Indian Pioneer Papers - Index
Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: October 19, 1937
Name: Mr. Gilbert Thompson
Post Office: Tuskahoma, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: September 15, 1848
Place of Birth: Near Talihina
Father: Garrett Thompson
Place of Birth:
Other information about father:
Mother: Belinda Thompson
Place of Birth:
Other information about mother:
Interviewed by: Johnson H. Hampton
I was born September 15, 1848, out about fifteen miles northeast (he must have meant southeast) of what is now Talihina. There was no Talihina at that time but about 1878 the Frisco Railroad was built through the Nation, I was born up the Kiamichi River from where Whitesboro is now.
Whitesboro is a small village out from Talihina about twelve miles. I was reared farther up the river from Whitesboro. That country was wild at that time and there were only a few people who lived there then and the Choctaws lived around us there on both sides of the river and there were no white people there at all, then, and there were not many Choctaws there; they were mostly across the river from where we lived.
My fathers name was Garrett Thompson, and my mother's name was Belinda Thompson and they both came from Mississippi.
They used to tell of the hard time they had in getting over to this country. A crowd of Choctaws came to the Indian Territory together but I do not know whether Father came with the first band of emigrants or not. He said that lots of the Choctaws died on the road by freezing and lots died by sickness. They did not ave clothes to keep them warm, and they did not have bedding to keep them warm at nights when they camped out. The "Trail of Tears" is the right name for the trip that our fore-fathers made when they came to this country; they were driven like cattle; the man who had them in charge did not try to help then; when they got sick he did not try to get them any medicine, nor did he try to get them bedding sufficient to keep them warm, nor did he give them food enough to live on while they were making the trip to this country; they had to dig roots and herbs and get what they could to live on coming over here.
My Father was in the Civil War, He was with a company of Choctaw Indians and they had a battle with some more Indians; maybe they were Cherokees, but I do not remember what tribe he said they were.
They had another battle somewhere else; they joined up with some white soldiers and helped them fight; they lost some Indians in both battles but not many.
Smallpox killed more Indians than the battle did. Smallpox broke out among them and the only thing they could do was to die for no one had time to wait on them and they were afraid of the disease anyway so they just died when they got sick with the smallpox. The Indians would sometimes have to go without a bite to eat for two or three days and then sometimes they would kill a beef and roast him and eat him without any bread nor salt but as they were hungry it would taste good.
After the war Father came home safe and sound; I was not in the war myself, I was a boy then so I stayed and took care of our little farm while Father was in the war.
I was elected County Judge on Wade County and served for eight years; I then was elected Circuit Judge and served until the Federal Government took over our laws some time in 1904 or 1905 when they put us under the Arkansas Jurisdiction until Statehood. I have held several important offices under the Choctaw laws.
In 1893 I was appointed Captain of a troop of militia that was called out by the Principal Chief who was W.N. Jones. He called out about a hundred and fifty men to serve in this troop of militia and the purpose of the this call was to arrest two or three men who had killed some Indians somewhere in the northern part of the Nation and had fled to Cedar County which is now Pushmataha County. The way that happened one of the Choctaw Sheriffs arrested two or three men and started away with their prisoners and while they were on the road some of the Locke men overtook them and took the prisoners away from them and the Sheriff went home without his prisoners and after a while a Light-horseman arrested these murderers and he too started with them, and again the Locke men took them away from him so the matter was brought to the Governor who then decided to organize a band of militia and get those men at any cost.
He then organized this band of men and swore them in as militia to carry out the orders of the Governor and we came over to Antlers one day to see if the men were here in town. They were not in town so we went to the house of Mr. V.M. Locke to see if they were there with him.
I had about fifty men with me and when we got near the house we heard a shot. I do not know whether one of my men shot or whether the men in the house shot but then the fight started. I tried to keep my men from shooting until I found whether the men we wanted were in the house or not, but after the first shot I could not do anything with my men; they fought for a good while then the firing ceased and then I went into the house. The house was shot all to pieces. I do not think that there was any places in that house that didn't have a hole through it and the men we wanted were not there. Mr. V. M. Locke had about seven men in the house with him , and I had about fifty men with me, but I do not remember that more than one man was killed there and he died after we got into our camp.
One horse was killed in the battle and several men were shot but they were not hurt much.
I have been told that two or three of the Locke men were shot but none of them died, and I have been told that one of Mr. Locke's daughters was in the house when the firing started and a bullet cut the front of her hair but did not hurt her. The hair on the back of my head was shot off but it did not hurt me and I got out all right.
After that fight, we gathered at Goodland to get our men together and make our drive for the men that we wanted for we had the orders from the Governor to get them at any cost, and I was sure that the Locke men were not going to give them up without a fight. While we were getting ready the Indian Agent came down and that was the first time that I had heard of an Indian Agent. He came down and talked with Locke and then he came down to Goodland and talked with me and asked me to disband my men and let them go home but I told him that I had orders from the Governor and I was not going to do that until the Governor told me to.
I had all the papers necessary with me and my authority from the Governor; he looked at these papers and then I sent for the Governor; he came over and he and the Agent had a talk but the Governor would not give over, and told me to go ahead and do what I could in getting these men and putting them under arrest. Then the Governor went home, the agent went home and in a few days a company of soldiers came to Antlers. One company of them came to put a stop to the quarrel with the Locke and Jones factions but after talking with the captain of the soldiers the Governor said for me to disband my troop and let the men go home, for he did not want any of our men killed by the soldiers.
This he said is our own affair but the United Sates Government had stepped in and sent those soldiers down here to stop us and I guess it would be nothing but right to give in and let the thing go and forget about it.
We disbanded our men and Locke disbanded his men and we gave our boys a good hand shake and told them to go home.
It took a good many beeves to feed the men I had; Joel Springs furnished the beef for our boys and the Choctaw Government paid him for the beef and hogs he furnished us under the orders of the Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation.
I think that V. M. Locke furnished that beef for his men; he had lots of cattle and hogs at that time and plenty of money and he had a big store in Antlers at that time so he furnished guns and ammunition for all his men although I think that it nearly "broke" him.
The Council House was moved from where the Orphan School was; it was named Armstrong Orphan Academy and then a new Council House was built at Tuskahoma where it is now. Just before statehood, Green McCurtain and T.W. Hunter came near having trouble over their office, Green thought that he was elected Governor of the Choctaw Nation and T.W. Hunter thought the same thing and both of them claimed the office, and the Choctaws who supported them were about to go to war over it and it took several days and a company of Negro soldiers to quiet them down.
They finally seated Green McCurtain although I really think that Hunter was elected Governor in the first place.
That was the last election the Choctaws held in the Nation. Green McCurtain was appointed Governor of the Choctaw Nation by the President and served until his death and since that time, there have been several men who have been appointed Governor of the Choctaws.
We had a small farm for the Choctaws at that time did not have big farms. They had farms just big enough to raise corn for their bread. They made corn meal by beating the corn in a mortar or on a block of wood about three feet high with a bowl burned in the end. They would put the corn in the bowl an beat it until they got the corn beaten down to a fine meal and that was the way they made meal, and hominy as well.
We had spinning wheel that mother used in making threads out of cotton that we raised for that purpose; we did not raise much cotton just enough to make threads out of and to make socks and mittens. I remember in the winter I had to sit down on the floor and pull the seed from the cotton and it sure was tiresome for it took me several nights to get the seed out of the cotton that mother wanted to use for socks and mittens. After these socks and mittens were made, mother would dye them, but I do not remember what she used for dyes.
I was enrolled by the Dawes Commission in 1893 when they came down to enroll the Indians, under the Atoka Agreement; then, in 1902, or 1903, we were allotted our land under the Curtis Act and the first Payment that I remember getting was in about the year 1893 when the Choctaws got each $103.00 payment. Then they did not get anymore until about 1910 or 1912 when they got another payment and after that they got several payments. The biggest payment they got was about $300.00 apiece and the smallest payment was about $10.00 apiece if I remember right. It has been a log time since we have had any more payments. The timber land was all sold and the surface land was sold but the coal had not been sold yet but it seems that we will not be able to sell the coal now at any price. The coal is about all we have now that we can get any money out of that is held in common.
When I was a boy the country where I lived was full of wild game, deer, turkeys and there were bears on the mountains and plenty of fish in the Kiamichi River. We lived on the river and we could see the fish floating on top of the water at any time we would go down to the river fishing. We used our bows and arrows for fishing: we did not have hooks and lines for fishing at that time. We killed deer at any time we wanted and turkeys too, and some of the Choctaws used to kill bears on the mountains. I went to school in Arkansas but I have forgotten what school it was; I got a pretty good education, and I can speak pretty good English and read pretty well and I can speak my own language and can read and write it.
I am a Choctaw Indian; all of my folks were Choctaws and I was reared among them and have lived with all my life and I guess I will live among them until I die.
Submitter Note: The interview with Mr. Thompson ended here. Information about him is also contained in the interviews with Crawford J. Anderson, and Sarah C. Griffith. Gilbert's Sister, Lilly Ann Sexton, was also interviewed. Gilbert Thompson was also the subject of one of the biographical sketches contained in D.C. Gideon's book, A History of Indian Territory. That biography follows:
GILBERT W. THOMPSON
A prominent representative of the judiciary of the Choctaw nation is Judge Gilbert Webster Thompson, who is now presiding on the bench of his circuit. He was born in Wade County of this Nation in year 1858 (WPA has 1848) His father, Garrett Thompson, was a full-blood Creek Indian. (That Garrett Thompson was a Creek Indian is recorded on Lilly Sexton's Census Card also) His birth occurred in Florida, and he died in the Choctaw nation, in 1876 (his grave marker says 1878) His wife was french and one-half Choctaw. She was born in Mississippi and died in Choctaw Nation. Of this section of the Territory Judge Thompson has spent his entire life. He acquired his education in the schools near his home and was reared to work on the farm. He today owns one hundred and fifteen acres of fine farming land near Tuskahoma, his residence being situated two miles north of the cite, near the Choctaw capitol building. However, he lived for about fourteen years in Scullyville County where he served for four years, 1881-1884, as County Judge. After returning to Wade County he held the same office here for two years, 1894-1896, and in August 1900, he was elected judge of the second judicial district for a term of four years. Many judges upon the bench fail in the discharge of their duties through an inability to put aside the personal prejudices and opinions and listen with unbiased feeling to evidences, testimonials, and the law bearing upon the points in litigation, but Judge Thompson is well qualified in this particular and he is winning new laurels through his capable administration of the judicial duties devolving upon him. In the year 1891 the Judge was appointed captain of the militia of the second district.
In 1868 was celebrated the marriage of Judge Thompson and Miss Isabella Anderson, who is a half breed Choctaw and Irish and a daughter of Dixon Anderson, who belongs to a prominent family of the neighborhood. Their marriage has been blessed with four children; Ellis W., and intelligent and well educated young man who has held the important position of journalist in the Choctaw house of representatives; and has taught school two years; Harris James; Mrs. Josephine Isherwood, whose husband is a prominent merchant in Tuskahoma, and Susan. The Judge and his son Ellis are prominent Republicans, being recognized leaders in the Republican Club of Tuskahoma. The Judge also belongs to the Masonic lodge at Talihina.
He has a wide acquaintance throughout the nation and is a man of sterling worth who enjoys the high regard of all with whom he has been associated. The End
Transcribed for OKGenWeb and submitted by Colin Kelley <Peggyacolin@hotmail.com> December 2001.
[Note: email updated Oct 2002.]