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Early SW Mississippi Fosters and Choctaw connections
Posted by: Robert Foster (ID *****4619) Date: November 22, 2004 at 11:06:31
  of 23472

On the 1792 Spanish colonial census for Santa Catalina District we have:

Guillermo Foster (William)
Jaime Foster (James)
Juan Foster (John)
Marta Foster (Mary?)
Tomas (Thomas)

Santa Catalina District conforms approximately to present-day Adams County, Mississippi. Now, these Fosters are fairly easy to identify as the well-known Foster family from South Carolina that migrated to Spanish Mississippi about 1780 and settled in Adams and Wilkinson Counties. Mary Hill was maried to William James Foster in SC and after he died, she and her four sons migrated to the Old Southwest which was then under Spanish control. They are later identified as owning the famous Foster Mound in Adams Co. John Foster is famous for being one of the Old 300 of Texas. Many of these Fosters ended up in Fort Bend, Texas. Much has been written about them. There is no mystery regarding their origins, marriages, and descendants.

But, then we have this one mysterious Foster in Villa Gayoso District (which corresponds roughly to present-day Jefferson, Amite and possibly part of Franklin County).

Samuel Foster

Who is he? Where was he from? There is no record of a Samuel Foster connected with the South Carolina Fosters. After exhaustive research I can find no link between them. The Fosters found in Natchez, Adams Co., and Wilkinson Co., do not seem to have named a single child of theirs Samuel, though there are numerous instances of William, James, John and Thomas.

The South Carolina Fosters appear on the earlier 1790 Spanish tax list for their territory, but there is no Samuel. So, it would appear that he came on the scene sometime between 1790-1792.

In the 1805 and 1810 censuses for Amite Co. there is the equally mysterious Moses Foster who may (I stress may) have married the Choctaw woman Otemasea or Ote-Man-sha.

The relevant entry on the 1810 Amite census reads:

Moses Foster 1-6-1-3-11-0-6

The code is:
1. white males over 21
2. white males under 21
3. white females over 21
4. white females under 21
5. total whites,
6. free persons of color
7. slaves.

Thus, we have

One white male over 21
6 white males under 21
One white female over 21
4 white females under 21
11 whites total
Zero free persons of color
6 slaves

If one assumes that the two whites over 21 correspond to Moses and his unknown wife then the rest should be their children. That makes a total of 10 children. If one uses a rough yardstick of one child every two years that means that Moses and wife began having children at least twenty years prior to 1810. This gives us a probable marriage date of about 1790, give or take 2-3 years. This leads one to suspect that Moses was born sometime around 1770, and perhaps earlier. This census presents some problems for the most popular Moses Foster-Otemansea theory. First, the census clearly enumerates this family as white. There are no "Free Persons of Color" listed. This is very important. If this Moses' wife had been Choctaw, then it seems probable that the half-breed children would have been considered mulattos, and by the definitions of the time, free persons of color. Add to this the fact that Moses Foster owned 6 slaves and one begins to see the problem.

But, since there is some excellent research done by others that show that there was a Moses Foster in SW Mississippi at this time married to a Choctaw woman, it makes this researcher wonder whether Moses might have had a second marriage to a Choctaw. And perhaps children by this union as well. This raises the intriguing possibility that the Moses Foster household consisted of both white and mixed-blood offspring. It is possible that the matrilineal Choctaw culture would have considered Otemansea's white step-children to be equal members of the tribe, with all the rights and responsibilities that would entail. On the flip side of the equation, the American system would have considered them full to be citizens in their system. They would have been in a very advantageous situation.

If one accepts my hypothesis, then it might begin to answer the riddle of just who the Foster signers of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 were. This treaty lists a Thomas W. Foster, William Foster, Hugh A. Foster as actual signers, while S. Foster (possibly Samuel) and Moses Foster receive special land reservations.

Hugh A. Foster is an interesting case. There is a clear paper trail on him. He married Winny Arnold, daughter of John Arnold and Elizabeth Taylor, in 1822 in Claiborne Co., Mississippi. The marriage bond lists Moses as his father. Hugh Foster bought land in Copiah Co. (1826), Yazoo Co. (1840), is on the 1840 census for Holmes Co., MS, and is involved in letters of administration for three estates in 1848 in Yazoo Co. He marries in a white court, buys and sells land, is on a census as a white, and as a respected citizen is engaged in administering estates. This man was white. But, he is also a signer of the Dancing Rabbit Treaty in 1830. Clearly a contradiction.

Hugh disappears from the Mississippi records by 1850. But then a Winny Foster (a widow?) with a number of persons I suspect are her children turn up in Skullyville, Choctaw Nation, for the 1855 census. It would appear that Hugh and family moved west to be in the Choctaw Nation. I suspect I am descended from one of the Fosters on that 1885 census, hence my abiding interest.

The records quoted, as scanty as they are, raise the possibilty that Moses Foster may have been a son of the Samuel Foster found on the earlier Spanish tax and land records. And it is this Moses who may have been Hugh Foster's father. Were Thomas W. and William also sons of Moses? What about the other 3 white males under 21 from the 1810 census? What happened to them?

I do not propose to have all of the answers about these Fosters. But, I want to look at this family in a fresh light. My working hypothesis is that the Samuel Foster in Villa Gayoso was from Maryland, not SC, though there is the possibility that he may have migrated south through the Carolinas. I base this theory on the fact that a Moses Foster, b. 1799 in MD, is on the 1850/1860 Copiah Co census. A Moses Foster, Jr. is bondsman on two marriages in early Copiah Co.: Rebecca Foster to William Simmons 16 Feb 1825 and Peggy Foster to Benona Taylor 7 Feb 1825. Now, not by coincidence I am sure, two of Hugh A. Foster's next-door neighbors on the 1840 Holmes Co. census are none other than Rebecca Simmons and Peggy Taylor. I believe this establishes a connection to Moses Foster and by extension to Maryland. I may even be so bold as to propose that the two are close cousins, but probably not brothers.

I welcome any feedback to my theories. But I want to stress that is all they are: theories.

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