Faces From The Past – Do you know this family?


I found this photograph in a re-sale shop in Ardmore, OK
Ardmore is in the Chickasaw Nation.
Names on the reverse are:
Mrs. Wolf
Tecumeh? Tecumah?


Letter of J. F. Brown to editor of Catholic Columbian – 1887

The following is clipped from the Catholic Columbian, and will furnish interesting food for thoughtful men.

Hon. John F. Brown is chief of the Seminole Nation, and knows whereof he writes:

Seminole Nation, May 5, 1887.
Editor Catholic Columbian:

An act entitled “an act to provide for the allotments of the lands in severalty to Indians on the
various reservations and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the territories
over the Indians, and for other purposes.” approved February 8, A. D. 1887, provides that in “all cases
where any tribe or band of Indians has been, or-shall hereafter be, located upon any reservation created
for their use, either by treaty stipulation or by virtue of an act of Congress or executive order setting
apart the same for their use, the President of the United States is authorized, whenever in his opinion
any such reservation or any part thereof is advantageous for agricultural and grazing purposes, to cause
said reservation, or any part thereof, to be surveyed or resurveyed if necessary, and to allot the lands in
said reservation in severalty to any Indians located therein, in quantities from one-quarter to one-six-
teenth of a section,” from which, to an impartial or disinterested observer, the cloven foot is plainly
discernible and the sordid avarice of the thievish designer already discovered.

The advantages of these lands for grazing or for agricultural purposes have long been sufficiently
known to their rightful owners, who have never complained, nor questioned their title, guaranteed to
them under the most solemn promises of the United States government; nor can they be bamboozled into the
belief that they require the aid and superior intelligence of a Democratic administration to discover to
them the moment their lands become still more valuable than ever, even too much so for their own good and
safety, and they must part with the greater portion of them forever, the moment the President has thus
appraised these lands.

The magic wand of the originator of this gigantic and monstrous fraud–this pretender that has succeeded at last in the tradership for Indian friendships, and has so ignominiously betrayed a sacred trust, but has scarcely deceived an Indian by his ingenuity, changes the whole status of the Indian’s title to his land, both in respect to what he will have left and with that of which he is disinherited.

Let us see; the lands have simply become too valuable for the Indian to hold by virtue of the power conferred upon the President, provided of course he deems them of no account whatever, and the Indian must starve to death upon them any way, whenever the Government ceases to furnish him with commissaries, By the exercise of this executive authority, the Indian must have other protection, upon an old and often before misused principle, that “the hair of the dog is good for its bite.” He is given a new title on a new scale, and is promised greater security than ever in this title, which is the same kind of title the white man has to the aforementioned dog, the only secure one never before revealed to the Indian, one’ that makes a covenant so strong that no lean, lank or hungry Congressman can put it asunder, though the bark of this Indian canine, a cross between a jackal and a cayoute of the most aggravating species, were to hound his steps in Washington during his entire career as a most distinguished legislator.
Judging from the severe cost, such titles would be scarce, and however sufficient they may be to guard against loss, against the white man’s dog, they have been tried before in security for Indian lands, and failed to protect, and are there-fore not so suddenly discovered as we would be led to believe.

We have quite a number of remnants of tribes,once numerous, now living among us, who lost their all by the modern legislators’ watchful kindness forced upon them. These are to-day begging to be delivered
from the care of such would-be friends, and desire to be led against their enemies for a change.
The bill provides for their allotment shall be patented to them, individually, and the lands so
patented made inalienable for a period of twenty-five years–the residue of their lands it is provided and
plainly intended, shall be sold to the United States government at a price greatly below its actual value,
from which they can expect scarcely anything. Their allotments, made inalienable for a term of twenty-
five years, represent no actual value until that time will have elapsed, which will be sufficient for them
to find a place of burial for the greater number of them, for the influx of whites among them are sure
to bring habits of vice and a steady flow of whisky, and the result predicted is almost certain.
The law does not include the more intelligent portion of the territorial population, and plainly
acknowledges the incompetency of those involved to manage their affairs under the new era.
This change will not stimulate them to new efforts, nor do we believe the example of the new neighbors will elevate them. In the main, they have been fed, clothed and fostered by the Government, and are greatly dependent upon this aid for their support. This will have to be continued indefinitely with their contemplated surroundings, otherwise they will be rendered paupers; in the land surrounded with plenty, in which they are permitted to linger against any reasonable hope to survive their impending fate. God alone can inter-pose in His wisdom to save them from the effects of this fatal policy, fraught with so much misery, suffering and death.

Very respectfully

-courtesy Indian Journal


Benjamin F. Bruner Obituary

Benjamin F. Bruner

Saturday, June 10, 1939

Founder Of “Brunertown” Succumbs After Long Illness

Seminole Freedman Born Eleven Years Before Emancipation

With the passing of Benjamin F. Bruner, 87 year old Seminole Freedman and founder of “Brunertown”, last week, Oklahoma lost another one of her native sons whose activities during the territorial days contributed to the colorful history of the state.

Bruner died May 31 at the family home in Holdenville. Funeral services were held at the Mt. Zion Baptist church in Seminole, Sunday June 4. The body was interred at Turkey Creek Cemetery.

Bruner was born on the banks of the Washita River a few miles from Calvin eleven years before freedom. His mother and father were natives of the Indian Country. As a boy he attended the missions set up by white church goers for the education of Negroes and Indians.

Soon after the Civil War, the Bruner family founded “Brunertown” a community that still bears the name of the founder. Shortly afterwards, Bruner then a young man married Jeanetta Shields and to this union were born 3 children.

In 1880, Bruner and his wife separated and he entered Hampton Institute in Virginia, where he studied for five years. Returning to the territory in 1885 he taught school until 1890 when he married Ellen Rentie. Six children were born to this union.

After his second marriage, Bruner established a home on his freedom allotment nears Earlsboro where he lived for fifteen years. During that time he served as a member of the Seminole Indian Council. In 1905 he moved to Holdenville, then an open country, where he became a “land baron” controlling 640 acres, representing an allotment to his wife and children.

On this allotment, Bruner built a $9000 home which was included among Oklahoma’s land marks as long as it stood. For the sharecroppers and other Negroes in the section he built a school. He donated the land and then built the Unity Baptist church, although he had joined the Presbyterian church at Hampton, he had never been baptized, and it was one of the pleasurable moments to recall his baptism in the church he built. He served continuously on the deacon board of that church.

Survivors are a wife, Ellen Bruner, Holdenville; two sons, Jack Bruner, Seminole, and Edgar Bruner, Holdenville; three daughters, Ivory Hampton, Okmulgee, Leona Corbett and Edna Stewart, Tulsa; a brother, Tom J. Bruner, Holdenville; a sister, Annie Payne, Seminole.

-obituary courtesy of Charles Gibson, Benjamin Bruner’s great-grandson

Sopkonipkee (Beef and Hominy)

1 lb. beef (chuck) cut into 1 1/2 in. cubes
1 T. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 can white hominy or 2 C. cracked white flint corn (sofke grits)
2 C. water

Brown meat, add water and let simmer until done – 1 1/2 hours.
Add hominy and let simmer about 15 to 20 minutes.
If cracked corn is used, brown meat, add water and grits.
Cook about 2 hrs. or until done.

-courtesy Eleanor Harper
Arbeka Indian Methodist Church

Wild Grape Dumplings

2 C. flour
4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 T. sugar
3/4 C. milk
1 quart grape juice
1/4 C. sugar

Directions: Combine flour, baking powder, salt and 1 T. sugar, mix thoroughly.
Add butter, blend with dry mixture.
Add milk gradually.
In saucepan pour juice and the 1/4 C. sugar and heat.
Meanwhile roll out mixture on floured board and cut into dumpling size strips and drop into hot juice.
Cover and simmer until tender.

-courtesy Eleanor Harper
Arbeka Indian Methodist Church

Fort Negro (Fort Gadsden)

Fort Negro (Fort Gadsden)

Florida Map

Background and Summary

Fort Gadsden is located in Franklin County, Fla., on the Apalachicola River. The site contains the ruins of two forts, and has been known by several other names at various times, including Prospect Bluff Fort, Nicholl’s Fort, British Post, Fort Negro, African Fort and Fort Apalachicola. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Fort Gadsden Historic Site is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1972.

During the War of 1812, the British hoped to recruit Florida’s Seminole American-Indians as allies in their war against the United States. In August of 1814, a force of over 100 officers and men led by a lieutenant colonel of Royal Marines, Edward Nicolls, was sent into the Apalachicola River region in Spanish-owned Florida, where they began to train local Native Americans. Although Nicolls claimed he rallied large numbers of Indians, his efforts bore little fruit in terms of actual fighting, and the completion of the war ended his mission there only a few months after his arrival.

Under New Management

Before Nicolls left, however, he built a fort at Prospect Bluff, 15 miles above the mouth of the Apalachicola and 60 miles below U.S. territory. He equipped the fort with cannons, guns and ammunition. The fort, originally known as the British Post, served as a base for British troops and for recruitment of ex-slaves into the new Corps of Colonial Marines. It was also a rallying point to encourage the local Seminole tribes to attack the United States. When the British evacuated Florida in the spring of 1815, they left the well-constructed and fully-armed fort on the Apalachicola River in the hands of their allies, about 300 fugitive slaves, including members of the disbanded Corps of Colonial Marines, and 30 Seminole and Choctaw American-Indians. News of the “Negro Fort,” as it came to be called attracted as many as 800 Black fugitive slaves who settled in the surrounding area.

Under the command of a Black man named “Garson” and a Choctaw chief the inhabitants of Fort Negro launched raids across the Georgia border. The fort, located as it was near the U.S. border, was seen as a threat to Southern slavery. The U.S. considered it “a center of hostility and above all a threat to the security of their slaves.” The Savannah Journal wrote of it: “It was not to be expected that an establishment so pernicious to the Southern states, holding out to a part of their population temptations to insubordination, would have been suffered to exist after the close of the war. In the course of last winter, several slaves from this neighborhood fled to that fort; others have lately gone from Tennessee and the Mississippi Territory. How long shall this evil, requiring immediate remedy, be permitted to exist?”

Attack on Fort Negro

In early 1816, the U.S. built Fort Scott on the west bank of the Flint River in Georgia for the purpose of guarding the Spanish-American border. Supplying the fort, however, was a problem; to take materials overland required traveling through unsettled wilderness. Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, the military commander of the southern district, preferred supplying Fort Scott by boat over the Apalachicola River in Spanish territory, which had the advantages of being both easier and of providing a likely casus belli, or a reason to declare war, for destroying Fort Negro. As expected, when a naval force attempted the passage on July 17, 1816, it was fired at by the Fort Negro, and four people were killed.

Ten days later, Jackson ordered Brig. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines at Fort Scott to destroy Fort Negro. The U.S. official’s expedition included Creek American-Indians, who were persuaded to join with the promise that they would get what they could salvage from the fort if they helped in its capture. On July 27, 1816, following a series of skirmishes, the official forces and their Creek allies launched an all-out attack on Fort Negro under the command of Lieut. Col. Duncan Clinch, with support from a naval convoy commanded by Seaman Jairus Loomis.

The two sides exchanged cannon fire, but the shots of the inexperienced black gunners failed to hit their targets. A “hot shot,” which is a cannonball heated to a red glow, from the U.S. forces entered the opening to the fort’s powder magazine, igniting an explosion that was heard more than 100 miles away, and it destroyed the fort, killing all but 30 of its 300 occupants. Garson and the Choctaw chief, among the few who survived the carnage, were handed over to the Creeks, who “scalped the Choctaw alive and then fatally stabbed him; Garson was shot in execution style.” Other survivors were returned to slavery.

The Creeks salvaged 2,500 muskets, 50 carbines, 400 pistols and 500 swords from the ruins of the fort, increasing their power in the region. The Seminoles, who had fought with the Black fugitives, were conversely weakened by the loss of their allies, and Creek involvement in the attack increased tension between the two tribes. Seminole were angry at the official’s for the fort’s destruction, and this would contribute to the breakout of the first Seminole War a year later. Spain protested the violation of its soil, but according to historian John K. Mahon, it “lacked the power to do more.”

Rebuilding History

In 1818, Gen. Jackson directed Lieut. James Gadsden to rebuild the fort. Gadsden did on a nearby site, and Jackson was so pleased with the result, that he named the location Fort Gadsden, after the lieutenant. During the Civil War, Confederate troops occupied the fort until July of 1863, when an outbreak of malaria forced its abandonment.

This May Be The Last Time

This May Be the Last Time
2013, 90 min.
United States, Documentary
Director: Sterlin Harjo (Seminole, Creek)

In 1962, filmmaker Sterlin Harjo’s grandfather disappeared in Sasakwa, Oklahoma. As the Seminole and Creek community searched for him, its members sang their traditional ancient hymns of faith and hope. Harjo’s first feature-length documentary, This May Be the Last Time explores the disappearance of his grandfather and the origins of these songs. Interviewing community members, religious leaders and a musical historian, Harjo traces the creation of the their hymns, and their roots in Native, Scots-Irish, and African American musical traditions. The film shows that the hymns have been a source of support during times of duress, including the brutal Trail of Tears when the people were forcibly removed from their Southeast homelands to Indian Territory, well into the present. Harjo mostly interviews elders, with gentle rapport, but these scenes are also a poignant reminder that, if traditional hymn-singing is to continue, a younger generation must take it on.

For more information: www.thismaybethelasttimefilm.com

Spring Baptist Church – est. 1850

Spring Baptist Church - Sasawka, OK

Sasakwa, August 14, 1950 – A hundred years ago, a group of Seminole Indians founded a Baptist church near Sasakwa a short time after they arrived in Oklahoma from their old homes in Florida.

This week, about 1,500 members of the Indian Baptist churches from several parts of Oklahoma will meet at Sasakwa for a meeting will be highlighted by the observance of the 100th birthday of the Church.

The 100 year-old religious institution was moved to Purcell a short time after its establishment. After a short stay at Purcell, the congregation moved it back to Sasakwa.

Known now as the Spring Indian Baptist Church, the institution has as large a congregation now as it ever had. It has had only four different pastors since it was founded.

The principal founder and first pastor was John Jumper, great Chief of the Seminole Nation and Colonel in the First Regiment of Seminole Mounted Volunteers for the Confederacy during the Civil War. He retained the pastorate until his death in 1894.

Jumper was succeeded by his son-in-law, John F. Brown, one of the greatest and best known Seminole Chiefs. Brown was Principal Chief of the Seminoles for 34 years. He held the pastorate of Spring Church from 1894 to 1919.

The homes of both great chiefs are still standing near Sasakwa.

Brown was succeeded in the pastorate of the church by Reverend Louis Harjo, who served from 1919 to 1937. One of the ministers who served under Reverend Harjo was George Harjo, no pricipal chief of the Seminole Nation. George Harjo still holds his post as minister, the second highest office that the church has.

Wilsey Palmer, a deacon during the pastorate of Reverend Harjo, became pastor December 25, 1937 and serves in that capacity now. Ministers at the time Palmer was ordained included: George and Fulkah Harjo and Louis Brown. Deacons were Chippie Harjo, Abler Coon, Peter Narcome, Sentevey, Punta Harjo, Jonah Harjo, Abler Davis and Ramsey Harjo.

Ministers now are George Harjo and Ben Daney. Deacons are Billy Coon, Sentevey, Ena Green, Timmie Harjo, Jonah Harjo and Peter Narcome.

The history of Spring Church is to a great extent the history of the Seminole Nation since 1850. Much of the history is not recorded and is known only to a few old members of the Tribe like Millie Tiger who remembers the Church’s earlier days after it was moved from Purcell to Sasakwa.

Colonel Jumper and John Brown would be pleased with the Spring Church of today. It remains a Seminole Indian Institution and services are conducted in the Indian language for its older members. Young people, however, play a big part in its existence and they have caused such un-Indian innovations as B.T.U. banners to be hung on its walls along with the old formal pictures of Jumper and Brown.

Next Wednesday, representatives of 28 Indian churches from the Muskogee-Seminole-Wichita Association will begin a fine-day camp meeting on the grounds of Spring Church, one and one-half miles west of Sasakwa. Representing several tribes, the Indians will come from Caddo, Creek, and Seminole counties and from Florida. They will feast and worship until Sunday, living during that time in tents and in the 17 permanent camp houses on the church grounds.

Perhaps one day, Brown’s mansion or one of the buildings at the church site will be turned into a museum. The history of Spring Church and the great Seminole Nation would be displayed in the form of collected relics and photographs. Until then, people with a love for history and Indian folklore can find an abounding treasure in visiting the old Spring Church and in talking to people like Wilsey Palmer.

Native American Heritage Trail

Native American Heritage Trail

The 36-page Florida Native American Heritage Trail guidebook is the newest addition to the Florida Heritage Trail series. The guide honors Florida’s Native American cultures, both past and present, by providing in-depth information for residents and visitors. The Florida Native American Heritage Trail describes in text and images over 100 heritage tourist destinations throughout the state where ancient Florida Native Americans left evidence of their cultures and where contemporary Native Americans thrive and exhibit their cultures. Features include a synopsis of the 12,000-plus years of Native American presence and significance in Florida, side bars of special interest topics, and biographies of individuals important to Florida’s Native American heritage written by archaeologists and living descendents of Native Americans.

The guide was produced by the Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage with a grant from the Division of Historical Resources. The Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage (formerly Trail of the Lost Tribes) is a non-profit organization promoting awareness and preservation of Florida’s ancient cultures. Founded in 2000, the Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage is a membership network of three heritage interpreters and 26 public sites pertaining to the ancient Native American cultures in Florida, including museums with exhibits of ancient artifacts and mounds in city, county, state and national parks.

Copies of the publication have been distributed by the Florida Department of State to public libraries throughout the state and regional offices of the Florida Public Archaeology Network Additional funding from the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation has provided each of Florida’s approximately 3,500 public and private elementary schools to receive a copy of the publication.

Read the Florida Native American Heritage Trail online
Download the Florida Native American Heritage Trail (pdf, 4.4 MB)
Native American Tribes in Florida Bibliography

Published by the Florida Department of State,
Division of Historical Resources.
ISBN #1-889030-25-2