The Atoka Agreement stated specifically the terms and conditions for the appraisements of the land where improvements existed such as houses or stores.
The owner of the improvements on each lot shall have the right to buy one residence and one business lot at fifty per centum of the appraised value of such improved property, and the remainder of such improved property at sixty-two and one half per centum of the said market value within sixty days from date of notice served on him that such lot is for sale. . . ,
On Jan. 18, 1905, Supt. Swords sent a letter to U.S. Marshal Ben Colbert in Ardmore asking for protection of U.S. Indian Inspector Frank Churchill. Payment claims were in excess of $400,000 and he expected there would be trouble with some citizens or maybe robbers. The government actually paid only about $86,000 for all the improvements.
On May 1, 1905, the first auction was held with the opening of sealed bids. As was the norm for the new reservation, pandemonium reigned. There were 759 bids on structures in the first auction. A 20% certified check was required with each bid.
Some sent a certified check for the entire amount of their bid. Others sent non-certified checks and others sent no check at all. One man sent in a check for two dollars for a bid he made of $1.60. Some of the people bid on vacant lots or the wrong structures because they could not read a map.
The Secretary of the Interior instructed Supt. Swords to form a committee of two local citizens and himself to review the bids and determine if they were fair to the citizens and the government. The Act of May 31, 1900 required that one committee member be appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, one by the Governor of the Chickasaws and one member was to be a local citizen and occupant of the land who had no interest in the land other than his own homestead. In this manner the interest of the United States, the Chickasaws and the individual property owners were well considered in the value of the appraisements.
In the case of the Bland Hotel, a bid of $11,111.00 was submitted. The government paid $50,000 for the hotel and the committee quickly rejected the high bid. The government appraisers felt that the hotel was worth $25,000 standing.
Rental for the land in the last six months of 1904 amounted to $2,454.50. The money, instead of being used for development in the Park, was sent to St. Louis and deposited in the Bank of the United States. These rents were from people who sold their homes or businesses but still resided in them.
Mitchell & Brown, contractors from Wynnewood, I.T., were building many of the homes and businesses in the New Sulphur. They bid $11,000 on the Bland Hotel so they could harvest the 1,250,000 bricks, windows, doors, flooring and ceilings for use on other buildings. They also gave a bid of $6,000 for the demolition and salvage of the materials from the hotel for the park's future use. Supt. Swords recommended the demolition and salvage bid be accepted, as he wanted rid of the hotel. The Secretary rejected both bids.
Another point of interest for Supt. Swords was Block 201 in the new town. Although it was outside the reservation, there was the Chickasaw National School for Girls located there. Also on the same block was the cemetery, which had been in use from 1894 until 1903 that contained 115 bodies. Swords wanted the Chickasaws to donate the land to the Park because he felt that moving the graves would be desecration and unsanitary. Block 201 is where the courthouse now stands in Sulphur.
In June of 1905, Sulphur Power and Light proposed to furnish electricity to light the Park for the months of June through October for the sum of $120 per year. Although Swords indorses the project, the Secretary considers the project too expensive.
Before any of the houses could be moved there was a problem with all the fences in the reserve. Supt. Swords let a contract for $150 to remove all the post and wire on the reservation and store the fencing for future use. This gave a clear path for the house movers. The used fencing did not prove to be the savings imagined. The only people who would string the used wire demanded $2.50 per day instead of the normal labor fee of $0.75 - $1.50 per day.
In May of 1905, there were eight different crews of house movers working in the reservation. There was also one lumberyard. Supt. Swords became aware that both these business were now price gouging the public. People were trying to get their houses out of the reservation before the thirty-day limit expired. New businesses and homes were being built in the new town. The lumberyards were selling to the highest bidder. What little amount of new building supplies that trickled in, did so on the new Sulphur Springs Railway Company (later purchased by the Frisco R.R.) spur from Scullin, built in 1902.
The house movers were working as fast as they could but there were torrential rains in June and July. There were no bridges for wagon traffic. The crossing over Sulphur Creek was steep muddy banks if one was moving to North Town. Rock Creek was swollen so often by heavy rains that houses had to be floated across on rafts for those moving to West Town.
After the debacle with the sealed bids in May, Swords decided that the next sale, in August, needed to be by public auction. He hired Willis Townsley, a local licensed auctioneer, who was also on the Bid Commission, to hold the next sale for 1% commission.
The best quality houses and buildings were mostly taken in the first auction. Before this second auction, Swords chose several buildings for use as Park buildings. One cottage was moved to the Antelope-Buffalo Springs area for the caretaker of the east end of the reservation. Another cottage was reserved and moved to the area of Bromide Springs for the caretaker of the west side of the reserve. A third cottage was kept at the Pavilion Springs for the residence of Ranger Forrest Townsley. A fourth cottage was kept as the residence of Supt. Swords. The old Schwiening Hardware Store was kept as the Park office and the Nathan Turk home was used as the house of detention and the U.S. Commissioner's Court.
Two cottages were also kept near the Pavilion Springs as "houses of comfort" for men and women.
The heavy rains of summer had caused an explosion of weeds in the area where the houses had been moved from around the Pavilion. The Sulphur health department sent an angry letter to Supt. Swords concerning the "malarial conditions" of the Park. He orders Rangers Earl and Townsley to purchase a horse drawn mower and rake, hire a temporary crew and mow the weeds along the north boundary by town and the old town site with its many vacant lots.
The cattle problem is still not solved. The many roads across the Park are now fenced off. The Supt. builds a new road between South Town and North Town. The old fencing is strung along the side the road. Cattlemen cut the fence and stole the new $15 gate. Swords wrote to the U.S. District Attorney in Ardmore and told of his intentions to build a cattle detention compound. He was finally tired of chasing cattle out of the reserve. He now drives cattle and horses that are in the Park to the impound lot and charges the owners fifty cents per day "storage" for each animal.
The October sale finally gets rid of the White Sulphur Inn (Park Hotel) for $1,615. The hotel consisted of several annex buildings, dynamos, generators and the like. The parts are broken up and sold piecemeal.
The hotel was sold to Willis Townsley, et. al., and relocated where the Lewis Motor Company now sits north of the Vendome Well.
© Contributed by Dennis Muncrief, October 2006.