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[Muskogee Daily Phoenix, June 3, 1934]


Jackson Lived Alone Near Henryetta Until Gold Rushed From Scrubby Acreage


Battle for Indian Millions Just Starting, a Heirs Flock to Agency Here.

The death of Jackson Barnett last week brought to a sudden close one of the strangest and at the same time one of the sordidly romantic stories in the history of the rich Creek nation and began another.

Jackson Barnett was "the world's richest Indian".  As oil gushed forth from his 160 acres in Creek county - land that had been given up as unproductive, and which had been allotted him as punishment for his participation in the ill-fated "Crazy Snake" rebellion - Barnett's fortune was estimated at $90,000 per month, and 10 years later, as oil continued to pour from his properties, it was still estimated at more than three million dollars.

At his death, Jackson Barnett enjoyed a monthly income of $2,500 and had more than $1,900,000 on deposit with the superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes.

For 70 years Jackson lived among his dogs and ponies in a log cabin shack near Henryetta.  Unkept, unlettered, dirty, the millionaire Creek was considered a "scrub" Indian, unable to meet the requirements of the Creek tribe.  An outcast, Jackson lived alone until "black gold" poured out of his allotment.

It was there that Anna Laura Lowe, a Kansas oil promoter, found him, and rushed the millionaire "scrub" across the Kansas state line to marry him.  Mrs. Lowe is reported to have made several trips to Barnett's cabin to woo the aged Creek incompetent.  Jackson later said that he refused several times to marry Mrs. Lowe, an attractive white widow, because she called when it was "getting dark."

Against that marriage the Indian bureau cried in protest.  They insisted that Jackson was incompetent, did not understand the intent of marriage vows, and that the extent of his participation in the marriage ceremony had been a "grunt and a grin."

Need Other Kidnapers

Mrs. Barnett, the former Mrs. Lowe fought back with quiet and sullen fury.  She insisted that she had done more for Jackson than the government had ever done.

"If I kidnaped him," she insisted, "the government ought to hire other women like me to go out and kidnap the rest of the Indians."

The Barnett's - now central figures in a drama of riches that whirled about the unperturbed head of the childish old millionaire - moved to Muskogee to take up their residence as the department of interior continued its efforts to annul their marriage.

Never seriously concerned in any of the litigation to which he became a placid onlooker, Jackson insisted that he "liked" his wife and was willing to share his fortune with her.

"She smart woman" he said, "she count my money."  Barnett once attempted to estimate his fortune by the number of ponies it would buy.

Harassed by attorneys, Mrs. Barnett suddenly bundled up the "chief" and hurried him to California to a mansion at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard.  The step was taken, she insisted, to protect the "chief" against the ravages of further litigations.

In California, the aged Barnett found new interest in life.  Mrs. Barnett provided him with his loved calico ponies, and allowed him to stand daily on the parking as he directed traffic.

Held Prisoner Here

But Jackson was not allowed to remain in California.  Insisting that they had been kidnaped, the Barnetts were pushed back into Oklahoma and held virtual prisoners in the Baltimore hotel here pending disposition of their affairs before the eastern district of Oklahoma federal court.

Because Federal Judge Robert L. Williams was confined to a Battle Creek hospital at the time, Federal Judge F. E. Kennamer of Tulsa released Barnett on a $2,500 bond, warning Mrs. Barnett at the same time that criminal prosecutions would be brought against her if she attempted to take her "husband" back to the coast.

Mrs. Barnett was said at that time to have kept a automobile in front of the Muskogee federal building preparatory to a dash back to their Los Angeles mansion, but reconsidered in view of Judge Kennamer's lashing warning and engaged a cottage in Muskogee on West Broadway.

Back to California, the Barnett wrangle continued unabated as the department of interior insisted that the "faked marriage" should be annulled.  Despite the fact that the couple had lived as husband and wife for more than 13 years, the government continued its efforts to secure an annulment and to denounce Mrs. Barnett as an imposter.

Marriage Held Void

On March 31, 1934, Federal Judge William P. James of Los Angeles declared the marriage void.  It was a shock not only to Mrs. Barnett and to the unperturbed Jackson, but to the department of interior that originally sought annulment only to later recognize the validity of the "grunt and grin" marriage vows.

Judge James held that Jackson Barnett was an incompetent and that he had not known the purpose of the marriage ceremony.  He held, however, that Barnett could employ his wife as a housekeeper, but that expense accounts were not to exceed $2,500 per month.

Jackson Barnett's Indian fortune is one that has rocked national administrations, brought on senatorial investigations and demands for cabinet resignations.  Jackson alone of the principals concerned in the million dollar litigations has remained calm and undisturbed as the drama of human greed broke about his aged head.

On Sept. 26, 1926, Harold McGugin, long an attorney for Mrs. Barnett, carried a direct appeal to President Calvin Coolidge, insisting that attorneys should "let Jackson alone."  McGugin insisted that Sen. W. B. Pine of Oklahoma had attempted to tie up the Barnett funds in Okmulgee county through the appointment of various local guardians.

McGugin, now a republican representative from Kansas, charged that the Pine machine was dominating in Okmulgee county and had attempted to keep the funds there for their personal advancement.

He Directed Traffic

McGugin demanded, at the same time, the resignation of Bert M. Parmeter, as assistant United States attorney general.  Pine had demanded the resignation of Indian Commissioner Burge who had approved various Barnett settlements.

As attorney fought and were disbarred, as cabinet officials grabbed, and were dismissed, as senators meddled and were investigated, Jackson stood on the parking of his palatial colonial home in Los Angeles and tended his duties as a volunteer traffic officer.

At one time Barnett attempted to donate $550,000 to Bacone and another $550,000 in trust funds to his wife at his death.   According to the agreement - admittedly drawn by Mrs. Lowe - Barnett was to have had an interest in both trust funds until his death.

Against that donation, however, there was also vigorous protest.  "Friends" of the aged Creek insisted that he had been prevailed upon to sign with his thumb mark a deed that he did not understand, and forced the matter into federal court to save the million dollar fortune.

Barnett's deed were set aside by Federal Judge John C. Knox of New York in 1927.  Judge Knox held that Jackson Barnett had been "kidnaped and married by an adventuress, and harassed and annoyed by his attorneys" until he had become a "shuttlecock in a game of battledore in which the stakes are high."

Suit Brought here

Bacone returned the $550,000.  Mrs. Lowe continued her fight for recognition until death overtook the chief.

Mrs. Barnett came to Muskogee three weeks ago to file a motion in federal court here to require the department of interior to pay the $2,500 monthly check through the office of the superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes.  She was apparently dissatisfied with the handling of her accounts by the Mission Indian agency, but could find no suit here in which she could file and was forced to return to Los Angeles.

There it was that death, suddenly and unexpected, overtook "the chief" and carried him quietly back to the happy hunting ground that he had known in his pioneer shack near Henryetta.

To Jackson the white man's world had always been interesting, but queer, unexplainable, and a bit "off."

He sipped of that which he approved and ignored that which disturbed the tranquility of his child like mind.

His neighbors around Henryetta insisted that he was "daffy" but excused his incompetence on the grounds that he had been thrown from a horse as a youth.

Perhaps as Jackson fell dead in his palatial home in Los Angeles his mind reverted back to Henryetta, as his relatives insist that his body shall be returned there for burial.

His Spirit Strong

Mrs. Barnett refused to concede that "the chief" might be dead.  "His spirit is so strong" she insisted, "surely he will come back now." 

But the chief was dead and over his corpse broke one of the strangest and most inhuman maelstroms yet witnessed in a civilized world.

As Barnett lay a corpse, his government denied him the right of burial.  Though he had lived in loneliness among his dogs and ponies in the Henryetta community, though he had known none of human companionship until wealth was his, his relatives and heirs besieged the Five Civilised tribes roll book prove their claim to his fortune.

They insisted that Mrs. Lowe, his companion for 13 years, should not be consulted in burial plans and registered vigorous protest to the present commissioner of Indian affairs who ordered that burial be postponed and that the body of Jackson Barnett - denied even the solace of peace in death - be held in escrow pending disposition of various legal details.

Even as to his return to Oklahoma, Barnett's "loving" relatives could not agree.  Some insisted that he should be returned to Henryetta for the final weird Indian rites, others were equally vehement that he should be laid to rest in the old Arbeka cemetery near Bryant. 

The battle for the fortune of Jackson Barnett, observers say, has just begun. More than 20 nephews and nephews have put in their claims as kin of the dead millionaire, and as for Jackson... "The chief is dead; long live the chief."

Jackson's paternal nieces and nephews.
The heirs are included in one paternal family tree chart, based on the records of the Five Tribes agency here.  It runs something like this.

Siah Barnett died in 1897.  His first wife was Thlesothle, the mother of Jackson Barnett.

Mary Barnett, now dead, was Siah's second wife.  Children of this marriage are listed as Dave Barnett, half brother of Jackson and now dead; Maria West, died 1897; Hannah Fisher, died 1900 and Ellen McQueen.

Jimmy Barnett, one of the principal claimants of the Jackson Barnett estate, is the son of Dave. Jimmy claims to be the sole heir.  Pompey West and Benjamin Davis, both dead, are listed as children of Maria West.  Seaborn Fisher, William Fisher, Mariah Fisher and Lewis Fisher are listed as children of Hannah Fisher.  Charles Grayson, George Walker, and Joe Byrd or Joe Seaborn are listed as children of Ellen McQueen.

An 'Old Man' Conner

On the maternal side there was an "Old Man" Conner, whose wife is unknown.  Conner was known as "Irish Tuskegee Micco."  Children included Thlesothle or Betty, whose son was Jackson Barnett; Jenny and William Conner.  Jenny died without heirs. William Conner, a Seminole fullblood, died in 1900 and had a child by a first marriage named Wynie Conner, now Hendrix.  Another child of the older Conners was Lydia Conner, who died in 1922.  The last was Thomas Conner who died in 1901.  William Conner also has these three children: Rosanna , dead; Susie, Emma, Jennie, dead, and May or Hannah Conner.  Thomas Conner had these children: Thomas, Jr., dead; William, Nettie, and John.

By this genealogy it is noted that "Old Man" Conner had five children, one of whom was Thlesothle, Jackson's mother, and that heirs on the maternal side come through William Conner, who was married twice, and Thomas Conner.  No heirs through Jenny or Lydia Conner are shown.

On the paternal side, after Jackson's mother died, Siah Barnett married again and had four children, all of whom had heirs.  However, all heirs of Maria West are now dead.