A Little History

Oklahoma Slave Narrative

  Charley Moore Brown

I am a Freedman citizen of the Choctaw Tribe, quarter blood Choctaw Indian and three quarter negro. I was born in what was called Gaines County when the Choctaw tribe had control in this country, later named Latimer County. I have been living in this county 63 years.  My father, Elias S. Brown, was born in this county about four miles west of what is now Clayton, Oklahoma. I do not remember his age. He died August 15, 1920. He has told me he was a slave before the Civil War. He had told me that his master's name was Manley Noably, an educated Choctaw, half Indian and half white blood.  My mother's name is Peggy McKinney Brown. She is now living with me on a small farm. My mother tells me that she thinks she is now 120 years of age; that she was a slave and lived with her master in the Choctaw Nation and belonged to  Jesse McKinney. She says this master was of one half Choctaw blood. She tells me that she was a young woman even before the Civil War started. I had a talk with this old woman. Her appearance told me that she is a mixed breed. She told me personally herself that her master, Jesse McKinney, was her father and also her master. She said she was born at what was called Doaksville in the Choctaw nation. This old master of hers was a successful stock raiser in this Choctaw nation. He possessed about twenty slaves before the Civil War and was able to keep them for a year or more after the war was over and before the slaves were turned free because in those days the slaves did not know what to do if they were turned loose. This old master that she said was her father was a very hard master. He had no regard for himself or any of the negro slave women, especially if they were of pleasant looks. He did not hesitate to bring half-breed children into the world. He told ma, says Peggy, after the Civil War was over and he was turning us all loose to manage for ourselves, that he was my father.  This is what Charley Brown's mother told us while we were talking to her yesterday  My father and mother lived in the Choctaw Nation before the Civil War and were both slaves belonging to this man, Jesse McKinney. This man was a successful stock raiser with a large tract of land under his control. This place that he controlled was located on Jack Fork Creek. They raised in this early day lots of livestock and there was an unlimited amount of outside land to graze this stock. My father told me before he died that every once in a while the masters would have a slave sale and that a good worker would bring around eight hundred dollars. Of course, this was in confederate money.  I was born near the settlement of Walls, this county. My father was a free man when I was born. My father and mother just picked out a place in this Choctaw Nation that was suitable to do some farming on, and were permitted to settle on this land. We just tried to raise what we called a living in these early days, about the main crop that we tried to raise being corn that we used to make our bread. You did not have to plant feed stuff for your stock, there was plenty of outside range for all the stock and they did well.  There were no roads in this country in those days. The nearest place we had for buying supplies were trading posts at what is now McAlester and Ft. Smith. We tried to make one of these places about twice a year for what necessary supplies we had to have. It would take about four days to make the round trip to either place. There were hardly any real white people in the Choctaw nation when I was growing up. The Choctaws were reasonable to get along with. If you treated the Indian in this country good he would always be your friend and would help you anytime he was able to.  When a settler came to this country in those days it was up to him to build his house entirely from timber that he would cut in the woods. The floors were made out of thick pieces of lumber and was called puncheon floors.  About all the excitement the Choctaws would create would be when they all went to what was called Skulleyville when the government would pay them about every three months. This place was just over the line from Ft. Smith and there was quite a bit of whiskey over in the Nation on these occasions and many of the Choctaw Indians would start back home pretty well under the influence of whiskey.  In the day when I was growing up there were no white people in this country much. The white settler did not have anything to do with the Indian law enforcement. About the only time an Indian would be arrested for a violation it would have to be for stealing or the killing of another Indian.
Later when the railroad came through this country and coal was found in this county, the white settlers began to come here and stores were opened where Wilburton and where Red Oak now are. Then the white settlers and others did not have so far to travel to buy and sell their supplies.