Letter from Department of War, 31 March 1834

DEPARTMENT OF WAR, Office Indian Affairs, 31 March 1834.

SIR: Colonel Greenwood Leflore represents, in a letter to the Secretary of: War, (a copy of which is herewith enclosed,) that, in several cases therein specified, errors have been committed, and consequent injustice done by the locating agent in his location of the Choctaw reservations under the treaty of Dancing Rabbit creek.

The agent has been instructed to report fully to the department the circumstances and proceedings in those respective cases for its decision; and, until that decision be communicated to you, I am instructed to request you to suspend all further proceedings in those cases.

Very respectfully, &c., ELBERT HERRING.

To ELIJAH HAYWARD, Esq., Com. of the General Land Office.

DEPARTMENT OF WAR, Office Indian Affairs, March 1, 1834.

SIR: A letter (a copy of which is enclosed) has been presented by Col. Greenwood Leflore to the Secretary of War, stating that in a variety of instances therein mentioned, errors have been committed, and injustice done by you as locating agent. I am therefore instructed to require you to report fully your proceedings therein, that, if error exist, or injustice has been done in any of them, the injury may be redressed. In the meantime, let there be a suspension of all further proceedings in those cases, until the final decision of the department shall be communicated to you.

Very respectfully, &c., ELBERT HERRING.

Columbus, Alabama.
DEPARTMENT OF WAR, March 7, 1834.

SIR: Having, agreeably to your request, submitted to the Attorney General, the additional papers transmitted in your letter of January 21, I have now the honor to enclose a copy of the opinion of that officer upon the question presented to him.

Very respectfully, &c. LEWIS CASS.

Hon. WILLIAM S. ARCHER, House of Representatives, U. S.


SIR: I have examined the maps and other papers enclosed in your communication of the 28th ultimo, with the view of ascertaining whether the location applied for by Mr. Archer could be authorized consistently with the rules adopted by the War Department, and with those suggested by myself, in the opinion to which you refer. It appears from the statement of Mr. Archer that the improvement of Vaughn Brashears was in two sections, (31 and 6,) and he desires to locate the section and half reserved for said Brashears by taking part of sections 31, 6, 5, and 8. According to the rules above referred to, this cannot. be one; but the entire reservation must be taken from numbers 31 and 6, the whole of that section in which the actual residence of Brashears was situated being first taken, and the residue of the reservation being located in the other section, and in such manner as to include the actual improvement of Brashears.

The papers are herewith returned.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

To the Hon. LEWIS CASS, Secretary of War.

DEPARTMENT OF WAR, Office of Indian Affairs, December 17, 1833.

SIR: In answer to your letter of the 19th ult., to the Secretary of War, relative to the mode of locating the reservations for Delila Trahern and her children, and the widows of Pushmitaha and Puck-tshe-nubbee and their children, I am instructed to say that you will locate in one body those sections intended for Delila and her children; and in one other body those for Peggy Trahern and her children; and in like manlier with the other two widows. And in selecting the land for them, you will take neither the best nor the worst, but that which is of good average quality, fit for cultivation and improvement.

Very respectfully, &c., ELBERT HERRING.

To Mr. G. W. MARTIN,

Columbus, Mississippi.
COLUMBUS, December 6, 1833.

SIR: The land sales are just brought to a close in this district for the present. I have succeeded in registering and reserving such claims as have been presented and are entitled to be located, taking the register made by Major F. W. Armstrong, and the treaty, and also the citizen register, which I found in the possession of W. W. Ward, the former agent, for my guide.

If you recollect, I said to you, in a former letter, that I should, in all cases, require of the reservee applicant to make a true representation of the facts on filing his application; that on his failing to do, and claiming lands to which he or they were not. justly entitled under the treaty he might hazard, and in all probability would lose, the land to which he was entitled; that if I found there had been any such fraudulent attempt, by making a wrong location designed to cover better land with the reserve, I should, on discovering the fraud, raise the reserve thus improperly located, and have the land sold. Under this rule I raised a reserve which had been made and designated on the map, for a section of land on the first week of the sales. The particulars of the case are these: an individual representing Capt. James Shields, one of the reservees, did, through a fraudulent design, procure a location of a section of land, which section did not include the residence, &c., of said reservee, as required by the 19th article of the treaty, but knowingly, and with fraudulent design, presented his claim as laying on a section of much better quality; saying, as I was informed and believe, that, before the mistake could be discovered and remedied, he would be able to buy the land should the fraud ever be discovered. In this, however, he was mistaken, as one of the deputy surveyors who surveyed the land, and knew on what section the house and improvement of Capt. Shields properly belonged, came forward and certified to the fact, that the location was marked on the map as a reserve, did not embrace the house and improvement of said Shields; leaving no shadow of doubt as to the fraud. In consequence of which, I felt myself bound from the position I had first taken, and the more fully to protect the interests of the government by putting a stop to the mighty scheme of fraud which I believed, in all probability, was in contemplation to the prejudice of the interest of government. Consequently, I directed Major Dowsing, the register, to erase the marks designating the reserve, on the map, likewise; to offer the land for sale as other public lands, which was done; and, by this act, I feel confident I have put a stop to that mode of fraud more finally than by any other course that possibly could have been adopted. However, there was a similar fraud attempted on the lands on which the mission house Mayhew is established, which also proved abortive, (this was the most glaring attempt at fraud I ever knew,) and those lands, &c., brought the government a good price. The checking of these frauds has caused me some frowns, and perhaps threats of the designing ones, but I value them not a pin. I have undertaken this important trust, and, although at a great sacrifice, I will do my endeavors to bring it to a close in a proper manner, as far as my feeble abilities will permit. I have been, and yet am, much embarrassed in progress of this business for the want of the necessary maps. . I have never been furnished, as seemed contemplated by the , department, with the first map. Consequently, I have had to ride like a post boy from Chocchuma to this place, say four times in the last two or three months, at least one thousand miles through a wilderness, having, in part, to pack my provisions, and sometimes compelled to sleep in the woods. I wrote the surveyor general on receipt of your favor of July first, and sent him an extract of the letter from the department, but he did not seem to me to understand that he was to furnish me with any maps, nor has he ever done so. I have located the claims which lay in that section of that nation which he has offered for sale, (which, by the by, is but a small part;) and there is no maps as yet furnished of the balance, or any part thereof’. What am I to do? It will be an endless job for me to wait and attend the sales of lands as they may hereafter be offered for sale. Would it not be better that I should be furnished with copies of maps in all cases, as soon as they can be made out after the surveys done, by which means the locating of the claims might be brought to a more speedy close. Mr. Hayward, in his reply to the War Department, calling on the surveyors for maps for my use, said, in answer, that the locating agent under former treaties had had reference to the maps in the district land office. There would be no, objection to this mode as regards any treaty made prior to the treaty at Dancing Rabbit creek, as there never has been, as I believe, one-hundredth part of the claim to locate, and that, too, at a round of some seven to nine hundred miles, to include the four offices in this State; and God only knows how far it is, or may be, to include the one in Alabama, as I am uninformed at what place the Indian lands in that State will likely be sold. There are a great many, reservations, in that part of the Choctaw nation; these lands have been surveyed some time since, and it would be but trifling for the surveyor general to furnish me with the maps; thus I might locate the claims there belonging to the Indians under the treaty, as well as also the surveyor general of this State. It would be a much more speedy and convenient mode of transacting this business, to be furnished with the maps, which would enable me to close the business, and bring it to a termination as shortly after the surveys are completed as practicable; otherwise, it will be utterly out of my power to continue in the office. I have a large family, and but just settled in a new country; my lands yet to improve, and put in a state for cultivation, requiring much more labor and attention all of which require my personal and strict attention. I have thirty-five to forty in family, and a disproportion of laborers; consequently, creating a responsibility on me and my time paramount to all other considerations. It may be proper here to state, that the department may be fully advised of all things touching my official acts, as well as things touching my office, as far as practicable. There have been many spurious efforts to pass false claims through my office, hoping, thereby, to procure land to which they, from the treaty and the register, seem not to be entitled. I have ever met such pretence with promptness and decision; of course to the discomfiture of the designing; and I am sorry to say, that many of these groundless claims were presented at my office with much address, and urged on me with great earnestness, by a gentleman, (much honored by the citizens of this State,) , and who ever took occasion to admonish me that, should his claims be rejected by me, they should be presented to a higher tribunal; leaving me to infer he would bring all such before Congress, or, perhaps, first the War Department: should they fail at the department, thence to Congress, &c. Should this effort at fraud be persevered in it is possible it may be effectual at Washington, procuring there what could not be allowed here. Should it be so, I have one consolation–my skirts are clear.

I have the honor to be, &c.,


P. S. Should you wish to confer with any one who has been present during the sales at Chocchuma, I cite you to Judge Black, Senator from this State, Mr. John Bell and Mr. Dickinson, from Tennessee.

Armstrong Roll of Choctaw, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 1831. Document 512, Correspondence on the Subject of the Emigration of Indians between the 30th November, 1831 and 27th December, 1833 With Abstracts of Expenditures by Disbursing Agents, in the Removal and Subsistence of Indians. Furnished in answer to a resolution of the Senate of 27th December, 1833, by the Commissary General of Subsistence., Vol. III, printed in Washington by Duff Green, 1835.

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