawyer firm who went through Mississippi and signed people up for the Dawes. It is illuminating.