Double Applications for Certain Soldiers

Office Of Indian Affairs, August 9, 1870.

Sir: I have the honor herewith to submit for your information and consideration, copy of a letter received the 5th instant, from Captain J. N. Craig, United States agent for the Cherokees at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, explaining the cause of the double applications for pension in certain mentioned cases, and directing the attention of the Department to the manner of taking evidence, and making suggestions concerning the same.

Especial attention is respectfully called to that portion of Agent Craig’s letter wherein he reports the manner in which, and by whom, a seal, purporting to be that of the clerk of the Cherokee district court, has been and is now being used.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Commissioner.
Commissioner of Pensions, Present.

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No. 44 B.

Department Of The Interior, Pension Office,
Washington, D. C., August 11, 1870.

SIR: The facts set forth in the enclosed letter of Captain Craig, with reference of the Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs, seem to me to warrant suspension of pay, went of all the pensions, claims for which were prosecuted by J. W. Wright, and which are payable at the Fort Gibson agency for paying pensions, if not of all others prosecuted by him, which are payable elsewhere.

But in the absence of the Commissioner of Pensions, I prefer not to take the responsibility of ordering such suspension, and therefore have the honor to submit the matter for instructions.

An examination of the cases shows that in attestation of all “declarations” in claim of Cherokees and Creeks, both pending and admitted, filed by Mr. Wright, said seal, to which Captain Craig refers was used, and that a majority of these pending bear marks of apparent fraud, or at least defective and often reckless swearing.

By reason of the fact stated above, abstracts of the evidence in all the pending Indian cases have been prepared, with the purpose of a consultation of the Commissioners of Pensions and Indian Affairs as to the propriety of investigations in all said cases in the vicinity of the residence of the claimants, by Government officials, and of a change in the method of payments.

All the certificates of pensions to said Cherokees and Creeks, which have been recently paid, have been sent to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and this practice has been continued since the passage of the act of July 8, 1870, notwithstanding the provision of said act that all certificates should be sent to the pension agents, because the Commissioner of Pensions thought the anomalous condition of the Indians, as virtually minors, justified said exception.

Very respectfully, yours.
Acting Commissioner
Hon. J. D. Cox,
Secretary of Interior.

United States Agency For Cherokees,
Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, July 25, 1870.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt at different times of the papers in the following named pension cases in which double claims for service of certain soldiers belonging to the Second and Third Regiments Indian Home Guards is supposed to have been made, viz,
Captain Scraper
Privates Elias Going to Mill
Jackson Rail
Benjamin Saunders
Jackson Bird
John Stooty
Edward Walker
John Raincrow

with instructions to investigate and report regarding the rightful claimants of pensions due.

In the cases of widows of Private Saunders, the papers have been returned with report and evidence taken. In all these cases delay in making investigation and report has been inevitable, from the difficulty in finding parties and witnesses, but what has been brought to my notice regarding the circumstances attending the making out of declarations and the manner of taking evidence should, in my judgment, be submitted to the authorities. The testimony of witnesses is affirmed before the clerk of the Cherokee district court, who does not understand Cherokee. Nearly all the applicants are ignorant of English, and a voluntary interpreter serves between them and the clerk of the court and the person who makes out the papers. Both of the last two are interested in establishing a good claim, and the interpreter is apt to be overzealous, and in many cases, I am satisfied, fails to explain everything to the different parties; when, as in sonic cases, there are Cherokee witnesses, the possibility of errors is further increased. Cherokee women frequently have several names, those who have been married going by the names of one or more husbands by given names in English and Cherokee, and by others inherited from one or sometimes two ancestors. Under such circumstances much advantage would be secured if the papers were made out under the supervision of an official of the Pension Office.

The present pension agent at this place is very competent from experience to sift evidence in these cases, but, as I understand, he is an agent or partner of Mr. J. W. Wright, the attorney or agent who prosecutes all claims for Cherokees.

The action of the clerk of the Cherokee district court is attested by the impression of a seal with Cherokee and English words for a device. This is not, as it purports to be, a seal of the court but was first known as being in possession of Mr. J. W. Wright, the attorney in most of the cases that have been made out at this place. Within a year past, so far as I can learn, it has been transferred to the custody of the clerk of the Cherokee district court for the Illinois district. After diligent inquiry I have ascertained that, except in the case of that above referred to, no seal of court has been known in the Cherokee country, and no law has ever been made that authorizes a Cherokee court to use one.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain, United States Army, Agent for Cherokees
Commissioner Of Indian Affairs.

42nd Congress. Alleged Frauds Against Certain Indian Soldiers. House of Representatives Report, 2nd Session, No. 96.

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