No Indians have lived in Quitman County since its organization but a few things regarding their characteristic traits, in general, are given here. The Chickasaws and the Choctaws were the only major tribes who inhabited this section. No minor tribes have been known to settle here.
The Choctaws tribe was the largest in Mississippi and owned one half of the state. Their land reached from the central part of the state to the northeastern.
“The Choctaws were divided into three districts. Each district had its principal chief. Mingo Puckshennubbee ruled the western district, situated west of Pearl River; Mingo Hommostubbe was chief of the northern district, which adjoined the Chickasaw country. Pusmataha ruled the southeastern district. His residence was near the present site of Meridian. Major John Pitchlynn, United States interpreter, resided in the northern district, near the mouth of the Oktibbeha, on the Tombigbee.”
The Choctaws played an important part in the early history of Quitman County.
“The Choctaw Indians were affectionate and truthful, and their friendship among relatives was worthy of imitation. They excelled all Indians in hospitality, all visitors receiving a hearty welcome, and were entertained royally.
“They love war and are acquainted with strategems. They never fight in order, or stand their ground. They only harass and tease their enemies much, without being cowards; for when they come to close engagements they fight very coolly.
“Some of their women are so fond of their husbands as to go into wars with them. They stand by their sides in the battle with a quiver full of arrows, and encourage them continually by telling them they ought not to fear their enemies, but die as true men.”
“The Chickasaws were not as numerous as the Choctaws, but they were brave and warlike. This tribe was haughty and cruel, and were considered the fiercest and most insolent of all the southern Indians.
“They were excellent swimmers and taught their children this art in pools and clay holes. They were also expert huntsmen and when they killed a deer they sent their wives to drag it in, and dress, cook, and serve it.
“The men would not cultivate the soil, and when they were not hunting or waging war, they spent their time playing on reed flutes or sleeping, while they left the cultivation and sowing of the seed to the squaws.”
Chickasaw Burial Customs
When a Chickasaw warrior died, his face was painted red and his head anointed with bear’s oil. He was dressed in fine garments and was buried in a sitting position with his face toward the east. They placed with him bow and arrows, because it was thought he might need them in the new hunting ground.
Choctaw Marriage Customs
“When a young Choctaw sees a maiden who pleases his fancy, he watches his opportunity until he finds her alone. He then approaches within a few yards of her and gently casts a pebble toward her, so that it may fall at her feet. He may have to do this three or four times before he attracts the maiden’s attention. If this pebble-throwing is agreeable, the maiden soon makes it manifest; if not, scornful looks and a decided “edwah.”
“When a marriage is agreed upon, the lovers appoint a time and a place for the ceremony. On the wedding day the friends and relatives of the prospective couple meet at their respective houses or villages and thence march toward each other. When they arrive near the marriage ground, generally intermediate space between the two villages, they are within about a hundred yards of each other. The brothers of the woman then go across to the opposite party and bring forward the groom and set him on a blanket spread upon the ground.
The man’s sisters then do likewise by going over and bringing forward he woman, and seating her beside the man. Sometimes, to furnish a little merriment for the occasion, the woman is expected to break loose and run. Of course she is pursued, captured, and brought back.
“All parties assemble around the expectant couple. A bag of bread is brought forward by the woman’s relatives and deposited near her; in like manner, the man’s relatives bring forward a bag of meat and deposit it near him. The man’s friends and relatives now begin to throw presents upon the head and shoulders of the woman. These presents are of any kind that the donors choose to give: as articles of clothing, money, trinkets, ribbons, etc. As soon as thrown, they are quickly snatched off by the woman’s relatives and distributed among themselves. During all this time the couple sit very quietly and demurely, not a word being spoken by either.
“When all the presents have been thrown and distributed, the couple (now man and wife) arise, the provisions of the bags spread, and just as in civilized life, the ceremony is rounded off with a festival. The rites over, the company disperses, and the gallant groom conducts his bride to his home, where they enter upon the toils and responsibilities of the future.”
Legends and Beliefs
Tradition tells how the Indian corn came to America:
After the Indians had lived for a long time on the products of the soil and the forests, a crow brought a single grain of corn from across the great waters and gave it to an orphan child, who was playing in the yard near Nanih Waiya, the great mound situated in the southern part of Winston County, Mississippi. The child planted the grain and when it came up, hoed it, hilled it up and laid it by. The plant grew up, bore two ears of corn, and in this way the cultivation of corn began.
According to tradition, immediately after the Choctaw tribe was formed the Great Spirit divided them into clans. One clan was stationed on the north and the other on the west side of the mound. The Great Spirit gave them the law of marriage, which they were never to violate. This law was, that children must marry some one in the opposite clan.
The Choctaws firmly believe that they were created in a mound, and crawled through a hole to see daylight.
The Choctaws and Chickasaws of Quitman County had many stories of love and war. They sat around the campfire and told them over and over, and had a favorite animal story that they liked to tell repeatedly. It was similar to the old fable that the white people tell about the hare and the tortoise.
They were frightened when the sun was in eclipse, and believed that it was being eaten up by wild animals. When it began to grow dark, they made great noises, shot arrows and threw stones and sicks at the sun.
Pushmataha was the greatest chief of the Choctaws. Because of his lowly birth he claimed he had his origin at the spot where a great, magnificent red oak tree stood for years, when it was splintered by a lightning storm.
Treaty of Doak’s Stand
One event important to Mississippi, was known as the Treaty of Doak’s Stand, by which the Choctaws ceded to the United States nearly 5,500,000 acres of land in the western and central part of the state, or the southern portion of the Yazoo delta. Thus that great and fertile tract of land with its marvelous future was brought to the ownership and exploitation of the white race.
The Commissioners for the United States were Andrew Jackson and Thomas Hinds, old comrades-in-arms of the War of 1812, and at this conference serving their country with the same zeal each had displayed on the battlefield.
After negotiations between the American representatives and the Choctaw chiefs had been going forward for more than two weeks, the treaty was signed on October 18, 1820.
The grand council was held at grounds on the Natchez Trace at Doak’s Stand, a tavern about four miles north of the southeast corner of the present Madison County, on Pearl River.
Pushmataha and Muschulatubbee, the two great medal chiefs of the Choctaws, were the representatives, (and helpless ones to a great extent) of the Indians in their conference with the Americans. The Indians had 103 representatives at the confab who signed the treaty.
The Choctaw cession comprised all the lands, except a few reservations, which lay west of line drawn northwardly from a point on the former Choctaw boundary, near the southeast corner of Simpson County, to the source of Black Creek, a tributary of the Yazoo; thence westward to its mouth, and from that point, by a direct line, to the Mississippi River, one mile below the mouth of the Arkansas.
County Opened to Settlers
The broad area was thus thrown open to the white man and to an extension of Christian civilization that would appear even more beautiful, if it reflected more of the spirit of the divine law it sought to uphold. The New Purchase was subsequently erected into the counties of Hinds, Simpson, Copiah, Rankin, Madison, Boliver, Yazoo, Washington, and Holmes, and was rapidly filled up with new settlers of Anglo-Saxon origin from older communities of the Southern States, and from the southern counties of Mississippi.
The Doak’s Stand Treaty was nullified by Secretary of War, Calhoun, but in 1825 the cession was carried into effect by new compensations and annuities at the treaty held in Washington, D.C., on the 20th of January of that year.
Both Pushmataha and Mushulatubbee were delegates to that conference; both died before the treaty was signed. The celebrated Choctaw chief, Pushmataha, was one of the few leading red men of America who, though he was intensely loyal to his own race, acknowledged the growing power of the American Republic, and felt honored to have his part in every crisis that arose; his consistency won him the sincere admiration of the white man.
During his visit to Washington, Pushmataha was received with high honor by President Monroe and Secretary of War, Calhoun. The distinguished chieftain also visited General LaFayette, who was then at National Capital as the guest of the country, making his tour of the United States.
While in Washington, Pushmataha, unaccustomed to the lavish feasting and drinking, to which he yielded too immoderately, was taken seriously ill and died soon after. One of his biographers writes of his death as follows:
“Finding that his life was drawing rapidly to a close, he expressed the desire that he should be buried with military honors, such as became a warrior, and that the “big guns” should be fired over his grave. His last request was complied with. He was accorded all the honors of a military funeral, such as befitted a great chief. A profession, civil, and military, more than a mile in length, followed the dead chief to his last resting place in the Congressional cemetery.”
“Thus perished Pusmataha,” Clairborne continues in eulogistic phrase: “The great Choctaw warrior was of humble and lowly origin; in other words, he could not trace his lineage from a long line of warriors; a fact of which, like the great Napoleon, he was proud.”
“Napoleon, at the height of his power, exclaimed: “I am the founder of my own dynasty.” The great Choctaw chief once said; ‘I had no father, no mother, no brother, no sister. The winds howled, the rain fell, the thunder roared and the lightning flashed; a pine tree was shivered, and from is splinters stepped forth Pushmataha with his rifle on his shoulder.'”
Among the statesmen of that day to pay tribute to the famous chieftain were Andrew Jackson and John Randolph, the former characterizing him as “the greatest and the bravest Indian he had ever known.” The latter declaring him, in the course of the eulogy pronounced in the United States Senate: “wise in counsel, eloquent in an extraordinary degree, and upon all occasions and under all circumstances the white man’s friend.”
There are about eight Indian mounds in Quitman County. No two of these are at close range to the other. “Posey Mound,” six miles northwest of Marks, on a plantation owned by P. M. B. Self, is now being used for a home site. However, the house that stands on this mound is about sixty feet square and twenty feet high. Evidently, the mound is not as high as it originally was, as indications show that it was leveled in order to build the house substantially.
The largest mound in the county is near Coldwater River, six miles northwest of Lambert, but the rains have washed it down considerably. Another large mound is on the Shine Turner plantation.
The mounds have proven to be a place of safety for flood refugees in the recent years. At present there is a cemetery on top of this “Shine Turner Mound,” and at the foot of it is a Negro church.
There are no Indians living around this county at present.
Sydnor Bennett, History of Mississippi
Franklin L. Riley, History of Mississippi
Dunbar Rowland, Mississippi, the Heart of the South, Vol. I
Works Progress Administration for Mississippi, Source Material for Mississippi History, Quitman County, Vol. LX, Compiled by State-Wide Historical Research Project, Susie V. Powell, State Supervisor, Illustrated 1936-1938, Chapter 5, pages 41-46.
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