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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 7, No. 2
June, 1929
A RECORD OF CLIFTON PIONEER SOCIETY OF QUAPAW VALLEY

S. CARRIE THOMSON

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In order to perpetuate the feeling of good fellowship which prevailed when Clifton on the Quapaw was in the making; to preserve the memory of such deeds of the early settlers as were of service in the building of the community; to record the progress of the citizenry; and to arouse the interest of this generation so much that there will be a desire to carry on, the Clifton Pioneer Society of Quapaw Valley was organized.

The old settlers had come together frequently for a day’s celebration of some event but it was not until September 12, 1924, that a few of the pioneer’s met at the First Presbyterian Church of Meeker and began an organization which was completed September 11, 1925. M. J. Thompson was chosen president; R. P. Roope, vice-president; Mrs. M. J. Marsh, secretary-treasurer; Mrs. J. L. Meeker and Miss Carrie Thomson of Meeker, N. H. Morgan of Shawnee, Mrs. R. P. Roope of Chandler and Mrs. H. B. Housh of Blackwell, committee for compiling history, beginning with the opening of the Sac and Fox reservation to settlement.

September 22 was chosen for the day of the annual meeting. Each year the old timers come from far and near, to assemble around a campfire to re-enact many deeds of yore, sing the old songs, relate new stories of the olden tales, and finally gather around a table laden with a bounteous supply of edibles to contrast sharply with the scant fare of the pioneers which consisted mainly of corn bread, bacon and beans.

Some tell only of the humorous aspect; others of the sorrowful days, but running through all the narrations are golden memories of kindly deeds. For every one was a true neighbor as each recalls the days ready to, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep."

On the day of the opening of the Sac and Fox reservation L. E. Johnson of Oklahoma City brought a supply of groceries and set up a tent ready to sell to those making the run. W. A. Scott bought the outfit and pitched the tent on

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the south bank of the Quapaw at Dead Man’s crossing. This was the beginning of Scott’s store which became the objective point for settlers when they began to arrive after filing on claims or for those who wished information in regard to some one who wished to sell his rights.

Mr. Scott received an appointment as postmaster and was asked to suggest a name for the postoffice. His first choice, "Quapaw," was refused by the government on account of the multiplicity of Indian names. He then suggested the name of his son, Clifton, and this name was accepted. Clifton became a community center and on mail days men and women assembled and while awaiting the carrier the time was spent with the women exchanging recipes for making the limited variety of food more palatable, introducing to one another the new comers or telling about the newest baby, while the men planned to swap work, hour for hour on the log raising or well digging, or making arrangements for a "working" for one who was behind in his work on account of illness.

Every one remembers Will Scott and many are the jocose tales they tell of him. Before Clifton was placed on the Star route Mr. Scott carried the mail on horseback from Chandler. This necessitated his having an assistant, though the population was sparse. It is told that when the spring work began the assistant could not leave his plowing to "tend" office so Mr. Scott would swear in another assistant. This occurred so often, it is said, that soon every patron of the office was in government employ.

It was inevitable that to a people of the character of those pioneers that there should come a longing for religious services, so when Alexander Hartman, a young Sunday school missionary of the Presbyterian denomination, arrived he received hearty co-operation and on July 31, 1892, a Sunday school was organized in an arbor with seven teachers and sixty-three others present. A. L. McGee, as acting superintendent, carried on the work in the arbor until cold weather, then the school was held in his home.

In August, 1892, William Davis of Iola, Kansas, began visiting the Sunday school and at the homes. He learned of a few Presbyterians who desired to organize a church and notified Rev. A. E. Thomson, pastor of the Chandler church, who preached one sermon in the McGee home and was asked

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to return. The next summer a tent was procured and here on July 23, 1893, in the afternoon after having Sunday school in the morning Mr. Thomson, assisted by Mr. Davis who was an elder in the Iola, Kansas church, organized the Clifton Presbyterian church with the following members: Mr. and Mrs. A. L. McGee and daughter, Lizzie McGee, Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Scott and daughters, Daisy and Bernice, Mr. and Mrs. T. H. Mayhall, and Mrs. Rebecca Herriott. Mr. Thomson continued to supply the church. Charles Hersman, at that time only a lad but later an elder in the church, makes clear the difficulties in the words, "Then Brother Thomson of Chandler began coming and preaching to us. It was a long hard drive for him but he was always on hands if his ponies could pull the old buggy through the mud at all."

Mr. Thomson at that time was commissioned by the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions at New York City and was authorized by the Presbytery of Oklahoma (now Oklahoma City Presbytery) to organize churches where there were no organizations of other denominations. There was scarcely a community in Lincoln County where he did not preach at least one sermon. Many times he made regular appointments which required his preaching three times on Sunday and driving long distances over almost impassable roads. When streams were swollen by rains he was obliged some times to leave his buggy for the return trip, mount one pony and lead the other; he would often take refuge from storms in an Indian cabin or in a dugout on a deserted claim; or lie down beneath his buggy with only a blanket for a bed and await daylight in order to find his way around a new barbed wire fence.

The Clifton church prospered and on December 15, 1895, services were held for the first time in a neat little church which had been built by volunteer labor with the aid of the Board of Church Erection on the new townsite which had been laid out on the homestead of Miss Kate Ellis.

The post office, too, was moved farther "up-town" and lodged in a native lumber house. Among the first business men to be attracted to the new town were D. P. Brown and sons, J. P. and Ed, who set up a saw-mill on the W. J. Wallace farm. Here, too, Uncle Johnny Stone, as every one knew him, put in a shingle mill, a simple affair, really a machine

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for riving clapboards by means of horse power, but like the saw-mill was a boon to the settlers who had been living in rough log cabins or in tents. Some few who could afford it hauled lumber for their box houses from Oklahoma City. Old Nig, the snow white horse which ran the shingle mill is still remembered by many, for he lived to a great age. There were a few ox teams which were used for loading and hauling the logs to the mills. The women and children often helped trim the logs after the trees were felled while the men were hauling the logs or off-bearing the lumber at the mill.

Mr. and Mrs. John Huffman kept an inn in Clifton in connection with their store. One evening in 1894, Dr. John H. Baugh, a young man recently graduated from a medical college in Kentucky, rode into town on horseback and stopped at the Huffman inn for supper, much to the chagrin of the sixteen year old daughter of the house who was curling her hair preparatory to attending one of the neighborhood sings which with candy-pulls were the principal sources for amusement for the young people and she had no desire to quit her occupation and forego the evening’s pleasure in order to cook supper for a stranger. However, she must have speedily forgiven the young man for in 1895 she became Mrs. Baugh. Dr. Baugh hung out his shingle and has continued his practice to the present. He soon became an active citizen and aided in many organizations.

For that was a day of organizations. They had clubs, associations, societies and lodges; some to become permanent; some to give way for something better; others to die for lack of interest. There was a building and improvement association, a circulating library, a literary and music club, and a merchant’s association.

The Clifton Library club was founded with donations and maintained with fees and fines. Because the records were destroyed by fire the exact date of organization was not known but it was some time in 1894. From newspaper clippings it is learned that the first officers were: J. M. Rasberry, president; Miss Lizzie McGee, vice-president; Dr. J. H. Baugh, secretary; Miss Bertha Ellis, treasurer; W. D. Fugatt, librarian.

On Jan. 2, 1901, Clifton I. O. O. F. lodge was instituted

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with G. W. Schlegel of Chandler presiding. This is now known as Meeker Lodge 143.

On May 15, 1902, a Rebekah lodge was instituted with eleven members, two of whom, Mrs. May Baugh and Mrs. May Martin, are still members.

In 1902 when the Santa Fe built a branch road it would not come to Clifton so Clifton came to the railroad and for months it was a city on wheels. Many who were children then recall watching the houses rolling along towards the new town and they tell of seeing a building "parked" in a field. There was just one two-story house in Clifton and it was there where the lodges met. It chanced to be the night for the meeting of the Rebekahs when night had overtaken the workmen as they were moving the building and it was left about a mile away. Nothing daunted by so small a matter as a "discolation" of their lodge room the Rebekahs wended their way to the stranded building and held their meeting.

The new city was named for Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Meeker on whose farm together with that of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Fowler, Meeker was founded.

Mr. and Mrs. Meeker were among the early timers and they are particularly remembered for their kindness in times of illness.

Mr. Meeker was a cattle man and perhaps no one knew this part of the state better than he. He became versed in the lore of the woods. One of his great sorrows was seeing his beloved trees succumb to the ax in order to make room for roads and bridges.

There is always sadness mingled with joy when relating the development of a country, when the old must give way for the new, and many are the regrets that the magnificent groves and lovely wild flowers could not be preserved. One especially lovely spot which had to be sacrificed to good roads was the lake covered with pond lilies.

When Walter Fowler made the run he "staked his claim" by nailing a board with his name to a black jack sapling on the present site of the Presbyterian church. His widow still owns much property in Meeker and has her home near the place of their original log cabin. Mrs. Fowler has a mind stored with memories both pleasant and sad of the pioneer days. She has had many sorrows of her own, but she never

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can forget one night when she was called upon to sympathize with others in distress. The family had retired to rest after a busy day. The intense quietness of the night was disturbed by the distant sounds of a galloping horse. As the rider approached they could hear the sobs of a broken hearted man who had come to them for help because death had taken one of his flock. Leaving the children with their father Mrs. Fowler taking with her her eldest boy went out into the night to ride the two and a half miles to give comfort to the sorrowing mother and to prepare the body for burial.

Mr. and Mrs. N. H. Morgan with four small children had made the run and staked a claim southeast of Meeker and were living in a tent while putting up hay before building their house. In October while Otis, the seven year old son, was standing in the tent door he suddenly fell back dead in his mother’s arms. About a week later while the family was away from home the tent and everything they possessed, even the hay they had made, were burned. It would seem that they had had enough trials to justify their giving up trying to make a home in the new country, but they stayed and to-day, Mr. and Mrs. Morgan and those children and their families are counted among Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties’ best citizens.

The Presbyterian church was one of the buildings which was moved from Clifton after having been sawed into two parts. An addition was made at the time, but in 1922 the old building was razed to make place for a larger edifice. On August 1, 1922, a large crowd assembled to break ground for the new church. Rev. I. N. Clack, the pastor, offered prayer and made an appropriate talk after which Mrs. Mary A. Thomson, widow of the first pastor, removed the first shovel of dirt and Mrs. Susan F. McGee, widow of the first elder, removed the second. The corner stone was laid on August 18 with Rev. F. J. Stowe of Oklahoma City aiding the pastor. On April 11, 1923 the new church was dedicated during the meeting of the Presbytery of Oklahoma.

The first business house erected on the Meeker townsite was built on Fowler street for a hotel for Mr. and Mrs. Silas Birch who had come from Clifton. The second building was on the corner of Main and Fowler and was for a bank. In March 1903 the Bank of Meeker was organized with Willard

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Johnston of Shawnee, president; C. M. Cade of Shawnee, vice-president; M. G. McKee, a Clifton homesteader, cashier.

The bank continues business on the same site with the same officers, but in 1926 the old building was removed and a brick one erected. On the first day of January, 1929, The Citizens Bank was merged with the Bank of Meeker.

In April, 1919, a fire destroyed almost an entire block on Main street, among the buildings was the Red Cross drug store in which the Clifton library had been stored and it was supposed that all the books had been destroyed as were the records. The club members had many of them gone away and the club had disbanded and was considered by many as a dead issue. It was learned however that there was a small deposit in the Bank of Meeker which had lain idle through the years.

The Meeker Wild Flower club which takes up some civic improvement each year resolved to find some way to obtain the money for a nucleus for another library and at a meeting on Jan. 10, 1928, committees were appointed to ascertain if the club could be reorganized. With very little effort a great interest was aroused and at a published call for the old members to meet, enough responded so that on Jan. 24, 1928, the Clifton Public Library club was reorganized with Mrs. J. L. Meeker, president; Mrs. J. H. Baugh, vice-president; Miss Louise Thomson, secretary; James McKee, treasurer, all pioneers except the treasurer who is the son of pioneers. The club unanimously voted to change the name to Meeker Library club. After this a book shower was called for and among the books were many belonging to the old library some of them in good condition. The library was placed in a room of the community building and continued to grow until in one year from date of reorganization there were one thousand volumes. So it is that another of the Clifton organizations has become permanent.

I. M. Steinbook, who was among the first to file on a claim near Clifton and is still here with his family says, "I never saw a finer lot of people than we had for neighbors, always ready to help one another. There was no stealing and hijacking in those days."

He helped set up the tent for Scott’s store and hauled supplies from Oklahoma City. Among the commodities he

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hauled was corn which Scott sold at a cent an ear. The corn was kept in a log pen and was not molested. Others tell how they never thought of putting anything under lock and key.

Perhaps because it was such an unusual episode that the, memory of it lingers in the minds of the old settlers, or perhaps it was because of the mystery that everyone speaks of Dead Man’s Crossing. A man was found dead at the Quapaw ford and was never identified. He was buried on the bank of the creek. There are many theories in regard to the death but none have been verified. It was generally believed that he had been killed for money that he had or supposed to have had on his person.

Meeker has always had a weekly newspaper. Edgar N. Sweet who recently died in California was the first editor and publisher. The paper has been known except for a short time as The Meeker Herald. But this was not the first weekly paper published in Quapaw Valley. Herbert Brunt edited and published The Quapaw Valley News at Payson, printing it on a job press. Mr. Brunt sold his press to Mr. Sweet and discontinued his paper. Mr. Sweet had in addition to the job press a George Washington hand press. There were many changes in the ownership of the Meeker paper. Mr. Brunt owned it for a time and it was during his ownership that the name of the paper was changed to Lincoln County Democrat. Later the name The Meeker Herald was restored. When J. A. Trickey bought the paper he sold the presses and The Herald was then published by The Chandler News-Publicist Company. During the fire of April 1919 the records and files were destroyed, but the paper continued publication by the News-Publicist with Fagin Alder, Mrs. M. J. Thompson and Miss Florence Lambe, later she became Mrs. V. F. Hall, editing until November, 1924, when Mr. and Mrs. A. O. Leamon bought the paper. They brought with them their own press and Mr. Leamon now edits and publishes The Meeker Herald.

Payson like Meeker was moved from the original townsite which was Parnell. Miss Matea Guild was commissioned postmaster at Parriell and she with her brother, Hayden Guild, had a general merchandise store.

She recalls how she was obliged to give three bonds in two and one-half years. The first was when she was post-

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master at Parnell, then when she moved to Payson she gave another, then she married Herbert Brunt but remained officially, Matea Guild until she could make another bond as Mrs. Brunt.

When the small but sweet toned bell in the belfry of the Christian Church begins ringing Sunday mornings it awakens happy memories of school days for many. For this old bell is one of the transferred relics of Clifton.

After the church was built school was held there and the bell was bought by subscription. When Clifton was first moved to Meeker, school was held in store buildings, one of which is still dubbed, "Know-More" College. But when the district built a school house the old bell was hung there. In 1920 a new brick school house was erected and the old one sold to the Christian Church. The old bell went with the sale.

Among the pioneers who have passed on there is one, Mrs. Emarine Roope, who yet lives in the memories of many to whom she was helpful in the early days. To one it was her neighborliness that made her worthy of remembrance; to another it was her kindness in sickness or sorrow; yet another recalls how she engaged him to work for her just when he needed the money most in order to buy supplies for his large family.

The present officers of the Clifton Pioneer Society of Quapaw Valley are: J. L. Meeker, president; I. M. Steinbrook, vice-president; Mrs. J. H. Baugh, secretary-treasurer.

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