Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation
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Pre-Statehood Town life in the Choctaw Nation

From The Social History of the Choctaw Nation: 1865-1907, by James D. Morrison, edited by James C. Milligan and L. David Norris, pages 112-113, Copyright © 1987, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. (This book can be purchased on line)

Town life in the Choctaw Nation before 1907 exhibited the characteristics of similar communities in the contemporary American West and South. The Oklahoma Star complained in 1875 that local coal prices, twenty to thirty cents a bushel, were much too high and should be only ten or fifteen cents. Bakeries and confectioneries were added to the more primitive business establishments as early as Reconstruction days. By the 189Os, undertakers and embalmers were advertising in the regional papers; Durant was proud to boast the arrival of a hearse in 1899. The usual American rivalry existed between nearby newborn cities. For instance, in 1899 when a Durant barber advertised “clean towels and courteous treatment”, a Caddo editor sarcastically remarked that in other towns “these things are expected.” Perhaps the sarcasm was justified since a Caddo barber had been advertising himself since 1894 as a “tonsorial artist.” Livery stables with “fine horses and substantial carriages” and hacks for rent to traveling men who desired to visit “all points in the country,” were located in every railroad town.

For meticulous dressers, early steam laundry services were to be found in Texas and Arkansas, the shipments going and returning to Oklahoma by rail express. Eventually this inconvenience was remedied as the towns grew in population and wealth, and by the turn of the century dirty linen could be processed at local steam laundries. A bottling company, an ice plant, and a dairy which made daily deliveries of milk and butter house-to-house were all prosperous businesses of South McAlester by the mid-1890s. The Choctaw government happily found these and other enterprises to be new, sources of taxable income. An act of the Council in 1896 assessed annual taxes of five to twenty-five dollars each on drink stands, billiard halls, ice factories, tailors merchants, milliners, restaurants and lunch counters, bottling works, steam laundries, bowling alleys, and banks.