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J. L. Hargett collection of Choctaw Nation papers

Call Number: WA MSS S-2397

Scope and Contents

The J. L. Hargett Collection of Choctaw Nation Papers contains correspondence, documents, financial papers, printed materials, and other papers comprising an eclectic grouping of material relating to Choctaw removal from Mississippi, Choctaw politics in Indian Territory, and the pursuit by the Choctaw Nation of claims against the United States Government. The papers, acquired by gift and purchase from the collector J. L. Hargett, have been organized into three series: Correspondence, Documents and Financial Papers, and Other Papers, and are housed in six boxes. They span the dates 1821-1917.

Series I, Correspondence , 1821-1935 (box 1), is organized into five subseries: Folsom Family, LeFlore Family, Thomson McKenney, A. E. Perry, and Others. Some of the earliest letters in the collection are written by Choctaw leader David Folsom to his missionary friends Cyrus Byington, Elias Cornelius, and Cyrus Kingsbury. There are three letters to Byington and Kingsbury written by Folsom in 1824-1825 when he traveled to Washington as a delegate to renegotiate the Treaty of Doak's Stand. During these negotiations, the Choctaw delegation in Washington was entertained so lavishly with alcohol that one of their chiefs, Pushmataha, died. Folsom gives a detailed account of Chief Apukshunnubbee's death from a fall en route to Washington, the temptations facing the delegates in Washington, and the progress of their meetings with the U.S. Government. A letter to Cyrus Kingsbury refers to the death of Chief Apukshunnubbee and Chief Pushmataha, the illness of the other delegates, and the progress of the treaty. A later letter to Kingsbury in 1839 asks for help translating the Choctaw constitution and laws. The letters to Elias Cornelius concern the establishment of Choctaw schools, the treaty negotiations of October 1818, and a government inquiry the next year concerning the possibility of removal to the west. These letters to Cornelius are copies made by Cyrus Byington from letters held by the widow of Elias Cornelius (see folder 4).

Also in the Folsom Family subseries are two letters from 1830 and 1831 from David's father, Nathaniel Folsom, to Byington, full of religious content. A holograph document detailing some of David Folsom's accomplishments is stored in Miscellaneous Documents in Series III (folder 139). Two letters from Cyrus Byington to Israel Folsom from 1857 and 1859 concern his work on a Choctaw grammar and vocabulary and on a biography of David Folsom. There is also a letter to someone identified as Ward, possibly Ward Folsom, by H. Balentine, a missionary running a female school in 1856.

The letters of Forbis LeFlore include reports on the Choctaw Nation Schools made to the Choctaw Nation Senate and House of Representatives and to George Olmstead, Choctaw and Chickasaw Agent, dated 1869-1871, when LeFlore was Superintendent of Schools. Letters to LeFlore from James H. Colton, Superintendent of Spencer Academy, dated 1871-1872, concern business at the Academy, as does a letter from Colton to Edmund McCurtain in folder 57. An 1858 letter from William Lucas asks LeFlore to serve as chief, while many other letters are from family members with mainly personal content. Documents and financial papers relating to Forbis LeFlore and the Choctaw schools may be found in Series II, and writings relating to LeFlore may be found in Series III. The eight letters in the Other LeFlore Family section includes a letter from A. B. Dana to Matilda LeFlore Manning describing a cholera epidemic in Mississippi in 1853.

The letters of Thompson McKenney feature twenty-four letters to Forbis LeFlore concerning their work as Choctaw delegates to Washington in 1851-1853 when they pursued claims arising from the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. A letter of February 4, 1851 encloses a statement of McKenney's views about the claims in the form of a copy of a letter to Luke Lea, Commissioner of Indian Affairs. These letters also provide details on the battle over the money to be paid the delegates once they had successfully obtained a settlement from the United States. McKenney also writes about his work in Washington to George Folsom and Luke Lea, and receives letters from George W. Harkins and Peter Perkins Pitchlynn on the same subject. Two other letters by Pitchlynn (written to others) are housed in folders 9 and 64. Documents relating to McKenney and Thomson's work as delegates may be found in Series II under Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek Claims, and documents relating to McKenney may be found in Financial Papers in the same series.

A group of letters to A. E. Perry date from 1896 to 1935. Perry was married to Carrie LeFlore Perry, and many letters are from Coalgate, Oklahoma, where the Perrys lived. These letters have mostly personal content. A letter from the Oklahoma Woman Suffrage Association about the association's work in Oklahoma (folder 63) was possibly written to Carrie Perry. A speech of Perry's and clippings about him may be found in Series III.

The fourteen letters filed under Others includes a copy of a letter dated 1816 Jan 27 from the Secretary of War authorizing Major General Andrew Jackson to remove intruders from the lands of friendly Indian tribes.

Series II, Documents and Financial Papers , 1830-1908 (boxes 2-3), contains documents organized into Choctaw Constitutions, Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek Claims, Choctaw - Chickasaw Conventions, and Other Documents. The papers are arranged chronologically within each subseries or section. The Choctaw Constitutions consist of three separate holograph drafts that appear to represent various revisions leading to the compromise constitution of 1860. This constitution was drafted in response to the discord caused by rival constitutions of 1857 (which abolished the office of District Chief and created a Governor for the Nation) and 1858 (which reinstated the District Chiefs). The third draft of the 1860 constitution is incomplete.

There are a variety of papers relating to claims arising from the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, including memorials, resolutions, petitions, and appointments of delegates. Many of these documents carry long lists of Choctaw signatures. There are also documents for the Choctaw - Chickasaw Conventions of 1837 and 1866, including an incomplete handwritten treaty with a copy of a letter from President Martin van Buren dated 1837, and a manuscript copy of the articles of agreement and convention between the United States and the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations dated 1866. A variety of other documents are present, including the wills of Israel Folsom and Forbis LeFlore, petitions, letters appointing executors, mine claims dated 1888-1891, land patents, and the minutes of the Oklahoma Congressional Committee Meeting held in Coalgate in 1907.

The Financial Papers include statements of account, receipts, bills of sale, including Forbis LeFlore's purchase of a slave in 1853, and financial records of the Choctaw Nation school districts from 1868-1870.

Series III, Other Papers , 1870-1917 (box 3), is organized into three subseries: Writings, Printed Material and Miscellaneous Papers. The writings include the Lord's Prayer in Choctaw, and another piece in Choctaw, possibly relating to a legislative council; an incomplete, anonymous history of the rule of Greenwood LeFlore and David Folsom; and a memoir of Nathaniel Folsom as dictated to Cyrus Byington in 1829. In printed material, there are clippings related to Coalgate, Oklahoma.

Oversize contains oversize material from series II, and is listed in box order.


  • 1821 - 1917


Conditions Governing Access

Box 5 and Bsd folder 152: Restricted fragile material. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The J. L. Hargett Collection of Choctaw Nation Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift and purchase from J. L. Hargett, 1983.


3.13 Linear Feet ((7 boxes) + 2 broadside folders and 2 portfolios)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Correspondence, documents, financial papers, printed materials and other papers relating to the Choctaw removal to lands in Indian Territory and claims made by the Choctaw Nation against the United States Government. Correspondence includes letters from David Folsom, Choctaw Chief, to missionaries Cyrus Byington and Cyrus Kingsbury while in Washington negotiating the treaty of 1825. He writes of the deaths of two chiefs on the trip, and of the illness of others who had overindulged in the entertainment offered by the United States Government. Letters to missionary Cyrus Kingsbury from Folsom convey his reaction to preliminary queries from the Government in 1818 and 1819 concerning Choctaw removal to the west. Letters from Thomson McKenney to Forbis LeFlore (1851-1853) concern their efforts as Choctaw delegates to Washington to settle claims arising from the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. McKenney also writes to Peter Pitchlynn and receives letters from Pitchlynn (1848-1854) about his duties as a Choctaw delegate. The documents include many petitions, memorials, resolutions, and appointments of delegates for the settlement of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek claims. There are also three drafts of the Choctaw Constitution, written presumably during the convention which drafted the compromise constitution of 1860.


In the early 19th century, Choctaw Indians occupied most of the area that is now Mississippi and western Alabama. In a series of treaties with the United States beginning in 1796, Choctaw leaders ceded various parcels of land. In 1820 in the Treaty of Doak's Stand, the Choctaw ceded five million acres of their land in Mississippi to the United States in exchange for 13 million acres in Indian Territory. When the Choctaw attempted to enter their new lands, however, they found white pioneers had already settled portions of them. In 1825, the Choctaw signed a treaty which returned to the United States all land lying to the east of the current Oklahoma-Arkansas line, in exchange for $6,000 a year for sixteen years and a permanent annuity of $6,320.

By the mid-1820s the Choctaw Indians were severely divided about how to deal with American expansion. In 1826 mixed-blood leaders David Folsom and Greenwood LeFlore cooperated in the creation of a new government, organized under the nation's first written constitution. In September 1830, a small group of Choctaw leaders signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which provided that Choctaw Indians who agreed to remove from Mississippi would receive land in southeastern Indian Territory, would be paid for their cattle and other property left behind, and would be provided with transportation to their new homes. The treaty stipulated that Choctaw who chose to remain in Mississippi and agreed to become U.S. citizens would receive an allotment of land. Between 1831 and 1833 many Choctaw removed to their new territory, but those who remained behind found that their allotments were not honored. Many of these people were later forced to emigrate to Indian Territory between 1845 and 1847.

The Choctaw who moved to the Indian Territory wrote a new constitution in 1834 and re-established the tribal government. They pursued claims against the United States Government for cattle and land left behind in Mississippi, for money the United States received from the sale of Choctaw property in Mississippi, for the full number of acres in the Indian Territory guaranteed them by the Treaty, and for an end to the annuity system in favor of a lump sum disbursement by the federal government. In the years before the Civil War the Choctaw sent several delegations to Washington to pursue these goals. Principal delegates included Forbis LeFlore, Thomson McKenney, and Peter Pitchlynn. In 1853, LeFlore and McKenney obtained a $600,000 payment for claimants who had chosen to stay in Mississippi but had never received the allotments promised by the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Later that year Peter Pitchlynn headed a delegation to recover from the United States Government the net proceeds from the sale of Mississippi lands the Choctaw had relinquished in moving to Oklahoma. A settlement was awarded in 1859, but payment was delayed when the Choctaw joined the Confederacy. Litigation on this matter continued for over thirty years.

The factionalism that had marked Choctaw politics since the 1820s persisted through the 1850s. In 1860, however, a new constitution that combined a central authority desired by "progressives" with decentralized features preferred by "traditionalists" reduced internal political tensions.

Guide to the J.L. Hargett Collection of Choctaw Nation Papers
by Diana Smith
May 2001
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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