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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: May 20, 1937
Name: Mr. Lem F. Blevins
Post Office: Pauls Valley, Oklahoma
Residence Address:
Date of Birth: 1871
Place of Birth: Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory
Father: William Blevins
Information on Father:
Mother: Josephine Harris, Indian Territory
Information on Mother: born in Chickasaw Nation
Field Worker: Maurice R. Anderson
Interview #4118

My father was killed when I was two years old.  He was part Cherokee Indian.  My mother was the daughter of Joe HARRIS, who was a colonel in the Chickasaw Indian Regiment during the Civil War.  Robert Harris was her brother.  He was at one time Governor of the Chickasaw Nation.  After my father's death, my mother married Charley STEWART and my first remembrance to speak of was when we moved to old Cherokee Town located on the Washita River, north of where Wynnewood is now.  There was a stage-stand, store and post office, a blacksmith shop, and a hotel.  My step-father ran this hotel.

Old Cherokee Town was headquarters for the U.S. Marshals.   There was also a U.S. Commissioner's office.  A man by the name of KISER was the U.S. Commissioner and Heck THOMAS, John SWANE, Matt COOK, and Bob NESTER were white U.S. Marshals.  Bas REE was a Negro U.S. Marshal.  I have heard Bas Ree say he took his U.S. Marshal's Commission just to get to kill Dick GLASS and George MACK, both Negroes.  These two Negroes were bad outlaws and they had caused the U.S. Marshals lots of trouble.

My first school to go to was old Chikikie.  It was an Indian Mission school and Mary HOTCHINS was the teacher.  It was located south and west of where Stratford, Oklahoma is now, about seven miles east of Pauls Valley.   This school was started in 1885.  After the railroad came through Mary Hotchins started another school at Wynnewood.  It was a Chickasaw Indian school.  I boarded at Chikikie, but I did not board at this school as my mother lived at Cherokee Town.  I  stayed at home until they moved most of Cherokee Town to  Wynnewood.  One building was sold to the Masonic Lodge and they moved it to Pauls Valley.

My mother and step-father moved to Wynnewood.

I herded cattle before I was fifteen years old and before I was eighteen I was working on the JOHNSON Ranch, known as the figure 8 brand.  Montford Johnson was the owner.  His range was from Johnsonville to Silver City. The main headquarters was at Silver City, located south of where Minco, Oklahoma is now, about five miles on Scherley Creek.  I remember a fight between the Johnson cowboys and the CAMPBELL cowboys in which one was killed.  I didn't take part in the fight.  I was with the chuck wagon at the time. 

I was nicknamed Vinegaroon by the first city marshal at Norman.  At that time Norman was a city of tents and dugouts.  The Marshal's name was Tom GRIFFIN.  We had brought about a thousand head of cattle to Norman to ship them.  Five or six cowboys and I were riding down the main street, or the wide place they called a street, and we met Tom Griffin.  I was well acquainted with Tom so I asked him what was the meanest thing on earth.  He said, " I have been told it was a Vinegaroon", and from that day on I was called Vinegaroon.

After old Oklahoma came in we were rounding up horses for the Johnson Ranch and driving them to Silver City.  We had lots of trouble with the new homesteaders.  At that time they lived in tents, sod houses, and dugouts, and they would have small patches in cultivation and they would have these patches fenced with wire fence.  We would round up a bunch of horses and start them west, and the fences were new to horses then.  They didn't know what a barbwire fence would do to them, and on coming to some of these fences the horses would go right into them and down would go the fence and some of our horses would get cut very badly and we would have sometimes a bad argument with the homesteaders.  We couldn't keep the horses out of the fences.   When a bunch of high-strung horses once get started running nothing can stop them.

We would tell the homesteaders how sorry we were and we meant it for these homesteaders were having a hard time trying to make a home for their families without our horses tearing down their fences and running over their small patches of corn and ruining it.

I have seen as high as fifty U.S. Marshals at Old Cherokee Town at one time, and some of them were tough men.   When they went after a man they got him.  I have seen them come through there on their way to Fort Smith, Arkansas with forty or fifty prisoners.   Some of the prisoners would be wounded and they would haul them in wagons and drive the ones that were able to walk in front of the wagons like cattle.

I have heard my step-father say that the old building that he used for a hotel was built sometime in the early fifties, and was used as a trading place for the Cherokee Indians.  There are lots of old graves up and down the Washita River from where Old Cherokee Crossing was located.  When I was a small boy, I have found human bones around the river bank.  I have been told that there was a band of Mexicans and Indians camped on the Washita River north of where Old Cherokee Town was years before we moved there, and I think my step-father said we moved there in 1875.   My step-father was a U.S. Deputy Marshal and an Indian policeman at Cherokee Town.

After the Santa Fe railroad was built through here, Montford Johnson moved about  25,000 head of his Durham and Hereford cattle and 500 saddle horses and about 1000 stock horses to the Cheyenne Country.  I worked at his ranch at Silver City and Johnsonville. There is an Indian burial ground about seven miles east and a half mile south of Pauls Valley.   When I was going to the Chikikie Mission school this Indian burial ground was a short way south of this school.  Old settlers have said this burial ground was there as far back as they could remember about it.

I now live in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma.

[COMMENT:  Bas Ree referred to above is Baz "Bass" Reeves]

Submitted to OKGenWeb by Brenda Choate <bcchoate@yahoo.com> November 2000.