When I get stuck in research, stuck on a problem that doesn’t feel as if I will ever solve it, I will put it aside until I can come up with another path of attack. That is what happened with Chief Benjamin “Ben” Marshall, my fourth great-grandfather. His life is such a puzzle to me. I will find bits and pieces of information that relates to him but doesn’t entirely tell his story. It never does.
However, I was researching different terms recently and came upon testimony of a young woman by the name of Elizabeth Benton. She was applying for citizenship in the Chickasaw Nation. I started reviewing the testimony of her witnesses and came across one page that suddenly cleared up a lot of confusing information for me.
When I was originally researching the citizenship application for Richard Adkins, a witness said Ben Marshall had a daughter by the name of Louisa Martha. There was a lot of information that was not clear in that testimony and thus I had dismissed it.
Now, after reviewing the testimony for Elizabeth Benton, it appears that her mother was Martha Marshall, daughter of Ben Marshall.
When Richard Adkins was interviewed in 1938 for the Pioneer records in Oklahoma, he mentioned that he had escaped during the Civil War with his Grandfather, his mother and an aunt. I think it was Martha Marshall to whom he was referring.
However, Elizabeth Benton gives little information regarding her mother. She was married to Theodore Benton and living in the Chickasaw Nation. She was claiming Indian heritage for herself and her four children. Her children were Isabella Neal, Isaac Benton, Eliza Benton and Verna Benton. Isabella Neal was the child of a different husband. When you read Elizabeth’s testimony she says that Isabella’s father left her and never returned. However, there is also testimony from the ex-spouse saying she told him to leave and refused to allow him to return to the marriage. That made me laugh. Always two sides to the story, even in the late 1800’s.
Back to the story at hand, Elizabeth says that her father was Charles H. Strickland and that her mother was Martha Marshall. There is a second person who also applied for their rights through the Chickasaw Nation and her name was Josephine Belvin. Josephine and Elizabeth were sisters. Josephine was married to Charles A. Belvin and they were also claiming Chickasaw heritage for their children, Elizabeth, Arabella, Rosa Ellen, James Charley and William Guy Belvin.
Charles H. Strickland was a well-known recognized member of the Chickasaw tribe by blood and also held the office of Sheriff of Pontotoc County.
The only objection of the Commission, in enrolling Josephine Belvin and her family, is that they should be enrolled with the tribe of their mother and that these applicants should instead be enrolled as Creeks and claim their allotments in that nation. The records show that Josephine’s mother came from the Creek Nation before her marriage to Charles Strickland and that Martha Marshall’s mother, the grandmother of Josephine Belvin, was a Choctaw who went from the Choctaw Nation to the Creek country.
Wow, so that information kinda blew me away. So, Martha Marshall’s mother, one of Benjamin Marshall’s wives, was a Choctaw native. I had assumed that his wife was a Creek. Then, I had also read that she could have been a Euchee Indian. Now, we see that she is a Choctaw. Curious how many wives he had.
The Commission was not bound to follow the old tribal custom of the mother rule except in cases where the reason for the rule demands it. That rule grew out of the idea that due to the indiscriminate sexual relations that prevailed in the early history of the tribes, the identity of a child’s father may often be in doubt while there can be no doubt as to that of the mother.
I can see how that rule came to be and they weren’t kidding when they talked about the indiscriminate sexual relations that prevailed!
Also, testimony given by a Reuben Carney said that he lived in Stonewall, I.T., that he knew Martha Marshall well and while he didn’t know what tribe she came from, Charlie Strickland told him she was a Creek.
There is also testimony from Martin B. Cheadle. He stated that he lived about 10 miles from Tishomingo, Indian Territory (The same place Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert currently live and where Miranda Lambert has a club, The Pink Pistol) and that he knew Charlie Strickland, who was a first cousin to Mr. Cheadle. He knew Martha Marshall and that it was understood she was a Creek. Martha Marshall’s father, Benjamin Marshall was buried on the place where Mr. Cheadle was currently living. He said he had never had a conversation with her about but that it was very well known that they were Creeks and that they had been refugees after the war.
Now, that was a great piece of information. If only the courts actually took things like names and addresses, I would have information that we have been searching for the last couple of years. But, alas and good grief, why would they do something like that?
Josephine herself testifies that she lives at Paul’s Valley and has lived her entire life in the Chickasaw Nation. Her mother was Martha Marshall. She always heard her father say that her mother was part Chickasaw and part Creek. She does not know who her mother’s mother was. Her father was Chickasaw and her mother was part Chickasaw. Martha Marshall died after she was separated from Charles Strickland.
A witness by the name of T.C. Walker says that he knew Martha Marshall intimately and that she came from the Creek Nation.
Josephine’s direct testimony was that she did not know any of her mother’s family. She said her parents were married in the Chickasaw Nation and that Mr. Walker was present at their wedding. She believes she was about 4 years old when her mother died.
Now, she was born in 1875 so it seems that Martha Marshall died in approximately 1879-1880.
On February 25, 1903, the Blevin family was granted enrollment as citizens of the Chickasaw Nation.
This leads us back to Charles Strickland. Charles H. Strickland was born on April 8, 1837, and fought in the Civil War with the First Chickasaw Mounted Rifles. Charley Strickland was a crazy man.
Charles became the first Sheriff in Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory. As you can see, the story goes that on March 19, 1895 Charles Strickland was riding in a buggy with a friend by the name of Bill Lewis near Byrd’s Mill. Allegedly, Charles raised his Winchester rifle near Lewis’ face. Lewis was able to knock away the rifle and told Strickland not to do it again. Strickland pointed the rifle at him a second time and Bill Lewis pulled out a revolver and shot Charles Strickland dead. Then Bill Lewis took Charles’ body and tossed it over the fence at Elizabeth Benton’s home. Charles Strickland was buried in Stonewall, Indian Territory.
So, while Josephine Belvin and Elizabeth Benton did not know their mother, nor their mother’s family, we still pick up a few clues about the Marshall clan. Here are the children that I’ve found thus far:
Benjamin Marshall Jr.
I can’t help but wonder how many more there were!