BY MURIEL H. WRIGHT
Among the most interesting of the early settlements of Oklahoma, established before the Civil War, was Old Boggy Depot. This was once the home of many notable characters that are prominent in the history of our State, and through it passed millions in gold with the Western trade, for it was a flourishing center on the main road from the North to Texas, and from Fort Smith to points in Southern and Western Oklahoma, Fort Washita, Fort Arbuckle, and, after the Civil War, Fort Sill.
Old1 Boggy Depot received its name from Boggy River (Clear Boggy), the town being situated about a mile west of that stream, just out of the bottom, on the dividing ridge between the river and a little creek called Sandy Creek. It was suggested at one time that Boggy River might have been named after Charles Bougie (or Bogy) who traded with the Osages at the mouth of the Verdigris River, as early as 1806, but in reality the name is a translation of that given it by the French traders, of the eighteenth century, who called it "Vazzures," from the word "vaseux," meaning miry or boggy. The name of the river is mentioned in 1805, by Dr. John Sibley, United States Indian Agent, in his report to General Henry Dearborn, Secretary of War, when he described the country along the Red River. Dr. Sibley wrote that in ascending the Red River "we arrive at the mouth of the Vazzures, or Boggy River, which is about two hundred yards wide, soft, miry bottom, the water whitish but well tasted."
The first building at Old Boggy Depot was a log cabin erected by some Chickasaws, in 1837, who were of the party that came west from Mississippi with Cyrus Harris, afterward a leading chief of the Chickasaw Nation. This cabin was still standing in the yard of Captain G. B. Hester’s home, at Old Boggy, during the Civil War when it was being used for slave quarters. The Chickasaw annuity grounds were located in the vicinity when that tribe came west to live
after their treaty with the Choctaws, in 1837. Rev. Cyrus Kingsbury, the well-known missionary, mentioned visiting the place, in a letter dated June 30, 1840, in which he wrote that he intended to hold a religious meeting at "the Chickasaw Depot." In early correspondence of other persons the place was simply mentioned as "the Depot on the Boggy." At that time Old Boggy was in the eastern part of the Chickasaw District, Choctaw Nation, but in 1855, by the terms of a new treaty, the boundary was changed between the Choctaw and the Chickasaw country, and then it was on the line separating Atoka and Blue counties, in the western part of Pushmataha District, Choctaw Nation.
In the records of the Post Office Department, the Depot was officially designated as Boggy Depot, Cherokee2 Nation, Arkansas, when the first post office was established at the place on November 5, 1849, with William R. Guy as postmaster. Early in 1850 a star route was established and the stage coach came dashing into town once a week, with the mail from Fort Smith. From that time Old Boggy Depot remained the mart of trade for this part of the country until after the construction of the first railroad through the Indian Territory.
The first church at Old Boggy was organized by the Presbyterian missionaries, Rev. Cyrus Kingsbury and Rev. Ebenezer Hotchkin, in August, 1840. By December of that year there were thirty members in the congregation, fifteen of whom were of the old Monroe Church in the Chickasaw Nation, east of the Mississippi. Under the auspices of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church; in the fifties, a church building was erected at Old Boggy Depot, by Charles Sparrow, a brick mason from England, who burned the brick for the new building, just east of town. It not only served as a church and school until after the Civil War, but was the meeting place of many important gatherings in early days. A session of the Choctaw Council was held in this building in 1859, when Basil LeFlore was governor of the Choctaw Nation. It was also used as a hospital during the War, many sad scenes being witnessed there by Mr. G. B. Hester, Mrs. John Kingsbury, Mrs. Allen Wright, and other
good women of the community, who helped minister to the needs of the sick soldiers. At one time a wife of a Confederate soldier had followed her husband from Texas and had found him dying of wounds at Boggy Depot. The next morning after her arrival, she was found weeping before the door of the Church, for the spirit of her dear one had passed on; that she might prepare him for burial, she was pounding down leaden bullets for weights to close his eyes, while he lay on one of the benches, wrapped in his blanket of gray.
Shortly after the War, the brick Church was abandoned, as the building was considered unsafe, a log house on the main street of town being used temporarily for a church and school. In the later sixties, a new school house had been built and a church was erected across the road from Governor Allen Wright’s residence, in the west edge of town. At different times, the children of several Chickasaw families, who had no school near their homes, attended the day school at Old Boggy, being boarded and cared for by Miss Mary Chiffey, a young Chickasaw woman, who was an earnest Christian and member of the Presbyterian Church. .
Among the teachers who taught the day school at Old Boggy were Rev. Hamilton Balentine, J. L. Caldwell, Miss Sylvester, and Miss Clara Eddy. The latter was a graduate of the Emma Willard School, of Troy, New York, and had served as a missionary to the Creeks and then to the Chickasaws, before the war. She was a woman of fine personality and great strength of character, exerting an influence for good and upright living that was never forgotten by her pupils.
After the war, she taught school for many terms at Boggy Depot, and also, at Caddo, until her death in 1884.
Mr. Ballentine was a missionary of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, being made the first superintendent of the Wapanucka Female Institute (Wapanucka Academy), established by the Chickasaw Council and first opened in 1852. Though Wapanucka Academy3 was located about
3.Wapanucka Academy was located on Wapanucka or Delaware Creek. So named because some Delaware Indians lived on the ridges along this creek, years before the Civil War. The name, "Wapanucka," is derived from "Wapanachki," meaning "easterners" or "eastern land people," the name by which the Delawares, as a part of the Algonquian, linguistic family. were known in colonial times. Their original homes were found in the country from Pennsylvania to Maine, along the Atlantic coast.
twelve miles northwest of Old Boggy, yet the citizens of the town took great interest in the school and considered the teachers and those in charge a part of the community. In 1855, Mr. Ballentine’s health forced him to resign his work for a time, during which Rev. Charles Wilson was in charge of Wapanucka Academy. At the close of the war, Mr. Ballentine continued his work as a missionary, and, also, taught the day school at Old Boggy, for a term.
During the war, Confederate troops were stationed at Boggy Depot, the military quarters occupying about thirty acres in the southwestern part of town, where several rows of log cabins were erected for the soldiers, and a cannon was set that boomed forth a salute every evening at sundown. About half way down the main street of the town, near the public well, stood a tall flag pole from the top of which the banner of the Confederacy floated bravely for four years.
This spot was made lively from time to time when the Choctaw and Chickasaw troops galloped around and around the flag, splitting the air with Indian warwhoops and singing the Choctaw war song,
"Yakeh walih, he kanah he!
Though no real battles were fought in the vicinity during the war, there were constant reminders of the actual fighting taking place elsewhere. After the severe defeat of the Confederates, in July, 1863, at the Battle of Honey Springs or Elk Creek, in the Creek Nation, Colonel Stand Watie’s command, ragged and hungry, fell back as far as Boggy Depot. At another time a large party of "Cherokee Pins" (Federal Scouts) attempted a raid on the town, some of them being so bold as to ride up and down the front porch of one of the residences, whooping and firing into the house.
At the beginning of the war, one of the wealthiest men of the town was Reuben Wright, no relation, by the way, of Allen Wright. Reuben Wright was a New Englander, who had established a store at Old Boggy, having acquired considerable wealth in trading establishments located at Skullyville and Doaksville in the eastern part of the Choctaw Nation. When the war began, he was paid a large sum of gold by the Chickasaw government for supplying the academies with goods and provisions; upon hearing that the Confederates
were after him, he decided to leave the country and return to the North. In making preparations for his long journey, he procured a large box, and after securing a lot of deer hides, proceeded to lay his gold between the skins, thus packing it for safe keeping. He then hired a body guard and set out with his money from Boggy Depot, overland, for Galveston. There he succeeded in running the blockade and narrowly missed being shot before he escaped for New England.
Being centrally located for both the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, the town had attained a position of importance in the Indian Territory before 1860, its citizens, even at that time, taking pride in community interests and being active in furthering the development of the town. In the treaty made between the Choctaws and the Chickasaws and the Confederacy, in July, 1861, the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations were constituted a judicial district of the Confederate states, called the Tuskahoma District, Boggy Depot being designated as the court town. Among the signers of this treaty were Allen Wright, George W. Harkins, and James Riley, all citizens of Old Boggy. At the end of the war, Allen Wright and James Riley were again among the Choctaw delegates selected to make the treaty of 1866, with the United States. Under its terms, a land office was to be located at Boggy Depot, as the headquarters for the survey and subsequent alloting of all Choctaw and Chickasaw lands, but events in the United States interfered with the fulfillment of these terms. It is interesting to note here that thirty years later the Government began the survey and alloting of all tribal lands in the Indian Territory by means of the Dawes Commission, and the share of business which would have fallen to Old Boggy’s portion in 1866, helped to build up the foundations of a number of other towns that had sprung up in the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, during these years, which are now thriving cities in Oklahoma.
With renewed hopes of progress under the terms of the Treaty of 1866, and with fresh impetus given the western trade over the Fort Smith road, Boggy Depot again assumed its position as a thriving town. In 1866, the Choctaw Council granted Captain Charles LeFlore the privilege of establishing a toll-bridge where the Fort Smith road crossed Boggy River, a mile east of town. Since the tide of immigration to Texas
and other points out West increased and great droves of cattle and horses were being driven north, Captain LeFlore’s bridge proved a lucrative business, the grant of the Council having stipulated the rates of toll as follows: "for each four-wheeled wagon or vehicle drawn by a span of horses, mules or oxen, twenty-five cents; and twenty-five cents for each additional span; twelve and a half cents for man and horse; for each animal in a drove of horses, mules, cattle, hogs, or sheep, one cent; and for a single horse, mule, or other animal, five cents."
Main Street of Old Boggy Depot bore the appearance of prosperity. Here were to be seen pretentious residences, neat cottages, a hotel, several large two-story buildings, and several smaller buildings, of which one was a bakery and another an apothecary’s shop. The north side of the street also boasted a flagstone walk for some distance.
Along this thoroughfare creaked the great tar-pole wagons loaded with provisions and goods for the western military camps. These wagons were drawn by six to eight yoke of huge oxen each of which were branded O T (Overland Transit). In the summer a smell of tar arose from the tar-buckets swinging underneath the wagons, and the oxen, their tongues hanging out, panted with the heat as they slowly but patiently obeyed the crack of the "black-snake" whips and the cries of their drivers. If it was late in the afternoon when the freight wagons made their appearance, they continued their way to "Little Round Prairie," west of town. There camp was made, the oxen yoked and belled and turned loose to graze for the night. At evening and at dawn the different notes of the ox bells made sweet music that still lingers in the hearts of same of the old-timers who grew up to love Old Boggy Depot.
The town had its Masonic Lodge, too, organized by Rev. J. S. Murrow, the first lodge in the present State of Oklahoma, after the Civil War. It was named "Oklahoma Lodge" by Gov. Allen Wright, and received its charter from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas in October, 1869. Its meetings were held on the upper floor of the new church building. The charter members were Rev. R. J. Hogue, Gov. Allen Wright, Capt. G. B. Hester, Joseph J. Phillips, James Riley, Giles Thompson, Captain Drennan, A. J. Martin, Joseph Ward; George Colbert, J. D. Davis, George Downing, and Rev. J. S. Murrow.
Giles Thompson was a prosperous Choctaw citizen who operated a salt works on Salt Creek, about three miles south of Old Boggy Depot. People from other communities many miles away often visited the town on their way to buy salt at Thompson’s works. One old-timer has particularly spoken of the purity of the salt manufactured here, saying "Yo’ had to have two silver wheels (holding up a forefinger and thumb to indicate a dollar) to buy a bushel, but yo’ meat sho’ didn’t spile when yo’ used it!" One time the people in the neighborhood were greatly excited when Jesse James and his men, the notorious robber gang from Missouri, swooped down on the salt works and robbed Giles Thompson of several hundred dollars in gold that he had saved up and had hidden in his house. As there were no banks in the country in early days, people either left their money with the merchants in town, or hid it away at home.
A unique enterprise that flourished during several fall seasons should not be omitted in recounting Old Boggy’s history. At a particular place in the creek,4 northeast of town, the water ran swiftly over a bed of rocks; here a mill, something like an old-fashioned sorghum mill, was set up by Captain Hester for extracting and cleaning the seeds of bois d’arc apples which could be found in great quantities in Boggy bottom. The apples were first crushed in the mill, the pulp running into a trough sitting in the swift water, where the seeds were washed clean. The seeds were then taken out, and after being dried, were sacked and sent by ox wagons to Fort Smith; from there they were shipped to points in Missouri and Kansas and sold for planting osage-orange hedges, popularly used instead of fences on the farms in those states.
4.This creek was at that time often erroneously called Delaware Creek; it was really the west branch of Boggy River which divided into two streams, about six miles west of north of Boggy Depot, forming what was then called "The Island." The two branches joined again south of Captain LeFlore’s bridge which was over the east branch. The mouth of Delaware Creek empties; into the main streams of Boggy River, some distance above the north end of "The Island." The Fort Smith road passed over the lower end of "The Island," thus crossing the two branches of Boggy about 100 yards above their confluence. The River is a fickle stream for when Captain LeFlore built his bridge in 1866, its east branch, in this vicinity, was the larger, but when the flour mill was built the west branch carried the most water; to-day the main body of water flows through what was a dry slough, leaving the mill dam in a deep, almost waterless channel to the west.
Muriel H. Wright.
Osage-orange hedges may be seen there even to-day, probably many of them having been started from the seeds that came from the vicinity of Old Boggy Depot?
Finally, another enterprise that enlisted the enthusiasm and co-operation of the citizens of the vicinity, was the establishment of a flour mill and cotton gin on the creek, a half mile northeast of town, by Gov. Allen Wright. This was an important undertaking, for there was no other mill like it throughout the southern part of the Indian Territory at that time. For several years the people living within a radius of seventy-five miles came to have their wheat ground here. The building record of this mill furnishes a little history in itself, for it seems as if everyone in the vicinity of Old Boggy had some business with the mill or took part in its building. In the record appear the names of R. L. Loyd, G. B. Hester, J. J. Phillips, J. L. Caldwell, J. Parker Gibbons, Ben Carter, Dr. A. A. Taylor, Rev. J. Y. Bryce, Milton Brown, Lafayette Mosely, Dr. T. J. Bond, Henry Hotchkin, Dr. Alfred Dunn and many others. Then there is a part of the miller’s account of the wheat and corn ground, of the cotton ginned and hauled to Texas, altogether giving a word picture of a part —of the life that took place at Old Boggy.
The record states, "Commenced to work on Mill House Aug. 22d, 1873—Commenced to grind flour Aug. 19th, 1874," giving the total cost as $8,055.25. A part of the machinery, the best made at that time, was listed as consisting of "Cottongin press, Water wheel, Bolting cloth, Gearing shafts, Pulleys, Belt, Turbine wheel, etc." In order to accommodate the "elevator" and the "smutter" of the flour mill, the mill-house, itself, was a substantial two-story building, erected on a well laid stone foundation and heavy sills, about eight feet higher than the bank of the creek, to be above high water. Outside were heavy staircases leading to the first floor and to the cotton platform of the gin-room. On the inside, one large room contained the hopper, the bolter, and other machinery of the flour mill; another room was the gin-room, with a well laid press floor, where were the levers, the screw, etc., of the cotton gin.
Among the laborers of the mill, the names of the negro workers, well known as the old slaves and servants in the community, are listed. One of these was Johnson Cline (or
Love), who held first place for his honesty and trustworthiness. As a teamster and a past master in handling the oxen that he loved, he freighted from Fort Smith for the merchants of Boggy Depot for years, driving many a wagon load of merchandise and boxes of gold and silver, along the Fort Smith road, without the loss of so much as a penny to his employers. He was an amusing character, with his wooly hair tightly plaited in many little braids carefully rolled with pieces of eel-skin; with his face wrinkling up and his white teeth shining when he gave his chuckling laugh.
One time Captain LeFlore’s bridge over Boggy River was in need of repairs, a temporary crossing being made some distance down stream where the banks were steep and the water was deep. As it happened Johnson was the first to cross here; a few hours later he drove into town, his big oxen still wet and steaming from floundering in the mud and water of the crossing. Someone asked, "Well, Johnson, how’d you find the new ford?"
"Huh, call dat a fo’d?" grinned Johnson. "Needs a fe’y boat!"
While it may not properly be a part of the history of Old Boggy Depot, yet a little story of Johnson’s love affairs may not be amiss here. He had two ardent lady loves, by the names of Malvina and Polly, buxom negro girls, who were exceedingly jealous of one another. In fact, Johnson, with his eel-skin covered braids, was lost sight of in the fierce rivalry that existed between the two; one day Malvina would be about to win, then Polly by a coup d’etat would get ahead. In the meantime, Johnson was the victim of frequent admonishings, of "I declare, Johnson!" and "Tut, tut, Johnson!" from certain citizens of Old Boggy, on days when first one and then the other of their kitchens shone less brightly. But Johnson would only hang his head and grin sheepishly; it was quite evident that it was hard for him to make two kitchens shine at the same time. In the records of the Old Boggy flour mill, appears the entry, "Oct. 1st Pd. by 1 bu corn Malvina on Johnson Cline’s a/c $1.00" On the next line, evidently set down a few hours later, one finds, "Oct. 1st Pd. by order of Polly on Johnson Cline’s a/c $2.25." But in the long siege that lasted during many trips of the ox teams over the Fort Smith road, Malvina finally won
In 1871-72, constant travel along the stage road through Old Boggy Depot to Denison, Texas, via Fort Washita, was increased by the passage back and forth of the men engaged in the construction of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad, the first railroad through the Indian Territory, the survey for the right-of-way lying about twelve miles east of town. Boggy Depot continued to flourish but soon found itself having to compete with the rival towns that sprang up along the railroad. Joseph J. Phillips moved his store of goods and set up a large mercantile establishment at Atoka. About this time, the old stage road took a new route, crossing Boggy River about three miles south of Captain LeFlore’s bridge, where Julius Folsom had recently been granted the right to erect a toll-bridge. The new road struck the farmer stage line to Fort Washita, about two miles south of Old Boggy Depot. Here, T. D. Griffith, the Choctaw and Chickasaw agent, established the agency house and a small hotel was built, the point being called New Boggy. Captain Hester afterward moved his store to this place and was made postmaster of New Boggy, on January 22, 1874; the name of New Boggy being changed to Boggy Depot on December 26, 1883. In the meantime, Old Boggy was gradually deserted by its former citizens. Since New Boggy was situated twelve miles from the railroad and travel overland on the stage line was diverted to other points, it never amounted to anything more than a small, inland village. Its name still appears on the map of Atoka County, a country store and postoffice being located there.
As for the people that lived at Old Boggy Depot, no better class could be found in the West. Here lived William R. Guy, whose son became governor of the Chickasaws, and whose grandson is Congressman Charles D. Carter, during the twenty years since statehood having represented the Third District of Oklahoma. Dr. T. J. Bond received his education in Kentucky and was one of the ’first Choctaws, before the war, to finish in medicine. Mrs. Bond (afterward Mrs. Robb of Atoka), a daughter of Rev. Israel Folsom, was prominent in the Order of the Eastern Star and in Baptist Church work. Captain G. B. Hester, who became wealthy as a merchant, was originally from North Carolina. Mrs. Hester had come to the Chickasaw country as a teacher and a missionary in the Methodist Church, before the war; she is still living
in Muskogee, where she is honored and loved. Their daughter, Daisy Hester, is the wife of Ex-Senator Robert L. Owen, of Oklahoma. Rev. Allen Wright, another resident, was four years governor of the Choctaw Nation; he was a scholar and earnest Christian worker for his people. Mrs. Wright had been a teacher and a missionary in the Presbyterian Church. Their four sons and their nephew, Alinton Telle, who grew up under their care, were educated as professional men. Dr. E. N. Wright of Olney is a prominent citizen of Oklahoma; the late Rev. Frank H. Wright was the noted Indian evangelist and singer; Allen Wright, Jr., is a lawyer of McAlester; J. Brooks Wright is a field clerk in the United States Indian service. The late Alinton Telle was a well-known lawyer of Atoka; his son is also a lawyer and is now serving his third term as clerk of the District Court of Atoka and Coal counties.
Captain Charles LeFlore was another prominent Choctaw citizen of Old Boggy Depot. One of his daughters was the wife of Ex-Governor Lee Cruce of Oklahoma. George W. Harkins, a polished and well-educated Choctaw, lived in the vicinity and was counted as one of the citizens of the town. His grandson is Lee Harkins, of Tulsa, editor of the New Oklahoma magazine, "The American Indian." The late Hon. Charles Hobart Heald, a resident of Old Boggy Depot before and during the Civil War, married Eliza Guy; members of his family are wealthy owners of oil interests at Healdton, Oklahoma. Surely a charm of good fortune seems to have followed the name of Boggy Depot, for many other prominent persons could be named, whose families once lived there.
To-day Old Boggy Depot has disappeared except for the ruins of two or three houses, and the residence of Gov. Allen Wright, which is still preserved. This substantial home was built in 1860, from the great oaks that grew in the vicinity. The tall chimneys built by the Englishman, Charles Sparrow, are still standing as perfect as when they were first erected. The old-fashioned windows, the hand-dressed doors with their long panels, and the wide porch across the front of the house lend a charm to this one of the few remaining pre-war homes in Oklahoma. It was here that many persons had a happy sojourn, and many distinguished travelers found a hearty welcome. The place is now owned by Mrs. Anna Wright Lud-
low, who is making efforts to preserve it, as it appeared years ago.
Other remains of Old Boggy are clumps of china-berry trees that mark the sites of former residences, a portion of the stage line road or Main Street, and the old cemetery. The land around this cemetery was purchased a short time ago by Mrs. Anna Wright Ludlow and donated to a board of trustees, made up of persons who lived in the community, thus perpetuating this historic spot, where lie the graves of Rev. Israel Folsom, Rev. Cyrus Kingsbury, Gov. Allen Wright, Harriet Mitchel Wright, Miss Clara Eddy, and many others who so long ago worked for the advancement of Oklahoma. As if to make more complete the work of these persons who devoted their lives to our beautiful State, is the grave of a soldier who fell in the cause of America in the late European War.
At one side of the cemetery are a number of unmarked graves all in a row. One of these has a rough sand-stone marker, bearing the following inscription:
D. J. Hendrickson
NAMES OF BUILDINGS ON PLAN OF BOGGY DEPOT