A Patchwork of Memories
I was born in Osborn, Kansas before the turn of the century, one of nine children, 7 girls and 2 boys. My father, William Murrell was a grain miller by trade, and moved our family from Kentucky to Osborn Kansas in about 1884. Later he purchased a farm in Fairview, Oklahoma and we traveled across the prairie in two covered wagons. When we arrived in Hoisington, Kansas, he traded a mule for provisions and food, and we had our first taste of Karo corn syrup, before we used molasses.
Arriving on the new land, we built a home with a dugout foundation, the upper half being constructed of logs, and with a dirt roof. Inside the walls were whitewashed and the ceiling logs were covered with soft unbleached muslin. I remember with pride the beauty of our home. Mother's beautiful carpet warmed the earthen floor. Our dinner table with its old fashioned chairs seated many a guest, always welcome in our home. Father could make anything and he made the trundle beds that we children slept on. Mother's prize possession was the red velvet couch she brought from Kentucky. I remember on rainy days my sisters and I would crawl beneath the bed to play with paper dolls cut from the catalog and avoid the leaky roof.
Father decided to build a new house for us and he traveled by horse and wagon four days ride to and from Enid, Oklahoma, to purchase the lumber. The house was nearing completion and much to my dismay, someone made Father an offer to buy the entire farm. My three sisters were studying to become teachers in Alva, and I told them to come home and cry a lot, to stop Father from selling our new house; that we hadn't even had a chance to live in! But all was for naught.
We left Fairview, Father having agreed to sell the new house and farm in trade for a 160 acre farm with a rooming house and store in Okeene, Oklahoma. Our family moved in to the rooming house and we rented rooms to boarders and ran the store for a while, until Father built yet another house. The town in 1890 was predominately German immagrants most of whom did not speak English. I remember in the country school I was one of only five children who spoke English in the whole school. My three sisters became teachers in the nearby country schools and were hired at a salary of $25.00 per month.
Sadly my sister, Lula, contacted typhoid fever from drinking cistern water and died. My father gave 10 acres of land for a cemetery because the town did not have one, and Lula was the first person to be buried there; her headstone was the first in the Murrell family plot.
At age l4, I worked after school as a telephone operator, running the switchboard in town. When persons called, I'd say, " Number please?" and plugging in the wire to the right number, I would ring up the party by cranking the bell myself. My pay was $14.00 per month. My sisters thought this was a considerable sum of money and they wanted me to buy a surrey with fringe on top. So I made arrangements with Hockday Hardware Store to buy on account a beautiful two seated surrey for about $75.00. What fond memories I have of those days riding about in that beautiful surrey.
A friend worked for the Provident Association of Kansas City (Welfare Dept.) and I thought her work sounded appealing. So I moved to Kansas City to attend the Kansas City National College to study social work. I lived there in a boarding house, with 100 girls for 3 years. The President of the college advised me of a job opportunity with Travelers Aid in Souix City, Iowa. It interested me and I took the job. My services were located in the Railroad Station of the Northwestern Railroad. I loved my work and enjoyed being able to be of assistance to travelers in trouble. I saw many famous persons and entertainers over the years, as most people traveled by train. Living at the YWCA my room and board was $25.00 per month and to supplement my income, at night I worked their switchboard. After two years had passed, I yearned to be closer to my family again and returned to Okeene.
Once again I went to work for Travelers Aid moving first to St. Joseph, Mo., and finally to Tulsa, Oklahoma where my Travelers Aid office was in the Frisco Station. I had to be at work by 7:00 am to meet the No. 10, a long passenger train from Oklahoma City going to St. Louis. One morning in 1921 while I was walking to work along Boulder, a car passed me loaded with men holding guns. I asked, what was the matter and the answer was that all colored town was on fire. I walked on to the station where hundreds of colored people were gathered. There was a dead man lying across the tracks just north of the station. The station seemed to be the dividing line and everything to the north had been burned. This day became known as the Tulsa Race Riot.
The station manager said to me, " Go to the churches and places where colored people are staying and see if you can find any of them Red Caps or Porters." I went over to Greenwood where the colored people lived to see what had happened to their homes. Their homes had been broken into, the furniture and dishes smashed and everything had been destroyed. One man said to, " This is the work of the poor class of colored and the "white trash". They never had anything and never hoped to and they were the troublemakers."
When I returned to the Railroad Station the police were there asking people questions. They went to the ladies room and asked Stella the colored maid if she had any arms in there? Holding up her arms she answered, "Just the two God gave me".
Following World War I, many soldiers were disabled and the Veterans Bureau requested I become a "Guardian of The Soldiers". Each month I received 5 soldier's government checks and handled any financial arrangements they might require. For this service I was paid 5% of their check. Setting aside this extra income, I was able to purchase some land and build a home in South Tulsa. One could reach my place by riding a dirt road from 15th Street to what is now 33rd Place and Peoria. At the edge of my property an oil well stood in the middle of the street. In those days many wells were drilled between Peoria and Riverside. Today the city limits pass me by, on that half acre I call home. <complete>
THE CIMARRON RIVER
By MABEL MURRELL
We had gone to Alva, Oklahoma to see my sisters Kate and Ruth who were in school there. I remember Olie, Bessie and Mabel (myself) traveled together. We had gone in a wagon pulled by two horses. There were no bridges in those days and we had to cross the Cimarron River. When we came to the river it was full, the water flowing swiftly from bank to bank. People were looking at the river for the waves were high and covered with foam.
Among us was the mail carrier. He had not been able to cross for several days. The river was wide at this point, perhaps a half mile or more. It had quicksand which made it more dangerous for those who didn't know the location. We did not need to be told not to try to cross. If we got in the quicksand we would sink down rapidly. Anyone trying to pull us out would sink too. The safest way to help was to throw a rope in and pull the person out.
We were not far from a town called Isabell, Oklahoma. We knew a friend living there and we went to see her, to ask if we could stay. We spent most of our time on the banks of the river just waiting. At last there came a day after about a half a week that the mail carrier was going to try to cross. We watched him from the bank. His horses had to swim as soon as they entered the water. The buggie rolled around, at times it looked like it was going to turn over or go down altogether. The horses would fall, their heads going under the water, but they kept on swimming. Everyone clapped and cheered when the mail carrier reached the other side.
We were next in line. They told us to keep a straight line and to follow the road which was then underwater. Olie took the reins. We held to each other as we entered the water. There was a big drop as the wagon hit bottom. Sometimes it looked like we would all be taken down the river. Olie kept on, holding the horses in line. Sometimes one horse would fall and then cause the other to go under too. Each time the wagon would sway from side to side. We were so scared we couldn't talk until we reached the other side. There was much rejoicing and crying as we made safe landing. We were very thankful.
"Oh I never saw the ocean,
I never saw the sea. But
on the banks of the Cimarron
is good enough for me!"
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