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.