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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 6, No. 4
December, 1928
ELIZABETH FULTON HESTER

E. McCURDY BOSTIC

Page 449

The first citizen of Muskogee in benevolence will have a birthday the sixth of next January. The occasion will call for ninety candles. Each one might stand for a separate page of work done among the Indians and early settlers of our state, for Mrs. G. B. Hester has devoted more than seventy years of her life in service in Indian Territory and Oklahoma.

Elizabeth Fulton Hester, daughter of the Rev. Defau Tallerrand Fulton, was born in North Georgia in 1839. Mrs. Hester comes of a family of pioneers. Her father, the Rev. Mr. Fulton, left his home in Virginia early in the nineteenth century to become a missionary among the Cherokee Indians in North Georgia. It was there he established a Methodist Church, and it was there his daughter, Elizabeth, was born and lived until young womanhood.

Elizabeth Fulton completed her education at the Southern Masonic Female Seminary at Covington, Georgia and for the next year became a member of the faculty of that institution.

In 1856, at the age of eighteen, she felt called to go to Indian Territory to teach in a mission school located at Tishomingo, the capital of the Chickasaw Nation. Two years later she married George Benjamin Hester of Raleigh, North Carolina, whom she had met many years before in her father’s home in Georgia.

Mr. Hester had come with a stock of goods, to Tishomingo, where he engaged in general merchandizing; and Miss Fulton, feeling she could do better work with a protector than without in this new wild country, soon became Mrs. Hester. They were married at Tishomingo in 1858 by the Rev. John C. Robinson, one of the earliest pioneer missionaries of the Methodist Church in Indian Territory. The Hesters lived in Tishomingo until 1861, Mr. Hester running his mercantile business and Mrs. Hester continuing her teaching and missionary work among the Indians.

In 1861 the war between the states was brewing and coming closer and closer every day. The Hesters decided that the school work in the mission was ended for a time and the schools were disbanded, the Hesters moving on to Boggy Depot in the Choctaw Nation. Mr. Hester resumed

Page 450

his trading and Mrs. Hester became a teacher in a National School provided by the Indian Legislature.

In a very short time the war was on and Mr. Hester decided to go into the army; rather than wait to be drafted, he volunteered and was made captain of a company at once; he had charge of the quartermaster’s department and commissary stores of General Cooper’s Brigade, having fitted out his regiment from his own store with supplies including saddles, bridles and blankets.

They proceeded immediately to the seat of war in the northern part of Indian Territory, Arkansas and Missouri. This company served with distinction throughout the four years of Civil war and were in many hot conflicts.

During this period, Mrs. Hester was at home continuing her teaching and caring for the sick soldiers as their store house had been taken for a hospital.

These were anxious days—hearts were full and hands could not be kept idle, and Mrs. Hester did not spare herself in nursing the soldiers through long sieges of sickness and often when death came, helped to wrap them in blankets and carry them to their graves, putting them down without box or casket.

For four years her life went on in this way—teaching, nursing and sewing shirts for soldiers, with occasional visits to her husband at the front, carrying things necessary for the relief of his men and their comfort.

During the war at camp in Boggy Depot, 4,000 soldiers had fallen back from where the conflict was raging after the Federal Army had entered Missouri and Arkansas. Here was more opportunity for service for this untiring young woman—more work for those ever busy hands to do. Mrs. Hester had the honor of entertaining many of the war’s great men in her home during those dark days in the sixties, General Cooper, General Price, General Reynolds, General Standwaite, Col. Talliferro and Dr. Weeks, Surgeon General of the Army.

At one time she entertained Quantrill’s Guerillas who were forced from Lawrence, Kansas, into Indian Territory for safety until they could get into Texas.

There were emigrants from the East through Boggy Depot almost constantly. Often a family would have to

Page 451

stop over and get a house as there were sick ones among them that must be cared for until they could proceed on their journey. Here was further opportunity for nursing, dietary and caring for the sick, many of whom came into her own home and from whom Mrs. Hester at one time contracted smallpox.

After the war was over, Mr. Hester returned to his home thankful for life though all of his property and money had been put into the Confederate cause.

The Reconstruction Period proved as hard on the Hesters as the war had been. The soldiers in camp at Boggy were desperate when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House that long ago April day. Having fought four years for a Lost Cause and knowing they were going back to devastated homes without reward, they began to pillage the magazine and quartermaster’s stores for something to carry home with them. A regiment of Federal troops came by way of Fort Smith to Boggy Depot; with them were Colonel Levering of Ohio, Major Smith of Iowa, Doctor Weeks of Maine, and Colonel Collins of Illinois. They took possession of the Hester’s old store—the store that had been turned into a Confederate hospital and the officers had to be lodged in the Hester home. The citizens of Boggy were now given the privilege of buying at their commissary and for the first time in four years had coffee and white flour.

The Hesters had to re-establish themselves and so Mr. Hester took up a clerkship, and Mrs. Hester resumed teaching.

Boggy Depot was not a railroad town but an inland village situated on the Boggy rivers—North Boggy, Clear Boggy, and Muddy Boggy. It took its name from the fact that in earlier days it was the depot at which supplies were issued to immigrant Chickasaw Indians.

These rivers were marshy and boggy and hence the name. Supplies were issued here to the Indians and a sum of money each year which was the interest on their money in Washington the government had invested for them. Mrs. Hester says she has seen several thousand dollars in gold—$20 gold pieces put up in boxes—hauled out from Fort Smith in a two horse wagon and issued to the heads

Page 452

of families. These received this payment once a year for a long time after they came to Indian Territory. There were no thieves at Boggy in those days and this payment was put in a house and locked up without a guard until it was paid out. The Indians say they learned to steal from the “pale face” and that they have no words in their language to curse.

“During my residence in Indian Territory and Oklahoma,” Mrs. Hester says, “I have educated a number of Indian girls and boys and a number of white girls and three negro girls. The negroes I taught in my home to read and write and took them through the elementary branches. While teaching in the mission school I had a class of twelve boys. They all became Christian young men and five of them became governors or chiefs of their tribes at different times. I feel very much gratified to know that where witchcraft and idolotry existed, now the wilderness and solitary places rejoice at the entrance of the Gospel and the desert rejoiced and blossoms as the rose.”

After forty years of living at Boggy Depot, Mrs. Hester moved to Muskogee in 1901 where her daughter Daisy, the wife of Robert L. Owen, formerly United States Indian Agent and later United States Senator from Oklahoma, was living. Boggy was the gateway to Heaven to Mrs. Hester’s husband, her oldest daughter, a son, and a beloved black mammy who nursed all of the Hester children and lived forty years in the Hester family. These she laid to rest in Boggy and she left a lone oak on the old mission ground.

Since Mrs. Hester’s residence in Muskogee her life, though not the busy life of the old Boggy days has indeed been active and full of philanthrophy and service. She has for years held Sunday afternoon services at the city jail and has been a power for the good of her country and the betterment of humanity. She was one of the founders of the Muskogee Day Nursery, and is Chaplain of the United Daughters of the Confederacy of Oklahoma.

Facing the sunset of her life—awaiting the summons—I am sure that the Finger will write “Well done, thou good and faithful servant—enter into thy just reward.”

E. McCURDY BOSTIC.

Muskogee, Oklahoma.

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