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Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Name: Howell, Dr. Thomas Peter
Date: June 1, 1937
Residence: 3 miles west, one north of Davis, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: August 29, 1849
Place of Birth: Eagletown, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory
Father: Dr. Calvin H. Howell, born in North Carolina, died when Thomas was 12 years old
Mother: Rhoda Pitchlynn, born in Mississippi, sister of Peter Pitchlyn
Field Worker: Jennie Selfridge
Interview #4265

Interview with Dr. Thomas Peter Howell, Box 218, Davis, Oklahoma

I was born at Eagletown, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, August 29, 1849.  My family lived just east of the Peter Pitchlynn farm which was located on the east side of Mountain Fork.  We had a large farm there and owned a large number of slaves, as did my Uncle Peter P. Pitchlynn.

I first attended school at a Mission on Mountain Fork.  I believe this was called the Mountain Fork Mission.  Chamberlin was one of my teachers, and Byington was the missionary there.  I later attended school at Center, Arkansas, and then entered  Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee.  During vacation I would visit in Washington, D.C., with my uncle, Peter Pitchlynn.  After attending Cumberland University for two years, I entered medical school at Baltimore, Maryland, where I graduated in the spring of 1872.

After graduating from medical school, Dr. Israel W. Folsom (who later moved to Ardmore) and I went to Atoka where we began the practice of medicine up and down the M.K. & T. Railroad  We also operated the drug store at Atoka.  The Nichols family was operating the hotel there at that time.  I spend two years at Atoka and sold out to Dr. Folsom, then moved to Pauls Valley, where I began the practice of medicine.

In 1876, I moved to my present location, three miles west and one mile north of Davis.  Here I established a good medical practice, sometimes riding as far as Healdton to see a patient.  I would go on horseback, usually riding down one day and coming back the next.

My mother moved four miles west of the present town of Davis while I was attending school in Baltimore.  She settled on the old Moncrief place, which is now owned by a Mr. Smith.  My first wife was Lizzie Grant, a daughter of  Tom Grant.   Tom Grant later married my sister.

The first store around Davis was called the Washita store and was owned and operated by Matt Wolfe.  Apparently he wanted to own the whole place and did not want anyone else to own property there, so Sam Davis went down to the present town of Davis and established a home and began operating a store.

Early settlers in this country were the Gardner's, Brad Camp, Sam Garvin, Tom Grant, Mitchell's, Wantlings, Kimberlins and Joe Myers. The Kimberlins and Wantlings raised corn in large acreage and sold it at Fort Sill for $1.00 a bushel.

Fort Arbuckle was abandoned in 1870, although the United States surveyors were still using the buildings as headquarters for the surveyors when I first visited there.

I operated a large ranch in the Arbuckle vicinity for many years and gave up the practice of medicine to engage in this enterprise and I still own several hundred acres of land.

Second  Interview

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Name: Howell, Dr. Thomas Peter
Date: Aug 30, 1937
Birth Place: Eagletown, Choctaw Nation, I.T.
Father Calvin H. Howell, born in North Carolina
Mother Rhoda Pitchlynn, born in Mississippi
Field Worker: Maurice R. Anderson 

I was born at Eagletown, Eagle County, in the Choctaw Nation in 1849.

I attended the Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee, later graduating from the Medical Department of the University of Maryland.

I was one of seventeen students selected from the great body of medical students to act as interns in the University Hospital at Baltimore. By remaining throughout the summers of the two years I served in the hospital, I received what amounted to four years of practical experience. This proved invaluable to me when I returned to the Indian Territory to take up the work of a general practitioner in the newly settled country.

I left Washington and came to Memphis by rail and decided I would take a boat from there. There were many emigrants taking the water way to the Golden West. I made the acquaintance of many of these home seekers. Like all very young doctors, I had my name and professional title printed upon my brand new trunk which I brought with me from Washington.

A child belonging to one of the home seekers was taken very ill and in their search for medical aid someone recalled having seen the name Dr. Howell upon my trunk. I was soon found. The child had pneumonia. The experience I had gained in similar cases during my period as an intern enabled me to save the child's life. This was my very first patient.

On reaching the Territory, I went in partnership with my old friend, Dr. I.W. Folsom, at Atoka in 1875. I stayed in partnership with him for  one year.

In 1876 I came to Pauls Valley. It was then a cross-roads trading point.  I was the only doctor at Pauls Valley at that time.

Zack Gardner, a Choctaw Indian, had settled on the Washita river east of where Pauls Valley is now, shortly after the Civil War and was founder of the first grist mill there. It was a water power mill, the Washita river furnishing the power. Smith Paul was one of the first men to locate in this valley and Pauls Valley was named for him. Tom Waite, Zach Gardner, Jimmie Gardner and several others were large farmers and they had the contracts to sell their corn to the government at Fort Sill, for one dollar a bushel.

The life of a country doctor at that time was very hard in this newly settled country. Pauls Valley was just far enough from the Texas line to be a rendezvous for outlaws of every description. In the running fights between outlaws and pursuing officers and law-abiding citizens, many were wounded and the country doctor had to lend his assistance to the wounded of either party. There were so few doctors in this country that even the outlaws couldn't afford to be careless and use them for targets in their free-for-all shooting scrapes.

There was little money in the country in those days. That was how I happened to start a ranch. I had to accept cattle as pay for professional services; it was a choice of cattle or nothing. I started my ranch a few miles east of Fort Arbuckle in 1876, on Wild Horse Creek. The two room log house I had build still stands. I had it moved a short distance later and had the home I now live in put on the spot where the log house did stand.

C.J. Grant and myself established the first bank in Pauls Valley. C.J. Grant, Noah Lael, Perry Froman and myself owned the first bank in Davis. Doctor Shirley owned a general store at Cherokee Town when I came to Pauls Valley.

After the soldiers were sent to Fort Sill from Fort Arbuckle the government established a school for Negroes. Mr. Tom Grant bought Fort Arbuckle from the Chickasaw Governor for $50.00, after the soldiers left there.

My father, Calvin H. Howell, came from North Carolina at an early date and married Rhoda Pitchlynn, the sister of Colonel Peter P. Pitchlynn, who was the first governor of the Choctaws. My uncle was a large slave owner, and on account of the speeches he made trying to keep the Choctaws out of the War, he was forced to go to Washington to save his life and he lived there the rest of his life.

I still live on my ranch that I started in 1876. Most of it is cut up into farms.

Submitted to OKGenWeb by Brenda Choate,  September 2003.

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Updated:  08 Apr 2008