Bryan County Genealogy Library

“I am 86 or 87 years old. I belonged to Reason Jones. He was a Choctaw. I have been living in the Territory ever since I was turned loose. I am married. My wife’s name is Violet Vinson. She belonged to Polly Hampton, a Choctaw, and she has been living with me in the Territory all the time. I have two grandchildren at home. I have one son, Johnson Vinson, living with me. My grandchildren’s father was Albert Vinson and their mother was a state woman. They were married. I know it. They lived together as man and wife.”

That was the statement of Martin Vinson when he appeared before the Dawes Commission on behalf of his family, at Caddo, I.T., in August of 1899. His grandchildren Bennie (11) and Willie (10) were eventually enrolled as freedmen once it was proven that their parents, Albert Vinson (deceased) and Ester Hillard, had been married in September of 1889. (Ester was a freed slave from the “states”, not one of the tribes.)

Martin (90) and his wife Violet (58) are listed on the 1900 census in Township 6, Choctaw Nation. The record shows that they had been married 35 years and of the eight children born to Violet, only three were living. Unfortunately, Martin died in February of 1901 and in the next census Violet is a widow, working as a “washerwoman”. Her story might have ended there if she hadn’t been affectionately known as “Aunt Violet” by a prominent Bryan County family.

Guy A. Crossett, editor of the Caddo Herald, interviewed Violet Vinson in 1928 when she celebrated her 90th birthday. He states “I saw Aunt Violet yesterday. She nursed my wife when a baby, a black mammy to be trusted and loved as a faithful servant.” (Guy’s wife, Daisy Baxter, was born in 1888.)

In the article Mr. Crossett reported that “slavery and drudgery has been her part in life” and he made several observations about the “constant labor” required of all the women in the tribes to “make a living”. He wrote that Violet had deep wrinkles and few teeth, but could still walk without crutches and had helped with the cotton crop that year. When the allotments were granted after the Curtis Act, most of the freedmen of the area received 40 acres in a settlement known as Double Springs, nine miles southeast of Caddo.

Violet never learned to read or write. All of the documents required of her by the Dawes commission were signed with her “mark” and witnessed. However, her children and grandchildren were educated and Mr. Crossett commented that “from her family have come ministers and teachers”. In 1934 her son, Johnson Vinson, helped organize the Bryan County Negroes Democratic Club and was elected their president.

Violet lived with Johnson in 1940. She was 105. Her son, listed as a widower, was 61. No obituary has been located for her at this time, but it is doubtful that she lived much beyond that age.

Mr. Crossett shows his obvious respect for Violet in his closing statement, though it still reflects the prejudice of the time:

“Any of the Vinson family is always welcome in white homes, but they go to the back door; the men take off their hats when they speak to a white man. A relic of another, of a colonial age, when knighthood was in flower, when chivalry was something more than a word; these negroes have played their part in that distant civilization- yet (are) honored and respected in the new.”

Bennie and Agnes Vinson are buried in the Double Springs Cemetery. Perhaps Martin and Violet are there in unmarked graves.

Bryan County History is a weekly feature contributed by members of the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives in Calera. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group. Is there a historic event or topic you want to read about? Contact the library at P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730.