AXTON, BENJAMIN MCGEE INTERVIEW, Ethel E. Palmer, Interviewer, June 19, 1937
Interview with Benjamin McGee Axton, Leedey, Oklahoma
My first trip to Oklahoma was in 1881 when I was twelve years old. I came with some more people to No Man's Land. They were looking for a location. I traveled into Oklahoma on a bicycle. There were quite a number of people settled along the Canadian River, as at that time there was a boom on in No Man's Land, but people soon starved out and moved away.
The nearest market was Wichita, Kansas. We went home in 1889. We returned to Oklahoma, settling at what is called the Trail Flats. We moved in a covered wagon with three head of horses to the wagon. It took us eight days to make the trip from Kansas here. I don't know of a furrow being plowed on the flats when I came to this country.
Our first post office was Camargo. This was a cedar log building and it is still standing in the same place. Camargo is in its third location. It was at first three miles southeast of where it is now. Then it was moved back north. When the railroad was established the town moved to the railroad to where it is now.
El Reno was our trading post. This was one hundred seventy-five miles and it took us fourteen and one-half days to make the trip. We usually stayed in town about four hours. My horses and I, too, have done without water for a day and a half at a time and I would just have parched corn to eat. We only knew one route or trail to go those days. I can well remember this old trail. We went to Camargo, then on to Jack Long Spring, followed the old trail to Rawhide Creek, then on to where Seiling now is, then to Fort Cantonment (established 1875, later moved to Fort Reno) then on to El Reno.
I helped build the first house on the flats with just common old plank floors. When the house was completed the owner gave a big dance. We danced to the music of the violin and harp. We boys would always wear our boots and carry our shoes in our pocket. Just before we got to a dance we would stop and put our shoes on.
We lived in a dugout with a fireplace in it and had fair furniture for those days.
The first Ford I remember seeing was a one cylinder car. It had two or three steps to go up to get in it. It was at a big picnic and they took people for rides, three miles for 25 cents.
There were lots of turkeys and deer across the river. I've seen eighty-four turkeys in one drove and twenty-six deer in one run.
There was a Methodist preacher by the name of Stone who held a six weeks revival on the flats. There were 25 covered wagons camped for all the meeting, some people lived in tents. Lots of the cowboys were converted.
I've been to places with Red Buck and Miller. They seemed to be nice men at times and were very nice and polite to women. They were known, however, as very bad men.
Interview transcribed from Indian-Pioneer Papers located at the Oklahoma Historical Society, volume 3-8 microfiche #6016868.
About the Collection
In 1936, the [Oklahoma Historical] society teamed with the history department at the University of Oklahoma to get a Works Progress Administration (WPA) writers' project grant for an interview program. The project employed more than 100 writers scattered across the state, with headquarters in Muskogee, where Grant Foreman served as project director. Asked to "call upon early settlers and (record) the story of the migration to Oklahoma and their early life here" the writers conducted more than 11,000 interviews, edited the accounts into written form, and sent them to the project director who completed the editorial process and had them typed into more than 45,000 pages. When assembled, the Indian-Pioneer Papers consisted of 112 volumes, with one set at the university, the other at the society. There are only two complete bound sets of originals. [Blackburn, Bob L. "Battle Cry for History: The First Century of the Oklahoma Historical Society." n.d. Oklahoma Historical Society. 5 Oct. 1998. <http://http://www.ok-history.mus.ok.us/BATTLCRY.HTM>.]