“This place was not called Talihina at this time but was known as Kiamichi Valley; however, it is the same ground where Talihina is today.”
-Annie Folsom, 1938
To celebrate the unique Choctaw history of this area, we are covering some of the many special interviews that were given in the 1930s. This collection is known as the “Indian Pioneer Papers,” they not only interviewed blood citizens and freedmen, they also interviewed those who intermarried into the tribe.
One such person is Annie (sometimes known as Anna) Folsom.
Annie was born in 1859 three miles east of the Indian Council House located in Talihina, though at this point in time “Talihina” did not yet exist. Annie says that it was simply known as the “Kiamichi Valley” but it was the land that the town would later be built on. They would live here for sixteen years in their home–a hewed pine log house with a stone chimney.
Her mother was a white woman named Mary who was buried in Missouri. Her father, however, is a mystery. In her Pioneer Paper interview she names William Mackey as her father. It appears that William lived with their family for Annie’s entire childhood and was buried in Webbers Falls. However, in her Dawes interview, she states that her father was named Verney Mackey and that he left their family when she was only two and died in Texas. This, of course, could mean a few things: she may have misspoken or misremembered, or “William” may have been a step-father/male relative.
Regardless, in her recounting of her childhood, William remained a distinctive father figure. Annie talks about how her father worked to support their family. He was not much of a farmer but he did raise the basics–corn, beans, and cabbage. He spent most of his time hunting for the family. There were bounties on coyotes and wolves during the period; he would receive approximately $5.00 for each coyote or wolf he killed. He also hunted deer and wild turkeys. Like many fathers of the time, William would make the trip to Fort Smith for supplies such as sugar, flour, and ammunition. Annie talks about how it was common for the men of the neighborhood to travel in groups on the ten to fourteen day trip to Fort Smith together.
Their life was simple. All their furniture was handmade. They had no livestock aside from three or four ponies. Her grandmother, Ora Mackey, owned a loom and did all their weaving. It appears that they also colored their own clothes as Annie talks extensively about the old ways of making dyes. Her family, like the Choctaws of the area, used sumac for yellow, maple for purple, post oak for brown, wild turkey roots for pink, and ash bark for light red. They also used ash bark to make tea to treat “chills.”
Ash bark was not the only Choctaw remedy she was familiar with. Annie recalls Frank Colbert, a full blood Choctaw that they knew as a “Medicine Man” living in Atoka who traveled across the Nation practicing herbal medicine. Additionally, she also attended many of what she calls “Choctaw Medicine Dances.” This referred to traditional dances that were performed for the sick where patients would lay on the ground on deer skins as those who were able would dance around a pot of medicine made from herbs. Each patient would drink half a cup of this medicine from a gourd cup.
She narrates: “These dances were for the sick and were not called Pashofa Dances as has been claimed by some. A Pashofa Dance was a merry-making dance and not for the sick.”
This was not the only time she mentions Pashofa, as she details three Choctaw foods that were commonly in her diet: “Our principal Indian foods were called Tonsy, Tom Fuller and Pashofa. Tonsy is a mixed dish of beans, corn, tomatoes, and potatoes. We always raised good gardens. Most all the farming done was in what we called Tom Fuller patches. Planting was all done in hills. The beans were planted in small circles with willow sticks for them to run on.”
After Annie turned twelve or fourteen, she was enrolled in the Missionary Baptist school in Atoka, where she says that biracial children were not always allowed to attend. Her parents still lived in the Taihina area, so Annie had to stay with her aunt, Liza Ferbis in Atoka. At that time, Talihina had no school that she could attend. The school was located east of Atoka in a small log cabin with puncheon floors and windows; this was a common Choctaw building style. The students were given a McGuffy Reader, Blue Back Speller, and Ray’s Arithmetic. Annie describes the education as being “limited” and she only attended for two years before returning home.
During her time in the Talihina area she would attend church in the Choctaw Council House where a missionary baptist preacher named Rev Walter Rain would attend once a month. The Council House was a three room hewn oak log house when she attended church, but later they would add additional rooms.
During her childhood, Annie would attend large fish fries hosted at the Kiamichi River where the only other dish served was corn bread. According to Annie: “The Choctaw Indians would catch these fish by putting shoe string weed in sacks, and getting into canoes they could drag this sack along the banks of the river. This would make the fish drunk and then they came to the top of the water, it was easy to catch them by hand and in this way the small fish were not destroyed. The Indians fried the fish in big wash pots and used a forked hickory stick to turn the fish with.”
More than fish fries, she also recounts a ferry she used to ride across the Kiamichi River, operated by a man named Mr. Fields. The Choctaws named it the “Squirrelfield Ferry.” Annie remembers that they would also cross the river using canoes or flat boats operated by white men.
As you can see from her experiences, Annie (though by all accounts a fully white woman) was practicing Choctaw traditions long before she married into the tribe. This shows how intrinsic the Choctaw people are to the heritage and history of this area even to those who do not belong to the tribe.
On the 5th of April in 1902, Annie married Choctaw full-blood Simpson W. T. Fulsom on George R. Choate’s property, three miles from Indianola.
Annie’s original Dawes card was denied as she had filed as an “IW” (or “Intermarried White”) separately from her husband, but her name was eventually transferred to her his card. In the required testimony Simpson gave to the Dawes Commission when adding his wife to the rolls, he confirmed their marriage date under Choctaw law. He also confirms that his father was Judge Rufus Folsom and that he could not remember his mother’s name as he was too young when she died. He also left her name blank on his Dawes Card.
Annie and Simpson lived together for well over a decade. According to the first census done after the marriage, they lived together on a farm Simpson owned in Bucklucksy, likely on the land allotment given to him by the Nation, as many Choctaw families did at the time. However, by 1914 it appears that they were living in a “restaurant” on East Grand Avenue in McAlester and in 1916 they had moved to South Elm street, also in McAlester.
Two years later, Simpson had a WW1 draft card filed in his name. It is unclear if he was actually called upon to fight as his draft card stated that he was very sick and was suffering from a growth on his neck. However, there is record of a Simpson W. Folsom, from Coalgate, which is only 40 miles away from McAlester, who served in the war. If this is the correct, Simpson Folsom then he served in Company “A” of the 58th Regiment under the 4th Infantry Division until July 24, 1919 when he departed from Brest, France on the USS Mount Vernon.
It is unclear what happened to Simpson after his draft card or his possible deployment as he does not make an appearance in any future census records and his grave location is not known. It appears that he may have passed away shortly after the war.
Annie remarried a man named J.D. Fincher on July 31, 1922. It is unclear what happened to Annie Folsom after she married. What is known that she survived until 1938 when she gave this interview, she would have been 79 years old.
“Record in the Matter of the Application for the Enrollment as a Citizen by Intermarriage of the Choctaw Nation of Annie Folsom, 7-D-711”; U.S., Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914
Oklahoma and Indian Territory, U.S., Dawes Census Cards for Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 for Simpson Folsom Field No. 4688
Interview with Mrs. Anna E. Folsom; Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries Western History Collections