Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wheres Jimmie Brice, Battle of Cabin Creek, Ok.

I received a Interesting letter from Betsy Warner, who had a interesting story and mystery.  She wanted my help looking up a soldier?, by the name of Jimmie Brice, but no record of him has yet been found.  I found this to be a great mystery and one that may never be solved.  If after you read this information and you have any information or questions, you can reach Betsy Warner at the following.  Tell her Dennis sent you.

The question.  Hi, I work with some historians and genealogists in Vinita Ok and am trying to sort out a tombstone in the local history museum. It's of sandstone and was one of 32 other stones that used to be in the Vinita cemetery marking graves of Indian Home Guard soldiers from the Battle of Cabin Creek. The stone has no dates, but the name was thought to be Jimmie Brice. I'm thinking this might be James H. Bruce who was a 1st LT, and then Captain in the 2nd regiment Kansas Infantry, Indian Home Guard, company C. I can't find where this regiment was mustered out to see who survived and who didn't, and am wondering if you can point me to some documentation regarding company C, reg 2 in the battle(s) and the outcome. These graves are located about 10 miles north of the actual battlefield.

We had always assumed the Jimmie Brice was an indian.. there is a listing of a John J. Brice with a wife, Annie, but we can't make any sense of that option either. As the officers of the Indian Home Guard could have been white, then that explains why we can't find him on cherokee records from 1851.

We know where the other 32 stones are, but they are inaccessible at this time so we can't read the names but hope that if we can solve the Jimmie Brice mystery, we might be able to find names of others who perished in the battle.

My answer.  Hi Betsy, Boy you picked a hard one, the Indian Home Guards are some of the hardest regiments to find any thing on. The Kansas adjutant general reports only list the officers. There is no listing for Jimmie "Jimmy" brice in any kansas regiments. There is no listing of any miltary service union or otherwise.

The National Park Servic list all the men from the 2nd. I. H. G., white and indian and he was not on it.
I looked at all the reports from the "OR" Official Records and found nothing.

As for James H. Bruce he came out of the fourth Kansas Infantry, but was unable to find him on the roster. Its possible he was a civilian as you know a lot of these supply trains were contracted out to civilians, and if so and his was killed in the battle he would have been buried in the cemetery. You maybe looking for a civilian?

May I ask what leads you to believe he was in the military let a long in the 2nd., I. H. G.?

Betsy I have looked every where that I can think of, and have no Idea where to send you to look for more info.

Final Letter.  This really is a great story and one I wish we could figure out. The graves were all marked up until the mid 1950s in an area on the southern end of what is now Fairview Cemetery in Vinita. A County Commissioner at the time ordered the sexton to remove the headstones because they were "in the way" and made mowing difficult. The Sexton removed the stones and took them home, laying 32 of the stones out with the engraving face down as a patio in his backyard. In the late 1960s when Vinita formed a museum of sorts, the stone of Jimmie Brice, which was the 33rd stone (and didn't fit into the patio design) was given to the museum. Nobody other than the Sexton (and maybe his wife) knew that the patio stones were these headstones and when he and his wife went on a trip at his retirement... his kids thought they'd surprise him and add on the room to their home that they had always wanted. When the Sexton returned from vacation, there was a now a room built on top of the "patio" made of headstones.     
push to enlarge
We cannot find a list of the names on the stones, so there's really no clue as to who they might be. One of the sexton's children now lives in the home and is aware of the headstones. It's hoped that one day the room will be removed or something can be done to get these headstones back. In the meantime, some local groups placed a large stone to mark the area of these graves as they've also marked the unknown graves of other Union and Confederate soldiers from the Cabin Creek battles in graves in Vinita, at the military cemetery near the Cabin Creek site, and at some other small cemeteries in the area where soldeirs were buried.
There is no date of death on brice's headstone. I've attached a photo of the stone in the display -- it offers few hints. As to there being 75-100 graves (as in the sign above the stone), I've no idea where they came up with that info, but then much of what is on display is "word of mouth" instead of truth. Little by little through my weekly articles, I've attempted to solve lots of little mysteries like this that might be mismarked and on display or stories passed down for generations.
We can't find anybody named Jimmie Brice (or Bryce) on the 1851 Drennan Indian Rolls and likely any Cherokee soldier in the Civil War should show up on that roll.
I believe I found where James H. Bruce, the officer, didn't die until 1917 so we can throw him out... also another Brice I sometimes see listed, John J. Brice (wife was Annie) who was a soldier but I think lived until the 1890s.
It's possible Brice was not a Cherokee and might have been a Creek or Choctaw -- that's another angle I've not yet explored. The story is that these stones were Indian Home Guard. Other old stones in the area resemble the same stone and carving although many times they are in Cherokee and not English.
Betsy Warner.


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