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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: March 19, 1937
Name: W. W. Harnage
Post Office: Muskogee, Oklahoma
Residence Address:
Date of Birth: January, 1852
Place of Birth: Tyler, Texas
Father: George W. Harnage
Place of Birth: Georgia
Information on father:
Mother: Nancy Mayfield
Place of birth: Tennessee
Information on mother:
Field Worker: L. W. Wilson

Interview was secured March 19, 1937, and Mr. Harnage states as follows:

I am one-fourth Cherokee and was born in 1852 in Tyler, Texas, which makes me eighty-five years of age, last January.

My Father's name was George W. Harnage, born in Georgia, date unknown. Died at the age of seventy and was buried at Chapel Hill, Texas, near the present town of Tyler, Texas.

Mother's name was Nancy MAYFIELD, born in Tennessee, date unknown, and was buried at Overton, Texas.

Grandfather, Jesse Mayfield, on my mother's wide, was born in North Carolina at date unknown to me. He died in 1867. He was buried at Belleview, Texas, on the old home place. The Mayfield plantation.

Grandmother, Sally STARR-Mayfield, on my mother's side was born in Tennessee, at a date unknown to me. She died in the early part of 1880 and was buried at Belleview, Texas, alongside her husband. Grandmother, when about twelve years of age, went to the river to see the party, under Chief BOWLS, who was Chief of a band of Cherokee Indians, leaving in canoes seeking a new land in which to live.

Chief Bowls and his party left on canoes and drifted down the Tennessee River. When they reached the mouth of Red River they _____ Red River to the mouth of the Sabine River, thence up the Sabine, to the head-waters of the Neches and here he established a village.

He remained there until the Mexican War. At the beginning of the Mexican War, with the solicitation of Sam Houston, an agreement was made, whereby Chief Bowls would protect their rear from attack from wild Indians. The reason that they solicited Chief Bowls was because he lived among the Indians, and knew their traits, character, and _____. For his services as such, he was promised a concession of land, which embraced about three counties. The names of the counties were: Rusk, Smith and Cherokee County, Texas. The result of the Mexican War was that the United States whipped them. "Chief Bowls never did receive for his reward, the three counties promised."

The line was run and started at the head-waters of the Neches river and went with the wind of the Neches to some point on the Angelina river, thence, down the Angelina to a certain point, thence due north to the Sabine, embracing about three counties. Houston went to Bowl's camp or village. He told Bowls that he would give him that land and would make him a title as soon as it could be done.

After the war, Houston became the first Governor of Texas. Later he was elected United States Senator, which was after the annexation of the state of Texas. While he was in the Senate, Governor Lamar became Governor. He was the first Governor after the annexation.

Bowls was in his little village in the Neches and the people began to encroach on him. He thought that he had a promised reservation. Bowls went to Lamar and told him that the people were encroaching on his reservation. Lamar did not give him any encouragement. The third time Lamar just answered him: "The boundary of Texas is marked by the sword." Bowls understood it and he left. He went back to his reservation and began a removal. He crossed the Neches and camped off his reservation. He was pursued by the Texas Rangers, and Bowls was killed and the larger part of his tribe was slaughtered. Some of them, however, got away. The Rangers pursued them, and they were captured. They took them, as prisoners, to Fort Towson, in the Indian Territory and turned them over to the Government. They were then moved to Fort Smith and turned over to the Cherokee Nation.

My father, was an old settler. He settled within about four miles of the present town of Evansville, Arkansas, in about 182_ and remained there until a treaty was signed back east by John RIDGE and Elias BOUDINOT for the removal of the entire Cherokee tribe from Georgia, North Carolina, _____, and other states, and he then moved in to the Indian Territory and settled in the Going Snake District.

My mother came through at the instigation of the treaty made as above mentioned and known to all as the "Trail of Tears." They traveled in caravans and wagons and were pushed along by the United States troops. Many of the Cherokees did not care to leave their lands, that were so productive and also to leave behind the burial grounds, where their loved ones were buried, to come to this Western country. It was forced upon them and consequently a great deal of dissatisfaction reigned among them, causing a faction known as the Treaty Party and the Anti-Treaty

My mother has told me that when they came to the Mississippi river, that it was up and that it was necessary for them to remain there six or seven weeks, before they could cross the river, as they had no means, other than canoes and flat boats to put them across. This put them on the west bank of the Mississippi River, in Arkansas, and they continued to travel, often wading streams with little food and practically no medical attention and hundreds of them died enroute, caused by exposure and unsanitary conditions. Even while they were waiting for the river to recede, while in Tennessee, hundreds of them died on the banks of the river from dysentery. As they died along the route they were buried in unmarked graves. My mother was one of the fortunates that made it through and it is useless to say that she endured many hardships, was grief stricken and sorrowful. She weathered the storm, while others, even after arriving, soon died of sorrow and grief.

In this removal my grandfather had thirty teams and was employed by the government to assist in removing them, so I guess my folks really fared well to what some of the rest of them did, because, they brought with them enough stuff to start building cabins, clearing the ground and making ready for crops.

My father and mother married in the Cherokee Nation and remained there until what they called the "Star War," between parties of Treaty and Anti-Treaty. My parents, along with Judge ADAIR, George STARR, Judge WILEY, Franklin D. THOMPSON, two or three of my uncles and my grandmother Sally Mayfield, all went to Texas, before the Civil War, and lived as one big family and located near the present town of Tyler, and Kilgore, Texas, and it was at this place that I was born.

We did not return to the Indian Territory until 1888. During the Civil War, my father volunteered, although he was over-age, he signed up at Galveston, Texas and was assigned to Regiment (unknown to me) and fought under the Confederate flag during the duration of the war. It so happened that he was not engaged in any battle. After the war he returned to us - we were living in Tyler, Texas.

Prior to the war my parents and grandparents owned many slaves and naturally when the slaves were freed it left us very much humiliated from a financial standpoint. All we had was land.

We started farming then by employing Negroes and doing the best that we could under the circumstances with free Negro labor and it was really bad. Our principal crops were cotton, corn and raising cattle. I would say that my father was left in debt after the war to the extent of three hundred thousand dollars, I mean by that, that the war cost him three hundred thousand dollars.

In 1883, being a young man and not yet married, I, with two cousins of mine drove something like four hundred head of cattle and located them on a ranch down on Dierdy Creek, which was near the present town of Warner, Oklahoma. Our ranch was known as the "O" ranch, for we branded our cattle with the letter "O". I continued in the cattle business until I married and started farming. It was in 1893, on the old Vann Place in Goose Neck Bend and it is known today as the old Harnage Place.

Allotments, Payments, and Annuities
As I understand it, that the Cherokees even though they came and settled in the Indian Territory, and then moved to Texas, as did my people, that upon their return it was indeed hard for them to establish themselves as being citizens of the Territory. You may ask me this so I will tell you about my becoming a citizen.

I was very fortunate as I had two uncles who were judges for the citizenship court. Their names being Judge Wiley, and Judge Adair. One was an uncle by marriage, and the other by blood kin, and due to this they granted me my citizenship without hesitancy or investigation.

After the establishment of the Dawes Commission, they went about enrolling those who were eligible for allotments, and I enrolled. Myself and two boys received two hundred and forty acres as our allotment which is now what I call my old home place located about ten miles east of the present city of Muskogee, Oklahoma, and I will say that with the expense that I was put to, to put the land into the state of cultivation and the improving of same that it was the most expensive and costly piece of ground I ever owned, even thought it was given to us.

I received in 1886 or '87 an old settlers payment, account of my father amounting to about one hundred dollars, as I remember 85. In 1894, I received strip payment amounting to about two hundred and sixty dollars. Many of the Indians drew a small check, which they called bread payment but I never drew any of these payments.

White people who were of good moral character, and who desired to work on the farms and ranches of the Indians were required to pay a permit to remain in the Territory, and to so work. This permit would cost the party employing them. At first this permit was one dollar per month, and a little later it was reduced to fifty cents a month and finally

Indian Live and Customs
You can more readily understand the Indians by my telling you something of their every day mode of life. Many of them who were of mixed blood and had accumulated some wealth lived in moderate, frame, stone, and brick houses. The frame structures were built from lumber, hauled in from Kansas, Arkansas, and Texas. The stone buildings were of native stone. The brick houses were made from hand made brick out of clay near where the structure was built. The major portion of the populace, however, lived in log cabins of one and two rooms with large fireplaces.

Their food consisted principally of bread, beans, wild game of all kinds, fruits and berries, and wild honey.

They did most of their cooking in the fireplaces. The cooking utensils consisted of pots, pans, skillets, and dutch-ovens.

Their clothing was made from cotton and wool, manufactured with the spinning wheel, real and loom. They would dye their cloth with different barks of trees, and roots. They eventually bought at their stores or trading posts, bolts of cloth, and would make their clothing at home from this cloth.

The Indians were staunch believers, then and now, of different roots and herbs to cure them of diseases. They would doctor themselves with bone-set, butter-fly root, plurisy (sic)
root, button snake root, sarsaparilla root, and made teas from sassafras.

All Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes engaged to some degree in farming, and raised for themselves cotton, corn, wheat, and oats, and small gardens. Very few raised more than what was needed for home consumption.

They enjoyed visiting among themselves and relatives, and had social affairs at the schools and missions. They also enjoyed sports, such as: horse racing, foot-racing, Indian ball-games, etc.

Many of the Indians were artistic and craftsmen. They would make baskets of all kind from white oak splints, and strippings (sic) of cane. Chairs, tables, and benches were made of willow saplings, and white oak splints. Bows were made of Bois De Arc and the arrows were made of ____ dog-wood, using a deer sinew for a bow string and to tie the feathers to the arrow.

The full-blood had their own native religious ceremonies, in the form of stomp-dances. At the place designated as the stomp-ground they would meet at the time of the year when green corn was ready for eating and with the barbecuing of meats and the roasting of the green corn, they would gorge themselves for three days, and on the fourth day they would take their mythical medicines which would cause them to become nauseated and they would vomit, thus cleansing their system, and souls of all impurities. They would again start eating and dancing with joy. The women folks would attach to their ankles a number of shells in which small rocks were placed and these shells would rattle as they danced and sang, while someone beat on the drum, or what they called the tom-tom.

Tribal Chiefs, Courts, Governments
The Cherokee Nation was a domain within itself, and was divided (i.e.) into nine districts, vis. - Flint, Goingsnake, Canadian, Saline, Delaware, Tahlequah, Illinois, Sequoyah, and Claremore.* Each district had its presiding Judge, Prosecuting Attorney, and Sheriff forces. There were no jails, and the sheriff was held responsible for his prisoners pending the day of trial. They were held captive by being bound in chains, by the sheriff. Sentences were meted out by so many lashes at the shipping post or if the crime justified their lives would be taken by hanging them.

From the Principal Chief down to the smallest office was elected by the citizenship of the Nation for positions, which related to the Nation as a whole. The officers of the district were elected by popular vote of the individual district.

Some of the Principal Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation as I remember them were: Louis DOWNING, D. W. BUSHYHEAD, Joel B. MAYES, C. J. HARRIS, S. H. MAYES, W. C. ROGERS and Tom BUFFINGTON.

Opening of Lands to White Settlers
Lands were opened to white settlers throughout the Territory, at different times, but the two principal and major openings were that of the Oklahoma Country in 1889 and that of the Cherokee Strip in 1893.

I never participated in any of the openings due to the fact that I was a citizen of the Nation. About all that I know of these openings is what I have read as I was not present at any of them.

Cattle Industry and Ranches in the Territory
At the close of the Civil War, the Northern states had few cattle, and the price of meats were high, while in Texas, where I lived, great herds roamed the prairies. The owners of these herds conceived the idea that they could drive them through the Territory to points in Kansas, at which points they could be loaded into freight cars and taken to the Northern markets. (There was no railroads through the Territory at this time.) This practice continued for some three or four years possibly as late as 1890. They learned that this was unprofitable and the cattle would arrive in Kansas, thin, and gaunt, from their long travel, and then they began driving them slowly through, often taking as much as eight months from the time they left Texas until they arrived in Kansas. And this was more profitable as there was an abundance of buffalo, sage, and blue stem grass together with plenty of water, and they arrived rolling fat and in the pink of condition. This method of marketing ceased with the coming of the railroads.

After the railroads were built, Texas ranchmen began shipping their cattle to different points on the railroad and establishing ranches in the Territory account of the excellent grass, water and climate conditions. The cattle were fattened here, reloaded into cars, and then forwarded to market. This was one of the most profitable industries in the Territory and the State of Oklahoma, I think, even unto this day. Of course, we do not have the open ranges of today as we did in the days of old, and of course, the industry is not as thrifty because they do not have the vast amount of acreage that is needed. The______ has been cut up into small farms.

On each ranch in the Territory, was constructed the owner or foreman's house, a cook shack, a bunk house, a few sheds, and a horse, and branding corral. The number of employees on the ranch, was determined by the number of cattle that was handled. These employees were the foreman, herd-riders, (commonly called cow-punchers), cooks, and horse wranglers, together with a few miscellaneous employees, who cared for the freighting of supplies, to the ranch and keeping up the salt licks.

I remember some of the ranches in the vicinity of Muskogee, Haskell, Boynton, Warner, and Keefeton, Oklahoma, of the present day as being the ______Ranch owned by SEVERS, the N.B. Ranch owned by Nip BLACKSTONE, The Three-Bar Ranch owned by C.A. TURNER, The Lazy Z Ranch owned by H.B. SPAULDING, the O.X. ranch owned by Louis JOBE and numbers of others that I can not recall at this time.

Schools and Missions
I received my schooling in Texas. But I have knowledge of schools and missions in the Cherokee Nation only from passing and observing them. The Dwight Mission was located near the present town of Marble City, Oklahoma. The old Female Seminary was located about one-half mile north of the present town of Park Hill, Oklahoma. I only saw the debris and charred timbers of this Seminary as it burned the year I returned to the Territory in 1883. They rebuilt the Female Seminary at the present location of the North-Eastern Teachers College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The boys Seminary was located about one and a half mile south and a little west of the present town of Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The Cherokee Asylum was located on the present site of the Sequoyah Indian Printing School some six or seven miles _______ of the present town of Tahlequah.

Submitted to OKGenWeb by Wanda Morris Elliott <jwdre@intellex.com> October 2000.