Indian Pioneer Papers - Index
History Project for Oklahoma
Interview with Mrs. Edna Hunt Osborne
Fort Towson, Oklahoma
Field Worker, Hazel B. Greene
September 3, 1937
Indian Pioneer Histories, Vol. 38, p.301
HOW A LITTLE WHITE GIRL GREW UP AMONG THE CHOCTAW INDIANS
I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, August 31, 1881. When
I was a baby, my father, who was a physician and surgeon, moved to Cameron,
Indian Territory, Choctaw Nation, about forty-two miles southwest of Fort
Smith, Arkansas. He practiced medicine there for years and then moved
to Milton, Indian Territory, in LeFlore County, when I was about ten years
old. We lived there until was grown and married, but I grew up with fullblood
and half-breed Choctaw Indians. There were very few white people
there. There were a few Choctaws there who were nearly white. The family
of J. T. LEARD, is one family that I remember so well. My
first schooling was in the neighborhood school with the fullblood Choctaw
Indian children and the mixed breeds. The first school that I attended
at Milton was so lousy, that the better class of patrons took wash pots
to the school ground, set them up, filled them with lye water, heated this
lye water to the boiling point an scalded the benches, floors, and everything
inside of the building, in order to kill the lice.
Later, they tore down that old building and built a big new one, with
a big auditorium and everything that it takes to make and adequate building
for the comfort and convenience of the pupils. The old building was
supplied with bench-desks of rough lumber, constructed so that the table-like
back of each bench formed a desk for the pupil in the seat back of it.
There were two rows of those benches, with an aisle down the center and
an aisle down each side next to the wall.
The most forward pupils were permitted to help the teachers with the
smaller and more backward ones. I happened to be one who was permitted
to help. Of course, the Choctaw Indian children went free to the school,
and white ones had to pay tuition. There were sometimes young Choctaw
men in that school who were up to twenty-four years old, who could not
read nor write.
Just any kind of a book that was brought to school, was used whether
it was a Blue Back Speller, Reed and Kelloggs Graded Lessons in English,
a McGuffey's speller, or just anything that a child could learn something
When I was twelve years old they sent me to LaVaca, Arkansas.
I went to school there two terms, then I was sent to Fort Smith, Arkansas.
I attended there, at Saint Anna's two years where I studied everything
that they thought it took to make an accomplished young lady, a smattering
of this and that, music included. After that I had one year in nurse's
training at Atlanta, Georgia.
At the little old school at Milton there was a fullblood Choctaw Indian
boy named Simeon THOMPSON. He and my brother Adolph were very
good friends. Four years ago that brother of mine was killed in an automobile
accident, between Seymour and Wichita Falls, Texas. I had been away
from Milton for thirty three years, when I went up there to bury my brother,
Major Adolph A. HUNT. He was a captain in the World War, and
at its close, he was raised to the rank of Major. However, whenever
served in the army in the rank of Major. He was given a military funeral,
in the big auditorium of the new school building, so all of his friends
could see him at the last. When I went out to the cemetery to select the
spot for his burial, a fullblood Choctaw Indian man opened the cemetery
gate for me to pass through, and I was attracted by the way he kept looking
at me. Finally I recognized him and asked, "Well, Sim, Is it really you?"
He answered, "Yes, Edna." and the tears rolled out of his eyes. Not
much stoicism there. He said he had come to see his friend laid away.
It was heartbreaking to see that Indian man cry for his friend of childhood
and school days.
Inasmuch as my father was the community doctor, I , as his daughter
had to preserve and affect a dignity that I was far from feeling sometimes.
I was not permitted to go to very many dances or parties. I attended
a good many Indian weddings and cries. I recall one wedding.
There were two ministers in attendance. One white man, for the benefit
of the white guests and a fullblood Indian minister, who would read the
lines and the white man who would interpret them. After the wedding,
four men held a blanket over the heads of the newlyweds, and any little
gifts you wanted to give them were thrown into that blanket. Then
the bride and groom proceeded to open the gifts. We usually tried
to give them something bright and pretty, handkerchiefs, scarfs, ribbons,
and small useful presents. Of course there were the usual wags, even
among the Indians, who threw in their share of safety pins etc., and the
crowd would have a lot of fun. Weddings were usually followed y dances
the following night, and feasts especially if the wedding was not held
at the church.
Church was an event. A circuit rider would come to our church,
once each month, then later twice each month, and they finally got to having
conference there and everybody went to preaching and to Sunday School.
Another very healthful diversion was horseback riding. We did a lot of
that. I was a perfect tomboy when I got out with just my brothers.
Father wanted me to retain my dignity, but I would be tomboyish, and he
would lecture me about being a young lady, long before I really was grown,
when he would catch me riding the goats or calves.
I never knew but one Indian who wore a breech clout and blanket.
His name was Billy Hunt, and because of the name he would claim kin with
us. He would come to see us, and remove his blanket when he got in the
house and be nude, except for his breech clout, and he would hardly talk.
He wore a necklace of bear claws.
In olden times the Indians of many tribes buried the belongings of the
dead with them, sometimes they would even kill a man's favorite pony and
bury it with the dead brave. Where I was reared, up around Milton,
the Choctaw Indians would frequently bury the treasures of the deceased
with them. One Mrs. LEFLORE died. Several hundred dollars
worth of jewelry (no diamonds), were buried with her in the cemetery at Milton. Her grave was
dug into and robbed and when they found that it had been dug into, her husband had
the grave opened more fully and found that it had indeed been robbed.
Other graves all over the neighborhood, in gardens, yards, private cemeteries
were robbed. Lots of these graves were robbed by ghouls.
I knew one old Indian lady. She was a Choctaw. We called
her Aunt Sophia THOMAS. She thought my father was almost a saint, and
that we children were little angels. She kept a wonderfully clean
house and had a lot of Indian pottery, Indian blankets, and quite a collection
of Indian handiwork, but she had not done this handiwork herself.
We loved to go to her house and see this beautiful work, and we liked her,
too. She would always feed us when we went there. Her husband
died, and she had him buried in the yard close up beside the house, then
she built her kitchen over his grave. The floor was of twelve inch boxing
plank and she had one board left loose, so that she could raise it and
place a plate of food on his grave every night. She never failed.
She believed that her husband's spirit came and ate it. Of course something
did eat this food for it was always gone when she was ready to replace
it. She never re-married. She was loyal to her husband.
In early days in the Indian Territory, if some member of the family
died, sometimes we would bury the body and have the funeral when the circuit
rider came along next time. We would just announce the date when
the circuit rider would be there, and everybody else would be there too.
The Indians were so nice and pious about their churches and religion If
an Indian of note died, the cry usually lasted longer than for one of not
quite so much prominence. Sometimes a cry would last three days.
Pine Log was the name of one of the churches that belonged entirely to
the Choctaw Indians. Out of courtesy to the white people who cared to attend
the cry, two preachers would be there. One to speak Choctaw and the
other to interpret in English. The Indians would have services, and would
feast at the regular meal hours, for a couple of days, then on the third
day, they would adjourn between services to the grave of the recently departed, and everybody would cry. They considered white people as guess of
especially the members of the doctor's family. I distinctly recall once,
as a guest of honor, I was placed about midway down the side of the table,
in front of a beautiful new white china chamber, filled with hominy. And
we all ate from it.
They cooked meat by the wash pot full, and beans too. They baked
a shuck bread in ashes. Sometimes one or two of the boldest of the
fifty or seventy-five hounds which came with the crowd, would slip up and
grab a piece of meat out of a pot, and sometimes a squaw would get it away
from him and throw it back in the pot. Then sometimes the hound would
get away with it. Sometimes the meat would be barbecued and in that
case, several squaws would stand guard with sticks to keep the dogs away
from it. Bunaha was nearly always served and great stacks of fried
pies. Sometimes they made plate pies, but not so often as fried ones.
I would go sometimes with my father to see his patients, and it was
no uncommon thing to see a fullblood Indian on a pallet close to the fire,
with his head toward the fire. Why they preferred the pallet to the
bed was more than I could understand.
Once Father had a call. When he got there, he found the patient
dying. Her husband was saddling his horse to leave. Father told him
that he should not leave, that his wife was dying. The Indian replied,
"Go to Fort Smith, get coffin." Father told him that his wife was
not dead yet, and that he should not go away. He again replied, "Go to
Fort Smith, get coffin, new dishes, and marry again." And he went
right on, before his wife died and returned with her coffin full of new
dishes, and other new things for the new wife whom he married gaily within
another week. They had a big dance too, the night that he re-married.
They had a big feast at the funeral of the first wife and the bride-to-be
was there. Among the lot of new dishes, were what they considered,
some beautiful covered bowls with a handle on each one and there were several
white porcelain chambers with flowers on the sides and tops.
I remember that one particular delicacy, that some of the Choctaw Indian
children enjoyed, and perhaps the older ones did too, were terrapins. I
have seen Choctaw Indian children bring live terrapins to school, and roast
them in the shell and eat them for their lunch.
We lived in a big two story frame house, with a barn-like hall through
the house. Years ago, Father had a well dug as close to the house
as it could be. Later, he had a room built over that well, for a
milk house. We kept milk, butter and anything we wished to keep cool
in the troughs in that room. We just drew the water up by hand, but
there were lead troughs that extended to the hog pen and horse and calf
lot. Our home was as public as a hotel for it was the stopping place
of everybody, from governors of the Nation up or down.
Some very prominent people, socially, politically and otherwise, have
stopped at our home. Sometimes, they would come to spend the night, sometimes
it was necessary to spend days there. Many of our guests were preachers.
I hated preachers for I felt they imposed upon us. I resolved to
never, never, entertain any preachers if and when I had a home of my own.
We made two trips each year to Fort Smith, Arkansas, for supplies for
the family. We brought back sugar, coffee, flour and some fancy groceries.
In the spring of the year, we brought back supplies to last us until fall,
and sometimes it would be so late in the fall when we made or trip to Fort
Smith that it would be so cold that we would have to stop along the way
and build up fires and warm ourselves. It was about forty-two miles
to Fort Smith, the way we had to go then, I think they say it is little
more than thirty miles by rail.
We passed over Buck Creek prairie, and when it would be cold, the wolves
would come out curiously, in packs of fifty or seventy-five, at the edge
of the prairie, and stick up their noses and howl at us, as we would pass
along. The grass was so high out on that prairie, that wen one had
a side view of a horseman going over the road, only the tips of the horse's
ears could be seen.
Buck Creek Council House was on that prairie, and that was where Indians
and negroes were tried executed, and whipped. They stood them against
the wall to shoot them. If they were condemned to death, they were
freed until the day of the execution, when the condemned man always returned
on the designated day to be shot. I saw one negro whipped. He was
stripped to the waist, and his arms held around a tree, or post, by two
men. One man held a watch and tally card in his hand, while another
applied the leather strap, and still another, a Mr. BAZIL, counted
the licks. Mr. Bazil was a prominent merchant there, a white man who had
married an Indian widow, by the name of WELCH, who was very wealthy.
All of the members of her family were buried in the back yard of their
home, and those monuments looked to me to be eight or ten feet high.
It was on one of these bi-annual trips that I saw the negro whipped.
I was nearly always permitted to ride in the buggy with my father, as he
accompanied the wagon which was sent to Fort Smith, for supplies. Sometimes
he sent more than one wagon and sometimes we would stay up there for two
or three days. I would go to a hotel, and clean up and dress up, whether
we stayed one day or three, and Father and I would attend the theatre or
a show. Then I would assist in the buying. We would pack the
wagons with groceries, shoes, hose, quilt linings, dress goods etc.
We bought dress goods by the bolt sometimes, but not often. But we
nearly always bought quilt linings by the bolt. We bought dark goods
for every day use, and pretty light linings for fancier quilts. We
would get so tired of looking at the same patterns in those linings from
one fall until the next. But we used lots of quilts, and wore lots
of them out. We had so much company, especially when meetings were going
on. We had preachers stop at our house it seemed to me, by the dozen,
and our barn was filled with horses, just like a livery stable.
I know, if I have made one quilt in my life, I have made a hundred.
When I had done some wrong, I was punished by being put in the closet and
rag bag put in there with me, and I had to piece up quilt scraps.
Sometimes the scraps were new and sometimes old but every scrap was saved
and used. I hated that quilt piecing. We bought big packages of needles,
bought spools of thread by the case, that is sewing thread, and we bought
Boss ball thread to quilt with -- lots of it.
We bought black cotton hose by the dozen pairs: ribbed ones for
the children, and nice mercerized ones for our dress-up ones, and plain
cotton ones for every day wear. The nicer ones never cost over twenty-five
cents per pair. Shoes cost around a dollar and a half per pair.
We wore high-topped shoes for winter, and slippers for summer. Each
child put his foot on a piece of paper and his foot was outlined with a
pencil in order to get the correct size.
Sometimes, when a man had a large family of children, he would send
by us for a whole bolt of calico, with which to make dresses for the entire
family. We didn't do that. We bought distinct patterns for each member
of the family. When bought by the bold, calico was only two and a
half cents per yard, and domestic cost two and one half cents per yard.
Children's' ribbed black hose, a good grade, cost five cents per pair.
One could get all the corn around Milton one wanted at fifteen cents per
bushel. Hay sold at fifteen cents per bale: meat was dear at
five cents per pound.
On those Fort Smith trips I frequently selected hats, shoes, and dress
materials for the neighbors and they, in turn, would do likewise for us.
The prettiest hat I ever owned and the one I liked best was brought out
from Fort Smith by Mrs. J. T. LEARD. She looked a my eyes,
hair, the shape of my face, and then selected the hat from remembering
my general appearance. Then sometimes when I went I would select
hats for the whole family and for half of the neighborhood.
Always, when we would get to the toll bridge, as we went out of town, Papa
would stop and tell me that this was my last chance to remember any article
which I might have forgotten, and should have bought, and I usually remembered
something I had intended to buy at the store there, at the bridge.
Whisky was prohibited in the Indian Territory, but in Father's practice
he needed it, and always got some. Sometimes he would pack this whiskey
under bolts of cloth in the wagon, and sometimes he put it under the buggy
seat, and when he did that, he was always uneasy until we would get home.
Once, when he had gotten away over in the Indian Territory with his whiskey,
he decided to open it up and wanted me to watch and see that nobody caught
him with it and I scared him nearly to death by pretending that I saw someone
coming. He scolded me a little.
Out back of our smoke house we kept two big ash hoppers, in which we
put our winter ashes. WE poured water through the ashes in those
two ash-hoppers out back of our smokehouse, and dripped the lye out of
the ashes, and made our soap. We made one barrel of thick soap and one
of jelly soap. I didn't like the jelly soap because it didn't readily
dissolve in hot water, and never in cold water. I imagine it was the soap
that was made of the lean meat, because it was always what was in the bottom
of the pot. The firm soap was cut from the top. Women had beautiful hands
then too. Perhaps it was the soap. Sometimes when we wanted extra
fine soap, we made it of tallow.
Milton is one of the earliest settlements in the Indian Territory. It
is perhaps hundreds of years old. There were old withered Indians
there when I was a girl. There were old Choctaws, who were there
too, perhaps among the first to leave Mississippi. Milton was first
called "Needmore" but when they were allowed a post office they named it
The railroad was surveyed through Milton when I was fifteen years old.
We thought Milton would be the main town in the country, but it failed
to be for some reason, and McCurtain about twelve miles away was the best
town. I believe McCurtain is on what was called Wild Horse Prairie.
My brother and I used to run cattle and brand them on that prairie, and
we would eat mountain oysters like the veteran cowboys did. The grass
was so fine, we would sometimes cut prairie hay off of it. Each spring
we marked and branded cattle and had a regular roundup. We branded
everything that ran with our cattle. Some people called that that
unfair, but it was not, because it was the custom then. It was too much
trouble to cut out strays and try to find out who they belonged to.
So jut everybody branded everything that ran with his cattle. A few,
we had to feed through the fall, but usually we never saw them from one
spring to the next, the grass was so fine.
There were lots of wild hogs on the range. They were so wild that
when they heard a human being approaching, they would grunt and squeal
and run off cracking their teeth together. Sometimes one old boar,
braver than the rest, or more vicious, would turn and threaten to attack
a horse. We would catch twenty or thirty of these wild hogs in the
fall of the year and pen them up for our meat for the winter. We
would feed them corn for a while, so the meat would be better, firmer,
and so it would lose some of that wild taste. And we would kill all
of them. It usually took twenty or thirty hogs to make enough meat
and lard to do us. The hogs were smaller and we had worlds of company.
Those wild hogs could not be kept in ordinary pens; we had to well them
up with boxing plank, the pens had to be high too, to keep these wild hogs
from climbing out of these pens, and when we would go to throw corn to
these hogs they would invariably run to the other side of the pen.
They never got gentle. Now, we kill two good fat hogs for meat and
lard for my family to do us until next hog killing time, or nearly that
We live on the old Pine Ridge Academy site, which was a Presbyterian
Mission school and was probably established about 1840, and was discontinued,
probably in time of the Civil War.
According to annual reports from various academies and schools, to the
Commissioner of Indian affairs, made in 1854, the one from C. BYINGTON,
relative to Pine Ridge, reported forty-six girls, in good health and spirits,
and the Academy, as being in a thriving condition. The reports stated
that the larger girls were being taught to make clothing for men and women
I find no record of just what happened to the buildings, but I imagine
that they just fell into decay. The well was pretty well filled with
trash and logs when we moved here, about twenty years ago. We had
it cleaned out and are using water out of it all of the time. My
one regret is that I had the kitchen cellar, filled up instead of having
it cleaned out. My baby was only about a year old when we moved to this
place and I was afraid she would drown in the water which stood in the
old cellar all the time. I fully intend to have it excavated some
day and use it for storage, and for a storm cellar.
There are rows of giant catalpa trees along the ridge back of the house
and there are other giant catalpa trees in the yard and there is some shrubbery,
which no doubt, was planted here when the Academy stood here. Another thing
I regret is, that we did not build our house of the pine trees which stood
so thickly on this ridge. We cut those pine trees down and sold them,
yet I hope some day to have a log house of pines grown on this particular
I am all white, as is also my husband, A. L.
OSBORNE, whom I
married on January 15, 1898. My mother, Sara Hanna HUNT, lives at Durance.
The site of the former Pine Ridge Academy was one mile north of the
Cemetery in Choctaw County.
Transcribed for OKGenWeb by Norma Jane, <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Norma Jane is a novelist interested in stories from the Milton-Bokoshe
area -- no specific family. If you have information or family from the
Milton-Bokoshe area, please contact her.