Lyman writes Henry again from the “land of Bowie Knives and Pistols.” He describes a recent murder and says that there have been fifteen or twenty killings in the vicinity since he arrived three months earlier. Lyman hopes to leave Tahlequah after the next big infusion of U.S. Government money in the Spring.
Lyman remarks that he has read a notice in the Greenfield, Massachusetts, newspaper that Henry has been elected to the Legislature. Henry was an early member of the Liberty and Free Soil parties that contributed their abolitionist agenda to the Republican party in 1860. The History of Ashfield says this: “About the beginning of the forties, the Liberty or Abolition party made its appearance in the shape of perhaps a dozen voters, or whom Jasper Bement, Henry S. Ranney and Dea. Samuel Bement were most prominent…this small beginning was the nucleus of the Free Soil party, which was in turn the nucleus of the Republican party in Ashfield, as well as in the nation…” The History describes the growth of the abolition movement in Ashfield, noting that in 1849, Hosea Blake was elected in a contested race that included the recruitment of at least one black voter. The election was protested and decided by the Legislature in favor of Blake, who won reelection in 1850 and was one of the men who voted to elect Charles Sumner to the Senate. Sumner was elected by a single vote.
Tahlequah C. N. Jany 18th 1852
Once more I drop you a few lines from this land of Bowie Knives and Pistols. There has been not less than fifteen to twenty murders in this nation since I have been here (3 mos.)(all Indians I believe). Last night there was a man part Indian (who had a grocery at this place) cut in pieces by two men under the influence of liquor. They killed him in his own house, where there was five or six more at the same time. They have the murderers but there is no certainty of their being hung as they clear more than half of the perpetrators of that deed here in the Nation.
This morning the news reached here of another man being murdered a few miles from here. The one that was killed at this place was badly cut up. I saw one cut in the breast that was not less than eight inches long and laid the heart bare. A man has no certainty of his life I must confess. Yet I expect to have to stay here six months or year longer.
We have had some very cold weather here for the last few days. Snow about 3 inches deep, the first there has been here this season. Trade is dull here at present, the money that was paid out last fall to the Indians being nearly all gone. There will be another payment made to the Indians about the 1st April next (amt. 1,500,000$) which will make money more plenty once more, after which I hope to leave the nation as it is not the place to suit me.
I see by the “Greenfield Paper” you sent me that your elected a representative to the Legislature and will no doubt be in Boston at the time this reaches you, but I will direct it to Ashfield and then it can be forwarded if necessary. Nothing more of importance to write at present. Give my love to all our friends in your vicinity. Write soon and let me hear all the news.
From Your Brother
L. A. Ranney
Lyman writes to Henry for the first time from Tahlequah, where he says he is “no longer under the protection of the laws of the United States.” He has been put in charge of Baker & Bishop’s store there, at a salary of $350 annually. Lyman also says he has “found” $350, so perhaps he was given a bonus to take the position.
Tahlequah was about thirty miles from the U.S. border, and was a town of about 400 people at this time. It was established in 1838, and became the capital of the Cherokee Nation the following year. Lyman describes the people and the Cherokee government, and mentions that two schools have been set up for Indian boys and girls. Although he says “some of the students are far advanced,” Lyman seems to consider it odd that they study Greek and Latin: “English and dead languages, and no Indian language is taught at the school.”
Tahlequah Cherokee Nation Oct 28 /51
You may be somewhat surprised to be hailed from this quarter of the globe. I am no longer under the protection of the laws of the United States as I do not remain within their limits. My employers Messrs Baker & Bishop have established a store at this place and wanted me to take charge of it, to which I accepted. This city is situated in the C. N. about 30 miles from the line of the States. It is regularly built with a square in the center. Population of about 400 persons out of which number but about twenty entirely white. And some of them have Indian wives. But the Indians around here nearly all civilized. The greater part can talk English. They are greatly amalgamated, you can scarcely find a full blood. Some half and some as white as anybody.
The Nation built two fine seminaries of learning, one for the males and one for the females. Cost about ninety thousand dollars. One is about one mile and the other about three miles from this place. Some of the students are far advanced, studying in the Greek and Latin languages. They study the English and dead languages, and no Indian language is taught in the school.
They have a chief & 2nd chief here, and have a house of councilmen & house of committeemen chosen one member from each district. The two houses are now in session. They pass laws, make appropriations, &c.
I wrote home to Michigan last mail and sent Anson ten dollars to help him attending school this winter as the last two years of my attending was the making of me. It may be the case with him also. I wrote you from Van Buren before coming here, to direct your letters, papers &c, and also to have my regular papers, those sent from office of publication, directed here to this place: Tahlequah, C. N. Arks.
You will please answer this on receiving it and let me hear from you.
Truly Your Brother
P.S. I am getting a salary of 350$ per yr and found 350$. L.A.R.
Lyman writes Henry in the fall, after a trip down the Arkansas River to its mouth on the Mississippi just beyond Little Rock, Arkansas. Lyman has been ill, but tells Henry he is moving up to Tahlequah in the Cherokee Nation, to take over a store there for his employers. Tahlequah was the first town incorporated in the territory given to the Indians after their removal from Georgia on the “Trail of Tears” in the 1830s. The territory became the state of Oklahoma in 1907.
Lyman says the payments to Indians he described in a previous letter have begun, and he says the “appropriation” money comes to $800,000 more than the Indians regular annuity. This is apparently a payment associated with the 1851 Indian Appropriations Act, which allocated funds to create a system of reservations and move Indians onto them. This was a boon to the local economy, since as Lyman also described earlier, the Indians have nothing else to do with all this money but spend it in stores like Mr. Bishop’s. And it apparently came at a good time for the white community, since a three month drought had reduced the cotton and corn harvest by up to half.
Lyman also mentions a young man he met who claimed to be related to the Gardner family of Ashfield. He gives quite a bit of detail, although he never even got the man’s first name. The Gardners were not closely connected to the Ranneys as far as I can tell (no marriages, no correspondence in the archives, etc.), so perhaps Lyman’s interest in this person suggests his continuing homesickness and nostalgia for home.
Van Buren Sept 27th 1851
As I have just retnd from a trip down the river I thought I would let you know how I am getting along. I have been to the mouth of the Arkansas River after goods and arrived here on the 25th of Sept after an absence of over three weeks. I enjoyed very good health while gone except the last two or three of my trip when I was taken with the chills & fever. But I made out to reach home. I am now taking medicine and think I will be able to work in a few days.
I am a going up in the Cherokee Nation in a few days (to take charge of a store for Messrs. Baker & Bishop) at a place called “Tahlequah” about 25 miles from the American line. There is some whites and a good many Indians & Half Breeds that live there, but it is supposed to be a good place for selling goods. The payment of the Indian appropriation money has commenced to be paid out on the 22nd of this month which amounts to over 800,000$ beside the regular annuity which is nearly half that amt.
It has been remarkably dry here this season. Not over half or two thirds of a crop either in corn or cotton. There has not been any rain of consequence in about three months.
I saw while down the river a young man by the name of Gardiner. Says he is a relation of the Gardiners of Ashfield. He was formerly from Springfield Mass, did not learn his given name. Has been west two years or more, most the time in Cinti Ohio but came to Little Rock (capital of this state) last spring. Is engaged in merchandizing I think. Is a young man about 25 years old.
You will please direct all letters & papers, also please inform the offices from which I have papers sent (I have recd the Atlas & Tribune) to direct them to “Tahlequah” C. N. (Cherokee Nation) Arks. I must draw to a close as I am quite weak yet and not able to write any more at this time.
Give my Love to your family & our friends in your vicinity. Write on receiving this without fail and let me hear all.
L. A. Ranney