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Cooper Siblings Guardianship

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1895 to 1903
Location: Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: Cooper McGilberry
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Was Kittie McGilberry the natural mother of Kirby and Dora Cooper?

Kirby and Dora Cooper | Siblings
On Monday, 7 Nov 1898, at the Probate Court of Sans Bois County, Indian Territory, one Simon Thomas became the guardian of siblings Kirby S. Cooper (1887-1981) and Dora Cooper (abt.1889-?). The document states that his new wards were the “…Orphans of Kittie McGilberry, deceased, of said County.” However, both are found the following year enumerated with the family of Green McCurtain during the Dawes enrollment, and just two years later living in McCurtain’s home on the 1900 census. Yet in 1903 Simon Thomas is still on record as being guardian during the selection of both children’s Choctaw land allotments.

The referenced probate record was a certified copy filed with the Dawes Commission in August 1903, and as such does not provide further details or the names of their parents beyond the statement “…Orphans of Kittie McGilberry, deceased, of said County.” To find more information regarding their origins, one may look at the Dawes Commission tribal enrollment card 2901 (Choctaw Nation) from June 1899 which records the parents’ names.

Line 7 for Kirby notes the name of his father as “Thompson Cooper” and mother as “Katie Cooper” showing that both are deceased. Line 8 for Dora contains ditto marks indicating the same information for her parents. Both children were enrolled in the Choctaw Nation 17 Jan 1903 with roll numbers 8541 and 8542 respectively. This record also indicates their age in June 1899; Kirby age 12, born about 1887 and Dora age 10, born about 1888/89.

The 1900 census for the Green McCurtain household is not only made up of his immediate family, but also Kirby and Dora Cooper listed as niece and nephew, and several others seemingly without familial relationship. However, in this transitional time for the Choctaw just prior to Oklahoma statehood, the terms for extended family tended to be less specific, use of aunt/uncle or niece/nephew may only signal that there is relationship, but not the exact connection. In fact, as Green McCurtain’s own siblings and cousins were quite prolific his extended family was rather large. Alternatively, the terms niece and nephew may apply to anyone from his wife’s family as well. The point here being that one cannot assume from this single source that Kirby and Dora were the children of Green McCurtain’s sibling or any other of his blood relatives.

In May 1907 Kirby marries Cornelia Folsom and the couple are then recorded on the 1910 census of Haskell County, Oklahoma. Dora is living with Kirby and Cornelia at that time, and in 1915 she married Joe Brackett, but it does not seem they had any children. Dora died 19 Apr 1981 in Oklahoma. Likewise, Kirby and Cornelia are documented until their passing. Kirby dies 6 Sep 1981, and his burial records list his birth date as 21 May 1887.

Thompson and Katie Cooper | Parents
The couple listed on the Dawes enrollment card as parents for Kirby and Dora are likely the same family found on the 1885 Choctaw Nation Census. This listing for Sans Bois County, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, shows the Name, Age, Gender Race and Occupation for each person.

1885 Choctaw Nation Census
pg 13
373Thompson Cooper29l
374Catherine Cooper24l
375Willis Cooper13l
376Jackson D Cooper8l

Upon review of this page, one assumes that Thompson and Catherine are married. Based on the reported ages, Thompson was born about 1856 and Catherine about 1861. This makes it unlikely that Willis age 13 is their child as Thompson was only 16 and Catherine would have been 11 when he was born (in fact, when Willis enrolls with the Dawes Commission, Card# 4856, he lists his parents as Thompson Cooper and Ontishima). Although not confirmed, it is possible that Jackson is their natural son. It is not known if either Thompson or Catherine were living during the 1896 Tribal enrollment, and the Cooper sibling’s parents are both listed as deceased when the Dawes Commission enrollment occurs in 1899. If Thompson and Catherine are the parents, it is also safe to assume that both died prior to November 1898, the date of the guardianship.

Another perspective to consider, because a marriage record for Thompson and Catherine has not been located, and her maiden name is unknown. It could also be that Willis, Jackson and even Catherine, are siblings to Thompson and this is not a spousal relationship at all. In that case Thompson and Ontishima could be the parents to all or some above. However, most consider Thompson Cooper (1856-bef.1900) to be the son of William Cooper (abt.1800-abt.1870) and Susan (King) Cooper (abt.1815-bef.1875), she being a daughter of Chief Mushulatubee.

Kittie McGilberry | Natural Mother?
The Kittie McGilberry found in records was born Kittie McCurtain 28 Oct 1868 to Edmund McCurtain (1842-1890) and Susan King (abt.1846-1876) (daughter of McKee King, a half-brother to the Susan (King) Cooper likely mother of Thompson Cooper above). She married Abel McGilberry about 1892 and they had one son Charles Watson McGilberry. According to her grave marker she died 23 May 1895. Kittie is found on the 1885 Choctaw Nation Census with her parents and that of her uncle Green McCurtain. Notice that her uncle’s wife is also named Kittie McCurtain.

1885 Choctaw Nation Census
pg 1
1Edmund McCurtain 43l
2Clarisy McCurtain25l
3Kittie McCurtain18l
4Jimmie McCurtain13l
5George McCurtain8l
6Zack Kartial12l
7Green McCurtain36l
8Kittie McCurtain30l
9Alice McCurtain7l
10Lena McCurtain4l
11Napoleon A. McCurtain1/2l
12Sam Toby9l

Because Kittie (McCurtain) McGilberry dies prior to 1896, no other census or Dawes document is available leaving the only two known records for her life the 1885 census and her grave marker. Both place her birth year as 1867/68. If she is the same person named in the Guardianship of Kirby and Dora Cooper, she would have been much too young to be their natural mother at 10 and 12 years old respectively.

Based on the evidence available, it is unlikely that Kittie (McCurtain) McGilberry had a spousal relationship with Thompson Cooper or bore any of his children. In fact, Kittie and Thompson Cooper were cousins and from their worldview would not have considered marriage to a relative. It is much more likely that Thompson's spouse Catherine/Katie is a separate individual, not the same person as Kittie, and is the natural mother of Kirby and Dora.

Questions remain concerning how Kittie McGilberry came to orphan the siblings. Perhaps Abel and Kittie McGilberry were the first care givers to Kirby and Dora? Yet there is a three-plus year gap from her death in 1895 to the Guardianship of Simon Thomas in 1899. Where were the children during that period?

Or also likely… another unknown Kittie McGilberry?

Research Items Needed
Seeking any details regarding the 1896 Choctaw census and court records from Sans Bois County, Indian Territory in 1899 that may list the birth parents for the Cooper siblings.


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