George Sugar was born into slavery around 1827, likely in the Muscogee Nation in Georgia. His father was Sorrow Pigeon, who had been enslaved on the plantation of David Pigeon. But there is some indication that George Sugar was a part of the McIntosh plantation and, if true, he would have been brought to Indian Territory when the McIntoshes began their removal from Georgia in 1828.

The McIntoshes first settled along the Arkansas River west of Fort Gibson so it is possible that George grew up in the rich bottom lands of the Three Forks region. When the Civil War came to Indian Territory, George joined with the Loyal Creeks following Opothle Yahola. Whether George had escaped from slavery or purchased his freedom is unclear. Many slaves held by the Creeks were able to purchase their freedom.

The Loyal Creeks, Seminoles and former slaves fled to Kansas, fighting Confederate forces along the way. In Kansas, George enlisted with the First Indian Home Guard. He enlisted using the name Sugar T. George, and he went by this name for the remainder of his life.

George was made a first sergeant in the Home Guard and played an important leadership role among the black troops of Company H in this regiment. George was literate, and that fact made him a valuable member of the fighting force. The fact that he was literate lends credence to the idea that he had purchased his freedom and had pursued an education. Most slaves were not afforded that opportunity.

After the war, Sugar George settled near North Fork Town on the Canadian River where many of the McIntosh family had also moved. George’s first wife is listed as Mariah McIntosh, but she died in 1867.

George continued to take a leadership role in the Creek Nation. He assisted freedmen by reading documents for them and helping them with correspondence. He was eligible for a Civil War pension and worked hard and smart to amass a fortune over the course of his lifetime.

Sugar George was passionate about education and wanted every freedman’s child to have an opportunity to learn. He served on the board for the Tullahassee Mission School when it was opened to freedmen children in the mid 1880s.

George also served in Creek politics and was a representative for North Fork, Colored Town in the House of Warriors and House of Kings of the Muscogee Nation. In 1876, he married Bettie Rentie and though they had no children themselves, they raised a child named James Sugar and two girls named Rena and Julia Sugar.

Later in life, Sugar George may have resided in or near Muskogee. He had risen to a prominent position in the Creek Nation and was considered one of the wealthiest Negroes in Indian Territory.

He died in 1900 and was buried in the Old Agency Cemetery north of Muskogee. Though this cemetery is uncared for today, the large tombstone of Sugar George still stands in that place.

Reach Jonita Mullins at jonita.mullins@gmail.com.

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