Oklahoma Indian land grab during the early 1900s – a family affair

Raymond Nowlin was all of 13 years old when his mother, Susan Brown Nowlin (Chickasaw #2828) died in 1927. His cousin Josephine Brown Graham, significantly older was the principal instigator of intent to defraud him of his rightful inheritance, since Raymond was the sole heir of Susie Nowlin. Matters of Indian heirship and probate were given to the State of Oklahoma at the time of its statehood, not retained in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The probate that commenced in 1928 failed to conform to the laws of the State of Oklahoma. 

1. Court didn’t conduct a formal Determination of Heirship, which is the usual and customary step before proceeding to distribute property.

2. Raymond was not given the benefit of a court appointed Guardian ad litem. Josephine being quite a bit older and his blood relation didn’t ensure such judicial oversight was given to Raymond either even though she received such a guardian after her father’s death (see http://law.justia.com/cases/oklahoma/supreme-court/1922/35882.html). The following is excerpted from Brown v. Minter 1922 OK 222 207 P. 976 86 Okla. 268 Case Number: 10684
Decided: 06/27/1922
Supreme Court of Oklahoma

This action originated in the county court of Marshall county by J. O. Minter filing a petition to probate the will of Joe Brown, a full-blood Indian, which will had been approved by the county judge of Marshall county. Odis L. Brown and Josephine Brown, minor children of the said Joe Brown, filed a protest against admitting said will to probate, and upon hearing the protest was overruled, and the will admitted to probate.

Also, “The probate attorney, T. B. Orr, was appointed guardian ad litem for said minors. [B]ut in view of the fact that the interests of certain minors are involved, the court has deemed it advisable to examine the record.”

As result of these flaws, Raymond Nowlin was excluded from the remainder of the 1928 probate even though his name was mentioned. It was sometime later that Raymond’s name was lined out in the probate with no explanation and without authority of the State of Oklahoma.

During the 1928 probate and without apparent oversight of the presiding judge, Josephine had somehow concluded that the 40 acres that rightfully belonged to Raymond needed to be sold (State of Oklahoma Warranty Deed P-2386). There was little to no personal property listed, so the real property was the basis for the “low balled” appraised value of being worth $1,000 or less (meaning under State of Oklahoma statutes, a “small” estate). However, it is clear that Josephine managed somehow to transfer her name on the title of the land still held in trust and sold the land to J.F. McCrory, possibly with the assistance of the daughter of the Administrator appointed to Susie Brown Nowlin’s probate. Land appraised at $1000 or less sold FOR $50.00! One of the witnesses to the deed transfer was Ellen Brown, Josephine’s sister-in-law.

This transfer effectively prevented Raymond from ever regaining his rightful place as the sole heir to his Chickasaw mother, Susie Brown Nowlin. More posting and updates will follow in the days to come as more of this story is accurately told (based on public records).

 

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