Sunday, December 25, 2011

Snowflakes for a Very Merry Christmas Time!

I am up and about early this Christmas morning greeting Santa and waiting for my family to wake.  When I think of Christmas time I think of the hustle and bustle of shopping, decorating our home with festive family treasures, and the tremendous joy of family gathered together to celebrate the season.  I am so happy to be able to spend this time with my wonderful family!

I have always associated Christmas with hot chocolate, warm fires and snow.  It rarely, if ever, snows where I live.   Oh, we can find snow alright, but  to do so we would have to take a two hour drive to the mountains.  Alternatively,  there are plenty of paper and plastic "snowflakes" hanging in all of the local stores.  Some of these "snowflakes" are really beautiful, and some...not so much.

Although real snowflakes are ephemeral, they are beautiful and mesmerizing in their complexity.  In 1885, Wilson A. Bentley of Vermont produced actual photographs of snowflakes.  "Snowflake" Bentley, as he became known, created a process using an old microscope, a bellows camera and a black velvet surface to capture over 5,000 images of snowflakes during his lifetime.

W. A. Bentley Snowflake, 1890

Bentley described snowflakes as "tiny miracles of beauty" and "ice flowers".    I have included a few selected images on this page.  You can view many other Bentley snowflakes, however,  by browsing The Bentley Collection website here.

Sadly,  "Snowflake" Bentley died as a result of his work.  He contracted pneumonia after walking for miles through a blizzard to capture more photographs of snowflakes.  He passed away just two days before Christmas in the year 1931.

"Snowflake" Bentley at work


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mothers and Sons

The Sepia Saturday prompt for this week is a beautiful photograph of Princess Marie-Gabrielle of Bavaria in a loving embrace with her son Prince Luitpold taken sometime during the second decade of the twentieth century.   The prompt reminded me of all of the photo sessions I have had with my children through the years.   My husband and I both enjoy taking pictures of our children and I am convinced we have thoroughly documented each of their lives!  There were many photos of my son and I in our collection that I could have chosen to match what I saw as this week's theme:  the loving bond between mother and son.   Rather than look for a photo from my own life, I decided to look instead for a photograph of my father with  his mother.  My father was born in 1917, so a baby picture with his mother would represent a comparable era to the photo of this Bavarian Princess and her son and would thus be apropos.

My father's mother was the strength of his family.    Born in Tennessee in 1891, she  traveled west as a youngster with her family in a covered wagon pulled by oxen.   They settled in Oklahoma territory at the turn of the century living initially in a half-dugout earthen home as was common for folks in the area.  Like her father, she became a school teacher when she came of age, and continued a career in the classroom until she became too old to go on.   She and my grandfather were married in 1915.  While he took up farming initially, my grandfather later tried his hand at other businesses (insurance, construction, etc).  He was not a good businessman and did not manage money well over the years, which was most likely a strong factor in my grandparents' eventual separation.   My grandmother's teaching career became the sole source of income for the family.

My grandmother was not Bavarian and was definitely not a princess,  but she and my dad had a very strong and loving relationship throughout their lives.   He often talked of her with both pride and respect.   In his later years he wrote of her, "She had a tremendous love and loyalty to her family absolutely seeing and accepting no wrong in any family member."  He went on to say, "She possessed tremendous strength both physically, mentally and emotionally.  She was a fighter for her beliefs, stubborn in her thoughts, loyal church member, proud of community."  He concluded "one could only be proud to have her as a mother.  Hats off Mother, to a life well spent."

When I came across the photograph below I chuckled and thought it would be a perfect selection for this week's post.  It shows that while relationships can be strong and loving, there will always be little spats along the way.  Oh, what I would give to know how old he was and what restriction my grandmother may have placed on my father the day he did this:

Please click Sepia Saturday to visit the other posts for this week.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Muddled Comanche Command at a Wichita Village

U.S. Army Major Earl Van Dorn was anxious to fulfill his new orders to march against the Comanches.    The Texas Rangers had been having success pursuing maurading Indians deep into their own home territory.  The U.S. Army, embarassed by their own lack of success, had recently authorized a change in strategy in Texas: commanders no longer had to wait and launch responses to attacks, but could now emulate the Rangers and actually initiate action against the Indians, even if it meant going deep into Comancheria.   Anxious to follow through on the Army's new orders, Van Dorn set up Camp Radziminski in Indian Territory (near present day Highway 183) along Otter Creek in what later became Kiowa County, Oklahoma.  He had four companies of 2nd Cavalry troops and a unit of friendly Indian scouts captained by young Lawrence Sul Ross along with him.  Not long after Camp Radziminski was established, Ross's scouts returned with news that they had located the  Comanches they were pursuing at a nearby camp beside a village of Wichita Indians along Rush Creek.   Dorn ordered his troops to head out right away in order to conduct a stealth attack on the located Comanches.

Wichita encampment (

Comanche encampment (Fort Sill Museum photo)

The Comanche and Wichita people were peacefully mingling at that time in their encampments at Rush Creek, unaware of any danger from the U. S. Army -- and with good reason, too.  In addition to the return of stolen horses as a peace offering to the Wichita,  the Comanche had also just concluded a peace treaty agreement with the U.S. Army's Post Commander W. Prince at nearby Fort Arbuckle.

Battle of Wichita Village

Unaware of this treaty at Fort Arbuckle, Van Dorn's troops launched a brutal attack against the camping Indians at dawn on October 1, 1858.   According to S. C. Gynne in his excellent book Empire of the Summer Moon, "Ross and his (scouts) had run off the horses, so most of the warriors were forced to fight on foot.  It was more of a massacre than a fight.  Two hundred blue-coated troops were in the village, blasting away into the tipis, while the Indians frantically tried, as they aways did, to cover the retreat of their families.  Seventy Indians were killed, untold numbers wounded....The army burned one hundred twenty tipis, along with all the Comanche ammunition, cooking utensils, clothing, dressed skins, corn, and subsistence stores.  Those who escaped had only the clothing on their back, and many were afoot, since the soldiers had captured three hundred horses, too" (p. 171).  

Van Dorn and Captain Ross were both severely wounded in the battle suffering from arrow and bullet wounds.   Too injured to be moved right away, they were left lying on the field for five days after the battle until they recovered sufficiently to be taken back to Camp Radziminski.  The desperate Wichitas who survived the attack were left with no food, housing or clothing.  They eventually found their way on foot to Fort Arbuckle for assistance.  Van Dorn, a West Point graduate, later joined the Civil War as a Confederate General.  A renowned womanizer, Van Dorn died during the war at the hand of a spurned husband.   Sul Ross, who also became a Confederate General, was elected the 19th Governor of the State of Texas in 1887, and later became President of Texas A&M University.

The Army continued to operate Camp Radziminski as an outpost for a little over a year after the Battle of Wichita Village.   It was abandoned in 1859 and was taken over later as a temporary post by the Texas Rangers before being abandoned altogether.    The memory of Camp Radziminski may be lost to all but those few who happen upon the little roadside marker off Highway 183, but the story of  the Battle of Wichita Village is not forgotten.

Courtesy Exploring Oklahoma History

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Permit to Drive!

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt, "The Greatest Chevrolet in Chevrolet History," is a colorful illustration of a couple setting off for a pleasant drive in their automobile.   I rummaged through my old family photos to see what I might find that would inspire my submission for the week.   I found my mother's old high school scrapbook from the 1930s and there it was:

Permit to Drive!
It was a picture of my mother preparing to get behind the wheel of the car after getting her first permit to drive!   I am not familiar enough with cars to determine if it was a Chevrolet model or not, but it was definitely not "shiny and new" like the one in this week's prompt.   In fact, on a nearby spot in the scrapbook was another picture of her brother with the same car.

It appears to me that it may have been necessary for him to do some repair work or adjustments on the car.  Perhaps it was to get it started for her on that very same day.

I vividly remember the day I first got my license to drive.  I passed the driving test at the driver's bureau with ease: parallel parking, three point turns, manual turn signals with my arm, etc.   Later that afternoon, after much begging, I finally got permission to take my brother's car out for a short drive by myself.   His car was a beige Chevrolet Corvair.  (Yes, the very same model that activist Ralph Nader demonized).   I drove in a big circle around a neighborhood park then headed up the hill intending to ride by a friend's house.   We didn't have cell phones at that time, of course, so I had called her from home before I left to let her know my plans hoping she would watch for me to ride by from her house.  I was finally sixteen!  I was so proud and felt so grown up!

Suddenly, I was spinning in circles on the road.   I had no idea what had happened.  My hands were frozen in place on the steering wheel until well after the car came to a stop heading in the opposite direction and on the opposite side of the road.   I had been hit broadside by another car.   It was not long before a policeman arrived to evaluate the scene.  He spoke to the other driver first and then came over to take my information.   When he looked at the merely-hours-old driver's license I produced he paused.   I must have been a pitiful sight.  Without writing anything down he told me to go home right away and come in and file my report on another day.

If only my brother had been so kind.....

Check this week's Sepia Saturday site to see other's posts inspired by "The Greatest Chevrolet in Chevrolet History."

Thursday, November 17, 2011


George Catlin, 1834:  Comanche Feats of Horsemanship
The path south on Highway 183 through Kiowa County traverses a small section of the land known during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as "Comancheria."    The Comanche people that lived there have been likened to migrating birds: they would go south to stay warm for the winter months and travel north to stay cool during the summer season searching all the while for the herds of buffalo which provided their primary source of food, fuel, housing  and clothing.   Comanches were among the first Native Americans to acquire horses brought to North America by the Spaniards.   They mastered animal husbandry over the years and became legendary for their horsemenship.  It was reported that they could ride, full-speed, on their battle-trained ponies while accurately shooting their weapons, even while crouching horizontally off to the side for protection.  Additionally, Comanches mastered violent warfare.  Their constant migration pattern put them into frequent territorial battles with the Spanish, the Mexicans and the other plains Indian tribes as well as the outposts of white settlers claiming more and more land in the 1800s.  They were known to ruthlessly torture defeated enemies on the battlefield in horrid ways.   Human scalps were trophies of the battle and a Comanche warrior's prestige was often measured by the number of scalps he collected.

Cries for protection grew with the westward expansion of white settlements into the plains.  U. S. troops were sent to man a string of forts that were built throughout the area.  This protection was primarily defensive.  The newly formed state of Texas, particularly effected by Indian raids, had organized their own state troops to protect its citizens.  These troops were willing to go on the offensive against the Indian raids.  They would ride well into the Comancheria to attack -  they were The Texas Rangers.   The U.S. Army commander at Texas' Fort Belknap later got permission to do the same.  This was a clear shift in military strategy.  He sent Major Earl Van Dorn with four Companies of the 2nd Cavalry to pursue the Comanches into their territory north of the Red River.  In 1858 the troops went north and established a camp along Otter Creek near a part of the highway between the present day Mountain Park and Snyder communities in Oklahoma.  They named their base for this offensive Camp Radziminski after a fallen member of their Cavalry.

Camp Radziminski Marker (from

There were never any permanent structures built at Camp Radziminski.  It was to be used as an outpost to launch raids into Indian Territory.  The site was abandoned by the Army just a little over a year later.  Today there are only a few piles of stones left at the site of the encampment - stones and a lone highway marker.

Friday, November 11, 2011

1911 - One Hundred Years Ago Where I Was Born

I have struggled with this week's Sepia Saturday prompt.  I struggled, in part, because I wanted my topic to be "special" in honor of the special achievement of reaching the celebrated 100 mark.   In my search for a topic, however, I could find no obvious connections with my own family photos or history.  My regular blog posts have been chronologically retracing the places where I have lived or traveled through in my life.  Since I am relatively new to blogging,  my "virtual travels" have all been within the state of Oklahoma thus far, so I decided to focus on something that happened in this state where I was born.  My topic, I concluded, would be something about  Oklahoma, in the year 1911 - one-hundred years ago. 

 My struggle was compounded, however, when I followed this lead and came upon a topic that was quite disturbing to me.    I tried to set it aside and look elsewhere for a different topic, but I was haunted by it, and in the end I could not leave the horrible story behind.   

Okemah, Oklahoma 1911

On the afternoon of May 25, 1911 in the little town of Okemah, Oklahoma it was reported that early that same day Deputy Sheriff George Loney had attempted to arrest Mr. A. Nelson, an African-American, for stealing cattle.  During the arrest Loney was shot and left to bleed to death outside the Nelson house.  It was believed that Loney was shot by Lawrence Nelson, the suspected thief's teenage son.  Laura Nelson, however, Lawrence's mother, claimed that it was she who had fired the fatal shot.   Laura, her husband and their son Lawrence were put under arrest and jailed.  It is not clear what became of their baby during this ordeal.  Mr. Nelson pleaded guilty to larceny of cattle and was shipped off to serve a two year sentence in the state prison.  Laura and Lawrence were charged with murder and were held in the county jail in Okemah.

Three weeks after the murder of Deputy Loney a mob of 40 armed (white) men arrived at the Okemah jail.  They tied up the jailer and stole away with prisoners Laura and Lawrence Nelson.  The Sheriff,  J.Dunnegan, sent several search parties out when he learned of the incident, but no traces of the prisoners or the mob could be found.   No traces could be found, that is, until the next morning when a crowd was seen gathering on a bridge over the nearby North Canadian River to observe this scene:

Postcard:  Crowd gathered to observe Lawrence Nelson (on left) and Laura Nelson (on right) hanging from bridge.

The photo, above, was taken by the local photographer George H. Farnum.  It is one of several photographs he took of the scene, including close-ups of Lawrence and Laura taken from a boat while floating below their corpses hanging from the bridge.  Lawrence's hands were bound and his pants were down to his ankles while Laura's hands were free in this picture.   Farnum made these photos into postcards that were actually sold locally as souvenirs.   The U.S. Post Office had recently (1908) declared it illegal to send postcards with pictures of lynchings through the mail.   Apparently, these postcards functioned as gruesome "trophies" to share the event with others. 

Included in this crowd at the bridge was a local man named Charley Guthrie.  An active member of the local Ku Klux Klan,  he would later tell stories of this lynching scene to his son, Woody,  who was born  in Okemah the following year.  Woody (Woodrow Wilson) Guthrie, unlike his dad, would grow up to be an outspoken advocate for the downtrodden and disenfranchised in America through his music.  

Following is a video of the song "Don't Kill My Baby & My Son" performed by artist Brooke Harvey.

This song is one of three songs written by the aclaimed folk artist Woodie Guthrie about the lynching of Laura and Lawrence Nelson.  This haunting version stands as a moving requiem to this shameful event in Okemah, Oklahoma of 100 years ago.

Please click on the link to check out the many other Sepia Saturday posts for the 100 Celebration this week.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Lennox Municipal Band

When I first saw the prompt on this week's Sepia Saturday post my thoughts went immediately to Lennox, South Dakota, home of the much acclaimed Lennox Municipal Band!   Lennox is a small community of about 2,000 people situated in the midst of Lincoln County's pasture and farmland in the southeast corner of the state.   The village, originally known as "Ben Lennox" in honor of an official of the S.S. Merrill, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, began as a tiny isolated prairie community of less than 100 immigrants and adventurers in the Dakota Territory during the mid to late 1800s.  According to the city's website, "In 1885 Lennox boasted the following establishments: 4 general stores, 2 blacksmith shops, 3 saloons, 2 hotels, 1 harness shop, 2 boot and shoe shops, 1 livery barn, 2 hardware stores, 1 lumberyard, 1 clothing store, 2 millinery shops, 1 ball room, 1 drug store, 1 physician, 1 attorney, 3 churches, 1 school building, 1 butter packing house, and a cornet band!"

Lennox Band of 1887

The Lennox Band was organized in this little community in 1883.  A young farmer, Mr. A. B. Jacobs, also known as "Whiskers," (who curiously has no whiskers in this photo) took up the baton as band leader right away and was instrumental in its ongoing success and growth.   The original eight charter members of the band pooled their money to buy a set of second hand instruments from Garden City Music Company in Chicago for $60.   Jacobs is credited with teaching many members of this little community band to not only enjoy their band music, but to learn to play instruments with which they had little or no experience.  

My grandfather, Selmer Stubsten,  was one of those novice musicians whom Jacobs taught to play.  The son of Norwegian immigrants to the Dakota Territory, my grandfather had had no formal musical training.  He joined the band at the age of 30 and took up the tenor saxophone under Jacobs' tutelage.  The earliest photo of the band I could find that included my grandfather was in 1917.   He can be seen in the middle row on the left in the picture below:

Lennox Municipal Band 1917

In 1958 the Lennox Municipal Band held a big celebration for its "Diamond" anniversary denoting 75 years of continuous service to the community.   Included in the celebration was a tribute to my grandfather for his 50 years of continuous participation in the band.  (My grandfather was 80 years old by that time.)

My family was living in Oregon in 1958, and I was very young, so I have absolutely no memory of this event.   We did go on a train trip to South Dakota around that time, however, so I wonder if we were actually able to attend this concert that honored him.  (I would like to think that my mother, especially, was able to be there for him).  

Today The Lennox Municipal Band is still going strong, which means that it has now been in continuous formation for 128 years!  The band, of course, still holds the title as "the longest running municipal band in the state of South Dakota".  The city now supports the band financially, however, and in 1963 the community actually built a new Bandshell in the local park so the Municipal Band could perform concerts for this little community "in style"!    

Jacobs Bandshell of Lennox

Please check out the many other interesting Sepia Saturday blog posts this week.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stealing Tracks and Trees

While taking this trip on the internet I have been reminded how pivotal the railroads were in the development of many parts of the western U.S.   Being selected as a station location gave a town key economic advantages.  Mountain Park, the community my family would have entered next on our trip down U.S. Highway 183,  provides an example of this influence of the rail lines.   The town, which has a population of just over 400 people now, started out as a trading post for the cowboys and Indians in the area.

At the turn of the century Oklahoma City & Western Railroad made plans to bring their track through Mountain Park.   They were building the Oklahoma portion of the rail line that would go from Oklahoma City to Quanah, Texas.    A resident, Sol Bracken, was offered a deal for his property.  The OC&WR offered to pay him $6,000 for the rights to a portion of his land in Mountain Park.   They had envisioned constructing a depot in this spot.  There were already 48 businesses operating in the town which would help make the depot profitable right away.   Mr Bracken, unfortunately, saw an opportunity for himself to profit, and decided to hold out for more money for his strip of land.  The Railroad didn't hesitate.  They  immediately changed their plans and and decided to bypass Mountain Park altogether.   Instead, they moved the track line a few miles south of Mountain Park and then built their depot in the nearby community of Snyder.

Snyder Train Depot

It is clear Mr. Bracken's greed was not very popular in town: all but 7 of the businesses packed up, left town and moved their operations to Snyder instead.  The first business to set up in the new town was a saloon.  According to E. Taylor ( the people of Mountain Park became so upset at the mass migration they actually burned the bridge that was on the road to Snyder.   

Although the town of Snyder flourished, its early fortune was not all positive.   Businesses boomed and the population grew, but in 1905 the town was hit by a devastating tornado.    Newspapers reported that 113 people were killed by the twister.  Additionally, about a year later Snyder was razed again by the first of two massive fires that attacked the town.  Businesses in town were rebuilt with fire-resistant brick after the 1909 fire.

Mr. D. Thomas homesteaded on land west of Mountain Park and Snyder.  His interview in the University of Oklahoma's Western History Collections (#4479) tells of the handicaps and hardships he and his fellow homesteaders encountered at the turn of the century due to the scarcity of fuel.   Because wood was so hard to find he confessed he would steal it from the Indians.   "Practically every pioneer has been guilty of stealing wood at one time or another whether he is willing to admit it or not," he said.   He went on to describe something he had posted in a newspaper years later: "I made certain remarks about certain rabbit eating, wood stealing pioneers and their early day escapades..." He continued, "I was surprised when the phone rang and an old lady informed me that she had just read the article and was offended at the remarks concerning her husband.  She screamed, "What will our children think when they read that we used to steal wood?  The trouble is that it's---it's so!"  He went on to reflect, "How else could this country have been settled up?"

H.F. Farny:  Toilers of the plains

Friday, October 21, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys

When I first looked at this week's Sepia Saturday prompt I thought I was seeing a group of girls and boys together on a class outing.   I thought I would dig up some photos of my mother as a teacher in the 1940s,  or perhaps re-post a photo of my great grandfather with his students outside their one-room schoolhouse at the turn of the century in Oklahoma Territory (see my September post More Schoolin').  On further inspection, I realized that I was looking at a group of only boys.  There were no girls here.  The boys were, however, all costumed in outfits that give the appearance of  girls' dresses or overcoats.      Perhaps these outfits were not in fact  girl's clothing, but were instead some type of ethnic or local costume for boys.   Whatever is the truth, it is clearly evident to the viewer that  these adorable boys were absolutely delighted and amused at their circumstance.  Looking through the door behind them I see what appears to be a window styled like one would see in a church.  This leads me to the theory that these young men were all participants in a boys choir group at their local church and had just concluded their performance - to the great relief of all!  I wonder what songs they sang?  The choir director must have been relieved at their success as well - and proud enough to record the big event with a delightful group photo.

I remember as a child seeing the Vienna Boys Choir in concert when they went on a tour of  the United States.  They were absolutely marvelous!  Their crystal clear voices rang out in the concert hall with harmonies and soprano notes I had never heard before.  It seemed that they must have trained their entire lives to perform so well.  And, to my amazement they were able to do this in front of such a huge crowd!   I must confess that in addition to enjoying the music, my sister and I spent some of our time pointing out the boys to each other that we thought were cute.  

This brings me to my Sepia Saturday submission for this week:

My Dad's Barbershop Chorus

About the time I was in high school my father decided to join a local men's chorus. I can't say he was a good singer, but he loved music and he loved people. The chorus provided him an opportunity to enjoy both of these one or two evenings each week.   I, like the rest of my family, was quite proud of him for doing this and wished him well in his new hobby.  We all planned to attend the concert his group would be giving in the city's performance hall in the Spring.

Then a terrible thing happened.  My father invited my friends to come to the concert!  

I knew my dad's chorus sang in Barbershop-style harmonies.   You wouldn't find Barbershop songs on any of the lists of "top 100 hits"  my friends and I listened to.   I have blocked what I may have said to my father from my memory, but I am certain I must have shed a few tears.  I was so embarassed about what my friends would think.

When the dreaded day finally arrived I joined my friends in their car to head down to the performance hall.  I must have said "You don't have to like it, you know" to them a hundred times on the way there, and, of course, we looked for seats as far to the back of the hall as we could.  When the curtains opened and the chorus of men sang out in their ringing consonant harmonies we were bowled over.  Of course they sang the songs you would typically expect from a Barbershop chorus: Down by the Old Mill Stream, Sweet Adeline, and Wait 'Til the Sun Shines Nellie, but they added in many other songs to their repertoire.  There were songs that my friends and I actually knew and listened to such as Yesterday by the Beatles.   We found it to be a really fun and unique experience, and talked about the concert (among ourselves of course) for days.   

Much like the boys choir in this week's Sepia Saturday prompt, my dad's Barbershop Chorus lined up outside the performance hall when their concert was over.  They were all clearly quite happy it was over, and they were also quite proud of their accomplishment.  I was too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Golden Buckshot

There have been tales of treasure in southwestern Oklahoma ever since it was known as Louisianna.  Explorers and miners have been searching to find this treasure throughout the years.   During the time it was Indian Territory some soldiers stationed at Fort Sill complained that they had more trouble keeping prospectors out of Oklahoma than they did fighting the Indians.  There were apparently strong rumors of gold deposits in the area where we drove south out of Roosevelt along Middle Otter Creek.  When the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache territory opened up for settlement in 1901 prospectors rushed here.  According to the site thousands of claims were filed and multiple shafts and smelters were constructed during the first decade of Oklahoma Territory.  It turned out only a very few pockets of ore had high assay values, however,  and the prospects for riches quickly faded.

Gold Belle Mining and Milling Company was a cyanide processing mill built to process the miners' ore from the nearby prospectors' town of Wildman.  Today only remnants of the foundation exist just west of where we traveled on U.S. Highway 183.

Gold Belle Mine and Milling Co. marker (courtesy blackiron_1 photostream)

Frank Wildman, one of the partners that formed Gold Belle Mine, was also the namesake for the nearby mining town of Wildman that sprang up at the Territory's opening.  There were almost 500 people living in Wildman which had a hotel, saloons, a hardware store, grocers, a cafe and other offices, ..... but no church.  E. Taylor ( sites newspaper reports that tell of a man showing up in the neighboring community of Mountain Park at about this time wearing a gold pin shaped like bells.  He claimed they came from the Gold Bell mine he was working and was offering to sell shares of stock.   The sign that is now standing at the mill site says the owners salted the mine by blowing gold dust into the walls with a muzzle loaded shotgun.  They then sold shares of stock in the mine for a dollar a share netting them about $270,000.  The newspaper cited on E. Taylor's post also shows the quote of one man from the area who recalled that the only man who made money out of the mine was the hardware store merchant who had sold all the machinery to the miners!  The Gold Bell mine was abandoned in 1910 and the town of Wildman has since disappeared.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Making War Fun

I spent untold hours the last few days going through boxes of old photos and memories my parents have left behind.    I didn't know what I was looking for specifically, but I knew I would find something that would match the inspirations I received from this week's Sepia Saturday photo.   In surveying this week's prompt I saw a group of soldiers gathered together on the remains of a war torn battlefield somewhere far away from home.  Captive to their circumstance, these men, it appears to me, were searching for a reason to celebrate with a smoke and a meal.

My father, like many young men during World War II, joined the Navy not long after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.   Anxious to do his part,  he was frustrated initially because he was kept stationed stateside in Virginia and Maryland.  I remember him saying he was thrilled to finally "participate" when his ship, the USS Sumter, finally set sail for the battlefield.   The USS Sumter was commissioned as an Attack Transport.  My father was a Pharmacist Mate in the Hospital Corps for the ship which transported soldiers to most of the major battle theaters of the Asian and Pacific Campaigns.   He tried to take photos during the two years he was assigned to the ship, (some developed in x-ray fluid) a few of which have survived.  One of these pictures has become my submission for this week's Sepia Saturday post:

Soldiers and native Islanders on the Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands WWII  

These men, like the prompt photo, were also searching for a moment of joy while confined to a battlefield far away from home.   Curiously,  in both pictures there is a single soldier staring directly into the camera.    They each appear to be reaching out to the viewer with an expression that seems to question the meaning of this joy or purpose of their circumstance.  

Kwajalein is located in the center of the South Pacific's Marshall Islands, and is the largest coral atoll in the world.

The Japanese had built defenses in the Marshall Islands and used them as staging sites for submarines and surface warships.   Admiral Nimitz decided to launch an attack on these defenses which he called "Operation Flintlock".  The Army's 7th Infantry Division along with the 5th Amphibious Force and the 4th Marine Division participated in this successful attack on the central island, Kwajalein Atoll.   Some of these  men must have been transported to the battle site on the USS Sumter, and certainly many of the wounded were brought back to the Sumter's Hospital Corps for treatment.   In the end, 372 Americans died and almost 1600 were wounded in the battle, while the Japanese lost 7,870 men.

Please enjoy the many other posted submissions to this week's Sepia Saturday site!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rock Climbing the Great Plains

The Great Plains region of North America is generally defined as the sweeping region of steppe and flatland covered with tall and short prairie grasses.  It ranges from the Mississippi River west to the Rocky Mountain foothills, and from the Mexican border north into the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.   It has been the broad expanse of land where  massive herds of bison ranged, where Native Americans hunted and where pioneer families eventually came to settle.    The lands of western Oklahoma lie within the Great Plains borders.

Therefore, heading south from Roosevelt on U.S. Highway 183 it comes as no surprise for travelers to see the sign signaling an exit for Oklahoma's "Great Plains State Park."

Although I doubt my family would have taken this detour on our trip south from Sentinel  I did take a few minutes to explore this park on the internet.   The park apparently offers many great opportunities for exploration, camping and outdoor activities.  It has accumulated many positive reviews from visitors.   I found it curious, however,  to learn that despite its name it is not a park where one goes to enjoy the plains' vast prairie grasses.   Instead, Oklahoma's Great Plains State Park offers camping, mountain biking and rock climbing in the "rough rocky terrain" of the Wichita foothills as well as water skiing and fishing on a large man-made lake!

Great Plains State Park, Oklahoma
 It looks like a wonderful place to visit but I must say I am more than a little confused about its name.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Home Economics

This week for the first time I have decided to participate in Sepia Saturday.  I have been following the Sepia Saturday posts by others for quite a while after being introduced to the site on one of the blogs I follow: Robs Webstek Historybits.  While I had hoped to look through my old family photos and find pictures of my female ancestors participating in suffrage parades, or something equally significant, it was not to be.  Perhaps there were no such activities for women in the small, rural towns of  South Dakota or Oklahoma.  I can't imagine that the issues were not important to these women.  I know that education of both men and women was of the highest importance in my family.   The papers and documents that have been preserved make it clear that everyone was acutely aware and interested in issues of national importance and world affairs.  My mother was college educated in the 1930s which, although not unheard of, was not entirely common among her peers at that time.   During WWII she actually left home to work for the FBI in the big cities of Chicago and Washington D.C.   I expect that she may have been a participant in these parades had she been of age at the time.

The most relevant picture to Sepia Saturday's prompt that I could find in my files was one of  my mother and her  female high school classmates "holding signs":

Lennox High School, 1935

The signs that these girls were holding, however, were not signs for women's voting rights, but were signs to promote the importance of "home economics" for girls.  The girls are holding fabric samples, a cake, needlework and have what appears to be cages with live chickens  in front of them.  My mother is the girl in the plaid shirt and dark skirt holding a small sign just left of center.   

Hmm...Home Economics.  I had a home economics class while I was in junior high in the 1960s.  The girls went to Home Economics while the boys went to Shop class.   I don't remember much about the class except that we made brownies and sewed an apron (which I still own).   Home Economics was not a subject offered to my daughter at any time during her school years.   While I am very happy that she and her generation of girls see the world as having a much wider spectrum of opportunities than perhaps mine or my mother's did, I am also very sorry she was not given more information about how to "run a home."   She is away at college now.  My husband and I are constantly reminded, and I think it is also becoming clear to her now, that she has almost no clue about how to fix a healthy meal or balance her bank account  or replace a lost button on a blouse.  I know full well that this knowledge will eventually come to her, but it is really hard for us to wait for it!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Apple

I love my iPhone, my iPad, my iPod, my desktop computer, my laptop, and I love Pixar movies!


Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Year the Stars Fell

 The Kiowa people call it  "the year the stars fell."   It was 1833 - the year a magnificent meteor shower was visible in the November sky.    It was also a year that included  "the summer they cut off their heads."  We know this because a beautiful calendar, the Sett'an, was kept that recorded the winter and summer seasons for a group of Kiowas for 60 years - starting with the winter of 1832 and going all the way through to the year 1892.   It was painted over the years along a rough spiral line on a buffalo hide with pictographs depicting events of significance associated with each season.  An anthropologist, James Mooney, was able to photograph the calendar when he saw it in 1895.  


 E. Taylor  has prepared an interesting summary of some of the significant events that were depicted over the years on this calendar on her web site: .

In the Washita mountains just east of Cooperton and at the confluence of Rainy Mountain Creek and the Washita River, is a gentle valley.  This is where the Kiowa people, led by Principle Chief Islandman A'date, set up their camp in 1833.   The able warriors of the group split into groups.  While some left to go north on a raiding party in the land of the Utes, other warrior parties went out hunting buffalo herds to bring back food supplies for the group.   Women, the elderly and a few aging warriors remained in the camp with the children.  

What happened in that camp one summer morning in 1833 has been told and re-told in many stories handed down by the Kiowa people.   Historians in the 1960's recorded memories of some of these stories for the University of Oklahoma's Western History Collections.   Guy Quoetone, born in 1886, was interviewed for this project and provided an extensive re-telling of the Kiowa memory of the event (interview T-28).  An Osage war party slipped into the camp one morning and viciously attacked the people of Islandman A'date's camp.   The Kiowa people, both surprised and outnumbered, could not defend their camp.  While many escaped, it was estimated that at least 150 Kiowas were killed in the massacre.  The Osage had struck without warning and left without losing a single Osage warrior.   They took two young  prisoners, the horses, and importantly, the sacred Tai-me medicine bundle used in the Kiowa Sun Dance.  

But that was not all that the Osage warriors did.   When the Kiowa warriors eventually returned they found the abandoned camp destroyed and 150 of their people dead.   The bodies were strewn all around the camp.  The bodies, however, had no heads.    In gruesome horror, the returning warriors eventually found many of the heads had been stuffed into the camp's large brass cooking pots.  

Guy Queotone recalled the story,  "These Osages, they had long knives...And they stick some of them through them.  But most  of them they just hit on the neck and cut them off.  They just cut their throat off.  And they picked up the heads and throwed them in them brass buckets."   He went on to describe something else the Osage had done, "They had (placed) 40 or 50 heads on the edge of a high mountain ridge...All laid side by side facing the village - the heads."  At the time of a subsequent interview Queotone and three other old Kiowa men who knew the story  took the historians to the actual valley site and showed them the ridge where the heads were lined up facing the village. 

James Haumpy, also interviewed for the University of Oklahoma's Western History Collections (interview T-81), is quoted as saying, "Lot of Kiowas got killed out there.  They cut their neck...neck off.   Children, women's.    Neck Cut-Off Mountain.   That's what they call it."  

The valley area where the Wichita River meets the Rainy Mountain Creek is known to us today as Cutthroat Gap.  The place where the Cutthroat Gap Massacre took place in the "year the stars fell" and the "summer they cut off their heads."

Monday, September 26, 2011


Located just east of Roosevelt are the remains of the community of Cooperton, Oklahoma.  Planned by Confederate Officer George Cooper,  the town grew to almost 200 residents when the land was first opened for settlement.    Today some geologists believe that the town site sits atop the the line that delineates the very edge of North America's ancient Ice Age.  Parallel lines cut into the earth's surface in the area, combined with deforested hills on one side of Cooperton's valley and the heavily forested Wichita mountains on the other side are thought to be evidence of receding ice masses in prehistoric times.   In addition, during the 1960s a local resident found the fossilized skeletal remains of a prehistoric mammoth at the Cooperton Mammoth site.

A different "Longhorn" -  the Mammoth

But the dream of developing the town of Cooperton has now virtually "died."  The population has declined to a total of merely 18 residents (as of 2009), and it is sometimes listed as one of the state's "ghost towns".   A website dedicated to documenting many abandoned places in the state of Oklahoma  ( has preserved  some haunting images of  dreams that have been lost in Cooperton, shown below.

The remains of a Cooperton farm:

 The Cooperton town Bank office:
The Bank in Cooperton

And, an empty farm house:

Abandoned Home 

But the area around Cooperton was not only on the edge of the prehistoric Ice Age, it also sat near the edge of the site of a notorious camping site where Kiowa people would  gather fruit, fish and set out on Buffalo hunts.   It was near the place in Kiowa County where  Rainy Mountain Creek joins the Washita River.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Odd Stuff

Because I live far away I am taking this trip on Oklahoma's Highway 183 via the internet.  I sometimes resort to the maps at or to get down to the street level and look around.  While doing this in the town of Roosevelt I came upon what appears to be an abandoned building that caught my eye:
Although it sits right on Highway 183 - the main route through town - this building, like many others located in the small towns of the area, shows all the signs of neglect and desertion.  It has broken and boarded-up windows and doors and is framed by an empty sidewalk growing weeds from disuse.   This particular building, however, has something a little unusual:  the letters I O O F bricked into the facade.

This building, it turns out, must have been the Grand Lodge for the town's Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  I have heard of the Odd Fellows before but really knew very little about the organization.    I have learned that the North American IOOF,  founded in Baltimore, Maryland in the early 1800s, was based on the Oddfellows service organization established in England.  Some people believe the organization is rooted in the trade guilds of the Middle Ages: the Odd Fellows being an organization for the "odd" trades that didn't belong with the major trade groups.   The IOOF website, however,  says the name came from the "oddity" of the idea that a fraternal guild would form for the purpose of charitable activities toward those in need rather than in support of a specific trade or work skill.

The IOOF in America is a fraternal organization dedicated to service to others in need and to character development of its members.   It was the first major men's social organization the nation to also admit women (known as Daughters of Rebekah).  According to the IOOF website the organization is non-political and non-sectarian.  They say it is based on a belief in God and universal brotherhood, and supports a number of worthy causes in the United States, such as the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, the Rose Parade, and the Arthritis Foundation, among others.  They also make an annual pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Continuing on our drive south, we would have reached the town of Roosevelt, Oklahoma.  Although now only about 250 people live there, at the time we passed through the population would have totalled almost 700.   A town founder, Charley Hunter, had been one of the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American war.  
Rough Riders with Theodore Roosevelt on San Juan Hill 
 Originally called Parkersburg, the name was found to be a duplicate of a nearby town, so when the post office was established in 1901 Hunter offered the name "Roosevelt" in honor of his leader in the Rough Riders, Theodore Roosevelt .   Incredibly, the local farmers each donated 40 acres of their own land allotments to the townsite company to encourage development of the town center.  (I can't imagine people donating their own land to a company today).  

Roosevelt became a trading center for the local cotton farmers and a gin was soon built in town.    Cotton may have given way to other businesses, however, since now there are advertisements for "tourists" to spend their afternoons at a local winery (Windmill Winery) and, of course, ranchers continue to raise cattle on the local prairie lands.   I particulary enjoyed seeing a recent  advertisement by the local 4 Star Ranch for their longhorn "Buttermilk".   

Isn't she adorable?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

More Schoolin'

 Prairie Schools

Schools were important to the early settlers in Oklahoma Territory.   In fact, establishing a school site was one of the first decisions each new community made when the land was opened up to claims or lotteries. School was held whereever a place could be found until a permanent schoolhouse was built.  C. Sharp, a settler from Tennessee remembered:  "We sent our children to school in a dugout;  they sat on benches made out of poles and held their slate and pencil in their hands. We had a three months' term of school."  

My great-grandfather was John Bell Tracy.  (Born in Tennessee in 1859, it seems to me he was most likely named after the popular Tennessee politician that ran against Abraham Lincoln in the hotly contested Presidential election of 1860.)  He brought his family westward by covered wagon and established his life in present day Roger Mills county.   He worked as a school teacher in Oklahoma, as did his daughter, my grandmother, when she came of age.   

I recently found this picture of my great-grandfather with his students one year at their one-room school house :

It was interesting for me to find this picture after learning about the Babbs Switch schoolhouse fire.  This image looks so similar to me:   a one-room schoolhouse with heavy wire mesh attached to protect the windows from prairie winds and weather.    I can only imagine that this school building may have also had a single entry door that opened dangerously inward.  These were the features that were later condemned nationwide after the tragic Babbs Switch fire in December, 1924.  (See my post Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust on June 30th.)  I also find it interesting to look at the students, their prairie clothing styles and the clear disparity in their ages.  The little boy in the center front row is particularly interesting.   Because he is dressed in a peasant-style shirt,  he looks as if he might be from one of the many Russian families that immigrated to Oklahoma.  The girls' hair is also well styled.  It seems that wearing enormous bows in their hair was quite the fashion.   I wonder if these students stayed and built their lives in Oklahoma,  and if so, if  they survived the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl devastation that had such an impact on the people of that state.