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Muskogee, OK

Muskogee History and Genealogy

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fort Gibson's Weather Station

The United States established its national weather bureau when Congress directed the US Army to begin collecting measurements and observations in 1870. These duties initially became the responsibility of the Signal Corps because it was thought military discipline would produce consistently accurate reports.

It took several years for the army to establish procedures, to gather equipment and to train observers. Observer Sergeant Thomas A. Taylor's arrival at Fort Gibson is described in the following account.

"I arrived at Gibson Station on the night of the 25th [of March, 1873. It] being late [I] could not get the stage from this place until the following morning. . . On arrival at this place [Fort Gibson] I immediately set to work to establish my station."

"The only building which in my estimation is suitable for office purposes is one owned by a Mr. [F. H.] Nash. [It is] a two story brick [building] with two windows with good north exposure for instrument. . . I have rented the room at a rental of fifteen dollars per month and shall commence sending reports April 1st."

Sgt. Taylor moved into the second story room and began immediately uncrating the equipment for the post's first weather station. After lifting them out of the wooden boxes, he set about checking the instruments to see whether any damage occurred during shipment. He found all of them instruments to still be in calibration.

The sergeant next contracted with a local carpenter for the construction of a small shed for protecting the outdoor instruments. One of instruments was an anemometer he used to measure the force of blowing wind.

The shed also housed the thermometer. There was a barometer as well. The wind vane and rain gage stood outside of the shed.

Taylor's diligence and enthusiasm enabled his taking the first measurements of the local weather conditions at midnight on the 31st of March.

The Observation Sergeant made his first official report about six o'clock the next morning. He reported that the "morning opened clear and cool, not a cloud [in the sky. The] wind [was out of the] northwest, brisk and steady."

Taylor's noon observations were of a "fair and pleasant [sky with] small banks of cumulus [clouds] in zenith and moving slowly with the wind, which is [out of the] west and [blowing] brisk[ly. There was] but slight rise in Barometer."

The sergeant dutifully took measurements at four in the afternoon and again at nine o'clock. He saw a dense haze in the afternoon that covered everything. That evening he reported that the sky had become "clear and pleasant [with] no wind."

With these reports sent by telegraph from Muskogee's train station, this area of the American West became a part of the newly established weather bureau. As long as there were soldiers stationed at Fort Gibson, a non-commissioned officer dutifully reported the area's weather conditions.

The weather service became part of the US Department of Agriculture in 1890. It is now part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Camp Gruber, Again

George Miller gave the identification badge pictured above to the Webbers Falls Museum for preservation. It belonged to his grandfather, George Washington Miller, who used the badge for gaining admission into Camp Gruber where he worked as a carpenter.

George said that his grandfather helped construct many of the buildings on base. After the war was over, he helped tear many of them down, as Teela Davis previously reported.

Paul Eichling said that his father, Waldo C. Eighling, and his Uncle Oscar Eighling, also worked as carpenters at Camp Gruber. Waldo worked during the building phase. He quit to begin teaching at the Linder Bend School, which is now covered by Lake Tenkiller.

Paul asks if any of the readers out there could verify a story that his dad told his sons many times. "I believe he told us that it involved the rock entrance gates to the north. It seems that German POWs were building those rock entrance gates and one of them at least had to be demolished because they had laid the rocks in such a way that it appeared to be a swastika."

Floretta Leatherman wrote that L. R. Kershaw purchased property on the west of Muskogee city limits for a new sub addition where Kershaw Circle exists today. As late as 1954, Kershaw built homes in his subdivision using wood that came from disassembled Camp Gruber structures.

Peggy Horner and her first husband, Bill Golden, purchased their first home from Kershaw. They made a down payment of $250 and agreed to a monthly mortgage of $50 a month to acquire their new home on one and a half acres.

Many returning soldiers after the war were able to purchase these buildings made into four-room homes by making a small down payment. Kershaw used both contracts for deeds and mortgages to enable the ex-GIs to afford their purchases with small monthly payments.

At the time of their purchase, there were only nine homes already standing on Kershaw Circle. There may be as many as two of the original purchasers still living in their homes on the drive.

Most of the houses on Kershaw Circle were similar to the two-bedroom home the Golden's purchased. Their home also had a living room, utility room and large kitchen. This was a typical floor plan builders used to meet the pent up demand for housing after the hiatus caused by the Great Depression and World War Two.

Peggy said the closet doors and the 3x3 pane windows were definitely used elsewhere. So too was most of the lumber: it had painted over nail holes.

The supply of surplus lumber extracted from the demolishing of Camp Gruber structures lasted for nearly a decade. At one point Kershaw build three home in a three week period.

There are many other Camp Gruber buildings that still stand in the Muskogee area. Ms. Leatherman says that some of the homes on South 54th Street and also on South 63rd Street were either moved there or were built from lumber taken from military structures. Most have been renovated. However, some still have the old windows.

Again, I want to thank the contributors for their insight and recollections.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Muskogee's UFO in Library Database

The image above is of the only reported Muskogee sighting of a UFO. I recently found the picture in the Muskogee Public Library's database called Footnote. This database is now available at home. It is an upgrade to the program previously only available inside the library building for the past three years.

In acquiring the upgrade for public access, Footnote joins other databases now available at home. All you need to use this database is a current library card and a connection to the internet.

To access the database, first go the library's homepage at Then click on either the "research" link or the "genealogy" link at the top of the page. If you click on the latter, it will be necessary to also click on the "web sites" link. Either path will take you to a webpage listing the "footnote" database.

Opening the database is easy. Just click on the database name. Doing so causes a new page to open. This page asks for your fourteen digit library card number. Once you have typed in a current card number, you have access to the data inside.

Footnote searching is also easy. Just type your search query on the "Start with a last name, event or date" box in the middle of the page. I recommend clicking on the "Options" link on the bottom of the black search box. This allows expanded search criteria when searching for a specific person.

I typed in "Joe Lievre," as a trial search. A link popped up listing his household on the San Antonio, Texas census of 1930. Only the 1930 and the 1860 census of the United States are currently available on Footnote.

City directories are another source useful to genealogists. Footnote has digital copies of directories from thirty major cities across the country. For example, Dallas directories appear for most years between 1878 and 1913. Saint Louis has copies from 1863 to 1923.

Another database includes the Civil War and Later Veterans Pension Index. The entries for the Indian Territory are broken down by units such as artillery, home guards and infantry. One may also search the whole collection at Footnote by soldier's name, but with variant spelling commonly occurring during this period, it is nice to have a "back door" for accessing the index.

Footnote is beginning to make access available for later records not often found in other databases. World War One records include those from the United States Departments of State and of War. There is also a listing of veterans names found on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.

One unexpected database in the Footnote collection is records compiled by the US Air Force investigations of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). The Air Force called their effort "Project Blue Book."

Here I found that a Tulsa postal employee was just leaving an unnamed restaurant in Muskogee in the Summer of 1953 when he observed a UFO traveling in a southern direction about 300 to 500 miles per hour. Possessing a camera, he hastily snapped a photograph.

Despite having a picture of the glimmering object hovering in the sky reportedly at an altitude of 6-7000 feet, the Air Force investigation panel ruled the observation a hoax.

The Footnote database is not a hoax. It is fun for exploring genealogical and historical collections of records. If you find interesting Muskogee facts, please share your discoveries with me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Adams Express Company

Muskogee was looking more like a town in 1873. While there are no photographs surviving from this period, it is possible to get a mental image from contemporary accounts.

Riding the train into town caused newcomers to crane their necks to look out of the passenger car windows. After spending hours crossing the thinly populated landscape of the Indian Territory, it was a relief to see buildings again. No matter how humble the wooden structures were, they marked a settlement in an area of farms and prairie land.

Standing up to stretch their legs, travelers would have stepped away from the train onto the depot platform. Ahead of them was the train station.

There was now a single strand of wire extending from a telegraph pole to the railroad station. Inside, the Western Union telegrapher sits at his station where he is connected to the rest of the country.

The freight platform was nothing more than that, just a platform to keep crates above the mud in the rainy season. It was located on the other side of the train. This was the responsibility of the Adams Express Company.

The Adams Express Co. was a major competitor of Wells, Fargo and Company. The company began in 1839 in Massachusetts and quickly spread its services to major northeastern cities.

Agents initially provided for the delivery of packages using stagecoaches. As the network of expanding railroads spread across the countryside, railroad delivery gradually took over the burden of carrying freight.

By 1850, the company had representatives in St. Louis and much of the American South. Locating an office in Muskogee in 1872 was a natural expansion of the company's territory since the company controlled service in adjacent areas.

William Squires served as the Adams Express Company's agent in Muskogee for many years. The earliest record shows him at work in 1875.

The arrival of freight for a US Army non-commissioned officer in 1873 provides some insight to agent's activities of the day.

Two wooden boxes arrived in Muskogee in late March, 1873. They cost $635 in shipping charges. The express agent required payment before he released the crates to the sergeant. As a representative of the United States government, he was authorized to sign financial obligations within his limited dealings. The agent in Muskogee refused to seek payment from the government's coffers directly. Instead, he required payment in cash.

The sergeant then needed to get the boxes to the army post at Fort Gibson. He hired J. C. Cunningham to haul the boxes. Cunningham charged the sergeant a dollar and a half for the use of a wagon and team. The fee also covered the twenty-five cent ferry charge to cross the Arkansas River.

The Adams Express Company was Muskogee's freight link to the rest of the United States. The company continued providing service to Muskogee until it was forced into a merger during the First World War.

Adams Express Company continues to exist today as a closed end investment trust listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company no longer oversees the delivery of crates. Times have changed!

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