Indian Pioneer Papers - Index
Indian Pioneer History
Project for Oklahoma
Date: May 25, 1937
Dr. Robert C. Bills
Post Office: Soper , Oklahoma
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Information on father:
Place of birth:
Information on mother:
Field Worker: Hazel B. Green
Dr. Robert C. Bills, Physician and Surgeon
Soper, Oklahoma states:
When I came to the Indian Territory in 1895, I had been out of Medical College just a little while. I had an uncle who was a doctor, under whom I had studied, in addition to attending the University of Tennessee, at Nashville. I knew if I stayed with this uncle in Texas, and practiced with him, that I'd have all the night calls to make, and the hardest part of the practice to do and anyway, I just wanted to swing out by myself. I wanted to come to the Indian Territory. I was young and not married and did not know a thing about the Choctaw Indians, or about any other Indians.
I landed at Crowder Springs; about ten miles south of what is now Boswell, and across Boggy from here, in 1895, with a horse, saddle, saddle bags, and twenty five dollars. Crowder Springs was on the main big road from Garret's Bluff on Red River to Caddo. There was nothing there but the springs and the camping ground. Travelers would camp there on their way to Caddo from Paris, Texas, Honey Grove and other places. Caddo was then the terminus of the M. K. & T. railroad. There were people living around near, but not right at the springs.
On the road toward Caddo, and about one and one half ;miles north of what is now Bennington, was what was called the Red Store; that was the only one between Garret's Bluff and Caddo. They handled no medicines except chill tonic, castor oil, and just a few other simple remedies, patent medicines mostly. When a doctor got out of medicine he had to go to Paris, Honey Grove, or some other town in Texas for a new supply It was easier to go over there than to Caddo. The roads were better. Even then they were mostly trails. The roads were nothing to brag about. Nearly every place I went I had to go horseback over trails. There were lots of places that one could no get over in any other way except afoot or horseback.
I boarded at John Crowder's, he was a Choctaw Indian, so the other Indians considered me as one of them, and treated me as such.
Old Dr. Brown was at the Red Store and Dr. John was at Atlas, about five miles north of the present town of Soper. Atlas was the home of Judge Tom Oakes, near New Spencer Academy. We were the only three doctors in the country and we were kept pretty busy. We would usually find out in what direction we wanted to go and strike out across the prairie or woods. Sometimes we doctors would go a distance of twenty or thirty miles to make a call. I did all the practice around Lake West which was at the mouth of Blue River, the mouth of White Grass River and in the forks of Boggy Creek and believe me, those old fullbloods over in those wildernesses were dangerous. Tom Crowder was my guide and interpreter, and frequently the fullbloods would send for me and whoever they sent would act as my escort to and from the place I was going, so as to protect me from unfriendly Indians, and to let their own friends know that I had their protection.
Lots of times I would have to stay all night. They would always make me a good bed. In the winter my bed would in the house and in the summer it would be a pallet on the porch, with the escort always near me. They would never leave me alone. Even then I felt safer than I did with most of the white people here,
because so many of them were renegades, horsethieves and worse.
Once I was sent for in the night. The guide told me we were going to one place and when we got there it was a mile or so farther on. The road or trail was so bad we had to leave our buggy and walk the balance of the way, through brush, briars, and over rocks. We had a "buggy lantern." We carried that, but even then it was hard to see how to get through.
Arriving there, I found a fellow with a wounded leg. He pretended that he had accidentally
shot himself, and to carry out his bluff, said he meant to throw away that old pistol, a 38, just as soon as he got well. I knew that the bullet I cut out was not a 38, but it was not a fitting time for me to say anything. However, I told him that he need not throw the pistol away; that I'd feel mighty good to have it along with me on my return home. He didn't give it to me. There were fifteen or more men ganged up there in that house. They all looked like cut-throats. They had the women fix us some supper, after I had dressed the wound. Then we left. This fellow had paid me $25.00 for my services and my interpreter was so afraid that they would follow us and rob us of that money, that he would not let me light our buggy lantern, till we had gone a long way from the house. Of course, they could have followed us easily, but that is the way he felt about it. So we made our way as best we could back to the buggy to his intense relief.
Once a fullblood Choctaw Indian woman sent for me to come to attend her in confinement. She would not let me examine her. I kept on wanting to help her and she would not let me. After several hours I had my interpreter tell her that if she did not mean to let me help her that there was no use for us to stay, and that I was going home. She insisted that I stay, that she had the money to pay me to stay, and that she wanted me to, but still she would not let me touch her. Finally, I went out under the shade of a tree and made a pallet and rested. About midafternoon the baby was born and they sent for me to come into the house. I went. She wanted me to remove the placenta. A sister of hers had died about two weeks before, because the placenta had not passed and that was all she wanted me for. I removed it. She paid me the $25.00 I charged and everybody was pleased.
It was no unusual thing for fullblood Indian women to make pallets out in the yard or on the porch till after delivery. They frequently went down on a branch, or creek, and almost always wanted to be alone. They would care for the babies themselves.
There was plenty of all kinds of game in this country. Turkey, deer and other things. Turkey hunting was my big hobby. I loved it. The main big road in this country was the one from Garret's Bluff, past Crowder Springs, across Crowder Prairie, which joined the one from Doaksville, at Brown's Red store, and went on past Governor Wilson N. Jones ranch, over Sugar Loaf hill and on into Caddo.
Cade is on that road. Hunters were not supposed to come over into this Indian country without a special permit, but lots of them did. Lots of times, when the Indians would hear hounds running a deer, they would find the hunters and shoot them, instead of the deer. The hunters did not dare protest, because they knew that those white men from other states were invading the rights of the Indians.
Old man Crowder kept saying the wanted another dog. So once when I saw a likely looking fellow, I just stole him and took him home to Mr. Crowder. That was the only dog I ever stole in my life. The only fine I ever paid in my life was for shoting [sic] a turkey out of season. That was after statehood. Paul Harris was game warden and it cost me $35.00. I got no jail sentence.
When I first came to the Indian Territory, one could kill all the game he wanted to at any time, and not violate a law.
I have some mounted horns of deer that I killed. But we would not just kill wastefully. Once a bunch of us went on a big hunt, and made it a law among ourselves to "board" any man who brought in a turkey before we had eaten up the supply that we had on hand.
Crowder Springs got to be quite a health resort. The springs had no medical qualities especially, so far as I know, but lots of folks thought so and lots of folks just like to go camping in the summer anyhow. Lots of camping grounds were social gathering places, as well as church grounds or court grounds. By that I mean people made a social gathering of camping out even if they were compelled to be there on business. And lots of them went, just for the social side.
I have seen a thousand people camped on the "Forks of Boggy Court Ground" when court was going on. It was the court ground for three districts of the Choctaw nation, and Joel W. Everidge was District Judge for years. Enterprising individuals would set up stands and sell foods and lots of other necessities to the people who would sometimes be camped there for weeks. Sometimes court lasted for weeks; due to the fact that there might be lots of cases or some long drawn out.
Garrets Bluff is on Red River, about eight miles south of Soper.
Transcribed for OKGenWeb on 22 June 2002 by Todd A. Murray (firstname.lastname@example.org) from a photocopy of the original obtained from the University of Tulsa Library, OK.