Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 14, No. 2
June, 1936

Enid, April 30 and May 1, 1936

Page 248

As Secretary of the Oklahoma Historical Society I realize that it is not possible to take up in detail the affairs of the organization at this meeting, but will speak of the work of the Society briefly.

Some three years ago Judge Doyle, now our esteemed president, compiled a brief sketch of the history of this Society, and I have had it revised and reprinted as it answers many questions concerning the history and work of the Society. In itself it is a compiled and an abbreviated report of the activities of this Society since its beginning some forty-three years ago.

We will have a number of extra copies, and I wish that every one present would secure a copy so that you may, at your leisure, acquire a more comprehensive understanding of the object and accomplishments of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The Oklahoma Historical Society was the child of the first Editorial Association of the territory and was initiated just forty-three years ago at Kingfisher, Oklahoma, where the Editorial Association was holding its annual meeting.

At the time it was organized the Oklahoma and Indian Territories were separate political units and Oklahoma Territory comprised less than one-half of Oklahoma's present area. The territory now occupied by the Cherokee outlet, with more than seven million acres, had not been opened to settlement.

The Kiowa, Comanche and Wichita reservations had not been alloted or opened to white settlement at that time, while the Cherokee Commission was busy in trying to induce the Indians to take their land in severalty so the vast surplus lands could be opened to white settlement.

At the newspaper editors' meeting at Kingfisher, May 27, 1893, Mr. W. P. Campbell, speaking for himself and for his brother, Buck Campbell, made the proposition to the newspaper editors present, that if every editor in the territory would send his or her pub-

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lication to their office in Kingfisher, that they would see to it that the papers were bound into volumes and taken care of in their office until other quarters could be procured. This invitation was not only extended to the editors of Oklahoma, but also included all editors of newspapers in the Indian Territory. The Editorial Association accepted the proposition submitted by Mr. Campbell and ever since that day these papers have been collected, bound and preserved by the custodians of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Two years after this first meeting, 1895, a charter was granted by the Secretary of the Territory to the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Territorial Legislature later, in the following session, 1895, while W. C. Renfrow was governor of the Territory, passed an act making an appropriation for the care and custody of these newspapers and records, and also to preserve and perpetuate the history of Oklahoma and its people. By this act the Historical Society was made custodian of the historic and official records of the state. This institution has had a continuous existence from that day until this, and it has made constant growth in every department, until today it is generally recognized that our institution is fully the equal of any historical organization in the west. It has been in the hands of its friends and has functioned as it should in establishing an historical library, museum, also in conserving books, newspapers, pamphlets, magazines and manuscripts, diaries, maps and all manner of historical documents, also photographs, engravings, pictures, statuary and other objects of art with special regard to illustrating and visualizing the history of our own state of Oklahoma and of the southwest.

Perhaps the most momentous epoch in the history of our society was the completion and dedication of our Historical Society building.

On your program you will see a picture of the building. In this building is housed the Oklahoma Historical Society, the splendid historical library which has been assembled in the last forty-three years, and our valuable collections including many rare books, pamphlets and manuscripts. We have many volumes in this library that are of great historic value and many that can not be replaced.

Another department is devoted entirely to newspapers which we have received, as stated above. The collection of newspapers

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was one of the primary objects of the organization. We receive all, with the possible exception of a half dozen, of the papers printed in Oklahoma and some printed in other states. We receive about 250 weeklies, bi-weeklies and tri-weeklies and 62 daily papers. These weeklies are bound into volumes every year and the larger dailies are bound every month. We have now on our shelves nearly 25,000 volumes of newspapers extending back to 1828, (this being the files of the Cherokee Phoenix from 1828 to 1833). These newspapers are placed in our shelves alphabetically and chronologically and are, today, the greatest source of Oklahoma history to be found.

We also have a department devoted entirely to the records of the various Indian tribes, including that of the Five Civilized tribes. By an act of Congress, the Oklahoma Historical Society has been made custodian of all these records and we have long had an expert archivist indexing and classifying them, and any research student who wishes information on the tribes of Indians that have been under Indian agencies in Oklahoma, can get first-hand knowledge here. There have been a number of WPA workers under the direct supervision of Mrs. Rella Watts, classifying these records.


One of the important functions of the Historical Society is the publication of a quarterly magazine, Chronicles of Oklahoma. This magazine is devoted to the history of Oklahoma, not only the history of the white race and the white man's government, but also the history and traditions of many tribes of Indians who were the first settlers. This magazine has been published for thirteen years and we now have twelve bound volumes. It is sent to hundreds of schools of the state—schools complying with certain requirements, as to the number of students and scholastic credits. We hope soon to have sufficient funds available to send the Chronicles to every consolidated school in the state. It is also sent to every newspaper in the state, received in exchange for the Chronicles, which includes nearly every paper published in Oklahoma. It is sent to the libraries of most of the larger educational institutions in America, and copies are sent to foreign countries. In exchange for the Chronicles of Oklahoma, we receive the historical publication of almost every state in the Union.

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Every individual member of the Oklahoma Historical Society receives the Chronicles without additional cost, above the annual membership fee of $1.00.

The department which attracts the most attention and receives the most visitors is our state museum. It is fully the equal of any in any other state of the Union, and, as an Indian museum, it can only be surpassed by the National Museum and Smithsonian Institution at Washington. While we keep a register, yet we can not know definitely how many people have visited this institution in the past year. The museum has been visited by people from every county in the State and from most every state in the Union, and we have had quite a number of distinguished guests from foreign countries. We have had as many as two thousand visitors in a single day.

We have had several contributions of importance to the museum recently, including Mrs. Camille Phelan's famous History Quilt, and the Buffalo Hide painting presented by the Cherokee Strip Cow Punchers Association by its Secretary, Oscar E. Brewster. This hide represents the vanishing cattle industry of the Cherokee Strip. It has painted on it the picture of a herd of longhorn cattle disappearing in the distance. There is also pictured on this Buffalo hide the brands of the many cow ranches taken from the old brand books now in the vault of the Historical Society building. However, the most important of all is the historical roster containing the names of nearly 500 of those who were engaged in the cattle industry in the Cherokee Strip from the close of the Civil War until the opening in 1893. We are having constructed some splendid cabinets for these two exhibits, and they will be installed within the next few days. Many other contributions have been made to the museum in the past year by friends of the Society.

This report would not be complete unless some mention is made of the Union and Confederate Memorial halls. Within these sacred shrines are preserved not only the relics and the pictures, but also the history and memories of the war between the States. It is with a feeling of reverence and awe that intelligent people visit these rooms and view the pictures on the walls and the many mementoes of that great strife, which is now American history.

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Many hundreds of the students of the schools of the state, accompanied by their teachers have visited these memorial rooms and have listened to the splendid lectures of the custodians in charge and have come away with a bigger, broader, and altogether more charitable knowledge of the Civil War than they have gotten by reading the books taught in the schools. It is fortunate that we have a Union soldier in charge of the Union Memorial room and although he is past 90 his mind is bright, his memory good, and his heart generous and the student of Oklahoma history hears at first hand the story of our own Civil War. The lady in charge of the Confederate Memorial room is the daughter of a Confederate soldier. She is an highly educated cultured lady who takes a profound interest in her work. The talks she makes to the students are most interesting and instructive. She is the daughter of a Confederate soldier who enlisted in the service from the Indian Territory.

Since our last meeting the Fifteenth State Legislature has met and adjourned. They recognized the needs of the Society and made sufficient appropriations to continue the work for the next biennium—and right here I wish to say that the legislatures of Oklahoma have, most generously, recognized the usefulness of the Historical Society and have made sufficient appropriations to carry on its work.

In the Secretary's written report at the annual meeting of a year ago, at Okmulgee, we spoke of the death of Charles F. Colcord, our distinguished president. Now we have to report that another member of the Board of Directors has passed away since our last annual meeting. That grand old veteran Gen. Richard A. Sneed died at the home of his son at Lawton on March 15, 1936. He was the embodiment of history, honor and patriotism and Oklahoma's most beloved citizen. His life was one of the last links that bound past history with the present. His passing was a distinct loss to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The Oklahoma Historical Society is an educational institution, as much so as any state school and its ambition is to serve the entire people. Our historical collection here is invaluable to the student of history, whether he be a writer, a student in one of the state schools, or a private citizen in search of historical knowledge.

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But what is the use to tell more about this great institution? It belongs to the people of Oklahoma, and it is the earnest wish of those in charge that they shall visit this Historical Society building and take advantage of the opportunities here offered in the study of history and kindred subjects.

Respectfully submitted,
Dan W. Peery, Secretary.

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