From The Negro in Oklahoma written by a committee of local Luther Citizens for"The Federal Writers' Project", May 9, 1939. Links lead to notes containing additional information.
I. THE NEGRO IN THE EARLY LIFE OF OKLAHOMA
A. Negro life during pre-statehood
Among those who were over anxious to secure homes in the new territory were many Negroes who had come from various sections of the country. They came with a determination to get homes and many were successful. Some of whom were, John LILLIARD, Robert LARKIN, John BARBER,Emmitt COOPER, John WOODARD, Robert GARNEGAY, F. SMITH, Harrison BLACKFOST, Isaac SAMUELS. Many of these pioneers made the run afoot. They built rude homes, log huts, dug-outs of poles and began life anew.
At the opening of the Iowa, Sac and Fox and Pottawatomie reservations, Sept. 22, 1891, we found numbers of Negroes on the line in another attempt to gain homes for themselves. Ready at the signal to go, they rushed madly on, in wagons, horseback, afoot. Many women were in the race and were successful in the race.
Some of those making successful runs were, John G. KEY, Jake JOHNSON, John SCOTT, John G. SCOTT, Mark WEDDINGTON, Emanuel MOORE, Harry HUNTER, Tom WILBOURNE, Geo. WILBOURNE, Tom CLOPTON, Sr., Joseph TAYLOR, Albert CLAYTON, and H. C. (Parson) CLARK, S. K. SMITH.
An interesting story is told of Parson Clark (deceased) who was fairly well educated and, an extensive reader. Somehow he overheard the whites talking of their plans for filing and learned that instead of using "rags" or other things to "identify" the land on which they filed, that they were to use U.S. flags. When these flags were seen, no one molested the area, for it was understood that it belonged to a white settler. Parson Clark, somehow got one of these flags and when he made the run staked a claim on a rich bottom farm, northwest of Luther. He stuck up his flag and then hid himself. Thus he was able to hold his claim without the least bit of trouble.
These sturdy pioneers went to work to make homes for their families. Many wives worked in Guthrie as domestic help in order to help to supply family needs.
These shacks, dugouts, sod houses etc., with dirt floors, served as their first homes. The food was coarse, often scarce, crude furniture. Those who were lucky enough to secure work were often paid in food stuff.
The first school in this area was organized in 1894 and taught in a log house on NE4 of Sec. 5, Twp. 14, R 1E, by Mrs. John B. KEY whose husband had filed on a claim in Sec. 6. Later a school site was located on the Albert CLAYTON farm, Dist. 72 and today (1939) is known as Clayton school.
These people thought nothing of walking to Guthrie for food and supplies.
KICKAPOO RESERVATION OPENED
Just before the opening of the Kickapoo reservation, a colony of people migrated to Oklahoma Territory from Kentucky. Heading the colony were D. W. ANDERSON, who "bought a homesteader out" and purchased other farms. Prof. CARLYLE, graduate from Talledega, farmer, preacher and ex-teacher of Alabama and Texas and Rev. H. H. MARTIN, graduate of Biddle University. There were 82 in the colony. They chartered 2 freight cars, and one passenger car.
Many of these folk made the run and were successful in securing good farms. Among them was Miss Lulu ANDERSON. Others who in other ways secured homes early, were T. J. GRAYHAM, R. M. CAMPBELL, Milton LEE, Pete FOSTER, Jess ROGERS and Will COLLINS.
These folk, settled west of Luther and one of them, Rev. Martin, founded the Douglas Community. Some of these folk had money and were able to get along fairly well. Their homes as in the other communities were crude affairs, but they were Home to the owners. These settlers often made tripsto Oklahoma City for supplies, afoot, in wagons and horseback.
We find Tom TRAYLOR as the first post master with Miss Lulu ANDERSON assistant, followed by John SMITH with W. H. ANDERSON assistant. T. J. GRAYHAM, assisted by his wife was the last to hold this job, holding it until the post office was discontinued.
Pete FOSTER was employed to take the mail to Oklahoma City twice each week. His salary was to he two-thirds of the salary paid the post-master. On receiving his pay at the end of six months, the post-master received two ($2.00) and the mail carrier received four dollars ($4.00).
Some of the early teachers were Jim SPEARS, C. H. BULCHER, J. J. JOHNSON, Scott ANDERSON and Miss Lulu ANDERSON. Churches were soon established and it was in the M. E. church that the first school was taught.
Farming was the chief occupation and one energetic Negro, John A. WILLIAMS operated a cotton gin.
An early blacksmith was Milton LEE.
CIVIL WAR VETERANS WHO MIGRATED TO OKLAHOMA TERRITORY
Listed among the soldiers who had seen actual service in the Civil War, and were proud of the type of service they rendered were Isaac SAMUELS, Robert LARKIN, Alexander PAYNE, Emanuel MOORE, Frank MEYERS, Thomas FRANKLIN, William HOGGIN, J. G. GREANHOWARD and Silas NORMAN. All of these men have passed on, but memories of them still are vivid with us.
BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL WORLD
The first medical doctor in the town of Luther, was Dr. J. T. JETER, who gave unstinted service in the building program for our group. He was rated as the "best" doctor and served all races. After he moved to Oklahoma City, both white and colored continued to use him in preference to other physicians. He was active in church and fraternal organizations.
As merchants, John B. KEY operated one of the best general stores in the town and contributed largely to all elevating activities. Mr. Key later moved to the oil town of Okmulgee and was succeeded in business by his brother W. S. KEY, who continued the fine services of his brother more thana score of years.
Another main street merchant was O. H. PERRY, who successfully operated a grocery store several years.
Luther was not without its hotels, for Clarence STCLAIR of Montana and Marshall STEIGER of Omaha, Nebraska, built and operated a hotel that was a credit to the town, and served as the home of many pioneer families.
Fraternal organizations came in for their share of publicity. The Masonic Lodge, organized in 1894, by the Grand Master of Texas, L. M. BELL, and had as charter members: Dr. J. T. JETER, Joseph TAYLOR, Allen STEARNE, George WILBOURNE.
The women's auxiliary organization of the Masonic Lodge, "The Order of the Eastern Star", functioned with Mrs. J. T. JETER as the first Worthy Matron and the following members: Mrs. Joseph TAYLOR, Mrs. George WILBOURNE.
The "Odd Fellows" was organized with charter members being a Mr. LEWIS, Mr. GOWER, Dr. J. T. JETER, Rev. R. M. CAMPBELL, T. J. GRAYHAM, W. H. ANDERSON, John EWING, Emmitt COOPER, Frank LEE, Joe EWING, Henry WICKLIFFE and others.
EDUCATIONAL AND RELIGIOUS TRENDS
Churches were soon established, viz: St. Paul A. M. E. church, with Dr. JETER and wife, Freddie ROBINSON and family, John B. KEY and wife, and others.
The first Baptist Church was organized about the same time as the Methodist Church.
The first school in Luther was taught in the Baptist Church by Mr. Charles WALKER, Langston, followed by Miss Grace MEYERS, Mrs. Mary R. CROSLIN, a graduate of Douglass High School, Oklahoma City, and a member of one of the pioneer families succeeded Miss Meyers, and continued to teach down through
The population increased rapidly with the states of Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Kansas and Louisiana, furnishing the greatest number of immigrants.
All were eager to make their start with the new country and became an integral part of it.
If you would like to compare notes concerning any of these families, or have additional information on these or any other Luther area families, please contactme.