Title: Interview with Mr. James E. Chavis (July 21, 1971)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007212/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Mr. James E. Chavis (July 21, 1971)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: July 21, 1971
Spatial Coverage: Lumbee County (Fla.)
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00007212
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Lumbee County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: LUM 248

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Full Text


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behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

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LUM 248A 2 /SSJ,


INTERVIEWEE: James E. Chavis pwh

DATE: July 21, 1971

D: This is July 21, 1971. Professor Adolph Dial speaking, Pembroke State

University. I'm here with Mr. James Chavis, do you sign your name Jim

or James?

C: They like to call me Jim.

D: Are's better known as Jim, and he is the son of Mr. Z.R. Chavis, who died

in.... I think it was 1869, who lived to be something like ninety-nine

years old, and uh, 1869, he died in 1969, and was probably born about

1869, and Mr. Chavis was the son of Mr. Preston Chavis, is that correct?

In the Burnt Swamp community. Right along this line, Mr. Chavis, you

remember, or you said something before we turned on the tape about

Mr. Preston Chavis, and his association which happened to carry Henry

Barry Lowry to his death and so forth. Suppose you tell us this whole

story there, as it was told to you?

C: My grandfather in the discussion of the subject, he said that they

come to his house, Steve and another one of 'em came to his house, and

told him that he wanted to see Henry Barry before they went to bury him,

Why he'd better come and see, and they talked him into helping to go

have him buried. And he said when they went to the river, the Lumber

River, they crossed water up to their armpits, and held him up above

there, the water, and they went to an island, and he, he was-blindfolded,

and he didn't know, he never could tell and he was blindfolded when he

come out, and there was no way for him to tell anything about where the

place was. But he said that they were, that he was put on an island, and

2 pwh

nobody's ever been able to discover or find that place, and the other

outlaws never would reveal where it was, but he was with, my grandfather

was really living whenever they buried him that night. My grandmother on

my mother's side, she was there at the dance that night whenever he was

killed, or when the accident happened. And she used her.:petticoat, tore

her petticoat up to make strips, and to bidd up the place where he was

wounded at.

D: What was her name?

C: Louisa Locklear.

D: Do you know of any...did you hear Mr. Preston Chavis, your grandfather,

say if there were anyone along other than himself, other than the Lowry

gang. Now he was with the, he was with some of the Lowrys, Lowry gang,

who were taking Henry Barry to e buried, and of course, Mr. Chavis was

blindfolded. Did you hear him say if there were anyone else along with

him, other than himself, other than the Lowrys?

C: Yes, there were others along with him, help bury him. They

was along with the outlaws, bit they were just natural, you might say,

friends, of Henry Barry and friends of outlaws, and they were practically

the ones who were doing the burying. Now the outlaws was the ones who

was guarding, who was on guard, outside while all the way along, even

when they were taking him along the road, there was a

two ahead, so if they, if anything was wrong why, they could notify him.

But the other people, there was others,along with grandfather, who

helped carry the body, and helped do the burying.

D: Was this during daylight hours or at night?

C: That was at night.

D: Yes, all the reports I have say that it was at night. Now, did...do

you recall any other stories that Mr. Chavis used to tell about the

3 pwh

Lowry gang or his association with them or anything, and also what

relation was William Chavis to Mr. Prest6n:Chavis?

C: William and Preston were brothers, and they visited each other just like

brothers do and will, and my grandfather, he's not much to talk, and

they had a lot of confidence in him, and he never didn't talk about it,

until not too long before he died; he was very old whenever he started

to know that he'd open up any about it. The only things would be the

jokes, you know, concerning the outlaws and what they did and how they

did it, but uh, there's a big joke about them

there was such a big crowd in there that was wanting to kill 'em, and

Henry Barry stood them off by himself, and all the rest of them got

drunk, and there was other things like that...stories that he'd

tell, about how they'd, he visit with them and how they'd visit with

him. He had a farm right near It was on

their way from the back swamps to the Burnt Swamp, and it was pretty

thick along, nobody couldn't hardly locate anybody that's travelling

along the road, and especially at night, a lot of times he'd have

to wade hip deep in Bear Swamp, much less at other places.

D: Now Mr. William Chavis, who was a member of the Lowry gang, what

happened to him?

C: He went to Mexico...New Mexico, I mean. And some of his ancestors are

there now. You can find them in that territory, because one of them

came to this country trying to find out who William Chavis was, and

his parentage and all about him, and he stayed for several days in

the community, but he was visiting various places and various people.

But he never was able, not able to stay as long as he wanted to stay,

and of course, nobody could encourage him, because he had a nice home

and he was living well where he was in Mexico now, but he did go back

4 pwh

to Mexico, New Mexico, I mean.

D: Did Mr. Chavis, Mr. William Chavis when he left here, did he left because

they were after him too, I guess?

C: The same group that killed Henry Barry's father, and was after Henry Barry,

was after just about all the male, or older people and those who are

grown, and all they were after them right on. And these boys had joined

in with the crowd, but they just done it secretly. Henry Barry's crowd

was not all just those few that was with him, or went with him every

day. They were scattered all over the county. And the different one

that they'd find out about, was the one that they were going to seek

to kill, just like they killed Henry Barry's father, and his brother.

And whenever they find that out, they'd leave, they went somewhere else.

And of course, William was one of the ones that left here on account

of that. A couple of Oxendines left here.on account of the very same

thing. And of course, there's several different people that did leave

here on account of that thing.

D: In other words, you're saying that the Lowry gang was not just the

Lowry boys and Calvin and Henderson Oxendine and

and so forth. You're saying that there

were others who were aiding the outlaws and so forth. It was a bigger

movement than say the eleven men of the outlaw gang.

C: Yeah, that's right.

D: Now turning to education. Will you begin telling us something about

the story was told to you, what the schools were like before 1835,

and after 1835 up until establishing of the Normal and so forth? Just

give us a whole little history of that.

C: In the beginning there wasn't any difference in the schools in 18...

previous to 1835, and .....

5 pwh

D: You mean there was no difference, you mean, they went with the whites

prior to 1835?

C: Yeah.

D: Okay, so after 1835 then, what happened?

C: After 1835, they established, they had established academies and

you see, in 1865, after, you know in Reconstruction times, they

these people were with the whites until the Negro was freed, and

when Negroes were freed, why then that just threw them all into

the same category. The whites didn't go on with them to church,

didn't go with them to school, and they jut had to either go with

the Negro or not have any school at all. And they had established

academies, and one of them was at St. Anna, what is now St. Anna

Church, it was St. Anna Academy at that time. And it's always

remained St. Anna. Well, then they were other places where the

academies were established. There was one in South, what is now

South Lumberton, and it went under the name Academy for a long,

long time in these other places. But our people wouldn't go to

these academies, they wouldn't go to school with the Negro,

as a whole, but there were a few of them that would go and they got

a chance to get little education. Those who were qualified was the

ones that established our independent or private schools. The county,

the state didn't do a thing for us, and they never did anything for us,

that amounted to anything until about in the20's, when they'd come

to ease up.

D: Of course, you're not...you didn't mean the college, you mean as far

as the county was concerned. Of course we have 1887, well 1885 the

Normal, appropriation for it, but you were speaking of some public


6 pwh

C: Yeah, that was I had reference to was the pdlic schools. Now as far

as the Normal is concerned, you know, it was;not considered, it

was considered the Normal School to start off with. And that

appropriation was made for it, in 1885, of course, it started a little

earlier than that, but in the meantime, it never become effective until

1885, in 1887. And our other schools tholt, the schooling that we had

was what little bit that the private schools could do, and these other

communities, hkvehat they call a community school. And in just about

every community you'd find a little log schoolhouse, and the children

would go to the log schoolhouse, and they had to use a stick chimney

that uh, where they'd keep warm.

D: Now what about turning over to these people on just who think we are,

will you tell us a little history of that, and you did a lot of work

with the bill in the 1930's. Will you go into that some for us?

C: I would be glid to, Mr. Dial, because there is a lot of things that are

inconsistent. Historians have been inconsistent concerning them, and

they have never got the thing lined out consistently towards,the

people who were here were Indians, there's no doubt about it. You can

prove it, every historian and everybody say they were Indians but they

didn't know what, and they have not comiittedthemselfes to any particular

group. They refer to this group here as a part of the

and a part of the Catawbas, and we have even people who

said that they had gone to the mountains, well,that was people who had

made the trip to the Catawbas, and then come back and several of them,

some children was born on the way back, and that is a matter of history.

But in the meantime, we have never been had the same consistence, that

in 1932, Bert Locklear, the late Bert Locklear, and the late John

Oxendine, Mr. Lonnie Oxendine's father. They were trying to get a bill

7 pwh

passed, the Cherokee bill, get us recognized in Washington, the same

as we were recognized in North Carolina. And that bill got an adverse

report, and that adverse report, it said there were no Indians in

Robeson County, ad there have been a few forest rovers and one thing

or another like that, but now, that blood had already run out. By now

it had run out. Then that left the fact to be established somebody

would have to establish the fact that there were Indians in Robeson

County now, then that movement started from that to prove whether or

not we were Indians or whether we were not. After doing a lot of

research, and trailing up different families and family names, from

different localities, we found out that there were a lot of these

people who were here, that migrated here from other tribes and other

groups. Now there are other groups of the group; the Cape

Fears,the and the Pee Dees, and you hardly ever hear tell

of those, but there was one particular group here in the beginning.

They stayed here, and these other groups came in, just one or two,

perhaps more than one or two at the time. Then we had to prove that,

went to the censor's records and we proved it, beyond a reasonable

doubt, where each one came from, and whereabouts he established him-

self. Then, it was to prove whether these people were Indians,real

Indians, or -. : ', Department of Interior, they asked about

our enrollment, and of whether we were ever recognized and enrolled.

Well, we hadn't. But in 1913 the thing stuck wth me so much, I made

applications to go to Carlisle's Institute, and there were others

who were already there. Well, J.C. Oxendine was one, and George

Locklear, Ernest Bell, and several more, but in the meantime, these

applications were refused-on the grounds that there-wereta mixed-

blooded people in Robeson County, and that they called themselves the

8 pwh

Croatans, but there was no Indian blood down there. Then we had to

repudiate that statement by the Interior Department. The way we

went about to repudiate that statement, we were to find out from

each one, after we had searched the records concerning their, where

they came from, then see what Indians they were. And which one that

they were connected to. After we had that established, then that

was not sufficient,but by us going to Columbia, South Carolina,

and going to the Spanish Records, of 1840, 1835-1840, where John

made his trip, crossed on from De Soto's Old Trail,

from Southport. e had ,-after we had found out had got the information

off those old records. Then the commissioner of Indian Affatis..sent

us to -Dr. John R. Swanton of the Smithsonian Institute. Then he was

the one interpreted the story and made some report. And he recommended

that we not try to introduce, we had already introduced the ...

bill, but....

D: What year was that?

C: That was 1932. We had introduced the hill, but in the

meantime, we had to change the idea, because there are so many other

tribal groups represented here, it is : a just a majority,with the

old ;' ", but we couldn't recognize one without-recognizing the other.

Therefore, we changed the name from to taking

the family name instead of a particular tribal name, so that we could

recognize a whole group, then we followed this up until we had the

bill before Congress, and it had passed the Senate with three readings..

D: What year was this, now with the _bill?

C: That was in '34. And in '33 was when you know, '32 and '33 and all

was through the process of you know, that process. But in '34 was when

we had the bill. And it was passed in the Senate with three readings.

9 pwh

Senator Josiah W. Bailey represented the bill in the Senate, and J. Bard

Clark represented it in the House. And after it had had its second

reading in the House, in the third reading, tie had a delegation from

Robesons here that who opposed, that the bill passing

Therefore, thelill was just stopped, stalled, and eventually it died

in the House, and didn't. But later on, Dr. Fuller Lowry

introduced a bill that was the Lumbee River Indians, and that bill

went, took the report, they accepted the report of the

bill, and passed the Lumbee River bill. The basis for our recognition

was established in 1938 or '39, I fort just which now, Vhen the

Secretary of the Interior recognized and enrolled twenty-two Indians

here. And the basis for that recognition was never established by

chronological history, because the chronological history of these

people are so inconsistent, until the Indian Office couldn't take

that and establish it as evidence, because sometimes one would say

his grandfather was one, and the other would say his grandfather was

another, well that left it incon....the chronological history

inconsistent. Several times in several different groups it happened

that way. So many of them until they threw out the chronological

history of the whole thing. And of course, they didn't understand how

there was a John that was born in 1780, and another, there was John

Jones that was in 1880, then another one in 1940, and those, all of them

was John Jones! Well, they knowed that John Jones didn't live all that

long a time! Therefore, you see that was the inconsistencies of the

records. And they had to throw that out.But they did establish a fact

and we went to Washington, a whole group of us, after the blood test,

after the first blood test. The first blood test was a hundred and

something. And after that, in that first blood test we found that

10 pwh

there were three or four who could be classed beyond a reasonable

doubt, one-half degree or more, but there was ninety-eight percent of

them who could be classed, could be classed as one-half degree, but

it was not beyond a reasonable doubt. Well then the solicitor of the

Interior Department was in the conference with all the commissioners

commissioners on the Indian Affairs, when we were having that

conference, and he, after the commissioner had ruled out the chrono-

logical side,that the blood test showed that there were some Indians

here, one-half degree and more, and could be classed as that. And he

said, in his ruling 'that according-to'law, a man is not proven guilty,

he's not guilty until he is proven guilty. Therefore, he says, it rests

with the Commissioner on Indian Affairs to prove that we were not

Indians. Then he ordered Dr. back down here again to examine

another hundred head of Indians, and he examined those other hundred.

And out of the two hundred and something who were examined, we found

twenty-two that could be classed as one-half degree and more, or

classed as full-blood. And those twenty-two were recognized under

the Wheeler-Howard, Section 9.2 of the Wheeler-Howard Act, which states,


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