Mary E. Cummins
|Cummins, Mary E.
Field Worker: John F. Daugherty
Date: February 28, 1938
My parents were John Qualls and Susie Ann Jones Qualls, born in Tennessee. (Dates unknown). Father died during the Civil War. I was born in Tennessee, October 28, 1857. Mother moved to Arkansas after Father died and remarried.
In 1868 we moved to the Territory. We stopped at Atoka for a few months and settled near Chickasha on the Washita River in the Chickasaw Nation. We were not far from the Comanche Indians and their peculiar customs greatly amused us. We often went to their camps to watch them dance. The Government furnished teams and wagons for them to haul freight from Caddo. There would be trains of forty or fifty wagons go after the freight, to Caddo, and the whole tribe accompanied them. It took exactly thirty days to make the trip and they usually had exhausted their supply of food by the time they returned to camp. The Government built nice little homes for these Indians and they put their horses in the houses and continued to live in their teepees. They ate dogs and pole cats and raw beef.
I was married to R. W. Cummins in 1881 and we went to live ten miles north of Tishomingo on Pennington Creek. My husband was a minister of the Methodist church. He was a circuit rider and preached at four places, a different place each Sunday of the month.
There were no white people living near us and only two families of Indians who could speak English, but we were very happy in this land of plenty. I used to make Johnny cakes and ash cakes. These were my husband's favorite breads. The Johnny cake was made of cornmeal mixed with hot water and salt to make a stiff dough. Shortening was used in this. I had a curved board to fit in front of my fireplace. I spread the dough out on this board and patted it down smooth. The board was set in front of the fire until the cake was baked brown. Then it was turned over with a knife and baked on the other side. Ash cake was made in the same manner, except the batter was wrapped in shucks and laid in hot ashes to bake.
The "Territorial Topic" was the most important newspaper in the Chickasaw Nation. It was a three page paper published once a month by a Missouri man, H. T. Miller. It was the mouthpiece of the Progressive Party and was established August 1, 1889. Its circulation was about a thousand copies a month. On August 6, 1890, the day following the consolidation of the Agricultural Wheel and Farmers Alliance it became the official paper of this organization. After the white citizens were disenfranchised, this paper took a great part in trying to quiet the political disorder which followed. It took the part of the outraged citizens whose rights had been unjustly taken from them by the administration. The other newspapers took no part in legislative questions and Mr. Miller made a host of friends due to his active interest in political questions. He was a fighter for what was right. This paper was published at Tishomingo.
My husband built pens to feed cattle on bad nights as they were being driven from the West to Caddo for shipment. We cared for the cowhands and penned and fed cattle. Sometimes there would be ten thousand in the herd. My husband raised much of the corn which he sold to feed these cattle. Our place was a stopping point between the western territory and Caddo.
An Indian neighbor became ill and I went to see if there was anything I could do to help. The Indian doctor was there. He had some tea in a small pot which he gave the man who was sick. The doctor took some in his mouth and sprayed it over the man. He had a witch ball which he shook and required the sick man to get out of bed and run about four hundred yards in his bare feet. This always made the patient well or killed him. In this instance the man got well.
We moved near Mill Creek in the nineties. My husband went ahead of me with a wagonload of meat and lard. When he got to his destination he asked the full-blood Indian, from whom he rented the place, where he could store his meat and lard while he came back for his household goods and me. The Indian told him to put it in the smoke house. There was no lock on the door. My husband set a pole against the door and returned for me. It was several days before we got to our new home and when we arrived the meat and lard were all there. People were honest in those days and never stole from around the homes.
We moved to Sulphur in 1898 and I have been here ever since.
Transcribed by Brenda Choate and Dennis Muncrief, August 2001.