Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 8, No. 3
September, 1930

Page 335

Adair's History of the American Indians, Edited under the auspice of the National Society of the Colonial Dames, in Tennessee, by John Cole Williams, LLD. octavo, 508 pp., cloth. The Watauga Press, Johnson City, Tennessee, Price $6.00.

No class of historical research workers and writers in recent years has conferred a greater benefit on the modern student than that which has edited and annotated for republication books pertaining to early American history, long out of print and not easily accessible. Such a book was James Adair's "History of the American Indians," which was published in London, in 1775. Copies of this volume are comparatively scarce and command high prices in consequence. Libraries, which own such violumes, therefore, keep them off the shelves and are somewhat chary about permitting the promiscuous use of the same by the patronizing public. James Adair, the author, was a cion of British nobility, a native of Ireland and of mixed Irish, English and Scottish decent. Coming to America about 1735, he is believed to have settled in South Carolina for a time. Engaging in the Indian trade of the, then, western frontier, south of Virginia, his operations extended over much of the region embraced in the present states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia. Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, during the course of the ensuing forty years, when his book was published, just about the time of the outbreak of the War for American Independence. He was therefore well acquainted with the peoples of the Cherokee, Muskogee (Creek) Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes, or nations of Indians, to which the subject matter of his brook was largely devoted. This volume, now reproduced for the first time in the form of an American edition, has appeared as the result of the careful and painstaking research and editorial work of Hon. Samuel Cole Williams, of Tennessee, the author or editor of several previously published volumes pertaining to the early history of the same region, all of which are recognized as being accurate and meritorious. In addition to the reproduction of the original text, verbatim and in type of approximately the same size, Judge Williams presents a brief preface and a somewhat extended but very illuminating introduction. In this introduction, the editor

Page 336

presents a sketch of the life and career of Adair which is far more complete than anything of the kind that has hitherto been available. He also appends no less than 270 references, comments and explanations in the form of footnotes, all of which add to the interest and value of the work, which is carefully indexed.

It is apparent, however, that his acquaintance with the history of each of the several Indian tribes which is included in the scope of Adair's work is not as complete and thorough as his knowledge of the life story of the author. This is a matter of regret, since there a wealth of pertinent material which, in condensed form, might have been included, very profitably, for supplemental purposes. As a reference work, it is, of course, far superior to the original publication, beside being thus put in form where it will be much more readily available for the use of the average student or investigator.

J. B. T.

Indians and Pioneers: The Story of the American Southwest before 1830, by Grant Foreman; Yale University Press, $4.00.

The American Southwest, the region from which the states of Oklahoma and Arkansas were formed, has been neglected by the historian, while the Spanish Southwest, the West and the Northwest of the United States have been much written about. That our Oklahoma country is rich in history as important and interesting as that of any other region west of the Mississippi, is proven by Mr. Foreman.

The period covered by this book, which was a period of preparation of the country for the coming of the emigrant Indians from the Southern states, has been practically unknown to the reader. Of conditions and events here during that time the reader and student have had almost no source of information, lack which is now supplied. From Mr. Foreman's book one learns of an almost constant state of warfare and strife extending over what is now Oklahoma.

Since the Revolutionary War eastern Indians had been drifting across the Mississippi to hunt and some to find new houses for themselves. Of these the Shawnee, Delaware, Cherokee, and Choctaw were famous hunters and after the Louisiana Purchase as their numbers increased, and they ex-

Page 337

tended their hunting enterprises when white traders began buying their peltries to ship down the Arkansas River and other streams, they found themselves opposed by the Osage Indians who then claimed most of the present state of Oklahoma. As the game began to diminish in this country, the Osages who lived by the chase, obviously foresaw the ruin in store for them, and waged bitter warfare against all intruders, which continued for many years.

One of the most interesting phases of our history now for the first time brought out from official archives and old newspaper files, is the account of the first white settlers in the eastern part of this state, who were driven to Arkansas and Texas to make room for the Choctaw and Cherokee Indians.

Before they were forced to move they had established farms and mills and the government of the Territory of Arkansas had been extended over part of what is now Oklahoma; McCurtain, LeFlore, Sequoyah, Cherokee, Adair and parts of other eastern Oklaoma counties were then in Arkansas, sending representatives to the Arkansas legislature. John Nicks living at Fort Gibson and others living in what is now McCurtain county on the Kiamichi River and Clear Creek represented their sections in the legislature at Little Rock before 1830. Water mills and cotton gins were in operation more than one hundred years ago in what is now McCurtain county.

The Osage Indians not only warred with other Indians but at times attacked white settlers and hunters intruding in this country claimed by them. And how the slaughter by the Osage of a hunting camp of white men on Blue River was the occasion for the beginning of Fort Gibson in 1824, is narrated in this book.

Mr. Foreman prepared his book in large part from original sources and early newspapers so that it speaks with authority of conditions described by him. He spent several years in the examination of files in the War Department. These manuscripts as he explains "are usually records of officials intercourse, the statements of persons in possession of information about the country and people which it was their duty or interest faithfully to convey to others. As they are contemporary accounts, of scenes, conditions, and events observed by the writers, they are the best authority, and in

Page 338

many cases the only testimony in existence, concerning the matters described."

Information was derived also from the early territorial records in the State Department in Washington, from the manuscript division of the Library of Congress, the Department of Indian Affairs, from the missionary records in Boston, and from manuscript material in the Oklahoma Historical Society, and other historical societies' archives from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. Contemporary newspapers printed in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, New York and at Washington, D. C., were drawn upon.

Mr. Foreman has been a resident of Muskogee, Oklahoma, formerly Indian Territory, for nearly thirty years. His wife was Miss Carolyn Thomas, daughter of the late John R. Thomas, a United States Judge in the Indian Territory and a former Congressman from Illinois. He and she are patrons of art and letters, and are devoted to travel and research. He is a director and prominent leader in the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma Historical Society. His friends appreciate this valuable contribution to the State of Oklahoma and the Southwest.


Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site