Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 13, No. 3
September, 1935
BOOK REVIEW

Page 357

Around Tahlequah Council Fires, by T. L. Ballenger, Tahlequah, $1.50.

Tahlequah is outstanding in the history of Oklahoma for several reasons: incorporated in 1843, it is the oldest town in the state; there was assembled the first legislative body when the Cherokee Council began its deliberations. Our first newspaper was launched there more than ninety years ago. Tahlequah and the Cherokee government and advanced schools contributed more to the culture of our state in its formative period than any other community. There is clustered more of romance and tradition than is to be found in any other locality in Oklahoma. Lavishly gifted by nature with bountiful springs, and adorned by beautiful hills and forests, it is little wonder that the Cherokees chose it for their national capital.

It is only natural that the head of the history department of the Northeastern State Teachers College at Tahlequah, a school domiciled in the old Cherokee Female Seminary, should have felt the call to record for posterity some of the charm, tradition and history of this romantic place. Professor Ballenger, long a resident of Tahlequah, has found his greatest pleasure in listening to the old residents tell of the times and incidents associated with the early days of his home town.

He has been a student of Cherokee history, and from his large fund of information has presented in a simple and interesting manner some of the lore he has accumulated. He has made his offering in twenty-three short chapters or vignettes, with names that suggest the treatment of his subject, such as "The name Tahlequah", "The Forty-niners from Tahlequah", "Early Indian Justice", "Love Affairs of a Cherokee Chief", "The Westminster Abbey of Tahlequah", "When the James Boys Visited Tahlequah" and "Indian Stories."

Of all of them, however, this reviewer likes best the reminiscences and gossip of the old oak tree standing on the historic council ground now in the middle of the town. This venerable tree

Page 358

and first resident discloses many early incidents of the place, and recalls events significant in the history of the Cherokee Nation. As an observer, he tells you of the great international council of 1843. one of the most important councils, and certainly the most colorful pageant in Oklahoma history. He tells you of comings and goings of citizens long since passed to their reward; of the whippings and hangings of culprits within his vision; of shooting affrays; of the Mormons laboring nearby on the erection of early structures for Cherokees, and many other interesting scenes in the old town. He does not tell you, however, of the impending vandalism that threatens to invade the sacred precincts of the old council ground with a public building.

Mr. Ballenger has pointed the way for the discovery and illumination of our regional history. The study and knowledge of Oklahoma will profit if his example is followed in other sections of the state.

—G. F.

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