Interviewed September 16, 1937
Robert Pinkney Draper
Interviewer, Hazel Greene, September 16, 1937.
Uncle Bob Draper who is now 76 years old, up to January 4, 1937, was County Surveyor of Choctaw County. He was elected to that office immediately after Statehood, and was re-elected last time, but resigned last January on account of ill health. No one holds the office now. Uncle Bob Draper was really a pioneer of the Indian Territory, because he was a “Drummer” over this part of the country over a period of about four and a half years. He sold gloves, made of buckskin-the kind that the cowboys and ranchers always liked to get hold of. He also sold lubricating oil for cotton gins and all kinds of machinery. Landrum Wilkins and he traveled together and sold dry goods, and shoes and other clothing. Boyce Wilkins made a few trips with them, but Wilkins and Uncle Bob had a regular route, starting from Denison, Texas, where they usually ferried Red River. They went from there to Durant, west to Oakland which is now Madill. Madill has been built on the railroad, Oakland was a mile or so off of the railroad. We’d swing north to Mannsville, Ada, Stonewall and Franks, which was a village on the head waters of Clear Boggy. Birds Mill was a watermill on that creek at Franks. A Mr. Bird owned the mill and lived in Stonewall. They said he was once Governor of the Chickasaws, and might have spelled his name Byrd.
We would swing back by the way of Wapanucka, to Tishomingo, Caddo, Old Bennington, then to Red Store, across to Duncan’s store at Mayhew, thence to Antlers, then back to Goodland, and east to Doaksville, where the Doaksville Trading Company was. This company was composed of Joel Spring, Tom Sanguin, and Will Beaden. Goodland and Antlers were on the new railroad that ran north and south. then we would go east from Doaksville, to Fowlerville, Lukfata, Alikchi and the Sulphur Springs Court ground. Once we stopped at Alikchi when court was going on. They were going to whip a Negro for theft. We didn’t wan t to see it so we went on about our business that evening. As we were returning on our route, and had passed the court ground, the Negro passed us so fast, it seemed that we were hardly driving. He was afoot, so I suggested to Landrum that we let him ride. He had traveled several miles, since he had been whipped that afternoon. He told us about it and said that the quickest way he could get out of such a country would be too slow for him.
They had given him fifty lashes on the bare back with a leather strap. His shirt was all bloody. I believe that was in 1896. Anyway they were going to execute a man the next day; but we didn’t want to see that. It seemed that the Choctaw law prescribed a whipping for any crime committed, except murder. A criminal would be whipped for the first three offenses. The fourth offense merited the death sentence. We would go over as far as Eagletown and Ultima Thule. Governor Gardner was in business at Eagletown. We made Kullituklo, Goodwater and Old Garvin. It was at Old Garvin that we saw our first and only Indian ball game played. They had about finished the game when we drove up. Some of the players were as bloody as hogs. It looked like war to me. Two counties were playing; some of the players wore cows’ tails, as the insignia of their sides. According to an article appearing in the McCurtain Gazette, written by Mr. Peter J. Hudson, a Choctaw Indian; Mr. Wood Kirk, a highly educated man, was born and reared in Charleston, Albemarle County, Virginia, and came to the Choctaw Nation in 1872, soon after his graduation from the Virginia Military Institute. He married a daughter of Governor Garvin of the Choctaw Nation, and settled near Shawnee town, which is today in McCurtain County. About this time he was appointed United States Commissioner of that district of the Indian Territory.
Following his second marriage, to Missie McClure, a sister of Premium McClure, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention form McCurtain County. He settled on a farm, between Garvin and what later became Idabel, engaged in farming and stock raising, where he became the wealthiest man in Red River County. Aside from his business success, he became widely known as a lover of outdoor life. A sportsman, radiating hospitality of the Old South, Mr. Kirk entertained many of the early day celebrities. He did things in a big way, and when preparing for a trip to the mountains, his retinue of servants were kept hustling so that nothing would be left undone. Riding to forty hounds and leading a chase over the rugged country, offered him his greatest pleasure. Sometimes his hunting trip would last several weeks, and he was the soul of hospitality on all of these occasions. He owned a deer park which was one of the favorite attractions in that portion of the nation. He was a vigorous man, brimming with energy and seemed peculiarly fitted to his environment. Mr. Kirk, on one of his trips back to his native state, was a passenger on an excursion liner along the Atlantic Coast, which was wrecked in a terrific gale. When the storm had subsided, one of the few survivors of the ship along with Mr. Kirk, was a small Negro lad. The boy was without a home so Mr. Kirk brought him to the Indian Territory, where he became one of his trusted retainers. The Negro grew up on the Kirk Plantation and now lives at Oklahoma City and is known as Peter Kirk.
The roads in the Indian Territory were mere Indian trails, but we simply got our direction to the place where we wanted to go and followed that direction and were never lost. We always managed to follow the right trail. But, we traveled over these trails for about five years. We always went form old Garvin to Harris’ Ferry on Red River, where a man by the name of Adelott had a store. He always gave us good orders. He had a good business. Another man, who always gave us good orders, was a fine fellow who conducted a store in a log building at Ravia. His name was Litton. That was the first business house in Ravia. Once I sold him $80.00 worth of fine buckskin gloves, and he had sold them all out when I returned. The ranchers had so little chance to get really fine gloves, that they bought them like hot cakes. It usually took us about forty days to make the route that we wanted to make. Post offices were so far apart that maybe if our folks wrote to us, we would miss getting the letter.
We traveled in a hack, with a driver for our wagon load of trunks of samples and our camping outfit. We camped out most of the time, just wherever night overtook us, but when it was very cold and bad, we tried to reach home. There were no hotels in the country towns and everybody was nice to us, and would hardly ever take a dime for our night’s lodging. They were glad to have company. then, when they had occasion to come over into Texas, we insisted that they stop with us, or just visit us. A lot of them did. The Indians were especially nice to us. They would come over and pick cotton for us and trade at our store, and when one of those Choctaw Indians promised to pay anything within a certain time, a creditor could rely on it, because the Choctaws were honorable. They are not all that way anymore. I believe the reason is, because they have been cheated and “sharped” until it is instilled into their minds that it is right in their turn to cheat. There were ferries on the Red and Washita Rivers and on Boggy Creek but I recall once when we crossed the Red and the Washita Rivers and the Boggy, and Kiamichi Creek at Rock Chimney crossing, on the ice.