(By FRANK E. PARKE, aided by J. W. LEFLORE)
The first neighborhood school established in Musholatubby District of the Choctaw Nation which consisted of Skullyville, Sugar Loaf, Gaines, Coal and Sans Bois counties, was at Skullyville, and one among the first teachers was a man named Wilson, who taught there just before the Civil War. He had a school of about sixty pupils in nearly regular attendance. Like most of the old time teachers he sat at the back end of the school room with a long rod by him and his eyes were always on his pupils, and well they knew it, for as was the custom then, a boy or a girl, regardless of size, violating any of his rules was punished without fear or favor.
This school was attended by Jack, Edmond, Greene, Dave and Robert McCurtain, and their sisters, who lived about five miles front Slcullyville, and came from home every morning, the older ones often coming "afoot" and the younger ones on ponies.
Jackson, Edmond, and Greene, the father of Hon. D. C. McCurtain, our district judge, were successively elected as chiefs of the Nation. Greene McCurtain has the distinction of being the last chief ever elected by his people. After his term expired all other chiefs were appointed by the powers at Washington. James Thompson, who was treasurer of the Choctaw Nation, and was district judge, and all during his life held office of some kind, was an attendant of this school; Jerry Ward attended and was at an early age elected sheriff of Skullyville County; he also served as Light-horse, and later as district judge.
The Geary children, who lived about a mile west of where Braden now stands, on the edge of Ring Prairie, came six or seven miles. The children of a widow, named Susan P. Lanier, came about four miles. They were Ben, Edward, later county judge, and Joseph, sheriff of Skuilyville County in 1881, and killed by Bill Hughes, and Susan, who is the only one of them now living. She is the mother of Henry F. Cooper, U. S. Marshal residing at Muskogee.
There was a boarding school at Fort Coffee, and many of the boys above mentioned at times attended as day pupils, and they and others at that school had a habit of scouring over the rock bluff at the river and writing their names on the underside of an overhanging sandstone where they may be seen to this day. After the war in the sixties, Edmond Burgevine, who had been educated for a Catholic priest, and at one time was assistant attorney general of Arkansas, taught several very satisfactory schools at this old town. There have been numerous other teachers, and many boys who afterward became prominent in tribal affairs laid the foundation of their future here.
Later there was a neighborhood school established at Holetushi, (the name of a little creek that runs near Panama and empties into Poteau) where at that time many full bloods lived. Of the pupils who attended that school before the war of the sixties, only two are known to be living. They are both old Confederate soldiers, Jimmie Adams, near LeFlore and Matthew Henry (Onubby) near Kanima, each over eighty years of age.
After there was a neighborhood established on Buck Creek (Lupta Bok) and Greene LeFlore, father of Doug LeFlore of Milton, was the first teacher, Maurice Cass, a full blood Choctaw of the Six Town Klan (Okla-Hannali-Iksa) was one of the local trustees. He died recently at the age of ninety, near Kanima. Miss Mollie Berry, later Mrs. James Thomson, taught this school. As the country settled up with whites, farming under the lease system, the Indians moved farther west and it was discontinued as a tribal school.
There was a school at Tiakheli (Pine Grove) near Milton and Wallace Bond, a graduate from Baltimore boarded at Amos Henry’s, ten miles away and came horse back to teach it. Some of the pupils came nearly as far. He afterward taught at Sans Bois town; married a Choctaw girl, and acted as private secretary for Governor Greene McCurtain. He is dead and left two sons who are now holding good positions in Oklahoma City. Amos Henry, a former pupil at the Skullyville school was the private secretary of Governor McCurtain to take care of correspondence in the Choctaw language.
The nearest school house was about twelve or fourteen miles north in the Simon Hancock neighborhood toward the west. It was twenty miles to the next school, which was at Sans Bois. This school was taught by Geo. M. Bond; he also married a Choctaw girl, the daughter of Isaac McClure. Other schools were at Little Sans Bois, near Ward Garland-s. C. H. Patterson taught here, but later took a civil service examination and went to Washington, D. C., where he is now on the retired list. One at Imachaya Creek near where Whitefield is, and there was another near what is now Enterprise. At Pocola there was a school house called Folsom Chappel. Here Greenwood LeFlore taught two or three terms. At that time, Rev. Willis Folsom, John Page, Jas. Darneal, Watt Folsom, father of Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ben Willis, and other children, and Abe Gregory, an inter-married white man, all lived near this school and patronized it. There was a school at Green Hill which is now near Williams. The elders Ben and Tom Wall, and Thompson Sexton; teachers, Gilbert, Thompson, Cunningham, Wade, and Jackson and Simon Billy lived near this school. There was a school at Kali Fuklo (Double Springs) and the school house occupied ground near where Shady Point-s depot stands. There was another school near Nail Perry-s place, near what is now Hodgens, and one near the Mintachubby crossing on Poteau on the road from Howe to Wister. Loman Jack, Summa Billy, Robert Perry, and Jesse Puchi, lived near this place. There was a school house near the home of Rev. W. H. Moore; it was called Caston, and was on a little creek now called Caston, but then known as Pok-Tali Ok Tapa (Waterfall Creek). Gilbert Harris lived near here and with him a very old man named Paknaya, commonly called Squire Boot, who was given the name Billy Johnson when he joined the church. This old man among others went to Fort Smith to draw rations. They were asked their names as they took their turns and old man Pakanaya noticing that the clerk looked on a list and checked each name, knowing that he had three names and being in doubt about which was on the record concluded to give all of them when called, so he answered, when asked his name, saying it is Pakanaya-Squire Boot Billy Johnson. The clerk said, "Oh Hell." and the old man said, "Yes. that too, if it get sugar."
The Stephen Holson school house stood on a small ridge on the Texas road, or Fort Towson road, just west of Holson Creek. Ben Herd taught school here several years before the Civil War and many years afterward. All the sons and daughters of Capt. Holson attended his school and at his knees the late. N. J. Holson, the last Choctaw district judge of Mesholatubby district, learned his alphabet.
The next school west was Bok Falaya (Long Creek) now LeFlore, ten miles. At this place Wallace LeFlore had settled on the east side of the creek about a mile from the school house on the west side. He died near Tuskahoma during the Civil War, and requested his sister, Aunt Millie to remain single, stay with his family and take care of the children. This she did, and took care of many orphans besides. She wielded a great influence for good in the community, was very pious, fasted every Friday forenoon, and would not permit man nor beast in her service to do any work until afternoon. This was one of the largest schools in the country. Some of the teachers were Houston McCurtain, Buckner Burns, F. E. Parke, J. D. Bender, and Jay Robb, now of Gilmore.
The next school was on Tali Bok (Rock Creek) about four miles north of Red Oak. At this place examinations were held, and during the time Mrs. J. F. McCurtain and Aunt Jane McCurtain of Tuskahoma, boarded the applicants free of charge. Such hospitality is now a thing of the past.
Most of the school houses were built of hewn logs and had split log benches for, like all undeveloped countries, there were no saw mills, but the teachers were of a higher grade than in some of the states. Experience had taught the Indians that they must inquire as to the qualifications of the applicants. The tuition of $2.00 a scholar, at that time tempted many incompetents to undertake school teaching.
The most practical branches only were taught in those schools, and as few of the pupils understood the English language, the teachers first care was to teach them how to speak some English.