Sunday, December 30, 2012

Uncle Tom's Memory Book

                                         Cora, Thomas, and Ada Rosser

Among my mother’s keepsakes is a “Memory Book” with autographs and notes collected by my great uncle, Thomas Spurgeon Rosser. The book looks like it probably had a cover at one time, but all that is left now are a few pages of brittle paper with notes written in pencil. It contains notes from classmates and family members written between 1890 and 1892.

Uncle Tom was 21 years old when he started his memory book. He had spent his life moving from one place to another as his family migrated over the 800 miles from Georgia to Indian Territory. His education would have been haphazard as they moved from one place to another in an ox drawn wagon. As the only son he helped his father build or repair cabins where they would settle, plowed the fields, and hunted game. They would live for several years in one place before moving on, becoming part of each community.  

The Rossers spent the most time in Palmer Station, Arkansas, about 8 years. You won't find Palmer Station on a map, but it's in eastern Arkansas, not far from the Mississippi River, where Tom would later return to start his own farm. My grandmother, Tom’s little sister, loved Palmer Station, with it’s rolling hills, wild flowers and birds. That’s where she spent her childhood and where Tom probably got most of his education. The older children went to school at Hyde Park. You won’t find it on the map either. 

Grandpa, as my mother called her grandfather, had been headed for Texas, where his older brother Ed had settled years earlier, but he was enchanted by the rich bottom land in the Washita Valley in Indian Territory. In 1888 when he paid the $5 fee to live in the Chickasaw Nation and rented a farm near Cherokee Town, it had been 22 years since he and his wife Emily had fled the turbulent South.
By then it was probably too late for Grandpa to make it to Texas. His older daughter, Cora, was already married, and Lillie and Kitty were nearing marriageable age at 16 and 14. By the time he had saved enough money to move again, even his younger daughters Victoria and Ada, aged 11 and 9, would be practically grown, so he had to give up on joining Uncle Ed. 

Most schools on the frontier were private “subscription” schools. Grandpa actually got together with some other settlers and hired a teacher when he first arrived in Indian Territory, but later he sent his children to a subscription school in Pauls Valley started by one of my grandfather’s cousins, Amos Waite, who had a college education. The Chickasaws actually had public schools supported by the tribe, but white children weren’t eligible to attend. Many Indian children attended subscription schools though. In fact that’s where my grandmother and grandfather met.  

Uncle Tom was 21 when he started his memory book, and he probably figured he had had enough schooling. there aren't many entries in his book. Some sound a little old fashioned, but not unlike notes you'd find today on a high school year book. The notes from his sisters are especially sweet. He must have been a good brother. 

The first note in Uncle Tom’s memory book are from his sister Lillie (age 18): 

Night and day have passed away
The hills and valleys part
But the dear affection I hold for you
Dear Brother shall never leave my heart
This Dec 30, 1890, Your sister Lillie 

On June 20, 1892 my grandmother (age 15) added: 

Sailing down the sea of time in your little bark canoe may you have a pleasant trip with just room enough for two.
Your sister Vicie Rosser 

Next, a classmate: 

To a friend
Oh think of me when far away and only half awake.
Oh think of me on your wedding day and send me a piece of cake.
Mary A. Schmidt 

Another classmate: 

Friend Tommie
May joy through all your future flow
Like water down a tater row
May peace and plenty be your lot
As down the hill of life you roll
Your friend and well wisher,
W.N. Green 

Gag notes were popular then as they are now: 

Mr. Tom
If scribbling in albums remembrance insures
With the greatest of pleasure I’ll scribble in yours
Your friend Josh 

An ornery classmate: 

Well Tom you have a long time yit.
But divil the gal you will ever git.
J G R 

One of the descendants of Jesse Chisolm, after whom the Chisolm trail was named wrote: 

Mr. Tom
Always remember your true friend
Emma Chisolm 

Finally, a note from Sister Kittie:

In the evening of life
Cherish the remembrance
Of one who loved thee
In its morning
Jan. 18, 1891
Your sister, Kittie B. R.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Mamma's Proverbs

                                                 Victoria May Rosser Paul

Some of you may wonder why I haven't published more of my mother's stories, Wenonah's stories, in this blog. I've been feeling guilty about that, and so I may as well come clean. It's because they're in the book. When I started writing this blog, it seemed like I was almost finished with the book, but writing a book takes a long time, at least it has for me, so I'm still just teasing you with stories about peripheral events and background history. 

Now it does seem like the end is in sight. That's the reason I've been neglecting the blog lately. I've been spending most of my time editing my manuscript to get it ready to send to the publisher.  

Dividing my time between writing the book and the blog has given me an appreciation for the values of both. On the one hand, in the book I can show how the events in the lives of my mother's family fit together, how they combined to make them the people they were. It's only by knowing in detail the joys, the obstacles, and the tragedies they faced, that you could ever hope to understand them.  

I've always enjoyed listening and telling stories, but a short story only gives you a snap shot of a person. Now that I've worked so hard to tell my mother's story, I appreciate more the importance of putting stories into context. It's helped me to understand my mother better - her whole family for that matter, and I want to leave that understanding, limited as it still is, to my children, to the rest of our family, and to whoever else wants to read about us.  

Now for the advantages of a blog. The most painful struggle I've had in writing this book is having to leave things out. To me every story, every little fact about our family is interesting. I have boxes of pictures, documents, letters. I have hundreds of hours of taped interviews with my mother, and I've read dozens of books to learn about the historical, political, and social background for our story, but I just can't put all that into the book. As interesting as it all is, putting it in would destroy the continuity, the drama, but I can put it into the blog, and now that I know what's going to be included in the book, perhaps I won't be so stingy about sharing facts that are peripheral to the main story.  

Also once you get to know Uncle Haskell, or Uncle Tom, or Grandmother by reading the book, it should be more interesting to learn more about them.  

The most important person in my mother Wenonah's life was her mother, Victoria. I knew Grandmother only in her later years, and although I spent a lot of time with her, I never saw her as the inspiration, and the tower of strength that she was to my mother. Grandmother taught her children with proverbs, and I've tried to collect some of them, both proverbs and also some colloquialisms, as my mother, Wenonah told them to me.  

          Beggars can't be choosers.

          Willful waste makes woeful want. Mamma said that when Roosevelt put dye in potatoes and paid farmers to destroy hogs.

          Still waters run deep.  Refers to people who are wise but speak little.

          I did very well by my supper. Mamma would say after a hearty meal.

          When you pour, pour!  Mamma said when she was teaching me to pour.

          (My mother quoted this to me when she was trying to get me to get to the point when I was telling a story.)

          Mamma never did whine. In spite of what she had to go through. She was always trying to figure out how to get along. And she didn't let us whine. This was her phrase:  I'll give you something to whine about.  That's one of her phrases that's glued to my memory. And we weren't allowed to tattle either. Me and Bob would tattle on each other and then we'd both get a whipping

          The Rooshuns. That's how Mamma pronounced Russians. Also she pronounced her a's as er's, and er's as a's, so my sister Oteka was "Teker," and her sister Ada was "Ader." Her brother Luther was "Lutha," and vinegar was "vinega."

          Mamma's toast was: Up to my mouth and down to my toes where many quarts and gallons go.

          A giggling girl and a cackling hen never can come to a good end.

          He=s a fool for the want of sense. (My mother made this comment about a cousin of mine who pretended to be smarter than everyone else.)

          A fool and his money are soon parted.   

          A house divided against itself cannot stand.  Mamma would say this when we=d fight with each other.

          So and so is more to be pitied than censored

          You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

          Pretty is as pretty does.

          If you don't act like a lady people won't treat you like one.

          When two or three are gathered together I will grant their requests.

          The sins of the fathers are visited on the sons.

          If you lay down with dogs you're going to get fleas.

          Blood is thicker than water

          Oh, for pity's sake.

          Birds of a feather flock together.

          A watched pot never boils.          

          I wouldn't have given a plugged nickel forC

          Mamma would also say AI don=t love ...@ instead of saying she didn't like


          If Mamma called someone "old" it meant that she was mad at them, or didn't like them. She called her sister "Old Sis" when she opposed her marriage to Pappa.

          It's a long lane that knows no turnings. Is a quotation from Robert Browning's poem, The Flight of the Duchess. Mamma used it to mean that people get their just deserts.  

          Wheels within wheels. Mamma used to refer to complicated political or social situations.

          Leave well enough alone

          A friend in need is a friend indeed.

          Mamma used the expression Plotting against the British in reference to my brother Haskell checking on us to see if we were talking about him. It refers back to the revolutionary war when the colonists had to be careful what they said around the British. 
          Your damned old Daddy. The only curse word that Mamma ever used.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Health in the Family

                                                The Paul Family
                               Haskell, Bob, Homer, Wenonah, Kaliteyo

I want to do one more blog about the health and medical care of the past, and I thought I would use my own family as an example. My parents were members of the so called "Greatest Generation," the term coined by Tom Brokaw to describe the generation who grew up during the Great Depression and then fought in World War II. I was glad when Mr. Brokaw wrote his book because I had always felt that there was something special about my parents, my teachers, the people who were adults when I was a kid. They had a kind of toughness and self confidence that I knew I would never have, something that was forged by their experiences.  

In addition to facing the Depression and WWII, the Greatest Generation grew up in a world without effective medical care. Doctors back then didn't have the vaccines, antibiotics and other medicines that we take for granted. They were forced to sit  helplessly at their patients' bedsides as illnesses took their natural course. They may have been able to diagnose diseases, but they were rarely able cure them. In fact, most of the things they did actually made things worse.   

I don't know too much about my father's family, but I know quite a bit about my mother's because of the years I spent talking with her after my father's death.  

My mother said that my grandmother was obsessed with preventing disease. She always made sure plates and glasses weren't shared, and if one of her children was sick she immediately isolated them and washed their dishes separately. She placed heated bricks in her children's beds to protect them from chills. She soaked puncture wounds in coal oil (kerosene) to prevent tetanus, and she tried to provide her children with good nutrition.  

Doctors didn’t understand many things in those days, but they did understand contagion. When someone in a family came down with one of the dread diseases of the time - polio, typhoid, or meningitis, a big red quarantine sign would be placed on the door, to warn the neighbors to stay away.  

Many children died during childhood in those days. There were so many diseases that we no longer worry about that were then deadly threats: measles, mumps, chickenpox, scarlet fever, dysentery, typhoid, rheumatic fever, polio, dyphtheria, whooping cough. Grandmother's first baby died before his first birthday of pneumonia, and her oldest daughter died at the age of six with meningitis.  

One of my mother's older brothers had polio, whick has now been virtually ellimated by a vaccine. Then it caused many deaths and left many more paralysed for life. Furtunately my uncle Homer survived with minor weakness, and Grandmother was able to isolate him so that the infection didn't spread to her other children.  

My uncle Haskell was almost deaf from recurrent ear infections, and my mother suffered from chronic strep throats. both of these infections are now treatable with antibiotics.
My aunt Oteka was sick with typhoid fever for weeks, and grandmother thought she was going to lose her. My mother said that the Dr. would come over every evening after he had seen his other patients and sit for a while. His "treatment" amounted to purgatives, the theory being that purging the poisons would help the patient improve. Actually giving a laxative to someone with an intestinal infection is the worst thing you can do.  

Of course typhoid is completely treatable now, but it caused terrible epidemics back then. The doctor would watch for the "crisis," when the high fevers would start coming down, and they could start giving the family hope that their child would recover. Children would be weak and emaciated after a bout with typhoid. Aunt Oteka's hair fell out, and her sisters encouraged her by telling her that it would grow back in brown and curly. She didn't like having straight black hair.  

The recovery time for typhoid fever was long, and patients' had to be fed soft bland food. That's one thing my dad did tell me about his childhood. He had typhoid fever too, and he said that his mother fed him so much custard that she "burned him out" on it, and he never ate custard again.  

My aunt Kaliteyo was the "sickly" one in the family. She had pneumonia several times and also had a large abscess around the root of one of her teeth that finally drained under her chin. Without antibiotics the only treatment for a dental abscess was to pull the tooth so the pus would drain. During most of my mother's childhood there was no dentist in town, but at the time Kaliteyo's abscess broke there was a dentist who came to Pauls Valley in a railroad car. He had his office there, and he and his family lived inside. My mother told me that she got to go with grandmother when she took Kaliteyo to see the dentist, and the railroad car was very fancy inside. There were shiny felt curtains on the windows, and the pull cords had tassles on them.  

As careful as my grandmother was about contagion, she didn't pay much attention to dental care. About all she did to clean her children's teeth was to rub them with baking soda. I don't think any of them reached middle age without false teeth.  

One of the crises in my mother's family was when her sister took in a stray kitten. About that time her parents got news that someone in town had died of hydrophobia, or rabies. They knew there was no cure so they searched for someone with a "mad stone." Which was believed to be able to draw out the poison from an animal bite. They didn't find a mad stone, and Kaliteyo didn't get hydrophobia, but that was the kind of fear that people had of infection. 

People back then used many remedies like the mad stone that we would now consider superstitious. One of these was the asphidity pouch. It was a small packet of herbs that mothers would hang around their children's necks to ward off infection. My mother said that when she saw other children with an asphidity pouch she wanted one too, but Grandmother told her it was just superstition.   

One of my uncles had a chest deformity, and the doctor told Grandmother that it would make him susceptible to tuberculosis. He was skinny, which was probably normal, but the doctor recommended goat's milk to fatten him up, so Grandmother bought a goat. Uncle Tom also had asthma as a child, and there was no treatment. The doctor told Grandmother to keep him away from the chickens, and if he had an attack, not to pick him up, I suppose thinking that she might restrict his breathing. My mother described how her older sister physically restrained grandmother to keep her from picking Tom up during an asthma attack. 

One of my mother's uncles had a farm in the Mississippi River valley, and he had malaria, which was endemic in the area. Every year he would come down with fevers from malaria, and every year Uncle Tom would go to Hot Springs, Arkansas to sit in the baths to boil the fever out. 

Spring water, especially water rich in minerals was thought to be curative, and people came from as far away as Europe to visit natural springs. Places like Hot Springs, and Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Sulfur, Oklahoma, were popular health resorts around the turn of the 19th century because of the springs there.

My mother had a cousin who had tuberculosis. At that time people with TB were sent to sanitoriums to keep them from spreading their infections, and many went to live in the mountains, believing that the mountain air was curative. Denver, Colorado, is still home to one of the most renowned centers for the treatment of lung disease.    

I think our family probably had it better than most because Grandmother was so careful to prevent the spread of infections, but they still suffered from a lot of illness. It must have been hard, living with the fear that every infection could be fatal, and having to tough it out when you were sick, knowing that there was no treatment.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Health on the Frontier in the Early 1800's


I'm trying to spend some time writing about the health problems on the frontier, to give you a feel for the kind of world our ancestors lived in. I haven't done research specific to health, but I have run across a few facts that give a general idea of the problems they faced. 

I've already talked about the horrendous epidemics of smallpox suffered by the Indians during the early days. Ironically, smallpox was the only infection of the time for which there was effective prevention. 

For almost every other disease, people had no defense. In many cases they didn't even understand what caused the infection, or how it spread. Even when my mother was a child, my grandmother relied on sanitation and isolation for prevention of illness, and all she had for treatment were purging, poultices and prayer.  

Let me start off by telling what I know about Indian country. When you drive through Oklahoma now, you see much open land, forests, prairie, cut across by an occasional stream. It's easy to assume that it was much the same 150 - 200 years ago, but that's not the case. I'm certainly no expert, but I've read enough to understand some of the changes that have taken place.  

The eastern part of the old Indian Territory, especially the northeast, was almost a swamp in some places. Large steamboats carrying immigrants and supplies were able to navigate from the Mississippi River well into Indian Territory on the Arkansas River in the north and on the Red River in the south, and traders were able to travel completely across the territory in canoes.  

Ft. Gibson was established in 1824, and was the U S Army's base of operations on the western frontier for 50 years. It was located at the confluence of the Verdigris, Grand, and Arkansas Rivers. Because of the heat and humidity there, the log buildings were constantly rotting and having to be rebuilt.  General Matthew Arbuckle, commander of the fort, requested permission to change to rock construction in 1931, but his request was denied.

Although Fort Gibson was built 18 feet above the water it was practically destroyed in 1833 by a flood, and there was also a cholera epidemic that year. The heat and humidity were so great that Colonel Arbuckle allowed some of the men to sleep on a hill above the fort where it was cooler.  

One of the traders making an expedition into the same area in the 1820's wrote that he had to travel by night to avoid the flies, and still they were so thick that over 100 of his horses were suffocated. 

In 1833 the army attempted an expedition deep into Indian Territory to make contact with the "wild" tribes. Halfway into the expedition over half the troops had to be sent back because of illness. A Comanche hunting party actually rescued the soldiers by leading them to a village of Wichitas, where there was plentiful food and water. On the way back to the fort, men were dying every day. The Dragoons, who made up most of the troops on the expedition, lost 163 men.  

Summer was known as the "sick season" in Indian Territory because of the prevalence of malaria, and the hospital at Fort Gibson was crowded during the summer months. Many officers took leaves of absence or resigned, and there were many desertions. One outpost, Fort Wayne, north of Fort Gibson, had to be abandoned because of malaria. I don't have accurate information about the total number stationed there, but I doubt if it was much more than 500, and the daily sick report during the summer of 1839 ranged from 120 to 160 men.  

So why are things different now? For one thing, the construction of dams and reservoirs have reduced the risk of flooding, and farming and irrigation have siphoned water from the streams and rivers, reducing the total flow. Insecticides have reduced the mosquito and fly population, and malaria has been virtually eliminated in the United States by effective treatment. Now northeastern Oklahoma is a pleasant getaway for tourists, not a miserable, treacherous Hell.

References: Advancing the Frontier, and Pioneer Days in the Early Southwest, by Grant Foreman


Monday, November 12, 2012

Disease among the Indians



      Small child with small-pox, Bangladesh, 1973.

I remember when I was in medical school, running across a thesis that someone had written on the health problems suffered by the Five Civilized Tribes during the "Trail of Tears," their forced removal from their homelands to Indian Territory, in what is now the State of Oklahoma. Along the 4 to 800 mile journey 1 out of 5 lost their lives. Many of the deaths were due to exposure - the winter of 1832 was especially hard. Alexis De Tocqueville, visiting from France, described blocks of ice floating down the Mississippi River. It was said that after the Indians arrived they had lost almost all of their elders and small children.  

It's really hard to imagine the hardships endured by the Indians in those days. Not only were they brutally mistreated due to the prejudice and greed of the white man, their immune systems couldn't cope with the diseases that Europeans considered minor such as chicken pox and measles, so whole tribes had been wiped out by disease even before the Trail of Tears. 

The Indians way of life before the Removal had protected them somewhat from disease. They lived in small family groups, which limited transmission of disease. They got their water from streams or wells which for the most part were not contaminated. They hunted to provide fresh meat, and by the time of the Removal had learned to cure meat by salting or smoking it.  

During the Removal Indians were forced to travel crowded together in large groups. They suffered from poor sanitation, leading to typhoid, dysentery and cholera, and unscrupulous contractors ordered food in advance and allowed it to sit out and spoil. The Indians had to choose between eating spoiled food or nothing. Many of the Chickasaw refused to follow the planned route. They made their way through the swamps, killing game along the way. This frustrated their army escorts but it probably saved lives.  

One of the few preventable diseases of the time was smallpox, a disease with a mortality rate of 30 to 50%. Vaccination of the Native American population did not start until the 1830's and it was not widespread. In 1834 there was a smallpox outbreak among the Creeks and the U.S. Army physician, Dr. W. L. Wharton, vaccinated over 7000 Indians, ameliorating the epidemic. Small pox broke out among a group of migrating Chickasaw in 1837, and it spread to the Choctaw killing over 500. The smallpox epidemic of 1837 also spread to the plains tribes, and many suffered and died. The Mandan tribe, for instance, was reduced from 1500 to 15. A witness described the devastation:  

Language, however forcible, can convey but a faint idea of the scene of desolation which the country now presents. In whatever direction you turn, nothing but sad wrecks of mortality meet the eye; lodges standing on every hill, but not a streak of smoke rising from them. Not a sound can be heard to break the awful stillness, save the ominous croak of ravens, and the mournful howl of wolves, fattening on the human carcasses that lie strewn around … Many of the handsome Arickarees, who had recovered, seeing the disfiguration of their features, committed suicide; some by throwing themselves from rocks, others by stabbing and shooting. The prairie has become a graveyard; its wild flowers bloom over the sepulchres of Indians. The atmosphere for miles is poisoned by the stench of hundreds of carcasses unburied.  

According to the memoirs of my great great Aunt, Mississippia Paul Hull, her brother Sam contracted small pox while scouting for the Army:

One of the things I remember which made such an impression on my mind was the dreadful epidemic of small pox. There were two kinds, the Black small-pox, which was usually fatal, and the red small-pox which was a milder form. My brother Sam was on a scouting expedition among the wild tribes and took the small-pox. My father heard of him being sick, and when he located him he was almost dead, but he nursed him until he got well, and brought him home.  

That was the way that small-pox was brought to our family, and we all had it. But we knew how to doctor ourselves and all of the family lived. The plains Indians had caught it by this time too and died in great numbers, sometimes an entire family died, because there was not one left to wait on the other. They did not understand how to take care of themselves and would go out and take cold. They were buried up and down the river and where the town of Pauls Valley now stands.   

This epidemic would have taken place during the 1870's when the Army was forcing the nomadic tribes onto reservations. There was a large group of Caddo Indians that lived near my great great grandfather Smith Paul's farm, and many of them died in the epidemic. My mother said that her mother used to point out a spot on Jackson Hill, overlooking Pauls Valley, where a group of Caddo's were buried.  

Small-pox was declared eradicated in 1979 by the world health organization. 
Indian Removal, by Grant Foreman, Chap 8, P 110. Describes epidemic among Creeks
The Chickasaws, by Arrell Gibson: Chap 8, P 191. Small-pox among the Chickasaw and Choctaw
Pioneer Days in the Early Southwest, by Grant Foreman. Indian Warfare Between Texas and Mexico, P 235. Epidemic among Plains tribes, including Wichita and Caddo as well.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Pauls Valley Beginnings

Pauls Valley is a little town in south central Oklahoma. It was born as a farming community, and later there was a little oil boom there, but for the last 30 or 40 years it's been getting smaller instead of larger. When you drive down Paul Avenue, the main drag, you don't see any new buildings. If people stop there, it's usually just to get gas or a snack on their way to Dallas.


Pauls Valley is still a pretty little town though. It's one of those towns where the tree branches form an arch over the streets which are still paved with bricks in some areas. I never lived in Pauls Valley, but I visited my grandmother there every other weekend for most of my childhood, so I feel at home there. The other reason it's special to me is because it was named after my great great grandfather, Smith Paul.


I think I've told the story of Smith Paul before, how he ran away from home and joined the Chickasaws, and then came with them from their homeland in what is now Mississippi on their "Trail of Tears" in 1837. In about 1844 he married my great great grandmother, a full blood Indian woman named Ela-teecha.


The Chickasaw settlers were threatened by the "wild" Plains Indian tribes who thought of them as invaders, so they lived close to forts for protection. In 1845 they moved next to Fort Washita, and when Fort Arbuckle was built in 1851 they moved close to it. It was in about 1858 or 9 when Smith and Ellen - that's how Ela-teecha was known in the family - moved to the present location of Pauls Valley.


Pauls Valley is located where Rush Creek flows into the Washita River, which was large enough in Smith Paul's day to float a pretty large boat. Smith Paul had always wanted to farm on a large scale, and the land in the Valley was the best he had ever seen. The grass on the prairie was so tall it could hide a man on horseback, and Smith's farm yielded 30 to 40 bushels of corn per acre without cultivation. More recent studies have shown that the topsoil there is 17 to 20 feet thick.


Smith and Ellen spent the Civil War years in the valley, without much company other than the friendly Indian tribes who would supply them with meat in exchange for corn. After the War others came to the valley and formed a settlement there which became known as Smith Paul's Valley. The main road west went through the town and carried supplies to Fort Cobb and Fort Sill.


Ellen Paul had been married before, to a man named Jason McClure who had died in 1843 of hydrophobia, or rabies, and she had two children by McClure: a boy, Tecumseh, and a girl, Kathrine. She and Smith Paul had three children together: a boy Jesse, who died as a young man; a girl, Mississippia, and my great grandfather, Sam. They all remained in the valley after they married and raised their families there.


In the early days Smith Pauls Valley was part of the Chickasaw Nation, which had its own government and its own laws. The main issue of the time was over whether or not to allow intermarried white settlers the right to vote. Many of the Chickasaws were not happy with the changes that the whites had brought. They preferred to live as they had always lived, in small family groups, using only what they needed. They saw the desire of the white man for wealth and possessions as a threat to their way of life.


Smith and Ellen's children were split over the issue. Sam Paul was a Progressive, in favor of welcoming the white man, and working toward eventual statehood for the territory with a joint Indian - white government. His older half-brother Tecumseh, on the other hand, was a member of the "Pull-back" Party, and was dead set against allowing whites any more influence.


The issue came to a head with the coming of the railroad. Most Indians were against building a railroad across the Territory, because it represented more whites, more businesses, and more towns. They were already outnumbered seven to one by whites in their own country. After the Civil War, the U.S. Government used the fact that most of the Indians had supported the Confederacy as an excuse to demand reparations. It didn't make any difference that the Indians were more or less forced into the War by being occupied by Confederate Troops. One of the concessions demanded of the Chickasaws and Choctaws was that railroad lines be built across their Nations. One line would cross east to west and the other north to south.


Footnote: The Chickasaws, Arrell Gibson, P 276 describes the post Civil War treaty , and p 284 gives the dates, names, and locations of the railroads.  


The first line, the M.K. & T. was built in 1872. It crossed the southern part of the Nation, and although it brought with it more settlers, laborers, gamblers, prostitutes, and liquor, just as the Indians had feared, it was a long way from Smith Pauls Valley. The real problem came in 1887 when the north - south line was built by the Santa Fe Company. It was to come right through the Valley.


Naturally the railroad wanted to locate a depot in Smith Paul's Valley, now a major settlement, but Tecumseh McClure refused to release the land. According to Chickasaw law, a person could not own land, but he could use all the land that he needed, and the place selected for the depot was on land that Tecumseh controlled.


When Tecumseh's brother Sam found out about the dilemma, he contacted the railroad and offered to let them use his land for the depot, so the Santa Fe engineers took him up on his offer. Sam Paul's land was three miles south of the town so locating the depot there meant that the town had to be moved. Sam Paul, a true businessmen, immediately began selling town lots. By the time the depot was built, he owned the town. They say that it was the railroad that was responsible for shortening the town's name to Pauls Valley. The name Smith Pauls Valley was too long to go on the sign. 


Sam Paul's vision of the future eventually came to pass, even though the rift between him and his brother eventually led to Sam's death. Pauls Valley was a thriving and prosperous town for the next fifty years.  


Footnote: Uncle Haskell's notes tell about the conflict between Sam Paul and Tecumseh McClure.


                                      Santa Fe locomotive - Pauls Valley


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sam Paul and the Chickasaw Light Horse Police

Back in Indian Territory before 1898 when the Indian governments were abolished, the Chickasaws had their own police force, known as the "Light Horse Police." The Chickasaw Nation, reborn in 1983, now has a modern police force called by the same name, so the Chickasaw Light Horse Police still ride, though now in cars instead of horses.  

The Chickasaws' first police force was organized in 1829, in the Chickasaw homeland in what is now the state of Mississippi. The Chickasaw laws were few, but the punishments were swift. Theft was punished by 39 lashes and the offender had to restore the property. Whiskey was banned. There was no need for jails. An offender was honor bound to submit to his punishment. Murder was punished outside the law by revenge killing, and a member of the victim's family would mete out the punishment. If a killer fled, a member of his family would be executed in his stead, and afterward he would be shunned by the tribe, a fate considered worse than death.

The Chickasaws, by Arrell Gibson, P 153, describes the first laws of the Chickasaw 

After 1837, when the Chickasaw were forced to migrate to Indian Territory, they were for several years considered citizens of the Choctaw Nation.The two tribes shared a similar language, and they had many customs in common, but the Chickasaw were not happy living under Choctaw rule. In 1857, just before the Civil War, the Chickasaw broke away and formed their own nation under their own laws. It was around that time when the Light Horse Police Force was created.   

After the Civil War, there was a flood of settlers into Indian Territory, and because there were few federal marshals to police the vast area, many outlaws sought refuge there. The job of the Light Horse Policeman was difficult and dangerous. Their charge was to:  

…with 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 all U.S. Marshals in the enforcement of the laws and make yourself a terror to evildoers. If afraid, turn in your resignation and I'll appoint better men in your place.  

The Outlaw Statesman, Mike Tower, P 82 

It was during this time that my great grandfather, Sam Paul, became a Light Horse Policeman. Sam Paul was perfectly suited for this job. According to all accounts, he was fearless and ruthless. My great grandmother estimated once that he had killed 15 men.  

The Chickasaw themselves were little threat to the community. Even during the late 1800's the Chickasaw Nation had no jails, and the guilty still reported to the appointed place of punishment, whether it be for lashes or for execution. It was the white men who posed a threat to law and order.  

The Light Horse Police were placed in a difficult situation. They had no jurisdiction over U.S. citizens, so they were expected to sit by passively and wait for a federal marshal to deal with white criminals. Also there was the practical problem of bringing a criminal to trial. The nearest federal court was in Fort Smith, Arkansas, which was 200 miles from the Chickasaw Nation. So if a Chickasaw policeman apprehended a criminal, he was expected to hold him in custody while a U.S. marshal was summoned. Then he had to convince witnesses to travel all the way to Fort Smith to testify.  

My great grandfather and other Chickasaw policemen decided that this was too much to ask, so they often dispensed justice to whites as they saw fit without bothering to contact a federal marshal.  

In 1882, my great grandfather was arrested and sent to Fort Smith to be tried for manslaughter. He had killed a white prisoner, well actually two, and the federal marshal James Mershon decided to make an example of him. Sam then faced an ordeal that would have broken a lesser man. First he was marched to Ft Smith with the other prisoners, who included Sam=s half brother Tecumseh, his nephew Fred Waite, and other members of the posse that had arrested Harkins, one of the men he was accused of killing. On the 200 mile trek, the prisoners were shackled to a log which they were compelled to carry between them as they walked. In Ft. Smith they were put in the filthy jail which housed as many as 6 men per cell. It was June so they also suffered from the sweltering heat.  

Within a couple of weeks the charges against Fred, Tecumseh, and most of the other members of the posse were dropped, and they were allowed to return home, but Sam wasn=t tried until December. Time passed slowly in these hideous conditions. Many men in the Ft Smith jail became ill or malnourished, and several died before they could be brought to trial. My great grandmother, Sarah, took my grandfather Billy and his brother Buck, 6 and 8 years old at the time, to visit their father in jail. She had to lift them up so that they could kiss their father through the bars.  

In January of 1883 Sam Paul was brought before the notorious Judge Isaac Parker, known as "the hanging judge" because he had sent 88 men to the gallows. Sam=s trial resulted in a hung jury, so he remained in jail. His second trial wasn't held until April of 1883, so he languished in the Fort Smith jail for a total of ten months! When his case came to trial, Sam was convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to ten years at hard labor in the federal penitentiary at Detroit, Michigan
The story doesn't end there, however. After Sam Paul's conviction, the Chickasaw legislature sent a petition, signed by the legislators and other prominent citizens of the Chickasaw Nation, to the President of the United States, Chester Arthur, requesting a pardon, and in March, 1884, the pardon was granted. 

It read:  

Whereas the Chickasaw Council, and a large number of officers and citizens of Indian Territory have petitioned for the defendant's pardon, representing that he committed the offense while endeavoring, as an officer of the United States and of the Territory, to enforce the law, and was excusable. 

And whereas, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs are of the opinion that the conviction in this case tends to impair the efficiency of the Indian Police, and that a pardon would be in the interest of law and order, and earnestly recommend it; … 

Now, therefore, be it known, that I, Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States of America, in consideration of the premises, divers and other good and sufficient reasons me thereunto moving, do hereby grant to the said Sam Paul a full and unconditional pardon.  

National Archives 

Sam Paul's pardon set an historic precedent giving the Chickasaw Light Horse Police the authority to maintain law and order in their territory.  

As for Sam Paul, he went on to be elected senator representing Pickens County in the Chickasaw legislature; he practiced law in the Chickasaw courts, and he owned two newspapers, the Chickasaw Enterprise and the Chickasaw Chieftain. Sam testified in Washington, D.C. before the Joint Committee on Indian Affairs of the U.S. Congress, and he later ran for governor of the Chickasaw Nation. Sam Paul was one of the most progressive and farsighted men in the Chickasaw Nation.