Marion Monroe Kirkley was born at Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on December 11th, 1862, and came to the Indian Territory with his parents in 1881. They settled on the C.C. Mathis place, near Monroe, a small village near the Arkansas State line. C.C. Mathis was an intermarried white man, who, by reason of that fault, had extensive land holdings in that area and rented land to white tenants. Upon these rented lands, he paid “permit’ fees to the tribal government.
Mr. Kirkley recalls that in 1881, Principal Chief Jackson McCurtain had a troop of militia stationed on what was known as the Adam Morris place. It was the duty of this troop of militia to see that permit fees were paid by all non-citizens. If those permit fees were not paid their right to remain in the Territory was forfeited and they were obliged to move over the State line into Arkansas. In compliance with this regulation, the father of Mr. Kirkley was required to pay a fee of $16.50 for himself and the excess stock he owned and $5.00 each for his two sons, who at that time were eighteen and twenty years of age.
Very few were installed at LeFlore, Bengal, Talihina, Tuskahoma and Staley, all on the Frisco Railway. Then, upon completion of the Kansas City Southern Railway, the saw-mill industry was extended to this area and expanded until, in point of producing revenue for the Choctaw Nation, it ranked next to the coal industry. The same can be said with reference to the number of men employed. Wages at these lumber camps ranged from $1.25 for common labor, to as high as from $5.00 to $4.00 per day for skilled labor. For the accommodation of the employees, and incidentally for the profit of the mill operators, what were known as company stores or commissaries were provided, where employees were sold groceries, clothing, tobacco and in fact all goods procurable at the ordinary country store. Of course due care was taken by the mill and store owners to see that the credit amount at the store did not exceed the amount of the earning of the employees who had been so accommodated. The lumber mill would be moved from time to time as the adjacent timber trees became depleted. For this reason, the house of the employee were of the most primitive and impairment construction.
Children reared amid the surroundings were denied the benefits of any sort of education privileges. This condition contributed to a very large extent in swelling the ranks of the illiterates in Oklahoma. The medical care of the employees was provided for by the company doctor system. This company doctor system was one by which the employing companies would provide a doctor for all the employees and would collect a sum, usually one dollar per month from each employee for such services. This service included all prescribed medicines. There was a great deal of sickness among the employees of the company, mainly because of the great number of mosquitoes in this vicinity, and this charge for medical services was indeed reasonable. Growing children who succeeded in living through the unsanitary conditions in those lumber camps must have been unusually strong.
The lumber industry in LeFlore County is still of considerable importance, however, the plants now operated are of the smaller types with one exception. The plant at Pine Valley is larger and there are some two hundred men constantly employed. A spur line the railroad extends from Page, a station on the Kansas City southern, for a distance of fifteen miles, to Pine Valley at the foot of the Kiamichi Mountains. this spur is operated for the accommodation of the Pine Valley lumber industry only. It is worthy of note here that no major labor difficulties have been encountered in this area and that the majority of the employee are Negroes.