Old Photos led us on a path to Choctaw Family

10 Feb

A few years ago, my other half (Kelly, received a call from her father.  His brother had informed him that he was getting ready to have their mother’s old house (Kelly’s grandmother) demolished.  He grandmother was Anna Vivian Horr; whose husband was Kinsey Lee Stewart.  Kelly’s grandfather, Kinsey was born 1905, in Texas.  He died in Delaware Co., IN in 1979.  Vivian was born in Delaware Co., IN in 1910.  She died in Delaware Co., IN in 1996.

When Grandma Anna died, her oldest son, John was living in the house with her.  He remained in the house until he died several years ago.  The house had been sitting empty; and was getting run down by the time John passed on.

Before having the house torn down, Kelly’s uncle, Arthur called Kelly’s father, Edwin, and told him to contact Kelly and her sister to let them know the house was going to be torn down; and to give them the opportunity to go through the house to see if there was anything left in the house that either of them might want.  Long story short, I found a very old suitcase in a small bedroom closet.  The old suitcase was nearly rotted.  In fact; when I grabbed the handle to lift the suitcase, the handle broke off of the suitcase.  After I finally removed the suitcase from the closet; I laid it out on the old bed in the room; and opened it up.  To our astonishment; this old suitcase was nearly full of old photographs and documents!  What a treasure we had found.

It took many days to go through all of the old photos in the suitcase; and longer to identify many of the folks in those old pictures.  However; when we were done, we had found many great pictures, which included some of Kelly’s great and great-great grandparents.  Among them, we found pictures of Stella Lorena Butler; who was the mother of Kinsey Stewart.  Stella was born 14 Jan. 1877, in LaSalle Co., TX.  She died in Delaware Co., IN in 1960.  We also found pictures of Stella’s mother; who was Stella Virginia Plummer.

The Plummer line had grabbed our attention; so I began doing some real digging into this family.  Stella Virginia Plummer was born 11 Mar., 1857 in Arkansas.  She married John H. Butler about 1874, in Texas.  Census and other records led me to Stella’s father; who was Joseph R. Plummer.  Joseph was born 1 June 1833 in Mississippi; although I did not know exactly where in Mississippi that he was born, at that time.

At some point, I had found a couple of Stella Virginia’s siblings in Olkahoma; sometime around 1900.  I don’t recall now, what it was; but, something I had found had given me the indication that they were of Native American blood.  I decided then that I should search the Dawes Applications.

A Little About the Dawes Applications

In 1893, the United States Congress established a Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes
(commonly called the Dawes Commission) to exchange Indian tribal lands in the Southeastern
United States for individual land allotments to members of the Indian tribes. More than 250,000
people applied to the commission for enrollment and land, but only a little over 100,000 were

Those claiming American Indian blood went through an application process in an attempt to receive their fair share of land from the Government.  These applications are full of information; and often offer many details about the ancestors of those who applied.

Back to Joseph R. Plummer

Joseph’s wife, Mary S. Plummer; made application in 1902.  “A few” of the questions and answers on her application were as follows:

Q. What is your name?  A. Mary S. Plummer.

Q.  How old are you?  A. Sixty-five.

Q. What is the name of your Choctaw Husband through who you claim these rights?  A. Joseph R. Plummer.

Q. When and where were you married to Joseph R. Plummer?  A. ’54, 10th of October, ’54.

Finding a Dawes application on one of our ancestors; almost always leads to applications made by other family members.  In a Dawes application made by Susan Burton, Kelly’s GGG Grandfather gave a deposition which provided a ton of family history; and tells of his childhood.  Some of the questions and answers in his application were as follows:

Q.  Do you make any claim to Choctaw blood?  A. Yes Sir, I am a citizen of the Choctaw Nation.

Q.  From whom do you derive Choctaw blood?  A. Susanna Graham my grandmother.

Q.  Are you the son of a daughter or a son of Susanna Graham?  A. A daughter.

Q.  What was your mother’s name?  A.  Annie V. Stewart.

Q.  Was Susanna Graham, your grandmother, married twice?  A.  Yes Sir.

Q.  What was her first married name?  A.  Stewart.

Q.  What was her husband’s name?  A. Stewart.  She married my grandfather Stewart.

Q.  What was his given name?  A.  I don’t recollect.

Q.  Who did she marry the second time?  A. A white man by the name of Graham.

Q.  Where were you born, Mr. Plummer?  A.  Holmes County, Mississippi.

Q.  Did you know your grandmother Susanna Graham?  A. Yes Sir.

Q.  Where did you know her?  A.  Why she reared me from my childhood in Mississippi.

Q.  How long did you live with your grandmother?  A.  Why she reared me from my infancy.  She died in 1850.

Q.  Were you living with her at the time of her death?  A. Yes Sir.

Q.  Were you acquainted with all of Susanna Graham’s children?  A. Yes Sir.

Among other things, Joseph goes on to name each of Susanna’s children; including his mother, Annie V. Stewart.  He also names his father; who was also Joseph R. Plummer.  He tells that he knew all of the children of his grandmother; except for his mother, Annie; who died when he was an infant.  Joseph also states that he was born in 1833; and that his grandmother took charge of him when he was 2 months old.

I another application made by one of Joseph’s son; more is learned.  He states that his father’s (Joseph’s) mother was Annie V. Lewellyn.  Lewelly was the name of her first husband; before having married Joseph R. Plummer, Sr.  Frank also tells that his grandmother, Annie V., was half Choctaw.

Frank’s father, Joseph R. Plummer (Kelly’s GGG grandfather), also gave a deposition in the case of his son, Frank Plummer.  In it, he states that his father, Joseph R. Plummer (I’ll refer to him as “Sr.”) was a white man; and that his mother, Annie V. Stewart was a Choctaw.  He refers to his father as a “Yankee, born in Massachusetts.”   We also learn in his deposition that his grandmother, Susanna, was full blood Choctaw; and her maiden name was Brashears.

Joseph continues to answer many questions in his deposition on behalf of his son, Frank.  He tells us that his grandmother, Susanna, died on the 5th day of May 1850, and was about 60-65 years of age.  Thus we learn that Susanna was born about 1775.  When asked if his grandmother spoke the Choctaw language; Joseph answers by saying “Very well; spoke the Choctaw language as well as she spoke the English Language.”.  He goes on to describe his grandmother as having black eyes and straight black hair.

In further questioning about how he knew that these (Susanna and Annie V.) are the same persons as his relatives and ancestors; Joseph answers the with the following:

“Why grandmother raised me from an infant and taught me things about my mother and father and I grew up under that for seventeen years; I was seventeen years of age when she died in 1850 lacking a few days of it, and she taught me all the good I know — reared me from my child hood — and that she was my grandmother, and that my mother died when I was an infant, two months old — Ann V. Lewellyn.”

All of which I have written about today, reflects only a tiny portion of all of the things that we learned about Kelly’s Choctaw ancestors.  Not only did we learn all of this new information; such as Joseph’s parent’s names; and his grandmother’s name.  But; we also learned much about the family.  We learned that Joseph was raised by his grandmother; and did not know his mother at all; she having died when he was but 2 months old.  Joseph seemed to have been very proud of his ancestors; having stated that his grandmother “taught me all the good I know”.  Although not written about here; we had also learned of all of Joseph’s mother’s siblings; and their spouses; many of whom also had applied under the Dawes applications.

Indeed; those old photos took us on a journey that we will never forget.  A journey that led us to Kelly’s full blooded Choctaw, 5th Great Grandmother; Susanna Brashears.


Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Native American


8 responses to “Old Photos led us on a path to Choctaw Family

  1. wanda ware cobbs

    February 10, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    What a treasure trove of family! Have really enjoyed your blog entries

    • digginbones

      February 10, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      Glad you have been enjoying the blog entries. In all honesty, I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all of the great details and information that I found in those Dawes applications. There were several members of the family who made application; and Joseph gave deposition in several of them. Of course we also obtained tons of information about Joseph’s other children and relatives in those applications. The Dawes packet of one of those family members was over 150 pages! I have spent hours reading them.

  2. Kelly

    February 11, 2012 at 5:38 am

    What a find it was too (the suitcase full of photos, as this is my hobby anyway). I was very happy that I had asked Rex to go along with me. The really truly amazing thing was that on our way to Muncie to my grandmothers house I said silently ” Grandma if you can hear me let me find something that I will treasure”. I was in the state of Wisconsin when my grandma passed on in Sept. of 1996 and I was not able to get back home for her funeral. So this really meant a lot to me. Then Rex finding out my Native heritage was pretty awesome too considering my love for the Native American pow-wow’s that I have attended since I was 2 years old. He printed out the Dawes application and put it together with a comb binder and made a book out of it for me. And to think if we hadn’t had the chance to go through her house the photos would have been gone as the house was going to be torn down. So thanks to Rex I have some more to add to my photo collection and to my genealogy. Kelly

  3. S Todd

    August 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Hi Kelly and Rex!
    I stumbled across your blog last night while digging for information on my ancestors. I am thrilled beyond belief to find this. I too am related to Joseph and Mary Plummer (and of course Joseph’s father and mother, Joseph and Annie V Stewart). My Grandfather Raymond was the 7th child of Joseph and Mary. His second born was my mother’s father, my grandfather. I too have copies of sworn testamonies to the Dawes Commission and am fascinated by it all. I’m fairly new to the researching end and each discovery brings my ancestors more alive to me. I have also met fellow relatives I didn’t know I had and am elated with my findings. I would love to communicate with you on our mutual ancestors and treasures! I hope to hear from you!

    • digginbones

      August 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      Those Dawes applications were a true gold mine of information on this family; which helped take us back a couple of more generations. If I have it correct; your grandfather was Frank E. Plummer. I have not done any research on the family since those discoveries. Since I research professionally; I have been too busy researching for clients. However; you may certainly feel free to contact me direct at You will need to replace the “at” with the proper symbol. Did that to try to keep the robots from harvesting my email address from here.

  4. Janie

    September 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    I have been researching the J.R. Plummer family for about 18 years and my mother started before that. I would be happy to share. Love the Dawes Packet interviews for all the good info. My favorite so far was the application for Minnie Plummer (4th wife of Walter George Plummer) where when asked how he lost his last wife, he replies,
    “Well, sir, she just got on the train and left and I told her goodbye and she told me to go to hell.”

    • digginbones

      September 9, 2012 at 1:47 am

      Hello Janie. Nice to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me direct at rexatdigginbonesdotcom (replace the “at” and the “dot”with the necessary symbol. I did that to avoid the spam bots harvesting my email address).

      • S Todd

        September 9, 2012 at 2:20 am

        Yes, Walter seems like he was a wonderfully colorful character!


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