Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

An Oklahoma Story in Stone

A solemn sentinel in Oklahoma’s territorial-era Garland Cemetery



 

In this land of ancient tombs at Spiro Mounds and prehistoric dinosaur fossil beds, of old-timers who talk still of mummified bodies being found tucked away in caves in the western Panhandle, it seems odd to talk of Oklahoma burials from the 1800s as significantly old. But few graves on the old frontier were marked with lasting memorials.

 

The first Oklahoma cemetery with evidence of Christian-style burials is Union Mission, established in 1820 in hopes of converting the Osage with education and evangelizations. Its first burials were recorded in 1822. The gravestone of the Rev. Ephaphras Chapman, who died Jan. 7, 1825, is preserved on the old mission grounds. (NOTE: We’ll explore his story next month.)

But one of the grandest burial grounds of the old Indian Territory was the Garland Cemetery in the far southeast corner of Oklahoma, tucked into a forest off a dirt road and surrounded by an ornate wrought-iron fence and giant yuccas. Established just over the border from Arkansas on land selected by one future Choctaw chief for another, its elaborate Victorian-era wrought-iron fence protects modest gravestones and a dozen marble tributes, some topped by obelisks as tall as three men.

The elegant monuments were designed as a lasting tribute to the Garlands and Pitchlynns, leading families of the Choctaw Nation.

 

 

Sophia Folsom Pitchlynn’s plan for a memorial was conceived years before she died. The mother of Choctaw Chief Peter Pitchlynn and mother-in-law of Chief Samuel Garland, she was a woman of means who hoped to perpetuate her legacy.

She was born two days after Christmas 1773 to Ebenezer Folsom, a trader and interpreter whose ancestors emigrated from England in the 1630s, and his Choctaw wife.

Her father’s brother, Nathanial Folsom, married two Choctaw sisters – nieces of Miko Puskush, chief of the tribe’s Northeastern District – with whom he fathered 24 children. Each of them was a first cousin to Sophia and, like her, half-Choctaw.

One of the cousins, Rhoda Folsom, married John Pitchlynn. He arrived in the Choctaw Nation in present-day Mississippi with his father at the age of 10, becoming fluent in the language and staying with the tribe after his father’s death. He would go on to work as an interpreter and mediator for the U.S. government for nearly half a century.

Major John Pitchlynn fathered three sons in 10 years of marriage to his first wife. After her death, he wed Sophia Folsom and fathered another three sons, plus five daughters.
His influence increased over the years. His holdings grew to include livestock, 50 slaves, 200 acres of corn and cotton under cultivation and part-ownership of a stage line, making him one of the wealthiest men in the Choctaw Nation prior to Removal.

The family’s political strength also expanded. John and Sophia Pitchlynn’s eldest daughter, Mary, would marry Samuel Garland, chief of the Choctaws from 1862-64. Their eldest son, Peter Perkins Pitchlynn, succeeded Garland as chief for a two-year term.

 

 

John Pitchlynn signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830. According to the Mississippi Encyclopedia, he and his sons Peter, John Jr., Silas and Thomas received 5,120 acres reserved in the Indian Territory. After liquidating most of their assets in anticipation of Removal, John and Sophia Pitchlynn opted to remain in the Old Choctaw Nation, where he died May 20, 1835.

Sophia migrated west to Indian Territory two years later. A house was built for her next to the two-story home of her daughter and son-in-law, the Garlands, who established a sawmill and cotton plantation.

Her last will and testament, dated April 23, 1859, contained instructions for her burial and dispersed her property – including nine slaves – among family members.

Preserved among the family papers of her son Peter Pitchlynn, in the Western History Collection at University of Oklahoma Libraries, the document states: "I commend my immortal being to Him who gave it and my body to the earth, to be buried with little expense or ostentation by my executors herein after named … It is furthermore my wish that a suitable monument be erected at my grave, so that my children, grandchildren and other friends may never forget my last resting place…"

After her death in 1871, nine days before her 98th birthday, Sophia Folsom Pitchlynn became the 11th internment in the family cemetery. Samuel Garland had been buried there the previous year. Mary would be laid to rest beside him in 1886.

Her tombstone is embellished with a carving of a hand emerging from a pleated cuff, index finger pointing to the heavens, above the inscription:

SOPHIA
Wife of Major John Pitchlynn
Born Dec. 27, 1773
Died Dec. 18, 1871
Our dear Mother’s Grave

 

 

The cemetery is all that remains of the once-vast Garland holdings. Over the decades, the plantation buildings were destroyed and the forest encroached on the graves. The wrought-iron fence fell apart. Headstones began sinking into the earth.

In the mid-20th century, Garland Cemetery came under the care of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The property was restored: toppled markers repaired and reset, the fence stabilized.

In order that her children, grandchildren and other friends might never forget, the gravestone of Sophia Folsom Pitchlynn was cleaned and laid to rest on its back, embedded in concrete ... its ancient finger pointing east toward the land where she was born.

 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

The Festival of the Arts’ Legacy

Arts Council OKC director Peter Dolese retraces the origins and expansion of the week-long celebration of creativity that is the Festival of the Arts.

The Natural Touch for Self-Care

Natural products from lotions to fragrances in conscientious self-care that are perfect for a season of renewal.

Appetite for Disruption

Technology continues to revolutionize the restaurant industry, and local establishments are working to digest the broad range of possibilities.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

April 2019

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Celebrate Easter with a trip to Andy Alligator’s Fun Park! On Saturday and Sunday, get $5 off an All-Day Pass with our Eggcellent Easter Special. All-Day Passes include Go-Karts,...

Cost: $23.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Pl
Norman, OK  73072
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

The OSU Symphony Orchestra will conclude the 2018-19 season with Schubert's monumental and majestic Symphony No. 9 in C ("The Great"). The concert opens with The European Anthem,...

Cost: General Admission: $10; Students & Seniors: $7

Where:
Oklahoma State University Department of Music
132 Seretean Ctr
Stillwater, OK  74078
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma State University Department of Music
Telephone: 405.744.6133
Contact Name: Dr. Thomas Dickey
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Potbelly Sandwich Shop is giving back to the local neighborhood with Feed Your Smile, a fundraiser supporting Concordia Life Care Community.  Show this flyer on your smartphone or...

Cost: Free

Where:
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
8500 N Rockwell Ave
OKC, OK  73132
View map »


Sponsor: Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Telephone: 405-792-5112
Contact Name: Katy Fabrie
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

"Deliberately silencing the internal chatter and not overthinking. Conscious, but not over-trying. With this approach, things just seem to happen—it’s where all the substance is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Individual Artists of Oklahoma
706 W. Sheridan Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Individual Artists of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405.412.2541
Contact Name: David Smith

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Shop over 200 vendors at this indoor event with everything from vintage furniture, retro and mid-century decor to handmade goods, antiques, industrial finds and architectural salvage!

Cost: $5 at the door, 13 and under free

Where:
Heritage Place
2829 S. MacArthur
Oklahoma City, OK  73128
View map »


Sponsor: Junk Hippy
Contact Name: Kristen Grandi
Website »

More information

A Sporting Chance will host the 25th annual Track and Field Meet at Branson Junior High in Branson, Missouri. A Sporting Chance provides year-round sports and recreation programs designed for those...

Where:
Branson Junior High
263 Buccaneer Boulevard
Branson, MO  65616
View map »


Sponsor: A Sporting Chance
Telephone: 404-314-2188
Contact Name: Hannah Schachinger

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

This one-day festival is rooted in the printing of large-scale woodblocks carved by local Oklahoma artists. We bring in a 5-ton steamroller and print pre-carved blocks throughout the day on Tyvek...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Contact Name: Evan
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Andy Alligator's is celebrating teachers! On Saturday and Sunday, teachers with a valid ID will receive a FREE All-Day Pass and $5 off for each family member! An All-Day Pass includes...

Cost: Teachers receive a FREE All-Day Pass; family members get $5 off

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Pl
Norman, OK  73072
View map »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

Get a sample of the nightlife of Spain at Tulsa Botanic Garden's "Viva La Vida." The Garden is bringing star chef Jamie Bissonnette (Toro restaurants in Boston, NYC, Bangkok and...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Dr
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
Website »

More information

2nd annual gathering of "The Big Lebowksi" fans at The Dude Abides OKC All Oklahoma City Urban Achievers, Abiders and Coen Brothers fans are invited to join us at Fassler Hall OKC and...

Cost: Free, contests have entry fee

Where:
Fassler Hall
421 NW 10th
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Revolve Productions
Telephone: 405.810.6977
Contact Name: Tobi Coleman
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags