Indian Pioneer Histories

Rebecca Neugin •   Katie Neugin Rackleff •   Looney Hicks Griffin


Katie (Neugin) Rackleff

My mother, REBECCA NEUGIN nee KETCHER, was the daughter of JOHN KETCHER. I do not know the name of his wife. Both were fullbloods. My mother was born in Georgia about 1829.

The Trail of Tears.

My mother, said to be the last survivor of those who came over the Trail of Tears, was about ten years old when they left Georgia. [*This differs from Rebecca Neugin’s own account, in which she claimed to be about four years old.]

They came in rude wagons drawn by oxen, each family furnishing its own transportation or at least my grandfather did and he loaded his wagon with provisions for his family for the trip. This left little room as he had a wife and six children, of whom my mother was next to the youngest. They were compelled to have a little bedding. They left Georgia in the summer and did not reach this state till the next summer.

These people were brought through Tennessee and Southern Missouri, under soldiers commanded by General Winfield Scott. General Scott left these people under command of his assistant about the middle of the trip that he might attend the National Whig? Convention, which was at that time contesting the nominations of HENRY CLAY and WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON, for president of the United States.

Mother started with a little pig that she named “Toby”. When they started he was no larger than a large rat and each day at noon and at night mother would let him run around and watched him and she kept him till he was a large hog and he disappeared one day at the noon hour and she was never able to find him.

In those days there were no roads and few trails and very few bridges. Progress of travellers was slow and often times they would have to wait many days for the streams to run down before they could cross. Each family did its own cooking, on the road. People then had no matches and they started a fire by rubbing two flint rocks together and catching the spark on a piece of dry spunk held directly underneath the rocks. Sometimes, they would have to rake away the snow and clear a place to build the fire. Travellers carried dry wood in the wagons to build their fires. The wagons were so heavily loaded and had traveled so many days that when they came to a hill the persons in the wagons would have to get out and walk up the hill. They did not ride much of the time but walked a good deal, not only to rest themselves but to save their teams.

Often, teams would give out and could go no farther and then those who were with that wagon would be divided up among the other wagons and hurried along. One day mother saw a team of oxen full dead, hitched to their wagon. The party she was with were in a severe snowstorm on the way which caused much suffering. Many died from exposure on the trip and mother said that she thought that a third of those who started died on the way, although all of her family lived to reach the new country. Those who came over the Trail of Tears would not stop for sickness and would stop only long enough to dig a rude grave when any one died and then the bereaved family was forced to move right along.

Mother said that their food lasted them till they reached the Indian Territory but towards the last of the trip that they had little to eat and had to plan to make it last. It was indeed a pitiful band that finally reached the new home promised them for they had been a year on the road, food had become scarce, their clothes which were homemade were wearing out, many had died on the trail, some had lost their teams and wagons and had been placed with other families and there were small children in the band who had lost their parents.

The New Home.

It was warm weather and the country to which they came was covered with much good timber, had good water and many wild berries and fruits and besides it abounded with wild game. Destitute as they were after the trip, it was a “Happy Hunting Ground” to them to be free to do as they chose and not have to take up the long trail each morning. They came with their tired oxen into the Goingsnake District and Grandfather began looking around for a location for his home. He blazed trees to mark his claim. Next, he cut small poles and set them up and made a frame which he covered with cloth and this made a place to cook and eat. Then he made another shelter just like that as a place to sleep and here they lived till he could cut the logs and build a rude one room log house for his family. Grandfather had reached here with his team of oxen but they were worn out and unfit for work so he managed to get hold of a team of little mules to work and farm with that first year.

My grandparents were fullbloods and had lived in a log house in Georgia, so perhaps it was not so hard for them to accustom themselves to the new country as it was for some of the others. Then, too, Grandfather had been willing to come and had planned towards that end.

In the old home, Grandmother had her loom and had woven the cloth for their clothing but this was left behind but soon her husband had made her another loom and by the time that they moved from this location five or six years later, into the Goingsnake District, they had a large drove of sheep, plenty of hogs and cows and had built two small log houses of one room each near to the other, had built other small outbuildings and besides they had raised what cotton they needed for home use.

My grandmother died during my mother’s teens.

My Mother

Mother did not have the opportunity to attend school and always signed her name by mark; she helped with the family’s spinning and weaving, made her own dresses and helped to dry and preserve the fruits and berries for winter use. At first, having no jars to can in, the fruits and berries were dried as were the corn, beans, and pumpkins. The peaches were placed on a scaffold and a fire was built under them to dry them and the apples were dried in the sun. One day, I remember, my sister got choked on a peach kernel and as I had seen Mother strike a baby in the back when choked I walked up behind my sister and struck her in the back and the kernel flew out of her mouth. They later canned plums? in gallon buckets.

Mother lived to be 115 years old [*98 was her actual age at death.] and as long as she lived she was busy and only the winter before she died she pieced a quilt. She always smoked a little clay pipe. I do not mean to say that she did more work than the rest of the family. She had three brothers, Mose, Ben, and John and one sister who lived to be grown, Linnie, and those children all shared the home tasks.

After Grandmother’s death Mother’s father gave her the loom that he had made for his wife and on this Mother later wove the cloth for her children’s clothes.

The family moved from Goingsnake District to a place on Clear Creek, west of Hulbert.

Marriage

Mother married Bark Neugin, a fullblood Cherokee, who spoke Cherokee and who was a Captain in the Union Army during the Civil War. They were married before the War and lived not far from where Tahlequah is now during the War.

I was born in 1880, about the time of my father’s death, and know only what they have told me of him, as I am the youngest of the seven children. My brothers were Henry, Dave, and Neal. My sisters, Sabe, Lizzie, and Cynie. [* According to my records, her sisters were Sabra, Eliza, and Cynthia Smith, a half-sister and our ancestor.]

Civil War Days

My father being a soldier could not come home often and it was only occasionally that he could stop and see his wife and then he had to be very careful. Mother did not fare quite so hard as some of her friends for Father could give her some money and then she was entitled to draw rations at Fort Gibson at certain times but there were times when she and her children were forced to “rustle” for themselves.

Sometimes, when they needed fresh meat, the women would run a steer up in the chimney corner and knock him in the head. The women were ready with their butcher knives and they would soon have the skin off and would begin to cut out the chunks of meat. Hogs were also knocked in the head by the women and the meat shared among them, so much for each family.

Mother often went to Fort Gibson with a load of apples. People did not buy those apples but just gathered them where they found them. They would camp overnight on the way and sometimes the apples would freeze. They could not sell the apples but exchanged them for anything that they could use. Flour was ten dollars a sack and once in a while Mother would get some sugar. Marrow calico was five cents a yard.

The Confederates would come in and rob us and cut up our feather beds. The boys had to be kept out of sight for the Confederates were watching for them. If those boys were large enough to force into the army, they would be taken and perhaps killed and even the smaller boys were sometimes killed and not always by the Confederates but sometimes it was the Pin Indians who killed those boys.

One day, Mother had gone to a store for some flour and her horse was hitched out in front when one of the women told her that the Confederates were taking her horse. Mother went out where they were and told them that she was on an errand for STAN WATIE and the Confederates left her horse for her. This was not true but it saved the horse.

Sometimes in going to Fort Gibson they would travel the old Military Road and camp over night on the way, sometimes not but they never took any children with them. It was too dangerous to take the boys and they felt it unsafe to take the little girls but the girls were never molested.

I remember my father’s uniform, as it hung upstairs for some years after his death and was burned when our home burned. The coat and trousers were blue and I remember the blue cap with its trimmings. Then, too, there were his sword and scabbard and his pistols.

Mother’s Later Life.

We lived seven miles from Hulbert and the house, where I was born there, is now destroyed. it was a one room log house with a wooden chimney, an old log barn and log cribs. Here my mother lived the rest of her life. When allotment came, she allotted the land next to it and this land went to her grandson, BOCK? NEUGIN, then a baby and she made her home with him till her death, July 15, 1932.

After Father’s death, mother, with the help of my older brothers did some farming and sent us children to school and when Mother needed money she would walk to Tahlequah, a distance of fifteen miles and work at the old “Jail-house” for a week washing and then she would buy the things she needed and then my brothers would come after her in a wagon. They would come one day and stay over night and go home the next day.

She had described seeing two brothers hung while she was working there. They were brought out dressed just alike and she said that she watched till they put the black handkerchiefs over their eyes and she couldn’t stand it any longer and she put her arm across her eyes.

I have said that mother died at the old place where she had lived for so many years.

My Life

My sister and I were sent to the old Presbyterian Mission for the six years before it burned. We children called it the “Old Red Headed Mission” and often wished it would burn down. Its roof was of boards painted red. The night it did burn many of us escaped only in our night gowns, though some girls did get their dresses. I was with those who were taken to the home of the minister and later attended school at the Presbyterian Church the rest of the term.

The next year I was sent to the Baptist Mission and remained there some years till I was in the tenth grade. I liked all my studies except I never could understand arithmetic and DORA FRENCH used to help me with that.

After I left school, I hired out to work and worked for a while at Wagoner in the hotel and while working here I married EDWARD RACKLEFF, a white man who was born in Missouri and who had a wagon yard in Tahlequah. I do not remember the date and I do not have the marriage license.

I should like to ask one question–My brothers are enrolled as fullbloods, my sisters as half-breeds and I am on the rolls as three-quarters, Indian. Why?

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: August 31, 1937
Name: Mrs. Kate Rackleff
Post Office: Fairland, Oklahoma
Residence Address:
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Father:
Place of Birth:
Information on father:
Mother:
Place of birth:
Information on mother:
Field Worker: Nannie Lee Burns
Interview #: 7582

Rebecca Neugin •   Katie Neugin Rackleff •   Looney Hicks Griffin

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