The Apalachicola River Community of Indians Tribal Organization (ARCITO)

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Our History chapter 8

Chapter 8 “Like Other Good Indians”

The Woods Community

 

 At the beginning of 1900, Lumber companies in Georgia, faced with a dwindling supply of hardwoods, turned their attention to northwest Florida. Huge supplies of timber were available and easily accessible for harvesting on both banks of the Apalachicola River. By 1910 such companies as Graves Brothers, Cypress Lumber, Chipola Turpentine, Neal Timber, and Southern Hardwoods were busy installing large timber mills in both Liberty and Calhoun Counties. Many Lumbee Indians of Robeson County, North Carolina, who had left their homeland in the late 1800’s for timber employment in Georgia, followed the industry down to Florida. The largest number of Lumbee families, including the Oxendines, Revels’, and Jacobs’, settled into Liberty County on the eastern side of the Apalachicola, and it is here that they came into close continuous contact with the long-established Florida Cheraw-Catawba families. The combined effort of these two Indian groups to maintain gainful employment in timber resulted in the formation of an Indian settlement in Liberty County known as Woods.

This settlement had several “Hill” families of Creek descent (see appendix), who had intermarried with the Cheraw. Also living in the community as well were several White families who had lived in the area for generations. Today many descendants of the original Woods settlement still live there as well as in the nearby communities of Bristol and Hosford.

 Some descendants of the Woods area Oxendine family today live in Jackson County in the Marianna and Cottondale areas, as well as many descendants of Noah Hill, who was identified as “Citizen-Indian” on his 1918 military enlistment. In order to understand the way the residents of Woods lived their daily lives, it is necessary to understand the Jim Crow attitudes of Georgia and Florida at that time.

 Malinda Maynor, in her excellent work entitled People and Place: Croatan Indians in Jim Crow Georgia, 1890-1920” published in the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, gives a detailed study of a settlement of Lumbee Indians who migrated to Bulloch County, Georgia to work the timber in 1890. These Lumbee remained there until about 1920 when the industry moved south to Florida. On July 27, 1899 the Bulloch herald reported on the interest of their timber companies in the possibility of making good money in northwest Florida;

 

     “manufacturers were elated by what they saw in the way of turpentine and timber prospects in Florida and reported that they may invest some money down that way.”

 

Many Lumbee from Bulloch followed the timber down to Liberty in the late 1800’s and the early part of the 1900’s. Undoubtedly the same racial attitudes that these mixed-blood Indians faced in Georgia would also follow them down to Florida. One example of the conditions faced by the inhabitants of Woods is demonstrated by a 1901 article which appeared in the May 24, 1901 Statesboro News. This article made mention of a young boy who had been murdered at a timber camp;

 

    “The boy was about sixteen years old, and it is said was a part Indian.  And like other good Indians, he is now dead.”

 

              Even at its height, Woods was not quite large enough to be called a town. At its prime it consisted of about 14 homes, a one-room school, and a small merchandise store, which was operated by the Hill family. According to the residency claims of individual birth and marriage records, the community became physically known as “Woods” sometime around 1915. By the beginning of World War Two, the physical landmark buildings had fallen out of use, and today have mostly fallen away and are surrounded by dense growth. The Liberty County Courthouse was the victim of repeated fires both before and after 1940, and the County was unable to maintain any historic records prior to the Second World War, which makes it hard to find documentary evidence of the daily relations of the Woods community with their surrounding white and black neighbors.

 

 

            Another family from Woods with strong ties to the home population of Cheraws in the Carolinas was the Oxendine family. Thanks to Mr. J. Oxendine, a friend from Robison County NC, for this biography concerning his relatives from the Cheraw Indians of North Florida Community at the Woods settlement.

 

“Elias Oxendine and Lawrence were both born in Robeson County, NC (Pembroke) in 1843 and 1872. Elias and his father James Jr. (first Indian County Commissioner) were probably among the most prominent families. There was a downturn in the economy in the early 1880's and some of the families left, including mine. Elias settled in Marianna in 1886. He brought 1,000 acres three miles west of Marianna (Aberdeen) and set up his sawmill and company store. He moved to Washington County, FL in 1900. He stayed in Marianna and raised a family of 11 children. My father and I were both born there. In 1943 my father moved to Tallahassee and stayed there until his death. -- I too was raised on the southside - Lake Bradford Road. He had 2 brothers Charles Jr. and Don (Courtland Duane). There were Oxendines (Elias' uncle's boys) that went to Liberty County, FL. Two brothers set up Oxendine Brothers Turpentine Company. In 1879, or so, Henry fell off his horse and died. His wife remarried. Henry's two boys stayed in Liberty County and are buried there.

 

More than likely all Oxendines are descended from one man born about 1694. He was listed as being a Mulatto. He was indentured for 30-years. By 1753 he is in Robeson County, NC (was Bladen County back then).  I have about 10,500 of his descendants (those that were born with the Oxendine name) listed. Hugh Everett Oxendines father was Henry H. Oxendine. Henry fell off a horse in 1884 in Liberty County, Florida and was killed. Prior to his death Henry and his brother had opened up Oxendine Brothers Turpentine Company in Liberty County, Florida. After his father's death his mother Martha Ivey Goodman Oxendine married a man named Peacock. He, his brother Thomas and mother continued to live in Liberty County, FL.

 

Source: Census Mortality Schedule: 1885 - Liberty County, Florida

 

Roll 7, Target 11, Liberty County Mortality Schedule, Page 652.

Henry Oxendine -  White, Male. Henry died June 1884. He was 29 years old (born about 1855). He was married and was from North Carolina. His mother and father also were from North Carolina. His occupation was working in the turpentine industry. The cause of his death was "fall from horse".  Attending physican was L.D. Carson.

 Source: Census Record: 1920 - Liberty County, Florida

Vol 24, ED, 115, Sheet 5, Line 91, HH 142/145

 

John Kever                   37 (1883)                    (Head, White, Wooding, can r/w)

Eddie Kever                 24 (1896)                     (Wife, White, Can r/w)

Iduma Kever                08 (1912)                     (Dau, White)

Tharion Kever              06 (1914)                    (Dau, White)

Eldle Mary Kever   04 (1916)                         (Dau, White)

Harmon Kever             02 (1918)                    (Son, White)

 

Hugh Oxendine            36 (1884) FL NC FL  (Roomer, White)( Probably counted twice)

Source: Cencus Record: 1920 - Liberty County, Florida

Vol 24, ED 117, Sheet 2, Line 14, Vilas Pct 8

 

Hugh E. Oxendine            35 (1885) FL NC FL            (White)(Wooding on AN Railroad)

Source: Census Record: 1930 – Liberty County, Florida

Vol 37, ED 39-2, Shhet 7B, Line 71, HH 138/138, Pct 2 Briston, 11 Apr, Owns house

 

Hugh Oxendine            47 (1883) FL NC FL   (Head, White, Md at 30, Can r/w, Farmer)

Martha L. Peacock      70 (1860) FL FL FL    (Mother, White, Widowed)

Source: Census Record: 1945 - Liberty County, Florida

Pct 2, Bristol, Inside city limits

 

Hugh Oxendine            63 (1882) FL                    (Head, White, Farmer)

 

Source: Florida Divorce Index, 1927-2001

File number 20884

Hugh Oxendine divorced Maggie (Oxendine) 1947, Liberty County, Florida

 

Hugh Everett Oxendine was born 15 Sep 1881, Liberty County, Florida. He died 25 Oct 1954, Chattahoochee, Gadsden, Florida.  He left a will 

Source: Court Record: Liberty County, Florida

 

File number: . Will Book D, Page 34.

"Last Will and Testament of Hugh Oxendine:

I, Hugh Oxendine, being of sound and deposing mind and memory, but realizing the uncertainties of this life do hereby make, declare and publish this to be my last will and testament,

First: I will to my body a decent and honorable burial, and hereby direct my administrator to pay the cost of my last illiness and the cost of my burial from any funds in my estate at the time of my death.

Second: To Hector O. Kever and Jane Kever, husband and wife, I will and bequeath all the rest residue and remainder of my estate, of every nature and kind, whether real personal or otherwise, wherever situate, share and share alike.

Third: I hereby designate and appoint Hestor O. Kever and Jane Kever as administrators of this my last will and testament, and direct that they serve without bond.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal at Bristol, Liberty County, Florida on this the 21st day of August 1954. //signed, Hugh Oxendine//

The above partly written and printed instrument was subcribed by the said Hugh Oxendine in our presence and acknowledged by him to each of us; and Hugh Oxendine at the same time declared the above instrument to be his last will and testament; and we at his request have signed our names as witness hereto in his presence and in the presence of each other and have written opposite our names our respective ... A.L. Sumies, residence Bristol Fla. witness. Alvin C. Weaver, residence Bristol, Fla. witness.

In: Court of County Judge, Liberty County, Florida. In probate, proof of will. Before me, the undersigned County Judge of said county. Cause A.L. Suveins and Alvin C. Weaver to me well known, who being duly sworn by me, depose and say that the Instrument exiibited to affiants as the last will and testament of Hugh Oxendine, deceased, is the same Instrument that afficants on the 21st day of August A.D. 1954. As attesting witnesses subscribed at the special instance and request of said testator, Hugh Oxendine, In said testators presence and in the presence of each other, then and there next after the said testator had signed his name thereto, and that the said testator then and there in the presence of said attesting witnesses freely and voluntarily signed and published the same as his last will and testament. Signed A.L. Suviens and Alvin C. Weaver. Sworn to and subscribed before me this 2nd day of November 1954, (Seal) R.. Deason, County Judge, Liberty County, Florida.”

The following is an excerpt concerning the Oxendine family:

“OXENDINE The surname Oxendine is stereotypically Lumbee and readily identified in Bladen and Robeson records. It appears in Bladen tax lists of 1759, 1768, 1769, and the census of 1790, located west of Back Swamp, and east and northeast of Drounding Creek. John Oxendine lived on Pugh’s bridge path in a grant to Thomas Fale 27 Aug. 1753. In 1753 and 1763 an Oxendine lived on a 100 acre tract north of Pugh’s (Little Marsh) and moved southward to the east side of Drowning Creek next to land of Jacob Pittman and James Johnston Jr., before 14 July 1770 (Bladen County deeds, 1738-1779, 302-303) John was north of Little Marsh next to John Johnson Jr. 17 Aug. 1773. John, possibly John Jr., patented 100 acres east of Drounding Creek which included John Sr.’s improvements 5 March 1759. Cudworth Oxendine made improvements west of Back Swamp before 1778 on land later patented by John Bullard Jr. Charles Oxendine, listed as White in 1786, had 6 males, age 16-60, and 5 white females, living near Mark Broom. In the 1850 census of Robeson, family members reported having been born in Robeson as early as 1780, 1781, 1790, 1795, and numerous people of that name said they were born in Robeson in the early 1800’s. Only one Oxendine reported being born elsewhere, Columbus County, in 1800. Tax collectors raised the ire of one Oxendine before 1790 in trying to list him as being “mixed blood”. The 1801 tax list of  Captain Watson’s district shows Charles Oxendine, 100 acres and 1 free poll, and Jessey Oxendine with 135 acres and 1 free poll. Bryant Oxendine left a will dated 1831 (Will Book 1, 300). By 1830 there were eight Mulatoe families named Oxendine in the county and the name was self-identified as Indian on the 1900 census. Oxendine was listed as Indian on the 1930 census of Pembroke Township. Death records show the Indian name of Oxendine from 1916-1955 all over Robeson County but especially in Rowland Township. They were found in Alfordsville, Burnt Swamp, Fairmont, Gatty, Pembroke, raft Swamp, Red Springs, Rennert, and Smith’s Townships. They are related to numerous other Lumbee families especially the Locklear family. The Lumbee name Oxendine was enrolled at Pembroke State University in 1924. Delton Oxendine served on the Lumbee Tribal Council in 2004. Hearl Oxendine ran for Tribal Council in 2004. Laure Oxendine was Miss Lumbee in 2004.

 

Mary Brown Kever, the wife of Frank Kever originally from France, was a woman of Catawba descent, who lived in the Woods settlement. Concerning Mary Brown and her origins, my grandfather Ray Kever, her grandson, was a man who was very full-blood Indian in his physical appearance. Several times through the years he would say to me, “My grandmother Mary Brown was an Indian from South Carolina and moved here with her French-speaking husband, a Whiteman. She was buried outside the White part of the Bristol Cemetery ( in Liberty County, Florida) because they wouldn’t let her be buried in the White part of the cemetery.”

 The following is an excerpt concerning the migration of his family from South Carolina to Florida sent to us by Professor Bloom, and is excerpted from the “Family Sketches” section of the book “Catawba Indian Genealogy” by Ian Watson, printed in 1995 as a part of the Papers in Anthropology, from the State University of New York. (ISBN 0-9617915-3-5)

Jamey Brown was living as early as 30 Nov. 1810 when he signed a petition (g1810), and was listed in the Plat Book under dates from 11 May 1813 to July 1819 (PB, 115). He was dead by September 1820 when his widow sally took his rents (PB, 111). Sally, sometimes called Sarah, was living as late as 1824 (PB 107). She was assigned rents with Billie Ayers once (PB 106), which suggests she may be the same person as Suzy Ayres who I list above among early, unconnected Browns. Jamey himself took rents for Prissy Bullen in 1816 (PB 175) Sally received rents for Jamey Browns children in Dec 1822 (PB 111,114), but their names are not known. Several lucky chances allow us to learn the identity of Sally Brown. A strange note in the plat Book (p.114) reads: “Quincy West Florida Apalachicola District Jamey Brown Catawba Indian intermarried with a Pamunkey Pocahontas.” We can interpret “Pocahontas” as a derogatory term for a Pamunkey woman, and not indicative of her actual name. So, checking the Murshes- The Pamunkey family who joined the Catawbas in the early 1800’s- We find that Sarah Mursh, the daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Mursh, was born 29 March 1790, was 28 and called sally in 1820, and, as sarah Brown, testified to her mother’s claim for a pension on 16 January 184{last number unreadable} (M01)”

Another resident in Woods settlement with strong ties to both Scott Town and Scotts Ferry families was Mary Samantha Blanchard Dasher (the daughter of John Blanchard and Ellen Scott of Scott’s Ferry), the wife of Emmitt Dasher. The Hill family also had many students enrolled at the Marysville School at Scott’s Ferry. Oral history from Sallie Kever, who was very active as an Indian leader in Liberty County in the latter half of her life and was the daughter of Nellie Hill Whittaker, said that there were several ties between these same to communities that were generally unknown due to illegitimacy issues.

    With the exhaustion of the hardwoods along the Apalachicola in the  1940’s, the majority of the Woods Communities inhabitants spread out to individual homesteads in western Liberty and other surrounding Counties, which was also occurring to a similar degree in the larger related settlements of Scott Town and Scott’s Ferry. This dispersion of population from the clustered settlements would only accelerate in the decades to come with desegregation.  In the documentary record, several Cheraw men, including Noah Hill from the Woods Community, are recorded on their WW I Civil Enlistment cards under the race block as” Caucasian” and “Indian”, with the checkmark being in the “citizen” rather than the “non-citizen” box under the Indian racial category.

 

In his recent book “Those Who Remain; A Photographers Memoir of South Carolina Indians”, Gene J. Crediford stated:

 

“On June 2, 1924, Congress passed the Citizenship Act of 1924, which states that “all non-citizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: provided that the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property” (U.S. Code, Title 8, sec. 1401 [a][2]). In this context a non-citizen Indian means, as I understand it, a person who is a member of a federally recognized tribe; in other words “citizen Indians” were at the mercy of state laws in that era.”

 

As we have seen from the many court cases and social incidents regarding the school and military enlistment situations in the first half of the twentieth century we have reviewed earlier, north Florida’s Cheraw people were definitely at the “mercy of state laws” of the time.