Muskogee History and Genealogy
Spaulding of Spaulding Park
Both Spaulding Park and Spaulding Boulevard are named for Homer B. Spaulding. Spaulding was born on February 27th, 1862 in Lexington, Tennessee. At the age of 17, he moved to Sulphur Springs, Texas. There he met and married Josephine, the daughter of S. B. Callahan of the Creek Nation.
Following his marriage in 1884, H. B. moved to Muskogee. The next year he began working at the Patterson Mercantile Company and was soon a buyer. Quickly he progressed to manager. About 1890 he left the company to go into business for himself.
With $2,000 of his savings, he purchased a ranch outside of Checotah on Cloud Creek. Within only a few years, he was grazing 20,000 head of cattle there. Eventually, Spaulding's financial standing reached the point that he was able to buy an interest in the company of his former employer.
About 1901 he reportedly drove the first automobile seen on the streets of Muskogee. Unfortunately, documentation for this claim has not been found. If true, this would identify him as one of the more progressive residents.
Spaulding became Muskogee's third mayor in 1902. During his tenure, he promoted Muskogee as a convention destination. Because of his efforts, the Indian Territory Press Association met in Muskogee in April, 1903.
In 1904 Spaulding was elected the president of the Muskogee Commercial Club. This club was the forerunner of the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce. He served as its president for about four years.
About 1910 he built the steel Spaulding Bridge across the Arkansas River, connecting Muskogee and Wagoner Counties. The piers of this bridge may yet be seen to the west of the US 69 Hwy.
Spaulding was generous by nature throughout his life. He gave liberally to the First Methodist Church. After the fire that burned the Harrell Institute, his donations and fundraising resulted in a new school that was named the Spaulding Institute. Between 1904 and 1907, the street just west of the college, and one block away from his church, was named after him. Spaulding Park now occupies part of the land where the Spaulding Institute once stood.
Spaulding twice ran for the office of Sheriff on the Democrat ticket, but lost both times. He was a County Commissioner at the time of his death. When he dropped dead in his home on September 4th, 1918, the community was shocked. The day before he died, he had been conducting business at the courthouse with a joviality that belied his weak heart.
Homer B. Spaulding had four sons and two daughters. This energetic man and early builder of Muskogee is buried in the Greenhill Cemetery.
Labels: Homer B. Spaulding, Spaulding Bridge, Spaulding Institute, Spaulding Park
Early Muskogee Inventor Identified
Resting quietly in the Greenhill Cemetery is an inventor who lived in Muskogee over 100 years ago. His creation has been forgotten for decades. Here is how he was rediscovered along with a description of his life and invention.
George F. Beebe, a resident of Muskogee, Indian Territory, was found through a search of records in the US Patent Office. George's patent was on an "improved driving mechanism" that promised increased "speed at a minimum expenditure of strength and exertion" by the rider. The diagram above is of a standard bicycle of the day with Beebe's patented gears on the rear axle.
Modern bicycles transfer leg power from circular pedaling through a chain to the gears on the rear axle. Beebe proposed a radical departure from this process. His idea was to use a pumping motion up and down ratcheting the gears to gain motion.
Muskogee was not known for its bicycles when this patent was filed in 1897. People often think of trains roaring through town on a regular basis, sometimes startling horses and mules. On the other hand, two-wheeled vehicles do not show up in area history unless one looks closely.
Who was George F. Beebe? He was born in New York on May 12th, 1816. The 1880 census reports that he worked as a "Patent Rights Agent." This work allowed him to learn the process of applying for patents and the merits of doing so.
Beebe is granted his first patent in 1884 for an improvement to a pump. He returns to thinking about pumps in 1890 when he applies for another patent on an additional improvement.
In between his modifications to the design of pumps, George turned his attention to transportation. During this half decade, he receives two more patents for separate improvements in the design of sulkies. Sulkies are two wheel carriages which allow room for only one passenger. Today similar carriages are seen at race tracks.
George Beebe leaves New York and settles in Muskogee sometime during the middle of the 1890's. Even though he seems to still be active in his older years, he apparently chooses to live with his second son, Oscar, for practical reasons. Oscar has probably followed the railroads westward to Muskogee, thereby prompting his father to come here, too. By 1900 Oscar worked his way up the ranks until he became the local yard master of the Katy railroad.
It is in Muskogee that the final design is ironed out between father and son for the new bicycle propulsion that the father patents. The patent is filed on the last day of 1897 and is granted January 10th, 1899 when George Beebe is 82 years old. At his death on the following December 27th he possessed five patents, all earned after his 68th birthday. Welcome to the new blog about Muskogee's history and genealogy.
I hope you find the articles interesting enough to share with your friends. If you like, you may also post comments about what you have read.
Labels: Bicycles, George F. Beebe, Patents
Muddy Muskogee Streets
Ladies, this is why your great-grandmother wore high-top shoes. The streets of Muskogee used to be muddy.
Campbell Russell is in this 1888 photograph taken by J. F. Standiford. Russell thought the streets needed paving. To make his point, he retrieved his fishing pole and went "fishin" at Main and West Okmulgee streets.
William S. Hart, a prominent actor in his day, described the Muskogee of 1894 as "a small place with board sidewalks and dirt streets." Obviously little had improved in the previous six years.
At first, working to improve the streets involved just filling in the ruts. To some extent, building up the low spots removed the fishing holes. The ruts and low spots usually returned, however, when freight wagons passed through town during a wet spell.
Street conditions did not begin to change until 1898 when the founding fathers decided to incorporate the community. Experience up until then showed that individual effort produced only temporary improvements.
Following the incorporation the new council members began addressing the needs of the town. Ordinance No. 16 was an enactment requiring men between the ages of 18 and 45 to work on the streets and alleys for two days out of the year.
There were exceptions. Only men who resided in town thirty days or more were required to work on the byways. In addition to the non-residents, the handicapped were also exempted.
Residents could also avoid working on the streets when called upon by the town's street commissioner by paying $3.00 before September. But, heaven help you if you failed to show for duty or disrupted the work somehow.
The penalty for these infractions was severe. The fine was $25.00 that could be worked out by working on the streets. Each day of street work reduced the fine by $3.00. Ironically, it would take over eight days to pay off a fine for missing two days of work.
Today, streets have sloped sides so that water will run toward the curbs. There, storm water drains allow the water to flow through a sewer to a nearby creek. The roadways are usually paved with asphalt, concrete, brick or stone.
This development evolved through trial and error all across the country. The next time you see a street department worker, thank him or her for what they and their predecessors have accomplished.
FOOTNOTE: Crime may have been the major cause for the incorporation of Muskogee. But, certainly, a contributing factor was the need for improved street conditions.
Labels: Campbell Russell, City Ordinance No. 16, J. F. Standiford, Streets
Researching Hatbox Field History
Daniel Haston's interest in Muskogee history is bringing him back home this week. He will be researching the history of Hatbox Field and its one-time manager, Libby Rupert.
Daniel grew up in Muskogee during the 1930's and '40's. Because his father took aerial photographs of crop land, he began wanting an airplane ride. The growth of his flying interest also came from the constant news articles appearing in newspapers and on radio.
This hobby resonated among his acquaintances as well. When any of his brothers or friends heard an airplane engine, there were shouts of "Airplane" resounding from young throats. Hearing the word "Airplane" prompted all of the kids to run to the nearest doorway in an effort to spot the airborne speck in the sky.
Daniel's father flew in Lilburn L. Rupert's airplane while taking the aerial photographs of farm land. At the time, Muskogee's only airport was Hatbox Field. And Rupert, he went by "Libby," was the manager of the field. If they flew before World War II, many Muskogee residents were given their first airplane rides or lessons by Libby. He also offered commercial flights to the business community.
After Libby purchased a new Piper J-5 monoplane in the spring of 1940, Daniel's father finally consented to treating two of his sons to an airplane ride. Here, in his own words, is Daniel's description of that flight.
"I sat on the wide, rear seat to the right side of brother, Glen. I recall the starting of the engine and the take-off. But, being a small five-year old, I couldn't see over the lower window edge, until Glen slid over and put me on his lap. Then, I could see downward. We had climbed to an altitude of 500-800 feet from where, in my child's eyes, all I could see were toy houses and cars below. It has been a most memorable flight."
From that date forward, Daniel's love of flying strengthened until he learned to fly himself. Eventually, he became a helicopter pilot who flew service runs for oil companies delivering personnel or parts to offshore oil drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Haston's interest in Muskogee's Hatbox Field and Libby Rupert brings him back to town to research. His history of the airport and its manager is in rough draft already. This year relatives of Rupert will meet here to swap stories and make donations to the Three Rivers Museum.
Today Daniel lives in retirement with his wife in Wiggins, MS.
Labels: Daniel Haston, Hatbox Field, Libby Rupert
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