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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: 1937
Name: Elizabeth Kemp Mead
Post Office: , Oklahoma
Date of Birth: March 18, 1849
Place of Birth: Indian Territory
Other: Frances Elizabeth aka Fannie
           Died: November 5, 1939
Husband: Benjamin Franklin ROARK
               Albert Henderson MOBERLY
               Sanford Minor MEAD
Father: Joel Kemp
Place of Birth:
Information on father:
Mother: Mariah Colbert
Place of birth:
Information on mother:
Field Worker:

My father, Joel KEMP, then a young man came from Mississippi with his parents, who were Levi Kemp and Polly FRAIZER. He married Mariah COLBERT, Chickasaw, whose father was Levi Colbert, Chief of Chickasaws. His wife WAS MINTO-HO-YO, a full blood Chickasaw. They were married at old Docksville, OK near Idabel, and were the parents of ten children, six growing to maturity. We moved to Panola County, about 1852, near Red River which was later known as Kemp Ferry Place. Later built at same place a two-story log house with two rooms and two side-rooms with a hall between, two rooms upstairs, front porch 40 feet long.  The house still stands and the logs are as firm as when put there in 1857. The old family graveyard is 300 yards from the house. My mother and father, with two of my brothers and four sisters, are buried there.

Furniture was scarce, nearly all we had was home-made, made by John H. CARR, a missionary who later was Principal of Bloomfield. I remember two old trunks that seemed so mysterious to me, and when they were opened we children would all crowd around to see; but all I remember seeing was old papers, letters, dishes, and relics that my mother said belonged to my grandparents.

My father operated a ferry across Red River before and after the Civil War. Toll was twice as high before the war. In 1888 my brother, Joel C. Kemp was granted a charter by the legislature of the Chickasaw  Nation, giving him legal right to operate a ferry on Red River which he did for many years.
Above from Volume 61-62 Interview 162

My father was National Treasurer of the Chickasaw Indians. He would receive the Indian money from the United States and pay out according to the orders of the Legislature. The Council ground was at Emmet, called "Post Oak Grove." Later they moved to Good Spring, now known as Tishomingo.

Father was a member of the Chickasaw Legislature, spoke good English and the Chickasaw and Choctaw languages. He was in Washington when the Civil War broke out and was made Captain to raise an army for the protection of the peoples who remained home. They were not allowed to cross the Arkansas line. One day, while he was stationed at Colbert Springs with the soldiers, a letter was sent to our home by Jim REYNOLDS from General Cooper, commander of the Choctaw army. My mother said it was important that the letter reach my father who was stationed fifteen miles away. I told her I would take it. So with my brother who was nine years old (and I was only twelve) we started horseback on our journey.

Mother pinned the letter to my underwear and said not to let anyone see me, but give it to my father. As we neared his camp, he recognized us and came to meet us. I told him about the letter and he took me into the tent an I gave it to him. After reading it, he told me I would have to go four miles farther and deliver a letter to Mr. COLBERT. I did and then Mr. Colbert sent a letter back to my father. It was past midnight before we reached home. Everyone was asleep but my mother. I gave her a note my father sent her and then went to bed. My brother and I were dead tire. The next day my mother told me the Federals were trying to take Fort Gibson and that after my father read the letter he, with a bunch of soldiers, rushed the Fort; but the Choctaw Army had driven the Rebels back.
Above from Volume 61-62 Interview 163

The refugees from the Cherokee Nation came in bunches and settled near us during the War.  They were without food, and I have often seen them gathering the render leaves from Mulberry trees and cooking for greens. Father would kill beef and hogs and divide out among them; also, let them have corn to make bread. They would dig Briar Root, which was sweet and brittle like potatoes, and mix with with the meal when they didnít have enough meal for bread. I have beaten mortar and made shuck bread to send to the men in camp. The Rebel soldiers would pass our house for days, fifteen and twenty together, and stop for food. Mother would cook a whole hog in the wash-pot; they would eat everything and move on. I remember one day I was sick in bed and my mother was feeding a bunch of Rebel soldiers; the table was in the bed room. When each soldier left the table he came by the bed and gave me a present. I received my first China doll with other nice presents. They had obtained them in a raid that they make in Arkansas and Missouri. One night when it was very cold and the ground was covered with snow there was someone said, "Hello". My father sent his waiting boy to the door. It was a young girl, nearly frozen, who said her mother and sister were out in the wagon. They were all brought in, fed, and put to bed. My father had his negro put the team up and feed them. The next morning she told us her story.

Her name was Jane GEORGE, and her husband was Bert George, who was serving in the Rebel Army. She had been accused by the Federals of feeding the Rebel soldiers. They took her to Fort Smith and put her in jail for several weeks and then let her out and said if she was inside the Arkansas line by sunrise they would kill her.
Above from Volume 61-62 Interview 164

She had two bull calves that she used to drag up wood with, so she hitched them to a wagon and with her two girls, 16 and 18, and what few belongings they could pack in the wagon crossed the Arkansas river after sun-up. They remained with us until after the war. while with us, Mrs. George taught my sisters and me to card, spin warp cloth and put on thread beam and then weave. My father would drive five yoke of oxen to a big government wagon to Bonham, which was the nearest trading post, and have meal ground. There was no grist mills in the county and some of the people used a hand steel mill of beat on mortar.

My fatherís brother Jackson Kemp, later had a grist mill operated by one horse which he ran night and day. That was the first mill in the county. Sugar was brought in wagons to the trading post from Shreveport, LA. My father would buy two bbls every fall, one white and one brown.  It was 10 cents per lb. before the Civil War, but after was 25 cents per lb. Once a year, usually in October, father would go to "Giles THOMPSON Salt Works" at Boggy Depot and spend two months getting our winterís supply of salt. He had a large iron pot that held 50 gallons which he would load on the wagon and take to boil the water. My brother, a cook, and one or two Indians would go with him. Fifty gallons of water would boil out 8 and 10 pounds of salt. People came there from all over the county to get their salt; I donít remember what he paid for it but there was a charge. There was also a salt spring at Carriage Point, but wasnít very much salt in the water. We would use the water to make salt.
Above from Volume 61-62  Interview 165

We made our own rope, we used a flat board and had a stick with a knot on it that held the whirl that twisted the rope, Many times I have straightened the horse hair out and helped my brother make rope. We spun our thread for cotton rope; it would take a week to spin enough thread for 30 or 40 feet and a day to make the rope. The stage coach passed our house each day from Fort Washita to Bonham. they drove two horses and changed horses twice on the trip, once at our house and again at Bonham. We received our mail from Old Warren, which was also a trading post.

My parents would send a peddling wagon each week loaded with country produce: dried beef, chickens, turkeys, eggs, butter, and vegetables when in season, The wagon always came back empty. There was very little fruit here. A few people had a few peach and apple trees. The only way we knew to keep our fruit was to dry it either on platforms or on top of the house.  Our butter we buried in stone jars, which kept it fresh all winter. Wild game was plentiful: deer, turkey, buffalo, and quails. We could make traps in the shape of a pyramid out of small sticks, placing one on the top of another, tying them together with willow and then placing a trigger with corn on it under the trap. That way we caught birds and small game. One day while sitting at my window I saw a big buck deer coming up the lane. He came on near the house and the dogs chased him into Red River and when he swam to the other side my brother shot him.  Our big camp meetings were held at Yarnaby camping grounds under a brush arbor. Later the Presbyterians built a log house, 18 feet long with a big fireplace in one end of the building.
Above from Volume 61-62  Interview 166

The Methodists also had a big campground. We attended each others meetings and worked together. It was a fine of not less that $25 or more than $50 to cut down a pecan or hickory tree or even a limb for getting the nuts within the limit of the Chickasaw Nation.  Every winter there was an epidemic of smallpox and diphtheria among the fullbloods and the negroes. Among the intermarried, less disease prevailed on account of better sanitary conditions. At the first breaking out of the smallpox, the local people tried to treat the sick with roots and herbs. Later they were vaccinated against smallpox by doctors who were called to the locality. There were no doctors at that time in the vicinity. The nearest one was Mr.  MACKEY at Bonham. Our family was one of the first to be vaccinated. Many died from vaccination.

My parents owned eleven negroes. Just three months before they were freed, Mother paid $1,000 in gold for two boys, ten and thirteen years old. They had been put up to the judge for bail by the wife of my half brother. Her husband had killed a man.

I was thirteen years old when the Civil War broke out. At that time I was living with my parents on Red River, 12 miles north of Bonham. My mother wove and made all our clothes. I had the first homespun dress in the neighborhood. It was blue and white checked. If you had a change of clothes and extra suit you were considered well-off.

A Mr. MCCARTY, refugee from Missouri, peddled underwear which he would bring in a wagon from San Antonio. It would take a month to make the trip there and back. Everyone that was able bought from him and our other clothes were made at home.
Above from Volume 61-62 Interview 167

My parents tried to give us children an education. One of my sisters went to Bonham, one to Bloomfield, and Simon, my brother, was sent to Dangerfield, Texas. But school days were over when he was seventeen years old as a very bad prank was played on him which saddened his life. While at Dangerfield, each boy had his chores; and one of them was to build fires, at which each boy took his turn. A story of a ghost appearing in the school room each morning as the fires were beginning kindled was told. So when it came my brotherís turn to light the fires, he told them he wasnít afraid. As he lit the match to light the fire, something all white blew it out an said, "You will have to fan the fire." As he struck another match, he could see the white form; and in the excitement, he hit the form over the head with the poker. To his sorrow, he had killed Bob HAMILTON, one of his companions.

My brothers and sisters all married and raised families. I have only one brother, Joel C. Kemp, living today.

I spent four years in Bloomfield Seminary (starting in 1853) that were happy years. Bloomfield was in charge of the Methodist missionaries and run by the Chickasaw Government. The first principal of the school was John H. CARR, a white man who married Catherine NEIL, a Choctaw. There were about thirty girls the first year I was there, but the attendance was more the next three years. You had to be between the ages of nine to eighteen to attend the school and be able to read well in McGuffeyís Fifth Reader, spell well, and read in the New Testament, and be of good moral character.

The Chickasaw Government furnished everything. We made our own clothes which were made by hand. There was one machine in the school, owned by one of the teachers. We would do her work to get her to hem our dresses on the machine.
Above from Volume 61-62 Interview 168

The building burnt but was rebuilt, moving location 3-4 miles NW from the old building. The building was heated by wood stoves and we used oil lamps for lights. Our bedrooms had no fire, but we never suffered from the cold. We had plenty to eat - nice ham, sausage, and bacon, and milk once a day. The girls were numbered and answered roll call by number. We were never allowed to leave the school grounds without a teacher. Each morning and evening we had prayers, and every Thursday at three oíclock prayer meeting. The only kind of musical instrument we had at school was a melodeon. at home, my brother had a fiddle and my sister had an accordion, which they played. After the Civil War broke out, parents came for their children and we had no school except what they called the neighborhood school, which I attended about three months. Then when the War was over, my mother took me to Bonham to place me in school; and because I was going to have to work in a hotel for my board, I refused to stay. To this day I have never forgiven myself for not getting an education.

The next year I married Benjamin Franklin ROARK, a Chickasaw Indian. My father let us move a two-room house near him, and my husband was to work land with by brother on the halves.  An old slave we called "Aunt Tena" lived with us. She was, in slave time, my grandmotherís waiting girl. We raised one boy, Alphonso Bailey Roark (A. B. Roark), who was county clerk of Panola County in Chickasaw Nation when P. S. Mosely was governor. Mr. Roark died very suddenly one day while we were visiting my parents. He had been in fine health before.
Above from Volume 61-62 Interview 169

Several years later I married Albert Henderson MOBERLY (white man) who was a merchant. He only lived three years. While on a trip to Texas for merchandise, in company with my son who was ten, on his way home he spent the night with my brother and took sick in the night. My brother sent a runner for a doctor, but he died before the doctor came. They buried him and then my brother came on home to tell me. They didnít know where I lived and my little boy said he could show them the way but couldnít tell them. I later married Sanford Minor MEAD (white) who was a farmer. We lived in and near Sterrett, I. T. no Calera. We raised six children to maturity, all still living, but Mr. Mead passed away twelve years ago.  Sons: Simon Minor Mead - Arizona, works for Government Landers Mead - Calera, Farmer, Walter Mead - Calera, Farmer   Daughters: Abigail WHISENHUNT - Durant Laura PERKINS - Lives on a farm, Pittie EDDLEMAN - Hugo

Indian Dyes Yellow was made by boiling Boisd'arc Chips Purple was made with Sumac Berries, White Sumac Berries preferred Red was made with a weed they called "Queens Delight" grew on bottom land Brown was made by boiling walnut bark, put rusty iron in to set it.

Indian Medicines Wahoo, a bush that has red berries: when ripe the berries will open The root is boiled, making a tea which is very bitter. This was used for all ills.
Above from Volume 61-62 Interview 170a

George JAMES, national school superintendent, came to my home one day and said, "Fannie, I am hunting a school teacher. I know you are able to teach and you wonít have to teach only to the 4th grade." There was an Arithmetic lying on the table. He picked it up and said, "Solve this problem." I did. Then he took a speech out of his pocket from Gen. Cooper and he said, "See if you can read this." I did. He wanted to employ me, but I told him I would let him know so I went home to talk it over with papa; who told me he knew I was capable of managing it. I said, "Yes, father, I can write, read and cipher, so I am going to accept the school." I taught there two years and I still have the old register I used to keep the names of the pupils and where they lived.

I had thirty pupils and among them were three children of John PITCHLYNN, three of my own sisters, two of Joe HARRIS, and the balance were fullblood, speaking only the Chickasaw language, but I could understand the language enough to teach them the meaning in English.  This school was 10 miles northwest of Durant where Emet is now, and it was called Post Oak Grove, or the Old Council Ground.

The school boys dug a spring for our drinking water out of the side of a rock and it was the grandest water.

Joe Harris, trustee, came the first morning and helped me to register the children. School opened on the first Monday in October and closed the last Friday in June. It was a free school.  I was paid once a year when the Legislature met. I was required to make a report of attendance, deaths and quits. I would give my report to the janitor at the Council House; he in turn gave it to the clerk who read it before the Legislature and they gave me a check and I took it to the Auditor and he gave it to the Cashier, from whom I received my money.

During the year I was allowed to run an account with the following merchants; Ebe RENEY, Tishomingo G. B. HESTER, Boggy Depot Davis, Ft. Washita These merchants would be there when the legislature met and when the cashier received my check what I owed to the merchants was paid. When I went to get my money though Joe BROWN was clerk and he would say, "Here is one you will pay in full, nothing against it."

The meanest thing I remember doing:
One Sunday I was asked to stay home from meeting so my sisterís company could ride my horse. I didnít like it very much and was crying. My father said, "Kate, the old mule is in the lot, you can ride her."

So I told the Negro boy to put a bridle on her and lead her out so my cousin and I got on bareback and my father put a spur on my foot and in a little while we caught up with my sister and her company, who were not very glad to see us. After meeting was over, sister said, "Now you go back the short way. We are going the prairie route." But I thought it would be more fun to go and tease them, so we rode close and spurred their horses, causing them to pitch. Sister said, "Never mind, I will tell mamma on you."

Well when we arrived home she did and mamma laughed and I noticed one of the little Negroes laughing. I kicked her in the mouth and knocked two teeth out, then I thought I would get a whipping, but I didnít.

The day father died, he called my sister to his bed and told her his trunk contained national papers and for her to deliver it to the legislature. Sunday after he was buried on Saturday my sister put the trunk in a wagon and drove all night, delivering the trunk Monday morning at the Council House where it was opened.

Father was the best interpreter in the Chickasaw Nation and would spend much of his time in Washington to hear the speeches made there concerning the Indians so he could bring back the messages to his people.

When and how I began to use tobacco.

While attending school at Bloomfield, when I was eleven years old, Sarah COLINS, one of the older girls, took me with her to gather the eggs and feed the chickens. On the way to the barn she asked me if I used tobacco. I said, "No," so she gave me a little piece and told me to chew it, taking a piece herself. When we reached the barn, she told me to get in the loft and get the eggs, when I reached the loft I slumped down on the fodder. She called me and I said, "Oh! I am so sick." "Oh" said Sarah, "Donít pay any attention to that, it is just the tobacco, get up and you will be all right." She bathed my head and had me drink some water, I felt better. The next day she told me to try it again. I did and have been using it ever since. Nearly all the girls in school used snuff or chewed tobacco. The younger girls would hide it in their playhouses and the older girls had a secret shelf on the campus in on old post oak tree.

When my sister Charity died, my sister Mary took some of her hair to Bloomfield Academy and Mrs. Angeline H. CARR made a picture of a tombstone with it.
Elizabeth Kemp Mead, interview Vol. 62, pg. 429 June 15, 1937

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