Greenwood LeFlore, Chief to the Choctaw Nation
|Birthplace:||LeFleur's Bluffs, Mississippi, United States|
Son of Louis Leflore, II and Rebecca LeFleur
|Occupation:||Chief planter and entrepreneur; Mississippi State Senate 1841-1844, Politician|
|Managed by:||Erin Spiceland|
Historical records matching Greenwood LeFlore, Chief to the Choctaw Nation
About Greenwood LeFlore, Chief to the Choctaw Nation
Greenwood LeFlore or Greenwood Le Fleur (June 3, 1800 – August 31, 1865) was a mixed-race leader of the Choctaws who was also elected state legislator and senator in Mississippi. A wealthy and regionally influential trader with many connections in state and federal government, in 1830 he was elected the first Principal Chief of the entire Choctaw Nation shortly before signing the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Before that the nation had was governed by a council of regional chiefs. After Indian Removal, he remained in Mississippi, and was elected to state government. During the American Civil War, he sided with the Union and lost most of his property. LeFlore was the son of Rebecca Cravatt, high-ranking Choctaw niece of the chief Pushmataha and Louis LeFleur, a French fur trader and explorer from French Canada.  When LeFlore was twelve, his father sent him to Nashville to become educated in European-American schools While LeFlore was not said to be popular among the full-blood tribal men, he became a powerful and influential man at an early age, in part because of his mother's and uncle's positions. When Leflore was 22, he became chief of the western district of the Choctaw Nation when it was still in Mississippi. On March 15, 1830, he became the head chief of the entire nation. He is credited with abolishing the Choctaw "blood for blood" law, which dictated rounds of revenge for murders.
LeFlore supported the civilization program which U.S. President George Washington and Henry Knox developed during the Washington administration. He encouraged Choctaws to make permanent residence, cultivate the land in agriculture, convert to Christianity, and send their children to United States schools for education. “ wee [sic] are anxious to become sivillize [sic] Nation if our father lets us rest few years but wee [sic] have been pastered for land so much wee [sic] dont know what to do hartly, but I hope wee [sic] will rest now awhile. ”
—-Greenwood LeFlore, 1827
At age 17, LeFlore married Rosa Donley. After her death, he married again, to a woman named Priscilla. He had ten children: William, Benjamin, Basil, Clarissa, Forbis, Jackson, Emily, and three other daughters.
Greenwood Leflore was the last Great Chief of the Choctaw Indians East of the Mississippi River. He Married:
(1) Rosa Donley (b. 1804 - d. 1829) on 12/04/1819;
(2) Elizabeth Coody (or Cody) (b. 1814 - d. 1833 in 1830 -- Elizabeth is apparently not buried at Malmaison);
and (3) Priscilla Donley (b. 1817 - d. 1910) on 06/09/1834 -- Priscilla was the sister to Greenwood's 1st wife Rosa Donley.
His father was a trader, Louis LeFleur, and his mother, Rebecca Cravat, was a mixed blood Choctaw. He emerged as Chief of the Western District in 1826, and, through his growing influence, he was elected head Chief in 1830. He was an advocate of removal.
Before he took an active role in Choctaw affairs, he was educated for 6 years in Nashville through the support of Major John Donley, the father of his first and third wives.
LeFlore was one of the main supporters of the Choctaw Academy founded in Kentucky in 1825. He opposed additional land cessions, explored the Indian Territory in 1828, and became a Christian in 1829.
He and some of his followers challenged the traditionalists led by Mushulatubbee and Nitakechi over economic, religious, and political differences. Due to Andrew Jackson's removal policy and Mississippi's extension of state law threatening Choctaw sovereignty, the three district chiefs agreed to removal by the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830.
Greenwood LeFlore was deposed as chief because he embraced removal, believing it would save the Choctaw nation. Even though he did not relocate, he claimed the ruins of Fort Towson as a trading post before its reoccupation by the U.S. Army.
He remained in Mississippi, became a wealthy planter and slave owner, and served in the Mississippi Senate from 1841-44.
Greenwood LeFlore or Greenwood Le Fleur (June 3, 1800 – August 31, 1865) was elected Principal Chief of the Choctaw in 1830 before removal. Before that, the nation was governed by three district chiefs and a council of chiefs. A wealthy and regionally influential Choctaw of mixed-race, who belonged to the Choctaw elite due to his mother's rank, LeFlore had many connections in state and federal government. In 1830 LeFlore led other chiefs in signing the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which ceded the remaining Choctaw lands in Mississippi to the US government and agreed to removal to Indian Territory. It also provided that Choctaw who chose to stay in Mississippi would have reserved lands, but the United States government failed to follow through on this provision.
While many of the leaders realized removal was inevitable, others opposed the treaty and made death threats against LeFlore. He stayed in Mississippi, where he settled in Carroll County and accepted United States citizenship. He was elected to the state government as a legislator and senator in the 1840s. During the American Civil War, he sided with the Union.
LeFlore was the first son of Rebecca Cravatt, a high-ranking Choctaw daughter of the chief Pushmataha, and Louis LeFleur, a French fur trader and explorer from French Canada who worked for Panton, Leslie & Company, based in Spanish Florida.  Because the Choctaw had a matrilineal system for property and hereditary leadership, LeFlore gained elite status from his mother's family and clan. By the 1820s, as the historian Greg O'Brien notes, the Choctaw called such mixed-race children itibapishi toba (to become a brother or sister), which emphasized the connection to Choctaw, or issish iklanna (half-blood), which seemed to imitate Euro-American concepts. O'Brien notes the importance of their being first of all, part of the Choctaw elites. Choctaw chiefs recognized the advantage of using such mixed-race elite men as "trailblazers into an unprecedented universe of capitalist accumulation and renewable wealth."
Some like LeFlore gained Euro-American educations that enabled them to negotiate the larger, changing world developing in the American South. When LeFlore was twelve, his father sent him to Nashville to be educated by Americans.
Marriage and family
At age 17, LeFlore married Rosa Donly in Nashville, whom he met there and brought back with him to the Choctaw Nation when he returned in 1817. After her death, he married again, to a woman named Priscilla. He had ten children: William, Benjamin, Basil, Clarissa, Forbis, Jackson, Emily, and three other daughters.
Advocate of civilization
While LeFlore was not said to be popular among the full-blood tribal men, he became powerful and influential within the tribe at an early age, largely because of his mother's clan and maternal uncle's position and his own skills. With other leaders, he struggled to resist European-American encroachment while adapting to some of the new ways and the increasing pressure from the United States government in support of removal.
When Leflore was 22, he became a chief of the western division of the Choctaw Nation, when it was still in Mississippi. He is credited with abolishing the Choctaw "blood for blood" law, which dictated rounds of revenge for murders. LeFlore supported the "civilization" program, which U.S. President George Washington and Henry Knox developed during the Washington administration. Particularly after Andrew Jackson's election as president in 1828, he encouraged the Choctaw to make permanent residences, cultivate the land in agriculture, convert to Christianity, and send their children to United States schools for education.
"wee [sic] are anxious to become sivillize [sic] Nation if our father lets us rest few years but wee [sic] have been pastered for land so much wee [sic] dont know what to do hartly, but I hope wee [sic] will rest now awhile." —-Greenwood LeFlore, 1827
Removal or U.S. citizenship
Despite being recognized as one of the "Five Civilized Tribes", the Choctaw were under pressure from encroaching European-American settlers. The settlers kept entering the Choctaw Nation lands in great numbers. The US government wanted to remove the Choctaw to lands west of the Mississippi River.
With the election of Andrew Jackson as president in 1828, who supported Indian removal, many of the Choctaw recognized that removal was inevitable. They had concluded they could not afford armed resistance. After passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the chiefs of the western and eastern districts resigned, and on March 15, 1830, the council elected LeFlore as principal chief, the first time that power had been so centralized among the Choctaw. He drafted a treaty which he sent to Washington, to try to secure the best terms for the Choctaw.
United States representatives came out to the Choctaw for a treaty council, where LeFlore used his formidable personal political capital and position as head of a unified tribe to secure the largest and most desirable areas of what would later be called Indian Territory. In addition, he believed that Article XIV would be honored and allow the Choctaw to keep some reserves in Mississippi. He regarded removal as inevitable, given his assessment of the politics and the sheer numbers of the growing European-American population.
The treaty included provisions allowing those Choctaw who chose to do so, to remain in Mississippi and become a citizen of the United States.
"ART. XIV. Each Choctaw head of a family being desirous to remain and become a citizen of the States, shall be permitted to do so, by signifying his intention to the Agent within six months from the ratification of this Treaty, and he or she shall thereupon be entitled to a reservation of one section of six hundred and forty acres of land, to be bounded by sectional lines of survey; in like manner shall be entitled to one half that quantity for each unmarried child which is living with him over ten years of age; and a quarter section to such child as may be under 10 years of age, to adjoin the location of the parent. If they reside upon said lands intending to become citizens of the States for five years after the ratification of this Treaty, in that case a grant in fee simple shall issue; said reservation shall include the present improvement of the head of the family, or a portion of it. Persons who claim under this article shall not lose the privilege of a Choctaw citizen, but if they ever remove are not to be entitled to any portion of the Choctaw annuity." According to the historian James Taylor Carson, the US Indian agent, William Ward[disambiguation needed], "refused to enroll the Choctaw claimants' reserves" in Mississippi, which undermined LeFlore's objectives for the treaty and led him to consider it a failure.
LeFlore's accomplishments in unifying and strengthening the Choctaw people are still honored. as the historian James Taylor Carson writes, "He was a Choctaw nationalist who sought to carve out a new and powerful nation for his people within the Cotton Kingdom of the Old South." His pragmatic approach to their removal from ancestral lands has been controversial.
Some Choctaw at the time believed that LeFlore had let them down and could have refused removal. Mushulatubbee, who had resigned, took back his office as chief of the western division, and rejected many of the civilizing measures which the national council had ordered during the previous two years. The Western Division council led a movement to depose LeFlore, and they elected his nephew George Washington Harkins in his place.
Jackson and other American leaders at the time had generally low opinions of mixed-race leaders, related more to their own ideas of race than an ability to appraise the Native American leaders. Carson believes that such negative opinions have affected the writing of historians for decades and their assessments of men such as LeFlore. He considers LeFlore and leaders like him to have been a new Creole generation, raised as Choctaw but absorbing what they could of the changing world to make a place for their peoples.
In the event, the Choctaw were awarded the largest territory of any removed tribe. It was located in the fertile, forested southeast corner of what is now Oklahoma. LeFlore did receive a grant of land in Mississippi, for 1,000 acres (4 km²) of land (his grant by the treaty, including allowances for unmarried children living with him.)
LeFlore as a U.S. citizen
Malmaison, Greenwood LeFlore's home
In the 1840s, LeFlore was elected Mississippi representative and senator. He was a fixture of Mississippi high society and a personal friend of Jefferson Davis. He was elected to represent Carroll County in the state house for two terms, and elected by the legislature as a state senator, serving one term. He became a wealthy planter and amassed a huge estate, where slaves worked acres of cotton.
Leflore wanted a manor house that befit his status as a wealthy planter. He commissioned James Harris, a Georgian, to design it. Leflore was an admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine, and had the house designed in French style. When he sought a name for the house, "he decided on the name of the chateau, ten miles west of Paris on the Seine." LeFlore called his Carroll County home Malmaison.
To furnish his mansion, LeFlore imported most of the furniture from France, where it had been made to order. Silver, glass, and china came in sets of dozens. The drawing room set was of 30 pieces of solid mahogany, finished in genuine gold and upholstered in silk damask. The house held mirrors, tables, large four-poster beds of rosewood with silken and satin canopies, and four tapestry curtains depicting the four palaces of Napoleon and Josephine: Versailles, Malmaison, Saint Cloud and Fontainebleau.
"Malmaison was one of the show places of Mississippi. It was a great tourist attraction and was visited annually by hundreds from all parts of the United States. Around it clung the memories of the transition of Mississippi from Indian territory to its present status."
LeFlore occupied the mansion until his death in 1865. He was buried wrapped in the American flag, on the estate. His body was later moved by angry members of the Choctaw nation, and buried face down in an unknown area. He left in addition to the mansion, an estate of 15,000 acres and 400 slaves. With emancipation after the war, the slaves became freedmen, but many may have stayed on the plantation to work for his descendants.
Greenwood LeFlore's horse carriage, late 1800s.
LeFlore descendants used the mansion until it was destroyed in a fire in 1942. Only a few pieces of crystal and silver, and some chairs were salvaged from the ruins of the mansion. The horse carriage used to transport LeFlore to visit Andrew Jackson and other Washington, D.C. officials had been saved and has been preserved.
Carson describes LeFlore:
"...he was first and foremost a man whose family had positioned him to draw together Choctaw and Anglo-American worlds. He owned slaves, read and wrote, and prayed at camp meetings, but he also presided over a political hierarchy of pipe lighters and captains, provided food, shelter, and educational opportunities for his followers, and promulgated his vision of the Choctaw future at the foot of the mound Nanih Waiya that had given his people life."
Greenwood LeFlore, Chief to the Choctaw Nation's Timeline
June 3, 1800
LeFleur's Bluffs, Mississippi, United States
December 15, 1824
Choctaw County, Mississippi, United States
May 4, 1837
August 31, 1865
From The Coahomian (Friar’s Point, Miss.), Page unknown:
October 20, 1865– Colonel Greenwood Leflore died on the 31st of August, at his residence in Carroll County, aged sixty-five years.
He was in on[e] sense “the last of the Choctaws”. He claimed his lineage from Choctaw Indians, although not of full blood. Colonel Leflore was the last chief of the Choctaws.
He remained in this State while his tribe took up their melancholy march to the lands west of the Mississippi.