The extant records concerning the traders and other countrymen are uneven in their coverage of mixed-blood families. Although only the better-known families were chronicled in the works of early regional historians and authors commenting on the Indian tribes, the existence of scores of surnames within these records indicates that mixed-blood families were widespread in the Choctaw nation.
Over the space of several generations the mixed-blood families of the traders and countrymen began to move more and more towards the culture of their white kinsmen, especially if the white progenitor had stayed in one area and recognized the paternity of his offspring. As time passed many of these mixed bloods were assumed to be whites by travelers and new corners into the region who did not know of their Indian heritage. The mixed bloods also married into white society on occasion and the resulting family lines blended smoothly into whiteness with little other than family tradition to trace their origins.
There exist in the South today countless families who can trace their heritage back to the earliest mixed bloods. One case in point originates in the mid-eighteenth century with the noted Scotch trader with the Creeks, Lachlan McGillivray.1 McGillivray, born in Scotland in 1719, journeyed to the New World as a youth and eventually lived in the Creek country of present-day Alabama. There he met and married the mixed-blood Sehoy Marchand, whose parents were a French merchant and a Creek Indian girl (see chart 2).
Descendent Chart for Marchand/Dye Lineage
Creek Wife – Captain Marchand
Lachlan McGillivray – Sehoy Marchand
Sophia McGillivry – Benjamin Durant
Samuel Brashears – Rachael Durant
Alexander Brashears – Emeline Wind
Emiline Jane Brashears – Ira Byrd Smith
Sally Willamac Dillard – William Franklin Smith
Noah Levi Dye – Emeline Jane Smith
Robert Ford Dye – Mary Lotis Anderson
Mary Ann Dye – Samuel James Wells
Compiled by the author
One of their children, Alexander, eventually became a major leader within the tribe; another, Sophia, married an Indian countryman and trader, Benjamin Durant. Their marriage resulted in at least three known children, all daughters. One, Polly Durant, married a Creek Indian and left no further history. A second, Sophie Durant, married John Linder V of the noted Linder family in the Tombigbee region north of Mobile and thereby entered into southern plantation society. A third daughter, Rachael, married the trader Samuel Brashears and reared a family which would reach into Choctaw country and later the state of Mississippi. Rachael had already married twice before. Her first marriage was to Billy McGirth, a Creek mixed blood, and her second was to Davy Walker whose origins are unclear.2
According to family genealogies Samuel and Rachael Brashears had at least two sons, Samuel Brashears, Jr., and Alexander Brashears.3 Alexander married Emeline Wind4 and had at least six children including Emeline Jane, the eldest, born June 1, 1833, and Louise, born December 12, 1835. These sisters married brothers — Emeline Jane to Ira Byrd Smith, born December 16, 1827, and Louise to Nathaniel John Smith, born January 13, 1822. The descendents of Nathaniel and Louise eventually married into the Cole, Reed, Weaver, and Chastang families of Mobile and Washington County, Alabama; a grand-daughter of Ira and Emeline Jane, also named Emeline Jane Smith, married into the Dye family of south Mississippi,5 while other descendants married Marchants, Durants and other bearers of documented mixed blood names.
One of the more paradoxical links in the above genealogy is Emeline Jane Brashears Smith who at the age of seventy-five sought to be recognized as a Cherokee because her grandmother was a mixed blood of that tribe. In answer to a query from the Commissioner Indian Affairs she stated:
“…as near as I can recollect my Father was living in Marengo Co., Ala., in 1835-6 near Demopolis, Ala., and he was living at Mt. Vernon, Ala., Mobile Co., in 1846, and his mother, my Grandmother, was living in Sumter Co., Ala., in 1835-6 and 1846 but I don’t recollect her Post Office and if they were recognized members of the tribe I do not know. They were very wealthy slave owners but were made very poor by the civil war.”6
In an earlier letter she had pleaded with the officials in Washington to correct her children’s claims because they had stated they were Choctaw.
“I was away from home when my children made application so I didn’t know that they had named the Choctaw as our tribe. It was a bad mistake on their part for they didn’t know for all the Indian blood that we claim to was through my Grandmother Rachael Brashear3 (nee Durant) and she was Cherokee Indian but my children didn’t know it[;] they know the Choctaws for there is some of them here yet.”7
It is interesting that the claimant was so insistent that Rachael Durant was Cherokee when most of the historical records name her as Creek. Had Emeline Smith succumbed to the favored Southern myth of tracing one’s descent from a “Cherokee Princess,” or might the family history be more correct in claiming that Rachael actually was part Cherokee? Since Emeline Smith’s affidavit states that her grandparents had both died before her birth, and because of her advanced age, she possibly had confused the story with that of a great-grandmother handed down through her parents. Regardless, her claim #9576 was rejected because her parents and grandparents were not listed on any existing tribal roll. Her family had strayed too far from the cultural path of Indians and was now regarded as white. All of the extant census records show her family, as well as her descendents, as white.
Emeline Jane Smith’s story, that of a “white” Southern family with roots running deeply into Indian blood lines, may be typical of many white Southern families who trace their descent from a “Cherokee Princess.” other words, Indian heritage claims can often be authenticated with a judicious amount of demythologizing. The mixed-blood lineage of some “white” families can definitely be traced from the mid-eighteenth century until the present day. Considering that at the time of the American Revolution there were at least eighty white traders in Creek country, and probably as many among the Chickasaw and Choctaw nation, it is not surprising that by the time of removal their mixed-blood offspring numbered in the thousands. Since most reports of traders include the mention of an Indian, wife, we can assume that most of the estimated one hundred sixty traders sired mixed-blood children. Considering the large size of frontier families in those days (ten children in a family was by no means unusual) it would not be farfetched to assume conservatively an average of five children per family. By the end of the Revolution there conceivably were seven or eight hundred mixed bloods (and probably more) in the Southeast not including the Cherokees. If one allows twenty years per generation and only allows for strict intermarriage of the mixed bloods (although many mixed bloods married full bloods) this number would have risen to nearly 2,000 (halving the product of eight hundred families, each with five children, to allow for inbreeding within the group) by the turn of the century. By 1820 the number could have reached 5,000 and by removal, at least 12,000 in the three tribes. These figures are very conservative and could be doubled or tripled easily.
Although enough information for extended statistical analysis is not available, some assumptions nonetheless can be made from existing data. There were repeated incidences of sets of brothers from one family marrying sisters from another, probably indicating the limited social opportunities in Indian country. Although as in the case of the Linder-Durant marriage some mixed-blood females married out of the tribe into white society, some married full bloods, while most married mixed-blood traders, planters, or herdsmen and lived in Indian country. Later during Removal those staying in Mississippi and Alabama found it easy, if not necessary, to melt into the incoming white population. The task was made less difficult because many owned large tracts of land, had been using slaves to cultivate cotton for some years, and were in agreement with the Jeffersonian program to transform Indians into yeoman farmers.
In order to better understand the range and types of family information available on the Choctaw mixed bloods, eleven individual family histories are abstracted from Appendix A and supplemented with anecdotal accounts.
Most of the data comes from the well-known studies of the Choctaw people by Baird, Cotterill, Cushman, Debo, and DeRosier, as well as the primary government sources: The Armstrong Roll, the Halbert Roll, the list of Choctaw Reserves, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, Ward’s Register, American State Papers (Public Land & Indian Affairs volumes), Records of the Choctaw Trading House, and correspondence found in United States Archives, RG-75, Bureau of Indian Affairs, relating to the individuals contained in this study.
The families will be discussed in alphabetical order and include a name list of known or suspected mixed bloods as well as a genealogical lineage chart where it will help explain family relationships. The genealogical charts are intended to be more illustrative than comprehensive and in some cases do not show all offspring. There will in most families be more than a single line given, and in a few cases the genealogical record is quite hazy. Rather than simply include only those well-documented mixed-blood family groups such as the LeFlores and the Pitchlynns, lesser known and often unreported families are also named as they are more representative of mixed bloods residing in Choctaw country in the early 1800s. All of the families discussed are drawn from extant lists and censuses of the Choctaw tribe prior to Removal.
- Anderson List of Mixed Bloods
- Brashears List of Mixed Bloods
- Emeline Jane Smith, Application
- 1820 Melish map of Mississippi
- Cravat List of Mixed Bloods
- Durant List of Mixed Bloods
- Folsom List of Mixed Bloods
Albert James Pickett, History of Alabama and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi from the Earliest Period, (Tuscaloosa: Willo Publishing, 1962, reprint edition) 344; John Walton Caughey, McGillivray of the Creeks, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1938) McGillivray to Panton, August 10, 1789, p. 247. ↩
Pickett, History, 342-45; Alexander McGillivray is also identified as a mixed blood in Thomas S. Woodward’s Reminiscences, (1859, reprint, Tuscaloosa: Weatherford Printing Co.: 1939) 113; Halbert, Henry S., and T. H. Ball, The Creek War of 1813 and 1814 (University, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 1969) Southern Historical Publication #15, ed. by Frank L. Owsley, Jr., 27-8. ↩
Alexander Brashears was born c.1790; see also Records Relating to Enrollment of the Eastern Cherokee by Guion Miller, 1908-1910, Record group 75, National Archives, microfilm M-685. ↩
Halbert and Ball, The Creek War of 1813 and 1814, 26. The Wind clan of the Creek tribe was considered an elite Indian group. Emeline Wind is reported to be from the same lineage as the noted William Weatherford of Creek War fame. ↩
Dye/Smith genealogy in possession of the author. ↩
Emeline Jane Smith to Commissioner, July 18, 1908, copy in possession of the author. ↩
Emeline Jane Smith to Nathan Bickford, Sept. 5, 1907, copy in possession of the author. ↩