Field Worker: Maurice R. Anderson
Date: March 1, 1938
Name: Mr. J.G. Alexander
Residence: Pauls Valley, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: December 2, 1869
Place of Birth: Missouri
Father: W.G. Alexander, born in Tennessee
Mother: Sarah Ann Jones, born in Tennessee
I was born in 1868, in Cassville, Missouri.
In 1875, a wagon train was made up at Cassville, Barry County,
Missouri, consisting of thirty-three families. I was very young but I well
remember the day this wagon train left there for Texas. My father, mother and I were
included in this wagon train.
We crossed into the Indian Territory from the northeast and after the
first days drive, which was only about ten miles, after crossing into the Indian
Territory, there were no roads. That was why the wagon train was lucky if it
traveled eight to ten miles a day. Several men went ahead of the lead wagon and cut
out a road and built runways across creeks.
After our first night's camp in the Indian Country until we crossed Red
River into Texas the wagon train would be stopped every once in a while and charged
twenty-five cents by a bunch of Indians. They would say it was for toll bridge fees,
but there wouldn't be any bridges. In some places the Indians would have a few poles
laid across what would be called today a mud hole and every wagon would have to pay to
cross this place. I have heard my father say they would pay the twenty-five cents
just to keep down trouble.
This wagon train camped one night at Muskogee which at that time was only
a very small place. I remember when we passed Tahlequah there was a large Indian
school there then and the children were all waving white flags as we passed. My
father said this was wishing peace to the wagon train.
After making camp at a place called Stringtown some of the wagons began to
drop out of this wagon train and by the time we reached what was called Tolberts
Ferry on Red River, the wagon train had dropped off about half of what left
Missouri. Some of the people settled just after we crossed into Texas but my father
went on into Hill County and settled on a farm.
I remember the first gin where my father ginned his cotton. It was
an old tread wheel gin and had only one gin stand. The cotton was carried from the
wagons in a basket and poured into the gin stand and after the lint was out from the
seeds, the lint was then carried to the press about fifty feet away, in baskets. The
press was like the old syrup mill. An ox was worked to it and he would go around and
around and this would screw the press down and make the bale.
I came to the Indian Territory to make my home in 1900 and settled in what
is now Bryan County, where later the new town of Bennington was built.
Bob Williams, who later was the Governor of Oklahoma, Morris
Smith, a Choctaw Indian, and I secured a townsite and it was located on Morris
Smith's allotment but was later taken over by the Government and Morris
Smith was re-allotted.
The site we three laid off became a Government townsite. The first
four settlers on this townsite were ex-governor Bob Williams, Morris Smith, J.T.
Ferguson and I. During 1902 we organized and incorporated the town, elected
the officials and I was elected the Mayor of the town which was named Bennington.
M.J. Durant was our first postmaster. He was an Indian
It became necessary that we have an organization of some kind so we met
and organized ourselves into what was called a business organizatin and in order to carry
out the organization we taxed ourselves so much a month. At that time there were
only nine men living there, and the taxes were used to hire men to cut poles and lay them
across mud holes and fix roads so people could get in and out of town as the townsite was
located in heavy timber country.
The next move we made was to have a schoolhouse built as nearly all of us
had children and no school. Since we did not have enough money in our organization
to build the schoolhouse we had to retax ourselves in order to build the schoolhouse.
The first board of directors were H.M. Lindsay, C.F. Pope and I as
chairman. The schoolhouse was also used for a church house. We built an arbor
and used it about three months to hold church services under until we had a Baptist church
house built. This church was built by private subscriptions and the first board
members of the Baptist church were I.D. Settlers, R.L. Bledsaw, Jim
Lightfoot and I.
Then it became necessary to have a cemetery and at that time Joe
Durant, an Indian, had a five acre tract of ground adjoining the townsite.
I had this tract of ground set aside for the cemetery. I bought this land
from the Government at $10.00 an acre and carried the expense until the town was able to
pay me for the land. The council of the town gave me one city block. I still
own that city block and part of my family are buried on it.
The A and C, meaning the Arkansas and Choctaw Railroad
was built through Bennington and the first train was run through
Bennington in 1903 and as they were not able to go on west that night the town
people entertained the train crew that night with a big dance. The next day the
train was run on to Durant and everyone who wanted to go was given a free ride.
In 1903 I was elected City Attorney and also appointed Deputy United
States Marshal until statehood in 1907. After statehood, Clipper Hamilton
was elected our first sheriff and I resigned as City Attorney and Deputy United States
Marshal and took the job as Deputy Sheriff under Clipper Hamilton. I
worked for the county until in 1920. At that time I came to Garvin County at Pauls
Valley. I have been the Justice of Peace in Pauls Valley the last eight years.