Papers of Wright, Cuthbertson, Nash and Others

On or about the 1st of June, 1869, I agreed that I would furnish goods, &c., to Judge James Mackey, so that the salt-works, known as the Marble salt-works, could be started again, as salt was high and scarce, and we thought it could be made profitable. Judge Wright was here at the time, and he agreed to assist us some, as he was anxious to get something started whereby his son Brown might be benefited, and said that he knew of a good man that he could send out to take charge and manage for us. Agreeable to our plans Judge Mackey and myself commenced fixing up the lick preparatory to making salt, and I furnished everything requisite for the same. We had hardly got under way before I ascertained that Judge Mackey was not the lessee of the lick, but that Ellis F. Phillips was the lessee; so I made arrangements with Mr. Phillips anew and entered into writings with him, agreeing to run it together. In the mean time Mr. Cuthbertson had come out and was in charge, but I soon found out that I was not making anything by the operation, and came to the conclusion that I would close it out; either sell out or break up all together, as the concern was owing me a good deal and I did not think was being managed properly. So, on the 25th of March, 1870, I sold out everything on the premises to John B. Wright, and he agreed to pay me as fast as he could, either in salt or otherwise, he paying Mr. Phillips-or rather me for Mr. Phillips-one-third of the salt made as Phillips’s share, said one-third to be credited by me against an account which Phillips and Mackey had been making with me. Matters run on in this way until the seizure of the goods. John B. Wright had replenished the goods at the lick at different times; bought some from me and some from others in town, and had kept Cuthbertson in charge of the lick and store, and at the time of the seizure matters stood in this way, to the best of my knowledge. I always looked to Wright for the account, which was being made with me.


United States Agency For Cherokees,
Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, August 31, 1870.

SIR: I have the honor to state that the commanding officer of the post of Fort Gibson, in compliance with request sent by telegraph and mail from the Secretary of the Interior; seized the papers and what funds were found in the possession of A. J. Clapperton, United States pension agent at this place, and now has them in his possession, under seal. Nearly all the papers were found in an office building occupied by the pension agent, J. B. Wright, and Albert Barnes, clerk of the Cherokee district court. At the request of Colonel Huston I accompanied the party of soldiers sent to make the seizure at this office, an officer belonging to the post being in charge of that sent to the house of Mr. Clapperton, and indicated to a non-commissioned officer in charge what belonged to the clerk of the court before mentioned.

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The papers seized were found loosely spread on tables and desks, and rather confusedly put away, as to part of them, in pigeonholes. With my assistance Colonel Huston made a slight examination of what had come into his possession, and everything was secured in proper manner. Among the papers were a few cheeks of Paymaster Osborne. United States Army, supposed to be for bounties due Indians, dated in 1868. I examined but one, and saw two others placed in a package, afterward sealed by Colonel Huston. With the papers was taken a seal, an impression from which is enclosed. Regarding the use of this I questioned Mr. Barnes, clerk of the court, and was informed by him that Clapperton and J. B. Wright used it “to authenticate papers with.” From the enclosed letters of Captain Field and the private secretary of the chief of Creek Nation it appears that this nation has no seal. If this fictitious one has been used, it is presumed the evidence exists among papers in the Pension Office.

It is believed that an examination of the papers in Colonel Huston’s possession would bring to light a great deal that it would be useful to the public service that the authorities should inquire into, and it is also thought that transactions that touch upon what law forbids would be brought into view if such scrutiny were made. An agent of the Interior Department has been expected by Colonel Huston, but as yet none has arrived.

There is a very strong and apparently a general desire on the part of Cherokees that connections established in the country by J. W. Wright should be broken up, and an examination of the papers above alluded to, it is thought, will suggest to you the propriety of taking measures to that end.

It is my firm conviction that justice to the Cherokees requires it should be affected.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain, Unite Status, Agent for Cherokee.
Commissioner Of Indian Affairs.

United States Agency For Cherokees,
Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, October 30. 1870.

SIR: In reply to the communication from your office, dated September 8 last, inclosing affidavit of J. W. Wright, relative to matters connected with the salt-making establishment and trading-place at which goods in the possession of R. Cuthbertson, a citizen of the United States, were seized for trading without a license, and giving instructions to ascertain to what extent the filets therein set forth agree with what has come to my knowledge, I have the honor to report that I have taken what steps were necessary for obtaining all information on the subject which could be relied on, and forward herewith the statement in writing of Mr. F. H. Nash, the principal party in interest in the salt-works referred to.

Mr. Wright’s statement is made in such form as to make it appear that at the request of Mackey, a Cherokee; he placed capital at his disposal to enable the reestablishment of these salt-works. Mr. Nash informed me that Wright was present when Mackey applied to himself for assistance in the enterprise and signified a desire to secure an interest in it for his son. An arrangement with such object was entered into, but Nash held a two-thirds interest in the profits, and withdrew when he found he was losing money. Cuthbertson had been, at ‘Wright’s suggestion, who acted on the request of Clapperton, the pension agent, brought to the country as agent for the partnership; and goods were obtained on credit at Fort Gibson for a trading-place, under Cuthbertson’s charge, at the salt-works. These goods were put in his possession, and complaint was made that he was trading in them without a license. Perpetual quarreling seemed to be going on between him and the Indians, whom he irritated very much by talking of the certainty of the settlement of the Territory by whites, and advantages that Wright and those connected with him would enjoy in securing valuable tracts of land. This had the more mischievous effect, since Wright himself, when in the country, had said a great deal about his plans for speculating in Cherokee lands when the introduction of railroads and the establishment of a territorial government should have opened them to white settlement. The feeling among the Cherokees, aroused by this, has become very intense and bitter, and the boasts made by Cuthbertson were irritating in the last degree. The Indians about the Salt Springs also complained much about loss of cattle, which, whether justly or unjustly, they laid to Cuthbertson’s account. Clapperton visited the establishment at Salt Springs from time to time, and both he and Cuthbertson denounced certain Indians with whom they came in controversy, as rebels, and this they resented, both because it came from foreigners lately domiciled in the United States and revived animosities they had agreed among themselves to do away with. These two had secured appointments that fixed them in the Territory, and were engaged in enterprises that encroached on the rights of the Cherokees, and both gave out in an offensive -way that they would remain in spite of the objections of the Indians.

The matter of another complaint, regarding which I have no other information except that it has been frequently conveyed to me, was that Clapperton withheld payments to constrain individuals to trade at the store he was interested in. As to this I can say nothing, further than that his connection with J. W. Wright would readily induce such complaints, and if it was ever done to a great extent it was previous to the present year.

I was informed by Indians and by several deputy United States marshals that whisky as well as merchandise was introduced from Fort Smith by Cuthbertson and sold to Indians. As he was in charge of a post-office it was not thought proper to arrest and remove him, and desired the deputy marshal to secure the attendance of proper witnesses before a commissioner, and obtain a warrant for selling whisky to Indians, and, as heretofore reported to your office, seized the goods found in Cuthbertson’s possession for trading without a license and transmitted an invoice with names of informer and witnesses to the United States district attorney for the western district of Arkansas.

The Cherokees very earnestly desire that all persons in any way connected with J. W. Wright shall be removed from the country.

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

Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation,
December 7, 1870.

SIR: From the correspondence in our possession, among other effects of the late pension agent, are elicited facts relative to a matter, which is perhaps of sufficient importance to justify special treatment, involving, as it does, the assignment of Government gratuities for the adjustment of accounts between third parties. From various communications and the statements of those with whom we have communicated, it appears that the firm of Ross &. Brother, and Ross, Gunter & Co., some time ago merchants at this place, became insolvent. Among their assets were orders and receipts from bounty applicants whose claims were then pending. The principal creditors of the firms were wholesale dealers in Saint Louis, to whom were transferred pro rata these evidences of indebtedness; upon which, however, nothing could be realized until Judge Wright, with a license as claim agent in one hand and a commission from the Interior Department in the other, appeared and was enlisted in their service. Being neither a Cherokee, nor the husband of one, he found it convenient to have himself represented by his son, J. Brown, whose marital relations have endowed him with the rights and privileges of a native. Possibly the consideration of his peculiar relations to the Government had some influence in inducing the appointment of a deputy. However that may have been, it was agreed between the Saint Louis creditors of Ross on the one part, and J. Brown Wright on the other, that for all moneys the latter should secure on the aforementioned warrants to the said creditors he should receive a compensation of 10 per cent., not an illiberal compensation when it is observed that one firm alone held $5,758 in soldiers’ warrants, and the peculiar facilities in the Wright family for a successful prosecution of the business. How far these influences were effectual in liquidating the obligations of Ross & Co. is probably doubtful, even to the versatile judge. Here and there throughout the papers in our possession (and they are voluminous and numerous) are scattered notes and memoranda indicating a farther reduction of the insolvents’ indebtedness. It would be almost impossible to thoroughly digest this mass of jottings, scraps, and hieroglyphics-many without date or signature, and expressed obscurely by private marks and initials. It is not to be doubted, however, that the project was in a great measure successful. While J. Brown Wright was the nominal contractor with the creditors, he was not allowed to execute the commission conferred by the agreement. Florian H. Nash was the party who appears to have represented the elder Wright in this adjustment, and through whose auditing fingers the cash glided to the merchants in Saint Louis, one coin in ten dropping through into the till. Clapperton’s interest was confined to a judicious oversight, and the guardianship of J. B. Wright. Sometimes, however, he was paid the balances due claimants after proper deductions.

The following extracts from the correspondence relative to this matter will give some idea of the manner in which it was designed to effect the winding up of the Ross concern.

To understand the transaction in all its complicated details will require more familiarity with local minutia than we have yet been able to acquire.

Copies of correspondence relative to adjustment of accounts between Boss & Co. and their

It is hereby agreed between the creditors whose names are hereunto affixed of Daniel H. Ross & Bro., and Ross, Gunter & Co., of the first part, and Brown Wright, of Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, of the second part, that for all moneys that Brown Wright shall cause to be paid in cash into the hands of F. W. Gulager as our agent, to be credited upon the debts due us from D. H. Ross &. Bro., and Ross, Gunter &. Co” we. will allow Brown Wright a commission of 10 per cent upon such cash payments.

Brown Wright agreeing to charge such commission of 10 per cent only upon such moneys as he may be able to have paid us upon this indebtedness through his own influence and management.

Given under our hands and seal this 31st day of October 1867.


Cuthbertson, Nash, Wright,

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

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