Friday, July 11, 2014

When the Past Meets the Present - Part 4

Motivation: Is a good deed really a good deed?
While we don't always get to learn a person's motives in his own words, this time we do. The words of William Boyd, Chief Baker's great grandfather, were recorded by his daughter and shared in an Indian Pioneer Paper interview. In this post, we will dissect that interview to learn why Boyd moved into the Cherokee Nation and what motivated him to advocate for changes in the Cherokee Nation.

William Boyd, Chief Baker's great grandpa, was born in Arkansas, not the Cherokee Nation. He moved to Indian Territory in 1893, just before the family started trying to gain citizenship into the Cherokee Nation. His family had lived in Arkansas for 64 years and never moved across the state line into the Cherokee Nation. They always lived as white people. Nothing in any record shows any indication of Indian ancestry or that they considered themselves Indian. As soon as they crossed the state line from Arkansas into Indian Territory they started claiming to have Cherokee ancestry and they haven't given up the claim since. Notice Boyd didn't even say he was Cherokee or Indian. Instead, he said his mother was. It's a peculiar way to say something when one believes they are entitled to rights as an Indian, isn't it?

Boyd's first task after arriving in Indian Territory was to make friends with the full blood Cherokees he refers to as "these natives." He said he made friends with them by treating them as his neighbors. Whether Boyd realized it or not, his comments not only indicate he was white, they also had negative undertones. His words suggest he thought he was better than the Indians, but he treated them as his equal in order to gain their friendship.

It's important to understand what "claim" meant to U.S. citizens in the 1800s. They would settle on a piece of land they had no legal title to and "claim" it. This appears to be the type of claim Boyd was referring to because he didn't establish a claim to citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. He was repeatedly rejected and never gained the right to live legally on Cherokee land. Of course, that didn't stop him from illegally squatting there and using Cherokee Nation assets (land) to benefit himself and his family. He readily confessed that in 10 years time, he had cleared and cultivated about 40 acres of (Indian) land. He also admitted he used a lot of (Indian) land for his livestock, taking advantage of the free range available.

According to Nancy Hope Sober in the book, "The Intruders: The Illegal Residents of the Cherokee Nation 1866-1907", white citizens of the U.S. who falsely claimed to have an ancestor of Cherokee blood entered the nation presumably under the pretense it gave them the right to be there. Sober also wrote, "It was a common belief among intruding whites that "residence alone [would] give them a title to land in the Nation in the event it became a United States territory." "

We know Boyd falsely claimed to have an ancestor of Cherokee blood and that he squatted on Cherokee land, making his "claim." In my humble opinion, his actions were the same as many others who illegally moved into Indian Territory - it was an attempt at a land grab. He didn't move there to help anyone other than himself and his family.

Does it get any more clear than that? "As there were few whites in the neighborhood" the white teachers usually boarded at HIS house. Why? Because Boyd was white too!

This is where it is important to pay close attention to what William Boyd said. His motivation for his family doing "good deeds" starts to be revealed. He said the Indians did not want to change from their ways of living to that of the white man, but his greatest ambition was to do all he could do to bring about that change. Clearly he didn't care about what the Indians wanted. His greatest ambition was to change things to the way HE wanted. And what was his motivation for wanting things to change?

He wanted things to change because he was raising children in the Cherokee Nation. If a parent, one might be able to forgive a person who wanted change so their children could have a better life, but if able to forgive Boyd for that, it would be short lived. Immediately after he said he wanted improved social conditions because he was raising his children in Indian Territory, he followed with:

I don't think an explanation is needed but in the event someone missed it, William Boyd's greatest ambition was to see that the conditions in the Cherokee Nation changed from the Indian ways to the ways of the white man because he lived there with his children and it was, apparently, in his opinion, a place so abominable that it was a sin to raise those children there. If that doesn't scream that he thought Indians were "savages" or "heathens", I don't know what does!

Does anyone still believe this family was Indian? If you do, then either you are thick headed or living in a fantasy world. William Boyd's words expose him as a white man who thought he was better than Indians. Any good deed he did was clearly motivated by his desire to have a less "sinful" environment for his children.

Since this series began, it's received both positive and negative reactions. One of the most common negative responses comes from Cherokees who claim Chief Baker's maternal ancestors have done much work to improve the Cherokee Nation, therefore they should be given a pass on their false claim.  While I disagree with anyone getting a pass on a false claim, let's stay focused on the "deeds". At face value, those "good deeds" might seem like a positive thing, but on closer examination, when the true motivation is revealed, one  might begin to question whether those "good deeds" were truly good deeds. 

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below. (And stay tuned for Part 5, coming soon!)

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

copyright 2014, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

Monday, July 7, 2014

When the Past Meets the Present - Part 3

Standing Witnesses and Unethical Lawyers

John R. Gourd (sometimes called Rattlinggourd) and Doog/Dug/Doug/Duge Webber made affidavits in the citizenship case of Chief Baker's maternal ancestors. 

These men were standing witnesses, or professional witnesses, meaning they would, for a fee, testify to anything a person wanted. The reputation of standing witnesses was bad and reputable Cherokees testified to that fact. 

C.W. Starr, the ex-chairman of the Senate Committee on Citizenship for the Cherokee Nation, swore that he knew the reputation of J.R. Gourd and Doog Webber (among others) and it was bad and the men were known as Standing Witnesses in citizenship cases and Starr would not believe them under oath.

Later, in a disputed Dawes enrollment case (D1207), John R. Gourd explained how the standing witness scam worked in his experience.  
  • Gourd didn't know anything about the people or the family, other than he might have seen them in the past.
  • William F. Rasmus would tell Gourd the people were Cherokee and then would write what he wanted on the affidavit without John R. Gourd knowing what was stated.
  • Rasmus would put Gourd's name on the testimony.
  • Gourd would be paid $5 and promised more if the case was approved.

While the above testimony by Gourd was not given in the RM Walker case, it still applies because it shows the unethical practices of William F. Rasmus. William Boyd, Chief Baker's maternal great grandpa, tried to fraudulently obtain Cherokee citizenship. Who were the lawyers handling William Boyd's case? The above mentioned William F. Rasmus and his partner, M.O. Ghormley.

Rasmus and Ghormley submitted 12 applications and 13 pages of evidence in the RM Walker case. Notice above, in the paid testimonies given by Gourd and Webber, M.O. Ghormley* was the notary public who signed that the testimonies were sworn before him. Rasmus* was the lawyer Gourd testified about, the one who wrote down whatever he wanted, while Gourd went on his way.

Was John R. Gourd a victim in this? Was he taken advantage of by unscrupulous lawyers? Maybe, but that isn't the point. The point is there are a lot of fraudulent affidavits in those old rejected citizenship applications. Whether Gourd or any of the others were taken advantage of doesn't matter. What matters is the standing witnesses accepted payment and allowed their names to be put on many fraudulent affidavits that are now cited by novice researchers as proof of Cherokee ancestry. 

Additionally, this shows that non-Indians were willing to bribe witnesses in their attempt to gain citizenship into the Cherokee Nation. Chief Baker's maternal ancestors were among the people who tried to do that. Sadly, despite the fact his maternal ancestors were not Cherokee; despite the fact his maternal ancestors used lawyers who were willing to perpetuate fraud; despite the fact his maternal ancestors used standing witnesses, Chief Baker and his family still claim they are Cherokee through his maternal line.** Because of those continued claims despite all the evidence to the contrary, it is not a stretch to believe Chief Baker's fabricated maternal Cherokee ancestry has a strong influence over the decisions he makes for the Cherokee Nation today. Any Cherokee who cares about our sovereignty should be concerned.

Stay tuned for the next installment in the series, When the Past Meets the Present - Motivation: Is a good deed really a good deed? 

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

* M.O. Ghormley was Cherokee by blood. Rasmus was an Intermarried White. Both were listed on the Final Dawes Roll.

** After this series began, at least one member of Chief Baker's family has publicly written that they know they have more Indian blood than they get credit for on their CDIB, but they can't prove it. (Guess that proves my point, doesn't it?)

copyright 2014, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

Monday, June 23, 2014

When the Past Meets the Present - Part 2

In their 1896 citizenship claim and following appeal, the RM Walker family (Chief Baker's mother's ancestors) claimed their ancestor, Edith (Rogers) Oxford, was the daughter of a Cherokee Indian named John Rogers who was listed on the 1835 Census of Cherokee Nation and living on the Coosawattee. They claimed to be Indian descent by blood through that specific John Rogers. That claim will be the focus of this post.

All the 1896 citizenship applications were thrown out due to overwhelming fraud. Some families appealed. The RM Walker family was among those who did so. From their appeal, we can see the John Rogers they claimed descent through is clearly defined:

RM Walker vs Cherokee Nation

The family said they were Indian descent by blood through Coosawattee John Rogers. The problem is, he was white. People who filed fraudulent claims were under the impression that the Cherokees had no records and therefore would be unable to disprove their claim. That wasn't true then and it isn't true now.

Because this family claimed descent by blood through a white man, that exposes the claim as false. We could stop there, but I think it is important to use every false claim as an opportunity to share accurate Cherokee history and the documents we can use to learn about that history. (Please take note the two most common Cherokee genealogical sources, the Dawes and Eastern Cherokee applications, are NOT cited in this post.)

As an example of how good Cherokee records are, we will show:
  • John Rogers was a white man
  • He lived in on the Coosawattee River
  • He emigrated west and returned to the east
  • He got married in 1819
  • His wife was Tiana Foster
  • His father in law was James Foster
  • His wife's cousins were John T. Adair and Elizabeth Candy
  • He died in 1836

All of this information can be obtained from Cherokee records for a man who died prior to the Trail of Tears.

Below you see the John Rogers who lived on the Coosawattee River as he was listed on the 1835 Census of the Cherokee Nation.

The Coosawattee John Rogers family composition was 4 males under 18; 1 male over 18; 4 females under 16; and 1 female over 16, with one person being white connected by marriage. This information indicates we are probably looking at the family of John Rogers and Tiana Foster. 

In 1835, John and Tiana would have had at least three sons under the age of 18 (Hilliard, James and Thomas) and four daughters under the age of 16 (Elizabeth, Mary, Sarah and Rachel.) With another son's (Lewis) birth year calculated as about 1837, its possible he was born earlier and was listed on the census, or there could have been an unknown son born who died as a young child. Despite this discrepancy, this Coosawattee John Rogers family found on the 1835 Census of the Cherokee Nation appears to be the family of John Rogers and Tiana Foster. 

Testimony given by the former Associate Judge of the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, John T. Adair, on 15 Mar 1888, further supports the theory that Coosawattee John Rogers was the husband of Tiana Foster. Adair gave information on all the Rogers he knew, including Coosawattee John Rogers.

John T. Adair said the John Rogers who married his cousin, a Foster, was a white man and lived on the "Chustawatie" River

On a valuation made for improvements credited to James Foster, a notation, dated 16 Sept 1837, says Foster "requested that the above valuation should be transferred to his daughter Tiana Rogers, as it was her just right and property."

We have the information from the 1835 Cherokee Nation Census that matches that of the John Rogers and Tiana Foster family. We have the testimony from John T. Adair that says his cousin, a Foster, was married to a white man named John Rogers who lived on the Coosawattee and died in the east. We also have James Foster's request that one of his valuations be transferred to his daughter, Tiana Rogers. That gives us the full name of John Rogers' wife, Tiana Foster Rogers. 

On 25 March 1842, Tiana Rogers filed a claim against the US government for lost property in the east. In the claim she reported that she intermarried with a white man by the name of John "Rodgers" in 1819

and that in 1836, he died.

There is a lot more information on this John Rogers and his family, but by now, hopefully it's clear that Coosawattee John Rogers was the husband of  Tiana Foster; he died in the east before the forced removal; and he was white.

But what about that notation on the 1835 Census that said Coosawatte John Rogers' family had removed to Arkansas? If Coosawattee John Rogers died in the east before the removal, it makes no sense that the census says he moved to Arkansas. 

Did Coosawattee John Rogers and family truly remove to Arkansas as the notation on the 1835 Cherokee Nation census suggests? A letter on the topic of the Emigration of Indians, dated, 17th August 1833, says, "Mr. Currey informs me that Samuel Ballard and John Rogers, two white emigrants at the head of Indian families, have returned to the old nation."

Document 512, Correspondence on the Subject of the Emigration of Indians, between the 30th November, 1831, and 27th December, 1833
A John Rogers, a white man who was the head of an Indian family, is documented as emigrating west and then returning to the east. No specifics were given on which of the numerous John Rogers this could have been, but an undated deposition given by Elizabeth Candy, wife of Judge George Candy, and cousin of Tiana Foster, sheds more light on the subject:

Genealogists Companion and Sourcebook, by Emily Croom, page 383
Underlined in red, we have John Rogers, husband of Tiana Foster, removing to Arkansas and then returning to the Old Cherokee Nation East afterward. Underlined in blue, we have information that says John got sick and died in the Old Cherokee Nation East. Those two little pieces of information explain the notation on the 1835 Census. Tiana Foster's husband, John Rogers, emigrated to the west, but later returned to the east and died.

While that appears to be the end of the story for Coosawattee John Rogers, it isn't. Approximately 60 years after his death, a family who had lived in Arkansas since 1829 attempted to gain citizenship into the Cherokee Nation based on purported descent through him. They went so far as to hire an attorney to help them prove their claim, probably assuming the Cherokees had no records, therefore the claim would be easily approved. They were wrong. Though they did all they could to try to convince everyone they were Cherokees and had a right to share in Cherokee Nation assets, they were rejected. They appealed and they were rejected again. They should have been. They were not Cherokee.

No matter how badly that family wanted it, no matter how much their descendants now desire it, "they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." All false claims of Cherokee ancestry fall apart under scrutiny.

The claim the family made was a weak one. It's clear they had no understanding of Cherokee history. They claimed whatever appeared might work in their favor. They started out claiming one John Rogers, who was white, and evolved into claiming another later. They claimed their ancestor was both an Old Settler Cherokee and an Emigrant Cherokee without realizing that was a problem. They also used standing witnesses, and we all now know what that means - they paid for false testimony. That's an indication that the claim was fraudulent and the family knew it.  

Stay tuned as the series continues. Coming soon are discussions about a different John Rogers, standing witnesses, the "sin" of living among Indians and why all this matters.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

copyright 2014, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

*Note - While there were numerous problems with the 1896 claim and appeal filed by Chief Bill John Baker's maternal ancestors, the fact Coosawattee John Rogers was white completely disproves their claim that they obtained Indian blood through him. I assure you, the entire claim has been fully researched and there is absolutely NO indication that Chief Baker's maternal ancestors were connected in any way to the John Rogers who lived on the Coosawattee River. For questions or to request documentation, please email me by clicking the "Contact Me" button in the sidebar on the right or leave a comment.