Muskogee Co, OK

Turning Back The Clock

By: C. W. "Dub" West (c) 1985

Muskogee Publishing Company, Box 1331, Muskogee, OK 74402

Snippets # 9

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(Pg 55 & 56) An Old Fashioned Christmas. Let us travel back on Memory Lane and reminisce about Christmas times past. ...There was little commercialization of Christmas for many of us. ... To most of us, the gifts were few and simple. Some were happy to receive an orange, an apple, some hard candy and a few nuts, others a bit more. In many cases, a gift consisted of something made by the donor with loving care. Perhaps it was a scarf or socks knitted by mother, or a rag doll. It might have been a pocket knife purchased by dad. The more affluent might have been given a tricycle, or a single shot .22 rifle. ... [article goes on to describe Christmas programs at churches and schools]

(Pgs 56 & 56) They Pledged Their Lives, Fortunes, Sacred Honor [This article talks about the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.]

 (Pgs 57 & 58) Mills - An Inovative Business Man. ... A person coming up the hard way was William F Mills, who arrived in Muscogee in 1892. According to J D Benedict, Mills "arrived with scarcely a trunkful of goods" and located in a little room adjoining the Patterson Merchantile. It is said that for several months he would pack his limited stock in bags and cart them every night to his sleeping quarters, as his storeroom was not considered safe from burglars. ...

The End of The Century Issue of the Phoenix featured Mills as being "the man who began here with a pack, but now owns the fine stores of Indian Territory."

... Mrs. K.C. Love, a daughter, recounted with her eyes sparkling with admiration, that Mills traveled on foot as far as Okemah, 75 miles away, stopping at various homes to show his merchandise, consisting mainly of needles, thread, and piece goods. After a while, he opened a business in a tent in front of the court house, later moving into a building, a part of which was occupied by the Phoenix. ... He later had stores in a number of surrounding towns, including Webbers Falls and Eufaula. ...

[photo (or drawing) of the train box car - sign on sign on says "This Car Load of Boots and Shoes was made especially for W F Mills of Muskogee I.T." - photo of W F Mills]

(Pgs 59 & 60) Indian Territory's First Hospital. St. Marys Hospital was established at 212 S. Main St. in 1893 by Dr. Francis B. Fite, becoming the first hospital in Muscogee and Indian Territory.

Fite had come to Muscogee in 1889 after practicing medicine a year in Tahlequah with his brother. Dr R.L. Fite. Fite brought the first X-ray machine to Indian Territory. The name of the hospital was changed to the Martha Robb Hospital honoring a daughter of A.W. Robb, a close friend and prominent business man. It was closed in 1907, giving way to a city hospital. ... [the remainder of the article lists all the hospitals and the dates they opened and closed] [photo of St Mary's Hospital]

(Pgs 60 & 62) Dawes Commission's Task Huge. [Article recounts the Dawes Commission (and commissioners) with dates of different things]

(Pgs 63, 63 & 65) Muscogee Was Known For Entertainment The Turner Opera House came into existence in 1894, putting Muscogee on the same level culturally with cities of the East, for it was the beginning of many more such institutions and the attempt to have theatrical and musical performances that would be the envy of anyone. It was located upstairs over Turner Hardware and was heated with steam and illuminated by electric lights. The first show was on Nov. 8, 1894, and according to the Phoenix, "The Opera House and its beautiful stage was the greatest show of the evening. Its settings were magnificent and equal to any in the land. It was the pick of the fine things in the Turner Hardwares furniture department. Not a stage in the great cities out rivaled it in artisic beauty or in expensive luxury. The opera House is a pride to the people." [the remainder of the article lists many of the famous people who appeared in Muskogee and other places of entertainment] [photo of a postcard shows the old Hinton Theater in Muskogee]

(Pgs 63 & 64) Judge John R Thomas Updated US Navy [Photo of Judge John R Thomas] The Muskogee Sentinel of Jan 24, 1914, reported the death of Judge John Thomas, killed in a prison riot at McAlester. He had gone there to consult a client and had been shot during the riot.

Few people realize the stature of the judge and the important roles he had played not only in the history of Indian Territory, but also in history of the entire United States.

... He was born at Mount Vernon, Ill., on Oct. 11, 1846. He enlisted in the Union Army in Company D of the 120 Indiana Volunteers at the age of 17 and had attained the rank of captain at age 19. ... an outstanding attorney and ... a member of Congress ...

Alice Robertson ... Feb. 14, 1914, in Gulick's Weekly as follows: "The circumstances under which Judge Thomas came to Indian Territory was as anomalous as difficult. 'He was called to the bench at Muskogee at a most critical period, all conditions being trying in the extreme to a man suddenly called from the legal environment or a long-settled community with its established precedents covering every phase of civil and legal procedure. Here he was to administer the United States citizenship, many of whom questioned the right of jurisdiction of this court. Infinite patience, extreme tact, a keen insight into human character, and a stern devotion were required and were possessed to the highest degree by Judge Thomas.

"With many other citizens of Muskogee, I was in the courtroom during a portion of the first murder trial held in the federal court. The crime had been an unusually repulsive one. An old fisherman had befriended a sick and penniless wanderer, ministering generously to him from his own scanty store, only to be murdered while he slept that he might rob him. Such sordid and pitiless avarice seemed incredible, and one could but feel the most intense abhorence for the murderer.

"Throughout the trial, Judge Thomas saw that exact justice should be done the prisoner, that every right to which he was entitled should be extended to him. ... "

... As an official representative of the U.S. Government, he was asked to raise two companies of volunteers for the Spanish American War. This group of Rough Riders, including his son, John Thomas Jr., were highly commended by Teddy Roosevelt, and in 1948, a monument was erected at the Katy depot honoring Thomas, and the two companies of Rough Riders recruited from Indian Territory. (It has been moved to the site of the Batefish.) ...

... Upon retirement from the bench in 1901, he entered private practice. In 1903, he was joined by a young law clerk who had been working for the Dawes Corn mission. Grant Foreman. ... In 1905 Foreman married Thomas' daughter, Carolyn. ... His funeral was held in the home he built in 1898 after coming to Muskogee, which is perpetuating the heritage that he, his daughter, and son-in-law have left us.

(Pgs 65 & 66)Teddy Roosevelt: Rough Riders From This Area. The spectre of war cast a shadow over Muscogee in the spring of 1898 when Judge John A. Thomas was called upon by President McKinley to raise two companies to be sent to Cuba. Two hundred recruits from Muscogee and surrounding area were sworn in May 12, 1898. Many of the volunteers were students at Henry Kendall College, so many that there was no mention of the football team for a period. One of Kendall's outstanding students, Milo Hendrix, was a casualty of that war.

... When Captain A.K. Capron of Troop L was killed in the battle of San Juan Hill. Lt. John R. Thomas, Jr., son of Judge R.Thomas. led his company on to victory. Teddy Roosevelt in his memoirs made special mention of Thomas, who continued in the military and the diplomatic service rest of his life.

Teddy also highly commended John Martin Adair of Fort Gibson for his bravery. Adair was the son of Joseph Lafayette Adair, a hero of the Civil War, and a fatality of that conflict. His mother married Chief Dennis W. Bushyhead after the death of his father.

John Martin Adair was a familiar sight on the streets of Fort Gibson for many years, generally wearing his campaign hat. When the hat was beyond its usefulness, Earl Boyd Pierce obtained a new one for him from the War Department, which he wore until his death. Adair's cousin, Will Rogers, looked forward to his Fort Gibson visits when he could visit with the old veteran and listen to yarns as only Adair could tell them.

When the Milo Hendrix Camp of the Spanish American War Veterans was formed, Miss Alice Robertson was made an honorary member.

[Drawing of T. Roosevelt]

(Pgs 67 & 68) Merchants Rebuilt After Fire Of '99 Fire has always been a dreaded threat to communities. London had its great fire, as did Chicago. Muscogee's Great Fire of 1899 was a disaster to many residents, but again, it was a blessing in disguise. It tested the perseverance and industry of the business leaders as well as their vision and laid the foundation for a modern city.

The fire broke out at 5 a.m. Feb. 27, 1899. A workman in the P.R. Caesar Tailoring and Cleaning Plant on the east side of Second Street between Court Street and Broadway poured kerosene on smouldering fire, causing an explosion.

Someone saw the blaze and shot a six-shooter in the air several times, and the Katy switch engine engineer began blowing the engine's whistle. The volunteer fire department, headed by Charles Seekings, responded immediately, but it faced an impossible task - competing with a 6O-mile-an-hour wind with little pressure and limited water. According to Louis Duncan. water was obtained from the Katy pond, as this was the extent of Muscogee s waterworks.

The temperature had dipped below zero, making it an intolerable ordeal for the firemen. Police Chief Clark Chapman, also of the fire department, was quoted as follows: "It was colder than blue blazes. It was so cold my boots froze to the tops. We were just one small department composed of volunteers. John Leiber blistered his face from the heat. It was estimated that C.W. Turner lost $2,200.000 and that A.Z. English lost $40,000".

The fire spread to the entire block on the west side of Main Street from Broadway to Court Street and from Court Street to Okmulgee Avenue on the east side of Main Street. The elegant Adams Hotel, the pride of Indian Territory, was destroyed, as were the Turner and Maddin hardware stores and J.A. Patterson Mercantile. It was thought that they might make a stand at the two-story Opera House, fronting on Main Street, but the wind and fury of the flames were too much for the equipment and the limited personnel.

Shortly after the explosion. Alice Robertson appeared, serving coffee and doughnuts, as had been her custom when the Rough Riders came through Muscogee.

After the fire, leaders of the community met at Sondheimer and Sons hide plant on Second Street and Okmulgee Avenue to discuss the future. It was decided that Muscogee would build back bigger and better and that the city would rise from its ashes as did the phoenix bird of old. They decided to lay the town out east and west instead of north and south with the Estes Building at Second Street and Okmulgee Avenue to be marked as Lot Number One.

The March 23, 1899 issue of the Phoenix had an ad in which W.A. Maddin announced that they had risen from ashes and were ready for business. Turner and Bozeman were advertising insurance.

Turner had an ad April 13, 1899 entitled 'Just 44 Days After Our Big Fire.' A picture was given of the Turner Hardware as it looked before and after the fire, and., another showing the new construction. The ad went on to say that $53,918.43 worth of freight - 102 carloads and that 'cash was paid on the spot taking advantage of discounts. <complete>

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