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Garvin County

County Seat - Pauls Valley

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OKGenWeb Indian Pioneer Papers Collection


Garvin County Indian Pioneer Papers



Nathan Harris


Interview # 1016
Field Worker: Maurice R. Anderson
Name:   Mr.  Nathan Harris
Residence:  Pauls Valley, Oklahoma
Date of Birth:  1851
Place of Birth:  Cedar County, Missouri


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Nathan Harris came to Pauls Valley, Garvin County, in 1864. He was born in Cedar County, Missouri, 1851.  His father was owned by Judge Jim Henry, who was judge of Cedar County in the year of 1851.  Judge Henry moved to Grayson County, Texas, at the close of the Civil War, taking Nathan with him.  Nathan came to what is known as Garvin County with Johnson Morris as a pony boy.  He then went to work for Mr. Smith Paul, for whom Pauls Valley was named.  It was in the year of 1865, no building there, he helped Mr. Paul build his first house.  It was built of willow log and covered with bark.

He recalls when the Washita River was only a small clear stream and today it is approximately muddy the year round.  It ranges from 100 to 200 feet wide.   The first minister to come into this territory after Nathan Harris came, was a Catholic Priest, who remained only a short while.  The aged Negro remembers sometime later Smith Paul built several houses out of cottonwood logs. After this there was a wedding day set and it was at this time Mr. Smith Paul married Mrs. McClure.  The aged Negro remembers the first death in what is known as Pauls Valley.   It was a 14 year old white girl named Fenia Copeland.  She was buried one mile north of Pauls Valley on the bank of the Washita River.  There were not any doctors at that time in that locality.

The aged Negro remembers the first soldiers to camp at what is known as Fort Arbuckle.  It was the 10th Calvary, commanded by Captain Waltz, in the year 1867.  He became acquainted with one of the soldiers named Private George Reed.   Nathan Harris was the only colored man here at that time. 

A tribe of Caddo Indians camped five miles northwest of Pauls Valley.   There was an old Indian woman named Whitebead, later the place became known as Whitebead.  There was one white man with this tribe of Indians.  His name was Bill Williams.  He traded a pony to this Indian woman named Whitebead for her daughter.  They settled north of Whitebead in what is known as Williams Flat. 

Nathan Harris went to work for W.G. Kimberlin in 1880.  He remembers the date clearly as it was their first Almanac year.  They forded the Washita River 4 miles north of Wynnewood, known as Cherokee Crossing.  Later they built a Ferry boat.   Nathan Harris made the first trip across with it.  He has a photograph of Mr. and Mrs. W.G. Kimberlin and he praises it very dearly.  It was made in 1880. 

They had to haul their corn to a mill at Tishomingo known and Bill Boyd Mill.  That was about the year 1870.  The aged Negro says at that time there were plenty of turkey and deer.  The age Negro is now on his 86th year.

Note by Mr. Anderson:

I learned that Nathan Harris, whom I sent you a story of, has a sword used by Jack Brown, a white man in the Civil War.  This sword was given to Nathan Harris by Jack Brown about forty years ago.  He says this sword is in good condition and will not part with it.  It is being used in the Masonic Lodge (Negro).


March 17, 1937
Interview # 1109

I, Nathan Harris, was born in Missouri, 1851.

I came to the Indian Territory with Johnson Morris in 1864.  I took care of the stock for Johnson Morris.  When I came here there was one man here then.   He was Mr. Smith Paul.   A while later a family named Copeland came to this valley.

Why I call if the valley is because it is located between the Washita River and Rush Creek.

I helped Mr. Paul build his first house.  It was built of of willow logs and covered with bark.  We, Mr. Paul and I, cut the willows down and would peel the bark off.  While it was green we would flatten it out on the ground and put logs on top of it to hold it that way until the bark dried out.  After Mr. Paul and I put this house up, or Mr. Paul put this house up, I only cut logs and carried them to Mr. Paul.  Mr. Paul  would have me cut a deep trench about six inches from each end of the logs and he would put this cut out place down over the other log, that would bind them together.  This house had a dirt floor.  After the house was put up, Mr. Paul got on top of the house and I would hand him the strips of bark.  The strips of bark were about six to eight inches wide and from ten to twelve feet long.  Mr. Paul would take this bark and lay it long ways across the house and would tie each end of it to the pole that was used for a rafter.  After he got the bark on I had cut lots of long straight willow poles, then he would take these poles and lay them up and on across the bark and tie the end of the pole to the log at the eaves of this house.  That was my job, to tie the ends down.  I would have long strips of steer hide about one inch wide and about three feet long, that is what we used to tie the bark at the ends with and tie the poles down.  The door was fastened on with strips of steer hide.  Mr. Paul fixed the strips of steer hide.  I do not k now how he did it.  After Mr. Paul and I built this house, Mr. Copeland and Mr. Morris built them one.  There were one-room houses.

In 1880, I went to work for Mr. W.G. Kimberlin.  Mr. Kimberlin was born in Kentucky but he told me he was reared up as a boy in Missouri.

It was through Mr. Kimberlin that I came to know Jesse and Frank James.   Both have stayed all night with Mr. Kimberlin.  I like Jesse and Frank both.   Jesse James was a rough looking man, but Frank James was nice looking and wore nicer clothes than Jesse did.

I remember one time it was in 1882, I believe, Jesse James and two other men, I didn't know them, they came to Mr. Kimberlin's house, along after dinner.   Jesse wore two six shooters, one on each side, but the other two men wore only one six shooter a piece.  Jesse, Mr. Kimberlin, the other two men and myself rode around that evening until late in the evening.  Of course I usually rode along behind them.   Mr. Jesse never had much to say, but his brother, Frank, sure was a talker.  I was riding a big bay horse that belonged to Mr. Kimberlin.  Jesse James and the other two men rode find looking horses.

While they were all talking, I heard Jesse telling Mr. Kimberlin about some woman back in Missouri, whose husband had been killed in a gun fight some way.   She was about to lose her place.  The way they talked, it seemed Mr. Kimberlin knew this woman.  Jesse said he and Frank had been to this woman's house one morning and she told them the man was coming there the next day to collect eleven hundred dollars.   If she did not pay it, she would have to move.  Jesse said, he and Frank gave her the money, and told her to be sure and make the man give her a receipt for the money.   Then Jesse laughed and said, "The next day me and Frank had our eleven hundred dollars back."  Mr. Kimberlin laughed, and said, "Someday Jesse, you are going to get killed."

That evening after supper, I was at the barn looking after the horses.   Along about sundown, Jesse, Mr. Kimberlin and the other two men came out to the barn.  They talked a while.  Then Jesse and the two men got on their horses and rode away.  about dark the store that stood where the junction is now at Pauls Valley was robbed.  This store was owned by Miller and Green.  I never did see the other two men after that night but Jesse James came to Mr. Kimberlin's several times after that.  I heard afterwards that Mr. Miller said, that three men came into the store and the one with two guns did the talking.

The first death in Pauls Valley was of a fourteen year old white girl, daughter of a Mr. Copeland.  There weren't any doctors here at that time.  If there had been, they might have saved her.  After coming into womanhood, she washed her head in cold water and died the next day.  That's what Mr. Smith Paul told me.

I was here when Zach Gardner built his grist mill east of Pauls Valley on the Washita River.  This mill was run by a big wheel, with wooden cups fixed on it.   The wheel was laid down flat in the water, close to the bank, and there was a raft of logs fixed on the other side of the wheel so when the river got up, this raft would keep logs that came down the river from the wheel.  When Mr. Gardner wanted to stop the wheel, he had a long pole fixed on to the bottom of this big wheel.  He would push this pole and the wheel would stand straight up in the water and the water would run through it and the wheel would not turn.

I have seen Mr. Gardner grind lots of corn in to meal for the soldiers at Fort Sill.  I have seen Pauls Valley grow from the first house Mr. Paul and I built.

I now live in the same house I moved to about thirty-four years ago.

If Master Kimberlin was living now, I would not have to draw the old age pension check to live on.



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