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Indian Pioneer Papers

Pushmataha County

Indian Pioneer Papers

An interview with
Dunbar, Oklahoma

An Interview with W. G. YOUNG, A Pioneer
Post Office: Dunbar, Oklahoma
September 22, 1937

I was born February 11, 1861, at Mallogo, Missouri. I was about thirty years old when I landed in the Indian Territory, Choctaw Nation at Stanley. I came to the Choctaw Nation on the train by myself as my parents did not come until later years. When they did come to this country they came on the train and no one else came with them. They came to where I was, in fact, I sent for them and they lived here in this country for a number of years. Finally, they both died and are buried at an old schoolhouse. It was a Choctaw school house but I have forgotten the name of it as it has been out of existence for a long time. It is located out on a creek which is called One Creek.

I had no family of my own when I came here and have no family now as I have been a bachelor all of my life. I had some relatives who had moved to this country a few years before I came and they wrote and told us that it was a fine country with great opportunities for a man who wanted to make money and to make an easy living. I decided that I would come to this country and see for myself, but before I got started a man by the name of SHORT who had a sawmill at Stanley offered me a job if I would come with him. He had been down to this country running a sawmill. I had already decided that I would come anyway so I just came with him. Before I started, I asked him about the Indians, how they were, and if they wore blankets, and how the white people got along with them; in fact, I wanted to know all about them before I came down. He told me that few of them were trading with him at the commissary he had for his man, and they were just like we were, they were harmless, and did not bother anyone, and that some of them had a pretty good education. He said that he had one that was working for him in the office and that he was more dependable than the white men, so I wanted to see one of them. When we got off the train it was in the night, and the next morning I went to the office to see this Indian. He was in the office, and I went around and took a good look at him. He spoke to me, and I to him, and he surely did speak good English. He was a fine man after I got well acquainted with him. That was the first experience with the Choctaw Indians.

I went out in the woods and began to cut logs for the sawmill. I cut logs for this man for several years, and he finally moved his mill to somewhere else, then I went to work for someone else. The sawmills were few there then, and the timber was fine. It was pine timber and white oak, and the sawmill man was supposed to pay the Indian royalty on the timber he cut by the thousands of feet, but I don't think that the Indians got much out of it. After they cut the best timber along the railroad tracks, they then moved out of the Nation and went somewhere else. Some sawmill was set up later, but the best timber had been cut out. Still, there was lots of timber left that was not of the best, but it made good lumber at that, I worked in pine timber for years, then I went to farming and I am still on the farm now, raising corn, cotton, and feedstuff.

When I first landed in this country there were no white people here; except some around the sawmills and they had no schools. They had no churches either. In fact, the white people that were working at these sawmills were wilder than the Indians were. They would go hunting on Sundays for they did not know what Sunday meant. That is one thing you won't catch an Indian doing, going hunting on Sundays, and they won't go fishing on Sundays.

We loaded the lumber on cars which were shipped out of the Nation. They loaded several cars a day, as it was a fairly large size sawmill at that time and I think that it cut about fifty thousand feet or board feet per day. Lumber was loaded on cars as I said, and shipped out. Stanley was a small village, a sawmill town in other words. They had a planer there where they planed the lumber and shipped it out just as they did the lumber that was not planned.

When I first landed in Stanley, there was lots of wild game in the country and lots of fish on the Kiamichi River. This sawmill I am talking about was on the river, and there were some bears on the mountains and wolves, panthers and lots of wildcats. Some of the men would go out and kill deer and turkeys at any time they wanted, and up in the mountains, there were lots of wild hogs. The man would kill them when they ran out of meat. They surely were wild, and they would run a man up a tree any time they saw one, so we had to be careful when we were out in the woods hunting.

I think that I saw one Indian ball game played. They had a small ball, about as big as a good-sized marble, but it was heavy and was just as solid as it could be. These Indians could throw the ball with their ball sticks just as straight as a rifle could shoot. They threw the ball about two hundred yards usually, but some could throw it farther than that. Their goals were about three hundred yards apart, and they used about twenty-five men to play the game. Several of us white men went out to see the game and we surely did see a ball game. They did not start fighting for a good while after the game started but they finally did get to fighting. They used the ball sticks which they had, but no one was killed. However, several of them were bruised pretty badly. If they knocked one player out, they would pull him out under a tree and then go on with the game. They played until dark but I don't think that they finished the game that day.

I have attended some Indian dances, but they were square dances. I have heard that they used to have war dances, but that was during the war. They danced just like the white people did around the sawmill, in fact, I think that they learned it from these sawmillers.

I have attended Choctaw camp meetings. Some of us white people would go to see them at their church, and they would have good meetings. Everything went off just fine. They would not let the men sit with the women but they would let the men sit on the left of the door, and the women sit on the right of the door. They would not let the men sit with the women under any circumstances. If a man happened to get over on the woman's side, they would go get him and put him over on the men's side. I have attended Indian cries. They usually had them at the grave of the deceased Indian. They would gather around the grave and cry. The graves would usually have a small house over them, made out of squared logs and covered over with boards. The Indians would have a big dinner and they then would go home. Nearly everybody would cry whether he was related to the dead Indian or not. If he was at the grave of his friend he would sit down and cry the same as if the dead Indian was a relative of his.

One of the churches I used to attend is still in existence. It was there when I came over and attended my first Indian meetings. It is out about two miles east of what is now Finley, Oklahoma. It was built out of logs then and the seats were made of split logs. Since that time, they have built a frame house with seats made of planks. This church was a Methodist Church and it is still in existence in the same building. It is called the Old Cedar Church and there have been several Indians killed at this church, while the church was going on. However, it did not seem to bother anyone there as they would put him in the wagon and take him home, and the meeting would go on without stopping.

The only trouble that amounted to anything was the LOCKE and JONES War. It was between the JONES men and the LOCKE men who were camped across the Kiamichi River north of where Antlers, Oklahoma is now. That fight took place about 1893. They shot the LOCKE house all to pieces but did not kill anyone. There must have been three or four hundred shots fired, but no one killed. At the time the fight took place there were about seven men that LOCKE had in his house, which made it about seven to one hundred and fifty of the militia on the other side, but no one killed. After the fight, they made their camps, but before they got together again, the soldiers came from somewhere, about one company of the militia and stopped the war between these two men. The Indians all went home safe and sound. This man JONES was Governor of the Nation at the time this fight took place between him and LOCKE.

I have lived here among the Indians ever since I came. I want to say that they are all good men, honest, and true, and we sawmillers never were bothered by them at any time; I surely do like them.

I will say for them, that they have been robbed and cuffed around all their lives by the white people who came in here for that purpose. All of them with whom I have come in contact are my friends and I have had dealings with them enough to know that their words may be relied upon. If other people were just half as good as the Choctaw Indians the country would be much better to live in.

I am now living at Dunbar, about three miles from where I first landed when I came to this country. I guess I will stay here the rest of my life. I own a little farm here and raise what I need on it.

Information from Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma.
Johnson H. Hampton, Investigator

Transcribed & Submitted by Teresa Young
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