In last week’s column I told the beginning of the story of Capt. Red Pepper, who was also known as Tisha Homa or Hishe Homa. He was a Choctaw who remained in Lowndes County after the removal of the Choctaw Nation.
Capt. Red Pepper was known as “a man of peace” and a friend to Americans. Apparently because of that in 1811 he was sent to escort Tecumseh and 20 Shawnee warriors and prophets into the Choctaw Nation in Tecumseh’s unsuccessful attempt to get the Choctaws to join his Indian movement to oppose Anglo-American expansion. In 1834 Red Pepper helped the Jennings family build their first house on former Choctaw land. Their family tradition calls Red Pepper a family friend.
Red Pepper’s name was not listed in the Choctaw census of 1830, and he did not receive a reservation of land (to which he was entitled) under the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. So, in 1834 Congress passed an act granting him a section of land (640 acres) where he resided and had a farm. It also gave his son a half section.
Then in 1836 Red Pepper’s life ended, figuratively and actually. Under the terms of Article 14 of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, named Choctaws and Choctaws with a house and farming land could be given a reservation of land and remain in Mississippi, subject to state laws. Red Pepper remained and became friends with his new white neighbors. However not all whites moving into the former Indian lands did so with good intentions.
Some of the whites were mostly interested in land speculation and turning a fast profit. They found the Choctaws who were unfamiliar with Anglo-American business practices easy prey to be deceived and defrauded of their land. Capt Red Pepper was one of their victims. An article published in the Washington National Intelligencer and reprinted in the November 19, 1836, Boston Liberator, told the story;
TREATMENT OF THE INDIANS.
Not long ago a citizen of Alabama, whilst on a visit to this city, gave a very distressing account of some of the frauds practiced by wicked white men to obtain the Indian reservations. Some were frightened from their lands, and fearing to return, would sell for a trifle. False accounts were raised against others, who, to avoid the jail, would convey their land for nothing. Others would be made drunk, and, whilst in that condition, be induced to convey valuable tracts for a rifle, or some other article of no greater value, &c…
The following extract from a letter of a friend now in Mississippi, is a further illustration of the distress to which these wretched people are reduced by this wicked and abominable system of frauds:
A Choctaw Indian, by the name of Red Pepper, who had a reservation, went to the house of Grant Lincecum. a white man, who has been living among the Indians for many years, and who told me the story, and told him that the white man had cheated him out of his land, and that he was about to be driven from his home the home of his father, and his father’s father. That in consequence he was miserable; that his heart was sick, and he intended to die. He requested Lincecum to attend to his affairs when he should be no more — to pay his debts, etc.; and for that purpose gave him authority over his effect. He then took leave of him, returned home, and shot him self.”
Capt. Red Pepper, ever the friend of the white man, who opposed an Indian alliance against the U.S. in 1811, who befriended the first white settlers on former Choctaw lands, who was specifically granted a reservation of 640 acres by Congress, died defrauded of his home by an unscrupulous land speculator. Stories of his friendship with white settlers and their friendship with him had survived but until Carolyn Kaye recently found the 1836 Boston newspaper article the sad ending was not fully known.
Grant Lincecum carried out Capt. Red Pepper’s wishes after he died and filed an administration of Red Pepper’s estate in the probate court of Lowndes County in July 1836. Within the court file is an inventory of Capt. Red Pepper’s personal property. A sad but interesting view into the life of a Choctaw Indian living in Lowndes County, in 1836.
An Inventory of assessment of the goods & Chattels of Tish Homa otherwise called Captain Red Pepper. To wit:
1 Gray Mare yearling 50.00
1 Bay Horse 60.00
1 Brown Horse 80.00
1 Blue roan Mare & colt 50.00 240.00
1 Negro Girl slave named Sally, 18 years old 700.00
1 Large Brass Kettle 7.00
1 Small do do 1.50
1 Pot 1.50
1 do 2.00 712.00
1 Oven 1.00
1 Shot Gun 7.50
13 Bottles @ 12 ½ cents each 1.62 ½
9 Plates .50
1 Pitcher 1.00
1 Tin Pan .25 11.87 ½
1 Water Bucket .37 ½
2 Spanish Saddle & Side Saddle 10.00
1 Over Coat 15.00
2 Axes 1 at $2.50 & 1 at $2.00 4.50
2 Hoes @ 50 cents each 1.00 30. 87 ½
1 Sifter .12 ½
2 Candlesticks .50
1 Hatchet $1. & 1 Hammer 50 cents 1.50
1 Broken set of Knives & Forks .50
1 Pair Fire Tongs .50
2 Chairs 1.00
1 Bell & Collar 1.00
1 Bridle 2.00
1 Table 1.00
1 Plough 1.25 9.43 ½
Amount of Personal estate $1004.18 ½
A few parting notes on Capt. Red pepper:
According to Ken Carleton, historic preservation officer and archaeologist for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians: “Pepper in Choctaw is ‘hishi homi’ so the ‘Hishe Homa’ is closer to what his name probably was. Tisha Homa may be ‘tishu homa’ which would mean ‘red mouth’ and is probably a title (‘tishu mingo’ is “mouth of the Chief” and was a position that spoke on behalf of the Chief in council meetings, at least originally in the 18th century).”
Working with Carolyn Kaye, we have attempted to identify who it was that defrauded Red Pepper and took his land. As the land was an Indian reservation a normal land patent showing the first owner was not issued. In examining U.S. General Land Office records, I did find the record of “Hish-e-Homa otherwise called Capt. Red Pepper” by act of congress in 1834 being granted a section of land in Lowndes County. The next entry is blurred but appears to provide that in 1840 a “Wm” last name appears to begin the letter I followed by three or four undiscernible letters owning the land. A sad story with a lot more research to do.
Rufus Ward is a local historian.