Pleasant Porter

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Pleasant Porter
Pleasant Porter.jpg
Born September 26, 1840
Indian Territory (now Wagoner County, Oklahoma)
Died September 3, 1907
Vinita, Indian Territory (now Vinita, Oklahoma)
Other names Talof Harjo ("Crazy Bear")
Occupation Businessman, statesman
Known for Principal chief of Creek Nation, President of Sequoyah Constitutional Convention

Pleasant Porter (1840-1907), was a respected American Indian statesman and the Principal Chief of the Creek Nation from 1899 until his death. He served with the Confederacy in the 1st Creek Mounted Volunteers, as Superintendent of Schools in the Creek Nation (1870), as commander of the Creek Light Horsemen (1883), and was many times the Creek delegate to the United States Congress. He was also President of the Sequoyah Constitutional Convention in 1905 during the attempt to acquire statehood for the Indian Territory.[1]

Early life[edit]

Pleasant Porter was the son of Benjamin Edward Porter and Phoebe, daughter of Lydia Perryman, a mixed-blood Creek and daughter of Chief Perryman) and Tah-lo-pee Tust-a-nuk-kee, a town Chief.[2] As such, he was a mix-blood Creek, belonging to his mother's Bird Clan. He was born September 26, 1840 in what is now Wagoner County, Oklahoma. His Creek name was Talof Harjo, which means "Crazy Bear" in English.[3][4]

The family ranch was begun by his grandfather, John Snodgrass Porter, who had followed Andrew Jackson against the Creeks after the massacre at Fort Mims. To minimize further bloodshed, Captain Porter volunteered to mediate between the Creek leaders and white army. Grateful for his efforts, the Creeks adopted him into the tribe. First, he settled on Creek land in Russell County, Alabama. When the Indian Removal program began, he moved with the first group of Lower Creeks who went to Indian Territory. There, he settled on the north bank of the Arkansas River and built a plantation.[4]

As John Porter was dying in 1847, other family members gathered around his deathbed. one member was a six or seven year old boy with clearly Indian features, the grandson, Pleasant. According to Meserve, John put his hand on the boy's head and announced to the family, "He will do more than any of you."[4]

Pleasant Porter was educated at the Tullahassee Mission School, where he spent five years. His home was bi-cultural, which enabled him to operate well in both the white and Native American worlds when he became an adult.[3] He supplemented this basic education by developing a lifelong habit of study at home. After leaving school, he clerked in a store for a while, then went to New Mexico, where he drove cattle until the outbreak of the Civil War.[4]

Civil War service[edit]

During the Civil War, in which he served in the First Confederate Creek Regiment. He had enlisted as a Private under the command of Col. D. N. McIntosh. He participated in several battles, including Round Mountain, Chusto-Talasah (Bird Creek), Chustenahlah, Pea Ridge and Honey Springs. He was wounded three times. Once wounded in the thigh, he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. Twice he was wounded in the head. His highest rank was Quartermaster Sergeant.[4]

Creek political life[edit]

In 1865, Porter served as a guard for Creek commissioners who travelled to Fort Smith, Arkansas to begin peace negotiations with U. S. government representatives. The treaty was concluded and the Creek government reorganized in 1866. Porter was then asked to reorganize the Creek Nation's schools, which had been disrupted by the war. In 1871, he was reelected as Superintendent of Schools, but declined this second term.[4]

Tribal insurrections[edit]

The "Sands Rebellion" of 1871 was the culmination of grievances between two Creek factions. The name refers to the leader of a disgruntled group of Upper Creeks led by Oktars-sars-har-jo (known in English as "Sands".)[5] When Principal Chief Samuel Checote convened the council in October, nearly 300 Sands followers marched on the capital and dispersed the meeting. Pleasant Porter, commanding a group of Creek horsemen, and a group of Federal agents put down the short-lived rebellion without loss of life. Porter then convinced the Sands people to lay down their arms and go home.[5]

In the fall of 1872, the Creek Nation sent him to Washington, D. C. to represent the nation's interests. He performed this work so effectively that he spent much of the rest of his life on business in the national capital, He soon became well-known and respected by members of Congress and several Presidents, even becoming a personal friend of Theodore Roosevelt.[4]

In 1875, Lachar Haijo was elected Principal Chief to replace Checote. However, Checote supporters controlled the Creek legislature and soon impeached Haijo, replacing him with a Checote supporter. Again, Porter was called to quell the subsequent demonstration and convinced the Haijo supporters to go home.[4]

In 1882, an Okmulgee judge named Isparhecher was charged with sedition and removed from office. He gathered about 350 still-disgruntled followers of both Sands and Haijo, established a military camp and formed a rival government, complete with armed light horsemen. Checote recalled Porter from Washington and put him in charge of about 700 men. This began what, according to Meserve, the Creeks called the "Green Peach War". Porter's troops chased their opponents into Sac and Fox territory in February 1883. Isperhecher and his remaining followers tried to claim asylum from the Kiowas, but U. S. troops captured them and sent them to Fort Gibson. According to Meserve, there were only seven or eight casualties of the Green Peach War. Meserve notes that thereafter some people began calling Porter "General."[4] This was apparently purely honorific.

Isparhecher remained the de facto leader of the full-bloods (then known as the Nuyaka faction). When Checoteh stepped down as principal chief in 1883, an election elevated a follower of Isparhecher to the position, barely beating out Isparhecher himself. Checoteh came in a distant third. Isparhecher served briefly in December 1883. On February 24, 1884, the Indian Agent at Muskogee, under orders from the Secretary of the Interior, officially recognized Joseph Perryman as the Principal Chief.[6]

Under the terms of the Dawes Act, the Creek Nation must agree to an allotment of former tribal lands its to individual members. Porter headed another Creek commission to negotiate the terms with Federal officials. Agreement was announced September 27, 1897 and incorporated as part of the Curtis Act, passed by Congress in June 1898. Although the agreement was rejected by the Creeks in an election on November 1, 1898. Nevertheless, the Dawes Commission began implementing the allotment system.[4]

Porter headed a delegation to Washington, C. C. in January 1889 to negotiate the terms for turning over some more of their land, as required by the 1866 peace treaty. At the time the treaty was signed, it was intended that these lands were to be used for the resettlement of other Native Americans and freedmen. The lands were not intended for settlement by whites. Now, the government wanted to open the so-called "unassigned lands" for white settlement. Porter and his delegation agreed to remove the restrictions on land use in exchange for two and a quarter million dollars. The agreement was signed on January 31, 1889.[4]

Pleasant Porter was elected Principal Chief in an election on September 5, 1899. He and his delegation had wrung more concessions regarding rights of individual Creeks than had been allowed to many other tribes. Even so, there was much opposition within the Creek Nation to the allotment plan. In 1900, a leader of the full-blood faction, Chitto Harjo ("Crazy Snake"), declared a separate government. Porter appealed to the U. S. government for help putting down the revolt. A cavalry troop arrived and arrested the leaders in January 1901. Crazy Snake and his lieutenants pleaded guilty, were lectured by the judge and sent home.[4]

Porter was reelected as Principal Chief in 1903. The powers of the office had been greatly reduced by the Curtis Act, so its duties were largely ceremonial or clerical. Much time was consumed signing land allotment deeds. However, like many other important people in Indian Territory, he became very interested in a movement to create a state. The movement proposed to call it the State of Sequoyah.[4]

Porter and the Sequoyah Constitutional Convention[edit]

The Sequoyah Convention met in the Hinton Theater at Muskogee on August 21, 1905. The purposes were to draft a constitution for the proposed state, choose a name for the state, and name a capital city. Pleasant Porter was elected permanent chairman of the convention. Other key officers elected by the delegates included Charles N. Haskaell, vice chair; Alexander Posey, secretary. The delegates met again on the following day, then departed. They reconvened for a three-day meeting in September, at which the proposed constitution was overwhelmingly approved. At a third session on October 14, the delegates voted to authorize Pleasant Porter and Alexander Posey to sign the document on behalf of all the delegates.[7]

Family life[edit]

After the war, he restored the family plantation, then went into business as a merchant and rancher.[3] He opened a general store at Okmulgee that he sold in 1869. He moved to Wealaka, built a home and lived there for the rest of his life.[4]

Pleasant Porter married Mary Ellen Keys in St. Louis, Missouri on November 25, 1872. She was born in the Cherokee Nation on April 6, 1854, the daughter of Judge Riley Keys, who was chief justice of the courts of the Cherokee Nation for twenty-five years. The Porters had three children: William Adair, Pleasant and Annetta Mary. Mary Ellen died at Wealaka on January 15, 1886.[4]

Porter married Mattie Leonora Bertholf, a cousin of his first wife, on May 26, 1886. They had one daughter, Leonora.[4] She died July 19, 1929.[8]


Porter, accompanied by Judge John R. Thomas and M. L. Mott, Creek Nation attorney, boarded a train on September 2, 1907 to attend to legal business in Missouri. They had to stop over in Vinita, I. T. to change trains. Porter complained of feeling unwell, had a stroke sometime that night, lapsed into a coma and died on the morning of September 3, 1907.[4] He is buried in the Pleasant Porter Cemetery in Bixby, Oklahoma.[9]

See also[edit]

Sequoyah Constitutional Convention


  1. ^ Mullins, Jonita. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Volume 9, Number 3, September, 1931. "Muskogee County." Retrieved April 22, 2013.[1]
  2. ^ Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 15, No. 2, page 168, June, 1937, THE PERRYMANS,
  3. ^ a b c Everett, Dianna. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. "Porter, Pleasant (1840 – 1907)." Retrieved April 22, 2013.[2]
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Meserve, John Bartlett. Chronicles of Oklahoma "Chief Pleasant Porter." [3]
  5. ^ a b Morton, Ohland. Chronicles of Oklahoma. Vol. 8, No. 1. "The Government of the Creek Indians." March 1930. Retrieved April 23, 2013.[4]
  6. ^ John Bartlett Meserve. Chronicles of Oklahoma. Vol. 10, No. 1, "Chief Isparhecher."March 1932. Retrieved April 24, 2013.[5]
  7. ^ Mize, Richard. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. "Sequoyah Convention." Retrieved April 27, 2013.[6]
  8. ^ Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma. Retrieved April 22, 2013
  9. ^ Find a grave memorial. "Chief Pleasant Porter."