Indian Pioneer Papers
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Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: December 22, 1937
Name: Robert D. Pitts
Post Office: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: July 26, 1870
Place of Birth: Georgia
Father: James H. Pitts
Place of Birth:
Information on father:
Mother: Elizabeth Hill Pitts
Place of birth: Alabama
Information on mother:
Field Worker: W. T. Holland
My father, James H. Pitts, was born in Georgia; my mother, Elizabeth Hill Pitts, was a native of Alabama.
I was born in Jackson County, Alabama, July 26, 1870. My parents came to Franklin County, Arkansas in 1877. While young, I learned the blacksmith trade and when sixteen years of age came over into the Choctaw country. I first stopped at Skullyville. Scullyville was in the hills, thirty miles west of Fort Smith. Later on, Spiro was established near the site of old Scullyville, but down on the plains and I worked here at my trade.
In those days, we made plows, wagons and buggies and shoeing horses was a good part of our work, and some of the time we made our own horseshoes.
When I went into the Choctaw country it was ruled by the Indians. This was before it came under the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts of the Western Arkansas district. I recall an Indian youth had killed another Indian, and was tried at Scullyville and condemned to die. Their mode of execution was by shooting. This youth was turned loose until the day of execution, when he was told to return to Scullyville for his execution. Jim Darnel, a Choctaw, was High Sheriff and executioner. I was present when this youth came in to his execution, at Scullyville. He had ridden in from Poteau, his home, to meet his doom. Darnel met him out in front of the courthouse, and spread a clean white sheet on the ground. The young man knelt on the sheet. The sheriff opened his shirt, and pasted a piece of paper over the boy's heart, backed off about thirty feet, raised his rifle, and shot the boy. I could not stand anymore and left with the crack of the rifle. It is hard for a white man to understand the customs and practices of the Indians, especially that part of his character that will make him go to his execution freely and without compulsion.
I used to attend the Indian stomp dances near Scullyville. The main stomp ground of the Choctaws was about half way between Scullyville and Poteau.
In 1892 I was married to Nona Jourdan of Russellville, Arkansas and that year I moved to McAlester where I ran a shop for J. J. McAlester. Tills was about the time the prison was built there, and Mr. McAlester contracted to do all repair work for the builder. We did all the plow work and all the iron work and shoeing the horse for this job. I lived there for five years, moving from there to Claremore in 1907 where I lived for seventeen years.
W.H. Bunn, Bill Gardner, George Walkley and John Tyrone owned and ran a livery barn. They owned some fine harness and saddle stock, which were hired out to the public. They also owned rubber tired buggies and surreys. We bought our supplies from the Wilson Hardware Company. Thomas and Brown, Earl Briggs and Howard Hale owned and operated Grocery stores and markets. Claremore, while it had dirt streets, which were muddy in winter, was a good business point. My children, four boys and four girls, were born in McAlester and Claremore. I cannot read or write, but I wanted to see my children educated and was able to give each one a high school education. Each of my boys has a trade.
The most I ever made in a day was during the Chelsea boom. A friend there had five teams of five and six year old mules that had never been shod. He came to Claremore to get me to do the work. I did this work, he, or one of his "hands", holding the mules. I charged him $4.00 per team, or $20.00 for this days work and he took me to Chelsea and brought me back to Claremore. I fitted and shod a horse for Herbert Moore, of Claremore in twelve minutes one day, in a race with time; Dr. Hayes held the watch on me.
I knew all the prominent people of Claremore during those days, and one of my best friends and most frequent visitors was Will Rogers. I'll bet he was in my shop a thousand times during my seventeen years there. He was always in a good humor, and there was always a crowd around where he was, then, of which he was the center. Berryhill and Rooker were the biggest ranchers in that section there and Glenn Berryhill, a son of the Reverend Mr. Theodore Berryhill, of Claremore, owned the land where the first oil wells were drilled in the Glenpool field. The field was named for Glenn Berryhill. I followed tool dressing in the major oil fields, Cushing, Drumright, Glenpool and Oilton.
I made the "Strip Run" and was present also at the time when the Flint district was opened up. The most money I ever saw at one time was at Flint where the Government paid off the Indians. They had it by the sack full. It was duly guarded, however. There were plenty of people there to help the Indians dispose of their wealth and whiskey was the main thing they bought. One man sent a wagon to Mulberry, Arkansas, a few days before the payment, and brought back ten, five-gallon kegs of whiskey, which he sold to the Indians.
I could do almost anything with iron. I at one time made a set of horse-hoes from baling wire. At that time baling wire was used for almost everything on the farm, so one day I was asked or dared to make, or attempt to make a horse-shoe from this wire. I first made a cable, or rope out of the wire, by twisting it together, this was heated and fused easily, as bailing wire was the best kind of iron. This was made into bars, then the shoes were made from that. I made spurs too and when requested, I ornamented the spurs with silver inlay. Fine spurs and saddles and bridles were in demand then.
Transcribed for OKGenWeb, May 2003, by Vicky (Nye) Dennis great-grandniece of Robert D. Lee Pitts .
Feb 2005 email updated to: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Subscribers notes: Robert was born on July 26, 1871 in BridgePort, Jackson County, Alabama. He died on February 12, 1952 in Tulsa, Tulsa County, Oklahoma. Robert married Nona Mary Frances (Jordan) on October 18, 1894 in Hartman, Johnson County, Arkansas Nona is the daughter of Louis G. and Marey C. Jordan. She was born on October 23, 1878 & she died on May 17, 1968. Robert & Nona had thirteen children from 1894 to 1916. ]
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