Field Worker: Maurice R. Anderson
Date: July 20, 1937
Name: Mr. Harry A. Sprague
Residence: Pauls Valley, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: 1871
Place of Birth: Virginia
Father: William Sprague, born in Virginia
Mother: Mary Varley, born in Virginia
I was born in 1871, in Virginia. My father died when I was ten years
old and I came to the Indian Territory in 1887. My uncle got a contract to put up
hay for a man who owned a ranch near Durant, in the Chickasaw Nation. We were living
in Texas at this time, so my uncle, two more men and myself came to Durant to put up the
There was only one store at Durant at that time and the post office was in
this store. We were camped on a creek not far from it.
I helped build the first bridge across this creek. People living on
the other side had to ford the creek at the place where we built the bridge, but when it
rained and the creek was up they could not get to the store until the creek went down.
I remember one time we were working in the hay near where this ford
crossed and one day at noon we were all eating dinner when a man came along in a wagon and
crossed the creek. He stopped where we were eating and my uncle asked him why he and
the other farmers living on that side of the creek didn't build a bridge and this man
said, "When it is raining we can't and when it isn't raining we don't need a
bridge." My uncle said he would build one himself, so that evening we all spent
out time working on this bridge and before sundown we had a log bridge across this creek
and today there is a fine concrete bridge, I believe, in the same place where we built the
log bridge about fifty years ago.
My father was a watch repair doctor and he taught me the trade, so that by
the time I was ten years old I could fix a watch as good as he could.
After we were through putting up this hay, I didn't go back to Texas with
my uncle. I decided I would stay in the Indian Territory. At that time I owned
a good saddle horse and I had my watch repairing outfit with me. When my uncle
started back to Texas I saddled my horse and headed the other way. I first located
at old Stonewall. Governor Byrd was in the mercantile business at old Stonewall.
There were seven or eight stores there at that time. I opened a watch repair
shop in Governor Byrd's store. I also slept in the back of the store.
I remember when I opened this repair shop in Governor Byrd's store, he had
locks on all of his show cases. I asked him why he kept things under look and he
said the Indians were so bad about picking things up that he had to keep his show cases
locked. After I was there awhile, I found out he was right. The Indians were
bad about picking things up. I have seen lots of the full bloods pick up things, but
I never did catch any of the mixed breed doing it nor the ones who could speak English.
Business wasn't so good there so I finally located at old Ada.
Mr. Reed established the post office at old Ada in 1890. I owned a
watch repair shop there. I did a good business at old Ada and when new Ada was
established, I put the first jewelry store in the new town.
I remember one night several men with a wagon and a fine span of mules
went to old Ada and loaded up the post office and hauled it to the new town. Next
morning the postmistress, Miss Hall, opened the post office for business in the new town
and the government was notified after the post office was moved.
I helped trail and capture the four men who killed Bus Bobett, but I did
not help hang them. I was there the next morning after they were hung. A mob
took them into an old livery stable and hung four of them. There were five in this
killing but the mob turned one man loose after he proved he wasn't there when the killing
took place. The man that did the shooting was named Miller and the best I could
learn, he was to receive several hundred dollars for the killing. This money was to
be split among the four. Miller said before he was hung that he had killed thirty
men for money.
I now live in Pauls Valley where I own a watch repair shop.