A Little History

Oklahoma Slave Narrative

  Jack Campbell

My father was killed during the Civil War. I was an infant when he was killed and do not remember anything about him at all. All of us were slaves then.  My mother's name was Martha Sarah Reed Campbell. She was a slave in the South. She was born in Maryland County, Alabama, and was a full-blood negro. While a slave in the South, she belonged to an Indian, and was moved from Alabama to the Choctaw Nation in what is now Latimer County. I do not remember if my mother ever told me of my father. My mother's master was an Indian in the South and his name was Cutch Chubby. The Civil War freed her in the days after the war was over.  She tells me that there were no marriages in the negro race during slavery days. They just coupled off together and if there were any children born to any of these couples, they were then children and slaves of the master who owned the mother.  My mother was freed in the year of 1865 and was living in the Choctaw Nation when she was freed.  We settled around in the country that is now called  Latimer County and there was no town in this whole country then. There was only one place that one could do any trading and that was Fort Smith. In those days when one wanted to do any trading he had to go to Fort Smith in an ox cart. Most of the Indians and all others who lived in this country in these early days went to Fort Smith about once a year. It would take some of them three months to make the round trip.  After my mother was freed after the Civil War she got a chance to get to Fort Smith and obtain some work, and she went, riding with one of these ox teams and wagons. We then stayed in Fort Smith about two years. I was seven years old when we came back to the Territory. We stopped this time just over in what they called in those times Skulleyville County.  We rented land from an Indian Judge for one year and then moved into what was called Gaines County, now Latimer County, and have lived in this county ever since. My mother and I just lived in this country and worked at whatever we could find to get money to buy food with. This was when I was about seven to eight years old.  Along about the year of 1870 there were no white settlers in this country. In those days the Choctaw Indians built a large brush arbor for their summer meetings and they would all gather there for a great meeting and all would bring beef and wild deer and all kinds of wild animal meat to eat. This meeting sometimes lasted for at least three weeks. I do not remember of any gambling or whiskey being at one of these meetings. They were all reasonable and peaceable.  In this early day the Choctaws had what they called the Indian Ball Games. These were pretty rough to play and a man had to be a mighty good man or he could not get in on this ball game. In many cases one county would play another and of course they had what they called their best men in their team and on many occasions these best men would get out on the field and have a great fight over the game and of course the man that gave the other a whipping was considered the greatest man.  I was an Indian doctor when I was grown and when an Indian would get sick he would send for me. I would always go and see the sick Indian, if this sick Indian was a real sick fellow. The Choctaw tribe in those days called their sick spells after some of the animals that roamed the woods and some of the fowls.  I never would tell the names of the roots and herbs that I dug up and cooked down for the sick. (He also refused to tell me yesterday when I was talking to him. He said it was against his belief. -- Bradley Bey Bolinger). Jack Campbell, in some instances as late as today, is called to see a sick Indian. He says that he always gathered his herbs and medicine in the Spring and in the Fall, and he is able to make many kinds of medicine.  When an Indian died in the early day when I was a young man, the woman, his wife, would look after him. Most of the Indian homes or cabins in the early day were just log cabins and did not have flooring, only a dirt floor so that when the husband or her man died she would have him buried right in the floor of her cabin about four feet in the ground and the Indian woman would move her bed over this grave and sleep over it for one year. This they said would release them from any other obligation to their past husband. This rule was changed later and most of the Indians picked a high hill someplace and made it their burying place.  In the early days the Choctaw did not have a marriage law in this country. If a Choctaw had two or three Indian girls in his family and they were at least around sixteen years of age the father just selected an Indian young man and made a trade with him as to his daughter. This mating and living together would stand up in the Indian Courts. I have seen the young Indian and his perspective wife make a foot race and if the Indian man outran the Indian girl, he got her for his wife. They would line them up and they would run 200 yards. The Indian girl would be given about twenty yards the advantage and then the sign was given. If the man overtook and outran the Indian girl, he won her for his wife. But if she outran him, she did not have to go live with him if she did not want to do so.  The Choctaw Indian did not violate the Indian law in the early day in this country. There were no prisons nor jails nor any such things. If an Indian was caught for stealing belonging to another, he was taken up by the Indian Sheriff. In those days they had public elections electing their Sheriffs and Judges to serve for two years and they had what they called Indian Court House built all over the country where they held their court. When an Indian was arrested for stealing some other Indian's cow, horse, or anything else that another owned, he was tried in one of these Indian Courts. For the first offense, he was immediately marched out in the Court House yard and held to a certain tree and whipped with a green hickory switch. Twenty-five lashes for the first offense; seventy-five for the second; and one hundred for the third. Those lashes were seriously laid on by the Indian Sheriff.  I have witnessed some executions, in this nation, of Indians who had committed serious crimes, serious enough to be shot. After the trial and conviction, they were turned loose to go home and take care of their personal business and were given the correct date for them to return to the Court House Yard for their execution and at no time did I ever remember of one of the Choctaws failing to report at the proper time. The Choctaws told me that in those days there was no other tribe or place where he could live and that if he committed a crime that serious that he might as well go to take his punishment because if he tried to leave and go to some other tribe they would kill him there just the same. In other words, they would not accept him in the new tribe as a member and he did not care to live any longer.  In the last years when Green McCurtain was trying to get to be Governor of the Choctaw tribe there were two factions, one against statehood and the other for statehood, and there was a great unrest among the Choctaws in that day. Green McCurtain was elected as the Governer of the Choctaw tribe. Their Capital was what is now Tuskahoma, Oklahoma.  On the day the votes were counted, a few soldiers were sent down here to keep peace and to prevent any other shootings and fightings.