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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 9, No. 3
September, 1931

By T. L. Ballenger,
Head of History Department, Northeastern State Teachers College, Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Page 264

In response to the developing interest in the early history of Oklahoma, particularly in the northeastern section of the state, and by way of introducing a new feature in historical study, the Northeastern State Teachers College at Tahlequah conducted the first of a series of historical tours for students Saturday, July 11th. It is planned to extend this method of first-hand study of history and make it a regular part of the Oklahoma History courses.

The Ward Way Bus Line furnished us, for this occasion, one of its most elegantly equipped busses fitted out with radio, electric fans, and everything conducive to the pleasure and comfort of the group. Mr. and Mrs. Grant Foreman of Muskogee were guests of the College on the trip. Mr. Foreman served as official guide and historian for the party and related, in a most interesting and fascinating manner, the history of the different points visited.

The itinerary consisted of a circular route of about 150 miles around Tahlequah, including early military forts, trading posts, Osage and Cherokee missions, salt works, water mills, and noted early settlements of various kinds—in all, some fifteen points of interest.

Leaving Tahlequah about seven o'clock the first stop was at the national cemetery near Ft. Gibson where attention was centered upon the stone in memory of "Talihina" Rogers, the Cherokee wife of Sam Houston during his sojourn among the Indians.

In Ft. Gibson we visited the memorial erected by the Muskogee Chapter of the D. A. R., to the memory of Montford Stokes, Revolutionary soldier and, later, agent among the Cherokees. The remains of the old stone barracks, officers' quarters, and other buildings used by the federal armies just before and after the War between the States were inspected. Then Mr. Foreman pointed out and described the location of the "old fort" as it was started in 1824 with its log barracks and stockade, and later occupied by troops under Gen. Matthew Arbuckle, Col. Nathan

Page 265

Boone, and others. The large iron ring used for anchoring steam boats in the thirties and forties is still to be seen here at the old landing place on Grand River. Across Grand River and on the way to Okay the party stopped at the supposed home of Sam Houston, the Wigwam, where the "Raven" lived for several years with Diana "Talihina") Rogers and consumed a large part of his private shipment of nine barrels of wine and whiskey.

At Okay the chief point of interest was the site of the old Three Forks trading post maintained on the Verdigris by Augustus P. Choteau, Hugh Glenn, and others, trading with the Osages, Creeks and Cherokees in the twenties and thirties.

We drove out five miles northeast of Mazie to the site of Union Mission, which was founded in 1820. Epaphras Chapman, the first missionary to the Osages, is buried here. This mission was authorized by the War Department and originally comprised 1000 acres in the bend of Grand River with a fresh water spring near one side of the tract and a salt spring on the other side. The mission group consisted of some twelve or fifteen able men and women from the East—preachers, teachers, farmers and artisans. It was a prominent center of education and culture in eastern Indian Territory till 1837, when it was abandoned. The first printing press in the present Oklahoma was set up here. They had a number of buildings, and a saw and grist mill propelled by oxen in treadmill fashion. We visited the Campbell salt well which is said to have produced a bushel of salt to each eighty gallons of water. Those who tasted it agreed that this proportion was no exaggeration. This old mission community was a frontier social center of considerable culture far out in the Indian wilds before Ft. Gibson was ever established.

At Pryor lunch was served picnic style, under the spreading elms with plenty of good things for everybody. Everyone contributed both to the lunch and to the sociability of the occasion.

As we neared Choteau's old trading post at Salina our guide pointed out the place where the Indians used to cache their belongings when they went to war against their enemies or when they left upon some lengthy hunting expedi-

Page 266

tion. Washington Irving, on the occasion of his visit with Choteau in 1832, refers in his Journal to Choteau's relating this custom to him and pointing out to him the place where they cached their goods.

Salina is full of historic interest. The early trading post started by Joseph Revoir about 1817, and, upon his death in 1821 taken over by Choteau, was here on the Grand River. It was here that the Cherokees maintained an orphanage for a number of years, the remains of which are still to be seen. The famous salt works that furnished salt for the early peoples for miles around and from which the town was named is located a few miles southeast of Salina.

Following a short-cut to the Siloam Springs highway the party next stopped at Flint to see the historic old Hildebrand water mill. For almost a hundred years this old mill has served as a kind of economic and social center for a considerable section of country. It was built about 1835, the grinding rocks having been shipped from France to Van Buren, Arkansas, and hauled overland to Flint by ox wagon. These original French burrs are still in use. The mill furnished bread for a radius of some fifty miles. It was operated during the Civil War by Federal troops, a Confederate prisoner being employed as miller. In 1872 it was the scene of a tragedy which merged into a family feud, resulted in the death of eleven people, and came near causing trouble between the National Government and the government of the Cherokee Nation before it was settled. The old water mill still saws lumber and furnishes corn meal to those who prefer the unbolted variety.

After passing Rattlesnake Spring and Twin Springs, a short stop was made at Dripping Springs, one of the most novel bits of natural scenery in this part of the state. Here we walked across the swinging bridge and went down into "the bowl" beneath the falls.

On our way back we had an excellent view of the new Lake Francis, near Watts. At Watts Mr. Foreman related the history of old Fort Wayne. Aroused by the fear, though groundless, of a general Indian uprising, the Government had Fort Wayne established in the fall of 1838 under the command of Captain John Stuart, but in the fall

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Maysville, Arkansas, and then finally moved to become Fort Scott, Kansas. A few miles south of Watts we passed of the following year it was abandoned because of the un-healthfulness of the location. It was re-established near the site of Baptist Mission founded by Jesse Bushyhead. Here he preached to the Cherokees and taught them for several years immediately after the migration from the East. He is said to bear the distinction of being one of the few men who traveled freely among both factions of the Cherokees during the time of their bitterest hatred armed only with his Bible.

Just off the highway between Westville and Tahlequah we were shown the site of the court house which served Going Snake district till shortly before statehood

We arrived at Tahlequah just before sundown. Everyone expressed himself as being delighted with the trip.

This was our first historical venture of the kind but in view of the happy reception this effort met and in view of the interesting and extensive possibilities for historical study in this immediate section of the State, the College is planning to conduct one or two such tours each quarter, from now on, for the benefit of students of history. For the education of youth of the state and for the edification and interest of tourists, the patriotic organizations of this state certainly ought to provide for marking, in some adequate and suitable way, the many points of historic interest throughout the state. This would mean much to Oklahoma.

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