The Brashears family represents one of the most industrious and influential included in this study. The genealogical thread running through this line can be traced back to the early Scotch trader, Lachlan McGillivray, and his father-in-law, the French trader aptly named Marchand, in Creek country in the mid-eighteenth century (see Chart 4). This family spans the Creek, Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes. Samuel Brashears was an early trader with the Creeks and married Rachael Durant, the mixed-blood daughter of Ben Durant (another trader) and Sophie McGillivray (the mixed-blood daughter of trader Lachlan McGillivray and mixed-blood Sehoy Marchand). 1 His presence was marked by the naming of Brashears Landing on the Alabama River at the spot where he lived. 2
Another Brashears, Turner, is documented as the pro-Spanish trader — among the Chickasaws at Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River — who furnished liquor to the Indians. During a meeting with the American commissioners there in 1792 some Indians went on a drunken spree which resulted in “a black eye and a dead horse.” 3 This is probably the same Turner Brashears who for some years had a stand on the Natchez Trace just to the northeast of present-day Jackson, Mississippi. 4 The likelihood of these men being the same is enhanced by the fact that a Turner Brashears traveled early in 1792 through Choctaw country with Stephen Minor, a Spanish adjutant in Natchez, thus linking the two areas with his name. The same Turner Brashears also played a role in the Spanish negotiations with the Choctaws at Walnut Hills concerning the earlier British Treaty of Pensacola. Brashears also was an informant to the Federalist surveyor, Andrew Ellicot, who cooperated with the Spaniards in running the boundary between Spain and the United States along the thirty-first parallel in the 1790s. 5 Brashears also acted as interpreter for a group of Choctaw chiefs who visited President Jefferson in Washington in 1804. Turner Brashears kept his stand on the trace throughout the territorial period before finally settling near Port Gibson, Mississippi. His public stand on the trace continued to be called Brashears as late as 1825.
Key to Chart
Probable = P, Countryman = C, Yes = Y, Trader = T,
Married = md, Mixed Blood = mb
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Turner Brashears is identified as a white man with an Indian wife by several observers. Two of his mixed-blood children, Margaret Newton and Albert Woodward, are buried near Port Gibson. He also reportedly had slaves and was considered a wealthy man. 6 Although the genealogical and historical proof of the kinship of these two men, Samuel and Turner Brashears, has not yet been uncovered, the existence of both men as countrymen involved in trade with the Indians, their involvement with the Spanish officials in West Florida, and the juxtaposition of their names on the Armstrong Roll suggests strongly that they were related.
Samuel Brashears and his wife, Rachael Durant, also are an important connective generation between the old, pre-Revolutionary War countrymen and their twentieth century heirs. The documented family genealogy of Emeline Jane Brashears Smith, mentioned elsewhere, demonstrates the genealogical path of these mixed bloods. At the beginning of the twentieth century many southerners reacted to the re-opening of Indian rolls, spurred by the Dawes Commission and other bodies seeking to identify “Indians,” with claims for tribal membership and the money it would bring. By 1906 the elderly Emeline from Mount Vernon, Alabama (near the site of old Fort Stoddert), placed such a claim with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. seeking recognition as a Cherokee. Her extant communications with the Commissioner and her claim affidavit paint a colorful depiction of just how intermarried the mixed bloods were. Her brief affidavit claiming her share of “the $450,000 allowed for the Cherokees by the U.S. Court of Claims” stated:
“That she, the said Emeline J. Smith, was born in Sumter County, State of Alabama, on the first day of June, 1833, that her father was Alexander Brashears and her mother was Emeline Wind, the lawful wife of said Alexander Brashears; that Samuel Brashears, affiant’s grandfather, who was the father of the said Alexander Brashears married one Rachael Durant who was a half blooded Cherokee Indian woman and who was the lawful wife of the said Samuel Brashears, the mother of the said Alexander Brashears and the grandmother of this affiant, Emeline J. Smith. That her maiden name was Emeline J. Brashears and she the said affiant married one Ira B. Smith who is now deceased; that she is a lawful lineal descendent of the said Rachael Durant a half blooded Cherokee Indian. 7
Rachael Durant has been identified in several historical works as a mixed-blood Creek woman, yet her granddaughter adamantly believed her to be Cherokee. The fact that Rachael lived in Creek country is not disputed. Considering the reported occurrences of Creek and Chickasaw mixed bloods moving into Choctaw country, it is quite possible that Rachael did have some Cherokee origins and that her grand-daughter simply focused on that fact in an attempt to share in the nearly half-million dollars promised by the U.S. Courts.
Overall the Brashears family residing in the Choctaw Nation has relatively few members (nine) on the Armstrong roll and only two on Ward’s Register, but it has a combined total of 81 members and an average family size of over seven. There is also a high percentage of the family members identified as mixed bloods. Delilah Brashears’ marriages to Jesse Brashears and later to David Wall demonstrate again the continuing intermarriage of mixed bloods. The family was also geographically diffused. They resided in Creek country, the Yazoo valley, along the Tombigbee River and Suckanatcha Creek, as well as Honey Island. Their members were slave owners, stand operators, and interpreters. Their influence was widely felt in the Indian nation.
The well-documented Brashears family offers evidence that traders and countrymen were influential within the Choctaw tribe even before the United States replaced Spain as the political power above the thirty-first parallel after 1795. Family members acted as consultants to Spanish, American and Indian officials and operated a stand along the well-travelled Natchez Trace. The Brashears lineage indicates that mixed bloods and countrymen intermarried within their group while maintaining tribal ties and receiving land from Choctaw treaties.
- Woodward. Reminiscences, 113.
- Pickett, History of Alabama, 562.
- Jack D. L. Holmes, “Spanish Regulation of Taverns and the Liquor Trade in the Mississippi Valley,” in John Francis McDermott, ed., The Spanish in the Mississippi Valley, 1762-1804 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1974) 162.
- Dawson A. Phelps, “Stands and Travel Accommodations on the Natchez Trace,” Journal of Mississippi History (hereafter JMH), 11 (Jan-Oct. 1949):19; Edward Hunter Ross and Dawson A. Phelps, “A Journey Over the Natchez Trace in 1792: A Document From the Archives of Spain,” JMH, 15 (Jan.-Oct. 1953): 259; Mrs. Dunbar Rowland, “Marking the Natchez Trace: An Historic Highway of the Lower South,” Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society (hereafter cited as PMHS), 11, 1910, 353; William Richardson, Travel Diary of William Richardson From Boston to New Orleans by Land in 1815, (New York: Valve Pilot Corp., 1938) 21.
- Clarence E. Carter, Territorial Papers of the United States, 26 vols., The Territory of Mississippi, 1798-1817, 5:8; Phelps, “Stands,” 20.
- Ibid., pp. 20-21, n21.
- Emeline Jane Smith affidavit supporting her claim to be a Cherokee Indian, copy in the possession of the author.