Friday, February 11, 2011

Hardships in Early Oklahoma

Column sent to Frederick Leader and Frederick Press
September 29, 2009

Early Life Here was Fraught with Hardship

    Last week in this column I referred to the Southwest Oklahoma Genealogical Society’s new book of news abstracts from Frederick newspapers, 1902-1911.
    It is a fascinating book because, mixed in with news of births and happy occasions from that time is information that is a reminder to us today that life for the area’s new settlers was difficult and often marked by tragedy.
    The following newspaper items from the county’s earliest years of settlement reflect the difficulties and heartbreak that sometimes accompanied life in this newly opened part of Oklahoma Territory. Unless noted, all items are from the Frederick Enterprise (which later became The Frederick Press).

June 11, 1902: “The little two year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Armstrong, living north of the river was bitten by a rattlesnake Sunday morning and died that night.”
June 20, 1902: "Samuel O. Fraley, while trying to ford a small stream east of Wagoner, got into deep water and was drowned. His horses became entangled in driftwood and were also drowned. Fraley came here recently from Coldwell, Kan., and was formerly from Greendale, Va."
June 27, 1902: "On last Monday a cyclone passed over the valley four miles east of town, making a dip as it passed over the residence of J.D. Nelson, lifting it in the air and completely destroying it, scattering the household goods over the prairie, tearing and threshing the lumber into kindling wood. Fortunately, J.D. and the boys were in town.”
June 27, 1902: “Roy McFall, a 12-year-old boy fell under the train near Thacker last Sunday and had his left arm mashed off near the wrist. He was trying to ride on the train while switching when the accident happened. He was taken to Vernon and the arm was amputated just above the elbow.”
Jan. 9, 1903: “About 9:30 o’clock Wednesday morning Wm. Hudson’s story and a half house four miles northeast of here burned to the ground. Practically nothing was saved as the fire caught in some paper near the flue and the building was soon a mass of flames. There was no insurance and the loss is felt keenly by Mr. Hudson who has a large family.”
Feb. 6, 1903: “Last Wednesday afternoon Mr. Carson Johnson, while driving along the road ½ mile west of town accompanied by two friends, was shot and fatally wounded by the accidental discharge of a .45 caliber Colt pistol in his own hands. It seems that Mr. Johnson had taken the pistol out to shoot a rabbit and on attempting to replace it in the holster it went off. The shot took effect in the left groin, passing down and backward, severing the femoral artery, and lodging just under the skin in upper and back part o the thigh. A messenger was at once dispatched to his brother, who lives at Sanford 18 miles southwest of here, who came in yesterday morning and attended to the funeral. His parents live in New Mexico.”
April 25, 1903, Frederick Free Press: “Alsa Coffelt, son of J.P. Coffelt, living four miles south and four west of Mountain Park, met death Sunday by being thrown from a fractious horse that he was riding. The horse was wild and started off in a run, and intended to pass through a gate which he thought was open. The horse ran into the gate and the boy was thrown about fifteen feet, lighting on his head. He lived about twelve hours.”
May 23, 1903, Frederick Free Press: “The death angel visited the home of Mr. and Mrs. Mercer’s in Texawa Sunday morning and took away a newly born baby boy to the happy home beyond.”
June 20, 1903: “One of the saddest accidents that has taken place in this immediate vicinity was the accidental shooting of the thirteen-year-old daughter of Mr. John Emenhiser, of south of town. Wednesday she and a brother were out driving. They had a gun with them, and finally succeeded in jumping up a rabbit. The young man shot it, and while he was picking it up, the little girl reloaded the gun, but in so doing neglected to let down the hammer. She placed the stock of the gun in the bottom of the vehicle, holding the barrel in her hands. The jolt made by the movement caused the hammer to fall. The charge tore away part of her thumb and entered her chest near the heart. Every effort was made to relieve the little sufferer, but human aid was not sufficient to check the life that was swiftly ebbing away.”
August 8, 1903: “Mabel the eight-year-old daughter of Mr. Geo. James, of five miles west of town, was nearly killed the other day by being dragged in the stirrup of a saddle. He had been riding and the little girl was permitted to ride to the barn. The horse became frightened and ran away.”
August 21, 1903: “Charley Dean, a son of C.H. Dean of near Water’s Store, was very badly hurt one day this week. He had climbed out of the wagon to get a drink. When he went to get into the wagon again he stepped upon the double-tree and to get balanced he slapped his hand on one of the horses hip. The horses became frightened and started to run. The boy, who is about ten years old, fell under the wagon, one of the wheels breaking the left leg just above the knee. The fracture is a bad one and that with the hot weather has caused the little fellow’s suffering to be intense.”
Sept. 11, 1903: “Wm. Hout’s little son drank some concentrated lye last week and they soon sent for a doctor and the little fellow is well now.”
Sept. 9, 1904: “Mr. Bilne was struck by lightning last Sunday morning. It struck him in the temple, ran down his body to his right leg and tore his shoe all to pieces. The lightning also killed one of his hogs.”
Nov. 4, 1904: “Last Tuesday evening when Fred Sylvester was hauling a load of coal, he fell and was run over by one of the front wheels of the wagon and died a few hours later.”
Nov. 25, 1904: “While out hunting in the Big Pasture yesterday with a part of young folks, Miss Nannie Farmer had the misfortune to accidentally shoot herself in the foot with a .22 caliber rifle. She was brought home where the injured member was dressed and she is now getting along nicely.”

NOTE: The book Tillman County Personals: Abstracts from Frederick, OK Newspapers May 1902-June 1911 can be ordered from the SWOGS, P.O. Box 148, Lawton, OK 73502. Cost is $25 plus $3 postage.
A copy of the book is also part of the Frederick Carnegie Library’s permanent research collection.

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