The Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Cultural Heritage Center provides resources to keep the Tribe’s history safe and accessible for generations to come. One key way the Nation does this is through the CHC’s archives and video interviews.
To highlight some of the archive’s holdings, the Hownikan is featuring photographs and family history of every founding Citizen Potawatomi family. If interested in assisting preservation efforts by providing copies of Citizen Potawatomi family photographs, documents and more, and to schedule family interviews, please contact the CHC at 405-878-5830.
Elizabeth Ouilmette (Wilmot) married Lucius (Louis) Ripley Darling on July 15, 1836. She had previously been married to Michael P. Welch. Before he died, the couple had two children, Joseph and Catherine.
Elizabeth was one of eight children born to Antoine Ouilmette and Archange Chevalier Ouilmette. Archange’s mother, Chopa, was the daughter of Potawatomi warrior and headman Naunongee from the Calumet River Potawatomi.
Lucius, Elizabeth and the family removed to Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1837 and Lucius joined Waubansee’s Potawatomi band, serving as a trader. Their son William was baptized there on June 9, 1838. They had a total of 13 children with William, Francis L., Eliza (Bressman), Lucius A., Louis Oliver and Charles Nathan surviving to adulthood. The other children died as infants.
Lucius, Sr. later married two more times. First, he married Theresa Hardin. The couple had one child, who, sadly, died as an infant. After Theresa’s death, Lucius, Sr. married a third time to a non-Native woman named Esther Hartwell. They had three children: William O., Fortis (Fordice) S. and Herman.
Life in Indian Territory
The Treaty of 1846 required all the Potawatomi west to relocate on one reservation in Kansas, and the Darling family made their way there in 1847.
Due to pressure from incoming settlers and business, the Potawatomi signed a treaty in 1861 that offered an opportunity to become U.S. citizens and receive land allotments. Although Elizabeth died prior to 1863 and before the process was finalized, Lucius and their children chose to receive individual plots of land and became members of the Citizen Potawatomi.
Life in Indian Territory came with many challenges. The first winter was difficult and many families subsisted on little more than roots to survive. Poor health also persisted. In the summer of 1874, a plague of grasshoppers destroyed the fruit, pecans and other crops of many families.
Nevertheless, the Potawatomi were resilient and determined. In 1875, many Potawatomi began to consider how to educate their children. While some relied on the Sacred Heart Mission, others who lived further away from the mission dedicated their time to establishing day schools. Some of the earliest communities in Indian Territory were created around these day schools.
Some family history can be found within testimony family members provided during probate cases. Records reveal that Lucius Darling, Sr. died on March 18, 1875.
A document dated Sept. 19, 1912, revealed that Lucius Darling, Jr. died in Red Rock, Oklahoma, at the age of 38. His sister, Eliza Bressman, testified that her brother never married. He died from pneumonia.
Eliza’s testimony also stated that William died at about age 42, having never married or having children.
Francis and his wife, Mary, had a total of nine children: Rose L. (Moore), Carrie (Striegel), Francis E., and other children who died young. After Mary died in 1880, his second and third marriages ended in divorce and no children were born as a result of either union. Francis died Nov. 28, 1911, at the age of 69, with his three surviving children as heirs. According to the testimony of his son, Edward, Francis was 60 years old when he died and he was buried in Denver, Oklahoma.
Louis was still alive at the time of Eliza’s testimony and was age 60. Louis and his wife, Maggie, were the parents of Anna E. (Konkoskie), Frances E. (Steward), Louise, George P., Lucius J. and Ernest O.
Charles was also alive, age 56, living in Washington state. Charles and his wife, Annie, had Frank, Bina (Dailey) and Otis.
Eliza stated that she had been born in Shawnee County, Kansas. She lived there until she was 20, when the family moved to Indian Territory.
The earliest communities in what would become Oklahoma were born from the hard work and generosity of families like the Darlings. Family members created schools, businesses and helped push for vital infrastructure like roads to help support these growing towns.
A copy of a certificate within the CHC archives lists Carrie May Darling as having completed educational requirements at the Indian Industrial School. Carrie was admitted to the school on Sept. 18, 1885, and graduated in June 1889. She received training in sewing and general needle work and completed a course in the dressmaking trade.
On Nov. 13, 1912, Louis Melosh gave testimony to determine the heirs of his deceased sister, Agnes Melosh (Newton), who had died on Sept. 8, 1912. Louis shared that his mother, Eliza (Darling), was first married to William Henry Smith. Together, they had six children before William’s death: William E., Alice May (Tescier), George B., Frederick H., Ella F. (Cook) and John W. Eliza then married Charles Eldridge. They had a son named Lucius before Charles died. Eliza was then married to Joseph Melosh. They had Louis and Agnes. The couple divorced and Eliza later married Daniel Bressman and they had a son named Oliver.
At the time of his 1912 testimony, Louis said Eliza was about 62 years old, and living in McLoud, Oklahoma.
Rose Darling would go on to marry Charles Moore. They were the parents of George, Willie, Lillian, Amy and Charles.
The Darling family made countless contributions to the fabric of life that would eventually become Oklahoma and Pottawatomie County. They helped create a solid foundation that would benefit not only their Darling descendants but also non-Natives who would eventually call the area home.
If interested in assisting preservation efforts by providing copies of Citizen Potawatomi family photographs, documents and more, and to schedule family interviews, please contact the CHC at 405-878-5830. Schedule interviews online at portal.potawatomi.org. Learn more about the Family Reunion Festival at cpn.news/festival, and find research resources online at potawatomiheritage.com.