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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 2, No. 3
September, 1924
THE STRUGGLE FOR THE REMOVAL OF THE TERRITORIAL CAPITAL

Dan W. Peery

Page 319

The following is the speech of Honorable Dan W. Peery, member of The House of Representatives, delivered December 2, 1910, in the Special Session of the Third Legislature of the State of Oklahoma, just as reported by the House reporter.

The House, being in Committee of the Whole and having under consideration House Bill No. 1, the bill locating the capital at Oklahoma City, Mr. Peery spoke as follows:

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Third Legislature: The gentlemen who represent the minority here claim there is a sacred contract between the people of the State of Oklahoma and the Congress of the United States, that the capital of this State should be and remain at Guthrie, in the County of Logan. I am not an attorney, as I have announced here several times, but there is one point of law that I know, and that is, that a contract made under duress is not binding. The gentlemen of the minority who have just left the floor say that, in removing the capital from Guthrie before the year 1913, we will be doing Guthrie a great injustice. I want to say that Guthrie has been doing the people of Oklahoma an injustice for twenty long years. They have kept that capital at the city of Guthrie for more than twenty years, and there has never been one day, nor one hour, in all that time, in which, if the people of the state had had a voice in the matter, but that they would have moved it down to Oklahoma City.

Gentlemen, this controversy did not begin this year, nor last year, but it began on the first day of May, 1890. At that time the act creating the Territory of Oklahoma, known as the Organic Act, passed by Congress of the United State, became a law. There was a provision in that Organic Act which read something like this: "The first legislature shall meet at Guthrie and at said first session, or as soon thereafter as the Legislature and the Governor shall deem expedient, they shall proceed to locate the permanent seat of government for the Territory of Oklahoma." I feel like taking this matter up in detail. (By the House: "Come to the front!")

As I am the only member of either branch of this Legislature who served in the first Territorial Legislature, I will give in some detail an account of our first effort to locate the permanent capital of Oklahoma. The Organic Act provided for the election of a Territorial Legislature, and it is my recollection that that election was held on August 24, 1890. The question of the location of the capital was discussed and was one of the issues of the campaign. The Organic Act provided that the Legislature should consist of twenty-

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six members in the House and thirteen in the Council (now called the Senate). In the apportionment for representation, Oklahoma county was given five members of the House and two members of the Council. The five men elected from Oklahoma county were C. G. Jones, Hugh Trosper, Major Moses Neal, Sam Pack and myself. The two Council members from Oklahoma county were J. L. Brown and L. G. Pitman. Jones, Trosper and Brown were Republicans. When we arrived at Guthrie, the temporary capital, we found the Republicans in majority, the Democrats and Populists having twelve members and the Republicans fourteen. In the Council there were six Democrats and Populists and seven Republicans. As the Republicans had a majority in both branches, they thought that they would organize the House without any trouble and include in their organization the location of the permanent seat of government at Guthrie. The Guthrie papers, the State Capital and the News, urged the Legislature to immediately locate the Capital, not dreaming but that Guthrie would be named. It was understood by everyone at that time that Guthrie was but the temporary meeting place of the Legislature. Every other item in the State Capital before our organization urged the Legislature to make the first bill read, ’The Location of the Capital at Guthrie." But I want to say that that was the last time that they have ever advocated the location of the permanent seat of government. You have never heard that voice in that city from that day to this. They have been satisfied with the temporary capital.

We representatives from Oklahoma City were in Guthrie for the purpose of checking this plan and perfecting an organization to locate the capital at Oklahoma City. We expected to distribute some of the state institutions among the different towns of the state and get the capital for Oklahoma City. We Democrats went into caucus as soon as we arrived in Guthrie. The Populist members of the House demanded the speakership, and although there were only three of them, we made A. N. Daniels speaker of the House. We had some folks up at Edmond in our combination and we agreed to give that town the Normal School. Cleveland county was represented in the Legislature by Tom Wagoner and Colonel Jim Stovall in the House. Mott Bixler and R. J. Nisbett in the Council. These gentlemen demanded the location of the State University as one of the considerations for becoming a member of our organization. Tom Wagoner was something of a wizard; he had the faculty of getting everything he went after. Payne County was a part of the original Oklahoma and was represented in the House by James Matthews, I. N. Terrall and one Clark, whose given name I have forgotten, and in the Council was George W. Gardenhire, all of whom were Populists. Canadian County was represented by W. D. Talbot. These men constituted our Democratic organization. We needed two Republican votes to perfect the organization, which meant the location of the capital at

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Oklahoma City. So we went to C. G. Jones and H. G. Trosper and told them the situation. (And right here I want to say that if the Republicans had had gumption enough to have nominated "Grist Mill" for governor last summer, it would have been hard for me, as a personal matter, to have voted against him.)

Well, we went to C. G. Jones and Trosper and told them that if we could get two more votes in the House, that we would have a combination that would put the capital of Oklahoma at Oklahoma City. That struck C. G. mighty well, for he was always for his constituents, and partisanship was a secondary consideration. The proposition was put up to J. L. Brown in the Council, as they, too lacked just one man to complete their combination. The question with the Republicans was, would their Republican constituents justify them going into the Democratic organization with the object of getting the capital? They did not know whether they could afford to do it or not. Jones had a meeting of his Republican constituents, called here in Oklahoma City, and asked me to come down from Guthrie and make a statement before them as to the situation as I saw it. The Republican gathering was held down at the old Commercial building, sometimes called the McKennon building, on the corner of Broadway and California. When I was ushered in, I was all by myself, and not another Democrat in the house. Jones made a speech, in which he stated to his Republican constituents that he believed that it was necessary for him to go in with the Democratic organization if we had any show whatever to locate the capital at Oklahoma City, and wanted to know their, advice in the matter. Then he called upon me to make a statement before this meeting. I told them that when I left Guthrie, that there were twelve men in a room that had agreed to locate the capital at Oklahoma City if C. G. Jones and Hugh Trosper would go in with them in this combination. After they heard my statement, I retired from the room and I understood that after full discussion, they instructed Jones unanimously to go in and help locate the capital here. Jones said, if the Republicans don’t like it, we will form a new party and call it the Capital party.

We returned to Guthrie, and by agreement, the bill was introduced in the Council by Judge J. L. Brown of this city. It was known as Council Bill No. 7. (It was Council then. The members were not designated by the dignified name of Senator.) The combination stayed together in the Council and the bill went through in regular order and was transmitted to the House. When the bill came up for consideration in the House, the entire city of Guthrie were there in mass. After several days of wrangling and unsuccessful effort to break our combination, we got a roll call on its final passage. There were some interesting by-plays and wrangles and charges of corruption. I shall not attempt to tell them in detail. Our combination stayed together, and we carried the bill through the House by a vote of fourteen to twelve. Immediately upon its passage, I ran to

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the depot to send telegrams to my Oklahoma City friends, telling them that we had located the capital at Oklahoma City. While at the depot, I received a hurried message to come to the House immediately. When I returned to the House, I found that something had gone wrong. Through some subtle influence, known only to Guthrie financiers, two Populist members of our combination had deserted us. They had a motion before the House to reconsider the vote whereby the reconsideration of the capital bill had been placed on the table. It was the most unparliamentary thing imaginable. My friend, J. Roy Williams, knows something about re-considering the vote upon a final passage and then laying the re-consideration upon the table. This is ordinarily supposed to be the final action on the bill and to prevent a reopening of the question by moving a re-consideration of a re-consideration. This was an unheard of procedure. The bill had passed both Houses of the Legislature; the vote had been reconsidered in both Houses. The noon adjournment came at that time.

During the noon adjournment the friends of the bill got together in caucus. There were present, Hon. Sidney Clark, C. G. Jones, J. Ed Jones, L. G. Pitman, myself and perhaps two or three other friends of the bill. We decided that, as the bill had passed both Houses, the only thing to do was to enroll the bill, have it signed by the Speaker of the House, the President of the Council and take it to the Governor for his signature. I was a member of the joint Committee on Enrollment and Engrossed Bills, there being two members from each House. We got our clerks together and had the bill enrolled, completing the work about two o’clock. I started into the House with the bill in my pocket. I found the House jammed full of people, and great excitement prevailing. By the aid of the sergeant-at-arms I got on the floor of the House, took the bill to the speaker’s desk and told him to sign it—that it was all right. Well, Daniels (the Speaker) signed the bill, and I put it in my pocket and went down the back stairs to the Senate Chamber. (The House had its session upstairs and the Senate downstairs on the ground floor of the Opera House building.)

It was my intention to give the bill to the Senate member of our Joint Committee and see that the President signed it and take it to the Governor. But I found, when I arrived in the Senate Chamber, that that body had adjourned. So I handed the bill to the other member of the committee, R. J. Nesbitt, of Cleveland County. After I had delivered the bill to him, I went out on the street, the House having adjourned, and saw there a mass of people from the Opera House clear up to the corner. The first thing I noticed, the crowd had a hold of Daniels, the Speaker. Daniels cried, "Peery has the Bill," and the crowd came after me and then I ran. And don’t you know, the whole city of Guthrie came after me at that time! They gathered around in scores and were crying for a rope and made all

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manner of demonstrations, declaring I had stolen the Capital Bill. I got up against the door of the Senate Chamber. The Guthrie Capital said that I "tried to climb that door backwards." There were a number of my friends inside the Senate Chamber who came to my assistance. I recollect Uncle Jim Stovall, Bill McCartney, H. B. Mitchell and Tom Jackson—all good friends of mine—came to the door opened it, knocked, shoved and pushed the crowd right and left, and got me in the Senate Chamber, and shut the door in the face of the mob. John Lind, who was Senator from Logan County, but a friend of mine, hollowed, "You had better get out of the back door; they’re breaking in the front door." I ran out the back door, but they were there—in fact they were everywhere and the crowd was running, and Nesbitt, the man who actually had the bill, was running in front of them. He hid the bill and they never found it. In the rush and excitement, the crowd failed to recognize me. I saw a friendly high board fence with a small door in it. I went through the door and shut it and into the back end of a butcher shop. The butcher was out in the chase, I suppose, so I got behind a large refrigerator. Now, gentlemen, I only tell you these things to keep the record straight (Laughter). There have been several stories told about this. This was about two o’clock in the afternoon. I listened behind the ice chest, and heard the crowd rushing by on the sidewalk and the excitement outside. It wasn’t long until everything was quiet.

In the excitement one little negro boy hollowed to another, "What’s the matter; what they want to hang that man for?" The other replied, "They ought to hang ’im. Why that fella has done stole the capital and gone to Oklahoma City wit’ it."

Along about three or four o’clock in the afternoon, I heard the butcher come in. He and another fellow were talking, and I was listening pretty carefully, and I heard the fellow say: "If they get that man Peery they will hang him" and went on to say that "the last time I saw him he was going across the school section toward Oklahoma City." The butcher said, "Damn him, they ought to hang him; he has stolen the Capital bill." That seemed the unanimous verdict. I remained there, gentlemen, until dark came, and then I came out the back door and went across to the back end of the Council Chamber and, looking in, saw Major Simpson of El Reno, the Chief Clerk of the Council, and two or three other friends sitting there. I went in. They wanted to know where in the world I had been all the evening. They said, "None of us knew where you had gone, but have been looking everywhere for you." In a few minutes, "Grist Mill" Jones came in. He was somewhat surprised to find me there and was much excited. He said, "It won’t do for you to go out on the front street. Come and go with me up to my room." He took me down the back way to the old Noble Hotel, and we went up the back stairs to Jones’ room. He left me and said he would go down and reconnoiter. Jones came back in a few minutes and said, "The Oklahoma City crowd is here," and in they all came. There

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were Charlie Colcord, Huger Wilkerson, Colonel Johnson, Dick Brandon, W. W. Witten and fifteen or twenty more. They told me to come out and we would parade the town. We all went over into the east part of town and took supper at the old English Kitchen, and that night we formed an alliance with the representatives from Kingfisher County. They agreed to come over and support us the next day, provided if the Governor should veto our bill we would locate the capital at Kingfisher.

Although we had lost part of our combination, yet, in the next day’s session, we voted down their "Reconsideration of a Reconsideration," and carried the bill by a much larger majority than we had anticipated. I shall not attempt to give a recital of the events of that day’s session, but it was certainly the most strenuous session of the Legislature that I had ever attended. In five days after its passage, that "Carpet-bag" Governor, George W. Steele, from Marion, Indiana, vetoed the bill.

Before that long eventful session closed, we voted the capital of Oklahoma to Kingfisher twice. I shall not attempt to give a history of the proceedings on the Kingfisher bills. But Guthrie has had the capital ever since; but she won’t have it when this session adjourns. (Applause.)

At the next session of Congress, when that body made an appropriation to pay the expenses of the Territorial Legislature, they put a clause in that appropriation bill which read, "Provided that this Legislature shall take no action towards moving the capital from the town of Guthrie." Every appropriation for the Territorial Legislature from that day to statehood contained substantially the same provision. This provision was placed in these bills by reason of the influence that Guthrie was able to exert at Washington. They first had Dave Harvey in Congress, and then Dennis Flynn, and then Bird McGuire, and these men were greater than all the people of the State of Oklahoma. And year in and year out, against the will of the people, they have kept the capital at Guthrie. My friends, would it be doing Guthrie an injustice to move it now?

I have no unkind feeling for the people of Guthrie. What they did in the excitement of those strenuous days should not be held against them. Guthrie will always be a good town, and, not like my friend Maxey of Pottawatomie, I would regard the Mayorship of that city as an honor to any man. I have some mighty good friends in Guthrie, and toward that town I hold not one ignoble prejudice or memory. But the place for the capital of Oklahoma is at Oklahoma City, where we are going to put it at the end of this session.

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