History Department News Spring 2015

Agnew Reviews May 7 History

Dr. Brad Agnew, professor of history, reviewed the observance of May 7th by students and graduates of the Male and Female National Cherokee Seminaries from the first celebration in 1855 to the present at annual reunion of the Descendants of the Cherokee Seminaries Student Association, May 7, in the Alumni Center of Northeastern State University, Tahlequah.

On May 7, 1851, Cherokee officials including Principal Chief John Ross dedicated the original Cherokee Female Seminary at Park Hill. The day before they had dedicated an identical structure for men at Tahlequah.

Beginning in 1855, the first observance of the May 7th dedication was held in a grove of trees near the Park Hill Seminary. The celebration was held periodically until the early 1930s when a permanent organization was created.

With the exception of 1945, when World War II regulations prohibited large gatherings, reunions of seminarians and their descendants have been held every year.

Rick Ward, president of the association, presided over this year’s observation, which included updates from the president of Northeastern State University, Dr. Steve Turner, and the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Bill John Baker.

May 7 a special day for seminarians

First in a two-part series

By Brad Agnew/TDP Special Writer

On the evening of May 7, 1851, Jenny Lind, the acclaimed “Swedish Nightingale,” performed at Castle Garden in upper New York City.

She was unaware that about 1,300 miles to the southwest, at Park Hill in the Cherokee Nation, earlier in the day, Cherokees were raising their voices – less professionally, but no less enthusiastically – in celebration of the opening of their new female seminary.

The day before, Cherokee officials, including Cherokee Chief John Ross, had dedicated an identical male seminary several miles away near Tahlequah. One participant commented, “We never before saw the old Chief so cheerful, so happy, and so full of hopes for the future.”

Ross’s hopes for the success of the two high schools were justified. Those institutions ignited a lamp of learning in Indian Territory that distinguished the Cherokees.

As the first students approached graduation, the Cherokees felt justified in celebrating the success of their schools. An article in the Aug. 1, 1855, Wreath of Cherokee Rose Buds, the student newspaper published at the end of each session of the female seminary, described the first observance of the dedication of the seminary: “This year, for the first time, we have had the pleasure of celebrating the anniversary of the opening of our Seminary, four years ago. It was held on the 7th of May, last. The place chosen for the occasion was the grove a few rods from our Seminary. The birds sang merrily as they hopped from tree to tree, and all nature was rejoicing.”

Before the celebration, the young women gathered baskets of flowers to decorate tables set up in the grove. At 11 a.m., a procession of members of the board of directors, teachers of both seminaries, and pupils marked the beginning of the day’s activities.

Three male seminary students, Benjamin L. Trott, Joel B. Mayes, and J. Evarts Foremen, addressed the audience, saying “many good things ...suited to the occasion, and which seemed to manifest an appreciation of the privileges enjoyed at our High Schools.”

After a few remarks from one of the directors and a teacher from the Male Seminary, the group had a light lunch followed by several hours of “conversation, games, etc., [which] finished our happy seventh of May.”

Economic difficulties, the Civil War, and the upheaval of Reconstruction probably precluded more observances of the establishment of the schools for the next several decades. The female seminary reopened in 1872 and the male school two years later. The first post-Civil War reunion was reported by the Cherokee Advocate in the spring of 1877.

A large crowd of the schools’ alums, students, friends, and tribal officials gathered on the grounds of the Male Seminary in Tahlequah, where they listened to music, shared lunch, and heard William P. Ross and W.P. Boudinot – both prominent and long-serving members of tribal government – review the history of the two schools.

The editor of the Cherokee Advocate urged members of the tribe to observe May 7 as citizens of the United States celebrated the 4th of July. Apparently, the observance became a yearly affair. Twenty years later, the May 6, 1897, Muskogee Phoenix carried an announcement reporting, “The annual May picnic of the schools and citizens of Tahlequah and vicinity will be held next Friday, May 7th, at the Male Seminary.”

By the end of the 19th century, May 7 apparently had come to represent more than the founding of two high schools a half-century earlier in the Cherokee Nation. As federal authorities were eroding the prerogatives of their nation, Cherokees had come to view the schools as symbols of their nation’s independence.

While the Cherokees and other tribes delayed statehood, they were unable to prevent the dissolution of their nations and opening of their land to white settlement. They also failed to persuade Congress to allow them to form a separate Native American state of Sequoyah.

On Nov. 16, 1907, the Cherokee Nation became part of the state of Oklahoma. If May 7th celebrations were held in this period, they were not widely reported in the press; it wasn’t until 1912 that area newspapers noted them again.

The May 3, 1912, issue of the Muldrow Press carried an announcement from the Commercial Club of Tahlequah, which extended to all graduates and former pupils of the Cherokee Male and Female Seminaries and “all other person who, in years gone by, have been connected with the schools in any capacity whatever, a most cordial invitation to be with us on May 7.”

“Lay aside every business care and come again to the ‘Athens of the old Cherokee nation’ on this day to meet old friends, renew old friendships, and rekindle fond memories of long ago.”

The Stilwell Standard-Sentinel of May 2, referred to the affair as the “regular annual commemoration of the schools’ opening.” The day following the 1912 reunion, the Muskogee Times Democrat mentioned that two members of the first male graduating class of 1855 attended and that Eliza Alberty of Tahlequah, a graduate of the female seminary’s second class of 1856, was present.

The celebration was held on the grounds of Northeastern State Normal, formerly the Female Seminary, which had been purchased by the state from the tribe in 1909. Following a basket dinner on the campus at noon, speakers recalled the educational legacy the Cherokees had bequeathed Northeastern and Oklahoma.

At least one May 7th reunion occurred in June. In 1913, the alumni from the Cherokee Seminaries postponed their May 7 observance to Friday, June 6.

The group’s executive committee decided to reschedule their annual reunion when many of their members informed them they would be attending the summer normal in Tahlequah and would not be able to attend the picnic unless it were scheduled after the opening of the normal’s summer term.

Northeastern President W.E. Gill presided over the gathering of over 500 seminarians augmented by normal school students who were dismissed from class at 11:30 a.m. so they could participate in the festivities.

Tahlequah Mayor Jefferson T. Parks greeted his fellow seminary graduates and students, and former Northeastern State Normal School President Albert Sidney Wyly, 2nd District Congressman W.W. Hastings, and Cherokee historian Emmet Starr addressed the group before the picnic.

The next year’s observation occurred the same day the U.S. Congress enacted legislation establishing Mother’s Day.

In 1915, the Muskogee Times reported, “The Alumnis and Alumnae associations of the old Cherokee National Male and Female seminaries will hold their annual picnic May 7 at Park Hill on the grounds of the old seminary ruins.”

Mrs. R.L. Fite, a prominent resident of Tahlequah and an 1880 graduate of the female seminary, was in charge of the picnic. The program featured presentations by prominent seminary graduates, including Congressman W.W. Hastings and Northeastern President George Gable.

May 7, 1915, also witnessed an event that affected the lives of everyone who attended the reunion and all other Americans as well. A German U-boat captain launched a torpedo that sank the British passenger liner Lusitania, one in a list of provocations that propelled the U.S. into war two years later.

The reunions were probably interrupted during World War I. A 1932 newspaper article reported, “in 1921, the custom [of holding annual reunion] was suspended and not until 1931 was it re-established.”

Tahlequah Daily Press, May 10, 2015

May 7th reunions small compared to heyday

Final in a two-part series

By Brad Agnew/TDP SPecial Writer

By the 1930s, a revitalized interest of Cherokee seminary students in their alma maters may have prompted officials at Northeastern State Teachers College to stage a May 7th spectacular that remains without parallel.

Eula Fullerton, dean of women and associate professor of history, planned the 1931 pageant recalling not just the dedication of the Cherokee Female Seminary on May 7, 1851, but also many of the key events of Oklahoma’s past.

The centerpiece of the celebration was the homecoming of more than 1,000 seminary students. Committees of Tahlequah seminarians sent invitations to all known former students and graduates.

A reception was held in Northeastern’s Administration Building, which had housed the Cherokee Female Seminary for 20 years. A dinner similar to the barbecue given at the building’s dedication 42 years earlier followed.

Mrs. R.L. Fite of Tahlequah and Mrs. L.W. Marks of Vinita were the oldest seminary graduates present. Marks graduated with the class of 1879, and Fite earned her degree the following year, when the female seminary was at Park Hill.

Edward E. Dale, head of the history department at The University of Oklahoma, discussed the history of the Cherokees before the dinner. He shared the stage with Gideon Morgan, the only remaining member of the committee of the executive council that supervised construction of the seminary building in the late 1880s.

At 2:30 p.m., Northeastern students filled most of the roles in a 2-1/2-hour costumed pageant, “The Romance of Oklahoma,” presented in a natural amphitheater on the college campus. Houston B. Teehee, a former male seminary student and treasurer of the U.S. during the Woodrow Wilson administration, narrated the drama.

The highlight of the pageant was the re-creation of the Trail of Tears by students from Sequoyah Training School who walked from their campus five miles south of Tahlequah to the site of the pageant. More than 5,000 people viewed the performance, which traced the history of the Sooner State from the 1540 expedition of Francisco de Coronado to the 1930s.

The 1931 reunion must have stimulated memories, for the next year, graduates and former students held a meeting in April that “made plans for perfecting a permanent organization to be known as the Cherokee Seminaries Student Association.”

Houston B. Tehee was chosen temporary chairman, Mrs. J.A. Lawrence as temporary secretary, and Judge Jefferson T. Parks as chairman of the organization committee, charged with drafting a constitution and bylaws. All three were from Tahlequah.

The 1932 reunion staged by Northeastern students and faculty rivaled the previous year’s, but focused on the bicentennial of the birth of George Washington.

With one exception, seminary reunions seemed to have been held annually since 1931. This May 7, 2015, the observation was convened under the constitution and bylaws adopted May 6, 1932, as amended over the years.

The 1938 reunion was less elaborate than the two just described, but featured dramatizations of nine episodes from the lives of the Cherokee people, a band concert, the crowning of Northeastern’s May Queen, and an exhibition of formation roller skating. Officers of the organization that year included J.B. Milam of Chelsea, the seminaries association president. Milam is important in modern Cherokee history as is the seminaries association.

After federal dissolution of the Cherokee government, the seminaries association and annual May 7th reunions served as something approaching a government in exile for the nation. Those attending these meetings discussed matters of concern to the Cherokee people and worked for federal recognition.

In 1941, Milam was appointed principal chief of the Cherokee Nation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for a year. He was reappointed until his death in 1949, by which time he had realized the Cherokee dream of re-establishing their government with federal recognition. The seminary reunions played a key role in reconstituting tribal government.

Like the 1915 reunion, the 1941 gathering was overshadowed by an event six time zones to the east. On May 7, 1941, Winston Churchill’s decades in the political wilderness came to an end when he was chosen Prime Minister of Great Britain to lead his beleaguered nation during its darkest hour. Four years later on May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered to the allied powers. That day was unusual on the Northeastern campus, for it was not marked by the annual homecoming of seminary graduates and students.

The graying seminarians hadn’t lost their enthusiasm for their alma maters, but they had bowed to a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people imposed by the office of defense transportation. In the absence of their annual reunion, the seminarians held a business meeting to elect new officers and to plan the 1946 homecoming, which would mark the centennial of the passage of the legislation authorizing the building of the Cherokee seminaries.

Jack Brown, superintendent of the Sequoyah Indian Training School, was named president of the Seminaries Student Association. Northeastern President John Vaughan addressed the group and sought their advice and cooperation in establishing a room in the newly authorized library building to house artifacts documenting the history, culture, and accomplishments of the Cherokees.

Three years later in 1949, when that library was completed, seminarians crowded the campus on Friday, May 7, for their annual reunion and toured the new library with its museum.

Presiding over that homecoming, 77-year-old Albert Sidney Wyly, president of the group’s association, was a living link between the school built by the Cherokees and the college. Wyly had served on the tribal school board that administered the seminaries in the final years of the Cherokee Nation. After statehood, he played a major role in persuading the Oklahoma legislature to establish a normal school in Tahlequah and served briefly as the new state normal school’s first president in 1909.

Although the last class of seminarians had earned degrees in 1910, Wyly and the other graduates and former students who returned each year ensured their alma mater and its educational legacy were not forgotten. At the 1958 reunion, the executive committee of the Cherokee Seminaries Students Association announced the restoration of the John Ross Memorial column erected in 1919 with bricks from the ruins of the male seminary.

When the building now known as the Jack Dobbins Field House was built, it encompassed the site of the Ross column, which was moved west to a location near the column constructed in memory of Florence Wilson in 1914. The two columns remain a physical presence linking Northeastern State University with the Cherokee seminaries.

Only a few present Northeastern faculty members remember seminary reunions that were attended by students who had attended the two schools. Even then, the youngest seminarians were well passed retirement age.

An article in the Stilwell Democrat-Journal announcing the 1969 reunion mentioned, “Last year 79 seminary students returned for the event compared to over 1,300 in 1938. Each year the group gets smaller with 600 appearing in 1947, 230 in 1960 and an all-time low of 79 last year.”

That trend was irreversible. The passage of time winnowed the number of seminarians. Although the organization was expanded to include their descendants, the reunions never regained the size and vitality of those conducted in the organization’s heyday during the 1930s.

Tahlequah Daily Press, May 17, 2015

Farley Presents Ballenger Lecture

Paula J. Farley, who earned an M.A. in American Studies from NSU in 2011, presented the Spring 2015 T.L. Ballenger Memorial Lecture Wednesday Afternoon, April 29, sponsored by the NSU History Department, Phi Alpha Theta, National History Honor Society, and the Center for Women’s Studies.

Farley discussed “The Past Inspiring Our Present: The Influence of Southern Conservatism on Elizabeth Fox-Genovese,” before a group of history and social studies education students and faculty. Fox-Genovese, who died in 2007, was a feminist American historian recognized for her study of women and society in the Antebellum South. A primary voice of the conservative women's movement, she received the National Humanities Medal in 2003.

Farley’s presentation was drawn from her thesis, written under the direction of Dr. Chris Owen, professor of history. She graduated from Northeastern Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. in Education in 2005 and is currently teaching at Deer Creek High School in Edmond.

Twist of fate laid Maples and Christie low

First in a two-part series

By Brad Agnew/TDP Special Writer

Beta Pond has been called the “hidden gem” of Northeastern State University’s Tahlequah campus. Tucked away in the valley of the Town Branch Creek, south of Seminary Hall, it is a shaded retreat offering students escape from academic pressures.

Nothing there suggests it is also the site of a killing that led to one of the most famous manhunts and shoot-outs in the history of the American West.

On Wednesday, May 4, 1887, Deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Maples was gunned down not far from where the Town Branch crosses Seminary Avenue and Spring Street. Details of the shooting are disputed. Its aftermath created an outlaw whose reputation ranges from cold-blooded, ruthless killer to innocent victim of a concerted effort to deprive Native Americans of their sovereignty.

In his 1935 book, “Around Tahlequah Council Fires,” Dr. T.L. Ballenger, an NSU historian, wrote that Maples camped with a group of law officers on the northern outskirt of Tahlequah. The deputy marshal attempted to arrest Ned Christie, a member of the Cherokee executive council who was returning to his lodgings after purchasing whisky from a local bootlegger in Dog Town, a less desirable neighborhood on Tahlequah’s northern fringe.

Ballenger indicated Christie, who did not know who was trying to stop him, fired after he saw a gun being drawn. Fleeing the scene, the Cherokee legislator returned to his lodging, where friends advised him to say nothing.

A Daily Oklahoman account written 31 years after his death indicated that Maples, accompanied by a single posseman, had used a telephone recently installed in the post office in James S. Stapler’s general merchandise store in the Nation’s capital city to request warrants to arrest two Tahlequah female liquor dealers. An unnamed individual who overheard the conversation warned Bud (or Bub) Trainor of the lawman’s plan. Described as “a wild and reckless young man ... with a big revolver stuck in his belt,” Trainor crossed the Town Branch Creek, where he discovered Ned Christie sleeping off an alcohol-induced stupor in the bushes near the creek.

Taking Christie’s coat, Trainor put it on and took a position behind a tree to await Maples. In an exchange of fire, the federal officer was mortally wounded; his assailant returned Christie’s coat, roused the sleeping Cherokee, and told him to get up. Christie did not go far before resuming his slumber.

In the morning, unaware of the shooting, Christie awakened and started for town. He encountered a friend who told him he was a suspect in Maples’ death and advised him to flee. Christie, who was inclined to stay and face the charge, remained in Tahlequah and attended a session of the Executive Council the following Monday, May 9.

Years of distrust of federal authority prompted him to leave Tahlequah when he learned a warrant had been issued for his arrest. He was willing to surrender if Isaac Parker, judge of the Fort Smith Federal District Court, would grant him bail, so he could gather evidence to exonerate himself. When the judge refused overtures from the Cherokee’s attorneys, federal officials launched a manhunt that lasted more than five years and made Christie one of the nation’s most notorious outlaws.

In 1918, the Daily Oklahoman reported Cherokee Freedman Dick Humphrey, a blacksmith, had witnessed the entire affair and had identified Trainor as the man who shot Maples. Although Trainor was killed in 1896, fear of retribution from his gang kept the black witness silent for almost 30 years, according to the article.

Headlines in the June 9, 1918, Daily Oklahoman proclaimed, “Cherokee Indian, Killed For A Murder He Didn’t Commit, Exonerated After 30 Years.” The man whose testimony prompted the newspaper to clear Christie was not quoted, nor was much information provided about his background.

Other accounts provide different versions of the shooting of Maples, but until his death, Christie insisted he had not shot the federal lawman. The official website of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, in a brief biographical sketch of Christie, concluded, “Although Cherokee People regard Ned Christie as a patriot, many history and reference books continue to refer to him as a notorious outlaw and murderer.”

A re-examination of the events following the death of Maples suggests the Cherokee people may be correct and many history and reference books are in need of revision. Bonnie Stahlman Speer, an Oklahoma professional writer who died in 2000, wrote “The Killing of Ned Christie: Cherokee Outlaw,” a well-documented book that explores the death of Maples and its aftermath. Her book leans heavily on the Humphrey version of the shooting and pictures Christie in a sympathetic light, although she stops short of exonerating him. Other recent works drawing on the freedman’s eyewitness account are more receptive to Christie’s claim that he played no role in the death of Maples.

In the turbulent years following the Indian Removal Act of 1830, federal officials placed increasing pressure on tribes remaining in the East to move west. Evicted from their North Carolina home in 1838 and forced west on the Trail of Tears, Christie’s family re-established itself in the Rabbit Trap community of the Cherokee Nation’s Going Snake District. His Irish grandmother, who gave the family her name, died en route.

Born Dec. 14, 1852, Christie grew up in a community where English was seldom heard, and the family and their neighbors were largely self-sufficient. His father, Watt, was a member of the tribe’s Keetoowah Society, devoted to preserving traditional culture and values. He taught his son blacksmithing, gunsmithing, and other skills necessary to survive on a rugged and isolated frontier.

By age 10, Ned was a crack shot, a skill that was useful in providing meat for the family in the absence of his father, who served with Indian troops allied with the Union during the Civil War. The family survived the conflict and its aftermath in their remote Rabbit Trap community, about 18 miles southeast of Tahlequah.

From earliest contact between Europeans and Native Americans, whisky loomed large in their relations. The detrimental impact of alcohol on Indians prompted the federal government to prohibit its sale to them shortly after the formation of the United States. Army officials in Indian Territory waged a constant, but futile campaign to stop the flow from Arkansas. A Swiss immigrant who visited the city commented, “If whiskey could make a town, Fort Smith ought to be as big as Chicago.” Whisky was the principal factor that led both Christie and Maples to what would eventually be called Beta Pond.

Although Christie had killed a Cherokee in an 1882 confrontation fueled by whisky, he had been acquitted by a tribal court and was respected by those who knew him. In 1885, he was elected to the tribal executive council. When the Cherokee Female Seminary burned on Easter Sunday in 1887, the tribal government was called into session to consider plans for its reconstruction.

Although Christie and Maples were in Tahlequah on unrelated business, whisky caused the two men to cross paths. One did not survive the encounter, and the other spent the rest of his life defending himself from a crime he claimed he had not committed.

Dr. Brad Agnew is a professor of history at NSU. Eric Alspaugh is a senior history major at NSU from Haskell.

Tahlequah Daily Press, April 26, 2015

Evidence suggests Christie innocent in lawman's death

Second in a two-part series

By Brad Agnew and Eric Alspaugh/TDP Special Writers

Five days after the death of Deputy Marshal Dan Maples in early May 1887, Ned Christie decided to leave Tahlequah, where the fatal shooting had occurred. Fearing that his Rabbit Trap home was under observation by federal lawmen, he hid in the woods nearby, aided by fellow Keetoowahs, who helped him evade capture.

The fugitive sought the assistance of a Cherokee medicine man in undergoing three weeks of ceremonies. Christie returned to his home, confident he had an advantage over those who sought to arrest him. Whether it was the medicine or the Cherokee’s survival skills and the assistance of his neighbors, for more than five years, his ability to elude and fight off posses of lawmen seemed supernatural.

For two years, Christie evaded his pursuers and apparently avoided a major confrontation, although an October 1889 Tahlequah newspaper reported the mention of his name “made the average Deputy Marshal and officer of the law tremble with fear.” During this period, the Cherokee fugitive considered surrendering, although his capture did not seem a high priority among federal lawmen.

In May 1889, President Benjamin Harrison appointed a new marshal for the Fort Smith court, and he spurred the quest for Christie. He assigned the case to one of his most effective deputies, Heck Thomas, who had a reputation for apprehending elusive outlaws.

In September, Thomas and L.P. Isbell, a seasoned deputy marshal from Vinita, enlisted Bud Trainor, who had accused Christie to divert suspicion from himself, to help them find the elusive Cherokee. Trainor located the fugitive at his Rabbit Trap home, but Christie’s reputation probably persuaded the lawmen to delay a confrontation until the arrival of two more deputy marshals.

Under cover of darkness, the five-man posse neared Christie’s home on the morning of Sept. 26. The outlaw’s alarm system of watchful neighbors and alert hounds failed to detect their approach in time to enable Christie to take to the woods. Just before the lawmen reached the house, the dogs began to bay.

Christie had time to grab his Winchester and scamper into the loft. Realizing his posse had been detected, Thomas shouted for Christie to surrender. From his perch, the besieged Cherokee uttered a gobbling sound and opened fire.

With the advantage of surprise lost, the lawmen decided to burn the outlaw out. Christie’s wife emerged from the flaming house, but someone – perhaps his son, James – remained in the building with him.

In the exchange of fire, a bullet smashed into Christie’s skull, blinding him in one eye; his companion continued to hold the posse off until the flames forced him to flee. Deputy Isbell was shot through the shoulder, a wound that ended his career in law enforcement.

With Isbell badly hurt, the lawmen abandoned the attack without confirming that the outlaw had perished in the flames. Christie and his companion survived, although initial reports indicated both had been killed.

Several days later, the deputy marshals returned to Rabbit Trap, but were unable to locate their quarry. A Tahlequah newspaper speculated, “He is doubtless being secreted in the brush by friends.”

This encounter hardened convictions on both sides. All thought of surrender vanished, and Christie vowed he would never be taken alive. The price of the reward for his capture, dead or alive, doubled, and the frequency and strength of forces sent against him increased.

With his home destroyed, Christie’s neighbors built him a rock fort on a hill overlooking the Rabbit Trap community. In early November, Deputy Thomas made another attempt to capture the Cherokee outlaw, but after reconnoitering Christie’s defenses, he withdrew without launching an assault.

Christie’s friends built a cabin for him near the one destroyed by fire. The two-story building had double-log walls with sand in between to stop high-powered rifle fire. Brush and trees nearby were cut to remove shelter lawmen could use for protection.

Sporadic probes by deputies and possemen, hoping to catch the Cherokee by surprise and claim the reward, were repulsed by a well-aimed shot or two. His defenders insisted his only offense was defending himself, but crimes throughout the region were attributed to Christie, enhancing his legendary reputation.

After 5-1/2 years, Judge Isaac Parker and his marshal determined to bring Christie’s defiance of the law to an end. In mid-October 1892, Deputy Marshal Dave Rusk, who had accompanied Heck Thomas on the aborted attack in 1889, led five men in a determined assault on the Cherokee’s fortified home.

Attempts to burn the cabin sputtered out; dynamite failed to ignite, and Christie wounded two of Rusk’s men before the lawman called off the attack. Obviously more men and better equipment were required to subdue their quarry, whose marksmanship seemed as good with one eye as with two.

Three weeks later, a larger, better-equipped force of lawmen was sent to Rabbit Trap, where an epic 24-hour siege, involving an artillery piece and dynamite, closed the saga of the most infamous outlaw in the history of the Cherokee Nation.

Christie died just as the federal government intensified its effort to prove that Native Americans were incapable of governing themselves, that statehood was in their best interest, and that tribal sovereignty must be abandoned. Depicting the Cherokee outlaw as a cold-blooded, ruthless killer aligned perfectly with federal policy.

Although the evidence against him was never tested in an actual court, the court of public opinion outside of Indian Territory found Christie guilty and considered his death justified. Few disputed that conclusion until the revelation of an eyewitness who claimed he saw Bud Trainor shoot Deputy Marshal Maples.

Bonnie Stahlman Speer and others who question that Christie shot Maples based their doubt on the report of Dick Humphrey cited in the June 9, 1918, Daily Oklahoman article. That article was unsigned, and nowhere in it was Humphrey quoted directly. The writer does not indicate that he interviewed the witness. The evidence was logical, even compelling, but if the witness saw only the shooting, how was the writer of the article able to provide precise details about events leading to the confrontation?

The year before the Daily Oklahoman exonerated Christie, a letter to the editor appeared in the June 17, 1917, Morning Tulsa World, relating a similar account. It, too, mentioned the freedman blacksmith who saw the shooting and identified Bud Trainor as the assailant. The parallels between the two articles strongly suggest a common writer or one who paraphrased the Tulsa World letter to the editor.

In the Tulsa World account, the writer not only vouched for the authenticity of his version of the shooting, but also signed his letter and provided information concerning his proximity to the scene of the crime and events leading to it. The author was Darius E. Ward, a prominent mixed-blood Cherokee important enough to be the subject of a biographical sketch in H.F. and E.S. O’Beirne’s “Indian Territory: Its Chiefs, Legislators, and Leading Men.”

At the time of the shooting, Ward was in charge of James S. Stapler’s general merchandise store in Tahlequah. He, far more than the blacksmith, was in a position to have observed events leading to the shooting. Had a trial occurred, Ward claimed he would have testified he was the third person to reach Maples, that Bud Trainor shot the deputy marshal, and that Ned Christie was asleep.

Since Humphrey had been subpoenaed to testify had the case come to trial, Ward probably had heard and believed the blacksmith’s version of the shooting. Given Trainor’s reputation, both men may have been too frightened to testify while the killer and his friends could retaliate.

The contradictory nature of the accounts of the circumstances surrounding the killing make it impossible to convict or exonerate Christie, but Ward’s letter adds considerable weight to the view that the man considered the Cherokee Nation’s most notorious outlaw had nothing to do with the death of the deputy marshal.

Ward also stresses that prominent Arkansans found it convenient to use Ned Christie’s notoriety as a lever to extend Arkansas law into Indian Territory and to open it to settlement.

Dr. Brad Agnew is a professor of history at NSU. Eric Alspaugh is a senior history major at NSU from Haskell.

Tahlequah Daily Press, May 3, 2015

History Students Win Honors At NSU's Undergrad Research Day

Chelsea Lary, social studies education major from Chouteau, was named Outstanding Scholar in the College of Liberal Arts for her paper, “Maximilien de Robespierre: The King of the French Revolution,” at the 2015 Undergraduate Research Day, Wednesday, April 22.

Lary’s paper, written under the direction of Dr. Suzanne Farmer, assistant professor of history, suggests that despite his revolutionary reputation, Robespierre displayed absolutist tendencies when he came to power. After completing her degree at NSU, Lary plans on continuing her education and earning a doctorate in European history. She hopes to bring history to life for her students and teach critical thinking and life skills to her students.

Amanda Adams, a senior history major from Muskogee, earned runner-up honors in the College of Liberal Arts for her paper, “American Administration and the onset of the Cold War in Post-War Germany: 1945-1947.” Written under the direction of Dr. Billy Joe Davis and Dr. Chris Owen, both professors of history, Adams’ paper probes the division of Germany into four zones of occupation at the end of World War II and traces the growing rift among former allies that provoked a Cold War and division of Germany that lasted almost half a century.

Adams also hopes to continue the study of history at the graduate level and to pursue a career  as a history professor or a career related to history. A four-point student, she was named History Student of the month of November and is the recipient of the Calvin Turnbow Scholarship.

Two history/social studies education students were selected to present posters at the annual Undergraduate Research Day. Both worked under the supervision of Dr. Owen.

Eric Alspaugh, a senior history major from Haskell, studied “The Life, Work, and Historical Significance of Birendra Bir Bikram Shad.” Alspaugh traced the reign of the last king of Nepal, whose efforts to bring reform to his country and improve the lives of his people were cut short by his assassination at the hands of his son.

Stephen Neal, a senior history major from Tulsa, submitted a poster entitled, “Procopius’s Secret History: Its Creation, Content, and Analysis.” Considered the principal historian of the 6th century, Procopius is commonly held to be the last major historian of the ancient world. His Secret History contradicts much of his earlier writings.


NSU Professors Review Book

Dr. Chris Owen, professor of history, reviewed Barbara Kearns Goodwin’s Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir in the Let’s Talk About it, Oklahoma series at the NSU Muskogee Campus on Thursday, April 16.

By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of No Ordinary TimeWait Till Next Year is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s memoir of growing up with her family and baseball in the 1950s.

Set in the Long Island suburb of Rockville Centre, the auto-biography re-creates the postwar era, when the corner store was a place to share stories and neighborhoods were equally divided between Dodger, Giant, and Yankee fans.

Using computer technology, Dr. Owen was able to show members of the audience, a view of the home where the author lived in the period she described and an image of her family’s 1940 census entry.

Dr. Brad Agnew, professor of history, also review Goodwin’s book in a Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma series at the Miami Public Library on Thursday, May 7.

Students Inducted into Honor Societies

Phi Alpha Theta, National History Honor Society, inducted six new members during the spring Social Sciences Honor Society Induction program, April 15, in the Tower Room of the Webb Building on Northeastern State University’s Tahlequah campus.

Angela D. Hughes, Stilwell history major, Jonathan Leninsky, Harborcreek, Pennsylvania, junior social studies major, Alessandro Calderoni-Ortiz, Muskogee, junior social studies education major, Brock C. Thomas, Salina, sophomore social studies education major, and Chelsea Lary, Chouteau, senior social studies education major, met the eligibility requirements for membership.

Helen Brown, Tulsa senior history major and PAT president, performed the initiation ceremony. Dr. Denis Vovchenko and Dr. Suzanne Farmer, assistant professors of history, co-sponsor the organization.

Four History/Social Studies Education majors were inducted into Pi Gamma Mu, International Social Sciences Honor Society.

Felicia Nicole King, Grove junior majoring in history, and three social studies education majors, Lucien Tyler Littledave, Tahlequah junior, Megan Ann York, Tahlequah senior, and Robert E. Collier, Tulsa senior, met the scholastic requirements of the honor society that encompass all the social science disciplines.

Dr. Billy Joe Davis, professor of history, and Dr. Ben Kracht, professor of anthropology, sponsor Pi Gamma Mu.

Greene Named History Student of April

Jonathan Greene, a junior from Elk City majoring in Social Studies Education, was selected History Student of April by the faculty of the history department.

Greene graduated from Elk City High School in 2006 and shortly afterwards joined the U.S. Army and was deployed to Iraq in June 2007 until late July 2008.  After marrying his high school sweetheart, he reenlisted and joined the Green Berets as a support soldier (non-green beret but in the same unit) and deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2012.  

In between these deployments he traveled to Honduras, El Salvador and Colombia.  He ended his Army career to spend more time with his wife, who is a student in the optometry program, and to earn a bachelor’s degree. 

While at Northeastern, Greene was chosen for membership in Phi Alpha Theta, National History Honor Society, Pi Gamma Mu, International Honor Society in Social Sciences, and Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education. He received an NSU Honor Society Award in 2014. 

He is attending Northeastern on a post-9-11 GI Bill® he earned while serving in the military.  After graduation, he plans to seek a teaching position and hopes to coach at the junior high or high school level. Dr. Billy Joe Davis, professor of history, nominated Jonathan Greene because of his outstanding record at NSU.

Historic Rosamund House intertwined with NSU, female seminary

First in a series

By Brad Agnew/TDP Special Writer

By the early 1890s, Tahlequah’s 2,000 residents made it the largest city in the Cherokee Nation. Its size and vitality were remarkable since the nearest railroad was 22 miles away, at Fort Gibson.

With a flour and grist mill, two livery stables, capitol building, courthouse, penitentiary, lumber yard, one of the largest opera houses in the territory, a blacksmith, carpenter and barber shops, four weekly newspapers, male and female seminaries, and several mission schools, Tahlequah had a legitimate right to the title “Athens of Indian Territory,” once claimed by Park Hill, which declined during and following the Civil War.

H.F. and E.S. O’Beirne’s 1892 book on Indian Territory claimed, “few states in the Union can boast of more beautiful structures or better conducted institutions... . Few towns of its population can boast of prettier residences or a more enlightened class of people than Tahlequah.”

The city continued to prosper, particularly after the arrival of the railroad in 1902, approaching a population of 3,000 by 1910. The addition of a Carnegie Library, additional businesses, and more stately Victorian homes along its shaded avenues reflected the town’s energy.

By that time, the city was no longer the capital of the Cherokee Nation, but the seat of a county named to commemorate that nation. Although no longer recognized by the federal government, the Cherokee Nation remained alive in the memory of its citizens and the public structures and private homes they built and occupied.

The passage of more than a century had claimed the lives of all those who had been citizens of the Cherokee Nation and their memories. It also witnessed the destruction or disintegration of many of their public buildings and homes.

The historic record they left behind preserves an account of their accomplishments, and the surviving structures in which they worked and lived provide a window to a way of life long vanished.

In her description of the historic homes of Tahlequah, Beth Herrington, who has devoted much of her life to their preservation, wrote, “Our cultural heritage must be preserved through the maintenance and record of those places where our heritage began – the homes of the people.”

Herrington bears much of the credit for the establishment of the self-guiding historical tour focusing on and explaining sites of historical importance near Town Branch, the scenic stream that runs through the town and its past.

The deteriorating condition and importance of Rosamund House, the first and oldest historic home on the Tahlequah History Trail, has alarmed Herrington.

“Unconcern, carelessness, and the passing of time can not be allowed to erase all material evidence of this part of the dream [of saving the legacy of the past] which is rightfully ours,” Herrington says.

Rosamund House, the National Cherokee Female Seminary in Tahlequah, and Northeastern State University have shared an intertwining history from their creation to the present. Rosamund was the home of Gideon Morgan, the secretary of the committee that supervised the construction of the female seminary after the Park Hill building burned on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1887.

Following his appointment, Morgan moved his family to Tahlequah, where he built a home on land he owned within view of the site selected for the second National Cherokee Female Seminary. In 1970, that structure, by then the iconic center of the campus of Northeastern State College, was named Seminary Hall. A plaque built into the wall of the main entrance of the building lists Morgan’s role in its construction.

The application that resulted in the selection of Rosamund House for the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 claimed, “Morgan was instrumental in construction of the $63,000 building which became the Northeastern State Teachers College in 1909.” Actually, the Cherokee Female Seminary in Tahlequah became the home of Northeastern State Normal School that year.

The application is more accurate in asserting, “Morgan received little public attention for his role but his persuasiveness and foresight resulted in lasting changes.” Because Morgan supported allotment of Cherokee land and statehood, his contributions to the construction of the Cherokees’ second female seminary have not received the attention they deserve.

One-sixteenth Cherokee and reared in Tennessee, Morgan understood that allotment of Cherokee land and statehood were inevitable. He was one of a few influential Cherokees who publicly advocated allotment and unification of Indian and Oklahoma Territories into a single state.

In fact, he played a role in the enactment of legislation creating the Dawes Commission, which presided over the allotment of tribal land. His position prompted threats on his life and placed him at odds with many Cherokees who abhorred his views.

Although Morgan’s outspoken opinions were unpopular with many Cherokees, his contributions to their school system and other tribal affairs prompted the citizens of Tahlequah to name a street in his honor on September 25, 1893. It is no longer called Gideon Morgan Road, but Morgan Street runs from one of the city’s early residential areas into the northern part of the business district, a block south of Northeastern State University.

Morgan’s role in saving a black walnut tree that provided shade for the annual picnic of seniors graduating from the Normal school is also documented in the application, which resulted in the designation of Rosamund as an historic place.

The application explains, “In 1887, the survey of the proposed building site threatened a walnut tree planted by Morgan. Reluctant to see the tree demolished, Morgan...persuaded the surveyors to make another survey twenty feet north.”

During the centennial of Oklahoma statehood in 2007, that tree was designated one of 100 “Centennial Witness Trees” throughout the Sooner State. Now, insect infested and declining, it still frames the building whose construction Morgan supervised, and it remains the last living witness to events that began before the construction of Seminary Hall.

While Rosamund House was Morgan’s home during a particularly eventful period in his life, which included the births of several of his eight children, it was also the scene of the death of his year-old namesake, Gideon Morgan, Jr., in 1891.

Since the home was never mapped by the Sanborn Company to assess insurance liability nor photographed during its early years, the original structure is not as well documented as the second female seminary building, which was constructed about the same time just up the hill.

The application for historic place status described Morgan’s home as “a good example of a Folk Victorian style house. The basic form of Rosamund is a two-story, gabled el. The original L-shaped house, however, has been altered by three rear additions.”

These additions may have been added early in the home’s history because the sandstone foundation is similar to that of the original house. “None of the additions are visible from the facade and they do not interfere with the ability of the house to convey its historic significance,” according to the application.

Despite the length and detail of the architectural description of the house in the application, it is more speculative than precise. The narrative offers more detail about Gideon Morgan, his family, political views, and his ancestors than his home.

The Morgans were a prominent Southern family with roots in colonial times. Its men fought with the rebels in both the American Revolution and Civil War, with General Andrew Jackson in the campaign against Red Stick Creeks in the War of 1812, and for the United States in the Mexican War.

Gideon Morgan’s Tahlequah home witnessed vital decisions concerning the construction of the female seminary and political life in the capital of the Cherokee Nation as tribal government was swept toward oblivion and unavoidable replacement by statehood.

Morgan and his family left Tahlequah near the turn of the century, but his home remained the site of events that gave it special meaning long after their departure.

Tahlequah Daily Press, April 12, 2015

NSU officials worked to save historic building

Second in a two-part series

By Brad Agnew/ TDP Special Writer

When Gideon Morgan left Tahlequah, Rosamund House remained in his extended family. By 1900, his first cousin, Ellen Morris; her son, Hugh M. Morris; and other relatives, were living there. That branch of the family remained in the home long enough that it became known as the “Morris House.”

On March 4, 1904, the secretary of the interior approved the Tahlequah plat and appraisal of town lots, which allowed real property to pass from the Cherokee Nation to individuals. On May 15, 1908, for $239, Hugh Morris acquired title to Lots 2-10 in Block 22, which included his home, Rosamund.

Morris was listed as a farmer in the 1900 Census, but his economic interests extended beyond agriculture. Involved in multiple commercial ventures, he was a prominent city businessman whose name appeared frequently in the legal columns of the city’s newspapers.

In 1916, when Tahlequah’s growing population strained its water supply, Morris offered to sell “Morris’ Spring,” behind his home, which he claimed produced 250,000 gallons of sparkling water each day. City leaders were interested in the spring, but rejected his $6,000 price. His brown pointer, Jack, received a better reception in 1910, when newspapers throughout the nation reported his prowess as a fisherdog. Few minnows or crawfish escaped Jack, who trolled the spring-fed creek just back of Rosamund House.

By 1920, Morris had moved to Cookson, leaving his home to serve another crucial function in a town that had grown beyond its pioneering era and was acquiring the institutions of a modern city.

Dr. John Starr Allison, an 1895 graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, moved to Tahlequah in 1910. He established the first hospital in the city, initially in his office, but about 1919, he moved it to Rosamund. Allison probably rented the building, for Morris retained its title.

Known as the Allison Hospital, the facility’s narrow stairwell made it difficult to move non-ambulatory patients to rooms on the second floor, but Gideon Morgan’s home served as Tahlequah’s only hospital for several years. It attracted patients from throughout the region for surgical procedures and recuperation.

On May 2, 1920, the facility was overwhelmed by residents of Peggs, a village of about 250, 12 miles northwest of Tahlequah. A devastating tornado had swept through the community, killing more than 70 people and injuring at least 100 others. The growing medical needs of the city soon outstripped the capacity of Rosamund House.

In October 1922, Morris and his wife, Pearl, transferred the property to Snowden Parlette, a successful Oklahoma City businessman and Harvard graduate, who had married Mary Trimble Morris in 1898 in Tahlequah. A member of the extended Morgan/Morris family, she was the subject of a biographical sketch of prominent members of the nation in Emmett Starr’s classic “History of the Cherokee Indians.”

The Parlettes never lived in Rosamund and sold it the following January to John M. Hackler, one of the original 1909 faculty of Northeastern State Normal School. Hackler was head of the college’s Training School, which provided practical experience for the school’s intern teachers and education for many of the city’s children. In the mid-1930s, Hackler served a year as the college’s interim president.

Until Hackler purchased it, Rosamund had been transferred within the Morgan/Morris family for nominal sums. In 1923, the Northeastern department head paid $3,000 for the house and the adjoining property. Why Hackler purchased the property is unclear, but if he planned to make it his residence, his goal was unrealized, for he sold it within a year. Perhaps the purchase was for speculative purposes.

In 1921, Robert K. McIntosh, former superintendent of schools in Bryan County, accepted the position of registrar at Northeastern. By 1926, he became the school’s first dean of instruction, a position he held until his death in 1945.

In January 1924, McIntosh obtained a $1,600 loan that allowed him and his wife, Dora, to purchase Rosamund. He, Dora, and their 10-year-old son were the first family to occupy the house not related to Gideon Morgan. Rosamund remained in the McIntosh family until Dora’s death in 1984.

By that time, the building was approaching its century mark and was in deteriorating condition. When Northeastern State University purchased the property in 1985, it was an eyesore across Seminary Street from the home of the university’s president. Demolition would have been the most efficient course of action.

W. Roger Webb, who became president of the school in 1978, had inherited an institution burdened with overwhelming bonded indebtedness, declining enrollment, a tarnished public image, and low morale. He never considered demolition, and when the university acquired Rosamund, that option was rejected.

The house was virtually reconstructed. Since almost nothing was square or plumb, the renovation of the historic home cost more than demolition and new construction. Bob Patrick, Physical Plant director when Rosamund was renovated, claimed the building was a “rotted shell when NSU acquired the house ... the general construction of the house was poor. You could stand on the second floor and rock back and forth and make the house rock.”

Webb, who recognized that Rosamund was an integral part of the city’s past and the heritage of the university, approved the expenditure of funds to preserve it. He also gave it a new mission as the administrative office of the vice president of University Relations and as luxury accommodation for special guests to the university.

Dr. Don Betz, then-vice president of University Relations and later president of NSU, was housed in the building, but the special guests were responsible for adding a new chapter to the Rosamund’s history.

Beginning in 1986, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee was the first celebrity to stay in the house during his visit to the NSU campus. Former President Gerald Ford lodged there in 1987, and his successor, Jimmy Carter, spent a night in the house two years later. Other guests included journalists Cokie Roberts and Helen Thomas, and “Roots” author Alex Haley.

President Ford’s visit was probably the most memorable. A drunk looking for a place to sleep it off during the night alarmed the former president’s Secret Service detail. After determining he was not a threat, the agents found him a place in the city jail to sober up.

Webb’s evaluation of the historic importance of Rosamund was confirmed on Sept. 6, 2007, when Gideon Morgan’s home was selected for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Victoria Sheffler, then university archivist, said placement on the National Register affirmed Rosamund’s role in the development of Tahlequah. as well as NSU. “This is another link to our past. Our Seminary Hall is also on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was built around the same time as Rosamund,” she said. “They both are part of the history of Tahlequah, the Cherokees and Northeastern.”

Tahlequah Daily Press, April 19, 2015

Lincoln Viewed

Phi Alpha Theta, National History Honor Society, and NSU’s History Club sponsored the final Movie Night of the school year on April 14 with a memorial viewing of Lincoln, a movie based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s best-selling book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln .

The film focused on the final four months of Lincoln's life during which the president maneuvered to secure passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by the United States House of Representatives. Nominated for twelve Academy Awards, the picture received widespread critical acclaim.

participants considered the movie the most accurate historically of the firms viewed this year. Those attending included Helen Brown, Tulsa senior and president of Phi Alpha Theta, Alessandro Calderoni-Ortiz, Muskogee junior, Felicia King, Grove junior, Colton Vines, Oklahoma City sophomore, Dr. Denis Vovchenko, assistant professor of history, Dr. Suzanne Farmer, assistant professor of history, and student and faculty guests.

MHS earns top honors at History Day

Students from Muskogee Public Schools won 14 of 18 awards during the Oklahoma History Day regional competition at Northeastern State University.

Ben Franklin Science Academy won all three places in one of the three categories available, and Muskogee High School history students won 14 of the 18 categories. Muskogee High School also won the senior division sweepstakes award for the fifth straight year.

“The winning, to me, is like the cherry on top of the cake — a great feeling but I wouldn’t be as successful as I am if my students didn’t work as hard as they did,” said Diane Walker, ninth- and 10th-grade history teacher at Muskogee High School.

The winners will go to state competition May 7 at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City. If they place there, then they will go on to national competition, Walker said. Her students have gone to nationals four of the last five years.

“Their motivation and parental support makes the success possible,” she said. “I appreciate and love my kids and want them to understand that to be a winner you don’t have to win history day, just participate,” Walker said.

She said she was proud of the 54 students she took to the regional competition at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. “But I had 122 students who actually created projects, and I’m just as proud of them,” she said.

Laura Webster won first place in the senior individual exhibit.

“I didn’t know there was this much history in Muskogee,” Webster said. “It’s pretty neat. There is history all around us if you look.”

Her project was on William Twine, a black American civil rights leader in Indian Territory, who was a lawyer, and through his law practice and newspapers, defended the rights of the community’s African Americans.

Nelson Mandela was the subject of Braelynn Hales’s third place win in the senior individual exhibits.

“The most interesting thing I learned was when he was offered the opportunity to leave jail, he decided not to because he wanted to continue to work against apartheid laws,” Hale said. “He wasn’t prepared to settle for less. He wanted the law abolished.”

She said that this project showed her that “even though segregation in the U.S. is over, it took other countries just as long, and if you want something changed you should fight for it and continue to fight for it . . .”

Annie Nguyen and her partner Kaitlyn Echols entered the senior individual website category and won first place with their creation entitled “The Impact of the Vietnam War.”

Nguyen said she thought she learned a lot of information from her parents about the Vietnam War, but during her research learned about Buddhist Monks who burned themselves alive in protest of the war.

“They were asking ‘why are we fighting, we are a country, we are one,’” she said.

All of Walker’s competition students spent between four to six months creating their projects. Students had to conduct research using original sources, learn how to properly cite their sources and learn interview techniques, Walker said.

“Those who do well aren’t doing it through Google,” she said.

Her students used primary sources and went into the community for interviews and information from sources and people who have first-hand knowledge of their topic, she said.

The kids view about history is that it’s about a bunch of dead white guys, Walker said.

“To me, history is a soap opera, the passion, the why, the emotions and thought processes,” she said. “History is about passion, wanting to make a difference in the world.”

Has Walker made a difference in her students’ world?

“My teacher is amazing and encouraging and I really want to say thank you,” Nguyen said.

Muskogee Phoenix, April 2015

Davis Honored for History Day Service

Dr. Billy Joe Davis, Professor of History, was honored during Northeastern’s awards ceremony of the 34th annual National History Day Contest, for his years of service to the program he began on the Northeastern campus in 1981.

The historian, who began teaching at Northeastern State College in 1968 was part of a team of history professors who met in 1980 and brought the program to Oklahoma the following spring. He served as regional director for most of the contests held on the Tahlequah campus and state director in the 1980s and 1990s.

Davis was presented an inscribed desk clock from Dr. Phil Bridgmon, Dean of Northeastern’s College of Arts and Letters, and an inscribed glass commemorative award in the shape of Oklahoma by Jason Harris, coordinator of the state History Day program.

Professor Davis will retire after 47 years of teaching at Northeastern. Counting his career in public school and community college, his total time as an instructor is more than half a century.

Calderoni-Ortiz: March History Student

Alessandro Calderoni-Ortiz, a junior majoring in social studies education from Muskogee, was named History Student of March by the faculty of the Northeastern history department.

A 2012 graduate of Hilldale High School in Muskogee, Calderoni-Ortiz was born in Monterrey, Mexico, of Mexican-Italian parents. He was naturalized a US citizen in 2013.

Although Calderoni-Ortiz commutes from Muskogee, he is a member of the History Club and active in its progams and the extracurricular activities of the history department. He is planning an extended trip to Europe this summer to visit family in Italy.

After completing his degree at Northeastern, he plans to teach and is considering other options. He was nominated by Dr. Suzanne Farmer, who praised his writing ability.

Over 200 Attend Film Festival Marking Women's History Month At Northeastern

During March more than 200 students, faculty, and members of the community screened four films, Wonder Women!, North Country, Iron Jawed Angels, and Nine to Five in celebration of Women's History Month.

The NSU History Department co-sponsored the film festival with the NSU Center for Women's Studies and the NSU American Democracy Project committee.

The films dealt with historical and contemporary issues facing modern women, including representations of women in popular culture, sexual harassment/violence in the workplace, the suffragette movement, and issues in the work place environment.

Refreshments were provided by all three sponsors and each film was followed by a discussion of the issues present in the film screened that night.

Dr. Suzanne Farmer, assistant professor of history, who represented the history department in coordinating the program, was particularly pleased by the public response. She attributed the increased attendance to a good program and better promotion. 

Honor is familiar for MPS teacher of year

It’s the second district title for Jack Reavis

By CATHY SPAULDING / Phoenix Staff Writer

Meet Jack Reavis

AGE: 57.
HOMETOWN: Muskogee.
CAREER: Advanced Placement history teacher, Muskogee High School.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in social studies education, Northeastern State University; master’s degree in American studies, NSU.
FAMILY: Wife, Lora Reavis, four daughters, five grandchildren.
CHURCH: LifeChurch Muskogee.
HOBBIES: “I play my guitar to try to create things musically.”

Twice is nice for Jack Reavis, Muskogee Public Schools’ 2015 Teacher of the Year.

Reavis, who was MPS Teacher of the Year in 2008, was surprised with his 2015 honor Thursday morning during a live broadcast in Muskogee High School’s TV studio. Reavis is MHS’ Advanced Placement history teacher and an assistant basketball coach.

Reavis, 57, said he was amazed people were able to pull off the surprise without him knowing it.

MHS Principal Dewayne Pemberton called Reavis “a wonderful individual and outstanding social studies teacher.”

“His classes are always full, with a waiting list of students wishing to take him,” Pemberton said. “He has a heart of gold, and his students come first and foremost in his mind. He takes on extracurricular duties in basketball, he is the social studies curriculum coordinator and is always the first person to help out when I or the other administrators need help.”

Superintendent Mike Garde said Reavis “is one of those exceptional teachers that not only has a good relationship with his peers, but is respected and admired by his students.”

“Jack is a passionate, knowledgeable educator, and because of that students are drawn to his energy and his depth of knowledge,” Garde said.

Reavis said the honor is sweeter the second time around.

“I see the significance of it with more clarity,” he said. “When you’re younger, you don’t know how things are truly interconnected. With more life experiences, you see with more depth and understanding how it actually works.”

Such depth and understanding are part of the way Reavis says he approaches teaching.

“To help students think critically for themselves is the most important thing they can carry out of the classroom, I think, because that’s a life lesson,” Reavis said. “If you understand how you feel, you can defend what you think with passion.”

Reavis himself put that into practice in 2014 when he ran for the Oklahoma House District 14 seat. He was defeated in the general election by George Faught.

“I think I stayed out of the political gutter,” Reavis said. “People told me, ‘Thank you for running a clean campaign.’”

He said he brought some experiences from the campaign into his classroom.

“It’s not often that a student has a teacher who made it to the final ballot in an election, and have honest, open discussion about it,” Reavis said.

He said his political experience “made it more clear there are more entities who want to see education privatized and who continue to seek education through charter schools.”

“Voucher systems that would allow a parent to take a child to a private or parochial school with public dollars are a good example of that,” he said. “If big business, corporate business, could do what we do, they would try to do it. They realize they cannot do what a good school teacher does with the minimum amount of money that we get.”

Now in his 23rd year at MPS, Reavis said he got into teaching because he thought there was a future in it.

“I don’t think I could create the future, but I might be able to bend it a little bit — if you can get people to think for themselves,” he said.

Reavis said he discovered his inclination toward history through an aptitude test he took in high school.

“It came easy, but I was able to understand how it was connected together,” he said.

Reavis is the second MHS history teacher in a row to be named district Teacher of the Year. Diane Walker was chosen in 2014.

For Reavis, teaching history is important because “we forget that each day that we live we are creating the past by living the future.”

“If we realize that it’s the moment that’s important and do what’s right in the moment, then you create a better future,” he said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

Muskogee Phoenix, March 13, 2015

Early Kiwanis project was building hotel

First in a two-part series

Brad Agnew/TDP Special Writer

In January 1924, the population of Tahlequah stood at 3,023, which included 956 public school students, 914 white and Indian residents, and 42 people of color.

The 438 students attending Northeastern State Teachers College were not included in the total unless they were from Tahlequah. Since Northeastern had no dormitories and the roads were so primitive that commuting was virtually impossible, most students from other communities found accommodations and board in the homes of Tahlequah residents.

The city was booming; an $85,000 high school with a 700-seat auditorium had just been completed. Plans were advanced for paving the town’s two principal streets, Muskogee and Choctaw.

A newspaper article covering a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in the county courthouse proclaimed, “Great Things in Store for Tahlequah.” An ambitious agenda of civic improvement was outlined, including support for the rural schools of Cherokee County, the effort to secure a fish hatchery for the city, a college-sponsored interscholastic competition in athletics and academics, and the establishment of a tourist camp.

Several weeks later, on Monday, Jan. 28, 1924, civic leaders of the Tahlequah community organized a Kiwanis Club in the former capital city of the Cherokee Nation. Its members would be a driving force in the realization of the goals spelled out by the Chamber and of the aspirations of residents who wanted their city to thrive.

News of the birth of the Tahlequah club was reported in the local newspaper, the Tahlequah Arrow-Democrat, on the last day of January. A headline to the right of the international organization’s logo announced: “Kiwanis Club At Tahlequah.” The club’s brief history lists 49 charter members, but only 39 were named in the newspaper article, which proclaimed, “Good things are coming Tahlequah’s way.”

The next paragraph asserted, “A live Kiwanis Club is a valuable asset for any city, and the Arrow-Democrat is proud to chronicle to its readers that our city has such a Club.” Most of the remainder of the article lists officers and members, many of whom played key roles in the city’s development.

The club’s first president was John B. Pearson, an Arkansas native who graduated from Pea Ridge College and moved in 1909 to Tahlequah, where he went into business. He became vice president of the First National Bank in 1919, a position he held for 40 years.

The group’s first vice president was another Arkansas native, Monroe P. Hammond, who had moved to Tahlequah the year before the club was organized, when he was named president of Northeastern State Teachers College.

William P. Hicks was secretary. He was a 28-year-old native Oklahoman who was cashier at the First National Bank. By 1930, he had moved to Tulsa.

J. Robert Wyly, the organization’s first treasurer, was another Arkansan. A graduate of Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., he became a cashier in 1907 at the First National Bank in Tahlequah, remaining in that position for 10 years before he became president of First State Bank, a position he held the rest of his life.

Jack Paden, the district trustee, was a 1913 graduate of the Normal School who had served in France as a second lieutenant in World War I. He was practicing law in Tahlequah when the club was organized, but the next year he was living in Tulsa, and by 1940, he was back in his hometown of Stilwell.

The final paragraph of the article announcing the organization of the Tahlequah chapter said, “We understand that one of the first enterprises the Kiwanis Club will endeavor is to land for Tahlequah will be a modern hotel.”

Early club meetings were held on Thursdays at the Duray Hotel, located north of the Capitol Square. Facing the county courthouse, it occupied one of the city’s most historic buildings, which had provided accommodations for important visitors to Tahlequah for most of the past century.

During many of those years, it was known as the National Hotel. Built in 1844 by Mormons on their way to Utah, it was a brick structure whose best years were long in the past by 1924. The first goal of the city’s new Kiwanis Club was to replace it with a modern hotel.

The members lost no time; by February 1926, the old brick hotel was being razed to make room for a modern brick structure built by a charter member of the club and one of its first directors, James P. Thompson. A native Texan, he moved to Tahlequah with his parents in 1881 at age 5. When they died, he was placed in the Cherokee orphanage in Salina, where he was educated.

He married into the prominent Cherokee Mayes family, became a successful businessman and politician, played a role in bringing rail service to the city, and is credited with influencing Charles N. Haskell, Oklahoma’s first governor, to establish a normal school in Tahlequah.

In addition to the $55,000 Thompson Hotel, which replaced the historic old National Hotel, Thompson built six more buildings in Tahlequah, including a motion picture theater. He also erected the Sycamore Inn near the Illinois River.

It has been decades since the Thompson Hotel welcomed guests, and whatever architectural character the building may have possessed has been diminished by an addition and boarded windows. The structure has occupied its location in the center of Tahlequah longer than the National Hotel, and Thompson’s name is still prominently featured just below the frieze in the center of the building, an enduring monument to the Tahlequah Kiwanis Club’s “first enterprise.”

O.E. Butler had recently acquired the town’s oldest newspaper, the Arrow-Democrat, and merged it with his Tahlequah Leader. Another charter member of the Kiwanis Club, he was its first publicity committee chairman. Much of what is known about the history of Tahlequah and the early days of Kiwanis was preserved in the columns of his newspapers.

In the first article announcing the club’s organization, Butler asserted the members are “town builders.” While the club stressed service, it also considered promotion of the town and its businesses high priority. In 2015, Ed Brocksmith, former president and secretary of the Tahlequah club, pointed out the close relations between Kiwanis and the Chamber of Commerce. That relationship was apparent from the beginning.

The next reported meeting of the Kiwanis Club, in mid-February 1924 at the Duray Hotel, featured a presentation by Northeastern’s president, Monroe P. Hammond, who spoke to the group on “Safeguarding Normal Schools of Oklahoma.”

He was almost certainly motivated by the effort of Muskogee businessmen to persuade the Legislature to relocate Northeastern Normal to their city, which offered better rail and road connections. Perhaps in response to that threat, club members supported the good roads movement, and Tahlequah’s road network improved significantly within a few years.

O.E. Butler, who urged the club to start a “Buy It At Home” movement, wrote, “It was a happy get-to-gether affair, wherein you can ‘elbow’ with a fellow you don’t like and pretty soon learn to like him, and we look for a great deal of good result from the Kiwanis Club wherein Tahlequah will be benefited.”

The editor’s prediction was prescient. For almost a century, the Tahlequah chapter lived up to its “We Build” motto and provided an array of service that affected the entire community, particularly its youth.

Editor’s note: Dr. Brad Agnew is a history professor at Northeastern State University. The second part of this series will be published Sunday, March 29.

Tahlequah Daily Press, March 22, 2015

Kiwanis Club: Athletic boosters to needy kids

Second in a two-part series

Brad Agnew/TDP Special Writer

In early June 1924, the Tahlequah chapter of Kiwanis International celebrated the presentation of its charter at a banquet and dance at James Thompson’s Sycamore Inn, two miles east of Tahlequah on a bluff overlooking the Illinois River. The rustic resort attracted tourists to the scenic river and was used by Northeastern State Teachers College for social functions.

The 200 guests who attended the affair included a large contingent of Kiwanians from Tulsa and Julian Bobo, the lieutenant governor of the Texas-Oklahoma district, who presented the charter to the chapter’s first president, John B. Pearson.

For the next several decades, the Tahlequah club devoted much of the effort and time of the members to promoting the college and making its students feel welcome in Tahlequah.

The July 17, 1924, local newspaper reported, “Last night the local Kiwanis Club entertained the faculty and entire student body of Northeastern State Teachers College. The huge crowd of 1,700 or more gathered in the natural amphitheater just south of the main building and the evening was ideal for entertainment.”

The editor concluded, “This form of entertainment by the Kiwanis Club is the first of the kind given the students, and was much appreciated by them, we are sure. It shows the interest felt toward the college by the businessmen of Tahlequah and their desire to make the summer term pleasant for the people who come here as students.”

Northeastern’s summer semester was the largest of the school year. Most of the students were public school teachers, taking courses required to earn teaching certificates or to meet annual requirements that allowed them to continue teaching.

In mid-September, almost all Kiwanis members traveled to Wagoner for a joint Friday evening dinner meeting with that city’s club. The meal was described as “fit for a king,” but it was the punch bowl that attracted most attention. “Some of our boys made two or three trips to the punch,” according to a newspaper account.

The same story mentioned names of other members not listed in the article announcing the group’s organization, including Jack Brown, superintendent of the Sequoyah Orphan Training School, and D.W. Emerson, Northeastern’s dynamic director of the extension program.

Northeastern’s athletic teams in particular were also in need of support. To say their performance on the gridiron and the basketball court was lackluster requires considerable emphasis on “lack.” Following a 54-6 loss in the school’s opening football game against the University of Arkansas in September 1924, the Kiwanis Club voted to sponsor the college team.

The name of Northeastern’s athletes, which caused considerable controversy decades later, was not then an issue. In 1924, the year Tahlequah’s Kiwanis Club was chartered, Northeastern’s teams had not been yet been designated “the Redmen.”

The school’s athletes took the field or court as “Pedagogues.” While no one suggested that name was politically incorrect, it did not survive long.

Local Kiwanians attended a Friday morning pep rally and persuaded most businessmen to close their establishments so they and their employees could support the team Friday at 2 p.m. when Northeastern met its nemesis, the perennial powerhouse Southeastern. Led by the school band and Kiwanians, the “entire city and college” marched through Tahlequah to Gable Field, then about 100 yards northwest of what is now Seminary Hall. Although Northeastern finished on the short end of a 21-7 score, the game was a moral victory for the home team, which averaged 20 pounds a man less than the visitors.

The Kiwanis Club played a role in Northeastern’s first homecoming in 1924. Two years later, festivities were described as “bigger and better than ever before.” Club members joined students, alums, and other team boosters in a mass meeting and bonfire on Thursday night, and the Kiwanis Club even sponsored a special assembly for the opposing team Friday morning. Although the outpouring of support did not produce a homecoming victory, the season ended on a high note on the Friday following Thanksgiving, when Northeastern defeated Northwestern 20-0.

School boosters hoped the basketball team would be more successful. Despite the coach’s optimistic prediction, the loyalty of the team’s fans, and the backing of those charter members of Kiwanis, Northeastern’s basketball season was equally disappointing.

It was not just the sports’ program that needed help. Northeastern was the most poorly funded state-supported school, based on the state’s own statistics. The editor of the Tahlequah Arrow-Democrat reported, “Five students may be sent to the normal school at Tahlequah for what one may be sent to Wilburton with a savings of $57.65 to boot.”

Later, several Oklahoma governors admitted Northeastern had been grossly underfunded. In remarks at a 1925 Kiwanis luncheon honoring Northeastern’s basketball team, President Hammond reported on his efforts in Oklahoma City to “secure much-needed appropriation for the college.”

Club members lobbied the Legislature and anyone else who would listen. While they probably were not solely responsible for securing equitable appropriations, not long afterward, the Tahlequah college began to receive more money from Oklahoma City.

Members of the local club were probably more concerned about civic improvement and service than in preserving a record of their past. Current members of the club seem unaware of their organization’s contributions to the community in its early years.

The international office of Kiwanis required monthly reports from which annual volumes of “Kiwanis Activities” were compiled. For the first seven years of the club’s existence, five of those volumes have survived, which provide a window to the activities of the club in its early years.

In the 1924 edition, the single entry about the Tahlequah chapter featured the “picnic at which 1,600 students and members of the faculty of The Northeastern State Teachers College were entertained by the business men of Tahlequah. Plan to make this an annual affair.”

In 1928, three projects were reported by the chapter. The Committee on Public Affairs arranged for a large cotton demonstration; the club supported general reforestation, fire prevention, and preservation of birds and animals; and it assisted in the organization of a municipal band, arranging concerts, and the observation of Music Week.

In 1930, the club reported three projects, including service on behalf of underprivileged children by removing those physical, mental, moral and economic handicaps that barred them from the full measure of citizenship, development of better town and country relations, and promotion of good roads.

In recognition of the contributions of Kiwanis, the Northeastern yearbook staff voted to dedicate the 1926 annual to the club’s members.

The dedication read: “To the City’s Kiwanis Club who has turned its interests to the progress of the Institution, and who has helped fashion the destiny of the college through its purpose ‘We build.’”

Dr. Brad Agnew is a professor of history at Northeastern State University.

Tahlequah Daily Press, March 29, 2015

Local lecture focuses on Civil War

A revolver, used in the Civil War by Choctaw confederate colonel Tandy Walker, and a Cherokee battle flag, will be on display during a Civil War lecture on Thursday, April 2 at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. The lecture begins at 7 p.m. and will feature Brad Agnew, Northeastern State University history professor.

Agnew will tell about Clem Rogers, Will's father, and his role during the Civil Ware in Indian Territory. Walker entered in the first Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment. He rose through the ranks and eventually commanded the Choctaw-Chickasaw regiment.

The public is invited to the lecture in the museum's theatre to learn more about tribal involvement in the Civil War.

Wayne McCombs, J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum director (left), and Jason Schulbert Davis museum curator (right), are joined by Jacob Krumwiede. Will Rogers Memorial Museum assistant director, in making plans for an April 2 Civil War lecture. The Will Rogers Memorial Museum will host Dr. Brad Agnew, Northeastern State University history professor, as guest lecturer. The J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum will be displaying the Cherokee battle flag and a Colt revolver, used by Choctaw Colonel Tandy Walker.

Claremore Daily Progress, March 23, 2015

Stoddard Hired

Ashley Stoddard (right), 2014 NSU history/geography graduate, accepted a position as Library Technician II in the Special Collections Department of the John Vaughan Library.

Stoddard maintained a 4-point GPA during her four-years as an NSU undergraduate, and received awards in every category in the 2014 Honors Awards Assembly. She is assisting Delores Sumner (left), Special Collections Librarian.

Movie Viewed

The History Club and the History Honor Society (Phi Alpha Theta) viewed the 1964 classic Cold War comedy  "Dr. Strangelove" directed by Stanley Kubrick at the March Movie and Pizza meeting. 

Kiwanis celebrates history

During a recent meeting, the Kiwanis Club of Tahlequah was treated to a brief early history of the club.

Dr. Brad Agnew, history professor at Northeastern State University, researched the club's history and found there was no written history of the club.

Agnew studied early newspapers dated in the 1920s and '30s, and discovered that the Kiwanis Club was very active in civic matters at the time. The club formed a group called "good roads,' primarily to assist in determining that Northeastern State Teachers College should locate in Tahlequah rather in Muskogee. The Kiwanis Club became supporters for the football team, assisting in many ways, including promoting game attendance.

The club held true to the international theme of "We Build," helping in many ways to develop Tahlequah. While Kiwanis International is celebrating 100 years of service, the Tahlequah Club, which was chartered Jan. 24, 1924, continues with the "We Build" theme.

Agnew noted many of the names of club presidents, were associated with the early development of several financial institutions and businesses, which would be recognized by many people today.

Due to Spring Break at NSU, the Tahlequah Kiwanis will meet March 18, at the Cherokee Hills Bistro, formerly known as the Cherry Springs Bistro.

Tahlequah Daily Press, March 15, 2015

NSU professor gets contract for book on Balkans

Dr. Denis Vovchenko, assistant professor of history at Northeastern State University, recently received a contract from Oxford University Press, USA, to publish his manuscript, “Containing Balkan Nationalism,” in its series, “Religion and Global Politics.”

The book grew out of Vovchenko’s dissertation written under the direction of Theofanis Stavrou, professor of history at the University of Minnesota and editor of the Journal Modern Greek Studies Yearbook. It focuses on the implications of the Bulgarian national movement that developed in the context of the westernizing reforms of the Ottoman Empire and of European imperialism in the Near East.

Divisions within the Ottoman Empire’s Orthodox Christian community and an inability to reach a compromise led to a schism within the Orthodoxy Christian community and divided Ottoman Christians into traditionalists versus nationalists, Greeks versus Slavs and Arabs.

Those conflicts were exacerbated by the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, the ensuing territorial changes along the Danube and in the Caucasus, massive population movements, and an increasingly deadly rivalry among neighboring Balkan states.

Vovchenko’s work highlights the efforts by ecclesiastics, publicists, and diplomats in Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Greece, and Bulgaria to develop and implement various scheme’s to reconcile ethnic differences within traditional supranational religious and dynastic frameworks.

The manuscript was based on archival and published sources from Russia, Greece, and Turkey. During stays in Istanbul during the summers of 2013 and 2014, Vovchenko conducted research in the archive of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, not done for his dissertation, which resulted in the addition of a new chapter.

Oxford University Press, the largest university press in the world, strives for excellence in scholarship, research, and education through its publishing activities.

“The decision of Oxford to publish Dr. Vovchenko’s manuscript is a tribute to the quality of his research and writing,” said Dr. Billy Joe Davis, professor of history at NSU.

Tahlequah Daily Press, March 10, 2015

Muskogee County Historical Society


The Muskogee County Historical Society will hold its monthly Dutch-treat luncheon at 11:30 a.m. March 12 at Hornback's Catfish Restaurant, U.S. 69 and Hancock Street.

Dr. Brad Agnew, an author and history professor at Northeastern State University, will present a program on "The Deadly Flu Epidemic of 1918." Many local families have oral histories of how it impacted their individual families and terrorized the general population.

Dr. Agnew recently published a two-part series on this subject in the Tahlequah Daily Press XPress edition on Jan. 28 and Feb. 4.

MCHS elected the following 2015 Officers at the Feb. 12 meeting: Ellen "Cowboy" Johnson, president; Uiva Tubbs, vice president; Sue Smith, secretary; and Mary Downing, treasurer.

Information: Ellen "Cowboy" Johnson, (918) 453-9842.

Muskogee Phoenix, March 8, 2015

Stilwell High School Students Take Practice State-Mandated Tests at History Competition, March 3

Stilwell High School students

Citizen Dr. V Promoted, Granted Tenure

Dr. Denis Vovchenko, assistant professor of history, became an American citizen on Friday, February 20, in naturalization ceremonies at the federal courthouse in Muskogee and a few days later was informed that he had been granted tenure and promotion to associate professor of history effective the beginning of the Fall 2015 semester.

Vovchenko grew up as part of the Russian minority in Kazakhstan, the former Soviet Union. In 1995 he moved to Russia to study at Moscow State Lomonosov University, earning a B.A. in 1999 and an M.A. in 2001 with a major in Byzantine and Modern Greek studies and a minor in German. 

In 2002, he was admitted into the Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota majoring in the history of Modern Europe and the Middle East. After completing the degree in 2008, he joined the history department at Northeastern, where he has significantly broadened its international emphasis.

“Dr. Vovchenko has been a breath of fresh air,” according to Dr. Chris Owen, chair of his mentoring committee. “His scholarly production and effort to improve himself professionally have been equaled by no one else at Northeastern so far as I know,” Owen added.

Under Vovchenko’s sponsorship, the university’s Phi Alpha Theta (national history honor society) chapter has become more active and visible, sponsoring periodic presentations by distinguished alumni, hosting Movie Nights screening films of historical significance, and encouraging members to present papers at interscholastic competitions.

Obituary for Randall E. Wagnon

Tahlequah-Memorial services for Randy Wagnon, 62, of Hulbert, will be 10 a.m., Monday, March 2, at Crescent Valley Church. Officiating will be Rev. Chadd Pendergraft and Youth Pastor Nick Howk.

Pallbearers will be the members of the Gideon, Tahlequah Camp, and the Crescent Valley Deacons. Visitation will be 2-6 p.m. Sunday, at Green Country Funeral Home.

Online condolences may be left at tahlequahfuneral.com.

Randall Wagnon was born Jan 4, 1953, in Tahlequah, to Randall and Alene (Erickson) Wagnon. He passed away in Tahlequah on Feb. 26, 2015.

Randy was a graduate of Westville High School where he grew up. He attended college at Northeastern State University where he met his wife, Judy. They were married Nov. 28, 1975, and he graduated with his bachelor's degree in December of 1975. Randy began teaching at Tahlequah where he taught social studies, history and government for 29 years. He began working on his master's degree in history as he began his teaching career. Following his retirement from Tahlequah, he returned to teaching at NSU as a social studies instructor.

He is currently a member of Crescent Valley Church where he was a Yoke Fellow. Randy was also a member of the Gideon, Tahlequah Camp, for 30 years.

In his off time he liked to garden and work outside, always working around the home place. Randy enjoyed spending time with the Crescent Valley Deacons, and making Sunday breakfast before church for anyone who wanted to come and eat. he was always busy with a project or chore.

Randy was a devoted family man, loving to spend time with Judy, and cherishing the time spent with each of this grandchildren. We will all miss Randy telling us a joke and the laughter it brought to him and us.

Randy was preceded in death by his parents.

He is survived by his wife, Judy of the home; two sons, Brian Wagnon and wife Ashley of Tahlequah, and Bradley Wagnon and wife Tanya alsoof Tahlequah; his grandchildren, Rocky Lewis, Isaac Wagnon, Anna Wagnon, and foster granddaughter, his sister, Karen Monks and her husband Bill of Oklahoma City; and a host of other relatives friends.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Gideon International or the Crescent Valley Youth Group.

Green Country Funeral Home, 203 S. Commercial Road, 918-458-5055.

Tahlequah Daily Press, March 1, 2015

History Day expects to draw more than 300 students

The Northeastern State University History Department will host 310 high school students from Sallisaw Central, Vinita, Stilwell, Vian, Catoosa, and Jay in an interscholastic history competition March 3, 4, and 10 in the University Center on the Tahlequah campus.

The purpose of the competition is to help prepare students for the state-mandated end-of-instruction test in American history from the era of Reconstruction to the present.

Structured like the state test, it emphasizes text-based questions, interpretation of charts, maps, and political cartoons, and familiarity the major figures, events, and developments of the past century and a half of U.S. history.

Dr. Suzanne Farmer, assistant professor of history, organized and will administer the competition.

“It’s our hope that we can help the schools in our area improve the performance of their students on these annual assessments, which have become increasingly important,” said Farmer.

Students from each school placing first, second, and third, as well as all those finishing in the top ten percent, will receive certificates acknowledging their accomplishment. The highest placing senior will be offered a $500 regents scholarship to NSU, and the school with the highest average grade will be recognized.

After the competition, teachers will be given the topic of each question, documents showing which questions each of their students missed, and an item analysis suggesting where more review should be considered.

NSU hosted an annual interscholastic history competition for more than ten years in the 1970s and ‘80s in American and world history that involved thousands of area high school students.

Some of the winners remain in contact with NSU historians. Paul Shaddox, who won a regents scholarship in the first contest recalled, “The competition in 1972 gave me an opportunity to learn something about my preparation and readiness for college-level work.”

The scholarship was meaningful to Shaddox financially. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history and later returned to NSU and completed a master’s degree in American Studies.

He added, “I am in my 21st year as an Advanced Placement United States History teacher for Broken Arrow Public Schools. I have also served as a college board consultant for United States history, a reader for the AP US History exam, and as an adjunct instructor of history and political science at Tulsa Community College.”

Tahlequah Daily Press, March 1, 2015

310 Area High School History Students Take Practice Test in NSU Competition

The Northeastern History Department will host 310 high school students from Sallisaw Central, Vinita, Stilwell, Vian, Catoosa, and Jay in an interscholastic history competition March 3, 4, and 10 in the University Center on the Tahlequah campus.

The purpose of the competition is to help prepare students for the state-mandated end-of-instruction test in American history from the era of Reconstruction to the present.

Structured like the state test, it emphasizes text-based questions, interpretation of charts, maps, and political cartoons, and familiarity the major figures, events, and developments of the past century and a half of U.S. history.

Dr. Suzanne Farmer, assistant professor of history, organized and will administer the competition. She said, “It’s our hope that we can help the schools in our area improve the performance of their students on these annual assessments, which have become increasingly important."

Students from each school placing first, second, and third, as well as all those finishing in the top ten percent, will receive certificates acknowledging their accomplishment. The highest placing senior will be offered a $500 Regents scholarship to Northeastern, and the school with the highest average grade will be recognized.

After the competition teachers will be given the topic of each question, documents showing which questions each of their students missed, and an item analysis suggesting where more review should be considered.

Northeastern hosted an annual interscholastic history competition for more than ten years in the 1970s and ‘80s in American and world history that involved thousands of area high school students.

Some of the winners remain in contact with NSU historians. Paul Shaddox, who won a regents scholarship in the first contest recalled, “The competition in 1972 gave me an opportunity to learn something about my preparation and readiness for college-level work.

The scholarship was meaningful to Shaddox financially and in boosting his confidence as a student. He went on to earn a B.A degree in history and later returned to NSU and completed a M.A. degree in American Studies.

He added, “I am in my twenty-first year as an Advanced Placement United States History teacher for Broken Arrow Public Schools. I have also served as a College Board consultant for United States History, a reader for the AP US History exam, and as an adjunct instructor of History and Political Science at Tulsa Community College.”

He concluded, “I have a very fond memory of the History Competition sponsored by Dr. Brad Agnew and Pi Gamma Mu. It was a most important event in placing me on the path to my chosen career as an educator.”

Ten years later Steve Garrett, now city administrator of Smithville, Missouri, with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in American Studies from NSU, won a regents scholarship in the 1982 competition. He remembered, “The scholarship was the deciding factor in attending Northeastern State over other schools.”

Garrett, whose oldest son in now an NSU geography major, explained, “Winning the competition was significant on a personal level and was an academic achievement in an environment that seemed to value sports over academics. It provided me an opportunity as a good student to compete and achieve on a larger scale than merely bringing home good grades. I believe such opportunities for high school students emphasize a university’s commitment to academics.”

In evaluating his training at Northeastern, Garrett, said, “I feel that the most important skill I learned at NSU was how to research topics well.

KKK kicked off Tahlequah influence with parades

By Brad Agnew/TDP Special Writer

The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s exerted a sinister influence in Oklahoma, playing a role in the impeachment and removal of a governor and terrorizing citizens who failed to meet the organization’s conception of 100 percent Americanism. Although the Klan was strong in Northeast Oklahoma, Tahlequah is seldom mentioned in accounts of the Invisible Empire’s history in the Sooner State.

The omission is not a reflection of local opposition to the organization or the absence of Klan violence in the area.

Actually, the Klan was warmly welcomed by many of Tahlequah’s civic leaders and its activities condoned as beneficial in promoting community values weakened by the era’s transformation from a rural to an urban society.

City newspapers gave little coverage to the Klan until December 1921, when the Tahlequah Arrow-Democrat ran a brief news item that mentioned the organization’s support of the Salvation Army in Shawnee.

The next issue of the newspaper featured a boxed front-page letter to the editor, signed KLAN, that announced its presence in the former capital of the Cherokee Nation.

Claiming more than 350 loyal supporters in “a real, live, one hundred per cent American organization, composed of red blooded citizens,” the letter proclaimed white supremacy and protested the leniency of “high officials” in their treatment of “‘bootleggers’ and other common criminals.” Whisky peddlers, deadbeats, petty thieves, seducers, wife deserters, home destroyers, gamblers, drunkards, and vulgar-mouthed vultures were advised that the Klan was on their trail.

The letter was accompanied by a $50 check to bring “Good cheer to the homes of the poor in our midst” and an admonition, “Fail not.” Bascom Glaze, editor of the Arrow-Democrat, ever the town booster, commented, “Cherokee County as a whole is far above average, but a few small things that the officers can not control might be remedied.”

Glaze assured readers the standards of conduct outlined in the Klan letter meant, “no good man nor woman need worry about them, be they black or white.” Until he sold his newspaper in March 1923, the editor remained a steadfast supporter of the Klan, and his coverage depicted it in a favorable light.

Other Tahlequah civic organizations were recipients of Klan generosity. A.B. Cunningham, head of the town’s Goodfellow chapter and former mayor, expressed his appreciation to the Klan for its generous donation that doubled the club’s effort to provide Christmas gifts to children of the community.

James Lyman, an Irish/Cherokee farmer from the Moodys community, mentioned the Klan’s history of violence and intimidation in the post-Civil War South in a letter to the newspaper.

Glaze printed it, but dismissed the information about the Klan with biting sarcasm. In the next newspaper, the editor printed a letter written by a person “born and raised under a Southern sky” that described the post-Civil War Klan as “the greatest order of chivalry in all history.”

In early January 1922, another letter from the Klan appeared in the local paper assuring citizens of the community that its motives were not based on prejudice or selfishness, but “a desire to make Tahlequah a better place to live in and protect and help those who are unable to help themselves.” Readers were assured, “When this organization issues an edict, it is sure of its victim.”

Apparently the Klan was not sufficient to rectify local vice. A like-minded organization, the Riders of the Night in Cherokee County, announced its presence in the Jan. 26 issue of the Star-Democrat. Also claiming to be “One Hundred Percent Americans,” the Night Riders asserted they were “not made up of yellow dog politicians – community meddlers – amen corner hypocrites or Keeley graduates” (alcoholics who been treated by a method pioneered by Dr. Leslie Keeley of Dwight, Ill., in 1879).

The Night Riders’ letter claimed: “Our work is done very quietly and in nearly every case, in the late hours of the night.” They endorsed the proclamation of the Klan and “will stand with them to the finish as well as the officers of the law.”

Bascom Glaze welcomed the assistance of the new organization. Although 230 had been lodged in the county jail and 24 stills had been confiscated or destroyed in the past year, the editor acknowledged the city men “have failed to keep up with the drunks.”

Thus far, the Klan had indeed been the “Invisible Empire” in Tahlequah; its proclamations and messages had appeared in the press, but it had not made an appearance. That changed Saturday, May 20, 1922.

As morning dawned in Tahlequah, early risers found posters scattered around the town announcing a “K.K.K. Parade Tonight at 9.” No other information surfaced, but the signs made an impression, for as night approached “the town was filled to overflowing.” Estimates placed the number of people along Muskogee Avenue from 1,500 to 2,000, “the largest crowd seen in Tahlequah for many years.”

“A Spectator” recorded the event for the Arrow-Democrat:

“At 9:00 o’clock sharp, the south end of Main street seemed to be the point of attraction as the high powered cars flashed their headlights towards the city. Then came the bugle call and the head of the procession drew up in plain view of the spectators lined on both side of the “‘White Way’ of our little city. The line was headed by a large United States flag, followed by the ‘Fiery cross,’ symbol of the purest and most loyal patriotism, as their beacon, made its way through dense crowds to the north end of Main street to a point directly opposite the Presbyterian church, encircling the church, the procession left the Carnegie library to the south west and again drew up on Main street going south and out of town. Just before leaving Main street, the column of marchers suddenly came to a halt in front of the old capitol square. One or two of the klansmen stepped out of their cars and planted on the lawn one of the banners bearing the wording, ‘we are 75,000 strong in Oklahoma.’”

The procession of about 35 automobiles and an estimated 157 robed Klansmen moved at a leisurely pace to give opponents time to register their disapproval and to impress the lawless with their power. The hooded visitors spoke not a word, but their banners proclaimed the organization 100 percent American and pledged support for law and order – and white supremacy.

Spectators were informed, “You can’t fool us. We see and hear everything. Booze peddlers must go. We are back of the Northeastern State Normal.” The report suggested 50 Klansmen without robes were scattered throughout the crowd to “hear and see.”

The writer noted some opposition, which was attributed to whisky peddlers, gamblers, and law-breakers in general, but he concluded: “The better element of Tahlequah’s citizenship spoke encouragingly of the organization and wished them Godspeed as the line of white robed knights passed out of the old Cherokee Capital. A prominent conservative old timer was heard to remark as the last car passed by, ‘I am for them teeth and toe-nail. There is a great big job for them to do in this county.’”

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the influence of the Klan in Tahlequah. Former Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction E.D. Cameron (for whom Cameron University in Lawton, Okla., was named), who then was pastor of the Tahlequah Baptist Church, promised to speak plainly about the Ku Klux Klan at the evening service on Sunday, May 28.

In announcing his intention, Cameron asserted, “I think the time is here when the question must be settled as to whether this country is to be governed by the courts or mobs; by law, or passion night riders. I am on the side of the courts and the law where I think every true American must stand. Our Anglo-Saxon civilization is at stake.”

The community was divided. Some, like the “prominent conservative old-timer,” viewed the Klan as a force that could restore law and order and preserve moral values.

Others, like Cameron, considered it a gang of vigilantes who would undermine due process and trample civil liberties.

In less than a week, the Klan took action that pleased its proponents and alarmed its detractors.

Dr. Brad Agnew is a professor of history at Northeastern State University. The second part of this series will be published Sunday, March 1.

Tahlequah Daily Press, February 22, 2015

At first, Klan acted against local miscreants

Brad Agnew/TDP Special Writer

In the early years of the Roaring ‘20s, long-held moral values were challenged as the shift of population from farm to town and city accelerated. A rash of robberies of banks and stores in Cherokee County heightened public concern about the breakdown of social order.

Bold headlines – like those in the Feb. 23, 1922, Arrow-Democrat, proclaiming, “13 Men Held to Answer Charges as Bank Robbers” – appeared regularly in the town’s weekly newspaper. In Cherokee County, the rise of Ku Klux Klan and similar organizations was directed more toward escalating lawlessness and immorality than black Americans.

The public attitude toward local law officers was positive, but a belief that they lacked the resources to cope with burgeoning lawlessness was widely held. On several occasions in 1922, the sheriff of Cherokee County moved prisoners from the county jail to the more secure lockup in Muskogee because he feared for their safety.

His concern was justified. A brief article in the May 25, 1922, Arrow-Democrat mentioned, “Newton LeGrand, a farmer living north of town, was arrested and lodged in the county bastille pending a hearing. He is alleged to have beaten his 3-year-old stepchild (later identified as a 6-year-old) unmercifully.”

LeGrand, 55, had lived in the Grand View area north of Tahlequah for about three years. The Grand View farmer had recently remarried and supplemented his income by selling pedigreed English Single Comb White Leghorns chickens. The Tahlequah paper further identified him as a “Holy-Roller preacher.”

In late May, he punished his stepdaughter with a “switch” applied to her back from shoulders to knees, according to the Muskogee Times-Democrat. The paper also reported LeGrand claimed his wife held the child while punishment was administered. The Tahlequah newspaper challenged the Times-Democrat account and asserted LeGrand’s wife tried to shoot him while he was whipping her daughter, but she was unable to find shells.

When LeGrand’s wife complained to officials in Tahlequah, her husband was arrested Thursday morning, May 25, and confined in the county jail. At 10 the next morning, he appeared before Justice of the Peace J.D. Wilson.

Word of LeGrand’s action spread quickly through the community, and menacing observers packed the courtroom the next day. Since the accused had no attorney, arraignment was postponed until Monday morning. Apprehensive about the mood of the spectators, Wilson instructed deputies to keep them in the courtroom until LeGrand was safely back in his cell. The public mood grew more ominous throughout the day. Clusters of men were observed in conversation and “ugly remarks” reported. As evening approached, Cherokee County Sheriff George Gourd decided to move the prisoner to the more secure jail in Muskogee.

Reports that Highway 10 to Muskogee was “closely guarded,” persuaded the sheriff, after consultation with County Attorney Asbury Burkhead, to send the prisoner to Muskogee by train. Fearing the Tahlequah depot was also under surveillance, Gourd instructed deputies Jay Fellows and Bill Tyner to take LeGrand to Gabriel, a small community a few miles west of Tahlequah, and flag down the night train.

The two deputies and their prisoner left Tahlequah about 6:30 p.m. and reached Gabriel at dusk. As the train approached, the men got out of their car and immediately heard the roar of automobiles. As the first car stopped, “a high-powered Winchester loomed up over the windshield,” the first of a dozen guns aimed at the deputies.

Ordered to put their hands up, Fellers and Tyner were disarmed, handcuffed, and blindfolded. LeGrand was “tied and gagged, and thrown into another car.” A Muskogee Times-Democrat account reported that about a dozen cars raced “to a secluded pasture north of the station.” The blindfolded sheriff’s men heard little and saw nothing. A Muskogee Phoenix story claimed, “Several scores of people were in the mob, who took the child beater into a small woods, gave him a thorough rawhiding and then returned him to the officers.”

Descriptions of the members of the mob varied. The Tahlequah paper claimed they were masked, but the Muskogee Phoenix reported their faces were not covered. In a community as small as Tahlequah with automobile ownership still limited, it would have been difficult for the vigilantes to conceal their identity.

Actually, a Times-Democrat reporter witnessed the whipping after his blindfold had been removed. No one involved in the punishment was identified, and how those intent on seizing LeGrand knew exactly where he would be was never explained.

Following the whipping, the deputies’ side arms were returned, and they were ordered by the group’s leader to take LeGrand back to town or go on to Muskogee. The officers delivered their prisoner to the Muskogee jail at 11 p.m. A physician was summoned, but the victim’s injuries did not require treatment.

The meekness of Deputy Fellers in his confrontation with the mob stands in sharp contrast to the boldness he had demonstrated on other occasions when he confronted and subdued armed bank robbers. In describing the confrontation, both deputies stressed they urged their assailants not to interfere with the prisoner and to let the law take its course.

While the Muskogee Phoenix reported Sheriff Gourd had “made preparations to bring the prisoner to Muskogee,” the Tahlequah paper claimed the sheriff was out of town at the time of the arrest and the whipping. He claimed he knew nothing about the episode until he returned to Tahlequah from his farm.

Gourd said, “I don’t know what I would have done had I been in charge of the prisoner, yet man is but human and it does seem like flirting with death to attempt to resist such a determined set of men.”

In responding to a question about the flogging, County Attorney Burkhead professed surprise and said, “my heart goes out to that little, bruised and bleeding child, yet we must live up to the laws we are sworn to enforce.” He added, “If they are not sufficiently severe for such cases, it is no fault of mine and I can only do my duty to the full extent of the statutes.”

Asked if he would investigate the matter, the county attorney claimed, “I have nothing to start on, not a beginning. The officers did not recognize any of the men or even the cars.” No action was ever taken against the vigilantes who had assaulted the two deputy sheriffs and kidnapped their prisoner.

LeGrand was returned to Tahlequah several days later. On Wednesday, May 7, he waived his arraignment, pled guilty, and was given the maximum sentence of 30 days in jail and fined $100. In civil action, LeGand’s wife sued for divorce and $5,000 in damages. On June 29, after serving his full sentence and settling with his wife, LeGrand boarded the 11 a.m. train in Tahlequah. His destination was unknown, and the editor of the Star-Democrat claimed, “no one cares a damn.”

The identity of the vengeance-seekers was never established. The Phoenix speculated the group was a “citizens protective league formed following bank robberies the previous winter.” The Star-Democrat maintained, “Whether or not the K.K.K.’s were responsible parties that chastised LeGrand they received the credit for it and needless to say that it was met with universal satisfaction from the people.”

Dr. Brad Agnew is a professor of history at Northeastern State University. The third part of this series will be published Sunday, March 8.

Tahlequah Daily Press, March 1, 2015

Klan was formidable force in Methodist Church

Brad Agnew/TDP Special Writer

As Newton LeGrand of Tahlequah served his sentence for whipping his stepdaughter, many residents of the area applauded the methods that produced what they considered justice when legal procedures had proven inadequate.

An article in the June 15, 1922, issue of the Tahlequah Arrow-Democrat promoting the Methodist Church’s Sunday services announced the title of the morning sermon, “The Home Team a Winner.” Using a baseball analogy, the article summarized the minister’s message: “With the Ku Klux Klan on first base, the Law and Order League on second, the Judiciary on third, a Law Enforcement Officer in the box, the Prosecution behind the bat, and the Citizenship on the side line, there is no chance for the Crook to even make first base.”

Citizens were urged to “Come to church Sunday morning and boost for the Home Team.”

Rev. W.E. Garrison’s sermon praised those “who are for our nation and ideals,” and contrasted them to the “whiskey peddlers, the home wrecker and all other crooks.” He emphasized those who do not support the principles that made the country great “are in the same class as Benedict Arnold.”

Continuing his baseball metaphor, Garrison suggested, “It might be well to examine our citizenship and see who are supporting the home team and who are playing the Arnold part and supporting crooks.” He urged members of the congregation to examine the public records to learn who provided bond for bootleggers and what penalties were assessed against those violating prohibition laws.

Issues of the Star-Democrat also carried advertisements for the Ku Klux Klan’s official publication, the Oklahoma Herald. The ads urged potential subscribers to “Get the inside facts, get ‘em Straight” for $2 a year from F.L. McQuitty & Co. in Muskogee. On at least one occasion, the Tahlequah paper reran a lengthy defense of the Klan from the Oklahoma Herald.

The same edition of the newspaper that summarized Garrison’s sermon contained an article defending the Klan that dominated much of the first and last pages. The article printed the full text of a speech delivered in Fort Worth, Texas, by Robert L. Henry, a prominent Texas politician running for the U.S. Senate.

A descendant of Patrick Henry, the candidate delivered a ringing endorsement of the goals of the Klan, including white supremacy, immigration restriction, and states rights and declared himself “a natural-born Klansman.” Given the mood of the residents of Cherokee County, Henry’s speech probably reinforced the conviction of many that the Klan was a force for law, order, and morality in the community.

Despite support of the Klan from the local newspaper, Methodist minister, and influential citizens, some residents of Tahlequah apparently continued to express reservations about the organization’s methods. The Klan and its supporters felt compelled to defend it against its detractors.

In late summer, Bascom Glaze, the editor of the Star-Democrat, asked his readers to consider criticism of the Klan in light of a recent incident in nearby Haskell County in which three “lust-loving beasts in human form” enticed “three beautiful, innocent country girls” into their automobile. In resisting the advances of the three young scalawags, one of the women fell from the car to her death.

“Some howl, ‘down with the Ku Klux,’” Glaze wrote. “It usually comes from that element in our society that is always dodging the law, and infringing on the rights of others.” After reviewing the Haskell County incident, the editor asked if Klan critics of were unwilling to take a stand against “automobile flirtation, by night and day, ...then why throw up our hands in horror when the Klan steps in and takes a hand in the protection of pure womanhood.”

As news of Klan tactics provoked investigation at the state level, Tahlequah residents learned the sheriff of Okmulgee County admitted he had been a member. In the account that appeared in the Star-Democrat, readers were informed, “citizens who were said to have been whipped (in Okmulgee County) were persons of ill repute.”

The same issue carried several other articles, editorials, and letters to the editor, portraying the Klan in a positive light. One woman recalled the role of the original KKK in protecting the rights of Southern whites against Northern carpetbaggers. A long poem listed a litany of impossible situations and concluded:

“When peanuts grow on a Chinaman’s head

“And wool on a hydraulic ram

“Then the Ku Klux Klan will be dead

“And the country won’t be worth a double-d___”

Another woman wrote, “From what I have read, they certainly appeal to me. They are in every sense of the word ‘America for Americans’ and that within itself should commend it to every patriot citizen in this great country of ours.”

In an editorial titled, “We Are Depreciating,” Glaze looked back a few years to a time he considered better and concluded: “Things have changed. Too much society; too much attention given politics and less to the welfare of the community and the preservation or our homes. Those old-fashioned women, like the old-fashioned girl, has been relegated to obscurity, and we fear for the time to come. Bobbed hair, short skirts, and the two-step are grappling at the very life of our dear old homes, where once we looked upon as the sanest and purest spot on the earth. We are certainly depreciating.”

The minister of the Methodist Church shared the editor’s views of the Klan, which acknowledged his support on Sunday, Oct. 14, 1922. As the final hymn was being sung before the evening service, some 30 white-robed Klansmen left their cars and marched into the church sanctuary, led by a standard-bearer carrying an American flag. The group’s leader proceeded down the aisle to the pulpit where he deposited a communication; the others followed, leaving a contribution in front of Rev. Garrison.

Departing without uttering a word, the men disappeared into the night as “silently and mysteriously” as they had arrived. The minister refused to share the message left by the Klan with the newspaper until he read it to the congregation at the next Sunday service, but a Muskogee newspaper secured a copy.

The message, which addressed Rev. W.E. Garrison as “Esteemed Friend,” expressed the Klan’s gratitude for his support of “our beloved order.” Most of the letter was a defense against “so much criticism ... heaped upon the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.”

The organization’s purpose was spelled out: “to inculcate the sacred principles and noble ideals of chivalry, the development of character, the protection of the home and the chastity of womanhood, the exemplification of pure and practical patriotism toward our glorious country, the preservation of American ideals and institutions and the maintenance of white supremacy.”

Pledging “to make Tahlequah and Cherokee County a better place to live,” the Exalted Cyclops of Tahlequah Klan No. 91, enumerated other goals, including “suppression of graft by public office holders; preventing the cause of mob violence and lynchings; preventing unwarranted strikes by foreign agitators; sensible and patriotic emigration laws; separation of church and state, and freedom of speech and press.”

Many Klansmen were reported to be scattered throughout the congregation without robes to observe this second public demonstration of the Klan in Tahlequah. A similar tactic had been used during the Klan’s parade down Tahlequah’s main street in May. The possibility that anyone might be a Klansman enhanced the mysterious association’s ability to intimidate.

The next week, the Tahlequah newspaper reprinted a story from the Muskogee Phoenix that pictured Klan officials as trouble menders, striving valiantly to stem the rising tide of lawlessness and immorality, but unable to respond to all calls seeking Klan intervention.

A member of the Tahlequah Klan, who identified himself as “One Who Knows,” related issues the local chapter had been asked to resolve. When a mother complained that her wayward daughter of tender age was keeping company with a no-account young man, she was informed the officials would look into the matter, but in the meantime, the mother was advised to “clean her own house.”

Across the Illinois River in Welling, a man was reported “in the habit of dealing in spirituous liquors, and is using his little son as a go-between.” One of the most alarming reports to reach the Klan concerned “the sale of narcotics to fiends.” Many other concerns were aired by “One Who Knows,” perhaps as warnings to those involved.

Although the Tahlequah newspaper continued to support the Klan while Bascom Glaze owned it, as time passed, support for the Invisible Empire diminished. In the November 1922 elections, Sheriff George Gourd was defeated in his bid for re-election.

By 1924, when the Republican opponent of Congressman William W. Hastings tried to use the Klan as an issue, the Star-Democrat, now under new ownership, pointed out the Cherokee County lodge of the Klan had surrendered its charter long since, and the KKK was no longer active in the county.

The Klan’s secrecy makes its decline difficult to chronicle, but almost certainly the growing public distaste for its methods led many in the county to reach the same conclusion Baptist minister E.D. Cameron expressed several years earlier. They preferred courts to mobs, and laws to the passion of night riders.

Dr. Brad Agnew is a professor of history at Northeastern State University.

Tahlequah Daily Press, March 10, 2015

History Students Present Papers at Edmond Meeting

Chelsea N. Lary, a senior from Chouteau majoring in social studies education, and Daisy Allen, a senior from Hulbert majoring in history, presented papers at the annual Conference of the Oklahoma Association of Professional Historians, meeting with Phi Alpha Theta, on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, Saturday, February 21.

Lary’s paper, “Maximilien de Robespierre: The King of the French Revolution” argued that one of the most significant figures in the French Revolution fits an absolutist model; he was more an absolutist than a republican. Allen’s paper, “The Wives of Louis XIV,” suggested that the French king’s spouses did not exert the influence in political affairs that has often been attributed to them.

Both papers were written in the Age of Absolute Kings, an advanced European history course taught by Dr. Suzanne Farmer, an assistant professor of history. Dr. Denis Vovchenko, also an assistant professor of history, accompanied the two NSU students to the conference and served as a judge in one of the history paper sessions.

John Hope Franklin's Impact on America Recalled at Black History Month Program

As part of the observance of Black History Month, Northeastern’s Department of History hosted a commemoration of the 100th birthday of Dr. John Hope Franklin, at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, February 19, in Room 614 of the Webb Building on the NSU campus.

In addition to viewing a documentary sketching the life of Oklahoma’s most significant historian, PBS’s “First Person Singular: John Hope Franklin,” members of the audience interacted Dr. Jocelyn Payne, the executive director of the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, Inc. in Tulsa.

The program attracted almost 100 students, faculty members, and people from the community, according to Dr. Suzanne Farmer, assistant professor of history who coordinated the event. She added, “We were particularly pleased with the discussion following the video, which followed up and expanded several theme Dr. Franklin introduced in the documentary.”  

Born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma January 2, 1915, Franklin graduated from a segregated Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, earned a B.A. in 1935 from Fisk University, an historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee, and a doctorate in history in 1941 from Harvard University.

During his distinguished career, Franklin assisted in the development of the sociological case for Brown v. Board of Education, was the first person of color to head a major university history department (at Brooklyn College), was recruited by the University of Chicago, where he also served as chair of the history department, and in 1983 accepted the James B. Duke Professor of History chair at Duke University.

Perhaps no American historian has been as honored as Franklin, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995, the nation's highest civilian honor. The City of Tulsa renamed Reconciliation Park the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in his honor.

NSU American Democracy Project and the Black Heritage Month Committee partnered with Tulsa’s John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation and the history department in sponsoring the commemoration.

NSU to host 2015 National History Day Contest

The 2015 District 8 History Day competition is scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, in the University Center on the campus of Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. The theme for the 2015 contest is “Leadership and Legacy in History.”

National History Day is not just one day, but a yearlong program that makes history come alive. NHD can be an exciting way to research and study history to learn about issues, ideas, people and events of personal interest. Area schools are invited to compete in two different divisions and five different categories.

The junior division consists of sixth- through eighth-grade students and senior division includes ninth- through 12th-graders. The program allows students to express what they have learned in one of five ways: through a creative and original performance, documentary, research paper, website or three dimensional exhibit. At this year’s NSU contest, fifth-graders are invited to participate in the exhibit or performance categories.

“History Day gives students a chance to get involved in history by doing something other than just reading about it in a textbook,” said Randall Wagnon, professor of history and District 8 History Day coordinator. “I would like to encourage more local teachers to get their students involved in the contest. Once you get hooked on History Day, you will wonder why you did not get your students involved sooner.”

Every student who enters the District 8 contest at NSU will receive a certificate of participation. Students who place first, second or third at the district contest will receive History Day medals and are eligible to participate in the State Contest which will be held at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City on May 6-7.

Through NHD, students learn the skills and techniques of an historian and discover new insights into history.

At the competitions they will have the opportunity to meet students from other schools, exchange ideas and demonstrate the results of their research. Should they win at the district and state contests, students will have the opportunity to participate in the national contest that takes place in early June at the University of Maryland at College Park.

For more information about the contest, contact Randall Wagnon at 918-444-3503 or wagnonre@nsuok.edu, or visit the NHD website at www.nationalhistoryday.org.

Tahlequah Daily Press, February 13, 2015

Allen Accepted in UCO Museum Program

Daisy Allen, Hulbert senior, was informed that she has been accepted in the University of Central Oklahoma’s Museum Studies Master’s Degree program.

UCO’s Museum Studies Program offers training and professional development opportunities for careers in museums, archives, historical organizations, national parks, corporate collections, and historic preservation programs. The program has an excellent reputation for placing its graduates.

Dr. Carolyn Pool, director of the program, said, “In addition to coursework and on-site training, we encourage students to actively participate in museum associations, to attend professional development seminars and workshops, and to present papers at history and museum conferences. We also work closely with museum professionals to develop opportunities for student internships, volunteer service, and employment.”

Dr. Suzanne Farmer, assistant professor of history who has served as Ms. Allen’s mentor, said, “Daisy has demonstrated the ability and determination to succeed in a rigorous graduate program. Her internship at the Oklahoma Historical Society’s Murrell Home Historic Site provided real-world experience that will serve her well in her graduate training.”

In her four years at Northeastern Allen has been active in the History Club, Phi Alpha Theta, National History Honor Society, and Pi Gamma Mu, International Social Sciences Honor Society. She has participated in field trips to Fort Smith, Kansas City, and Tulsa and helped administer the state conference of the Oklahoma Association of Professional Historians meeting in conjunction with Phi Alpha Theta.

Hughes Named February History Student

Angela Hughes, a Stilwell senior majoring in history, has been named History Student of February, by the faculty of the NSU Department of History.

A 1998 graduate of Stilwell High School, she has compiled a near-perfect grade-point average, while managing a home that includes a husband and six children. She serves as a tutor for Northeastern students struggling with history surveys and is working on a research project involving the Dawes Commission.

Dr. Suzanne Farmer, assistant professor of history who nominated Hughes, presented presented the certificate Wednesday, February 4.

During her freshman year Hughes was a member of Circle K International, a collegiate service organization sponsored by Kiwanis International. She is also a member of Pi Gamma Mu, an international social sciences honor society.

One of Ms. Hughes’ favorite sayings about history is: "If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is a part of a tree." ~Michael Crichton.

After completing her history degree, Hughes plans to pursue a Ph.D. and teach history at the college level.

Local Newspaper Features Work of History Graduate

Jack Reavis's three-part series on Rex Brinlee explores the life of one of Tahlequah's most notorious criminals.

The article is serialized from a seminar paper Reavis wrote in an American Studies Seminar while a graduate student at Northeastern. A longer version of the biographical sketch of Brinlee appeared in the summer 2013 issue of the Chronicles of Oklahoma.

Notorious Tahlequah citizen Rex Brinlee described as 'bad seed'

The first in a three-part series on Brinlee

By Jack Reavis/TDP Special Writer

Garland Rexford Brinlee Jr., reputed to be a most notorious citizen in Tahlequah's 175-year history, was a "bad seed, always getting into trouble," according to his mother.

Born in 1933, he dropped out of high school, worked as a plumber, and augmented his income in a variety of creative ways. He claimed that at one time he owned the third-largest plumbing contracting business in Tulsa and considered himself a business success.

In 1963, court testimony indicated he and two employees from his ranch near Chelsea used his Cessna to locate a silo unloader later found in his barn. Although he claimed he had no knowledge of how it came to be there, cattle seemed to have been acquired in a similar way. Never reticent, Brinlee wore a belt proclaiming himself "Mayes County Flying Bandit."

He was arrested for cattle rustling and stealing a truck and was convicted for the larceny of livestock in Mayes County. Although he was sentenced to three years in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, in 1965, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the sentence on a technicality before he served a single day. Subsequent charges of cattle rustling and possession of stolen property in five counties were eventually dismissed for lack of evidence.

"I got the idea of going to Tahlequah while the cattle thing was going on," he explained. "They needed housing for students at Northeastern State College, so I went there and put up a 38-room apartment house."

In Tahlequah, despite conflicts with established merchants, he claimed to have invested almost half a million dollars in the city, including a nightclub.

Listing investments there, in Mayes County, and in Tulsa, Brinlee claimed, "I've come a long way since I was 15."

The "Flying Bandit" could be charming, but he had a sinister side. He compared himself to a rattlesnake.

"I won't come looking to bother you, but if you bother me, you'll hear my rattles."

Perhaps Cherokee County Assistant District Attorney William "Bill" Bliss bothered Brinlee, for in June 1969, Bliss' truck blew up as he started it in his driveway. Bliss received lacerations to his face and stomach. his daughter, Angie, who was playing in the garage, was also injured and suffered temporary loss of hearing. Brinlee was questioned and released.

A Muskogee federal grand jury convened in August of 1969 to investigate the Bliss bombing and called Brinlee and another suspect, Vemon English, to testify. Although no one was ever convicted in the attempt of Bliss's life, his wife, Joyce, said, " I think he (Brinlee) was in on it with three or four other bad people in the area."

Mrs. Bliss mentioned Leo Lowry, who was found beaten to death at a rural nightclub east of Tahlequah, and Vemon English as possible accomplices.

Brinlee later admitted to Bill Bliss: "They messed up yours and all the others but when I do it, I have it done right."

Bliss said that Brinlee knew who had planted the bomb, but would not disclose that information.

Mrs. Bliss described Brinlee as "a snake! An awful man!" She surmised, "Bill was raiding and closing up the clubs they were running illegally and that made him a target."

She claimed, "Bill got him to tell the agents that he did it." bliss explained this admission was made during conversations between her husband and Brinlee.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, 1970, Don Bolding of Bristow, his wife, and his daughter were at the Swinson Chevrolet dealership in Tulsa, where he recognized Brinlee looking at a Chevrolet pickup with a camper attached. The vehicle vanished later that day, but two months later, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. Don Menzer pulled it over near Tahlequah because of information from the Oklahoma State Crime Bureau.

State law officers and the chief of the Tahlequah Police Department, Gene Bolding - Don's brother - verified that the vehicle had been stolen. Brinlee was charged, and a trail was set for Feb. 5, 1971, with Don Bolding subpoenaed to appear as a witness for the state.

Three days before Bolding was to testify, his wife Fern, a Bristow kindergarten teacher, went to warm up the truck her husband usually drove. When she turned the key in the ignition, a bomb detonated and forced her over the house and into the yard of the next-door neighbor, as her 5 year-old daughter, Kim, watched television inside. The Tahlequah nightclub owner was later quoted as saying Mrs. Bolding's death was a case of "the wrong horse in the stall."

Just weeks after burying his wife, Don Bolding testified at Brinlee's trail, placing him at the Chevrolet dealership. On April 22, 1971, after three hours of deliberation, a jury found Brinlee guilty of the October pickup theft. As the jury reported the verdict, Brinlee showed no emotion. Associate District Judge Robert F. Martin set bail at $7,500 and formal sentencing for April 30, when Brinlee received 4-12 years in prison.

Before the bolding bombing, a Tulsa county grand jury had convinced to investigate crime in the area particularly, the activity of Alber McDonald, of Glenpool, and Tom Lester Pugh, of Collinsville, part of the so-called "Little Dixie Mafia," a loosely organized group of criminals in several southern states including northeastern Oklahoma.

While the investigation was underway, the grand jury expanded its scope to include the Bolding bombing. Waiting in the hall of the courthouse to be called before the grand jury, Brinlee talked openly about encounters with the law to Daily Oklahoman staff writer James Johnson. On Feb. 15, 1971, Brinlee emphatically denied any role in the bombing of Bolding.

Shortly after the Bristow bombing, threats were made against Associate District Judge Bill Bliss, Cherokee County Sheriff August Martin, and Tahlequah Chief of Police Gene Bolding. Given other bombings and deaths of witnesses called by the Tulsa grand jury, law enforcement officials took the threats seriously.

Tahlequah businessman Jim McSpadden owned a propane gas company that supplied Brinlee's Hereford Steak House, a bar called "The Keg," and a dance hall known as "The Library." McSpadden recounted a conversation with Brinlee, who had fallen behind in his payments.

"One day I was driving by his steak house and I saw a competitor's gas truck putting propane in our tank. I went to the office and I called Rex and said 'Rex, you can't be doing that.' He asked me if I was 'aware of all the bombings in the area,' in which I replied, 'Yes,' and then said, 'I've always wondered what a kind of explosion a couple sticks of dynamite would make under a large propane tank.' I told him, 'Rex, you take all the time you need to pay me my money and if you get low on propane let me know.' I hung up the phone."

Tahlequah Daily Press, February 1, 2015

The life and crimes of Rex Brinlee: Part 2

Editor's note: This is the second of a three articles on Tahlequah's infamous criminal, Garland Rexford Brinlee Jr. It is based on this authors' research into Brinlee's notorious background. The series concludes next Sunday as part of the Tahlequah Daily Press' weekly look back at the historic highlights of Tahlequah since its establishment in 1839.

By Jack Reavis/ TDP Special Writer

On June 4, 1971, Rex Brinlee was driving on State Highway 82 south of Tahlequah, free on bond, awaking appeal on his truck theft conviction. He was pulled over by state police officers and arrested for the murder of the Bristow woman who died when a bomb exploded as she started her husband's truck more than a year earlier.

Brinlee did not resist, although officers found a .38 caliber handgun under the driver's seat. The Tahlequah nightclub owner told the officers, "I don't see how you can charge me with murder when I wasn't there." Although he claimed he had been set up by political enemies, business rivals, and law enforcement officials, he was bound over for trial and remained in jail without bond.

Because Brinlee claimed he could not get a fair hearing in Creek County, his trail began on Monday, Nov 15, 1971, in Okmulgee with District Judge Jess I. Miracle presiding. During its course, drama unfolded within and beyond the courtroom.

On the first day of testimony, a bench warrant was issued for Ralph Hinkle, a former employee of Brinlee, for failing to answer a subpoena. Hinkle was to appear as a key witness for the prosecution. the trial continued as officials searched for the missing witness. State prosecutors were "highly disturbed" over his disappearance because several witnesses in other cases involving members of the "Little Dixie Mafia" - a loosely knit criminal group - had died violently before they could testify.

Hinkle was arrested in California in March 1972 on armed robbery charges and returned to Oklahoma, where he pleaded guilty to possessing the explosives used in the truck bombing, identified as the only eyewitness, Hinkle was closely guarded by federal officials who feared for his safety.

As the Brinlee murder trial got underway, a jury member's wife received a phoned death threat. The all-male jury was sequestered in an Okmulgee hotel and guarded by court bailiffs. Law officers who testified at the trial said the bomb was meant for the brother of the Tahlequah police chief, who Brinlee claimed had persuaded his brother to give false testimony.

Early testimony in the trial focused on how Brinlee bragged about calling "up north" to have the bombing done. Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Paul Ferguson called witness after witness to support the assertion that Brinlee meant to blow up a witness to prevent him from testifying in the truck theft case.

Bill Bliss, by this time an associate district judge, testified that Brinlee had told him he "had not done mine. They messed up yours and all the others, but when I do it, I have it done right." Mrs. Judith Brazinsky, a newswomen for a Tulsa television station, told the court that during a phone conversation, Brinlee stated he had called the "main man" with ties to the Mafia to provide a "hit man."

The state's final witness, James Johnson, a reporter for the Daily Oklahoman, swore that Brinlee had told him he had the bomb placed in the truck. the Oklahoma City newsman added that Brinlee said, "I tell you, if you put this in the newspaper, I'll do everything I can to kill you."

the reporter also testified that Brinlee believed he was being harassed by law enforcement and stated, "10 others are going to fly over the roof," which Johnson said included one person in Muskogee, two in Tulsa and seven in Tahlequah. After four days of testimony by 39 witnesses, mostly federal and state law officers, Assistant Attorney General Ferguson rested the stat's case.

Mike Miller, the first witness for the defense, testified that Brinlee had denied any knowledge about the bombing death. Under cross-examination, however, Miller disclosed that Birnlee had admitted to a role in it.

In lengthy testimony, Brinlee took the stand in his own defense. Asked about the statements he had made to the various witnesses who testified that he was responsible for the murder, Brinlee insisted that his comments had been twisted. In the climactic moment in his testimony, Brinlee acknowledged he claimed he had caused the bombing to happen: asked why, the witness snapped, "to get that bunch of idiots off me so I can get on about my business."

On Friday, afternoon, Nov. 19, 1971, the jury retired to begin deliberations after a week of testimony. In less than three hours, it returned, and Brinlee was found guilty of murder. In instructing the jury concerning sentencing, Judge Miracle authorized it to consider the death penalty, but the 12 men opted for a life sentence. On Nov. 29, the judge sentenced Brinlee to life imprisonment.

As an inmate at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Brinlee was described as a likeable, intelligent guy who bragged a lot. he was "a hard worker and at times could be a model prisoner." The convicted murder was considered by some prison officials and inmates to be part of the "Little Dixie Mafia."

One prison employee recalled, "When Brinlee first entered the prison, he established himself as someone who had to be dealt with; someone you had to respect." The connections he claimed to have on the outside initially bought him some power and influence.

In the early years of his incarceration, Brinlee was disciplined for threatening a member of the medical staff, possessing a knife and a .25 caliber handgun, and fighting with an inmate in the yard. he was also written up for unauthorized entry into an industrial area of the prison, cutting the bars off four doors in the area of the electric chair with a torch, and concealing homemade handcuff keys in a deodorant can.

Frustrated in his attempts to secure a reversal of the decisions against him, Brinlee sent the warden a letter threatening to burn down the prison's law library. Although his attempts to secure freedom through the courts were not productive, conditions at the prison offered another avenue to freedom in the summer of 1973.

The penitentiary had been designed for approximately 1,100 inmates, but in the summer of 1973, it housed some 2,200 prisoners. Oklahoma Gov. David Hall's refusal to sign parole recommendations for drug offenders contributed to its overcrowding, and poorly paid, inadequately trained employees and correction officers made the situation within the prison even worse, Conditions in Oklahoma's prison system were called "shameful and disgraceful" by a federal judge.

On Friday, July 27, 1973, prison officials believed about 15 prisoners with knives moved into the prison yard, trying to recruit others to join in an uprising. the precise sequence of events is murky, but the outcome was one of the worst prison riots in the nation's history. In the confusion, Rex Brinlee, who had been identified as on of the instigators, escaped. The news caused concern throughout Northeastern Oklahoma, particularly in Tahlequah, where many of those Brinlee blamed for his problems began to take seriously threats made against them.

Jack Reavis, a local freelance writer, authored the above story. It was edited for historical accuracy by Dr. Brad Agnew, a history professor at Northeastern State University.

Tahlequah Daily Press, February 8, 2015

The life and crimes of Rex Brinlee: Part 3

By Jack Reavis/TDP Special Writer

Editor's note: this is the third of three articles on Tahlequah's infamous criminal, Garland Rexford Brinlee Jr. It is based on the authors' research into Brinlee's notorious background.

Rex Brinlee had promised to settle old scores. Intent on fleeing the state, the fugitive could not resist taunting those he blamed. He called his defense attorney in his murder trial, Thomas Dee Frasier, the day after his escape was made public.

Fraiser's secretary answered the phone and was told, " Tell him that Rex Brinlee called."

About six months before his escape, Brinlee had threatened to kill Fraiser and others on a "get even list." His grievance against his former attorney concerned a $50,000 mortgage on the Tahlequah apartments Brinlee used as security for fees incurred in his defense. Fraiser sold the buildings when his client defaulted on the note.

During the escape, several people in the Tahlequah area made themselves scarce because of Brinlee's threats. Jim McSpadden said there were roadblocks on the highways, were officers were stopping and checking everyone's cars and looking in trunks.

Robert "Bob" Medearis, an Oklahoma state senator and Tahlequah businessman, was also on Brinless's get-even list. he had arranged the loan fro Brinlee to build his apartments just north of Northeastern State College. After Brinlee's escape, the Highway Patrol provided Medearis 24-hour protection. Many less prominent members of the community would have liked similar protection.

Brinlee and Patrick A. Fleming, an OSP inmate who also escaped during the riot, had stolen a car in Marshall, Texas. Stopped by police in Shreveport La., Fleming identified himself as "James Arthur" and told police that his companion, "Burrell Johnson," was just along for the ride. When Marshall authorities said they only had business with Fleming, the Shreveport police released "Johnson." A few hours later, they realized the man they had freed was Brinlee.

The manhunt shifted toward the Gulf Coast, particularly Port Arthur, Texas. An official from the Orange County, Texas, sheriff's office reported that Brinlee was stopped Wednesday on a motorbike. He gave the officer a false name, received a ticket for not having a driver's license, and was sent on his way.

After evading arrest in Orange Country, Brinlee made his way to Biloxi, Miss. There Mrs. Norman Bleuler provided room and board for the Oklahoma fugitive.

Later, his landlady told reporters, "He said he didn't have any papers because his station wagon had been stolen in Houston and that he had lost ... everything he had. He showed me the bill of sale from Port Arthur, Texas, on his Honda to impress me that he hadn't stolen it."

Brinlee assumed the name Robert Foreman. At first, he did small maintenance jobs around the Bleuler property in exchange for room and board. He found work at Lank Patterson Plumbing and Heating Contracting Co. near the rooming house, and quickly established himself as a dependable worker.

Brinlee told Mrs. Bleuler he was hiding from his wife, who was trying to take all his property in a divorce; later, he discussed plans for getting even.

"One time he was talking about his lawyer and he said he was going to have a different trial. He knows I'll get him," Bleuter recounted.

In a few weeks, Brinlee mentioned plans about going home. "He asked my husband to buy him a rifle to carry on his motorcycle," Bleuler said, and added, "I told my husband when he leaves at the end of the month, I don't want him back."

She did not have to wait long for her lodger's departure.

Tuesday morning, Sept. 18, 1973, shortly after 21-year-old Ronald Herbert picked up Foreman (Brinlee) in on his way to work, agents of the FBI, using a taxicab, and Biloxi police officers surrounded Hebert's truck.

In describing the capture, Herbert reported, "Then those two FBI agents in the taxicab go in front of us and the truck was surrounded all at once. Bob said, 'That's OK. they want me.'" The Biloxi chief of police, who knew Herbert, instructed him to turn off the engine and "slide out of the truck." Brinlee was taken into custody without incident after 45 days of freedom.

After confirming that Robert Foreman was Rex Brinlee, extradition was arranged, and he was returned to Big Mac and confined to "The Rock," the maximum-security lockup. Punishment did not deter Brinlee's desire to escape.

In July 1974, he was 1/16th of an inch from freedom. Brinlee had managed to cut a 14-inch square hole almost completely through the steel plate in the back of his cell. The cut marks were smeared with soap and touched up to match the wall.

A guard searching Brinlee's cell noticed a hacksaw blade concealed in the crevice of the cut-out. If Brinlee had finished sawing the remaining segment of steel, he could have made his way to the roof and escaped.

In January 1975, an inmate threatened with death by Brinlee and his cronies disclosed an escape plan involving the Tahlequah prisoner and five others. Warden Richard A. Crisp had used Brinlee's plumbing skills to remodel the execution chamber, where the electric chair was housed. When guards searched the area, the found bars in a window cut with a torch and foiled the escape plan.

The hopes and speculation were wrong. Brinlee was not only still in the state, he was not far from the penitentiary. Stopping at the Jones Crocery in Canadian, Okla., a small rural Lake Eufaula community, C.A. Pearce was on his day off from his job in the OSP infirmary.

Brinlee was in the store drinking a pop and eating some chips. The men recognized each other, and Brinlee agreed to give himself up. His willingness to surrender to an unnamed prison employee was explained by Warden Crisp, who said, "The chiggers and ticks have got him pretty bad. He was admitted to the prison hospital later for treatment of the insect bites and, upon release, will be placed in maximum custody."

In 1979, Brinlee still had connections on the outside and still harbored grudges. The lawyer for his ex-wife, Patrick Williams, was driving on a Tulsa street when a blasting cap attached to the car's fuel tank detonated. The tank did not explode because it was full. Williams, who had been threatened by Brinlee before, said he had a "few ideas" who might be responsible, but said nothing further.

In May 1984, the prison received a tip that Brinlee and another inmate had weapons and intended to escape "and kill some people." The day of the planned breakout prison officials searched Brinlee's cell where they found a knife, a .25-caliber handgun and 12 rounds of ammunition. Brinlee and his accomplices, assisted by a disgruntled prison guard, had planned to hijack a truck and pass through the prison gates disguised as food-service personnel. With his plan revealed, the only gate Brinlee went through was on his way back to maximum security.

As he grew older, Brinlee's power waned, according to a prison official, but in 1992, he was disciplined for fighting, perhaps to maintain his reputation as a prisoner to be respected. He appeared before the parole board on more than a dozen cases without success, and remained in the maximum-security prison 38 years.

As his health failed, Brinlee was moved from McAlester to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa. Although he was dying of congestive heart failure, a guard remained in the hospital room with him, and another was stationed in the hallway outside his door. Rex Brinlee died on Dec. 18, 2009, at age 76, maintaining to the end his innocence in the bombing.

Upon learning of Brinlee's death, the wife of the police chief told Joyce Bliss, "I don't think any of us will shed a whole lot of tears."

Jack Reavis, a local freelance writer, authored the above story. It was edited for historical accuracy by Dr. Brad Agnew, a history professor at Northeastern State University.

Tahlequah Daily Press, February 15, 2015

NSU Historian Discusses 66, Historic Road

Dr. Brad Agnew, professor of history, reviewed Michael Wallis’s Route 66: the Mother Road, Thursday evening, February 5, at Har-Ber Village near Grove.

The book traces the development of the nation’s best-known highway, provides biographical sketches of individuals who influenced its history, and describes its replacement by interstate highways. While the interstates by-passed most of the communities along the route of U.S. 66, many have survived along with most of the old highway’s roadbed.

Agnew discussed the resurgence of interest in the historic highway made famous in Bobby Troup’s 1946 song, "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66" and the 1960s TV series of the same name starring Martin Milner and George Maharis.

Following Agnew’s illustrated presentation, members of the audience shared their experiences of the “Mother Road” that ran from Chicago to Los Angles.

Advice Offered

Members of Phi Alpha Theta, national history honor society, NSU’s history club, and the members of the history faculty met Wednesday afternoon, February 4, at a practice session for Daisy Allen, Hulbert senior, who will be presenting a paper at a state history conference in Edmond later in the month.

Allen’s paper focuses on the two wives of French king Louis XIV. The NSU history major suggests that the two women have been viewed as important in shaping affairs of state, but her research suggests their influence has been exaggerated.

After the presentation, students and faculty offered suggestions for clarifying the thesis and strengthening delivery of the paper. Allen wrote the paper under the direction of Dr. Suzanne Farmer, assistant professor of history and History Club sponsor. Dr. Denis Vovchenko, assistant professor of history, sponsors Phi Alpha Theta.

Free OSAT History Review Available

The department of history is offering a review for Oklahoma Subject Area Test 17 (U.S. History and Oklahoma History) and 18 (World History) for Social Studies Education majors about to take state-mandated teacher-certification tests.

Students can enroll in the Blackboard review at no cost by sending an email to Brad Agnew and requesting that their names be added to the review roster. The review is voluntary, and the grades are solely to allow students to gauge their level of proficiency in material likely to be encountered on the state tests.

Multiple-question tutorials focus on American, Oklahoma, and World history. The review also provides assistance in “constructed response” (written responses to historical questions).  Students statewide are challenged by the constructed response portion of the tests.

The tutorial does not include a review of government, economics, or geography, which are also topics covered on the tests, but it does offer students advice in writing constructed responses.  Students may submit constructed responses, which will be critiqued by NSU historians.

The review has been offered as a class the past two semesters, and students who took the course and the OSATs reported that the review helped them with the tests.

History Students Have Opportunity to Publish Articles on Tahlequah's Past

Students in Brad Agnew’s Senior Seminar have the opportunity to submit articles of historical interest to the Tahlequah Daily Press to demonstrate skills learned during the completion of their history degrees.

Kim Poindexter, managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press, agreed to publish articles that meet Press standards submitted by students in History 4951, Senior Seminar, concerning the history and residents of the Tahlequah community.

“Online resources on the web and provided through the John Vaughan Library’s website make it possible to delve deeply into the history of Tahlequah,” Agnew said. “The New York Times from 1851, the Daily Oklahoman since 1901, and several Tahlequah papers until 1921 are online and easily searchable,” He added.

Agnew wrote a two-part series on the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1919 that claimed many lives in Cherokee County as an example for his students. The first part appeared in the Weekend edition (Sunday, January 18, 2015) of the Daily Press.

Tahlequah was hit hard by 1918 flu epidemic

First in a two-part series on deadly outbreak

By Dr. Brad Agnew/TDP Special Writer

In the fall of 2014, Ebola frightened Americans and pushed a few to the edge of hysteria. Some Oklahoma football fans canceled their annual pilgrimage to the OU-Texas game in Dallas, and others abandoned plans involving travel in the Lone Star State. Actually, their chance of contracting the virus in Texas was less than being killed or injured in an automobile accident en route.

Almost a century earlier, citizens of Tahlequah, Cherokee County, the state, nation, and world confronted a more virulent and contagious virus that claimed more lives than were lost in the entire First World War.

“In 1918 and 1919, ‘Spanish influenza’ spread swiftly around the globe just as the carnage of the Great War ended,” according to Dr. Chris Owen, professor of history at Northeastern.

The former capital of the Cherokee Nation suffered a staggering loss of life. More than 100 died in a town of little over 2,000, and the surrounding communities experienced greater losses. Those claimed by the flu were a factor in Tahlequah’s 21.4 percent decline in population between 1910 and 1920.

Although flu outbreaks had been reported in China in late 1917 and in Haskell County, Kansas, in March of 1918, Oklahoma had avoided the “Spanish flu” until mid-September 1918. A month earlier, the Daily Oklahoman had noted that typhoid was prevalent in Tahlequah. The deaths of a Northeastern coed from Stilwell and a Tahlequah housewife were reported. At least one other person from Tahlequah was “very ill,” and several others were recovering from a malady believed to be typhoid fever.

That diagnosis may have been correct, but some of the symptoms of typhoid fever are similar to the flu. A month later a Tahlequah newspaper noted, “The Spanish influenza is said to be beginning a visit to this country.” Unaware of the lethal nature of the disease, the editor quipped, “Most things Spanish are not to be sneezed at, but the influenza is an exception.”

Several days later, the dangerous potential of this strain of flu became apparent when residents of Tahlequah read that military officials had suspended conscription by local draft boards “until conditions improve.” On Oct. 5, the Daily Oklahoman announced, “A few cases have appeared in Cherokee county thought by some to be the forerunners of an epidemic of the malady.”

Actually, the “malady” had already assumed pandemic proportions. According to an article that appeared the same day in the Tahlequah Arrow, “More than 14,000 new cases were reported to the office of the surgeon general during the 24 hours ending at noon today.”

An article in the same issue of the newspaper provided advice for limiting the spread of the disease. While admitting that it could produce fatalities, a Tulsa physician claimed, “Spanish influenza is not such a terrible thing itself.” The news did not support his assessment. By Oct. 8, Stilwell officials reported nine deaths since the epidemic began a week earlier. In Tahlequah, District Judge J.H. Pitchford closed his court for twenty days as a result of the spiraling outbreak. A few days later, the local paper reported “a very large portion of Tahlequah suffering from the ‘flu.’”

As anxiety festered over inability to stem the rising death rate, the Cherokee County Democrat reported that stories from “reliable people” suggested that Germans and their sympathizers were spreading false rumors about conditions in army training facilities and deliberately exposing American troops to influenza. Tales of “germ warfare” proved groundless, but the volume of sick men at army training camps overwhelmed medical facilities and produced appalling conditions.

The situation was only marginally better back in the communities of trainees in Cherokee County. Gertie Lawley, who was 17 in the fall of 1918, lived with her family at Pettit about ten miles south of Tahlequah. She told her granddaughter Jennifer Sparks of Fort Gibson that those not sick nursed those who were. Gertie’s grandmother tended a neighboring family stricken with the flu. Despite her efforts, two of the youngest children died.

At home, Gertie’s 10-year-old sister, Maud, contracted the flu. As her condition worsened, she struggled for breath. Gertie recalled her sister’s labored breathing could be heard throughout the house, growing louder daily. The family eventually grew accustom to the sound, but found it more difficult to come to terms with the silence when Maud’s struggle to breathe came to an end.

On Oct. 9, following authorization from State Health Commissioner Dr. John W. Duke, the acting mayor of Tahlequah, J. Robert Wyly, issued a proclamation closing all public schools and theaters in the city for ten days or until the disease had been checked. Residents were asked to refrain from congregating and urged to help health officials stamp out the disease. The proclamation confirmed that “an epidemic of ‘Spanish Influenza’ is prevalent in the City of Tahlequah, as well as throughout the entire United States, and is a disease that is said to spread from contact.”

The county school superintendent issued a similar order for all schools under his supervision. Northeastern President George W. Gable opted to keep the normal school open, but on Oct. 18, Dr. Duke directed that all schools in the state dismiss classes until the epidemic had abated after he learned 85 percent of those contracting pneumonia were dying.

The epidemic also disrupted the election campaign. The chairman of the Cherokee County Democratic Campaign Committee, Tahlequah attorney James I. Coursey, urged county residents to vote a straight Democratic ticket, explaining, “on account of the influenza we are precluded from conducting a speaking campaign.”

While many continued to contract the disease and die from it, widespread opposition to prohibition on public assembly, particularly among merchants, prompted the state health commissioner to rescind his order on Nov. 9. After a month’s closure, schools, theaters, and other places of public assembly reopened.

News that the ban had been lifted came just as the armistice ended the fighting on the Western Front. Many Oklahomans, not confined to bed by the disease, left their homes to join spontaneous celebrations that would have occurred even if the ban on public assembly had not been lifted two days earlier. This and other gatherings were ill advised.

While patients not killed by the flu had begun to recover, the virus they had spread was claiming new victims. Second district Congressman W. W. Hastings, a resident of Tahlequah, suffered a “rather severe case” and had to postpone his return trip to Washington, D.C. The Arrow reported the death of Mrs. Margaret Stewart whose son Grover was in the army in France and other two sons were “down with influenza and unable to get home.”

Even while public assemblies were banned, family members and friends had rushed to the homes of the stricken to nurse them back to health. As in the case of health professionals aiding Ebola victims in West Africa in 2014, some carried the disease back to their homes and passed it on to others.

Far from being over, the epidemic had not yet reached its zenith in Eastern Oklahoma when the ban on public assembly ended on Nov. 9. In the next four months the number of deaths rebounded, claiming more Oklahoma lives in the next five months than were lost in the entire war.

Tahlequah Daily Press, January 19, 2015

Spring finally ended worst flu season in history

Second in a two-part series on deadly outbreak

By Dr. Brad Agnew/TDP Special Writer

The people of Cherokee County hoped the deadly autumn 1918 flu outbreak was waning after the November election, but the optimism, sparked by the reopening of schools and churches, evaporated quickly.

Although they did not realize it then, five more months of contagion and death confronted them before spring would end the most devastating influenza season in history.

The resumption of public gatherings in Oklahoma on Nov. 9, 1918, fueled a resurgence of the epidemic. In early December, Tahlequah’s acting mayor J. Robert Wyly was stricken, forcing a postponement of the regular meeting of the city council. The local papers listed new victims, but also announced many public gatherings, including theatrical performances and dances.

Despite their desire to promote local business activity, the editors of Tahlequah’s two newspapers did not conceal the number of new cases. The papers acknowledged the death of a member of the Home Guard and the presence of “quite a lot of flu in the vicinity.” Putting an optimistic spin on the story, one editor added, “but it doesn’t seem to be spreading at present and most all afflicted are improving.”

The columns of his newspaper suggested otherwise. In the same edition, he admitted, “Not much visiting in our community at present. Too much ‘Flu.’”

The correspondent from Liberty, a community about ten miles north of Tahlequah, mentioned, “Almost everyone has the flu” and claimed, “There has been as many as three buried in one day.” Other stories listed deaths all around the county.

In reporting multiple fatalities in the Union community, a few miles south of Tahlequah, the writer commented, “The mortality from this dreaded scourge is greater than the casualties to our army in France.” One of the deaths in that community was particularly tragic. When Mrs. F.V. (Bertha) Justice, a widow and one of the community’s leading citizens, succumbed to influenza, she left her six children orphans.

Dr. Richard L. Fite and his wife Nancy, prominent Tahlequah civic leaders, lost their youngest daughter, 18-year-old Laura, in early December. Her death was stark proof of the inability of medical science to check the course of the disease.

The 1918 flu virus was unusual because it was most lethal among young adults, normally the segment of the population most capable of surviving a bout of the flu. Later, medical science discovered that this particular mutation of the flu virus turned the immune system against otherwise healthy adults.

The volume of cases in some communities compelled local officials to reclose schools. The Woodall school, south of Tahlequah, reopened on Monday, Dec. 9, following “another vacation on account of the flu.” A week later, attendance at Woodall was reported as good “considering the amount of sickness in the neighborhood.”

As Christmas app-roached, the epidemic raged on. The Dec. 21 issue of the Tahlequah Arrow listed many names of stricken area residents, including Mrs. Nancy Cherry of Cookson who “left a husband and ten children,” and Mrs. Barr of the Zeb community, whose husband was now alone in raising his four small children. More than a month later, a report from the community claimed, “Most everybody around here is down with the flu.”

The toll soared after Christmas. Two children of Ace Gourd of Liberty died of the flu, and George Shankles of the same community lost one. In the nearby Union community, a correspondent informed the newspaper, “Flu is raging. There is scarcely a family in the District that has not felt it’s [sic.] effect. In some cases, the whole family is stricken at once.”

In Tahlequah, one of the post-Christmas victims was Houston B. Teehee, a graduate of the Male Cherokee Seminary who served as registrar of the U.S. Treasury from 1914 to 1919. He recovered, but death continued to stalk the county.

Another prominent seminary graduate was less fortunate. Mrs. William Potter (Anna) Ross, 34-year-old widow of Cherokee Chief John Ross’s grandnephew, was “stricken with the prevailing epidemic of influenza” along with her two young sons in early January. Although the boys recovered, their mother died Jan. 22 at her Park Hill home, leaving them orphans.

The prolonged epidemic not only slowed business in Tahlequah, it also kept farmers out of their fields. The newspaper noted, “On account of the flu, many of the farmers are behind in their fencing and other winter and early spring work.” An article in the Daily Oklahoman in late January 1919 estimated a $15.5 million loss to the state because of the flu.

January may have been the worst month of the epidemic in Tahlequah, for that month burials in Tahlequah reached their peak. Tahlequah burials by month during late 1918 and early 1919 were: August - 8, September - 5, October - 22, November - 29, December - 19, January - 30, February - 20, March - 10, April - 8, May - 4.

The epidemic in Oklahoma lasted from October into March, which corresponded closely with the “flu season,” normally the coldest half of the year. In Tahlequah it began before October and diminished rapidly with the approach of spring.

In early March, Mrs. Newt Carell of Liberty died of the effects of the flu. She was buried with an infant child claimed by the same disease two days earlier. Her husband was left to care for three small children alone. Another infant from the same community, the 11-month-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Lafferty, died after a 13-day bout with the flu. These three deaths may have been the last victims of the epidemic in the Tahlequah area.

The columns of local news in the Tahlequah papers refocused on the routine activities of the residents of the area, with decreasing references to those stricken by influenza and dying from it and its complications. By the end of March, the word “flu” had disappeared almost entirely from the pages of the local press.

Although the 1918-19 influenza pandemic was the most deadly outbreak in the nation’s history, it faded quickly from public memory, receiving almost no space in history textbooks that devote pages to the far-less-deadly World War I. Only recently have historians and scientists focused on the pandemic.

Studies in the past 20 years have emphasized the epidemic’s misleading name. The first reports of influenza in 1918 were from Spain, which was not a belligerent in the war. Since the warring powers censored any news that might unsettle their citizens, they suppressed reports of widespread deaths from the flu in their armies. The uncensored Spanish press reported the disease. Consequently, in Europe and America it was called the Spanish flu.

Scientists and historians are still debating the origin of the disease. Many consider rural Kansas the most likely location, but others view military camps in Great Britain and France as the epicenter. A 2014 study suggests that Southeast Asia was probably the breeding ground of all previous flu pandemics, including the 1918 outbreak.

“Recent studies also suggest the ineffectiveness of much of the information provided by the government and newspapers for combating the spread of the virus. Facemasks required in some communities are now considered ineffective against a virus so tiny it passed through gauze,” said Dr. Chris Owen, professor of history at Northeastern State University.

Other government advice concerning physical activity, the importance of “regularity,” or the type of clothing that should be worn was equally useless. The newspapers of the period were filled with ads for all sorts of potions, flu remedies, and recommendations that were no more effective.

“Perhaps the most significant result of the renewed interest in the 1918-19 outbreak has been a better understanding of the nature of the disease. Frozen and medically preserved samples of lung tissue from flu victims enabled scientists almost a century later to map the viral genome,” said Dr. Owen.

Their studies emphasized its deadly nature and the possibility that another virus almost certainly will again leap from birds to humans, directly or indirectly, with consequences that could be even more devastating than the Spanish influenza. Authorities now believe that outbreak killed an estimated 7,500 Oklahomans, more than half a million Americans, and between 50 and 100 million worldwide. They also believe the Ebola danger pales in comparison to the threat posed by a new virulent strain of influenza.

Tahlequah Daily Press, January 26, 2015

"Dr. V" Takes Eastern Asian Beliefs Course

Dr. Denis Vovchenko, assistant professor of history, completed an online course on “Teaching About the Belief Systems of East Asia” from Columbia University in January 2015.

The class involved thirty-six contact hours from September 17, 2014, until January 6, 2015, and focused on Shamans, Shinto, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Islam, and Christianity. The course was divided into two-week sessions that included simulcasts by scholars, online readings and museum exhibitions, and discussions on content and teaching strategies.

The course, offered by the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA), was funded by the Freeman Foundation as part of a multi-year initiative to encourage and facilitate teaching and learning about East Asia in elementary and secondary schools nationwide.

Dr. Vovchenko said he enrolled in the course to develop a deeper understanding of those belief systems, which are important in several courses he offers at NSU as well as to learn strategies to present this material to students in his classes.

History Professor Discusses Historic Illinois River Valley

Brad Agnew, professor of history, discussed the Illinois River and the events that have occurred along its banks in an illustrated presentation at the monthly meeting of the Hulbert Friends of the Library, Tuesday evening, January 13.

Named by an unknown French trader in the 18th century, the river has been the setting for prehistoric Indian activity beginning in the Clovis era, rivalry between the Spanish and the French, conflict between the Osages and Cherokees, exploration of early U.S. military personnel, intratribal Cherokee conflict, Civil War skirmishes, outlaw activity, and recreation.

In recent years maintaining the quality of the river has been a major goal of the Save the Illinois River (STIR), a Tahlequah-based organization whose mission is to protect and preserve the Illinois River, its tributaries, and Lake Tenkiller.

The presentation was followed by a wide-ranging discussion of the river’s past and its future. Several member of the Hulbert Friends group cited evidence of the river’s degradation during the past half century.