Saturday, January 21, 2017

Dynastic relationships among the Choctaw

If there were truly dynastic relationships among the Choctaw of the late 18th and early 19th century then who were they?

Let's begin with the traders themselves. Among the earliest traders established in the Choctaw nation by 1773 were Benjamin James and Thomas James, cousins from Virginia. A Spanish Census in 1881 shows the presence of Alexander Frazier, Cornelius McCurtain, John Turnbull and Jesse Wall. We know also at this time there was Nathaniel Folsom and his two brothers, Edmond and Ebenezar Folsom, William Riddle, John Jones, Samuel Jones, and Thomas Jones in the Eastern district. 

By 1787 we have the following (I believe an incomplete) list of  traders (Simon) Favre at Yanabe, Louis at Outanoula, Chastang at Yazoo Loukfata and Petit Baptist at Bitabogoula all within the Eastern district. In the Western district there were Alexander Frazier with three employees at Yazoo, Louis (Favre's mulatto) at Cushtusha, Louis Leflore at Caffetalaya, the Pitchlynn Brothers (Isaac Pitchlynn) at Tchanke and Moses Foster at Mougouloucha. In the Chickasaw nation there was Louis Durant, Hardy Perry and John Turnbull. It is likely around this time Zadoc Brashears came to the territory. Charles Juzan began trading in the Southern district around 1788. Records involving the American Revolution and it's effect within the Spanish Mississippi territory also show the presence of James Welsh and James Cole.

Susanna Vaughn the wife of Zadoc Brashears is believed by many researchers to be the illegitimate daughter of John Turnbull and Winifred, who later married Thomas Vaughn and had several sons. The early prominence of the Vaughns in territorial records and treaties suggests to me that they are associated with a prominent Western district Choctaw. Given the wane of their influence after 1805, I highly suspect that Winifred was a female relative of Franchimastubbee. The Vaughns appear to have resided southeast of current Jackson, Mississippi. If the Vaughns appear to fade from influence, the Brashears do not. Primarily I believe, because of the intermarriage of the Brashears within other prominent family lines. 

Simon Favre married a daughter of Franchimastubbee in the late 1780's, and due to his influence with him, historians have long suspected the same for Turner Brashears (a distant cousin of Zadoc). 

When I look at the possibilities for the father of my ancestor Peggy, and her four siblings (both full and half), the most likely candidate I hypothesize is Thomas James. From his familiarity with Franchiamastubbee in his letter of 1792, a relationship with a female relative (I suspect possibly a sister of Apuckshunnubbee) may truly be indicated. Add to that the prominence of Molly and her family as recipients in the treaties of 1820 and 1830, and I think the theory has some good points. If he was in fact in partnership with his kinsman Benjamin James, the relationships of both men would have cemented trade relationships with all the major districts within the nation. Benjamin James with a woman of Shakihuma connections in the Eastern District, Thomas James with Nahotima of the Kunsha and the mother of Molly and her two sisters, relatives of Apuckshunnubbee and Franchiamastubbe. 

Four of these women would produce children that would influence the Choctaw in many ways. Molly's son James L. McDonald, Robert M. Jones (whose mother name we don't know),  Sally first wife of Middleton Mackey and mother of most of his children, and Peggy, the mother of Pierre Juzan and my ancestor James N. Trahern. The marriages of the Juzan's and Mackey's with other elite mixed bloods perpetuated the interconnections for another two generations.

If at one time I accepted the theory that Shumaka was a relative of Apuckshunnubbe, I no longer do. Records that indicate the location of Apuckshunnubbee in 1820 and 1830 when compared to the location of Shumaka lead me to believe, along with a letter from Coleman Cole, that the influence of Shumaka's son Robert Cole was not because he was a relative. It is rather, I believe, related to his position as a Shakihuma. Louis Leflore married two granddaughters of Shumaka, while his brother Michael married a Choctaw we don't know her family connections.

I have begun to suspect that Daniel McCurtain was an illegitimate son of Cornelius McCurtain and not his brother. His intermarriage with Hannah Cole, a daughter of James Cole and Shumaka is one of the many complex Yalobusha area relationships. The Perry's, Fraziers, and descendants of Shumaka have a complex series of marriages both in the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations. Though most believe the Perry's and Fraziers are seperate Chickasaw or Choctaw, I suspect that they share the Shakihuma heritage that the descendants of Shumaka have. The influence of the Perry and Frazier group is unique in that aside from the children of Benjamin James, and John Pitchlynn by his first wife, they are the only ones who receive land from both the Chickasaw and Choctaw.  

As I have mentioned before, Benjamin James family appears to have a dual citizenship status similar to that of the Yalobusha families. We also know that both the wives of Nathaniel Folsom had kinship with the first wife of John Pitchlynn, and that they were considered Choctaw and Chickasaw, suggesting that they too were Shakihuma or another tribe with similar status. It is no secret to any who know Choctaw history that the Folsom and Pitchlynn family have a large place in history.

Ebenezar Folsom and William Riddle both married daughters of Homomastubbee. Ebenezar's daughter, Sophia is the second wife of John Pitchlynn, her half siblings are the children of John Kincade and her mother. At one time I had thought that Edmond's wife may be a relative, but I don't any longer. I do suspect that Edmond Folsom also  married into a medal leader's family, but who isn't clear. It is quite possible based on proximity on the Armstrong rolls that the wife of Edmond Folsom was related to the mother of the Hall children.

The Jones brothers all intermarried and resided in the Eastern district. Robert M. Jones' father was most likely a son of John Jones. And here is where the foundations of the first generation begin to strengthen, as an Okla hannali elite married a Okla Falaya elite. It is a pattern we see for several generations among families with the surname Leflore, Folsom, James, Pitchlynn, Kincade, Riddle, Nail and Juzan. I forgot to mention the Garland family of Kunsha familial connections, or the Gardner family, whose ancestry we don't know.

The next time you look at a book on Choctaw history, and you read the names, realize that who they were was often as important in their prevalence in history.


  1. I enjoyed your blog, and recognize the efforts. Tks Butler Tyler

  2. I descend from Alexander Fraser do you have any information on him . thanks. What books can I get her nightmares can I find that tell me about the Scottish Indian Traders especially Frazier and Perry. I believe I'm related to both of them

  3. unfortunately.. not more info. There are more and more scholars publishing information, but unless they do it in a book and not a thesis, not much I see unless they have contacted me for help, and alas, no one has on these folks. sorry.

  4. This is all good information, thank you for sharing. I've been researching family history for the last year and came across this page. I am a direct descendant of Michael Leflore and Benjamin James.

  5. This is all good information, thank you for sharing. I am a direct descendant of Michael Leflore and Benjamin James.