Field Worker: Maurice R. Anderson
Date: May 4, 1937
Name: Mr. John W.W. Mitchell
Residence: Wynnewood, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: June 6, 1852
Place of Birth: Mississippi
Father: J.S. Mitchell, born in Alabama
Mother: Margaret Vaughn, born in Alabama
Parents were J.S. Mitchell of Alabama - deceased and Margaret Vaughn of
Alabama - deceased.
John W.W. Mitchell was born June 6, 1852, in Mississippi.
I came to the Indian Territory and settled at Wynnewood, in the Chickasaw
Nation in 1891. I brought my family with me and we stayed at the only hotel in
Wynnewood at that time. It was built out of cottonwood logs and we stayed there a few days
until I could find a place.
I bought a house and lot from a man who didn't have the house finished
when I bought it. I finished the house and we moved in and I still live in the same
house, although it has been re-shingled several times.
I came to this country to buy a farm but after I got here I could have
bought several farms had I been able to get a clear title to any of them.
I went into business. First the grocery business and later made it a
general store. There were four stores in Wynnewood at that time and most of the
things we sold were on credit. We would have to wait until the fall to get paid for
them and sometimes I never got paid, but the general run of the people were honest,
however. I have sold gingham for five cents a yard and flour for $1.25 for a
forty-eight pound sack. Sugar sold twenty pounds for $1.00.
People were about the same then as now. you could hear them talk of
what hard times they were having just as they do today. I know times were better
then for there was more work. Of course, if there had been as many people here then
as there are now, there wouldn't have been very much work. It didn't take much money
to start farming.
This land around Wynnewood would raise anything that was planted.
There wasn't much cotton raised when I first came here, but in 1893 there were
three thousand bales raised around Wynnewood.
A Mr. McGee owned the first gin at Wynnewood.
Noah Lael was the biggest cattle owner around Wynnewood, and his cattle
ranged from here to Atoka. Mr. Lael wouldn't sell a milk cow at any price, after he
had branded them, but he would let anybody take one or two to milk. I have bought
good milch cows from farmers for fifteen to twenty dollars, cows that gave five to six
gallons of milk a day, and sometimes I would have to take a cow or some hogs on a grocery
bill. I ordered my groceries from Fort Worth, Texas and my merchandise would come
from St. Louis, Missouri.
There were some good hogs raised around here. I bought some hogs
from Governor Guy, one-time Governor of the Chickasaw Nation. They were called the
mule hoof hogs, and this was my first time to ever see any of them. They had a hoof
like a mule's hoof. You couldn't make those hogs fat regardless of how much corn you
fed them. There was no cause for any family to go without hog meat in the winter, as
hogs were cheap and corn was ten to fifteen cents a bushel. I would kill tow or
three fat hogs every winter and in the summer, men would bring fresh beef around selling
it. You could buy enough steak for 25 cents for two meals.
In those days people tried to help one another. You could borrow
money from your neighbor without a note, only your word, and if you wanted a fat hog to
kill, you just went to your neighbor and told him what you wanted and you got it, with
plenty of time to pay for it. People trusted one another more than they do now.
I believe there are a hundred to one more crooks and thieves in this country how
than there were when I came to the Indian Territory.
I remember the time John Walner killed Bill Lewis. I was running my
store at Wynnewood and that morning Bill Lewis was in my store and told me he had killed
eight men in his day. He said, "Before the day is out I am going to kill
another one." Then he went out of the store and across the street. I
happened to walk to the front door and was looking out when I saw John Walner coming up
the street with his Winchester under his arm. Bill Lewis also carried a Winchester.
John Walner turned and went across the street toward Bill Lewis and as soon as
Walner got to the board sidewalk, he stopped and said, "Bill, I heard you were going
to kill me." Bill started to raise his gun but he never got it to his shoulder.
John Walner carried his rifle under his arm and he never raised his gun at all.
He shot from where he carried his rifle, and at the first shot, Lewis fell dead.
Later, I believe it was in 1905, that John's Walner's nephew, Bob Walner,
killed him over some property left to Bob Walner, by his father. John Walner was the
guardian over this land and money and Bob Walner accused him of running through with it
and killed him.