Folsom, Cletus Alita

Cletus Alita Folsom
Submitted by: William E. Folsom, Jr.

Cletus Alita Smith is the last living original enrollee Choctaw of her line of the Folsom family. She now lives in Tolleson, Arizona.

She was born Cletus Alita Folsom near Chambers, Indian Territory, on August 24, 1904. along with her brother, William Eugene Folsom, born May 17, 1903, she was entered on Dawes Commission Newborn Rolls as Number 1438. Her brother, Gene, was given 1437. Gene died December 24, 1980.

A brother, John Alex Folsom, was born in Cornish, Oklahoma, February 7, 1908, and Omega Willie Lee was born near Ringling, Oklahoma on February 20, 1920. Alex died September 1, 1992. Both were born after Dawes Commission Rolls closed.

Omega lives in Ringling near where their parents William Winfield Folsom, Roll Number 12619, and mother, Rosa Lee Folsom, Intermarried Number 1618, were allotted land. Alita and Gene were allotted land in the same general area north of Ringling.

Parents of William Winfield, William Starnes Folsom, Roll Number 12614, Ophelia Pocahontas Folsom, Roll Number 12615, were allotted land in the area, including children: Aurora A. Folsom, Number 12616; Zenobia (Jones) Folsom, Number 12617; Chlora A. Folsom, Number 12623; Alexander H. Folsom, Number 12620; Randolph D. Folsom, Number 12621; Odus W. Folsom, Number 12622; Edgar R. Folsom, Number 12624; George R. Folsom, Number 12625 and Oura P. Folsom, Number 12626.

Alita started her family in the Ringling area when she married Ernest Jones. They had two children, Jack and Natalie. Natalie died as a teenager in Ringling. Jack lives near his mother in Phoenix, Arizona.

She later married Howard Smith. They had two children, Peggy and Claudell. Both married and reared families in the Tolleson, Arizona area. Peggy died in 1987.

The close-knit Folsom family all felt the presence of “Aunt Lita”, as she was fondly known.

Nieces and nephews, cousins, uncles, and aunts all were one big family to her.

The depression of the early 1930’s took its toll on what was a reasonably comfortable family group. Farms were lost. Family homesteads and allotments were sold to survive through the depth of the depression years. Yet the sturdy hand of Alita and her family saw to the growth and education of younger members of the growing clan, many of whom became lawyers, teachers, newspaper editors and publishers, Navy and Marine Corp officers and enlisted men and other professions. Each was helped somewhere along the way by “Aunt Lita.”

Cutting hair, or barbering, was one of her self appointed chores. She regularly lined up whoever happened to be at her house at the time and started clipping. This also meant a bath, head wash, and clothing washed, if needed.

To her cleanliness was next to Godliness. When at her house everyone went to church and Sunday school where she often was the teacher. It was this Christian faith that helped her bear the burden as death eroded her family.

Alita’s great grandfather, Edward Washington Folsom, or Watt or Wash, as he also was known, the first Choctaw of his line of descent, came to Indian Territory from Oxnoxoby, Noshoi-tubbi District, Mississippi, with four in his family, which apparently included his wife, Elizabeth Starnes Folsom. According to some sources, his father Edmund also was with the family.

The family settled in Skullyville County alongside other Folsoms from Mississippi. Folsoms, men and women, married into the Tannehill, Impson, Aton, Nail, McCurtain, LeFlore, Harkins, Pitchlyn, Colbert, and many other families inside and outside of the Choctaw Tribe.

Rosa Lee Thatcher, Alita’s mother, came to Canadian, Indian Territory from Arkansas, where she met and married William Winfield, Alita’s father. The marriage ceremony took place at Savanna, Indian Territory, Railroad Depot.

Not too far from that wedding site, the enterprising Watt or Wash, much earlier built and operated a Toll Bridge across a creek that occasionally froze over. During this freezing weather travelers often used the ice to avoid the toll. Watt built fires to melt the competition. His plan backfired. Fires got out of hand once. He had to rebuild.

Watt’s father. Edmund, was born in Rowan County, North Carolina and moved with his parents into the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi, where he grew up and married into the Choctaw Tribe.

He and his Choctaw wife and seven children: Jeremiah, Rev. Peter, Watt, Nathaniel, George, Rachel, And Abigail. Edmund had two children by another Choctaw bride, this was a tribal custom. These children were Peggy and Dave.

Edmund’s father, Nathaniel Folsom, was the oldest of three brothers who came to North Carolina as settlers. All married into the Choctaw Tribe. They were sons of Israel Folsom of Connecticut and New Jersey. Israel’s forebears came to the United States in 1630 from Hingham, England, where ancestral records may be traced to early 1500’s. The family was known as Foulsham. They took the name Folsom upon arrival in America. Other family sources dating to 1349 suggest the name may well be of Norman and Danish origin prior to the move to England.

This fusion of proud and ancient Choctaw bloodlines and those early Europeans today is reflected in many Oklahoma Choctaw Indians such as the Folsoms.