Haskell County Historical Society

Scantlen, Doc - Interview by Terry Scantlen

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BELLE STARR Rides in Haskell County, Oklahoma

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By Terry Scantlen

TERRY SCANTLEN: When did the kinfolks come over from Mississippi?

DOC SCANTLEN: Well, 1849, I guess.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What was it like?

DOC SCANTLEN: Well, they had to sell everything they had and get it in gold, all they could bring is what they could carry. If they stayed in Mississippi, you was disinherited, couldn't own property and couldn't vote, if you went to school, you went with the colored kids. Momma's grandma's daddy sold his cattle and got it all in gold and coming home, someone killed him, and got his gold so, all their family had to come with their friends. I don't know how long it was driving them up here, the government moved them and they come from Mississippi, up through there to Fort Towson, Oklahoma. The fort down there, they stayed there till they grew up, Grandma and Grandpa got married there at Fort Towson. He fought with Southern Army, but we had him swore in and all that army stuff. We stayed there at Fort Towson till 1870. They sent a scout over to look at this country. Our tribal land was from the Red River up the Arkansas line, to the Arkansas River. Up the Arkansas River to the mouth of the Canadian River, up the Canadian, as far as it went, between that and the Red River. That was our tribal land. And before they came over the mountain they send a scout to look this country. They picked the land south of Tamaha and all in there. There was six brothers that came in a wagon and they drove bulls and steers in them wagons, not horses. Had four to six head on a wagon, and some went ahead to pick places to cross the creeks. There wasn't any roads, they had to cut their own roads. They was three months coming over here. My Grandpa's brother Joseph, he was Choctaw judge, when they had court. They had their own court. They all had allotted land back in there and they took Grade A land. They got 160 acres on Arkansas or Canadian Rivers and if they got on prairies or hay meadows, they got 240 acres which is 380 total. If you got back in the hilly rocky ridges, you got 320 acres. And you could get 'lotted land if you was 1/32 Choctaw. They all had to sign up for this land. They all went down in their wagons and buggies to Atoka, to sign up for it. My Dad was a white man, him and momma had been married several years, and had several children, so he turned around and married under the Choctaw law, and paid a hundred dollars. He got a roll number, and 'lotted land too.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Did they ever tell you anything about the Cherokee tribe?

DOC SCANTLEN: They didn't know them, and they didn't like them.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What about the Trail of Tears?

DOC SCANTLEN: Well, when Grandma walked over here, that was the Trail of Tears.

TERRY SCANTLEN: How long has the kinfolks lived around here in Stigler?

DOC SCANTLEN: They lived here since 1870, a Hundred and Fourteen years ago.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What was this town like?

DOC SCANTLEN: There wasn't no town here, when they came here. When they'd sell their steers it was the only way they got money was selling steers. They got 10 dollars apiece for 2 to 3 year old steers. Couldn't sell a cow or heifer for no price. So when they killed beef they always killed cows or heifers, saved a steer to get 10 dollars out of it. They had to pay for it in gold too, they wouldn't have that other money. Momma said they'd put that money in trunk there in house, first time they went to Fort Smith they'd spend it.

TERRY SCANTLEN: How long did it take to get to Fort Smith?

DOC SCANTLEN: You can drive to Fort Smith in half a day.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What was the Indian treated like back in the old days?

DOC SCANTLEN: They was the boss, they owned everything, wasn't no white people would. The Indian wouldn't work over maybe 3 or 4 acres, maybe 5, not over 5, they ate the corn their selves, they didn't feed no hogs or horses. They kept the hogs fat on acorn and pecans and hickory nuts. Their main diet would be hog meat.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Can you tell me what it was like when this town first started growing, when it first came around?

DOC SCANTLEN: We moved here in 1908 we got burn out down on Tamaha prairies in 1908, I was one year old. Burn't everything we had, we gone home, so Papa came up here and bought the place right across from Ford Motors, there on corner. He bought that new two story house and half that block, facing the highway, for 15 hundred dollars. There wasn't no houses from there plum down there. Way down there was two houses quite way down there. This side of railroad track, there wasn't no more house down there, but the town was up here. King's Tire Shop is right where town was, Hammon's Motel, town was right down there.

TERRY SCANTLEN: How many people lived here at that time?

DOC SCANTLEN: I don't know, see I didn't start school until I was seven years old. I started school in 1914. But there was lot of white people here then. They come in out of Arkansas, they was all about to starve to death down there in Arkansas, so they came out here to work the land; they go of the cotton when they made it, 1/3 of corn when they grew it. During the tribal days, before statehood if you were a white man and came in here, every cow and horse you had, you paid a dime a year to run on Choctaw's grass. If that white man went out and cut a ton of hay it would cost him a quarter, 25 cents. The collector would come around once a year and collect it off of them.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Do you remember them telling you about the land rush?

DOC SCANTLEN: No, that was out in Western Oklahoma.

TERRY SCANTLEN: None of the people were coming out here to get land?

DOC SCANTLEN: It wasn't our tribal land, it belong to other tribes out west, Choctaw Tribe's lands between the Red River and Canadian. The Canadian runs into the Arkansas, I'd say about 40 miles line. Our tribe lines went up the Arkansas lines up to Red River, to the Arkansas River, up the Arkansas River, to the mouth of Canadian, and up the Canadian as far as she went between that and the Red River.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What was the woman's job around here, did any women work?

DOC SCANTLEN: Indian women did all the work. The Indian men didn't work.


DOC SCANTLEN: They laid around, while the women done all the work. Do you know what the Indian's government is? The white men had been over here all this time trying to improve on one. No nation debts, and no taxes, and women do the work, that's their government.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What was their kind of trials? How did they run them?



DOC SCANTLEN: Well, they got him up, and tried him. If he was guilty they whipped him. He got 50 licks with a hickory stick. They stripped him and tied him around a tree, like that. This old woman told me about it, the last whipping she went to, they whipped one of these Perry, over here, Steve Perry. He's old George Cooper's Grandpa. They whipped him for stealing horses, him and a white man. They got 50 licks apiece. Second time they tried him, and found him guilty, he got a 150 licks. The third time you was tried and proven guilty, they shot you, they set a date for you to be shot and you would come in and be shot.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What was an offense they could get shot on they first time?

DOC SCANTLEN: Well, I don't know about that, probably be murder. They didn't kill each other, and didn't fight among each other unless you got drunk. Momma was born in 1877.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Do you remember them talking about the Civil War?

DOC SCANTLEN: Yes, I heard them talk about it. They didn't want to fight on Southern side, but some how they made them.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Made the Indians?

DOC SCANTLEN: Yes, our tribe fought on the Southern side, but they didn't want to, cause they are the ones that drove them out, down there.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Were they paid for fighting on the Southern side?

DOC SCANTLEN: I guess they were paid, but see when the Southern war was over, all that money was counterfeit, weren't no good. If had been on Northern side they would have all drawn pensions. Grandma said the Cumberlin Presbyterian Church did more for them than the government did. They kept them from starving to death. When they dumped them down there, there was no water wells, no buildings, no sheds, nothing. Had to dig own springs and everything. Own wells. She said the Cumberlin Church did more for them than the government did. They all belong to Cumberlin Presbyterian Church. They didn't cook on Sundays, course I been there at Grandmas and ate, everything was cooked on Saturday, wasn't nothing cooked on Sunday.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Do you remember the depression?


TERRY SCANTLEN: What was that like?

DOC SCANTLEN: You could buy a bushel of corn for a nickel. Forty cents a day for labor, 10 hours. I hired them when they built that barn. Hired all the men you wanted, they'd and beg you for work for 40 cents a day. First thing they started giving away, the Red Cross started giving flour with a Red Cross on it. I remember it pretty good back in 1911. In 1910 to 1911, I drove Dad's buggy team every day. We drove to McAlester, 60 miles. Boy they was good horses. They'd drive a buggy team from here to Fort Smith in one day. They'd to down and get a load of whiskey.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Do you remember when the first car came out?

DOC SCANTLEN: No, I remember seeing some back then, I think there weren't but about one in town up here, about 1910-1911.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Do you remember who owned it?

DOC SCANTLEN: No, I don't.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Do you remember when y'all go y'all's first car?

DOC SCANTLEN: I guess it was about 1920.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What kind was it?

DOC SCANTLEN: Ford, it cost $550, a brand new one. And a Chevy cost $650 cause Doug Cooper bought a brand new Ford, out there, for $550. The next one he bought was a Chevy, which was $650. I was born in the spring of 1907, with statehood in the fall. I was born before statehood and I'll be 77, April 20, and I never remember moving in my life from one place to another. I was just one year old when we moved to Stigler. I don't remember that. We lived there in 1911, then we moved down here in 1911, and don't remember moving down here. We lived in a barn until we built this house, we built this in 1912.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Live in that barn?

DOC SCANTLEN: No, it wasn't that barn, another, there's two barns up down there. One had 5,000 bushels of corn in it.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Can you tell me some stories about your life?

DOC SCANTLEN: I've had a good one, I worked for my mother all my life.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What was about the most exciting thing that ever happened in your life?

DOC SCANTLEN: There's been a bunch of them. I guess, when my father got killed, barn fell in on him. He got killed right there where King's tests them car wheels. That's where he laid until they dug him out, the whole thing fell in on him. It was a high barn then, all full of hay then, they was stacking hay on it. Wagons came in there hauling everything in a wagon team. They came by buggy and hollered at to check this barn, its poppin'. The hands came out there and sat down. He walked in under that thing, when he did the whole thing fell down on him. They was a half a day digging him out. He on bottom. He was 48 years old, when he got killed. I drove his bug-team until I was seven years old. When I went to school there was two pistols and a rifle in the buggy, all the time. I stood straddle of them, while driving the team. He had a good buggy, with brakes and everything. Them horses would make 10 to 12 miles an hour in the mud or sand.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What are some of the traditions of the Choctaw tribe?

DOC SCANTLEN: They all made their own living. Some it was a poor living, they'd get them cows up and milk them. About June 15, if the grass was good, they'd milk all them cows. Churned all that butter and seal the butter in a big jar, 10 gallon jars and 5 gallon jars. Seal up and cook with it in the fall and winter until they started killing their hogs. They call it May butter. They wouldn't milk a cow if she had a bull calf, they'd turn him out to make a good steer, to get the $10. If they caught an old bull on ranges they'd cut him, didn't care who's he was, because there was too many heifer calves. They all wanted steers that was the only (way) they get money. Grandpa's picture is up there in that Capitol Building in Oklahoma City. He's one of the leaders of our tribe.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What was he?

DOC SCANTLEN: 32nd degree Mason. I was working for a old cow buyer. I ask how did he get in the Masonic Lodge, he can't talk English. Oh, he said he's such a fine man. That's what's on his tomb stone.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Do you remember much about Will Rogers?

DOC SCANTLEN: No, I never did see him, all I know about him is what I read in the papers. He was Cherokee. When you cross that river down there you are in Cherokee territory.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Do you remember some outlaw around here?


TERRY SCANTLEN: What was a few of them?

DOC SCANTLEN: They killed about 5 or 6 at one time, there was 4 of them that robbed the Fort Gibson bank. They had them in jail. They brought them out of the pen and trialed them up there at grey horse-Pahuskie. They robbed a bank there, and they tried to do that. They got 54 years and they broke out of jail and then they came down and stayed at where the Canadian runs into the Arkansas. They all went up to Sapulpa and robbed the bank there. There was about 6 or 7 of them by now and they all got killed there. Somebody tipped them that they were coming there.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What about the land where Robber's Cave is?

DOC SCANTLEN: Well, my Dad had 20 acres in there right by that cave, is right close to it. I have two cousins which has 20 acres each, right there by him.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Right by Robber's Cave?

DOC SCANTLEN: Yes, I went up there and sold timber off of it for Momma.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Do you ever remember any outlaws being up around there?

DOC SCANTLEN: No outlaws were back in there. There was no money. The outlaws stayed where they could get money. No outlaws camped in there.


DOC SCANTLEN: No, maybe someone rode across there and stayed the night. I came across there when there were only wagon roads.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Do you remember seeing that cave before all the publicity started on it?

DOC SCANTLEN: Yes, I went up there, sold some guys some of that timber off of it. He had a sawmill on it already. Stayed all night there. He had an old car worth about 35 dollars. He took me over to Wilburton and got the money and paid me, brought me back and let me out and by God, I walked out of there.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Walked from over there to here?

DOC SCANTLEN: No, I walked to the highway over at Quinton.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Was the highway asphalt, or dirt, back then?

DOC SCANTLEN: Dirt, that was before they brought the convicts in to build that road. There wasn't nothing but a dirt road, and he drove up over it, but it was just like going up stairsteps, rocky, rough for that old car, which wasn't worth 35 dollars. I stayed all night with him, and he'd pray before he'd eat, and I said, why don't you steal this timber, I can buy it cheaper than I can steal it. He came over here and wanted to buy it. Momma said I ain't got no (timber) over there, he said yes, ya have, cause George Scott said it was yours. So I went over there with him, he had a sawmill sitting on it. I stayed all night.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What would a rick of wood go for back then?

DOC SCANTLEN: I don't know but around here it was six bits a rick, 75 cents a rick and labor then was 75 cents a day. This old man right over here cleared all that land and right over there, he cut every tree off of there and he cut three rick a day by his self but if he hired out on a farm or common labor he would have made 75 cents a day. But he could cut 3 rick a day, stove wood or peterwood. He was janitor up there at high school for 25 years.

TERRY SCANTLEN: How much land does our family have of Indian land?

DOC SCANTLEN: Well, I wouldn't know but they is 6 of them allotted. How much was allotted for each? Well, some of us 320 acres, some 240, some 160 apiece.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Do you know exactly how much land that you have?

DOC SCANTLEN: No, I got charged all my mother's land, I worked for her all my life.

TERRY SCANTLEN: How long have you been a vet?

DOC SCANTLEN: All my life, I guess. My Dad was a good vet and I was with him all the time.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Did you have licenses back then?


TERRY SCANTLEN: What was it that you found out that you was supposed to have a license?

DOC SCANTLEN: I don't know about that, I went down there pleading. I never was arrested but once for it. It's a 1000 dollar fine and six months in jail.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What did they tell you?

DOC SCANTLEN: I was supposed to cut a mule down there for this guy. I never had seen that mule, I wasn't the one that cut him. The mule lived 21 days. Cuttin' didn't kill him, he taken lock jaw. Took them 14 to 21 days after you cut them and when they take that there dead monkey, he take that germ in there and specially around a old lot, a dirt manure lot. When you cut them run them off in a clean pasture. They pick that germ up when you cut him. It take 14 to 21 days to take hold. And when it does they get stiff eye turn over in their head. And they died.

TERRY SCANTLEN: When this veterinarian, is he the first licensed veterinarian?

DOC SCANTLEN: No, one before him but he died out here, he died from cancer.

TERRY SCANTLEN: Was he any good?

DOC SCANTLEN: Well, he good as school puts out.

TERRY SCANTLEN: What's your opinion of the one now?

DOC SCANTLEN: Well, you have to pass test just like a lawyer everything and have to go to school about 4 to 6 years. I work in lots all my life. I use to ride horses here to river bottom down there some of them share croppers. I drive down there every day to collect their rent. Ride back that night 20 miles down there and 20 back. Have to ride all over country and back that night. Got on a new horse next morning. Had three of them good ones. Rode them a lope all the time, I didn't get on I rode them a lope. I ride from here to down, maybe over to Keota, and back to bottom, around the bottom and ride back that night. When we dipped them horses, there state law you had to dip them, dip range horses once a month and all these cattle dipped them every two weeks. State officer there at the vat check every body name, if you didn't bring in cattle dip them, state officer would dip them. You had to pay for it. We run them horses down before we ever tried to lot them. We brought in there to that vat I guess about 200 of them. We drive down there in a wagon with keys and bowls on it, camp down there that night right in middle of prairies. Wasn't even fenced. Next morning round them all up and get them all in a bunch go run them. We run them to Tamaha about around Perry school house around that mountain back. We pack that wagon and got a new horse. And got them all run down then you could lot them. We run plum down every time we run onto a stray horse or mule or anything we'd throw them into that bunch. And went to dipping vat. They kill every tick in this country. Sometimes they'd make it too strong and it would take the hair off of their hide.

(This concludes the interview of Doc Scantlen by Terry Scantlen.)

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