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OKGenWeb Indian Pioneer Papers Collection


Garvin County Indian Pioneer Papers



G.J. Benn


Interview #9348
Field Worker: John F. Daugherty
Date: November 22, 1937
Name: Mr. G.J. Benn
Residence: Roff, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: February 3, 1872
Place of Birth: Tennessee
Father: James J. Benn, born in Tennessee, Farmer
Mother: Mary Collier, born in Tennessee


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My parents were James J. Benn, born in Tennessee, and Mary Collier Benn, born in Tennessee.

Father was a farmer.  There were seven children in our family.   I was born in Tennessee, February 3, 1872.  My parents moved to the Territory in 1886 from Texas.  we crossed Red River on a ferry near Thackerville and settled there on Mr. Thacker's place.  We lived there two years and moved to Annie Robertson's place on Oil Creek, twelve miles south of Sulphur

On Christmas day Brother and I went to the woods and began making rails to fence the farm to which we had moved.

There were about twelve families living within a radius of twenty miles and we built a sixteen by sixteen foot log church with two doors and two glass windows.   We hewed logs for benches and had services once a month.  Everybody came.   In those days it was a treat to get together at church or at a party.

There were only about a dozen boys and eighteen girls in our neighborhood but we did have some good times at our parties.  The boys would get a team and wagon and start out to gather up the crowd.  We usually all went in one wagon.   sometimes a boy would take his girl on a horse behind him.  The girl always rode sideways.

The men always carried their Winchesters to church, took them off and set them down beside them.

I shall never forget our first Christmas tree on Oil Creek. The church building was so small that when the tree was set up there was no room for the people to get inside, so a log heap fire was built outside and everybody stood outside while the presents were delivered.

In the Spring I began breaking land.  I happened to look back and a flock of wild turkeys was following the furrow.  They always ran into the brush when I got near their grazing place.

Oil Springs, twelve miles south of Sulphur, was quite a summer resort.  Each August our settlement held a picnic there, which was attended by about a hundred and fifty or two hundred people.  The natural stairway was quite a novelty and the falls were beautiful.

We built a puncheon school house and hired an old nester to teach school.   We had school two months in the winter and two months in the summer.

Meal could not be purchased at the store so everybody raised corn and had it ground for meal.  The stores kept very little merchandise.  Most of them kept Peruna and Bitters, Fairview or Clark's Kidney Cure, any of which would make one drunk.   There was very little canned goods to be had.  I saw one old man pick up empty cans which he had sold to some travelers with salmon or sardines in them, carefully replace the lids so that they looked as if they had not been opened and place them on his shelves again to make it appear that he had a fair sized stock of canned goods.   There was very little demand for such things so the merchants didn't often buy a large supply at one time.

There were no banks nor drug stores.  The doctors here carried their medicines with them where-ever they went.  They didn't write prescriptions for their patients.  The medicine was left by the doctor at the time of his call.

There was no market for pecans.  They lay and rotted on the ground in great piles unless the hogs ate them.  butter was worth 3 and 4 cents a pound, and eggs brought 5 cents a dozen if one could sell them.

One day I took about seventy large frying size chickens to a small hotel in Sulphur during the very early days there and I was offered 8 cents a piece for them.  I took them home and we had all the chicken we wanted to eat that year.

We sold wild turkeys, dressed, at Thanksgiving and Christmas for $1.00 each.

We didn't have to buy meat.  I have seen Father go to a bed of wild hogs before day, pick out the hog he wanted, kill and skin it and take it home.

Father had seven acres of  cotton in the early '90s from which we picked bales of cotton.  We took two bales to Ardmore, which weighed five hundred and thirty-two pounds each and we sold these two bales of cotton for $22.50.

Wild horses were plentiful.  If one wanted a horse to ride or drive, he went to an Indian and asked if he might get a horse.  The Indian usually asked that you break three, bring him two and keep one for the trouble of breaking them.

The mother of the Indian girl who owned the land where we lived became seriously ill.  One day some Indians came to her home and brought a small white dog which they threw into a log fire outside to get rid of the evil spirit which caused her illness.   She got well.

It used to be very difficult to get enough money to buy shoes for the family.  So each person received only one pair of shoes a year.  When these were worn out there were or more until winter came again.

It was necessary for children to be careful with their shoes.  I have often seen children coming to school or to church carrying their shoes and stockings.   When they got near the building they sat down, put on their shoes and wore them until they started home.  then they removed them and carried them home.

I was married to Mary Griffin in 1897.  I bought my marriage license at Ardmore.  We are the parents of four children.

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