Biography of Charles J. Shawnee

Charles J. Shawnee, prominently identified with farming interests at one time but now practically living retired, making his home in Ramona, was born near Alluwe, in Coowescoowee in the Cherokee Nation, December 9, 1875. The name Shawnee was conferred upon his father during the Civil war but this was not really the family name, it being French. The father was John French, who was born at Spring River, near Seneca, Missouri, and he was of French, Shawnee and Delaware extraction. His people came originally from Sandusky, Ohio, and removed thence to Illinois and afterward to Arkansas. Still later they came to the Indian Territory, then went to Missouri and afterward took up their abode in what is now Washington County of the Indian Territory. John French, or as he was afterward known, John Shawnee, had a brother who was larger than he. Neither spoke the English language but continued to speak the language of the tribe. They were called Little and Big Shawnee. At the time of the Civil war the family removed to Kansas and John Shawnee and his brother served throughout the war, the former being wounded in the leg, the wound affecting him throughout his life. In the winter of 1867 he and his family returned to Indian Territory from Kansas and settled near Fairland on the Grand River. At a subsequent period John Shawnee removed to the place where the birth of his son, Charles J., occurred and there he engaged in farming and stock raising as much as his health would permit, for he never fully recovered from the injuries sustained in the struggle between the north and the south. He was a preacher among his people, speaking seven languages, French and tribal. He passed away November 1, 1881, and is still survived by his wife, who though totally blind, lives in Ramona, where her son, Charles J., has provided a home for her. She bore the maiden name of Julia Washington and is now sixty-eight years of age. Her father was George Washington, known as White Hand among the tribe. The name of George Washington was conferred upon him by General Fremont, whom he accompanied as scout and interpreter to the Pacific coast. He was born in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1820 and in 1844 went to Kansas. He spoke seventeen languages and was chief of the Delawares. Of the band of twenty-four Delawares who accompanied Fremont on his trip only two survived, the others dying of starvation. They were at length forced to eat their mules, days after all of their supplies had given out and they finally ate their shoes in an effort to sustain life. On one occasion Washington ran a buffalo through the camp and received a reward from the general. He died in the Cherokee Nation at the venerable age of ninety-six years. Mr. and Mrs. John Shawnee had a family of five children: Clementine, deceased; George, who has passed away; Bertie, also deceased; Charles J., of this review; and Ada, who is the wife of Fred Wallace of Nowata, who is engaged in mercantile pursuits in Vinita.

Charles J. Shawnee was educated in the Haskell Institute at Lawrence, Kansas, but left school at the age of thirteen years. He afterward engaged in stock raising in Osage County and in Texas and followed this business actively until seven years ago, when he lost a leg by being run over by a railroad train in Kansas City, whither he had gone with some live stock. Since then he has been compelled to live a more quiet life. He is the owner of two farms, one of two hundred and sixty acres and the other of a hundred and sixty acres, both near Ramona. From these he derives a substantial annual rental. These farms are covered by oil leases and it is believed that oil development will soon begin. Mr. Shawnee is a man of liberal intelligence and in the past few years has acted as interpreter for oil companies in Tahlequah.

In September, 1898, Mr. Shawnee was married to Mrs. Artelia Gillstrap, a widow and a daughter of Robert and Sarah (Stephenson) French, the former of Nashville, Tennessee, while the latter was born in Kentucky. On coming to Oklahoma over thirty years ago they settled at Burneyville. Both are now deceased. Mrs. Shawnee has been married twice. Her first husband was Dempsey Gillstrap, a brother of George B. Keeler’s first wife, Josie Keeler, and a first cousin of Mrs. N. IF. Carr of Bartlesville, also a cousin of William G. Rogers of Dewey and a representative of one of the old and prominent families of this section of the state, whose wife is a cousin of Charles J. Shawnee. Mrs. Shawnee’s sister, Bettie, is the wife of Sam Steele, a farmer, living near Ramona. Mr. and Mrs. Shawnee have become parents of five children: Nora E., who has departed this life; Albert Lee, Robert D., George A., and Charles J., Jr., all at home. Mr. Shawnee owns an attractive residence in Ramona. During the year 1920 he served as justice of the peace in Ramona. With the history of development and progress in this part of Oklahoma, Charles J. Shawnee is thoroughly familiar. He has taken active part in the work of progress and up-building and his influence has ever been on the side of improvement, right and advancement.



Benedict, John Downing. Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma: including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

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