Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 4, No. 1
March, 1926
A LEAF FROM A SKETCHBOOK.

By BAXTER TAYLOR

Page 31

Were the glorious author of the "Sketch Book" to return to his mortal habitation and again visit that enchanted country once known to him as the Indian Territory he could, we confidently surmise, find rich and ample material for another series of "sketches" as dreamy and colorful, as mellow in humorous touch, as sweet and exquisite as Irving’s sketch book of enduring fame. For in its every sequestered vale, on the banks of its creeks and rivers of silvery sheen and songful murmur in its every hamlet and city romance has left a memory and heroism a tale of other days. The Indian Territory was the scene of the last governments—the last "nations"—maintained by the greatest peoples of the Indian race. Like Israel’s wandering tribes, scurged[sic] and driven from their native place, these stalwart tribesmen found in this favored region a final habitation and a home.

Nestling among green hills, fringed by woods that stretch away to the mountains, on the banks of a slumberous stream in the heart of the old Choctaw country is the little town of Atoka. Atoka—who of the pioneer generations here have not heard of that historic and romantic place? Southwestward from Ft. Smith led an early trail; it was the trail of the pathfinder made by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Chieftains. Then it became a "government road" established for military purposes. It extended from Ft. Smith, then an outpost, through what is now LeFlore County, touching Latimer, thence to the McGee Valley in Atoka County, by Stringtown to Atoka, thence to Boggy Depot and to Ft. Washita.

Page 32

tombstones are gray and moss-covered; it is the only melancholy spot that reminds one of the forgotten cemeteries that one sometimes sees "back in the old states." With the coming of the Katy railway threading the Indian Territory from Kansas to Texas, Atoka arose on the banks of the Boggy even as imperial Rome sprang into glory beside the Tiber. It is there that exists and still flourishes one of the first—if not the oldest—working lodges of Masonry in Oklahoma, old Number Four, founded and fostered by that noble old patriarch, who still lives, one of the fathers of Oklahoma Masonry—Father Murrow. But Atoka was there, in fact, long before the railroad. It boasted a school and a "meetin’ house" in the days of a generation long gone. It was there, also, the United States Government and the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations through their accredited representatives met and formulated the important treaty known as the "Atoka Agreement." Under this agreement or treaty that vast body of land of the two nations was allotted to their individual members and under certain limitations became alienable. A history of the Atoka Agreement would be interesting and of historic value.

When by Act of Congress the laws of Arkansas were extended over the Indian Territory, Federal courts were established: Atoka became a Federal Court town. In addition to its being a "trading point," a "land office" was established by the Government for the conduct of Indian matters such as enrolling and filing on lands. This in connection with the Federal Court and as a trading point, made the place a sort of mecca. They came from "fur and nigh"; and court days brought a motley throng representing every race, creed and tongue. The times of court were days of glory to the many—to the culprit, a time of doom. The legal arena was thronged with the gladiators of the frontier bar. In the court room there was a setting of all scenes—the tragic and the comic cast their lights and shadows. The bloody shirt with its bullet holes bore mute witness before a jury and a gaping throng. The strong arm of the law brought crime to justice. The orderly processes of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence supplanted the rule of might. Presiding over the precincts of this truly august court were such men as Townsend and Stuart and Clayton. They were really great jurists and will thus be long remembered.

Page 33

It being a court town, Atoka in the early days very naturally attracted many young, ambitious lawyers—men who in subsequent years left their enduring impress on the State of Oklahoma. Few there be of the older members of the east side bar who have not at some time pleaded cases at Atoka.

Many years ago there came a young man fresh from Washington and Lee in Virginia. He was comely to look upon. He was intellectual and cultured. His mother was a Cherokee, his father a Scotch-Irish Virginian. He heard the call of his mother’s people and he came hither. One day at Atoka a lovely maiden rode in from Boggy Depot. The young Virginian saw and loved her. And Robert L. Owen, the future Senator of Oklahoma led to the marriage altar at Boggy Depot, the beautiful Daisy Hester. Another young man came —he from the land of the Blue Grass. He was a Kentuckian —proud, ambitious and brilliant. An Indian maiden of exquisite charm and beauty crossed his path one day at Atoka. She lived near by. He looked upon her and saw that she was beautiful. And Lee Cruce, since then the second Governor of Oklahoma, wooed and won for his bride the radiant and gracious Miss LeFlore. Still another young man came, this one from proud old Mississippi—not to woo and wed a wife, but to win success and an honorable name. He was endowed only with the riches bestowed by nature—great ability and a will to do. He hung out his shingle and practiced law for a while in Atoka. He won success and a name for a glorious integrity. He is Robert L. Williams, the third Governor of Oklahoma. These worthy men, then young, and many others like them came among a people in Atoka and environs who were equally worthy—and eveready[sic] to help and encourage the deserving. Of such were the fine families of Indian blood of Atoka and vicinity—the LeFlores, Folsoms; Wrights, Downings, Wards, Hodgeses, Rogerses, Harkines, Stanleys, Bettes, Jacksons, the Telles and the Harrisons.

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