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Creek Freedmen Testimonies and Stories

In the words of our ancestors...

Please send us your stories, family history and photos, we will post them on the web site.

On-onvkv (read our stories)

LucindaDavis.jpg
Lucinda Davis
Creek Freedmen and former slave of Tuskaya-hiniha (Gouge).
Photo provided by the Library of Congress

Mary Grayson, OWP slave narrative, click here

Phoebe Banks, OWP slave narrative, click here

Nellie Johnson, OWP slave narrative, click here

Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938, Oklahoma Narratives, Vol XIII, click here

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Paro Bruner, the first Creek Freedmen to enroll with the Dawes Commission.
Mr. Bruner was given the number 1 for his Dawes roll number. He was a former slave of a Creek Indian named Wash Barnett. After the Creek Nation was forced to emancipate their African slaves in 1866, Paro Bruner became a prominent Creek leader by serving as a elected Creek Council member in the House of Warriors for many years. He represented the Canadian Colored Tribal Town. He was the son of William and Affie Bruner, both slaves of Tom Bruner. Paro Bruner was married to Aggie Laudrum, who was listed as number 2 on the Dawes Roll. (This picture provided by the Oklahoma Historical Society Research Library and was taken around 1900.) He was at-least 75 years old at the time of this photo. There are many descendants of Paro Bruner today. The Creek Freedmen hope to hear their family stories as this site reaches out to them through the Internet world.

 Grant Perrymen's personal story;

Hensci estonko omvlkeyat?  Grant Perryman cvhocefkvtos.  I was born in California in 1959 and currently live in the Bay Area.  Growing up in the 60's in a predominantly African American neighborhood, I was teased by my friends for not looking "Black" enough.  I attended predominantly European American schools and was shunned for being different.  I can recount numerous occasions when strangers would come up to me and say, "What are you?"  This angered me inside and I would tell them to guess.  The answers were unbelievable.  I was Arab, Jewish, Eastern Indian, Caribbean, Filipino, Puerto Rican, and Polynesian.   My parents did their best in teaching me to hold my head high but it didn't answer my primary question of who am I.

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When my paternal grandmother came to visit she would spend the entire day in the kitchen

cooking and baking from scratch.  I would volunteer to be her assistant and probably got in her way more than help but she would never say so.  During these culinary moments, I would repeatedly ask her to tell me the stories about our family.  I never grew tired of them even when I could repeat every word myself.  My grandmother's words gave me power.  Grandmother's stories gave me strength.  Grandmother's wisdom gave me character.  Grandmother answered my question of who I am.

 

I am a citizen of Heaven through my faith in Jesus Christ, a citizen of the United States of America through my birth and one day by faith will be a citizen of the Mvskoke Creek Nation.  I am a descendant of many Mvskoke Creek citizens.  Some with Native blood, some with African blood and some with European blood.  I was formed and fashioned by Ohfvnkv (the One Above) and I am very proud of ALL the blood that runs through my veins.  The E-sau-ge-tuh E-mis-see (Master of Breath) makes no mistakes.

 

Cow Tom is my great x 4 grandfather.  He was an African slave to Checartha Yargee, son of Tvsttenuggee Thlocco or Big Warrior of Tvckvbvtchee Tvlwv.  Cat Yargee was a full blood Mvskoke who refused to assimilate into American culture and spoke no English.  However, he was an astute businessman and took on the alien Mvskoke way of cattle herding.  He depended on his African slaves who were more familiar with the confusing ways of the Wachenas.  Cow Tom earned his nickname for his prowess in increasing his master's herd and for conducting Yargee's business deals with Americans.  Upper Creeks believed in paying their slaves for their labor and Cow Tom eventually purchased his freedom, his wife, Amy Cow Tom and their children, Harry, Maggie and Melinda Cow Tom's freedom. 

 

Cow Tom and 500 Loyal to American Mvskoke Creek warriors were sent to serve with the American General Thomas Jessup during the Second Seminole War.  Cow Tom was the general's personal interpreter.

 

Cow Tom and his family accompanied Checartha Yargee and family by land on the forced removal from Alabama to Indian Territory.  One of Yargee's sons died from the brutal cold winter nights.  Some of Amy Cow Tom's relatives were herded like cattle on board the steamship Mammouth.  It was over crowded with Mvskoke citizens. It sailed at night and was hit by another boat.  It sank killing many including some of my relatives.

 

In Indian Territory, Cow Tom amassed a sizeable fortune as a cattle rancher and farmer.  During the outbreak of the Civil War he stood and fought to protect his cvkv.  However, the Confederate forces of Native Americans came too close and he finally had to abandon his ranch and fled to the safety of Fort Gibson.  There he saw a terrible sight.  Mvskoke vculvke and hopuetake huddled together in the cold; starving.  They had no way of communicating their needs to the military commanders and the Americans couldn't speak the Mvskoke Opvnakvn.  Cow Tom went into action organizing and directing the military commanders to bring relief aide to his people.  For this, Oktars-sars-har-jo (Sands) Principal Chief of the Upper Creeks during the Civil War, honored my grandfather by making him a chief. After the Civil War Cow Tom is listed in the Mvskoke Creek Census of 1860 on page 6 #75 and the 1870 Loyal Creek Abstract page 2 #160. Note he is listed as Chief.

 

After the Civil War African slaves in the United States were made citizens of America by virtue of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments.  Slaves in the Five Tribes were made citizens of their perspective Nations as well as their descendants by virtue of the 1866 Treaty.  Citizenship is not about race or blood.  It is a legal binding contract.  It’s that simple.

 

My gr x 3 grandmother, Melinda Cow Tom married John Jefferson who served time in the Mvskoke Creek Government in the House of Warriors.  John Jefferson was placed on the Dawes "Freedmen" Roll.  His parents were listed as Jeff Randle and Betsey Randall.  His full brother, Manuel Jefferson, was placed on the Dawes "Blood" Roll as 1/4 Mvskoke and his parents were listed as Jeff George and Betsey George.  Their full brother, Silas Jefferson, was placed on the Dawes "Blood" Roll and was listed as 1/2 Mvskoke and his parents were Jeff McNac and Betsey McNac.  Silas Jefferson was also known as Hotulko Mikko, roll #3694, cc#1141, and was a member of the House of Kings & 2nd Chief.   John Jefferson and his wife Melinda are also listed on the 1860 Census on page 7 #78 and John is listed on the 1870 Loyal Creek Abstract on page 2 #130.  Note that although he is not listed as Creek, he is listed as a free "colored"

 

I have a copy of Silas Jefferson's Death and Heirship papers which lists John Jefferson as his full brother and even includes his "Freedmen" Roll number which eliminates any doubt.  Their mother Betsey was of Tvskigi Tvwlv and of the Wind clan.  She was the daughter of Samuel McNac   (Totkes Hajou)   a relative of the famous Alexander McGillivray and Elizabeth Weatherford brother of the famous war Chief William Weatherford.  This lineage goes back to Holland, Dutch, Scottish, Mvskoke and possible Natchez origins.

 

I have a copy of John Jefferson's application for allotment. It reads as follows.

 

Dept of the Interior

Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes

Muskogee, I.T. July 3, 1901

Muskogee Land Office

 

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION of John Jefferson, to take allotments of land for himself and his wife, Linda Jefferson, in the Creek Nation, accompanied by a proper description of the lands applied for and a certificate showing that they have been listed for enrollment as citizens of the said Nation.

 

John Jefferson, being duly sworn by John G. Leiber, a notary public, testifies as follows:

 

Q: What is your name? A: John Jefferson

Q: Are you a citizen of the Muskogee Nation? A: Yes sir.

Q: What town do you belong to? A: Tuskegee.

Q: How long have you lived in the Creek Nation? A: All my life.

Q: Have you been outside of the territory in the last 4 years?

 

A: No sir.

Q: Are you married? A: Yes sir.

Q: Is your wife a citizen of the Muskogee Nation? A: Yes sir.

Q: What town does she belong to? A: Canadian.

Q: How long has she lived in the Creek Nation? A: All her life.

Q: Has she been outside of the territory in the last 4 years?

 

A: No sire.

Q: Are yours and your wife's names on the Dunn Roll? A: Yes sir.

 

John Jefferson's daughter, Emmeline Jefferson, married Charles H. Davis (Tsalagi) from Virginia or Tennessee.  He was a Union Army soldier who was mustered out at Fort Gibson.  He became a school teacher and taught within the Seminole and Creek Nation.  Emmeline was one of his students.  Unfortunately, this is all I know about my Cherokee heritage.  Many years after the death of her first husband, Emmeline married Judge H. C. Reed, Muskogee District Judge of the Creek Nation.

 

My surname ancestor goes back to my great x 2 grandfather, Hector Perryman.  Mose Perryman was among the largest slave owners in the Creek Nation.  Mose Perryman was the son of Steek‑cha‑ko‑me‑co or great king, Benjamin Perryman, who was made famous by a George Catlin Portrait.  They were Lower Creeks who greatly favored assimilation into American society.  They dressed, spoke and acted as Anglo-Americans.  Benjamin Perryman was part of the William McIntosh fraction that signed an illegal treaty with the US government succeeding millions of acres in Georgia.  Chief McIntosh was assassinated much like Elias Boudinot, Major Ridge and John Ridge of the Cherokee. Slavery among the Lower Creeks more closely resembled that of their southern neighbors, including the habit of having children by their female slaves.  My oral tradition states that Hector was a child of Mose Perryman.  Furthermore family resemblance to Joseph M. Perryman and Legus C. Perryman, elected Chiefs of the Creek Nation is undeniable.  In fact my resemblance to Rancher George B. Perryman is uncanny.  Legus C. Perryman was even publically ridiculed for looking more "Negro than White" by the famous Creek poet, Alex Posey. 

 

Hector had two brothers, Jacob Perryman and William McIntosh.  Jacob was also owned by Mose Perryman.  William was owned by an Oona/Una/Yonah McIntosh (some say Daniel McIntosh).  Their mother is Winnie.  William's father is listed as William McIntosh.  Jacobs' father is listed as York.  All three ran away with Upper Creek Chief Opoethleyahola to Kansas during the Civil War.  All three brothers are listed on the 1870 Loyal Creek Abstract.  Hector page 3 #92, Jacob page 3 #91 and William page 3 #99.  As slaves they had amassed their own personal wealth as indicated on the amounts they claimed and were awarded what they had lost during the Civil War.

 

Hector Perryman

Died before enrollment.  One Indian Pioneer Interview states that Hector had a ranch and another states that he operated a ferry on the Arkansas River.  The Tulsa Annals list an abstract of his will.  All of Hector's children kept the Perryman surname

 

Jacob Perryman

Census Card # 1077/Roll #4086. He served in the Civil War as a Union Soldier in the 1st Indian Home Guards Regiment, Kansas Infantry Company C as a Private. All of Jacobs' children (Census Card #’s 494,1056) changed their surname to Jacobs.

 

William McIntosh

Census Card # 943/Roll#3668.  He served in the Civil War as a Union Soldier in the 2nd Kansas Colored 83rd USCT Company G.  He served as Town King of Arkansas Colored.  He was a breeder of race horses.

 

Charles H. Davis' daughter, my great grandmother, Mattie Davis, married William Nicholas Perryman.  He was a teacher at the Coal Creek Colored School (circa 1894) and the Superintendent of a Colored Orphans Home (circa 1900).

 

In 1979 the Mvskoke Creek Nation changed their constitution and only allowed descendants of those found on the Dawes Blood Rolls to enroll as citizens.  My ancestors were at one time full fledged Mvskoke Creek Citizens and were listed on several rolls predating the Dawes Roll.  They were interpreters, government officials, preachers, teachers, ranchers, farmers, judges and ordinary men and women.  They spoke Mvskoke Opvnakvn.  They dressed as Mvskoke.  They ate Mvskoke food and followed Mvskoke traditions.  They were Vmestvlke.

 

Brother has kicked out brother.  Racism has replaced tradition.  Injustice has wiped out justice.  Immorality has won over morality.  Our ancient stories spoke of our sacred duty to be in balance with the world around us.  Today the Nene Mvskoke has been distorted by our leaders.  They have brought chaos and betrayal.  We have been abandoned and nullified.  All we want is our rightful citizenship back.  It's time for the United States Congress to intervene on behalf of the people whose citizenship has been illegally striped away. Human rights are not revocable. It's time that our federal tax dollars stop supporting the racist regimes of the current administrations. This is taxation without representation.  It has been said let the sovereign rights of the Indian national courts handle the situation.  I respectfully ask, are tribal court’s decision higher than Congressional treaties?  Jim Crow has reared its ugly head and it must be stopped.  It's time for Congress to acknowledge, honor, defend and uphold the laws of the land.

 

Our Mvskoke elders once believed that the totkv-etkv (sacred fire) became polluted with the sins of the people.  The Posketv ceremony extinguished the old corrupt fire and a new purify fire was lit in the ceremony square.  The Green Corn celebration was a sacred time of forgiveness, thanksgiving, purification and renewal. It’s time for the old flame of racism to die and the new fire of harmony to begin.  It’s time to for us to become the unified, strong, powerful, mighty nation that we once were.  The question remains: are we people of a polluted corrupt fire or one people of a purified fire?

 

Nettv heren ocvs. 

 

Mvto

James Coody Johnson, click here

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My name is Mary Ann (Wells) Cunningham. I am a descendant of both Creek Freedman and Creek by blood. I was always told of my ancestry, admittedly mostly oral history.

This is no longer accepted as valid by the Creek Nation unlike the olden years when basically oral history was all we had for both the Creek freedman and by blood.

I lived in the state of Oklahoma, McIntosh County. Born and reared.

About 7 years ago, I decided to make application for citizenship in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. I was told by the Creek citizenship office the enrollment was only for descendants of the by blood Creeks.

It did not matter that all my ancestors both freedmen and blood were natives of Indian Territory and citizens of Creek Nation. Legally enrolled and admitted as citizens.

The earliest documents I have of my fore parents are from the 1800's.

I have old documents stating that two of grandmothers were enslaved by the Creek Grayson family when in reality they were their relatives. On one census it shows that they were owned by Watt Grayson. One of my grandmothers, who was owned by the Grayson family, married into their family. Thus, my grandmother Judy carried the Grayson name.

Judy Grayson had a daughter named Louisa who married a full blood Creek (Haynes) and they produced five children. One of her daughters was my great grandmother Delilah Haynes Hutton.

In books by Claudio Saunt and the GW Grayson Bio, they only stated that one of Robert Grierson’s sons married one of his Negro slaves, using no name. But only the names Delilah and one of Delilah’s grandsons is mentioned by name. Various accounts have been written about my family, but never written using first names. These writers and researchers knew the given names yet deliberately chose not to use them. Strangely, always nouns and never proper nouns.

This has been a weary journey and a tedious task. It is a path littered with distorted history, destroyed documents, racial prejudice and injustice and misspelled words.

If it is to stripe a person of their citizenship for no justifiable reason, the Creek Nation should not be allowed or permitted to do so. Knowing the history of the Creeks, their hardships, misuse, abuse and all the other horrors they endured, to think that the Nation now have become exact copies of the people who inflicted their pain, tore their families apart, and taken their promised land.

Evidence show that many of my ancestors were citizens long before the Dawes enrollment.

Fact: The community, in which I live, Huttonville, was settled by my family and others before the Dawes enrollment or any of the other roll or Oklahoma statehood.

My Freedmen family was very much a part of the Creek Nation, not just a part in. They were Creek Nation citizens in every sense of the word.

These are the surnames of my family: Grayson, Haynes, Huttons, Greirsons, Berryhills, Bruner, Ross, McNac, Sears, Hope, Holt, Spencer/Wolfe, Perryman, all Creek family names.

 Sincerely,
Mary Ann Cunningham
ps. The people on the picture are my siblings and I enjoying a Oklahoma day.

Creek Freedmen Voices

Corbray Hill, Indian Pioneer Papers, A must read, click here

John Harrison, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

Elsie Edwards, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

Arron Grayson, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

Adam Grayson, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here (talks about Bass Reeves

Mamie Elizabeth Crew, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

Jake Simmons, Indian Pioneer Papers, great read, click here

Nancy Grayson Barnett, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

Burial Ground, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

Lee Hawkins, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

Grayson Cemetery, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

Sonny Jackson, (on Crazy Snake) Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

Elzonra L. (Fulsom) Lewis, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

George McIntosh, Indian Pioneer Papers, clcik here

Philip A. Lewis, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

Jones Louis Puckett, Indian Pioneer Papers, click here

Sam Todd on Suger George, Indian Pioneers Papers, click here

Creek Freedmen Descendants be sure to compare your notes on the 'Genealogy' page of this website.