Frederick B. Severs, the subject of this sketch, born August 13, 1835, in Washington County, Ark., the only son of Charles J. Severs and his wife, Basima T. Ballard. His father was from Tennessee and his mother from South Carolina. She was related to the Rutledges, Pinckneys and Austins, families of considerable prominence in that State, their record dating back to Revolutionary days. His father, Charles J. Severs, moved to Arkansas, then a Territory, in 1834. Frederick attended school in his father’s neighborhood until he was about fifteen years old, when he went to Cane Hill College, Boonsborough, Ark. He remained at college two years, after which time he returned home, and assisted his father in conducting the farm. In his eighteenth year he entered commercial life at Fort Gibson, in the Cherokee Nation, under the auspices of W. C. Dickson, an old time friend of his father’s, and a prominent merchant, who volunteered to instruct Frederick in mercantile affairs. He remained with Mr. Dickson four years, when he returned to his home in Arkansas, where he remained but a short time. He was requested to come to Concharty Town in the Creek Nation to take charge of a school, which school (as all then were) was under the control of the United States Indian Agent, who, being greatly interested in the education of the Creeks, secured the services of Mr. Severs, who, although young, was highly esteemed by the agent, and by him deemed competent and qualified to assume that responsible charge. Mr. Severs here first formed the acquaintance of Miss Annie Anderson, the present Mrs. Severs, whose father was George Anderson, the king of Concharty Town, and also second chief of the Creek Nation. Miss Anderson was a highly educated young lady, gifted with considerable personal beauty and mental attainments of the highest order, and possessing all the attributes that make up a lovable character. Miss Anderson was favorably known throughout the Creek Nation, as taking a deep interest in the educational advancement of the Concharty people, among whom she taught school for several years, and until she married. She was educated at Tallahassee Mission, which school was conducted by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions; Rev. R. M. Loughridge was superintendent and Rev. W. S. Robertson was principal, at that time his wife (Mrs. A. E. W. Robertson) was principal teacher, she is now an aged lady, living in Muskogee, respected and loved by her former pupils and the entire community. This estimable lady, in her advanced years, is still greatly interested in the educational and religious welfare of the Muskogee people, and devoted much of her time, assisted by Mrs. Severs, to the translation of the Scriptures into the Muskogee language. The subject of our sketch left Concharty in 1858 to fill the position of principal teacher of the Asbury Mission, a school under the charge of the Southern Methodist Board, and located at old North Fork Town, now known as Eufaula, on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad. Here Mr. Severs taught for two years, when his brother-in-law, Mr. H. Shields, trading at Sheildsville, a post near the capital town of Okmulgee, solicited his assistance and services, which he continued to render for two years, until the breaking out of the war in 1861. The Creek Indians were forced by circumstances to take sides in the late civil war. Mr. Severs espoused the Southern cause and was mustered into service in the First Creek Regiment as first lieutenant, in Captain Checote’s company of full-blooded Indians, and succeeded to the captaincy when Checote was promoted to the colonelcy. Later on he was appointed brigade commissary, with the rank of major, which he retained to the close of the war. He is familiarly known, however, and addressed as Captain Severs.
At the breaking up of the army at the close of the war, Captain Severs was in Texas. Laying aside the profession of arms, without delay he resumed the peaceful occupation of educator, and taught school near Bonham for three months. Meantime his old home in Arkansas had been devastated by contending armies. He received his pay for teaching in produce and provisions, which he had hauled to the Washington County homestead, to replenish the exhausted larder. This indefatigable ex-soldier then loaded up a four-mule wagon with apples, and made two trips from Arkansas to San Antonio, Texas, marketing his fruit there and hauling back return loads of provisions, which were readily sold at a profit. Then, with his small means and some aid from friends, he commenced business on his own account at Shieldsville, in the Creek Nation, at the old stand where he was formerly employed. About that time his old commander, Checote, was elected principal chief of the Creek Nation, who appointed him his private secretary. The assistance Captain Severs rendered in this department proved of great value to the chief and to the nation, as he heartily engaged in shaping a sound, constitutional form of government for the Indians, and made many suggestions that were adopted and proved to be judicious. He moved his store to Okmulgee in 1868. His business grew steadily, and in 1870 he married Miss Annie Anderson, before mentioned, who was then engaged in teaching the same school in Concharty that Captain Severs taught before the war.
The old board storehouse in Okmulgee has given place to a handsome stone building, which contains a stock of general merchandise varying from $20,000 to $35,000 in value, to meet the requirements of trade. He also owns at Okmulgee a cotton gin, and grist and saw mill, which cost ten thousand dollars, and which was built to replace a fine new mill destroyed by fire. In addition, he owns nearly all the business and dwelling houses in the town, for which he receives rent.
In 1884 Captain Severs moved to Muskogee to secure the excellent opportunities afforded at that town for the education of his children. Here he built a comfortable residence for his family. He also purchased the house and business of S. S. Sanger, and is now carrying on an extensive general merchandise business. Muskogee growing in importance as a cotton point, he erected a capacious cotton gin, with all the latest improvements. There being great need for a flouring mill at Muskogee, to stimulate the growing of wheat to produce a home supply of flour, Captain Severs, with his fellow-merchants, organized the Muskogee Roller Milling Company, which erected a mill and an elevator at a cost of $25,000, one-fourth of the paid-up stock being owned by him.
The establishment of the United States Court for Indian Territory at Muskogee necessitated the erection of many buildings to accommodate court officials, attorneys and others, which was met, in part, by Capt. Severs, who built several dwellings and law offices, and to supply a much-needed want, he erected a very handsome brick bank building, at a cost of thirteen thousand dollars. He, with others, procured a charter from the United States and organized the First National Bank of Muskogee, with a capital of stock of $100,000. He is stockholder and a director of the bank.
Captain Severs is prominent as a stockman in Indian Territory; he owns about 8,000 head of a graded class of cattle. At his stock farm, Pecan Grove Ranch, he has a large country house of modern architecture. Here are orchards, gardens capacious barns, stables and sheds, everything necessary for the successful prosecution of farming and cattle rising. The farm consists of 250 acres of superior soil, in a good state of cultivation. A few miles from Okmulgee is his horse ranch, where he has five hundred head of improved stock.
Mrs. Severs has had six children, three of whom are living, Bessie, born April 1st, 1871; Mary, born September 1st, 1872; Annie born December 5th, 1878. The two eldest graduated at Baird College, Clinton, Mo., the summer of ’91 and Annie is now preparing for the same honor, at the same college.
Holding Captain Severs in high esteem, the Creeks adopted him into their tribe, with all the privileges of citizenship, a very uncommon mark of their regard, not a single white citizen of the United States having been adopted by them since the war. He takes a deep interest in the welfare of the people; by material aid and encouragement he has always assisted them to progress in industrial pursuits, in education and religion. Time and again, when failure in crops or other causes had created distress, he supplied their pressing wants until they could obtain relief. The widow, the orphan and the destitute have always found in him a friend, and worthy charities find in him a liberal contributor.
Captain Severs is full five feet eleven inches in height, of fine personal appearance, of gentlemanly and affable manners, of a cheery and sanguine disposition, and a steadfast friend. He is one of the richest men in Indian Territory. His success has been won by sagacity, by knowledge of human nature, and by untiring energy and devotion to the smallest details of the various pursuits that engage his attention. He is in the prime of life, with unimpaired health, and may reasonably expect many years to enjoy the fruits of a successful and well-spent life in the bosom of his estimable family, in whom he takes great delight, a loving husband and a devoted father.