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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Cherokee educator and historian Rachel Caroline “Callie” Eaton was born to Nancy Elizabeth Ward Williams and George Washington Eaton on July 7, 1869, in the Delaware District of the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory (I.T.). Her father, a native Texan, served in a Texas Confederate calvary unit from Rusk County that was stationed at Arkansas Post, situated near the eastern border of the Cherokee Nation. Her mother, a Cherokee citizen, descended from the prominent Western (Old Settler) Ward family.

Rachel Eaton attended the Cherokee Female Seminary in Tahlequah, I.T., but graduated on June 28, 1888, from the male seminary because the female seminary had burned in April 1887. She furthered her education at Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, attaining a bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, in 1895.

After graduating from Drury, Eaton returned to I.T. From 1896 to 1897 she taught at the Cherokee Female Seminary. On December 25, 1901, in Muskogee, Indian Territory, she married Jacob Alexander Burns, who served as principal of the Nowata, Indian Territory, public schools. They had no children. Between 1906 and 1910 they separated or divorced.

After her divorce, she continued her career as educator and historian. In 1908 she organized the Rogers County Sequoyah Historical Society and served as its first president. She attended the University of Chicago, earning a master of arts degree in 1911 and a doctorate in 1919, both in history. She held numerous positions as a history professor and dean of women at out-of-state colleges and universities. By 1920 she served as Rogers County supervisor of schools. She lived in Claremore for the remainder of her life.

Working as an independent historian, Eaton researched many topics on local and Cherokee history and published them under her own name. Her book, John Ross and the Cherokee Indians, appeared in 1914. In 1930 her article on “The Legend of the Battle of Claremore Mound,” appeared in The Chronicles of Oklahoma in 1930. Between the 1920s and 1930s she wrote articles for the Morning Tulsa Daily World and the Tulsa Daily World, including “Domestic Science Among the Primitive Cherokees,” “Fort Gibson A Shrine of Early Oklahoma,” “Evolution and Elevation of Oklahoma,” and “The Battle of Claremore Mound.” She also penned a poem, “Collect of the Indian Women’s Club of Tulsa,” printed in the History of Oklahoma State Federation of Women’s Clubs (1939) but originally published with slightly different wording and title in the Tulsa Daily World on August 30, 1931. A short essay, “Resumè of the Redman,” appeared in Who’s Who Among Oklahoma Indians (1928). Her final historical work, “The History of the Cherokee Indians,” remains unpublished.

Eaton was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1936. She attended the Presbyterian church, was a member of the Rebekah Lodge, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Oklahoma Authors’ League, the Tulsa Women’s Indian Club (organized in 1930), and the La-Kee-Kon Study Club (organized in 1932). She was a Democrat in politics.

Rachel Caroline Eaton died of breast cancer on September 20, 1938, in Claremore. She was buried there in Woodlawn Cemetery, near her parents.

Linda D. Wilson


Gretchen M. Bataille and Laurie Lisa, eds., Native American Women: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Routledge, 2001).

Kirby Brown, “Oppositional Discourse and Revisionist Historiography in Rachel Caroline Eaton’s John Ross and the Cherokee Indians,” in Stoking the Fire: Nationhood in Cherokee Writing, 1907–1970 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2018).

Devon A. Mihesuah, Cultivating the Rosebuds: The Education of Women at the Cherokee Female Seminary, 1851–1909 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993).

Linda William Reese, Women of Oklahoma, 1890–1920 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997).

John M. Rhea, A Field of Their Own: Women and American Indian History, 1830–1941 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Lynda Wilson, “Eaton, Rachel Caroline,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=EA012.

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