Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 9, No. 1
March, 1931

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We wish to call to the attention of all students of history the article in this issue of the Chronicles under the caption, "The Dawes Commission." It is the work of Loren N. Brown, Associate Professor of history in the Central State Normal, of Edmond. Professor Brown has made exhaustive research and has compiled for us much reliable data, concerning the work of the Dawes Commission. This article of Professor Brown will be valuable for reference in the schools of the State.

There is much history now being made but it is only in the making and it is not matured enough to be recorded as history. The next generation may consider this an epochal period not only in the history of our state but of our country. Never before has drouth and economic conditions caused so many people to be without remunerative employment and never before has there been so many people dependent upon public and private charity. This unnatural condition is working something of an evolution in the political affairs of our state. A new code of laws pertaining to the subject of taxation is being worked out which promises to be more just and equable than the present ad valorem system. These problems are to be worked out by those who are now in the actual strife and controversy of public life. History must bide its time.

Mr. Alvin Rucker the special feature writer on the Oklahoman has a natural aptitude for history and has made some very valuable contributions to the history of Oklahoma and the Southwest in recent numbers of the Sunday edition of that paper. For several months he has been, under the caption, "The Beginning of Oklahoma" publishing extracts from Arkansas Gazette, a paper that was founded in 1819 at

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Little Rock, Arkansas. These extracts or clippings from the Gazette from 1820 to 1840 give us insight into the condition of the country at that time and the problems that the emigrants into western Arkansas and into the country that now constitutes a part of Oklahoma had to solve and the hardships that they had to overcome in order to establish homes and extend civilization under the American flag. If these excerpts from Arkansas Gazette and from one or two of the other old papers that were contemporary with the Gazette were epitomized, annotated and published in a book it would make a valuable addition to the annals of our state history.


Writers of fiction have often injected real history into their imaginative stories hoping thereby to awaken interest and make their fiction more plausible; while on the other hand, writers of history from the beginning of civilization have supplemented their writings with fictitious stories where the real facts of history could not be obtained, or else the historian would not go to the trouble to make the necessary research to obtain historical data.

The great historical writers of antiquity do not always claim that their stories are authentic, but they give the version of the story that come to them. When Herodatus, "the Father of history," visited Egypt nearly 500 B. C. he listened to the stories of the priests of Isis and Osirus and he gave to all future generations the weird story of Ancient Egypt. Some of these tales were so preposterous that Dr. Elliot quotes the students of Harvard as having a saying:

"The Priest of Egypt humbugged you
A thing not very hard to do
But you cannot humbug us,

Herodatus said that it was his business to relate what was told him, but was under no obligation to believe it. But even then this great historian of Ancient Greece gave the world some light on the building of the great pyramids and some authentic knowledge of the World's earliest civiliza-

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tion. The excavations of modern archaeologists are doing much to verify the extravagant stories of the "Priests of Egypt" as told to us by the ancient historian.

Plutarch in his "Lives of Illustrious Men" contributed more to history, and I would not be very far wrong if I should say, more to literature also, than any man that ever lived; was not a great stickler for verity of every detail in writing his stories. Often he told two or three versions of the same event, giving his authority for each, yet leaving it to the reader to decide which story was the most creditable. But Plutarch preserved for all time the lives of the World's greatest characters—statesmen, philosophers, and warriors—the men of Ancient Greece. He furnished material for all writers pertaining to the history of Ancient Greece and Rome as well as the theme of some of the great tragedies of the immortal Shakespeare.

He put human interest into his historical narratives and gave to his characters such a real personality that even to this day, 2,400 years after, we read these lives with as much sympathy and partizan interest as we read the biographies of men of our own day and generation. While history would be didactic, it should not be pedantic. In their efforts to be meticulously accurate in every detail of their story some writers leave nothing for the imagination of the reader and their writings are about as interesting as a book of statistics.

Josephus, the greatest of Jewish historians, in writing his "Antiquity of the Jews" had of necessity to gather his material from the records and the traditions of his people. He had the same source of knowledge that had the writers of historical books of the Old Testament, but he added to these many traditions that the compilers of canon of the Church of Israel did not have, or else they considered apocryphal. However, these traditions do not detract from the interest in his writings even if they cannot all be verified by foot notes, giving references and dates. There may be characters born in the imagination of the writer and minor events narrated only to bring in relief the principal characters of the story and to connect the more important events. But, however, in his "Jewish Wars," Josephus recorded the history of the siege of Jerusalem, by Titus about 70 years A. D., as one having first-hand knowledge. His story of one

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of the world's greatest tragedies is told as the personal reminiscences of Josephus. While he was a Jew, yet he was held as a hostage by the Roman army and was the "contact" man between the Romans and the Jews. He witnessed it all but does not place the blame for this unparalleled holocaust upon the Romans alone. No doubt, that considering errors in translations, his story is as truthful and as accurately told as the biographical stories telling of wars and battles, written by our modern generals. Josephus could tell the story of the siege of Jerusalem as truthfully and as entertainingly as Grant could tell that of the siege of Vicksburg. He did not have to resort to historical romance, he had facts to make real history and he told them so graphically that it needed no embellishment.

The historians who wrote of the Middle Ages, or the Dark Ages, as some writers prefer to call this period, found themselves short of facts, the real historical data could not be obtained and they have woven around their stories so much of the glamour of romance that it is hard to separate the truth from the fiction. It was a great imaginative field for such writers as Bulwer Lytton and Sir Walter Scott. I do not think that these writers have intentionally led the student of history astray for they have only woven in fiction where facts could not be obtained. It is not certain that any such character as Ivanhoe ever lived and the exploits of Robinhood were mostly myths, yet there were heroes in that age like Ivanhoe and some foundation for the stories of Robinhood while King John and Richard the Lionhearted were actual characters. Yet, this historical novel, if we may call it such, taught us some early English history and, in my judgment, Ivanhoe is the best and most interesting romance ever written in the English language. Every boy in America should read Ivanhoe. Other writers have written of the period covering the Middle Ages and of early English history, but they have endeavored to be so exacting and such sticklers to establish the verity of their statements that their writings are devoid of interest and so dry that few people ever read them.

Many of the earlier writers of American history have resorted to fiction in telling the stories of the early settlement of our country. Irving and Cooper were both writers of

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this class. They added to but never diverted the facts of history in writing their stories. This practice of mixing truth and imagination is hardly justified where the truth is so easily obtained and the truth is more interesting than the fiction.

We have a school of modern writers who write of early history and mix one part truth to four parts fiction and the reader, if he does not happen to know the true history, never knows how much to believe. When these writers are reminded of their misstatements in historical data their answer is that we do not claim that our writings are historically true but it is written as fiction and not as history, however they take too much liberty with real historical characters. I have read many stories where the writer uses names of men and women known to history, but impute to them characteristics that they never had and connects them with things and events that were never a part of their lives. These writers also create characters, both heroes and villains, and associate these creatures of their imagination with the true characters until the reader never knows what he believes.

The writer was at his old home in North Missouri a year or so ago and some friends there was telling me about a story that was running in a certain magazine. The story was called "Cimarron." My friends knew that I had been in Oklahoma for more than 40 years and they wanted to know from me if this was a true story. I told them that there was some truth in the story but the greater part was just imagination, and that there were no such characters in the early history of Oklahoma. I had myself written a story of the first two years of Oklahoma, and I had been here since before the opening and had first-hand knowledge of the opening of Oklahoma to settlement.

A short time back I bought a ticket to a local theater to see the moving picture "Cimarron." I must say that it was a great spectacular show, one of the best from this point of view that I had ever witnessed. The picture representing the race into the country for land, on April 22, 1889, was very realistic and exciting. It was worth the price of the show to me for it recalled memories of the past. The writer was present and took part in this epochal event and also took part in the three other openings of public land that were

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opened each with a horse race. This was good history so far, but why mix it up with impossible and improbable things. Why mix this story up with the Osage Nation that was not opened to settlement by a race at any time. Why try to make a heroine out of a poor, weak female character that had none of the true spirit of the real Pioneer Woman. The hero (?) of the story was always threatening to say something worth while, but never did so, except once when he repeated part of Temple Houston's speech in defense of fallen women.

I am only discussing this play in connection with the history of Oklahoma. Many thousands of the youth of this country will read the story and many more will see the picture who will be led to believe that this impossible medley of truth and fiction is true history of Oklahoma. Had the writer of "Cimarron" kept a little closer to the text in telling of events that were supposed to have occurred in the history of our state and in the memory of thousands of people now living it would not have detracted from the interest of the story but it would have been a great contribution to the history of Oklahoma. As it is written it would have been better from the standpoint of history if the venue of this story had have been the fabled Atlantis rather than within the boundary lines of the state of Oklahoma.

The "Chronicles of Oklahoma" is published to record and preserve the history of Oklahoma and the Southwest. It is sent to every member of the Historical Society, including the editors of all newspapers and other publications in the state, and it is also mailed to several hundred schools in the state as a reference work in teaching the history of the state. It is our duty to give the true and correct facts pertaining to every event in our history without bias, political or religious. It is also our duty and obligation to correct errors and mistakes that are liable to mislead the student of history.

D. W. P.


The members of the Oklahoma Historical Society were much pleased to have had as their guests on the occasion of their annual meeting and house warming of the Historical

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Building, the Hon. Victor Murdock, wife and daughter, of Wichita, Kansas. Victor Murdock is the editor of the Wichita Eagle and a son of the founder of that paper, the Honorable M. M. Murdock. The Eagle has for more than sixty years been one of the leading and most influential papers of the West and it has always been in the Murdock family, in fact, the Wichita Eagle and the name Murdock have been so closely associated that we do not think of one without the other. It is one of the few great papers in America now that is not a mere business corporation, running a paper for profit but it has always reflected the responsible personality and individual leadership of its editors. There was no other paper that contributed as much to the cause of the early boomer organization or that did more to advertise Oklahoma before it was opened to settlement than the Eagle. For years, the opening of Oklahoma to white settlement, was the theme of both the news columns and the editorials of this Kansas paper, and its persistent effort was awarded by the culmination of this event and the building of a great state. For the first two years after the opening in 1889 the people of the then Territory of Oklahoma had to depend upon the Eagle for the news, not only of the Territory, but of the world. When any big news event was expected in those early days the people were down to the depot waiting for the train from the North so that they could get the Eagle containing the latest. When they read the news in the Eagle everybody knew that they had it straight, except a few people from Texas who would not believe a word of it until they saw it in the Dallas News.

When the first Territorial Legislature met at Guthrie, August 27, 1890, Victor Murdock, then a young man nineteen or twenty years of age, came down from Wichita, Kansas and spent some time at the organization of the legislature, representing his father's paper, The Wichita Eagle. Young Murdock was a most agreeable personage and a brilliant, versatile writer. He took quite an interest in the political careers of some of the members of the legislature but more especially that of our speaker. In the copy he furnished his paper he always referred to Speaker Daniels as the "Sockless Statesman," but afterwards he bestowed this sobriquet on

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Jerry Simpson of Kansas. Victor Murdock at that time was often referred to as Murdock's red-headed boy."

Forty years has wrought a great change. Oklahoma has great cities and great metropolitan newspapers of its own, we do not have to wait until the train comes in for the news, and that "red-headed boy," who represented the Wichita Eagle at the opening of the first territorial legislature, is now a gray-headed man who has in his public life served his state and his nation with honor and distinction. As an editor he has kept the Eagle up to the high standard established by his distinguished father, the founder of the paper.

Speaking for the membership of the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Chronicles wishes to extend its appreciation to Mr. Murdock, wife and daughter for the honor of their presence at our Annual Meeting and our thanks to Mr. Murdock for the splendid reminiscent and historical address that he delivered on that occasion.

D. W. P.


About the wisest thing the state of Oklahoma ever did was to house its historical society handsomely and so encourage the preservation of its past.

The Historical Society Building at Oklahoma City is not only beautiful. It has a classic dignity of line that would bring no offending note to the acropolis at Athens.

The temple will grow tremendously in ethical value with the years. Historically what is unique in Oklahoma is to gain latterly an emphasis which, in a national sense, will be altogether exceptional.

Here not only the North and the South are coalesced in old Oklahoma, which was in fact new, but here also the Indian territory which was in fact old, had a new experience in government. Families which can show a single residence as far back as 1832 are to be found in one part of Oklahoma; families which look back upon the spectacular settlement in 1889 as an episode in the remote past are to be found in another part. The children of both divisions are now in the process of coalition which today constitutes a commonwealth for which, in many respects, history offers no counterpart.

The coalition, in the amazingly rich state Oklahoma has

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become, is richer in potentialities for Oklahoma than all the oil it will ever pump, all the cotton it will ever pick and all the wheat it will ever reap.

It is good to see the record of this in a fane, to see side by side the tattered flag a Chickasaw carried in the Battle of New Orleans and the silken banner proclaiming Payne's Oklahoma colony.—Wichita Eagle.

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