Laban Allred and Family:  Chickasaw Indians?

by Linda Allred Cooper

Laban was an Allred via two lines:
1.  Laban, William, William, William, Solomon born 1680 Lancashire, England
2.  Laban, Patience, Catherine, John, un-named daughter of Solomon and Samuel Finley, Solomon born 1680 Lancashire, England

It seems to be very popular these days to claim Native American ancestry. My own father insisted his grandmother or great grandmother or he isn’t really sure who she was but she WAS Indian. He swears there is a photo of her somewhere but he just can’t find it. I have traced the various branches of our tree and she just isn’t there.  My dad's DNA results confirms he did not have any Native American ancestry.  Sorry, Dad!  Of course, his response is that I obviously have no idea what I’m doing or I would have found her. Every now and then we have that discussion all over again – with the same ending. Oh well…

Admittedly, an exotic ancestor with jet black hair and wonderful cheek bones or the promise of a check coming from the various Tribal Casinos is very intriguing – yep, I could find a use for that money! But, despite all the stories about the Cherokee Indian Princess who married into the family, there are very few records to document actual Allred claims to Native American ancestry.

A great place to start Native American research is by referring to the Dawes Records. The Dawes Act was enacted on February 8, 1887.  The Dawes Act had two primary purposes. The first was to “civilize” the Native peoples. Those sympathetic to the Indians, mainly philanthropists from the East, believed that the reservation system, in which most tribes held their lands communally, was preventing the economic and cultural development of the Native peoples. By the late nineteenth century most tribal economies were in dire straits, with indigenous people living in abject poverty. The Friends of the Indians, an influential group of philanthropists and reformers in the Northeast, believed that if individual Indians were given plots of land to farm, they would flourish and become integrated into the American economy and culture as middle-class farmers. In the Report of the Secretary of the Interior of 1886, Senator Dawes said he wanted the government to:

“put [the Indian] on his own land, furnish him with a little habitation, with a plow, and a rake, and show him how to go to work to use them .... The only way [to civilize the Indian] is to lead him out into the sunshine, and tell him what the sunshine is for, and what the rain comes for, and when to put his seed in the ground.”

The second major purpose of the Dawes Act was to gain use of Native-American lands for non-Natives. The act called for breaking up large tribal landholdings to enable settlement of the West by non-Natives. The act secured only a part of the tribes’ lands for the Indians, opening the remainder to settlers.  An Act passed August 9, 1888, regulated the marriages between white men and Indian women and their rights to the land. White men were prohibited from marrying Indian women. If a white man did marry an Indian woman, he would not be entitled to any of her property. However, white men did marry Indian women and most were looked down on by both races. There is a report from one Indian Agent who stated:

“They as a rule marry the squaws for the advantages and opportunities such a relation affords and proceed to make the most of the situation. They gobble up what the Indians make, advise them to their hurt generally against Government Agencies, deal liquor to them and debauch their morals…”

One Indian Relations annual report included the following comments about a particular “well to do white man…married to a member of the owned land. This act was intended

“to prevent a self-seeking white man from marrying an Indian woman for the purpose of raising a brood of mixed-blood children, living on the reservation with their tribe, enjoying the product of their land and drawing annuities in their name.”

In the midst of all of this controversy, we find the Laban Allred family living in Carroll County, Arkansas, who in 1896, were filing applications with the Dawes Commission to be recognized as members of the Chickasaw Nation. The question is Why?

Laban Allred (1813-1903) was born in Randolph County, the son of William Allred (1765-1849) and wife Patience Julian (1772-1856). He left home as a young man and per the 1840 Federal Census, Laban was living alone in Upper Osage, Carroll County, Arkansas.  Per the 1850 Federal Census, Laban (38) had married and he and wife Sarah (20) were living in Osage Township, Carroll County, Arkansas with children Sarah Ann (5), William (3) and Polly J. (2 months). Laban listed himself as born in North Carolina, wife Sarah born in Tennessee and all three children born in Arkansas. In the “race” column, all are listed as White.

Per the 1860 Federal Census, the family is still living in Osage, Carroll County, Arkansas. Listed are Laban (47), wife Sarah (31), Sarah Ann (12), William (11), Patience J. (10), James M. (8), Caledonia (5), Amanda C. (4) and Alfred (2). Once again, in the race column all are listed as white and Sarah was listed being born in Tennessee.  Per the 1870 Federal Census, the growing family was living in Liberty Township, Carroll County, Arkansas. Laban (58), wife Sarah (41), Sarah Ann (22), Patrice J. (20), James M. (18), Caledonia (15), Amanda (13), Alfred (12), Alson G. (9), Davis (7), Laban (4) and Robert Lee (2) and all are listed as white again. Sarah was listed being born in Tennessee.

Per the 1880 Federal Census, the family was still living in Liberty, Carroll County, Arkansas. Laban (67), Sarah (52), Caledonia (26), Amanda (23), Alfred (22), Alson (19), Albin (14), Robert Lee (13) and Thomas J. (9). All listed as white and Sarah as being born in Tennessee along with her mother and father.

So – where were the Chickasaw living in the early 1800s? Was it possible that Sarah Colbert Allred was truly a Chickasaw? How and where did Laban Allred meet her?

Unfortunately, Native Americans were not included on the Federal Census Records as they were not considered citizens of the United States. There is an 1837-1839 Chickasaw Muster Roll and 1847 Chickasaw Census, microfilm in the National Archives, but I was unable to access those records for this report. So, I tried other avenues to learn more about the Chickasaw and Sarah Colbert.

Indian Agent John L. Allen wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of War on February 7, 1830, in which he described the state of the Chickasaw Nation. (National Archives M-234, Roll #136He wrote:

“I presume that the situation of the Chickasaw will be better understood, were I to give a brief, but, correct description of the Country that they have inhabited ever since they have been known to the whites as a Nation…The Chickasaw Nation is bounded as follows (to wit) on the east by Tennessee river, on the North by the State of Tennessee until the line strikes the Mississippi, thence down Said River until it strikes the Choctaw Line in the State of Mississippi for compliment, So as to include a Small portion of North Alabama.”

By this description we know that Sarah Colbert Allred could have been born in Tennessee as a member of the Chickasaw Nation. Below we find that she could have been living in Arkansas in the early 1840s where she met and married Laban Allred.

1830 was spent in negotiations between the U.S. Government and the Chickasaw Nation to move the Chickasaws west as documented in a letter written by the Chickasaw Chiefs to Treaty Commissioner on August 25, 1830. (National Archives M-234 Roll#136)

“…Our Father the President have communicated to us through you, Major Eaton & Genl. Coffee his earnest desire to make us a prosperous and happy people and to accomplish this great object that is so desirable to us he proposes to give us a country west of the Mississippi in exchange for the country we now possess in fee simple (or to use his own words) as long as the grass grows and water runs....”

Throughout 1838, smaller groups of Chickasaws traveled through Arkansas. They landed at various places, like Helena, Fort Smith and Little Rock. (Department of Arkansas Heritage)  However, when Sarah and her family applied for official membership in the Chickasaw Nation in 1896, they were rejected. Sarah, Laban and five of their children (Alfred, Alson, Caledonia, Lee and Malen) each filed an application with the Dawes Commission in 1896. Each contained similar information, but Sarah’s application contained the most details so I have included it here.

Sarah’s application, U.S. Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes, 1896, Roll 1, #182 Chickasaw, reads:

To the Honorable the Dawes Commission on Citizenship in the Five Civilized Tribes in the Indian Territory:  Your petitioner, Sally or Sarah Alred the undersigned respectfully states that She is a Chickasaw Indian by blood and asks to be enrolled as a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Indians in the Indian Territory. That she derives her said Indian blood from Pleasant Colbert, her father, who was a Chickasaw Indian by blood, and was a Sister to William, Davis and John Colbert who were Chickasaw Indians by blood.  Your petitioner states the above facts as the lawful grounds of her application for Citizenship in the Chickasaw Nation and prays that her claim may be fully investigated by your Honorable Commissioners and that she adjudged to be a citizen of said Nation of Indians and entitled to all the rights and privileges pertaining to such citizenship in accordance with the laws and treaties with said Nation of Indians. My age is 67 years, my Post Office address is Rule, Arkansas.  My family consists of the following named Persons: My husband and children as follows: 
Laben Alred, husband of age 83 years
Sarah Ann Alred Wilson, age 49
Jane Alred Hettson, 46
Malen Alred, 44
Alfred Alred, 29
Mandy Allred Reynolds, 39
Alson Alred, 35
Lee Alred, 29
Caledonia Alred, 49
Laben Alred, 30
Witness my hand this 20th day of August 1896
Sally or Sarah (her mark) Alred

Included in the application record are testimonial statements of five men who all state that they have known Sarah and/or her Colbert family for many years (some say all their life) and that they are Chickasaw and/or speak the Chickasaw language.  However, also included is a statement from C. A. Burris who states:

“I am 67 years of age, and a Chickasaw Indian by blood. I came to this country with the Chickasaw Tribe of Indians from the State of Mississippi in the year 1837 and have resided here over time. I have been a member of the House of Representatives of the Legislature of the Chickasaw Nation, also Senator, District Judge, Supreme Judge and was a Delegate to Washington…I know, by tradition that there were as full blood Chickasaw Indians by the name of Colbert, the way the same originated in the Chickasaw tribe of Indiana, was that Levi and George Colbert, two white men, married into the Chickasaw tribe in the State of Mississippi, from them descended all the Chickasaw by the name of Colbert. I was and have been for many years, well acquainted with all their descendants, except the younger members of the family, born in very recent years…I never heard of any Colbert who belonged to the Chickasaw by the name of Pleasant Colbert nor by the name of Davis Colbert nor his sister Sallie Colbert who claims to have married a man by the name of Alred.”

Based on this testimony, all of the applications filed by Laban Allred, his wife Sarah Colbert Allred and their children were rejected.

Per the 1900 Federal Census for Liberty, Carroll County, Arkansas, Laban (87), Sarah (71) and daughter Caledonia (46) were still listed as white. None of the members of this family were found on the 1898 Dawes Index or in any other databases for Native Americans that I accessed. It looks as though that one attempt in 1896 which was rejected was the only attempt made to be recognized as official members of the Chickasaw Nation.

Why they tried remains a mystery. Was it a sincere quest because Sarah was truly Chickasaw by blood? When the 1896 Dawes Applications were declared invalid, the Dawes Commission started taking applications all over again in 1898.  However, the Allred family was not listed on the official 1898 Roll. Why didn’t they try again in 1898? Was this family simply hoping to benefit by owning land and receiving benefits provided to the Chickasaw – and once rejected, decided not to try again? We may never know, but it does make a very interesting story