Lemuel W. Oakes. Under terms of the Treaty of 1866 the Choctaws were compelled to grant land or its equivalent to negroes who had been their slaves before the Civil war. This class of negroes were termed Freedmen. Allotments were made in due time, but in the early ’80s new claimants for land or money arose among negroes of Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, and probably some other Southern states, to the number of several hundred. It was a demand for enrollment similar to that which has been made insistently during recent years by members of the Choctaw Tribe in Mississippi. The principal chief of the Choctaw Nation appointed a commission to hear and pass upon these claims. The commission was composed of Lemuel W. Oakes, now of Hugo; R. J. Ward, now of Spiro; and the late Ben Wat kins, an intermarried citizen and educator. Cole E. Nelson, a prominent fullblood minister, educator, merchant and lawyer, was at that time attorney general and he counseled with and advised the commission. The result of the commission’s labors was that only twenty-one of the negro applicants were given their demands. Under the law an applicant whose claim was valid had a choice of forty acres of land or one hundred dollars in money, the money to satisfy in full all claims the applicant possessed. Some of the successful ones took land and others the money and left the territory.
This was not the only public service rendered by Lemuel W. Oakes as a Choctaw citizen. For ten years he was a member of the Senate of the Choctaw Nation, serving under the administration of Principal Chief Jackson McCurtain and J. M. Smallwood. He was a member of the McCurtain faction in one of the heated contests provoked by Victor M. Locke, a leader of the full blood element. While he was a member of the Senate Henry Ward and Joe Bryant occupied the position of President of the Senate, and Senator Oakes was filling his scat at the death of Chief Jackson McCurtain. At one time he also held the office of revenue collector of the Third Judicial District of the Nation.
Lemuel W. Oakes was born at the old town of Goodwater, situated twelve miles east of the present site of Hugo. His parents were Thomas W. and Harriet N. (Everidge) Oakes. His father was a native of North Carolina, but came to the Choctaw Nation shortly after the removal of the tribe from Mississippi. He was a carpenter, and among his early activities was the erection of the first council house of the Choctaw Nation at Tuskahoma. The building was constructed of large pine logs, about 1850. He was also employed in the building of houses for chiefs, Indian agents and others during the establishment of permanent settlement. He built the Goodwater Mission School, which was one of the earliest small schools of the Nation. A white man himself he gained Choctaw citizenship by marriage into a prominent Choctaw family. His wife’s brother was Joel W. Everidge, for many years chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Choctaw Nation. Judge Everidge is buried in the Everidge private burying ground near old Goodwater.
The first school attended by Lemuel W. Oakes was the Goodwater Mission, when it was taught by the Rev. Theodore Jones, a Presbyterian missionary, who came into the nation before the Civil war from Wisconsin. Later, and in another school, Mr. Oakes was a schoolmate of Peter J. Hudson, now of Tuskahoma, who has been one of the leading men of the Nation for a number of years. Farming has been the principal occupation of Mr. Oakes. He moved to Hugo a few years ago, and for six years has been justice of the peace, having been elected on the democratic ticket. He has taken an active and important part in politics since statehood, and has been one of the real factors in the agricultural development of the county. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Fraternally he belongs to the Masonic Lodge at Grant, which originally was Lodge No. 2, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, of Indian Territory.
In 1879 he married Miss Lucy E. Smith at Goodwater. They are the parents of seven children: Mrs. Bessie Bearden, wife of a farmer near Hugo; Mrs. Lillie Spring, wife of a farmer near Hugo; Clarence A. Oakes, deputy treasurer of Choctaw County; Frank Oakes, who lives at home with his parents; Mrs. Mattie Collins and Mrs. Nola Tibbett, wives of farmers near Hugo; Mrs. Nona Baird, wife of a laundryman at Hugo. Mr. Oakes has five brothers and two sisters: Charles Oakes, a farmer living eight miles east of Hugo; Thomas E., whose farm is near Soper and he is president of the bank of that place; George, a farmer near Hugo; Samuel, a farmer, ginner, merchant, justice of the peace and postmaster at Frogville; J. E. Oakes, a farmer near Hugo; Mrs. Sarah Jeter, wife of a farmer living near Soper; and Mrs. Mary Hibben, wife of a farmer living near Frogville.