By J. F. HOLDEN*
In the eighteen nineties the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway was advertising as a feature of scenic value in the operation of its new fast train, the "Katy Flyer," to and from Texas, that country known as the "Indian Territory," and called it the "B. I. T.", or "Beautiful Indian Territory." The country was then the home of what were known as the "Five Civilized Tribes"—the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek and Seminole Indians—as well as of a number of smaller tribes. It is now an important part of the state of Oklahoma, having within its old boundaries all of the coal and most of the oil production of the state.
It was a beautiful land, this Indian Territory, the last great home of many thousands of Indians who in this country set aside for their exclusive use had achieved probably the highest type of civilization of any of their race. It was a land, too, of adventure and adventurous men—men who sought in mining and trading and cattle raising in this Indian country satisfaction for their venturesome spirits.
The Indians who in the 1830's had settled in this territory—a part of the Louisiana Purchase acquired from France in 1803—were known as the Five Civilized Tribes. They were
*Holden, James Franklin.
Born 1861 at Prince Albert, Ont. Entered railway service 1877, since which he has been consecutively to 1880, clerk to superintendent and traveling auditor Whitby Port Perry & Lindsay Railway; 1880 to 1883, chief clerk traffic manager's office, Midland Railway of Canada; 1884, local freight agent same road at Toronto, Ont.; 1885 to 1886, traveling freight agent Canadian Pacific Railway at Toronto; 1886 to 1889, in charge agent's accounts, accounting department St. Louis & San Francisco Railway at St. Louis, Mo.; 1889 to 1891, chief rate clerk general freight office same road; November 1891 to May 1898, auditor and traffic manager Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad; May 1898 to July 1901 traffic manger of same road; July 1901 to April 1902, vice president same road; February 1903 to January 1906 freight traffic manager Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway; January 1906 to February 1910 vice president and general manager Midland Valley Railroad; February 1910 to December 31, 1929 vice president in charge of traffic Kansas City Southern Railway, and January 1st, 1930 to date Vice President retired, same road.
southern Indians who formerly occupied a great domain from which the states of Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and parts of the Carolinas were formed. From time immemorial they had been self governing tribes with administrative, legislative and judiciary departments. England made treaties with them in 1721, France in 1755, again England in 1760, and the United States at the close of the Revolutionary War.
But as states began to form in the southern part of the country, the Indian national governments came into conflict with the sovereign rights of these states, and the matter of their removal from that country became a political question. When through the Louisiana Purchase a great tract of land west of the Mississippi River was added to the territory of the United States, it seemed to offer an opportunity for relief from the irritating contacts of Indians and whites. President Jefferson concluded that the way was open to move all these Indians to that country where they could have room to establish themselves and maintain their own governments undisturbed by the laws of any state. In 1802 the United States Government in settling disputes with the state of Georgia over land conveyed by that state to create the new states of Alabama and Mississippi, agreed that these self-governing Indians would be removed from Georgia as soon as it could be amicably accomplished. In 1804 Congress provided for the exchange of Indian lands east of the Mississippi for land west of the river, but it was many years before steps were taken to put this proposal into effect.
The reluctance of the southern Indians to leave their ancestral homes, and the hostility of the Indians already occupying the country to the west, made it difficult to carry out the plans for the settling of the former in a new home beyond the Mississippi. Although the matter was discussed for more than a score of years, and efforts were made from time to time to carry out the plan, it remained for Andrew Jackson to take the steps which led eventually to the removal of the five tribes to the new country. He decided that it was time to take definite action, and in his first address to Congress
in 1829 suggested for their consideration, as a means of effecting this end,
" . . . . . the propriety of setting apart an ample district west of the Mississippi, and without the limits of any State or Territory now formed, to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes as long as they shall occupy it, each tribe having a distinct control over the portion designated for its use. There they may be secured in the enjoyment of government of their own choice, subject to no other control from the United States than such as may be necessary to preserve peace on the frontier and between the several tribes. There the benevolent may endeavor to teach them the arts of civilization and by promoting unison and harmony among them, to raise up do interesting commonwealth, destined to perpetuate the race, and to attest to the humanity and justice of this government."
To pave the way for this wise, kindly and statesmanlike program, Jackson assigned Major David Haley as an emissary to go among the Indians and explain his program and get their consent to it. Writing to Major Haley on October 15, 1829, he said:
"You have kindly offered to be the bearer of any communications to the Indians amongst whom you pass on your return home. I place in your hands copies of a talk made by me last Spring to the Creeks. I wish you to show them to the Chiefs of the Choctaws as you pass and say to them, so far as this talk relates to their situation with their white brothers and my wishes for them to remove beyond the Mississippi, it contains my sentiments towards the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, and if they wish to be happy and to live in quiet and preserve their Nation they will take my advice and remove beyond the Mississippi.
"Say to them as friends and brothers to listen to the voice of their father, and their friend. Where
they now are they and my white children are too near to each other to live in harmony and peace. Their game is destroyed and many of their people will not work and till the earth. Beyond the great river Mississippi, where a part of their nation has gone, their father has provided a country large enough for them all, and he advises them to remove to it. There their white brethren will not trouble them, they will have no claim to the land, and they can live upon it, they and all their children, as long as grass grows or water runs, in peace and plenty. It will be theirs forever. For any improvements in the country where they now live, and for any stock which they cannot take with them, their father will stipulate, in a treaty to be holden with them, to pay them a fair price.
"Say to my red Choctaw children and my Chickasaw children to listen—my white children of Mississippi have extended their laws over their country. If they remove across the Mississippi river they will be free from the laws of any state, and only subject to their own laws, and be under the care of their father the President of the United States. Where they now are, say to them, their father cannot prevent them from being subject to the laws of the state of Mississippi. They are within its limits, and I pray you to explain to them, that so far from the United States having the right to question the authority of any State to regulate its affairs within their own limits, the general government will be obliged to sustain the States in the exercise of their right. Say to the chiefs and warriors that I am their friend, that I wish to act as their friend, but they must, by removing from the limits of the States of Mississippi and Alabama, and by being settled on the lands I offer them, put it in my power to be such . . . . . There, beyond the limits of any state, in possession of land of their own, which they shall possess as long as grass grows or water runs, I can
and will protect them and be their friend and father.
"That the chiefs and warriors may fully understand this talk, you will please go amongst, and read it to and fully explain it to them. Tell them it is from my own mouth you have reed it and that I never speak with a forked tongue . . . . Again I beg you to tell them to listen. The plan proposed is the only one by which they can be perpetuated as nations and where can be extended to them the right of living under their own laws."
Jackson accomplished little by this method except to stir up a good deal of trouble, and Indian affairs were much disturbed. His efforts did, however, lead to the establishment of Indian Territory by Congress in 1830. The Act establishing the Territory authorized President Jackson to select a part of the undivided public domain to which the title of the aboriginal tribes had been extinguished and divide it into a suitable number of districts or reservations for the reception of such tribes of Indians as might choose to exchange the lands where they then resided east of the Mississippi.
The limits of the new Indian Territory do not seem to have been definitely fixed by President Jackson, and for a time all the country west of the organized states and territories was so designated. The boundaries were not finally located until after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill in 1854.
After the establishment of the Territory in 1830, and through persuasion and the use of a great deal of force, the five tribes were removed during the next ten years to the land set aside for them, practically all by 1838, and settled there with the understanding backed by solemn treaties with the United States Government that the land would be theirs forever—"as long as grass grows or water runs"—and that they could organize their own governments and be forever free from the white man's intrusion.
The territory given the five tribes was immense, consisting of approximately forty-six million acres. Across the southern part of the territory the Choctaws and Chickasaws
occupied a large section, at first jointly, and later separately, the Choctaws taking the eastern part and the Chickasaws the western. North of these tribes, and between the Canadian and Arkansas rivers, the Seminoles and Creeks located. Up in the northeast part of the Territory were the Cherokees, who had been given in addition a long, narrow strip extending across the northern part of the Territory to the west, to give them an outlet from their home land to the hunting grounds of the west. At the time this strip was called the "Cherokee Outlet," but later it became known as the "Cherokee Strip," and in 1893 was opened to settlement by the whites, after being purchased from the Cherokees.
Later the great domain given these five tribes was largely reduced through sales of land to the government for the use of other Indians. In 1891 they were occupying about twenty million acres, as follows:
Within fifteen years after the establishment of the Territory, many tribes found their way there from the states east of the Mississippi, such migration being encouraged by the government and missionaries. Dominating the territory, however, and occupying the greater part of the land, were the "five civilized tribes." In 1845 there were reported to be 75,678 of these Indians in the Territory, of whom 25,911 were Cherokee, 24,594 were Creek, 16,259 Choctaw, 5,090 Chickasaw, and 3,824 Seminoles.
During the period preceding the Civil War the Five Civilized Tribes made great progress. They improved their farms and accumulated considerable wealth in flocks and herds. They had begun the establishment of tribal schools, academies, and seminaries. Church organizations were common. In the Cherokee Nation an agricultural society was maintained. They seemed fairly on the way to the "interest-
ing commonwealth" of which Jackson dreamed.
But with the Civil War there came a change in the life of the Territory and its Indian residents. When the conflict broke the majority of the Indians, because of their southern upbringing and sympathies, sided with the Confederates. In the shifting flow of the war back and forth across the Territory many of the Indians' homes were laid waste and their herds scattered. Some of those who sympathized with the North had left the Territory during the period of the war, and when they returned it was to find their former homes desolated. Altogether it was a distastrous experience for the Indians, and halted definitely what chances there might have been for an Indian commonwealth.
It was in the years immediately following the war that there entered into the situation the factor which was to have the greatest effect in hastening the change in the life of the Territory, as well as in the future development of the country. For the new treaties which were signed at the close of the war provided not only for the organization of the Indian Territory and a territorial government, and for the settlement of other tribes of friendly Indians in the Territory, but what was probably of greater importance, the treaties signed by the five tribes in 1866 at Fort Smith with the government gave explicit consent for the construction of railway lines across their respective tribal reservations.
Railroads Enter the Indian Country
There had been no railroads in the Indian country up to 1870, but beginning in that year the steel rails began to push their way into the Territory. The first railroads to acquire rights of way in the Territory were the Missouri, Kansas & Texas and the Atlantic & Pacific — afterwards the Frisco. Congress had granted a conditional right of way across the Indian Territory from Kansas to Texas to the railway company which should be the first to complete its track to the state boundary line in the valley of the Neosho. From an exciting race by the track layers of the two companies during the early part of 1870, the Missouri, Kansas & Texas emerged victorious.
On June 6, 1870, the latter road began laying its track southward from the Kansas boundary, the first railroad to enter the Indian country. Construction was rapidly pushed southward and southwestward, across the Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw Nations and thence across the Red River into Texas. The building of this first line of railroad led to the opening of the first coal mine at the town of McAlester. Then the Atlantic & Pacific built its line across the Shawnee and Wyandotte reservations, entering the Cherokee Nation and connecting with the Missouri, Kansas & Texas at Vinita in 1872. Later, or in 1882 and 1883, it extended its line southwestward to Tulsa and Red Fork.
Farther west, the Santa Fe started its line across the Indian country from Arkansas City, on the Kansas border, in 1884, building through the Territory into Texas. In 1886 the Frisco extended its Fort Smith line southwestwardly across the Choctaw Nation to Paris, Texas. The Iron Mountain—now a part of the Missouri Pacific—in 1887 to 1889 built a line up the valley of the Arkansas River from Van Buren, Arkansas, to Fort Gibson, and thence to Coffeyville, Kansas. The Santa Fe built its Panhandle Division from Kiowa, Kansas, southwestwardly across the Cherokee Strip to Canadian and Amarillo, Texas, in 1887 and 1888. The Rock Island built south from Caldwell, Kansas, to El Reno in 1889 and 1890. And the Choctaw Coal & Railway Company's line was projected over a route extending eastward from Fort Reno to a point on the Arkansas boundary south of Sugar Loaf Mountain, and active work begun on its construction in 1889. At that time there were approximately 630 miles of railway within the Indian Territory, all of them lines which were parts of through routes.
The coming of the railroads into the Indian country was the beginning of the disintegration of the Indian nations, and fore-shadowed the ending of the isolation of the Indian Territory. As the long lines of rail pushed their way farther and farther into the country white people followed them. Stations
and towns were located, coal mines opened up, and merchants and tradesmen began doing business—all spelling the doom of the old free and self-governing national life and existence of the Indians.
During this period the opening to white settlement of the Oklahoma country, consisting of the "unassigned lands" to the west of the Indian Territory, was being advocated, the agitation culminating in the first and historic run of April 22, 1889, and later runs in 1891, the run for the opening of the Cherokee Strip in September, 1893, and finally the opening of the Kiowa-Comanche and Wichita-Caddo reservations to settlement by the drawing of lots at El Reno and Fort Sill in the summer of 1901.
Building of the "Choctaw"
The building of the Choctaw Coal & Railway Co. might be said to have had its inception in a hunt for wild turkeys. In 1885 a party of men from Minneapolis came to the Territory to hunt the turkeys, which at the proper season of the year were very abundant. In the party was a young newspaper reporter by the name of Edwin D. Chaddick.
The party left the train at McAlester, in the Choctaw Nation, and on the main line of the M. K. & T. There they became acquainted with J. J. McAlester, after whom the village was named. McAlester had been a railroad section foreman, and had married a Choctaw woman, by virtue of which he had become a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. While the Choctaws had lost their former homes in the East because of their refusal to become citizens of the white man's government, in their new home they rather encouraged the white men to become citizens of their government, and made many laws which made it profitable for them to do so. One of these laws permitted a citizen to take for his own use as much land as he could fence in.
McAlester was a man of good presence, and knew how to take advantage of his opportunities. "Mr. Mac," as we
learned to call him, operated a store in McAlester which kept him in touch with the outside world—including bankers—and having secured leases on coal lands he was the principal man of the district, and the man whom outsiders had to deal with. He became later one of the railroad commissioners of the State of Oklahoma.
McAlester is said to have staked out a homestead not far from where the village was afterward located, and to have struck a vein of coal when digging a well on his place. This led to the discovery of coal at various places in the Choctaw Nation, and it was mined in great quantities. The most important field at the time Chaddick and his party went there hunting turkeys was just east of McAlester.
As the hunt extended east from the village, Chaddick was attracted by the mining operations going on, and the evidences he observed of other coal deposits. Back in McAlester he met Fritz Sittle, another Choctaw citizen by marriage, and reputed to have built the first house on the site of the present city of McAlester. With Sittle he traveled over a considerable part of the territory within a radius of thirty or forty miles east of the railroad. Sittle pointed out to him indications of coal deposits in the district, and suggested the possibility of a profitable venture in mining could adequate transportation be provided. There were of course no roads or highways, and transportation by wagon over the existing trails or such roads as could be provided would be too slow and expensive. But a railroad—
The thought of building a railroad in that Indian country to mine the coal which was seemingly so plentiful, and haul it to the markets outside the Territory, appealed to the adventurous instinct of Chaddick, and perhaps also to his business sense. When he left McAlester to return home the thought had developed into an idea, and he set about carrying it out.
Coal being the foundation of his proposed railroad, Chad-
dick went to Philadelphia, where were located the headquarters of other railroads of which coal had been the foundation. After many rebuffs, he at last interested some of the officers of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in his scheme, and they agreed to send a prominent mining engineer out to the Indian country to investigate the prospects for coal. Their instructions to him were that when his investigation was completed he was to wire the results: "Hunting is good" or "hunting is bad," as the case might be.
Finally the message came to Philadelphia from the mining engineer out in the Indian country: "Hunting is good." Years later he told me he felt like adding, "for one hundred years."
With that report the Lehigh Valley officers gave Chaddick the financial backing he sought, and in 1888 he organized the Choctaw Coal & Railway Co., under an Act of Congress passed the same year. George R. Kirkbride, of Minneapolis, was the first president, and Lehigh Valley officers were among the directors, but Chaddick was the moving spirit.
Scheme an Ambitious One
The scheme of the promoters of the Choctaw was an ambitious one, embracing the idea of a transcontinental line from Memphis, Tenn. to Albuquerque, New Mexico, connecting there with the Atlantic & Pacific—now the Santa Fe—and it is significant that within a dozen years the line had reached its eastern objective and was well on its way to its western one when fate intervened.
The charter received from the Government, however, covered only the right to build within the Indian lands from the eastern boundary of the Territory to Fort Reno, 216 miles to the west, from all of which land the white man was barred, although during the next year the "unassigned lands" in the Oklahoma country west of the five civilized tribes were opened to settlement. Leases covering large coal deposits were secured
from the Choctaw Nation for a period of ninety-nine years on a royalty basis, approved by the United States Government.
Construction of the road started from both ends—from Wister, a station on the Frisco near the Arkansas border, on the east, and from El Reno on the west. The track had been laid from Wister to South McAlester, where it connected with the M. K. & T., and from El Reno to Yukon, about eleven miles west of Oklahoma City, up to the end of 1889.
But either the amount of money needed to accomplish the work was much underestimated, or it was used extravagantly, for it was not long before the road found itself in trouble. On January 8, 1891, financial difficulties forced it into a receivership.
Francis I. Gowen, a lawyer of Philadelphia, was appointed receiver for the road, and for a time James W. Throckmorton, a former governor of Texas, served with him as co-receiver. Governor Throckmorton at the time was quite old, and at his death some time later no successor was appointed, and Mr. Gowen served alone until the receivership was lifted in October, 1894, with the organization of the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railway, of which he was made president. In the eight years which followed nearly a thousand miles of railroad were built and the venture was put on a profitable basis.
Headquarters in South McAlester
The headquarters of the new railroad were located in South McAlester, where the Choctaw crossed the line of the M. K. & T. This was a new town established by Chaddick a mile south of the village of McAlester when he could not come to terms with Mr. McAlester to make the crossing possible at his town. The establishing of South McAlester materially interferred with business in the old town, and soon Mr. McAlester opened a larger store in the new town also. With its railway offices and shops the new town soon became the larger and more important of the two, and in later years absorbed the old town and became "McAlester."
At South McAlester Chaddick erected a large general office building, about 75 by 150 feet, of stone and three stories high, set up railway shops and built many homes, for not only the officers and employees of the railroad but for outsiders as well. The show place of the town was a residence he built for himself. He built also some store buildings and
a hotel. The town itself was laid out on land which was appropriated under tribal laws by Fritz Sittle.
About the time South McAlester was being laid out the United States Government was establishing Federal courts in the Indian Territory, and Chaddick was able to secure the location of one for his town, which gave it an important standing at once. For the use of the court Chaddick turned over the lower floors of his large general office building.
When I arrived in South McAlester in November, 1891, to become auditor of the Choctaw Coal & Railway Co., it was a village of not more than three hundred persons, chiefly railway officers and attaches of the United States Court which had just been established there to handle principally cases where United States citizens might be involved. Very few Indians lived in the town itself.
The town was laid off in streets surveyed and constructed by the railway company, but with the exception of the main street they were rough and hilly. Except for the large general office structure, the buildings were of wood, and one-story. Cows and pigs roamed at will and had the freedom of the village. Outside the town there were no highways, but trails led over to the old town of McAlester a mile and a half to the north, and the coal mining town of Krebs, five miles east.
But in spite of these perhaps crude conditions, living in South McAlester was enjoyable. The railway officers and the court officials and attaches had come from many distant parts of the United States, and formed the nucleus of an attractive and cultured social life.
The chief officer of the railroad was Col. Jefferson Davis Bradford, nephew of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confideracy, and his commodious home was the center of our social activities. Colonel Bradford was a Kentuckian and had been an officer in the Confederate army during the Civil War. His charming wife was a Virginian.
George E. Starr, treasurer of the company, and Allen R. Boyd, secretary, were from Philadelphia. Mr. Boyd is now Executive Assistant Librarian of the Congressional Library at Washington. The Legal Department was directed by J. W. McLoud of Iowa, and his assistant was Ralph Campbell, who later became Federal Judge for Eastern Oklahoma. E. N. Ludlow, a mining engineer from Pennsylvania, and brother of Admiral
Ludlow of the U. S. Navy, was in charge of the Mining Department.
The judge of the U. S. Court was C. B. Stuart, of Texas, and the lawyers in attendance at the court were from many different states, many of them from south of the Mason and Dixon line—following the usual custom in immigration in this country of movement along latitudinal lines.
We had two fine physicians in South McAlester: Doctor E. N. Allen, from Missouri, and Doctor Alfred Griffith, from Maryland, the latter having been a physician in the U. S. Navy.
For myself, I was a British citizen, having been born in Canada and not yet having taken out naturalization papers. I recall that one day in the U. S. Court while Judge Stuart was holding court, I inadvertently overlooked taking off my hat when I entered the door, and stood there with my hat on. The Judge, noticing this evidence of disrespect, immediately declared a recess to give the representative of the British Empire time to remove his chapeau. The Judge's words were uttered in difinified formality, but caused much laughter, greatly to my own chagrin and the Judge's delight. He was one of those fine characters who did not believe in any one taking himself too seriously. Later he resigned the Federal judgeship and is today one of the leading lawyers of the State of Oklahoma. He lives in Oklahoma City.
Judge Stuart was very fond of hunting the wild turkey, and being the judge of the court in which our receivership was held, occasionally would request that an engine and car would go out some evening where turkeys were known to exist, so that a daylight shoot might be had. Being a good shot the judge brought home many of the magnificent birds.
Shortly after I went to South McAlester we established what would now be called a "community" church, with officers and committees. Prior to that time a church building erected by the railway company had been used occasionally by some itinerant preacher who could ring its bell and call the people to worship, but there were no regular church services. There were not sufficient funds among us to employ a regular minister, but the neighboring town of McAlester had two preachers—one a Presbyterian and the other of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South—so we decided that we would invite these preachers to come over and on at least two
Sundays of the month would have regular church services—calling one Sunday "Methodist South day" and the other "Presbyterian day." Then the missionaries in the district got busy and said they could fill two other Sundays: one a Baptist and one a Methodist Episcopal, giving us four Sunday services each month. Then an Episcopal missionary bishop asked the privilege of holding service when a fifth Sunday should occur in a month, and a nearby priest of the Roman Catholic Church asked to be allowed to conduct six o'clock mass the first Sunday of each month. In this way the religious life of the village was well taken care of. A Sunday School was organized, and the church building was well used every Sabbath Day, and generally by the same people irrespective of denominational lines.
Unfortunately, the missionary board of one of the churches bought the building from the receivers about two years later, and caused a split-up in the arrangement. The result was the building of four denominational churches within the next twelve months, all built and supported by outside home missionary funds—to my mind entirely unnecessary and a great waste.
We had no school buildings and no organization from which we could collect funds, as we were without mayor, council, police or taxes, so from private subscriptions at home we collected enough money to build a two-story building of four rooms and employed regular teachers to conduct the school.
Then I organized what I believe to be the original boy scout movement in America—this was in 1893—gathering about fourteen boys together, ranging in age from twelve to sixteen years, and meeting weekly for play and boy talk. Many of these boys today are holding responsible positions; one the president of a well-known company in New York, one an expert in electrical engineering, another in the far west, a preacher of the gospel, and still another holding a responsible position on a southern railway.
An Indian Election Disturbance
While I was at South McAlester the Choctaw Nation got into considerable disturbance over one of their annual elections of members of their house of representatives and their governor. A candidate for election was shot while sleeping
out on his porch, and immediately the opposing party, thinking it was done by the opposition, demanded the delivery of the executioner. This was refused, and the party making the demand immediately rose in arms, and bivouaced in the town of South McAlester, taking possession of the church building. The other party also rose in arms, and took possession of a church in the village of McAlester, a mile and a half away.
Negotiations were inaugurated but without success, and the party at South McAlester gave an ultimatum to the effect that unless the party who did the shooting was delivered up within twenty-four hours they would proceed to open warfare. The offender was not delivered, and both bands of Indians started forth to meet one another between the two towns. I went to the top of my house, which was on a hill, to see what might happen, and as both armies were approaching each other on horseback, I saw coming at full speed a man on a white horse, waving a United States flag. He called for a parley, and notified the heads of each contending party that if a shot were fired he had authority from the United States Government to abolish the tribal governments, whereupon both parties disarmed, and the fight came to naught. The man on the white horse who prevented the blooshed was Leo Bennett, then U. S. Indian Agent.
Hard Times for the Choctaw
Two disconnected parts of the Choctaw were being operated when I reached South McAlester in 1891; the stretch from Wister to South McAlester, sixty-five miles, and the other from Fort Reno to Oklahoma City—a total of about ninety-five miles, all operated from the headquarters at South McAlester. The country between the latter point and Oklahoma City was rough and difficult to travel, and the usual way of getting from one part to the other was by way of Fort Worth, taking the M. K. & T. from South McAlester to Fort Worth, and the Santa Fe from there to Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City then had a population of less than four thousand people. I made the trip to the western end of the road about once a month, usually stayed a week.
Times were hard in the early nineties, the population of the country was almost entirely Indian, and there was little business but coal, partly perhaps because of the two parts of the line being separated and with no connection between South
McAlester and the newly opened Oklahoma country with its increasing white population and need for transportation facilities to the east. Economy was therefore the order of the day on the Choctaw until the receivership was lifted, the two parts connected and further construction undertaken. Our expenditures were watched closely, and one dollar made to do the work of several.
Former Governor Throckmorton, appointed by Judge Stuart as resident receiver, although without railway experience seemed to feel that the expenses needed his particular and personal attention, and scrupulously went over every payment for purchases and wages. One day, carrying a payroll in his hand, he walked into my office and asked why we had a stable payroll. I explained that it was a leftover department of construction days, but now contained only a span of mules which we used to move our shipments of express, consisting of materials and money, between our shops and offices and the M. K. & T. depot at McAlester. We did all our banking at the First National Bank of Denison, Texas, as there was no bank in South McAlester, and considerable money had to be secured each month to cover the payrolls of the railroad and mines.
The Governor then ordered me to sell the mules, close up the stables and dismiss the hostler, arranging to have our teaming done elsewhere, which arrangement was made. A month or two later the Governor came to my office again carrying a payroll and charged me with not carrying out his order, as he still noticed a hostler on the payroll. I looked at the document in his hand and noticed it was headed "Mechanical Department"—and was glad to explain to him that locomotives also needed hostlers as well as mules. His reply was forceful and to the effect that railroad terms were confusing to the uninitiated.
The story is told of another Texas politician who became receiver of a Texas railway reading one morning of an accident caused by a "flying switch," wired his general superintendent to commence immediately to remove all the flying switches.
Dawes Commission Organized
As the opening of the Indian lands just west of the territory belonging to the five civilized tribes during the several
years from the first run of April 22, 1889, to that of September, 1893, opening the Cherokee Strip, had effected the complete surrounding of the lands of the five tribes by the whites, it was felt by Congress and by many of the Indians themselves that the time had come when the Indian governments should be abolished and the land held in common by them should be divided among the individual members of each tribe. In accord with this feeling, Congress in September, 1893, provided for the appointment of a commission to negotiate with the five nations for the abolishment of their tribal governments and the division and distribution of their lands.
As members of this commission President Cleveland appointed Henry L. Dawes, of Massachusetts; Meredith H. Kidd, of Indiana, and Archibald S. McKennon, of Arkansas. As Mr. Dawes acted as chairman, it was always known as the Dawes Commission. Without delay it established its headquarters at Muskogee and South McAlester and went to work.
The task undertaken by the Commission was a monumental one—to divide as equally as possible a territory as large as the state of Maine among approximately a hundred thousand citizens. The majority of these were full-blood Indians, some three-quarters blood, some half and some one-quarter blood. There were also descendants of slaves brought into the Territory by the Indians, and descendants of Indians who had never emigrated to the Territory and were known as "absentee citizens," and many others. There were white people, too, principally men married into the tribes and therefore entitled to citizenship. It was twelve years later, or in 1905, when the work of the commissioners seemed to have been completed far enough to permit abolishing the commission and leaving the unfinished work to Tams Bixby as Commissioner. Mr. Bixby had succeeded to the Chairmanship of the commission on the death of Chairman Dawes in 1903.
In their negotiations with the Indians, particularly those in the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, the Commission segregated from allotment all coal and asphalt lands—approximately 450,000 acres—and 1,400,000 acres of timber lands. In none of the nations did they segregate possible petroleum development, as at that time oil was not known to exist within the Territory. The Commission further segregated in all the five nations the rights of way of railroads then operating,
also land for many townsites, cemeteries, schools and churches. The result of the work of the Dawes Commission was that each enrolled citizen of the Indian nations received the following allotments of land
Considerable land was unallotted in each nation, but it was held for sale or rental, the proceeds to be divided equally between the enrolled citizens or their heirs.
Reorganization of the Choctaw
With the passing of the 1891-93 panic and the gradual return of confidence and recovery of business, the Philadelphia owners of the Choctaw decided to take their property out of receivership and couple up the line between South McAlester and Oklahoma City, a distance of 120 miles. A plan of reorganization was worked out and the road emerged from the receivership as the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf, with money on hand to accomplish this purpose.
With the reorganization of the road Col. Bradford resigned and left South McAlester, and Henry Wood became general superintendent. J. F. Hickey was appointed chief engineer and started in to make a survey for the new line. I acquired the title of auditor and traffic manager of the new organization.
Mr. Wood had railroaded in Arkansas, Colorado and Utah for Jay Gould, and was well fitted to undertake the job of reorganizing the old line and opening up the new. He suffered somewhat from deafness, but was alert to all the problems arising in the location of the railroad, possible business opportunities, and the outlay of funds. The latter ability was responsible for many stories told about him—one such being that in walking down the track one day he discovered an unused spike, and reaching the place where the section men were working he accused the foreman of being careless of his material, handing him the spike. Whereupon the foreman replied that he was glad Mr. Wood had found that spike as he had had two men looking for it for two days.
Another story told of Mr. Wood is that when going over the line one day he asked the roadmaster how many men he had on the section they were passing over. The roadmaster, Pete Byrne, knowing Mr. Wood was deaf, replied, "Tim Murphy and his dog." Mr. Wood with his hearing tube to his ear, asked that the answer be repeated. "Only one, Tim Murphy, the foreman," Pete told him.
"I heard something about a dog," Mr. Wood came back.
"Yes, I did say 'Tim and his dog' the first time," said Pete, "but the second time I left out the dog, because I though you might tell me to fire Tim and keep the dog."
Mr. Wood stayed with the road through all its construction period and then retired to live in Philadelphia. Afterwards he was engaged by the Philadelphia people to assist in the construction of their later adventure in railroad building: the Midland Valley Railroad.
Extension to Oklahoma City Completed
The extension of the Choctaw from South McAlester to Oklahoma City was completed in October, 1895. The construction was through a new country and there were absolutely no towns on the line. Stations were established every seven or eight miles, and population and business soon began to flow to them. Of the two towns then on the line, South McAlester—since become McAlester—which had a population of 1,000 in 1895, had in 1930 a population of 11,782, and Oklahoma City had increased its population from 5,000 in 1895 to 182,845 in 1930. Of four other towns on the extension, Holdenville had acquired a population of 6,909 in 1930; Wewoka, 10,022; Seminole, 10,332, and Shawnee, 23,271.
The representative in Congress from Oklahoma Territory in 1895 was Dennis Flynn. One day I received a wire from him saying that he was asking the Postoffice Department to put a postoffice at the side track we called Acho (which was Choctaw for 'high point'), and he wanted to name the postoffice "Holden" if I had no objection. I replied that I had no objection whatever. A few days later he wrote me that the Postoffice Department had discovered that there was already a post office in Indian Territory by the similar name of "Holder" and it was felt it would be confusing, but that notwithstanding the fact that they had recently inaugurated a rule that "ville" would not be added to any more names for
postoffices, they had granted him the privilege of calling the new postoffice "Holdenville."
When I was a young man my father established a women's college at Whitby, Ontario, in connection with the Methodist Church of Canada, and became chairman of the college board. Years later a young lady attending that college was invited by my sister to my mother's home. There she saw a painting of my father in the drawing room, and asked who it was. On being told whose picture it was, she said, "Isn't it strange that I should be visiting in the Holden home, and am from a town called 'Holdenville' in Oklahoma." Then my sister told her that her home town in Oklahoma was named after her brother, the son of the man whose picture she was looking at, and who had founded the school she was attending.
One of the difficult problems met with on the new line was the building and later the maintenance of a track through the swampy country of the Seminole Nation. I asked John F. Brown, governor of that Nation, and a striking looking Indian in face and form, why his people had selected such a swampy country for an inheritance, and he replied that they had come from Florida and loved swampy lands; in fact, he told me the word "Seminole" means "web-footed." In recent years this swampy land has made three thousand Seminoles wealthy, and added millions of dollars to the revenues of oil companies and the Rock Island railroad.
The building of this new line from South McAlester to Oklahoma City gave the latter city quite an impetus in trade and growth, for it gave the city another railroad—it having up to that time had only the Santa Fe—and a more direct connection with St. Louis and the East, as well as cheaper coal and lumber, both produced on the Choctaw rails and nearer than any other source of supply.
Traffic for the new line was small, for we operated for two-thirds of the way through Indian lands not yet opened to white settlement, and such land was without traffic resources except some available pasturage for spring feeding of Texas longhorn cattle. I attended one of the old-time cattle conventions at Fort Worth in 1896, and persuaded a young ranger just starting out for himself in the cattle business to secure some of this available pasture land. His name was R. E. McFarlan, who afterwards became one of Oklahoma's
oil multi-millionaires and a leading citizen of Tulsa, heading its Chamber of Commerce and establishing what is today one of its principal financial institutions.
I was fortunate in my dealings with the traffic heads of the railways with which we connected—such as Darius Miller of the M. K. & T., Paul Morton of the Santa Fe, J. M. Johnson of the Rock Island, and George W. Cale of the Frisco. With the concurrence of these men we were able to build considerable interline traffic, such as coal from our own mines to points on their lines in new Oklahoma, and wheat and cotton from that territory to the Gulf of Mexico, also general traffic to and from St. Louis and Kansas City.
The effect of the completion of the line to Oklahoma City was at once apparent in the increased earnings of the Company. For the year ending October 31, 1895, in which the new line had been in operation but a month, the gross earnings from railroad operations were $332,318, and from mining operations $559,345. In 1896 the results of the year's operations were earnings of $543,041 in the Railroad Department, and $536,017 in the Mining Department.
Affected by Business Depression
Just as thirty-five years later a business depression made serious inroads on railroad earnings, so in 1896 the current business depression affected the earnings of the Choctaw. In addition, inability to secure a fair division of through rates on business exchanged with connecting lines during the first eight months of the fiscal year—a very common complaint with new roads in those days—considerably diminished the earnings from railroad operations, while a mild winter, lessened demand for coal by railroads drawing their supplies from our mines, and competition from the Kansas mines, had an injurious effect on the earnings from the mining operations. In spite of these conditions, however, the earnings of the road were regarded as encouraging, and we looked forward hopefully to the future and the improved conditions we felt would come with the development of the territory and the return of prosperity to the country generally.
That our hopeful feeling had some basis was evident from the fact that in 1897 the earnings of the road from railroad operations had increased to $717,957, which with gross earnings from the mining department of $511,728—somewhat
under those of 1896—the total gross earnings were $1,229,685. Two hundred and twenty miles of main line were in operation during 1897, giving an average earning per mile of $3,271.
While a little less than half of the 1897 traffic was coal, there was a growing traffic in grain, cotton, lumber and live stock, which was to increase as Oklahoma Territory became settled and the vexing problems of land tenure in the Indian country were worked out through the efforts of the Dawes Commission.
Western Extension Planned
So satisfactory did the outlook appear to the owners of the Choctaw that the chief engineer of the road—F. A. Molitor, then a young man who has since made an enviable record because of his engineering work in the Philippines, on the Panama Canal and in France as Colonel during the World War—and myself were instructed to reconnoiter and report in regard to a route and the possible traffic for a 100-mile extension to the west into the great wheat belt which, starting in mid-Oklahoma west of Oklahoma City, extends northward through Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas and into Canada.
Organizing an outfit for the purpose, Molitor and I with two teams started west. The first night out, when camped on the far side of a running stream, we had an interesting experience with an Indian who approached us on horseback. We were in the country of the blanket Indians, but this man was dressed in blue smock and trousers, the latter bearing red stripes down the side. After letting him sit motionless on his pony for several minutes we entered into conversation with him.
"Who?" we asked.
We invited him to join us, which he did, eating such as we passed to him in silence. After the meal, he asked us
"Who?" We told him we were railroad men looking for a route for a new railroad. He immediately said, "Black Coyote go too."
After some more conversation, Black Coyote rolled himself up in his blanket, passing the night with us. The next morning he declared he was going to accompany us on our westward hunt for a choo-choo route. We forbade him doing so, and so left him alone on the broad prairie.
On this trip we saw a few white settlers who had plowed the virgin soil, which produced a fine quality of wheat, and there, too, the long stand of blue grass proved the productiveness of the soil, so that our report recommended a further construction, which was undertaken to the extent of forty-six miles, and a new western terminus effected at a new town named Weatherford in September, 1898.
During the same year a short extension of about six miles was made on the east end of the line to connect at Howe, Indian Territory, with a new line called the Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf, being constructed from Kansas City to the Gulf of Mexico under the direction of Arthur Stilwell, and which has since become the Kansas City Southern.
With these two extensions, by the end of 1898 the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railway was operating 270 miles of railroad, but largely starting nowhere and ending nowhere.
While these extensions were not in operation long enough in the fiscal year of 1898 to show much effect on the earnings for that year, as the months passed the wisdom of the extensions became apparent. The business from the western extension was most satisfactory, while a large increase in the lumber business came with the connection made with the Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf on the east. The lumber supply along the Choctaw had been practically exhausted, and the very large demand in the territory tributary to the west end of the road led to large shipments from Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf.
Look to the East
With such good results from these extensions, the owners of the Choctaw gave consideration to building east to Memphis, where connection could be made with the strong lines leading to New Orleans and the South Atlantic ports. Such a line would penetrate the southern part of Arkansas adjacent
to the river of that name, without railroad service but rich in natural resources, and couple up at Little Rock with the Little Rock & Memphis Railway, one of the oldest railroads in the South, built before the Civil War and operating between Little Rock and Memphis. This line was purchased and a new line ordered built from Little Rock west to fill the gap.
Little Rock at that time consisted of two municipalities—Little Rock and North Little Rock, the latter on the north side of the Arkansas river, and inhabited largely by employees of the Gould Lines and the Little Rock & Memphis, the shops of both companies being located there. The combined population of both towns at that time was about 40,000.
The procurement of adequate terminal facilities in Little Rock proper, which had been served only for many years by the Gould system diverging in and out in many directions, presented many difficulties. These difficulties were overcome, however, through the help of the citizens of the city, who welcomed the coming of the new line which would put them in touch with the growing country to the west.
Many engineering difficulties in construction west of Little Rock, along the south bank of the river, had to be overcome, even court proceedings being necessary to adjust objections that were filed by the Gould Lines for certain rights of way along the river bank.
Locating the Line Through Arkansas
The proposed line was to operate on the south side of the river, a territory without railroads and rich in natural resources, but undeveloped except to a small degree agriculturally. Consequently the question of the best route to follow was important, and as traffic manager I was called upon to give a report on the matter. Three routes had been surveyed one along the Arkansas River where a few villages existed, one much farther south traversing the valley of the Fource River, and another between the other two, traversing the valley of the Petit Jean river.
I had many interesting experiences in going over these different routes with horses and buckboard, crossing high mountains where only crude wagon trails existed, sleeping in farm houses and settlers' cabins and mingling with people, some of whom had never seen a railroad or a train of cars.
One day I had a driver through a section of the country
who, as the evening approached, always began to sing religious songs familiar in the South, his principal song being "When the Battle's Over We Shall Wear a Crown." Shortly after this trip, when returning to headquarters, twin boys were born in my home, and my wife's sister, living in Canada, paid us a visit to celebrate the occasion. Frequently she and I could be seen traveling about the house each with a baby in our arms singing the song I had learned in Arkansas, "When the Battle's Over We Shall Wear a Crown."
Another experience occurred during my trips with one of the gentlemen I found in the district, who happened at that time to be in politics and clerk of Yell County. I became acquainted with him through attending church one Sunday, where he passed the collection plate. At that time he accepted my invitation to go over the country with me. He insisted on driving the team, saying he knew every hogpath in the state, having learned them in his political travels. In driving the team, he seemed to think it necessary to use much profane language, and when I expressed surprise at it because of his church connections, he admitted it was simply a bad habit.
One night we had difficulty in finding a place to sleep, being denied at two homes: one because the menfolks were all away, and the other the excuse being that the children were all "chillen" and strangers could not be accommodated. We finally found hospitality in the home of an aged Arkansawyer, who at the evening meal requested my companion to ask the blessing, which he accomplished very satisfactorily, but after, the meal, while smoking on the porch of the cabin, I told him I was not surprised that he should be a politician, because he could apparently pray with the prayers and cuss with the cussers. He quickly replied that that was nothing, because everybody in Arkansas asked the blessing.
Other Extensions Undertaken
The line was completed in September, 1899, and the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf began operating through from Memphis, Tenn. to Weatherford, Okla., a distance of 565 miles. In itself it contained all the factors necessary for railroad traffic — coal, lumber, wheat, corn, cotton — important and growing cities and towns—and the early possibility of a large influx of people to settle in the B. I. T. and Oklahoma.
A company was formed, called the Choctaw, Oklahoma &
Texas Railroad, to continue on westward from the Texas line to Amarillo, Texas, 112 miles, where connection would be made with the Colorado & Southern; and an inter-related company known as the Choctaw & Northern to construct a line from a station on the main line known as Geary northward through the center of Oklahoma wheat production to Anthony, Kansas, 138 miles. All of this work was completed early in 1902, so that within a period of eight years the little railroad company of 97 miles coming out of a receivership in 1894, was operating approximately a thousand miles of railroad.
In 1900, President Gowen and the directors, feeling their venture up to date had met with success, authorized further additions and construction. They leased the White & Black River Railway, operated in Arkansas from Brinkley to Newport, a distance of 67 miles, and organized a separate company known as the Western Oklahoma Railroad Company to build a further extension westward from Weatherford to the Texas line, 86 miles, and the construction of a line from the center of our coal development—Hartshorne, Indian Territory—to Ardmore, 117 miles, where a connection would be made with the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe, forming a more profitable route to handle our coal traffic to Central Texas.
Becomes a Part of the Rock Island
The officers of the Company who had all worked together as a happy family for many years felt that undoubtedly there was further opportunity for expansion, and had talked among themselves with President Gowen of extending west from Amarillo towards the Pacific Coast, but just at that time things far removed from us were happening. Two ex-railroad men—Daniel Reed and William Leeds—had gotten rich selling out their tinplate plants to the United States Steel Company and determined to go into the railroad business as owners, and to the surprise of the business world announced they had secured control of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway, and it wasn't long before other lines began to fall into their hands, among them being the Choctaw. Philadelphia had sold out, and the road which we had thought to be the greatest trunk line in the country became only a division of the Rock Island. A little later I found myself an officer of that road in Chicago.
Midland Valley is Built
The spirit of adventure in railroad building in the South-
west awoke again in some of the original Choctaw crowd; of Philadelphia, and headed by Charles E. Ingersoll they decided to build another railroad starting from the coal fields of Arkansas, and following the banks of the Arkansas River up to Arkansas City, Kansas, a distance of 277 miles. And being invited to become an officer of the new line, I left Chicago in 1906, and settled in Muskogee, yet in the Indian Territory, as statehood had not been established and did not come for another year.
The new railroad was the Midland Valley, and starting in Arkansas, operated through the towns of Muskogee, Tulsa and Pawhuska. Again, as in the case of the Choctaw, coal was considered the basis of traffic, as the settlement of the new country would require that commodity, and oil had not yet been found in Oklahoma.
The Midland Valley, while it was unfortunate in the fact that its hopes of handling a large traffic in coal were not fulfilled, was on the other hand fortunate in being located where the first discovery of petroleum in large quantities took place—namely, the famous Glen Pool, near Tulsa.
The Glen Pool field was discovered in March, 1906, by Robert Galbreath, of Tulsa, and Frank Chesley, of Muskogee, and came in with a rush, bringing in its wake all the big oil companies of the East and also from Texas, where oil had been discovered more than ten years previously. The Standard Oil of New Jersey, the Gulf Company, and the Texas Company were first on the ground.
The Midland Valley was about seven miles east of this first Oklahoma oil development, and the Frisco about the same distance to the west. There were no pipe lines in existence to carry the oil to markets, so the rail lines were the only method of transportation. The Midland Valley quickly built a seven-mile spur and enjoyed good earnings on machinery and oil well supplies of all descriptions going into the field, and a fine movement of crude oil to the refineries in the Port Arthur-Sabine district. The maximum daily production of the Glen Pool Field reached 120,000 barrels. The finding of this oil production so near Tulsa gave that city a great boom and established it as "oil headquarters" for all time. Other oil developments on the Midland Valley were the Big Heart development and the Burbank pool, both in the Osage Nation.
In looking back through the years I am struck most forcibly by the influence the railroads have had in the development not only of Indian Territory and Oklahoma but of all the great southwestern country. The men of vision who built the railroads built also the Southwest, and brought millions in wealth to the people of that part of the country. They served their day and generation magnificently, and the transportation agencies they left will continue to play a prominent part in the life of the country they helped so much to develop.