Monday, July 24, 2017

Dallas Pitchlynn and Family, Choctaw Freedmen

In April of 1999, Dallas Pitchlynn, of Eagletown, Indian Territory, appeared in front of the Dawes Commission on behalf of himself, his children and two of his grandchildren. His children were Victoria, Garfield, Louis and Fannie, Medora, and the two grandchildren were James Walker and Tommy Pitchlynn. Later a note added to the card points out that Medora died in 1900 and James died in 1901.

Dallas Pitchlynn was 54 year old at the time, thus, was born in 1845. He was enslaved by Peter Pitchlynn, who would later become principal chief of the Choctaw Nation.

Choctaw Freedman Card Number #325

The National Archives at Ft. Worth: Ft. Worth, Texas USA;

Enrollment Cards for theFive Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747

Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number: 75


Dallas Pitchlynn's mother was Millie Pitchlynn, and his father was unknown. She too was enslaved by Peter Pitchlynn. The mother of his children was Rose Pitchlynn, but by 1899, she was deceased. The father of Dallas Pitchlynn's grandson James Walker was Henry Walker who was not a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. James's mother was Medora. Grandson Tommy's parents were Victoria Pitchlynn, and Albert William.



(Reverse side of card)

Source: Same as Above


The interview process was a short one, and there did not appear to be controversy about the enrollment of the family.

Application Jacket, Choctaw Freedman #345

Ancestry.com, U.S. Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes 1898-1914

[database on-line] Provo, UT, USA Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2013



As expected the usual records are found in the allotment jacket applications, along with plat maps, memos and letters. A few samples are presented here.
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1884-1934
[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2014.



(Source: same as above)

Dallas Pitchlynn lived till 1920, and it is from a probate record from Oklahoma where an interesting issue regarding the heirs and the acquisition of property arose. According to the probate record, the heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn were the members of his family, as would be expected. There was an issue that arose however, when the will was contested by Hans and Herman Dierks who claimed that they had purchased the property from the heirs prior to the death of Dallas Pitchlynn.

Apparently the heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn did not appear on October 20th, and a preliminary ruling referred to the non-appearance, because the addresses of the parties was not known. A first ruling by the county judge stated that they (the family of Dallas Pitchlynn) were in default, 







 However, a second ruling on the same date in August 1921 declared the descendants of Dallas Pitchlynn to be the legal heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn. A copy of this ruling also appeared in the press as well.

Probate records (McCurtain County, Oklahoma), 1903-1965

Author: McCurtain County (Oklahoma). Court Clerk; Probate Place: McCurtain, Oklahoma


It is not known what the eventual outcome of the case was. Did they retain their land for much longer? Did the family eventually leave and migrate away from Oklahoma? Did the Dierks ever own or occupy that land after the lawful heirs of Dallas Pitchlynn were located? Did the Pitchlynn descendants ever occupy the land themselves?

These questions may or may not be answered, but there is a story nevertheless, of life, legacy and land that deserves to be explored. Hopefully the descendants of Dallas and Rose Pitchlynn  did prevail and they were able to pursue life's goals and that they were able to continue life's journey with success, land ownership and prosperity.
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This is the 22nd article in a 52 article series devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, and these posts are part of an on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cato Vann and Family, Cherokee Freedmen

Cato Vann, lived a good portion of his life in the Illionois District of the Cherokee Nation, near the small town of Vian Oklahoma.  He was born in the 1850s, and both he and his mother were enslaved by Cherokee Polly Vann,. Cato Vann Happeared in 1901 to enroll his son Roand, and seven daughters, Narcissus, Thursday, Ella, Nannie, Annie, Rebecca, and Estella, as Cherokee Freedmen. The family appeared on Cherokee Freedman Card #319, and the family was also enumerated on the 1896 Roll as a note on the front of the card indicates. 

Cherokee Freedman Card #319
The National Archives at Ft Worth; Ft Worth, Texas, USA; Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number: 75


On the back side of the card, it is revealed that his father was Jesse Foreman, and his mother was Mary Vann. His father was enslaved by Cherokee Johnson Foreman and his mother had been enslaved by Polly Vann. Cato's wife was Rachel Vann, and she was a Creek Freedman.

(Reverse side of card)
Source: Same as above

Application Jacket, Cherokee Freedman #319
Ancestry.com. U.S., Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

(same as above)

(same as above)


(same as above)

(same as above)

(same as above)

(same as above)


Most of the documents in the file were standard documents pertaining to the enrollment of Cato Vann and his children. There was however an ongoing issue regarding the allotment of the lands to Cato Vann and family. Apparently S. H. Mayes and another party, were accused of having worked together to secure some of the land of Cato Vann. The Land Allotment file, consists of more than 200 pages of documents, and it contains more than 30 pages of an interview regarding the transaction between Mayes, and Vann. In one of the interviews it was stated that Vann had given a plat map to Mayes, to hold, but when it was returned the document was not the same one.

Upon first glance, some of the records in the allotment jacket simply reflect the allotment selections of the various members of the Vann household. But about 100 pages into the Land Allotment file an extensive series of interviews and reports reflect a transaction that resulted in several acres of Cato Vann's land being obtained by Mayes.

In addition, it is worthy to note that Cato Vann took up on himself some of the questioning of Mayes and others-acting on his own behalf, interrogating one of the witnesses.

Sample of Cross-Examination made by Cato Vann regarding land.Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1884-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2014.


(same as above)


The file is worth reading, as the file illustrates how people many in the Territory made arrangements with those whom they knew, and later lost their land. It is not clear without a close study of the land records what the outcome was of the issue, but the interviews that number over 100 pages are worth reading and examining. They show different aspects between freedmen and other Cherokees, and the social contact among people at the turn of the 20th century.

There are many families of Cherokee Freedmen, and this story of Cato Vann, and his mission to secure land for himself and family exemplifies one of a man acting on behalf of his loved ones.
His story is one of hundreds of untold stories to be told that reflect the history and life of the Freedmen of Indian Territory.

This is the 21st article in a 52 article series devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, and these posts are part of an on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Benjamin Bruner & Family History, Seminole Freedmen



From the Seminole Nation comes a cases that clearly illustrates how important it is to go beyond the one document. Benjamin F. Bruner lived in the Seminole Nation most of his life. His mother came from Florida and his father was Creek. On the Dawes enrollment card, he was the only one listed on the card, and one might think that there would not be much more to find beyond the card to reveal details about his life. Yet--there was so much more to truly find.

Thankfully, an obituary, saved by a descendant of Benjamin Bruner leads to the story of a fascinating man. With this obituary and a bit of research more information about a man who lived well into the 20th century, a rich story of his life unfolds.


Benjamin Bruner Obituary, Used with permission of Charles Gibson
Accessed on http://www.seminolenationindianterritory.org



This portion of the rich Bruner famly history is that of a man born into the Seminole Nation, whose mother was a Seminole by blood and his father was enslaved by a Creek Indian. He lived most of his life in the Seminole Nation, but was educated at a mission school for Indians and former slave children. attended Hampton Institute for a while before returning to his native Oklahoma.

Although the school he attended was not mentioned, there is a strong chance that he attended the Creek Seminole College in Boley.


(courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society)


He was from an extremely dynamic family and his uncle Cesar was the leader of what would become later the Bruner band of Seminoles. The Bruner band continues to exist today as one of 14 bands within the Seminole Nation.

However, to look at his Dawes card, it only contains basic information. In addition, his mother was a Seminole by blood, yet, Benjamin, in spite of his contributions to the tribe and his presence for decades as a citizen, he was placed on the Freedman Roll.

Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes  1898-1914
NAI Number 251747, Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group Number 75
Seminole Freedman Card # 828, Field Card #221


(Reverse side of card)


More details about his life and family were also found in his interview that are part of the Indian Pioneer Papers.


The University of Oklahoma Western History Collection, Digital Collections,
Indian Pioneer Collection, Volume 12, Interview with Ben F. Bruner

(Same as above)


(same as above)

Benjamin Bruner was also able to secure land, and his land records reflecting his selection of land are reflected in the interview below.



Ancestry.com, Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1884-1934
[database on-line] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com  Operations, Inc, 2014


The Bruner family is a distinguished one with a detailed and rich history. It is wonderful that the family remembers his legacy, and that the story of Benjamin Bruner, and his part of the nation to which he was born, can still be told and can be shared.


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This is 20th article in a 52-article devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes and these posts are part of an on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.