Another ubiquitous family, the Nails (see Chart 17), was intermarried into several full-blood and mixed-blood families. Cushman, while visiting the gravesites of some noted Choctaws in Indian Territory, discussed the Nail family:
“Close by that of Colonel David Folsom’s was the grave of Joel H. Nail, a brother-in-law to Colonel
Key to Chart
Probable = P, Countryman = C, Yes = Y, Trader = T,
Married = md, Mixed Blood = mb
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Folsom, and grandfather of Joel H. Nail, now living in Caddo, Indian Territory. He was another true and noble specimen of a Choctaw Christian man. A beautiful marble monument also marked his place of rest….
“The present Nail family of the Choctaws are the descendents of Henry Nail, a white man, who came among the Choctaws about the time Nathaniel Folsom, John Pitchlynn and Louis Le Fiore came; and as they did, so did he, marry among them, was adopted and thus became identified among that people. He rose to the position of chief and exerted, as did the three other above mentioned, a moral influence among that noble and appreciative people, with whom he had cast his lot. He had four sons — Joel, Robert, Morris and Joseph. Joel Nail had seven daughters -?Harriet, Delilah, Selina, Catherine, Isabelle, Melvina and Emma; and three sons — Jonathon (father of the present J. H. Nail), Adam and Edwin. Robert Nail had one son — the only chief — named Edwin, who was drowned in Blue River; and Jonathon had only one son, the present Joel H. Nail….” 1
Cushman also says that Henry, Adam and Edwin Nail were contemporaneous with John Pitchlynn, which gives rise to the possibility of an earlier individual named Adam other than the one Cushman names as the son of Joel. 2 But given the frequency with which the mixed bloods used the same first names, the existence of two Adam Nails is a very good possibility. Henry Nail had claimed a total thirteen children, twelve living and one dead, to the Reverend Kingsbury in the 1820s. 3 Joel Nail (son of Henry) was a cousin to Lewis Folsom, killed in an accident at a mill while a a boy. 4 Catherine, who married Col. J. D. Harris, was the fourth daughter of Joel Nail. 5 Joel H. Nail was a brother-in-law to David Folsom. Cushman’s references to Robert Nail’s son Lewis Folsom as the cousin of Joel and the grandson of Nathaniel Folsom offer the intriguing possibility that either another Robert Nail (the brother of Henry Nail) existed or that a daughter of Nathaniel Folsom was both the aunt and sister-in-law to Joel H. Nail.
Considering the high amount of mixed-blood intermarriages, the latter situation is quite plausible. If this daughter of Nathaniel Folsom is Rhoda Folsom, then she is probably the same person who became the first wife of Peter Pitchlynn. This indicates that Peter Pitchlynn married his mother’s cousin, a distinct possibility if Ebeneezer Folsom (Peter’s grandfather) married a Choctaw woman of a different iksa from the wives of Nathaniel Folsom. If the two women were of the same iksa, Peter’s marriage would be more in agreement with white kinship patterns and he would have married his second cousin. The unraveling of this convoluted genealogy is further confused by the frequent recurrence of the names Rhoda, Sophia and Delilah, possibly obscuring the existence of their daughters or cousins with the same name.
These myriad, complex linkages between the Nails, Pitchlynns, Folsoms and other mixed bloods vividly illustrate the interrelated kinship of many the mixed bloods in Choctaw country. It also demonstrates the fallibility of simplistic, dichotomous interpretations of Indian history after the mixed bloods began achieving tribal power in the late eighteenth century. This usage of both Indian and white kinship patterns probably also molded the bloods more firmly together as a group or family and allowed for more cooperation and communication than would have been the case for a pure Indian or white family.
The Nail family remained active in tribal affairs after removal. 6 Cushman’s genealogical data on the Nail family allows the identification of a large number of them as mixed bloods.
Finally, the complex web of kinships and business relationships among the mixed bloods leads to perhaps the most influential and best known Choctaw mixed-blood family of all, the Pitchlynns.
- Cushman, History, 288.
- Ibid., 332.
- Ibid. 86. Nathaniel Folsom identified Mr. Welch as the father of Mr. Nail (Henry?), Ibid., 326.
- Ibid. 329.
- Ibid. 342.
- Baird, Peter Pitchlynn, 74-5; Arthur DeRosier, Jr., The Removal of the Choctaw Indians (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1970), 132.