Indian Pioneer Papers - Index
Indian Pioneer History
Project for Oklahoma
Date: October 12, 1937
Name: Margie Parker McMahan
Post Office: Altus, Oklahoma
Residence Address: 501 North Main Street
Date of Birth: August 5, 1859
Place of Birth: Texas
Father: Lawson Parker
Place of Birth: Tennessee
Information on father:
Mother: Elizabeth Airs
Place of birth: Tennessee
Field Worker: Zaidee B. Bland
Interview No: 8918
Mr. McMahan and I were traveling around
over the country for his health and it was a mere accident that we stopped at
old Frazier and became helpful in the building of the country.
We had our wagon all shipshape for living
and even had our Jersey cow always tied to the back of the wagon so we could
have milk where ever we might wander.
This was a beautiful country. The grass
was luxuriant and the land was getting pretty well dotted with dugouts, when
we began a trek across it one Spring.
We crossed the Red Rivers and made a camp
near a mountain not far from where Granite is now.
Here we lingered for several months but as
the fall of the year drew near we decided that we had better start south again
for the cold months.
As we neared the crossing of Salt Fork of
Red River one of our horses seemed very ill. We camped near a school house and
the horse died and we were delayed until we could get another one. It the
meantime, school time drew near and it was learned by some of the men who
lived in the vicinity that Mr. McMahan had been a school teacher in Tennessee.
So, he was approached by one of the trustees of the neighborhood relative to
teaching the school for the winter. There was little money to be had from the
state of Texas but they agreed that if Mr. McMahan would stay and teach the
school the citizens would supply enough with the public money to make the
salary $200.00 for a six month term of school and furnish a little house for
us to live in. We agreed and there we camped for that six months and at the
end of the school term we bought out a little stock of drugs which a doctor
had and added a few groceries and some dry goods. I do not remember how many
terms of school Mr. McMahan taught.
We filed on land a mile and a half north
of the school house and built a house. We added to this house until it became
a nine room house. The house still stands although we do not own it at this
In the time of the great flood our house
was on a little higher ground than the houses around us and was used as a
refugee station. There was not standing room either up or down stairs during
that night of horror and in the morning there was not a building left standing
in the little town called Frazier. Every one escaped with their lives in our
community, however. It had not rained so much here but the cloud burst was
further north and when morning came there was an expanse of water four or five
miles wide across the oily Red River rolling and tumbling toward the south. As
we watched this water, small shacks, stock, horses, mules, cattle and hogs
would float by and pieces of furniture, mattresses and an occasional human
face would show above the water. For three days and nights this flood swept by
before people could wade into the mud and seek their personal belongings amid
Already a few houses had been built
together on Baucum Heights and this little settlement was commonly called
Altus because it was on higher ground. No one thought of trying to build again
between Salt Fork and Bitter Creek. The men got together and talked over what
was to be done. All decided to build where it was higher and a town was laid
off in the middle of the section and everyone got busy moving wrecks of their
buildings to new locations. We moved our store building but never did move our
farm house. Mr. McMahan bought this entire block, however, when the town was
laid out and when we got ready to move our family over, we built a new house
in which we lived until about fifteen years ago when we built this brick
Mr. McMahan was always teaching or trading
or holding some kind of public office so perhaps I did not know the real lean
days which some of the other pioneer women did. Our house was always open to
the needs or stranger for food or shelter.
I usually managed to send out to Fort
Worth for our clothing and I bought the first sewing machine that was ever
sold in this locality. It was a Singer. There were a few sewing machines which
people had brought with them but mine was the first sewing machine the agent
sold when he came through.
Calico, shirting, needles and thread were
about all the dry goods we carried in the store and Blue mass calomel and
patent medicines were about all the drugs. Mr. McMahan had to compound all his
drugs. He even had to make his own laudanum.
The only epidemics I remember were fever
and smallpox. I had a neighbor who had five children and he and his wife and
all the children were sick at one time with the fever with no one to wait on
them but me and in the midst of their troubles one of my daughters came down
with the fever. The fever was supposed to be caused by polluted water. We had
nothing but shallow wells and cisterns to drink from.
The drug store was a gathering place for
all the people to come to on winter evenings to talk and sometimes they would
come for miles. The ones who lived a few miles away would always trot over for
a visit and the mail.
There was a camp of cowboys in the hollow
near town that was reported to have had a case of smallpox but as they only
remained there a few days it was treated as a rumor.
One night it was rather cold and a little
stray kitten about half grown wandered into the store for warmth. Everyone
around the fire patted it a little for it was a friendly little kitten. In
about nine days every one who was there began to come down with smallpox. It
was thought that this little kitten had scattered the germs of smallpox.
There was a hard snow storm while Mr.
McMahan was teaching. No one was expecting it and some of the children had
their ears frozen and a lot of people got their hands and feet frost bitten.
You could not see ten feet in front of you when the snow storms would come.
The children used to fix a dead-fall for
the birds when the ground was covered with snow and then we would always have
bird pie. The children would sweep clean of snow a place the size of a heavy
plank. Then take a stick about three inches long, tie a string to the stick,
put meal or a little grain under the plank and get back into the house with
one end of the string. I would usually let them have a window up a little to
have the string through. When birds would go under the plank to eat, the
string would be pulled and the plank would hold the birds until the children
could go out and get them.
We could buy all the wild turkeys we
wanted from the Indians for twenty-five cents. I always fried the breasts and
would make a stew of the bony parts. Lots of times the turkeys would be so
young and tender that we could broil them.
Children came ten miles to school in
wagons and sometimes on horseback. Once the school house was blown away and we
had to teach in the back of the drug store for awhile.
After Greer County became part of
Oklahoma, Mr. McMahan was so anxious for a new county to be formed that he
bought a new buggy and two little mules and went all over the country
lecturing and telling people the advantages of having a county seat where we
would not have to go twenty-five miles and more every time court convened. Mr.
McMahan was the first Justice of the Peace in the new county.
The first couple who came to him to get
married found him on the north side of the square. There were no sidewalks nor
buildings. The stopped him and asked him if he would marry them. It was all so
new to him; he had the book in his pocket with the order of procedure in it.
So he reached into his pocket and pulled out his book and said,
"Yes". He proceeded with the ceremony and when he had finished the
bridegroom reached his hand into his pocket and asked, "How much do I owe
Mr. McMahan replied, "Whatever you
want to pay; the county allows me one dollar and one half". The
bridegroom pulled his hand out empty and said, "If the county allows you
a dollar and a half that is enough for marrying any man so I am not going to
pay you anything."
Once after we had built a school house
here in Altus and were still living on the farm a bad sand-storm came up that
the children could not see a yard in front of them. The teacher told them they
could all go home. My oldest daughter had invited several girls home with her
to spend the week-end and because of the dust they were afraid their parents
would not let them visit us. My daughter and her friends all cut out across
the prairie to our home.
They were so long getting home that we
were afraid they were lost; Mr. McMahan had already come home from the store
looking for them. The sand blew for two days and nights so that you could not
see across the lane. When the children would wake up in the morning their ears
would be full of sand. The girls had a good time but they could not go
There were no flys in those days and we
could kill a beef and cover it with a cloth to keep the dirt away and hang it
on the north side of the house and it would not spoil even in the hottest
We never had ice or lemons or oranges to
help out when we were not feeling well and we had to keep our milk cool by
keeping wet cloths around it. Later I had a kind of frame built with shelves
to put the milk on, and I kept a bucket of water on the top shelf and let the
sides stay wet for the wind to blow over and in this way the mild would keep
sweet all day and the butter would stay firm.
The funniest sight I ever saw was when an
old Comanche horse we had would balk and lie right down in the street or river
or any where he happened to take a mind to and bawl. If you never heard a
horse bawl you have no idea what a distressing sound it is. This horse would
usually gather a crowd in a few minutes to see what was the matter, for a
stranger would always think that someone was being beaten.
Mr. McMahan was often referred to as the
daddy of Jackson County.
SUPPLEMENT TO THE MCMAHAN STORY
When Mr. McMahan died a few months ago he
lacked only a few days of being eighty-two years old, although he had come to
this country seeking health and he was always lame from a fever that had
settled in one leg before he came to Oklahoma.
He was accounted the richest man in Greer
County at the time of his death.
Margie Parker McMahan's father, Lawson H. PARKER was born 1810 in South
Carolina. Elizabeth "Barbara" AYRES born about 1828 in Virginia, was
Lawson's second wife. Elizabeth married her first husband, James MAYES in
October of 1849 in Sumner County, Tennessee. After the death of James,
Elizabeth married Lawson about 1854. Margie was most likely born in Denton
County, Texas where Lawson was an assignee of a land patent in April of 1859
for 320 acres. By the summer of 1860, the Parker's had left Texas and returned
to Coffee County, Tennessee. Elizabeth died when Margie was about eight years
of age, and Lawson remarried on November 11, 1868 to Rebecca Jayne MCMAHAN.
Rebecca was the sister of Wesley MCMAHAN. The "Mr. McMahan" referred
to in the interview was John Robert "Buck" MCMAHAN born 1855 in
Cannon County, Tennessee. He was the son of Wesley MCMAHAN (1822-1908) and
Nancy Catherine MCFARLIN (1832-1917).
Submitted to OKGenWeb by Mary Kight <Kite991311@aol.com
> February 2001.