Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Questions and Updates

Main and Grand in Frederick (looking northward), 1920
Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, August 9, 2011
"Chronicles" Questions and Updates
by Joe Wynn
The “Tillman County Chronicles” column is almost three years old.
I don’t claim to be any kind of historian, but one of the fun things about writing the column is the contacts or responses that I get from folks who read it in the newspaper or online. It is not uncommon for me to receive a call from a reader who wants to clarify a fact, or an e-mail from someone who wants information about a specific event from the past. I always welcome those contacts, although I often don’t have answers.
I want to share a few of the questions and contacts that I have received recently. Some readers may have answers. If so, send an e-mail to me at tillmanokhistory@gmail.com.

John Cardinal from Norman recently sent an email, telling me that his grandfather Truman David Young, fought a bear in Frederick in the 1950s. John is preparing a scrapbook project for his granddad, so he asked for newspaper clippings, a program, photos or anything else that might substantiate and serve as a souvenir of the event.
He thinks it happened in 1955 or 1956. John’s grandfather told him that a traveling circus came through town and was held at the former Frederick Army Airfield.
The circus had a fighting bear. The challenge was to last three minutes with the bear. His grandfather, who would have been about 20 at the time, fought the bear twice. The first time he did not succeed, but the second time he won and claimed a $3 prize.
Truman Young is still living and is now 75.
Anyone have a memory of the bear fight?

     Steven Hollis from Virginia has questions about an incident that may have happened in Frederick in 1917 or 1918.
His great-grandparents lived here at the time with their four children.
His great-grandfather, Steve Hollis, Sr., worked for the railroad. His great-grandmother, Adriana Wolff Hollis, had been born in the Netherlands to Dutch/German parents.
In 1917, the railroad sent his great-grandfather to work a job in Virginia while his great-grandmother stayed in Frederick with the children.
Steve says that as adults, the four children (his grandfather, aunt and uncles) always told about an incident that happened while their father was in Virginia.
They said that four men attempted to enter the house and their grandmother had to use her pistol – a Colt revolver that she had received as a wedding present.
All four of the children remember their mother scrubbing blood off the porch the next morning. His great-grandfather moved the family to Virginia soon after this.
Steve doesn’t know what happened that night in Frederick, but feels that something very noteworthy did happen.  “If I had not heard this story four different times from four different siblings I may have questioned its accuracy,” Steve wrote in an e-mail, “but somewhere there must be something to it.”
It is a sad fact that people of German ancestry were sometimes harassed during World War I, and that could be a part of this story.
Steve questioned whether the incident could have been KKK aggression directed toward his grandmother’s ancestry. The KKK was almost certainly capable of such action, but most Klan activity in Oklahoma and Texas was during the 1920s.
A unit of the KKK was organized in Frederick in 1922.
This incident precedes that.

I’ve received many comments about my June 14 column concerning photographer David Plowden’s wonderful 1968 portrait of Ray Birkhead.
Several people contacted me to tell me that one point in the column was incorrect. I had been told by a railroad heritage official that Ray Birkhead’s daughter was the late Irene Bryant. In fact, Irene Bryant was not Ray Birkhead’s daughter, but his niece.
Ray Birkhead did have one daughter, Elizabeth, who died in the 1970s in Florida.
One of those who contacted me was Roy Birkhead, Irene Bryant’s brother. Roy and Irene’s father was W. Roy Birkhead who served as District II county commissioner before, during, and after World War II.

Another column that generated a lot of interest told about the tragic 1905 killing of Sylvester Stoneback, a local farmer and blacksmith, in downtown Frederick. Stoneback was treasurer of the Valley Home school district west of Frederick. His noble efforts to collect a tax assessment from a disgruntled property owner in the district resulted in his shooting on a city street on November 4, 1905.
Stoneback was held in high regard and his killing was a shock to the young community.
After the July 11 column about Stoneback ran in the newspaper, I received a call from Jim Jack Loftis. Sylvester Stoneback was Jim Jack’s grandfather.
Jim Jack’s mother Hazel was Stoneback’s youngest daughter. She was 12 at the time that her father was killed.
Jim Jack told me that the Stoneback homestead was across the road from the site where Weaver School would be built in 1930.

Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society's board of directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at tillmanokhistory@gmail.com.

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