Indian Pioneer Histories
Rebecca Tickaneesky Neugin
My GGGGrandmother was Rebecca Neugin. Born Rebecca Tickaneesky, at the age of four years old, she walked the Trail of Tears from northern Georgia to Oklahoma. In 1932, she was interviewed by historian Grant Foreman for the WPA. –Duane Poncy
On the Trail of Tears
“When the soldiers came to our house my father wanted to fight, but my mother told him the soldiers would kill him if he did and we surrendered without a fight. They drove us out of our house to join other prisoners in a stockade. After they took us away, my mother begged them to let her go back and get some bedding. So they let her go back and she brought the bedding and a few cooking utensils she could carry, and had to leave behind all of our household possessions.
“My father had a wagon pulled by two spans of oxen to haul us. Eight of my brothers and sisters and two or three widow women and children rode with us. My brother Dick who was a good deal older than I was walked along with a long whip which he popped over the backs of the oxen and drove them all the way. My father and mother walked all the way also.
“The people got so tired of eating salt pork on the journey that my father would walk through the woods as we traveled, hunting for turkeys and deer which he brought into camp to feed us. Camp was usually made at some place where water was to be had and when we stopped and prepared to cook our food other emigrants who had been driven from their homes without opportunity to secure cooking utensils came to our camp to use our pots and pans.“There was much sickness among the emigrants and a great many little children died of whooping cough.”
“Very few of the Indians had been able to bring any of their household effects or kitchen utensils with them and the old people who knew how made what they called ‘dirt pots’ and ‘dirt bowls’. To make them, they took clay and formed it in the shape desired and turned those bowls over the fire and smoked them, and when they were done, they would hold water and were very useful. We could cook in them and use them to hold food.
“In the same way, they made dishes to eat out of, and then they made wooden spoons, and for a number of years after we arrived, we had to use these crude utensils. After awhile, as we were able, we gradually picked up glazed china ware until we had enough to take the place of the substitutes.”
“We had no shoes, and those that wore anything wore mocassins made of deer hide, and the men wore leggings made of deer hide. Many of them went bare-headed, but when it was cold, they made things out of coon skins and other kinds of hides to cover their heads.
“I learned to spin when I was a very little girl, and I could make cloth and jeans for dresses and such other garments as we wore. We never wore any store clothes and manufacted cloth until after the Civil War. To color the cloth, we used different kinds of dyes.”
“We raised our indigo, which we cut in the morning while the dew was on it, then we put it in a tub and soaked it overnight. The next day we foamed it up by beating it with a gourd. We let it stand overnight again, and the next day rubbed tallow on our hands to kill the foam. Afterwards, we poured the water off and the sediment left in the bottom we would pour into a pitcher or crock to let it get dry. Then when we wanted any of it to dye with, we would take the dry indigo.
“We raised the indigo for many years, and then when we moved away from Barren Fork, I lost my seed and was never able to raise any more. We always thought the indigo we raised was better than any we could buy in later years. “If we wanted to dye cloth black, we used walnut bark, and when we wanted to dye purple, we used maple bark and when mixed with hickory bark it made yellow. Hickory bark by itself made green dye. To make red dye, we mixed madder and alum. We used to find alum in caves. We also used sumac berries to make red dye. When we wanted salt, we went to a saltlick on the west side of the Grand River.”
Foreman Footnote: Mrs. Rebecca Neugin died near Hulbert, Oklahoma in the summer of 1932, at the age of nearly a hundred years. Mrs. Neugin, who was a small child when her people removed from the East, could recall only one incident of that experience, and that was her pet duck that she cherished and would not leave behind. She carried it in her little arms until she squeezed the life out of it, and grieved to see it thrown by the roadside. The poignent memory of that childish love and grief remained with her more than 90 years.
p. 283, Grant Foreman, The Five Civilized Tribes, University of Oklahoma Press, 7th Printing, 1980.
More about Rebecca
Her Yoneg (English) name was Rebecca Tickaneesky, her Cherokee name was Wa-ki (pronounced wah-kee). This was evidently a very common name for children, as it appears many times on the early rolls. I have not been able to translate it. The name Tickaneesky means “catcher”, or “he/she who catches” and some of her brothers eventually adopted the Yoneg translation “Ketcher” for their surname. She came from a large Cherokee family, and had nine siblings.
Rebecca’s first husband was John Smith, a full-blooded Cherokee, according to the government rolls. They had two children, as far as we know. The oldest was Jack, and his younger sister Cynthia. Cynthia’s five children included my Great Grandmother, Rebecca Ann Morgan and her identical twin Mary Ann. When Cynthia died at a young age in about 1886, Rebecca, now married to Bark Neugin, took on the task of raising the twins. Rebecca also had several children by Neugin.