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Chapter 13 Havin' Fun and Takin' It Easy by John Hamill and Peggi Ridgway
[This chapter is devoted the to current (1979 when the book was published) entertainment in Tulsa. Although the chapter discusses the Wills brothers and other famous entertainers who called Tulsa home there is nothing about the very early days of Tulsa. Excellent and interesting reading but nothing to add to these snippets.]
Chapter 14 Just Wanting to do What's Right by Ellen Sue Blakey
<Pg 178> .... Overall it [Tulsa] is a level-headed conglomerate of people who generally tend to want to do what is right.
.... Tulsa's heritage is far from quiet or peace-loving. Before the Eastern "Civilized" Indian tribes were transported west, the land that was to become Oklahoma was occupied by the nomadic Plains Indians, along with a smattering of hunters, traders, trappers and explorers. There was no law, only that which each person, family or tribe imposed or agreed upon.
When the Civilized tribes gained their balance after deportation from their southern homes, they established constitutions based on laws governing their former home states. Creek laws, which governed what was to become a large portion of Tulsa, were explicit. Murder was punishable by death, whether the person had actually committed the murder or caused it to occur. Bodily harm or injury resulted in a fine for damages or an amount of work equal in value to the fine, for the benefit of the injured party. <Pg 179> Arsonists had to repay full damages and endure 100 lashes upon the bare back. Rapists received 50 lashes, or death by shooting for a second offense. Thieves received 50 lashes for the first offense, 100 for the second and death by shooting for the third, with the injured party receiving full damages.
When the court sentence was death by shooting, the defendant was released on his own recognizance until the execution day. Not one Creek ever failed to show for his own execution. If he had, he would have been branded a coward and denied a home in the eternal hunting grounds with his ancestors.
Creek laws, however, applied only to tribal members. Since Indian Territory was not a full-fledged state, white men who moved in were not bound by any laws. For this reason the US government in 1866 established courts in Indian Territory. The court for the Tulsa area was Fort Smith, Arkansas. The federal judge had jurisdiction over all civil cases (except those between Indians of blood) and misdemeanors in criminal cases, excluding felonies.
The first case in court was a replevin for a stallion. The case continued so long, however that both parties died, as did the stallion. Damages were finally assessed, but were never collected.
If the Creeks - and others in the twin territories - were generally moral, they were not necessarily teetotalers. Their lack of physical tolerance for the white man's firewater caused the federal government to enact drastic regulations in the 1870s to protect the American Indian by outlawing liquor in Indian Territory. The Western half - Oklahoma Territory - had no such law, however and saloons were numerous. As a result, an illicit liquor trade quickly sprang up, and dealers in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas plied their trade just far enough from the borders to exist beyond the law's reach. The north side of the Arkansas River leading to Fort Gibson was known as Whiskey Road and federal agents worked the trail frequently, and with success. Tulsa contributed its share in the regular roundups of bootleggers. Their sentences were often severe.
... Cowboys added another colorful element to Tulsey Town. The men who worked the nearby ranches often celebrated payday by riding into town, drinking much in a short time, then riding up and down the streets firing at lighted windows or over the heads of the citizens, who screamed obligingly. They were even known to turn Christmas festivities into near riots, shooting off guns in church, throwing whiskey bottles at the Christmas tree and drowning out everyone else's singing with their loud voices. However, they were usually apologetic later and paid the damages or gave liberally to the church or women's group sponsoring the events.
A more sinister group of cattle and horse thieves moved into the Territory after the Civil War, luring disgruntled cowboys into their camp. From this combination came the nucleus of the outlaws that became prevalent in the territory during the next few decades.
To control such elements, an army of U S deputy marshals, employed by the federal court to hunt down criminals would hire a posse for a hunting expedition and arm them with a number of warrants. As one young woman described the, they were "dressed for the hunt of an escaping criminal, with two belts of cartridges around the waist, six-shooters in evidence, and a Winchester hanging from the saddle .. they looked like desperadoes themselves".
.... Oldtimers claimed they returned with 50 to 100 prisoners, and Tulsa was a regular stop on these manhunts. The posse would eat at the hotel, guns across their knees. Outlaws, it is said, paused on Standpipe Hill to study the hitchracks through field glasses to see if the marshals' familiar horses were there.
Several outlaw gans, which had hideouts in the hills outside Tulsa, engaged in organized horse stealing, train robberies, store holdups and in some cases, crimes against lonely settlers. There was the Cook gang, the Glass gang and the Doolins. The Buck gang was a ruthless group consisting of Maomi July, Sam Sampson, Rufus Buck (a Euchee Indian), Lewis David (a Creek) and Luck Davis (freedman), who terrorized settlers and raped the women.
<Pg 180> ... And there were the Daltons who hid out near Tulsa and the Turkey Track Ranch area. They were remembered rather affectionately as courteous and kindly to Tulsas, although their lurid escapades willed the border press.
... Not all difficulty was with the outlaw class. ... Difficulties between neighbors were built into the Territory. When the land runs opened western Oklahoma for settlement, every man was pitted against every other. Those who won land ownership were often the greedy and selfish. Some killed for it. Others robbed. Others continued court battles over the land for years; sometimes the person in the right lost for lack of money to continue a court battle. Thus, injustice and criminality were fostered for a decade or more and became the basis of much of Oklahoma's population.
Many who did not gain land in the runs settled in Tulsa instead. This made an important impression on the small tow, for it mean families - the basis of civilization.
... Despite their [women] influence, however, Tulsa remained a tough town. There were periodic drunken brawls and some killings. ... but the discovery of oil brought even more lawless elements. ... Gambling houses opened as rapidly as second-story locations were made available. Tents and shacks were scattered throughout the business district. Rentals were high, but shady entrepreneurs took anything that resembled shelter. In spite of the marshals, beer .. and bootleg liquor was sold openly.
... Keystone, located west of Tulsa and just across the border from Indian Territory became the central storehouse for liquor to be transported in the dry district.
[When OK became a state in 1907 it did so with a prohibition clause. The remainder of this chapter discusses Oklahoma's problems stemming from the prohibition clause. Also mentioned are the outlaws of more modern day Tulsa ... Pretty Boy Floyd, "Ma" Barker and her gang who lived at 401 N Cincinnati Ave.]
Final Chapter The Tulsa Spirit Lives by Jim Henderson and Larry Silvey
A nice two page summation of what this book has been about - Tulsa Spirit.
Tulsa Spirit Index
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Contact: Linda Haas Davenport