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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
June 16, 1937
Name: L. A. Crabtree
Post Office:
Mangum, Oklahoma, Route #2
Residence Address: 10 miles southwest of Mangum

Date of Birth:
16 April 1879
Place of Birth:
Bell County, Texas
J. T. Crabtree
Place of Birth:
Information on father:
Rezar Hannah
Place of birth:
Information on mother:
Field Worker:
Ruth Kerbo

Mr. L. A. Crabtree came to Greer County from Hamilton County, Texas, in 1884, with his parents Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Crabtree, and his sister Lottie.

The elder Mr. Crabtree (my father) settled on a tract of land that now constitutes the southwest portion of the city of Mangum. He built a dugout in the edge of the brakes, about a block west of the present home of Mrs. T. N. Slaten. Later he bought some more land from Bob Suggs.

We started moving from Hamilton County in the fall, wintered on the road and landed here in the spring.

We dug a hole out of a bank in the brakes for our house, hauled poles to make the roof, put hay on top of the poles, then dirt on top of that. We hauled some lumber from Vernon about the second year after we settled to build a portico at the front of the dug-out.

The families of Mr. H. C. Sweet, founder of Mangum, J. R. Curry, and J. R. Crouch were the only ones here when we came.

My father platted a large portion of his homestead as the Crabtree addition to Mangum. It contained all of the city south of Jefferson street and west of Commerce Alley. He gave the portion lying between Oklahoma Avenue and Commerce Alley to H. C. Sweet in payment for his services in "locating" him when he arrived here and securing title to his property.

Father once lived in a town with narrow streets and when his addition was laid off, the north and south streets were made narrow, remaining so to this time.

We came here in two covered wagons and had a few cows. We came here for homestead land, for an outlet to raise stock. We had to rent land in Texas and the country was so crowded that if you owned a few cattle they were always giving trouble.

We gathered buffalo and cattle bones for pastime, piled them in the yard and when we got a big stack of them father would put sideboards on the wagon and load the wagon with these bones using four horses to pull the load. He hauled them to Harrill then later to Vernon to get money to buy flour. They could be sold for $10.00 a ton and a load would bring $20.00. Sometimes there would be skin on the bones indicating that the buffalo had not then been extinct very long. However I never saw a buffalo on the prairie of Greer County.

We broke out our land and planted a beardless or soft wheat. This variety of wheat did not thrive very well, then we tried other kinds which did better.

Our farming equipment consisted of two breaking plows with wood beams, a Casedy Sulky plow and a cotton wood log for a harrow or roller. We had a sod plow with a disc to cut the sod and iron rods curved in such a manner as to make the sod turn over.

We used this cotton wood log roller to drag over the sod to smooth it down before we planted our seeds and to drag over the young wheat after it had gotten started to make the wheat spread out and to reserve the moisture. This roller was not a success and we discontinued the use of it.

The prairie and sage grass grew waist high and in the summer we would get a mower and rake and cut and rake great stacks of this hay for feed for our cattle in the winter. We have had stacks of hay ricked up where the present site of Mangum now is.

Old Mangum was south of the present site of the Court House square.

Across the street, J. R. Crouch operated a Hotel which was a one room structure with a dug-out underneath, and across the street east was J. R. Curry's General Merchandise Store.

One of the stores had tin cans stripped on the cracks to keep the rain out. The cowboys called Mangum the "Tin City" for that reason. The cowboys, who lived in the line camps, traded at Tin City. They could get such supplies as crackers and cheese, maybe canned tomatoes, flour and a few other canned goods and ammunition for their guns.

The first school I went to in Mangum was in a dug-out one half a block south of the present site of the Court House square on the west side of the street. We had plank benches with plank backs, no desks to put our books in. Professor John H. Nigh was the teacher. I still have a blue back speller we used then. We went to school in this Dug-out for three years. Then a one room boxed and stripped building was erected where the Junior High school building is now located.

I did not hunt anything much except quail. I remember trading a pony for a fancy shot gun and I killed quail and sold them to help pay for my gun.

I dressed them and sent them to Quanah on the mail hack and received seventy five cents a dozen for them clear of freight.

We hauled wood along Salt Fork River, then after it got so scarce we went northwest of Vinson to get wood. The settlers cut so much of the wood along the creeks and rivers to make dug-outs and pens and sheds for their stock that it was soon all used.

We got our water from surface wells. There was a watering hole on the Sampson Hill where everybody usually stopped to get a drink enroute to Mangum and back. A spring furnished the water and it was always cold and good. The Sampson Hill is three miles south of Mangum and named for the man who filed on the place at the top of the hill.

We forded the rivers until about 1900 when a short bridge was put across the main channel of Salt Fork River and then every time the river got up, the water would wash out a span or two at the south end. Each time it was replaced it would be made a span or two longer than it formerly was until the short straight bridge had grown to be a long one and horseshoe shaped, and in 1934 a concrete bridge replaced the old one.

I remember rattlesnakes were very numerous and in case of a snake bite, amputation was usually necessary to save the person's life. Dr. Ferguson was the only doctor at Mangum and he had to go on horseback.

For amusement we had roping and riding contests in 1889-1890. Small prizes were given usually to the winners, such as a belt with stamping on it. These contests were called tournaments. These tournaments usually lasted two or three days. After the tournaments, we had goose pulling contests. A goose would be hung up by his feet and eight or ten men would ride by on horseback and grab at the goose's head. Sometimes eight or ten men would ride by before someone finally pulled the goose's head off. A prize was offered for the winner. Don't remember what the prize was now, but this contest didn't last long.

After all the contests were over, there would be a masquerade ball in which everyone wore masks and guessed who the other fellow was. The floor would be waxed and two or three sets of square dancing on the floor at one time. The grand balls would last two or three days.

The Kiowa and Comanche Indians would come to the races and trade beads and moccasins and blankets for goods. They camped around close and stayed until everything was over. They they would give a war dance. If someone gave them a beef they would kill it and dance around with their shakers for noisy rhythm, and beat on a drum they had made of rawhide. Some of the old Indians would give a war whoop. They called a match a tido.

My father had a herd of cattle, branded A L L and a bunch of horses. The cattle ranged west from Mangum along Salt Fork River going as far west as Sleepy John Creek, while the horses were kept on Horse Branch, south of Mangum. I worked on the range for a time and stood night guard over the A L L cattle.

The line camps were along the creek and river banks. The branding pen for the T Diamond outfit was south of Mangum.

I remember one time after the T Diamond outfit had put a fence around their range, a cold northern blew up and the cattle kept on moving south until they reached the fence. The wind was too cold to turn back against it and they kept crowding up against the fence until hundreds of them died. They must have frozen and starved too probably.

I began farming in 1902 and have farmed in various sections of the country since that time. Have lived west of Ladessa for eleven years. I never filed on a homestead in the country.

[Submitter note: Thanks to Patsy Hunt, Mangum, Oklahoma, for providing the Interview. Patsy's notes: L. A. Crabtree is Lewis Crabtree. His mother's given name not Rezar but Zarada.]

Submitted to OKGenWeb by Susan Bradford <smcb0824@icqmail.com> August 2001.