John Henry (Hank) Bohreer
Submitted by: Rita Bohreer, daughter
John Henry Bohreer was born 1-23-1876 near Chunn Creek, Gaither Community, Gaines County, Moshlatubbe District, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. His parents were John Jeremiah Bohreer, who was born in Washington, D.C., and Susan Blackburn, born at Blackburn’s Station, Pine Top, Indian Territory. John Henry had three sisters and two brothers. They were: Lelia (Bohreer) Hewitt, born 11-01-1878; Nettie (Bohreer) Thompson, born 02-18-1881; Addison Bohreer, born 12-23-1884; Alfred Bohreer, born 06-29-1891; Ursula (Bohreer) Hightower, born January, 1894. They were all original enrollees. John Henry attended school at Gaither Prairie, Indian Territory and later married Mattie Loise Moon at Atoka, Oklahoma on 06-15-1917. They made their home at 219 West Washington in McAlester, Oklahoma and had three children: Martin David Bohreer, born 05-23-1918; Roy Edwin Bohreer, born 01-10-1922; Rita Bohreer, born 12-05-1924. There were four grandchildren: Virginia Bohreer, born 09-19-1938; Melinda Troy, born 08-08-1943; Thomas Allen Hood, born 03-03-1948; and Kathleen Murphy, born 07-06-1954. Great grandchildren: Stacy Poynter, born 07-27-1961; Gregory Poynter, born 10-09-1962; Troy Mackie, born 02-18-1963; Leslie Mackie, born 06-03-1965; Tammie Hood, born 04-01-1969; Todd Hood, born 10-08-1971; Steven Jean, born 02-05-1972; Sara Hood, born 01-17-1975. There were four great-great grandchildren: Tabitha Mackie, Chelsia Wheeler, Nicholas Wheeler, and Alexander Wheeler. Through his maternal grandmother, Mary Walker (Watts)(Blackburn) was a cousin to Governor Tandy Walker of the Choctaw nation. This as the same grandmother with her husband operated the Blackburn’s Station on the Butterfield Stage Route at Pine Top, Indian Territory. Survival training in the wild was started for John Henry when he was a young boy. His mentor was his mother’s brother, Uncle Israel Watts, as was the Choctaw custom. Uncle Isreal taught him to hunt, fish and to live off of the land for weeks at a time, if necessary. These are a few of his learning experiences. To fish with bow and arrow, the bow was made with Boid D’Arc because of its durability and strength. The arrow was made of cane, with a sharp point cut across the grain, and fired to harden the tip. John Henry was taught to always aim a bit below the fish because when the arrow hit the water it would be forced up. When wading in water, if a snake was spotted nearby, he was told to simply stop and stay perfectly still, as the snake was frightened too, and would swim away, and that they don’t bite under water. The first deer he killed, he jumped on it and killed it with his knife. His dogs had chased it into a creek and it was caught in some tangled vines. Uncle Isreal taught John Henry that deer have very poor eyesight, but an excellent sense of smell. He could stand in the open as long as he was downwind and silhouetted by a tree trunk. To get a squirrel in sight in a tree, he would throw a rock to the opposite side and the squirrel would come right around. When camping overnight with a campfire John Henry was cautious about snakes. The next morning he always stirred the warm ashes with a long stick before renewing the fire. Snakes love to curl up in the warm ashes to sleep. Their gun safety rules were to cock the barrel open and carry over their shoulder pointed up. Walking single file was a safety precaution. The person in the lead always cleared, or avoided hazards. These are only a few excerpts he told from his own life experiences. By the time he was a teenager he was an accomplished hunter and outdoorsman. He provided food for the family, and made a comfortable living selling and bartering hides and furs. He told of helping to drive a heard of horses to market in Tulsa, when he was 16 years old. They left from Gaither Prairie and forded the Canadian River. He shuddered in telling it, to think of avoiding the quick sand. But the country was so wild and open they only had to cut three fences to get through to Tulsa. As a teenager he attended an Indian funeral. A spot was chosen deep in the woods, the service was held at the gravesite. Everyone sat around on rocks, or logs, or tree stumps or whatever nature provided. A preacher made the appropriate remarks. The grave was outlined with rocks with a mound of rocks on top. Afterward, the deceased’s name was never spoken aloud again. They were thereafter referred to as “sister”, “brother”, “uncle”, etc. I only learned after that was a very old superstition that the spoken name disturbed the spirit. As good as his outdoors life was, he still found time for a happy social life. He taught himself to play the violin and joined a dance band. Outside of church, country-dances and picnics were very popular “get acquainted “ activities. In 1896 John Henry, his parents and all of his brothers and sisters were enrolled at Kiowa, Tobucksy County, Indian Territory. He and one sister took their land allotment in the Chickasaw Nation near Ardmore. In 1900, he made his first trip out of Indian Territory, to the St. Louis World’s Fair. In 1903 his mother died, and he dedicated the next ten years of his life helping his father raise two brothers and sister who were still quite young. Kiowa was a prosperous frontier town boasting the railroad and three banks. His store was “New State Furniture and Hardware Co. Besides the furniture and hardware, he had musical instruments and photography equipment (his two great lifetime hobbies). The store also handled undertaking and embalming. Around 1905 he sold the store and came to Krebs as a barber, but within a year he was back in Kiowa. He then opened a store called “Racket Store”. Advertised to sell, “notions, Queensware, sheet music, fruits candies, etc.” Around 1912 he sold out and moved to McAlester working as a barber, a profession he continued the rest of his life.