History of Newton County, Mississippi, from 1834 to 1894

Chapter 2



[page 4, par 1]

[page 4, par 2]
The Indians were in large numbers in the part of the country ceded by them to the State of Mississippi. From the best information obtainable, there were from 20,000 to 25,000, and it is supposed that Newton county had rather over an average number of Indians in comparison to the other parts of this acquired territory.

[page 4, par 3]
This county was a fine range, well watered, and an excellent hunting ground, and the supposition is that large numbers came here for an easy living, and to amuse and interest themselves. Much open land and wide-spreading prairies in the southwestern part of the county offered large scope for recreation and engagement in their national ball play.

[page 4, par 4]
These people, however, offered a very interesting topic for thought and speculation, as to where they came from, and the length of time that they had occupied the country before the white man came among them. There is nothing that has ever been obtained from the Indians themselves as to where they came from, or how long they have lived in the country. Some of the older ones of the Choctaw tribe claim that they came out of a great mound on the head-waters of Pearl river in Winston county, near the central portion of the State. Some historians claim that they overran the country very rapidly after their appearance, and that they are from the province of Kamtschatka. They, in all probability, came from the west at some very remote period of time, as one tribe, and as they increased their numbers, and it was necessary to provide a better hunting ground, that they divided and came east. After being separated for centuries, they from Certain circumstances, changed their languages, and many of their customs and habits of life were different from their ancestors. Difference in climate and a change of food made them, to some extent, differ in appearance and size; also changed their dialects, and thus out of the same original tribe that came from the west, all the various tribes have sprung.

[page 5, par 1]
The length of time that has elapsed since the first Indian came on American soil is one of those things that no human being can tell. In estimating their numbers various sources of information have been sought, and even then it is all uncertain as to the numbers that were emigrated, to say nothing of what it was when the white man came among them.

[page 5, par 2]
The Hon. Charles Gayarre has the following in reference to the original proprietors of the magnificent territory to which attention has just been called:

[page 5, par 3]
"The Choctaws occupied a very large territory between the Mississippi and Tombigbee from the frontiers of the Colapesas and the Biloxi's, on the shores of lake Ponchartrain and Borgne, up to the frontiers of the Natchez, of the Yazoos, and of the Chickasaws.

[page 6, par 1]
They owned more than fifty important villages, and it was said at one time they could have brought into the field twenty-five thousand warriors."

[page 6, par 2]
The portion of the State above described, a large part of its territory and the numbers expected in the small portion of country as is embraced in the treaty of "Dancing Rabbit Creek," of course will be very small in comparison. From information received from the Congressional Library at Washington, it is found that the original number of Choctaw Indians, which were to be received under the treaty of "Dancing Rabbit Creek," was 18,500. From a report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, of 1838, it is found that out of the total 18,500 there had emigrated at that time 15,177. In the report of 1844 and '45 the same figures are given, showing that no more had emigrated up to that time. It is well known that a large emigration took place, and the Choctaw Indians from Newton and Jasper counties, were in rendezvous at Garlandsville, Jasper county, in the year 1845, and yet no mention of it can be found in the Congressional Library at Washington. A further report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, states under date of October 31, 1849, that "Within the last twelve months 547 Choctaws have been emigrated" from the old Choctaw country east of the Mississippi to the Choctaw Nation west of the Mississippi.

[page 6, par 3]
The Choctaw Agent, in his report of September 6, 1852, says that about 300 Choctaws have been removed from the States of Mississippi and Louisiana, within the present year, mostly from the latter State. In the year 1856, the United States government closed its relations with the Indians in this part of the State. There was still a number left in different parts of the State, and the Indian agents came to the various counties and paid the Indians off what was supposed to be due to them, in gold, and many white men profited by trading with the Indians, and in some instances, no doubt got largely the advantage of them, and sold to credulous, unsuspecting Indians property at fabulous prices. It is now estimated by our last census, and by good private authority, that there are about 2,000 Indians in the State of Mississippi of the Choctaw tribe. This, with the number reported to be emigrated from time to time, would bring pretty nearly, counting for loss by death, the close approximation of 25,000, as stated in the preceding pages.

[page 7, par 1]
The Indians thus paid off were now citizens, assuming the responsibilities of such, being amenable to the laws of the State and made to conform to them in most instances, yet they were not allowed to vote. Some of them went west and afterwards returned to this country, having a greater love for their old homes, than for a new and better hunting ground.

[page 7, par 2]
A very interesting legendary account is given by Lowry and McCardle of the origin of the Choctaw Indians in this State, which is taken from Col. Claiborne's volume, and furnishes the following tradition given in his own words: "The Choctaws believed that their ancestors came from the west. They were led by two brothers,Chacta and Chicsa -- at the head of their respective Iksas or Clans. On their journey they followed a pole, which, guided by an invisible hand, moved before them. Shortly after crossing the Mississippi the pole stood still, firmly planted in the ground, and they construed this as an augury that there they must halt and make their homes. What connection this may have with, and how far it has been derived from the exodus of the Israelites, and the 'cloud by day and pillar of fire by night,' is left for the curious to determine. But the pole moving in the march before them is the oldest and best established tradition of the Choctaws and Chickasaws. The two leaders concluded to reconnoiter the country. Chicsa moved first, and ten days after Chacta followed, but a tremendous snow-storm had obliterated his brother's trail, and they were separated. He went southerly to Nanawayya, on the headwaters of Pearl river, about the geographical center of the State. and the other brother, it was afterwards ascertained, settled near where Pontotoc now stands.

[page 8, par 1]
"At the first meeting of the brothers it was determined that the two clans should constitute separate tribes, each occupying their respective territory, and that the hunters of neither band should encroach on the territory of the other. The present Oktibbeha and Nusicheah are indicated as the lines of demarcation."

[page 8, par 2]
The Chickasaws are said to have been a very warlike tribe, while the Choctaws were, on the contrary, powerful but not a very warlike people. They assisted the American people from first to last against all foreigners who made war against us, and also against all unfriendly Indians whom the nation had difficulty in subduing.

[page 8, par 3]
From all the information on the subject it is not safe to say that Newton county, though a favored spot for the Indians' home, had more than from 3000 to 5000 Indians subsequent to the treaty. These people, in their primeval state, were the most honest, virtuous people of which we have any account. It is true that some things were tolerated among them not allowed in civilized nations, such as a plurality of wives, and some customs which were revolting to the refined notions of the white men -- such as scaffolding their dead until the flesh would come off the bones, and with human hands remove the flesh and bury the bones; and yet they had great reverence for their dead, and buried their bones near their dwellings; were very loth to leave them and go to another country, evidently believing that the spirits of their dead were present but invisible. When they came into very close relations with the white man, and became addicted to the vice of intemperance, to which most of them fell victims, they became badly demoralized and lost much of that purity of character which originally distinguished them. As a race, children of nature, deriving much of their support from the spontaneous production of the soil, and game that were abundant around them, they knew but little about hard work; yet they by nature are economical, lived on little, and wonderfully enjoyed their social relations, engaged with zeal in their national game, and attended closely to their time-honored customs of crying, dancing and feasting over their dead. They were by nature endowed with good minds, capable of being greatly improved by education -- being as apt to learn as the white race. They also display much ingenuity in the construction of anything in mechanics as well as fine arts, and often good taste in anything that they propose to construct. They have gone from our midst. A peculiar people has passed away. Only a remnant of a once powerful tribe is left among us, and they are to-day as free from an amalgamation of their race with the white and black man as they were when they first mingled together. This remnant is fast declining. There are about three hundred now in Newton county. Many of this small number appear to be in a decline -- not the robust, hardy people as of years ago. The probabilities are that there is too much consanguinity of blood. Various diseases, not originally known to them, particularly of a pulmonary character, seem to attack them. If this remnant would go West and mingle and marry with their race in the Indian Territory, it is probable that they would be much bettered.

[page 10, par 1]
Many of them in this County have embraced Christianity. About fifteen years ago a missionary from the Choctaw tribe in the Territory came to Newton county. He was quite an old man, probably seventy years old. He said that he was born in Scott County; was the son of a white man who came from Virginia and married his mother. He, with his parents, went to Gainesville, Ala., where there was a trading post kept by George S. Gaines and Allen Glover. There the attention of some persons who were engaged in immigrating the Indians was first called to the young half-breed, Peter Fulsom. He was taken and to some extent was educated and became a Baptist preacher. He early went west, as the tribe was emigrated. The Mount Pisga Association, embracing this county, asked that a missionary be sent to these Indians in this part of the country. Peter Fulsom came, was a good and pious man, but too old to do much service. He went back to the Nation after the first year and was succeeded by Jesse Baker, a young Choctaw Baptist preacher, who had received a tolerably good education at Upper Alton in the State of Illinois. He was a consecrated man and did wonderful work among his people. He mingled freely with them, learned them to sing religious songs, preached to them, taught them to read and write, which they readily learned to do, and reclaimed most of them with whom he came in contact, from strong drink, and made a general reform among them in the county.

[page 11, par 1]
In this county they have mostly abandoned their ball plays, which were very demoralizing and wicked places when dominated by drunken white men and negroes. They have two or more preachers in the county, with fifty to sixty members. These preachers are remarkable for the way in which they preach, and their understanding of the scripture, and for the correct and orderly way in which they conduct divine service. They have one public school taught at different places in the county. This school is provided for in the same way as other public schools of the county. Mr. Halbert, a white man, teaches these schools. He appears to be devoting himself studiously to the improvement of all the Choctaws in his reach.

[page 11, par 2]
The Indian preacher, Jesse Baker, labored for a part of two years, going to college after the first year and returning to his work. Soon after his return the second year, he took fever and died, at the house of Mr. Frank Russell, at Hickory, who treated him very kindly. In a short time another Choctaw preacher came, and he also died very soon after coming. Since that time the native Indian, with the help of the white preachers of the county, have been able to carry on the work.

[page 11, par 3]
Much has been said and written about the treatment that the "poor Indian" has received at the hands of the white man -- that is, the government of the United States. It is said that their lands and country were taken away from them, and they were forced away from the homes they reverenced and loved, which was their's by inalienable right of inheritance and possession, for ages past.

[page 11, par 4]
It is all true, that the Government took or exchanged countries with Indians of various tribes of the United States. The Choctaws are the ones which have been most particularly under discussion, and for the information it may impart it is shown from good authority that the Choctaws ceded in all to the U.S. Government 19,000,000 acres of land, and received in return 20,000,000 and $2,225,000 in money and goods. These people, after they were removed, had schools that were free, school-houses and books furnished. They had the gospel preached to them; they had thrown around them the protecting care of a strong government that would not allow a white man to buy or own land among them. They were not allowed to sell their lands, had no tax to pay upon them, and could remain on and rent out the land as long as they lived and their children after them. The Indian Territory in which they live, is one of the most fertile, well-watered and beautifully situated States in the Union. It has abundance of game, a diversity of soil, besides being rich in coal and mineral production. It has 74,125 square miles, nearly twice as large as Mississippi. Its population in 1860 consisted of Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, Choctaws, Chickasaws and remnants of smaller tribes amounting in all to 66,680. Since that time other remnants have been moved to the Nation and the population is now much larger. In some instances the government has apparently been severe with some tribes of Indians. This sometimes became necessary, the Indians often committing crimes which deserved severe punishment.

[page 12, par 1]
Taking everything into consideration, the Indians have received from their civilized conquerors good treatment. It is often stated that their numbers are much smaller than when the white man came among them. This may be granted, to a small extent; while others claim that there are as many now, or nearly so, as there were when the country was first discovered.

[page 13, par 1]
Various are the conclusions as to what will become of the Indian. The prevailing opinion is that of the "survival of the fittest," and that they will be obliterated from the face of the earth by the superiority of the white race, with whom they come in sharp contact. The conclusion most reasonable to the writer is, that at no remote period of the world's history they will be amalgamated by the white race. Although no white man is allowed to own land among them, nor to live except as a tenant, they can become a citizen by marrying an Indian woman, and the offspring of this union will be as much the beneficiaries of the provisions of the Territory as if they were full-blood. These half-breeds will become educated, and are good looking and intelligent. The white race, by amalgamation, always predominates, and as those who are mixed-blooded will take precedence, and encouragement to this end will be established, so that at no great distance in the vista of coming years will these people not be destroyed, but their race so interchangeably connected with the white race as not to be known.