Indian Pioneer Papers
Beavers, Mabel Sharpe
Field Workerís name: Hazel B. Greene
Date: July 22, 1937
Name: Mrs. Mabel Sharpe Beavers
Address: Soper, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: September 1, 1891
Place of Birth: Clifton, Kansas
Name of Father: Charles Standley Sharpe
Fatherís place of birth: Exetor, Canada
Other information about father: Buried at Clifton, Kansas
Name of Mother: Mrs. Sade Sharpe
Motherís place of birth: Indianapolis, Indiana
Other information about mother: Living at Soper, Oklahoma
Interview With Mrs. Mabel Sharpe Beavers, Soper, Oklahoma
My name was Mabel Sharpe. My mother
loved to sing and play the organ, when she was a girl, and one of the popular
songs of her girlhood days was "Mabel Fair [Claire]". Then when I came
along she named me Mabel Lucille. Years afterward, when my sister died and her
daughters came to live with us, we traded the organ in on a piano, for the
girls, and mother never touched it because of her sentiment for the organ.
I came from Emporia Kansas State Teachers College to Soper to teach school when I was sixteen years old, on September 1, 1907. I thought Soper was my destination until I arrived there, and one can imagine the surprise and consternation of a sixteen year old girl who had never been away from home before (only to college, and while at college had always lived with relatives). A girl who had never seen an Indian, to be met at the train by a couple of full blood Indians and to be told that her school was eight miles out in the country. One of the Indians was Mr. Isham Thomas, a member of the school board, the other was Mr. Joe Nail.
They took me out in a farm wagon to Mr. Nailís home. It was after dark when we arrived out there, and if it was possible to be frightened any more than I was when coming out from town, I was then. I just know that if one of those Indians had touched my hair, that my scalp would have come off without any pulling. I sat there by the fire for a while and then abruptly and impolitely asked if there were no white people near. They told me that there was, a mile away. This home of Joe Nailís consisted of about five rooms, and was very nice, and they were very nice to me, and tried to give me the nicest place in the neighborhood in which to stay, but I couldnít know that. The were Indians. Horrors!
Mr. Isham Thomas, one of the full blood Indians, I remember, accompanied me to the home of the white people a mile away. We walked, and when we reached it, I was shocked to find it to be a log house of one room and about fifteen people there. They told me of another, across the creek. There were stones to step upon to cross. There were no bridges here then. So we went over there. That was the home of Mr. Fry, who owned the little sawmill there. They said they would keep me there that night, but I would have to get another place the next day.
Mr. Thomas had a nice home right at the school, but no wife, so I could not stay there. However, I prevailed upon the Frys to keep me for a while, and they finally decided to keep me the entire term.
Oklahoma was the name of our school, and it was in Oklahoma district. Two members of the board were white men. Mr. Calvin Ballard was the Superintendent of Instruction and schools. He was a very fine man.
Well, after I got there I learned that something had happened to the school house, or they had never had one, I just donít recall, but any way, I taught under a brush arbor with plank seats until cold weather. It was pretty cold, too. Then the board took up collections and bought some rough lumber, and they and the pupils and I built that school house with our own hands. I planned it and did some of the actual work upon it. And were we proud of our achievement! Mr. Fry built one seat that looked like a desk for his children. The balance were just rough lumber benches. I had six white pupils and eighteen Indian pupils. All of the Indians were Choctaws.
I taught the whole term out there, then went somewhere else. But those people were lovely to me, and were, and are yet, some of the warmest friends I have ever had. They understood the fright of a sixteen year old girl among strangers, and a race that she knew nothing about. But I did have some funny experiences.
Once, a bride and groom, full blood Choctaw Indians, were celebrating their marriage by getting drunk and coming to the school house. We were afraid of them and the children and I held the door for quite a while to keep them out. They would try awhile and go away, then return and try again, but finally they took our word that we didnít mean to let them in and went away for good.
Another full blood Choctaw Indian, who had a son in school, visited the school daily. The boy was about twelve and a good child. The father was perfectly devoted to him, and I thought he was visiting the school to see that the boy had a fair deal. The mother was dead. He would bring me his letters to read to him if they were written in English. He could not speak very much English. Finally he proposed marriage. I declined with thanks.
Little Isham Nelson, a little full blood boy, started his schooling with me. He sat there the whole term, and wore out several books with me trying to teach him to read about the "ginger bread boy". He would just sit there and do nothing. Never say a word, no matter how hard I tried. He would never utter a sound. I knew he was not deaf though and kept on instructing him as if he were passing on through the book. One day, in the spring of the year we were out playing ball. He and I happened to be on the same side. I made a hit, and he yelled, Little Isham Nelson yelled. "Run! Miss Mabel Run! Run Miss Mabel run!" And I did. And when we returned to the school room I commanded him to read and he read well. I donít know whether he could not read up to then and his enthusiasm removed the restraint that he labored [under], or whether he just "sulled". Sometimes I think the former. I sometime think he just then realized that he could read aloud what he knew. He never failed me after that.
As a class, my Indian pupils were fairly clean, easy to teach and to read and write, naturally artistic, and truthful. Arithmetic and geography were a little hard for them. And they were loyal to their teacher as I suppose they were to any friends. I really enjoyed my year among them.
We organized a Sunday School, and had a fair attendance, and we could get a Mr. Hays to preach for us monthly. The people out there seemed to enjoy our Sunday School work.
They had dances too, and I attended and learned to dance the old fashioned Square dance to the tunes played on fiddles. I had to go when my host and hostess did or stay at home alone. Iíll never forget how one swain asked to "carry" me home from a dance. I have always been rather heavy, and I thought he was making fun of my size, when in reality he was simply asking to escort me home. But I told him NO with no delicacy whatever.
Sometimes a lot of the neighbors would gather at a home and then go Ďpossum hunting. Then we had a Christmas tree for the children at school. No program. Just a tree for them and a present for each on the tree. Something small, nothing elaborate.
Contributed by Janie Watts, transcribed by Ron Henson 9-8-2002
contributorís note: This Isham Nelson had to be related to Coleman Nelson some way. My great aunt, Jerusha Ashford was married to Isham Nelson but dates do not correspond with my great uncle being her student and they did not have children so maybe a nephew of my great uncle.