Robert C. Rowe
|Rowe, Robert C.
Field Worker: John F. Daugherty
Date: September 28, 1937
My father was Alfred Rowe, born in Tennessee, date unknown. He was a farmer.
Mother was Lessie Jackson Rowe, born in Tennessee, January 16, 1858. There were five children in our family. I was born November 29, 1874 in Memphis, Tennessee.
I came with my parents to the Indian Territory in 1884. They came in a wagon, but I walked most of the way and drove five cows. We settled on Matt Wolfe's place, north of Davis. We had a log house with one door and a native lumber floor which we put in after we moved here. We got the lumber from a sawmill at the mouth of Hickory Creek, near Davis. I remember helping Father build a stake and rider rail fence near Davis. There were no wire fences and only the land in cultivation was fenced.
When I was about eighteen years old I went to Gainesville to a reunion. I decided I wanted to taste some beer. I had never seen any so I went into a salon. The barkeeper tried to put me out because I was a minor but I was determined to taste the beer. I argued with him and he finally told me that he would let me have a glass of beer if I would let another man take it from the bar and hand it to me. I was willing. When he handed me the beer, I handed him the money to pay for it. I didn't like it al all and set it back on the bar. Then I asked for a drink of whiskey but he wouldn't sell it to me. I told him I got whiskey in the Indian Territory whenever I wanted it. He refused to let me have any. He asked me what they drank in the Territory. I told him we drank red ink, Peruna and White Mule. He said I had better get out of there for he had just paid a fine of a hundred dollars for letting a minor stay in there. I took my departure without further urging.
I was water boy for the dirt crew on the Santa Fe Railroad grade at Wynnewood and Purcell. They called me "Six Shooter Bill." I was about twelve years old at this time and I received seventy-five cents per day. This was my first job away from home and I felt very important. The water they drank was hauled in barrels from the creeks and rivers.
We moved to a farm near Stonewall in the Chickasaw Nation, about 1888. At this time Ada consisted of a Peruna joint and chili stand.
Ada, in the Chickasaw Nation, was where the United States Commissioners court for Pontotoc district was held. U. G. Wynn was Commissioner. The United States marshals and prisoners ate at a hotel there. The Government paid for these meals. I remember a group of prisoners they had there. Among them was a Negro who had murdered another Negro and the hogs had eaten his body. They gathered the bones and put them in a sack. When they rattled these bones near this Negro, he would nearly break his leg, which was chained, trying to get away. They had lots of fun teasing this Negro with these bones.
There was a man here who was called "Cowboy Preacher", whom the officers had tried to subpoena for a witness in Federal Court at Paris, Texas. He always evaded them and they were not able to get near enough to him to serve it. Gus Bobbitt told me he would pay me five dollars if I would serve the notice. I sent word to "Cowboy Preacher" that I wanted to buy a horse. He told me to come to see him on a certain day and I went. I talked to him for awhile about buying his horse then I pulled the subpoena from my pocket and told him to read it. He was certainly angry and I rode away leaving him in a rage.
When I was sixteen years old, Father gave me a Winchester. Boys were not to carry guns, but I carried this one. I was so proud of it, and never went out without it.
One day an Indian boy and I were riding in the woods. we were taught to pay no attention to strangers, especially if they approached us on foot. Two men suddenly appeared from the bushes and one of them said, "Here, wait a minute, boys." My pony jumped over a bluff and ran leaving the men far behind. We were telling another Indian boy about the men, and he patted his gun affectionately and said in Indian, "They can't get my gun. Good gun." The next day while he was riding in the woods the men stopped him, took his gun away from him, drove a stick in the barrel and took his horse away from him. They gave his gun back to him and rode away on his horse. The boy couldn't shoot at them because the stick was in the end of the barrel of his gun. We laughed at him many times about his good gun.
When the Lee brothers killed Alvin Roff and six of his cowhands north of Ardmore, they sent a man to Pete Goodson, who lived near there to ask him to bring his wagon and haul them to the Roff Ranch at Ardmore. Pete told the man that he didn't have time. When the man returned and told the Lee boys that Pete refused to go, one of them went to Pete's house and commanded him to go. He tried to talk about other things and the Lee boy told him he must go. He said, "Here is seventy-five dollars. I'm paying you ten dollars for each of the dead men and five dollars extra." Pete saw there was nothing to do except go. He hitched his team to the wagon and drove to the scene of the murder. He said it was the most terrible experience he ever had. They loaded those seven men in his wagon like dead cattle and he hauled them to the ranch headquarters in Ardmore.
One day I was in Ardmore when a man came driving through with three yoke of oxen. A cowboy rode beside the oxen and gave one of them a kick saying, "Get out of town, you're too slow for us." The driver struck the boy across the back with his lash, tearing his shirt and cutting the boy's back. The boy decided he had spoken out of turn that time.
The first wheat I saw in the Territory was raised near Byrd's Mill on about six acres of ground. It was put in with steers and horses and harvested with a home made harrow and steers. They cut it with a cradle and threshed it with horses. The ground was swept clean and the wheat laid down. The horses tramped the grain out and it was picked up and the chaff blown out.
In those days a man needed only a little money. Nearly everything was prepared at home. The Indians got their salt from deer licks. These were barren spots where the salt came to the top of the ground, and deer and buffalo came here to get their salt. The Indians would pick up the dirt and take it to their homes and boil it to get the salt out. They didn't use much salt. A small amount lasted a long time.
When I was nineteen years old I went to work in the Collins Institute for Indian Girls at Stonewall. I worked in the dining room for five years. This job lasted for ten months and I herded cattle the other two months. It was here that I met my wife. She was the chief pastry cook. Her father was superintendent of the academy. Her name was Letitia Smith. Her mother was a full blood Chickasaw. We were married in 1898.
When the Dawes Commission was making its rolls in 1900, I was called as a witness against a white man who had married a full blood Indian girl. He was trying to enroll and wasn't living with his wife. He was a court claimant. I had heard him say that the Chickasaws had laws by which they married the whites but there was no law to make them live together. They told him to stand aside, and he wasn't enrolled.
The ranchers used to have range bulls which were so wild they couldn't handle them at all. One day I saw a man buy two fifteen year olds and he put chains on their heads and a bow across their necks and tied their tails together. He put a yoke of oxen in front and another behind and worked them. They became very docile after being worked for awhile.
Transcribed by Brenda Choate and Dennis Muncrief, July 2001