Memoirs of Nathaniel Folsom
I will here present to the reader the memoirs of Nathaniel Folsom the oldest of the three brothers who cast their lot in their morning” of life among” the Choctaws, and became the fathers of the Folsom House in the Choctaw Nation, as related by himself to the missionary, Rev. Cyrus Byington, June, 1823, and furnished me by his grand-daughter Czarena Folsom, now Mrs. Rabb.
“I was born in North Carolina, Rowan County, May 17th, 1756. My father was born in Massachusetts or Connecticut. My mother was born in New Jersey. My parents moved to Georgia, and there my father sent me to school about six months, during which time I learned to read and write. My mother taught me to read and spell at home. My father had a great desire to go to Mississippi to get money; they said money grew on bushes! We got off and came into the Choctaw Nation. The whole family came; we hired an Indian pilot who led us through the Nation to Pearl River, where we met three of our neighbors who were re turning on account of sickness. This alarmed my father, who then determined to return to North Carolina. We came back into the Nation to Mr. Welch’s, on Bok Tuklo (Two Creeks), the father of Mr. Nail. At this time I was about 19 years of age. At that place we parted. My father knocked “me down”. I arose and told him I would quit him, and did so by walking straight off before his face. I do not remember what I did, but I always thought I was not in fault. My parents then moved into the Chickasaw Nation. I entered into partnership with Mr. Welch, and could do many things for him. In the Chickasaw Nation my brother Israel ran away from my father and came to me. He died at the age of 18 near where Mr. Juzon now lives. He was a good young man. My parents moved again to Fort St. Stephens. My brother Ebenezer visited me several times; he also sent me word to come and move him up into the Nation. I did so. He lived with me two years. Still he wanted to go to Mississippi, and wished I would raise a guard and send him there. I did so. Brother Edmond and two sisters went with him, and there my father died, on Cole’s creek, Mississippi. I really believe my mother was a pious woman. I traded a long time in the Nation, sometimes taking up three or four thousand dollars worth of goods. I followed trading about thirty years. I lived principally at Bok Tuklo, fifteen miles this side of Juzon’s (i. e. north). There was a great town of about four hundred Indians. The French King-lived there. (This great French King was, no doubt, Bienville, or some one of his officers). I learned the Choctaw language very slow. I was never perfect in the language. But after ten years I could do any business with the Choctaws. I bought a Bible of Robert Black about twelve years ago. This is the first Bible I ever owned. Before that I cared nothing about the Bible. I first heard a sermon by Mr. Bell at the Pigeon Roost about twelve years ago. I heard Lorenzo Dow pray once. About this time I began to have serious thoughts. Before this I had none. My mind was affected by what the missionaries said, who came from the North. Soon after my son Edmond died. One Sabbath I had a great conflict in me. I heard a sermon at the Pigeon Roost. My friends thought I felt bad because my son died. But it was something else. At that time there was a great change in me, which has remained ever since. This was in August 1824. I joined the church at Mayhew, October 1827, in my 72nd year. I have been the father or twenty-four children, fourteen of whom are living. I have lived to see six of them join the church, and three others sit on the anxious seat.” According to an entry in the church record of Mountain Fork church, Nathaniel Folsom died October 9th 1833, in his 78th year.
Mr. Rufus Folsom, great grandson of Nathaniel Folsom, also kindly furnished me with a sketch of his great grand father, which was nearly the same as the above closing, however, with the following: “In September, 1830, the government of the United States made a treaty with the Choctaws for their lands east of the Mississippi river, and in October, 1832, our old great grand-father, afflicted with a palsy of the limbs for many years, started from the old Nation to come to this. He reached Mountain Fork, and there resided till the 9th of October, 1833, when he died, aged 77 years, four months, and twenty-seven days.”
Folsom Station, Indian Territory.
Nathaniel Folsom married Aiahnichih Ohoyoh (A woman to prefer above all others.) She was a niece of Miko Pusktish, (Infant Chief,) who was the father of Amosholihubih. She descended from a long and ancient line of chiefs, and belonged to the ancient Iksa Hattakiholihta, one of the of the two great families, the other being Tashapaokla (Part of a People); the laws of which forbid any person, male or female, to marry any one of the same Iksa. Though Mr. Nathaniel Folsom had acquired but a limited education, yet he was a moral man, and the good example he set before the people of his adoption and with whom he had cast his lot, won their respect, confidence and love, which he fully reciprocated to the day of his death. According to the ancient custom of the Choctaws, he had two wives at the same time, Aiahnichih Ohoyoh and her sister, whose name has not been preserved. Colonel David Folsom and Rev. Israel Folsom were sons of Aiahnichih Ohoyoh; and Captain Robert Folsom and Isaac Folsom were sons of her sister; with all the four I was personally acquainted. Robert and Isaac lived near Hebron, and were prominent members in the church at that mission. I will here insert an extract from a letter now before me, written by Mr. Nathaniel Folsom to Rev. Cyrus Byington on the death of his daughter and Lewis Folsom, his grandson, dated March, 1830, which truly manifests the humble and pious heart of the father and grandfather. I copy it from the original with no alteration whatever.
Dear friend Mr. Byington:
I desire to let you know my feelings at this present time. I feel satisfied it is the Lord s will. God give her to me and he has taken her away and his will is rig ht and good in all things that befalls us wicked mortals here upon earth. I bless God for it all things that befalls me it is the holy will of the blessed God it is rite and good. I hope her soul at rest with the blessed Savior of the world I believe she has gone to Him forever this turble thing of my grandson at Mayhew thar is no hope. O children take warning by this I say turn O children and remember your Creator God on you all will die but what will become of your little souls if you repent on earth you all are lost ever I say my dear children quit your bad ways an turn to Lord with all your heart an Christ will reserve you for he loves little children if you obey his commandments my dear friend you no my feelings about children that blessed Book the Bible is the guide to learn us all to fit us to the worlds to come the Lord bless you all.”
The death of his grandson, Lewis Folsom, to which the good old man so pathetically alludes, was indeed a sad affair. I was acquainted with Lewis, his grandson, whose father was Capt. Robert Folsom. Lewis and Joel Nail, his cousin and son of Henry Nail, were driving four horses attached to the end of the two levers of a mill, two horses at the end 1 of each. The two boys got into a play in which they soon began to throw corncobs at each other, while riding around on the levers and driving the horses. Un fortunately Lewis jumped upon the big cog wheel and was instantly killed.
I was personally acquainted with his father’s entire family.
His youngest sister, Else, now Mrs. Perkins, is still living. His father, at the time of the sad occurrence, was in their present territory, being sent with others by their Nation, to look after the country preparatory to the exchange, which was afterwards made with the United States Government in 1830.
From an old MS. left by Nathaniel Folsom in his own hand writing, I here insert the following extracts obtained through the kindness of his granddaughter Czarina Folsom, now Mrs. Rabb, living in Atoka.
“The Choctaws were more numerous than now. Thirty years ago it is probable there were nearly 30,000. Before I came here the smallpox killed two-thirds of the people. The measles also destroyed a great many. There was one town entirely destroyed by the measles.
“They had axes and hoes, but not a plough in the Nation. I gave twenty-two dollars for the first plough I had; twenty dollars for a bushel of salt; ten dollars for a common blanket. Goods were then brought from St. Augustine, Florida, on packhorses. I gave once twenty dollars for a half-bushel of salt in a time of war (the Revolution.
“The woman’s dress was a petticoat that came just be low the knees, and a head-gear; and in the winter a tight woolen jacket with bright buttons in front. They had an abundance of blankets by sewing the feathers of turkeys together. They had but few iron pots and kettles, the articles were dear.
“When anyone died a scaffold was made in the yard near the house, put high enough to be safe from the dogs. On the top of this the body was laid on its side; and then a blanket or bearskin was thrown over it; and there it remained until it perished. Then the bone-pickers came and picked the flesh off and put the bones in a box. The head was adorned and put away in a box, and then the boxes were put away in a bone-house a house set apart to receive them, and placed at the edge of the town. At this time there was a large collection of people. The bone-pickers had some ceremonies, but I do not recollect them. Twice a year fall and spring the people assembled, and had a great gathering over the bones of the dead. The two families would meet. One day one family would cry; and on the next day the other would cry, and then the bones would be brought out in the boxes and buried. A little present was made to the bone-pickers.
“Ever since about the time of the Revolutionary war the Choctaws began to leave their towns and settle in the woods, for the benefit of their stock. I was the first to settle on the Natchez trace at Pigeon Roost, about twenty-five years since. Still, at the time of the exodus of the Choctaws, in 1832, they had many large and populous towns and villages in their Nation, which I personally knew.
“Kings. Some inherited the office; others were appointed by the French and English. Amosholihubih is the old family (i. e., the old family of kings or chiefs). David’s old uncle was of the royal family.
“The Indians spoke in a different style from what they do now. The doctors are great deceivers. One came to me and said he could cure me of my lameness (palsy in the limbs.) I told him if he would cure me, I would give him a horse; if he did not cure me, I’d give him nothing. The doctor inquired where the lameness commenced. I told him, in the sole of my feet. He then examined them, got down, spit on them and sucked the place until a long time, as though he d draw something out. After awhile he got up and then made a great effort to get something out of his mouth; at length he took out a small piece of deer skin, as appeared, and said he had drawn that out of my foot. I asked him where the hole was. He said: It never makes a hole. I took the bit of leather and talked to him, and told him that doctors were the greatest liars in the world. You never pulled that out of my foot. You cut it off from some deerskin and put it in your mouth. Now stop telling such lies, or somebody will injure you. He looked very much ashamed and walked off. Before the doctors begin to doctor, they sing a long song, whisper a prayer, and then commence.
“At that time there were several white men among the Choctaws, all of whom married Choctaw wives, and thus be came identified with that people. The descendants of nearly all of whom are still among the Choctaws to this day.
“Hardy Perry,” continued Nathaniel Folsom, “brought the first neat cattle’s into the Nation.”
The old gentleman evidently refers to the eastern part of the Nation, where he lived; since it was well known that, either about the same time or a short time before Perry’s drove were first introduced into the eastern part of the Nation, and the waters of the Tombigbee river, Lewis and Michael LeFlore and Lewis Durant introduced a small herd into the western part of the Nation, and located it on the waters of the Yazoo river. But thus continues Mr. Folsom.
“He bought them of the French at Mobile, Twenty-five dollars for a cow and calf. This was soon after I came into the country. Benj. James then bought one. I was the third man. From these the stocks of cattle have sprung. There was abundance of horses. There were many hogs in the Nation when I first came. I have seen nearly thirty dogs at an Indian house. They resembled the wolf.
“David Folsom went to a school on Elk River, Tennessee. Started off alone at sixteen years of age, at least 250 miles from home, and was there six months. That was the end of his schooling there. I employed another man a month to teach him figures. That was seven months education.
“About this time (he seemed to forget to mention dates) he was married to Rhoda Nail. He took her out of the Indian Territory to a magistrate and married her lawfully. She is his wife, and this is the first instance” I know of, where an Indian was married according to our laws.”