A significant number of Afro-Americans were sold, escaped or fled from slavery and eventually settled in the West, where they were adopted by Indian tribes and accepted into the tribal structure as equals. Many even assumed roles of leadership. They are referred to as “black Indians.”
Sugar T. George a.k.a. George Sugar was born in approximately 1827, as a slave in the Muskogee Nation.
This former slave from the Muskogee Nation went from poverty to prominence in his lifetime, serving in the House of Warriors, House of Kings, having been an African Town King, coming first from the town of North Fork, he emerged as a tribal leader in the nation of his birth. By the time of his death in 1900, Sugar T. George was also said to have been the “wealthiest Negro in the Territory.”
His father was Sorrow Pigeon, and his mother was Nancy Lovett. Sorry was a slave of David Pigeon, and George himself had been a slave of Mariah McIntosh. When the Dunn Roll was created, he was enrolled at that time as Sugar T. Hared. He was enrolled in the town of North Fork at the time.
He escaped form bondage when Opthole Yahola took a band of people into Kansas to avoid the war. He did not hesitate to join the Union Army serving in company “H” of the 1st Indian Home Guards.
Because he could read and write and because of his natural skills as a leader he quickly became a 1st Sgt. in his unit. Historian Gary Zellar of the University of Arkansas, notes that while a soldier, Sugar George acted as the unofficial leader taking charge after the white officer and Indian officer had been dismissed for improper behavior.
For some time the unit actually was run under his direction, although black soldiers were not to be elevated to any rank of authority as an officer. Thus this man remained as a 1st Sgt, though clearly could have been an officer.
In 1867 after the War, Sugar T. George was one of the first soldiers to file a claim as part of the Loyal Creeks. His claim for compensation can be found at the National Archives, as part of Record Group 75. Among these documents his claim would be one of over 300 Freedmen, and of 60 black soldiers who served with the Indian Home Guards.
The next several years, Sugar T. George, rose to prominence, amassing money, and influence in the nation, and he subsequently rose to prominence.
For some time he lived in North Fork, Colored Town, in the Creek Nation. He became a Town King, and served on the Muskogee Creek Nation Tribal Council.
He married twice in his lifetime, first to Mariah McIntosh and lived with her until she died in 1867.
In 1876, he then married Betty Rentie. They were married by another prominent Freedman, Monday Durant. Sugar George and his wife, Betty had no children, but they adopted and raised James Sugar as their own son. (Also living with Sugar T. George at the time of the Dawes Enrollment were his step grandchildren, Rena, and Julia Sugar.)
During his lifetime, Sugar George had a strong reputation, and his name appeared on many critical documents. He served as witness for many people, and often he prepared letters for illiterate people in the community.
In addition to his being a veteran of the Union army, his serving as part of the leadership of the Muskogee nation, Sugar George had a strong interested in the plight of his people. Being a literate man himself, he supported educational causes of the Indian Territory Freedmen.
He served on the board of the Tullahassee Mission School, a school for Creek and Seminole freedmen. Because of his strong sense of finance, he also was requested to keep the financial records of the school.
Sugar T. George died on June 30, 1900. He is buried in the Agency Cemetery in Muskogee. A beautiful gray granite tomb with large marble monument about five feet high with the following inscription:
“In memory of Rev. SUGAR GEORGE. Died July 31, 1900. Aged 82 years. The day is past and gone the evening shadows appear. O may we all remember well the night of death draws near.” (3)
A visit to the Creek Council House in Okmulgee will provide little information on Sugar T. George, although he served on the tribal council of this nation for many years. Authorities will claim no knowledge of his history.
Sugar George is buried under a five-foot marble marker in the now-abandoned Agency Cemetery. This burial ground is in complete abandon, off Highway 69 in Muskogee, behind a truck repair shop.
Sugar George and other African leaders rest in the over-grown thicket, now forgotten by townspeople and historians alike.
1 -Document found in Civil War Pension File of Sugar T. George
2- Claims of the Loyal Creeks, RG 75 National Archives
3 – Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma LDS Microfiche #6016976 Volume 111—Cemeteries