The Beginning of Tulsa
By J. M. Hall (1927)
(c) Karolyn Kay Garland (1997)
Nothing here is free for the taking. This book is reproduced here with the permission of the copyright holder - see copyright statement.
Under an Act of Congress in May, 1900, the townsite commission was appointed to survey the streets and lots in the various towns in the Creek nation. J. Gus Patton had charge of this work in Tulsa. He had been instructed by the Indian agent to leave 300 feet south of the tracks for the railroad company and 100 feet on the north side The business men wired their good friend, the general manager of the Frisco in St Louis calling his attention to the agreement made a few years before and requesting him to wire the Indian agent to instruct Patton that but 200 feet were to be left south of the tracks and 100 feet on the north side. This was done and ended the disputes over the streets.
There was another line of business in early Tulsa that has passed with the years. It was the business of cutting and selling walnut logs. There was plenty of splendid walnut timber on the Arkansas river and T. E. Smiley and M. B Baird were engaged in the business of marketing it. They had many teams of oxen and mules to haul these logs to the railway station, and employed a force of men to cut them down and saw them.
Jack Wimberly was the owner of a number of yoke of these oxen and the log-wagons in use then. This industry was a boon to early Tulsa for Baird and Smiley always gave employment to work men who really were badly in need of money. Mr. Baird died several years ago. Mr. Smiley is still living in Tulsa.
PETITION CREEK COUNCIL
Some years before the townsite commission was named a dozen selected white men of the town held several secret meetings for the purpose of formulating a petition to be presented to the Creek council by certain influential Indians requesting the council to memoralize the government to enter an agreement with the Indians setting aside a certain number of acres for a townsite in each town in the Creek nation.
There were a number of prominent Creek citizens in Tulsa. The white men did not want it known that they had anything to do with the move. Honorable Leo Bennett. an inter-married citizen of the Creek nation and also the Indian agent at Muskogee, visited Tulsa occasionally. One night the writer made the remark to him that it would not be any trouble to get the money to pay for the townsite that money could be advanced to those who were not able at the time to pay for their lots. Someone overheard that remark and it led to an exciting incident in the new village.
In a day or so the writer had business in St. Louis and Judge Tollett, the United States commissioner, went along, There was to be a Democratic rally there and William Jennings Bryan was to speak. The report was started that the two had gone east to get the money to pay the Creeks for townsites and that we were going to make those already settled on lots pay large prices for their property. It had been the understanding that all settlers were to get their lots at cost and the remaining property in the townsite would be disposed of subject to any agreement reached between the Creeks and the government officials.
MASS MEETING CALLED
While the unsuspecting Tulsans lingered in St. Louis there was much excitement in Tulsa it was helped along by an unreliable fellow who had neither a lot nor a home. A mass meeting was called for a designated time. It happened that the writer and the judge returned on the afternoon train, a few hours before the meeting, which was held up stairs in the store building at the corner of First and Main streets.
The hall was full of men, half of whom were not interested except in a fight. An honest old fellow we all knew well was drunk, so he was made the chairman. He wanted to know why the meeting was called. One fellow made a statement of what he had heard-that some men were trying to buy the townsite from the Creeks and make the white businessmen pay high prices for their lots.
The writer was called upon to state what his business had been in St. Louis. He replied and also stated that when the townsites were available everyone would be treated alike.
Judge Tollett was called upon. He was thoroughly aroused and scored the scandal mongers. "Tulsa is too small for both me and the man who started the report that we are trying to pull off a dishonorable deal," he shouted, "If I find out who it was I'll call him face to face." A drunken man who had had a hand in calling the meeting was present. A respectable man who was well known had said a lot. A motion was made that these two formulate a petition and present it to the Creek council. The farcial idea of
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