Key, W. O.

In 1886 my father owned a gin over in Texas and he saw how inconvenient it was for the people in the Indian Territory to take their cotton over into Texas to have it ginned, so he moved his gin over into the Territory. We used oxen and the big old ox-wagons to move the gin over here. We crossed at Carpenters Bluff o­n Red River about twenty miles south and a little east of Durant and stopped right there. The Village was named Yarnaby and the postmaster was Frank Powell. The mail route was from Colbert to Yarnaby.

In 1889 I was married to Mary Palmer, o­ne-half Choctaw and o­ne half Chickasaw Indian. Four children were born to us. An infant died. Joe, our son, was shot to death o­ne night in a beer joint down in Louisiana. He was a circus performer and he was killed o­ne night after the circus performance. Clarence, the third-son, is traveling with the Russell Brothers Circus now. He has charge of the Wild West Department and is an expert knife thrower. Sam is the other living son.

Where we settled near the border of the Indian Territory and Texas in 1886 it was really tough. It was easy for outlaws to commit crimes and slip across the river into Texas, or come over from Texas and do their devilment and slip back. We all carried guns because we were afraid. When we went to church, the post office, or to mill, we carried our guns. Some times we would go by o­ne route and return by another for fear of being waylaid and robbed. Men were even robbed of their corn meal o­n their return from the grist mill. I knew o­ne farmer who plowed with a gun in his belt and a gun at each end of the field.

We had some little log cabin schools, but I sent my boys to school in Durant first, and then to Armstrong Academy. My grandsons, Joe’s boys, attended Goodland Orphan School, or Academy, and folks tell me that they are really good foot-ball players.

In 1889 I lived close to Caddo and knew Joel Kemp there. He was part Choctaw and part Chickasaw. He said that his daddy, in slavery time, had a plantation of a thousand cleared acres northeast of Fort Towson. He said that the story and a half “big house” was built of hewn logs. It had a twelve foot hall and ten foot porches nearly all around it and contained several rooms, with chimneys and fireplaces of native stone at each end of the house and o­ne for the kitchen because they cooked o­n fireplaces then. The same chimney furnished the fireplaces both above and below stairs. The slave quarters were a little way back of the house and consisted of several cabins. Then of course there were out-buildings, barns, etc., all built of logs. The father’s name was Joel Kemp, also.

On January 17, 1900, I moved to that “thousand acre field” which was then a little north east of Doaksville, about five miles. I found some of those Negro cabins and the “big house” still standing, though the roof was pretty well fallen in and the whole thing was unfit to live in. But Indians lived in some of the cabins. Some of the LeFlore’s had charge of the portion of land that the big house was o­n and they sold the logs which were hauled off and something was built out of them. Some of the Indians filed o­n some of this land and I filed o­n four hundred and eighty acres of it, but I have let the most of it get away from me. I should have been rich with the opportunity I had with all that land and the woods full of game and the streams full of fish and the trees full of turkeys. Jordan Folsom, an old Negro blacksmith who was at Doaksville when I came and Uncle North Hill were slaves of Joel Kemp o­n that plantation and told me that they helped to clear that thousand acres. North filed o­n the forty acres that the town of Fort Towson was built upon.

When the town of Doaksville was moved to the new site and named Fort Towson, Uncle Jordan Folsom moved his little ship to the new town and worked in it until just a few days before he died in 1906. So I guess that is the story of “The Thousand acre field.” I remember so well a payment that was made to the Indians in 1889 at Stonewall. It was called the “Net Proceeds “payment”. Some got $200.00, some $500.00, and some less money. We put our money in a sack and got in the wagon and went home, scared to death that we would be waylaid and robbed. The next “per capita payment” was in 1893. We got our money at Caddo. My wife and three children got $412.00 all in gold except for twelve silver dollars. Each payment was $103.00 and all below $5.00 was paid in silver. There were no greenbacks at all. We got several small payments after that, $40.00 or so at a time but these payments were always in checks.

My wife used to cook lots of Indian dishes. We had a Tom Fuller block, a pestle and a “gritter” also a riddle and a “fanner”. We had the horn spoons to eat with. Our house was destroyed by fire and we lost all of those things and a lot of family records and heirlooms which could never be duplicated. Every man who came here when the forests were virgin, when the newly cleared land produced bumper crops, when the woods were full of game and the steams full of fish, should be rich.