Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 7, No. 4
December, 1929

Page 487


REV. DR. JOSEPH SAMUEL MURROW, pioneer Baptist missionary to the Indians of Indian Territory and Father of Oklahoma Masonry, passed away September 8th at 10:30 p. m., at his home in Atoka, at the age of 94 years, three months and one day.

Father Murrow, as he was affectionately called, was born June 7, 1835, in Jefferson County, Georgia. His grandfather, William Murrow, was a member of that dauntless band which fought under Marion for American Independence. His maternal great-grandfather held a patent from George III of England to Sullivan Island in Charleston Bay, South Carolina. His father, John Murrow, and mother, Mary Amelia Badger Murrow, were the parents of six children Joseph Samuel being the youngest.

The young man grew up in the atmosphere of struggle for development—material, social, mental and spiritual developmentt. At the early age of nineteen he entered a religious career by uniting with the Green Fork Baptist Church in Georgia and a year later was licensed to preach the gospel. He soon entered Mercer University to better equip himself for his chosen career but the impatience of youth and the demand for competent lips and hands to labor among the Indian people of the West combined to shorten his college career and hasten the beginning of the work into which he threw body and soul. Long years later (1923) Mercer conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity upon him as an appreciation of his services for christianity and education. Ordained to the ministry in September 1857, at Macon, Georgia, he was appointed by the Domestic and Indian Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and supported by the Rehoboth Association as a missionary to the Indians of the West. On November 18, 1857, he arrived at old North Forktown, near Eufaula. At that time there were no railroads west of the Mississippi River. He spent five weeks in making the trip. On coming to Indian Territory, Rev. Mr. Murrow and his wife settled in a little log cabin in old North Fork town in the Creek Nation. His wife died there ten months later. In 1859 he married Miss Clara Burns, daughter of Rev. Willis Burns, who came to the territory as a missionary in 1858. Of this union four children were born. After his marriage Mr. Murrow immediately moved to the Seminole Nation and established the mission work in that tribe.

In 1862 at the request of the Seminole Council, he was appointed Confederate States Indian Agent for that tribe. The following year he received additional powers, including the purchase and distribution of supplies and provisions to the women, children and old men of several tribes, including Creeks, Osages, Comanches, Wichitas and others, whose able-bodied men had enlisted with the Confederate Army. He continued to be a missionary for Christ as well as a representative of the Confederate Government, and endeavored as best he could to feed their souls with spiritual food as well as care for their temporal wants.

In 1870 Mr. Murrow returned to his home in Georgia, where friends placed him in a hospital for the blind in the city of Atlanta, as he was suffering from a severe disease of the eyes, brought on by excessive labor and neglect. During this time he had ample time to study the Indian field of work and he became impressed with the thought that something

Page 488

should be done for the wild Indians of the western part of the Indian Territory. As a result of the plans thus formulated and his exertions a mission was commenced among these wild or blanket Indians in 1874, and it has continued. After four years of work among the Creeks and four years with Seminoles, Dr. Murrow came to the Choctaw Nation and in 1867 located at what is now the City of Atoka, a place to which he gave the name and of which he will always be regarded as the founder. As the location was on the direct trail and mail route of the Government, Mr. Murrow determined to have a post office established there and after writing the petition and the necessary correspondence was successful and the post office was named Atoka.

In July, 1872, Rev. Mr. Murrow issued a call to the churches of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations to meet in Atoka for the purpose of organizing the Choctaw and Chickasaw Baptist Association. Sixteen churches responded. The organization thus established did much for the two nations and sent from its ranks many of the present strong Baptist bodies of the old territory and the New State. In 1876 he introduced a preamble and resolution in the annual meeting of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Association, looking to the immediate organization of all the Baptist Association of the territory into a general convention. This was done for the purpose of breaking up tribal walls in religious work, bringing about more fraternal feeling and a broader acquaintance between workers in the field and to secure a more active co-operation and interest in the support and maintenance of mission work among the blanket Indians and other needy fields. This was not effected until 1881, when the Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention was organized and rapidly grew into a great power for good. Mr. Murrow was for seventeen years president of this convention, giving much of his time, means and prayers to its work. For many years Rev. Mr. Murrow’s missionary work was done under the auspices of the mission board of the Southern Baptist Church. In 1899 he changed his relationship to the Baptist Home Mission Society of New York and for fourteen years had general supervision of all Indian Missionary work for the Baptist Church in Oklahoma and Indian Territory. He organized more than seventy-five Baptist churches in the Indian Territory, and assisted with his own hands and money in the building of nearly that many houses of worship. He assisted in the ordination of more than seventy preachers, mostly Indians, and baptized not less than 2,000 people, most of whom were also Indians.

In 1887, largely due to Rev. Mr. Murrow’s leadership, the Atoka Baptist church successfully inaugurated the Atoka Baptist Academy. This splendid school was conducted under the auspices of the American Baptist Home Mission Society for eighteen years, and was then merged into or absorbed by the Murrow Indian Orphan Home. The founding of this, home has been considered by Mr. Murrow as his last and best effort for the assistance of the people to whom he has given nearly sixty years of service. Rev. Mr. Murrow, with the assistance of others, organized and estalished the Bacone University, a Baptist Institution at Muskogee, for the education of the Indians. He served fifteen years as president of the Board of Trustees and it has been largely through his untiring efforts that the institution grew and prospered and has become one of the leading educational institutions of the country. He was also a pioneer of journalism of the Indian Territory, having served as editor of the Vindica, a weekly publication first published at Boggy Depot and later moved to Atoka.

Page 489

Rev. Mr. Murrow was one of the oldest and most distinguished Masons in Oklahoma. He organized the first Masonic Lodge in the territory after the war, locating it at Boggy Depot, later moving it to Atoka. For more than thirty years he was grand secretary of the Blue Lodge of the territory, and he assisted in organizing, and at one time was secretary of the Grand Lodge and the Grand Chapter and Grand Recorder of the Grand Commandery of the Grand Council. He also organized the first council of Royal and Select Masters in Oklahoma, and served as Grand Master of the Grand Council until April, 1912. In the Scottish Rite he attained the very great distinction of the thirty-third degree. Dr. Murrow’s contributions to Masonic literature and his activities in fraternal enterprises, gained for him a national reputation and he is known throughout the United States as the "Father of Oklahoma Masonry."

The history of the commonwealth of Oklahoma will be an unfinished story without a chapter devoted to the life, and achievements of this gentle sweet spirited old man. Thousands of men, women, and children mourn the loss of this great and good man.

County Superintendent, Atoka County, Atoka, Oklahoma.


LIEUT WILLIAM LEWERS CORNELIUS. "Whom the Gods love die young." Few people crowd the short span of twenty-five years with more achievement than did William Lewers Cornelius.

He was born at Fort Smith, Arkansas, July 1, 1903, the third child of John M. and Minnie Lewers Cornelius. When he was two years of age his parents moved to Antlers, Indian Territory. Here the lad entered school, graduating with honors at the age of fifteen years.

He entered Virginia Military Institute at Lexington in September, 1919, at which place he distinguished himself in scholarship, having received the French medal in mathematics both years he attended this famous school.

In 1921 he entered Oklahoma University and speedily attained prominence as a student and member of the Varsity baseball team. It was during the time that Cornelius played on the team that Oklahoma University won the Missouri Valley championship.

Lieut. Cornelius was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity which he served as president in 1924. He also represented the fraternity at their annual convention held in Atlanta, Georgia, that year.

On the campus he was a well known and much loved figure. He was Vice-president of the Student Council in 1923 and 1924, was a member of Loga Clip, Checkmate Interfraternity Council, Tau Pi and the American Society of Civil Engineers and he was a delegate from the latter organization to the National Convention, held in Minneapolis in 1924.

He received his A. B. degree in 1923 and later the degree of Bachelor of Science.

Suddenly in the spring of 1925 his family was apprised of the fact that he had entered the Cadet Flying School at Brookfield, Texas. It is not known just what were the influences that brought about this decision. It was characteristic of the boy that to decide was to act, and the

Page 490

work of preparation for this new line of endeavor was prosecuted with his usual vim and vigor. The following is taken from Major General Summerall’s letter to Mr. J. M. Cornelius, father of the young flier: "Lieut. Cornelius entered the military service as a flying cadet March 10, 1925; was appointed second lieutenant of Field Artillery June 30, 1925; detailed in the air service October 13, 1925, and permanently transferred to the Air Corps June 30, 1928. His first assignment in the Air Service was as student officer in the Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, from which he graduated in 1926. Since his graduation he had been on duty with the 17th Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge Field, Michigan, and the 95th Pursuit Squadron at Rockwell, California. While with the 17th Pursuit Squadron he was detailed on special duty in connection with the filming of "Wings" a picture produced by the Famous Players-Laskey organization.

Lieutenant Cornelius had displayed a keen interest in aviation and in the activities of the Air Corps. In his passing the Army loses a very competent and promising young officer. Brave and fearless he unhesitatingly performed all duties assigned him without thought of the hazard involved. The regrettable accident which resulted in his untimely death is deeply deplored, not only by his associates in the Air Corps, but throughout the entire service." high praise from his superiors.

Lieutenant Cornelius was detailed for the air races at the Sesquicentennial Exposition where he won third place; in 1927 he was sent to Spokane, Washington, to the National Air Derby where he won first place. The prize was a handsome loving cup which is now in the Oklahoma Historical Museum.

It was while at Selfridge Field that the famous Three Musketeers of the Air was formed. The personnel of this combination was originally Lieutenants J. J. Williams of Moab, Utah. Thad Johnson of Celeste, Texas, and W. L. Cornelius of Antlers, Oklahoma.

When Colonel Lindbergh made his round of the principal American cities and Canada after his famous flight to France the Three Musketeers were detailed for escort duty, and it was while on the flight to Canada that Lieutenant Johnson was killed. Lieutenant I. A. woodring took his place and the Three Musketeers carried on.

Stark tragedy was stalking the path of the Three Musketeers for it was at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California, September 11, 1928, that Lieutenant J. J. Williams, close friend and pal of our hero, lost his life when his plane crashed in front of the grandstand where were seated thousands of spectators.

Colonel Lindbergh immediately took Lieutenant Williams, place and the races went on according to schedule. Two weeks later when the Army planes were executing what is known as the Lufberry Circle, one of the planes collided with the one piloted by Lieutenant Cornelius and he was killed in the crash that followed.

Lieutenant Woodring, sole survivor of the three intrepid air men, known as The Three Musketeers of the Air, accompanied the body home, and interment was made in beautiful National Cemetery in Fort Smith. So passed a gallant Soul.

Life for William Lewers Cornelius had been full. Friends and well-wishers were always near, for to courage and daring were added unfailing courtesy, and a lovableness which endeared him to all who knew him.

His was a brave spirit, sweet and fine.

Page 491


DR. E. O. LOOMIS, a pioneer settler and for many years a practicing physician in the Indian Territory, died in Okmulgee Hospital November 11th, 1928, at the age of 76. His death came suddenly from pneumonia although ill health had prevailed for many years.

Enos Osborn Loomis was born in Lafayette Indiana. His early education was acquired in that community and he later finished a medical course in Cincinnati, Ohio.

After practicing medicine in Nebraska and Missouri he came, with his wife and baby daughter, to Oklahoma in 1886 and settled at Boggy Depot, near Tishomingo. This was the first white settlement in the Choctaw Nation and was an important army post during the Civil War.

The white people who lived in the Indian country had to hold specific permits or resident rights and Dr. Loomis enjoyed the special right owing to his skill as a physician. He had a wide practice over the Indian Domain. He administered to the colored as well as the white and lived to be regarded as a "Second Jesus" to many negro families in that community. His mode of conveyance while giving medical aid to the Chickasaws and Choctaws was buggy and team and all weather found him going from one sick bed to another perhaps twenty miles apart.

After many years of this devoted practice his health broke and he was forced to take up other work. The drug business in Wapanucka, to which placed he had moved, some years previous, occupied his attention until the death of his wife in 1908.

He moved, with his two younger daughters, to Cherokee, Oklahoma, in 1910 and there made his home with his older daughter. At the time of his death he was in Okmulgee and buried in that place.

Dr. Loomis is survived by four daughters: Mrs. Ruth Skeen of Los Angeles, Calif., Mrs. Walter Ferguson of Tulsa, Mrs. John Barry of Oklahoma City, and Mrs. Glen Leslie of Okmulgee.


GEORGE ALFRED MANSFIELD, son of William Mansfield and his wife, Sallie (Caruth) Mansfield born at Ozark, Franklin County, Arkansas, on April 6, 1865; died at Ada, Oklahoma, where he is buried, on July 29, 1929.

His father and mother were born in Kentucky, residing there until their removal to Arkansas prior to the Civil Par.

William W. Mansfield was the author and compiler of Mansfield’s Digest of Arkansas, (1884) certain chapters of which were extended, by Acts of Congress over the Indian Territory, remaining in force until the erection of the State of Oklahoma over said Territory. He was also a Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas, embracing the period from 1888 until 1892, and also reporter for said Court from 1886 to 1888.

George Alfred Mansfield was educated in the common schools of Arkansas, reading law in the office of his father. He was admitted to the Arkansas Bar as a licensed attorney at law on April 6, 1886; in 1896, he was elected Prosecuting Attorney for the Second Judicial Cir-

Page 492

cuit of Arkansas, and re-elected in 1898. In February, 1899, before the expiration of his second term, he resigned. He removed to South McAlester, Indian Territory, and became the senior member of the law firm of Mansfield, McMurray & Cornish. This law firm represented the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations of Indians from 1899 to 1908, their most notable achievement being the defeat of the citizenship claimants, known as Court claimants, and the restoration to the Tribes of claims, for lands and property of the value of several million dollars.

On the dissolution of the firm, he moved to California, where he resided at Redlands until 1912; he then removed to Oregon, where he resided at his ranch near Medford on Rogue River; leaving there in February, 1927, he returned to Oklahoma and re-entered the practice of the law at Ada.

In 1926, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for United States Senator from the State of Oregon; prior to that time, he had been prominently connected with various Co-operative Farmers’ Organizations, making appearances, in their behalf, before the Federal Reserve Board, and other Boards and Commissions and Committees of the Congress of the United States.

Whilst he was a resident of the Indian Territory, he participated in the activities of the Democratic party, attending all of its conventions. He was not a member of any church, club, fraternal or other secret society.

On December 25, 1894, he was married to Miss Virginia J. Cabell, daughter of Major A. S. Cabell, of Charleston, Franklin Count, Arkansas. She was a niece of General W. L. Cabell and a sister of Major General DeRosey C. Cabell of the United States Army. Their children were Margaret, George A., Jr. William and Charles, all of whom survive and reside in Oregon. She died at Redlands, California, on March 13 1910.

On September 10, 1912, he was married to Miss Rose Grunagaire, a native of Paris, France; his children by her who was his second wife are Rose, Elizabeth, Dorothy, Alfred and Richard, all of whom survive him. It was on account of his first wife’s health that he removed from Oklahoma to California.

At the time of his death he was a member of the law firm of Mangy field, Brunson, hemp, & Ahrens, at Ada, Oklahoma.


ROBERT EDWARD SIMPSON, son of Preston Simpson and his wife Catherine Jackson Simpson was born near Florence, Lauderdale County, Alabama, November 23, 1871. His grandfather and grandmother were John Simpson and Cassia Capshaw Simpson, who came from Virginia to Alabama settling in Limestone County near Athens, there being eight children in the family, four of whom were lawyers. His mother Catherine Jackson was a daughter of A. E. Jackson and Cynthia Phillips Jackson. The parents of A. E. Jackson also came from Virginia to Alabama in 1800 settling near Florence. Preston Simpson, the father of Robert Edward Simpson, enlisted in the 8th Alabama Cavalry Capt. John Lester’s Company, of the Confederate States of America, with Colonel Malone in command, and served until the close

Page 493

of the Civil War. Robert Edward Simpson grew up on his father’s farm near Florence, attending the common schools until he entered the state normal college at Florence, graduating in the class of 1891. After teaching school several years he went to Richmond, Virginia, where he studied law and was there admitted to the bar in February, 1896. In the summer of 1896 returning to Alabama, he was there admitted to practice law. Soon thereafter he enlisted as a private in the Spanish-American War in Company B. 3rd Alabama Infantry, National Guards. On May 1, 1898, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in Company B in the same regiment, serving throughout the war. After the close of the Spanish-American War, he was commissioned as Captain of Company B, 3rd Alabama Regiment, National Guards, and in June, 1902, was commissioned Major of the same regiment. He was elected to the Alabama Legislature, session of 1900-1901, serving on the following committees: Ways and Means, Military and Mining and Manufacturing. He did not seek reelection but returned to the active practice of the law. In 1905 he removed to Chicago, Illinois, where he engaged in the practice of the law for about three years. From there he came to Oklahoma in 1908, settling at Tulsa. Removing from there in 1911 he settled at Henryetta being elected City Attorney in 1912, and County Attorney of Okmulgee County in 1914, and reelected as County Attorney in 1916. In 1917 the Legislature having created a Superior Court for Okmulgee County he was appointed by Governor R. L. William as Judge of said court. Serving out the appointive term he was reelected for a full elective term. Having served out a part of the elective term he resigned to resume the ’active practice of the law, forming a partnership with R. B. F. Hummer and R. L. Foster under the firm name of Simpson R Foster with offices at Okmulgee and Henryetta. This partnership was dissolved in, 1923, Judge Simpson continuing alone in the practice of the law at Okmulgee until his death on August 17, 1.929. He is buried at Courtland, Alabama.

On October 2, 1911, he was married to Miss Caroline Harris of Courtland, Alabama. Two sons born to them, Robert Edward, Jr., on February 4, 1914, and Jack Harris on April 8, 1916. His widow and his two sons survive him, as well as his aged father and a sister and a brother.

He was a member of the Masonic Order and Knights of Pythias, holding his membership in both lodges in Florence, Alabama, and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, at Okmulgee and a Democrat. He served his country in war and peace faithfully and ably and leaves a heritage of a life well lived.


JAMES H. MAXEY, born at Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, December 23, 1842; enlisted in the Confederate Army May, 1861, in Company B. 3rd Tennessee Infantry, and in 1862 being transferred to a Tennessee Cavalry regiment and advanced to the rank of Captain of his Company, served until the close of the War. Graduating from the Cumberland University (law department) at Lebanon, Tennessee, in June 1867, he was immediately admitted to the bar of Tennessee. Practicing the law for three years (1867 to 1870) in Paluski, Tennessee, he moved to

Page 494

Paris, Texas, where having been admitted to the Texas bar in the early part of 1871, he entered into a partnership with Gen. Samuel Bell Maxey, (a cousin) under the firm name of Maxey & Maxey.

During the year 1872 returning to Tennessee on account of serious illness of his father, he found him dead on his arrival. Shortly after his burial returning to Texas by way of West Plains, Missouri, (which is in Howell County, located near the Arkansas line in the South Central part of the State of Missouri) he determined to locate there and engage in the practice of law instead of going back to Texas. Being elected as a member of the constitutional convention of Missouri in 1875 he served as a member of that Convention. Actively engaging in the practice of the Law at West Plains until the year of 1891, he removed to Oklahoma, locating first at Kingfisher, but in 1892 at Norman and from Norman to Tecumseh in the fall of 1892 and from Tecumseh to Shawnee in 1895.

He was interested in democratic politics in Missouri and active as a party worker. He was a delegate to the democratic national convention that nominated Grover Cleveland for president in 1884. He was the democratic nominee for Circuit Judge in the circuit in which he resided in 1890, but was defeated in the general election. He was admitted to the practice of the law in Oklahoma Territory in 1892 and engaged in the practice of the law at Norman. He afterwards continued to practice law at Tecumseh and organized the first bank in the town of Tecumseh, a business which he ran from the fall of 1892 until about July, 1895, when he moved to Shawnee. He was U. S. Commissioner in Tecumseh from 1893 to 1895. He organized the first bank in the town of Shawnee in 1895. He was interested in promoting the building of the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad in 1897 and 1808 from El Reno west to Weatherford and he and his associates handled the townsites on that railroad from El Reno to Weatherford. He organized banks in 1897 and 1898 at Geary and Weatherford, Oklahoma.

He was twice a candidate for the democratic nomination for delegate to congress from Oklahoma. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Oklahoma Territory in 1896, but opposed Bryan’s nomination. He was at that time known as a Cleveland democrat and was throughout his life a conservative in government. He was elected as a delegate from the 31st district (part of Pottawatomie County) to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention.

He died on December 20, 1908, lacking three days of being 66 years of age. He was in poor health during all the time the Constitutional Convention was in session, in fact had been in poor health for about six months prior to the time it convened. After the convention adjourned he traveled rather extensively in an effort to regain his health, without success.

He was a democrat of the old school, believed thoroughly in the doctrine of state rights, strict construction of the Federal Constitution, and was opposed to the new ideas in government that were developing about the time of his death, particularly national prohibition, woman’s suffrage, the initiative referendum and the recall of public officers.

He was a man and a gentleman of the old school.

Page 495


WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON, son of Judge Mitchell Harrison and Louisa Harrison born 1876, near Tamaha, Oklahoma. Died September 25, 1929. Attended Spencer Academy and then Henry Kendall College at Muskogee, from which he graduated. Graduated from Centre College in Law June, 1902.

Appointed District Attorney for Choctaw Nation, by Chief G. W. Dukes, August, 1902.

October 31st, 1907, admitted to practice in U. S. Supreme Court.

Began practice of law at Poteau 1904, (Postmaster 1906).

1908, married Miss Minette, daughter of Dr. C. S. Roberts, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

Two children, William Henry, Jr., and Katherine Virginia Harrison.

His wife and daughter, Katherine Virginia, survive him, also his mother, Mrs. Louisa Harrison, three brothers, Albert, Mitchell, and Ben, and one sister, Mrs. Bob Porch.

Appointed 1922, by Harding, as Principal Chief of Choctaws, which office he filled so creditably as to make a vacancy left by his passing hard to fill. The interests of his people filled a large place in his life, and he fought valiantly to protect them in every way.

He was an active member of Presbyterian Church, and an elder in good standing.

Member of School Board, of Poteau, Oklahoma.

May, 1924, was elected Honorary Member of Oklahoma Historical Society.

Member of State Historical Society, of Mississippi.

In politics, Chief Harrison was a republican, and he took an active part in all county, State and National campaigns since statehood. Several times, he was county chairman and member of the State committee of LeFlore County.

He was one-half Choctaw Indian blood, and had been prominently identified with the affairs of his tribe since he began the practice of law. He worked hand in hand with Chief Green McCurt, in bringing about the ratification of the supplemental agreement on September 25, 1902, by popular vote of the Choctaw people. Chief Harrison’s death occurred on the 27th anniversary of the ratification of that agreement which provided for the allotment of the lands and the sale and disposition of the property of his tribe.

He was universally esteemed, not only as an honorable Chief, but also as a man. This was shown by the great crowd attending his funeral. Rich, poor, white and black, came to slow him reverence.

The church was far from able to accommodate the crowd, even with standing room. The floral offering was magnificent.

The Chief’s passing was peaceful and beautiful, symbolic of the life he lived. Just as a gorgeous sunset spread its glory in the western sky, his spirit went to meet its maker.

Rev. Willimn Rolle, of Norman, (former pastor) Rev. Harry Cog, Pastor of Presbyterian church at Poteau, and Rev. Harry Heincke, S. S. Missionary in this District, conducted the funeral services.


Be it resolved by the Indian Memorial Association in its annual meeting at Durant, Oklahoma, on October 17, 1929:

That we have heard with genuine sorrow of the death of William

Page 496

H. Harrison, late Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation, which occurred at his home in Poteau, Oklahoma, on September 25, last. He was fifty-three years of age and had been prominently identified with the affairs of his tribe since he attained his majority. He had been Principal Chief a little over seven years, having been appointed by President Harding.

Without show or self-advertisement he conscientiously and efficiently discharged the duties of his office. He was steadfastly loyal to the traditions and best interest of his tribe. During his administration repeated efforts were made in Congress to pass legislation to open the citizenship rolls of the Choctaw and Chickashaw Nations. He vigorously opposed all such legislation, and secured the co-operation of the Oklahoma delegation in Congress and other members of Congress in preventing the passage of such legislation. He rejected offers to settle unjust claims against his tribe. When Congress passed the act of June 7, 1924, authorizing the Choctaw and Chickashaws to sue the Government on all claims they had against the United States, he promptly appointed special attorneys to carry forward the litigation. He insisted upon the work being done with dispatch. As a result of his policy he lived to see all suits which the Choctaws have against the Government filed in the Court of Claims within the time limit fixed by Congress. He earnestly advocated the passage of the act of Congress of May 10, 1928, which extends for twenty-five years from April 26, 1931, the restrictions on 160 acres of land for each Choctaw allottee of one-half or more Indian blood and for each fullblood heir or devisee, and makes such lands exempt from taxation until April 26, 1956. The interests of the tribe were carefully safeguarded by him; and we hereby take this occasion to give public expression of our appreciation of his fine, faithful and patriotic services.

Be it further resolved, that this resolution be kept among the permanent records of this association, and that a copy thereof be sent to the family of the late Chief.



WILLIAM I. CRUCE was born in Crittenden County, Kentucky, on April 6th, 1853, and reared on a farm. While young his father died and being the eldest child many of the burdens of rearing and supporting a family of five brothers and one sister devolved upon him. His education was obtained in the common schools of his neighborhood, which were inferior as most rural schools were in Kentucky more than sixty years ago. He found time after his many arduous duties to study law with the help of friends, who were lawyers, and who recognized in him the great common sense and character necessary to make a successful lawyer.

Early in life he united with the church and from that time was a devout and earnest Christian, having only two consuming interests in life; viz : his church and his profession. For more than thirty years and until his death he was Superintendent of a Sunday School in Ard-

Page 497

more, where he was always found on Sunday morning, unless unavoidably detained.

Mr. Cruce was a member of the School Board and served on a committee which prepared the city charter, but absolutely refused to be a candidate for any office for which a salary was paid. He defended many charged with crime, some without pay, and usually with success, but declined employment for the prosecution in any case. It was said of him that in his argument he supplied such evidence as was, needed, by his own statements, which were accepted as facts, which demonstrates the confidence reposed in him by the public.

In 1892 he came to Ardmore, Oklahoma, and formed a partnership with the late C. L. Herbert, but only remained a short time, because as we believe, living conditions were not satisfactory to him. About 1896 he returned and had since been in the active practice of law until declining health, under the advice of his physician, caused him to retire.

When Mr. Cruce returned to Ardmore after his first visit he took the place of his brother, A. C. Cruce, who had been appointed U. S. Attorney, in the firm of Johnson, Cruce & Cruce, composed of A. C. Cruce, W. T. Johnson & Lee Cruce, and later in 1898 when Johnson was appointed U. S. Attorney, A. C. Cruce returned to, the firm. Lee Cruce retired and W. R. Bleakmore took his place. In 1912 after the election of Lee Cruce as governor A. C. Cruce moved to Oklahoma City and W. I. Cruce formed a partnership with W. D. Potter, which continued until he retired from practice. He was engaged in many noted criminal and civil cases in this and other counties.

W. I., as he was familiarly called by all, was undoubtedly the best beloved lawyer ever to practice at this Bar. His ability as an advocate before the court and jury was supreme, and his clean, sincere life marked him as one outstanding character wherever he was known. Such a life is worthy of emulation by all. Such a character only a few possess. It can be truthfully said of him, "He was a Man."

WHEREAS: our brother. William I. Cruce, on the 30th day of November, 1928, passed from this earth to his heavenly abode; and,

WHEREAS: His death caused sorrow and regret in those who knew him and is more deeply felt by his family, close friends and members of the Bar with whom lie was so long and pleasantly associated.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: That in the death of William I. Cruce, the public, the Bar, the Church and his devoted family have been deprived of one of its best citizens, brothers, husbands and fathers, and we extend to them all our sincere condolence.

RESOLVED: That a copy of these resolutions be furnished the family, the State and Federal Courts and the newspapers as an expression of our love and esteem for our departed brother.

W. B. JOHNSON, Chairman,

Page 498


By Lee Cruce

"Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God."

This truth uttered by Christ nineteen centuries ago fittingly applies to Will Cruce. As near as erring men approach the ideal pictured there, he lived the part. Many years ago he entered into a partnership that lasted to the end of his life and will endure throughout eternity—a partnership with God.

As nearly as possible he carried into effect every obligation he assumed in that partnership. He had his days of hardship and his sessions of prosperity. There were times when disappointment shook his soul, followed by days of deserved and well-earned success. But through it all, whether upon the mountain top of hope and joy, or in the valley of despair, he never lost faith in the goodness and mercy of God. With this hope to sustain him, this steadfast faith to guide him, he made his way through the 75 years that encompassed his life, and when the testing time came, as it must inevitably come to all, he was not afraid.

He was honest. He never intentionally wronged any man. If there was yielding to be done, if concessions were to be made, he went beyond the half-way mark.

He was the personification of Charity; he gave until it hurt. No worthy cause ever appealed to him in vain as long as he had a dollar to give, while many undeserving beggars have felt the kindly touch of his generous soul. In all my life I have known no one who more perfecty exemplified this Christian virtue than did he.

He never aspired to political places of power and responsibility. He preferred to follow the humble walks of life, the way trodden by the feet of the many. After all, it is these who move the world. The military genius may plan a great campaign, but it is the men behind the guns who bring the victory. The great dreamer may picture a great reform, but it is the men and women in the common walks of life who bring the dream to fruition. Now that he has reached the end of his long journey, and the summing up time is here, it may truthfully be said of him: "He has done his part."

Farewell. good brother of mine. I will not write here what I feel in my heart for you. The public is not interested in that. Besides, it is sacred only to me. You have been to me much more than just a brother, and my heart is full of gratitude to Almighty God for the ties that have bound us together. You will be missed on the streets of Ardmore where your smile was always radiant. and your handclasp warm. You will be missed in the Sunday School and Church where you were punctual in attendance, constant in duty, and faithful to the trust. But most of all, you will be missed in your home, for it is here you found those who know you best and love you most. Yours has been a well-spent life, filled with good deeds, and already you have heard the sweetest words that ever come to spiritual ears: "Well done, good and faithful servant." It is the welcome of your lifelong partner. It is the voice of God.

Page 499


Joint Meeting of Carter County District with the United States District Court, with Judges Robert Willies, Walden, and Ogden an Bench

Impressive tribute to the memory of the late W. I. Cruce, pioneer attorney of Southern Oklahoma was paid at a joint meeting of the district courts of Carter county with the United States district court Monday morning. The services were held in federal court with R. L. Williams, judge of the federal court for the eastern district of Oklahoma, Asa Walden, judge of division two of district court and John B. Ogden, judge of division one of district court of Carter county on the bench. More than 50 attorneys were in attendance. The court room was packed to capacity by friends of Mr. Cruce. Mrs. W. I. Cruce, widow of the attorney, Lee Cruce, former governor of Oklahoma and brother of W. I. Cruce and others of the immediate family were in attendance.

W. B. Johnson, chairman of the resolutions committee of the Carter county bar, read an impressive document which eulogized the memory of Mr. Cruce and concluded with the generalization that "W. I. Cruce was the best beloved lawyer ever before the bar in this commonwealth." The resolutions were made a part of the minutes of the federal court. were ordered made a part of the records of the district court and of the Carter county bar. Copies are to be supplied the family and newspapers.

W. B. Johnson Pays Tribute

Johnson prefaced his reading of the resolutions with a few remarks in which he asserted Cruce to have been "A good lawyer, a good citizen and a model gentleman."

High praise for the high honor, integrity, ability and charity shown by Mr. Cruce was sounded in brief but touching addresses delivered by men who had known and loved Mr. Cruce for many years. Tom Champion, Ardmore attorney, related early acquaintance with the attorney and declared that he had never known a better man or a finer gentleman. Henry Potter, another pioneer attorney of the city praised Cruce as a distinguished and able attorney and a highly gifted student of mankind. H. H. Brown said that "Mr. Cruce was the one man that every organization and every individual citizen in Ardmore should be proud to have known."

W. D. Potter, law partner of Mr. Cruce for many years, praised his memory as a "fair and impartial minded gentleman; a lover of his fellow men; as a friend of children; an able attorney and a fine student of mankind."

C. B. Stewart of Oklahoma City, declared "A comradeship existed in the old days between lawyers that no longer exists. Men like W. B. Cruce fostered and built that comradeship. These Cruces, reared in the hills of Kentucky, are rugged people. Historians say that Washington gathered much of his sturdy strength and character from the old mountains of Virginia. W. I. Cruce must have gathered some of his strength and power from his environment."

Judge Walden Speaks

"The biggest tribute paid to Mr. Cruse" Asa Walden remarked, "in these addresses this morning, rests not so much in what they have said us in what they have left unpaid. When every speaker rose to his feet

Page 500

to talk of this old friend, there was a choke in his voice that said more than all his words could have said."

"Old men make acquaintances—only young men make friends," Judge Williams observed in closing the exercises. "W. I. Cruce was riot an ordinary man. He was not a brilliant man but he was a wise man. He knew human nature and human beings as few men are ever able to know and understand those things. He came of an age that knew no hard times. In the old days—40 years ago—young men reused to admit or yield to hard times. They welcomed them. So much was the history of Mr. Cruce. Of him it can be rightly said `He did not live in vain.' "

On this 14th day of October, 1929, ,in the United States Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, sitting at Ardmore, Memorial Exercises were held, among which resolutions were presented by a Committee of the Bar in memory of William Isaac Cruce of the Ardmore Bar, and talks were made by the various members of the Bar above shown and also by Judge Asa Walden, District Judge, and Judge R. L. Williams, the presiding Judge, and upon conclusion of said exercises the Court directed that a copy of the proceedings had on this day be forwarded to the Oklahoma Historical Society at Oklahoma City to be preserved in the archives of said society.

(The foregoing was compiled by Hon. W. B. Johnson of Ardmore, Okla.)

Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site