An interview with
W. M. GARDNER
Interview with W. M. GARDNER
Post Office: Tuskahoma, Oklahoma
Interviewer: Johnson H. Hampton
Date of Interview: August 10, 1937
Transcribed & Submitted by: Teresa Young
I was born November 4,
1864 at Saint Charles, Missouri, and moved to Talihina, Oklahoma, then
Choctaw Nation in 1887. My sister, a man by the name of R. B. HENDRICKS, and
myself together moved here and located at Talihina. My father died in
Missouri, and my mother died in Jack County, Texas.
We came over in a
covered wagon drawn by three yoke of oxen. When we located at Talihina, we
lived in a sawmill shack. We had no furniture except what we brought in our
wagon, and that was very little. When we got located, I went to work on the
mountain, logging for a sawmill. The sawmill was owned by a man named JEROME
CLAYTON. I logged with oxen. The country around there was fine as it had
good grass, and we did not have to feed our stock but very little.
oxen I had to log with had to be fed. I left there and came to Tuskahoma, a
small town on the Frisco Railroad, where I logged for the LONG-BELL LUMBER
COMPANY who was running a sawmill near Tuskahoma in the mountains.
still used my oxen to log with. I then quit there and went to logging for AL
CHANEY, who was running a sawmill out in the mountains. I used eight yoke of
oxen on this job. I worked for him for a while, then quit and went to
logging for R. N. HURD, who was running a sawmill near there. I was using my
oxen on this job. We had to use oxen for the country was yet wild and no
roads anywhere. We had to make our own roads to get out of the mountains and
it sure was rough country. It was on the Kiamichi Mountains where I was
logging at that time. The mountains were full of yellow pine timber and it
was fine timber too. They were supposed to pay the Choctaws royalty on every
thousand feet they cut, but I am sure that some of them did not pay the
Choctaws anything. They just stole the timber from the Choctaws, thereby the
Choctaws lost the best timber they had. At that time the country was full of
cedar and white oak timber; in fact, any kind of timber anyone would want
and it was fine at that time.
When I first came to the Nation the
Frisco Railroad had been finished about a year. There were very few white
people in the country; there were some around the sawmills and in the towns
but none out in the country. This was a fine country then before it was
settled by the white people.
There has not been anything very
important happened while I have been here. The Choctaws never had anything
like the western Indians. It seemed they just didn't care to have them. They
had some dances but they were just like the white people dance. I have lived
here for a long time but I never did see war dances. I have heard of them
but so far as I know I never did see the dance. I saw an Indian Ball game a
long time ago. I don't know just what county played, but I know they sure
pulled off a hard fight before they started to play the game and they had
fights all during the game.
When I quit logging, I rented a farm from
an Indian by the name of P.J. HUDSON and lived there for about 20 years. I
was farming near the Choctaw Capital where the Choctaws held their Council
every year. We raised plenty of corn and lots of everything else. We did not
raise any cotton for there were no gins around the country and it was too
far to haul it to Paris, Texas, or anywhere else. We raised cattle and hogs.
We had some ponies, they of course became wild and were hard to handle, for
the country was open and no fences to be seen. The only way we could catch
our ponies was to build a corral out in the woods by cutting down trees and
making a wing about a mile long. Then we would get after the ponies, run
them for about two days, then get them into the chute and in the wing that
leads to the corral; get behind them and run them into the corral before
they knew what was up.
We came over here thinking that we could make
some money. That is what the white people thought when they came over in the
Territory so we came over for that purpose. I thought that I would make
enough money to put me in good shape then I would move back to Missouri. I
did make the money; it was the best opportunity I ever saw for any man who
wanted to do what was right and treat the Indians right, and try to make
money, which I did. I made lots of money, but I finally decided that I would
stay here, so I am still here in the Old Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.
When we first landed here, wild game such as deer, turkey and fish were
plentiful; wolves, panthers, and bears were in the mountains. All a person
had to do was to put his gun on his shoulder and go out a few yards from his
house to kill a turkey or a deer. People at that time did not waste game by
killing it and letting it stay out in the woods and rot. Nothing like that
was done. There were a few bear hunters. There were a good many bears in the
mountains, but they were hard to find unless there was a bear hunter to find
one to kill.
I used to pay a permit to the Choctaw Nation every year.
That was the taxes we had to pay. It cost us $5.00 per year to live here and
the man, who was just a hand without any team, paid $2.50 per year. That
entitled him to have as much stock as he wanted, and was just like any
Indian. The only thing they could not do to any one was they could not
prosecute him in their courts, but he was subject to the Federal Court which
was located at Paris, Texas and at Fort Smith, Arkansas. We used to have all
the game and fish we wanted to eat, and do anything that any Indian did
after we paid our permits.
When we located at Talihina, we traded
there for we could get anything we wanted at the company store. It belonged
to the sawmill man and we who worked for him had to trade with him, and it
was the same at Tuskahoma.
I have lived with and around the Choctaws
ever since I moved to the Nation, and have made lots of trades with them,
and I have found them to be honest and dependable, their word just as good
as gold. I never had any trouble with any one of them in these fifty years I
have been with them and lived around and among them. I have been in the
hotel business for several years here at Tuskahoma and I have fed lots of
Indians during the time.
The Choctaw Capital was at Tuskahoma and the
capitol building was standing when I first moved here. The Choctaws would
meet every year and hold their Council. I had a livery stable then; I used
to haul them to the capitol day and night. Of course, I made money by taking
them to the Council House. Had a man by the name of J. H. SOMMONS to drive
the hack. He had lots of fun out of the Indians who came on the train about
half drunk and sometimes all drunk.
The Female Academy was built
after I came to Tuskahoma. It was a good girls’school and there used to be
lots of girls attending that school. They came from everywhere to this
school and my hack was always ready to take them to the Academy. This school
finally burned down and was never rebuilt.
The Antlers American, 11 Dec 1952, page 1
GARDNER RITES ARE
CONDUCTED IN TUSKAHOMA
Death claimed WILLIAM GARDNER, an Oklahoman
since 1883 and one of the last pioneers of Pushmataha County, at 9 p.m.,
Wednesday, December 3 in his Tuskahoma residence at the age of 87 years.
Last tributes were paid at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, December 7, in the High
School Gymnasium at Tuskahoma, the Reverend PAUL BUSBY, Methodist minister
in charge. Judge EARL WELCH of Antlers, a member of the state supreme court,
gave the eulogy.
Mr. GARDNER was born on November 9, 1865 in St.
Charles County, Missouri. He was living in Tuskahoma when the Choctaw
Council House was completed in 1887. In 1895, he and his first wife, FANNIE
MATHIS, were married. Mrs. GARDNER died in 1938.
Survivors of this
union are TRUEWORTH and W. R. GARDNER, both of Antlers; Mrs. GLADYS WARREN
of Oklahoma City; SLETIS GARDNER of Avenal, Calif.; Mrs. ARTHUR TOLBERT of
Tulsa; six grandchildren and one great grandchild. Other survivors are a
sister, Mrs. BURL HENDRICKS of Tuskahoma and a brother, JOE GARDNER of
Tahoma, Washington. He and ANNIE KIRKPATRICK were married February 10, 1945,
who also survives.
Active bearers were CLINT LEWIS, OLEY BAGGS, NEWT
HOOSER, GARLAND BLAGG, all of Tuskahoma; WHARTON MATHIS of Clayton and JOHN
HELM of Antlers.
Honorary bearers were ED FITZGERALD, J. N. VANLOON,
JOHNNY GRAY, WALTER ELKINS, GENE HAYNES, BUD LEFLORE, BILL HOWDESHELL, HENRY
WHITE, ALLEN FITZGERALD, JOHNNY CLEATON, JOHNNY BALDWIN, PETE GARVIN, J. D.
Mr. GARDNER was primarily a farmer and stockman but for a
number of years he was engaged in the hotel business in Tuskahoma. He was of
the Methodist faith. He was widely known in this part of Oklahoma.
Interment in the Old Town Cemetery near the old council house was directed
by the Coffey Funeral Home of Antlers.
Transcribed & Submitted by Teresa Young
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