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 10, No. 1
March, 1932
CHIEF ISPARHECHER

By John Bartlett Meserve.

Page 52

The years succeeding the Civil War witnessed many tragic scenes of political disruption among the Creek Indians in the Indian Territory. These revolts, which by their frequency passed to the chronic stage, were fomented by certain full blood leaders and the ranks of sedition recruited from among the Loyal Creeks. The Loyal Creeks, composed mostly of full blood Indians and their former negro slaves, fought with the Union Armies during the Civil War and claimed a preferred status by reason of that service. Their ranks were drawn almost exclusively from the Upper Creek faction and this faction lived in the southern portion of the Nation and along the banks of the Canadian river and its North Fork and Deep Fork tributaries. The Lower Creeks or McIntosh faction espoused the cause of the Confederacy and the cleavage thus created became a source of many subsequent political disaffections. The Loyal Creeks were slow to compose their differences with the erstwhile Confederate Creeks and evidenced a feeling that the penalties for disloyalty had not been entirely exhausted by the defeat and the surrender of the Southern Creek Indian Regiments at the conclusion of the war. They were hostile toward efforts to reunite the dismembered tribe and militant in their defiance of the reforms of modern progress. Some of these Indians were disposed to resort to the persuasive methods employed by their more savage ancestry, rather than accommodate themselves to the orderly processes of popular government. Of course there was none of the old-fashioned ceremony of scalping and of the slaughter of non-combatants including women and children, but they reacted with complacency to the war path's fatal lure. These sentiments were exploited by leadership whom many of the full bloods followed with implicit trust and this untutored class became responsive to reckless, designing counsel.

Chief Isparhecher

Page 53

The Green Peach War also known as Spa-he-cha's War was, in fact, the absurd result of an irrational secession movement inaugurated by certain Loyal Creek leaders and centered about Isparhecher who became its guiding spirit. The standard of revolt was carried by members, many of whom had followed Opothleyahola into Kansas in 1861 and had been with Ok-tars-Bars-har-jo in 1871 when he dispersed the Creek National Council with armed force; they had rallied to the support of Lachar Haijo in 1876. This group of irreconcilables drawn from the Loyal Creek faction gave repeated evidence of an inherent distrust of the Creek Government. Armed sedition became chronic and was regarded as a logical resort for the expression of their disaffections. They became habitual disturbers of the peace and harmony of the tribe and constituted a turbulent faction which the Creek Nation authorities and the United States Government could not continue to ignore.

Isparhecher led the expiring effort of this faction of the Loyal Creeks against the progressive influence of the reunited tribe. He was an unlettered, unprogressive full blood Creek Indian and, at that time, belonged to the Loyal faction of the tribe. He was ballasted by much native ability and exhibited qualities of leadership which yielded him a position of commanding influence among the full bloods and this influence he maintained with much adroitness despite his many defeats and delinquencies. Isparhecher had the instincts of a resourceful politician but was not of the "happy warrior" type. The fading passions of the full bloods were inspired by his solemn, sedate and sincere posture. These members of the tribe believed in him and supported his Quixotic movements even though they did not, as a class, join his military camp. He seemed to suffer no lapse of their favor through his failures. Isparhecher openly defied the constituted authority of the tribe by armed rebellion and yet the Creek Nation that had repudiated and hunted him with its armed forces in 1883, twelve years later made him its Principal Chief by popular suffrage. It was during his incumbency that the last ef-

Page 54

fective effort of the full bloods accomplished the defeat of the first Creek Allotment Agreement.1

Isparhecher, known variant as Is-pa-he-che and Spa-he-cha,2 a son of Yar-de-ka Tus-tan-nug-ga and Ke-char-te, his wife, was born in the old Creek Nation back in Alabama in 1829. His parents were full blood Creek Indians, belonged to the Lower or McIntosh faction of the tribe, and in the thirties came with one of the numerous emigrating caravans of that faction to the Indian Territory. They ultimately settled at Cussetah town some seven miles southeast of the present city of Okmulgee, where the father engaged in farming. Grim death stalked among the Indians during the initial years of their settlement in the west and the parents of Isparhecher soon paid the supreme toll to exposure and disease. Isparhecher became a farmer and stockman, which vocation remained his life's effort save as interrupted in after years by his public service. About 1874, he removed to a farm some four miles west of Beggs, where he continued to reside until his final residence was established upon the lands allotted to him in Section Thirty-four, in township Fifteen North and Range Eleven East and which remained his home until his death in 1902. The early years of his life appear to have been rather uneventful and the first record of his activities to be found, has relation to his dual enlistment in both the Union and Confederate Armies during the Civil War.

War records3 disclose that Isparhecher served as 4th Sergeant in Company K in the 1st Regiment of Creek Mounted Volunteers in the Confederate States Army, having enlisted for this service on August 17, 1861 at the Creek Agency, for a term of twelve months. Captain Abram Foster was his company captain and Col. D. N. McIntosh commanded the regiment which was attached to the brigade of Col. D. H. Cooper. It becomes difficult to visualise the character or extent of the military service rendered by Isparhecher in the Confederate Army as war records report his continued absence from all muster roll calls from Au-







Page 55

gust 19, 1861 until August 17, 1862, although he is shown as answering to muster roll thereafter until December 1, 1862, after which date his name ceases to appear. He was reported absent from duty during the entire twelve months of his enlisted term. The company and regiment in which he had enlisted served in numerous engagements in the fall and early winter of 1861 and in the spring and summer of 1862, but it is very problematical that Isparhecher was with them. He was probably "soldiering" but not in a manner quite acceptable to the military authorities and came or was brought back into the service a year later although efforts to impress his attendance seem to have been unavailing.

The enlistment of Isparhecher in the Confederate Army was entirely consistent with his factional affiliations in the Creek tribe. He belonged to the Lower Creek or McIntosh faction and the leaders of that faction had committed themselves and their people to the cause of the Confederacy. Isparhecher inaugurated his military career in the Civil War with perfect circumspection but not unlike many other full blood members of the tribe, conveniently transferred his allegiance to the Union when the cause of the Confederacy began to wane. The ease with which he reversed his allegiance is finely illustrative of the full blood Indian soldier of that period as he strove to align himself with the prevailing side. As a matter of fact the Civil War was an affair of no concern to the Indians. They never knew what it was all about and usually fought where the supply of rations was the best.

Isparhecher appears to have suffered a change of heart about the time that the invading armies of the Union entered the territory and began to disperse the Confederate troops.4 War records reveal that he volunteered and was mustered into the military service on May 12, 1863 at Ft. Gibson, as a private in Company K in the 1st Regiment of Indian Home Guards, Kansas Infantry in the Union Army. The captain of his company was Carts-che-her Mic-co and Col. Stephen H. Wattles commanded the regiment in the brigade of Col. William A. Phillips. There is evidence of a higher degree of fidelity by Isparhecher toward his mili-



Page 56

tary service in the Union Army. He was reported absent without leave on October 31, 1863 but on all subsequent muster rolls of his company, was reported present or his absence satisfactorily accounted for until he was mustered out with his company and honorably discharged from service on May 31, 1865 at Ft. Gibson as a sergeant to which rank he had been promoted on March 12, 1864. During the term of his service in the Union Army, his company and regiment participated in the skirmish at Barren Forks, Indian Territory on December 19, 1863 and Isparhecher was reported as being present.

The dual military record of Isparhecher will admit of no imputation of desertion from the Confederate Army, being laid against him. His twelve months term of enlistment, although indifferently performed, had expired many months before he volunteered and was mustered into the Union Army.

Isparhecher resumed his farming operations upon the conclusion of his military service and became a member of the House of Warriors in the Creek National Council from Cussetah in 1867. This Council met at their old council grounds near Deep Fork in October 1867 and after a somewhat stormy session, framed the constitution under which the affairs of the tribe were administered thereafter. It is not known just what posture Isparhecher assumed during that memorable session toward the framing and subsequent adoption of this organic law of the Creek Nation. From 1872 until 1874, he served as district judge of the Muscogee district and in 1874, upon the expiration of his judicial term, removed from Cussetah to the farm near Beggs which he occupied for years. It appears that he served as a school trustee of the Salt Creek School in 1874-75. His appointment as principal judge of the Okmulgee district came to him in 1877. These judicial appointments were accorded him under the terms of the new constitution and came to him from the hands of the Lower Creek or McIntosh faction which dominated the political life of the Creek Nation at that time. These evidences of preferment would seem to indicate that Isparhecher, at that time, was in full accord with the terms of the constitution of 1867

Page 57

and in sympathy with its administration. This deduction is further strengthened by the fact that he was not supportive of either the Ok-tars-Bars-har-jo or Lachar Haijo revolts although he subsequently availed himself of the support of the holdover elements of those insurrections. The appointments of Isparhecher to these judicial positions were not inspired by any peculiar fitness he may have exhibited as a lawyer, because in fact, he was not a lawyer and at no time pretended to be such. The very strong inference is, that these judicial appointments were proffered to Isparhecher, because he belonged to the party in power, which was the Checote party.

The political campaign in the Creek Nation in the fall of 1879 was a turbulent one. Sam Checote was again elected Principal Chief but much bitterness lingered among the malcontents after the election and again the air was filled with forebodings which presaged new trouble. Vague whisperings began to drift in from the Nuyaka Indian settlement which were calculated to compromise the principal judge of the Okmulgee district with conduct amounting to sedition against the Creek National Government.

West of Okmulgee a distance of some twelve miles, among rugged hills covered with black jack and scrubby underbrush, was situated the full blood Indian community of Nuyaka. The contour of the country was rough, its rocky surface admitting only of an abbreviated tillage. Oak trees spread along the banks of Deep Fork which trickled to the north of the settlement. The somber Indians who dwelt among these native heaths found them adequately adapted to their most fantastic requirements; game was plentiful and the fishing season was always an open one on the Deep Fork, hence their necessary activities were limited. The Creek Indians who clustered among the hills of Nuyaka and contiguous Indian villages5 were composed of non-progressive, superstitious full bloods, who declined to acknowledge the Creek National Government under the constitution of 1867; they ignored its autonomy



Page 58

by refusing to send representatives to the National Council. Many of these misguided Indians had seen service in the Union Army and referred to themselves as the "Loyal" members of the tribe. As time progressed, these Indians assumed a posture of defiance toward the Creek Government and became a disturbing element in the well ordered affairs of the Nation. Tradition confides to us tales of how the outlaws, bootleggers, nondescript characters and fugitives from justice made of the rugged hills about Nuyaka, a convenient rendezvous. But vice was bold in those days and life was coarse and social caste was unaffected by personal conduct. The Nuyaka Indians were well-intentioned, hospitable and Godfearing but unyielding in their attachment to the primitive rites and usages of their race. They insisted that the communistic status be not disturbed, that the full blood members of the tribe be accorded their fractional part of the Creek domain and that they be permitted to enjoy, unmolested the primitive life of their fathers. Thomas Jefferson easily would have found, in their yearnings, a concrete exhibition of his idealistic theories of laissez faire.

Upon his removal to the Beggs neighborhood, Isparhecher began to cultivate the Indians of Nuyaka and adjoining full blood settlements and to accord his notions with theirs. He apparently altered his entire course of thought and action which recalls his manifestations of uncertainty during the Civil War. He betrays a vacilating disposition and a selfish, personal interest may be detected in his change of policy. Isparhecher was a dreamer. In a visionary moment, he perhaps pictured a tribal division and the inauguration of a separate tribal entity to be composed of the unyielding full bloods and with himself as its Principal Chief. He set out to make his dreams come true, and did so. Although unlettered, he was perfectly capable of discerning the vice of such a project and of realizing that his own insincerity would sooner or later suffer a stinging rebuke. The stalwart characteristics of rugged honesty and fidelity of purpose of the full blood Indian yield to a baser plane in the life of Isparhecher at that moment. His cabin among the hills near Beggs be-

Page 59

came the gathering place for the malcontents and, covertly at first, an independent government was fashioned with Nuyaka as its capital. He was chosen "Principal Chief of the Loyal People of the Muscogee Nation, Indian Territory." These initial acts of sedition were indulged by Isparhecher while he was yet the principal judge of the Okmulgee district under the Checote administration, but becoming known, he was impeached and removed from office pro tanto by the Creek authorities and sentiment ran violently against him.

The rival government at Nuyaka, under the inspiration of Isparhecher now openly defined itself. A policy of retrogression was promulgated and the constitution of 1867 which Isparhecher had helped to frame and under which he had held office and dispensed justice, was denounced as unsuited to the Indians and by reason of that fact was not binding upon them. Isparhecher announced his purpose to restore the Creek Indians to their primitive tribal government and social status. 6Officers were chosen and lighthorse companies formed and provided with arms and munitions. Intimidation of the Indians in the vicinity of Nuyaka became frequent and vigorous attempts were made to organize and enlist the active interest of the dissatisfied full blood Indians throughout the Nation. Isparhecher was incessantly active and moved unmolested among the Indians in all parts of the Nation, preaching his gospel of discontent. He appealed to certain of the Seminoles and visited the Cherokee Nation where he enlisted the support of Sleeping Rabbit and his followers.

The Checote government at Okmulgee although keenly



Page 60

alert to the gravity of the situation, made no effort to interfere with the activities of Isparhecher and hesitated to precipitate bloodshed, although the lighthorsemen were mobilized for the emergency. In the early winter of 1881, Isparhecher led a band of his adherents, numbering perhaps two hundred, eastward and camped at a point on the north bank of the Arkansas river, north of Muskogee. He committed no acts of violence during this raid, the project doubtless being undertaken for the purpose of influencing the dissatisfied Indians in that part of the Nation. He also anticipated the promised arrival of Sleeping Rabbit and his band from the Cherokee Nation. Being advised of this debacle, Chief Checote dispatched William Robison and Thomas Adams with a contingent of three hundred lighthorsemen to intercept the Isparhecher raiding party. At the approach of the Creek regulars, the raiding party scattered and returned to the Nuyaka country. Events began to gravitate rapidly toward trouble in the spring of 1882 and an armed clash between the factions was imminent. The open challenge came in the summer of 1882, when the regular Creek authorities intercepted, disarmed and made a prisoner, one of Isparhecher's lighthorsemen. News of this capture becoming immediately known, a company of Nuyaka lighthorsemen recovered their captured comrade and in so doing, killed two of the offending lighthorsemen of the regular government.

The Creek authorities now took decisive steps to capture and punish Isparhecher's crew of rebellious lighthorsemen but were unable to apprehend them. Gen. Pleasant Porter who had so artfully and successfully dispersed the political revolts of 1871 and 1876, was now in Washington upon official business for the tribe. Porter was hastily recalled to Okmulgee and proceeded to organize the military arm of the Checote government. 7Early in


7Washington, D. C., January 8th, 1883. Hon. H. Price, Commissioner Indian Affairs, Sir.

It becomes our duty as representatives of the Creek nation to ask your attention to some facts bearing on the recent unfortunate disturbance of the peace of the people of that country. In this connection we assure you the authorities of the Creek nation are fully alive to the fact that their best interests rest in the cultivation and promotion of peace and harmony among all classes of her citizens; and in order as they thought more effectually to accomplish these great needs, they many years ago established a constitutional form of government fashioned much after your own state governments, and which has ever since been recognized by the Interior and other departments of the government of the United States as the legitimate authority in that nation. It is our pride and pleasure also to assure you that under this government, the interests of education, of religion, and of material industry have advanced as they never have in any previous history of our people. But as in all other governments, we have our malcontents in the form of a small faction, who, while they would propose no reasonable compromise, had not sufficient intelligence to proceed in a legitimate manner to correct their imaginary wrongs. They defied and insulted our laws time and again, but forbearance and love held back the hand of chastisement for many years, all seemingly to no good purpose, until their obstinacy has this the second time culminated in the loss of life as you are aware. The Creek government has not retaliated, however, as she is abundantly able to do, and as the provocation seem to merit, but on the contrary has consented to abide the decisions of a peace conference; to meet some time in the near future and at which we hope an amicable adjustment. What the result of this conference will be, no one can with certainty predict; while in the meantime an unfortunate feature in our troubles lies in the fact that the malcontents in our country receive moral aid and support from Creeks who are not citizens of the Creek nation, but Cherokee citizens living in the Cherokee nation, together with near thirty (30) Seminoles who are also citizens of another distinct government. We are authorized to assure you that the Creek nation is competent to preserve peace and order within her limits if unembarrassd by such outside influences; but with these menacing our nation from two different quarters, the Creek nation is apprehensive of other troubles and commotions pending the peace negotiations now contemplated, which may work to thwart a satisfactory settlement. In view of these apprehensions, then and in view of the guarantees of the United States to "protect the "Creeks and Seminoles from domestic strife, from hostile invasion and from aggressions by other Indians and white persons, not subject to their jurisdiction and laws" (See Revised Indian Treaties p. 112 art. 18), we are instructed earnestly to call upon you to afford to the Creek nation at as early a day as possible that protection thus guaranteed, the same to last at least until a thoroughly pacific solution of our differences shall have been reached. An early reply will greatly favor. Your obedient servants, L. C. Perryman, G. W. Grayson, Creek Delegation. (Ibid.)

Page 61

1883, G. W. Grayson, James Larney and Legua C. Perryman were dispatched to Washington by Chief Checote in an effort to secure the military intervention of the United States Government to quell the uprising. 8The Isparhecher government was represented at Washington, at the same time by Daniel Childers.


8Washington, D. C., Feby. 17, 1883. Col. Saml. Checote Princl. Chief of Creeks Okmulkee Ind. Ter. Dear Sir;

I write this morning to say that Mr. Danl. Childers has been here for several days past in the interest as he states, of the Is pa he cha people. Mr. Perryman being an old acquaintance and neighbor, has been nearest with him and has successfully watched and kept up with his operations here. He has made some informal complaints of the manner of the Orphan payment, that the Creek nation was unjust toward Spa he cha and party, that the Indian Agent leaned toward the interest of the "Checote Government, &c &c. He endeavored to secure some legislation here looking to an investigation and adjustment of the causes of discontent in our nation, and in order to divest this movement of the character of being the outgrowth of a special legislation for the Creek nation, a thing seeming possible at one time, the name of Genl. Pollock was suggested as a suitable person to go down and co-perate with Agent Tufts in restoring Order. He then endeavored to secure attention here in a request to the Govt. or a division of all of the interests of the Creeks, a portion being set apart for the benefit of the Spa he cha party. It was suggested to him that the Govt. would probably not entertain any such proposition unless he would first draw up a petition signed by Spa he cha and all his party making this request and including the provision for allotment of their lands in severalty. In this way this matter was again kept from the attention of Congress, and the suggestion of a petition on the subject was adopted by Childers. Perryman and myself have understood Each other in this matter all the time, and this petition we intend shall have the effect of getting Childers away from here, and of rendering nugatory any influence that may yet be left in the Spa he cha party when it shall be presented for signature to the people called loyal. The petition embraces in it the names of Spa he cha, Hotulga Fixico, Tuckabatche harjo, Sleeping Rabit and Danl. Childers, and will be taken from here about tomorrow by Childers for signature, so that he may bring it back at once and secure the action of Congress thereon. He seems to have no better judgment, than to believe he can do all this during the present session of Congress. We think that the 2nd Chief, Silas Jefferson and other influential loyal men should know these facts and fully warn their people against so grave and dangerous a movement. When the country understand that these agitators have placed themselves on paper as the very first Indians of the Territory to make such a foolish move, then we think all the Creeks both north and south will repudiate these men and all of their pretensions. Indeed I question if this act is not sufficient to justify our authorities in at once proceeding in a summary manner against those who can strike so boldly at the very foundation of the integrity and welfare of our Muscogee nation. I expect to be able to mail you a copy of Spa he cha's petition tomorrow. Very Respectfully Your Obt. Servt. G. W. Grayson. (Ibid.)

Page 62

Among these interesting full blood recalcitrants of the Tuckabatchee town settlement lived Tuckabatchee Harjo, a faithful Indian leader and who was a nephew of the old chieftain Opothleyahola. Harjo and his people joined Isparhecher's movement and as the full bloods began to gather at Nuyaka in the early summer of 1882, he led some two hundred of his Tuckabatchee warriors with their families by a circuitous route to effect a juncture with Isparhecher's band. At Battle Creek some three miles east of Okemah, his progress was interrupted by a force of three hundred Checote lighthorsemen under James Larney and a skirmish ensued in which five of six of the Checote men were killed. Harjo fell back to Boley and then marched north and joined Isparhecher at Nuyaka. In the meantime, Sleeping Rabbit had undertaken to keep his rendezvous with Isparhecher and had begun to march his band of

Page 63

one hundred followers through the Creek country to join the malcontents at Nuyaka. Sleeping Rabbit and his band were captured and detained as prisoners.

Marauding parties of the Nuyaka Indians continued to irritate the Creek authorities during the summer and fall of 1882 and required the services of a standing force of lighthorsement. 9On October 19, 1882, Chief Checote approved an act of the National Council appropriating $19,700 to cover the expense of 1150 warriors in the field. It is in evidence that the Checote government as a gesture of conciliation10, on October 16, 1882 passed an act granting "full, free and unconditional amnesty for all political offenses growing out of the late troubles" but this pacific offer met with no response. It appeared evident that the authorities at Washington were not disposed to intervene, at least not until the regular Creek government had ex-





Page 64

hausted its efforts, so the Checote administration in the early winter of 1882 began vigorously to take the affair in hand. A mounted force of about six hundred men was fully organized and armed by General Porter in December 1882 and took the field for the purpose of shattering the rebellious Creeks. A scouting party, sent out to ascertain the strength of the party at Nuyaka, came upon them on December 24, 1882, and a skirmish ensued near that place in which seven of the Checote men were killed. In anticipation of bloodshed some of the rebellious Creeks had already fled with their families to the west and were now with the Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indians. General Porter followed the scouting party but upon his arrival found the Nuyaka camp deserted. The rebellious party had moved rapidly west taking their families with them. Porter came upon them at Hillibee Creek in the edge of the Sac and Fox country, but an engagement was prevented by the Sac and Fox Chief and his Indian Agent. The refugees continued their flight westward, unmolested and General Porter returned to Okmulgee. The deluded Indians in due time arrived at Anadarko in the Kiowa reservation, but in a somewhat destitute condition. They had abandoned their homes and farms taking their families with them and were in no condition to undertake the rigors of a winter campaign. An effort was made by them to organize a war party among the Sac and Fox Indians but this was unsuccessful. When they did not return to their homes in the spring of 1883, it became necessary for the United States Troops to remove them from the Kiowa country. They were marched back through the Creek country to Ft. Gibson by troops under command of Captain John C. Bates and held at Ft. Gibson by authority of the War Department until July 1883, when they were disarmed and released with permission to return to their homes but instead of doing so, many of their leaders with Isparhecher again went into camp at Nuyaka.

11Isparhecher was not with his band at the fight near


11United States Indian Service, Union Agency, Muskogee, I. T., Dec. 21, 1882 6 P. M. Hon. Saml. Checote, Prin. Chief Muskogee Nation, Okmulgee, I. T. Dear Sir:

Yours of to-day received—I have telegraphed the Arapahoe and Cheyenne Agent for information concerning the Creeks that were there, and will get an answer to-morrow—and if important will send to you by messenger. I am satisfied that if anything was wrong with the wild Indians some of the Agents would know it and notify the Department. If anything was wrong at Sac and Fox Agency, that agent would send me word at once. I have heard nothing from Chief Jumper or any one from the west side. As to Spa he cha who is now in the Cherokee nation, I don't think he will trouble any body or has any idea of doing so.

Chief Bushyhead was here yesterday and stated that he sent a man down to Spa he cha's camp yesterday the, man reported, they were not making arrangements to leave—and that there were not more than sixty over there.

I have found no one yet who knows anything, only what they heard—somebody say, and in my opinion the whole thing is only a scare gotten up by person's who don't care for either party—so they can have a chance to steal horses. The report that so many had left their homes and went over to Spa he cha was caused by about 50 persons, men women and children coming here to make claims for arrears of pay and bounty &c. They have been here about 10 days and left for their homes yesterday with their, women and children. As to the troops, I will send your letter to the Comd'g Officer at Fort Gibson, and if he can find any authority to enable him to take troops to Okmulgee, he will do so. The treaty provides that the Creeks shall be protected from domestic strife—But there must be some evidence that there is domestic strife more than mere rumor before the troops can be used.

Please keep me well informed—and I will report to you anything of interest—and if Spa he cha's men attempt to make trouble troops will be used at once—I will write you again by tomorrows mail. Respectfully, Jno. Q. Tufts, U. S. Indian Agent. (Ibid.)

Page 65

Nuyaka in December 1882 and did not participate with them in the flight to the Kiowa country. 12He was in the Cherokee Nation during the latter part of December 1882 in company with a small force of some sixty of his warriors. About the 1st of January 1883, he was in the office of the Indian Agent at Muskogee laying his troubles before that official. He engaged with the agent to return to his home and appoint a delegation to compose his differences with the Checote party but this he was dilatory in



Page 66

doing.13 The months of January and February 1883, cover a period of undue lawlessness in the Creek Nation. The regular civil authorities appeared to be unable to control the wave of crime which ranged from bootlegging to horsethievery and murder. Isparhecher was defeated but unpenitent and some of his erstwhile adherents engaged in a guerilla warfare of reprisal during those early months of 1883. 14Fear spread among the peaceful members of the tribe and the schools were closed by order of Chief Checote on February 19, 1883.

With the disarming and dispersion of the armed organized rebellious full bloods, the Green Peach episode came abruptly to an end and only the details of peace terms remained. The affair was farcical from its inception. Isparhecher was the outstanding full blood leader of his


13Okmulgee, I. T. Jan. 15th 1883, Hon. J. Q. Tufts, U. S. Indian Agent Muskogee, I. T. Dear sir: While here the last time, you stated to us, that Isparhechers men were all disbanded & going home in little squads & that we (the Constitutional men) had taken for facts rumors &c & had called our men together and taking you at your word we disbanded our men & they all went home on Saturday last. Now on that same day Issparhecher was in camps on Cane Ck. with fully 100 men, with war signs & had scouts. This seems as if you was not very well posted as to Issparhechers intentions. We learn now (from persons who saw them) Issparhecher with a large body of men going in the direction of his place. A great many who are with him live down near Muskogee & this side. Now if they have disbanded, why do those men who at home join & go on with Isspar. These men promised you that they were going home & keep quiet & await the settlement of this matter, but instead they are calling out men who have never been with them & doing all they can to induce Constitutional men to join them. I would be pleased to know if you know of their present moves or whether they have your permission to do as they are doing. Please answer by return mail. Later: This P. M. Issparhechers men fired on & took one of the Constitutional men & abused him by punching with pistols &c & took him on with them. They claim that you gave them permission to do this which of course we know is false. Haste is required to stop their actions. This is no rumor, but facts. The Constitutional men can't stand & be bullnagged in such manner by people rebelling against the Constitution & Govt.

(unsigned, but written on the stationery of the executive department, Muskogee. Nation) (Ibid)



Page 67

time and yet he was unable to muster them as a class, into his military schemes. The full bloods evidenced great faith in him but had they backed this faith by rallying to his standard of revolt in 1882, instead of a motley array of some three of four hundred followers, he would have had, at his command, an army of sufficient proportions to have accomplished something. It is said that the nucleus of Isparhecher's band consisted of nondescript characters and fugitives from justice, but it must not be inferred that he was unsupported by Indians of the most worthy type. The Indian leaders and their adherents who cast their lot with the old warrior, were well-meaning, faithful but unprogressive members of the tribe. The presence of questionable characters with Isparhecher, must not be permitted to disfigure his cause nor mar the bona fides of his intentions. Many an effort, undertaken with the purest of motives has suffered discredit from unworthy characters who have become vociferous in its support. It was this nondescript element that perpetrated the reign of lawlessness in the spring of 1883.

In the summer of 1883, the United States Government designated a commission to come to the territory and adjust the tribal differences.15 General Clinton B. Fish and Gen-


15Washington D. C., July 16, 1883, Col. Saml. Checotey Princl. Chief, ,C. N., Okmulgee, I. T., Dear Sir:

Your favor of the 11th inst. is received, and replying to same we have to say we have had the interview with Secty. Teller which in our last letter was mentioned as one of the probabilities. We made our representations much as they are in our official letter to the Dept. which you have to both Mess. Price and Teller together who listened to us courteously and asked several questions. They certainly are favorably impressed with the force of our argument, and we believe had we been here a week sooner and before the issuance of the military order we could have, without much trouble, accomplished our purpose in full. The Secty. however, showed a disposition not to interfere too radically with the plans of the War. Dept. and suggested the plan of sending a commission of two or threes men to go down into the Creek nation and make an investigation of the entire matter from beginning to end, who should report the same together with suggestions for a settlement to the Dept. as probably the course that would give more general satisfaction than any other. The Secty's idea was, that the action and assurances of entirely disinterested persons from here to the contending parties in our country would be more satisfactory to all concerned. We simply replied that if the Dept. did not wish to attempt a settlement by the methods proposed by its, we could of course do no more. As to the investigation proposed, we assured him that the Creek nation never yet dreaded or tried to avoid the fullest scrutiny, and so far as the nation was concerned it could commence any day. On this assurance the Secty. instructed the Commission to authorize Genls. Whittlesy and Fisk (Clinton B) to take the work in charge. Genl. Whittlesy will go, but Mr. Price has been telegraphing several days for Fisk and cannot find his whereabouts. We have been waiting here desiring to make some further suggestions in the matter of the instructions these investigators are to receive . . . We have been assured by the Secty. in conversation that our laws will be sustained; that the integrity of Creek landed and other interests should be maintained, and that the army was only for the purpose of preventing hostilities . . . Your obt. sevts. G. W. Grayson, James Larney (Ibid)

Page 68

eral Eliphelet Whittlesy of this commission met the representatives of the two factions at Muskogee, on August 6, 1883. Fifteen delegates from each faction were in attendance and submitted written statements of their respective positions. 16The whole matter was ultimately referred to a sub-committee composed of members of both factions in an effort to compose the situation. The Isparhecher party again invited the attention of the commissioners to the loyalty of their people during the Civil War and insisted that they be compensated by having a part of the tribal domain set aside for their exclusive occupancy. The subcommittee reached an adjustment by the terms of which Isparhecher's demands for a separate tribal government were brushed aside but a general amnesty was declared for all crimes growing out of the late troubles and Isparhecher and his adherents were required to take the oath of allegiance to the regular government of the Creek Nation. This agreement was signed by the representatives of both factions, approved by the commissioners and thus the Green Peach War passed into Creek history. Chief Samuel Checote manifested a most pacific disposition by resigning as Principal Chief and calling an election for September 1883, to select a chief to fill the vacancy, thus created.

The election held throughout the Creek Nation on September 3, 1883, was severely contested. Three tickets were in the field but the race narrowed down to a spirited contest between Joseph M. Perryman of the Muskogee Party and Isparhecher candidate of the Loyal Party. The candidacy of Sam Checote of the Pin Party attracted scant support. Isparhecher submitted his position to the Creek



Page 69

electorate in a well defined platform, in which he and his adherents committed themselves to "the preservation of our nationality; to hold our lands in common, as the treaty of 1866 provides; also protection for life and property, and that impartial justice be meted out to every citizen of our Nation, and that peace and harmony be maintained." The vindication of the political fortunes of Isparhecher in this campaign was remarkable and evidenced the affection in which he was held by the full blood Indians. He had failed in the realization of his ambitions and of the ambitions of his people in the peace terms at the conclusion of his war, but he had suffered no lapse of favor among them. The result of the election was long in doubt and so convinced was the old warrior of his election that he qualified as Principal Chief of the Nation and served for a few days in December 1883.17 A spirit of tolerance is manifest in his letter to Perryman written from Washington in February 1884, in which he counsels the holding of a new election.18 19Secretary of the Interior Henry M. Teller took a hand and,






19Department of the Interior, Washington, February 27, 1884. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Sir:

I am in receipt of yours of the 6th instant in relation to the contested election for the position of Principal Chief of the Muscogee Nation of Indians, and all the papers submitted by the parties in interest, and the reports of Inspector Benedict and Special Agent Townsend relative to the same.

After a careful consideration of the facts and arguments presented by attorneys representing Perryman and Ispaheche, and also of the statements of numbers of citizens of the Nation, including that of Checote, the retiring Chief, I have reached the conclusion that Perryman should be recognized as the Principal Chief of the Muscokee Nation.

I have reached this conclusion for the following reasons:

1. That on the day when the factions or parties agreed to vote for Principal Chief, Perryman received a plurality of the votes cast. In this connection I am convinced that the words "majority" and "plurality" are synonymous ones as understood and used by the Muscogee people. In each case the meaning is something equivalent to "ahead" or to "come out ahead." If the day upon which the election for Principal Chief was held was not the legally established day for that purpose, it was at least accepted as such by nearly the whole voting population of the Nation; and it would be transcending propriety for this Department to interpose objection on the ground that the votes were not polled on the proper day.

2. Perryman was recognized by the Council, and was sworn in by the Chief Justice of the Nation. This Council was composed of adherents of the different parties, and I believe the majority of the members were opposed to Perryman. It is true that Ispaheche was recognized by a subsequent Council—which, under the Muscogee law, had nothing to do with the counting of the votes of that election—and was sworn in. This was without authority, plainly, and can not operate to nullify the expression of the will of the people of the Nation on the first Monday of September, the authoritative recognition of Perryman as Principal Chief, and the due administration of the oath of office to him as such.

There is much in the case that might be discussed, but hardly to advantage, inasmuch as I consider that the two points above referred to are conclusive in the matter.

You are directed to recognize Perryman as Principal Chief of the Muscogee or Creek Nation, and to instruct the U. S. Agent to announce this fact, and in all official acts to give due effect to the views herein express. Very respectfully, H. M. Teller, Secretary. (Ibid)

Page 70

on February 27, 1884 instructed the Indian Agent at Muskogee to recognize Perryman as the Principal Chief. Isparhecher took this turn of affairs against him gracefully and remained in Washington as the representative of the new Perryman administration. As we now depart from the aftermath scenes of the Green Peach War, significant is the fact that on October 31, 1885, J. M. Perryman as Principal Chief of the Nation, approved an20 act of the Creek National Council appropriating the sum of $1227.25 for the benefit of Isparhecher to reimburse him for loss of property and money during the late trouble.

The shattered hopes of the disappointed chief perhaps



Page 71

were molified, in a measure, by his appointment as delegate to Washington, by the Creek Council on January 8, 1884. Isparhecher departed for the National capital very shortly thereafter accompanied by S. B. Callahan who had been designated as his interpreter. The exciting drama through which he had so recently passed in the Territory, imparted an added interest to his presence in Washington at that time. It was upon this occasion that Isparhecher met and wedded Miss Alma Harrover, a young white woman, after a brief, hectic courtship in which Callahan must have played a delicate role. The lady neither could speak nor understand the Creek tongue and Isparhecher equally was delinquent in the use and understanding of the English. Isparhecher had been married twice before. His first spouse was Pollkissut a daughter of Poskofa, whom he married some years before the Civil War, died leaving a son who bore the name of Washington and who died before the allotment days. Subsequently he married Lucy Barnett, by whom he had four children, Sarwarhee, Annie, Gabreil and Kizzie. Sarwarhee and Kizzie survived the old chief, the former dying on July 10, 1910. Lucy died on August 31, 1886 but it seems that she and Isparhecher had become estranged some years prior to her demise and had probably recognized a divorce by voluntary separation according to the Creek Indian customs. At any rate, Isparhecher felt himself, "heart whole and fancy free,' when he arrived in Washington in the early spring of 1884, because he straightway became involved in an affair of the heart with the young white woman who had engaged herself to perform the laundry work for the old warrior and his companion. He was married to Alma Harrover at Washington, on June 4, 1884, the service being performed by the Rev. W. A. Bartlett, a Presbyterian clergyman, through Callahan acting as interpreter. Upon the conclusion of his mission in Washington, Isparhecher brought has bride to his cabin home in the Salt Creek country near Beggs. The new wife rapidly adjusted herself to her new invironments and acquired an understanding of the Creek language which she learned to speak fluently. Sad to relate, the true course of Isparhecher's love took a painful detour. In the summer of 1891 his matrimonial barque headed for the rocky coast. A triangle developed

Page 72

in which one J. M. Heston, a young white man and an employee on the old warrior's farm, became the disturbing factor. About July 1, 1891, Alma, abjured Isparhecher's bed and board and fled with Heston to greener pastures.21 A divorce was obtained by Isparhecher in the court of Judge James M. Shackleford at Muskogee on November 28, 1891. On March 26, 1896 he married Cindoche Sixkiller, a young Indian woman, some 36 years his junior and who survived him, dying on June 14, 1931.

At the general election held in the Nation on September 6, 1887, Isparhecher was again a candidate for Principal Chief and again his political ambitions "missed fire" and Legus C. Perryman was chosen to the position. He was appointed as delegate to Washington, for the tribe on December 2, 1887 and again in October 1888. When Perryman was reelected as Principal Chief on September 1, 1891, Isparhecher was once more a candidate and once more faced defeat. In October 1893 and also in 1895, he was chief justice of the supreme court of the Nation. He seemed to rise triumphantly as he was precipitated from one defeat to another. The old warrior gained in the esteem and affection of the Indians, whose vision of things he perhaps better understood than any other Indian leader of his times.

The Dawes Commission was appointed by President Cleveland on November 1, 1893. This commission was authorized to negotiate for the "extinguishment of the national or tribal title to any lands now held by any and all such tribes, either by cession of the same part thereof to the United States, or by the allotment and division of the same in severalty among the Indians of such nations or tribes." The commission did not meet with a hearty reception upon its arrival in the Indian Territory. On June 26, 1895, an intertribal council met at Eufaula to consider the proposition offered by the commission. The Creek delegates to this meeting included Isparhecher and after a two



Page 73

days session the council went on record in opposition to the proposed agreements and promptly adjourned. The Creeks, like many of the other tribes, were manifestly opposed to any plan involving a change in their system of communistic land tenure.

In the midst of the initial negotiations by the Dawes Commission, the regular quadrennial election approached and, once more the stormy petrel of Creek Nation politics submitted his candidacy. The old warrior was now bent with the weight of sixty-six years of a life which for the most part, had been strenuous. When the canvass of votes was concluded after the election held on September 3, 1895, it was disclosed that like Ben Adem, "his name led all the rest." The elevation of Isparhecher to the position of Principal Chief at this particular time clearly indicated the posture of the Creek Indians toward the allotment of their lands and the extinguishment of their tribal government. The campaign for his election had been pitched upon these issues and quite naturally, Isparhecher construed his election as a mandate from his people, touching these all engrossing questions. He assumed the office with a feeling that nothing within the range of his powers as a chief executive should be omitted to accomplish the defeat of the allotment schemes of the government and which also involved the destruction of the political autonomy of the Creeks. The Nuyaka dreams were approaching a realization, or at least, he thought so. On January 29, 1896 Chief Isparhecher was summoned to Washington for a conference, touching these allotment matters.

In the face of this declaration of sentiment by the Creeks evidenced by the election of Isparhecher, the United States Government moved consistently forward and the Act of June 7, 1897 had the effect of convincing the Creeks that further resistance to the plans of the government was inadvisable. Isparhecher designated a committee consisting of Pleasant Porter, Joseph Mingo, David N. Hodge, George A. Alexander, Rolland Brown, William A. Sapulpa and Concharte Micco to negotiate with the Dawes Commission. This commission concluded an agreement which was embodied as Section 30 of the Curtis Act of June 28, 1898. A

Page 74

complete change of attitude was manifest from the terms of this agreement which provided for its submission to a vote of the Creek people to be held before September 1, 1898 and should be ineffective unless ratified by such vote. Isparhecher was not in sympathy with this agreement and deferred calling the election until after the Council met in October, explaining as reasons for his delay that he desired the Council to prescribe rules and regulations and to afford the people an opportunity for a thorough discussion of the question involved. He caused the agreement to be translated into the Creek Language. Certainly he would have been remiss had he exercised less discretion toward the interests of his people. The matter was one of grave concern to a people many of whom were unused to and ill adapted for the individualistic order of life and affairs of the white race. The election was called for and held on November 1, 1898, just two months late and the returns failed to show a majority of votes to accomplish the ratification of the agreement. Isparhecher is not subject to adverse criticism because he delayed calling this all important election, but he probably missed the opportunity of a lifetime. History would have approved his course had he thrown his influence and the power of his office into the campaign favoring the agreement and its ratification. Although his attitude defeated the agreement, the Dawes Commission, on April 1, 1899 opened its Land Office at Muskogee and began alloting the use and occupancy of the surface of the tribal lands among the individual members of the tribe. The followers of the old chief now began falling away from him and the Muskogee office was crowded with Indians seeking these surface allotments. A great change of feeling became prevalent throughout the Nation and to a casual observer, it would seem patent that steps should be taken at once to conserve the individual rights of the Indian, by the inauguration of a new agreement. Isparhecher now became a pitiable figure as he bravely stood out against the tide which he was unable to stem. He refused further attempts to revive the defeated agreement or to countenance a new one. He now faced the closing year of his ad-

Page 75

ministration and at the tribal election held on September 6, 1899, the aged chief went down in defeat and General Pleasant Porter was chosen Principal Chief of the Nation. The old warrior had fought a good fight, but in the end it seemed that he alone had kept the faith of his people. He drank deep of the cup of ingratitude. The advent of General Porter established the influence of progressivism in the affairs of the Creek people. The original and supplemental Creek Agreements were adopted, the allotment of tribal lands was accomplished and the Creek Nation as a political entity with its years of tragedy, was concluded. The Quixotic Isparhecher who had come riding so morbidly down the Highroad of Romance of Creek history, interrupting the true course of tribal progress, now became "only a lone sentry guarding a vacant and dismantled fortress." The old order of things had passed.

After the retirement of Isparhecher, he was appointed by Chief Porter as a member of the commission which framed the Original Creek Agreement and this act concluded his public service. He adjusted himself to the new order of things by enrolling himself on the approved government rolls of the tribe and making a selection of his distributive share of the tribal lands. Isparhecher spent the few remaining years of his life upon his farm where he suffered a paralytic stroke from which after a two weeks illness he died on December 22, 1902. He rests in a family burying ground on the homestead allotment of his wife, Cindoche, being on the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of Section Thirty-four in Township Fifteen North and Range Eleven East, in Okmulgee County, Oklahoma. A plain marble slab stands to mark the end of the trail. Even in death, repose for his tired body was denied. Some five or six years after the interment of his body, it was surreptitiously exhumed by vandal hands, his corpse and casket robbed and the remains thrown indifferently back into the grave and covered up.

Isparhecher belonged to the Tiger clan and to Cussetah town. His name appears opposite roll number 1226 on the approved rolls of the Creek tribe, census card number 376 evidencing these facts. In personal appearance, the old

Page 76

warrior was tall and well proportioned but in later years became somewhat stooped in carriage. He was a consistent member of the South Methodist Church but belonged to no fraternal organizations. An old violin hung on the walls of his cabin home and Isparhecher entertained himself and his friends with its use. Isparhecher was a fair type of the full blood Creek Indian of his time, morose, morbid, secretive and sullen. His straight ebon locks, which he wore long, hung about his shoulders.

To this old chieftain of the Creeks, much credit is due as he is buffeted from one adventure to another. His career zigzagged from the depths of defeat to the heights of attainment, but the full blood Creek Indians believed in his judgment and rugged honesty through it all. Let us measure Isparhecher by the times in which he lived and the semi-cultured environs in which he moved, giving due account to the entire lack of any scholastic training which naturally circumscribed his judgment.

Return to top


Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site