I am one of the early settlers of Indian Territory, having moved to a farm on Battle creek in the spring of 1897. This place was located about two miles southeast of the present Okemah Town Site.
Father, like other pioneer heroes, came to this country in search of agricultural riches. While farming in Missouri, he had heard about the many acres of untried region called the Indian Territory.
It seems that I can still hear the rumbling of the slow covered wagons. The trip seemed endless and yet not monotonous for the thought of danger ahead or some other adventure kept us quite excited. New scenes were of special interest to the older ones, but I kept thinking we should see wild Indians and big game.
I'll never forget the first band of Indians we saw. We hadn't been inside the Indian Territory very long. We were in a wooded section and as father drove along a stream, we saw a small band of Indians on horse go down the creek from the other side. Mother and we children were simply terrified. We just knew we'd get scalped.
They only grunted the usual "ugh" and went on their way. Imagine our relief. All through the day we'd see one or two jogging along on their little ponies.
That night when we camped, we were pretty well keyed up. We were always hearing about Indians going on the war path and at that time they weren't too civilized. Sure enough, we had a visitor that evening. Thank goodness, only one! He grunted "Ugh". Father couldn't get much out of him, finally giving him a sack of tobacco. Evidently that was all he wanted for he rode away into the night.
The rest of the trip was uneventful except the nature picture-a picture of land as it looks when untouched by the hand of man. Cattle roamed over a large part of it with a ranch house here and there. Other pictures that were imbedded on my young mind were the flocks of Prairie chickens and wild turkeys and occasionally, a deer.
We were mighty glad to get settled at our new home. Our postoffice was McDermott, Indian Territory, located where the Dug Sharp ranch stands now.
We children started to school in a little log cabin, called Rock Creek.
A Mr. Merritt was the teacher. He also was a Baptist preacher. As we had to travel four miles to school, it was a great thrill when father got us a two-seated hack to drive.
Early in 1901, there was considerable excitement aroused by the report that Crazy Snake, a Creek chief, was about to take to the war path. He was always trying to restore the old laws and customs of his tribe, even though a large number of other tribes had settled down to peaceful pursuits.
One Sunday afternoon during these times of many rumors, sister Anna and I went horseback riding. We could only catch one horse and that was a work animal. We both got on and rode toward Greenleaf creek. As we went down a long slope we saw an Indian on a buckskin about a quarter of a mile away. When he saw us, he gave a war whoop and gobbled loud and long. I was sitting behind Anna. I still feel sorry for the poor horse which I gave some vicious kicks. It seems we were just poking along but I know Old Maud was doing all she could, handicapped by a double load and going up a slope to boot.
The Indian kept gaining and he took his lariat and was swinging it around ready to rope as soon as he was near enough. The only reason he didn't catch us was because of our head start. When we topped the hill we could see a house. He came on after us, only about 30 feet away, when he saw the house, too. He stopped, turned back, going as far as he'd come up. We all thought he'd gotton hold of some "fire water" or "sinko" as beer was called in those days; otherwise he'd probably have been peaceful.
I am still positive he meant us harm for we were old enough then to know if he had been joking. I don't suppose I have to tell these were the most terrified minutes of my life, as well as Anna's.
It was back in 19O3 when I started to school in Okemah. Mrs. Thompson taught us in a dwelling house. Some of the girls I remember who also attended were Lilly Fields, Enice and Marie Busby, Fern Tuft, Mabel Kelley and Opal Painter. I recall that Mabel Kelley lived in the Dexter hotel.
I am proud to be a pioneer of this county. Like others who have seen its growth from the beginning, I'm struck with wonder and admiration at the rapidity of its progress. I have seen it change from a wild undevoloped country to a well-settled prosperous commonwealth.
/s/ Mrs. Elna Smith
This page was last updated on 10/12/11
County Coordinator Linda Simpson