Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek

Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek

The United States Post Office, 1940, was Macon, Mississippi's first federal building according to E. Pauline Barrow (2001), who compiled the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Macon Historic District.  Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory described the post office as "...odd, watered-down variation of the Colonial Revival style."  MDAH puts the construction date as 1941.
I am not sure what earned this building, looking a lot like many of the post offices in Mississippi constructed during this time period, the description, but perhaps it is that wrought iron portico?
The Mississippi Legislature passed an act in January, 1830 that extended control of Mississippi to the land occupied by the Chickasaws and Choctaws (Samuel O. McGahey, Mississippi Department of Archives & History,1972).  This provided the impetus to begin removal of the Choctaws from their extensive holdings in Mississippi.  They had already ceded some 23 million acres to the United States, and did not want to leave the land they loved.  Most of the Choctaw rejected the terms of the treaty, and left negotiations, and what happened afterward is apparently not fully established due to varying reports (McGahey).  Following threats of ruin and destruction by the US military (Navarro, see below), and possible bribes to the chiefs who remained (McGahey, citing General Gaines' report), the treaty was signed and the removal to the southeastern corner of Oklahoma began. 
The Choctaw were the first to walk the Trail of Tears.  Nearly 2,500 members perished along the way.  Despite the many lives lost, the Choctaw remained a hopeful and generous people.  The first order of business upon arriving in their new homeland was to start a school and a church.  They drafted a new constitution.  And when the great potato famine befell the people of Ireland, the Choctaws collected money to help alleviate the country's suffering. ("Choctaw History at a Glance," Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)

S. Douglass Crockwell was primarily an illustrator, and his work was similar to that of Norman Rockwell and he was featured frequently in the Saturday Evening Post.   He departed significantly from that style to illustrate the signing of the treaty for the mural to be featured in the Macon post office, near where the signing occurred in Noxubee County.
Image used with permission of USPS
In the Post Office in Macon, Mississippi, a commercial illustrator departed from type and explored dark and emotive styling to depict...The Signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, September 27, 1830.
 Crockwell's choice of "...dark color palette, flowing human shapes, and evocative environmental elements...draws upon these themes of darkness and loss..." (Meghan A. Navarro, Indians at the Post Office, Smithsonian Institute Postal Museum).  As a whole, the post office murals accepted for installation were of the regional or realism genre, and while significant history of the community or region was one of the preferred topics, the Treasury Department sponsored program tended to avoid topics that might be seen unfavorably--at least in the eyes of the dominant culture.  Current interpretations of some of the subject matter of murals that depict Native Americans, those of Mexican descent, and African Americans are often involved in controversy.
Image used with permission of USPS
It is clear that this was a sad and dark time for the Choctaw, as they were coerced into accepting a Treaty they did not want, and whose terms were not honored. This mural draws upon these themes of darkness and loss through its dark colors, deep shadows, and the despairing expression of the Choctaw painted in the lower right of the mural. As noted above, the mural is a marked departure from Crockwell’s wholesome commercial depictions of American life, and more of an expressionist or abstract depiction of a historical event, heavy with emotion. Notably, the Choctaw in the foreground is the only figure in the mural whose face is painted clearly. In fact, Eaton, Coffee, and the other United States representatives are all painted from behind. The physical postures of those Choctaw who are distinguishable as individuals are tense, and the rest of the Choctaw surrounding the clearing melt into one large mass of inseparable faces and bodies. Circling the clearing in which the Treaty is being signed, they resemble the close-growing trees, and seem to fade into them, as though into the background and the shades of the past. There is also something primitive about them, a mass of people all painted in flesh tones, with no clothing distinguishable. (Navarro)
 I think it was the image on the face of the man--the only face clearly revealed in the mural--that has haunted me every time I look at it.  What must it have felt like to experience every element of your life and experience disappear, and the future of yourself, your children, your people, your nation be an uncertainty?  In 1855, the Choctaw who had been removed to Oklahoma appeared at the White House to appeal for "right and justice" (Papers relating to the claims of the Choctaw nation against the United States, arising out of the Treaty of 1830, Library of Congress).
Once our possessions embraced the valuable and fertile territory now included in the States of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, and over which our sway was undisputed and supreme...But another and a stronger race came and swept us away into a distant and wilderness land, where we had long to struggle against the depressing effects of sad and painful reflections upon the hard and unyielding policy which deprived us of our father-land and cherished homes.  At the time of our first treaty with the United States in 1786, when the Choctaws placed themselves under their protection, they owned and possessed about fifty millions of acres of land east of the Mississippi river, which was gradually and by piece-meal wrested from us, until, in 1830, we were required to cede the last foot of it to the government.  For all this magnificent domain...which has put millions upon millions into the treasury of the United States, we received the most meagre and inconsiderable consideration. (Papers relating to the claims, pp. 5 & 6)
The delegation went on to describe the relationship between the Choctaws and the United States government, and in particular, that the Choctaw Nation was the only tribe which had never been engaged in hostile conflict with the government, broken a promise or violated the treaties, and that they were calling for just compensation: to receive the amount of money that had been acquired by the United States government for the sale of the lands belonging to the Choctaw, and compensation for their livestock holdings and personal belongings that they were required to leave behind, with the promise they would be paid for or provided in Oklahoma.  These claims for compensation under the treaty were under negotiation and appeals from 1830, until 1855, with no resolution.  Under the 14th article of the treaty, each head of family could elect to remain in Mississippi and receive sufficient land to be independent, which was identified as 640 acres (Choctaw Nation v. United States; United States v. Choctaw Nation, November 15, 1886).  Of those 143 heads of families who were able to register and actually received land--neither Mississippi nor the federal government wanted any of them to remain (Edward Davis, 1932, The Mississippi Choctaws, Chronicles of Oklahoma, 10(2) and they were subsequently forced from those lands.

The case finally reached the Supreme Court after many delays, including those caused by the secession of Mississippi and the formation of the Confederate States of the south.  November 15, 1886, the Supreme Court mandated judgment for the sum of $2,858,798.62 to the Choctaw Nation (Decisions of the Supreme Court in Appealed Cases, from October, 1886, to May, 1887, Charles C. Nott and Archibald Hopkins, Washington Government Printing Office).


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Former Noxubee County Jail

 While stopping off in Macon a few weeks back, and trying to figure out where the Macon City Hall was, since my GPS was not at all helpful, I had a time of driving up and down just about every street in the town, and going around the block more than once.  I pulled in to use Google maps on my iPhone, and noticed this striking building across the street from me.  At first, I thought it was still in use as the jail as there were inmates walking around in the green and white striped cotton pants used in Mississippi. 
 The former county jail was built in 1907, in the Romanesque style, and is the second oldest of three county jails in Mississippi (Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Historic Resources Inventory).  It is identified as "one of the relatively few examples of Romanesque Revival architecture in the state" (MDAH).  Jackson architect William Sharkey Hull designed the jail, and F. B. Hull & sons was builder/contractor.  Hull also designed a number of other jails in Mississippi and several courthouses.
 According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Macon Historic District, the T-shaped building has a pentile roof and "fortress-like massiveness" (E. Pauline Barrow, 2001).  Let's look at that building from the front again:
Yep, pretty fortress-like looking.  The center three windows of the second floor are part of the projecting entrance pavilion (Barrow).  She further described:
...well-proportioned frontispiece designed with broad abutments, a four-brick archivolt springing from substantial imposts and a projecting cornice...
I had to look up several of those terms, so in the event you are not familiar with them either:
  • frontispiece: the principal face of a building, or decorated pediment over a portico or window
  • abutments: reinforcing block or wall adding support to vaults and arches
  • archivolt: ornamental molding or band following the curve on the underside of an arch
  • imposts: projecting block resting on top of a column or embedded in a wall, serving as the base for an arch
Can you find all of them in the building?
 The building became the Noxubee County Library building in 1984, and was renovated and repurposed, but still retaining many of the jail's features, such as the cells, doors, and the gallows, so better not be late checking your books back in.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Okolona Post Office and its missing mural

 The Okolona post office was constructed in 1937 as part of FDR's New Deal Administration--one of many in Mississippi.  The Okolona building is still in use as the post office.
 Per the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Okolona Historic District,
One-story + basement, brick building with rectangular plan, flat roof, and symmetrical North facing front facade. Concrete steps with iron railings lead up to the frontispiece. The frontispiece consists of metal-framed, glass double doors; stone pilasters; and is topped by a entablature with dentils. A 5-light transom sits between the pilasters. The door is flanked by two 8/12 windows with concrete lintels and sills. Concrete coping. (Shannon Criss, 5 February 2001, p. 32)
The story of the missing mural has several anecdotal explanations, although the most likely one is that the postmaster did not appreciate the "modernism" of the mural (Mark Clinton Davis, Pearl River County Historical Society, 2012).  Harold Egan's "The Richness of the Soil" was completed in 1939, and ordered painted over by the postmaster within days of its installation.

One of the most egregious episodes of outsider insensitivity involved a New York City artist named Harold Egan, who disliked historical and documentary painting and determined to make strikingly modern works for Okolona, Mississippi, and Wake Forest, North Carolina.  He did not consult either the locals or their traditions and his Richness of the Soil for Okolona (1938) featured a horizontal, semimythical female apparently lying on a riverbed with an indescribable agrarian water sprite pointing a forefinger at her misplaced left breast. (Michael Kammen. (2007). Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture. Vintage Books. p. 126)
 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cleveland Community School in Kemper County

My second stop on the road to Choctaw was at Zama Consolidated School, with extant buildings including the 1938 gymnasium, c. 1930 teacher's house, and 1949 Edgar Lucian Malvaney designed school.  Check out the post on Preservation in Mississippi for that story.
 
 The return trip enabled me to make a few stops as well, including this former school building in the Cleveland community, Kemper County, not far from DeKalb.  This was my first opportunity to venture this direction in the state of Mississippi, so I had an eye-candy day, along with a few bouts of depression at some of the decay and obvious lack of opportunities in areas.

The only extant buildings of the Cleveland school, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory, are the administration building, 1933, and one of the two teachers' houses.  No cornerstone was visible on the building, but photographs from the National Youth Administration 1937-1939 photograph album show the original building and the classroom annex, constructed by the NYA in 1937-38.
WP 4800, App # 125 (1937-38) Cleveland Vocational School Annex, Kemper County.  Concrete block classroom added to existing building. NYA. 1-F2-35. 1938.  Retrieved from http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/series/2018/detail/3763
Retrieved from http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/series/2018/detail/3764
Retrieved from http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/series/2018/detail/3765
Retrieved from http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/series/2018/detail/3766
 I originally thought the classroom annex was the above pictured addition, but I think it might be possible they added both of the ells as classrooms.  It is also possible the classrooms were added to the rear of the building, but I could not access that area due to a chain link fence.  The building is located on the North side of Hwy.16, between Philadelphia and DeKalb.
In addition, the complex included 2 teachers houses, one of which is still extant, a vocational building, and a home economics building.  The remaining building with its National Youth Administration additions is in use as a vocational training center.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Road trip: First stop Carmack

Nothing I love more than a fall road trip, especially when I had the luxury of a little more time to get there, and get home again.  Wednesday was a beautiful sunny fall day, and I had taken time before hand to plot out the New Deal or possible New Deal locations on one route down, and an alternate route home.
In the "Kosciusko vicinity" section of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory, I noted the listing of the Carmack School, built 1938, but no other available information.  Carmack community was on the road from Kosciusko to Philadelphia, so there was not even a need to make a detour to locate it.
Can you feel my elation when I spotted the cornerstone immediately?  Newspaper archives so far have not turned up any mention of the construction of the school, but that little concrete jewel on the corner is all I needed to see.  The front of the building has been re-sided (with vinyl siding, unfortunately), and thank goodness they had the awareness to leave the cornerstone visible, or evidence of this building's construction could have been obscured.
The building is undergoing renovation, and again unfortunately, the large windows are being replaced, as those on the front already have been.  My guess is the back of the building will shortly wear that vinyl siding also.
The base of an old see-saw remains firmly rooted, though the boards are long since removed.  Who remembers "see-saw injuries" from your childhood?  One of our favorites was to walk the see-saw from end to end.  The deeply worn rut under the merry-go-round gives evidence of how long it was used.  Even the pine straw has not yet been able to fully obliterate the evidence of all those little feet running in circles, or dragging in the dirt when you were trying to stop, or in some cases, thwart the efforts of your classmates to get up to speed!
During the early part of the century, it was also common to construct teachers' houses next door to the school, particularly in the rural areas. MDAH database gives no additional information about the teacher's house located in the Carmack community, but the National Youth Administration constructed many teachers' houses next to the rural school buildings they constructed. The Series 2018 National Youth Administration Work Projects Photograph Album, 1937-1939 provides pictures and community identification on a number of them.

 It was hard to resist taking a spin and dragging my feet, but I thought perhaps it was best not to tempt fate (and my knees and hips) in the middle of nowhere...I mean, in the middle of Carmack.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Family History: R J Timmons

 Back in the summer when Sis and I went up to the Elbert cemetery, we wandered around the family plots.  Though many of the names I know, and knew all the aunts and uncles who were Mama's family, I did not recall who R J Timmons, wife of J S Timmons was.  Since she died in 1925, that is not unusual I guess.
 R J was Rhoda Jane Smith, and she was the second wife of James Samuel Timmons.  James Samuel was Mama's grandfather.  His son with his first wife, Mary Susan Brogdon, was Mama's father--Pinkney Perry Timmons.  Daddy Pink died in 1934 so I never knew him, although I have heard many stories about him, and did know Mama's mother, Grandmother Timmons.  Rhoda Jane and James Samuel had two daughters, whose names I never recall hearing anyone talk about.  What amazes me is that Rhoda Jane was only 68 when she died, and yet she appears to be much older than that in the picture.

Mary Susan was from Young County, so James Samuel would have met her after he moved from Georgia to the Young County and Throckmorton County area.  Rhoda Jane was from Ballground, Cherokee County, Georgia, so at some point James Samuel returned to his family's home in Georgia to find his second wife.  No doubt, he needed a mother for his nine children.  Perhaps that, and having borne two more of her own, had something to do with Rhoda Jane dying at an early age and looking like she was 20 years older than she was.  The "baby" would have been 4 when James Samuel married Rhoda Jane, and the oldest two were 19 and 18.  Most likely, she only had to mother the ones who were 4, 7, 8, 10, and 13.  Daddy Pink would have been 15, and 4 years later, he married Clara McBrayer.  Mama was their first child.
 As a child wandering the Elbert cemetery when Mama would go to tend the graves, I was always fascinated by the ones with the shells embedded in the concrete.  There were quite a few of them, although most of them now resemble Rhoda Jane's in that the shells are broken.  If you think about it, those shells have been on this grave for 89 years, so in that regard, I suppose they have held up fairly well.
James Samuel died 11 years after Rhoda Jane, at the age of 88, when my mother was 9 years old, and two years after Daddy Pink's death.  Mother often talked about Daddy Pink, but I don't ever recall hearing her speak of her great grandfather James Samuel.  I had always heard the story of the father going to Georgia to find a mother for his children, and bringing her back to South Bend, Texas, but there was no connection in my head as to who that father was.  Now, I know they were speaking of James Samuel, and that it was his farm in South Bend.  My mother has the lock he kept on his corn crib to keep the local Native Americans from stealing his corn--you know, after we stole their land.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

New Albany New Deal Post Office and Milking Time Mural

 The 1936 Colonial Revival post office in New Albany was constructed through the Treasury department, under Louis A. Simon, Supervising Architect of the Treasury (MDAH Historic Resources Inventory).  The construction company was Blair, Algernon of Montgomery, Alabama, who built 9 post offices in Mississippi.
 Joan Embree, (1996 National Register of Historic Places nomination form) described the "classical cupola"...
"...new entry doors, but in the original surround with fanlight transom, in-antis Doric columns supporting the hooded architrave."
 The interior of the building, which is currently in use as the Welcome Center and Development Association, retained original features such as the marble wainscoting, wooden vestibule entry,
 and former service window,
original postal boxes and writing counters.
 Robert Cleaver Purdy's mural, "Milking Time," was completed and installed in 1939. 
 The local Armour Creamery was a vital part of the economic scene during that time, and the building is still extant, though not in use.  The role of farming and dairying in New Albany is thought to have influenced Purdy's mural.
New Albany represents another fine example of a town preserving its historic architecture, including the buildings constructed through the New Deal administration programs.