Cotton is the staple of the Chickasaw Nation. For over a quarter of a century the Chickasaws had cultivated small cotton patches, demonstrating the value of their lands for the culture of that staple. Before the war their slaves toiled in the cotton fields and raised cotton, a bale and more to the acre, and of excellent quality. After the completion of the railroad through the nation and the influx of white settlers, the production of cotton enormously increased. The nation now produces about 40,000 bales of cotton annually. The town of Ardmore marketed 835 bales during the season of 1887-1888. During the season of 1888-1889 3,500 bales were marketed. During the season of 1889-1890 Ardmore handled 17,000 bales. The smaller towns handle from 500 to 5,000 bales annually. Cotton is hauled to Ardmore from 100 miles distant. It is the market for a scope of territory extending to the regions around Fort Sill on the west to the Washita and beyond on the east and north and to the Red river and across the Texas line on the south. The Chickasaw Nation is largely settled by Texans, and southerners predominate, consequently cotton is money here, as most of the farmers raise a few bales for ready cash. The cotton seed is used for fattening fowls and stock.
Next to cotton, corn is the leading product. The Chickasaw Nation is a productive corn country. Its fertile valleys have for years yielded astonishing crops. In 1866, the year before the great immigration from Texas, one man raised on his Washita valley farm 100,000 bushels of corn. That year corn sold as low as 15 cents a bushel. As a result of overproduction of corn and the increased attention to the cotton crop, the production of corn has decreased. Owing to the drought of 1890 and the increased immigration, corn was very high in the fall, bringing 75 cents a bushel of 72 pounds in the shock and on the cob. The Washita valley produces as high as 80 bushels of corn to the acre. Fifty bushels to the acre is a fair yield.
But little wheat is raised. Hardly any rye is grown, and very few oats. There are few orchards in the Chickasaw Nation, apples and eider being brought from the adjoining states and commanding higher prices than the home product. Melons are extensively cultivated, and do extremely well; watermelons weighing as high as 70 pounds were in the market in 1890. Two crops of potatoes, cabbages, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes are raised annually. Irish potatoes are scarce during the winter. The spring potato raised here will not keep during the winter, and the fall crop which produces small potatoes, is depended on for a winter supply. The castor-oil plant is quite extensively cultivated, several plantations 160 acres in extent being devoted to it, in 1800. The beans were worth $2 a bushel in Dallas, Texas, where they are pressed.
In the Chickasaw Nation the farm horses will average $40 in value, but the pony horses, as they are called here, are in the majority; $15 to $30 is the prevailing price for the pony horse: As a, result, the saddle used by the horseman is worth more than the animal itself. An attempt has been made within the past few years to improve the quality of the native stock by the introduction of the Percheron draft horse for breeding purposes. The farmers claim that the cross with native mares does not turn out well. The native rawboned horse and pony will thrive on the grass here, exposed to all weather, while the half thoroughbred loses flesh and drops of with the best care. The mud roads here are against the draft horse. Two small native horses will haul 5 bales of cotton, weighing about 2,500 pounds, 40 miles a day. There are a number of inferior mules in the nation. Very few sheep are raised and no mutton is in the market. The northeastern part of the Chickasaw Nation, about Stonewall, is a splendid sheep country. There are many Angora goats raised, principally for their flesh.
No citizen or person under permit is allowed to hold for pasturage in this nation any stock of any kind in his name or otherwise belonging to the noncitizen, under penalty of from $100 to $500. The wire fences and increased population have contributed to restrict the ranges. Steer cattle can only be introduced into the nation in the months of November and December. All stock excepting goats must be branded and ear marked. Neglecting to have brands or marks recorded in the office of the clerk in the county in which the owner resides is punishable by a fine of from $5 to $10. Stock driven through the Chickasaw Nation at a less rate than a given number of miles provided by law in any one day are liable to a pasturage duty of $1 per head. Any person or persons who shall drive, or cause to be driven, any stock off their range to the extent of 2 miles shall be fined not less than $10 nor exceeding $50. The cattle here are about the same as the horses in quality. Very few good mulch cows are to be found. With a country overgrown with the finest grass and everything favorable for the dairy business, nothing of the kind is known here. Three or 4 quarts a day is considered a good yield for a milch cow. Very little good butter can be found at any time, and no cheese is manufactured in the nation. All efforts to remove stock unlawfully grazing and ranging in the Chickasaw Nation and collect penalties for their intrusion. have been attended with an outlay at least as large as the collections there from.
There is a coal mine near Ardmore that has been worked about 2 years. It is claimed that the supply of coal is abundant, but at the present time I am reliably informed that but 1 ear load has been shipped. The town of Ardmore last winter derived its supply of coal from this mine. There is coal near Dougherty of good quality, and also near Colbert station, in Panola County, but the total output of coal from the Chickasaw Nation amounts to very little. There are some oil springs near the nation, but they have not so far been successfully worked. Asphaltum is found in Pickens County, west of Healdton. Prospectors state that the Arbuckle Mountains abound in the precious minerals. Gold, they state, is extremely plentiful, and silver is hardly worth looking at, not to mention the base metals. But they do not bring in much gold or silver. The last Chickasaw legislature Chartered a mining company, and granted it the exclusive privilege of mining and prospecting a territory 25 miles square. There is considerable mica in the country, but not in commercial sizes. Iron, copper, and lead are found, but so far no mines have been developed.
Ardmore, the largest town in the Chickasaw Nation and the metropolis of The Five Civilized Tribes, is but 3 years old (1890). It has a national bank, 9 hotels, between 80 and 90 business houses, and 2 newspapers. A branch of the United States court is also located here. Tishomingo, the capital of the Chickasaw Nation, is an old fashioned Indian town located on Pennington creek, in the eastern part of the nation. It is the center of the alleged gold fields, and a great many prospectors make Tishomingo their headquarters.