Interview # 9585 & 9585-A
Field Worker: Maurice R. Anderson
Date: December 22, 1937 & December 27, 1937
Name: Mr. R.L. Nichols
Residence: Pauls Valley, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: August 1, 1870
Place of Birth: Canton, Missouri
Father: R.J. Nichols, born October 17, 1847 in Covington, Virginia
Mother: Mildred Louise Ray, born in Missouri
Interview 9585, December 22, 1937, 48 pages
My father, R.J. Nichols, was born near Covington,
Virginia, on October 17, 1847, on a small farm. His father passed away when he was
eleven years old and left him and his younger brother to make a living for their mother.
On this farm they raised lots of fruit and some corn. All the apples and
peaches were made into brandies and the corn into whiskey. After they got all their
crop made up, a Government agent came and gauged all the whiskey and brandy they had and
then it was sold to bonded warehouse companies. That was the only way they had of
marketing the farm products they raised.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he ran away from
home and enlisted in the company which acted as General Robert E. Lee's
bodyguard. He stayed with his regiment until the close of the war and received only
one wound. He was shot in the left shoulder and carried three shots in that shoulder
until his death.
After the close of the war, he with his mother and brothers, moved to
northeast Missouri and settled in Lewis County near Canton, and he made several trips over
Iowa and Missouri. In August 19, 1869, he was married to Mildred Louise
Ray of Canton, Missouri, where he continued to reside until 1874
when he moved to Texas. The country was in an unsettled condition, everyone had to
undergo lots of hardships in those days.
I was born near Canton, Missouri, on August 1, 1870, the son of R.J.
Nichols. I stayed most of the time with my grandmother Nichols.
She lived on her farm in a two story house built on a hillside and that made one
side of the house almost three stories high. It was lots of fun for me to take her
old cat upstairs and throw him out the window. Of course when my grandmother found
it out it was not so funny.
I was only four years old when my father left Missouri for Texas but I can
recall lots of things that happened before we left there. I can remember seeing men
hauling cord wood across the Mississippi River on the ice. Also seeing the ice when
it broke up in the spring forming what they called an ice gorge and pushing ice up on the
banks that was three feet thick.
We lived near a creek and the ice from the river broke up before the creek
did and in the big jam pushed a big bridge off its foundation that was on the creek.
I also remember we had a German neighbor named Schults and he had
a son, Louie. Mr. Schults always put up ice in winter for his
summer use. He also had a big grape vineyard and one day my mother sent my sister
and me across the road to Mr. Schults's house after a bucket of ice and
it had always been our custom to pull a bunch of grapes to eat. On one day Louis Schults
hid in the grape bushes and when my sister pulled of a bunch of grapes he jumped out and
gave us a big scare.
The Schults family were well to do people and had plenty of everything
they needed. They also had a big brindle bulldog that always looked bad to us
Mr. Schults was a good man and neighbor but he had a way of taking things
that did not belong to him. One fall he helped my father kill his meat hogs and salt
them away to cure. On a cold night my father heard the rattle of the chain that
fastened the smokehouse door and he got out of bed and took his shotgun and went to a side
door to see what was going on out at the smokehouse. He could not see the man but
did see a big dog standing just behind where the man was standing so he just shot the dog
and he then herd a man running but made no effort to shoot him. Next morning when he
went out to see what kind of a dog he had shot what did he find but Mr. Schults' big
brindle bull dog, Bose. Of course, he hated it that he had killed his neighbor's
dog. He dragged the dog off. After several days he met Mr. Schults and as it
was such a habit for old Bose to go with him everywhere he went my father remarked,
"What has become of old Bose? I don't see him with you lately". Mr.
Schults told him that old Bose followed Louis hunting one night and got lost and had never
come home yet. My father never told him about Louis trying to break in his
smokehouse and that he had killed the dog.
In November, 1874, about fifteen or twenty families started from my
father's home near Canton, Missouri, for Texas. As I recall my father had two
wagons. One wagon was drawn by a big span of iron gray mares and the other had a big
bay mare and a big black horse. Everything was a jubilee as everybody was excited to
be making such a trip. Of course lots of our friends told us the wild Indians would
kill us all on the way to Texas, also told us thieves would steel all our stock.
Finally we got started. It was a hard trip as all roads were poor in those days and
we could only make a few miles each day and we never traveled on Sunday.
We left Missouri at Neosho and headed for the Indian Territory near what
is now the town of Vinita. From there we came on to Fort Gibson near the city of
Muskogee. All through the trip at least two men stood guard at night to see that
everything went on well. We saw lots of deer and turkey all along the way but for
some reason our party never tried to kill any. One Saturday evening after we had
made camp by standing the wagons in a circle and building a big log fire in the middle of
the enclosure to cook on and keep warm by it was agreed that my Uncle Walter Ray who
was driving one of my father's wagons and another man would kill a deer the next morning
so all would have fresh meat.
My uncle and the other man started out real early after the deer meat for
Sunday dinner. They had not gone far until they saw what they took to be two full
grown deer. They very promptly did the big creeping act to get in fun shot range.
After crawling for several hundred yards they finally decided they were close
enough to kill the deer and its was agreed that one would shoot the deer on the right and
the other shoot to the left. After lots of slow getting along they raised up and the
first glimpse of the deer they both fired at the same time. They saw each animal
fall at the crack of their gun and both ran to where the deer fell. When they
reached the spot to their great surprise and disappointment they discovered they had
killed two wild Spanish burros or wild jackasses. Of course, every one in camp heard
the gun shots and when they got into camp they told everyone the deer got away and it was
a long time before they eve told the folks the truth.
That finished the hunting on the trip except for quail, squirrel and
prairie chickens. There were thousands of prairie chickens everywhere you went and
wild turkey were to be found in great droves.
One night we camped near a wild pigeon roost and there is no way of
counting how many thousand there were at the roost. In the morning when someone shot
in a flock of them there was so many flew up that the sky was literally black with them.
After leaving Fort Gibson we moved on to what is now McAlester. It
was a very rough road one had to travel; in fact, it could hardly be called a road.
There were no bridges on small creeks and rivers. Some places there were improvised
toll bridges on creeks where the water was too deep to ford.
We were all getting tired and so were the horses, but we had our minds set
on Texas. The next place we made was Stringtown. In the evening of the day we
arrived at Stringtown my father and others saw two men walking in the same direction they
were traveling. At one time some of the men saw a rope hanging down from under one
of the men's overcoat so that put them all to thinking about horse thieves.
As was the custom there was a guard of two men stationed near the wagons
and also two other men heavily armed were sent out quite a way from the camp where they
concealed themselves in some bushes where they could see anyone coming near the camp.
About 9 p.m. after everything in camp had gotten still, these two men who were the
farthest from the camp, heard a man cough and it was not long until they heard him cough
again. They intently watched for the strangers to come on closer to them. They
did not have to wait long until they could, from their place of hiding, see the bulk of
the men. They let them come on until the two men were only about twenty yards away
when they both raised up with drawn shotguns and told the men to surrender, which they did
without firing a shot.
The two guards marched the men up to the campfire and called other men to
come out and search the two men they had arrested. On them was found an old Cap and
Ball Army pistol and each one had a bridle with a rope tied to it under their coats.
By that time everyone in the camp was up to see what was going on. After
holding a council of war the men were marched off quite a distance from the camp and no
one ever told what was done to the two horse thieves.
There were no courts in the Indian Territory in those days and most horse
thieves were taken to a necktie party and had to furnish the neck on such occasions.
After leaving Stringtown we moved on to where Durant is now and after
several days finally reached Red River which was up at that time and this caused several
days delay. We crossed the Red River on a ferry boat and landed in Texas, near the
town of Denison. From there we turned west and presently came to Gainesville, the
town we had set out to stop at. We were met at Gainesville by an uncle of mine, my
mother's brother, Alex Ray, who had come to Texas the year before.
Everyone was very tired as was also the work stock and no one tried to do anything except
rest and recount the long trip just finished.
Gainesville at that time (1874) was a very small town. It's chief
support being the trade of a few scattered settlers who did their trading there. It
also had some trade (in fact all there was) from a distance of a hundred miles in the
Indian Territory. It was no uncommon sight to see twenty-five or maybe thirty wagons
of people from as far north as where Purcell is now coming to Gainesville in the fall of
the year loaded with deer hides, venison hams, cow hides and other small animal hides that
they would bring to market for sale. In those days almost all grocery stores kept
maybe from three to five barrels of whiskey in a back room fitted up for that purpose.
When the traders would get to town if it was late in the day they would
put their wagons and team in what they called a 'wagon yard' for the night. Every
wagon yard had a camp house for their customers to stay in at night. In the camp
house each bunch of men would cook their meals and then make down the beds on the floor or
on 'bunks' that were built in the corners of the camp house.
If they had brought dressed turkeys, tallow or any other stuff for sale it
was always disposed of the next day after their arrival and then they would buy such
things as were really needed to live on such as clothing, groceries, and almost always a
man would take a jug of whiskey home with him.
In 1874 Gainesville had only one small brick store building, and it
belonged to George F. Bird who ran a little dry goods store in it.
His stock consisted mostly of such articles as ranchers and cowhands would need and, of
course, a few things for the women of the country. There was no courthouse there and
court was held in an old board house. One other business that helped to keep
Gainesville going was the 'hide trains' that passed through there on their way to
Jefferson, Texas, then the nearest railroad shipping point. It was a great sight to
see from twenty-five to fifty ox teams of ten yoke hitched to a big wagon to which would
be two trail wagons attached and all loaded with buffalo hides. The hides had been
skinned from buffaloes that were being killed on the west Texas plains by hunters who
killed for the hides only. It was a great slaughter as thousands upon thousands of
buffaloes were slain. These 'hide trains' traveled slowly only making possibly ten
miles per day. They would always stop outside of town so the oxen could be turned
loose to graze on the fine grass that grew everywhere. There was always one or two
horses with these hide trains to herd the oxen with at night and to drive them up in the
morning when they were ready to move on to their destination.
When these hide trains came to town business was sure to pick up with
eating places and saloons and gambling houses. These were always a very tough bunch
of men and after spending weeks on the trail from west Texas plains and eating such food
as sour dough bread and sow bosom they were ready to take on a 'big feed' and, of course,
it was the custom of some to tank up on the first whiskey they found. Gainesville
was always glad to see the hide trains and most people were glad to see them pull out of
sight as the bull whackers were a very tough unruly bunch of men.
In those days and until in the 80's it was no uncommon thing for a bunch
of from ten to twenty cowboys from the Washington or McLish
ranches in Indian Territory to come to Gainesville on horseback and have a big time such
as riding in saloons and ordering drinks, sitting on their horses, and sometimes throwing
a rope on any policeman who happened to show up and maybe leading him around the square
with possibly ten or fifteen cowboys shooting in the ground near his feet to see him jump.
They would do these tricks just before they were ready to leave town and generally
a posse was gotten together to arrest the cowboys but the Indian Territory cow hands would
always out run the officers as the south bank of the river is the state line between Texas
My father and family rented a farm for the next year (1875) on the south
or Texas side of the Red River and in the river bottom. In July of that year (1875)
there came a great rise in the river that not only washed away his crop but also washed
away the farm it was growing on, and today most of that farm is on the Oklahoma side of
Red River, covered with a heavy growth of big cottonwood timber.
Not withstanding good smooth prairie land could be bought for 50 cents to
$1.00 per acre close to Gainesville, my father felt it was no use to try to farm out on
the prairie as there was a very light rainfall in those days and, too, there was no timber
to make rails to fence a farm with nearer than ten to twenty miles away. So in the
fall of 1875 my father contracted to put in a farm (clear it up) in the Red River bottom
on the Indian Territory side of the river. He took the lease from Edmond
Love (my wife's uncle) for a term of ten years. That was a big job as the
land was covered with timber, brush and green briars. He also had to make rails to
fence the land, had to cut logs and hew them to build a house and make clapboards to cover
the house with. In fact everything needed on the place had to be put there by my
father. On account of the washout in the summer of 1875 he sold one span of mares to
furnish money to meet the needs of the family. The first year on the lease
(1876) he rented some land that was in cultivation from Mrs. Story (my
wife's grandmother) to make a crop on as he could not get in enough land on the lease to
make him a full crop.
In the spring of 76 one of his horses died so that just left him one
horse. He managed to get the use of another horse until he got his crop finished.
In the fall of 76 he traded his one horse for a big yoke of work oxen to plow the
new ground on the lease with. Winter came on and he had only $15.00 or $20.00 to buy
clothes for the family. In early days he had learned to do carpenter work and he
made a little money helping other people build their homes. It was his custom, too,
to make all coffins for neighbors who died in the surrounding country but he never charged
anything for such work.
During the winter of 76 he got about twenty acres cleared and plowed up
and as it was very fertile land it made good crops. He continued to clear the land
until he got 40 acres in cultivation.
In working oxen it was common to just geed them at night and then feed
them only about a peck of corn and some hay. we always turned them out at night to
graze on the grass that grew everywhere but almost always hobbled them by using a heavy
strip of rawhide twisted together between their front feet. The hobbles would
prevent them from running off with wild cattle that were very plentiful in all parts of
the country. If a work steer should slip his hobbles off, it might take all day to
get him back home again.
In the early days when we settled here there was lots of game such as
deer, turkey, prairie chicken, to say nothing of quail, duck, geese and squirrel.
One could go out and kill a deer or turkey most any time or more than one if they wanted
There was a man named Sam Harper who lived close to my
father and he was a great hunter. He would kill a deer and always bring us a hind
quarter or if he hunted turkey he would always bring part of the game he killed.
In those days there were lots of really wild hogs in the upland timber as
well as in the river bottoms. In the early spring my father would get some of our
neighbors to help him catch and mark a lot of young hogs as well as old ones and then turn
them loose to get fat for meat in the fall and winter. The hogs would get fat on
acorns, pecans, and wild peas that grew in the bottoms. The only way a regular wild
hog would eat corn was for him to get into a corn field. You could put one of them
in a pen and he would actually starve to death before he would eat corn you would put in
Wild hogs were very dangerous when cornered. The old boars often had
tusks four or five inches long and would kill a dog at one stroke with his tusks. A
dog had to be well trained to catch wild hogs. The only way a dog could handle an
old boar or an old sow was to make a lunge and catch the hog by the ear and then lay right
back by the side of the hog, or he could catch by the lower part of the ham and then stay
behind the hog. If an old sow had a bunch of pigs she was just about as dangerous as
the old boar.
I think it was in September, 1876, there was a total eclipse of the sun
that happened about 3 p.m.. It got dark as night and everybody was really scared as
they were not expecting such a thing to happen. The chickens all went to roost as
though it was night. No one took papers in those days to see what was going on or
what was going to happen and if they did take newspapers there was no mail delivery.
We had to go eight miles to Gainesville after our mail and never made many trips to
town during the year and then only when it was really necessary.
There was lots of sickness such as chills and malaria in the Indian
Territory in the early days on account of heavy rank vegetation. Lots of land being
put in cultivation naturally caused more or less sickness also in the country. It
was no uncommon thing to see the whole family in bed with chills and fever.
Doctors were scarce and medicine very high. Most people resorted to some old Indian
remedy to stop the chills such as tea made from boiling horsemint or button willow roots
or some other herb that some one thought was the best for stopping the chills. Of
course, in serious sickness someone was sent to Gainesville for a doctor and the expense
was plenty high.
About 1878, my father with other men in the settlement decided there
should be a school for the children who had moved into the Territory and settled near our
farm. There was not much lumber in Gainesville and it had to be freighted from
Jefferson, Texas, and was very high in price so they decided to build a log schoolhouse.
It was quite a job to build the house but every man and boy in the
community turned out to do all he could in getting the house ready for school. My
father had me take a yoke of his work steers and drag the logs out of a nearby forest to
the site where the building was to be located. They then got permission from Mrs.
Stacy, an Indian woman (My wife's grandmother), who owned the land they had
selected on which to build the house to use it for school and church purposes. The
house was finally built and covered with clapboards but there was no floor except the
dirt. For seats they cut straight logs and split them open and dressed the split
side to make it smooth, then each end of this split log was laid on a block of wood and
that made a good strong seat. Our first teacher was a Dr. Green and
he taught us as best he could under the circumstances.
A spring of water was nearby for use of the school and it was great fun to
have the teacher allow two of us boys to go after a bucket of water. Some of the
neighbor women furnished a gourd that would hold about a quart of water and had a handle
possibly twenty inches long. There also was a drinking gourd kept hanging up near
the spring for anyone passing to use in getting a drink.
These were great days as school was something new in the country. We
would go to school about three or four months in the winter after cotton was all picked
and about two or three months in the summer after crops were all laid by or finished for
In the fall on Sundays and other days when we had nothing to do, my
brother, Frank, and I and other boys who played with us would go into
bottoms and pick up pecans, also get wild grapes that grew in abundance in all the timber.
These were called 'post oak' grapes and were just as good as our Concord grapes of
today and people from forty or fifty miles in Texas would come over in the Indian Country
and gather those wild post oak grapes for jelly and wine.
In the fall and winter the leaves would fall off the trees and as the wind
would blow them, they would lodge in deep hollows or ravines and sometimes would get tow
or three feet deep. One Sunday morning we boys started out to get some pecans and
were going along on top of the hills just out of the river bottom when we saw an immense
pile of leaves down in a deep ravine and, of course, we were bent on doing something we
should not do. so we ran down the steep bank and jumped right out in the middle of
the big pile of leaves and to our surprise there were about fifteen or twenty wild hogs
denned up in this pile of leaves for the day. It was pretty hard to tell who was
scared the most, we boys or the wild hogs. The hogs struck a bee line for home.
Wild hogs would seldom ever run around in daytime but always did their feeding in
the night time. Of course people hunting wild hogs in the Fall and Winter for meat
would always use trained dogs that would run them out of their hiding palces. Wild
hog meat never was as good as meat from tame hogs fattened on corn.
As a rule the Indians never bothered anyone. Sometimes an Indian
would get some whiskey that peddlers sold him and maybe he would get on a tear and shoot
all the trees around his house.
If an Indian killed an Indian, he was always tried in the Indian courts
and if he was convicted, he would be shot to death by an Indian officer detailed to do
such a job. He was never put in jail but after conviction he was allowed to go home
and make ready to die by disposing of his property and on the day of his executin he would
be there to be shot to death. If he was convicted of killing another Indian's beef
he would be tried in the Indian courts at Tishomingo and if convicted, he would be tied to
a post or tree and whipped on his naked back the number of lashes the Judge had decided he
should have. The federal governemtn did not have jurisdiction over an Indian unless
he killed a white man or stole cattle from a white man. This was rarely ever heard of in
I an early day my wife's uncle, Ed Love, had an old Negro slave making
some rails for him and he got into an argument with the old Negro about the kind of rails
he was making and the Negro ran at Love with an axe drawn and said he was going to kill
Mr. Love and that he had wanted to kill him for a long time. Love was on his horse
and was in some brush where he could not get away from the Negro so he shot the Negro and
killed him on the spot. Love left home and stayed away for sometime as he knew if
the Indian officers got him, he would be taken to Tishomingo, tired and shot. A man
named Overton was Governor of the Chickasaw Nation at that time and he did not like any of
the Loves as they were a powerful people when it came to Indian courts and elections.
He sent Ed Love word to come to court and stand trial for killing the Indians Negro
slave but love sent him word to come get him if he could. Love was on the scout for
two or three years, staying in Texas part of the time and at home part of the time.
He had lots of friends and they would always keep him posted when the Indian Militia were
in the country. The Indian Militia only would come up in our part of the country
about once very six months and someone would always see them in time to let Ed know they
were looking for him.
He stayed with his brother, Sloan Love, who had recently married a
northern girl by the name of Nannie Lucus. She was scared all the time the Militia
would come to their house hunting for Ed and shoot her trying to shoot Ed. One day
the Militia did come and Ed did not see them in time to get away until they saw him.
As Love always kept a good horse saddled close to where he was, he had a better
chance to get away. This time he had his horse where to get away from the Militia,
he had to run the horse through a hall between two rooms of the Love home where Sloan
Love's wife was at that time. He jumped on the horse and as he started the horse
across the floor of the big hall, he began shooting back at the Militia. The Militia
was also shooting at him. That almost scared Mrs. Love to death as she had never
heard anything like it before. Ed Love rode his horse into a corn field and after he
had gone a little way, the Militia turned back for they knew Love would kill some of them
after he got where they could not see him. They were not taking any chances for a
man well concealed with a good Winchester rifle could kill several before they would ever
Ed Love got tired of being on the dodge of the officers for so long so he
decided he would leave the country for good and stay away. One day he came to my
father and asked him to got with him as far as Ft. Worth and then he would take a train
for old Mexico. He selected two of this best horses, a big long-legged roan and a
dark bay horse, both of which were extra good horses. One evening about sundown, he
came leading the big roan horse and told my father he was ready to leave. Finally my
father agreed to go with him with theu nderstanding he would not get him (my father) into
trouble. They rode to Ft. Worth that night and as my father was not used to such
hard riding, he was worn out when they got to Ft. Worth. They went to bed and slept
most of the day. My father helped Love get some clothes and made inquiry about time
the train would leave going toward old Mexico. Real early next morning, my father
went with Ed Love to the livery stable and saddled both horses. Love tied two nice
blankets on one saddle. My father took his Winchester and his saddle and after
biding Ed a good-bye, started back home. He got home about sundown that day with the
two horses and saddles. Love told him to keep the horses for his trouble but it was
not his intention to do so as he was only paying back favors Love had often done for him.
No sooner had my father left Ed Love than Love met up with some stranger
who turned out to be a sharper who was trying to get what money Love had. The
sharper finally found out who Love was after he had gotten most of Love's money and then
he told the police wo Ed Love was. The officers arrested him as Love thougth for
hitting his sharper friend in the face with his gun. After he was arrested, the law
questioned him and he admitted his name and that he was getting away from Governor
Overton, so the officers sent a runner to see if Governor Overton did want him.
Governor Overton sent a company of Indian Militia to meet Love at Red River and took him
back to Tishomingo for trail. Instead of giving Love a fair trail, the Governor
ordered him shot at once. W ithout any preliminaries, he was marched out in a ring
made on the ground and three Militia all fired at the same time. The Governor sent
work to Love's brother and sister that they could come get the body of Ed Love, and they
did so. About two hundred men gathered at my father's house the next day and all
wanted to go and take Governor Overton out and hang him but Sloan Love told them there
would only be a battle and a lot of them could get killed so after my father joined in
with Sloan Love, the crowd finally dispersed but none of them were satisfied. If
anyone would have acted as a leader they would have tried to lynch Governor Overton, which
probably should have been done.
After the schoolhouse was finished it was decided to have church there as
often as possible. Almost any minister was welcome. It did not make much
difference what denomination he was. We used that schoolhouse for several years.
Also had church there quite often. In the Summer the neighbors gathered in
and built a big brush arbor to hold revivals in, sometimes in those days called camp
meetings. Those who lived close enought o drive back and forth in their wagons did
so and those who lived far away would come there and camp. There would possibly be
fifty or more conversions at those meetings and instead of a baptistry as is used by some
churches today, the whole congregation would go down to Red River and select a nice sandy
beach and all join hands and wade right out in the water to the proper depth and then the
preacher would go down the line and baptize them as he came to them. I myself, was
baptized in such a way.
In later years as the country settled up it was necesary to have a larger
school building to accomodate the children. This time the folk made up enough money
to build a box houose, I think about 20 x 50 feet. Also had seats made out of
lumber. My father and some other men built this house and made the seats. This
building was located one mile north of the old Brown's Ferry, on Red River. In fact,
it was where the main highway divided on going to Brown's Ferry and the other going to
what was known as the Sacra Ferry. These two ferries were about one mile apart on
Red River but both roads led to Gainesville.
From 1870 to 1880, it was no uncommon thing to see big herds of cattle
being driven by the schoolhouse where we went to school. Sometimes there would be as
many as 5,000 cattle in one drove and it would take all day for them to pass the
schoolhouse. I can remember sitting near the wall of the house and working out a
chinking that held the mortar between the logs so as to make me a hole to peep out at to
see the cattle passing.
In crossing Red River with those big herds of cattle it would sometimes
take a week to get the herd across the river. Frequently they would get part of the
herd across and the balance would not take the water. As the river was almost always
up in the Spring, it was hard to try to cross it with cattle as sometimes they would swim
out to the middle of the stream and them some steer would turn back. That caused all
the cattle to go to milling or swimming in a circle. Sometimes there would be a lot
of cattle drowned and maybe a horse get drowned and sometimes a cow hand get drowned.
A cow hand who understood his business, when he found his horse was about to give
out from swimming, would quit his horse and grab a big strong steer by the horns and swim
back by the side of the steer still holding the steer's horn with one hand. You may
bet this was no picnic but often a man could point the herd across the river in this way.
He could stop them from milling by staying first on one side of the steer and then
the other and by throwing water in the steer's face to turn him.
In two or three years, Texanna got to be a nice little village but after
the Santa Fe Railroad built north from Gainesville, in 1886, other towns sprung up and
Texanna just faded away.
We had good schools in Texanna in those days. I recall we had a man
teacher named E.T. Isley, who would teach 125 children without any trouble at all and I
mean we had our lessons or knew the reason why.
When I was about sixteen years old I went to school there as did several
other big boys about my age. Among them was a boy named Louis Mouthay, who was much
larger than any other boy in school and was a very overbearing sort of a boy.
He could whip any one of us so three other boys of my size and myself banded together for
protection. We were Willard Carder, Dick Simpson and Oscar Connally and
myself. In this arrangement we found lots of ways to get even with old Louis, as we
called him. Among other things we would whistle or thorw a paper ball across the
house and when the teacher would come and ask who did the mischief, we would never tell
him that Louis did it but all four of us would look straight at old Louis and laugh.
Of course, Louis would eny doing anything but the teacher would draw him up and
give him a good whipping. Of course, we would all four stay close together so Louis,
who was much bigger than we were, could not whip any one of us.
People in the early days of the settlement of the country did not give
checks in payment for things they bought. It one was to start out to buy cattle hw
would take the money along, usually in his saddle pockets to make the payment with.
I have seen lots of men with $1,000 or $1500 in gold in their saddle pockets at a
time. Even as late as 1886, lots of people kept their money concealed at home.
I remember in 86 my wife's uncle, Hiram Awd, bought a good farm out in Texas at a
cost of $8000. The agreement was the purchase price would be paid in gold when
a deed was given. One day Mr. Awd came to Mrs. Stewart's home and told Mrs. Stewart
he wanted her and Lottie, my wife, to go home with him as he had some work he wanted them
to help him do that night. Of course he had told Mrs. Stewart what he was going to
do. My wife said after the Awd children had been put to bed and were sure enough
asleep, Mr. Awd went out of the house and got a bar of iron and pried up a big rock in the
hearth of the fireplace and then dug down in the earth about a foot deep and got out an
old dinner pot that he had buried there. However, before he got the pot out he went
outside to make sure no one was near the house. After he came back in the house he
fastened the door securely and got a shotgun and laid it close by, ready for action, then
he lifted the pot out of the hole under the hearth and he, Mrs. Stewart and my wife
counted out $8000 in gold, 400 $20 gold pieces and put them in a pan of hot water and
scrubbed the dirt off the money so he could pay for the farm he had bought over in Texas.
After he had counted out the 400 gold pieces, he took the old pot outside the house
and hid it at some other place he had prepared for it. After the 400 pieces were
counted out, my wife said there were at least that many more left in the pot. No one ever
saw that pot so far as any of his family ever knew as he died in about one month and
everyone is sure the gold is still hidden somewhere near where he lived.
In the early days of the settlement of Indian Territory it was possibly
different from most any other new country. At that time one could not own land in
the Territory as it was held in common by the Indians or as one might say, it was held as
a big family office or estate. Every Indian could have as much land as he could
fence and no one would object to him doing so.
The white people who came to the Indian Territory would lease a tract of
land from some Indians and could then fence it, put it in cultivationf or the use of it
for from five to ten years. Cattlemen did not care to have a lease in the early da
ys as they could get a permit for the Indian Government to run say one hundred head of
cattle on the open range and then turn loose probably from five hundred to one thousand
head to run at large on the good grass that covered the country at that time. A
grazing permit would cost 25 cents per head per year but as the cowman only paid on one
hundred haed he was the one who made the big money.
Of course, there was cattle stealing in those days but it was done
probably by someone who had cattle there on the same basis as the man from whom he was
stealing but who would be in a different part of the Territory. Lots of the stealing
was done by changing the brand on the cattle and keeping them hidden out until the brand
healed up so it would not show it had been changed. Then, too, some man, who was
inclined to steal in a small way, would kill a fat cow and sell it out to his neighbors to
get a little ready money. If the thieves were caught, they were taken to Ft. Smith and
were nearly always convicted and sent to the pen. It was hard to get anyone to swear
against a man for anything he had done in the way of law violation, for the reason the
witness would have to go up to Ft. Smith and maybe be gone a month waiting for the trail
to be called. That left the family all alone at home and would give other thieves a
good chance to steal one's cattle or horses while one was trying to prosecute another
Most of the settlers were good men and women and were there to make them a
home and living for their children. Lots of times these settlers would have
gatherings to discuss the problems thant confronted them. They had a rule that if
one of them had a horse stolen some of the others would go help hunt for the thief and
horse and if the man was caught it often was the last horse he ever stole. they
thought that was the best way to stop horse stealing, to say nothing of being dragged off
to Ft. Smith for a month or six weeks trying to break him from stealing by sending
him to prison for a term of years.
Most people were law abiding people and wanted to treat everybody as they
would be treated. They held Sunday School at some house in the community until there
was a schoolhouse and church b uilt and almost everyone would go to any services that were
held in the church house as everyone felt he had an interest in the building.
Almost every man in the country carried a pistol buckled around him in
those days. It was nothing uncommon to see half a dozen men in church on Sunday in
their shirt sleeves with a big ivory handled six-shooter buckled on and there was nothing
thought of it as it was a custom to carry pistols in those days.
There was no vocational training in the schools in those days in our
country. We would play ball and blackman and aon Friday evening would have big
spelling matches which were always great occasions to me as spelling was my long suit.
At that time there was not a word in our Blue Back Speller that I could not spell
or a problem in Ray's Arithmetic, 3rd part, that I could not work and explain.
About 1880 the M.K. & T. Railroad built into Gainesville from Denison
and stopped at Gainesville for several years. This made the town grow quite a lot.
Everybody felt like a new era had dawned for them when the first train pulled into
town. The merchants could get their goods in much quicker and it made the trade from
the Indian Territory much better. I have seen forty or fifty wagons of white people
and Negroes passing our house int he Fall of the year, taking maybe a bale of cotton but
almost always having some venison hams or probably some wild turkeys if it was cold
weather, and always some cowhides to sell. Quite often, too, they had wildcat, coon,
skunk, and mink hides to sell. They woudl almost always stop outside of town a few
miles so as to be able to sell their wares and buy their supplies and leave town before
night in order to save the expense of staying in the wagon yard. Some might stay on
another day if they did not get to see the sights the first day. Sometimes they
would get too much whiskey and then went to paint the town red. It would take a week
to make a trip to Gainesville from Pauls Valley or as far north as Purcell and old
The Negores who lived on Caddo Creek and Wild Horse Creek and as far north
as Walnut Creek near Purcell would do their trading in Gainesville and some sometimes went
to Sherman. They seldom ever caused any trouble when they went to town as they knew
it would mean death to them. It was their habit to get their whiskey and take it
home with them and then put on a show in their own country as a rule. Almost
everyone who made those trips to market were men who were trying to make a home for their
In 1886, the Santa Fe built through Gainesville and on throught he Indian
country to Purcell where it was net by the A.T. & S.F. that was building from the
north. It was a great sight for the people along the raod to watch the contractors
with hundreds of teams and scrapers building the road. It took nearly two years to
complete the Red River bridge. There were about 500 men camped on the south bank of
the river to say nothing of men who had private camps on both sides of the river. My
father had about twenty acres of garden stuff the year of 86. It being a very dry year and
his garden being on some sub-irrigated land, he made a wonderful lot of beans, sweet
potatoes, turnips and also had about ten acres of late corn for roasting ears. I got
all the truck farming I wanted that year hauling those vegetables to those railroad camps.
I have taken as much as fifty bushels of sweet potatoes or a wagon bed full of
turnip greens to the big camp at the railroad bridge.
About the time the Santa Fe Railroad built across the Indian country, our
little town of Texanna was a thriving little village. Had a good school, big cotton
gin, two stores, blacksmith shop, several new residences and a good doctor, Dr. E.T.
On July 4, there was always an old fashioned picnic at the little town.
I remember one Summer there was a big camp meeting held at Texanna. It lasted
for about sixty days, in fact, as long as anyone would go. People who lived far away
would come ther eand camp. Those who lived not so far would arive in every evening
in their wagons and then go home after church was over at night. Of course, the
little children got worn out and would sleep anywhere they had a chance to do so. It
was a habit for the mothers to take the children and put them to sleep in the back end of
their wagons on a quilt spread down for that purpose. One night just for pure
meanness, three of my chums and myself decided to create a disturbance. We went to
the wagons where the children were all asleep and took the Jones baby and put it in the
Smith wagon and took the Smith baby and put it in the Brown wagon until we had changed
about a dozen little children into other wagons where they did not belong. When
church owas over the people drove away to their homes and when the children were taken in
for the night, maybe they had a red-headed baby where theirs was a black or bald-headed
one. It is very easy to understand what a commotion this caused. There was no
way of telling who the baby really was. Some of them never got properly changed
until the next day. You can safely bet we did not offer any help in getting them
There was not much law in the Indian Territory in the early days. At
the same time there was not so much law violation as whe have today. Cattle and
horse stealing was the most law violation we had and there were some murder cases.
If a person stole cattle or horses or committed murder he was taken to
Fort Smith, Arkansas, for trial and it was an almost universal rule when taken to Fort
Smith to fact the Federal Judge Parker, you never came back. This was more often the
rule in murder cases. It was always understood that when you went to Fort Smith to
be tried for murder you had just as well wind up your afairs before you left for Judge
Parker alwayshad a convicting jury in his court.
In gathering up the prisoners to take to court, there would always be five
or six United States Deputy Marshals in a bunch. They would have a chuck wagon and
driver along and after they had arrested a man, he was chained in a wagon they had along
for the purpose of hauling the prisoners.
At night the marshals would put leg irons on the prisoners and then run a
long chain throught hese lef irons and lock each end of the chain to a tree for the night.
There would be some blankets spread down for the prisoners to sleep on during the
night. These trips would often take a month to make and as they crossed the
Territory the marshals would pick up white men, Negroes and Indians, chain them all
together in the wagon in daytime and chain them to trees at night. Sometimes when
the marshals arrived in Fort Smith they would have from thirty to forty prisoners in their
The cattle business was really a thriving business along about from 78 to
82 or maybe 84. Grass was plentiful and there were thousands of Texas cattle turned
loose onthe north side of Red River. There were lots of cattlemen who lived in the
Indian country, such men as the Stones, Washingtons and Dick McLish, the Roffs and many
other such men and they did not really approve of Texas cattle being turned loose on their
range. Some other cowmen who were in the Territory got rich off of the Texas cattle.
In the Spring of the year when cattle were in poor condition due from lack
of feed during the Winter, cows would bog in the quicksand in the river and sometimes die
or someone who wanted the cow's calf would knock the cow in the head and skin her, as her
hide was worth from $7.50 or $8.00 at that time, then the calf would be taken home and
naother cow givent he calf to raise. I have known men who had about twenty-five head
of old gentle cows to raise fifty or seventy-five head of calves in one year.
There was another kind of cattle rustler in the country at that time.
He was one who would find a stray cow that had been lost on account of stampede or
just got strayed away from the big herd that was passing through the country and who would
change the brand to his own brand. In doing this he would drive the cow off from ten
to fifteen miles after he had branded her. He would also find unmarked and unbranded
calves and it was easy to put his brand on them and on the mothers, too. I have
known several men who had good herds of cattle gotten that way. Those kind of men
almost always went broke or went to the penitentiary sooner or later.
My father finally got three yoke of work oxen to do heavy plowing with and
about 1880 he did quite a lot of plowing new land for other people. I remember
plowing heavy sod near a big lake for a Mr. Gibson. As was always the custom, we
would leave the oxen hitched to the plow at the noon ho ur while he and I would got to
dinner. One nice warm Spring day we left them as usual hitched to the plow and when
we came back to work after dinner, the steers, plow and all were gone.
We took the track the plow made in being dragged and soon found the team
standing out in the lake in about two feet of water. There was nothing else to do
but just wade out to where they were and drive them out. The heel flies had gotten
after them and caused them to go in the water.
My father sent me with the three yoke of steers over in Texas to help a
friend of ours ot plow some heavy bottom land. The man, Sim Weaver, had two yoke of
steers and he put his two yoke of steers and our three yoke together making five yoke of
fine steers. I was only ten years old at that time but I drove the five yoke
of steers for two weeks, plowing as bad creek bottom land as was to be found anywhere.
It would be a great sight to see some ten year old boy try to drive even one yoke
of steers now, much less drive five yoke and really get the work done. It would be a
great sight now to see five yoke of steers hitched to a wagon or plow.
Along about 1880 the Indian country began to fill up with Texas cattle and
as was the custom, the owners of the cattle were to pay the Indian Government 25 cents per
head per year for grazing privildge but after the cattle were turned loose on the big open
range it was very hard ever to collect any more grazing money. Quite often the
Indian Governemtn would send the Indian Militia out to round up a big herd of cattle and
drive them across Red River into TExas but just as soon as the Militia had gone back to
Tishomingo, the cattlemen would drift the cattle back across the river. In those
days there was no law to confiscate one's stock for a grazing bill and the cattlemen sure
took advantage of such conditions to get free grass.
I think it was about 1885 the first barbed wire was brought into the
Territory. People nor stock either knew how to use it. I have seen miles and
miles of barbed wire fence built by stretching the wire from tree to tree and probably set
a post every twenty to thirty yards apart. Horses were plentiful in all parts of the
contry and as is the habit of range horses, when they start to water they always go on a
run. When the wire fence was built I have seen lots and lots of horses cut all to
pieces on the barbed wire fence as they were not used to such fences as the horses of
today are. There were lots of cattle cut but nothing like the number of horses.
Wild horses would actually kill themselves when they became entangles in the wire.
When the wire became more in use as a fence, lots of cowmen took leases from some
Indian and paid a dollar per year for the right to fence a big pasture. In those
days an Indian could hold as much land as he could fence. Of course, there were a
lot of big pastures fenced. In the Love Bend almost all the big herds of cattle
belonged to Dick McLish, Bill and Jerry Washington. They had headquarters near where
Marietta is now located. That country around Marietta was called the Bog Prairie in
those days. These men did not try to fence any land except a horse pasture to keep
saddle horses in.
As it is only about ten miles from Red River west to Marietta and only
seven or eight on west from Marietta to Red River again, the Washingtons and McLish (who
were brothers-in-law) just had some men ride a line across from river to river and keep
their cattle drifted south of an imaginary line. This gave them about two hundred or
more sections of range. Of course there were a lot of farmers in that section called
Love's Bend who had little bunches of cattle and a few built wire fences around a section
of land to locate some cattle that might stray off too far from home.
It was nothing uncommon to see Washington's chuck wagon make camp at some
good watering place and from twenty-five to thirty cowhands come in for dinner or maybe
make a stay of one or more days while working that part of their range.
When a cow outfit came into a certain part of the coutnry to work the
range, it was always the custom to kill a fat yearling for beef but it was also the custom
never to kill one of their own yearlings. It was always said a ccowman could not eat
his own beef as the other man's beef always tasted much better.
They would drive up a nice fat yearling close to the camp and someone
would shoot it down and they then would skin out a hind quarter for their own use.
Then they would invite the nearest neighbors to take the balance of the beef and use
it. In those days one could not keep beef very long, especially in hot weather.
The white people and Indians, too, would take the beef and cut it up in long thin
slices and hang it in the hot sun on a long stick fixed up for that purpose and dry it.
This was called jerked beef. Most people were glad to see a big cow outfit
come in the country as it was a sure sign they would get some fresh beef.
A cow outfit of say twenty or twenty-five men will eat a small beef in one
or two days os in hot weather they would kill a fat yearling almost every day. That
meant the settlers would get at least part of every beef they killed. In cold
weather they would keep a beef until it was used up.
There was not so much work to do in the Winter months as no one ever fed
any cattle in those days. Sometimes they would tear down some settler's fences and
let the cattle eat up the stalk fields and sometimes they would pay the farmer something
to look after the cattle in his own stalk field.
When the Indians were moved to the Indian Territory many of them had Negro
slaves and, of course their slaves stayed with these Indians until they were set free
after the Civil War. In the country just north of Gainesville there was the Love
family or rather several families of the Loves and they all had slave Negroes. When
the slaves were set free some of them stayed with their former masters but most of them
drifted upon Caddo Creek north of where Ardmore is now and the balance came on to Wild
Horse creek. Those Negroes who settled on Wild Horse were such people as the
Franklins, Henderson William's father, the Russells, Loves and the Prince Negores.
Of course not any of the old slaves are living today, at least not many of them.
Many of the slave Negroes became wealthy by raising cattle and horses as
they had free access to as fine a range as there ever was in any country.
Interview 9585-A, December 27, 1937, 8 pages
R.L. Nichols was born in 1870, in Missouri. In the Spring of 1874, a
wagon train left Neosho, Missouri. There were twenty wagons, each wagon carrying a
family and their belongings. This wagon train was working oxen. There were
only a few saddle horses. My father had the only horse team and his wagon was the
lead wagon. This group of pioneers was headed for Gainesville, Texas, where my
uncle, a few years before, had gone.
This wagon train camped at Fort Gibson and one night was camped at the
place where McAlester is now. This wagon train did not travel on rainy days or on
Sundays and when they did camp, their wagons would be pulled into a large circle in a
place where there was water and grass and there was always a stock guard who stood watch
every night and a scout who rode ahead and picked out a place to camp. There were no
roads through he country to speak of and this wagon train stuck to the open country the
best they could in order to miss the big creeks.
We would only travel from fifteen to twenty miles a day and some days we
wouldn't make that much time. This wagon train wasn't bothered by the Indians but I
have heard my father say one evening they made camp where Stringtown is now and this
camping place was where they met with their first horse thieves. While making camp,
two men rode by and Father noticed that they carried several bridles on their saddles so
that night he being the spokesman of this wagon train, had the stock guards doubled and
along in the night after the camp had quieted down, these two men were caught trying to
take the two horses my father owned. In those days the law as 'show no mercy' to a
horse thief. The nearest court was at Fort Smith, Arkansas, at that time, and I have
heard my father say the men were dealt with right there at the end of a rope.
After about six weeks of traveling, this wagon train crossed Red River and
settled at Gainesville, Texas. Then there was only one store at Gainesville and no
railroads. My father settled near Red River on a tract of ground joining my uncle
Alex Ray's farm. Uncle Alex had settled there a few years before and in the fall of
1875, Red River overflowed and washed away his crops and left the farming land in poor
shape so my father moved across Red River into the Indian Territory as there was much
better land over in the Territory than where we lived. Father took a ten year lease
on this tract of land in the Red River bottom and built our log house which sat near the
place where the north end of the Santa Fe Railroad bridge is now. The land was
leased from Edmond Love of the same family of Loves for whom Love County was named, the
Loves having settled there in 1830. Most of this land had never been in cultivation
and had small timber on it which had to be cleared off. The first year my father
cleared around twenty acres of this raw land and put eleven acres in cotton and raised
sixteen bales of cotton but before this cotton was all picked out my father had some bad
One of his fine horses that he prized so highly, died, leaving him only
the one horse and with no way to haul his cotton to market. That was in the year
1876, that he made his first crop in the Indian Territory and in September, 1876, about
three o'clock in the afternoon, there was a total eclipse of the sun and what few people
there were living around there talked about it for days, thinking that the world was
coming to an end. It was so dark, the chickens went to roost and they had to light
up the house but not with electricity like we would today but with home made candles which
were made out of animal fats and cloth.
I remember our first home that was built in the Indian Territory. It
was mad out of hewed logs with a dirt floor and no windows and one door and was covered
with boards hewed out of logs with a hand axe. When we settled there, the country
had plenty of wild hogs. Deer and turkeys went in droves. There were no wire
fences and it was hard to keep a rail fence up as the grass in the fall would sometimes in
some way get on fire and burn up the fences. In a few years after we were settled
there, several families began to settle in that part of the neighborhood and every family
had some children and the farmers saw the need of a school, so my father and another man
went to Mr. Love and made a deal with him that if he would furnish the land they would
build the schoolhouse and in a few weeks, a one room log house with a dirt floor was
built. This room had two windows and the seats were made out of split logs and this
was my first school. A man named Green was the first teacher.
In that time we only got to go to school about three months during the
summer and three months during the winter. The other times we would have to help in
making and gathering crops. I was the oldest one of the boys in our family and when
I was only eight years old, I had to plow all day with a yoke of oxen. It might seem
like fun in this day and time to plow with a yoke of oxen but them in new ground and with
lots of stumps to contend with, it was hard labor for a man, let alone for a boy only
eight years old. But during that time, my father was laid up sick for several weeks
and the job was left up to me to get the land in shape. I had watched my father plow
before and before he was taken sick he had laid the land off and all I had to do was to
follow what he had laid off.
The schoolhouse was too small to hold church in and the men built a brush
arbor and people would come from miles around and camp at this arbor. Sometimes
these meetings would last six weeks or longer. Every man carried a six shooter and I
have seen the preacher unbuckle his six shooter and lay it aside until he was through
There was a cattle trail from Texas, crossing the Indian Territory into
Kansas and this trail passed within a hundred yards of the schoolhouse. I have seen
herd after herd of cattle going over this trail.
There were no 'laws', only United States Marshals and court was held at
Fort Smith and it was known that if a man ever went before Judge Parker, he never came
back. The United States Marshals would come through the country picking up wanted men when
they could find them and I have seen on several trips they have camped at our place having
ten or twelve prisoners with them. The United States Marshals would have long chains
and the prisoners would be handcuffed to this chain. There would be very few of them
who were taken to Fort Smith who ever returned. There were bad men and good men
living in this country.
We used oxen to farm with until 1882 and in that year we made a good crop
and my father sold our ox team and bought a large span of mules and a new wagon.
In 1886, the Santa Fe Railroad was built through that part of the country.
In 1889, three of four months before the opening of old Oklahoma, wagon after
wagon, buggies, horse backers passed our place on their way to make the run.
Along about the time of the opening of old Oklahoma, one of our mules was
stolen and it was a few months before my father found out where the mule was. We
started to the place where a man said he had seen the mule and stayed all night in
Oklahoma City, about three months after the opening of old Oklahoma. Oklahoma City
was called Tent City and tents were about all that were there at that time. We found
the mule but had to pay $25.00 to get him back as the man had bought the mule and said he
paid $25.00 and had the price he paid in writing.
My father and I went into the cattle business.
I was married to Lottie Stewart, who was a granddaughter of Edmond Love,
The farm my father settled on was the land which my wife's father took as
In 1898 I bought a farm at Pauls Valley from Calvin Grant and in
January 1899, I moved to Pauls Valley and settled on the farm where I have made my home