PETER P. PITCHLYNN
Chief of the Choctaws, 1864-66.
Few men of the Choctaw tribe of Indians have attained the distinction of Peter P. Pitchlynn. He was born in Mississippi January 30th, 1806. His father, Col. John Pitchlynn, a white man, was born off the shore of the Isle of St. Thomas, near Porto Rico, on board ship. He was the son of a British Naval Officer, by the name of Isaac Pitchlynn. His mission among the Choctaws was to help make a treaty with them: It was on this trip he took his young son with him. The father died in Mississippi leaving the son John, among the Choctaws, an orphan. He married a Choctaw woman by the name of Sopha Folsom, the only daughter of Ebenezer Folsom. This was the beginning of the large and noted family among the Choctaws.
John Pitchlynn was given a commission as an interpreter for the Choctaws in 1786 by George Washington.
Merely as a romantic story, the leading incidents of the life of Peter P. Pitchlynn cannot be read without deep interest, it is a contribution to American history. The first duties he performed were those of a cow boy, but when old enough to bend a bow or hold a rifle to his shoulder, he became a hunter. In the councils of his nation he sometimes made his appearance as a looker on, and once, when a member of the tribe who had been partially educated in New England, was seen to write a letter to President Monroe, Pitchlynn resolved that he would himself become a scholar. The school nearest to his father’s log cabin was at that time two hundred miles off, among the hills of Tennessee, and to that he was despatched after the usual manner of such important undertakings. Pitchlynn’s Indian name was Hachotakni (meaning loggerhead turtle). Being the only Indian boy in this school, he was talked about and laughed at, and within the first week of his admission he found it necessary to give the “bully” of the school a severe thrashing. At the end of the first quarter he returned to his home in Mississippi where he found his people negotiating a treaty with the general government; on which occasion he made himself
notorious by refusing to shake the hand of Andrew Jackson, the negotiator, because in his boyish wisdom he considered the treaty an imposition upon the Choctaws. Nor did he ever change his opinion on that score. His second step in the path of education was taken at the Academy of Columbia, Tennessee; and he afterwards graduated at the University of Nashville. Of this institution General Jackson was a trustee, and on recognizing young Pitchlynn, during an official visit to the college, he remembered the demonstration which the boy had made on their first meeting, and by treating him with kindness changed the old feelings of animosity to one of warm personal friendship, which lasted until the death of the famous Tennesseean. On his return to Mississippi our hero settled upon a prairie, to which his name was afterwards given, and became a farmer, but amused himself by an occasional hunt of black bear. He erected a comfortable log cabin, and married Rhoda Folsom, his first cousin. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Cyrus Kingsbury. Pitchlynn was among the first men of his people to set so worthy an example.
His noted cousin, David Folsom, had long been an advocate of temperance. In a treaty made in 1820, an article had been introduced by the Choctaws themselves prohibiting the sale, by red men as well as white men, of spiritous liquors within their borders, but up to 1824 it had been very little heeded. During that year the Council of the Nation passed a law organizing a corps of light horsemen, to whom was assigned the duty of closing all the dram shops that could be found carrying on their miserable traffic contrary to treaty stipulations. The command of this band was assigned to young Pitchlynn, who was thereafter recognized by the title of Captain. In one year from the time he undertook the difficult task of exterminating the traffic in liquor he had successfully accomplished it. As a reward for his services he was elected a member of the Council body.
His first proposition, as a member of the Council was for the establishment of a school; and, that the students might become familiar with the customs of the whites, it was decided that it should be located somewhere in their country. The Choctaw Academy, thus founded near Georgetown, Kentucky, and supported by the funds of the nation,
was for many years a monument of their advancing civilization.
One of the most important and romantic incidents in Pitchlynn’s career grew out of the policy, on the part of the general government, for removing the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks from their old hunting grounds to a new location west of the Mississippi River. At the request and expense of the United States, a delegation of Indians was appointed in 1828, to go upon an exploring and peace making expedition into the Osage country, and of this party, Pitchlynn was appointed leader. He succeeded in making a lasting peace with the Osages, who had been the enemies of the Choctaws from time immemorial.
The company consisted of thirteen Chickasaws, six Choctaws, and four Creeks; the first accompanied by Mr. Duncan; the second by Mr. Halley, and the third by Mr. Blake. Besides, the Chickasaw delegation had been allowed to take three white helpers. Lieutenant Washington Hood, of the United States Army, and Mr. John Bell, were topographists, and Dr. Todsom was their physician. These, with Captain Kennerly and his servant, and a colored servant of the Chickasaw Chief, Levi Colbert, made company of thirty-six.
The party was absent from home about six months. The first town at which they stopped was Memphis; their next halt was at St. Louis, where they were supplied with necessaries by the Indian superintendent. When they arrived at Independence, Missouri, it was only a place of a dozen log cabins, and there the party received special attention from the son of the noted Daniel Boone. On leaving Independence the members of the delegation, all being mounted, were joined by an Indian agent. The first night out they camped on a broad prairie, their tents were pitched in the vicinity of a Shawnee village. This tribe had never come in conflict with the Choctaws (though the former took the side of Great Britain in the war of 1821), and according to custom, a council was convened and pledges of friendship were renewed by an exchange of wampum and the delivery of speeches.
After these ceremonies, a grand feast took place at a neighboring village on the following day; and then the expedition continued its march towards the Osage country. For
a time their course lay along the famous Santa Fe trail, then turning to the southwest. This course took them over a beautiful country of rolling prairies skirted with timber, until they came to an Osage village, on a bluff of the Osage River. The delegation stopped within a short distance of the villiage, but for several days the Osages showed signs of their original enmity, and refused to meet the strangers in council. Possibly this was due to the fact, which was well known, that several Osages had recently been killed by a wandering band of Choctaws. The probability of hostilities and an attempted surprise was quite apparent. The delegation, however, proposed a treaty of peace, and after a long delay the Osages agreed to meet them in general Council. Captain Pitchlynn stated to them, he and his party were the first Choctaws who had met the Osages with peaceful intentions. They had traveled over two thousand miles by the advice of the United States government, in order to propose to the Osages a treaty of perpetual peace.
To this an orator of the Osages made a defiant and unfriendly reply, and the delegation at a second council changed their tone.
Captain Pitchlynn, as before, was their only speaker. After casting a defiant look upon Bel Oiseau, the Osage orator, as well as upon the other Osages present, he proceeded in these words: “After what the Osage warrior said to us yesterday, we find it very hard to restrain our ancient animosity. You inform us that by your laws it is your duty to strike down all who are not Osage Indians. We have no such law. But we have a law which tells us that we must strike down an Osage when we meet him. I know not what war paths you may have followed west of the big river, but I very well know that the smoke of our council fires you have never seen, and we live on the other side of the Big River. Our soil has never been tracked by an Osage excepting when he was a prisoner. I will not, like you, speak boastingly of the war path we have been upon. I am in earnest, and can only say that our last war path, if you will have it so, has brought us to the Osage country, and to this villiage. Our warriors at home would very well like to obtain a few hundred of your black locks, for it is by such trophies that they obtain their names. I mention these things to prove that we have some
ancient laws as well as yourselves, and that we, too, were made to fight. Adhere to the laws of your fathers, refusing the offer of peace that we have made, and you must bear the consequences. We are a little band now before you, but we are not afraid to speak our minds. Our contemplated removal from our country to the sources of the Arkansas and Red rivers will bring us within two hundred miles of your nation; and when that removal takes place, we will not finish building our cabins before you shall hear the war whoop of the Choctaws and the crack of their rifles. Your warriors will then fall, and your wives and children shall be taken in captivity; and this work will go on until the Osage nation is entirely forgotten.
You may not believe me, but our numbers justify the assertion, and it is time that the Indian race should begin a new kind of life. You say you will not receive the white paper of our father, the President, and we now tell you that we will take back all that we said yesterday about a treaty of peace, a proposition of peace, if we are to have it, must now come from the Osages.”
This speech had the intended effect. The next day negotiations were opened by the Osages; peace was declared, and a universal hand shaking took place. A grand feast next followed, consisting of jerked buffalo meat and all that went with it. The entire Osage village during the succeeding night, presented a joyous and boisterous aspect. Speeches furnished a large part of the entertainment, and to Captain Pitchlynn was awarded the honor of delivering the closing oration. He told the Osages that his people had adopted the customs of civilization, and were already reaping much benefit therefrom. They encouraged missionaries, the establishing of schools, and devoted attention to the pursuits of agriculture and the mechanical arts. He advised the Osages to do the same. Give up war as an amusement, and the chase as a sole dependence for food, and then they would become a happy and prosperous people. This was their only means of preservation from the grasping habits of the white man. If they would strive for civilization, the American government would treat them with greater kindness. Although they might throw away their eagle feathers, and live in
permanent cabins, there was no danger of losing their identity of name. At the end of these prolonged festivities, Bel Oiseau and a party of warriors selected for the purpose escorted the delegation to the borders of the Osage country, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles. During the several nights which they spent together before parting Bel Oiseau was the chief talker. He did much to entertain the whole party. While seated around the camp fires, he would relate adventures and traditions he could remember. These he confused with facts of aboriginal history. He claimed that his people descended from a beaver, and that was the reason Osage hunters never killed that animal for fear of killing one of their own kindred. He boasted that if his tribe was not as large as many others, it had always contained the largest and handsomest men in the world. Their horses were finer than those owned by the Pawnees and Comanches; that they preferred the buffalo meat for food to the fancy things which they used in the settlements. Buffalo robes suited them better than red blankets. The bow and arrows were better than the rifles or guns, and he thought their Great Spirit was a better friend to them than the Great Spirit of the white man, who allowed his children to ruin themselves by drinking fire water.
In returning to their homes the Choctaws pursued a southern course, passing down the Canadian River. The Agent left them at a point near Fort Gibson, and they continued along the valley of the Red River. They had some skirmishes with the Comanche Indians, and two of the party got lost for a time while hunting buffalo and bear. Captain Pitchlynn picked up in one of the frontier cabins a bright little Indian boy, belonging to no particular tribe, as he said. He took him back to Mississippi with him and had him educated at the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky. In 1870 he was one of the most eloquent and faithful preachers to be found in the Choctaw Nation.
The early expedition led by Captain Pitchlynn was the first step taken by the government towards accomplishing the removal of the Indian tribes eastward of the Mississippi River to a new and permanent home in the far West.
Captain Pitchlynn was always an ardent admirer of Henry Clay, and first made the acquaintance of the great statesman in 1840. The Choctaw was going up the Ohio River on a steamboat, and at Maysville during the night the Kentuckian came on board, bound for Washington. On leaving his stateroom at a very early hour Pitchlynn went into the cabin, where he saw two old farmers earnestly engaged in talking about farming. Returning to his stateroom he told his traveling companion what a treat he had enjoyed, and added: “If that old farmer with an ugly face had only been educated for the law, he would have made one of the greatest men in this country.” “That old farmer” was Henry Clay, who expressed the greatest satisfaction at the compliment that had been paid him. The steamboat was afterwards delayed at the mouth of the Kanawha, and as was common on such occasions, the passengers held mock trials and improvised a debate on the relative happiness of single and married life. Mr. Clay consented to speak and took the bachelor’s side of the question, while the duty of replying was assigned to the Indian. He was at first greatly bewildered, but remembering that he had heard Methodist preachers relate their experiences on religious matters, he thought he would relate his own experiences of married life. He did this with minuteness and considerable gusto, laying particular stress upon the goodness of his wife and the different shades of feeling and sentiment which he had experienced; and after he had finished, the ladies present vied with Clay in applauding the talented and warm hearted Indian.
When Charles Dickens first visited this country, he met upon a steamboat on the Ohio River, Peter P. Pitchlynn. After a long conversation he was greatly impressed with the Choctaw. In his “American Notes” we find a very interesting account of the interview, in which he states “Peter Pitchlynn was one of the most delightful men he met in America.”
When the war between the states began in 1861 Pitchlynn was in Washington, attending to business for his people, but he immediately hurried home in the hope of escaping the evils of the impending strife. Before leaving, however, he had an interview with President
Lincoln and assured him of his desire to have the Choctaws pursue a neutral course, to which the President assented as the most proper one to adopt under the circumstances. But Pitchlynn’s heart was for the Union. He made the further declaration, that if the general government would protect them, his people would certainly espouse its cause. He then returned to the Southwest, intending to lead the quiet life of a planter on his estate in the Choctaw Nation.
The Choctaws had already been aroused by the white men from Texas and Arkansas so their sympathies were enlisted with the Confederacy. He pleaded for the national government, and at the hazard of his life, denounced the conduct of the southern authorities. Many stories were circulated to increase the number of enemies; among them was one that he had married a sister of the President, and another that the President had offered him four hundred thousand dollars to become an abolitionist. He was sustained however, by the best men of his nation, who made him Colonel of a regiment of militia for home defense. Afterward he was elected Principal Chief of his people in 1864 to 1866. He had long been looked upon by all of the Choctaws as their philosopher and faithful friend, and also as one of the best men to represent their claims and interest in Washington. Before the war between the states he had under cultivation six hundred acres of land, and owned a hundred slaves. Annually good crops of cotton and corn were raised. As the market for that kind of material was too far off, Pitchlynn decided to devote his attention to the raising of cattle. His stock and that of his neighbors was of course a prize for the Confederates, who took everything, and left the country almost desolate. In this he acquiesced without a murmur, managing his affairs in the reduced condition as best he could. After the war was over he was again appointed by his tribal government as a delegate to Washington with some others to work for a claim of unpaid treaty money of several million dollars. An address that he delivered as a delegate before the President at the White House in 1855 was commented upon at the time as exceedingly touching and eloquent.
Certain speeches that he made before Congressional committees in 1868 and especially an address that he delivered in 1869 before a delegation of Quakers, called to Washington by President Grant for consultation on Indian affairs, placed him in the foremost rank of orators.
The general government undertook to educate the Choctaws, and the funds set aside for that purpose were used by designing men for their own benefit. Pitchlynn well knew that he would have to fight an unscrupulous opposition, but he resolved to make an effort to have the school fund transferred from the United States to the Choctaws. After many delays, he obtained an interview with John C. Spencer, then Secretary of War, and he was permitted to tell his story. The Secretary listened attentively, and was much pleased and told the chief he should have an interview with the President, John Tyler. The speech which he then delivered in the White House and before the Cabinet was pronounced wonderful by those who heard it. It completely converted the President, who gave immediate orders that Pitchlynn’s suggestions should be carried out. The Secretary fully co-operated; and before the clerks of the Indian office quit their desks that night the necessary papers had been prepared, signed, sealed and duly delivered.
The first academy organized under the new arrangement was named for the Secretary of War; and from that year, until the death of John C. Spencer, that wise and warm hearted lover of the Indians had not a more devoted friend than Peter P. Pitchlynn.
After the tenure of the office of Principal Chief of the Choctaws Pitchlynn remained in Washington the rest of his life, devoted his attention chiefly to pressing the Choctaw claims for lands sold to the United States in 1830.
In addition to the treaty of 1830 of Dancing Rabbit Creek he signed the treaty made in Washington in 1855 and the one concluded in Washington in 1866.
Pitchlynn’s first wife having died he married in Washington Mrs. Caroline Lombardy. Of that union two children are still living, Miss Sophy Pitchlynn and her brother Lee. The latter has been employed in the United States Treasury for many years.
Peter Pitchlynn was a member of the Lutheran Memorial Church at Washington and was a regular attendant at the services. He was a prominent member of the Masonic order. His death occurred January 17th, 1881. The funeral services were conducted by General Albert Pike. A monument was erected over his grave in the Congressional Cemetery by the Choctaw Nation. He was held in high esteem both by his tribe and his Washington acquaintances.
—CZARINA C. CONLAN
ALBERT G. COCHRAN.
ALBERT G. COCHRAN, born February 28, 1860, in Yalobusha County, Mississippi, son of Thomas J. Cochran, a native of that state, and Adaline Cochran, daughter of John Cochran, a native of Kentucky, though of same name, not of kin. After the death of his father, his mother removed to Arkansas where she married a man by the name of I. M. Cook, and later removed to Red Oak, Indian Territory, where she died in 1892, leaving surviving her, in addition to her son, Albert G., his two half brothers, William Cook and Arthur Cook. In childhood he became a cripple on account of an attack of typhoid fever, but notwithstanding such infirmity and though beset with poverty, he persisted in acquiring an education, becoming a teacher in the rural schools, and later perfected his business education by taking a course in a commercial college at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Later he settled at Hartshorne, Indian Territory, where he was engaged for a number of years as accountant and bookkeeper, a great portion of the time being associated with the firm of Grady & Freeny. In September, 1906, he was elected as a delegate from District 98 to the Constitutional Convention for the proposed State of Oklahoma. On the erection of the state he was elected as Register of Deeds of Pittsburg County, and in 1910 re-elected. Not having been a candiate again to succeed himself, in January 1913, he retired to private life. He was an Odd Fellow, Knight of Pythias, and a member of the Christian Church. He died at Hartshorne on April 11, 1913, at which place he is buried. He was never married.
AMBERS LAFAYETTE BENNETT.
AMBERS LAFAYETTE BENNETT, son of Charles H. and Edith Hill Bennett, born in Calhoun County, Georgia, August 13, 1868. His father, who had been a soldier in the Confederate Army, having died in Georgia on June 6, 1873, his widow and their children in 1874, removed to Crawford County, Arkansas, where she again married in 1877. In 1879, her son, Ambers Lafayette, when he was only 11 years old, became a member of the household of J. W. T. Jones, who resided about three
miles northeast of Alma, Arkansas, and continued to make his home with him until he was nineteen years of age. On account of conditions existing in the South following the Civil War and the loss of his father when he was not quite five years of age, his educational opportunities were scant, his longest school term being three months at a rural school at Freedom School House, near Alma. Webster’s blue backed speller, Ray’s arithmetic and McGufey’s readers being his principal text books. By persistence, without the aid of any instructor, he became a good speller and reader, and acquired proficiency in arithmetic and accounting. In 1887, coming to the Cherokee Nation, he settled in what is now Sequoyah County, but after two years returned to Crawford County, Arkansas, and in 1890 was married to Miss Sarah A. Blevins. In 1899 he, with his family removed to Howe, in the Choctaw Nation, at which place he lived until his death on the 22nd day of August, 1927 at St. Edwards Hospital at Fort Smith, Arkansas. He was a soldier on the part of the United States during the Spanish American War. During the World War he had one son in the army and one in the navy. In 1901 he was City Marshal of Howe, and in 1902 he served a short time as Deputy United Marshal. He owned, and for several years operated a hotel at Howe, but during his entire residence at that place his principal business was that of farming. At the time of his death he was County Chairman of the Democratic Central Committee for LeFlore County, and a member of the State Central Committee, having been elected Chairman of the County Committee eight consecutive times, and had attended every State Convention held since Statehood. He was Vice-President of the LeFlore County Fair Association, having been a member of its Board for a number of years and been connected with the State A. & M. College and County Farm demonstration work in crop experiments for several years. He never sought political honor, but was active in all matters looking toward better government and for the promotion of agriculture. He left surviving his widow and ten children, to wit: Clyde T. Bennett, Gretchen M. Gentry, Pleas L. Bennett, Callie M. Young., Ambers L. Bennett Jr., Ruth Bennett, Velma Bennett, Robert L. O. Bennett and Lois Dean Bennett. He lived to see seven of his children complete the grades in the public schools, six to complete high school courses, and two to receive degrees from colleges, and two others being in college at the time of his death. Realizing his handicap on account of lack of educational advantages, he was the more zealous that his children should not be so handicapped. In 1890 he joined the Missionary Baptist Church at Pleasant Grove, about four miles northeast of Alma, Arkansas, and continued such church member to the date of his death, and loyally supported its institutions. An exemplar of honesty, truth and fidelity, he ever sought to impress such principles upon his children. Courageous and fearless he met every responsibility. When he knew that he had only a few hours to live, he faced the last great ordeal as he had faced every other condition in life. The only request he left was that his children who were not old enough to have completed their education should be thoroughly educated. A man of deep convictions and sterling principles.
JOEL B. MAYES.
JOEL B. MAYES, born October 2, 1833 near Cartersville, Georgia, in the Cherokee country, second son of Samuel Mayes and Nancy Adair, the former a white man from the State of Tennessee, but whose ancestors emigrated from England and Wales. The mother, a daughter of Watt Adair, who held many important offices in the old nation east of the Mississippi. Joel came with his father’s family to the Cherokee Country West in 1837, and attended the public schools at Muddy Springs camp ground until 1851 when he entered the Male Seminary near Tahlequah, and was a student there for four years. In 1855 he began teaching school and so continued until 1857. During that period he taught school at Muddy Springs camp grounds. He enlisted as a private in the first Cherokee Indian Regiment in the Confederate Army, but was later promoted to paymaster and quartermaster. In 1879 he was appointed Clerk of the District Court, holding that office until 1883, when he was elected Judge of the Northern Circuit of the Nation, holding that office through re-election for five years. Then he became Clerk of the Commissioners Court for two years, and then Clerk of the National Council. While holding this office he was elected Supreme Court Judge, and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation. In 1887 he was nominated and elected Principal Chief on the Downing ticket of the Cherokee Nation, and re-elected in 1891. In 1857 he was married to Martha J. Candy. She having died in 1863, he was married to Martha M. McNair. After her death he was married to Miss Mary Vann. He was a Master Mason, and a member of the Methodist Church. He died December 4th, 1891, at Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
EMORY DAVID BROWNLEE
EMORY DAVID BROWNLEE, pioneer attorney, county judge, state senator, and member of the first and second state Legislature, died Monday night, January 1st, 1928, at his home in Kingfisher.
Judge Brownlee came to Kingfisher at the opening in 1889, and served as register of the Land Office until it was closed. He served six years in the State Senate, and two terms as County Judge.
He is survived by his wife, mother and two daughters, a sister and two brothers. He was 55 years of age; a worthy citizen and a successful attorney.
GEORGE McQUAID, well known as a newspaper man in Oklahoma, died at his home in Dallas, Texas, on Monday, March 5th. McQuaid was a native of Alexandria, Virginia, and was educated at Georgetown University, where he completed courses in both arts and law. He firstcame to Oklahoma in 1899. Between 1900 and 1905, inclusive, he was
connected with several Oklahoma newspapers, including the Guthrie Capital and the Oklahoman. He also saw service on the Kansas City Journal, the Dallas News, the San Antonio Express and the Galveston Express, filling successively the responsible position of managing editor of no less than four of these papers. During the greater part of the World War period, he was in Oklahoma City in charge of the Dallas News Bureau, later returning to Dallas to take up staff work on that publication, of which he became managing editor, in 1921. He ultimately resigned that position to organize the Texas Public Service Information Bureau, maintained by the public utility corporations of that state, of which he was director of public relations until his death. His remains were sent to El Paso for burial, the services being under the control of the Masonic fraternity. A man of unusual ability and of versatile attainments, his genial disposition was such as to attract the friendship of most of the people with whom he came into contact. He always manifested a deep interest in the Oklahoma Historical Society and its work.
J. B. T.
ROBERT M. HARRIS.