We’re talking about the sisters of Choctaw Chief Peter Pitchlynn today. Did you know he had any? It’s mostly goes unnoticed – he had five younger sisters. Born in Lowndes County, MS, they all lived in the Indian Territory near Eagletown or Doaksville. They were Mary, Rhoda, Eliza, Elizabeth, and Kezia, born 1811, 1814, 1818, 1820, and 1824 respectively. One of these sisters even lived long enough to get a ride in an automobile. And there were three women touched by murder twenty-six years apart, not surprising in those lawless times, but very surprising in other respects.
I always want to discover photos for the people that populated the old Choctaw Nation, but regretfully none are available for most of the Pitchlynn women. The “Age of Photography” – at least for portraits – started in 1840. If you’re thinking of the early images of Pushmataha and Peter Pitchlynn, those are either paintings or lithographs. An example is the painting of Col. David Folsom, housed in the archives of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Probably painted during Col. Folsom’s trip to Washington, D.C. as a Choctaw delegate in 1824, it is so compelling that it almost seems like an old photo. Another is the painting of Choctaw delegate Thomas “Red Pine” McKenney, done in 1854 in Washington, D.C.
After hours combing through the online collections for the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS), the earliest photo of a Choctaw that I could find was of Joseph P. Folsom. It is a copy of a daguerreotype taken in 1845, probably during his days at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Joseph Folsom (1823-1890) was a big deal during his day. In 1869, under the sponsorship of Chief Allen Wright, he compiled the very first book of Choctaw Laws and Legislation. In 1884 he ran for the office of Chief but was defeated by the popular Edmund McCurtain. It is not unexpected that his photo (or copy) has survived all these years.
Daguerreotypes were popular between 1840 and 1860. The process required the subject to sit absolutely still for a long time while the image was made. If the person had the patience to not move a muscle, he was rewarded with a sharp detailed image of his face. Then because the photo is on polished silver, not paper, the image had to be in a sealed case to avoid tarnishing. The cases have a distinctive carved border around the photo.
The next photograph I could find was about ten years later. The earliest daguerreotype of a Choctaw/Chickasaw woman in its original case online at the Oklahoma Historical Society is the image of Mrs. (Susan) James Colbert, date and place unknown. Since Mrs. Colbert died in 1863 near Soper, it is highly possible that the daguerreotype was taken before the Civil War began. In the 1850s Little Rock was home to the E. A. Hines Gallery, offering the daguerreotype method among others.
The daguerreotype of Mrs. Colbert is part of the Lucy Cheadle Collection. This collection also contains an ambrotype of a man identified at James Cheadle. This type of photography was in use in the 1850s. Were Mrs. Colbert and James Cheadle related? I have no idea, but in my mind, I picture the young man carefully escorting Mrs. Colbert, her hand tucked closely into the crook of his arm, down the busy streets of Little Rock to the photography studio.
The earliest photo of a Choctaw Chief is the one of Tandy Walker, probably taken in 1858, the year that he served as Chief. Although not identified as such, it appears to be a classic daguerreotype.
Another intriguing daguerreotype is the one of a young man identified as William Bryant, a part of the Robert L. Williams Collection at OHS. Is this possibly an earlier photo of Choctaw Chief William Bryant, for whom we know very little, not even a birth or death date? Bryant’s term as Chief was for the years 1870-1874. His Chief’s photo online at the Choctaw Nation website shows a sober man of middle age. It is not too far-fetched to say that the daguerreotype of a younger, bright-eyed William Bryant was taken in the 1850s.
Photography studios were quite numerous in Washington, D.C. We are thankful to the Bell and Hall Studio which gave us the only known images of former Chief Alfred Wade and Rev. John Page, both Choctaw Delegates to the 1866 treaty negotiations discussed in my blog “How Old A Word Is Oklahoma”. It is amusing to see the same tablecloth in all three photos made during that trip. [One of these days maybe the OHS will actually get the right name attached to the photo of Rev. John Page (below, middle) – right now it is mistakenly identified as James Riley.]
But, as a general rule, photography studios were not common in the Indian Territory until well after the Civil War. The Samuel Lyman Studio in Paris, Texas, existing from the early 1870s, took many photos of Choctaw Nation citizens. From the Lyman Studio comes a beautiful, enchanting photo of Sophia Folsom Everidge, wife of Choctaw Supreme Court Judge Joel W. Everidge. The photography process had improved enough so that we now see a more spontaneous facial expression is being captured, in this case, the slightly bemused look on Sophia’s face – our Choctaw “Mona Lisa.”
~~More Detail about our Five Pitchlynn sisters~~
#1 – Mary Pitchlynn Garland (1811-1886) & Memorial
- Mary was born in the old Choctaw country, MS territory. In 1823, she married the future Choctaw Chief Samuel Garland, a neighbor of the Pitchlynns in Mississippi. Mary died at age 75 in 1886 at the Garland Plantation near current-day Tom in McCurtain County.
- The Garlands had five children that I could identify: Leonidas, Cordelia, Laura, Mary Elizabeth, and Peter. Mary Elizabeth survived to adulthood, married John Pendergrass Rogers, and helped settle the Pauls Valley area.
#2 – Rhoda Pitchlynn Howell (1814-1911) & Memorial
- Rhoda was born in the old Choctaw country, (Lowndes County) MS territory. About 1830, she married Calvin Hickman Howell of North Carolina; they eventually came west in 1841 and settled in/near Eagletown. After his death in 1865, she moved to the Pauls Valley area. Rhoda died at age 97 in 1911.
- The Howells had 14 children, only two of which survived their mother: Dr. Thomas Pitchlynn Howell and Mrs. Ellen Louise Howell Wolf.
- 1909 article from the Davis News: “Mrs. Rhoda Howell (best known as Grandma Howell) who is 96 years old is visiting her grand-daughter Mrs. W. K. Crippen. She lost her eye sight about 14 years ago. She has been making her home with the Butterly family the past 16 years. This is the first time she has been away from home in two years. On this trip Grandma took her first ride in an automobile which is owned by her grandson, Tom Grant. And if her health permits, she intends visiting her son Dr. T. P. Howell and her daughter Mrs. Matt Wolf. Her son Calvin, from Eagletown, Okla., is visiting her now.”
#3 – Eliza Anna Cornelia Pitchlynn Harris (1818-1860) & Memorial
- Eliza was born in Lowndes County, MS. In 1835 she married William Riley Harris of North Carolina (no relation to Lorenzo Harris); they eventually came west in 1841 and settled in/near Ultima Thule where her husband established Harris Mill. Eliza died at age 41 in 1860; her husband died in 1877, both buried at Harris Mill.
- The couple had at least five children: Henry, Evalina, Eugenie, Thomas, and John.
- The oldest child Judge Henry Churchill Harris achieved Choctaw prominence, serving his people in many ways. He had a big heart and took in many orphans at his home in Pleasant Hill, McCurtain County.
#4 – Elizabeth “Betsy” C. Pitchlynn Harris (1820-1890) & Memorial
- Elizabeth was born near Columbus, Lowndes County, MS. In 1836 she married Lorenzo G. Harris of North Carolina (no relation to William Riley Harris); he hailed from the oyster country of North Carolina, around Newburn. Migrating to Mississippi, he established a mercantile business at Columbus on the Tombigbee River. When they moved to Indian Territory, they came by boat to Memphis (or New Orleans). Elizabeth lost a large bridal dower of silks, linens, silver, and china, by the sinking of the boat at Memphis. They settled at Ultima Thule where Lorenzo took up merchandising again. Elizabeth Harris died at age 70 in 1890 at Antlers, I.T., where her granddaughter Annie Taaffe was living.
- In 1860, thirty years before Elizabeth’s death, her husband Lorenzo met a tragic death by the hand of a relative. The Pitchlynn family has had many heart-breaking events, but one of the saddest was the killing of Lorenzo Harris by Peter P. Pitchlynn, Jr. (son of Chief Peter Pitchlynn) on July 10, 1860. Some claim it was self-defense, but the newly widowed Elizabeth Harris offered a huge reward for the return of her fleeing nephew to the Sevier County Sheriff. We don’t know if they ever reconciled; Peter became a Lieutenant for the Confederate forces in the Civil War. He died on March 23, 1865, leaving his wife Caroline, who died soon after, and one child, Edward Everett Pitchlynn. Edward was sent to Washington, D. C. and raised by his grandfather, Chief Pitchlynn. [See Dawes Packet, Choctaw BB Card 3757.]
- Lorenzo and Elizabeth had at least ten children: one son Thomas, who died as an infant; and nine daughters, four of whom married and had children: Sophia, wife of Leonidas Pitchlynn; Mrs. Fredonia Taaffe, wife of George S. Taaffe, Jr.; Mrs. Priscilla Wood, resident of McAlester; Mrs. Ella Cornelius, wife of B. F. Cornelius, residents of Davis, Murray County.
- About 1857 her daughter Sophia married her first cousin Leonidas Pitchlynn, son of Chief Peter Pitchlynn. He was the most capable of Pitchlynn’s sons, taking great interest in the development of the family plantation along the Mountain Fork River during his father’s long absences. He served as Captain in the First Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles, survived the years of conflict, but was killed July 4, 1865, a deed said to be done by John Garland – a relative by marriage? It is not clear. What is clear is that Sophia’s life never prospered after that point. She lived quietly and simply in rural Eagle County, dying sometime before the 1885 Choctaw Census. Her only surviving child, Alice married Joseph Bevill on Dec 23, 1875, but divorced him in 1900 after he was sent to prison.
- Elizabeth’s daughter, Mrs. Fredonia Taaffe did not live long, dying at age 39 in January 1885. The Taaffes had at least seven children who survived their mother: five daughters, Annie (Arnote), Gertrude (Rainey), May (Saul), Virginia (Kales), Maude (Knight); and two sons, Francis D. Taaffe and Joseph Taaffe.
- Tragedy struck the seven Taaffe children when their father, George S. Taaffe, Jr., was killed November 1886 by two cattle rustlers near their farm in Little River County, Arkansas. See Annie’s story at the end of the blog.
#5 – Kezia Pitchlynn Poland (1824-1859) & Memorial
- Kezia was born in the old Choctaw country, (Lowndes County) MS territory. She married her first husband Robertus Wilson in 1841 in Sevier County, Arkansas. In 1854 she married William H. Poland of Alabama and settled near Eagletown. Kezia died at age 35 in 1859 at/near the Garland Plantation. Mr. Poland was a very successful cotton buyer. He moved to Marshall, Texas, remarried, and expanded into real estate.
- Two children by her first marriage: Melvinia and Mary, presumed to have died as infants; two sons by her second marriage: William P. Poland and Charles, who died as a young boy. William moved to Ardmore as an adult and became a wealthy real-estate and land dealer.
More about Elizabeth’s Granddaughter Annie’s Adversity and Triumphs
“I was reared in what is now southeastern McCurtain County. My mother, who was educated at Ward Seminary, Nashville, TN, taught me at home. She died in January 1885, and I was sent almost immediately to St. Agnes Academy in Texarkana, Texas.
In [Nov 1886], my father was shot and killed by two men caught stealing his cattle. I would be 15 in a month and a day but as I was returning home, I had the feeling of great age. Was it not my duty now to rear and educate my four younger sisters and two younger brothers?
The Sister Superior of St. Agnes wrote me of the death of one of her teachers and offered me a position teaching in the grades until a replacement could be secured. I accepted on the condition that I could bring my sisters and brothers with me [to Texarkana]. I taught there a year and then one year near my home.
The town of Antlers was a rough lumbering center when I came here in 1889 and began teaching a combination Indian and subscription school. The Long-Bell Lumber Company had an immense mill a few miles up the Kiamichi River from here. Money circulated freely because the payroll was large.”
~~Part of Annie Arnote’s Obituary~~
Mrs. Annie Taaffe Arnote, aged 68 years, pioneer Antlers woman, succumbed at 2:30 o’clock this morning [June 20, 1940] to a heart attack at the Sanitarium of Paris, following several days of serious illness. She was the widow of A. J. Arnote, early day county attorney.
Mrs. Arnote, born December 27, 1871, in Red River County, Indian Territory, moved to Antlers in 1899. She was educated at St. Rose De Lina, at Texarkana, Texas.
Moving to Antlers, she organized a class of private pupils and was among the first teachers here. She later taught school at the Old Nelson school; at Paris, Texas; at Fort Smith; and in a normal college at Fort Scott, Kansas. At these larger schools, Mrs. Arnote taught dramatics.
She organized and was president of the Civic League, an early day civic unit for women. She was chairman of the Women’s County Defense during the World War I. And as president of the United Daughters of Confederacy, she assisted several civil war veterans to obtain their pensions. She also was a member of the D.A.R.
Until recent years, Mrs. Arnote was active in the work of her church. Her myriad accomplishments in all of her activities were an inspiration to her friends and acquaintances.
Mrs. Arnote lived in the old family home, just beyond the west city limits.
***YAHOKE, ikana! Thank you, friends. Much GRATITUDE for spending time on a Choctaw Journey with me.***
SOURCES: under fair use exception; not-for-profit educational purposes
- Pitchlynn Family Bible, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma, Norman.
- Dorothy Arnote West (daughter of Annie Taaffe Arnote West), Pushmataha County – The Early Years, 2002, page 167.
- Interview with Annie Arnote Taaffe, Indian Pioneer Papers, 1937, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK.
- Interview with Annie Arnote Taaffe, Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian and Pioneer Historical Collection, 1937 (Ancestry.com).
- David Baird, Peter Pitchlynn, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1972, pages 85-88.
- Daguerreotypes – How to tell the difference between photograph types, from the Daguerreian Society.
- Descendants of Sophia Folsom Pitchlynn, wife of the interpreter John Pitchlynn; Folsom Family Genealogy website.
- Carl Mautz, Biography of Western Photographers: a references guide to photographers working in the 19th century American West, Carl Mautz Publishers, Nevada City, Calif.,1997.
- Photographers-Lamar County; at Texas, Lamar County (Texas) Genealogy website.
- Logo for the Samuel Lyman Studio – see Cabinet Card Photographers website
- Hines Advertisement – Arkansas Weekly Gazette (Little Rock), May 8, 1858
- Reward offer for Peter P. Pitchlynn, Jr. – Clarksville Standard (TX), Saturday, October 13, 1860.
- Folsom Advertisement – Texas Vindicator (Paris, Texas), Feb 15, 1868.
- Article on Rhoda Pitchlynn Howell, Davis News (Murray County, Okla.) Aug. 5, 1909.
- Obituary William P. Poland, Daily Ardmoreite (Okla.), Tues., Feb, 14, 1939, p 1.
- Obituary Annie Taaffe Arnote, Antlers American (Oklahoma), June 13, 1940, p 1.
Photographs – from the Photo Archives, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, as follows:
- Bryant, William – Robert L. Williams Collection, #6479.
- Bryant, William (older) – OHS Photograph Collection, #1236.
- Colbert, Mrs. Susan – Lucy Cheadle Collection #2503
- Cheadle, James – Lucy Cheadle Collection #2507
- Everidge, Mrs. Joel (Sophia) – Columbus Ervin Collection #675
- Folsom, Joseph P. – OHS Photograph Collection, #4775.
- Page, Rev. John [misidentified as James Riley] – OHS Photograph Collection, #20576.14.
- Walker, Tandy – OHS Photograph Collection, #4865.
- Wright, Allen – Salley Carr Collection, #2382.1.
- Wade, Alfred – Salley Carr Collection, #761.a.