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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: February 1, 1938
Name: Colonel J. B. Queen
Residence Address: Tulsa, Oklahoma 
Field Worker: Effie B. Jackson
Interview #:
Volume 113

An interview with Colonel J. B. Queen, Pioneer Auctioneer

I made the 'run' (1893) from one-half mile east of the 96th Indian Meridian and the line of old Oklahoma and the Cherokee Strip. One-half mile east of me Tom Bowden, a cowboy and Indian, shot three minutes ahead of time (the signal was to be shots from the soldiers at 12 noon). The soldiers stationed along the line to keep it back until the appointed time tried to stop the crowd that poured over the line. In its mad rush the crows stampeded and two soldiers were killed. I had a good swift pony, well-trained. I made my way pretty fast, crossed Black Bear Creek and staked my claim five miles due north of where Perry is today. This was in the center of what in earlier days had been an off-shoot of the old Chisholm Trail, a short cut cattle trail across the Arkansas City. 

Anyone making the run had to register and have his registration number with him. The weather was hot and dry. The one hundred feet of reserved space with in the strip was soon trampled into deep fine dust. The registration booths were placed by the Government in this 100 foot space. With the hot winds and scarcity of water the waiting was anything but pleasant. I found a long line ahead of me and then by 'grape-vine' information I was told that by going to the side entrance of the booth and paying five dollars I could get a number at once. I do not know how the people in charge managed this graft but I do know I got my number quickly. 

I knew the location I wanted; it was the Saddle Horse Pasture of the 4-D Ranch near Good Springs. I missed by one hundred feet. My good little Indian pony had taken me the seventeen miles at a good clip. I tied a piece of my shirt to the rosin wood, found Jack McCarty on the neighboring quarter for a witness, then I went to Perry to make my filing. Like most everyone else I found that my claim had already been filed on. This was another one of the big grafts. This was done to cloud the title and cause you to pay off someone, it occurred on practically all claims. It was handled usually by a real estate shyster. There was one who was notorious, he was nicknamed 'Affidavit' Smith; anyone could make an affidavit on a claim and he would sign and file it. They split with the claim jumper. An ex-deputy United States Marshal was another who was well known for this graft. I had my witness, Jack McCarty, and succeeded in clearing my title. 

To show you how quickly a town can grow over night; there were 15,000 on the Perry townsite, a tent city, and 22,000 registrations there. Of course this included all thugs, pickpockets and outlaws of every kind. While I was standing in line up came two men who knew me in my plains' days, when I was known as "Red the Kid" because of my crack shooting. These men were Bill Butting and Doe Blust [sic], deputy United States Marshals from Hunnewell. They had been part to guard the land office at Perry and keep a semblance of law and order. As soon as they saw me, they deputized me. Word had come through by 'Grape-vine' that there was to be a holdup that night. The first robbery was to be that of the largest saloon, "Hell's Half Acre," then the land office. The Marshals put up their pup tent in front of the land office. Friends of mine in Perry have pictures of this tent in front of the land office. Night came, everything seemed quiet. We unrolled our pallets, strapped on our guns and lay down to rest. Suddenly 'Bang! Bang!' and we knew trouble had started. They had robbed 'Hell's Half Acre" and were making for the land office. We rushed out and found ourselves between two gangs. It seems that a quarrel arose in the gang about the division of the spoils. 'Happy Jack' led one faction and "Three-fingered Jack" the other. Though between the fires, since we represented the law, we soon had the fighting under control. A woman and her husband, who became a well-known Doctor, were also leaders in this fight. I shot her in the arm in order to make her drop her gun. I talked to her and her husband afterward about it; they said it was their love of adventure. "Happy Jack" was seriously wounded, died on the train while they were taking to Wichita. They asked him for information but his only answer was, "I'll die ga__" 

When I returned to my claim I found that claim-jumpers had taken charge in my absence, had put up a tent, stable and had a large amount of wire ready to fence it. Calling my good neighbor, McCarty, by use of guns we were able to drive them off. They thought they would make some money by having me buy them off; another graft. I put up a 14 x 16 frame house, dug a well, found water at the depth of 16 feet, and brought my family to live on it. I kept my holding for a year. Sickness and hardship caused me to give it up and take what I could get for my improvements. This is what happened to so many, especially those that had made heavy investments. So there were a great many holdings for sale and plenty of newcomers hunting a 'good-buy'. This gave me an idea, I would become an auctioneer. I had always been a good mixer, and weighed about 250, was six feet tall, was pretty well-known and could always tell a good story. 

After selling out I moved to Perry. I remember the first auction I 'cried', we always called it 'crying' at auctions. Auctioneers were in such demand that later on I found there were fifty-five in that part of the country. I had plenty of competition. The first year was slow, the second better and after that I was in demand all the time. I recall my first big farm sale, it was for Charles Colcord who was moving to Oklahoma City. Colcord had the finest farm near Perry. He had good machinery, saddle horses, imported stock. It was during Cleveland's administration and things were slow. J. C. Scruggs was chief auctioneer; he was to 'cry' the first-hand stuff and I was to handle second choice. We made a great day of it. Colcord was advertised it well, big barbecue, etc. It was my 'big day' too, for my sales of secondary stuff totaled 2,000.00 more than Scruggs. The commission was 2%. The next big farm sale was the Handley Ranch. Handley had leased some 9,000 acres from the Otoes, and stocked it with a big bunch of Shorthorns and other blooded stock. His sister in the East were staking him. Finally, not liking the way receipts were coming, they sent out an investigator and had a receiver appointed, who in turn put everything up for auction. That auction gave me a big send-off. From that time on I was 'Colonel' J. B. Queen. 

Am amusing incident returns to mind. Sometimes the little fellow resorted to auction. Often he had only a few possessions, cows and horses, but maybe the amount would take him and his family 'back home'. In this case the family had come from the East. They brought all their worldly possessions, especially their 'high society' clothes. Even the clothes, which had not been used, were put on the block, among them a 'spike-tailed' coat. A fellow named Akins, who later ran for Sheriff of Perry, bought that coat. He really needed a coat, but that 'spike-tail' which he wore during his campaign may have helped to win him the election. He was a Populist, they fused with the Democrats, so without the coat he might have won anyway. 

Transcribed for OKGenWeb by Catherine Widener March 2002.