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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 10, No. 4
December, 1932


Page 549

George Shannon, one of the pioneer citizens of the Old Indian Territory and Oklahoma, was born near Knoxville, Tennessee, January 20th, 1844, the son of Hugh and Susan (Henry) Shannon. He was the youngest of five brothers, John, Robert, Hugh, Will and George, and had two sisters, Sarah and Mary. His mother was a cousin of Patrick Henry.

His father later removed to Murray county, Georgia, where George received the education that was available in the common district schools, and remained with his father until 1863, he then being nineteen years of age.

Although he had two brothers serving in the Confederate army he espoused the cause of the Union and being too young to enlist in the Union army he went to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he was engaged by the Federal Government as a carpenter and put to bridge building and kindred occupations made necessary by the war that was in progress. At the conclusion of hostilities, after he had received his honorable discharge (May 11, 1865) he returned to Georgia and remained two years.

This period of service with the Federal Government lent its influence towards the trend of his future, for in 1867 he went to Soloman City, Kansas, where he found employment as a carpenter in the bridge building department of the Union Pacific R. R. for which corporation he worked until 1869 when he was transferred to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas R. R. in a similar capacity. He remained with them until 1872. The M. K. & T. R. R. as it was known began the extension of its lines into Indian Territory during the latter half of 1870 and reached the Verdigris river, North of Muskogee, on Sunday, October 2nd, 1871.

Gibson Station, two miles north of the Verdigris river was the end of the line, during 1871-82 and a round table

Page 550

did faithful duty to this place. It was as an employee of the M. K. & T. R. R. that George Shannon made his entry into the then Indian Territory making his headquarters at Gibson Station during the building of the Verdigris and Arkansas river bridges.

The first passenger and freight station erected by any railroad in what is now Oklahoma was built by the M. K. & T. R. R. at Gibson Station. It was constructed in 1872. It is in a good state of preservation and is still being used.2 Freight was hauled by wagons from this point to Tahlequah and to the merchants and soldiers at Fort Gibson, and passengers from these places took the train here until 1887, when the Missouri Pacific R. R. extended its lines north from Fort Smith to Wagoner. Old records show Gibson Station was a lively point and did a big business at that time.

In December, 1872, at Honey Springs, Creek Nation, George Shannon was married to Mary Berbidge Willison a daughter of James and Hettie (McIntosh) Willison. Her father, James Dandridge Willison, born in Virginia, was a descendant of Bartholomew Dandridge, brother of Martha Washington, and her mother, Hettie McIntosh, was a daughter of General Wm. McIntosh, who was chief of the Lower Creeks before their removal from Georgia. Mr. Shannon had acquired a farm in Leavenworth County, Kansas, where his parents had come to reside and following his marriage he went there to live for a few years, and in addition to looking after his interests there he was engaged in the grain business at DeSoto, Kansas. Five children were born to this union, Pauline, Daisy, Lucy, Floyd and Kootza, all of whom are living. Believing the future held much in store for the Indian Territory Mr. Shannon decided to return to this country and cast his fate with other early settlers. So with his wife who was ever his most helpful companion, he returned in the fall of 1880, going first to Muskogee.

Being unable to secure a house in Muskogee for a permanent residence, on March 5, 1881, he purchased from Mr. Wm. Johnston, a merchant at Tahlequah, a store building and residence at Gibson Station. Here he removed his family

Page 551

and immediately opened for business, carrying a general merchandise stock. This business was conducted in the name of his wife, M. B. Shannon, she being a citizen, thereby making it unnecessary to secure a permit.

For many years this firm served as a trading post for the Indians, where they exchanged their furs, pecans and many times wild fruits, for groceries and other commodities. Many carloads of nuts and furs were shipped from this point, Mr. Shannon frequently selling to Mr. Joseph Sondheimer, of Muskogee, who in turn shipped to St. Louis and Kansas City. It was not uncommon in those days to buy a saddle of venison for fifty cents and duck, quail, wild turkey, prairie chicken and squirrel were rife.

Early in the summer of 1883 Mr. Shannon built a new residence on the west side of the track and moved his family into it, and shortly thereafter he erected a new store building on the east side of the track. Both buildings first occupied by Mr. Shannon are gone but the store building and home he built, the latter surrounded by a grove of trees, he planted and loved, still stand and are in a good state of preservation. In addition to the mercantile business, Mr. Shannon engaged in farming and stock raising and at one time had a herd of six hundred black Angus cattle.

After the extension of the Missouri Pacific R. R. to Wagoner Mr. Shannon erected a store and hotel at that point but later sold there and continued in business at Gibson Station. Due to the fact that passengers going to and from Tahlequah and Fort Gibson must of necessity take the train at Gibson Station, many notables passed through its portals, among them James G. Blaine.

This was in the spring of either 1887 or 88, I am not sure of this date, when he was visiting his daughter, Mrs. Alice Blaine Coppinger, who with her husband, Colonel Coppinger, in command of the United States troops, was living at Fort Gibson. This journey was made by Mr. Blaine from St. Louis in the private car of Mr. Richard Kerns, and it was left on the side track at Gibson Station through Mr. Blaine's sojourn at Fort Gibson. The party reached Gibson Station about seven thirty in the evening, and all of them with the exception of Mr. Blaine who was not well, were transported by army ambulance to Fort Gibson that eve-

Page 552

ning. They returned for him the next morning but not before Mr. Shannon and his family had called on him in the car.

Upon his return to Gibson Station, prior to leaving for the east, all of the party, consisting of Colonel and Mrs. Coppinger, their two sons, Blaine and Connor, Mrs. Blaine, Mrs. Hattie Blaine, Mrs. Mary E. Dodge, a writer using the nom-de-plume of Gail Hamilton, and Mr. Kerns, called at the Shannon's home. Of especial interest to them in our home was the old Willison Bible, then 302 years old.

The first telephone in the Indian Territory was erected between Fort Gibson and Gibson Station, this was perhaps in 1886, and headquarters for the phone at Gibson Station was in the store of Mr. Hailey.

Early in the summer of 1889, Mr. Shannon lost his wife. This was a severe blow to him and his young family. In 1892 he was married to Miss Mattie E. Salisbury, daughter of George Mahala (Sawyer) Salisbury of Ontario county, N. Y. She passed away in 1919. In April, 1920, Mr. Shannon disposed of his holdings at Gibson Station and with his daughter, Daisy, removed to Wagoner, where he purchased a home and retired from business. In politics he was a Republican, especially interested in national issues, and gave full support to the party's organizations.

For nearly fifty years he was identified with the development of Indian Territory and Oklahoma. His interest never lagged and he could see great possibilities for the future of the state. His friends were legion and were numbered among those of influence and position to those in the humbliest walks of life. He once said that he had made good men of mean by being kind to them, and I have witnessed that transformation take place under his influence. Could anyone have more to his credit than that? Late in life he united with the Episcopal church, and when he passed away, August 9, 1929, he was laid at rest in the cemetery at Wagoner, with the beautiful ritual of that church's service.

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