Indian Pioneer Papers - Index
Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: March 14, 1938
Name: Tom Devine
Post Office: Westville, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: December 24, 1861
Place of Birth: Flint District, Cherokee Nation, I.T.
Father: James Devine
Place of Birth: Georgia
Information on father: white
Mother: Lou Harlan
Place of birth: Georgia
Information on mother: Cherokee
Field Worker: Gus Hummingbird
I was born in what is now Adair County,
then known as Flint District, Cherokee Nation, December 24, 1861. My father
was James DEVINE, a permitted white man, and my mother was Lou HARLAN, a
Most of my early life was spent on a small farm that my father operated near
the Oak Grove School in Goingsnake District. The farm was a small farm and our
family lived most of the time in destitute condition. The Civil War had broken
everybody and work was scarce at that time. Father was mostly a laborer and
worked for wealthy farmers in the community. There was not much machinery for
farm use at that time, most of the farming being done by oxen. The principal
crops were corn, oats and a little wheat. Not much wheat was raised in this
part of the country for it was very difficult to separate the seed from the
chaff, threshers being unknown in this country.
There was a school at Oak Grove at that time but I did not attend on account
of the conditions at home. However, I learned to spell and write my name after
I grew to manhood.
Several years afterwards our family moved to the northern part of Goingsnake
District, in the neighborhood now known as Union Hill, about three miles
southeast of the town of Westville. Later we moved to the neighborhood of
Wright's Chapel which was at that time on Barron Fork Creek. Above this old
school was at one time an old mission known as New Hope Mission. It was also
in this particular community that the first grist and saw mill was
established. The operator of this old mill was Eli WRIGHT, an old Irishman who
had married a Cherokee woman. Among the early church workers were the Wrights
and the Harlans. Several white preachers from Arkansas would come to this
place to hold services and a great number of Cherokees would also attend. The
Cherokee preachers who would preach at this old church were NELSON TERRAPIN,
Reverend SHELL and SWIMMER.
I remember only one camp meeting that I ever attended at right's [Wright's]
Chapel; this was about 1870. The meeting continued for about ten days and
people from miles around came. Food was furnished mostly by the Wrights who
were wealthy. The Old Wright Chapel was a frame building.
I was eighteen years old when I first voted in an election that was hotly
contested in the race for chief and I cast my first vote for Dennis W.
BUSHYHEAD. I never held a public office but I was appointed a deputy Sheriff
under Ben KNIGHT in 1889 and was with Ben Knight at the time of the arrest of
the two DUNOWOSE boy for killing Wash LEE, a former sheriff of Goingsnake
District. My voting precinct was at the court house at Peacheater Creek about
five miles west of Westville.
United States Marshals
I was never appointed as a marshal but I cooperated with them in making
arrests several times. Among those I helped are Tom JOHNSON of Siloam, Tom
HUGH, Henry MARTIN and Gus YORK. At that time these men were called Fort Smith
Marshals because all they could arrest in the Cherokee Nation were whiskey
cases. Fort Smith at that time was a whiskey town and all of the whiskey that
came to the Cherokee Nation came from this town.
The early day trading point for the Cherokees in this part was Dutchtown,
Arkansas, which was only four miles over in Arkansas. This was already an old
town and among the early merchants at this place were C. EVANS, Thin BLAKE and
Cattle and Cattlemen
There were plenty of cattle in the Cherokee Nation, that is in the eastern
part of Goingsnake District at that time but there was no market for cattle in
the nation. Most of the cattle that reached the eastern markets had to be
driven through the country. Most of the cattle were driven to Southwest City,
Missouri, which was the only railroad point that could be reached easily.
Everybody owned cattle at that time.
Among those who owned hundreds of cattle
were the CLYNES family, Ed and Tim Clynes, who lived just across the Barren
Fork Creek from what is now Baron Post Office were the leading buyers in the
Later in years I borrowed from a neighbor, John Clynes, a sum of $500.00 and
from Joe Starr I borrowed $500.00 and went into the cattle business. I did not
make a note or mortgage for this money. I agreed I would pay this money back
in five years, so much a year. Starr said that would be his bond. He would
rather give a man that much to learn what he was. If you did not pay your
debts at that time the news spread like wild fire and everybody knew that you
were not to be trusted. So it was a custom that you had to be honest or move
out of the Cherokee Nation.
Most of the people around this particular community were in favor of the
railroads. It was a very strong issue in the election of 1892 and people who
farmed on a large scale and stockmen were in favor of them.
It was such men as Lock MORTON, Jonathan
WHITMIRE and others who caused this to become a law. They at that time argued
to the Cherokees that it was time for them to learn the ways of the white man
for it was coming sooner or later that they had to live as white people. So
just eleven years afterwards the Indian Territory became a part of the state
My family was in favor of the allotment. There were many acres of land claimed
by full bloods who would not use it to their advantage, and many Cherokees
that would make a showing did not have any at all. For this reason we were in
favor of the allotment.