Female Seminole Chief: Alice Brown Davis (1852-1935)
Alice Brown Davis endures as the sort of person who built Oklahoma and built up its people in the fashion for which more famous sorts receive credit. Like so many of the state’s noblest folk, she pursued many paths of service, accomplished feats no one else could, braved sorrows that either embitter or soften one’s heart, and evinced an unceasing fountain of love.
Immigrant Scots physician John F. Brown and Lucy Graybeard, of the Tiger family of Seminole royalty sired her. Baptist and Presbyterian missionaries in the Seminoles’ and Cherokees’ excellent schools classically educated her. She committed her heart and soul to the Christian faith of her father’s people, embraced the greatness of its Western education and economic imagination, yet stood as a trusty sentinel over the traditions, culture, and interests of her mother’s folk.
Her father tended the many physical needs of the Seminoles on the Trail of Tears, and ultimately gave his life for them during a cholera epidemic in present-day Oklahoma. Alice’s brother John F. Brown Jr. served as a Confederate Indian officer in the War Between the States, then rose to tribal chief. Meanwhile, she taught boys at the Mekasukey Academy for Boys in Sasakwa, a Baptist mission school. She and her white husband George Rollin Davis ran a ranch, trading post, and post office. She continued doing so following his death, while raising their ten children.
Later, she served as superintendent of the outstanding Emahaka Seminole girls’ school, originally operated by the American Baptist Home Mission Society. Emahaka’s curriculum ranged from the first reader and grade school arithmetic to natural philosophy and foreign languages.
In later years, Alice represented the Baptist Church and Oklahoma’s Seminoles to the small faction of Seminoles who had remained in Florida. In 1922, U.S. President Warren G. Harding appointed her as principal chief of the Seminoles. She was the first female to hold that office and one of the first for any major Native tribe. As chief, she dealt with numerous challenging issues, including Seminole land wrongly transferred to the Creeks by the U.S. government, and died while still in office.
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
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