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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 10, No. 1
March, 1932
EVENTS AMONG THE MUSKOGEES DURING SIXTY YEARS

By C. W. Turner

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The weather during the month of November 1870 was as fine as one could ask for, bright, clear and frosty. The autumn leaves were gorgeous in their colorings. At the wharf at the foot of Garrison Avenue, Ft. Smith, on the morning of November 25, 1870, Father and I mounted on two black ponies boarded the steam ferry on our way to Okmulgee, Indian Territory. At the same time Frank Nash the only druggist in the Indian Territory and Uncle John Cunningham the Postmaster at Fort Gibson were also passengers (they were in a buggy. Buggies in those days were scarce; ox wagons were most commonly used); they were returning from van Buren, Arkansas, where Nash had been indicted by the Grand Jury for having whiskey, the Indian Territory always having been a prohibition country. He beat the case.

Aunt Manervia Thornton, a Cherokee woman, was the proprietor of the stage stand on Little Sallisaw Creek at which place we arrived by supper time. Aunt Manervia liked a "dram" as well as Uncle John did and by the time we were ready to retire Uncle John felt his oats.

It was a beautiful chilly November night; there were some campers across the creek in the bottom. They had a fiddle. Uncle John heard it and stepping out on the porch, commenced singing and he could sing like a lark; the fiddler put up his fiddle and his bow. Aunt Manervia fed bountifully; her table was loaded with good things to eat, cooked in old fashion southern style.

The next day we ferried the Arkansas River at the mouth of Illinois River at Bullit Foreman's ferry and arrived at General Stand Waties home at Webber Falls for dinner. One thing we had for dinner that impressed me was sweet potatoe pie, a luxury in those days; a desert was almost unknown. We proceeded on and arrived at the Old

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Creek Agency1 where we "put up" at Aunt Sarah's [Davis] Tavern. What was called a "tavern" in those days was a yard fenced in with rails and several log cabins within—one a kitchen, one a dining room, the others bed rooms. Located at this place were three stores—James A. Patterson's, Mr. Stidham's, J. S. Atkinson & Parkinson's; the Indian Agency there was conducted by Captain Field, an officer detailed from the army. Patterson's store was made of black jack posts stuck in the ground and cracks daubed with red clay, about 16 feet wide, and 40 feet long. He was known as the great merchant of the Creek Nation; he bought for cash and sold for cash, crediting nobody; later occasionally he would extend credit. On one occasion a negro obtained a small amount of merchandise from him. He charged it on a hat box. Later the "darkey" came in and paid him and asked for another accomodation. Mr. Patterson told him he did not allow any one to fool him twice and refused to accomodate him. He asked why do you not let me have it, I paid you before. Yes, says Patterson, thats when you fooled me. When I let you have the accomodation before I did not expect you to pay me.

That night it rained very hard. Next morning we "pulled out," and got to Pecan Creek. It was high but not swimming and we forded it. When we reached Sugar Creek it was way up. So we put up at the home of Abe Nevin, an old Darkey who had just come back from the army and built a cabin. We sure had a time of it that night, saddle blanket and overcoat on a cow hide for bed. We made out however after a little breakfast—corn bread and black cofee,—and started again. When we came to Cloud Creek it was too high to ford. So we went south to its source and soon were



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able to cross it where there was no road. Father knew the direction so we traveled toward the Bald Hills knowing the military road was between where we were and there. After while we came in to it at little Cane Creek where old Mr. Marquis was camped. He gave us some hard tack and coffee and that evening as the sun was setting we arrived at Okmulgee November 28, 1870.

Father had a store there that he had established in September 1869. He had left Mother and us three children at Fort Smith. I was expected to start to school when it commenced but instead of doing so I hired my services to Guper & Cottreaux, confectioners, so when father came on a visit he prepared to bring me up with him.

The next day father put me to work. One of my first duties was to assort the furs we bought during the day—throw them up through a hole in the floor above; I piled the coon, fox, skunk, wolf, oppossum, badger, beaver and otter each by themselves; later the fur buyers Frankel, Sondheimer, and Laupheimer, would come and bid on the furs which went to the highest bidder. We also traded with the Indians for venison, wild turkey, sweet potatoes, and corn in the winter months. After the first of January each year the Indians would come in and trade on their cattle to be delivered when grass got up big enough to hold a herd. For instance a father would come in and say I want to sell you a yearling belonging to my little girl (Hoctochee), we would advance him say five dollars in merchandise giving him a due bill "this represents 5.00 due bill" to trade with. Later on the same father might come in and want $10.00 on a cow belonging to his wife and later on he might want $10.00 on a 2 year old steer making $25.00 that family would owe on cattle. We would keep this up till April when we would start out and go gathering the cattle we had traded on.

To commence collecting we would go to some customer having a good cow pen and arrange with him to use it. Then go from place to place notifying each customer we would be back at a certain time to buy his cattle. After going to all, we came back to the first place then buy the yearling, then the cow, then the two year old steer, giving

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a separate order for each. Then perhaps they would have another yearling or cow to sell and we would buy that. Then the fun would begin. It is very difficult to get gentle cattle away from a milk pen. We would drive the entire bunch away from the milk pen for a mile or so then cut out those purchased and close in around them close so they could not turn back, keeping them on the run till we reached the assembling pen. We kept this proceedure up until we got gathered all we had traded for. Sometimes 50 or 60 head would be bought in this manner when we would then start for Okmulgee.

On the way we had to cross Deep Fork River which had a wide bottom; frequently we would have a muley cow in the herd and driving through this bottom grown up thick with brush we would have the time of our lives to keep from loosing these muley animals. At Okmulgee we started a herd which we held all summer and till late in the fall adding to and subtracting from during the purchasing season. When we would have as many as 50 head ready to ship we cut them out and drove to Muskogee where we shipped them to St. Louis and accompanied the shipment. Frequently one would sit down in the car and it was our duty to use the prod pole to punch it up or twist its tail to get action. Arriving at Sedalia we would unload and feed and rest for 12 hours, reload and arrive at National Stock Yard, Illinois, next day sometime.

Then the commission men would take charge and later hand us a check for what was left after paying freight and commission. Frequently we had to take less than we paid and throw our time in. The prices in those days—1874, was $5.00 for yearlings, $10.00 for 2 year olds, $15.00 for 3 year old steers, $20.00 for 4 year old steers, $15.00 for a cow and calf, mostly paid for in merchandise of our store. Flour was $10.00 per 100 pounds, brown sugar 25 cents per pound, green coffee 33 1-3 cents per pound; there was no parched coffee in those days; canned peaches were 75 cents per quart can; there were no other canned goods. Sugar of lemon in cans was the only preparation for soft drinks.

The dry goods carried in those days were calico 25c

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per yard, Ocnaboys plaid 40c per yard, humboldt jeans $1.00 per yard, nubias $1.00, plaid shawls $10.00, strouding $5.00 per yard, for breech clouts. Many of the Indians wore breech clouts, hunting shirts and moccasins.

Colonel Parker a full blood New York Indian2 who was on General Grant's staff during the war, was made Commissioner of Indian Affairs during President Grant's Administration. It was conceived that an Indian State where all the Indians of the United States could be concentrated would offer a sound plan for dealing with the Indians. Toward that end Congress made an appropriation to pay the expenses of what was organized as the "Grand Council" which had its first meeting at Okmulgee, Muskogee Nation, Indian Territory, in May, 1870. As only a small number attended the meeting adjourned until December 1870. Winter began early that year. We had a deep snow most of the time until following March, hence a small attendance again. But in May 1871 there was a good attendance, there was 34 different tribes represented, Cherokees, Creeks, Chickasaws, Seminoles, Choctaws, Osages, Sac, Fox, Kickapoos, Iowas, Shawnees, Peorias, Cheyennes, Comanches, Kiowas, Delawares, Caddos, Arapahoes, Kechis, Pawnees, Wyandots, Ponias, Euchees and others.

The purpose of the meeting was made known to the different tribes through their interpreters. It was like 34 different tongues at the Tower of Bable. The purpose was to form a regular republican form of state government, to have representatives to two houses, and a governor; they discussed the proposition for 8 years. Nearly all the tribes wanted to keep up their old ways of living. Finally the Government sent J. P. C. Shanks, a member of Congress from Indiana and a member of the Indian Committee of the House, to visit the meeting in May 1878. I have a picture of this Council. The report of Mr. Shanks evidently



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caused the end of the Grand Councils.3 Attending these councils were some notable people of their day, such as Black Beaver of the Delawares.

Gen. Pleasant Porter who was a member of this Council was a great character. Just as the War of the Rebellion broke out two of his brothers were murdered by a man named Hawkins who escaped and went to Texas. This event was the cause of his becoming a reckless man. He joined Colonel McIntosh's regiment and went south, becoming the chief of Scouts. Many are the deeds he and his associates did during the War. After peace was declared the Muskogees were called upon to make a treaty at Fort Smith. The followers of Opothle Yahola and Oktarshajo went north to LeRoy, Kansas, where those that did not join the Army refugeed. The followers of Checote went south and refugeed on Washita and Red rivers. When the War was over and both parties returned they located the northern Indians in the western part of the Muskogee Nation and the southern ones in the south part. The former slaves returned to the homes of their former masters between Verdigris and Arkansas rivers and around the old Agency, some on North Fork River.

General Porter accompanied Col. D. N. McIntosh and J. McSmith who represented the southern Muskogees to the treaty making at Fort Smith. The Southern Creeks were not very popular with the representatives of the Government. But the Northern Creeks were and anything they wanted in the treaty they got—and anything the southerns suggested was turned down. The northern Creeks had as their interpreter an old freed slave named Harry Island. Harry was sharp as tacks and made most of his position. He got the Government representative to put a clause in the treaty that resulted in the Creeks having to give each colored individual (former slave) and descendents equal shares of their land and money. A greater piece of robbery never was imposed on a helpless people and some day the Government should reimburse these Creek Indians. The others of the five Indian Tribes were treated the same



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way. However the Choctaws and Chickasaws made their treaty later and contended with the Government the unreasonableness of this demand and finally compromised by allowing 40 acres to each former slave.

After closing our cattle trading season the first of November we would then commence advancing on hogs. The Indians only fattened the hogs they killed for meat. These they put up in pens made of rails or black jack oak poles, about 10 feet square. Their hogs ran wild in the creek or river bottoms. Their homes were mostly on the edge of the prairie near a stream or spring where they obtained water; wells were scarce.

These hogs lived on the range, fattening on nuts and acorns (called mast) in the fall. We would advance then on the hogs in the fall the same way we did on their cattle in the spring. In this way some falls and winters we would trade for 12 or 1500 head of hogs, about 20 car loads. These hogs were not sold till they were 3 and 4 years old, weighing 180 to 200 pounds. They were handled by hound dogs when gathering time came. In order to get the hogs together along in November the owner would build an elevated pen in which he would bring some corn. He would throw a few ears on the ground which the hogs would find. After doing so the Indian would throw some more corn on the ground. After a few days more and more hogs would come to this pen. Then they would catch with dogs what they wanted to fatten and kill or if wanted to gather to sell, they would get their neighbors and dogs and run them to a field where they would pen them. This field usually was the gathering place where the neighborhood delivered their hogs. After assembling all hogs bought, we would drive the hogs round and round the fence of the field after getting them so they staid together we would let a gap down and out they would go taking the trail, all following each other. After we got 2 or 3 miles on the road (they traveled fast as horses), they were no trouble.

Father had a customer, William E. Chisholm, a Cherokee by blood, who traded with the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians out west 200 miles on the Canadian and North Fork rivers. They were greatly addicted to fancy saddles.

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Father had J. O. Ford & Co., Saddlers, St. Louis, to make quite a quantity. The horns were covered with nickel plated metal and the stirrups and cantle were painted red and trimmed up in high color. For these saddles we would get buffalo robes and buffalo hides by the wagon load which we would load on boats at Niven's Landing at the mouth of Grand River and ship to St. Louis.

After this treaty of Fort Smith 1866 was promulgated, the Creeks agreeing to form a republican form of government, they held an election; the Northern Creeks expecting to elect the chiefs and other officers were grossly disappointed and would not come to Council with their town representatives that they did elect. This estrangement continued for several years. More than once have I seen near battles occur at Okmulgee. On one occasion Checote party were in arms near where the depot now is at Okmulgee and Cotaochy or Sand party were in arms just south of where the glass works at Okmulgee now are.

General Porter who was leading the Checota Militia or troops, was standing on the platform of Sangers store on the ground where Penny's Store in Okmulgee now is, when Cotsochy's men armed with guns and pistols mounted on horses rode by. Louie Marshall one of the party saw Porter and called to him. "You need not count us we are too many for you." Porter then counted them, turned around to Captain Sanger and told him to close his store and take his folks and clerks and get out of town; he then rode up in front of our store a block distant, called father out and told him to do likewise, which we did. We of course were more or less excited; the Checota party were the Constitutional party and had guards at the Capitol, shown in the picture of the Grand Council; and then were run out by mounted militia Porter had counted. He, Porter, then notified Captain Belcher to close his store and do likewise; then Capt. F. B. Severs to do likewise. Captain Severs was Chief Checotas Private Secretary by this time. Cotsochy, the leader of Sands party, learned what Porter was doing, came running in on his horse, rode up to Severs Store, called Severs to one side and with his interpreter began to beg Severs to stop Porter, who had gone to the camp

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and ordered all his men to mount. Before they got ready Severs got word to Checota what Cotsochy had imparted him and Checota came to where Porter was just in the nick of time too; he told Porter: "today is Monday; tomorrow, Tuesday, our constitution says for our Council to meet; if Cotsochys men have not evacuated, there will be time for you to use your troops." Thus ended this attempt on the Sands party. They disbanded and went home.

The last difference among the Creeks was what is known as the Green Peach War in 1882. This started over one of these northern Indians stealing some hosses. A writ was issued by the authorities of old Wewoka District for this Indian (I knew him at the time, he stole some horses from some Sac & Foxs and sold them to me in 1881). He lived in Deep Fork District. The captain of the Light Horse (same as a Sheriff) was Jim Canard (a braver and more honorable man never lived). He heard this Indian was at a camp meeting at Osalanabee, where he arrested him and delivered him to Bruner, the captain of Wewoka District, who took him to his home to guard him till court met to try him. In the mean time some of this prisoner's friends slipped up in the night, killed Bruner and released the prisoner. These were all Northern Indians and Bruner was a Southern Indian. This started the feud and much bushwhacking and killing was done for several months.

General Porter was a delegate to Washington during this trouble. Colonel Robison was in command of the militia but resigned when Checota wired Porter to return and take command which he did. The whole country was full of scouting parties and unrest. They did not trouble any non-citizens but all felt uneasy.

Things continued this way till February 1883. The Creeks Orphans of 1832 had a claim due them from the Government for 50 years. This Congress had finally appropriated $375,000.00 to pay it, some $520.00 to each original claimant. Col. J. Q. Tufts was Indian Agent at the time. He informed General Porter he wanted to pay this money out and asked him to declare a truce with Isparhechar, now the leader of the Northern Creeks, who were then in arms camped at New Yorker Square; as many of

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the claimants were with Isparhechar, Porter agreed, so it was arranged that Lieutenant Irons (who was in charge of a squad of soldiers who were guarding the $375,000), Captain G. W. Grayson, Indian Agent Tufts, General Porter and the writer should drive out and see Isparhechar. This was some 25 miles west. It was cold, and snow was on the ground. We arrived at their Camp (I was the pilot it being in the country where I bought cattle and hogs for several years), in the afternoon, with flag of truce flying. I visited among the Camp while Porter, Tufts, Grayson and Irons arranged for these Indians to come in and draw their money. Everything worked out as they agreed and Isparhechar and his troops broke camp and started west. Porter started after them. They beat Porter to the Sac and Fox line where the Indian Agent for that tribe stopped Porter from entering that reservation. This gave Isparhechar such a start ahead that Porter returned to Okmulgee.

Isparhechar went to Fort Reno with his men. They were transferred to the post at Fort Gibson where they remained for sometime while their differences were again patched up. The Indian who started this last trouble escaped and went north of Braggs to a Creek settlement on Greenleaf Creek. I was standing on Turner and Byrne's porch by the side of Porter and Robert Marshall when this Indian rode up and hitched his pony (and a couple more he was leading which no doubt he had stolen). I said to Porter pointing to him, "General there is the man this whole trouble started about." He asked why I said so. I having paid to know him by buying 3 stolen ponies a couple of years before. Porter turned to Marshall and ordered him to arrest him which he did. He was killed trying to escape.

John Crowell was a wag, a great big jolly fellow who was always practicing jokes on others. Doc Barnett was an Interpreter for Sanger who had a store below ours on the corner. Sanger innovated the Jew idea of having "ropers" stationed out on the road to solicit Indians with furs, pecans &c., to his place of business. John set up a job on "Doc" who was stationed by a fire (this occurred one cold day in the winter), about a mile south of town

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in the Deep Fork bridge road. John could by going up stairs in our store look down the road and see if any furs, hides or pecans were in sight. On this occasion John went upstairs and perceived a wagon loaded with produce, some distance beyond where Doc was with his fire.

To get Doc out of the way he went down there and told him Mrs. Sanger, his boss's wife, was raising cain because he was not around when she wanted him; that then she wanted him to bring a bucket of water. Old Doc, who was a good natured fellow, thought, however, this was the straw that should break the camel's back—"the idea of sending for him to tote her a bucket of water; why didn't she get some o' dem clerks, dem trifling white folks," and he ranted and ranted, and went to "tote" the bucket of water. He got to the store to "tote" the water when they told him they had not sent for him. In the meantime John got the wagon load of furs, hides and pecans; then Doc did rant.

At another time, John arranged a pecan sacking contest. One eyed Harper we called an Indian Boy; and a couple of Nigger boys, Aunt Jane's sons, said they could sew more pecan sacks than Harper could. So John put up a cheap prize and they agreed to sew sacks all day; the consequence was got much more work done and Harper was happy because he beat the Niggers sewing pecan sacks.

Colonel Parramour and Clabe Merchant of Abeline, Texas, came to Muskogee in the fall of 1888 to make a pasture deal. They had a large herd of steers in Arizona doing badly and had to get grass for them. They appealed to me to help them out. The customs of the Creek Nation gave any citizen the use of the public domain. These parties were willing to furnish the funds to build a pasture in a location where there was not a house or inhabitant. General Porter and I had interests together and I informed him of their proposition which after consideration we accepted; and we built the first large pasture in the Indian Territory, northwest of Wagoner, parallelling the M. K. & T. railroad from Lelietta to the north line of the Creek Nation two miles south of Chouteau, then west to Inola,

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thence south to the Gibson and Claremore road, thence east to Lelietta. The building of this pasture caused considerable comment when the National Council met the following October. They passed a pasture law charging 5 cents per acre per year for 3 years, when we were to tear them down; in the meantime others had built pastures.

At the expiration of the 3 year law all of us pasture men of course wanted to continue them. This met with some opposition from cattle men not having pastures. Especially so was Captain Severs opposed to them as he had thousands of cattle running on the open range. So he opposed our bill to continue them and defeated it. We knew he was the one who had done it he having a brother, a member of the Council, who when the bill came up, moved the previous question, cutting our friends from debating the bill, and beat us on the vote. Some of our friends knew the Captain had been shipping in cattle and failed to pay the importation tax; they sprung the matter on him and he changed his opinion and sent us word if we would not attack him, he would have his brother-in-law move the reconsideration of the bill the next morning which he did and the bill was passed which was known as the border pasture law and stood for 7 years. The bill provided for a survey locating the pasture and Colonel Austin was given the contract. Ted Wisdom helped the Colonel to do the surveying. Thus was originated the famous pasture law which Congressmen dwelt on so to have the Indian Territory allotted to the individual Indians and the final breaking up of their national governments.

The M. K. & T. Railroad arrived at the south bank of the Arkansas River in February, 1872. The building of the bridges on Verdigris and Arkansas rivers was the cause of much delay. Gibson Station was the terminus for several months; during this time it was the shipping point for the fort at Fort Gibson and Fort Sill. Colonel Coppinger whose wife was the daughter of James G. Blaine was stationed there. Mr. Blaine visited his daughter at Fort Gibson and was quite sick for some time. Muskogee originally was started a tent town a mile or so north of where the present depot now is; it was the shipping point

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for Webbers Falls, Okmulgee, Wewoka, Sac & Fox Agency, Sasakwa, Stonewall, Tishomingo, Pauls Valley, and Fort Sill. J. S. Atkinson and A. W. Robb established the first store, J. S. Cummings, the first Drug Store, Dr. Roberts, the first paper, the Indian Journal.

The Youngers and James boys robbed Uncle Wat Grayson and started to toast Susie's feet (his wife) to make her tell where the money was buried. He told. Uncle Wat Grayson sold Maj. Grey E. Scales a Negro during the War. After peace the Major said, "Well Uncle Watt, guess I better pay for that Nigger." Uncle Wat replied, "never mind I'd a lost him any how." "No," the Major says, "I'll pay you" and unlocked an old trunk. Uncle Wat saw the (Gold) money. He said afterward—he spoke broken English, "when I saw the Goold I change my mind."

My old friend, Benjamin Bailey, 85 years old visited me today. We had a long talk about occurrences that happened in 1867, 1868, 1869 and 1870 when I was a boy at Fort Smith, Arkansas. He was then a young man, clerking for Capt. Hubbard Stone, formerly of Cincinnati, Ohio. He related how he made his first money on the side buying 4 cases of bacon from H. E. McKee & Co., for $10.00 per case on account of skippers being on the bacon. By dipping it in hot water and packing back in salt he sold it for 25c per pound, and made $1000.00 in the deal.

The first telephone line in Indian Territory was constructed by the Cherokee Telephone Company from Tahlequah to Muskogee, 1885, the year Joel B. Mayes was elected Chief of the Cherokees. There was trouble over the election. The St. Louis Republic and Globe Democrat had correspondents at Tahlequah who sent messages over the line daily for several weeks. Mr. P. J. Byrne, first mayor and myself took the messages in long hand, and it was a most tedious job.

Yartekah Harjo was a character, a wit, an Indian Prophet. The Creeks when Ward Coachman was chief would call a meeting of the prominent members of the tribe to consult on matter of importance to the tribe. On one of these occasions he called Yartekeh Harjo, William Fisher, G. W. Grayson and others and William McCombs

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who was Superintendent of Schools. Miss Helen Sever taught the school at Okmulgee (and among her students were Miss Anderson, now Mrs. Farmer, Bess Severs and Mary Severs). Miss Severs asked Mr. McCombs to ask Yartekah Harjo how old he was when he left Alabama in 1832, coming to this country, which McCombs did in the Creek language (Yartekah not talking English); to which he replied he did not know his age in years but he was quite a young man; was noticing the young squaws and thought seriously of getting him one. That he was frisky just like a young colt in the springtime.

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