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Memoirs of John Pitchlynn

John Pitchlynn, the name of another white man who at an early day cast his lot among the Choctaws, not to be a curse but a true benefactor. He was contemporaneous with the three Folsom’s, Nathaniel, Ebenezer and Edmond; the three Nails, Henry, Adam and Edwin; the two Le Flores Lewis and Mitchel, and Lewis Durant. John Pitchlynn, as the others, married a Choctaw girl and thus become a bona-fide citizen of the Choctaw Nation. He was commissioned by Washington, as United States Interpreter for the Choctaws in 1786, in which capacity he served them long and faithfully. Whether he ever attained to the position of chief of the Choctaws is not now known. He, however, secured and held to the day of his death not only the respect, esteem and confidence of the Choctaws as a moral and good citizen, but also that of the missionaries who regarded him as one among their best friends and assistants in their arduous labors for the moral and religious elevation of the people of his adoption. He married Sophia Folsom, the daughter and only child of Ebenezer Folsom. They had five sons, Peter P., James, Thomas, Silas and Jack, all of whom were men of fine talents and high position, reflecting credit on their ancient and honorable name, except Jack, who was led astray and finally killed. How many strange little incidents oft happen to various persons the cause of which none can satisfactorily explain; many of which are similar to the following that Major John Pitchlynn once experienced in early life! He stated to the missionaries that he, in company...

Choctaw Migration and Government

The name Choctaw, or Chahtah is, derived from a prophet warrior who flourished at a time too remote for fixing any date, as it is only handed down by tradition from one generation to another. “Headed by him, tradition informs us, the people in one grand division migrated to the East from a country far toward the setting sun, following the Cherokees and Muscogees, who had moved on, four years previous, in search of a suitable spot for a permanent location. He is said to have been possessed of all the characteristics essential to the carrying out of such an enterprise to a successful termination. His benevolence and many other virtues are still cherished and held in sacred remembrance by his people. The country whence they migrated, or the causes, which induced them to seek another place of habitation, is wrapped in mysterious oblivion, as their tradition begins abruptly with the epoch of migration. In moving from place to place, Chahtah is said to have carried a high staff or pole, which, on encamping, was immediately placed in front of his wigwam, where it remained until they broke up encampment. His wigwam is represented to have been placed in the van of all the tribe. When the pole inclined forward a power, which it was believed to possess the people prepared to march. This is somewhat analogous to the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, by which the Lord, through His beloved servant, guided the children of Israel from Egypt. After many years of wanderings, during which “they, in common with those who have ever engaged...

Mound Builders

The types of the human skulls taken from those ancient mounds said to have been erected by a prehistoric race, and now called “Mound Builders” a race claimed to be far superior to our Indians are characteristic, not only of the ancient Mexicans, Peruvians and other ancient tribes of South America, but also of the ancient Natchez, Muskogee’s, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Seminoles, Yamases and others of the North American continent. And it is a conceded fact that all Indians ever found in North and South America possess many common features. I have seen the native Indians of Mexico, Arizona and California, and recognized them at once to be of the North American Indian race. I have seen them singly and in groups; given special attention to their features, the expression of their eyes, their walk and manner of sitting, their manner of carrying their babes and heavy burdens, and found them all to be exactly the same as the southern Indians over seventy years ago. The Indians of North America, as well as those of South America, when first known to the whites down to the years they were banished to the then wilderness west of the Mississippi river, lived everywhere in villages and towns upon the sites of which stand today many of our towns and cities: Natchez, Mobile, New York and others. Carter, in 1535, visited an Indian village named Ho-che-la-ga; De Soto, 1540, and all the early explorers, La Salle and others down to Lewis and Clark, in 1804; thence to the missionaries, in 1815; and thence to their banishment west of the Mississippi river, found the Indians everywhere living...

Choctaw Indian Mounds

I read the following in the American Antiquarian over the signature of H. F. Buckner: “Mr. Maxwell, in a historical address, says: My conviction is that the high grade of military skill displayed by the Mound Builders at Carthage, Alabama, attests a know ledge of the necessities of attack and defense unknown to the mode of warfare practiced by the tribes found here by De Soto.” Mr. Maxwell does not state in what respect the high grade of military engineering skill displayed by the Mound Builders at Carthage, Alabama, attests a knowledge of the necessities of attack and defense unknown to the mode of warfare practiced by the tribes found here by De Soto. However, I will here state that the old Shakchih Humma fort, within the enclosure of which was established the missionary station among the Choctaws, called Hebron, of which I have already spoken, and where I spent many years of my life, displayed as “high grade of military engineering skill” and attested a “knowledge of the necessities of attack and defense” equal to our high grade of military engineering skill displayed in the military forts erected throughout the present Indian Territory, of which I have had an ocular demonstration. “Who the Mound Builders were it is impossible to determine,” continues Mr. Maxwell. “They were not built by the ancestors of the tribes found here by De Soto, as they pretended no knowledge of their construction, traditional or otherwise.” Truly, a poor basis upon which to predicate the above broad assertion; since De Soto expedition was made alone for the purpose of finding gold, while to learn...

The Creation of an Indian Mound

Garcellasso de la Vega, says, in laying off the ground for a town, the first thing that the Indians did, was the erection of a mound, upon the top of which the houses of the chief and his family and attendants were built; and at the base a large square was laid off, around which the principal warriors built their houses, while the common people placed theirs on the opposite side of the mound from the square. All the early explorers repeatedly state that they saw the mounds in all parts of the country through which they passed. Here then we learn of Mound Builders (Indians) nearly three and a half centuries ago. They were also thrown up as a means of defense. When the French under Bienville defeated the Natchez Indians in 1730, and drove them from their; country, where the city of Natchez, Mississippi, now stands, and for whom the city was named, they established themselves upon the Lower Washita, Louisiana. Two years after they were again attacked and defeated by the French, yet they had in those two years-constructed mounds and embankments covering an area of 400 acres, which they used as means of defense against the French in their second attack upon them. This is attested by several authors, some of whom were eye witnesses. This was done nearly 200 years after De Soto’s invasion. Some of these mounds were very large, and were still to be seen 40 years ago; and no doubt still stand as monuments of the thrilling scenes which once were enacted there, during which a once proud, prosperous, and happy...

Choctaw Culture

The Choctaws, like all of their race, had no written laws, and their government rested alone on custom and usage, growing out of their possessions and their wants; yet was conducted so harmoniously by the influence of their native genius and experience, that one would hardly believe that human society could be maintained with so little artifice. As they had no money, their traffic consisted alone in mutual exchange of all commodities; as there was no employment of others for hire, there were no contracts, hence judges and lawyers, sheriffs and jails were unknown among them. There were no beg gars, no wandering tramps, no orphan children unprovided for in their country, and deformity was almost unknown, proving that nature in the wild forest of the wilderness is true to her type. Their chief had no crown, no sceptre, no bodyguards, no outward symbols of authority, nor power to give validity to their commands, but sustained their authority alone upon the good opinion of their tribe. No Choctaw ever worshiped his fellow man, or submitted his will to the humiliating subordinations of another, but with that sentiment of devotion that passed beyond the region of humanity, and brought him in direct contact with nature and the imaginary beings by whom it was controlled, which he divined but could not fathom; to these, and these alone, he paid his homage, invoking their protection in war and their aid in the chase. The ancient Choctaws believed, and those of the present day believe, and I was informed by Governor Basil LeFlore, in 1884, (since deceased) that there is an appointed time for...

The Biloxi and Pascagoulas

The French in making their voyages of discovery along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in 1712, under the command of Iberville, anchored one evening near an island (now known as Ship Island) which they discovered to be intersected with lagoons and inhabited by a strange and peculiar animal seemingly to hold the medium between the fox and cat, and they give it the name Cat Island, by which it is still known; thence they passed over the main land, where they discovered a tribe of Indians called Biloxi, among whom they afterwards located a town and gave it the name Biloxi now the oldest town in the State of Mississippi. This tribe of Indians proved to be a clan of the Choctaws, and the name Biloxi, a corruption of the Choctaw word Ba-luh-chi, signifying hickory bark. Thence going eastward they discovered another tribe which they called the Pascagoula’s, which also proved to be a clan of the Choctaws, and the name Pascagoula, a corruption of the two Choctaw words Puska (bread) and Okla (people), i. e: Bread People, or people having bread; but which has been erroneously interpreted to mean “Bread Eaters.” A remnant of the Ba-luh-chis still exist among the Choctaws, while the Puskaoklas have been long lost by uniting with other Choctaw clans. There was an ancient tradition among the Puskaoklas, which stated that, in the years long past, a small tribe of Indians of a lighter complexion than themselves, and also different in manners and customs, inhabited the country near the mouth of the Pascagoula river whose ancestors, according to the tradition, originally emerged from the sea, where they were born; that they were a kind, peaceful and...

Prominent White Men among the Chickasaws

At an early day a few white men of culture and of good morals, fascinated with the wild and romantic freedom and simplicity of the Chickasaw life, cast their lot among that brave and patriotic nation of people. I read an article published in Mississippi a few years ago, which stated that a man by the name of McIntosh, commissioned by British authorities to visit the Chickasaw Nation and endeavor to keep up its ancient hostility to the French, was so delighted with the customs and manners of that brave, free and hospitable people that, after the accomplishment of his mission, he remained among them; then marrying a Chickasaw woman he became identified with the tribe; that he became an influential character among the Chickasaws; that he found the whole Nation living in one large village in the “Chickasaw Old Fields”; that he persuaded them to scatter, take possession of the most fertile and watered lands, and live where game was more plentiful; that he planted a colony at a place called Tokshish (corruption of Takshi-pro. Tark-shih, and sig. Bashful) several miles south of Pontotoc; that this colony became the favorite residence of the white renegades, etc. All of which is without even a shadow of truth. True, a man by the name of McIntosh once visited the Chickasaw Nation as stated; but after his diplomacy was accomplished, departed and returned no more. There never was a McIntosh identified in any way with the Chickasaws at that early day, nor has there been one from that day to this. The only white men adopted and identified with the Chickasaws at that early...

Natchez Trace

In 1792, in a council held at Chickasaw Bluffs, where Memphis, Tennessee, is now located, a treaty was made with the Chickasaws, in which they granted the United States the right of way through their territory for a public road to be opened from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi. This road was long known, and no doubt, remembered by many at the present time by the name “Natchez Trace.” It crossed the Tennessee River at a point then known as “Colberts Ferry,” and passed through the present counties of Tishomingo, Ittiwamba, Lee, Pantotoc, Chickasaw, Choctaw, thence on to Natchez, and soon became the great and only thoroughfare for emigrants passing from the older states to Mississippi, Louisiana and South Arkansas. Soon after its opening, it was crowded by fortune seekers and adventurers of all descriptions and characters, some as bad as it was possible for them to be, and none as good as they might be. One of the most noted desperadoes in those early days of Mississippi’s history was a man named Mason, who, with his gang of thieves and cut-throats, established himself at a point on the Ohio river then called “The Cave in the Rock,” and about one hundred miles above its junction with the Mississippi river. There, under the disguise of keeping a store for the accommodation of emigrants, keel and flat boatmen passing up and down the river, he enticed them into his power, murdered and robbed them; then sent their boats and contents to New Orleans, through the hands of his accomplices to be sold. He, at length, left “The Cave in the Rock,”...

Gov. Perier and Bienville

While the English east of the Alleghany mountains were adopting active, but secret measures, to stop the progress of French colonization on the banks of the Mississippi river, their traders were meeting the French traders every where among the southern Indians, and their mutual animosity and competition causing frequent quarrels, oft terminating in collisions, in which the unfortunate Indians always became involved on the one or the other side. But the French, at an; early day had excited the animosity of the Chickasaws by failing to protect a band of their warriors who had solicited an escort from Mobile to their homes through the Choctaw Nation, with, whom they were then at war; but in passing; through the Choctaw Nation, though under a French escort, they were slain to a man by the Choctaws. The Chickasaws, believing it was done through the connivance of the French, never forgave them; and in all the quarrels between the French and English traders they took sides with the latter and “finally became the firm and undeviating friends, and allies of the English, and the most bitter” enemies of the French, giving them more trouble than all the other southern tribes, and whom they regarded as the most dreaded enemies among all the Indians in the Mississippi valley. Their territory lay exactly between the French settlements in Louisiana and Illinois and thus made all intercourse extremely dangerous. The high point upon which, Memphis, Tennessee, is located, then known as the Chickasaw Bluffs, was a favorite spot selected by the shrewd and wily Chickasaw warriors from which to make their attacks upon the French boats ascending...
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