BY JOHN BARTLETT MESERVE
Grim and heartrending emergencies confronted the Choctaw Indians as they approached the end of their "trail of tears" to the West. Baffling situations lurked in the formative days which lay before them and these situations were to challenge their tireless efforts to accomplish their own destiny as fate had ordained. The difficult processes in the decades following their removal drew them closer together and finally resulted in a unified constitution in 1860. Then came the Civil War with its demoralizing consequences, to be succeeded by problems of reconstruction due to the enforced adoption of their former slaves into tribal membership. The story is long and quite as interesting as though it were fiction. By this time, a new generation had succeeded the Argonauts of the removal days and to the leaders of this generation was committed the task of adapting these people for the final abandonment of their tribal life. The allotment days were in the offing, the extinguishment of tribal government was approaching and a full investiture of American citizenship was at hand. Through these years of discipline, the tortured soul of the Indian became stimulated to mental activity and the bitter struggle developed those extraordinary characteristics so essential to leadership during this period of his transition. An understanding appraisal of the concluding decades of the tribal life of the Choctaw Indians could not be approached without an acquaintance with the McCurtain dynasty of chieftains. Under the capable leadership of chieftains drawn from the McCurtain family, this powerful tribe was influenced in an intelligent manner and its membership led securely through the concluding years of their political life until the complete erasure of their last frontier was witnessed by Green McCurtain, the last elected chieftain of the Choctaw Nation.
The McCurtain family among the Choctaws was, in so far as its white ancestry was concerned, of reputed Scotch-Irish descent. The original McCurtain immigrant to America may have come from Ulster. The family was one of much importance among the Choctaws from the early days of the last century. The names of Daniel and Thomas McCurtain are found in the census of 1831 of Green-
wood LeFlore District in Mississippi and these two early members, each distinguished by the title "captain" were parties signatory to the1 Choctaw Treaty of October 18, 1820 at Doak's Stand near the Natchez Road. Capt. Daniel McCurtain also signed the2 Treaty of January 20, 1825 and also the famous removal3 Treaty of September 27, 1830 at Dancing Rabbit Creek, in Mississippi. His name is affixed as an interpreter to the4 Treaty of January 17, 1837 at Doaksville, in the old Indian Territory.
A family tradition, predicted with much certainty, identifies Daniel and Thomas McCurtain as the eldest of a family of ten brothers, the others being Cornelius, John, Luke, Allen, William, Canada, Samuel and Camper. No records obtain to preserve the names of the parents and ancestry of these brothers and no record of birth or death is available. Canada, Samuel and Camper were enrolled as students at the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky, in 1829, which fact would influence the thought that the parents of these brothers belonged to a more cultural class among the Choctaws. Cornelius had likewise been a student at this academy a few years earlier.
From the grey shadows of tradition among the Choctaws comes the story of an unattached band of Indians known as the Shak-chi-homas, led by Cha-la-homa (Red Fox) as chief, with haunts along the banks of the Mississippi in Western Tennessee. The Shak-chi-homas appear to have entertained but scant regard for the Chickasaws and Choctaws who ranged to the south of this sector, and hunters and trappers of these tribes were cruelly slain. These killings provoked the massacre of the Shak-chi-homa warriors at their town near where now stands the city of Memphis, by the Chickasaws and Choctaws, which massacre is reputed to have taken place shortly before our war of the Revolution. Some 200 women and children were spared and carried away by the Choctaws, but the Shak-chi-homas as a tribe were completely wiped out. An interesting touch of romance enters the picture in the story of Sho-maka, a captive maiden of the Shak-chi-homas, who was carried away
and adopted by the Choctaws. This Indian girl married a white man by the name of Cole who subsequently escaped from an enforced residence among the Indians, and became the mother of Robert Cole who was to become a signer of the celebrated removal treaty and a Choctaw leader of much prominence during that period. Coleman Cole, a son of Robert Cole served as chief of the Choctaws in 1874-78 and was a very picturesque and interesting character. A daughter of Sho-ma-ka married5 Capt. Daniel McCurtain and another daughter married Garrett E. Nelson, a white man, and became the mother of Mahayia. It is of much interest to know that Mahayia, a granddaughter of Sho-ma-ka the Shak-chi-homa captive maid, married Cornelius McCurtain and became the mother of the three celebrated McCurtain chieftains of the Choctaws.6
6Details relating to the McCurtain brothers, the massacre of the Shak-chi-homas, the story of Sho-ma-ka and the identification of Mahayia, wife of Cornelius McCurtain as a granddaughter of Sho-ma-ka, are generously furnished the writer by the Hon. Peter J. Hudson of Tuskahoma who obtained the same from Mrs. Jackson F. McCurtain (Jane Austin), who passed away on October 27, 1925 at the advanced age of 82 years. It is recognized that some of these statements are at variance with the oft quoted story that Mahayia was of French extraction, her maiden name being Belvin instead of Nelson. Mrs. Jane Austin McCurtain was a lady of high intelligence, culture and probity and was in a position to acquire dependable information from her distinguished husband and other members of the McCurtain family. (See "Jane McCurtain" by Dr. Anna Lewis, Chronicles; Vol. XI, p. 1027 et seq.) The writer accords authenticity to the information assembled by Mrs. Jane McCurtain.
In the library of the State Historical Society at Oklahoma City, are two priceless volumes entitled Depositions in Choctaw Nation vs. United States, in the Court of Claims. Attention is invited to Vol. I, p. 175 to the deposition of Robert Cole made on January 30, 1838 in Mississippi and to the deposition of Coleman Cole made on February 17, 1838, in Mississippi, Vol. I at p. 844. This latter deposition was made in support of the claim of Sho-ma-ka, of whom affiant says, "that she is my grandmother, belonged to the Shak-chi-homa tribe, that she was very young at the massacre of her tribe by the Chickasaws and others, that her husband escaped, that she is the mother of Robert Cole, my father and that she is now a very old woman, unable to travel and is said to be 120 years old and I saw her twenty days ago." This deposition gives further details of the massacre of the Shak-chi-homas and these two depositions together with another deposition of Coleman Cole at page 202 of Vol. I, are most strongly supportive of the deductions left us by Mrs. Jane McCurtain.
Chief Green McCurtain, in his lifetime often made the assertion that Coleman Cole was a distant relative of his family.
These depositions also make mention of Garrett E. Nelson, the father of Mahayia and of his relationship to Sho-ma-ka.
Some confusion might arise from the fact that the name Mahayia, in English becomes Mahala.
Cornelius McCurtain was born in Mississippi on March 3, 1803 where he was a member of the Lower Town District in the Choctaw country, presided over by Chief Moshulatubbe. He married Mahayia Nelson and came to the old Indian Territory in 1833 with one of the numerous removal caravans of the Choctaws and settled at or near Ft. Coffee where he engaged in farming and stockraising. From those early years the Choctaw domain in the West was divided into three rather semi-independent districts, each presided over by a duly elected district chief. The first or Moshulatubbe District occupied the northern portion of the Choctaw country. In 1849, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the First District, Cornelius McCurtain was a factor in the establishment of neighborhood schools. This modest gesture was the inception of the public school system of the Choctaws in the West. In the fall of 1849, he was elected chief of the First District, which position he held until the fall of 1854. The National Council of the Choctaw Nation which convened at7 Nanih Waya, the capital, in October 1850, amended the tribal constitution and effected the removal of the capital to Doaksville, in the extreme southern portion of the Nation. This action provoked great opposition throughout the First District and Chief McCurtain and his people declined to recognize all council meetings held at Doaksville by refusing to send representatives. The Indians were influenced by circumstances affecting their own convenience rather than by reason or foresight and the cleavage thus created continued throughout the tenure of Chief McCurtain. Upon the expiration of his term as District Chief, McCurtain was appointed a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Nation to investigate what was termed the orphans' claims. The concluding reference to Cornelius McCurtain is in the act of November 12, 1856 directing payment to him of certain fees for services in this orphans' claims matter. He probably died shortly thereafter and is buried in an unknown and unmarked grave at a place called "The Narrows," some two or three miles northeast of Red Oak in what is now Latimer County, Oklahoma. Mahayia, his wife, known more intimately as Amy, died in 1869 at Ft. Coffee, expressed a desire to be buried by the side of her husband but owing to high water in the streams, the effort was abandoned and she
also rests in an unknown and unmarked grave on the old George Riddle farm between Wilburton and Red Oak, in what is today, Latimer County, Oklahoma.
Cornelius and Mahayia McCurtain were the parents of seven children; Jackson Frazier, who became a chief of the Choctaws; Isabelle, who married George Riddle; Elsie who married George Riddle after the death of Isabelle; David, who was slain by a negro by the name of Charles Brown in April 1874. The negro was killed within a day or so thereafter by Green McCurtain; Edmund, who became tribal chief; Green, who also became a tribal chief and Robert who was slain in August 1874 by Henderson Walker, a son of Ex-Gov. Tandy Walker. This killing occurred at the old Walker home near Skullyville and arose without provocation. Walker fled from the country but upon his return some three years later, the tragedy was avenged by Jack McCurtain and Henderson Walker paid the supreme penalty. David and Robert McCurtain are buried in the old cemetery at or near Skullyville, Oklahoma. It is of interest to note that out of this incident no feud arose between these two outstanding families.
The Choctaw constitution of 1860 wherein features of a tripartite government were carefully preserved, reflected the cumulative experience of the tribal leaders. The executive, whose title was restored from that of governor to that of principal chief, was to be elected for a tenure of two years, being ineligible for more than two successive terms. The national council consisted of two separate branches and the judicial department was composed of a supreme court and inferior district and county courts. Counties were established as political units and the Choctaw government under this constitution was quite analogous to that of the states. The national capital was established at Armstrong Academy, known officially as Chahta Tamaha, in 1863.
Rather coincident with the adoption of the new constitution began the public career of8 Jackson Frazier McCurtain, whose initial appearance came with his service as representative from Sugar Loaf County to the national council in October, 1859. Members of this celebrated family were destined to occupy a most
prominent and engaging part in the political affairs of the Choctaw Nation from that time until the conclusion of its political life. Jackson Frazier McCurtain was born in Mississippi on March 4, 1830 and three years later came with his parents to the old Indian Territory. Educational advantages during those early years among the Choctaws, were crude and as a consequence, young McCurtain was limited to a couple of years at Spencer Academy, when about 14 years of age. This school, established in 1842, was located about nine miles north of Doaksville.
The Choctaws were the first of the Indian tribes in the West to espouse the cause of the Confederacy at the outbreak of the Civil War and unlike some of the other tribes, were undivided in their preliminary declaration. However, in 1864, with apparent foresight of eventualities in the possible downfall of the Confederacy, Peter P. Pitchlynn, an open and avowed Union sympathizer, was chosen chief of the tribe. The influence and shrewd counsel of Chief Pitchlynn accomplished much toward restoring the status of the Choctaws at the conclusion of the war. Jackson F. McCurtain was a member of the national council when, on June 22, 1861, he enlisted from Sugar Loaf County in the First Regiment of Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles and was commissioned captain of company G in this regiment commanded by Col. Douglas H. Cooper, in the Confederate service. In 1862, he became lieutenant-colonel of the First Choctaw Battalion and served with distinction until the close of hostilities. The Choctaw contingent supported the campaign of Gen. Sterling Price in Arkansas and participated in the battle of Poison Springs, in that state on April 18, 1864. They were also engaged at the battle of Honey Springs, in the Territory on July 17, 1863. Under date of July 26, 1864, an inspection report of Lt. Col. Jackson McCurtain, made at Double Springs, C. N., contains this significant conclusion, "Zealous, diligent and attentive to duties. Sober." These remarks by a typical hard boiled army inspector have much significance in the light of his later career.9
Upon the conclusion of the war, McCurtain returned to his home, "The Narrows," some two or three miles northeast of Red Oak and in August 1866, was elected senator from Sugar Loaf
County, in which position he served continuously, by successive reelections, until February 1880. Chief Garvin, who assumed the reins of office in October 1878, died before the expiration of his term and was succeeded by Jackson F. McCurtain on February 20, 1880. McCurtain was at that time president pro tem of the senate, and under a constitutional provision, automatically became tribal chief upon the death of Chief Garvin. In the succeeding August, Chief McCurtain was elected chief by a most substantial vote and was reelected in August 1882 and thus was enabled to serve his people for two consecutive terms as their chief in addition to serving out the vacancy occasioned by the death of Chief Garvin. McCurtain was an aggressive character and accomplished much in establishing a respect for law and its enforcement, among his people, whose respect he enjoyed. It was during his administration that the troublesome controversy over the freedmen was disposed of and these former slaves were adopted into tribal membership. Serious distress oppressed the Choctaws in the winter of 1881, occasioned by a complete failure of crops and in his efforts to relieve the suffering, the chief on his own initiative, expended six thousand dollars of the tribal monies. This action was approved as "timely and patriotic" by the council when it met in the fall and an appropriation was authorized to cover the amount so spent. Perhaps the most outstanding event of his administration was the removal of the national capital from Armstrong Academy to Tuskahoma, in what is today Pushmataha County, Oklahoma. The new and quite ornate capital building was constructed about a mile and a half northeast of the old Choctaw capitol at Nanih Waya from which the seat of government had been removed in 1850, which removal had given so much offense to Chief Cornelius McCurtain. Under the terms of a constitutional amendment promoted by Chief Jackson F. McCurtain and adopted in 1882, the capitol was returned to the earlier scenes of tribal activity and in the fall of 1884, the national council held its first meeting in the new structure and the retiring chief delivered his last message to its members. This historic building, slowly yielding to the elements of time, stands mutely some three miles north of the present town of Tuskahoma, the beautiful prairie valley surrounding it, is today adorned with comfortable farm homes with sentiments of an early heroic past apparently forgot-
ten, but lingering in the background the somber Kiamichis grow lonely and reminiscent as they lift their bared shoulders into the sky.
At the election held in August 1884 and at which Edmund McCurtain was chosen as the successor of Jackson F. McCurtain, the latter was elected senator from Wade County, this being the county wherein the capital was located. Upon the election of Jackson F. McCurtain as chief in 1880, he resided at The Narrows, but in the following year removed to the old Zadoc Harrison place south of Antlers.10 The removal to the extreme south of the Nation was influenced by the many threats made against his life, because of his vigorous policy in removing the white intruders from the Nation in 1881. These were the years when the militant Judge Isaac Parker occupied the Federal bench at Ft. Smith and exercised complete and final jurisdiction over the white intruders and renegades in the old Indian Territory. A vile and vicious condition was provoked throughout the Territory, by the advent of refugees from the states, crime was rampant and human life unsafe. Chief McCurtain with the assistance of Federal troops and the backing of Judge Parker undertook to drive these forces from the Nation and for his efforts was commended by Judge Parker. In 1883, the chief established his home near Tuskahoma, the new capital, where he died on November 14, 1885. He rests in the old cemetery east of the old capitol buildng, where his grave is suitably marked.
Chief McCurtain was married twice, his first wife being Marie Riley, a sister of Judge James Riley and after her death, he married Jane Frances Austin on November 28, 1865, who survived him and died on October 27, 1925 and is buried in the old cemetery at Tuskahoma. She was a lady of splendid attainments and served as a private secretary to the celebrated chief during his encumbency. She was a Penelope of wifely devotion to her distinguished husband in his life time and to his memory after he was gone.
10Attention is called to "Jane McCurtain," by Dr. Anna Lewis in Chronicles, Vol. XI, page 1027 et seq., in which statement is made that Jackson F. McCurtain removed to the south in 1868 or 9 and was a senator from Kiamichi County until he became chief. The writer finds himself unable to agree with that statement.
Chief Jackson Frazier McCurtain was a character of outstanding ability and possessed unusual qualities of leadership. The quarter of a century of his public life among the Choctaws, covers a period of their greatest distresses. It was the rehabilitation years for them following the Civil War. Jack McCurtain closed the reconstruction days in the Choctaw Nation by granting to the freedman the rights of citizenship, and the last hangover controversy from that unfortunate struggle became a closed chapter. His progressive notions are reflected in the charter of the Frisco Railroad through the Nation from Ft. Smith to Paris, Texas, which was accomplished through his efforts. It was during his regime that the menace of the white non-citizenship population began to assume alarming proportions, not so much from numbers as from the contempt and disregard for the tribal authority evidenced by this class. The chief, with the aid of Federal troops met the challenge of this defiant class and forcibly ejected them from the Nation. Chief McCurtain was unafraid in his defense of the rights and immunities of his people. No one ever bought, bulldozed or bluffed Jackson Frazier McCurtain.
The Choctaw electorate at the August election in 1884, selected Edmund McCurtain, a younger brother of the retiring chief, as chief of the Nation for the ensuing term.11 Edmund McCurtain was born at Ft. Coffee, in the old Indian Territory, on June 4, 1842 and attended the neighborhood schools until he was 17 years old. He was but a lad of 19 years when he enlisted for service in the Confederate army, on June 22, 1861 from Sugar Loaf County, in the First Regiment of Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles in company G and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant. His celebrated brother Jackson was the captain of this company. Edmund McCurtain served faithfully and with credit during the period of the war.
Upon the conclusion of his military service, Edmund McCurtain established his home at Sans Bois, in what is now Haskell County, Oklahoma. The chief claims for distinction of Mr. McCurtain lay in his persistent and most effective interest in the matter of education among his people. In 1866, he was County
Judge of Sans Bois County; in 1872, he was Trustee of Schools for the Moshulatubbe District and in 1876 he was a representative to the National Council from Sans Bois County. During the years when his brother was chief of the Nation, Edmund was Superintendent of Education for the tribe and rendered a most effective service in procuring tribal appropriations to enable the education of the young people of the tribe at higher institutions of learning in the states. At that time there were no colleges or universities within the Indian Territory, but it is to the great credit of Edmund McCurtain that many of the Choctaw youth were sent to Eastern and Northern institutions at the expense of the Choctaw government, to complete their education—some were sent to Harvard and Yale. One may not overestimate the enduring service of this Indian leader to his people in the matter of their education.
Edmund McCurtain made a most capable public official, but was over-shadowed by the greater statesmanship of his more celebrated brother. Upon the expiration of his term as chief, he declined to submit his candidacy for reelection but supported the candidacy of Thompson McKinney who was elected. He was elected senator from Sans Bois County in August 1888 and also served as a member of an adjustment committee designated to settle certain fees growing out of the old Net Proceeds matter.
Edmund McCurtain married Susan King in 1862 and after her death, married Harriet Austin in 1876. She was a sister of Jane Austin, the second wife of Chief Jackson F. McCurtain. Upon the death of the second wife, he married Clarissa Le Flore, a daughter of Isaac Le Flore, in 1881. He died at Skullyville, while en route to his home at Sans Bois from attendance at a meeting of the national council, on November 9, 1890 and is buried there where his grave is carefully marked. The splendid traditions of the McCurtain family lost nothing by the public service of Edmund McCurtain, its modest and retiring but inflexibly honest tribal chief.
The uneventful term of Edmund McCurtain as tribal chieftain came to its close in October 1886 but the ensuing decade was to present perplexities in the political and economic life of the Choctaw Indians, which defy disposition in one gesture. The old order of things was beginning to slip and the struggle to hold fast to
"life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as the Indian understood those terms, was rapidly losing ground. There had been, unrecognized by the Indians, sure and certain evolutionary processes at work among them for years which were to conclude the final absorption of these people into American life. The rank and file and many of their leaders were unable or unwilling to appreciate how utterly untenable these quasi-independent political units were in the midst of American life. The absurdity of the situation did not appear to the Indian. Among the Choctaws, the unchecked influx of white settlers had assumed abnormal proportions and evidences of their influence were becoming apparent. The full blood Indians were in a minority in numbers. The specter of the allotment of their tribal domain and the abolishment of their tribal government again haunted the Indians when Congress created the famous Dawes Commission by the Act of March 3, 1893. The newly created commission contacted Chief Gardner and the Choctaw council in 1894 and in 1895 but were met by a most vigorous opposition to all suggestions of allotment. Sentiment throughout the Nation was openly antagonistic and no effort was spared to defeat the initial endeavors of the Dawes Commission to effectuate the closing out of the affairs of the Five Tribes. The crisis created by this posture of affairs challenged the more conservative leadership of the tribe and it is at this extremity that, Green McCurtain enters the picture, and rendered a constructive service of inestimable value.
Green, or possibly Greenwood, McCurtain, a younger brother of Chiefs Jackson Frazier and Edmund McCurtain, was born at or near the town of Skullyville in the old Indian Territory on November 28, 1848. His educational advantages were limited to the neighborhood common schools. He served as sheriff of Skullyville County for one term beginning in 1872 and for three terms as representative to the National Council, being for the years 1874 to 1880 inclusive. From 1880 to 1884, he was trustee of schools for the First or Moshulatubbe District, thereafter becoming district attorney for that district. In August 1888, he was elected national treasurer, to which position he was reelected in 1890. At the expiration of his terms as treasurer, he was chosen to the senate in 1893 for a two year term. During his tenure as national treasurer, it fell to his lot as such official to receive and
disburse among the tribal members, a vast sum of money, far in excess of the statutory bond of $20,000 which he had given as national treasurer. His service as such officer was of the highest character and these monies, being the so-called Leased Land Payment, were disbursed in a per capita payment of $103 to the tribal membership by its efficient treasurer. This incident served to impress his people with the staunch character and high integrity of Green McCurtain and enabled him to regiment them to a sane course in the allotment days which were just ahead.
The foregoing service predicated the more important efforts which were to be forthcoming and afforded much necessary experience in political affairs. Political parties among the Choctaws were unknown until about 1890. Green McCurtain became a politician and marshaled his experience, acquaintance, power of office, splendid personal ability and the great prestige of the McCurtain family to which he had fallen heir, behind the Progressive Party and Wilson N. Jones, its candidate for chief in 1890. The opposing party was known as the National Party. Through some irregularity, Jefferson Gardner was the candidate of the Progressive Party for chief in 1894, had the McCurtain support and was elected. During Gardner's regime, Green McCurtain was an influential member of the senate and by reason of party affiliations, should have stood in a strong relation to the chief, but such does not appear to have been the situation. Green McCurtain had been in Washington as one of the Choctaw delegates, in February 1893, when the contemplated Dawes Commission legislation was before Congress. He had obtained at first hand, accurate and intelligent information as to the purposes in contemplation by the administration in relation to winding up tribal affairs in the Indian Territory. Having this more detailed information, McCurtain joined issue with Chief Gardner who was extremely antagonistic to the allotment policy of the government, and counselled efforts to reach an adjustment of differences with the Dawes Commission. The council, to which he addressed himself declined to approve his suggestions, but his effort had provoked much discussion throughout the tribe. Meetings were held, at various localities and were addressed by McCurtain, in an effort to bring his people to a sense of their danger unless the policy of the government was recognized and some gesture toward a com-
promise was made. A delegate convention was held at Tuskahoma on January 23, 1896, addressed by Green McCurtain but which accomplished nothing, due largely to what had now become the passive opposition of Chief Gardner who declined to make any overtures. He refused to summon a special session of the council to consider the matter.
In the midst of this chaos, approached the national election of 1896 with its preliminary campaign features. The leaders who favored a recognition of the Dawes Commission and the making of some sort of an agreement with them, formed a new party called the Tuskahoma Party and named Green McCurtain as its candidate for chief. Fortunately, the opposition was split up into three factions, the Independent-Nationals, with Chief Gardner, Full blood Nationals with Jacob B. Jackson and the old Progressive Party with Gilbert W. Dukes. McCurtain was elected but the combined opposition cast a majority of the votes.
In October 1896, Green McCurtain became chief of the Choctaws and the tribal government was committed to the allotment in severalty of the tribal domain and a policy which was ultimately to lead to the extinguishment of the political status of the tribe. A majority of the council were of the Tuskahoma Party, and with this backing the new chief took vigorous steps to accomplish an adjustment of the allotment matter with the commission. With marked rapidity, he moved from one conference to another and placed the Choctaws in the position of advantage of being the first of the five tribes to reach an agreement with the commission. This was the so-called Atoka Agreement of April 23, 1897, embodied as Section 29 of the Curtis Act of June 28, 1898 and approved by a vote of the members of the tribe. This fact evidences two actualities, first, that through his matchless courage and marked ability, Chief McCurtain had broken down the most persistent opposition and converted his people to the wisdom of his policy, and second, that the Choctaw people had great confidence in his judgment and integrity.
The Atoka Agreement remained an issue in the campaign of 1898, but Chief McCurtain was easily reelected with a safe majority in the national council to support him. The second term was rather uneventful and at the election held in August 1900,
Chief McCurtain being ineligible for another reelection, sponsored the candidacy of Gilbert W. Dukes, the candidate of the Tuskahoma Party who was elected. The main event of the term of Chief Dukes, was the negotiation and subsequent campaign for the ratification of the so-called Supplemental Agreement. This agreement was actively supported by McCurtain and was ratified by an overwhelming vote on September 25, 1902. This agreement lingered as an issue in the campaign in the fall of 1902 wherein McCurtain again secured the nomination of the Tuskahoma Party and was again chosen chief of the tribe. The campaign was quite bitter and Chief Dukes bolted his party and supported Thomas W. Hunter who opposed the Supplemental Agreement. The decision was close and Chief Dukes attempted, by force, to foreclose the efforts of McCurtain to take over the reins of government. The United States Indian Agent and Federal troops from Ft. Reno were called upon to protect the judges who canvassed the final returns which gave the decision in favor of McCurtain by a large majority. After considerable maneuvering, the opposition melted away and the orderly processes were respected. The election of August 1902 was the last general election held in the Choctaw Nation and Chief Green McCurtain was its last elected chieftain. The district and county governments were liquidated and wholly ceased to function after 1906. The other departments of the tribal government gradually ceased, but the power of the chief seemed to grow in importance as details affecting citizenship rolls, allotment deeds and individual disbursements were presented. Many complicated interests demanded his executive direction and rendered his continued service of inestimable value to the officers of the government. He was called to Washington upon repeated occasions by the authorities of the Interior Department. Green McCurtain was a great executive, a wonderful administrator and the outstanding leader among his people. He remained the chieftain of the Choctaws until his death.
In his very early life, Green McCurtain had engaged in the mercantile business. He later became interested in the cattle business, but his profession was the law. He was a most eloquent and fluent speaker, but always used the Choctaw language in his addresses. He spoke the English in conversation. He was a man of fine physical proportions, standing six feet and two inches and
with a normal weight of two hundred and twenty pounds. Chief McCurtain was married twice, his first wife being Martha A. Ainsworth, from whom he became separated later, and second, Kate Spring, a daughter of John and Sallie (Anderson) Spring. She died May 15, 1934 at the advanced age of 79 years. He is enrolled opposite roll number 8535 on the Choctaw rolls as shown by census card number 2901.
Green McCurtain, the last of the McCurtain dynasty among the Choctaws, the last of the Shak-chi-homa chiefs of that tribe and the last elected chieftain of this historic tribe of Indians, passed away at his home at Kinta, in Haskell County, Oklahoma, on December 27, 1910 and is buried at his old home at Sans Bois, some five miles east of Kinta, where his last resting place is marked by an enduring monument provided by the Choctaws.
In his comfortable law office at Poteau, Oklahoma, sits David Cornelius McCurtain, eldest son and child of Green McCurtain and Martha A., his wife. This son of the illustrious chieftain was born at Skullyville, Oklahoma, on January 29, 1873. He was educated in the common schools in the old Indian Territory and later in September 1890 enrolled at Roanoke College, at Salem, Virginia, and at Kemper Military School, at Booneville, Missouri in September 1892. He entered in his law course at Missouri State University in September 1895 and at the Columbian, now George Washington University at Washington, D. C. in the fall of 1901. He was admitted to the Choctaw bar in 1898 and before Judge W. H. H. Clayton in 1903. In 1896, he was appointed clerk of the district court of Moshulatubbe District by Judge N. J. Holson which position he held until elected district attorney of that district in 1898, being reelected in 1900. He was appointed a delegate from the Choctaw Nation to Washington, in 1901, in which capacity he served until he resigned to accept the appointment of Choctaw Attorney in 1907. This position, he held until 1912. During these years, he had established his residence at McAlester, Oklahoma, and was named mayor of that city in 1913. He later removed to Poteau, to the historic scenes of his brave Choctaw ancestry and resumed the general practice of his profession. The good people of Le Flore County, have honored him upon repeated occasions. He was elected County Attorney of that county in 1918 and reelected in 1920. Upon the
expiration of his second term, he was elected county judge and reelected. In January 1925, he was named by Governor Trapp, as district judge of the 5th judicial district and was twice thereafter to be reelected, occupying the position for ten years.
D. C. McCurtain has been one of the outstanding attorneys of Eastern Oklahoma, both before and since statehood. During his tenure as tribal attorney, he was privileged to aid by his effort in the settlement of many of the much controverted questions of law in the new Indian country. These questions are now quite academic, but made so through the tireless efforts of attorneys of the character and ability of Judge McCurtain.
He was married to Kate N. Mitchell on June 5, 1895, his second marriage being to Kate H. Partridge, a widowed daughter of the late Capt. C. C. Mathies, on November 12, 1921. He has a family of four living children, two of whom are sons, so the McCurtain dynasty will probably continue.
Judge McCurtain is a member of the Methodist Church and a 32 degree mason. He is a gentleman of integrity, a good lawyer, a fine citizen and highly respected and loved by those who know him.
The thoughtful student of Choctaw Indian history, will readily appreciate how incomplete will be his research of the annals of that powerful tribe without paying a respectful homage to the celebrated McCurtain chieftains.