Okfuskee County


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Early Pioneer Remembers
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From the Dill Collection, courtesy of the Okfuskee County Historical Society.

Pioneer Came to Morse Area (Okemah Daily Leader, April 1939)
Early Ranches Made Big Impression on Old Settler, by George D. Harvison

In the spring of 1895, by covered wagon over what seemed like endless miles, I made a journey from Muskogee, and an territory to the heart of what is now Okfuskee county. Three days we traveled in the covered wagon loaded with supplies for the western branch of the J.A. Patterson mercantile company. We made 20 or 30 miles a day. At night, we slept on the banks of the small streams where the three essentials of travel in those days were available. Water for stock, wood for the camp fire and for the preparation of meals -- and plenty of grass for grazing.

     Arriving on the third day at evening at my destination, I found in the making the trading post then known as the Norberg store which was named after the owner of the sawmill located on the banks of the Buckeye creek, five miles north of the store. In addition to the store building of oak, also under construction, was a two-story hotel, and there was the usual village blacksmith shop under the "spreading oak" with the blue sky for a covering by day and the starry sky by night. At Norberg our meals were served under a canvas awning in fair weather and in a tent during inclement weather. The Norberg hotel was operated by Mrs. Sarah Loveland.

For miles upon miles we could look upon rolling hills in all directions. The hills were overspread with green timber, the floors of the valleys covered by tall blue stem grass; the small streams which were full of fish; the woods with deer and turkey. No man wanted for game as plenty abounded everywhere.

The community was settled by the usual forerunners of progress or civilization, the Indians. The homes of the Muskogg or Creek Indians were scattered about the country. Their tiny cabins, well located in respect to water, wood, game and grass dotted the lowlands. In the fertile valleys were their sofka patches of four or five acres of corn, under cultivation, patches of sweet potatoes and the gardens which all had.

The many pioneers of those days were divided into two classes, those who lived by the plow and those who lived by stock raising. Among the pioneer ranches was one known as the McDermott ranch, southeast of what is now Okemah. It was owned and operated by one of the finest Irishmen that ever escaped old Erin. His wife and companion, as hostess of the ranch was known far and wide for her hospitality and kindness to all the motherless and afflicted children of the community. She was a fullblood Indian of the purest and rarest type, loved and admired by all who came in contact with her.

South of Okemah was one of the largest farms in the district - the Pigler farm. Some of the old buildings are still standing there, silent reminders of the pioneers who passed on. Below the Pigler farm was the home of the genial, jovial Dr. Hudson, a friend to all at all times. Farther south was the old home of the Fosters which had been wrested from the heavy timber lands of the North Canadian river bottom.

West of Okemah was Arbeka, a post office, the home ranch of the Davis with a trading post in connection. In later years, Mrs. A. B. (Alice) succeeded her brother as chief of the sinole Indians. It was unique in the annals of Indian government to hold this position. Drifting farther we stray on to the ranch known as the Muleshoe ranch or Muleshoe cross which was owned by Judge N. B. Moore and operated by the Manwarrings. To the east, south and west and north east it comprised thousands of acres of wonderful pasture lands. Today, it is part of the Smoth ranch lying partly in Okfuskee and partly in Okmulgee county. So much for the ranches. Among those who lived by the plow, I first became acquainted with the pioneer families: the Woodwards, Hopwoods, Musgroves, Tanners, Mogridge, Sowders, Fulsoms, Deans, Lowrimores, Bacons, Rileys, Claunch, Stocktons, Storms, Lanes, Cases, Pratts, Masom, Willsons, Bishops, Watsons, Burnetts, Camps, Eskridges, Nichols and Harpers, Stoddard and Hicks.

Among the well known families were the Harjo, Cook, Yahalas, Hunnenas, Knight, Tiger, Micco, Bear, Foster, Wesley, Davis, Scott, Stoddard, Coon, and many families whose names have escaped my memory. Benton Callahan, now living in Okemah, moved from near Grave creek into Okfuskee county in about 1896 or 97. Near the old site of Morse, he began farming on a more expansive scale than had previously been done in this locality, and incidentally raising a fine family of children.

The first post office, cotton gin, grist mill, saw mill, etc., was located at McDermott, named after the founder of the place and is still known to old timers by that name. McDermott was one of the builders of the Indian council house standing in the park in Okmulgee and now used as an Indian museum.

The old Indian courthouse, known as the Nuyaka court house stood upon the bank of Nuyaka creek. It was presided over by the late Moty Tiger then Judge Tiger who later became the chief of his people. The prosecuting attorney was Jacob Knight, who was later ruthlessly slain on his home porch by employees. These two were the last officers of the creek court. After the Dawes commission was created, united stated courts were established over this territory and the old Nuyaka court house was abandoned to follow the buffalo into oblivion.

One of the first schools established in Okfuskee county for white children was built through the untiring efforts of the late A.J. Musgrove who solicited contributions of money, labor, hauling, box suppers and the usual methods employed by rural communities for such purposes.

All material for building was hauled by wagon from Shawnee, the nearest railroad point of importance at that time. Thomas l. Lane held the first Sunday school in this part of the country in the old Norberg hotel at Morse. Lane traveled around the country with horse and buggy, dispensing religious tracts and establishing Sunday schools wherever possible

All shipping of cattle from this section was made by driving them to red fork to the terminus of the frisco railroad just south of Tulsa. The trip required three days to drive and load out for St. Louis, Kansas city and all points east. All supplies of every description were fetched in by wagon from Muskogee by wagon freight requiring five days or more to make the round trip. The time element depended upon the state of the rivers and streams as we had no bridges. In case of high water four days were required to get to Shawnee and back. All cotton and commodities of any kind traveled in and out in covered wagons.

There are many other points of interest in Okfuskee county and many other people, unknown to me, who played an important part in the up building of this district. As for a country to live in at the time there was no equal no matter where you might go. Hunger and poverty were unknown. Plenty in game, stock and crops abounded everywhere. While there was little cash to jingle in pockets there was little use for it. Every family, be it ever so humble, had a few pigs wandering in the bottomlands fattening on pecans and acorns and horses and cattle grazing on the succulent grass of the prairies. The woods abounded in game and the streams were full of fish. No income tax to worry over - in fact, no taxes of any kind in those very early days. Those were the days of basic realities. Today they are only dreams of days long ago.

This page was last updated on 10/12/11 Okfuskee



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