Sunday, May 22, 2016

My Possible Choctaw Ancestry

My latest and last missionary son emailed me some family history work that he was doing for me to check over. It is on the Hartsfield line, ancestors of Carters, to Easterlings, then Petersons (my maternal line). They were Southerners with a family tradition that Sarah, married to Rueben Hartsfield in about 1783, was a Choctaw Indian.

Sabra Ann Carter
The best evidence we have is that Sarah's granddaughter, Sabra Ann Carter (1840-1921), looks like she could be the granddaughter of a Native American.

She appears to have the jet-black hair, high cheek bones, and long, straight nose that could indicate Choctaw ancestry.

This is entirely plausible as the Hartsfields (also "Hartfield"), along with the Easterlings and Carters, ended up in Choctaw Mississippi country. The Choctaw were a large language/cultural group but not united under any particular affiliation until President Jackson ordered removal to Oklahoma. Then there were two distinct groups, the Oklahoma Choctaw and the Mississippi Choctaw, the latter not federally recognized as a Tribe until 1945!

From Access Genealogy the Choctaw were noted:

  1. As the most numerous tribe in the Southeast next to the Cherokee.
  2. As depending more than most other tribes in the region on agriculture.
  3. For certain peculiar customs such as head deformation, extensive use of ossuaries for the dead, and the male custom of wearing the hair long.
  4. As faithful allies of the French against the English but always at peace with the United States Government.
  5. As having furnished the names to counties in Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, and settlements in the same States, and in Van Buren County, Arkansas.
British Americans came into contact with the Choctaw mainly after the Seven Years War (or as we tended to call it, the "French and Indian War" - or in Montreal, Quebec, the "War of English Conquest" as it was named differently by those bickering over who was killing whom.)

An interesting document popped up for me while Googling. It's dated the same year as is claimed for my 5th Great-Grandmother, Sarah's birth. It is by a Chief or "Mingo" of the Choctaw by the name of Alibamo, apparently for whom the State of Alabama is named. It is two years after the end of the French and Indian War. The interest I find is that Alibamo Mingo appears to be making a complaint about the British settlers, uniquely different than dealings with the French and Spanish they had known. It is my general understanding that French and Spanish explorers and colonizers, readily mingled with native populations fathering Mestizo or Creole descendants.

Check out the letter and I'll comment further:

Alibamo Mingo, Choctaw leader, reflects on the British and French, 1765

When I was Young the White Men came amongst us bearing abundance along with them, I took them by the hand & have ever remained firm to my Engagements, in return all my wants & those of my Warriors & Wives & Children have been Bountifully Supplied. I now See another Race of White Men Come amongst us bearing the Same abundance, & I expect they will be equally Bountiful which must be done if they wish equally to gain the affection of my people.
I and my Men have used the Guns of France these Eighty Winters Back, I wish I was Young to try the English Guns & English Powder both of which I hope will flourish & rejoice the Heart of the Hunters thro’ the Land and Cover the Nakedness of the Women.
With respect to the Land I was not Consulted in it, if I was to deliver my Sentiments evil disposed People might impute it to Motives very different from those which actuate me, it is true the Land belonged chiefly to those who have given it away; that the Words which were Spoken have been written with a Lasting Mark, the Superintendent marks every word after word as one would count Bullets so that no variation can happen, & therefore the words have been Spoken and the eternal marks traced I will not Say anything to contradict, but, on the Contrary Confirm the Cession which has been made. What I have now to Say on that head is, to wish that all the Land may be Settled in four years that I may See it myself before I die.
I Listened to all the parts of the Talks and Liked them exceeding well, except that part from the Superintendent, where he reported that those Medal Chiefs who did not behave well Should be broke & their Medals given to others. The Conversation I have held with Faver, in private, has rung every Night in my Ear, as I laid my Head on the bear Skin & as I have many Enemies in the Nation, I dreamed I should be the Person, which would break my heart in my Old Age, to Loose the Authority I have so long held.
I cannot imagine the Great King could send the Superintendent to deceive us. In case we deliver up our French Medals & Commissions we expect to receive as good in their place, and that we Should bear the Same Authority & be entitled to the Same presents, If you wish to Serve your Old Friends you may give New Medals & Commissions & presents, but the worthy cannot bear to be disgraced without a fault, Neither will the Generous Inflict a Punishment without a Crime.
There was one thing I would mention though’ it cannot concern myself, & that is the Behavior of the traders towards our Women, I was told of old by the Creeks & Cherokees, wherever the English went they caused disturbances for they lived under no Government and paid no respect either to Wisdom or Station. I hoped for better things, that those Old Talks had no truth in them. One thing I must report which has happened within my own knowledge, that often when the Traders sent for a Basket of Bread & the Generous Indian sent his own wife to Supply their wants instead of taking the Bread out of the Basket they put their hand upon the Breast of their Wives which was not to be admitted, for the first maxim in our Language is that Death is preferable to disgrace.
I am not of opinion that in giving Land to the English, we deprive ourselves of the use of it, on the Contrary, I think we shall share it with them, as for Example the House I now Speak in was built by the White people on our Land yet it is divided between the White & the Red people. Therefore we need not be uneasy that the English Settle upon our Lands as by that means they can more easily Supply our wants.
[Dunbar Rowland, ed. Mississppi Provincial Archives:, 1763-1766, English Dominion, Letters and Enclosures to the Secretary of State from Major Robert Farmar and Governor George Johnstone, Volume I (Nashville, TN: 1911), 240-241. Found here.]

British settlers may have been more familiar with a regimented class society with racial barriers. That would be true if they were English or one of the lesser "races" of Britain, as established by English prejudice and force; i.e., the Scots, Welsh, Irish, Cornish, etc. In fact, a lot of the settlers of the Southern Colonies were Scots-Irish, Presbyterian Protestants dispossessed by poverty and politics in Northern Ireland or Ulster. But take the Hartsfield name back another generation or two and it's "Hartsvelder," Pennsylvanian German. So maybe just forget all that anyway. Except that President Andrew Jackson who ordered all the Five Tribes out of the Southeastern U.S. was definitely Scots-Irish.

It just leaves me with so many questions. 

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