Published on January 21, 2011 by Amy
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Portrait of Thomas Wildcat Alford family
Thomas Wildcat Alford, known as one of the outstanding Indian leaders and educators in Oklahoma, will be honored in final rites at his home, east of Benson Park, at 2:30 Thursday afternoon.
The 78-year-old benefactor of his fellow tribesmen succumbed to a long illness at 2:45 Wednesday morning at his home, south of Shawnee.
Rev. M. Jordan of Tecumseh will be in charge of the service to be followed by burial in the Tecumseh Cemetery at 3 o’clock when a Masonic graveside service will be held.
Alford was a thirty-second degree Mason and a member of the McAlester consistory.
Alford was 78 years old at the time of his death. He had been in failing health for some time.
The Indian leader was a member of the Absentee Shawnee tribe and direct descendant of the historically famous Chief Tecumseh.
In his own right, he was credited with having brought fellow Indians of central Oklahoma through the difficult period of transition from primitive ways to the new civilization governed by white men.
He had a distinguished career as teacher, adviser, and interpreter before retiring in his old age to a quiet life at his home, “Bird’s Nest,” east of the old Benson Park grounds, south of Shawnee.
Alford’s life was the subject of a book, Civilization, by Mrs. Florence Drake of Tecumseh, published in 1936 by the University of Oklahoma Press.
Born in 1860 on the banks of the Canadian River in Seminole County, near what is now Sasakwa, Alford had the same primitive background and environment as other Indian boys of his time.
He early became convinced, however, that the Indian race could only survive by adopting the best in the white man’s culture and reconciling itself to a day when Oklahoma would be completely settled and dominated by whites.
After a period of study at Hampton Institute, VA, then a center of Indian education, he returned to his tribe as a teacher. For some time he met covert opposition from older Indians who distrusted his white man’s education, but he gradually established himself in their esteem.
[A sentence or part of one seems to be missing here...] the present Shawnee Indian Agency south of Shawnee.
In the years that followed, he alternated as a teacher and as a representative of the Indians in the difficult negotiations with the government which accompanied white settlement of the state. With the aid of Ellen Bullfrog, a former pupil, he drew up the first official roll of the Absentee Shawnee tribe, on which land allotments later were based. Translated Gospels. Among his other achievements was a translation of the Four gospels into the Shawnee language. He also served as interpreter in several important early day court trials.
Alford’s mother was a granddaughter of the great chief Tecumseh. On his father’s side, he had a strain of white blood. His father’s grandmother had been an English captive of the Shawnee tribe. Returned to her own people, under a general treaty, she grieved so much for the Indians who had cared for her in childhood that she slipped back to the tribe, later marrying into it.
In the recent years of his retirement, Alford has been an authoritative source of historical details about the Indians of this region.
He remained an alert spectator of the changing social life in Oklahoma, and watched with particular interest the ways in which young Indians were being absorbed into the white civilization.
Seven sons and four daughters survive Alford—Pierrepont Alford and Paul Leon Alford, Phoenix, AZ; Charles R. Alford, NE; George H. Alford, CA; Eugene R. Alford, Thomas W. Alford, Jr., and Elwood Alford, all of Shawnee; Mrs. Don A. Peters, Amarillo; Mrs. Rachael K. Powell, NC; Mrs. Ruth Musick and Miss Martha Alford of McLoud.
A sister, Mrs. Nellie Hood, lives in Tecumseh.
The Gaskill Undertaking Company is in charge of funeral arrangements.