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Blocker, Irena

The subject of this sketch, Irena Blocker, was born in Fannin County, Texas, on July 30, 1869, and when a small girl was brought by her parents to Scullyville County, Indian Territory, where the family settled at the McCarty home near what is now Ceders.

Her mother, Patsy Rogers, was born on the McCarty plantation in Alabama where, together with her mother, one sister and one brother, she was stolen and "run" up Red River to a plantation owned by Sim Nunley, where the family remained as slaves until the close of the Civil War.

It was at this time that Mrs. McCarty learned of the whereabouts of the slaves which had been stolen from her Alabama plantation. She immediately set out for the Nunley plantation in Texas and brought the mother of Patsy Rogers, the grandmother of Irena, back with her to her home in the Indian Territory.

In the meantime, Patsy Rogers had been married to Jack Nunley, one of the legitimate Nunley slaves, and thereby became Patsy Nunley. This family made its way to the McCarty home when Irena was a small child.

It will be recalled that the treaty made between the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and the United States in 1866, provided, among other things, "to give all persons of African descent, resident in the said nations at the date of the Treaty of Fort Smith, and their descendants heretofore held in slavery among said Nations, all the rights, privileges, and immunities, including the right of suffrage, of citizens of said nations, except in the annuities, moneys, and public domain claimed by or belonging to said nations respectively, and also to give to such persons who were residents as aforesaid, and their descendants, forty acres each of the lands of said nations on the same terms as the Choctaws and Chickasaws".

It has already been stated herein that Irena Blocker, her mother, Patsy Rogers, and her grandmother Lizzie, were slaves on the Nunley plantation in Fannin County, Texas, when the war was brought to a close in 1865. That fact would, quite naturally, lead the reader to conclude that they and their descendants would be excluded from the benefits provided for resident ex-slaves among the nations by the terms of the treaty. However, upon a showing being made by the McCarty family that Patsy Rogers and her mother had been stolen and had at no time legally passed from their possession, each one of the slaves which had been stolen, together with their descendants, were awarded forty acres of land.

The McCartys, a prominent Choctaw family from the Tombigbee River, Alabama, portion of the old Choctaw Nation east of the Mississippi River, so far as can be learned, is survived only by the wife of Dr. Hailey of McAlester.

Upon the allotment of lands being made, the entire Nunley and Rogers families settled near Brazil Station in Scullyville now LeFlore County, where a great many of the full-blood Choctaws lived and where Irena was given an opportunity to mingle with them and learn their customs and modes of life. Of these, she likes best to reflect upon their manner of courting, and relates that on one occasion she attended a quilting at the home of Betsy Christie, an Indian woman and neighbor, where there was also in attendance a comely young Indian maid, now Mrs. Martin Whistler. While all were busily engaged quilting, a young brave, Martin Whistler, appeared upon the scene bearing a number of squirrels which he had killed and presented them to Betsy for preparation for the noon meal. He took a chair near the object of his affections and would occasionally reach out and tap her on the shoulder. She would smilingly insist that he quit and in a coy manner pretend to draw away from his reach. To show that the attention paid her by the admiring youth was not unwelcome, she would soon have her chair scooted over to within reaching distance so that the gentle tapping would be repeated. This continued until late evening when the quilting was finished and the party, which was composed of both colored and Indian women, departed for their several homes. Of course, the young man found it to be convenient to go in the same direction, and at the same time, as the charmer of his life and, "lawsee de next mawnin we heerd dey was mahied up." While a close neighborly feeling existed between the two races, intermarriage was of rare occurrence. So rare indeed as to be negligible. Visits extending over several days would be made at the homes of the Indians by the Negroes and the same vice versa.

Irena speaks of an aunt, Penny Brashiers, who was an "herb doctor" whose practice it was to use a "horn cup" in the cure of certain "miseries" which would not yield to treatment through the virtues of herb concoctions, such as rheumatism or neuralgia. In some instances she would use a piece of glass to make an abrasion in the skin over the seat of the "misery", then place the horn cup over the abrasion and suck until a vacuum was formed, thus bringing about profuse bleeding of the affected parts and the elimination of the poison which had caused the pain. The horn cup was made from the small end of a cow's horn. The large end would be trimmed until it was made smooth and straight so as to fit snugly and encompass the abrasion, while a small hole would be made in the other and through which air would be extracted and a powerful vacuum created. This treatment together with her famous herb remedies brought ailing people of all races to the door of Aunt Penny, many to die after their arrival and many more through the ministrations of the good old doctor were cured of their ills and enabled to return to their homes to sing the praises of this colored medicine woman.

(Bonner, Lewis, Age 87 years, Oklahoma Writers' Project, Oklahoma Historical Society)

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