Muriel H. Wright
Old Boggy Depot received one of its pioneer sons on January 10, 1932, when Doctor Eliphalet Nott Wright was laid to rest in the family burial plot of the old cemetery where may be found the names of other early day personages who will always live in Oklahoma's history. The homestead of Doctor Wright's parents and the cemetery are all that remain of the once thriving village of Boggy Depot. Three quarters of a century ago it was the capital of the Choctaw Nation and an outstanding mart of trade in the Indian Territory. Situated at a point where converged the main trails from the north and the east to Texas and California, a colorful throng of explorers, traders, gold seekers, doughty troops of the Government, gayly bedecked Indians of the Plains, soldiers of fortune, and home seekers traveling in "white sailed, prairie schooners," passed to and fro along the main thoroughfare of the village, their faces alight with the hopes, the aspirations, and the dreams of what the future held in store. While this was the teeming surface of life at the village, yet its character lay deeply secure in the Christian principles and high ideals of its citizens. Today the name of Boggy Depot has passed into history, nevertheless its spirit played no small part in the advancement and in the achievements of the Great Southwest.
In 1859, Reverend Allen Wright was selected to take charge of the Presbyterian Church at Boggy Depot and the mission work at several outposts within a radius of fifty miles. From that time he and his wife, Harriet Mitchell Wright, made the village their home. Their first child had been born near Armstrong Academy, Choctaw Nation, on April 3, 1858. He was named Eliphalet Nott after the eminent divine, Doctor Eliphalet Nott, president of Union College of Schenectady, New York, from 1802 to 1866, who was also an inventor and a writer of note. During Allen Wright's attendance at Union College, he had come to re-
vere his college president and Mrs. Nott, both of whom took a warm, personal interest in the welfare and the happiness of the young Indian student. Upon his return to the Choctaw Nation in 1855, Allen Wright attained distinction as a civil and religious leader, a scholarly translator and writer, and an educator and minister of the Gospel among his people. After his death in 1885, the Necrological Report of Union Theological Seminary (New York City), in which seminary he was prepared for the ministry, gave the following tribute to Reverend Wright's character:
"He was a loving and wise father, and a devoted husband. He was sound in doctrine, strong in faith, and humble in his daily walk and conversation, receiving the honors his fellow-men delighted to give him without undue elation. A firm trust in God, that made him calm and patient under whatever stress of labor and trial, was a leading trait of his character.
"His life was one of continuous and unsparing activity in the Master's work, and one of great physical and mental fatigue. He was the very pillar of the Presbytery, punctual in attendance, and thorough and efficient in every duty. His culture and courtliness, his fine social qualities, and excellent good sense, won for him consideration at Washington, whither he was called from time to time. His own people held him in high honor, and have mourned his death as a public calamity."
His wife had come to the Choctaw Nation in 1855 as a mission teacher from Dayton, Ohio, under the auspices of the Presbyterian Board of Missions. Her father, James Henry Mitchell, a civil engineer and a highly respected man in his community, traced his descent from such leaders of the Pilgrims as Elder Brewster and Edward. Doty who had come to America in the Mayflower. Her mother, Martha Skinner, of Pennsylvania, was a devoted Christian and member of the Presbyterian Church. From such ancestry, Harriet Mitchell inherited a sterling quality of unfaltering courage which strengthened her sense of duty and high
purpose. After her death in 1894 at Atoka, Choctaw Nation, the words of a special memorial to Harriet Mitchell Wright who had been Past Worthy matron of the Ohoyohoma Chapter, No. 1, O. E. S., stated that she was a shining example of the Christian life, "of whom it could be safely said that she had laid up for her self `treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal,' for her heart was of Heavenly things."
It would take a long story to tell Doctor Wright's reminiscences of his youth, which included incidents during the Civil War when Boggy Depot was a Confederate post. He told of incidents on board the Mississippi steamboat during the trip north at the close of the War when the whole family visited his Grandfather and Grandmother Mitchell at Dayton, the first time his mother had seen her parents in eleven years. After a happy reunion, the journey was continued to Washington where his father had been sent as one of the commissioners to represent the Choctaw Nation in making a new treaty with the Government as the result of the War. There were accounts of the days at the neighborhood school of Boggy Depot and the teacher, Miss Clara Eddy, a graduate of Emma Willard Seminary of Troy, New York. Miss Eddy had a fine personality and was held in high regard for her thoroughness and discipline as a teacher. Then there were reminiscences of Captain Hester, Boggy Depot's most prosperous merchant. The time when Captain Hester sent a large shipment of cattle on one of the first through freight trains over the M. K. & T. railroad from Atoka to St. Louis was a momentous occasion. He invited the fourteen year, old boy to accompany him on the trip. There were also stories of long trips with his father to camp meetings and to Council when the two visited among the father's Choctaw friends. These stories were interspersed with descriptions of such persons as Nanamatabi, Coleman Cole, Judge Joel Everidge, Cole Nelson, and many other well known Choctaws of his father's time.
After several terms of school under Miss Eddy's tutelage, a year was spent in the preparatory department of Westminister College, at Fulton, Missouri, and three years at Spencer Academy, about ten miles from Doaksville,
Choctaw Nation. Those years were interrupted by one year spent at home when he and his younger brother, Frank, decided they did not want to attend school any more. "That is all very well," replied the father, "but you cannot idle away your time." Therefore in lieu of school there was a fall, a winter, a spring, and a summer spent in plowing, planting, hoeing, digging, chopping wood, riding for cattle, work in the flour mill on Boggy Creek, and many other duties under the supervision of Mr. Loyd, overseer of the father's farm and ranch at that period. By the second fall, the two boys were enthusiastic about continuing their studies at Spencer Academy.
Entering Union College, at Schenectady, his father's Alma Mater, in the fall of 1878 was full of new experiences for him and his brother, between whom there was always an unusual affection from having been constant companions and schoolmates together. Following in the footsteps of their father, they were initiated into the Delta Phi national fraternity. Those college days with such companions as John Peoli, of Havana, Cuba; Charles Temple, of Norwood, England; Tracy Walworth, of Saratoga Springs, N. Y.; Frank Burton, of Gloversville, N. Y.; Cleveland Hale, (of Cleveland, Ohio; Davidson Flower and Joseph E. Ransdell, of Alexandria, Loiusiana, brought warm friendships that were continued through the years. In addition, the father's old friends among the faculty members of Union College and the citizens of Schenectady took an interest in his sons who on their part did not fail to respond to such gracious attentions. In Doctor Wright's junior year, his father had five children away at boarding school and college, which called for heavy expenditures and necessary sacrifices on the part of the whole family. Instead of completing his classical course with the Class of 1882, the young man began his professional course in the study of medicine at Albany Medical College, New York. In the summer of 1883, he returned to Boggy Depot where he found a heavy practice awaiting him, since physicians with training were scarce. One day early in September, his father called him to say that he had not been able to raise enough money to send all the children away to school that fall. His brother, Frank, who was studying for the minis-
try in New York, was to be assisted by Choctaw national funds under the rule of the nation at that time of allowing financial aid for the college education of one member of a family. There had been no other thought in the eldest son's mind than that he would complete his medical course in 1884. He set out on horseback to make collections from the cases he had attended during the summer. After riding over the country for nearly a week, he returned home with $300 in cash and more than $150 in notes. He went to Captain Hester, and told him how he wanted to complete his medical course at Albany by the next spring. Captain Hester, who had always been fond of him and was interested in seeing him succeed, gladly offered to pay cash for the notes since he knew they were good. That meant something over $450 in cash with which to defray his college expenses. The young man returned home and found his father writing in his study. Greetings were passed between them. "Father," he said, "will you drive me to Atoka in the morning?"
"Where are you going?" replied his father, giving him a searching look.
"I am going back to Albany to college," he said, following with an explanation of how he had raised money to pay his own expenses. As his father listened to him, tears of pride came into his eyes. Without saying a word, he took from his pocket the gold watch that he had purchased in Washington many years before and handed it to his son saying, "Here is my watch. It is all I have just now to give you as a keepsake but I want you to know that I am proud of you."
The young man graduated in his medical course in the spring of 1884 with a high record and with the respect of his associates and instructors. Although he was solicited by his friends to remain in New York State where there were many fine openings in the medical profession, Doctor Wright chose to return to the Indian Territory because he knew the needs and felt the call of his people for medical aid. Forty-eight years later the following tribute to Doctor Wright's place in the history of the medical profession in Oklahoma appeared in the "Journal of the Oklahoma State
Medical Associations," (February, 1932) as written by Dr. L. S. Willour, of McAlester, Oklahoma
My first professional contact in the Indian Territory when I located here in 1905, was with Dr. E. N. Wright. * * * Alert to the latest developments in medicine, trained in methods of diagnosis, thorough, yet conservative in treatment, he stood in this new country, a tower of strength among his professional brethren. He not only recommended, but practiced a very high standard of professional ethics, and along this line helped to lay the foundation upon which has been erected in this State a structure of professional life second to none.
Immediately after his graduation from Albany Medical College, Doctor Wright opened his practice at Boggy Depot. Early the following October he accompanied his father to the meeting of the General Council of the Choctaw Nation at Tushkahoma. The General Council (legislature) of 1884 was in the nature of a national celebration for the Choctaws since Tushkahoma was the new capital of the nation, a new capitol building having just been completed at that point. Doctor Wright's father had been a member of the committee appointed at the Council in 1883 to select the site for the erection of the new capitol. Further than that his father stated that he had named the capital "Tushkahoma" after his eldest son! According to custom among the Choctaws during the nearly three quarters of a century of the existence of their nation as an organized republic, the General Council occasioned the gathering of a large crowd of citizens from all parts of the nation, other than the members of the council. In addition to the opening of the new capitol building in 1884, there was further interest in the inauguration of the new principal chief, Edmund McCurtain, who had been elected as the successor of his brother, Jack McCurtain, in the same office. So a great throng gathered at Tushkahoma, in fact it is said that it was the largest crowd that ever attended a meeting of the General Council. Doctor Wright's descriptions of the gathering, of the prominent Choctaws in attendance, and of what
took place at the council were included among the most interesting of his reminiscences.
On his part it was the first time that Doctor Wright took an active part in Choctaw affairs. He prepared and furthered the passage of a law governing the regulation of the medical profession in the nation. With the passage of the law, Governor Edmund McCurtain appointed him on the first board of medical examiners in the nation, together with Dr. L. C. Tennant, and Dr. Kendrick. Since many persons who were practicing medicine at that time were living in out-of-the-way places, it became necessary for the Board to hold regular examinations at different points in the Choctaw country. The ignorance discovered in those examinations was appalling. Some of students of medicine with a previous training of from one to two years were found but a great majority "had never seen a college!" As a result of the new medical law, these quack practictioners left the nation. Within a few years, physicians came into the Choctaw country who not only complied with the requirements of the new law but also took an active part in furthering the efforts of Doctors Wright, Tennant, and Kendrick and other leading physicians elsewhere in the Indian Territory toward the organization of the Indian Territory Medical Association in 1889, with the idea of strengthening the profession thoroughout the Territory.
In the fall and winter of 1894-5, Doctor Wright pursued a post-graduate course at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City. Upon his return to the Indian Territory, he established his home and his practice at Atoka. He was elected president of the Indian Territory Medical Association in 1903. In his opening address before the Association in its annual meeting held at Tulsa, June 20, 1904, he urged that this Society and the Oklahoma Medical Society be merged as one organization in order to promote the welfare and the advancement of the medical profession in the "Twin Territories," which were in line for statehood. Extracts from Doctor Wright's address are as follows:
"It is my hope that this meeting may give encouragement and zeal and map out such steps for a future organization that will combine unity and strength and a standard of such excellence for the physicians of the Indian Territory, that will be recognized the world over. * * * We at this meeting occupy a very unique position, in that it is the transition period from Territory to Statehood. If anything is to be done toward uplifting our professional standing, and the protection of two million souls, who will step into statehood with us * * *, the beginning must be made now. * * * When we go into statehood, we do not want to come under the Oklahoma Territory laws, and I am sure the physicians of Oklahoma Territory do not want to come under ours. But I think we will all agree to come under one new state law. In order to accomplish this, I would suggest that we at this meeting make the first step looking towards organizing the two territorial associations into one, before the statehood bill passes, thereby getting unity of action, so that our committee on legislation may be organized for work.* * * From the foundation of the several states, and especially the establishing of the United States, the grandest country today, when she determined to stand independent, and so declared by the Declaration of Independence, we find among its signers Dr. Benjamin Rush, a man recognized for his great medical ability, also called to assist in the affairs of state, in creating this great declaration; and just here I would state that this association could do nothing more befitting to his honor, as one of our profession, than to demand that his name be placed in the Hall of Fame. We must lay aside all personal feelings, political and others, and get to work to secure such laws in relation to the practice of medicine that will protect our people from quackery and elevate our professional standard that all other states may point to us with pride. Be not
deceived that this is an easy proposition; but it will call upon our every resource to accomplish it. * * * Every year we see through the press and journals, efforts being made in the different state legislatures to correct or improve the laws relative to the practice of medecine which show us their inadequacy. To obviate such work and save expense upon our organization in the future, I think now is the time to work."
The appointment of a committee to consider this timely suggestion was authorized by the meeting. With its favorable report, the Oklahoma Medical Society took similar action, both associations later reporting favorably to the proposition in their annual meetings in 1905. The final union of the two societies was completed at Oklahoma City in their joint meeting on May 7-9, 1906. Thus the Oklahoma State Medical Association had the unique record of being the first union of any two organizations within the limits of the "Twin Territories," more than a year before Oklahoma was admitted as a state to the Federal Union.
Doctor Wright also was interested in furthering the development of oil in the Choctaw Nation, during the session of the General Council in 1884. A measure was enacted by the Council and signed by Governor Edmund McCurtain, on October 23, bearing the title, "An Act of the General Council of the Choctaw Nation creating the Choctaw Oil and Refining Company, for the purpose of finding petroleum or rock oil, and increasing the revenue of the Choctaw Nation." The concession for the development provided for by this bill, covered the exclusive right to produce, transport by pipe line, and refine petroleum in the Choctaw Nation, or in an area of 6,953,048 acres of land. As one of the incorporators together with his father, Allen Wright, J. F. McCurtain, and A. R. Durant, Doctor Wright was elected first president of the Choctaw Oil and Refining Company for the term of five years. The names of many leading Choctaws were included among the Company's charter members. After many delays and seemingly unsurmountable difficulties, a well was finally begun
in 1887 on Clear Boggy River, twelve miles west of Atoka, and sunk to the depth of over 1,400 feet, a showing of oil and gas being found. Early in 1888, H. W. Faucett, promoter and driller, was forced on account of illness to return to his home in Missouri, where he soon afterward died. While no further attempts could be made to continue the work of development because of pioneer conditions in this country at that time, yet Doctor Wright's enthusiasm and personal efforts in expending his own money and time had resulted in the first drilling test for oil within the boundaries of Oklahoma.
Within a year after his graduation from Albany Medical College, Doctor Wright was employed as chief surgeon and physician for the Missouri-Pacific Coal Mines at Lehigh, Choctaw Nation, where he made his home until 1894. On April 26, 1888, he was united in marriage with Miss Ida Belle Richards, of St. Louis, Missouri. Miss Richards was a graduate of Lindenwood College of St. Charles, Missouri, and had gone to Atoka as a teacher in 1887, under the auspices of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. They were the parents of two daughters, Muriel Hazel and Gertrude Ideala (Mrs. Guy C. Reid), and one son, Eliphalet Nott Wright, jr., who died in infancy.
Doctor Wright was successful in carrying on a heavy practice at Lehigh and in the surrounding country, establishing a brilliant record as a skilled surgeon and physician and as a talented diagnotician as well. In addition were the demands upon his time and strength in furthering the work of the Medical Board and of the Choctaw Oil and Refining Company. Those were the days of the the pioneer in this country when a person with his ability and training could not devote himself to one pursuit alone. The hour of the specialist in a chosen field had not yet arrived. As a leader in the van of progress, versatility was demanded of him. To have refused a call in any line of endeavor would have been tantamount to a lack of intelligence, vision, and courage.
For a time during Thompsen McKinney's administration as principal chief of the Choctaw Nation (1886-8), he was appointed "coal weigher, at Lehigh," a position that
had charge of examining the records and reporting to the Choctaw government the amounts of coal mined and sold at that point. In 1890, Wilson N. Jones, of Blue County, Choctaw Nation, was elected principal chief. Governor Jones had not only been a friend of Doctor Wright's father but also admired the ability and the determination his son had shown in his efforts along lines of progress. Soon after his inauguration, Governor Jones appointed Doctor Wright national agent for the nation. After the construction of the first railroad through the Choctaw country, this position had been created by the General Council to have charge of making contracts for the development of all stone, coal, and timber and the general supervision of the offices of inspector, district collectors and coal weighers. Previous to 1890, Choctaw authorities had had trouble in collecting the revenues, particularly in the timber industry with the result that millions of feet of the finest timber in the country had been taken out of the nation without the stipulated amounts being paid it for that privilege. Through Doctor Wright's efforts during the next four years, contracts were let to responsible persons, records were kept, and the revenues due the nation were paid promptly by the contractors into the Choctaw treasury. As a result, the nation enjoyed a period of unprecedented prosperity, with prospects of affording its citizens increased opportunities for progressing and developing along social, educational, and economic lines through their own efforts as a people. It was during this time that Jones Male Academy, near Hartshorne, and Tushkahoma Female Seminary, near Tushkahoma, were established by the General Council, in addition to the improvement and maintenance of New Hope Female Seminary, near Skullyville; Armstrong Male Academy, near Bokchito, and New Spencer Male Academy, near the present site of Soper, Oklahoma. In addition, all expenses were met for elementary education elsewhere in the nation, for college education of Choctaw students in the States, and for the maintenance of the Choctaw government.
During Governor Jones' administrations, Doctor Wright furthered plans for organization of a Choctaw and Chickasaw company for the construction of a railroad
through the two nations. Primarily this organization was to increase the revenues of the nations and give a basis for the operation of the coal interests, thus securing an opportunity to realize the value of this property worth approximately seventy-five million dollars at that time. Owing to complications due to conditions existing in the Indian Territory, the plans for such an organization did not mature. Nevertheless, they representated Doctor Wright's efforts looking toward an efficient development of the most valuable nature resource belonging to the two nations. It may be noted that throughout his life, he always took the position that there were capable citizens in the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, who could manage any business organized to handle their property and administer it to the benefit of every individual citizen of the two nations. His predictions with reference to the coal property have come to pass. For thirty-five years, this property has been paying dwindling revenues and today a large portion of the coal itself remains depreciated to a very small fraction of its value in 1890-4, thus causing a great loss.
Early in 1894, Doctor Wright was appointed as a member of the Choctaw delegation to a convention of the Five Civilized Tribes at Checotah, in their first meeting with the Dawes Commission, the members of which had been appointed under recent legislation made by Congress to present the Government's plan for the dissolution of the Indian governments in the Territory and the allotment of their lands in severalty. The Checotah Convention went on record as opposed to these proposal's, in fact, so bitter was the feeling against allotment among the conservative members of the tribal governments throughout the territory, that the Commission was unable to make any headway in securing negotiations with any of the Five Civilized Tribes for more than two years.
By the summer of 1895, Doctor Wright, who had always advocated a settlement of the Choctaw communal property by allotment in severalty, saw the futility of opposition to the Dawes Commission which by that time had virtually threatened arbitrary action on the part of Congress if the Indian governments continued to refuse to treat
on the propositions it had presented. As the campaign was on for the election of members to the General Council, he entered the race for election as member of the House of Representatives from Atoka County on the platform that the Choctaw Nation should meet with the Dawes Commission and present a program upon which it would treat. It was the first time a citizen of any of the Indian nations in the Territory had so openly espoused this cause during a campaign. On their part, some of the conservative element were so fanatical that they looked upon Doctor Wright's stand as nothing less than treason! It was a dangerous procedure for him to advocate. After an exciting campaign, Doctor Wright won the election as representative from Atoka County. Although sentiment in favor of meeting the members of the Dawes Commission had gained some headway during the campaign, yet when the General Council met at Tushkahoma in October, it was nearly three weeks before he could persuade Governor Jefferson Gardiner and the members of the Council to invite the Commission to visit Tushkahoma. When it finally appeared before the Council, all its proposals were rejected. Subsequent to that visit, the Choctaw Senate passed a law making it an offense punishable by a fine and imprisonment for the first violation and by death for the second violation if any citizen made an attempt to favor allotment of lands in severalty. This bill failed of passage in the House.
As chairman of the Indian Territory Republican Convention at Muskogee in the spring of 1896, Doctor Wright favored and secured the instruction of the Territorial delegation to the Republican National Convention to vote for William McKinley as the presidential candidate. During the following summer, the regular bienniel election for principal chief of the Choctaw Nation was due. Doctor Wright was one of the leading organizers and wrote the platform for the "Tushkahoma Party" which favored treating with the Dawes Commission. As campaign manager for Green McCurtain who was the nominee of the new party for principal chief, he saw a sweeping victory for his candidate at the polls in August. When the General Council met in October, he was appointed as one of the nine members of
the first Choctaw Commission to open negotiations with the Dawes Commission.
During the second week of November, 1896, the Choctaw Commission met with delegations from others of the "Five Civilized Nations," where resolutions were adopted without a dissenting vote, setting forth the policy upon which they would open negotiations with the Dawes Commission. The first clause in the statement of this policy stipulated that there should be full payment for all claims due each of the "Five Nations" under their respective treaties with the United States. The words of the second clause were as follows:
"When a division of land shall be made, all the land shall be divided among the citizens of the Nations share and share alike, except as modified by Indian law and treaty, and the patent shall reremain inviolate retaining sovereignty in the Nation, until a state government containing constitutional protection as hereinafter set forth shall have gone into effect."
With the McAlester resolutions as a general policy and the further submission of certain propositions which related to the Choctaw Nation, the Choctaw Commission entered into negotiations at Muskogee with the Dawes Commission, the members of which had promised that the Indian commissions should have full recognition in the preparation of any agreement. The Choctaw agreement was very important as it was to be the first drawn up and signed by any of the Indian nations. When this document was presented for the signatures of the Choctaw Commission on December 18, it had been wholly prepared by the Dawes Commission which had threatened drastic action unless a complete agreement should be drawn at once. The first provision of the new agreement stipulated that a deed should be executed immediately by the constituted authorities o f the Choctaw anal Chickasaw nations, conveying to the United States in trust, all interest of the Choctaws and the Chickasaws in their lands in the Indian Territory. Since this was a clear refutation of the intents and purposes of the policy adopted by the McAlester Convention, Doctor
Wright refused to sign the document when called upon to append his signature as one of the Choctaw Commission. Within two days, he issued a minority report to the Dawes Commission, setting forth the reasons for his stand. He set out for the east, stopping for a conference with President-elect McKinley at Canton, Ohio. At Washington he conferred with the Secretary of the Interior and with the members of the Chickasaw Commission who arrived afterward in the Capital. The latter had not been in attendance at the meeting in Muskogee and as joint owners representing a fourth interest in the national property, they issued a statement explaining the reason for their not signing the new agreement in behalf of the Chickasaws. The agreement was never approved by Government authorities at Washington.
In April 1897, the Dawes Commission met the members of the Choctaw Commission at Atoka. Doctor Wright was informed that his services as commissioner were not needed so he took no part in the new negotiations. Nevertheless, by the terms of the Atoka Agreement, the patent to the Choctaw and Chickasaw domain remained inviolate in the two nations. As time passed, it was found that the Atoka Agreement was inadequate for securing an equitable and prompt settlement of their affairs.
In 1900, Doctor Wright was a nominee for principal chief, making his campaign upon a platform which furthered the correction of certain deficiencies in the Atoka Agreement. He was defeated. Two years later, a supplemental agreement was prepared by the two commissions and presented for ratification by the Choctaws and Chickasaws. Its provisions included sweeping changes with regard to the coal and asphalt that composed the most valuable common property remaining to the two nations. Doctor Wright with many other leading Choctaws and Chickasaws opposed the measure since in the main it was clearly against the best interests of the nations. It was ratified.
Although allotment of lands in severalty were completed and the tribal rolls closed, Choctaw and Chickasaw affairs presented many perplexities as the years passed. This was due to conditions involved in the dissolution of the
Indian governments and the laws of the United States that dated back over a period of half a century. In 1908, Governor Green McCurtain named Doctor Wright resident delegate at Washington to represent the Choctaws. During his term of two years, he secured the appointment of an attorney, of a New York firm of high standing, at a regular salary instead of on a contingent basis, to secure a settlement of Choctaw affairs under the treaty provisions with the Government; he saw the success of his efforts against the reopening of the Choctaw rolls to claimants who were seeking to participate in the division of Choctaw property; his quick thought and action brought about the defeat of the plan of selling the surface of the coal lands which was being pressed at that time by outside interests in opposition to the Choctaw authorities who took the position that the separation of the surface lands from the coal would jeopardize the value and sale of the mineral. The death of Governor McCurtain in 1910 saw the abolishment of the office of resident Choctaw delegate at Washington.
In 1901, the Rock Island Railroad was constructing its line between Haileyville and Ardmore, when Doctor Wright persuaded the railroad authorities to locate a station near Clear Boggy and within the vicinity of his farm, in making plans for the development of a future townsite which he afterward named Olney. Mrs. Wright being a lover of nature and the broad expanse of open country suggested the possibility of locating their home on the farm and ranch, so that they could personally oversee the leasing of these lands and the development of their business interests. Realizing at the same time the arduous demands of such a pioneer undertaking, they felt that the main needs of their family were provided for with him as the physician and with her as the trained teacher to tutor their children and prepare them for college. Thus it was decided to move their home to the country which proved a successful living for thirty years. During that time, Doctor Wright was the recognized and respected leader in his community. Among many other local interests, he was the principal contributor to the Marshall Memorial Presbyterian Church of Olney, of which he was elected elder. He was also the principal or-
ganizer and a director of the Ash Flat Valley Bank at that point in 1906-7. He saw the successful outcome of his efforts in futhering the establishment and erection of a Union Graded and High School at Olney.
As has been indicated by the account of the union of the territorial medical societies before statehood, he was a strong supporter of single statehood for Oklahoma and Indian Territories. His opposition to the movement for separate statehood for the Indian Territory, which resulted in the Sequoyah Constitution, being a factor in its defeat. In 1912, he was a delegate to the national convention of the Progressive Party at Chicago.
Circumstances having to do with National affairs between 1912-22, kept him from active participation in Choctaw matters during that time, but he had not forgotten his people. In July, 1922, he attended a convention called by some of the Choctaws, at Albion, Oklahoma, during which he was elected Chairman of a committee to devise ways and means to secure a final settlement of tribal affairs. Sixteen years had passed since the time set for such a settlement under the terms of the agreements made with the Government. And the end was not yet in sight. Economic and educational conditions among many of the Choctaws were discouraging. Deplorable conditions existed among most of the restricted Choctaws who had once been self respecting and prosperous citizens in their own nation and who were now bound fast by red tape in a maze of rules and regulations of the archaic system that controlled the Indian Bureau. Shortly after the Albion convention, the members of the Choctaw Committee met at Doctor Wright's home where a study was made of tribal affairs and a program of procedure was mapped out. In order to give a clear business basis that would take care of the economic and educational conditions, an accounting of all tribal funds expended by the Indian Bureau in behalf of the Choctaws was to be sought from the Government; all claims due the Choctaws under the treaties, particularly that of Greer County, were to be pushed for settlement; the coal and asphalt properties were either to be purchased by the Government at the minimum valuation set by it in 1910, or the
Choctaws in co-operation with the Interior Department were to be allowed to dispose of these properties themselves. Since such a program involved many millions of dollars and since enrolled Choctaws as the owners of the property were responsible men and women, the Committee went on record as favoring the holding of the General Council, which had not been called in many years. This plan was furthered with the idea of securing a representative opinion from the Choctaw people who could thus have a voice in their affairs and make known their wishes with regard to the residue of their communal property before the Government.
For four years, Doctor Wright, as chairman of the Choctaw Committee, made every effort to further its program, conventions were held in all parts of the Choctaw country, memorials and resolutions were addressed to the Indian Bureau and members of Congress, delegations were sent to Washington, and interviews were held with officials in Oklahoma and in Washington. During this time, he was not only in close touch with his own people but also with Indians in other parts of Oklahoma and the United States as well. In some instances the Committee's suggestions met with success but the vital issues seemingly gained little headway. Finally Doctor Wright concluded that the only way the Indians anywhere were to gain recognition was to make themselves felt politically. For that reason, the Choctaw Committee, fully concurring with him, took an active part in the congressional campaign in Oklahoma in 1926. During the same summer, Doctor Wright became the principal organizer and the chairman of the, "Tushkahoma League," a non-partisan organization of Indians of all nations and tribes in Oklahoma. It was organized with the idea that the only means of insuring the welfare of the Indians was through the proper use of the ballot in helping to elect men to public office, who would best serve the Indians regardless of the candidate's political party alignment. The open declarations of the Choctaw Committee and the Tushkahoma League at the beginning of the campaign in 1926 were sustained in the results of the election.
In 1928, Doctor Wright, as Republican state committee-
man from Coal County, worked in his precinct, county, and district, and in the state convention for an instructed delegation to the National Republican Convention in favor of Charles Curtis for president. Such a delegation was sent to Kansas City from Oklahoma. During the campaign that followed, Doctor Wright, as president of the "Tushkahoma League," took an active part in helping to win the unprecedented majority for the Hoover-Curtis ticket that went to the polls of Oklahoma in the general election.
The following year, the Indian Bureau showed an awakened interest in the welfare of the Indians throughout the United States, followed by a declaration of new policies in the administration of their affairs. In view of such a statement and of changes in the personnel of the Indian Office, Doctor Wright made application for the position of principal chief of the Choctaws which had been continued through the years as an appointment under the Bureau until a full settlement of Choctaw affairs should be accomplished. He took this step because it seemed that the position of principal chief was the only point of contact with the Indian Office where his insight, years of experience, and matured judgment with regard to the affairs of the Choctaws could best serve in their behalf. Following the death of the incumbent chief, which occurred soon afterward, many other applicants sought the position. The appointment hung fire for seven months and in the end went to a younger man. This was a great disappointment to a host of friends not only among the Choctaws but also throughout Oklahoma and the East, nevertheless Doctor Wright stood squarely behind the new appointee with the hope that a definite business policy would be established for an early and just settlement of Choctaw affairs.
Throughout the years, he continued his interest in furthering the development of oil in the vicinity of Olney and also Allen, in Pontotoc County. From 1916 to 1920, he became heavily interested in developing a new oil field in Red River County, East Texas. It happened that he was actively engaged in the work in the vicinity of Avery, Texas, when the epidemic of influenza swept the country in 1918-19. Even though he was not at Avery in the capacity
of his profession, nearly one thousand persons throughout that community, including doctors and nurses, came to know him as the trained physician through the advice and care that he freely gave them. It was that way throughout his life, when the need arose, he was instantly the trained physician.
As a Christian, cultured gentleman Doctor Wright's demeanor combined charm, simplicity, and poise, extending a warm approach yet with reserve. His family had his fullest confidence and his friends sought his advice and counsel. His business attitude was for optimism, with a clear and logical survey of any proposition. Full of energy and bouyancy of spirit, he delighted in difficult undertakings. Though at times faced with competition and envious criticism, he never faltered, and in the end of a conflict if he was the loser, he had so freely given his best self and his generous support to his co-workers that no one with unbiased judgement could say he was to be condemned. In his later years when so much of his time was given to furthering the interests of his people, the Choctaws, he strove with supreme effort to bring about a favorable liquidation of their affairs. It was here that he often overtaxed his strength which impaired his health, yet he felt that he had pointed the way.
M. H. W.