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Tar Heels Tackle the Headlines

March 21, 2001

Historian's Notes

What?!?! You've never heard of Montfort Stokes?? Okay, I'll be honest: I had not heard of Montfort Stokes myself until just a few days before the broadcast of this Audio Almanac. I was reading through some of Angie Debo's research material and found a reference to Montfort Stokes. The material told of events occurring that fit with the date that I needed, so Montfort became a part of the Oklahoma Audio Almanac collection.

Resources

The Angie Debo Papers are held at OSU's Special Collections & University Archives. Of particular interest is the material and books on the Creeks.

Almanac Transcript

Hello, I'm Steven Kite welcoming you to the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

This week Tar Heels tackle the headlines on the Almanac.

It seems odd this week to honor a prominent North Carolina politician. Monfort Stokes was born in North Carolina in 1762 of prominent and wealthy parents. Destined for a career in politics, Stokes held public office from the age of 23 almost until his death fifty-five years later. It was at the age of seventy that Stokes stepped down from his position as Governor of North Carolina to accept the most daunting task of his long career.

In 1832 President Andrew Jackson established a Federal Indian Commission to oversee in the resettlement of native Americans in Indian Territory, picked for the commission was Jackson’s long-time friend, Montfort Stokes. In October of 1832 Stokes journeyed to Fort Gibson presiding over resettlement operations. Almost at once, Stokes was struck by the plight of the Native Americans he saw entering the country: starving and depressed many sick and dying.

Within a matter of hours of his arrival Stokes took on the plight of the Native Americans as one of his own. The term of the Federal Indian Commission expired on July 14, 1834, but Montfort Stokes alone stayed on, working for the tribes on his own time. Among other things, Stokes brokered arrangements, cleared up border disputes, and made sure the proper amounts of material, goods and money made their way to the tribes.

In 1834 Stokes became the primary Cherokee agent in Indian Territory. So trusted by the area residents, Stokes at one point held over $100,000.00 dollars worth of wills, deeds, bills of sale and guardians bonds given to him for safekeeping by the tribe. At the time of his retirement in 1841 at the age of 79, Stokes had authored hundred of pieces of legislation on behalf of Native Americans all of which failed in the legislature. The one time governor of North Carolina had begun work on an impossible task at the time of life in which most men think about retiring. Montfort Stokes helped better the lives of countless thousands of Native Americans, and in turn they revealed to him aspects of culture unknown to him until that time.

It was on March 23rd, 1940 that the Muskogee Territory Chapter of The Daughters of the American Revolution gathered to dedicate a striking new monument to Montfort Stokes. The marker sits on a small hill overlooking his first office in the log fort of Fort Gibson, his headquarters for so many years.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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