The tragic story of Lucinda Hickory
(MUSCOGEE NATION) An Indian girl dead at thirteen years old, just eight months after a newspaper reported her land held an estimated 20 million in gas.
Coincidence? Her great-niece Tatianna Duncan thinks not.
“In reality, we don’t know a lot about Lucinda,” Duncan said. “She was almost forgotten, to be honest. I remember when Mom was telling us... when we were talking a little bit about this… nobody knew a lot about. And she was like, I remember Lucinda.”
Lucinda is the great granddaughter of Tuckabache, one of Tulsa’s founding citizens.
She was eight months old when she was enrolled as a Muscogee Creek Nation citizen and received her land allotment two years later. In 1910, when Lucinda was ten years old, her guardian Dr. W. A. Cook, a stranger to her and her family, began leasing her land for coal and asphalt mining to Peter Adamson, Jr.
Guardianship was a policy commonly used during that time to control money Indians received from mineral and oil discovered on their land.
Adamson created the Hickory Coal and Mining Company that same year.
It’s unclear how Lucinda died on January 9, 1913. Her father Tom Hickory testified Lucinda had a “sickness” during his and his wife Jennie’s competency hearing, a legal tactic commonly used to decide Indians were unable to make decisions for themselves and take control of their property.
Many Indians like Tom and Jennie didn’t speak English, only their Native language, and depended on interpreters to get through the constant parade of court cases.
Historians like Muscogee Creek Citizen Jackie Jackson say the only city with more lawyers than Tulsa during the early 1900s was New York City.
Duncan told us with so much oral history of poisoning and no record of Lucinda’s death, she has a hard time believing her sickness was natural.
“There was something weird about her death,” Duncan said. “I remember my mom saying that. Something wasn’t right. That was it.”
Lucinda’s parents were forced to endure their competency hearing just eight days after her death. Records show their interviews included attorneys hammering Lucinda’s mother Jennie with math problems and accusing Tom of being a drunk.
The records reveal at least four people wasted no time trying to purchase Lucinda’s land, including her guardian.
One deed was dated the same day she died.
There was also testimony that a man named Dave Beaver had been lurking around days before Lucinda took her last breath, deed in hand.
Jennie testified that she knew there was a coal mine, gas wells, and land rentals on Lucinda’s land, but she and Lucinda never knew how much money they brought in.
Tom said he had asked Cook how much money the land was bringing in through leases and rentals, but he refused to say.
Probate records allege income from Lucinda’s estate was estimated at $500 per year, just under $15,000 in today’s money. But ledger statements not long after show agriculture rentals and royalties from coal, oil, and gas leases pulling in more than double that in a one-month period.
A half-Creek half-white man named Sam Davis handled all of their accounting.
Cook, the guardian, offered Jennie $2,000 for Lucinda’s land two days after she died.
Davis, the family’s so-called trusted friend, offered $3,000, then $4,000.
One month after Lucinda’s death, court records show her parents officially sold her land, rents, and royalties to Ethel Davis, wife of Sam Davis, for an appraised amount of $16,000.
Not long after, Jennie was dead, and Tom was homeless.
Hickory Coal’s Mine #2 was nicknamed “Lucinda”.
Two decades after Lucinda’s death, mining on her allotment was still going strong.
An apartment complex sprawls across it today.
In 1920, Tulsa attorney John Wakely sent a plea to Indian Affairs for their support in helping the Hickory family regarding the land interests of Tuckabache and his kin, all of whom died during a short period of time and all of whom had their land swindled away:
Ned Tuckabache died 1900 (22 years old)
Liza Coney died 1900 (36 years old)
Tuckabache died 1910 (100+ years old)
Tom Coney died 1910 (20 years old)
Moses Coney died 1910 (42 years old)
Lucinda Hickory died 1913 (13 years old)
Jennie Hickory died 1915 (41 years old)
“When you see the proximity and how many of them… yeah,” Duncan said. “It’s just something we should look at.”
Duncan told us as far she knows Wakely’s request was never answered.
Jennie and Tom’s surviving children were sent off to Indian boarding schools.
“You could never make it right by the people who were impacted the most,” Duncan said.
But Duncan is still trying to make it right.
She founded the Lucinda Hickory Research Institute in 2020, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing about a collective conscience of the dispossession of Native American allotted lands during the allotment era.
Duncan said it goes beyond helping people trace their own family history. They are helping future generations shape their identity and nurture their Indigenous pride.
“Growing up, this is a burden we have carried in silence,” Duncan said. “Nobody’s surprised. When I go into a Muscogee community, they’re not surprised to hear this. They will tell me their own story.”
To learn more about the Lucinda Hickory Research institute and donate to their efforts, click here.
“Stealing Tvlse” is a collaborative effort between VNN Oklahoma and the Lucinda Hickory Research Institute to spotlight crimes committed against Muscogee people during the Allotment era and how those crimes still impact Muscogee people today.
Great, but sad story.