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ANTLERS' POST OFFICE FORTY-TWO YEARS AGO
Transcribed by: Teresa Young
Editor's Note: This historical review, concerning early Antlers, which we are presenting to you this week is given by Mrs. Irene Almond Smith of Antlers, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Almond of Broken Bow, who then was assistant postmaster in Antlers 42 years ago.
It is interesting to note that many of the old pioneers, who came to this country years before the coming of statehood are still living in various parts of Southeast Oklahoma. Pioneers in the strict use of the word, these hardy settlers, brining with them knowledge of organized government, laid the foundation for a town that has become an important trading center in southeast.
The picture that is presented to you depicts a daily scene at the post office in Antlers, forty-two years ago.
This group represents the early type of pioneers who settled in the Choctaw Nation, coming from the various sections of the Union. At that time, the Choctaw Indians ruled this part of the Indian Territory, and Antlers then was a town in Jacks Fork County, Choctaw Nation. The south boundary of Jacks Fork County was Beaver Creek, which flows a mile south of Antlers, and the east boundary was the Kiamichi river, extending above Tuskahoma to the north.
Antlers derived it's name from an original meaning. Years before the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company laid its track through this section, several natural springs here offered ideal camping sites for hunters and travelers of that time. The story is told that a hunter, camped at one of these springs, had shot a buck of extraordinary size, and as a challenge to other hunters, nailed the deer's antlers to a tree. Naturally, hunters who followed, did likewise and soon the trees around these springs bore numerous antlers. This camp site became known as Antlers Springs for years before coming of the railroad. The popularity and originality of the name so impressed the railroad officials they decided to call the station Antlers. Antlers, then, was one of the big settlements in the Choctaw Nation. The railroad was completed through here in the early summer of 1887.
Two years later, in 1889, when this picture was taken, there were about 50 families living in Antlers. This number included both Indian and white families, with about 300 people living in this vicinity and receiving their mail at this post office.
The post office was located on the corner now occupied by the First State Bank. The building was facing south, with the post office in the rear of the building. Adjoining the post office building was a livery barn belonging to the late Uncle Dick Locke.
With one or two exceptions, those in this picture were identified as follows: First row - George Parkerson, a local painter; Henry Almond, assistant postmaster; Sweet Locke; Bob Moyer, fiddler; Mr. Quisenberry; Jack Moyer; J. R. Williams; W. A. Butler; Sanford Locke. Second Row - Bob Berry and George Farr; Hodgin Williams with gun; Arthur Farr in three; Unknown; T. J. Lowe with grandchild, Nannie Butler, now deceased, oldest child of Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Butler. This picture was taken without any special preparation, and it presents a typical scene.
Mr. Almond, born in Georgia in 1856, lived in Antlers about 25 years. The first few years of this period, he managed a store for the late Uncle Dick Locke and served as postmaster. Later he opened a mercantile store which he operated continuously until the big fire on January 1st, 1904, that almost swept a whole block in the business district. Mr. Almond spent a few years on a farm, after his business was wiped out by the fire, but he later opened a store, which he operated until 1912, the year he moved to Broken Bow, in McCurtain County, where he now lives.
While transferring goods between Antlers and Sulphur, Mr. Almond, once, drove upon an object in the road which turned out to be a sack of money, containing $10,000 in gold. Having knowledge of the transportation of gold from the First National Bank of Fort Smith, Arkansas, through Antlers to Sulphur, Mr. Almond continued nine miles before he met the custodians of the money and returned the gold to them. This money was transferred to Sulphur for the purchase of Indian claims. The sack of gold had fallen through the bottom of the hack in which it was being transported.
Mr. Almond, although an assistant, assumed the full duties of postmaster and it is perhaps due to this fact that he was always referred to as the postmaster. W. W. Gardner, an associate of Uncle Dick Locke in various business interests, was the official postmaster. Mr. Almond served under Mr. Gardner from 1889 to 1892, at which time Harry Kirkpatrick was named postmaster. L. Spiegel was the first postmaster in Antlers.
T. J. Lowe, who is seen holding his grandchild in this picture, first settled near Wheelock Seminary, now McCurtain county in 1883, coming from the state of Mississippi. Two years later, Mr. Lowe and his family moved to White Church, now in Dela community six miles east of Antlers. Here, Mrs. Lowe taught school and it is noted that Major Victor M. Locke of Oklahoma City was one of her pupils. In 1887, Mr. Lowe moved to Antlers and became identified with Uncle Dick Locke in stock raising and other business interests.
Until his death in 1898, Mr. Lowe engaged in stock raising. The remains of Mr. Lowe were buried in the Antlers Cemetery. Mrs. Lowe was buried beside her husband in 1924.
W. A. Butler, an Arkansan by birth, came to the Choctaw Nation in 1883 and stayed on the Pert Farm on Red River. The Pert Farm was owned by a man named Pert, whose land holdings were large, and his activities varied on his farm. He employed a great number of people. Mr. Butler recalls a trip he made with his uncle, W. P. Butler, to Colorado and the Territory of New Mexico, driving a large herd of cattle.
On March 21, 1884, Mr. Butler married Laura Lowe, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. T. J. Lowe. The wedding occurred at Wheelock Seminary, the year the school was completed. Mr. and Mrs. Butler lived several months immediately after their marriage on Willis Farm, another large farm, located two miles west of the mouth of the Kiamichi river. The next three years they lived near Greenwood, Arkansas. Then they moved to near Mena, Arkansas and later to Antlers, arriving here on December 4th, 1889.
The child, held in the arms of T. J. Lowe in this picture, is the first born of Mr. and Mrs. Butler. Excepting her, who was born while the Butlers were in Arkansas, all the other children were born in Antlers. Mr. Butler, during the first few years of his return from Arkansas, farmed in what now is north Antlers, erecting a dwelling just north of the present home of Judge C. E. Dudley, his son-in-law.
A few years later, Mr. Butler opened a shoe repairing business and as the country developed, he expanded his business, and for many years, he operated the Butler Hardware Company, in the building now occupied by the S. & S. Grocery Store. Mr. Butler moved his store to its present site, on the corner from the First State Bank or the old Post Office of 42 years ago. Recently, a furniture department was added to the hardware store and it is the most complete store of its kind in southeast Oklahoma.
Mr. and Mrs. Butler are truly pioneers of what now is Pushmataha county and southeast Oklahoma. Coming here at the age of 21 years, fortified by an indomitable will, Mr. Butler has the same confidence in Antlers, that he had forty-two years ago.
Arthur Farr, the lad in the tree, is the same Arthur Farr, son of Major John G. Farr of Antlers. Arthur Farr has engaged in farming and stock raising for many years and now lives about five miles east of Antlers.
Bob Berry, one of the two small boys seen together in this picture, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. H. W. Berry, another family of pioneers. Bob is living in Antlers with his mother, Mrs. Berry.
Little or no information is available concerning the others in the picture, but an interesting list of people who lived in Antlers at or about this time has been collected, with brief sketches of the role which each played.
Many of the early white settlers leased farms from the Indian citizens and they are the first agriculturists. The Indians practiced farming in a small way. Most of them were content with a plot of corn which supplied them hominy through the winter. Games were plentiful and the streams abounded in fish, offering the natives sustenance in abundance.
There were others who developed varied business interests, combining stock raising, and farming with mercantile efforts. One of these was Uncle Dick Locke, who was known as the "Father of Antlers."
Uncle Dick Locke, a native of Tennessee, who died in Antlers January 5, 1929, came to the Choctaw Nation soon after the Civil War of which he was a veteran. Settling among the Choctaws, he became an inter-married citizen and was an important figure in the Choctaw Nation. He was a merchant, financier, cattleman and land owner.
Of a large number of children, only two remain: Major Victor M. Locke of Oklahoma City, engaged in the oil business and Mrs. C. E. Archer of Antlers. Major Locke became a leader among the Choctaws, following in the footsteps of his illustrious father, who was a natural born leader. Uncle Dick Locke learned to speak the Choctaw language and his sympathy for the full blood element of the tribe led him into many political feuds in the Choctaw Nation. What became known as the Locke-Jones war was an outgrowth of a political factional feeling, intensified by physical combat between the opposing factions. It became necessary for intervention by the federal government. In the death of Uncle Dick Locke, the Choctaws lost a friend who had stood by them for many years.
Major Victor Locke, who then was a youngster at the time this picture was taken, served his people as Principal Chief for several years and later was Superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes with headquarters in the Union Agency at Muskogee. Locke acquired his military title by serving in the World War as a Major. During the past two years, Major Locke has been engaged in the oil business at Oklahoma City.
Frank Moyer, prominent rancher living a few miles northeast of Antlers, is an early pioneer. The Moyers have always held a prominent position in Antlers and Pushmataha county. Usually attired in the habiliments of early day cattlemen, Mr. Moyer presents a picturesque appearance.
Mr. Moyer recalls one of his first tasks after coming here. Camped near one of the springs, he hauled lumber for Col. C. E. Nelson, a merchant, to Nelson Chapel. The lumber was cut at White Church a few miles east of Antlers. This was before the railroad was laid through Antlers and Mr. Moyer stated the first survey made by the railroad company would have missed Antlers by several miles.
Mr. Moyer's father, Abe Moyer, who came here from Michigan, was the force behind the project that constructed the Rodney Dam, four miles north of Antlers on the Kiamichi river and established a water mill to furnish the power for the first lumber manufacturing plant on a large commercial scale. Mr. Moyer purchased the watermill at Flint, Michigan, shipped the machinery to Antlers and opened the lumber factory.
Frank Moyer was one of the first three commissioners who laid out the commissioner's districts in Pushmataha county upon advent of statehood. Later, he again served as county commissioner of the first district. Other sons of Abe Moyer, now living in this county, are Will and Roy Moyer of Moyers, a town named in honor of Abe Moyer. Will Moyers is a member of the board of county commissioners from the second district, follows the occupation of farmer and stockman. Roy Moyer engaged in the drug business at Moyers for years, dividing his time with other business interests.
Col. C. E. Nelson, a Choctaw leader, owned a store in Antlers in 1889, managed by Frank Moyer. At that time, Col. Nelson was prosecuting attorney of Jacks Fork County, and was formerly a treasurer of the Choctaw Nation. Nelson wielded considerable political influence among the Choctaws.
G. W. Colbert, a Chickasaw Indian, owned and operated the Colbert Hotel in Antlers. Mr. Colbert is the father of Rufus Colbert of Antlers.
Major John G. Farr, an early day figure, was Deputy U. S. Marshall about this time and was attorney-at-law in Antlers. It is noted that Major Farr was the last county judge of Jacks Fork County, Choctaw Nation. Major Farr now makes his home with his daughter, Mrs. Paris Pipkin, in Antlers. Just recently, he celebrated his 84th birthday.
S. K. Newcomb came to Antlers along about this time. He operated a livery stable for many years and with the coming of automobiles, he built a garage, keeping in step with modern progress. At the present time, he operates a filling station in Antlers.
Mrs. Mary Eleanor Berry, widow of W. H. Berry, came to Antlers from San Angelo, Texas, before the completion of the railroad. Mr. and Mrs. Berry operated a hotel in Antlers for many years. Mrs. Berry was born in Carroll Parish, Louisiana in 1844 and is now nearing her 88th birthday.
Mrs. Berry has been an active figure in Antlers since the first day she came here. She raised money by sponsoring box suppers to purchase the bell now in use at the Catholic Convent in Antlers. Mrs. Berry is more than a personage in Antlers. She is an institution. Her ready wit and humor, her philosophies of life, a fund of original epigrams combine to make her an outstanding character in Antlers. Mrs. Berry was an active political worker in her more vigorous life.
Uncle Jeff Sharp is another early day character. Mr. Sharp managed a lumber business here for years. About the time this picture was taken, Uncle Jeff was serving as Constable of the Eastern District of the Choctaw Nation, under Judge Shackelford of Muskogee. Mr. Sharp's territory included all of the country lying east of the Katy railroad tracks to the Arkansas line, to the Red River south, and to Arkansas River on the north. Desperate bands of outlaws roamed this country in those days, and Mr. Sharp was in constant danger during the time he held this position. He had twelve men working under him, stationed at various points in the Choctaw Nation. Mr. Sharp still resides in Antlers and he may be seen on the streets almost any day. Mr. Sharp is a Tennessean by birth.
Daniel Webster Wood, who came from Red River County, Texas, in 1887 was the first farmer in this vicinity to prove the success of diversified farming and truck gardening. Later he operated a cotton gin here and was a prominent figure in Antlers. Robert Wood, his 4 year old son who came here with his father, is a successful merchant of Antlers, the Wood Brothers Store in Antlers being one of the largest general merchandise stores in southeast Oklahoma.
Judge J. H. Halley, who came here from Wynona, Missouri, was United States Commissioner with office in Antlers. His son, Stuart Halley, has been a prominent figure in the business circles of Antlers for many years.
Barney Zimmerman is another early day figure. Mr. Zimmerman worked this territory for many years as a house to house salesman before he opened a store in 1892 on the corner where he still operates a dry goods store.
Clark Wasson, a young man who came out of Kansas during these early days, and who was a clerk in Uncle Dick Locke's store for several years, is at present U. S. Marshall of the Eastern District of Oklahoma.
While Antlers grew rapidly the first ten years after the coming of the railroad, at the time this picture was taken, development of the town was in its first stage. It was years afterwards, that the first newspaper plant was established here and many other agencies, essential to community development, came later.
The first school in Antlers was established by Dr. E. Brantley, who came here in 1902 from Waxahachie, Texas. Dr. Brantley became Superintendent of Public Schools of Pushmataha county when statehood was effected. Since retiring from the teaching profession, Dr. Brantley has devoted his time and thought to the First Presbyterian church of Antlers as pastor.
The Catholic Convent in Antlers had been established by Father Ketcham for Indian children a few years before the opening of the new century.
Along in the early 1890's, the Methodist church was organized here and the church building remains on its original site today. The Locke-Jones episode was laid near this building, and it was fortunate that the building was not completely destroyed.
Many of the early day citizens have either moved away or passed on to the Great Beyond. But it is to their credit that they possessed courage, foresight and stability that enabled Antlers to become so well established that when statehood was effected, this town became the seat of Pushmataha county.
Antlers, today, with its chamber of commerce, banks, first-class stores, newspaper, churches, schools, is the outgrowth of a small settlement that centered around a few natural springs.
It is noted too that the postmaster today is the son of John Sharp, a brother of Jeff Sharp, who came here in the early days. The present postmaster is Leo C. Sharp, prominent American Legion worker and a commander of the Antlers Post.