[Various Places in Indian Territory: 1898-1911]. pp. manuscript and typescript material, plus several newspaper clippings. Light wear at edges and along old fold lines. Moderate tanning and light dust soiling; occasional patches of light staining. Accomplished in a quite legible hand. Overall, very good. Item #1819
A collection of letters, composed narrative, and manuscript drafts written by Mrs. John M. Simpson, who traveled with her husband and lived in Indian Territory from 1898 to 1901. John Simpson of Wisconsin was appointed Supervisor of Schools in the Chickasaw Nation and traveled throughout the region to inspect schools. As a result of his reports and and others from education supervisors of other Indian nations, the Department of the Interior proposed taking over the school system. However, they met with resistance from the tribal government, which ultimately agreed to a compromise in 1901 allowing the U.S. government to review school operations and certify teachers in the schools.
This group of materials captures the impressions of Mrs. Simpson, who traveled with her husband and wrote that she assisted him with his work, but she was clearly quite religious, and also spent much time working in territorial churches and missions. Among the collection is a fourteen-page undated manuscript describing their travels. She and her husband left Washington, D.C. and traveled by train to Muskogee, the headquarters of the Dawes Commission and Indian Affairs. They then traveled on to Ardmore, Chickasaw Nation. “The following night after our arrival the hotel we were in, a large three-story stone building was burned and we escaped at 3 ‘o clock in the morning…by that time, I began to change my mind and did not think it was such a nice affair to come to Indian territory,” she wrote.
The couple’s next destination was the capital Tishomingo, a small town in the Southwest portion of Indian Territory about 50 miles from the Texas border with just 400 inhabitants, where she reflected on the class system within the territory. “The citizen is the Indian, the non-citizen is the white resident,” she wrote. "The citizens are further divided into classes, with the full-blooded Indians the aristocrat. In other words, he is the landed gentlemen.” She noted that many white and “colored” people lived poor and itinerant lives within the territory. “You can see a wagon with a cotton cover under almost every shade tree that is anywhere near some water,” she wrote. “Four persons is the smallest numbers I have seen in any of these wagons, from that to thirteen and upwards are huddled together, mostly children, with some dirty straw, a broken chair, some filthy bedding, a part of a stove with a piece of stove pipe tied on underneath the wagon. The children peer out through holes, so covered with dust and filth that sometimes you are in doubt as to whether they are human or not.”
The couple had much occasion to meet and to interact with local Indian residents and leaders, and the account contains descriptions of their experiences. While in Tishomingo, for example, the Simpsons, "Dined with the Governor of the Chickasaw Nation a few days ago who lives in a modern frame cottage. The dinner was served by a colored butler with the customary ceremony usual on such occasions in the states. The Governor is a half-breed, his wife nearly full blood, quite dark, but very ladylike and sweet in her manners. She talks both Chickasaw and English, is well educated and acts as interpreter for her husband."
The manuscript account is the most extensive among the documents in the collection and reflect her views on the educational system of the tribal nations. Her concerns often center on the residents of the region who she feels are being denied educations. “It has been stated that the cost to the United States government for the expenses of the courts, jails, judges and marshals for the suppression of crime in Indian Territory is $1 million a year! If 59,250 children are allowed to grow into citizenship right in the heart of our country, deprived of the benefits of our greatest American institution – the public schools – can we expect them to make good citizens?”
This archive also includes a nine-page handwritten letter dated September 6, 1899 from Davis, Indian Territory, on hotel letterhead from Allen Cottage. She apologizes for not writing sooner as she and her husband were both sick with a “slow fever.” The stories in this letter report experiences in the same vein as those in the manuscript account, also containing descriptions of their interactions with members of the Indian tribes:
"I attended preaching in the Capitol [of Chickasaw Nation] night before last which was conducted in their own language but they sang the same dear old songs. Jesus lover of my soul & rock of ages Mr Simpson and I sang with them in our language. We had no trouble in following them their voices are very sweet and melodious. They looked very much pleased and I was like the old lady I sang out loud and strong...."
A twelve-page handwritten draft letter of this letter is also present, and contains additional information about the culture and morays of Indian Territory residents -- their starched white bonnets and the popularity of the Mother Hubbard dress and the snuff stick.
A further two-page typed letter is addressed to a Mrs. Hull and dated January 27, 1901 from Duncan, Indian Territory. She wrote seeking the help from “Calvary” to help keep a small Baptist church in Ardmore open. She noted she had been busy over the past year helping her husband, whose work was considerable. “Besides our other duties, we are kept busy dodging small pox, scarlet fever and diphtheria,” she wrote. “Everyone runs around here with contagious diseases and then when there is a death a public funeral is held in the church to which everyone goes just as they would a picnic.” In another five-page letter, no dates, written in ink on rule-lined paper to a Mrs. Brown. She wrote about her efforts to support a fledgling church in a small border town south of the Canadian River and 40 miles from the nearest railroad.
The final substantial piece in this group is a later, four-page letter handwritten in pencil on ruled-line paper dated November 26, 1911 from Ada, Oklahoma. This draft was written "to the Class of ’42" and relates her return to the region after an absence of ten years. The biggest change was apparently the number of oil wells now everywhere. “There have been many changed since we were hear and yet in many ways not so much change but more of the same thing, more railroads, larger cities, more wealth, more extravagance and more poverty.” She wrote that she spoke at the high school about temperance “it is such a pleasure to be someplace there are no saloons.” There are a further four pages of miscellaneous draft pages with small but interesting excepts of her experiences, as well as several newspaper clippings about tribal activities.
In all, a very interesting aggregation of material relating the travel and work of a woman in the Indian Territory at the turn of the 20th century.