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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: September 14, 1937
Name: Aaron Duncan
Post Office: Sulphur, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: July 26, 1867
Place of Birth: Arkansas
Father: Henry Duncan
Place of Birth: Scotland
Information on father: Miller.
Mother: Nancy White
Place of birth: Germany
Information on mother:
Field Worker: John F. Daugherty
My father was Henry Duncan, born in Scotland, and Mother was Nancy White Duncan, born in Germany. Father was a miller and there were eleven children in our family. My parents are buried at Stroud. I was born July 26, 1867, in Arkansas and came to the Indian Territory, locating at Nelson in the Choctaw Nation.

I came with a herd of four thousand cattle. We crossed the Arkansas River at Dardanelle, Arkansas, on a pontoon bridge. This bridge was made of several flat boats spiked together and floored and held in place by cables fastened to trees on the bank of the river. It just floated on the water. I well remember this bridge because I had to pay a $5.00 fine for running my horse across it. I was just a lad and when one of the cows turned back I raced after her. There was a sign posted at the end of the bridge which stated that a $5.00 fine must be paid for trotting a horse across the bridge. But I had not noticed that sign so when we got across the bridge the keeper said, "Boy, you ran your horse across this bridge". I told him that I was sorry and he replied that that would not settle the bill and said that I owed him $5.00. I thought he was only joking with me but he told me to read the sign. When I did so, I rode off in a gallop, thinking I would escape, but when my boss and I rode into Dardanelle we were accosted by a United States Marshal who asked which one of us had run his horse across the bridge. We both denied it but I finally told him that I had run my horse across. He told me that I would have to pay the $5.00 fine or go to court. I chose to go to court but my boss paid the $5.00 and we drove on. I worked for Uncle Tom GRIGGS on the T. G. Ranch near Antlers for several years. I learned to speak the Choctaw language while working here and later became a court translator at Antlers.

I was married to Mollie CUMMINGS under the Arkansas law in the Choctaw Nation June 17, 1898.

When Wilson Jones, a full blood Choctaw, and Uncle Dick Locke, an intermarried citizen, were running for Governor of the Choctaws in 1890 the fight became a feud among the Indians. There were many killed due to fusses over which man should be elected.

I was living alone in a small log house with two rooms. One night I came in from the range after dark and before I got to the house I heard my dogs barking. When I walked into the yard they led me to a man lying under the house. His feet were sticking out and when I took hold of them I found he was dead. This frightened me but I was tired and hungry so I went into the house. I had a small brass kerosene lamp which I lighted and to my horror I beheld a dead Indian lying across my bed. I knocked the globe off my lamp and it smoked so badly that I could hardly see but I was still hungry and when I went into my kitchen to prepare my supper there lay the third dead Indian. By this time I forgot about my hunger. I knew I was not going to stay there that night so I went out, caught a pony and rode about six miles to the home of my nearest neighbor who was Uncle Dick LOCKE. It was about midnight and I aroused him telling him of my discovery. He told me to go on back and he would come down in a day or two and help me bury those three dead men. I replied that I could not stay in that house with three dead Indians there, so he told me to come in and sleep with his boy.

The next morning I had to go on the range again and I told Uncle Dick I wanted him to do something with the dead Indians before I came home that night. I went home early that evening and when I went into the yard I saw three fresh mounds and found the bodies gone. Uncle Dick had come and buried the Indians in my front yard. When I went into the house I discovered my straw mattress was covered with blood but it was all I had to sleep on so I turned it over and went to bed. The supposition was that these Indians had gotten into a fight with some Indians from the opposite political side and had taken refuge in my hut and there they were killed. We never found out who they were.

I worked on this ranch with about four thousand head of cattle until the royalty was put on them. When it was 10 cents a head my boss paid it but when it became 25 cents he refused to pay. One day he was gone and the Light-horsemen came and drove me and the cattle across Red River. I bought cotton fields for them to graze in until I got word to my boss. He came and took charge of them and I returned to the Territory and began to teach school near Antlers.

We built a school building of native lumber; we set posts in the ground three feet apart and made three foot boards which we nailed on the sides and across the top for the roof. There were no windows and only a hole for a door. There was no door. This hole was left open all the time. We had a dirt floor and hewed log benches. I taught a term of three months in the summer and in the fall we had to dismiss when the weather became cold as the only fire we had was a campfire in the middle of the room. When this failed to keep us warm we had to dismiss until warm weather again. I had twenty-six pupils mostly Choctaw Indians, who paid a tuition fee of $1.00 a month each.

I was appointed Special United States Marshal under J. P. GRADY, United States Marshal from Fort Smith. I worked with Marshals Bill HAINEY, Cal BERRY, Bill ELLIS and Frank MAYER, who were assigned to certain districts but I worked anywhere I was called. I had to go to Quanah, Texas, each year for extra training.

We gathered our prisoners in wagons. We always took a chuck wagon and a negro cook with us. We chained our prisoners to the sides of the wagon. However, when the offense was not too great, we left the prisoner at home to come to Fort Smith at a given time. The jail at Antlers was built of two by six boards set up picket fashion. The jail was just one small room. When prisoners from bordering states were kept in jail a fee of $2.50 per day for each prisoner held was paid by the state from which they came.

One of the most profitable occupations in those days was digging herbs and roots and selling them to buyers from Texas for the manufacture of medicines. Snake root brought from 8 cents to 12 cents per pound in a green state and from about 20 cents to 25 cents a pound if dried. May apple was another herb which was sold and sweet anise was worth about 80 cents or 90 cents a pound. Wild roses were gathered and sold for perfumes. These plants and herbs were sold to buyers at Paris, Texas.

Any Indian who lied was called a witch and killed. The Indian was very truthful and honest. His word was his bond in all dealings.

Submitted to OKGenWeb by Donald L. Sullivan <donald.l.sullivan@lmco.com> 07-2000.