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Washita County, Oklahoma

James C. Harrel, one of the pioneers, platter and builder of the thriving town of Cordell, Oklahoma, is a native of Macon county, Illinois, born January 30, 1866, a son of Albert G. and Sarah J. (Miller) Harrel, both natives of Illinois, in which commonwealth they were married and located on a farm. The grandfather was James Harrel, of Kentucky, and an early settler in Illinois, where he married and became a prosperous farmer and prominent citizen. At the opening of the Civil war Albert G. Harrel enlisted in the Union cause, but his father took his place and served through the conflict, as a member of the One Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. The latter was twice wounded, but escaped the rebel prison pens. He saw hard service, but stood all, manfully, believing that he was justified in the cause for which he made the sacrifice. While he was a staunch Democrat, he cast his vote for Lincoln, as he was one of his personal friends and a near neighbor. Subsequently James Harrel and his wife made their home with their son Albert G. and all removed to Texas, locating in Tarrant county, and followed farming, and later he went to Oklahoma and settled on a claim, under his soldier rights. He returned to Texas and died there in 1894. His wife died in Texas in 1887.

Albert G. Harrel went to Oklahoma and secured a claim, farmed it a few years and now resides in Rocky, a portion of which town he platted from out his farm. Politically, he supports the Democratic party. He belongs to the Christian church and is the indulgent father of the following children: James C., of this memoir; John M., a Christian minister of Cordell; Mary Owens, of Dill; William A., a farmer of Washita county; Ada, Mrs. Dowdy, of Cordell; George, killed by an accidental gun-shot in 1901; Essa, Mrs. Thrasher, of Rocky, Oklahoma.

James C. Harrel was born in Illinois and removed with the family to Texas, when about fifteen years of age. There he finished his education and reached man's estate, after which he engaged in teaching school, then went to Wilbarger county, Texas, where he was for a time employed as a contractor. He later went to the plains in Floyd county and claimed a section of land which he improved and engaged in the stock business. After three years, he retraced his steps to Wilbarger county and farmed until 1893, then went to Oklahoma and engaged in school teaching in Washita county.

In 1894 he bought out a squatter's rights, by trading him three horses for his claim, the same being the southwest quarter of section 34, township 10, range 17. The improvements consisted of a dug-out, a well, and eight acres of breaking. He continued to teach school and improve this farm, until he succeeded in getting fifty acres broken. He was married in 1895 and kept on farming his land until 1897, when he and Mr. Johnson, who owned an adjoining quarter section, arranged to plat their land into a townsite and hence we have the origin of present Cordell. Each man managed the sale and distribution of his own lots, each donating land for the courthouse square. The seat of government was located at Cordell in 1901, by a vote of the people. During the first years of the town's history, Mr. Harrel erected a twenty-five hundred dollar school building, assisted by other citizens. Mr. Harrel continued to dwell within his humble dug-out all this time, and was the teacher of this pioneer school. All these things have changed now the town has come to be a large commercial center; school buildings and churches may be seen here and there and all goes on unmindful of what it cost in hardship to the hardy pioneers who planned and really "builded better than they knew." Be it recorded as a high compliment to Mr. Harrel, as one of the founders of the town of Cordell, that he refused to sell a lot for the use of a saloon.

He engaged in the hardware trade, coupled with farm implements, and was successful for a number of years, during which time he also bought cotton and aided in the organization of the Citizens' State Bank, now known as the City National Bank, and was vice president of the bank. In an early day he would give a lot to anyone who would erect a house thereon. He has always been a liberal giver to every manner of public enterprise, including churches, the railroad, which cost him a hundred and sixty-five lots and over one thousand dollars; county seat fight, costing him something over five thousand dollars, etc. He owns considerable land and a commodious residence in town, besides having holdings in various enterprises not necessary to herein be enumerated. It should be added, however, in passing, that he is now interested in a large system of telephones and gives much of his time to looking after such matters.

In the erection of the Christian college; he was listed among the liberal donors. He is among the leading members of the Christian church and is an elder and his house the home of the preachers who chance to be in the town. Both he and his estimable helpmate must finally have due credit for trying to keep the foundation stones of the young city with their faces turned in the direction of purity, temperance and morality.

He was married in Washita county. Oklahoma, to Miss Eva Petty, born in Hendrix county. Indiana in 1875, daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth Petty, both of Kentucky and early settlers of Indiana. By trade, the father was a shoemaker, which trade he followed in Danville, Indiana, many years. He was a Baptist; a soldier in the Civil war in the Union army and died honored by all who knew him, in 1875. His children were: William, of Clinton, Oklahoma; Ida, Mrs. Hickson; Oliver S., a farmer of Oklahoma; Charles, a mechanic of Cordell; Eva, now wife of the subject, Mr. Harrel. After the husband's death the mother married George Perkins of Indiana and they moved to Kansas in 1884 and to Oklahoma in 1887, locating, in Beaver county before the "opening," and at that time he secured a claim which he sold and then moved to Washita county. By this last marriage, two children were barn: Ursula, Mrs. Druce; and George, a farmer. Mr. and Mrs. Harrel are the parents of children as follows: Sarah A., in the schools; Hicklin, at school; Diana, at school; Elmeta, at home; Lela, died aged six weeks. The family unite in attending the Christian church.

Source: Hill, Luther. A History of the State of Oklahoma, Volume II. New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1908, 527-528.

Contributed by Marti Graham, August 2003. Information posted as courtesy to researchers. The contributor is not related to nor researching any of the families mentioned.


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