Field Worker: Maurice R. Anderson
Date: March 22, 1937
Name: Mr. Jack Florence
Residence: Paoli, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: November 27, 1845
Place of Birth: Dallas County, Texas
Father: William Florence, born in Alabama
Mother: Lucy A. Neely, born in Texas
Story told by Mr. Jack Florence, born in Texas, November 27, 1845. I
came to the Indian Territory in 1871 and settled in Pauls Valley. There was several
people living here when I came here.
I came to this country on a pinto horse and he was a good one. I
left Texas in a hurry. Got into some trouble there and I crossed Red River just
thirty minutes ahead of Sheriff Dalton, a sheriff of Dallas County, Texas. That is
why I say my horse was a good one. He had to be to stand up under the hard-riding
and fast traveling I made him do.
Mr. E.P. Baker and myself still have our arguments on which one came to
Pauls Valley first. I still say I beat him here at least twenty minutes. As
there isn't no one living here now that lived here in 1871, but Mr. Baker and myself, I
can't prove that I did beat him here, and he can't prove that I didn't. Anyway we
are both able to get around in spite of our many long years and hardships spent in and
around Pauls Valley.
As soon as I landed here, I saw that this was a fine place to raise
cattle. Plenty of grass and water. I dealt in some cattle around Whitebead
Hill. I have sold cattle to Mr. Tom Waite, who owned a large ranch on Rush Creek,
south of where Pauls Valley now stands.
Smith Paul was supposed to be the first white man to settle in this valley
and from the looks of it when I came here, I would say he really was. It was a wild
looking place the day I rode in to this valley. Grass was high as my horse and there
was lots of pole cats. If you didn't watch out you would have to be changing clothes
all the time. Turkey went in droves.
In 1871, a Mr. Blackburn owned the only store about a mile south of where
Pauls Valley is now located. Mr. Blackburn later sold to Miller and Green.
There was lots of corn raised in the Pauls Valley community. Smith Paul had a
large farm. He also sold lots of corn to the Government.
Zach Gardner owned a large farm and later in years, Mr. Gardner owned
several thousand acres of land joining the Washita River. At that time river bottom
land could be bought for as low as one dollar per acre. Now in this day and time the
same land is worth around three hundred dollars per acre. I believe it was in 1871
or the first part of 1872, that Mr. Gardner built the first grist mill in this part of the
Country. It was on old wooden wheel mill. The wheel was near the bank and a
raft of logs on the upper side of it so when the Washita River got on a rampage, this raft
would keep the logs coming down the river off of the wheel. This mill was located at
Mr. Gardner's farm on the Washita River just east of where Pauls Valley is now.
Hattie Jenkins, Sam Paul, W.G. Kimberlin and Tom Waite all were big land
owners in this valley. Most of their cultivated land was fenced with rail fences.
I married Mary J. Gardner in 1872. She was the daughter of
Zach Gardner and she was part Chickasaw Indian, from her mother's side.
I built my home about eight miles northwest of Pauls Valley, on the north
side of the Washita River in 1875. The reason I chose that place was because it
joined the river and I knew I would have plenty of water for my cattle.
I owned the Three Stripe Ranch on Red River, joining the Comanche Indian
Territory. I remember one year with the help of my cowboys, we branded two thousand
head of yearlings. I have raised and dealt in lots of cattle. My loss was
about four percent each year, to thieves, wolves and the Indians. That was small
according to some of the ranchers.
After I built my home on the Washita River in 1875, I was not home very
much until in the eighties. It took most of my time on my ranch joining Red River.
I finally disposed of that ranch and brought about two thousand head of my cattle
to my place northwest of Pauls Valley. Bringing this herd of Three Stripe cattle to
my place here, we made our own trail. We tried to keep to the open country all we
could. We had most of our trouble crossing Wild Horse Creek, near Hennepin, Indian
Territory, now Oklahoma. We had two or three stampedes. The polecats or
turkeys would put our cattle on the run, but due to the good judgement and fine managing
of the cattle, my cowboys took care of the herd.
I was in a gun fight in Purcell, Oklahoma, one time. It was quite a
while after the railroad came through. A man and I got into an argument over some
cattle and he beat me to the draw. I was shot in the neck. I thought I was
going to die but after bleeding like a stuck hog, I soon recovered. Another time I
was shot off of my horse. I was on my way to my ranch on Red River. I was
riding along keeping on the look out for a polecat or a wolf to take a shot at when
all at once I found myself on the ground. My horse did not get frightened at all.
When the reins were dropped on the ground, my horse would have stayed there until
he starved to death before he would move. I had him trained to do that. When I
hit the ground I thought I was done for but in a minute I got my mind to working again.
I got my pistol out of the holster and lay still waiting for who ever it was that
shot me to come on up to where I was. I lay there still awhile but no one showed up.
My horse was about ten feet from me so I crawled over to him and raised up next to
my horse in case anyone was watching, I could use my horse for a shield. I looked
around and could not see anyone, only a few stray steers off about a quarter of a mile.
I had only gotten a flesh wound. I tore my shirt up and made some bandages.
Then I got on my horse and left there in a hurry.
We all had our good times and hardships back in territory days. I
know I am a lucky man to have gone through so much and be living today to tell about some
of the things.
I saw a group of white men, who lived in the Pauls Valley community, take
a Negro who had assaulted a white woman, to a cotton wood tree south of Pauls Valley and
hang him to a limb. While the Negro was swinging on the end of a rope, several
pistols were fired at him and several of the bullets found their mark. They cut the
Negro down and dug a grave there and buried him.
I do believe there have been more killings in Pauls Valley since 1871 up
until a few years ago than any other town in the state of Oklahoma. As I have said,
I spend the most of my time on my ranch joining Red River. Therefore, until in the
eighties, there were lots of things took place here that I do not know much about.
My memory is not very good. I did not think about keeping dates on these
things that I have seen happen here.
I was at a dance one time on the river north of Whitebead Hill. I just can
not remember the date but I know there were several men and women there. A U.S.
Marshal I was well acquainted with, but I can't recall his name, he died several years ago
at Lawton, Oklahoma, we were all having a good time, drinking and dancing. There was
a man there, who thought he was smart. He wanted to fight or shoot it out with
someone. That was what I heard him say. He was standing next to me, talking to
someone. I heard him say, "I wish someone would start something." As
I said, I was acquainted with the U.S. Marshal and this marshal tapped me on the shoulder
and said, "Jack, do you want a drink"? I said, "Well, I never did
refuse a friend". We went out by the corral fence and two more men came out
there. We four took a drink out of a quart bottle. I was the last one to
drink, so I handed the bottle to this U.S. Marshal and we all were talking. About
that time this man, who thought he was a mean fellow, walked up to where we were standing
and grabbed the bottle out of the Marshal's hand and said, "What are you going to do
about it"? The U.S. Marshal told him to go for his gun and the man started to
draw his gun but he never did get it out of its holster. The U.S. Marshal shot him
before you could bat an eye and killed him. That broke up the dance.
After the soldiers left Fort Arbuckle and were stationed at Fort Sill, Mr.
Tom Grant bought old Fort Arbuckle for fifty dollars.
I have always dealt in cattle. I have never plowed a furrow of land
in my life. I have rented my land out and my tenants have raised lots of corn, oats,
wheat and in later years, raised lots of cotton.
I have sold all my cattle. I raise a few, not many. Most of my
land is in cultivation.
My wife died in 1936. My recollection of things has been very poor
since my wife died.
My father and mother are buried on my place northwest of Pauls Valley,
where I now live and where my home has been since 1875.