Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 9, No. 3
September, 1931

Page 349

Rev. Theo. F. Brewer


Theodore Frelinghuysen Brewer, for fifty years identified with the life of the old Indian Territory and the new State of Oklahoma, was born in Gibson County, Tennessee, January 30, 1845. His father, James Moody Brewer, born in North Carolina, early removed to Tennessee, where he was a practicing physician of considerable reputation and influence. He was an ardent Whig in politics and an enthusiastic follower of Henry Clay. It was in his mind to name his infant son after his great political hero, but the name had already been bestowed upon so many boys in the county that the doctor did the next best thing and called his son Theodore Frelinghuysen, in honor of Clay's dignified and upright associate in the famous campaign of 1844.

The little boy who was known to the family and to an everwidening circle of friends as "Hite," developed into the faithful and zealous preacher, who early acquired and never lost a keen interest in the political affairs of his country.

The earliest ancester known in the family history was Reese Brewer, a lawyer, of Virginia. Reese had seven brothers and three sons. Sterling, the youngest son, was the grandfather of the subject of this sketch. Sterling removed from Virginia to Raleigh, North Carolina, and later to Nashville, Tennessee. From 1817 to 1821 he was a member of the state senate of Tennessee from the counties of Robertson, Hickman, and Dickson. His oldest son was James Moody, father of Theodore Frelinghuysen.

Dr. James Moody Brewer bought a farm in Gibson County where, as he said, he could "educate" his boys. The young Brewer's formal education was obtained in county schools, and in Yorkville Academy and Andrew College in his native county, but he learned much on his father's five hundred acre farm. For example he tells us that he acquired a greater knowledge of botany from "Uncle Henry" and Cleburne, two of his father's negroes, than he could ever have gotten from books.

His education was interrupted by the opening of the war between the states. When the Yorkville Rifles were mustered in, May 1861, he joined the company, but on account of his youth his father would not permit him to enter the service. In February 1862, however, he joined Captain Holmes's company, in the 47th Tennessee regiment. In the infantry service he took part in the battles of Shiloh and Franklin, but the greater part of his war experience was in the cavalry of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The first great raid of Forrest into Tennessee seems to have impressed him most of all. After the fall of Selma, Alabama, his troop surrendered, and was disbanded May 12, 1865.

After a few desultory months of farming and school teaching, he was admitted into the Memphis Conference of the M. E. Church, South, at Jackson, Tenn., November 10, 1866. He was assigned to the Dyersburg circuit, which contained nineteen preaching places which he must visit monthly. He served this and other appointments in Tennessee and North Mississippi before he was married to Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Dyer, who before her first marriage was Miss Webster.

The wedding took place in Corinth, Miss., March 26, 1873. It was a happy union for forty-three years. Mrs. Brewer was a woman of great force of character and an ideal help-mate to her husband until her death at McAlester in 1915. There were five children born to them. Three of these died in childhood. Two yet live to cherish the memory of their beloved father, Robert Paine Brewer, a banker, formerly of Tulsa, now of New York City, and Bessie Brewer, now Mrs. Joseph McConnell of New York City.

For a few years Mr. Brewer belonged to the Arkansas Conference, being stationed at Lewisburg and Altus, but in August 1878 he was transferred to the Indian Mission Conference, which included the area of the old Indian Territory. In the scant notes of his life left in his

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own handwriting, he says that he was appointed principally to do educational work.

He became principal teacher in the Asbury Manual School for Creek Indians at Eufaula. For two years he taught with the aid of interpreters. The ruins of this ancient institution may still be seen east of Eufaula. In 1880 he took charge of the "railroad circuit" which included Eufaula, Muskogee, and Vinita. He built the first church of his denomination in Muskogee, the first stone building in the town.

At Muskogee he also founded Harrell International Institute, a school for girls, which later became Spaulding Female College. For twenty years or more, he presided over this institution, from which were graduated many of Oklahoma's most prominent women. For two years he was president of the Willie Halsell College at Vinita.

Mr. Brewer's educational record further includes membership on the General Education Board of the M. E. Church, South; membership on the first Text-book Commission for the new state of Oklahoma; twelve year's service on the State Board of Education, to which he was first appointed by Governor Robert L. Williams; and three years as high school inspector for the University of Okahoma.

In September 1882, Mr. Brewer began the publication of "Our Brother in Red," a monthly journal, whose motto was "Christian education the hope of the Indian." After four years this sixteen-page monthly was changed to a five column, eight-page weekly, and adopted as the official organ of the Indian Mission Conference. Ten years later the paper was turned over to the Conference, but after a few years its publication was suspended.

Eight times Mr. Brewer was elected as a member of the quadrential General Conference, the supreme legislative body for the church in the South.

He was a prominent member of the United Confederate Veterans, and attended many of their annual reunions in various cities of the Southern States, holding titles from chaplain up to brigadier general.

He was a thirty-second degree Mason and took special interest in the affairs of that great brotherhood. At the time of his death he was hospital commissioner for the East Oklahoma Conference.

Despite these various activities, his inmost heart was in the work of preaching the gospel. During most of the years outlined above, he was in the active work of the ministry, and it was his chief desire to die in the service. Technically his desire was gratified, but in reality his last year was spent on a sick-bed.

He died at the home of his son, R. P. Brewer, of Tulsa, April 6, 1928, and was buried in Muskogee on the Easter Sunday following. Before the funeral, the body lay in state, and was viewed by throngs of devoted friends and acquaintances.

Such is the formal record of a busy life, fifty years of which were spent in Oklahoma. As preacher, teacher, and editor, he had a wide acquaintance throughout the state and in the South. Many prominent politicians were his friends and valued his judgement on public affairs. He was in demand as a preacher and speaker on special occasions. He was constantly called on to speak at college exercises, to dedicate churches, to perform marriage and baptismal ceremonies, and to conduct funerals.

Mr. Brewer had a rare and charming personality which made him a center of interest in any gathering. But above all things he was a christian gentleman, who never allowed the things of the world to obscure his view of the greater world beyond.

University of Oklahoma.

Page 351


Judge Frank B. Burford

FRANK BRADEN BURFORD, born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, November 7th, 1884, was the son of John H. and Mary A. Burford.

At six years of age he accompanied his parents to Oklahoma City, where his father had received an appointment in the United States Land Office.

In 1892 they moved to El Reno and four years later Guthrie became their place of residence, where his father was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Frank attended the public schools and graduated from the Guthrie high school at the age of fourteen. The same year he passed the examination and was admitted to the Bar. He was fifteen when admitted to practice in The Territorial Supreme Court.

He entered the University of Kansas, where he finished receiving his B. A. degree in three and a half years, receiving also the Key of Honor.

The remainder of the college term found him studying taxidermy and proof reading to prepare himself for issuing Supreme Court reports. Three volumes were issued.

By this means he earned the funds, which enabled him to attend the University of Virginia where he received his LL. B. degree. During his last year he was president of his class.

The fraternities to which he belonged were Beta Theta Pi, Phi Delta Phi, Phi Beta Kappa, The Raven.

Returning home before the age of twenty-one—he located in Tulsa. In the law office of Mr. Charles Wrightsman he remained one year—going to Bartlesville to form a partnership with John H. Kane.

He was assistant county attorney of Washington County at that time.

His father having retired from the bench, Judge Burford left Bartlesville to enter the practice of law with his father in Guthrie in 1911. Was appointed Referee in Bankruptcy for the Western Federal District and continued in that capacity until 1914.

In 1913 Judge Burford was married to Miss Norma Heilman of Guthrie.

During the Fall of 1914 Governor Robert L. Williams appointed him on The Supreme Court Commission, where he remained until 1916.

He then joined his father, General Roy Hoffman and Judge J. B. A. Robertson in the practice of law.

The death of his father occurred in September 1922.

Judge Frank Burford continued his association with the firm and soon became widely known as an able lawyer—having many clients among oil, cotton and grain concerns.

Always he had taken a keen delight in camping, hunting, fishing, and in fact all outdoor activities.

In his early youth these excursions were made with his father—later spending many hours in such pastimes with his wife and close friends.

The knowledge he possessed of animals and bird life was extensive—for a time boy scout examiner in this subject.

Judge Burford assisted the State Fish and Game Commission in numerous ways. In 1927-28 he served as President of the State Izaak Walton Leauge—a faithful attendant and always called on for an address at conventions.

Since 1929 he has been one of the Vice Presidents of National Izaak Walton League of America—conducting the National meeting this past April at Chicago, during the absence in Europe of the National President.

In this organization—he had formed some very close friends from many points in the United States. They, too, were interested in the

Page 352

Preservation and Conservation of Wild Life for the coming generations—working against many odds towards the fulfillment of their dream.

This lover of the outdoors, this valorous, learned contender, this champion of wild life, this courteous gentleman, the elegant sportsman, the noble husband, devoted son, delightful companion, is no more. This shining legal light has gone out suddenly and forever.

His professional standard was high and unwavering. His well-trained legal mind, polished and scintillating, was not cold and aloof, as so often happens in the aristocracy of brains, but warm, radiant, palpitating, vital with the graces of comradery, and good-fellowship. He loved his partners in the office or in the field. He had the spirit of the chase; his courage and perservance were infectious, whether with the books or with dog and gun. His life was fine and clean and square and pure and sweet and true.

As one who knew him intimately, almost from the cradle, and throughout his mature, successful career, to the moment of the untimely tragedy which marked the end, I do not expect in this life to look upon his like again. Others I have been permitted to closely know possess lovely qualities but none the complete well-rounded whole in all the things that go to make that noblest work of God—a man.

He reverenced the hallowed memory of his Father, a pioneer and one of the ablest jurists of the State. He was never too busy when in town to spend each day a little time with his aged and infirm Mother. His home life was ideal.

Frank Burford has gone. His joyous, bountiful, transcendent life has closed. With his passing Nature lost a lover, the Bar an ornament, and the State a distinguished son. For myself the void can never be filled—he was as close as a blood-brother.



Preeman Johnson McClure, born Sept. 11th, 1864, on a farm in old Blue County, Choctaw Nations, near what is now Caddo, Okla., educated at Spencer Academy, a school for Choctaw Indian boys, about 8 miles Southwest of Antlers, member of the Choctaw Council from old Coal County, Delegates to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention from district III (in what is now McCurtain County); engaged in farming and stockraising, residing at what is now North McAlester and later at Eagletown.

He was married at Bennington, Ind. Ter., June 16th, 1886 to Caroline L. Schermerhorn, to which union came four children; Harvey Roger (died in infancy), Mary Elizabeth (Mrs. W. B. McAlester, McAlester), Margaret Schermerhorn (Mrs. J. W. Nolen, McAlester,) Sudye Jeanette (Mrs. W. F. Cleckler, Oklahoma City). Later he was married to Laura Dyer to which union came three children, May, Artimissa and James, all of whom reside in McCurtain County. His mother, Laura Ann Ashford, a white woman, born in Arkansas and his father Issac McClure, a Choctaw Indian, born in Miss. and as a boy of eighteen came with his family to the Choctaw Nation in the Indian Territory.

He died on Sept. 22, 1910 on his Choctaw allotment on which the town of Broken Bow is located and is buried at the Denison Cemetery near Idabel.

Page 353


Any history of Oklahoma would be incomplete without a sketch of the life of James Fountain Robinson, mine operator, builder and publisher of Miami, Oklahoma, whose death occurred Nov. 20, 1929, at Denver, Colorado.

He was born in Anderson County, Kansas, Jan. 25, 1865, a son of the late John Wesley Robinson and Mrs. Elizabeth Robinson, nee McLaughlin. Members of his immediate family include his widow, Mrs. Catherine Robinson, two daughters, Mrs. Roy T. Wills of Miami and Mrs. Clair E. Youse of Baxter Springs, Kansas, and his son John A. Robinson of Miami. He had two brothers T. L. Robinson of Miami and S. D. Robinson, who died recently, and a sister Mrs. Annie Green, who also lives in Miami.

Mr. Robinson's father was a farmer and stockman. The family moved from Kansas when he was a small boy to Barton County, Missouri, near Lamar, where his boyhood was spent on a farm.

On August 21, 1884 he was married to Miss Catherine Green at Lamar, where he was engaged in the grocery business with a brother, T. L. Robinson. On account of competition with fourteen other concerns and the limited capital of the brothers the store was sold and his family remained in Missouri whilst he came to what was then the Cherokee Nation of the Indian Territory, seeking a new business field, where for two or three years he engaged in drilling wells. As soon as possible he sent for his family and established his home in what is now Ottawa County. In a short time he embarked in the grocery business with Charles M. Harvey, now of El Paso Texas and later one of his associates in the Commerce Mining and Royalty Company, as a partner. He was also engaged for a time in the real estate and insurance business. It was in the lead and zinc mining industry, however, in which he established himself as one of the leading business men of Northeast Oklahoma. His first experience in the mining business, however, had been for a short while in Idaho and Colorado. He also had an interest at one time in a lead and zinc mine in Joplin, Missouri. When rich lead and zinc deposits were discovered in what is now Ottawa County, he and his associates Charles M. Harvey, G. L. Coleman and A. E. Coleman acquired lands and leases which later proved to be valuable mining properties.

The Northeast Oklahoma Railroad, the Miami Baptist Hospital, the Northeast Oklahoma Junior College, and many local religious, educational and business institutions, which he and his associates founded and helped build, caused him to be readily ranked as one of the foremost citizens of the State.

Under his direction the Miami News-Record became one of the leading daily newspapers of Northeast Oklahoma. He was also largely instrumental in the consolidation of the two largest national banks of Ottawa county and the erection of the new banking home of what is now the First National Bank, although he did not live to see its completion. It has been said that through his resourcefulness and readiness to assume risk and responsibility no patron of any Miami bank ever suffered a loss of his or her deposit.

Early in life he became a member of the Baptist church. During the days of the old Indian Territory the influence of the church was a less dominating factor in his life but with the increase of his family and home ties came a desire for closer relationship with the church.

Page 354

The accumulation of wealth seemed to strengthen these ties and for many years his interest in religious affairs made him one of the outstanding leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention. He loved his own denomination greatly, but his generosity knew no bounds of denomination, race or creed. Few churches, schools or hospitals in need of funds ever appealed to him in vain. He enjoyed many close personal friendships and held the respect and esteem of all with whom he came in contact. He disliked display and discouraged extravagence and many attributed his success to the fact that he loved the simpler things of life and always placed the common good above personal gain.

J. F. Robinson

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