African-Native American Genealogy Forum
In Response To: Re: Candidate Silas JEFFERSON ()
Paper: Dallas Morning News Historical Archive
Special to The News.
McAlester, Ok., April 3.---Old Hickory Ground, where the recent battles among a number of Creek freedmen and officers of McIntosh and Okmulgee Counties are reported as having occurred, and where two officers and a number of negroes have been killed, is in the western portion of the first named county and about seven miles east of the coal mining town of Henryetta, in the latter. Old Hickory Ground is a historical point and has been the stomping ground of the Creeks since the sacred ashes of the council fire were taken there many years ago, shortly after they were first deposited at Council Hill, to the north of Old Hickory Ground, on the removal of the tribe from Alabama. They formed their government in 1842 and it was shortly after this that Old Hickory Ground was selected as the place for their councils and named after the ground they used in Alabama, which, was really a hickory grove, but on Old Hickory Ground there is not a single hickory tree.
There are about 6,000 full-blood Creeks and these are known as Snakes, taking their name from their leader, Chief Chitto Harjo, meaning Crazy Snake, or literally, according to the best interpretation, snake crazy, There are a number of Creek freedmen, or negroes, among them, some formerly their slaves and the children of these slaves. While the Snakes are a peaceable and law-abiding lot of Indians, there are many of the freedmen who, once supplied with whisky, cause much trouble. It is from this class the present troubles have arisen. Of the first forty-four arrested and taken to Eufaula and placed in jail all but three were negroes, the three being young Indians.
The trouble which occurred Saturday evening, in which a son of the McIntosh County Sheriff and one of his deputies were killed, did not occur at Old Hickory Ground, but near the home of the chief, a warrant having been issued for the arrest of Crazy Snake, charging that he had instigated the trouble, when the forty negroes were arrested. The chief lives between six and seven miles east and south of Old Hickory Ground and is said to have had no knowledge of the occurrence until told of the arrests.
Chitto is a man of about 50 years, of powerful physique and strong intellect. He is a lover of his people. He is opposed to accepting allotments. He is a firm believer in the treaty of 1832 and insists that Congress has not the power to dispose of their lands by allotments and that no person has a right to sell it.
The allotments to the Creeks were unlike those of the Choctaws and others of the Five Civilized Tribes, and were arbitrary. All of the Creeks accepted the allotments so made with the exception of the full-bloods, and these compose the band known as Snakes. They say they want to hold their lands in common, that they can make their living there, do not want to disturb outsiders and all they ask is to be let alone.
Chitto went to Washington in 1898 and worked for what he deemed the rights of his people. He has made many other visits there. His son spent several years at school at Washington and acts as his father’s secretary.
Two years ago Chitto asked the tribe to select another chief. He said he realized he was getting old and wanted to know before his death that they had selected a chief in whom he could place his trust, and Barney McGilbray was selected. Chitto is acting only in an advisory capacity. His people however worship him.
Two years after the passage of the Curtis bill Chief Pleasant Porter entered into an agreement with the Dawes Commission, and then the allotments began. Chitto called his people together to council about the allotments, and the gathering at Old Hickory Ground was so large that enterprising newspaper correspondents sent out the news of an Indian uprising, and Federal troops were sent there. Chitto and thirty of his followers were arrested and entered a plea of guilty in the Federal Court at Muskogee to “treason,” and spent some time in prison at Leavenworth before they were pardoned, it finally dawning upon the powers that the Snakes did not know the meaning of treason, and that neither had they been guilty of it.
From that time on everything ran smoothly, the Snakes refusing positively to accept their allotments, and so long as they did this there was no possible chance for the white man to secure title to their lands, some of which is as valuable agricultural land as there is in the State and much of it being underlaid with coal and oil. There are many men trying to buy this land at the prices usually paid the Indian for his possession, and every effort is being made to enforce them to accept their allotments, so they will have the power to sell and convey the land.
There is no denying the fact that this has been the basis of all the trouble in the past. Last summer the annual council of the tribe was called, and again the newspaper correspondents got so busy that a detachment of troops was ordered there by Gov. Haskell. The troops got as far as Henryetta, when the Adjutant General was taken to Old Hickory Ground, and found no trouble and learned there had been none, so he sent the troops home.
The writer visited Old Hickory Ground last September and spent a week there during the last council. He was the first newspaper man ever admitted to Old Hickory Ground and the first to obtain an interview from a Snake chief. He lived in the camp and went home with the chief and spent a day and night in his house, where he slept with the same degree of safety as he might in the heart of a city.
The danger in the present difficulty lies in the thorough devotion to Chitto Harjo by every one of the Snakes. They know he has violated no law. They believe in their right to hold their lands in common, and will no doubt use every effort in their power to protect the chief.
Citizens of McIntosh County, who have resided there for years and know the Snakes full well, do not hesitate to say the Government made a mistake when it refused to treat with the Snakes and hear their plea for holding their lands in common, adhering to their old customs, and then peremptorily forcing allotments upon them.
The Snakes do not know where [are their allotments], neither do they ask to know. An enterprising attorney or land agent may go to a map, find a piece of valuable land listed to a young Snake and make an effort to have him oust some other Snake who may be living upon it, and there have been a few cases of this kind which have caused trouble.
During the last council the question of casting out the freedmen was discussed for a week, but the ties of master and servant had endured too long to be thus broken and no action was taken.