Thomas M. Buffington, an honored pioneer of Oklahoma and one of the most prominent men in the state, was for many years a dominant figure in the councils of the Cherokee Nation but is now living retired at Vinita at the age of sixty-six years. He was born in the Going Snake district of the Cherokee Nation, near accompanied the Cherokees on their removal to the Choctaw 1855, and his parents were Ezekiel and Louisa (Newman) Buffington, the former of whom was born in the Cherokee Nation of Georgia, while the latter was a native of Tennessee. The father accompanied the Cherokees on their removal to the Choctaw Nation in 1835, devoting his attention to the occupation of farming. He died at the Good Water Mission in 1863, and the mother passed away in Indian Territory in 1896.
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Reared upon the home farm, Thomas M. Buffington attended the Baptist missions and Cherokee schools but had very limited educational opportunities. During the progress of the Civil war the family had removed to Texas but subsequently they returned to Indian Territory and Mr. Buffington remained at home until a young man of twenty-two years, when he began cultivating land which he owned on Mustang creek, now in Delaware County, Oklahoma. This he continued to operate for eleven years, being numbered among the most progressive and successful agriculturists of the district, and he was chosen President of the Farmers Alliance. In 1892 he came to Vinita and for six years engaged in general merchandising as a member of the firm of Charlesworth & Buffington. Much of his life has been devoted to public service in connection with the affairs of the Cherokee Nation and for many years he was a leader in its councils. For four years he served as circuit judge, having jurisdiction over the Tahlequah, Saline, Delaware and Cooweescoowee districts of the Cherokee Nation. He was for two years a member of its senate and was serving as President of that body and principal chief of the Nation at the time Charles J. Harris succeeded J. H. Mayes in the office of chief. Mr. Buffington was chosen to represent the Cherokee Nation at Washington in matters pertaining to their interests, and his capability and trustworthiness led to his selection for the chieftainship, in which capacity he made the first treaty with the Dawes commission at Muskogee in 1904. After returning to private life he organized the Security Investment Company, which purchased and sold lands in Tulsa, Rogers and Creek counties. He is an astute, farsighted business man whose investments have been most judiciously placed and he is a stockholder in the Vinita National Bank, while he also owns valuable oil-producing lands in Tulsa County. He has lived retired in Vinita for the past few years, having received injuries which prevent his active participation in business affairs. Mr. Buffington has been married twice. In 1878 he wedded Miss Susan Woodall, a Cherokee, who passed away in 1891. For his second wife he chose Miss Emma L. Gray, a daughter of Adolphus Gray, who removed from North Carolina to Indian Territory, becoming one of the pioneer farmers of this region, and his demise occurred in 1875. Mr. Buffington has five children: Lucille, who married Carl Scott, of Vinita, and has a daughter, Elizabeth Ann; Sue Nell, the wife of Clinton S. Wood, also a resident of Vinita; Maxine; Marie; and Marguerite.
Mr. Buffington is a Presbyterian in religious faith and takes an active and helpful part in the work of the Church, doing all in his power to extend its influence. In his political views he is a stanch Democrat and since coming to Vinita he has been called to public office, serving as mayor under Cherokee law and also acting in that capacity six years after Oklahoma’s admission to state-hood. That his administration was a most progressive and beneficial one is demonstrated by his long retention in that office, and in many connections he has done effective service for the public good. He is a member of the Hillcrest Country Club, and fraternally is identified with the Masonic order, belonging to Vinita Lodge, No. 5, F. & A. M.; to Indian Consistory, No. 2 A. & A. S. R., at McAlester; and to Akdar Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Tulsa. Personal experience has made him familiar with the various phases of pioneer life and he thoroughly appreciates the advantages of present-day civilization. He has seen the marvelous transformation that has t been wrought in Oklahoma as the wild land has been transformed into productive farms, and thriving towns and cities have sprung up, and his conversation spans the past in interesting reminiscences. In the work of development and up-building he has borne his full share, and his record has at all times been such as to reflect credit and honor upon the state, with whose history his name is inseparably associated.