Choctaw native Cornelia Blanton: a strong Oklahoma woman in a time of sickness and death

JudyD

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Cornelia Christie, the girl

In an interview with Mrs. Cornelia Blanton, she stated she was born on September 26, 1872, in Goodland, Indian Territory, which is now Choctaw County in Oklahoma.

Her parents, Michael and Agnes Christie, passed away when she was young, and she went to live with her grandfather, Ezel Christie. Despite living close to Wealaka School and Church, one of the oldest schools in the territory, her grandfather never sent her to school.

They lived in a pine log house, which took him two months to put up a single wall, and he had about 100 acres of land where he farmed, had hogs and cattle, and some horses, along with half a dozen ponies.

Cornelia earns her own money

Cornelia was a hard worker and used to make extra money by spinning her own thread which she made into cloth and turned this fabric into handmade socks and gloves, which she sold for $0.25 and $0.75 per pair, respectively.

She remembers that her grandfather had a lot of money, but worked hard for it. He had a commissary and sold supplies to the neighbors, taking trips to Doaksville, Fort Towson, and sometimes into Texas for trading. Cornelia remembers her grandfather burying his money around his property, but no one could find it when he later passed away.

He also bought snakeroot and black roots from anyone who would bring it in and paid them $0.25 per pound, and then took it to market at Doaksville.Snakeroot is still highly sought after in southeastern Oklahoma as it is used for earaches, toothaches and as a cure for snake bite.

Cornelia learns to speak English

Cornelia admits that she never saw a professional doctor until after she was married, and she did not learn English until she was 30 years old, when her second husband, Marshall Blanton, began teaching her. When anyone was sick, they were given medicine made from dried corn that their family had made, and Cornelia remembers there was a lot of sickness and death back then.

Their principal foods were those they could grow, such as beans, corn, pumpkins, and all kinds of fruits that they would dry.

They had lots of wild turkey, deer, and bear, but Cornelia says her grandfather never killed more than one deer at a time.

They always had a family prayer before leaving the house in the mornings, and they would have prayer meetings in the evenings, going to different neighbors' houses each time. Most people in their district were Methodists, and they would have camp meetings once a year where Choctaws and whites would meet together, and they would have their Choctaw preacher, Reverend Charlie Weston, and an interpreter.

Cornelia's grandfather dies and she gets married

When she was 16 years old, Cornelia's grandfather passed away and after his death, she married Mr. AB James, a full-blood Choctaw Indian, who was constable in McCurtain County and also helped make the Choctaw laws.

Later, he finished the term of office as sheriff after Julius Victor was killed. Her husband became District Judge, and when he passed away, Cornelia, 38-year-old mother of 5 small children married a white man named Marshall Blanton, who taught her to speak English.

She heard that white people came and dug up the ground around her grandfather's place, trying to find his money, which might have been found, but she never knew for sure.

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What happened to the family

Cornelia's gravestone in McAlester, Oklahoma gives her birth year as 1863, which would have made her 74 at the time of this interview. Using the dates from FindAGrave, we learn that she and her husband Marshall were the same age. They raised Cornelia's 5 children, Josiah, Nancy, Raphael, Louella and Dallas but had no children together.

Sadly, Cornelia's 35-year-old son Raphael died of pneumonia in 1928, followed by the suicide of their 27-year-old son Dallas a year later. In 1954, their daughter Nancy died and a year after that their son Josiah died. In 1956, Marshall passed away in March at the age of 93 and seven months later, Cornelia died.Their tombstone bears the inscription: "Always together".

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Judy Derby has worked in the surrounding communities as a social worker and advocate. providing resources and information to help local families meet their basic needs. She's been writing about social issues and related topics for over 10 years.

Antlers, OK
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