I was born near what is now Rattan. This was in Cedar County, Choctaw Nation, o n the 17th day of March, 1880. My father’s name was Newman Nelson, and my mother’s name was Sallie Robb Nelson. My father and mother were not from Mississippi. They were both born and reared in what was then Cedar County, Oklahoma, and they both lived there until their death. My father was elected County Judge of Cedar County several times by the vote of the Indian people. I don’t know what his politics were but he was elected by the voters for that office, and he was a deputy sheriff several times. I have been told that by other Indians for I know o nly what other Indians have told me. We had a small farm where we raised corn for our bread and beans and potatoes. At that time the Indians did not work very much in the fields but they all had small farms.
They did not need much of a farm. All they needed was a small place to raise their corn for bread. They made corn meal by beating the corn in a mortar just as other Indians were doing. There were no gristmills in the country where they could get their corn ground so they had to beat it and make meal. All the Indians lived o n corn bread. It is a different kind of meal they made by beating the corn that you would get from a gristmill, and they made hominy out of the corn. They raised vegetables in their gardens, such as beans, cabbage, pumpkins, in fact, anything that they didn’t do was to can up and vegetables for winter use; they did not know how to can vegetables and put them away, and o nly a few do that now. I have been told that my father’s trading point was at Clarksville, Texas. He would yoke up his ox team and go to Clarksville for our groceries. He would go about twice a year. Clarksville was not very far from where we lived but it took him several days to make the trip o n account of the roads and the slowness of the oxen. After the railroad came through the country they then traded at Antlers, and did not go to Clarksville after that for they could get what they wanted in Antlers.
It was a small town then o n the Frisco Railroad. I have been told that some of the Indians used to dig up mud-potatoes and they would dig up some roots which they dried and made bread out of but I don’t know about it for I never saw anyone doing that. We had all we could eat all the time, such as corn bread. We did not have flour bread very much for it was hard to get flour without money and that is something that the Indians never had but very little of. My folks did not have a spinning wheel nor a loom, and I don’t know whether any of the Indians in our community had any or not. If they did, I never did hear of it. Several of the Indians had them but we did not have o ne of them in our community. The Indians used to live in communities; they did not live all together but in communities which use to be several miles apart. I did not know that we had an agency over our tribe; they might have had o ne but I did not know of it until after we had selected our land or when the Dawes’ Commissioners came down to negotiate with the Choctaws, looking for the Choctaws to divide their land in severalty. This agreement was entered into by the Choctaws, and was approved by them by adopting it by their votes after a few months, then we had to be enrolled. I think that this Atoka agreement was adopted sometime in 1898, then before we selected our land the Curtis Act came out.
The Choctaws had a real fight over this act but it was finally ratified by the Choctaws nullifying the Atoka agreement; then in 1902 or 1903 we selected our land. This land office was located at Atoka, and the land office was located in Tishomingo for the Chickasaws. We selected land in both Nations. We had the right to allot land in that Nation and they had the right to come over to our nation and select their land, after that then the Agency issued our patent or certificate to our land through Muskogee Agency. We had no business with the Agency until that time. The Choctaws had a payment sometime in 1893. They got at that time $103.00 per head. After that they then got some payments after statehood. I think it was under Wilson’s Administration when they got several payments, but I don’t remember how much each payment was. The last payment was for $10.00; that is the last payment the Choctaws had. In this country we had no Ghost Towns nor did we have any cow trails o nly up and down the mountains and along the creek banks, and we did not have any cow towns, nor ceremonial grounds. They might have had them in the Western part of the state among the other tribes, but it was not so among the Choctaw tribes.
We had the Military Trail through this county which ran from Fort Towson to Fort Smith, that is all the trail I know about in this country. I remember that o ne V.M. Locke had a ferry o n the Kiamichi River; whether he had a charter or not I don’t know. He ran the ferry until a bridge was put across the river. He might have had a charter from the Choctaw Government, I don’t know. He had an old stand-by, Negro, by the name of Mack Hill who ran the boat for him. Sometimes the river would get so high that he would not risk the boat across the river, that was the o nly ferry I know of in this part of the country. I never saw but o ne Indian ball game. It was not a match game. It was a neighborhood game. I never saw a match game. I have heard of them but I never went to see the match games, they told me that it was a man’s game to play the game and that he must be a he-man, a man who would stand up and fight if need be, and from what I have heard I guess, it was a man’s game. The Indians that are the Choctaws had two political parties. o ne was called the Buzzard party and the other was called the Eagle Party. Just a few years before statehood the Eagle Party changed their name and named it the Progressive Party.
The Choctaws world have big fights over their parties especially at the elections. They would kill o ne another over their parties. I really do not think that they knew what it was all about but just what their leader said about the other party, they believed, and were ready to fight for their party, right or wrong. I did not belong to either party. I went to school at the Armstrong Academy Orphan School for Indian orphan boys. Our superintendent was a Presbyterian preacher who came from Virginia. He was of the Old School Presbyterians. This school was supported by the Choctaw Government at that time. I was in school for about ten years. After I left the school then the Federal Government took charge of it and it was run under the Indian Department. This school was burned down several years ago and is now out of existence. I was told that the Choctaws built this school for their Council House, and had met there for several years then they moved the capital to Nanih Wa ya near Tushahoma. They then built the present Council House where it is now; they turned the old Council House over to the Orphan Indian boys for their school.
I served as Indian Policeman under the Indian Department after statehood from 1920 to 1923, and also I was the interpreter for the Indians that had business with the Field Agent who was located at Antlers. I am a Choctaw Indian and all my folks were Choctaws, and I have lived with and among them all of my life, and I guess I will still live among them until I am called to the Happy Hunting Ground. I now live about seven miles north of Antlers.