The only non-Republican to serve as Oklahoma Territory's delegate to Congress, James Yancy Callahan was born near Salem, Missouri, on December 19, 1852. He attended the common schools in Missouri. Later he married Margaret A. Mitchell, with whom he had ten children, and became a Methodist minister. In 1886 and again in 1888, Callahan was elected as a Republican to the position of register of deeds in Stanton County, Kansas. After briefly returning to Missouri, he homesteaded near Kingfisher, Oklahoma Territory, in 1892, where he farmed and served as a minister and member of the school board. During this time he also changed his party affiliation to Populist.
In 1896 he was selected as the Populist Party's nominee for territorial delegate to Congress. In keeping with the trend toward fusion between the Populist and Democratic parties, he was also nominated by the Democrats, and he ran as a Free Silver candidate. He defeated Republican incumbent Dennis Flynn in the general election but unfortunately was unable to accomplish much in Congress. Callahan attempted to pass bills that would combine Oklahoma and Indian territories in preparation for joint statehood and secure free homes for settlers in Oklahoma Territory, but he failed in both attempts. He did not seek reelection in 1898, and Flynn regained the office over another fusion candidate. Callahan moved from Kingfisher to Enid in 1906 and engaged in various business and civic pursuits until his death on May 3, 1935.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1996 (Alexandria, Va.: CQ Staff Directories, 1997). Enid (Oklahoma) Daily Eagle, 3 May 1935. Enid (Oklahoma) Morning News, 4 May 1935. Elmer L. Fraker, "The Election of J. Y. Callahan," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 33 (Autumn 1955). Worth Robert Miller, Oklahoma Populism (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987). Terry Paul Wilson, "The Demise of Populism in Oklahoma Territory," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 43 (Autumn 1965).
Matthew Rex Cox
© Oklahoma Historical Society