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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: January 25, 1938
Name: Fred W. Heupel 
Post Office: Okarche, Oklahoma
Residence Address: Southwest of Okarche, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: July 24, 1863
Place of Birth: Leszno, Germany (now a part of Poland)
Father: August Heupel
Place of Birth: Germany
Information on father: Born August 28, 1828. Died 1905
Mother: Wilhemiene Arnd Heupel
Place of birth: Germany
Information on mother: Died September 12, 1866
Field Worker: Mrs. Nora Lorrin

I was born in Leszno, Germany, July 24, 1863, this town is now located in Poland. My father, August Heupel, was born in Germany, August 28, 1828, and died January 24, 1905. My mother, Wilhemiene Arnd Heupel, was born in Germany, and died September 12, 1866. I do not remember the date of her birth. My father married a second time. He had four children by the first wife and one child, a girl, by his second wife. This girl now lives in Alliance, Ohio. One of my sisters, Matilda, was born July 18, 1860, and lives in California, and Bertha, another sister, was born November 19, 1857. All of us were born in Germany.

I would have been drafted into the Germany Army had I not left that country and come to the United States. I came alone, when I was twenty-four years of age, coming on an English freighter. It was loaded with all kinds of people and they were lying around on straw just like a lot of cattle. 

Almost a month was consumed in crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and we landed at Port Levis, in Quebec. From there I went by train to Winnipeg, and from there to Pembina County, North Dakota, getting my first citizenship papers in that county. I was a blacksmith by trade and followed this trade in North Dakota for two years, being located at Grafton, and later at St. Thomas. The second winter my best girl with whom I had been acquainted in the Old Country met me at St. Thomas and we were married on December 1, 1888.

That country was so rough and so cold I did not like it, and an experience I had while living there helped greatly to decide me in the matter of seeking a warmer clime. My boss gave me a horse and buggy to go and make a visit to my brother-in-law, Handly Pact, and as I was returning home, a blizzard struck, long before I got there. I became snow-blind, and had it not been for the good judgement of the horse and his ability to find his way home without direction, I would have perished. I decided to leave there and we moved to Winfield, Kansas. At that time Oklahoma was not yet opened for settlement. At Winfield, I worked for a man of the name of G. P. Baden, who owned a large store and packing house in Winfield. I came to Oklahoma about a week before the opening of the Cheyenne-Arapaho lands, 1892.

My partner, a man by the name of Kletky, and I came to Oklahoma from Winfield, Kansas, in a sulky, drawn by one horse. We made the race together in this sulky, starting on the line about a mile southeast of Okarche. The line along where my partner and I were, was about ten feet deep, with impatient fighting horses and humanity and there was everything in evidence being used as their conveyances; carts, wagons, buggies. Some were on horses, some on foot; they had even oxen and ox-drawn carts. My partner and I started with the rest, when the signal was given, running our horse as hard as he could go over buffalo wallows, ditches, etc. Finally we came to a likely place, and I told my partner, Kletky, to jump and stick his flag, that I was going on. Mr. Kletky did so and got his claim. I went on and staked a claim that is now located one mile south and one mile west of Okarche. It was over two weeks before we got to file on our claims. I returned to Winfield, Kansas, making the trip back in two or three days, and found my wife not at all enthusiastic about coming to Oklahoma. But I had always wanted a home of my own, and I prevailed on her to come, and we came. I packed my belongings, my wife and child, on the cart, and started for Oklahoma. When we got to the Cimarron River, it was away up and we had to ford it. I waded along by the side of the cart, clinging to the side of it to keep it from overturning in the swiftly running water. We made it without mishap, and that night made camp on Deep Fork Creek. A terrific thunderstorm came up that night, and we were without shelter. We took the shafts from the sulky and leaned them against a tree, put our blankets over them, and crawled under, trying our best to keep our baby boy from getting soaked with rain. I never saw such lightning, nor ever heard such appalling thunder. The roaring wind and pouring rain continued all night long, and we used everything we possessed that could be used to keep the child dry. We felt pretty dilapidated from our night's experience, but came on to the home of William Lempke, and I left my wife and child with that family while I went to my claim and built a dugout. I had a shotgun and there was lots of game, especially prairie chickens. We were short of money, in fact, short of everything, and the prairie chickens and quail were a very helpful addition to our diet. I got a spade and spaded up a garden, and that garden supplied our first income. There was water all up and down the creek. I dug a hole two feet deep and got good water.

I looked around and got a job in a blacksmith shop; I was to receive half of the income as my salary. A fellow of the name of Hummel owned the shop, and it was east from the old Okarche bank. There were tents in every direction, and shacks nailed up in a day. There were three or four saloons, right from scratch. I worked about six months for Mr. Hummel in his blacksmith shop, keeping the books as well as doing other work. Mr. Hummel drank a good deal, and persisted in collecting most of the income and keeping it. It got so bad that we met by the public well, and fought it out. Mr. Hummel tried to knife me and I knocked him down; of course, that was the end of that job. There happened to be a justice of the peace in the crowd, and he took me to his office and fined me two dollars, so that I could not be sued.

A man of the name of Caswell ran a hardware store one block south of the bank, and this man knew me well. He told me to buy a lot and he would back me financially until I got on my feet. I bought a lot, paying $15.00 for it and built a shop on it. The hardware man furnished all of the tools, and when it was finished and ready for me to start work, I went to Mr. Caswell and asked how much I owed him. He replied that the amount was about $600.00. I told him that I did not have a cent to my name, and asked him what to do about it. He told me just to go to work like I did at the other shop. I did so, and got so much work that I was kept busy almost night and day. Later, when I had gotten a couple of ponies, I did literally work night and day. I would come home of an evening, eat supper and break sod all night on the claim. Often my wife followed me with a baby on her arm, dropping the corn as I plowed. We had to do it, or starve. Not many ladies of this time would do as my wife did. That year we harvested about fifteen bushel of wheat to the acre. I had also planted about five acres of kaffir corn. I have never since seen as wonderfully luxuriant a growth of kaffir corn. I paid off my $600.00 debt in less than a year, and out of my earnings built a little 10 x 12 feet shanty on my claim, and from then on things gradually got better for us. One time I borrowed $30.00 from a brother to buy a cow; after that we had both milk and butter.

I ran the blacksmith shop for sixteen years and worked so hard that it ruined my health; I then sold the shop. After my children grew up, my original claim was too small for my family. In the meantime I had bought two more farms, one of them located four miles south and three miles west of Okarche. On this farm I built a large new concrete block house. I bought a concrete block machine, and three of my boys and I made concrete blocks to build our one story, eleven room house; we also built a barn and a granary. 

The barn cost $4,000.00 and the house cost about $10,000.00 not including the work put on it. I had this place all under fence, and we moved from our original claim to this fine new home and lived in it for about twenty years. My youngest son is living in it now. I own ten farms now and still have the original claim. I am worth, perhaps, $50,000.00.

There was never any sickness in my family until my wife died March 18, 1933. Since that time I have been living alone. I am the father of eight children, all born in Oklahoma except one. I have thirty-three or four grandchildren and some great-grandchildren. I have given each one of my children a home. I live in a nice little home in Okarche, surrounded by my treasures and memories.

[Submitter's Comments: Transcribed by Carolyn Haney, great-granddaughter of Fred Heupel. In papers received from Fred's niece, Marie Zoz, Fred's mother's name was Wilhelmine Arndt; his father's name was Johann August Heupel; and his place of birth was Lekno, Wongrawitz, Posen, Prussia. I have a photocopy of his naturalization papers.]

Submitted to OKGenWeb by Carolyn Haney <haneyc@hotmail.com> March 2001.