Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The Indian Progress newspaper was established in Muskogee in 1875 after the Cherokee Advocate burned to the ground on February 2nd. Elias C. Boudinot and Dr. E. Poe Harris were owner and editor of the new newspaper.
One investor in the new paper was George A. Reynolds. He was a former Seminole Nation Indian Agent (1865-69). He worked as an attorney for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Co. afterwards. He lost $600 of his investment. Stevens, another reported investor, may have been a manager of the railroad.
Reynolds stated in a House of Representatives hearing that the newspaper's purpose was "to promote the interest, progress, and education of the [Native] people…[and to establish] some form of government different from that of their present tribal organizations."
He thought that as many as half of the American Indians living in the area were in favor of gaining title to their own land. Reynolds reluctantly admitted that many were fearful that the railroads would gain title to all of the land.
Boudinot decided that the growing railroad town just inside the Creek Nation was the best location for his business. There were at least two reasons for choosing Muskogee. One reason was because his brother William Penn Boudinot was editing the soon to be re-established Cherokee Advocate in Tahlequah.
However, it was also natural that Boudinot selected Muskogee because he had long been an advocate of railroads. He saw steam locomotives as a harbinger of the future.
Visually, in 1875 Muskogee was little more than a few businesses with scattered residences nearby. About the only structure available to Boudinot was a rundown stable currently being used for hay storage. After the hay was removed, he set to enlarging the stables into a building capable of housing the heavy press and cases for lead type.
George W. Ingalls became Indian Agent for Five Civilized Tribes about July, 1874. His wife's ill health delayed his arrival until October 28th. His posting to the position was authorized by Congress the following January.
Boudinot obtained permission of the new Indian Agent to use the stables, but not that of the Creek Nation. Being a supporter of economic development, Ingalls thought a new printing business would be a great asset to the region.
Ingalls and Boudinot shared certain views in common. In particular, they supported the establishment of a territorial government. This flew in the face of the wishes of the Five Civilized Tribes. They both saw educational development as important as well.
Yet, opposition to Boudinot's newspaper efforts emerged quickly. Creek supporters saw the destruction of the Cherokee Advocate as an opening for establishing their own newspaper in Muskogee.
Among these supporters were M. P. Roberts and John P. C. Shanks. These men purchased the right to print their own newspaper from the Creek Nation.
Roberts and Shanks also persuaded the Creek Council to condemn the Boudinot paper just as it was printing its first issue on October 22, 1875. The Indian Progress was ordered to cease publication and to leave the Creek Nation territory within ten days. Boudinot replied that his newspaper was protected by the US constitution.
The Creek Nation was on solid legal grounds in requiring businesses to obtain permits in order to remain in their territory. Temporarily at least, the tribe was uncertain about their control over a newspaper.
Boudinot moved his press to Vinita about a month later when the tribe exercised its authority over the former stables. He restarted the Indian Progress there, but the effort failed financially early the next year. The printing press itself was sold and moved to McAlester where it printed the Star Vindicator newspaper.
Because of Boudinot's disagreement with the Creek Nation over its authority, Agent Ingalls rushed to Washington, DC where he appeared before the US House of Representatives Committee on Indian Affairs in January, 1876. After deliberations, the Commissioner for Indian Affairs determined that the agent did not have the authority to let Boudinot use the stables in Muskogee.
The closing of the Indian Progress allowed M. P. Roberts to start publication of the Indian Journal in Muskogee later in 1876. This newspaper continues to be published in Eufaula today.