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Pushmataha County, Oklahoma
Submitted by: Troy D, Splawn
William Richard and Mattie C. (Barrett) Morgan moved to Antlers, Indian Territory, in a covered wagon in the spring of 1907 from Maud, Bowie County, Texas. They first settled in the Little Cedar Community north of Antlers. Richard’s son-in-law, Tom Flowers and wife Etta, lived in Little Cedar first. Tom made a living making railroad ties. Maybe economic opportunity was what drew Richard and Mattie Morgan to Pushmataha County.
On the trip up to Little Cedar, Mattie was scared because the Choctaws would peer around trees and watch them as they traveled up the trail in their slow moving wagon. Eventually the Choctaws ended up working for "MOGAN", as they called Richard, to help make railroad tires from logs. Their pay was a dollar for each tie made.
Richard was a woods craftsman. He made anything a pioneer family might need: axe and hoe handles, oxen yolks, wooden boxes, coffins and railroad ties.
The Morgans eventually ended up in Antlers. Prior to funeral homes making their appearance in the mid 1900’s, Richard and Mattie, as well as others, helped prepare people’s bodies for burial. Mattie bathed the bodies and rubbed camphor oil on them, then dressed them for the funeral. Friends and family set up with the deceased until the funeral. Due to no embalming, most funerals took place soon after death, especially in the summertime. Richard made coffins and I’m sure helped dig graves. Before backhoes, it was the understood responsibility of all able bodied men and older boys that each would help dig graves for people in the community at no charge. Men who shirked this responsibility were looked down upon by the community.
Richard died of pneumonia the 3rd of May 1930. Mattie had 8 children to clothe and feed. She cooked at local cafés from about 5AM till after supper in cafés with no air conditioning. After work she took in laundry. Mattie scrubbed the clothes on a rub board, hand wrung the excess water out of them, then hung them out to dry. After drying she would iron the clothes with an old fashion hot iron, heated on the stove. She also quilted quilts for people; she charged a penny per yard of thread used, or about $2.00 to $3.00 per quilt. My grandmother, Oma (Morgan) Splawn, said she did not know when her mother went to bed at night, or when she got up in the morning to start working. She said her mother only needed 4-5 hours of sleep at night and she was rested and ready for another full day work .
Mattie was also a midwife, delivering countless babies. I met an elderly lady in 2009 that my great grandmother had delivered. She remembered Mattie Morgan and still had a unique connection with her. I think it sad that we are so far removed from life and death today, we don’t even realize it.
Mattie was also a pioneer herbalist using her knowledge of herbs to treat her children and their precious few livestock. Below is a list of Mattie’s handwritten herbal remedies. There were undoubtedly countless others that were committed to her memory. (Original spellings have not been changed.)
Bold Hives – boil Holly Hawk blooms, give tea
Chills & Fever – Mountain Dittany tea
Botts – horse tail hair in a cup of molasses in 1 gallon of water and drench
Congestion – assafidita and Senna leaf tea, bathe in hot water with salt, (baking) soda, and turpentine, roll in a blanket
Bowel trouble – Hissop tea, or Red Oak bark tea
Scours – Tie a rag string around the root of a calf’s tail.(tight)
Sore throat – pineapple (crushed works best)
Blood Poison – Antiseptic tablets dissolve in warm water and soak affected area.
Dry Murrin – dissolve Lye soap in quart of water and drench.
Sick stomach – writing paper in glass of water & drink.
Nail injury – grease nail, (bacon grease) and put it up. (on door facing over door)
Thrash – (thrush) mash Polk berries and wipe out (baby’s) mouth, or nine wood lice (termites) and (put in cloth bag) tied around (baby’s) neck.
Mumps – marrow from a hog jaw bone rub on (mumps)
Itch and Eczema – Resonal Soap & ointment
Carbolic Salve – Melt 10 cents worth of beeswax(about 1 ½ by 2 inches and ¼ inch thick), ¼ cup of (beef) tallow, one block of Camphor, in a half of a glass (4oz.) of Kerosene add ½ ounce of Carbolic acid, one teaspoon of (spirits of) Turpentine. Combine all ingredients and add enough flour to thicken.
written by Mattie (Barrett) Hinkle, a few of her remedies she used to doctor her family and people in the community. (Edits in parenthesis added for clarification.)
When the pioneers first moved to Pushmataha County, many lived far from town and a doctor. Many could not afford a doctor even if they were close enough to one. The pioneers had to use what medicine they had available to them. A favorite cure all for pioneer families was Coal Oil, (pronounced Cole Awl) or kerosene. One of Mattie’s sons, Clyde, was bitten by a rattlesnake on the leg while playing hide and go seek. Mattie put his foot in a wash basin, filled it with coal oil, and bathed his leg with the coal oil all night. Clyde lived, but the snake bitten leg was always a little shorter than the other one.
Mattie’s youngest child, Rose, was watching her brother split kindling with a hatchet. She reached to grab a piece about the time he swung the hatchet. The result was a finger nearly cut off, leaving a piece of skin as the only connection between the finger and hand. Mattie made a splint with two pieces of wood placing on either side of the severed finger, she then wrapped together in a cotton bandage. Mattie then soaked the finger in coal oil. Rose was able to use her finger and had feeling in it. The only lasting effect was it was a little crooked.
Mattie lived to a ripe old age of 95, leaving us on the 12th of March 1980. I remember she made a fan out of a cereal box and would fan herself. Her kids bought her electric fans, but she did not use them. (She did not have air conditioning, but neither did we!) She remembered names, dates, places and family stories vividly. I remember her telling a story of her great grandfather Daniel Larrison, who was captured by and escaped from Indians. I have since collaborated this story with other descendants. Mattie descends from a long line of pioneers.
Daniel Larrison and his father-in-law, Henry Bailey Greenwood were early pioneer settlers of present day SE Oklahoma and NE Texas. They were documented as arriving in the area as early as 1817. They were the first wave of pioneers of present day Oklahoma and Texas. They cleared the land for crops, fought the Indians, and built homes and roads for latter immigrants.
Troy D. Splawn 01/02/2011
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