No. 187 A.
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Department Of The Interior,
Washington, D. C., March 15, 1866.
SIR: A number of the surviving-and the widows and minor children of deceased Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, and other Indians of the Southwest, who entered the military service of the United States during the late war for the Union, are entitled to, and have applied for, the benefits of the pension laws. It is difficult for them to establish their claims by the adduction of evidence of the character usually required by the rules and regulations of the Department, and in view of their commendable loyalty and pressing necessities, their ignorance of the mode of transacting business, and the absence of mail communication with their country, I have determined to send a special agent to Fort Gibson and its vicinity, to examine and determine upon their claims by such evidence as it is customary to receive and act upon with regard to Indian claims.
Your familiarity with the manner of administering the pension laws, and of establishing Indian claims against the Government, seem to point to you as a suitable person for the proper discharge of these important and responsible duties; and reposing special trust and confidence in your integrity and capacity, you are hereby appointed special agent of the Department for that purpose.
With a view to relieve the Government of their support, and to award to these Indian claimants whatsoever may be found to be justly due them as soon as possible, and in consideration of the fact that the present is probably the most necessitous season of the year with them, it is desirable that you should enter upon the discharge of the duties hereby assigned to you without unnecessary delay.
The Commissioner of Pensions will place in your possession all the claims of the Indians referred to which have been filed in his office, and will furnish you with whatever other documents or information you may require in relation to them; with these you will proceed to Fort Gibson, and see personally as many of the claimants as practicable, and take such testimony as may be necessary to enable you to determine the merits of their respective claims. Should you need an interpreter, you are authorized to employ one, and to pay him such per diem compensation for the time actually and necessarily employed, as you may deem fair and reasonable.
It is not deemed necessary, nor will you be required, to reduce all the evidence which may be presented to you to legal forms, but only that the material portions of it shall be stated by you in writing, in reference to each case.
It is understood that a number of the Creeks have claims against the United States for pensions, which have not yet been presented nor made out.
These, if presented to you while in the Indian country, you will also examine and determine in the same manner.
You may possibly find it most convenient and expedient to give your attention, first, to those cases with a view to their payment, if allowed, as nearly about the same period the others are paid as practicable; this, however, will be left to your sound discretion.
As these duties will involve considerable clerical and other labor, George B. Whiting, a clerk in the Pension Office, will, in compliance with your wishes, be detailed to accompany and assist you. His personal expenses, as well as your .own, will be commuted and paid in accordance with the rule and custom of the Department.
If you should need funds for this purpose, the disbursing agent will be authorized to advance you the requisite amount until you return.
To issue and deliver to these Indians the usual pension certificate is of such doubtful expediency that the Department has determined not to do so for the present, but, in order that those entitled to pensions may be paid as soon as practicable, and be thus enabled to repair, to some extent, the waste and privations caused by the casualties they have suffered in the service of the country, I have caused the names of all those whose claims have been filed in the Department to be inscribed on the pension- rolls, so that you may, as pension-agent at Fort Gibson, at once pay to the. 4th of the present mouth those whom you may find to be entitled to pensions, which you are hereby authorized and directed to do, without requiring them to produce certificates. You will take the usual receipts for all payments made by you to the Indians, accepting and omitting the copies of their pension certificates, which are dispensed with.
In view of the peculiar circumstances of the ease, your accounts as pension agent will be submitted to this Department for examination and approval, before being transmitted to the accounting officers of the Treasury for adjustment.
The Commissioner of Indian Affairs will turn over to you such bounty money and back pay as may have been paid into his office for these Indians, which you will pay over to the parties entitled thereto under instructions from him.
Should you find that the money advanced to you, as pension agent, is not sufficient to _pay all the pensions which may lie allowed, you are authorized to draw upon the Department for the balance, forwarding at the same time a statement of the disbursements you may then have made, and an estimate of the further amount required.
You will report the names of such Indians as may not, in your judgment, be entitled to pensions, in order that they may be thereafter stricken from the rolls.
You are aware that Mr. John W. Wright has acted as agent or attorney for the Indians referred to, in preparing the pensions and other claims now pending, and that the Department has recognized him as such agent or attorney, and fixed the fees which
is to receive for his services, and you are hereby authorized to pay to him, out of the moneys due the several claimants, the fees which, under this arrangement, he is entitled to receive. Some of the pension claims have already been allowed. In those cases, as well as the claims to pay and bounty, which he has prosecuted to successful issue, you may pay to him at once, in compliance with the request he has made of the Department, the fees he has thus earned.
You will advise the Department from time to time, as you may have opportunity, of the progress made in the business committed to you.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
Secretary of the Interior
GEORGE C. WHITING, Esq.,
Special Agent, Department of the Interior.