Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation
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Peter H. Hudson News article from the Hugo Daily News, 15 December 1931 by Peter J. Hudson. The story was first printed in the Antlers American.

Old History of Choctaw Council Houses in told. Peter J. Hudson of Tuskahoma who supplied the information for this article was closely associated with many prominent leading figures of the Choctaw Nation during the closing day of the Choctaw Government.

Mr. Hudson, a full blood Choctaw, was born near Eagletown, McCurtain County, known then as Eagle County, Choctaw Nation in 1861. He is a graduate of Drury College at Springfield, Missouri, member of the class of 1887, and also spent three years at a Theological Seminary at Hartford Connecticut. He was gained wide prominence among his people after his return because of his versatile ability.

For many years, Mr. Hudson was at the head of the Tuskahoma Seminary at Tuskahoma. This school was continued until a few years ago when flames almost completely destroyed the main buildings. Since then, the government disbanded the school and now only traces of what was once the leading education institution of this portion of the Choctaw nation may be seen. During the past four years, Mr. Hudson was associated with the State Historical Society at Oklahoma City. Here he traced historical facts, relation to the Choctaw Indians form the time that any record may be had about them.

Turning back the pages of history to that period when Southeast Oklahoma was governed by citizens of the Choctaw Nation, I recall with happy memories some outstanding characters of he time in connection with events that have been lost to history.

Reproduction of this picture brings back to memory some pleasant associations in enjoyed with several of the men included in the picture. It is impossible, however, for me to do justice to these men as to presenting the history of their lives, but I take great pleasure in setting down some facts relation to some of them which may offer an insight to the character of the man and the role which he played.

Several of those in the picture were students at Old Spencer Academy the same year that I was a student there. This school was established by act of the Choctaw Council of 1842. It was the beginning of academics or boarding schools in the Indian Territory under the supervision of eh Choctaw Spencer Academy was places under the control of the American Board of Commissions of Foreign Missionary, and the superintendent and teachers were Presbyterians. The school continued to operate until 1860, when it was closed at the outbreak of the Civil War. The school reopened in 1870 entirely under the supervision of the Choctaw Government.

Spencer Academy was the Alma Mater of many leader of the Choctaw Nation. The school, later, was moved to another location, about ten miles northwest of the present town of Hugo. The school buildings were destroyed by fire in June 1900, shortly after closing of the school term that spring. Efforts were made to rebuild the school but met with no success. An Alumni organization was formed in July of this year at Cherokee Lake near Bennington, electing P.W. Hudson of Antlers, president. Mr. Peter J. Hudson of Tuskahoma was asked to compile the history of Spencer Academy.

The site of the Old Spencer Academy is now called Spencerville, Oklahoma, just across the county line into Choctaw county, about twenty miles southeast of Antlers.

Beginning with the top row, from left to right, we have Wood Kirk, an intermarried citizen, who became one of the leaders of the people with whom he cast his lot.

Mr. Kirk, a highly educated man, born and reared in Charleston, Albemarle County, Virginia, came to the Choctaw Nation in 1872, soon after his graduation from the Virginia Military Institute. He married a daughter of Governor Garvin of the Choctaw Nation, and settle at Kull Inla, near Shawneetown today in McCurtain County. About this time he was appointed U.S. Commissioner of that district of the Territory.

Following his second marriage, when he married Missie McClure, a sister of Premium McClure, who was a delegate to the constitutional Convention from McCurtain County, he settled on a farm, between Garvin and Idabel, engaged in farming and stock raising, where he became the wealthiest man in Red River County. Aside from his business success, he became widely known as a lover of outdoor life. A sportsman, radiating the hospitality of the old South, Mr. Kirk entertained many of the early day celebrities.

His favorite sport was hunting and how he entertained his guests on hunting trips offered a true picture of the man. He did things in a big way, and preparing for a trip to the mountains, his retinue of servants was kept hurtling so that nothing would be left undone for the comfort of his guests.

Riding to forty hounds and leading a chase over. The rugged country offered him his greatest pleasures. Sometimes his hunting trip would last for several weeks, and he was the soul of hospitality on all of these occasions. He owned a deer park which was one of the favorite attractions in that portion of the nation.

Many tales have been created and recounted around character. His love for the outdoor life was probably his outstanding characteristic. He was vigorous man, brimming with energy and seemed peculiarly fitted to his environment.

Mr. Kirk, on one of his trips back to his native state, was a passenger on an excursion liner along the Atlantic Coast, which was wrecked in a terrific gale. When the storm has subsided, one of the few survivors of he ship along with Mr. Kirk was a small Negro lad. The boy was without a home, so Mr. Kirk brought him to the Indian Territory where he became one of his trusted retainers. The Negro grew up on the Kirk plantation, and now lives at Oklahoma City, know as Peter Kirk.

One of Mr. Kirk’s intimate associates was an Indian named John Garland, who later became a preacher. This Indian preacher conducted the funeral of Mr. Kirk, when he died in 1916, and the sermon he preached on this occasion has become a masterpiece in its originality.

The “Old Settlers” organization of McCurtain County was perfected at the home of Wood Kirk on July 28, 1929. Included in this group is Paul Stewart of Antlers, formerly of Haworth, McCurtain County.

Absolum James, the second man in that row, acquired his education at the Old Spencer Academy, coming there to attend school in 1870, when the school re-opened. The school had closed down 1860, at the outbreak of the Civil War. I was enrolled in school year, at the age of nine. I don’t remember whether or not Absolum attended any other school.

Absolum made his home somewhere near Wheelock Academy, now McCurtain County. In about 1896, he was elected and served as district judge of the second district, known as the Apukshunnubbi district, the court grounds being Sulphur Springs or “Alikchi” in Choctaw. Seven counties, Red River, Eagle, Bok-Tuklo, Nashoba, Towson, Cedar and Wade formed the district, which today would take in parts of Pushmataha, Choctaw McCurtain counties.

From 1850 to 1884, a judge held courts at each county seat and was called Circuit Judge but a change was made in 1884, creating one court for each of three districts which became known as the District Court, and the official name of the presiding judge, District Judge.

It is quite possible that James held different positions in Towson County, before he was elected district judge, as he was one of the leading political figures of his county.

The third man in this row is Edward Wilson, one of the Wilson boys, who acquired much fame, politically, in the nation. He was appointed superintendent of Wheelock Seminary in what now is McCurtain County, in 1892, the same year that I was appointed to similar position at the Tuskahoma Female Seminary, in this country.

I have no information as to where Mr. Wilson acquired his education. After the signing of the Atoka Agreement, the United States Government took over our seminaries, leaving us to seek other positions. The next time I met Mr. Wilson, he was a candidate for the office of National Secretary. The same year I was a candidate for Nation Auditor. We were elected. This was 1901. We were re-elected in 1903, and again in 1905. We held these positions until Congress abolished them in 1912.

Mr. Wilson lived on a farm a short distance west of Fort Towson, where he died on December 13, 1920.

We now came to Raphael Wilson, a brother of Edward Wilson. Raphael married Emma Bohanon, a daughter of Joshua Bohanon. Joshua Bohanon was the grandfather of P.W. Hudson of Antlers. Mrs. Wilson, who is still living, makes her home at Valliant.

Mr. Wilson became a very prominent man in the affairs of the state, following statehood. He was a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Agriculture under Governor Haskell’s administration. Later he became U.S. Field Clerk in the office at Idabel. He was the first automobile tag agent of McCurtain County, which position held up to the time of his death in 1925.

He served as mayor of Valliant, was an active leader and worker in the Methodist church. His children are Toru, Eleanor, Raphael Jr., Green McCurtain and Waldo.

The last man on the upper row is Soloman Hotema, one of the most colorful characters of his time.

Mr. Hotema enrolled at Spencer Academy in 1870. Of all the Students, he was the only one who spoke both English and Choctaw, and acted as interpreter.

A ruling in effect at that time governing student attendance at the boarding schools allowed Hotema only four years at Spencer. Then he was permitted to attend some college in the states so he went to Roanoke College, Virginia, and I believe, graduated there.

In about 1880, he returned home and became a useful citizen. He had taken up ministry at college and while he engaged in that profession, he was elected to various political positions. He served as district attorney for the third district, county judge, representative and interpreter. He was an able man in every way.

Along about 1898, a series of deaths occurred in his community, and upon being informed by the Medicine man, who was his close friend, that witchery was the cause of these deaths, Hotema took the law into his own hands, shooting and killing two Choctaw women and a man, whom the Medicine name had pointed out as skilled in the practice of witchcraft.

For these acts, Hotema was tried two times in the United States Court at Paris, Texas. He as acquitted in his first trial, pleading insanity, but was convicted in his second trial and sent to prison at Atlanta, Georgia, where he died in 1907. The United States Court had jurisdiction over murder cases in the Indian Territory at that time.

Judge T.C. Humphrey of Hugo, who once served as United States District Judge of the Central District of the Indian Territory, defended Hotema in his first trial. Judge Humphrey today has in his possession the weapon that Hotema used in removing the witches from his community.

Col. Jake Hodges of Paris, one of the most able criminal lawyers to practice in the central district of the Indian Territory, and co-counsel of Judge T.C. Humphrey, in pleading Hotema’s case, referred the jury to the 18th verse of the 22nd chapter of Exodus, which say’s, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Col. Hodges was a Picturesque figure himself.

Col. Hodges, I am reminded, was the inspirational force for Senator Paul Stewart to become a lawyer when Stewart, as a lad of ten, was greatly impressed by this man, whom he first saw as a counsel for a Negro, charged with stealing a horse, in the courts pleading to jury, composed of seven Negroes, two Indians and three white men.

Hotema resided in the Cold Springs community, a few miles west of the present town of Hugo, where also, are the scenes of his killings.

John Turnbull, the first man in the lower group, was one of the leading exponents of the leading exponents of education among the Choctaw people. I do not know where or when he attended school, but it must have been in the states before the Civil War. He was well educated.

Mr. Turnbull, whose descendants have become prominent in the affairs of the state, was a Presbyterian minister. After several years of teaching and preaching, he served the nation as Superintendent of Public Schools. I know that he served in this capacity because he wrote me while I was a student at Hartford, Connecticut, informing me that I had used up my time in the colleges of the state. This was in 1889. I was then nine years in the state colleges, six years at Drury College, Springfield, Missouri, and three years at Hartford Connecticut. However, I stayed on until I finished my course at Hartford in 1890.

Hence, I know that John Turnbull held the office of Superintendent of Public Schools that year. He may have acted in that capacity for several years.

Seated next to Mr. Turnbull is Henry Harris, one of the most able men to take an active part in the affairs of the Choctaw Government.

Born on Rock Creek, just across the line form Ultima Thule, Arkansas, Mr. Harris moved to Red River County, Choctaw Nation and later moved to the edge of the bottom near what now is Pleasant Hill, Oklahoma.

In 1888, when Ben Smallwood was Governor of the Choctaw Nation, Mr. Harris was appointed a member o the Choctaw delegation, with James Standley as chairman, to prosecute a claim against the United States Government in what has been known as the Leased District. Robert Ward was the third member of this delegation.

By virtue of the success of this delegation at Washington, half of the claim was collected and paid out of in 1893, known as the leased district payment of $103 per capita. This delegation was continued to prosecute the claim for the other half of the leased district.

As late as 1909, after the death of Chairman James Standley, when certain attorneys sought a contract to prosecute the claim for the Choctaws, chief Green McCurtain , refusing to sign the contract, appointed me to fill the vacancy on account of the death of Standley, saying that the Standley delegation was still recognized as the authorized body to look after the claim.

Mr. Harris, was a member of the Supreme Court at one time, representing Apukshunnugbbi district, or the second district. He represented, Red River County, in the House of Representatives, and late was a member of the senate.

He died on October 29, 1899. His wife, Mrs. Margaret Harris, was a maternal aunt of Mrs. W.H. McBrayer of Haworth; M.O. Byram of Swink, and a maternal aunt of Mrs. Paul Stewart of Antlers. Their children are Bert S. Harris, Walter S. Harris, Jack Harris, deceased, Mrs. W.J. Whiteman and Mrs. Dave Swink.

The old Henry Harris homestead is occupied by his son, Bert at the present time.

The man next to Mr. Harris is John Wilson, another one of the Wilson Boys, John married the adopted daughter of John Turnbull, if I am not mistaken.

I met John Wilson immediately after I returned to Eagletown from Hartford. It happened that in 1890, he and I were employed as census enumerators, in the first census taken of whites and Indians in the Indian Territory. I was assigned to Nashoba and Wade counties while John worked Towson County.

It is probable that John Wilson held various political positions during his lifetime. In 1901, we were applicants for the same position, that of membership of the supreme court. Our friends agreed to appoint John Wilson to that position and slated me for the office of Auditor of the Choctaw Nation. I have already mentioned that I was a candidate for that office that year. So John Wilson was a member of the Choctaw Council at different times.

His children, as I remember are Hattie Wilson, U.S. Field Clerk in the offices at Hugo and Antlers at the present time; Bessie Wilson of Hugo; Mittie (Vivian) Wilson of Oklahoma City, and Eugene Wilson of Fort Towson.

The last member of this group is Willie Wilson, the oldest of the Wilson boys who wielded powerful political influenced in their district. Willie is another old Spencer Academy student. He was there at the re-opening of the school in 1870. After leaving Spencer, I don’t believe he attended any other school. However, I might have been re-elected in

  1. If so, he served four years as Treasurer.

The Wilson boys, Willie, John, Edward, and Raphael were born and reared at the old home place on Clear Creek, four miles southwest of Valliant. They were widely known as the Wilson boys who controlled Choctaw politics of Towson County for many years, beginning about 1880. Their influence extended into surrounding counties and continued until the enactment of the Dawes Commission, and the abolishment of the Choctaw Government.

THE END.

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