History

Mount Tabor Indian Community

By Patrick Pynes, Ph.D, Northern Arizona University

 

There are two American Indian tribes located in Texas today that are recognized by the state government, but not by the federal government. One of these is the Mount Tabor Indian Community.

 

Although generally thought of as a Cherokee community only, the Mount Tabor Indian Community also has important Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek (Muscogee) roots. What all four of these indigenous peoples have in common are deep roots in the U.S. Southeast and a shared experience of colonization and removal from their original homelands.

 

Beginning with the community’s establishment during the 1840s, the Mount Tabor Indian Community has been located in the Rusk County area of east Texas. The community was founded in Rusk County in 1845, some six miles south of Kilgore. As of 2016, the community counted slightly more than 500 enrolled members. About 300 of these members are living in Rusk, Smith, and Gregg Counties, mainly within about twenty miles of Kilgore. Many of the community’s members live near the town of Troup in extreme southeast Smith County, near the Rusk County line.

 

The Mount Tabor Indian Community’s deepest indigenous roots reach back into Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina, and to the federal government’s policies of Assimilation and Removal as a means of solving the “Indian problem.” These federal “foreign” policies originated in the early nineteenth century, especially during the Washington and Jefferson administrations. They culminated in 1830 with the passage by the U.S. Congress of President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, despite the “no” votes of people like Congressman David Crockett of Tennessee.

 

A now barely remembered, highly charged, and deeply polarizing debate followed in the United States during the 1830s, between those who supported Indian Removal and those who strongly opposed it, mainly on moral grounds, like the Reverend Jeremiah Evarts and other Christian missionaries. This was a national debate, not all that different from later debates over slavery, civil rights, and the Vietnam War. Christians like Evarts believed in a policy of “Civilization” (assimilation) rather than forced Removal of the Southeast’s indigenous nations and peoples. Some of these missionaries, like the Reverend Samuel Worcester of the Cherokee Nation, were imprisoned for resisting federal and state policies of Indian removal.

 

During the 1840s, just as the Republic of Texas was becoming the state of Texas, a small portion of east Texas became a refuge of sorts for some Cherokees and other indigenous peoples of the Southeast. These mixed-blood Cherokees and other indigenous peoples were fleeing the violence and chaos that followed in the wake of the Trail of Tears. For the Cherokee Nation, the “the trail where they cried” (and many died) took place in 1838-1839, less than a decade after passage of the Indian Removal Act. The polarizing debate over Indian Removal was eventually won by those in political power who supported it, despite legal victories in the U.S. federal courts like Worcester vs. Georgia (1832).

 

The Trail of Tears also involved the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks, and it is one of the United States of America’s darkest historical tragedies. However, in an historical twist of irony and paradox, the tragedies of Indian Removal also led to the founding of the Mount Tabor Indian Community near Kilgore, and to the survival and persistence of American Indian peoples in Texas, a word that itself is of indigenous origin.

 

Ultimately composed of mixed-blood Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek people of the “Civilized Tribes” who were removed from their homelands during the Removal Era, the Mount Tabor Indian Community formed in phases, as families and individuals sought refuge in east Texas. Mirroring what was happening in the southeastern United States during the late 1830s, the Lamar administration of the Texas Republic conducted a war of removal upon a small band of Cherokees and other indigenous peoples who had been living in east Texas since about 1820. The ostensible reason for their expulsion from the Republic was to prevent their conspiring with the Mexican government, which continued to make attempts to re-establish Texas as a part of Mexico, despite the Texas Revolution and its aftermath.

 

Following the Battle of the Neches in July 1839 and the expulsion of the Cherokees under Chief Bowles (Duwa’li, or “The Bowl”) from Texas, some Cherokees who did not flee northward to Indian Territory settled in other parts of Texas, from the Red River south to Mexico. At the same moment in time, thousands of refugee Cherokees who had survived the Trail of Tears were resettling in Indian Territory and the Cherokee Nation (West): today’s northeastern Oklahoma.

 

One group of Texas Cherokees was led by Chicken Trotter, whose English name was Devereaux Jarrett Bell. D.J. Bell’s indigenous ancestors were originally from the Cherokee Nation’s Lower Towns, in what is now far northeastern Georgia and far western South Carolina. His mother Charlotte Adair was the daughter of a Cherokee woman of the Deer Clan and John Adair, an Irish trader to the Cherokees. In 1800, Chicken Trotter’s mother and his grandfather John Adair were living on the Tugaloo River in Pendleton District, South Carolina, on the “frontier” between the United States and the Cherokee Nation.

 

Forty years later, and much further west, Chicken Trotter and other refugee Cherokees from Texas were living near Monclova, in Tamaulipas state of northern Mexico. Simultaneously, Chicken Trotter’s brother John Adair Bell and his Cherokee wife Jane Martin were living on the Arkansas/Cherokee Nation border, having recently moved to Indian Territory on the Trial of Tears. John Adair Bell had been one of the “Ridge” Party Cherokees who had signed the Treaty of New Echota in late 1835, exchanging what was left of the Cherokee Nation’s lands in the southeast for lands in Indian Territory.

 

Following the expulsion of The Bowl’s Texas Cherokees, Chicken Trotter led surviving Cherokees under the liaison of Vincente Cordova in a guerrilla war against the Republic of Texas until 1842. In that year, these Cherokees who refused to leave behind their homes in east Texas were finally defeated in the battle of Salado Creek, where eighteen Cherokees were killed. Previously the Cherokees had seen action against the Republic in Corpus Christi, San Patricio and during General Woll’s campaign in San Antonio participated in actions against the Dawson Expedition. Following the withdrawal of General Woll, Chicken Trotter withdrew his forces back to Monclova.

 

Then, one year later in 1843, Chicken Trotter participated in the Treaty of Birds Fort. This treaty recognized sovereign relationships between the Republic of Texas under President Sam Houston (a adopted “citizen” Cherokee himself) and several indigenous communities living within the Republic’s borders, including the Cherokees. The Treaty of Birds Fort recognized the Cherokees’ rights to stay in Texas and also recognized them as a distinct community, separate from the Cherokee Nation and from their Cherokee relatives living in the United States (Indian Territory).

 

At the same time that the Cherokee Nation was being forcibly removed from portions of what are now Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee, three distinct groups were coming back together in the new Cherokee Nation (West). First in time were the “Old Settlers,” or Cherokees who had moved west prior to the Treaty of New Echota in 1835. Some of these were Arkansas Cherokees who had moved to the Missouri Territory along the Arkansas River between 1810 and 1820.

 

As the southern half of the Missouri Territory became the Arkansas Territory, and more and more white settlers surrounded them, the Arkansas Cherokees signed a treaty with the United States in 1828 and most moved west once more, into the Indian Territory. These former Osage lands became the core of the new Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory, which received the two major groups who moved westward on the Trail of Tears, joining the Western Cherokees.

 

Second in time were the Treaty Party Cherokees, a minority faction of mainly mixed-blood Christian, Cherokees who—under extreme duress—decided that the only way to survive the Removal Era and to save the Cherokee Nation from total destruction was to sign the Treaty of New Echota. Like their leader Major Ridge—a full blood who spoke no English —and John Adair Bell, who belonged to the same matrilineal Deer Clan as the Ridge—they signed the Treaty of New Echota and moved west.

 

Third in time were the Ross Party Cherokees, the majority faction of the Cherokee Nation under the leadership of Principal Chief John Ross, a mixed-blood of 1/8 Cherokee ancestry. Under the leadership of Ross, the Cherokee Nation strongly resisted all attempts by the federal government and states like Georgia to remove the Cherokee people from their sacred homelands. Like Reverend Evarts and Worcester, eventually they lost the argument.

 

Because indigenous peoples like the Cherokees are deeply connected to their homelands, the Treaty of New Echota was extremely controversial. Most–but not all–Cherokees strongly opposed it. When these three different groups of Cherokees came back together in the Indian Territory following the Trail of Tears, violence and bloodshed eventually rose to the surface. It was rooted in all of this trauma, and in federal policies of “divide and conquer.”

 

After Ross Party members executed Major Ridge, his son John Ridge, and Major Ridge’s nephew Buck Oowatie (Elias Boudinot) for signing the illegal Treaty of New Echota, only a month before the Republic of Texas expelled the Texas Cherokees at the Battle of the Neches, the “Starr War” began in the Cherokee Nation, sometimes spilling over into neighboring Arkansas. Treaty Party Cherokees like members of the Starr family killed Ross Party Cherokees, and vice versa.

 

As the violence escalated, a state of near Civil War ensued, and both the Old Settlers and the Treaty Party Cherokees petitioned U.S. President James K. Polk to divide the Cherokee Nation, with the southern half going to the Old Settlers and Treaty Party, and the northern half going to the Ross Party. President Polk rejected this request, but he did issue an Executive Order. This order instructed those Old Settlers and Treaty Party members who desired to go to Texas to find lands suitable there. In the early spring of 1844, Chicken Trotter’s brother John Adair Bell, along with John Griffith Harnage and other Treaty Party members, together made an extended “exploratory” trip down into Texas. Near Waco, they met with Cherokees who were part of the community that had earlier taken refuge in Monclova, Mexico.

 

At the same time, since Texas was not yet part of the United States, the Republic would not allow most Indians to own lands within its borders. For this reason, Benjamin Franklin Thompson, a white man whose wife was Annie Martin, sister of John Adair Bell’s wife Jane Martin, purchased 10,000 acres of land in Rusk County. This land was located not all that far away from the site of one of the Texas Cherokees’ former villages. Despite their best efforts, Chief Bowles, Richard Fields, Jr., and other Texas Cherokees had never gained legal title to the lands they were living on in east Texas, from either the Republic of Mexico or from the Republic of Texas.

 

Now, however, with Thompson’s land purchases, the community that was just beginning to root down near Kilgore owned fee simple land in Texas that the community’s members could live together upon, without their title and tenure in the land being questioned or denied in the courts, or elsewhere. Following the annexation of the Republic of Texas by the United States of America, American Indians could legally own land, and the community began to expand. By 1850, families of Yowani Choctaws and McIntosh Party Creek Indians, the latter a Creek political group similar to the Ridge Party, had settled just to the south of Thompson’s lands near present-day New London, Texas. More than a decade before the start of the Civil War, the Mount Tabor Indian Community had already taken on much of its present shape and identity.

 

On the first U.S. census of the state of Texas (1850), in Rusk County, one finds the names of several of the Mount Tabor Indian Community’s founding members, including John Bell, husband of Charlotte Adair of the Deer Clan. These were the parents of John Adair Bell and Chicken Trotter Bell. Living with their father, age 68, were two of Chicken Trotter’s younger siblings, Charlotte and James Madison, both of whom were born in the Cherokee Nation during the 1820s. Another of the Bell siblings was Sarah Caroline Bell, wife of Buck Oowatie’s brother Stand Watie, who had also signed the Treaty of New Echota.

 

The first mention in written records of the Mount Tabor Indian Community is found in a letter that John Adair Bell wrote to his brother-in-law Stand Watie in 1854. In the letter Bell wrote: “I call my place Mount Taber” (sic) and then he gives his address as “Mount Taber, Texas.” Both the 1850 and 1860 U.S. census records for east Texas show all of the community’s families living within an area south of present day Kilgore to an area north of present day Troup. While the community’s Cherokee families were spread throughout this region, its Choctaw families were clustered together in an area just south of present day Overton and north of Troup.

 

An 1854 letter from Nancy (Bell) Starr to her sister Sarah Caroline (Bell) Watie shows that the community was prospering in east Texas and had no desire to return to the Cherokee Nation. That situation, however, would change during the Civil War. During the “Late Rebellion,” the community grew substantially as families of Confederate Cherokees fled to Rusk County to avoid the bloodshed that engulfed the United States and Indian Territory. Most Cherokee males joined the Second Cherokee Mounted Volunteers, Confederate State of America, serving with Brigadier General Stand Watie. One of these men was William Penn Adair, who eventually became Watie’s second in command.

 

However, not all Cherokees joined Watie’s regiment. John Martin Thompson organized men to fight for Texas. He mustered his men at Bellview, a town that was formed out of the Mount Tabor Community. This group was composed of a few Cherokees, a larger group of Choctaws, and a few intermarried whites. The name “Mount Tabor” fell into obscurity for a few years, although it remained tied to one of three tribal cemeteries. Instead, Bellview was the community’s unofficial capital until after the war. The Civil War brought years of considerable suffering for the community. The Confederate Cherokees in Indian Territory saw action throughout the region and in northern Arkansas. Thompson’s Confederate forces also saw action in Arkansas and Louisiana, but the greatest loss of life during the war happened at the Battle of Jenkins Ferry in Arkansas. The loss of so many of the community’s men in battle and otherwise meant troubled times for those remaining in Rusk and Smith counties.

 

Following the end of hostilities, life continued to be very hard. In 1866, following the death of John Ross, the old feud between the Ross and Ridge parties came to an end. In that same year the Cherokee Nation passed a law that gave those Cherokees living in Texas the right of return to the nation. Citizenship for those who left Texas was restored. As a result, more than 80 percent of the population of the Mount Tabor Indian Community living in Texas left between 1866 and 1895. By 1900, the families that make up the community today were the only ones who were still living in Texas. Among the Cherokees, most of the descendants of Annie Martin-Thompson stayed in Texas. Along with them were the families of Caleb Starr Bean and his brother John Ellis Bean, who remained near Kilgore, and the descendants of George Harnage, who remained near Overton. All of the community’s Cherokee families were eventually listed on the Old Settler Roll (1851) or on the Guion-Miller Roll (1906). These two rolls documented their Cherokee ancestry.

 

While the Cherokees from the community were welcomed back with open arms into the Cherokee Nation, the community’s Choctaws had a different experience. With the end of the tribal nations in Indian Territory and the creation of the state of Oklahoma, citizenship was required in order for one to be included on the Dawes Roll. If one was on the Dawes Roll, one could then receive an individual allotment of land from the communal tribal estate. William Clyde Thompson led groups of Choctaws to Indian Territory during this era. They settled in the Chickasaw Nation near present day Marlow, Oklahoma. Initially all Texas Choctaws were not entered onto the Dawes Roll. They were denied citizenship in part because they had separated from the Choctaw Nation many decades earlier and had never returned to the nation.

 

In addition, because they were from Texas, they were discriminated against by the Choctaw Nation, which was concerned only about re-admitting Choctaws who were finally moving westward from Mississippi. Many of the Choctaws from Rusk and Smith counties also were of Chickasaw blood, but only one family applied for citizenship in the Chickasaw Nation. All of the Mount Tabor Indian Community’s members in the W.C. Thompson, et. al. vs. Choctaw Nation lawsuit identified themselves as Choctaws only. In the end, Thompson’s fight for citizenship eventually succeeded, and some 70 Texas Choctaws were admitted as Citizens by Blood in the Choctaw Nation.

 

This incorporated both Mount Tabor Choctaw families the Thompson’s descendants of Margaret McCoy-Thompson and the Jones family, descendants of Nashoba, also known as Samuel Jones. The Jones family were Choctaws only, whereas the Thompson’s were both Choctaws and Chickasaws. The Choctaw ‘and the Cherokee Thompson’s were related to one another by common white ancestors, just as the Beans were related to the Chickasaw McCoy’s through similar common white ancestors. As to the Muscogee-Creeks, most left the Mount Tabor Indian Community either during the Civil War or shortly thereafter. A few returned to the Creek Nation, but others scattered throughout Texas. Only a few descendants of the Berryhill’s through intermarriage with the white Posey family remain within the community today.

 

Immediately following the Civil War, Stand Watie was still regarded as the leader of the Texas Cherokees, although John Martin Thompson was the local community chief. When Watie died in 1871, leadership of the Texas Cherokees was passed to former Mount Tabor resident William Penn Adair, grandson of Walter “Black Watt” Adair and Rachel Thompson. Black Watt Adair was the brother of Charlotte Adair, husband of John Bell, and Rachel was the sister of Benjamin Franklin Thompson, husband of Annie Martin. As early as 1854, William Penn Adair had formed the Texas Cherokees and Associate Bands (sometimes known as the Affiliated Bands) in Rusk County to seek a return of 1.66 million acres of lands that the provisional government of the Texas Republic had guaranteed to the Texas Cherokees and Twelve Associated Tribes in 1836. This treaty (Treaty of Bowles Village) included the Yowani Choctaws under the name “Ioni” (many observers considered the Yowani’s a part of the Caddo Confederacy, thus the name Ioni) and other Choctaws separately. However, following the Texas Revolution, the Republic of Texas refused to honor the treaty. This was one of the factors that led to the expulsion of the Cherokees from Texas three years later, in 1839.

 

Following the Civil War, Adair worked hard to allow Confederate Cherokees to be allowed to return to Texas, but the United States government refused to allow them to immigrate to Texas. After Watie’s death, Adair reorganized the Texas Cherokee and Associate Bands, seeking redress from the state of Texas. When the state of Texas offered 15 million acres in the 1850’s to settle the lawsuit, Adair rejected the offer. Most of the lands that were offered were located in the arid Texas Panhandle, and were still occupied by the Comanches. Adair realized that accepting the offer would likely result in a war between the Cherokees and Comanches. He wanted nothing to do with spilling blood to secure the Panhandle, and was skeptical about the record of Texas and treaties. The State of Texas in 1871 made no such offer, but did change their constitution in 1875 that would not allow them to be sued in the future.

 

Adair continued to lead the Texas Cherokees and Associated Bands until his death in 1880. At the time of his death, he was living in Washington, D.C., and still attempting to secure lands in Texas for the Cherokees. Following Adair’s death, John Martin Thompson took over many of the TCAB’s activities, as well as local Rusk County concerns, until the following year, when he opened a new lumber mill near Dibol in Trinity County. While Thompson continued his involvement with the TCAB until his death in 1907, the local “Community Chief” during these years was Caleb Starr Bean. Bean saw to it that all eligible residents were able to apply for the Guion Miller Roll. He initially sought to get many descendants enrolled on the Dawes Roll, but enrollment was limited to people who were living within the official borders of the Cherokee Nation.

 

Those residents of the Mount Tabor Indian Community who had remained in Texas after the Civil War were not eligible for citizenship and being placed on the Dawes Roll. Between the end of the war and the Dawes Roll era (1890s), the community had evolved into a separate band, although ties to the Cherokee Nation remained strong. These close connections are supported by documents showing that Mount Tabor Indian Community Cherokees who sold their lands in Rusk County often did not receive funds from the sale of their lands. Instead, the money went to the Cherokee Nation. In fact, the Mount Tabor Indian Community continued to consider itself a part of the Cherokee Nation even after the federal government officially dissolved the nation in 1906. That continued to be the case until the Cherokee Nation adopted a new constitution in 1975 and was revived.

 

Following Caleb Starr Bean’s death in 1902, his younger brother John Ellis Bean took over leadership of the Mount Tabor Indian Community. “Chief Bean,” as he was referred to locally, held the community together during what would eventually become very hard economic times. He remained in that capacity until his death in 1927. Even more difficult times followed his death, as the Great Depression gripped the United States, hitting the Mount Tabor Indian Community especially hard.

 

During the Depression era, the community’s leadership became somewhat fluid. Martin Luther Thompson was the leader of the community’s Choctaws, while J. Malcolm Crim led the community’s Cherokees. A nephew of John Martin Thompson, Crim also became the first mayor of Kilgore. His leadership was solidified in the finding of oil in Rusk County in 1930. Within a few days, Kilgore went from a sleepy town of 700, with a substantial mixed-blood American Indian population, to more than 10,000 people, many of whom were less than scrupulous individuals.

 

During the same period, the Texas Cherokees and Associate Bands began to look more like an Oklahoma organization than the Texas group that had formed more than fifty years earlier. Oklahoma Cherokee Claude Muskrat became Chairman of the TCAB Executive Committee and sought action against the state of Texas in 1914. In 1920-1921, Muskrat then took his case to the United States Supreme Court, echoing the Cherokee Nation’s legal actions during the 1830s. Following Muskrat’s death, William Wayne (W.W.) Keeler became Chairman of the TCAB. In 1949, U.S. President Harry Truman appointed Keeler Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. In that same year, the TCAB filed suit before the federal government’s Indian Claims Commission, regarding the treaty of Bowles Village.

 

Although Keeler was a direct descendant of Texas Cherokee Chief, Richard Fields, the Mount Tabor Indian Community’s leaders living in east Texas were no longer being included in important decisions. During the period when Muskrat controlled the TCAB, a major conflict took place between TCAB attorney George Fields and Martin Luther Thompson over removal of the Choctaws from consideration in any treaty settlement. In fact, Fields attempted to leave the Mount Tabor Indian Community out of the legal process entirely. Without Muskrat’s leadership, Fields may have succeeded.

 

The case before the Indian Claims Commission eventually received an adverse decision. The ICC stated that the Texas Cherokees had returned to Indian Territory after the Civil War, and were now part of the official body of the Cherokee Nation (which no longer really existed, except in a legal sense). The Indian Claims Commission litigation failed to recognize those families of Cherokees who had stayed in Texas after the Cherokee War of 1839 and were a party to the Treaty of Bowles Village in 1836 and continued to live in east Texas as members of the Mount Tabor Indian Community. This legal decision did not apply to the Choctaws, however, because their families had never left the community. This can be traced back to the aforementioned issue with George Fields. Had the Yowani Choctaws been fully incorporated into the ICC litigation, the commission’s decision could have been a different one.

 

Keeler made one last attempt to see the treaties provisions enforced in 1963, but that clearly had nothing to do with the Mount Tabor Indian Community. With the restructuring of the Cherokee Nation in the 1970s, Keeler sent a letter to Judge Foster Bean, resigning as Chairman of the Texas Cherokees and Associated Bands. Foster had replaced Malcolm Crim in 1931, and also served for twenty years as mayor of Kilgore. Serving as “Chief” of the Mount Tabor Indian Community until 1988, Bean never used that title as those before him had.

 

Known as “Judge Bean” to this day, he kept the community together during a time when its cultural roots began to wither. The oil money that community members began to receive during the 1930s was a double-edge sword. The sudden wealth helped to pull many community members out of the despair of the “Great Depression”, but oil money also changed the community’s traditional culture, and these changes still resonate today. From 1972 until his resignation in 1988, Judge Bean was the only Chairman of the TCAB.

 

In 1988, J.C. Thompson became the next Chairman. Thompson began a federal acknowledgment project for the community in 1990, but this effort was put on hold in 1993, in part due to internal struggles within the community and a misunderstanding of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ complex criteria for federal recognition.

 

Thompson served as Chairman until 1998, when Terry Easterly replaced him for a short period of time. Easterly was the first female to lead the TCAB. A descendant of Arthur Thompson, the brother of William C. Thompson, she was also the first leader who was not of Cherokee descent. Instead, her heritage was Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek. In 2000, Easterly was succeeded by Peggy Dean-Atwood, a descendant of Archibald Thompson and also someone who was not of Cherokee descent. She resigned in 2001. J.C. Thompson returned as Chairman and has remained in that capacity until today (2017).

 

The Mount Tabor Indian Community holds annual membership meetings to vote on specific tribal issues. At the 2015 annual meeting in Troup, Texas, the community once again voted to restart the federal acknowledgment project. The community also sought recognition as an indigenous community by the state of Texas but was unsuccessful in 2015. However, SCR 25 was passed unanimously in both houses of the 85th Texas Legislature in 2017, recognizing the Mount Tabor Indian Community. The community considers this acknowledgment by the state of Texas as one of the first steps towards federal recognition.

 

2015 was celebrated as the 170th year since the Mount Tabor Indian Community was founded in east Texas. Although lands were purchased in 1844, it wasn’t until the following year that families began to relocate and settle in Rusk County.

 

During the community’s annual meeting in Kilgore in 2016, members voted to revise their constitution, making changes to the earlier 1999 constitution. The community believed that these changes would be more acceptable to the Secretary of the Interior and the BIA as the community prepares for and begins the process of petitioning for federal acknowledgment. With the new constitution, the Mount Tabor Indian Community will have a three tier government. Along with retaining a five member Executive Committee and a three member Tribal Court, the new constitution divides the community into five districts. It establishes a seven member Tribal Council that is composed of five representatives from each of the districts and two at-large representatives.

 

Religious faith has always been important to the Mount Tabor Indian Community. Traditionally the community was divided between Methodists in the southern area and Presbyterians among the families living near Kilgore. In the beginning, this divide followed ethnic differences, with Cherokees being Presbyterians and the Choctaws being Methodists. Today, the community is quite diverse in terms of its members religious beliefs. The Reverend Evan Fetcher Thompson, a descendant of Archibald Thompson, separated from the Methodist Church in the early 20th century, taking on the Nazarene faith. From Reverend Thompson numerous churches throughout Rusk County and southeast Smith County bear the fruit of his labors.

 

The Mount Tabor Indian Community also maintains two of its three traditional cemeteries, where many of its members’ ancestors are buried. Located just south of the Kilgore city limits, the Thompson Cemetery is located next to the home of Benjamin Franklin Thompson, and is still in use today. The community’s Asbury Indian Cemetery is part of the larger Asbury Cemetery. This cemetery includes an African-American section and a section where many non-Indian whites are buried, located just west of the graves of some of the original Mount Tabor family members. Originally known as Standing Pines, the community dedicated the first of five memorials there in October, 2016. These memorials honor the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee, and Cherokee families who are interred there.

 

The community’s third cemetery is the original Mount Tabor Indian Cemetery, which was destroyed by oil field workers in 1966. The community is currently working to get the land back and to restore the cemetery in honor of those who are buried there, including John Bell, husband of Charlotte Adair of the Deer Clan, mother of the mixed blood Cherokee man who wrote in 1854, “I call my place Mt. Taber….”

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