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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: May 18, 1937
Name: John E. (Red Cloud) Duncan (Mrs.)
           Susie Carselowey Duncan
Post Office: Rose, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: July 30, 1873
Place of Birth: Delaware District, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory
Place of Birth:
Information on father:
Place of birth:
Information on mother:
Field Worker: James R. Carselowey
Interview #: 
My name is Susie Carselowey Duncan. I was born in Delaware District, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, eight miles southeast of Vinita, on July 30, 1873. On January 1, 1980 I was married to John E. (Red Cloud) Duncan, son of Walter A. and Martha Wilson Duncan.

My husband always took an active part in Cherokee politics, and in 1893 he was elected as clerk of Delaware District, and served two years. In 1895 my husband was appointed as the last high sheriff of the Cherokee Nation, and we moved to Tahlequah and lived until 1900.

My husband, as high sheriff of the Cherokee Nation, was custodian of all the prisoners from all nine districts of the Nation, but about 1898 or 1899 a law was passed to do away with the tribal government and all the law enforcement was turned over to the United States Government. A vote was taken in the Cherokee national council and senate as to whether the Cherokee prisoners being held in the national jail should be turned loose, or turned over to the United States for keeping in the United States Jail. The vote to turn them loose carried, and my husband, by order of the National council, released all the prisoners being held by him.

Hanging was the supreme penalty in the Cherokee Nation. When the new nation was established each of the nine districts had a hanging scaffold in the court house yard, but in later years, when the National jail was established at Tahlequah, a good strong prison, made of native sand stone, two stories high was built, and a high board fence built around it. The prisoners from all the nine districts were then brought to Tahlequah, and kept in the national jail, and the hanging all took place in the back yard.

It became my husband's duty to hang several men during his term of office, but he never sprang the trigger on a single man, but turned that duty over to the head jailer, Cale STARR, who had been high sheriff before him, and had already been hardened to the task.

In 1900, after the tribal government had been abolished, my husband went to Rowe's Prairie, in Mayes County and bought a very famous old house and place, where we took our allotment of about 1,200 acres of land. The place he bought was known as the "Old Dave Rowe Place," located in territorial days in Saline district, now Mayes County, Oklahoma, near the town of Rose.

The old house, which is just 100 years old this year, (1937) was built by Avery VANN, a white man, who married Margaret MCSWAIN, a quarter blood Cherokee. They were the parents of fifteen children as follows: Joseph, David, Margaret, Andrew M., Nannie, Catherine, Mary, Keziah, Charles, Clement, Sallie, Elizabeth, Eliza, Clara, Jennie, five boys and ten girls. Avery Vann was a large slaveowner, and established his own brick kiln on the place, and his slaves made the brick to build the four large brick chimneys to the hugh (sic) loghouse of pine. The logs, all of pine, were cut and hewed on the place by his slaves, and each corner of the house was pinned together with wooden pine. The house contained seven rooms, each twenty feet square; five downstairs and two upstairs. The lumber for the floors was cut and sawed on the place, tongued, grooved, and planed by hand. The house still has the original floors and doors. The lower floor was laid on hewed logs, while the upper floor is laid on joists eighteen inches apart, which are handhewed. The house has been well preserved, and had evidently been kept well covered, as there is not a rotten log in the building.

Avery Vann, being a white man, could not hold office among the Cherokee, but four of his five sons held many offices of trust from 1839 to 1875. Joseph Vann served eight years in the Cherokee senate and was sent to Washington three times to represent his people. He was elected one time as assistant chief of the Cherokee Nation, but resigned and his brother, Andrew M. Vann was elected to take his place. While holding this position he served as acting chief, and on one occasion signed the papers that established the National Capitol at Tahlequah. Clement Vann went to Washington one time to represent the Cherokee Nation, served as clerk of the council, and was in the senate one term. David Vann served as treasurer of the Cherokee Nation from 1839 to 1851. Avery and Margaret Vann died and were buried in the Elm Grove Cemetery, a half mile from the famous old house they had built. Mrs. Vann died January 24, 1857, and a monument which is clearly visible stands at her grave, but the inscription [on] the vault in which Mr. Vann was placed is almost invisible, and the date of his death is not known, but is thought to be about 1860.

At the death of Avery and Margaret Vann, their daughter Betsey became owner of old house, above mentioned. She married Dave ROWE and they occupied the place for about forty years.

David Rowe was a very prominent Cherokee and served in the Cherokee Council and was at one time assistant chief of the Cherokees. He, too, was a large slave owner and raised many hogs and cattle. He lived within eight miles of the Cherokee Orphans Asylum, located at Salina, in Saline district, Cherokee Nation, and at one time had a contract to furnish the school with beef and port.

Dave Rowe as a "Pin Indian", and had a hide-out on a high hill about 100 yards from the old house I have just described. The hill was so high and the brush so thick, that he could see any one approach his house, but they could not see him. He had a little log hut built up there, which he called the "Hide-out." He would watch the soldiers come and search his place for him.

David Rowe died April 23, 1891, and his wife died 1896. He was seventy and she was seventy-six, at the time of their death. They were buried in the Elm Grove Cemetery, established by the Vanns. My husband and I still own the old house and live there all alone, after raising our large family of children. It is too large for two, but none too large when the children all come home. We have a large fine spring of water near the house and a good well at the back door, which makes us proud of the place we have picked to live and die.

John ROSS, first chief of the Cherokees, once lived in Saline district and Wash SWIMMER, for many years assistant chief, bought a very fine old extension dining table from him, which Chief Ross had brought with him from Georgia. Mrs. Swimmer had used the table so long, that it was no longer of value to her, and she was using it for a cook table. I bought it from her, and consider it a very valuable piece of furniture. The table, an extension table, has a very unusual way of opening and closing. Just to look at it one would not think of it opening at all. It is made of solid walnut and has a secret drawer on the inside for fancy silverware. The top turned sideways, giving it the appearance of a library table. It can be made into a huge dining table.

I also have an old fashioned clock, a Seth Thomas of a very old type. My daughter, Kathryn, has an old marble top dresser, with a very large mirror, 24 by 40 inches, in the shape of a shield. At the top is carved an ornament of leaves and acorns. This dresser is made of solid walnut. She also has a very fine rocking chair, made of solid mahogany. The design on the back panel is that of a woman's head surrounded by flowers, deeply carved by hand; although small, it is a very heavy chair.

We have many visitors, many of whom come principally to see the old house that has stood for 100 years and looks as though it might be good for several hundred more. During the days when the National Council met at Tahlequah, and people from all parts of the nation took their children to Male and Female Seminary this was a central stopping place for people to stay all night. It usually took two days to make the trip to Tahlequah from Delaware and Cooweescoowee districts.

There have been three court houses built in Saline district, one near Chimney Rock Hollow. The second was later established one-fourth mile east of the Old Dave Rowe place. The third was moved from there two miles east, and a little south of the town of Rose, where it stood when statehood came. A large postoak tree stood in the yard of the second location that was used for a whipping post.

About 1895 a killing took place at Saline Courthouse, in which three men died. Thomas M. BUFFINGTON, then Circuit Judge of the northern district, had been holding a term of Court there. Court adjourned for the term late one evening, and Judge Buffington remarked to attorney James S. DAVENPORT that he believed they had better leave as soon as possible, as it looked like they were going to have some trouble. He based his judgment on the fact that several bad characters were getting drunk and were liable to shoot up the place. They drove on down to Joel BRYANT's Store, near Locust Grove, and were eating supper, when a messenger came up and announced that Dave SUNDAY, sheriff of Saline district, Tom BAGGETT, store keeper, at the Courthouse and Dave RIDGE had been killed. Some of the men who did the killing knocked on the store keeper's door and he did not open it, but stuck his head out the window upstairs, where he lived. They shot him and he fell back into his room. Jess Ridge and the sheriff were killed out in the brush, near the courthouse, and Ridge was carried and placed on the porch of the store, where his body lay all night, and the hogs badly mangled it. Sunday and Ridge were buried in the same grave, at Elm Grove Cemetery, near there.

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