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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 20, No. 2
June, 1942
REMINISCENCES OF OLD STONEWALL

By George W. Burris.

Page 152

The original town of Stonewall, in what is now Pontotoc County, Oklahoma, before the erection of the state on November the 16th, 1907, was in Pontotoc County, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory. Its origin was the establishment of a trading post or general merchandise store about one and a half miles southwest of Frisco, Oklahoma, on the south side of Clear Boggy River shortly before the close of the War between the States, by a man by the name of Robert Cochran, brother of the late William L. Cochran, who was the first Mayor of the present town of Stonewall, on the Oklahoma City, Ada, Atoka Railway, and about three miles directly east of Old Stonewall, now Frisco, Oklahoma.

At the close of the War in 1865 the mentioned trading post or store, consisting of a large frame building with a ware room on the north side of the store and extending the entire length of the building, was removed by its founder to the opposite side of the stream to the present location of the town of Frisco. This establishment continued through the succeeding years until about 1903 under the ownership and management of various persons, as follows: first by the original owner (1) Robert Cochran, and then (2) by the late James J. McAlester, later the founder of the city of McAlester, Oklahoma, and then (3) by T. J. Phillips, who died at Chickasha, Oklahoma in 1910, and then (4) by C. C. Rooks, who in 1880 moved to Central America, where he afterwards died, and then (5) by William L. Cochran, surviving son of the founder, and then (6) by the business firm of Byrd and Perry, composed of the late B. F. (Frank) Byrd and J. M. (Jim) Perry, both of Pontotoc County; and (7) finally by the late William L. Cochran, who formerly owned the business, later moved by him to New Stonewall where it was operated until his death in 1910, under the management of the late N. T. (Nick) Hurd.

The original Cochran, a great admirer of General Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson of Civil War fame, when he reestablished the business on the north side of Clear Boggy, gave the place the name of "Stonewall" for General "Stonewall" Jackson, whose fame and gallantry as a commanding officer in the Confederate Army during the War between the states from 1861 to 1865 was so outstanding. Later, in the year 1878, the late William L. Byrd, ex-governor of the Chickasaw Nation, now deceased, moved from Doaksville in the eastern part of the Choctaw Nation, and established a general merchandise store at Old Stonewall,1 in this epoch having two stores. Later other business concerns were established there, and the county seat of Pontotoc County, Chickasaw Nation, was located there about the time the Cochran store was set


1Vol. 12, pp. 432 and 436, Chronicles of Oklahoma.

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up. A United States Commissioner's Court from 1895 to 1900 was held alternately at Center and Old Stonewall, first by Erwin O. Curtis, a kinsman of the late David B. Culberson, Congressman from Texas, and then by the late U. G. Winn, as Commissioner until the Commissioner's Court was consolidated in a location at Ada when the Frisco railroad was constructed from Sapulpa to Denison, Texas. The Chickasaw National Academy, consisting of a boarding school for Chickasaw Indian children, with two large structures, one for the boarding department and another for the educational department, was about the same time established there. The former was destroyed by fire in 1874, and the latter went the same way in 1880. This institution was located about one mile southeast of Old Stonewall, now Frisco, Oklahoma. Its site adjoins the north edge of the old Stonewall cemetery where the remains of such prominent Chickasaws, as my parents, Colbert A. Burris and Laura A. Burris, are interred, said cemetery having been established shortly before the Civil War. Some of the old graves are walled in and covered with wide slabs of stone. Governor William L. Byrd's mother was buried there about 1880,

Collins Institute,2 a Chickasaw Indian School operated from about 1885 to 1905, was located about three miles southwest of Stonewall, now Frisco, Oklahoma, and is sometimes confused in identity with the Chickasaw National Academy heretofore mentioned, two separate and distinct institutions, the first mentioned being abandoned some ten or twelve years before the latter was established.

Along about the middle of the eighteen eighties one Judson D. Collins a distinguished full-blood Chickasaw Indian citizen living about five miles southeast of Stonewall, now Frisco, Oklahoma, his residence located about two miles from the old Colbert A. Burris homestead and about 2 ½ miles southeast of old Stonewall on Clear Boggy and about five miles northeast of Byrd's Mill, where the Franks United States Post Office was located, was a member of the Senate of the Chickasaw Nation, and as such officer he piloted through the Chickasaw legislature an act creating a manual labor school for Chickasaw boys afterwards named "Collins Institute" in his honor. The manual labor feature was abolished shortly after its establishment and it was then operated as a Chickasaw school for girls. One C. M. Coppege, a Methodist minister, was its first superintendent and a Mr. Wilson the last superintendent. Some of the buildings of this institution still stand and are now used as a farm and ranch.

Rock Academy, a co-educational school for Chickasaw children then located across the line in the Choctaw Nation, and on the east side of the boundary line between said nations, by agreement between the governments of the two nations, a sufficient offset to


2Vol. 15 p. 431, Chronicles of Oklahoma.

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the east was made in the boundary line so as to include said Academy in the bounds of the Chickasaw Nation.

Pittman Colbert, who came from Alabama, and whose remains repose in an old Indian graveyard, near Byrd's Mill was the father of Katherine Folsom, a Chickasaw Indian woman who was born in Alabama and whose remains repose in said Indian graveyard, her husband being Sampson Folsom, a Choctaw born in Mississippi, and who was a brother of the late Israel Folsom. Pittman Colbert and his son-in-law, Sampson Folsom, formerly lived near Doaksville in the Choctaw Nation but later moved to the Chickasaw Nation near Byrd's Mill and Old Stonewall.3

Just after the Civil War between the states in 1865, the mentioned Chickasaw National Academy at or near Stonewall, now Frisco, was superintended by the late George W. Bradley, a war refugee from Lexington, Missouri, who was the maternal grandfather of the writer, and whose remains now rest in the old Johnsonville Cemetery on the South Canadian River near Byars, Oklahoma. Colbert A. Burris, deceased, the writer's father, operated the boarding unit of this school with the assistance of his wife, Laura A. Burris, the writer's mother, who also taught in the primary department of the institution.

We now depart from the founding of Stonewall and the origin of its name and discuss the circumstances of its loss by the name of "Stonewall." In the year of 1903 the Shawnee branch of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway was constructed from Atoka, Oklahoma, to Oklahoma City, now known as the Oklahoma City, Ada, Atoka Railway, touched a section of country three miles due east of Stonewall, now Frisco, Oklahoma. A townsite was organized at this point by the late Otis B. Weaver, Torn Hope, Governor William L. Byrd, and other citizens of Ada, Oklahoma, and a thriving new town sprang up there without either a name or a post-office, except that of "New Stonewall." A plan soon began with the result that on a bright moon-lit night in the winter of 1903, under the leadership of Date Crawford, now an attorney of Ada, Oklahoma, and the late N. T. (Nick) Hurd, then a business man of New Stonewall, the post-office at old Stonewall, now Frisco, was hoisted upon wagon wheel-trucks and moved to Stonewall, lock, stock and barrel; so on the following morn the new townsite had a definite name, "Stonewall" and a post office of the same name under the management of the late Mrs Minnie Lillard, nee Lyles, as post mistress, and old Stonewall was then without both a name and a post-office, but not for long. In 1905, two years later, the Oklahoma Central Railway was constructed through old Stonewall from Lehigh to Chickasha, Oklahoma, under the promotion of the late Dorsett Carter, then an attorney at law in Purcell, Oklahoma. It was then the prevailing



Page 155

opinion of the inhabitants of old Stonewall that this new railroad was a branch of the Frisco Railway System, so in renaming the town they gave it the name of Frisco under the mistaken identity of the new railroad; and shortly a post-office of the same name was established there, so despite the removal, old Stonewall still had a name, Frisco, and a post-office of the same title.

From 1905 to 1933, covering a period of more than a quarter of a century, old Stonewall under the new name, Frisco, flourished as a thriving little town, subsisting mainly upon the resources of an agricultural community. Again the ill winds began to blow in the direction of Stonewall, now Frisco. The Oklahoma Central Railway running through Frisco from Lehigh to Chickasha, Oklahoma, ceased to operate in 1933 from Ada to Lehigh on account of business depression. The trackage and most of the housing properties of the scrapped railroad were removed and there now remains nothing of this once busy little transportation line except the right of way, and Frisco without railroad facilities has dwindled from a once prosperous railroad town to two small stores and a post-office. One of these remaining stores is the old William L. Byrd store,4 now a two story structure, the lower story of which was erected some sixty years ago, and the first store that the writer recalls having seen in his life.

By 1903, the allotment of the lands in severalty of the common land holdings of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians of the Indian Territory under the supervision of the United States Government was begun, and through an act of Congress in 1898, old Stonewall, now Frisco, together with the other towns and cities of the Indian Territory, was laid out and officially platted into streets, lots and blocks under the management and direction of the United States Government townsite Commission created by act of Congress. Frisco was thus established officially under the name of Stonewall, as the name "Frisco" did not come into existence until about two or three years later, as shown by previous statements herein. By reason of this status there has been more or less confusion in the proper description of real property in both Stonewall and old Stonewall, or Frisco, and now it has been considered that the proper and legal way to describe realty in Frisco is to mention it as Lot so and so, Block so and so of Stonewall, now Frisco, Oklahoma, according to the United States Government survey and plat thereof.

Remaining in Frisco is the old residence of the late Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, William L. Byrd. When he established his store in Stonewall, now Frisco, in 1878, he also erected a home where his old home now still stands in Frisco, Oklahoma. It then consisted of a double frame structure consisting of two large rooms at the north and south ends with a spacious hall between with


4Vol. 12, p. 432, Chronicles of Oklahoma.

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large dimension stone chimneys and fire places at each end and an L extension from the north end of the house for dining room and kitchen purposes. A second story was later added to this dwelling while still occupied by Governor Byrd.5 This improvement to the dwelling was made by him about fifty years ago, and for many years thereafter this residence was looked upon as a very pretentious mansion, as in fact it was for that day and time, and it still stands in Frisco, Oklahoma, as a memento of the eventful life of the late Governor William L. Byrd, who finally moved to and died in Ada, Oklahoma, several years ago. In about the year 1881, Governor Byrd went to Washington, D. C. as a delegate to represent the Chickasaw Nation in official matters of the Nation; and while there the Governor's attention was attracted to the many beautiful Silver Maple shade trees that then adorned the national capitol, so upon his return home he brought along a number of Silver Maple plants and set them out upon his premises. Some of these plants grew into huge shade trees which can yet be seen about the old residence. This class of tree sprouts prolificly from the roots of the mother tree. People in this section of the country admired this class of shade tree on account of the silvery tinge of its foliage, and Governor Byrd was generous in gratuitously supplying the demands of the people for Silver Maple plants from his premises; so while you are admiring the many beautiful Silver Maples throughout almost every community in this Western country you may well consider that you are admiring a civic adornment transplanted from your nation's capitol through the thoughtful agency of Governor William L. Byrd.

In point of time old Stonewall, now Frisco, Oklahoma, is the second oldest town in the Chickasaw part of Oklahoma. When the Choctaws and Chickasaws migrated to this country from east of the Mississippi River some one hundred years ago, a small inland town sprang up in the eastern part of the old Choctaw Nation which they called Doaksville after the name of an accompanying pioneer trader by the name of Doak, who was also supposed to have some knowledge of medicine. Doaksville was one of the first towns in the new Choctaw-Chickasaw country, now displaced by Fort Towson. During the Civil War the Southern Confederacy established a transportation center further west on Clear Boggy called Boggy Depot. This village still remains at its original site in Atoka County, Oklahoma. It is the home and burial place of the late Allen Wright, a distinguished fullblood Choctaw Indian with a finished education. He was a Presbyterian Minister, Governor of the Choctaw Nation, and holds distinction of translating parts6 of the Bible and New Testament into the Choctaw language. He died about 1885 and was buried at Boggy Depot, which was a town on the border of the


5Vol. 12, pp. 437, 439, Chronicles of Oklahoma.


6Vol. 19, p. 316, Chronicles of Oklahoma.

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Choctaw-Chickasaw country. Stonewall, now Frisco, Oklahoma, developed as a competitor with Tishomingo. McAlester, Atoka, Durant and other towns sprang up in 1871 along the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad in the Choctaw and Chickasaw country completed to Denison, Texas in 1872.

Some of the principal individuals who figured in the early history of Stonewall were the senior Cochran who established the first store at Frisco, and named it 'Stonewall'; James J. McAlester, an inter-married citizen, pioneer merchant of Stonewall who subsequently founded the City of McAlester, and became wealthy and at one time Lieutenant Governor of the State of Oklahoma, member of the State Corporation Commission and United States Marshal for the Indian Territory; John McKinney, an uncle of the writer, and the village blacksmith of Stonewall in its primitive period, and who later moved to Texas and established a small country store north of Dallas, at what is now known as McKinney, Texas; T. J. Phillips, an extensive land owner who died at Chickasha, Oklahoma, and interred there; Captain Tandy C. Walker, a part Chickasaw Indian, the father of J. C. (Cent) Walker, now of Ada, Oklahoma. Captain Walker was an extensive farmer and stock raiser and was for many years a law enforcement officer in the capacity of United States Deputy Marshal from the Federal Court at Fort Smith, Arkansas, which exercised criminal jurisdiction over the old Indian Territory; Judson D. Collins, founder of Collins Institute near Stonewall; Colbert A. Burris, a fullblood Chickasaw Indian, the father of the writer, long a political leader among the Chickasaws, who was County Judge, District Judge, Captain of the Chickasaw Militia during the Civil War, member of the Chickasaw Legislature, Judge of the Supreme Court of the Chickasaw Nation and a delegate to Congress on behalf of national business of the Chickasaw Nation in 1898 and a Methodist minister of the Gospel; William L. Byrd, twice Governor of the Chickasaw Nation; Reverend Willis Burns, a pioneer Baptist missionary among the Chickasaws, who died with interment at Stonewall, about forty years ago; C. C. Rooks, a pioneer merchant of Stonewall; Andrew Harden, late of Fittstown, Oklahoma, whose father constructed and operated Byrd's Mill for a length of time in the later part of the seventies, consisting of a grist and flour mill and cotton gin which was run by water power from Mill Creek at the source of which are the big springs which supply the water for the Ada water system; Dr. George H. Truax, a leading physician of the Stonewall community from 1885 until his death in 1930, the grandfather of William Crawford, the present mayor of Ada, Oklahoma; and the William L. Cochran, heretofore discussed, who bore the distinction of being a member of the Nicaraguan Expedition of 1856, under William Walker, an adventurist of Nashville, Tennessee, with an expeditionary force in an invasion into Central America where a Spaniard of the 15th. Cen-

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tury had encountered an Indian Chief by the name of Nicaragua, and christianized him and established a Spanish government there under the name of Nicaragua in honor of the Indian Chief. This Nicaraguan expedition of 1856, headed by William Walker, was for the purpose of establishing an empire composed of Central America and Mexico, but in fact it was the act of rainbow chasers who believed that this Nicaraguan country was practically inlaid with the precious metal, gold, but their scheme was short lived and without the desired gold. Uncle Billy, as he was called in his declining years, was a memebr of this expedition and lost a leg from a gun shot wound received when he met a hostile reception at the hands of the natives of Nicaragua, and thenceforth through his future career went about with a cork leg. He was a unique character, well educated, widely read and especially fond of an argument, for the sake of which he would in fact champion the side of a question diagonally opposed to his convictions. An interesting episode occurred while Uncle Billie was the first mayor and Justice of the Peace of Stonewall, when one J. M. (Uncle Johnnie) Sawyers, a farmer who still resides in that community, an ardent democrat and then a little fond of his cup, elated at the election of Woodrow Wilson as President of the United States proceeded to celebrate by crowing over town like a rooster, he being very adept in so doing, was brought before him. Some Republicans, not quite so well pleased over the election, caused Uncle Johnnie's arrest for disturbing the peace. When his case came on for hearing before Uncle Billie Cochran, the Mayor, Nick Hurd, a mutual friend of both the Court and the defendant, appeared for and on behalf of Uncle Johnnie, and upon being asked by the mayor what Mr. Sawyers did to cause the disturbance, Nick replied that he crowed around a little like a rooster. "How many times did he crow?" inquired the Mayor. "Oh, about two times," replied Nick. "Very well," said the Mayor, "the defendant is fined fifty cents a crow together with the cost." Then consideration prompted the Mayor to asked what Mr. Sawyers' politics were. "He's a Democrat and that's why he was crowing over the election." "Well, then, the fine and costs are remitted and Mr. Sawyers may go free," declared the court.

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