Memoirs of the Harkins Family

John Harkins, a white man, is the father of the Harkins family of Choctaws. His advent to the Choctaw nation was, as near as can be ascertained, about the year 1800 or soon afterwards. He was a man of high-toned principles, and contemporary with the Folsoms, Nails, Pitchlynns, LeFlores, Durants, Cravats, Crowders, and others of the long ago, who married among the Choctaws; all men, who, having cast their lot among that people made their interests their own, and sought, by every means in their power to elevate them in the scale of morality and virtue.

John Harkins married a daughter of Major Lewis LeFlore, by whom he had four sons Willis, George, Richard and James. Willis married Salina Folsom, oldest daughter of Col. David Folsom. They had two sons, George W. and Crittendon, and one daughter, Salina.

Col. George W. Harkins was a graduate of Danville College, Kentucky. He was a man of acknowledged abilities; a lawyer by profession, and a fine jurist and wise counselor. He for many years acted in the capacity of delegate to Washington in attending to the national affairs of the Chickasaw Nation, with which people, though a Choctaw by consanguinity, he cast his lot. He was a bold, vigorous and able defender of the rights of his people in the Congress of the United States; and by energetic and fervent perseverance, with solid learning, he rose to eminence in the spheres of an active life, as well as in his profession. He died in August 1891.

Salina, the only daughter, is a lady of fine literary attainments, and high cultivation of both mind and heart; and who, by an indefeasible resolution and indefatigable perseverance has placed herself high in the esteem and confidence of a wide circle of admiring friends. She has never married, but seems to prefer fighting the battles of life single handed than running the risk of finding a partner in the present seemingly rickety old ship of matrimony, who would prove a worthy ally in the campaign from time to eternity, amid its fluctuating hopes and fears, its joys and sorrows; though many a young swain has taken issue with her in regard to her convictions, and truly believes her decision is injudicious and without true wisdom for its foundation. But there being two sides to the mooted question, the future alone can and will decide whose arguments will prevail; though the flag of victory thus far triumphantly waves over the citadel which the still defiant young lady holds as a wise, judicious and brave commander. She graduated in one of the female colleges of Tennessee, after which she engaged,, for a while, in teaching, but for several years was engaged as telegraph operator at Talbott Station, Tennessee. She at different intervals visits her relatives and friends in the Choctaw Nation, and then returns to her duties in Tennessee. May prosperity and happiness attend her through life?

George, of the four sons of John Harkins, was one of the chiefs of the Choctaw Nation in 1852, in conjunction with Cornelius McCurtain and George Folsom.

But it would not be practicable, were it even possible, to give a sketch, though short, of the lives of all the Choctaws who became conspicuous by their virtues and noble deeds, both of unmixed and mixed blood, being wise in counsel, brave in the field of battle, judicious in peace, orators by nature, and who eloquently and courageously presented the wrongs and sustained the rights of their people.

It has been my good fortune, as well as pride and pleasure, to be personally acquainted from youth to old age with the majority of those Choctaws whose characteristics I have thus delineated; and with the ancient and present habits, manners and customs, of whose people I have made myself fully acquainted by the diligent study, the long and free association and close observation of over three score and ten years; and it has ever been, and will ever continue to be, my sunniest memories to know that I have ever stood as the friend of the Red Man, as my parents before me who severed the ties of all that makes life most dear, leaving all be hind, to go to the rescue of the Choctaw people in obedience to their Divine Master s injunction “Go ye into all the world and preach my gospel” and also that I have been blest with such noble friends as I have found, secured and still possess in them, true as the needle to the pole, and in whose friend ship unalloyed I have always found, still find, and ever expect to find, equal joy and cheer, though a people unknown to earthly fame.

And though I freely and proudly acknowledge my prejudice in their favor, if love and friendship without alloy, based upon true merit, are worthy that title, yet I have endeavored to give a truthful sketch of those noble and as worthy men as ever blest a Nation, though much more might be said of their virtues; and with equal truth of hundreds of others of that noble people, both men and women, who have lived and died, and others who still live, but occupied a less public, yet none the less useful and glorious sphere in life, since they did their duty and thus filled it nobly.

It is the first time their names have been presented to-.the world; and I have ventured this just and true sketch for the consideration of those of my own race who have hereto fore seemingly felt, and therefore evidently exercised but little interest in the North American Indians, beyond that found in reading the falsehoods and vituperations published against them in the sensational articles of the day by many of the newspaper men.

What more could be expected but that the Indian Race should be regarded, root and branch, as being incapable of possessing or exercising any of those virtues whose tendencies are to elevate and adorn the human race? To the refutation of this false charge, have I given to the world the characteristics of the Indian hoping that it might serve, to some extent at least to remove from the minds of those open to conviction, the gross errors under which they have been living in regard to that unfortunate but noble race, by their thoughtless credulity when giving heed to the defamations of those who scruple not to do anything by which they can add a penny to their selfish interests. Still I know the sketch given of those noble Choctaws may be, and will be cast aside by those over whom long established prejudice still sways her merciless sceptre, with the interrogatory, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth”? To which I respond: There did. A glorious light, which exposed to view a world that lay in moral and intellectual darkness. What next? This much. What I have written, I have written; and with a full knowledge of its truth, sustained by over three quarters of a century s personal acquaintance and experience with the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, and con firmed by hundreds of others whose acquaintance and experience are greater than my own, and bidding defiance to successful contradiction.

But it will not trouble me, as far as my own individual interests are concerned, if the facts presented are rejected as the wild and absurd hallucinations of a disordered brain; but only in behalf of the down-trodden Indian I would that they might be otherwise accepted; as lam well aware, that a brief period will place me beyond all anxiety in their behalf, and I shall leave them to the humanity, or inhumanity, of an other generation; but in which, God grant, others, more able and worthy than myself, shall rise up as their true friends and successful protectors against any future generation whose humanity may not exceed that of the present. Old and worthy friends they are, long tried and ever true, there fore doubly dear in their misfortunes. I still delight to take them by the hand as of old and listen to their voices, harmonious in gentle tones of love and friendship unalloyed, reviving the memory of happy years long past, when in childhoods morn I listened with delight to their songs of praise Israel’s God; and though but few remain with whom I trod life’s flowery paths, scattered here and there at their humble homes and around their peaceful firesides calm and silent; yet the names of those whose places in the old family circle are vacant now still live in tender recollection; and my sojourns among them have been to me like rambling amid pleasant scenes of the remembered past; and bringing long hidden beauties again to light by the fresh cementing of that friendship which has grown stronger with increasing years, and given to me the pleasant thought that there is, at least, one spot of earth, if no other, that I can visit as long as life endures; the assurance of an unfeigned welcome that is as spontaneous as it is sincere and beautiful, and which I venture to lay upon the shrine of our life long friendship that has existed untarnished through the vicissitudes of nearly eighty years.

Dark indeed have been the clouds and shadows that have swept over those time-honored friends; but they nobly and bravely withstood the fiery test, and slowly and surely pressed forward and upward over innumerable difficulties, until those clouds and shadows were riven, and their names now stand forth in a bright and glorious sunshine; for, coincident with their early and high position among their people, a little star was seen to twinkle, which small though it was, added its mite in dispelling the moral and intellectual darkness that so long had brooded over their Nation; and, from whatever point we view it, we find it has pierced the dark clouds and revealed the bright sky beyond; and with great and noble objects in view resting upon the firm foundation rock of Truth, and with the help of a just God above, they have been enabled to withstand the taunts and malice of a selfish and unmerciful world, and to-day their works do show forth in the peace and prosperity of their people; and today, if those good men, whose memories stand along down the years of the Choctaws past history, were called up from their graves and asked, what was their proudest boast? They would respond with one united voice: “We stood on the side of truth and justice, and ever were the advocates of temperance and virtue.”

But if, in your opinion, reader, I have committed errors of judgment in my sketch of those illustrious Choctaws, and in my emotional feelings of interest in behalf of them and their people, in excuse I plead but two things: The strength of affection for worthy men and their no less worthy people, and the weakness (if it be a weakness) of human nature. If these carry weight with you, read no further. You are too good for me, and I am too human for you. We cannot be congenial nor abiding friends, so there let the matter forever rest.

Yet it is surpassingly strange that talent, worth and true merit should be so overlooked, and so little appreciated, because its possessor occupies an imaginary low position in the fabric of society; in other” words, because he is an Indian. Alas! When will human nature recognize the great truth and be actuated by it in social intercourse, that some flowers may be repulsive at first sight, but when closely examined unfold a world of beauty, and so it is with man. But if in the face of all the immense array of incontrovertible testimony that has been and still can be adduced to sustain the present and long moral and intellectual standing of the Choctaws and their four sister tribes, the Chickasaws, Cherokees, Creeks and Seminoles, and many other tribes within the jurisdiction of these United States, there still remain those who cling to their unenviable ignorance and inconsistent prejudices. It can only be said of them, “They are joined to their idols, let them alone.”

The government of the Choctaws is modeled after that of the state of Mississippi, and was adopted before they were exiled from their ancient domains to their present places of abode. The executive power is lodged in a governor. Each county in the Nation chooses a sheriff and
The Two Friends The Red And The White. other officers by ballot. The legislative department consists of a general council, comprising a senate and House of Representatives. The Nation is divided into three districts, from each of which four senators are sent. The members of the House of Representatives are chosen by ballot from the various counties. The judiciary consists in a supreme court of three judges, one from each district. The names of three judicial districts are A-push-a-ma-ta-ha, A-puk-shen-ub-i, and A-mo-sho-la-ub-i, the names of three of their former and famous chiefs. The senior judge is the Chief Justice. This court has only appellate jurisdiction. A prosecuting attorney is elected in each district, whose duty it is to rep-represent the Nation in all civil and criminal cases. The national capital is Tush-ka Hum-ma, (red warrior) where a National Council and Supreme Court are annually held, convening on the first Monday in October of each year.

In the First District, the court holds its session during the entire session of their courts; and my informer re marked: “It is beautiful to see how harmoniously and Christian-like they engage in these religious exercises and devotions.” Noble people and true servants of the Most High!

I was informed by the Choctaws, when visiting Tushka Humma in October, 1884, during the session of their council, that during the session of their District Courts as well as that of the national council, which are invariably opened by prayer, they have preaching every night in the week; and that many of the district judges, attorneys and jurymen, are ministers of the Gospel of all denominations, preaching alternately at night.

Chickasaw, Choctaw,

Washington D.C.,

Cushman, Horatio Bardwell. History Of The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians. Greenville, Texas: Headlight Printing House. 1899

5 thoughts on “Memoirs of the Harkins Family”

  1. Does anyone know which George W. Harkins was referred to as “Old Governor Harkins”. Would he be the older one who died in the 1860’s

  2. My sister Christina sent this to me last year. I’ve done some minimal genealogy on our branch of Harkins back to G-G-grandfather Hugh in Mauch Chunk, PA area, ~1821-1911. Supposedly from Tullyfern Parish, County Donegal, Ireland. When visiting Ireland in 1990s I was told many of Harkin(s) were centered in the Inishowen peninsula/island – extreme North fishing area.
    My dad (who was less than innocent of spinning tales) once told me the family went back through the O’Harkin (haerkin?), to the Kin O’Haar of Denmark :)) Who knows?!

  3. Thank you.. I am only a year and a month or two late in finding your reply! Have you been able to trace that origin with certainty?? I can find no link…
    I am a Harkins myself whose paternal grandparents were from Greencastle. The Chocktaw are well regarded here in Ireland thanks to the famous donation of money they sent when the Irish famine was raging.. Last year the Irish government instituted an annual scholarship for a member of the Chocktaw nation to do a Masters degree here. And the beautiful Kindred Spirits memorial was built in a park outside Cork (images on Google).
    Thanks again for responding.. and a happy new year to you. M

  4. the Harkins of the Choctaw are Irish. I don’t know a specific area of Ireland. I am Chief George Harkins, Great x3 Grandson

  5. Does anyone know where John Harkins (who founded the Harkins branch of the Choctaws) was born? He is described only as ‘white’ or ‘European’. I am searching for a possible link to Donegal Ireland, home of many of the Harkin(s) clan.

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