Saturday, July 23, 2011

Early Era of Oklahoma

A long time ago in a far away place from where I now live, life was so different than it is today. It’s hard to compare the two. It was quiet in the old farm house. Daddy reading his bible by the coal oil lamp. Mom was taking out the bun in her long dark hair and braiding it in a long braid as she prepared for bed. Grandpa rocking in his rocker by the wood burning pot bellied stove. 
He could no longer hear so he was very quiet as nobody could communicate with him. His life consisted of rocking, reading the newspaper, taking long walks each day. He lived to be 89 and that was a very long life in the early 40’s. There was no noise outside unless a thunder storm came up.
Grandpa may have been reminiscing about his younger years and what life was like in those days in the state of Oklahoma. 

My father, Dennis Lockwood, was born in the family farmhouse in 1900. His Dad, Jasper Newton Lockwood, had homesteaded  160 acres of land near a town that was barely in existence in 1889. It was called Still Water Valley before it was known as Stillwater.  It  was listed in a map as a town with no name for a long time. 

It didn’t attract much interest because it was hard to get to without roads.  Indians began to move into the area because of the white people taking over everything else. It became known as Indian Territory. 

President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Homestead Act of 1862 so legal settlers could claim lots up to 160 acres in size. Provided a settler lived on the land and improved it, he could then receive the title to the land. 
They had what they called a Land Rush.  This is what my Grandpa entered into. They lived in Illinois or Indiana at the time. I know that my Grandpa was born in Indiana and Grandma was born in Illinois, so I am not sure where they were living.

 Some of the individuals who participated in the run entered early and hid out until the legal time of entry to lay quick claim to some of the most choice homesteads. These people came to be identified as "sooners". This led to hundreds of legal contests that arose and were decided first at local land offices and eventually by the U.S. Department of the Interior. 

Arguments included what constituted the "legal time of entry.” While some people think that the settlers who entered the territory at the legally appointed time were known as "boomers", the term actually refers to those who campaigned for the opening of the lands, led by David L. Payne. The county was named after this man.
 Several rivers flowed across Oklahoma, including the Cimarron, which received the flow of numerous small streams that flooded with the seasons. One of these persisted through frequent droughts. 

Cattlemen began to take an interest in the area because of the water from the river. It was named Still Water Creek. It was a nice stopping over place for the travelers….From there a colony of Boomers, whose presence there in 1885 forced open the Indian land to white settlement.

Grandpa came to the area alone on horseback to get involved in the Land Rush and staking a claim. Some traveled in a wagon train with many wagons and families.  They took household items and food to last for several days. There had been so much rain that the trails were soaked and muddy. Grandpa staked a claim of farmland Northeast of Stillwater. He owned the property the rest of his life and was able to attain more acres. 

They lived in a dugout while they built the house. My father was born in the new house in 1900. He was the youngest of the children. There were seven boys and one girl.  The house is still standing today, Many of the people lived in dugouts. His older sons and Grandpa built the house. It is two stories, but not very large. He had three brother that died at a very young ages. Late teens and 20's. Dad told me they died from kidney problems.  I'm not sure if that was just a guess or if anybody knew for sure.

 This story was passed down and this is the way I remember the story, my grandmother was alone in her kitchen one day when three very large Indian men came through the door. She felt they were there to kill her because that was all she had ever heard about Indians. She was frightened beyond belief. They grunted some words and she wasn’t sure what they were saying at first, but they made her understand that they would not hurt her, and they just wanted something to eat. She gave them food and they went on their way.

Grandmother was 73 when she passed away. She predicted her own death to the day, and she was not sick. She just knew what day she was going to die. I don’t know what caused her death. Maybe it’s like having faith, if you believe something strong enough it will happen. It has stuck in my head all these years. I was 4 years old and was outside playing when it happened. I don’t know why we were at their house, but I remember all the hustling and running around. People coming and going.
So I found a quiet place behind the cellar under some bushes and I sat down and fell asleep. I woke up and heard everybody calling my name.
I am in including a Utube of the a depiction of the land rush.