MEMORIES

2003 Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride
1963 MG1100 Hunting

2003 Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride

WHY

        About 7 years ago, I reluctantly sold my Norton.  Jerri felt I was just too old to ride; so I gave in.  However, as it rolled out of sight, I immediately regretted parting with it.  So, I began looking for another...& looking & looking.  About the time I was ready to give up on finding another, eBay once again helped out.  Right up the road in Tennessee was the bike I was looking for.  So, a quick phone call and I was on the road to bring it home.  About the same time, I also ran across a program booklet from the 2002 Trail of Tears Ride and knew it was something I had to do.

        You see, my maternal grandmother who raised me was half Choctaw Indian, a heritage of which she was justly proud.        

        A brief synopsis of Choctaw Indian history during the Trail of Tears period can be found at http://mshistory.k12.ms.us/features/feature34/choctaw.html.  Below is an excerpt from that site:

"As the United States of America came into being, however, the expansion of the new nation brought pressures for more land and the federal government turned its attention to land held by American Indians. Like other Southeastern tribes, the Choctaws were placed in the position of negotiating over their lands. In fact, after the formation of the Mississippi Territory in 1798 and the election in 1800 of Thomas Jefferson to the U. S. presidency, the federal government had an increasing hunger for Choctaw land. President Jefferson issued his military strategy that the federal government acquire all the lands bordering the east side of the Mississippi River for purpose of defense against France, Spain, and England.

"Shortly thereafter, in 1801, the Treaty of Fort Adams was signed in which the Choctaws ceded to the United States 2,641,920 acres of land from the Yazoo River to the thirty-first parallel. That was the first in a series of treaties between the Choctaws and the United States. More and more Choctaw land was ceded to the federal government with each successive treaty between 1801 and 1830, the Choctaw ceded more than 23 million acres to the United States. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 marked the final cession of lands and outlined the terms of Choctaw removal to the west. Indeed, the Choctaw Nation was the first American Indian tribe to be removed by the federal government from its ancestral home to land set aside for them in what is now Oklahoma.

"When the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, there were over 19,000 Choctaws in Mississippi. From 1831 to 1833, approximately 13,000 Choctaws were removed to the west. More followed over the years. Those who chose to stay in Mississippi are the ancestors of today's Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

"The ancestors decision to remain in Mississippi came at a high cost. The Choctaws who stayed did so because of the promise of land as outlined in Article 14 of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. To remain, Choctaw families or individuals were required to register with the Indian agent within six months after signing of the treaty or be forever barred from registering under Article 14. Each adult who registered was entitled to 640 acres of land; each child over ten who was living with a family was entitled to receive 320 acres, and each child under ten living with a family, 160 acres. Although the Choctaw families who managed to register and be allotted land by the illusive and antagonistic Indian agent, William Ward, many had to sell their property to survive. Consequently, most of the remaining Choctaws were removed to Indian Territory. Others fell prey to unscrupulous business practices and were cheated out of their property."

       TONY's FOOTNOTE:  Despite the entitlements of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek only about 1,300 of the Choctaws who stayed  in Mississippi were actually given the parcels of land guaranteed by the treaty.  By 1850, virtually none of the Choctaw who had been given land in Mississippi still retained it.  They had been systematically swindled out of or simply forced off the land by unscrupulous white settlers.  Many of them then went to Oklahoma because they had no place else to go, but many still stayed on, unwilling to leave their homeland.  The ones who stayed eked out a meager existence throughout the rest of the nineteenth century by living off the land and by becoming tenant farmers and sharecroppers on land that had once been theirs.

MY FAMILY STORY

          I never knew any of my Indian relatives as my maternal great-grandmother, a full-bloodied Choctaw Indian, died during childbirth in 1903 when my grandmother was 7 years old.  And her parents - my great-great-grandparents - were killed when my she was still an infant.  However, the story of my Indian relatives - handed down to me from my grandmother - is a story that deserves to be told.  Join me, now, as we relive those days of old:

        Around 1878, when my great-grandmother was just an infant, her parents joined a group of Indians who left the reservation in Oklahoma, Indian Territory and returned to the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi. Most probably my relatives were not part of the original Trail of Tears removal from Mississippi to Oklahoma; but, had, instead, remained behind in Mississippi and were removed to the Indian Territory in one of the later movements when things became intolerable for Indians there (see my footnote above).  For whatever reason, however, life in Mississippi no matter how bad was preferred over life on the reservation in Oklahoma.  

        Further proof, I think, that my grandmother's relatives were removed to the Indian territory in Oklahoma is that, during her life, she never had any interaction with the Choctaw on the Mississippi reservation.  The Choctaw in Oklahoma and the Choctaw in Mississippi consider themselves 2 different nations.  Therefore, a lack of interaction says she either considered herself to be white or she wished no interaction because she didn't considered herself a part of the Mississippi Choctaw culture, holding instead to the Oklahoma heritage.

        After a long and arduous journey on foot from Oklahoma, my great-great-grandparents were only a short distance from their ancestral home on the banks of the Nanawaya River in Winston County not far from Nanih Waiya, the 'Mother Mound' (Inholitopa iski), when they were brutally attacked and massacred.  Nobody knows who the killers were but everybody speculated it was either white men who didn't want Indians returning from the Indian Territory to reclaim their land or soldiers who had pursued the party from Oklahoma.  

        Most probably, local whites committed the atrocity as its doubtful the Army would pursue a small band of renegade Indians so far.  Plus, Choctaws who had remained behind in Mississippi if they swore allegiance to the United States were attacked daily by whites who wanted the land they were given under the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.  Thus, this particular massacre wasn't anything out of the ordinary during Mississippi's era of White planter capitalism (called the "flush times" in Mississippi's early history).

        Today, who committed the atrocity is irrelevant.  What's relevant is that everyone in the party was murdered save my great-grandmother who was hidden in her pouch under her mother's body.  More importantly, within a short time after the massacre, some white people -  a family named Williams -  came along and heard the baby crying.  They rescued her, named her Kate, and took here home to Attala County where they raised her as their own.  

        In 1896, when Kate was around 17 or 18 years old, she married John Ray the son of Leonard (aka 'Lenard') Lafayette Ray of the Doty Springs area of Attala County.  Her marriage certificate, the only proof she ever lived other than her daughter and her grave, is registered in Kosciusko, Attala County, Mississippi  That interracial marriage did not sit well with the Rays' - pious, churchgoing people who had been instrumental in the establishment of Doty Springs Baptist Church where members of the family have served as deacon, elder, and minister since 1851.  So, John and his new wife along with his father and family moved to Sturgis where my grandmother - Daisy Pearl Ray - was born in 1897.  

        Seven years after her daughter's birth, in 1903, my great-grandmother, Kate - the Indian, died shortly after the birth of her son, Samuel, who also perished with her.  It was a hard time to give birth.  Medicine was not as advanced as we know it today, the area around Sturgis was more rural and isolated now, and there was a yellow fever epidemic sweeping the area. Most probably, her weakened state after the delivery allowed the epidemic to take her and her newborn son's lives as my grandmother often spoke of the epidemic that claimed their lives. Kate and her son are both buried in the Presbyterian cemetery in Sturgis.

        We don't know where her parents or any of the other Indian members in the group who were massacred are buried. We're not really certain of the exact location of the massacre, just that it happened.  

        After her mother's death, my grandmother grew up in the Sturgis area, raised by an aunt and uncle, the brother of her father, who remained sympathetic with my great-grandparents.  Eventually, in 1913, she married my grandfather - Joe Greer White - who was part Indian on his mother Malissa Jane Hammill's side and Scottish on his father John Baxter White's side.

        So, my Trail of Tears ride - while part of the larger commemoration and remembrance of the thousands of Indians removed from Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and other states -  was privately dedicated to my grandmother and her parents.  Wherever she is, I'm sure she enjoyed the day.

 


1963 MG1100 Hunting:

        In 1983, while still in the Army, I was assigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Driving my MGB through the wheat fields one weekend during "top down" weather, I spotted a little 1963 MG1100 2-door sedan sitting on the edge of a sea of wheat. Stopping at the nearest house to inquire got me a curt "not for sale." Within a year, I was transferred to Alaska and thoughts of the little 1100 vanished.

        Three years later, I was back in Kansas. My first weekend outing was to check on the 1100..."I told you several years ago it wasn't for sale and it still isn't." But, I decided to persevere. Whenever I took a drive in my "B," I made a point of stopping by to say "hello" and visit for a while, never asking about the 1100.

        Then, one day in 1990, the old farmer told me that if I could get the car out of his field that day, it was mine!! Jumping for joy, I scurried off to get my truck and trailer. Returning, the old guy told me the car had been sitting in that spot since 1968 when he got disgusted with it. Seems he had bought it new in 1963, had a record of everything done to the car (to include every 25-cent gallon of gas ever put into it!!) and the dealer in Kansas City couldn't get it to run exactly right so he just parked it.

        We hooked a chain to the little car and pulled the rubber tires off the rims and left them glued to the wheat field as we rolled the car to my trailer. Uh-oh, wouldn't go on trailer without tires...hydrolastic suspension was down. Have you ever tried to buy 12" tires in Kansas on a Saturday afternoon?

        Sears finally saved me with 4 whitewall 12"-ers. Mounted on the wheels (that took hours to get off the car), we rolled it onto my trailer just as the sun went down over the waves of grain. Then the old guy surprised me with a stash of parts and stuff that made me want to cry!

        The first thing that came out was a dealer's fiberglass and plexi-glass hood ("thing was on the car in the showroom and I told Joe Engle I wouldn't buy the car without the damned thing!") in great shape painted to match the body! 

        Next came an original orange three-ring binder shop manual! 

        The one the dealers used. Then came 4 original hubcaps (with MG octagon), a couple of extra engines, carburetors, intakes, and last...a complete body tub--rusty floor and all!! ("Never got around to replacing the bent grille or straightening the bumper after my wife hit a tractor. Throw this thing away for me after you get the parts you need.")

        The first thing we did was purge and re-pressurize the suspension; and have never done anything to it since!

        The next thing we did was pull the head, reset the timing (30-degrees off), build the carburetors (yep, twin babies!!), fire her up and run around the block without brakes...who cared, she ran just like she was new. And, the engine is still the strange light green color as shiny as when new!!

        New brakes and exhaust ensured the neighbors wouldn't be too angry having it in my driveway. And, my daughter named it the "Beaver Cleaver car." 

        Unfortunately, all those years in the Kansas sun had cooked the interior. So, the little "Beaver Cleaver car" went into storage until 1995 when we stripped her and applied a new coat of British Leyland factory original lacquer paint. Then it sat in my garage 1998 when we pulled her out, buffed her new paint to a high sheen and reassembled the body.

        The speedometer was sent off for a rebuild with strict instructions not to turn the odometer back (car has less than 64,000 original miles!!), the dash sent to be re-laminated with burled walnut, and the interior completely replaced.

        During the time the car sat in storage, I was able to come up with every piece of rubber I needed to replace everything except for the rear window and the two quarter window rubber.

        Finally, (and for 4 months), the car was in the upholstery shop having everything rebuilt to original specifications. When it came out, I drove it around the block, took it to a car show in Florence, Alabama, and parked it in the garage under a cover....after all, it saw too many Kansas summers sitting in the wheat field watching cereal grow.

 

 

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