Down On Mainstreet

By Lester Clark
Submitted by Ron Morgan, author of "Bad Boys of the Cookson Hills, and others
© by Lester Clark - You are welcome to post a link to this page.

 

DOWN ON MAIN STREET

Chapter -1

The early Indians was familiar with the area along the Arkansas River, one area they called Goose Neck Bend, due to a view from a high point, the river appeared to them as being in the form of a Goose-Neck.

A few miles west of this area the Indians had an encampment, that some called "Mvskoke " and others called " Muscogee " Later, Indians rode their horses through grass up to their backs to camp here while waiting for the steamboats to bring in government supplies for them and Fort Gibson up river.

By 1878 the Fort had been abandoned, the Indian village of " Mvskoke " had grown to eight or nine hundred people along the Katy railroad and running parallel to the railroad was a street named Main Street, which has always been a gathering place for people. The street was later known as " Down On Main Street " More and more people migrated west into Indian territory and with them came the good and bad. In 1893 George Washington Crittenden and other cowboys on the Bill Jackson ranch in Texas, a spread with 200,000 head of cattle ,was sent north into Indian territory with 12,000 head of cattle to the Turkey Tract Ranch .

Coming up the Texas trail through this area, some of them had a few drinks "Down On Main Street" , and one of these was George Washington Crittenden, who liked the place so well, he never left. He got a job on the new jail under construction When the jail was completed, George was the first man thrown in jail for being drunk. Shortly after the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indian Territory was organized with headquarters at Mvskoke. Henry Whitfield, a white man, was convicted of the crime of murder, and K.B. Broks, a Negro preacher, was convicted of the crime of rape, and both were hung on July 1, 1898 in the yard of the jail that George Washington Crittenden help build.

Both defendants were arrested by J. F. [ Uncle Bud ] Ledbetter, Deputy United States Marshal under Judge Parker of Ft. Smith. This was the first legal hanging in Indian Territory. Marshal Ledbetter had help suppress the Crazy Snake rebellion and participated in the capture of the The Jennings Gang, The Buck Gang, The Pemberton-Turner Gang. Texas Jack, Mac Alford, and many others that was sent to Fort Smith, Ark. to be tried by Federal Judge Isaac C. Parker, known as the hanging judge, he sentenced 160 people to hang. Of these , 87 [ including four women ] actually were hanged.

In 1907 this Indian territory became the State of Oklahoma, the town was re-named Muskogee, Okla. and the Federal Court was moved here. Marshal Ledbetter was assigned out of the new Court.

New buildings and farm related business sprang up, and before long the unique two story Convention Hall was built with a street running through the first story, with shops on each side.

Many political conventions and decisions concerning the welfare of the people of the State of Okla. was made in Convention Hall. "DOWN ON MAIN STREET."

DOWN ON MAIN STREET

CHAPTER -2

TWENTY FIVE YEARS LATER

THE STREET , was like a small village in its self. Most of the rural people came to this street when they come to town and that was usually on Saturday. As you make your way through the people on this crowded street, and pass by the small 10 seat cafes, the smell of a nickel hamburger and a bottle of pop was over powering To the young, the choice was that or candy and a Buck Jones movie. The movie won most of the time. As I was growing up I came to love this street and all of the hoop-la that went with it, all of the bargaining, old men sitting on car fenders arguing about Hoover and Roosevelt , farmers & wives visiting with others in front of W.L. Stone dry-good store. Whispering Tom, owner of the mule barn across from the cotton gin, who could only talk in a loud whisper, trying to make a livestock trade with a farmer. J. D. standing watch in the window of Son`s pool hall for the crap-game in the back. While punch drunk Bouge Campbell racked the pool balls.

Just to listen as the steam engine train come through town with its mysterious and mournful whistles blowing , bells a ringing and steam hissing on the Katy track scaring the horses and mules.

Kids crying, mules braying, hammering and smoke coming from the black-smith shop. If you went closer you could hear the blacksmith cussing the horses he was shoeing.

Election time politicians standing on the back of a truck that was backed up to the sidewalk, with live music and making speeches to any one that would listen.

People selling every thing from chairs made out of willow trees, to gadgets to make your car run better, to the man with no legs sitting in a wheel chair selling shoe laces, pencils and etc.

The farmers came to buy what they needed or sell or trade their farm products. They sold every thing from watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, okra, new potatoes, sweet corn fresh off their wagons, In the fall they sold new apples, chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks, guinea `s and etc. , with their teams of horses and mules tied up in the cotton gin yard , restless and making noises. Most of the people had come to this street on Saturdays for years and found it got more exciting as time went by, but none expected to see or to be told about the event that will be played out this Saturday.

Old cowboy, George Washington Crittenden walked into town every Saturday as he had done for years to pinch the saloon girls and drink beer. There were several saloons " Down On Main Street " that had an occasional bar room fight, also noise and music coming out of the swinging doors as you walk by, that begin to attract the attention of the City officials as being a tad to rowdy.

Mr. Parker, the policeman on this beat, who had been loading drunks into the paddy wagon for years, was replaced by a newly hired policeman. This new policeman " Hogan " was to be a participant in the most famous bar room fight on this street, in many a year.

DOWN ON MAIN STREET

THE FIGHT

The newly hired policeman, " Hogan " the city had hired had been a boxer in the military and he looked tough, broken nose and square chin. Just the man the city needed for this busy street with all of saloons and drinkers on Saturdays.

One Saturday a young half-breed Cherokee Indian from the Goose-Neck-Bend Community was standing at the bar in one of the crowed saloons Down on Main Street drinking beer with the usual smile that was always on his face. When in walked Hogan and told Allen he was drunk, and he was going to jail.

Allen was calm and told him he was not drunk and he was not going to jail. Hogan once again told Allen he was going to jail, this is when Allen told him if you was not wearing that gun, you would not take me to jail. Hogan removed his gun, turned to the bartender, handed him the gun, turned to Allen and said, now I am taking you to jail, not giving any thought that Allen was a Golden Glove Boxer. This is when the fight started and it was a fight to behold, never had anybody Down On Main Street seen such a fight, even though it was a fair fight on behalf of both men. Hogan would not let other policeman that had arrived to interfere. They fought just like an old Jack Dempsey bare knuckle fight until they wore down and called it a draw. Allen agreed to go to jail and Hogan only charged him with drinking too much and he was released. From that time on Hogan was treated with respect on this street. This fight was the center of conversation on this street for some time to come. But it took more than a bar room fight to change this street, it had a life of its own and the excitement continued most every Saturday.

The only time, " DOWN ON MAIN STREET " became quiet, was when the famous retired U.S. Marshal Uncle Bud Ledbetter came walking down the sidewalk, wearing a handle bar mustache, a white hat, white shirt, kaki pants, and pearl handle pistols. People would begin to whisper to one another and say here comes Uncle Bud Ledbetter and they would become quite and stand aside to make way for him. Marshal Ledbetter help tame this wild Indian Territory and was truly a hero to most of the people standing aside making way for him. To me he was like a cowboy hero in the movies

.

YEARS LATER, The famous singer and song-writer, Merle Haggard , wrote a song " Okie. From Muskogee" this song has a phrase, They don `t smoke marijuana " Down on Main Street " but I do remember they did drink some moon-shine whiskey.

Old Cowboy George Washington, Crittenden while being awarded a gold-headed cane by the Governor of the State for being the oldest man in the State. made this statement: " When old George dies they will say whiskey killed him".

Oh how I did appreciate the people of that time, how fortunate I was to have lived in their time before they were all gone. I shall never forget them and the way they went about their lives and their way of making a living that made the smells and sounds that seem to surround " Down On Main Street. "



Lester Clark

The area know as " Down On Main Street" has always been a gathering place for people. some called it " Mvskoke " and others called it " Muscogee "

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