Preface – Campbell’s Abstract of Creek Indian Census Cards
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The preparation of this record has been a tedious work. It is believed by the Compiler that its publication will have a decided effect for good on land titles in Eastern Oklahoma. No one thing has been more responsible for the bad titles of Eastern Oklahoma than the lack of knowledge of the facts on the part of the public.
Congress after the making of certain treaties under which citizens of the Creek Nation were enrolled and received their allotments, enacted many laws materially effecting these treaty provisions and as a result the title to land. These laws, of course, were made public, but the facts under which any one of these laws were applicable, in any specific instance, were not given the same publicity. Many facts were purposely suppressed by the Government, and this was done in an effort to protect these allottees from the land shark. Their day, however, is now passed, and Congress, by subsequent laws, has so protected the allottee that the widest publicity of the facts is for the best interest of the allottee, as well as the public generally.
The publication of the Tribal Rolls, in 1907, gave the roll number, name of the allottee, age, sex and blood, and operated to a large extent to inform the public, but this information was not sufficient, in fact, it aided only those who, by reason of their familiarity with the workings and records of the Indian Offices, knew how to secure additional information. I emphasize the words “those who knew how” for this reason: only those who had a working familiarity with the procedure and the records of the Dawes Commission, later the office of the Commissioner to the Five Civilized Tribes, and now the office of the Superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes, knew what to ask for to advise themselves. An investor from Iowa, Illinois or New York knows nothing of these records. He is shown the roll book, published by the Interior Department, and he takes the information there given as a verity. It did not occur to him to make further investigation, in the office of the Commissioner to the Five Civilized Tribes. If he did think of making further investigation he was given a copy of the census card of the particular allottee in which he was interested. He was told that this was the family card, he was not told that a member of that same family might be found on 1, 2, 5, 10 or 15 other cards, as the case might be. In fact, no one knew of this in each particular instance. Those familiar with the records knew that members of the same family might appear on different cards, but what cards no one knew.
The records here presented are the first effort at cross-indexing, the purpose being to locate the different members of any particular family. The indexing has been made with great care, and we have not been content with indexing under the name as spelled on the card, but have, in many instances, indexed under two, three and even four different spellings. An examination of the card itself will show the necessity for this. The same names have on these records been spelled many different ways, in fact, in many cases the same name appearing twice on the same card will be spelled differently, and we have sought by this index to cover all such discrepancies, and in cases where doubt may exist, we have indexed so as to cover both ends of the doubt. Where different members of families spell their names differently, we have likewise covered both ways of spelling.
Your index may refer you to a particular card, turning to that card you do not find the name given in the index, if you will look at the card carefully, study it, you will in most instances see the reason for the reference. In some cases this reason is not apparent from the card, but there is a reason, nevertheless, in each case, and cross references of names found on the card will undoubtedly show the reason.
Many believe that the date of enrollment is the date from which you calculate to determine the age of the allottee. In a great many instances this is true, but in many cases this is not true. The law says, that the enrollment record shall govern as to age. The enrollment record may include the testimony taken at the time of enrollment, affidavits, birth certificates, etc. Everyone ought before purchasing, or leasing lands, to secure from the Commissioner a certified copy of the enrollment testimony, if there be any question as to age.
More than one-third of the Creek allottees are dead, at this time: the balance must die. The object of this record is to present to the public a means of determining the heirs. It is a presentation of the material facts which the public should know in order that they may secure further information from the Superintendent’s office.
Thousands and thousands of deeds have been placed of record, one might say at random, because of lack of information on the part of those taking the deeds. It is believed that the publication of this record will put a stop to such practice.
The enrollment records are the basis of title of these Indian lands. Judge Sanborn has so declared them to be, and even if he had not so declared, common sense would tell us that they are. These facts should be given the same publicity as other public records. The magnitude of the task has prevented this. The government at some time will make all these records public in some form, but when it does it will be complete, it will not be an abstract such as is given here. Lack of knowledge of these essential facts is almost universal. An instance possibly will show something of this. The compiler of this record prepared a brief in a case, pending in the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, and filed this brief with the court. In this brief was detailed the procedure and manner of work of the Dawes Commission and of its records. One of the justices wrote the writer that he had read the brief and was amazed at the contents. He stated that he had no idea that the facts were such as they were shown to be and added that the public generally were not advised of this, and asked permission to file the original brief in the Historical Library of this State.
The need of such a book as this has been so apparent for years that the writer had in course of preparation a copy for his own use. Other lawyers seeing the work wanted copies, and this was the inspiration for publication. A canvass of the larger cities of the Creek Nation convinced the compiler of the record and index that the public wanted it. After deciding to publish the work it was necessary that all records be gone over carefully again, and compared with the originals in the office of the Superintendent to the Five Civilized Tribes. The work was begun under the administration of Mr. J. George Wright, Commissioner, continued under the administration of Mr. Dana H. Kelsey, Superintendent, and concluded under the administration of Mr. Gabe E. Parker, Superintendent. The writer wishes to thank these several gentlemen for the uniform courtesy extended to him and to Mr. George Bixby, who compiled the original data. Also do I wish to thank the several heads of the Departments, and clerks in charge, for the courtesies extended to me by them. I trust that in no way have I over-stepped the limitations imposed on me.
There are some items of data, which I desired to incorporate in this Abstract, but permission to get this data was denied me. I was informed at the time, the reason for denying me, and while, as it was then suggested to me, I might go over their heads and get the information, I had no thought of doing so. I appreciated the position of the department. If it be possible at any near future date to get the dates of selection of allotment, and copies of the annotated Creek rolls, I will do so and have these published and sell at a nominal price to the subscribers of the present work.
It is hoped that the purchasers of this book will familiarize themselves with the plan of work, by careful study of the instructions, which will be inserted hereafter, throughout the book. Unless this be done they will not get the full benefit of the book, and will not see its full value. It is an Abstract of the Creek Indian cards, giving data tending to show the status of the individual citizens, his father and mother. It is not a copy of the card. The index is arranged so as to show the different cards where the name of the citizen and all others of the same family may be found.
The sale of the book will be, of course, limited to a certain class of business men in the Creek Nation, and as the work of preparation is great, and the printing by reason of its being all tabulated very expensive, it will be seen that the price is reasonable.
Those who have aided in the preparation of the book for publication, Mr. George Bixby, Miss Maude Miller, Miss Gladys Fearnside and Miss Ostara Bixby, have been careful and painstaking, and I feel that I have been very happy in my choice of assistants. It is too much to hope that we have made no error. We have checked and rechecked and proofread twice, but even so, with this great mass of tabulated matter, error in some instances may have crept in. At this date we know of no error. It is to be hoped that there is none. We will say, however, that if there is any error in the Abstract and Index it is a trifling error and will mislead no one.
As I have stated more than one-third of the Creeks have now departed this life. I have not been able to show all of these deaths, the reason being that there is no record of deaths in hundreds of cases in the office of the Superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes, and this true, because there is no necessity for such record. In the early days of the Dawes Commission, and after the allotments of land had begun, proofs of death were taken, but later acts of Congress made the taking of these proofs of death unnecessary, as it provided for the issuance of deeds in every case in the name of the original citizen to whom the allotment was made whether he be living or dead. There was no need of further filing of proofs of death until the present making of the equalization payment. As this payment was to be made only to those whose allotments were of value $800.00, or under, it will be seen that a very large percentage of the Indians did not come under this class, and no proofs of death were taken unless they did come under the class where equalization money was due. I will speak of these proofs of death under another heading and so will make no further reference here.
The law of descent and distribution relative to these allotted lands of the Creeks presents possibly the most complicated system of descent and distribution in history. I have thought best to set forth these laws of descent and distribution. I have my own opinion as to the effect of some of these laws, but will make no comment. I realize that descent and distribution is to be the law of the future of this eastern half of the State, and the lawyer who is well equipped to take care of that business will have all that he can do. I have said that our laws of descent and distribution are complicated. Much of this complication arises by reason of the many changes in the law. The law of the date of selection governs, providing the citizen be dead when the land is selected in allotment. In such case the heirs are identified as of the date of the death of the allottee, under the law of the date of selection.
J. B. CAMPBELL,
Muskogee, Oklahoma, April 3, 1915.