“Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests and see whether we, also, in our day and generation may not perform something worthy to be remembered.” Daniel Webster.
Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, was a part of the public domain that was reserved for several tribes of Indians whose native hunting grounds were principally in the Southern states. While they remained in their native valleys they proved a menace to the safety of the frontier settlers, and in times of war were sure to take sides against them. Thomas Jefferson in his day advised that they be located together on some general reservation. This was gradually affected during the earlier years of the last century.
The official act of congress constituting it an Indian Reservation did not occur until 1834, but a considerable number of the Choctaws, Chickasaws and of some other tribes were induced to migrate westward and locate there previous to that date. Other leading tribes that were transferred to special reservations in Indian Territory were the Cherokees, Creeks and Seminoles.
The Five Civilized Tribes
The Choctaw Indians recently occupied lands in the states bordering on the Gulf of Mexico. In 1820 a considerable part of them, ceding their lands in Georgia, were located on a reservation in the Red River valley west of Arkansas. In 1830 they ceded the remainder of their lands in Alabama and Mississippi and all, together with their slaves, were then transferred to their new reservation in the southeastern part of Indian Territory.
The Chickasaws, who originally occupied the country on the east side of the Mississippi river, as early as 1800 began to migrate up the valley of the Arkansas. In 1805, 1816 and in 1818 they ceded more of their lands and more of them migrated westward, many of them going to the country allotted to the Choctaws. In 1834, when the last of their lands in the Gulf States were ceded, they were located on a reservation south of the Canadian river, west of the Choctaws. These two tribes lived under one tribal government until 1855, when they were granted a political separation.
The Cherokees, previous to 1830, occupied the upper valley of the Tennessee River, extending through the northern parts of Georgia and Alabama. In 1790 a part of the tribe migrated to Louisiana and they rendered important services in the army of Gen. Jackson at New Orleans in the war of 1812.
In 1817 they ceded a part of their native lands for others and the next year 3,000 of them were located in the northwestern part of Arkansas in the valleys of the Arkansas and White rivers. In 1835 the remainder of them were located just west of the first migration in the northeast part of Indian Territory.
The Creek Indians originally lived in the valleys of the Flint, Chattahoochee, Coosa and Alabama rivers and in the peninsula of Florida. About the year 1875, a part of them moved to Louisiana and later to Texas. In 1836 the remainder of the tribe was transferred to a reservation north of the Canadian river in Indian Territory.
The Seminoles were a nation of Florida Indians that was composed chiefly of Creeks and the remnants of some other tribes. After the acquisition of Florida from Spain in 1819 many slaves in that section fled from their masters to the Seminoles. The government endeavored to recover them and to force the Seminoles to remove westward. These efforts were not immediately successful, Osceola, their wily and intrepid chief, defeating and capturing four of the generals sent against them, namely, Clinch, Gaines, Call and Winfield Scott. He was finally captured by his captors violating a flag of truce. In 1845 they were induced to move west of the Mississippi and in 1856, they were assigned lands west of the Creeks in the central part of Indian Territory.
These five tribes, the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Creeks and Seminoles, were the most powerful in numbers. After their settlement in Indian Territory, they made considerable progress in elementary education and agriculture, their farm work being principally done by their slaves previous to the time they were accorded their freedom in 1865. As a result of their progress in the arts of life, during the last half of the last century, these were often called “The Five Civilized Tribes, or Nations.”
In 1900 when the last census was taken of them in their tribal form their numbers were as follows: Choctaw nation, 99,681; Chickasaw, 139,260; Cherokee, 101,754; Creek, 40,674; Seminole, 3,786.
The Osage Indians were early driven to the valley of the Arkansas River. They were conveyed to their reservation west of that river, in the north part of Indian Territory, in 1870. The supplies of oil and other minerals found upon their reservation have caused some of the members of this nation to be reputed as quite wealthy.
During this early period the Union Indian agency established its headquarters at Muskogee, and it became and continued to be their principal city, during the period of their tribal government.
Opening Of Indian Territory
On April 22, 1889, 2,000,000 acres of the Creek and Seminole lands were opened to white settlers, and there occurred an ever memorable rush for lands and a race for homes. An area as large as the state of Maryland was settled in a day. On that first day the city of Guthrie was founded with a population of 8,000, a newspaper was issued and in a tent a bank was organized with a capital of $50,000. Oklahoma and other cities sprang up as if in a night.
On June 6, 1890, the west half of Indian Territory was created a new territory, called Oklahoma, with its capital at Guthrie, and with later additions it soon included 24,000,000 acres.
On June 16, 1906, President Roosevelt signed the enabling act that admitted Oklahoma, including Oklahoma and Indian Territories, as a state, one year from that date. On November 6, 1906, occurred the election of members to the constitutional convention that met at Guthrie January 1, 1907. The first legislature met there January 1, 1908. Two years later the capital was moved to Oklahoma City.
The growth, progress and advancement of the territory of Oklahoma during the sixteen years preceding statehood in 1907 has never been equaled in the history of the world, and in all probability will never be eclipsed. This was due to the mild and healthful climate of this region, and a previous knowledge of its great, but undeveloped agricultural and mineral resources. So great has been the flow of oil near Tulsa, in the north central part of the state, it has been necessary to store it there in an artificial lake or reservoir.
The surface of Oklahoma consists of a gently undulating plain, that gradually ascends from an altitude of 511 feet at Valliant in the southeast to 1197 feet at Oklahoma City, and 1893 at Woodward, the county seat of Woodward County, in the northwest. The principal mountains are the Kiamichi in the southern part of Laflore County, and the Wichita, a forest reserve in Comanche and Swanson counties.
Previous to statehood Indian Territory was divided into 31 recording districts for court purposes. In 1902 when Garvin was founded it became the residence of the judge of the southeastern judicial or recording district, and a small court house was built there for the transaction of the public business. In 1907, when McCurtain County was established, Idabel was chosen as the county seat. The location of Oak Hill Academy proved to be one and a half miles east of the west line of McCurtain County. In 1910 the population of McCurtain County was 20,681, of Oklahoma City 64,205; and of the state of Oklahoma, 1,657,155.
During the period immediately preceding the incoming of the Hope and Ardmore Railroad in 1902, the most important news and trading center, between Fort Towson and Wheelock, was called “Clear Creek.” Clear Creek is a rustling, sparkling little stream of clear water that flows southward in a section of the country where most of the streams are sluggish and of a reddish hue. The Clear Creek post office was located in a little store building a short distance east of this stream and about three miles north of Red river.
A little log court house, for the administration of tribal justice among the Choctaws of that vicinity, a blacksmith shop and a Choctaw Church were also located at this place. These varied interests gave to Clear Creek the importance of a miniature county seat until Valliant and Swink were founded.
During this early period the oak covered ridge, extending several miles east of Clear Creek, was known as Oak Hill and the settlement in its vicinity was called by the same name.
When the first Church (1869) and school (1876) were established among the Freedmen in this settlement, the same name was naturally given to both of them. It has adhered to them, amid all the changes that have occurred, since the first meetings were held at the home of Henry Crittenden in 1868.
Valliant was founded in 1902, and was so named in honor of one of the surveyors of the Hope and Ardmore, a branch of the Frisco railway. It is located in the west end of McCurtain county eight miles north of Red river. It has now a population of 1,000 and a branch railroad running northward.
The country adjacent to the town consists of beautiful valleys and forests heavily set with timber, principally oak, walnut, ash and hickory, and with pine and cedar along the streams. The soil is a rich sandy loam that is easily cultivated and gives promise of great agricultural and horticultural possibilities. It is in the center of the cotton belt and this staple is proving a very profitable one. The climate is healthful and the locality is unusually free from the prevalence of high winds.