Harry C. Cyphers. One of the most complex, intricate and interesting studies among the Choctaw Indians relates to the matter of ancestry and heirship. The problematic phase of the study arises from the character of the records that were kept for several generations in the tribal government, and the lack of records in many cases. Issues involving Indian heirship are matters of daily encounter in business dealings, for practically every business transaction of the Indian requires a research into the records that show his standing in the tribe. In addition to the intricate records as a hindrance to business transactions the lack of business capacity in the average Indian and his almost utter disregard of the golden rule, present a problem to the other parties to such transactions. For instance, there are cases where Indians have made transfers to the number of twelve to fifteen times, involving the identical parcel of property, receiving a consideration in each case, and each transaction, of course, adding something to the density of the cloud on the title. Clouded titles have been a bar to what would otherwise have been a profitable business to firms and individuals dealing in farm mortgages.
Farm mortgages have been numerous during recent years in the Choctaw country, but 90 per cent of them are liens on property that has passed from possession of the Indian. Harry Cyphers has made comparatively few loans on Indian lands in McCurtain County and each has been troublesome and expensive. The loans are all made on Indian land but not to the Indians direct. Reference to the tribal rolls made by the department of the interior is always necessary to the establishment of heirship, and heirship is the fundamental basis of property title. Frequently long journeys and many interviews have been necessary to the execution of a loan, and indeed, in some cases proof of marriage must be obtained. Before statehood common law marriages were frequent, and that fact meant to the searcher of titles that probably no record ever was made, and the only method of establishing title in that case would be by personal testimony, a service that could not always be acquired. Marriages were contracted by ministers, and of these there usually was a record made. But where to find the record has been a task not easily consummated. Mr. Cyphers recalls a case in which it was necessary to go back through the family and tribal records of three generations to find proof of the marriage of certain Indians, the apparent heir to whom had applied for a land loan. Indians of half blood and more have restrictions both on their homesteads and surplus lands, and are not permitted to obtain loans of this character, but death removes the restrictions from some lands and enables the loan agent, if he have the courage and patience to penetrate the gloom of ancestry, to execute a loan.
These facts are illustrative of a phase of current life in McCurtain County, which has an Indian population of 3,500, and in which Indian transaction constitute an important part of business activities. The Indian is always a borrower, and the impression prevails that could he obtain money from legitimate farm mortgage firms, the interest paid would not rob him of so much of his income as do some other systems.
Mr. Cyphers entered the insurance and farm loan business in Idabel in1909. and he is of that class of young men who came into Oklahoma in response to the call of almost unlimited sources of business success. He is a special agent for the New York Life Insurance Company. He was born in Illinois in 1884 and is a son of Charles and Elizabeth (Jackdon) Cyphers. His father, who is yet a resident of Illinois, was born in West Virginia, but was an early settler to his section of Illinois. He was a contractor in early life, but is now retired, living in Fairview, Illinois.
Harry C. Cyphers had his education mainly in the public schools of his native state. His first employment after his school days was as a fireman in the employ of the Burlington Railroad for a year or more, after which he spent four years as a salesman in the northern states. He was married at Madras, Texas, March 12, 1911, to Miss Bonaugh Fulton. He is a member of the Idabel Commercial Club, a live organization of the community, and in it he has done some good work in the interests of the town. Mr. Cyphers has a healthy interest in the advancement of his city and county, and his activities have contributed an important share to the progress of this section, as many will attest.