Friday, January 28, 2011

Jack La Lanne

          The 96 year old fitness guru Jack La Lanne passed away this week, and I just wanted to offer a tribute to him on my mother's behalf. He was one of her heroes.

          In 1962, after I left home to attend college, my grandmother died. At the time I didn't realize how hard it was on my mother, but she told me later, "It almost killed me." Not one to suffer passively, Jim decided to reinvent herself. She stopped smoking and she started exercising with Jack La Lanne.

          La Lanne's exercise program was popular at the time, and it was just the thing to pick up my mother's spirits. He was enthusiastic; he was encouraging; he talked about his mother; he talked about his garden; he testified to how exercise had changed his life, and he just chatted with his audience. Jack La Lanne was a genuine he-man. He is famous for his feats of strength, but what is just as amazing to me is how he managed to click with housewives. My mother watched him religiously. She ordered his book, and once she got started she never missed a day doing her exercises.

          La Lanne's exercise program was practical. It was something a housewife could do without any equipment. The exercises were not too strenuous, and Jack kept chatting and encouraging his fans while they exercised to take their minds off the exertion. Jim gradually built up her endurance until she could exercise vigorously for 30 minutes straight.

          Jim kept up her exercise all through the years. When she went back to work the year after Grandmother's death, she got up 30 minutes early every morning so she could finish her exercises before going to work. She even talked my dad into joining her. He hadn't exercised since he played basketball at the University of Oklahoma. I think he considered exercise something you gave up when you became an adult, but Jim convinced him differently.

          Jim always worried that I wasn't taking care of myself. After my father died in 2000, I started calling her regularly, and during one of those calls she gave me a lecture on fitness. The next day she sent me her copy of Jack La Lanne's book, The Jack La Lanne Way to Vibrant Good Health.

          My mother kept up her exercises as she got older, and she was in good condition too. She walked fast. She never lost her balance. She climbed on chairs and ladders. She bent over to pick things up off the floor without getting dizzy. My cousin swears that once when he was visiting her she climbed up on the kitchen counter to reach something and then jumped down!

          Jim kept up her habit of getting up early to exercise, and once during a visit I set my alarm so that I could watch her. I was amazed. She did kicks; she did pushups and situps; she did arm exercises with weights; she rode a stationary bicycle, and then she walked briskly around her spacious living room area for 700 steps. I really don't think I could have kept up with her.

          Just like Jack La Lanne, my mother kept up her exercises to the end. Finally she had to stop because of the pain from bone cancer. She died at the age of 96, the same age as Jack La Lanne when he died.

          My mother won another fan for Jack La Lanne. I've been going through an exercise routine every day since she died.    

Monday, January 24, 2011


Wun-pan-to-mee (the white weasel), a girl; and Tunk-aht-oh-ye (the thunderer), a boy; who are brother and sister. As described by the artist, George Catlin, the two are Kioways (sic)who were purchased from the Osages, to be taken to their tribe by the dragoons (with whom Catlin was traveling in the 1830s-1840s.).

          In the Smithsonian museum there are several buffalo hides inscribed with pictures, pictures of warriors, pictures of soldiers. These hides represent a sixty year history of a band of Kiowa Indians living in western Indian Territory during the early 1800's. One of these hides contains the image of a severed head with a knife sticking into it. On the section of hide representing the following year is the figure of a small girl. That girl's name was Gunpandama.  
(George Catlin recorded the young lady's name as Wun-pan-to-mee but the U.S Bureau of Ethnology spells it Gunpandama.)

          During the migration of the Five Civilized Tribes to Indian Territory in the 1830's there were several failed attempts by the United States' Army to negotiate peace with the dozens of Indian tribes already occupying the area.

          In an attempt to prevent trouble for the migrating Choctaws, two expeditions were sent out in 1832 by the commanding officer of Ft Gibson, Col Matthew Arbuckle, to make contact with the hostile plains Indians. The first group under Captain Jesse Bean was accompanied by the author, Washington Irving, who chronicled the expedition in A tour of the Prairies. The soldiers encountered only friendly tribes, and had to turn back less than halfway into their journey because of winter.

          Later that same year, Col Arbuckle sent another contingent of troops up the Red, Washita and Canadian Rivers, to drive the Comanches and Wichitas west, and to invite their chiefs to come to Ft Gibson where they might be impressed by the power of the United States. The Indians were evidently not impressed. The only contact made by the troops was when a band of Indians rode up and kidnapped one of the rangers, George Abbay. The troops were unable to catch the Indians although they pursued them for 12 days. The soldiers finally ran out of food and had to turn back. The expedition lasted for 54 days. For the last 30 days the men subsisted solely on buffalo meat. 

          In addition to the problem of the western plains tribes, who were not only raiding the Choctaws in the southern part of Indian Territory and plundering with impunity caravans headed west to Santa Fe, there was also a threat to the immigrant tribes in the north, the Osages. The Osage tribe, as I mentioned in my post of 1/1/2011, had been lured into the Arkansas River valley by fur traders during the previous century. Recently the fur trade was waning, and not only that, the Osage were being pushed off their land because U. S. commissioners, due either to ignorance or thoughtlessness, had promised it to the immigrant tribes, the Creeks and Cherokees. The Osage people were starving so they took to raiding Creek and Cherokee farms to feed themselves. The federal government reacted by withholding their annuity, which only increased the problem. 

          In addition to these blunders, the areas promised to the Creek and Cherokee tribes overlapped, so another team of commissioners was sent to revise the treaties and to resolve this three way conflict. This was how Washington Irving came to be invited to go with Captain Bean's expedition. He had come to Indian Territory with one of the commissioners to learn more about the Indians. 

          When the three tribes met, the Osage leaders received no concessions from the commissioners. After hearing the news, a party of warriors, frustrated and furious, rode west over the prairie to take out their fury on their old enemies the Kiowas. After travelling over a hundred miles they came across the trail of a Kiowa hunting party. They followed the trail back to the Kiowa village, and then in a fit of unreasoned rage, massacred all the women, children, and old men that they could catch, and cut off their heads. Kiowa warriors pursued the Osage, but lost them during a heavy rain storm. The Osage returned to their homes with 400 horses, one hundred scalps, and two captives: a twelve year old girl named Gunpandama, and her ten year old brother, Tunkahtohye.

          It's hard to understand this reaction by the Osage, but they were facing a crisis that threatedned their very existence, and they could see no solution. They could no longer live by hunting and trading, and their warriors felt that farming was beneath them, so while they were friendly with the white traders and missionaries who had come to live among them, they still carried on their warlike ways. The Kiowas were also a warlike tribe, and they might have done the same thing to the Osages if they had an opportunity. Also the Kiowa had recently massacred a white trading party, and perhaps the Osage felt that the white soldiers would be grateful to them for avenging their fellow countrymen. The Osage chief Clermont boasted that he never made war on the white man, but never made peace with his Indian enemies. He was following his code.

          Soon the young girl, Gunpandama, faced another tragedy. When the Osage war party returned, and the community around Ft. Gibson became aware of their rampage, one of the traders, Hugh Love, bought Gunpandama and her brother from the Osage with the idea of returning them to the Kiowa in exchange for a trading agreement. Before the two children could be returned however, Gunpandama's brother was killed in a freak accident.  

          The frontier artist, George Catlin, painted the two children before the tragedy. The painting, now displayed at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, shows the little boy and his sister with her arm affectionately around him. Catlin wrote in his journal: "The fine little boy was killed at the fur trader's house on the banks of the Verdigris near Ft. Gibson, the day after I painted his picture. ….He was a beautiful boy of nine or ten years of age, and was killed by a ram, which struck him in the abdomen, and knocking him against a fence, killed him instantly."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Trackers, Part 2


                                 Isaac C Parker, "The Hanging Judge"

          When I started my last post what I really had in mind was this story, but I had read about what phenomenal trackers the Chickasaws were, so I began with that.

           Several years ago, I ordered a transcript of the murder trial of my great grandfather, Sam Paul, from the National Archives. When I received the transcript I took it with me on a visit with my mother so we could read it together. What fascinated us most about the transcript was the testimony of a cowboy who described how he tracked down a horse thief. 

          Before I let you read this remarkable account I'm going to have to give you some background about the situation in Indian Territory in the late 1800's. The Indian Nations were sovereign states. They had their own laws, their own governments and their own police force. At the same time however, their territory was part of the United States and they had no jurisdiction over U.S. citizens. As a result, Indian Territory became a haven for outlaws.

          It was during this time that Indian Territory came to be known as the "Wild Wild West." It was the time of Jesse James, and Belle Starr, of the Dalton Gang and Cherokee Bill. The federal court responsible for Indian Territory was in Ft. Smith Arkansas, presided over by  Judge Isaac C. Parker, nicknamed "the hanging judge" because during his tenure he sentenced 88 men to hang. Several more men died in Judge Parker's crowded, rat infested jail before they could be hanged, and one was shot while attempting to escape. Judge Parker's marshals, such as James Mershon and Heck Thomas, became famous in their own right. Many of the well known western dramas such as True Grit and Hang 'Em High have been inspired by Judge Parker, his deputies, and the outlaws they went up against. 

          What is not so well known is the story of the Indian police. The Light Horse Police, as they were called, were a tough bunch. Their instructions were to: Awith or without warrant, arrest all outlaws, thieves, and murderers in your section. And if they resist, you will shoot them on the spot. And, you will aide and assist US Marshals in the enforcement of the laws and make yourself a terror to evil doers. If afraid, turn in your resignation and I=ll appoint better men in your place.@ My great grandfather, Sam Paul, was a sergeant in the Chickasaw Light Horse Police force.

          The Light Horse Police had to deal with dozens of white criminals living on their land, with only a handful of federal marshals to whom they could turn for support. These criminals were dangerous, and they had friends. It was hard to transport them to Ft Smith for trial, and it was hard to find witnesses. Few were willing to travel the 200 miles from the Chickasaw Nation to Ft. Smith to testify against a man whose friends were likely to take revenge on them or on their family afterwards. As a result an Indian policeman sometimes made himself judge, jury, and executioner.That's how Sam Paul came to be charged with murder. He shot a horse thief.

          There's a lot more to that story, but what I want to do now is get to the testimony of the cowboy, Frank Welch, who tracked down the horse thief that Sam Paul killed. I've changed some of the punctuation to make the narrative more readable, and added a few comments in parentheses.

United States vs. Sam Paul, etc. For the murder of Smith (first name unknown).
Court of the Western District of Arkansas, Judge Isaac C Parker presiding.

Testimony of Frank Welch:
          It was on Saturday night the horse was stolen. I think it was in April. I missed the horse at 9 o'clock. On that night I had tied this horse so that I could have him to go to the prairie in the morning. I had him tied in the lot behind a little corn crib.
          There were 18 or 20 head of horses in the lot. There was only one bar up between the pasture & the lot. Part of the rope was there, and part was gone. It looked as if the rope had been partly cut & partly broke. It looked as if there was two more men's tracks & three horse tracks on the outside of the fence.
          The men's tracks looked as if they had stopped. The horse tracks stopped there at the lot fence; the horse had been taken through the bars into the pasture and then the pasture fence let down where the horse was taken out. 
          The three other horse tracks came down along the fence and met this horse and all went off together. I noticed the tracks. They looked like the same tracks that had stopped at the lot fence. The stolen horse was shod in front. The track going out was that of a horse shod in front. They came close to the house. The men's tracks came into the lot; cannot tell which way they went. I called the horse I lost a dapple grey. The tracks of one of these three horses outside of the fence was a large rough shod steel toed shoe. The tracks of these horses from the gap went west right close to the house where old man Ross lived. My horses track went along with the others. ("old man" Ross' son was one of the horse thieves)  
          John Covey (Welch's boss) and Watt Holford went with me and tracked them near to Rosses house. The four tracks kept together. Ross started the next morning from there. He had gone when we tracked these horses close to his house. I trailed them for several days.
          Covey had me to go on. He could not leave. I was in his employ. Two tracks went up to the house. One of them the steel toed horse & another, and the track I took for my horse and another track went north across the Washita (River). I saw some tracks up near Cherokee Town. The track was a bare footed track, I think with that of my horse…..I followed them and overtook them right there near the valley. I was alone when I saw them. I did not molest them at all. I was afraid to….. When I saw two men, I went off the road. I examined the tracks after they passed me. I think Smith's (the horse thief who was killed) horse was barefooted.
          It was my business to watch and track these men. Dr Lewis told me about meeting these men. He said he lived near Springville on Canadian (River). He said they were going towards where he lived. It is but a few miles from Cherokee Town to the Valley Store. I had been watching the train (wagon train) expecting them to meet it. I never saw the men with the train. They went to the train about ten miles below Cherokee Town. (The horse thieves were part of a wagon train led by "old man" Ross which was travelling through the territory.)
          The next morning I went around the train and saw these two parties leave the train and come up the road following me. They came for about a mile and left the road. I got into the road above the train. I went on up into the valley. Got information from Strain at Cherokee Town that two men answering the description of the men I had received information of before had gone down the direction I had seen the two men meet the train. I started to Sam Paul's house to get him to help me as he was an officer and I met him going to the valley store. I told him what I wanted and he promised to help me.

          The testimony is a little hard to follow because it is redundant and it doesn't include the lawyer's questions, but you can figure it out if you read it slowly.

          The cowboy, Frank Welch, really makes his tracking sound easy, but I think his story is remarkable. Even though the horse thieves have a head start, he manages to track them for several days before he actually sees them. He determines the number of men, the number of horses, and he can identify each of the horses by their tracks. He doesn't lose them even though they split up, cross the river, and pass by towns. Finally when he gets close enough to identify the thieves by sight and sees them join a wagon train he finds the local Indian policeman, my great grandfather, and asks him for help. Pretty amazing, don't you think?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Trackers

In the last 200 years scientific discoveries have given us access to knowledge that has transformed our society, but I believe that in many ways our ancestors were more accomplished than we. In particular, the Chickasaws possessed many skills now lost, that enabled them to survive and to thrive in the forests and plains of North America, which was a wilderness in those times.

Not long ago I came across an article published in the Chickasaw Times in 1988, written by Dolores Ferguson. It described the tracking ability of the Chickasaws. In the early days the Chickasaws depended on their tracking skills to hunt and also to prevail against their enemies. One 18th century historian, Bernard Romans, noted that the Chickasaws "are the most expert of any perhaps in America in tracking what they are in pursuit of, and they will follow their flying enemy on a long gallop over any kind of ground without mistaking."

A Chickasaw warrior, when entering a clearing, would know immediately whether another party had travelled before him. He would be able to identify the tribe by the type of fire they built, and by the way they marked the trees with their axes. He would know how many were in a party and how long ago they passed. A Chickasaw once replied, when asked how he could find his way back home after a long journey, "Siah a chuffa kutah Ikhanah," or "I am the one who remembers." He went on to explain that he travelled with his eyes open and his mouth shut, unlike the white man who travels "with his eyes shut and his mouth open."

One legend tells of a warrior who returned home to find his store of venison stolen. After looking around he announced that the thief was a short, lame white man who carried a short gun and was accompanied by a short tailed dog. When questioned, he explained that the tracks were those of someone wearing shoes, hence a white man and not an Indian who would have worn moccasins. The tracks showed that the man stood on his toes to cut down the venison so he must have been short, and his foot print on one side was deeper than on the other indicating a limp. The warrior knew the man had a gun by the mark of its butt on the ground, and that it was a short gun by the height of the scratch the muzzle made on the bark of a tree it leaned against. Finally the warrior could tell that the tail of the man's dog was short by the mark it made on the ground when he wagged it.

In 1837, when the Chickasaws were forced to leave their homeland on the Trail of Tears, they had not lost their path finding abilities. About 1000 Chickasaws travelled independently from Mississippi to Indian Territory, refusing help from the agents hired by the government to assist them. There were many stories of groups from other tribes becoming lost in the swamps along the way, but not among the Chickasaws.

The Chickasaws had another opportunity to demonstrate their tracking skills in 1865 when a band of Comanches stole a herd of their horses. For over a month the Comanches tried to shake the Chickasaw trackers. Finally they were taken by surprise and forced to surrender. Unlike the US army in their encounters with the Indians, the Chickasaws made no reprisals. They  just reclaimed their horses and left the Comanches in peace.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hitchcock and the Chickasaws


                                             Indian Territory, 1842

I apologise for this map. Skip it if you like. You can't read much of the printing as it is, but if you magnify it, you can see the names pretty well. A few comments for orientation:
Ft. Smith located where Arkansas River crosses Arkansas border. This is where Hitchcock entered Indian Territory.
Ft. Gibson located further up the Arkansas where it is joined by the Verdigris and Grand rivers. This was Hitchcock's home base while visiting the Cherokee, Seminole and Creek tribes.
Edwards Trading Post on the Canadian River almost in the map's center. Met with some of Creek leaders there.  
Note Boundary between Chickasaw and Choctaw districts marked by broken line, runs north and south.  
Ft. Washita just west of above boundary on Washita River.
Boggy Depot , just east of above boundary on Clear Boggy Creek.
Blue River - not labeled - runs between Boggy Creek and Washita River. Jason McClure lived on Blue River, barely within the Chickasaw district, about 4 miles northeast of Ft. Washita.

When I started out to write about Ethan Allen Hitchcock's journal, my main purpose was to point out his reference to Jason McClure, my great great grandmother's first husband (See blog post 12/22/2010 for article about Jason McClure and 1/1/2011 for article about Ethan Allen Hitchcock).

As I reread the book however I was reminded of what a thorough description Hitchcock gives of life in Indian Territory in 1842. He discusses the important issues of the time; he gives his impression of prominent Indian leaders; he quotes what people say; he describes the country; he describes Indian traditions as they are explained to him, and he does it with a noncritical good natured attitude. I can't read the journal for you, but I'd like to try to give you the flavor of Hitchcock's description of his visit with the Chickasaws. 

It took Hitchcock five weeks to travel from Washington D.C. to Indian Territory. He arrived on November 22, 1837 at Ft. Gibson. He spent the next two months among the Cherokees, Seminoles and Creeks who were located near the fort. Not content to have the Indians come to him, Hitchcock rode out into the territory on horseback, visiting and staying in the homes of the Indians themselves. (See my previous post for more information about this part of the Hitchcock's visit.)

At the end of January, Hitchcock started south through the rest of the Creek and Seminole districts. One of the places he stayed was Edwards' trading post. I learned a little about this place when I read Grant Foreman's book, Advancing the Frontier, several years ago. By the time of the Removal, the Comanches, Wichitas, Kiowas and other plains tribes had developed a lucrative trade in horses stolen from Texas. Also it was an old Indian practice to take hostages when raiding other tribes, and they did the same thing when they raided white settlements. When the Indians discovered they could get more by ransoming a woman or a child than by selling a horse, they began trading in people. The kidnappers were reluctant to come too close to a fort, and Edwards' Trading Post was centrally located, so it became a favorite location for the ransom of hostages.  

The Chickasaws sometimes hunted with the Wichitas and the Comanches, and they were able to arrange for the ransom of several prisoners. My great aunt Sippia once stayed with a woman who had been a kidnapped by a band of Comanches. One of the soldiers at Ft. Cobb had paid her ransom and then married her. 

While staying with the Edwards, Hitchcock witnessed a stickball game between the Creek men and women. Stickball was a very rough game back then, and  serious injuries or even deaths occurred. Anyway, from Hitchcock's description, the women were holding their own against the men.

After leaving the Edwards', Hitchcock rode down to Chickasaw territory where he stayed with the McClures. He and his negro guide Sambo camped along the way on the Boggy River about 30 miles south of Edwards'. There Hitchcock admired the beauty of the woodlands, even though it was cold enough to freeze water in the cup sitting next to his palette. Mrs Edwards had given Hitchcock some biscuits and buffalo tongue which he and Sambo ate on the second day's ride. Hitchcock said the buffalo tongue was so rich that it gave him a headache, and he barely managed to stay on his horse for the remaining 20 miles of the journey. Buffalo tongue was considered a delicacy in the 1800's which was one reason the buffalo were hunted almost to extinction. 

Hitchcock was accompanied by Negro guides during most of his travels, and much of what he learned about Indian culture he heard from them. Many Negros moved west with the Five Civilized Tribes, some as free members of the tribes, and others as slaves. The Indian slaves enjoyed more freedom than their white plantation counterparts, living more like sharecroppers than slaves. These Negros were valuable to the Indians as interpreters since many of the Indians couldn't speak English, and some achieved positions of influence among the Indians.  

As Hitchcock and his guide rode further south, they entered the Arbuckle mountain range. Hitchcock learned from Sambo that during this season the Indians sometimes started fires in the mountains to drive the bears out of their dens so they could be hunted.

Sambo also told Hitchcock that the Comanches always patted their chests and sang a song on awakening. He said the Osages did the same thing. He told Hitchcock that the Osages and Comanches were very close, and had even talked of joining together as one tribe.

The Osages were actually from Kansas. They had been persuaded to migrate down into the Arkansas River valley in the late 1700's by a fur trader named A P Chouteau, who was interested in finding hunters to provide him with furs. The government ignored the presence of the Osages when they promised the Arkansas River Valley land to the Creeks and Cherokees. As a result the Osages considered the immigrants intruders and they raided their settlements and stole their stock. The government punished the Osages by withholding their annuity, and many were starving at the time of Hitchcock's visit. 

The Chickasaw District was considered part of the Choctaw Nation, and the Chickasaws were considered Choctaw citizens, a situation that was unacceptable to the Chickasaws from the start. In the Treaty of Doaksville of 1837, the Choctaws sold the western part of their domain to the Chickasaws for $530,000. The Choctaws had chosen to sell this region for a reason. It was already occupied by Wichitas, Kickapoos, and Comanches. Those tribes hunted along the Washita River valley and some had villages there. In 1839, 12 Chickasaw families moved west into the Blue River valley just inside their district, and the Kickapoos immediately began raiding them. Soldiers from Ft. Gibson were sent down to evict the Kickapoos, but they returned immediately after the soldiers left. By the time of Hitchcock's visit the army was constructing a fort on the Washita River about 12 miles north of the Red River to protect these early Chickasaw settlers.

By Hitchcock's description, Jason McClure lived on the Blue River just about four miles east of the site of the new fort. His house was a double log cabin with a "dog trot" (breezeway) between the two halves. Hitchcock wasn't too happy about his accommodations there. He wrote: "The weather for two days has been excessively boisterous, and today is turning very cold. McClure is building a new house and has neglected his old one, which is open at all points - bottom, top, sides and chimney truncated." From the fact that McClure's house was already in disrepair by 1842, I think it's reasonable to conclude that his family was among this first group of Chickasaws to move into their district. 

After a good night's sleep Hitchcock felt better, and he had an interesting conversation with Jason McClure. McClure told him that the Choctaws had mainly given up the old practice of polygamy, but that many of the Chickasaws still practiced it. He gave as an example one of the tribal leaders, Captain (Jonas?) Wolf, who had three wives. McClure told Hitchcock that he had seen the wives "sitting all together like so many sisters."

Major Hitchcock spent three days at the McClure home as he waited for the Chickasaw leaders to come together to meet with him. During some of his stops he described his interactions with the wives and children of the men he met, but unfortunately Hitchcock made no mention of McClure's family. At that time McClure had a wife, Ela Teecha, my great great grandmother, and two children, Tecumseh age 12, and Catherine age 11. He mentions a Mr Brooks who was living with the family, but not my great great grandfather Smith Paul.

At any rate, Hitchcock relates conversations with McClure, and also with several visitors, including Captain Wolf, mentioned above, and a Mr Hume. I suspect the latter was an ancestor of the Hume family which has been prominent in the Chickasaw tribe during my lifetime. Rev. Jesse Humes coauthored a Chickasaw dictionary with his wife Vinnie May, published in 1973. Vinnie May was the mother of Overton James, a Chickasaw Governor. Overton's sister, Chenina Roach, was a good friend of my mother.

One topic of conversation during Hitchcock's stay was bear meat. Hitchcock wrote that "McClure prefers the meat of the bear to any other meat." McClure told him "Indians try up the whole of the meat and oil comes from the fat of every part and leaves nothing but crisp. He says there is no lean about a bear except its legs and that the oil is better than lard for any culinary purpose. Indians take the skins from young does entire, and "bag" the oil in them." He claimed that it was common to get 15 to 20 gallons of oil from a bear.

They also talked of the recent raids by the "wild tribes" into Texas, and the subsequent raids into Indian Territory by Texans who, not finding the guilty parties raided the farms of peaceful Chickasaws. McClure also told Hitchcock about a woman hostage who had recently been ransomed.
Mr Humes told Hitchcock that the commissioners of the Chickasaw "incompetent" fund had recently been meeting at Mr Guy's house, over at Boggy Depot, the farthest west of the supply depots set up after the Removal. He related to Hitchcock that the commissioners were "treated with every luxury the country affords free of charge, whiskey, etc.; and thus induced to recommend the payment of that fund to Saffran and Lewis," the proprietors of the store at Boggy Depot where the annuity was distributed.

The next day Major Hitchcock rode over to the site of construction of the new Fort Washita, four miles west. He spent the next night at Mr Humphrey's home where he was to meet with the Chickasaw leaders. Hitchcock mentions "Humphreys gave me a good bed last night in a room by myself, with clean neat bed clothes, white pillow cases, ruffled, etc., etc. So upon a good supper I should have slept well, if I had not had dreams, but my dreams were pleasant, peaceful and I waked from time to time and my thoughts were in harmony. In the night, however, Mr. Humphreys sleeping in the next room got up and stumbled over a chair which brought forth a severe anathema; and then a cat got into my room and tried to climb up the logs of which the house is built to my provision sack in which I have some buffalo tongue and which I had purposely hung up, etc."

Hitchcock spent only two weeks with the Chickasaws and Choctaws, actually most of that time with the Chickasaws. During his whirlwind tour of the Chickasaw - Choctaw domain, he came to a remarkably complete understanding of the issues facing the two tribes: the threats from the "wild" tribes to the west and the Texans to the South; the distrust by the Chickasaws of the commissioners of their "incompetent" fund; the unrest of the Chickasaws at being under the government of the Choctaws, and the general malaise of the tribe, facilitated by their annuity which was three times that of the Choctaws, and enough for a thrifty family to live on for a year.

Hitchcock came to the conclusion that changes needed to be made in the administration of the incompetent fund, and that there would be unrest as long as the Chickasaws remained a part of the Choctaw tribe. He thought that the Chickasaws would need another fort farther west, in addition to the one under construction on the Washita River, to protect them from raids by roving bands of plains Indians. He felt that the ambitious mixed blood Chickasaws would eventually lead the tribe out of it's current lethargy.  

Hitchcock's summary was prophetic. On completion of Ft. Washita more Chickasaws moved into their domain, and in 1851 another fort, Ft. Arbuckle, was built further up the Washita. Then most of the Chickasaws moved into their own district. The year after Hitchcock's visit, the Chickasaws sent a delegation down to meet with representatives from the Republic of Texas, and the raids by Texas settlers stopped.

What Hitchcock didn't know, was that one of the Chickasaws' chief problems was a leadership vacuum. The strong mixed blood leaders who had negotiated the favorable removal treaty for the Chickasaws, Levi and George Colbert, had passed away, and the power of the nation rested in the hands of the Chickasaw commissioners, first in charge of the incompetent fund and later the entire  annual annuity. In 1845, Isaac Alberson, elected chief of the Chickasaw District, along with his elected council, acquired the authority to administer the Chickasaw fund. Gradually, the Chickasaws regained their old pride and spirit of independence, and in 1856 they signed a treaty with the Choctaws for complete independence, and drafted their own constitution.

As for Jason McClure, he passed away soon after Hitchcock's visit, and after a suitable period of mourning, his widow, Ela Teecha, married Smith Paul, my great great grandfather. When Ft. Arbuckle was built in 1851, they moved west and started farming in the rich bottom land just outside the gates of the fort.  

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ethan Allen Hitchcock

                                   Major General Ethan Allen Hitchcock

          Ethan Allen Hitchcock was named after his grandfather, the Revolutionary War hero, Ethan Allen. He graduated from West Point in 1817, stayed on as an instructor, and served as commandant of cadets from 1829 until 1833. In 1836 Hitchcock served in the Florida campaign against the Seminole Indians. He was appalled by the injustices committed against the Seminoles, and he reported his views to the war department. In 1840 when William Henry Harrison was elected president, Hitchcock was appointed special advisor for Indian affairs. 

          Complaints from the Five Civilized Tribes over the management of their removal attracted enough attention in Congress that in 1842,  the Secretary of War, John Bell, sent Hitchcock to Indian Territory to investigate. Hitchcock travelled throughout the territory for six months, meticulously documented the Indians' condition, and the history of their treatment during the Removal. On returning to Washington he submitted a detailed report.

          Hitchcock said in his report that "worn out oxen and bulls were forced on half starving people at an exorbitant price. Various white men are pointed out as having made $10,000 to $20,000 each in a year in this plunder of the helpless. Bribery, perjury, and forgery were the chief agents in these infamous transactions." "Spoiled rations to the value of $200,000 had been sold to the Chickasaws," and they were charged $700,000 for rations that were never delivered. Short weights in grain and beef occurred daily. The Chickasaw contractor was paid 14 - 16 cents per ration where the usual rate was 6 cents. The transportation rates were also "shockingly high." The rate for transportation by boat from Memphis to Ft Coffee was $14 per person with $2.50 added for luggage. Three thousand Chickasaws travelled by boat and they were charged $108,000. The total amount withdrawn from the Chickasaw fund for the Removal was $1.5 mil.

          Hitchcock concluded "the air is full of scandals." He expressed "astonishment, disgust, and indignation," and promised "that the foul transactions shall be probed to the bottom and the thieves punished." He observed that "It will certainly appear very extraordinary that the portion of the Indians over whom the Government assumed a guardianship should be precisely those fixed upon for a sacrifice."  

          Hitchcock' report was suppressed at first. The Secretary of War refused to release it to Congress. Not cowed by the powerful politicians, Hitchcock accused the administration of trying to protect government officials implicated by his report. When the report was finally released, the matter was investigated further but nothing was done. A token repayment was made to the Chickasaws almost 50 years later.

          Ethan Allen Hitchcock truly stands out as one of the good guys of history. Even though he failed to win justice for the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory, he was given one more chance to help the Indians. In 1843 he was sent to Florida with orders to put down what was left of the Seminole revolt. Unlike his predecessors Hitchcock treated the Seminoles with respect and compassion, and managed to end the conflict without further violence.

          Ethan Allen Hitchcock retired from active military service in 1867 and devoted himself to reading and writing about philosophy and history. One of the most interesting of his works is the diary he kept during his journey through Indian Territory in 1842.

          When I took out the diary, published as A Traveller in Indian Territory, edited and annotated by Grant Foreman, to review my notes for this article, I couldn't put it down until I had reread the entire book. I can't think of a single work that I can recommend more highly. The diary contains a wealth of information about the way of life of the Five Civilized Tribes at the time, as well as their beliefs, their culture, and the challenges they faced.

          Hitchcock was fascinated and impressed by the tremendous strides the Indians were making toward creating a new life for themselves in the wilderness. The fact that there are virtually no accounts of the time recorded by the Indians themselves makes Hitchcock's observations are even more valuable.

          Hitchcock questioned everyone he met. He learned from one of his guides, a negro called Sambo, how the Chickasaws started fires on the hills to rouse the bears for a hunt. He spoke with a man who accompanied a band of Osages on a buffalo hunt, how they carried rifles but killed the buffalo with bow and arrow, how the Indians rode bareback without using the reins, and how their ponies were trained to chase the buffalos and then to veer off as soon as their rider's arrow had struck its mark. Hitchcock tried eating buffalo tongue, but it was so rich it made him sick.

          Hitchcock commented on the neatness and refinement of the Indian women. He described an Indian church service where the parishioners were so sincere that "Carlyle himself would have been pleased." He told of the public cooks in Tahlequah, the Cherokee capital, who prepared food that was free for anyone who was hungry. He was invited to attend a session of the Cherokee council where he was impressed with the orderliness and dignity of the proceedings. He visited a mission school and reported how well the Indian students were reading. He described a Cherokee ball where the ladies and gentlemen danced to a reel "more complicated than the old Virginia Reel" for 22 hours, stopping only 10 minutes for breakfast. 

          The only place in the diary where Hitchcock expressed impatience was when he was stranded in a storm bad enough "to make a saint curse," with "no one to talk with but a man who says he is from New York, and shows his importance by inquiring about the progress of building the exchange, etc., and asking me if I think we shall have war with England. I'll start out after dinner if it rains pitchforks."  

          Hitchcock visited Indian Territory soon after the great conference of Indian tribes held in 1839 by the Cherokees. He told of writing to Washington recommending that the government treat the Cherokees with more respect because of the great influence they had on the other tribes. Hitchcock described visiting the site of construction of Fort Washita, built to protect the Chickasaws against raids by the hostile tribes as they moved into their assigned lands. He suggested to the commander of Ft Gibson that he distribute rations to the starving Seminoles, and that he issue orders to forbid trade in alcohol. 

          Hitchcock's visit to Indian territory was during a time of monumental change. The Chickasaws were being raided by the Shawnee and Wichita Indians from the west, and by white settlers from Mexico (now Texas) to the south. He met some of the great men of the time:  Sequoyah, the creator of the Cherokee alphabet, John Ross, Samuel Worcester, the Creek chief Opothleyaholo, Roley McIntosh, the Chickasaw leaders William McGillivray, Sloan Love, Isaac Alberson, and Pitman Colbert. He heard Cyrus Kingsbury preach. He visited Edwards' trading post, where the Comanches came to exchange hostages kidnapped from white settlements in Mexico, and he stayed at the home of my step great great grand father, Jason McClure. (See post of 12/22/2010)

To be concluded.