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 18, No. 3
September, 1940


Page 243

Governor Wolf

Not infrequently the political counsels of the conservative full blood Indians were committed to ambitious leaders of the mixed blood and, at times, it would seem that the higher evolutionary impulses of these people were postponed in their effect by these aspiring leaders. Considerations other than for the immediate welfare of the native Indian may have provoked many illogical things which were done. The leadership of the full blood party among the Chickasaws was committed largely to the impatient Overton1 and later to the suave Byrd2 each of whom possessed only a minor strain of Indian blood. Each of these outstanding governors was unfeigned in his opposition to the allotment policy of the Government and each inspired the full bloods in their responsive opposition. Overton dominated the political affairs of the Chickasaws from 1874 until his death in 1884 being succeeded by Jonas Wolf, the picturesque full blood who became governor in the spring of 1884.

Jonas Wolf, a son of Capt. James Wolf3 and his full blood Chickasaw Indian wife, was born near Horn Lake in what is today De Soto County, Mississippi, on June 30, 1828. Captain Wolf was a character of some prominence among the Chickasaws, having been a signer of the Treaty of October 22, 1832.4 He removed with his family in the Chickasaw removal party which departed from Memphis on November 1, 1838, arriving at Doaksville on December 22nd. Shortly thereafter the Captain removed to lands south of Boggy Depot but later effected his permanent settlement on the Blue in the vicinity of the present town of Milburn, Johnston County, Oklahoma, where he and his wife passed away some years later.

Meager educational advantages were afforded young Jonas Wolf during his adolescent years. He briefly attended school at Boggy Depot but the school of experience reenforced by self-

3Grant Foreman, ed., A Traveler an Indiana Territory: the Journal of Ethan Allen Hitchcock (Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1930) at page 162 states: 'McClure says * * * the Chickasaws continue their old customs more generally3a and many of them have several wives. Captain Wolf (February 17, 1842, date of Ethan Allen Hitchcock's visit to the Chickasaw Nation), one of the principal men, has three wives, one of them being a Delaware woman. McClure has seen them all sitting together like so many sisters.' One of these wives was the mother of Governor Wolf of the Chickasaws.

Page 244

education were the factors which prepared him for the efforts which he later undertook. Farming and stock-raising became his gainful pursuits. Early in life Jonas Wolf established himself upon a farm along the north bank of the Washita some five miles west of Tishomingo and south of Ravia which remained his home until his death and where he lies buried. He saw no service in either the Union or Confederate armies during the Civil War. Jonas Wolf became a member of the Presbyterian Church, South and later was ordained to the ministry of that denomination. Active participation in tribal politics did not seem to enlist his interest until later in life. He served consistently as a member of the Chickasaw legislature but had reached the age of 56 years when he first became governor.

Death halted the strenuous career of Gov. Benjamin F. Overton on February 8, 1884, in the concluding year of his fourth term as Governor of the Chickasaws. He was succeeded by Ah-chuckah-nubbe, the president of the tribal senate who survived but a few weeks, and in April the legislature convened and chose Jonas Wolf as governor to conclude the vacancy occasioned by the deaths of Overton and Ah-chuck-ah-nubbe. In the succeeding general election held in August, 1884, Gov. Wolf was elected for the regular term of two years as the candidate of the Pullback Party. He had supported the policies of Gov. Overton although his posture was much milder. He was adverse to the allotment of the tribal domain. Immediately upon his induction into office he summoned the legislature in a special session and on May 8, 1884, delivered his initial message to that body. Touching the freedman situation he advised the legislature,

I would further suggest that in view of the bill now pending the Congress of the United States, providing for the adoption of the freedmen, residing in the Chickasaw Nation, as citizens of said Nation which if passed by Congress would result in great injury to the Chickasaws as a people, that you take such action in the premises as your wisdom seems best for the interests of the people.5

The Chickasaws so far had parried successfully the efforts of the Government to enforce the adoption of the freedmen into the tribe although the other tribes had yielded. The influx of white intruders was beginning to imperil the political autonomy of the Chickasaws. In his message to the legislature on September 3, 1884, Gov. Wolf admonishes,

The Chickasaws are few in number but are still ample and sufficient to maintain ourselves as a government and I would advise that you have an eye solely to that one important object. Lay all your prejudice and selfish motives aside and labor for the general good and interest of your country and people.6

Page 245

The first term of Gov. Wolf was rather uneventful save as he exerted every effort to prevent further intrusions of the whites. He issued proclamations forbidding the issuance of more permits to traders and physicians. In the fall of 1886, Gov. Wolf was denied a second consecutive term and William L. Byrd became the candidate of the Pullback Party but suffered defeat, and William M. Guy was chosen. The two terms of Gov. William L. Byrd succeeded the one term of Gov. Guy and in August, 1892 Gov. Jonas Wolf was chosen Governor of the Chickasaws for a second term, succeeding Gov. Byrd. He was pitted against Colbert A. Burris of the Progressive Party, whom he defeated by a narrow margin.

Grave conditions provoked by the predominance of white intruders confronted Gov. Wolf when he entered upon his second term as governor in the fall of 1892. The government over which he presided was a minority government as the whites were then in the majority. The United States Government through its Indian officials became outspoken in its criticism of conditions among the Indians in the old Territory. The U. S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1886 advised that Indian treaties should be disregarded if necessary to bring about a change—"the treaties never contemplated the un-American and absurd idea of a separate nationality in our midst. * * * These Indians have no right to obstruct civilization and commerce and set up an exclusive claim to self-government, establishing a government within a government and then expect and claim that the United States shall protect them from all harm, while insisting that it shall not be the ultimate judge as to what is best to be done for them in a Political point of view."7 He advised the forcible allotment of the land in quarter section tracts and the purchase of the remainder for homestead entry. These observations by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs recall to mind the denunciations made by the governors of the southeastern states against these Indians in the early twenties of the last century.8

A concrete notion of the situation which confronted Gov. Wolf and his successors after 1893 is reflected as a more intimate contact is made. Said the Purcell Register in its issue of January 19, 1893, in speaking of the Chickasaw country, "This fair land is held by a nation of about 6,800 citizens. These dwell amidst a population of over 40,000 non-citizens * * *"9 Obviously the

Page 246

opening of Oklahoma in 1889 and the Cherokee Outlet in 1893 materially augmented the inflow of white intruders among the Chickasaws.

Vigorous efforts were maintained by Gov. Wolf to enforce the collection of all permit fees. Frugal were his efforts in the matter of governmental expenditures. The annual report of the national treasurer in September, 1893, disclosed that a national debt amounting to $96,000, which confronted the governor when he entered office, had been entirely paid and a balance of $750.00 remained in the treasury.

Gov. Jonas Wolf became somewhat mellowed in his opposition to allotment and may have assumed this posture as he surveyed the hopelessness of the situation. However, the language of his message to the legislature on January 25, 1894, would indicate a firm policy of opposition as he states,

There is a great question being agitated throughout the United States upon which depends the very existence of the Five Civilized Tribes. The policy advocated almost universally by the press in the Territory as well as abroad, is detrimental to our existence and calculated to do our Nation grevious wrong. The question is allotment and Statehood and it should be strenuously opposed by each of the Five Tribes to the end that we may retain our tribal forms of government and the holding of our lands in common as it is today. I now recommend to your honorable body that you pass a law providing for the election of two delegates to attend to all the business pertaining to the welfare of the Chickasaw people at Washington.10

On June 24, 1893, the Governor summoned the legislature in special session to arrange details for the disbursement of monies received from a sale of the interest of the Chickasaws in the leased land district to the west. This payment was duly made later in the summer upon a per capita basis of $85.00.

Judge Joseph Kemp of the Tishomingo court was removed from office by the governor and charges lodged against him before the legislature in September, 1893. These charges later were withdrawn. Early in May, 1894, and when the campaign of Governor Wolf for reelection was getting under way, the governor

Page 247

grave marker

was indicted by a Chickasaw grand jury in the Court of Judge Kemp and charged with having embezzled monies from the leased land per capita fund. He was arrested but released under bond. The earlier Kemp incident was seized upon by political opponents to provoke this affair and the governor immediately again removed Judge Kemp from the bench and appointed Isaac Burris to succeed him. Kemp declined to acknowledge the authority of the governor to remove him and continued to preside.11 Affairs among the Chickasaws assumed a critical phase and as a gesture to alleviate the grim situation Governor Wolf withdrew from his race for reelection and sponsored the election of Palmer S. Mosely, his secretary and who was also superintendent of the tribal schools, who was elected. Nothing further was heard of the embezzlement indictment against Governor Wolf nor of the removal charges against Judge Kemp. They had served the purpose of disaffected political leaders who were opposing the governor's reelection. A few weeks later, the disheartened governor resigned from office, his term being concluded by Tecumseh A. McClure,12 the president of the Senate. He sought a return to Chickasaw public life in the fall of 1896 when he made the race against Robert M. Harris for the governorship but suffered defeat.

The governor was married twice, his first wife being Ludie Carney, a widow. After her death he married Lizzie Maytubbe, who passed away on February 12, 1894. No children were born of these marriages. Governor Wolf died on January 14, 1900, and is buried in a family burying ground on his old home place five miles west of Tishomingo and one and one-half miles south of Ravia where his last resting place is suitably marked.13

Jonas Wolf was of medium stature and weighed around three hundred pounds. He was a typical full blood, neither spoke nor understood the English language and was usually accompanied by an interpreter. His posture was pleasing and agreeable. The faithful full blood Chickasaws believed in his rugged integrity as well they might. He was faithful and true to the highest impulses of his people as he understood them and will ever linger among memories of an age when the Chickasaws stood definitely at the parting of the ways and the demand was being made of them to scuttle the old regime. We now pass on to note Palmer S. Mosely who succeeded Governor Wolf as governor of the Chickasaws.

Page 248

The rather muddled executive affairs of the Chickasaw Nation were intrusted to the interesting Palmer Simeon Mosely,14 in the fall of 1894. In his first term he succeeded the regime of Gov. Jonas Wolf. The new governor was a son of Rev. Lafayette Mosely, a Presbyterian minister and his full blood Chickasaw Indian wife and was born at Tam-a-ho-shay, Choctaw Nation, on September 16, 1851. Lafayette Mosely, familiarly known as "Luffay" Mosely was a full blood Choctaw Indian, was born in Mississippi and removed with his parents to the Choctaw country in the old Indian Territory. He married a full blood Chickasaw Indian woman and later established his home near what is today the settlement of Olney, Coal County, Oklahoma. Upon the death of his first wife, who was the mother of Palmer S. Mosely, he married Salina Maytubby Donovan, a widow. Lafayette Mosely engaged in farming and in his spiritual endeavors served as pastor of the old Greenwood Springs Presbyterian Church about a mile northeast of Bromide. He was a member of the Chickasaw senate in 1870 and passed away at his home near Bromide about 1900.15

Palmer Simeon Mosely was a full blood Indian although he is borne upon the approved rolls of the Chickasaw Indians opposite roll number 2020 as of the one-half blood. This enrollment is correct in so far as it reflects his quantity of Chickasaw Indian blood. He was a character of much resource and ability; his native elements being reenforced by his scholastic training of four year at Crocker School in Nashville, Tennessee. Upon his return from school he engaged in farming and in 1875 entered the domain of Chickasaw politics when he was chosen as interpreter for the legislature. He was elected a member of that body in 1877 and in 1882 became a county judge. He began his engaging service as National Interpreter in the fall of 1884 with the advent of Gov. Jonas Wolf and occupied this position at various times. He was perhaps the most efficient and capable interpreter among the Chickasaws. The scholastic attainments of Palmer S. Mosely were further recognized by his election as Superintendent of Schools in the fall of 1885, in which capacity he served for many years. He became a trustee of the old Wapanucka Academy which was then known as Rock Academy situated some five miles northwest of Wapanucka, in September, 1892 and served as National Secretary of the Chickasaw Nation during the incumbency of Gov. Jonas Wolf from 1892 to 1894.

The law which created the celebrated Dawes Commission was passed by Congress on March 3, 1893. This commission visited

Governor Mosely

Page 249

the tribes in the old Indian Territory early in the succeeding year and although its members were received with respect, they experienced difficulty in awakening much interest among the Indians. The commission first contacted a delegation of twenty full blood Chickasaws appointed by Governor Wolf, at Tishomingo in February, 1894. The forenoon session was occupied by members of the commission in explaining their mission and in urging an acceptance of the allotment policy. After a brief adjournment at noon the meeting was to be resumed at which time the Indian delegation was to give its answer. The afternoon session was not held as the Chickasaw delegates, being uninfluenced by the talks made by the commission, packed up and went home and made no response.16 This is but a grim example of what the Commission was up against during its earliest efforts.

The Dawes Commission contacted the Chickasaw leaders in 1895 and '96 but met with small response. Governor Mosely expressed his views concerning the Commission in his message to the legislature on January 28, 1896.

In view of the fact that the Dawes Commission has made a strong report in favor of destroying our tribal autonomy and a delegation of non-citizens having been sent to Washington to urge upon Congress the passage of townsite laws and other legislation detrimental to the welfare of our people and the other nations having their representations in the field of action guarding their interests, I deem it my duty to especially urge upon you the necessity of a representation or representatives being sent by our nation and trust your honorable body will concur with my views and pass some act authorizing a delegation to Congress.17

At the tribal election held in the fall of 1896 Governor Mosely did not seek a second consecutive term but supported the efforts of Ex-Governor Wolf to return to the governorship. Robert M. Harris was chosen to succeed Governor Mosely, who was elected to the tribal senate. The famous Atoka Agreement was entered into by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations on April 23, 1897, and the Chickasaw Nation as a political entity was on its way out. Palmer S. Mosely was a member of the delegation which conferred with the Commission and with keen foresight, became one of the signers of this agreement. The single term of Governor Harris was succeeded by the two consecutive terms of Douglas H. Johnston which terminated in the fall of 1902.

18In the fall of 1902 Ex-Governor Palmer S. Mosely reentered the arena of Chickasaw politics in one of the most hectic campaigns in the history of those Indians. His vision of conditions seems to have undergone a decided change. He was living in

Page 250

comfortable environs and at that time was a vice-president of the Bank of Tishomingo. As the candidate of the Progressive Party, he was matched against Ex-Governor William L. Byrd of the Full Blood or Pullback Party. The defined issue of this campaign was the so-called Supplemental Agreement which was approved by Congress on July 1, 1902. This Agreement detailed the provisions for the complete allotment of the tribal domain and the ultimate dissolution of the tribal government. Mosely favored the Agreement while Byrd was in bitter opposition and sought to enlist the full bloods to his support. The election of Governor Mosely on August 13, 1902, although rather feebly expressed by a bare majority of six votes, committed the Chickasaws to the allotment policy of the Government. The new governor was inducted into office on September 1st and immediately called a special election for September 25th at which the Agreement was submitted to the electorate.

In his first message to an adjourned session of the legislature later in September, 1902, the Governor adroitly expressed himself upon the ratification issue to come before the Chickasaws for determination on the 25th,

During the campaign just closed I felt it unwise to make the Supplementary Agreement an issue and thus obscure the issue raised by it with those of local politics, but by reason of the violent opposition of our opponents this was impossible. It is now apparent to all that my election and the defeat of those opposed to the agreement is a rebuke to them and a definite reflection of a sentiment favoring its ratification. Since the ratification of the Supplementary Agreement by Congress I have considered it fully and am now firmly of the opinion that it should be ratified. Inasmuch as my predecessor, Hon. Douglas H. Johnston in his retiring annual message just communicated to you has discussed it in detail, I deem it sufficient to refer to the same by approval and commend it to the careful consideration of our people.19

The Chickasaws ratified the Supplemental Agreement at the election held on September 25, 1902, and the long fight against the pressure of the white intruders, which had persistently encouraged the policy of the Government, was now in its final stages. Instead of the white man adapting himself to the environments of what hitherto had been strictly an Indian country, the Indian now faced the alternative of adjusting himself to the different pattern of life of the white man.

The regime of Governor Mosely witnessed the preliminary steps by the Government in the preparation of the tribal rolls and the initial allotment of the tribal domain. His tenure drew to a close and at the last tribal election held among the Chickasaws in the fall of 1904 Douglas H. Johnston was chosen as his successor and functioned as governor until his death on June 28, 1939.

Page 251

grave marker

20Governor Mosely was a man of medium build and of a pleasant, agreeable and tolerant poise. He was rather debonair and handsome in appearance. During his last term he resided at Wapanucka and after his retirement lived at the old farm place near Bromide. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church. The governor married Lizzie Holloway and after her death married Amanda Greenwood, who survived him and on August 10, 1910 married E. J. Ball and lived at Bromide where she died on December 12, 1933. She was a daughter of Harris Greenwood. Palmer S. Mosely passed away on October 3, 1908 and rests in the old family burying ground on the farm one and one-half miles east and one quarter of a mile north of Bromide where his grave is suitably marked.

Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site