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OKGenWeb Indian Pioneer Papers Collection


Garvin County Indian Pioneer Papers



Howard H. Wheeler


Interview #1224
Field Worker: Maurice R. Anderson
Date: April 12, 1937
Name:   Mr. Howard H. Wheeler
Residence: Pauls Valley, Oklahoma
Date of Birth:  November 15, 1884
Place of Birth: Texas
Father: John W. Wheeler, born in Texas
Mother: Amanda Dobbs, born in Texas 


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My father and mother and two sisters and myself left Texas in three wagons, working mules. We forded Red River north of Gordonville, Texas, on the morning of December 10, 1897. We drove all that day and camped on a hill. We had been driving all day over nothing but prairies, so on coming to this hill, my father said this would be a good place to camp. That night it came up a blizzard and we all nearly froze to death. There was no wood except some kindling my father was saving to cook with, so we had to wrap up in what few quilts we had. Early the next morning we started on. My father said, when we left Texas, he was headed for the Pott Country.

I was driving the wagon that my mother was riding in. It surely was cold that morning. I was walking and driving the mules to keep warm. About the middle of the afternoon, we got into rocky country. The rocks were in rows and it was hard to get the mules over them. The ends of the rocks stood out of the ground and they were sharp. We camped on a small creek that night in the Chickasaw Nation.

The weather was warmer by night and we camped where there was plenty of wood. Next day we drove to Mill Creek. There was one store and a black smith shop. We camped at Mill Creek that night, got an early start the next morning, and drove to Mannsville. I was on the look-out for Indians because I had never seen one and I was curious. After camping at Mannsville two nights we moved on to Roff. It was there that I saw my first Indian.

My father and I walked up to town and just as we were coming around a corner, I ran almost into an old Indian woman carrying her papoose in a bad on her back. We left Roff that day and drove to Old Center. All that day we saw nothing but Indians and cattle. We were traveling on an old road and there had been a herd of cattle driven over this road a day or so ahead of us.

Late that evening before we got to Old Center, we passed an Indian school. It was probably at recess time because there were about forty or fifty Indian children out in the yard playing. What called my attention to them so markedly was the fact that they were playing a game that I had often played in he school in Texas. They were playing tug-of-war. To play this game, two sided are chosen with a captain on each side and then with one group at each end of a long rope. They pull until one side is defeated.

After passing this Indian School, and Indian man stopped my father's wagon and wanted to buy a span of mules. Father told him that they were not for sale and then the Indian wanted to lease him some land. When Father told him that he was headed for Pott Country, the Indian grunted, "Pott Country, him no good!"

We camped one night at Old Center, next night, we camped at Maud. Next day we crossed the Canadian River, which was nearly dry, and we drove on into Wanette, camped there one night and drove to Tecumseh the next day.

We stayed at Tecumseh three days. My father did not like the country around there, but he herd of a man who had a good place to rent so we pulled out and went to Rock Creek School house, six miles north of Shawnee. My father rented a place from George Stringfield. We farmed there one year and the next year my father bought a small place about three miles northeast of Rock Creek school house.

When we moved on this place, I went to my first Indian Stomp Dance. An Indian by the name of Johnnie Bear came over to our house one evening (it was in the year 1899) and as my father was gone to town, I went out to talk to him and he asked me to come to the dance. I was only about fourteen years old, but large to my age. I told him I would. After he was gone, I went to Herman Stringfield's house to get him to go with me.

That night, Herman and I walked over to Johnnie's house. When we got there it was getting dark and an Indian man was out in the front yard at a big pot cooking something, so Herman and I sat down about fifty feet out to one side. Herman had been to lots of these Indian dances and he told me how to act. We had been there only a short while when an Indian man came out of the house with a big drum. He came about the middle of the yard and sat down. All the Indian women came and sat down in a circle around him and then the Indian men circled around them and stomped around and around to the time of the tom-tom. They went in one direction awhile and then turned and went in the opposite direction.   They kept this up continuously until midnight, then the Indian ma who was taking care of the pot hollered out something and they all stopped.  The women got sheets and spread them down, while some of the others were carrying out cakes, pies, and other things to eat.  After they got all this fixed like they wanted it, four of the Indian men carried the pot of stuff over to where the sheets were spread down.  Johnnie Bear came over to Herman and me and said, "Come, eat."  I was afraid to go and afraid not to go but Herman got up and started, so I did too.  Johnnie Bear asked me if I wanted dog or cake to eat.  I told him I would eat cake.  He  laughed and said something to his brother, Jimmie, and they both had a good laugh.  Their cake and pie were fine.  I didn't try any of the stuff in the pot.  I don't know whether it was dog meat or not but I did not want to take any chances on it.

After they were all through eating and got everything cleared away, the Indian man began to beat the drum again and they all assembled around him and began to stomp the same as before.  Herman got up and started home as he said that they would continue this all night.  These Indians were Sac and Fox.

One time I went to church at Jimmie Bear's house and they conducted their services exactly as the white people do, standing up to sing, kneeling down to pray and their preacher talked n their native language.

We raised lots of cotton and corn that year.  Father hauled the cotton to Shawnee to the gin.  In 1900, Father sold his place and bought a half interest in a saw mill owned by Dave Spencer.  This saw mill was located on Rock Creek about five miles from the school house and it was run by steam.  My father sold lumber to a man who built a big livery barn at Shawnee. 

I remember on Feb. 11, 1899, it was the coldest day I have ever known.   It was so cold that you could throw a dipper of water out of the door and it would freeze before it hit the ground. In the spring after that cold spell, the spinal meningitis broke out and lots of children died.  A family living about a mile from us lots three children in four days.  None of our family took it.

Father sold his half interest in the saw mill back to Dave Spence in the fall of 1901 and we moved four miles north of Indiahoma in the Comanche country.  The Comanches were not so friendly as the Sac and Fox had been.

One time in 1902 the white people were having a sale of town lots and they had a big barbecue. They gave the Indians a steer to do with as they desired.   There was a white man with the bunch, Herman Lehman, who had been captured by them in infancy and had grown up with them, knowing nothing of white customs.  He was elected to kill the steer.  He shot the steer from a horse with a bow and arrow while it was in full run.  As soon as the steer fell the Indians swarmed around it like a pack of wolves and skinned the hide off, then cut off long strips of meat and ate it raw.

We moved from there to Ardmore and farmed there until after statehood.

I now live in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma.

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