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County Seat - Pauls Valley

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GARVIN COUNTY INDIAN PIONEER PAPERS

 

OKGenWeb Indian Pioneer Papers Collection

 

Garvin County Indian Pioneer Papers

 

 

J.G. Alexander

 

Interview #10109
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

 

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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 citizen. 

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.

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