Big Cabin Bank - 1919, 1920
Battle of Cabin Creek

Big Cabin
"The Story of Craig County, Its People and Places"


While Big Cabin is said to have been established about 1887, there was a post office by that name as early as 1871, according to George Shirk in his book "Oklahoma Place Names".  Historians believe that some sort of settlement existed along the Old Military Road, part of which was also the Texas Road, and that the name came from Big Cabin Creek, so-called because of a large cabin on the Texas Road near the creek.  This cabin was reported to have been on the farm later owned by Ernest Campbell and now owned by Fred Cox.

The large log cabin stood on a hill near the present town site, and was earlier called Planche Cabin because it was constructed of planks, not logs.  It is told that the cabin was built by the Indians who migrated there during the summer and went back to the timbered hills where it was warmer during the winter.  What looked like a single, very large cabin was actually two cabins connected by a hall which was closed on the north side, creating a protected place for the Indians to unload their supplies.  The hill where this large cabin stood was later the site for the home of Dr. Charles W. Day and his family.

When the M.K.T. railroad was built through the area, a smaller cabin was constructed near the tracks, occupied by Bud Parks, a checker for cattle shipped in and out of Big Cabin.  The first stockyards were on the railroad right-of-way west of present Big Cabin.

The first building, a hay barn and scale house, was built in 1888 by Dr. S. Kennedy of Parsons, Labette Co, Kansas.  Loose hay was hauled in, baked in the barn, then loaded into freight cars and shipped.  In the early years, Big Cabin was the home of a large grain elevator owned and operated by Jim Haney, Sr.  There was also a cotton gin which a firm from Muskogee operated.  According to an early farmer, Ed Dixon, in a 1942 interview, more hay was shipped from Big Cabin from 1883 until 1910 than from any other town in the United States.  It was called "The Hay Capital of the World".

Fred Charlesworth built the first store in 1892, said to have been operated by Millard Renfro, a man who was killed at a dance given at his home.  Clarence Jones was the second person to open a business firm, and later another man began operating a livery stable.

About this time, the post office was established in the scale office of J.F. Dixon.  Later the post office was on Main Street in a store operated by Kit Coble, daughter of John F. Dixon.

The first train depot was a one-room boxcar type structure, built by the citizens in 1903.  Eight years later this structure was replaced by a much large building.

In 1904, the town was laid off by the Dawes Commission on land owned by T.W. Thompson.  George W. Trout operated a large general merchandise store and is credited along with Sam Parks and Mr. Renfro as having helped establish the town.  Soon there were other stores open for business.  Clyde Sheppard operated a hardware store which sold just about everything, including caskets.

One of the early hotels in Big Cabin was the Dixon Hotel.  After the death of her husband, Andrew Johnson, Mrs. Sarah (Sallie) Johnson married John E. Butler, a school teacher, on August 8, 1887.  In 1895 the Butlers built a large hotel, said to have been located at the site of what is now the telephone company.  This was called the Colonial Hotel, and following its general use as a hotel, for years rooms were rented to single school teachers.  Butler died in 1927 and Mrs. Butler continued to operate the rooming house many years.

Early doctors included Dr. Day, Dr. Brown, Dr. Nolan, Dr. Cardwell, and Dr. F.M. Adams.  A Dr. Chatman was a Big Cabin veterinarian.

As Big Cabin grew, the residents saw the need for a grade school.  It was started by subscription in 1895.  The school was located in a house which was later occupied by Adele (Blackwell) Fears.  The first teacher, Miss Emma Dixon, lived with the families who had children in school.

Craig County court house records show that in 1909 bonds in the amount of $5,000 were voted to build a brick school building.  This was erected on the present school site of about 2.73 acres, purchased for the amount of $273 from G.W. Trout.  In 1912 the school building was enlarged by adding an upper story, and a basement was added.  This building was used until 1957 when it was replaced.

School board members, when the school was first built in 1909, were Dr. Brown, John E. Butler, and Bob Madison.  E.J. McBride, who became state auditor, was the first principal.

Three churches were established in Big Cabin early in the twentieth century: the Baptist Church in 1905, Methodist in 1907, and Christian Church built in 1910.  In the earlier years, the congregations shared a Union Church building.

In the earliest years, there was an Artesian well in the center of the street and water was piped to all buildings.  It is told that town water came from several wells until the rural water district was established in 1965.  The town was then able to buy water which is piped from Grand Lake.

In the 1920's, electricity was installed and sidewalks were put down.  Until 1937, the town streets were rough, dry and dusty every summer.  That year the streets were hard-surfaced and street lights were installed.

Several owners of gas stations included Fred Campbell, Mac Stanberry, Arles Fergueson, and Joe Coppedge.  Garage owners were Ray Foster, Henry Campbell, Era Freeby, Ted Haney, Dude Joy, Gordon Trundle, Wayne Kanmore, and Ruel Kincade.

This was an era when only the "elite" farmers owned automobiles.  Driving a team and wagon to town for supplies, even five miles, was a day's excursion.  There were facilities for watering the horses with a pump and water tank located in the middle of main street.

Early residents included the Harold Drake family, Billy Murphy, the Clevengers.  There were two elderly ladies named Sanders, one of whom lived to be 100 years old.  She is buried at Big Cabin.  Roy Lay, Mr. Boyd, Maurice Winfrey, George McKissick, Mr. Cartright, Elsie Locke and Everett Purcell are others.

Law enforcement officers have included Noah Langley, Frank Long, Ed Hallett, Joe Queen, Bill Renfro, and John Jones.  Justices of the Peace were John Dixon, J.J. Potter, Grandpa Stansbury, and J. Hann.

John Dixon, Kit Coble, Lena Sheperd, Verda Comer and J.T. Haney were postmasters, while mail carriers out of the Big Cabin post office have included Lucian Butler, Lewis Hann, Dan Brown, Larkin Nall and Charley Clearley.

The Big Cabin Cemetery was created officially when the Cherokee Nation sold the town 9.16 acres of land lying west of the
Missouri-Kansas and Texas railroad right-of-way for the sum of $45.  The money was raised from donations and pie suppers.  Craig County court house records further show that the town was given a deed for another parcel of land for the sum of $4,574 in 1982 to enlarge the cemetery area.  The cemetery has been described by tourists passing through as an unusually pretty area.

The first person to be buried in the cemetery, it is said, was a female traveling by covered wagon as the family went through the town in 1891.  John Dixon's daughter, who died in 1893, was the second burial.

The Missouri-Kansas and Texas railway has had a large impact over the years upon the community.  It is told that about 1908-1916, there was a MK&T section foreman, John Wallace, who was a black man.  Box cars under the mulberry trees served as homes.  The work crew was made up of blacks and Mexicans, sometimes as many as 25 or 30 workers who were laying switches on the railroad in the vicinity.  There was a Mexican-run cafe during those years.  Two of the Mexican workers died of influenza in 1917.  They were originally buried along the Katy right-of-way, but in 1935 the bodies were moved to the southeast portion of the cemetery because of the building of Highway 69 west of the tracks.  Joe Garrett had the job of moving the graves.

The old Jefferson Highway, which stretched from Winnipeg, Canada, to New Orleans, went through Big Cabin.  Originally it came from the east down the main street, went west across the Katy tracks, took a short turn north, west two miles, then south to Adair and Pryor.  The route changed some-what in 1924 en route from Vinita to Mayes County.  In 1935, the road became U.S. Highway 69 and was built to the west side of the railroad tracks running north and south, no longer going down the main street of Big Cabin.

Among the early businesses in Big Cabin was Robertson's store which was in a two-story building.  The Woodmen's Lodge had a meeting hall on the second floor.  There were several hay barns built along the Katy right-of-way, including King's, Fred Kelley's, Fred Higginbotham, Dillon's, J.W. McClure's, Browns, Jim Haney's, and Joe Maillsons hay barns.

A Mr. Lee published a newspaper in Big Cabin, the mast-head of which read "You haven't read the news till you've read the Sunday Sun", and the logo shows a rising sun.  The paper was sold to Bill Chambers and the name changed to the "Sentry'.

At the turn of the century, there were several cafes in town, operated by Mr. Silvers, Mrs. Bill Bell, Carnes, Mrs. Blue, Bob Minklmyer, and others.  P.A. Barrs had a cafe and fountain.  Bill Chambers' cafe and ice house were just east of the bank.  Jewel and Melvin Day had a cafe in 1930, also Beatrice Haney.  A.P. Griffith and sons built houses in the 1920's as did Billy Davis.

The Bank of Big Cabin was chartered in 1907 with J.W. Orr president, L.S. Robinson vice president, and Robert E. Lee cashier.  Records show that later "At" Cobb managed the bank until it closed in the 1930's when so many banks went under.

The telephone company was first called the "Central Office" and was located in a home.  Owners were Roy Lay, Winfreys, McKissicks, Eva Davis, Goins, Cartwrights and Gooch.  Later it became part of the Atlas Telephone Company.  Roy Lay, Maurice Winfrey, Tom Mudd and Billie View had barber shops in town.  There were also Mr. George, Mr. Paye, Mr. Moreland, and Lee Smith.  P.A. Barrs was an undertaker; drug stores were run by Clyde Jenkins and Mark McDaniel.  A drey wagon was owned by Horace Gamble, then Arthur Huffman, Ed Dixon and then J.J. Peters.  Blacksmiths included George Hughes; Woodall; Ray Foster and Jim McKissick partners, and Ray Jackson.  Roy and Arthur Huffman, brothers, ran a pool hall, also were drey men.

As early as 1905-1916, Jones-Stilev-and Dobkins had a hardware, clothing, grocery and produce store.  They dressed chickens and shipped them in refrigerated railroad cars to the eastern parts of our  country.  In 1901 the Haneys kept on their farm for breeding purposes,  a Percheron stallion, French coach horse, 2 stallions for breeding riding horses, and four jacks.  From sun-up to sun-down, men from the surrounding area would bring their fillies and mares in to be bred.

The J.T. Haney hay barn opened in 1901 and has continued in the family up to the present day.  It was sold to J.T., Jr, then Mae, then to Dutch Haney.  In 1984, hay is still being shipped from Big Cabin and White Oak by Dutch Haney to Memphis and Cairo, Illinois.
In the 1930's, there were free movies projected on the side of Glen Haney's store each Saturday afternoon.  Other merchants of later years included Chatterson and Carter's General Store; Norma Shelton's Dry Goods; J.C. Lovett general merchandise; Jim Hann and Clyde Maples, partners, then @ Maples' store alone; Ed Dixon, Bill McClure, J.W. Steber's grocery; Fred Campbell and Roy Huffman; Carl Brown's store 1927-1964; Bill Headlee's 1930-1970; Glen Haney 1932-1956.  Ted Haney had a service station and garage and there was Freeby's Garage.  Later owners of the mercantile stores have been Clarence Jones, Barry Box, Herb Hensley, Thelma and Reta Hentz, and Larry Claggett.

The first lumber yard was built about 1904 and was owned by Ray Foster and Dr. F.M. Adams.  In 1904, William F. Emerson bought shares in the business and about 1930 he and his son, R.L., became sole owners of the business.  In 1984, the lumber yard is being operated by the third generation of Emersons.

Big Cabin in 1952 had a 4-H Club for its youth, a women's home extension club, and several residents were members of the Masonic Lodge in Vinita.

A volunteer fire department was established in 1974 and a volunteer ambulance service in 1981.

New businesses in Big Cabin during the past twenty years include the following: In 1959, Bud Rause purchased the Atlas Telephone Company, for which a downtown building was erected in 1975.  A new post office was built by Norville Harlan in 1968.  Joyce Raincrow's Beauty Shop opened in 1968.  The town annexed the Clanton Truck Stop, Big Cabin Diesel, and Cherokee Truck Stop into the city limits in 1978.  The Git'n Split store operated by Harley Russell opened in 1978; Bob Morgan's Garage in 1980; Sam Yeoman's Parts Store and Oscar Morgan's Compressor Service in 1981; and the Grocery Express opened in 1982.

According to U.S. Census figures, Big Cabin had a population of 271 in 1930; and a population of 252 in 1980.

created 10-30-99 mgc

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