Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 1, No. 3
June, 1923
PASSING PIONEERS.

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Since the last issue of Oklahoma Chronicles a number of Oklahoma pioneers have passed away. Among the more prominent of these might be mentioned the following: Ex-Governor Wm. C. Renfrow, who died January 31, 1922; Ex-Governor George W. Steele, who died July 12, 1922; Chief Justice John H. Burford of the Territorial Supreme Court, who died September 2, 1922; Justice Cornelius H. Elting of the State Supreme Court, who died September 3, 1922; Mr. Anton H. Classen, who died December 31, 1922; Chief Justice John H. Pitchford of the State Supreme Court, who died March 2, 1923; Judge Clinton A. Galbraith, who was attorney-general of the Territory during General Renfrow’s administration and who died May 10, 1923; Hon. Henry E. Asp, who died July 4, 1923.

George W. Steele was the first governor of Oklahoma Territory, taking his position at the organization of the Territorial government in May, 1890, and serving until October, 1891. He was born in Indiana in 1839, was admitted to the bar in 1861, entering the volunter military service shortly afterward, passing through all the grades from first lieutenant to lieutenant-colonel. From 1866 until 1876 he served as an officer in the regular army. He served four terms in Congress from Indiana before being appointed to the governorship of Oklahoma, from 1881 to 1889, and after his return to Indiana, was re-elected to Congress four more terms, serving from 1895 to 1903 and subsequently for some years was governor of the National Soldiers’ Home in his native state.

William C. Renfrow was the third governor of Oklahoma Territory, having been appointed by President Cleveland in 1893 and served a full term of four years. He was born in North Carolina in 1845 and served as a soldier in the Confederate Army during his youth. He settled in Arkansas in 1865 and came

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thence to Oklahoma, settling at Norman in 1889, where he engaged in the banking business. Subsequent to his retirement from office he was largely interested in the lead and zinc mining business in southwestern Missouri.

Judge John H. Burford was born in Indiana in 1852. He was educated at Waveland Collegiate Institute and graduated from the law school of Indiana University in 1874. He served as prosecuting attorney of the Circuit Court of his native state. In 1890 he was appointed register of the United States Land Office at Oklahoma City, and two years later was appointed justice of the Supreme Court of the Territory, serving from 1892 to 1896. In 1898 he was appointed chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, which position he held until the advent of statehood in 1907. He was a member of the Oklahoma Senate, 1913 to 1917, and was the Republican nominee for United States Senate in 1914. He served as president of the State Bar Association in 1912 and 1913. Judge Burford’s experience as a pioneer jurist in western Oklahoma, when conditions were still "wild and wooly," were interesting and at times exciting, but his uniform tact and good nature helped him to win his way with men who had had but little to do with courts prior to that time. Judge Burford was an active member of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Cornelius H. Elting was born in Missouri in 1866. When he was thirteen years old his parents moved to western Kansas and most of his education was secured from the schools in that state. He graduated in the law school of the University of Kansas in 1894. In 1899 he located at Durant, Indian Territory, where he engaged in the practice of his profession and where he afterward made his home. In 1920 he was nominated for justice of the Supreme Court on the Republican ticket and was elected in the general election that year. He was a man of retiring disposition but sterling character.

Anton H. Classen was born in Illinois in 1861, and was educated in the public schools of that state. He graduated from

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the law school of the University of Michigan in 1887, and came into Oklahoma at the first opening in 1889, settling at Edmond, where he engaged in the practice of his profession, and later in the publication of the Edmond Sun. He early became interested in the real estate business in and around Edmond. In 1897 he was appointed receiver of the United States Land Office at Oklahoma City, and with his removal to Oklahoma City he began to take an active interest in the development of the state’s future capital. At the end of his term as receiver of the land office he was appointed register, but he resigned shortly afterward to devote his entire attention to business. He laid out a number of additions to the city, parking and planting trees and otherwise improving them before putting them on the market, and was the pioneer street railway builder of the State. He took an active but unassuming part in nearly every movement which had for its object the upbuilding and development of the community. He was for many years an active member and director in the Oklahoma Historical Society, and was serving as its senior vice-president at the time of his death. The full story of his life would be the story of the development of Oklahoma City from a pioneer town of 4,000 inhabitants to a city of 125,000.

John H. Pitchford was born in South Carolina in 1857. His education was received in the schools of that state, where he was admitted to the bar in 1878. He practiced law at Clayton, South Carolina, and Gainesville, Georgia, for a number of years, moving to Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 1890, and to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in 1896. He was elected district judge in 1907, taking up his official duties when the State was admitted to the Union, and served continuously in that position until after his election as justice of the Supreme Court of the State in 1918. Judge Pitchford’s experience as a pioneer jurist in the hill counties of the old Cherokee Nation was full of interest, and being a keen observer and having a well developed sense of humor, he was accounted a wonderful story teller as well as an able jurist.

Clinton A. Galbraith was born in Indiana in 1860, graduated

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at Hartsfield in 1883 and attended the law school of the University of Michigan. He was admitted to the bar in 1888. He served as attorney general of Oklahoma, 1893 to 1897. In 1893 he located at Hilo in the Hawaiian Islands. Four years later he was appointed as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Hawaiian Territory. At the expiration of his term of office in 1904 he returned to Oklahoma, settling at Ada. He was serving as assistant attorney general of the State at the time of his death.

Henry E. Asp was born in Illinois in 1856 and left an orphan in early life. The family with whom he made his home settled in Cowley County, Kansas, during his youth. He was admitted to the bar at Winfield, Kansas, in 1878, and he engaged in the practice of his profession at that place until his removal to Guthrie, after the organization of the Territory in 1890. Mr. Asp became general attorney of the Santa Fe Railway system for Oklahoma Territory, in which position he was not only active and efficient but very much in the public eye. He took an active part in politics, was in Washington just before and at the time of the passage and approval of the enabling act under which the people of Oklahoma and Indian Territory were authorized to form a constitution and apply for admission to the Union as a State. Always loyal to his home town, he was generally credited with the insertion of the clause in the enabling act which provided that the capital of the state should be located at Guthrie until 1913. His constitutional convention district nominated him as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. The fact that he was regarded as a leading corporation lawyer of Oklahoma was largely capitalized by the opposition, in not only Logan County, but through both territories as well, and while it was due to no fault of his that this fact had a very large influence in the landslide which resulted in the election of 100 Democratic delegates out of 112 in the Convention. During the Constitutional Convention, Mr. Asp was one of the most prominent figures in its deliberations, though always in the hopeless minority. After the removal of the capital from Guthrie to Oklahoma City, Mr. Asp

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severed his relations with the legal department of the Santa Fe Railway Company and removed to Oklahoma City, where he engaged in private practice. Although his policies as an attorney were frequently subject to criticism, his keen interest in the life about him and his magnetic personality were such that his friends were legion. He had much to do with the building and development of all of the lines of the Santa Fe System in Oklahoma, and he will be remembered as one of the State’s most active and efficient pioneers.

James Mooney, ethnologist, died at his home in Washington, D. C., December 22, 1921. He was born at Richmond, Indiana, in 1861, of Irish parentage. He was educated in the public schools and followed newspaper writing for several years. Having begun a systematic study of the life, customs and culture of various tribes of American Indians in his youth, he continued it as a young man, and in 1885 he became an active member of the staff of the Bureau of American Ethnology. His work as an ethnologist was principally among the tribes of the Southeast and those of the Southern Plains. He did a great deal of careful, painstaking research and investigation in the field, much of the results of which have been issued in monograph form by the National Museum. Directly or indirectly, most of these have concerned various tribes in Oklahoma, including especially the Cherokee and the Kiowa. He was charged with the preparation of the instructive Indian exhibits of the Government at the Chicago World’s Fair, the Nashville and Omaha Expositions and the World’s Fair at St. Louis. Among his best known publications are: "Myths of the Cherokee," "Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians," "The Messiah Religion and the Ghost Dance," "Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee" and "Siouan Tribes of the East." Mild and gentle in his demeanor, the soul of honor and truthfulness in his association with the Indians, he never failed to merit their confidence and to gain and hold their lasting friendship. His interest in pursuing his investigations to the point of thoroughness sometimes brought down the wrath of Indian Service officials upon his head, and more than once he was called in

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from the field at their behest, his devotion and zeal not always being appreciated as fully as they should have been by some of his official superiors. This was especially true in the case of his peyote investigations, which he was not permitted to complete. He was fearless in his advocacy of what he believed to be right and in his denunciation of what he knew to be wrong. The Indians never had a truer friend or a more devoted champion, and many of them in Oklahoma have mourned his untimely passing.

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