Courthouse Oral History

 

3Nann Hair Teehee
By: Beverly Price
September 1977

"Happy Days at Saline"

Nann (Hair) Teehee., born , April 2, 1890. told her events at Saline Courthouse. She was born and raised northeast of Saline to Andy & Mollie Hair. She lives now at Shady Rest -Nursing Home at Pryor, Okla. Nann was 87 years young and a very pretty woman.

The James Teehee home was northwest of Saline Courthouse of which the last courthouse erected in Saline District was built on her husband's folks land.

She married Felex Teehee in 1904 and remained in the Teehee home place until 1924.. When they moved to Miami, Okla. She has one son living at Grove, by the name of Martin Teehee.

Nann recalls her father, Andy Hair, as the interpreter for the Cherokee people. He vas a very fine man and everyone liked him very much. She had 8 sisters and 2 brothers. One sister, Bessie,, also lives in the nursing, home.

She recalls the story told of the nite 3 men died at Saline Courthouse. Thomas Baggitt, Jesse Sunday, Sheriff, and his half brother, Dave Ridge. Only being 7 years old at the time, she could only remember stories that were told. But didn't remember much about it. The 20 years she lived in the Teehee homestead were very enjoyable days. She only recalls the happy days not the sad ones. She said it was very quite and peaceful from 1904-1924, when she left Saline.. She remembered Coon Phillips, Emmette Leach, John R Leach. John Fodder, all very nice people she replied. and especially Alta and Howard Johnston.


5John Riley Phillips, Jr.
"Coon"
By: Beverly Price
September 14,1977
 

"He Recalls the Days at Saline Courthouse"

It's September 14, 1977, as we sat and visited with John Phillips, Jr., nickname "Coon"' at 222 South Wilson at Vinita. Oklahoma. Coon owns and operates a furniture store and gun shop there.

John Phillips. Jr., son of John Phillips Sr., was -raised around Lowery Prairies. Coon's father bought the Saline Courthouse from Joe 1. Wilson which had operated a store in the building with living quarters above. 

Coon recalls Thomas Baggett's store located northwest of the Great Spring. Later Roy Hindes bought and operated the store at Saline. He told where John & Peggy Fodder lived in a little log house southeast of Saline Courthouse. John Fodder was a fine fellow he recalled, his wife died several years before. John was found dead on the draw bank southeast of Saline. Also, Charlie & Charolette Wickcliff lived close by and I’d see them come to the spring to wash, or get water.

Sam Reed was Coon's grandfather. He brought Coon to Saline Courthouse in 1902. He always liked the place and thought it a beautiful location. He recalled his grandfather & Dad telling him of the death of Thomas Baggett, Sheriff Jesse Sunday and Dave Ridge.
Joe I Wilson, built a school south. & west of the draw south of Saline Courthouse. Around there hung large kettles called “salt kettles”. The entrance to the school was on the south side of the building, A small structure, but was well served its purpose. The teacher was Mrs. Carrie Couch.

Coon sold the house to Dr. Silas (Stanley W) Perkins. It was very neat and pretty. It had an outside staircase on the eastside. I put a woven wire fence around it and was very proud to have such a nice place. We didn't have electric at this time. There were lamps hanging from the ceilings. They would be worth a lot now he says and with a deep laugh.

Coon was born June 9, 1894. He moved from Saline in late 1928 to Pryor. From there to Tahlequah., Okla and in 1939 to Vinita, where be has lived since. 83 years young, still recalls many events that took place in Saline District. It was a very enjoyable place to be. I was out to Saline Courthouse when it was a decade and couldn't believe how things have changed and how it has run down, but very happy to hear that it will be an Historical Site for every one to enjoy , says “Coon”.

Coon Phillips in his furniture store in Vinita, 1944
6
 


3Emmett Leach
By: Beverly Price
August 29, 1978

The history of the Saline Courthouse and the area around holds a great deal of history. Many stories have been told on what has taken place. Each story's different in some way.

Many have passed this way not knowing that only a mile away history is here with all its drama under their feet.

In 1910. John Fodder, an Indian man was found across the draw southwest of the courthouse. He was found by John R. Leach and his son, Emmett Leach.

I visited with Emmett, Monday, August 29, 1978, while setting on the steps of the courthouse. He relived parts of his childhood when his father worked at Wilson's store on the grounds around Saline Court. He left early on Monday morning with his brother to bring, his dad to work. They came in horse and wagon. They had to hurry because he had to get back home to attend school. They would come back on Saturday anal pick his father up from work.

John I Wilson lived in the courthouse and had a store there. Later, John Phillips & his family lived in the courthouse. Later sold it to Dr. S.W. Perkins of which is buried northeast of the courthouse. There has been four generations of the Perkins family that have lived. in or around the courthouse.

According to history, the courthouse has been in four different places. The first was on Samuel Bell allotment, 1867 Joseph Riley allotment, 1875 David Rowe allotment, later James Teehee, of which now stands the courthouse.

Judge Parker, of Fort Smith, played a great part of the history. Jeff Carter was Special Marshall. During these times many interesting stories can be told to get the history on Saline Dt.

"Famous, Cherokee Tribal Courthouse in Saline Lives Again"

Thrilling stories of Territory Gun Fights and Outlaw Indians. Evenings with Pioneer, once thriving "city", Saline, now exists only in memories of colorful, but long passed heyday.

This story was written Larry Smith and published on Sunday, October 15, 1933. The story was told by Dr. S.W. Perkins, who lived at the memorable place some. 44 years ago.

Its atmosphere breathing age powdered blood of famous "territory days", six gun battles, it’s, walls still showing puncture from flying lead and every step around it's grounds echoing a thrilling incident of Cherokee History. The Old Saline Courthouse of the Cherokee, reflecting its memories as the old times of Saline District gathers of the evening to travel in memories the road back to Grandpa Perkins.

Built during the pioneer days of 1870, the sturdy old structure has withstood the ravage of the elements will. The original flooring echoes the padded feet of moccasins: across the roadway the foundation of Baggett's store which did thriving business in the days gone by, recalls settler's wagons "coming to town"' for supplies. Here was the drug store, the jewelry store and the garage over there where Grandpa. Perkins now keeps his automobile, was the barber shop. The walnut building there with the bullet holes in it was the blacksmith shop.

“Over the hill yonder", points Grandpa Perkins. 76 years young, "was fired the first shot of the famous Osage-Cherokee War. Across the roadway there is the old Cherokee Cemetery with stones dating back as far as 1624, but a few months after the Indians came here from their native home in Georgia.

Story after story rolls from the memory of there old times. Life isn't dull in the old

Courthouse. Each Saturday night you'll find from two to ten of the vanishing vanguards of Oklahoma seated before the roaring fireplace and the hospitality of Grandpa Perkins has spread afar. Each year he has the reunion of life long friends come from hundreds of miles to be guest in the Perkins' home.

The guestroom is on the front corner of the house overlooking the Cherokee graveyard. “I hope you'll be comfortable." adds Grandpa. "I wasn't going to tell you, but three men. died in this room during the Whitfield fight. It's kinda like a morgue."

But one forgets the gunpowder at which burned at this old historic old house.

A glance backward, as you have and it is hard not to conjure back the ghost of active times. As they journeyed here to this house which symbolized law and order in the lawless land.

The court of the Cherokee is a thing of the past, the vivid pages of history written in old courthouse of Saline District are faded, but those stirring days pass in review as you, yours wander beneath these giant walnut and maple trees, and wish, that you might have been there too.

Dr. Silas (Stanley) W. Perkins lies to rest on a small knoll northeast of the Saline Courthouse, a place he had chosen himself.

Now another generation of the Perkins family, Mr. & Mrs. Harold Quantie, are caretakers of the grounds and the Saline Courthouse. Many memories and stories have come their way.


2Daisy Baggett
By: Beverly Price
September 1977
 

The Unforgettable Memory of September 20, 1897

It’s Tuesday September 6, 1977, as we sat at the large home of Miss Daisy Baggett at 52 North Summit in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.  Above are pictures of her and her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Jackson Baggett.

Daisy tells the story that was relayed to her by her older sister, Jackie Ann, of what happened on September 20, 1897.

Thomas Jackson Baggett, came from Alabama to Goingsnake District of which is around Westville, OK.  He was waiting for his license to become a lawyer and he submitted his paper to the bar.  There he met Pearl Holt, a one quarter Cherokee girl.  She had been Queen of the Seminaries, May Day Queen.  She was a very beautiful girl, the old timers say her complexion looked as though the sun never shown on it.  She had beautiful black hair that reached her knees.

Thomas Baggett and Pearl Holt were married in Goingsnake District and moved to Saline District after their first child, Julie Ann, was born.  Tom bought a store located near the Saline Courthouse.

Daisy had three sisters, Julie Ann, Pearl Elaine, Grace Julient, last Daisy who was only seven and half weeks old at the time her father was shot in the living quarters above the store.

It was rough at Saline Courthouse, this was the beginning of an unforgettable day for Pearl Baggett and her four small children.

 

The day had started off pretty much like any other, no one knowing that before this day would end that three men would die.  The Indians milled around the courtyards, store, things were getting much out of hand as the day wore on.  David Ridge had been sent by this wife to Baggett’s store for supplies around noon.  He met with others and they began talking and drinking for most of the afternoon.

Dave Ridge was to be the incoming Sheriff.  Sheriff Jesse Sunday was about to finish his term.  Dave was a good man, but he was over stepping his capacity by drinking this day.  He realized it was getting late and he needed to hurry to the store for articles his wife had sent him for.

Thomas Baggett had closed the store early.  It was his policy to close when things got out of hand around the courtyards and they were sure out of hand today.  He had retired to the living quarters upstairs with his family at 6:00.  Dave Ridge came to the store and found it locked.  He began banging and kicking the store door, telling Baggett to open up.  This went on for a while and Tom went to the window, raised it and told Dave to go on home and come back in the morning.

Dave began trying to tell Tom what a predicament he was in and needed things from the store.  They argued back and forth with four letter words being shouted to Tom from Dave.

Then a shot rang out, Tom Baggett slumped back inside with a bullet in his face.  He died there never speaking a word.  Julie said that all of them began to scream and cry including Daisy, only being a baby, she must have sensed the danger that filled the room.

Dave yelled for Mrs. Baggett to let him in to help with Tom.  She gathered the children together and stayed in the room, cowered down with her children.  It was over a hour before Mrs. Baggitt heard a familiar voice of a friend and let them in.

Daisy said that a doctor Flickenger lived in room and had his office and living quarters there.  He had warned Dad (Tom) several times to leave this area and go somewhere else to raise his family.  With all the fighting and drinking going on in this Saline District it was no place to raise his family.  Oh how I wished Dad (Tom) would have taken his advice.                 

Tom Baggett started to leave at one time.  He went downstairs to the store, started packing the shoes from the shelves, then he thought he was doing so well here, business was good and Dad (Tom) was really a businessman.  He had made $13.86 that day and that was good money in those days.

When Dr. Flickenger left Saline District, he packed his things in his wagon.  He was a real friend to Dad (Tom).  He placed his hand at the side of his mouth as he rounded the corner leaving the store, yelling at Tom, “Remember what I told you.”.  That was for him to move his family somewhere else to live.  That was the last time that Dr. Flickenger saw my father.  I know my mother wished Doc was here.

That was not the end of what happened that day.  Dave Ridge was hit in the head with a bottle of whiskey, because he knew who had killed my father.

 

When Sheriff Jesse Sunday was sent for at Tom Griders’ home on Elm Prairie, he was transporting a prisoner to Tahlequah.  He deputized Tom Grider and they road for the Saline Courthouse.  Sheriff Sunday, not knowing that his half brother was dead or even hurt, came only knowing that Dave had caused a disturbance at Baggitt’s store and Tom Baggett was dead.  Before the night was over Sheriff Jesse Sunday died riddled with bullets.

Pearl Baggett gathered her small children and moved back to the old home place in Goingsnake District near Westville.  She raised the children by herself and lived a widow sixty-two years.

Daisy said her mother and father had a special kind of love.  She has a letter her father wrote to her mother.  It was a terrible shame he had to be taken from them.

Daisy taught school at Bluejacket, Oklahoma.  Many told her, Tom Baggett was a fine person, an excellent school teacher.  One time a boy was snake bitten, Tom grabbed a chicken killed it and while it was still warm, put it on the snake bite and drew out all the poison.  You think that didn’t win the hearts of these parents.

Daisy said I can brag because he was my father and all I have are memories.  Daisy was told that her mother was a fine woman in every respect.  Daisy smiled and said, “She sure was.  I thank you very much for the compliment.”

Mother and Dad both lie at rest on the old home place near Westville.  Daisy was born July 24, 1897 at the store in Saline District.  She is 80 years young, a very sweet and adorable woman that has much of both her parents characteristics.  Here is the letter written to Pearl Baggitt by Thomas Jackson Baggitt.  It’s a very lovely letter from a very lovable couple.

My Beloved Pearl,

“Short and Sweet”        Your ever loving, Thomas
Narrative By John Morgan
June 2005
The Saline Courthouse has been important to me all of my life. It was impressed on me at an early age, that this building and the area around it were special. 9In 1897 my great great grandfather was killed there and in 1955 my grandfather wrote about it. My grandfather was Omer Lee Morgan and the article that he wrote was published in the Spring 1955 edition of the Chronicles of Oklahoma. It still surprises me as to the effect of that writing. He had many reasons for doing so. He was born in 1897 which was the same year as the events of his article, and he grew up among the Cherokee people. My grandfather dearly loved the Cherokee people. He spent his entire life studying Cherokee history, becoming friends with Grant Foreman and C.W. (Dub) West (both of whom are well known writers and historians). In 1953, W.W. Keeler gave the support of the Cherokee Nation to my grandfather in his search for Sequoyah's grave. The Tulsa Tribune chronicled my grandfather's trip to Mexico to study the last days of Sequoyah and if possible to bring back his remains. I have my Granddad's personal papers on this and they are to me, fascinating.

8In 1919, he married Mary Sunday, the daughter of Andy Sunday, and the granddaughter of Jess Sunday. Andy Sunday may be of note to many a Cherokee today because he is listed as the translator in many of the Guion Miller Roll Narratives. Andy was well known and trusted and for that reason he was allowed in the Cherokee homes to translate. Omer knew well Andy Sunday and Dave Sunday (the brother of Andy and son of Jess) as well as many others who were present at the events of Sept., 1897. He did not have the benefit of computers and the internet, but he did have access to many of the principles in the drama and it was from them that he got the story. If there have been recent discussion as to certain details, I don't believe the main details are in question. Three men were killed that day.

7A fact that I find interesting, is one that I have never heard or seen discussed. I have been to many of the libraries in the area, including the Oklahoma State Archives, and it seems there is a noticeable gap in the newspaper archives from September, 1897, to the beginning of 1898. Other than small references in a few scattered papers, I find no real data from news sources. We do know that there were court proceedings and that one man, Martin Rowe, was convicted, and another man, Sampson Rogers, was acquitted.

1In the 1930's there was an effort to preserve oral history and was named the Oklahoma Pioneer Papers. Many people were interviewed and their stories were preserved. There wasn't much concern as to accuracy, the goal was to document memories. One of these stories was from the widow of Tom Baggett, and it was there that she made the statement that she had heard that Andy Sunday confessed on his deathbed to killing her husband. Those that have repeated this would be well served to tell the whole story.

The truth of the matter is that Andy Sunday died a prolonged death in 1929 after a painful bout with cancer. In the end there were hallucinations and delirium. There were no lucid statements made near the end. It was an all too familiar scene that was played out all over rural America with families, friends, and neighbors gathered in the house awaiting the death of a loved one. Someone evidently passed on some of the things that were said as Andy began ranting about his father's death. Those of us that have witnessed similar scenes in hospitals and nursing homes may feel we have reason to be skeptical. 4It would be silly of me in 2005 to boast of concrete knowledge of events in 1897, but I am sure as to beliefs in 1929 by friends and family of Andy Sunday who were 100% positive as to his innocence and that they attached no significance to anything that was said at this time. I can assure any reader as to the family being unanimous as to that.

Actually, there are additional problems with that line of thought. In the 32 years prior to Andy's death, no one ever even speculated that Andy was involved in the death of Tom Baggett. It was never mentioned in the trials. Sampson Rogers said that he saw Dave Ridge shoot him. Dave Ridge said that he saw Sampson Rogers do it. According to a story I found at the NSU library, it said that Sampson Rogers had been in an altercation with Tom Baggett. There was never an occasion to my knowledge, where Andy Sunday was accused or mentioned in regard to Tom Baggett's death.

Finally, Andy Sunday was with Cooie Bolin at the time of the shooting. Bolin was evidently a respected man in the area and had been a Cherokee lawman himself. He verified that he was with Andy at the time of Tom Baggett's death.

My dad was friends with one of Tom Baggett's grandchildren and was in the Baggett family's home. This makes me wonder if their family believed the statement, but of course that's something I can't be sure of. Tom and Pearl Baggett's daughter, Daisy, claimed that Dave Ridge was killed because he knew who killed her father. It was well known that Dave Ridge said that he saw Sampson Rogers shoot Tom Baggett.

Incidentally, those same Indian Pioneer Papers tell a story about the ghost of Andy Sunday's grandfather, Nick Hair, who was killed in the Civil War and was reported to have been seen coming out of the ground by the Cherokee Courthouse in Tahlequah. Although that one is one of my personal favorites, I don't see that story in print as truth anymore.

Regardless, it should be remembered that it was indeed a day of tragedy. By all accounts Tom Baggett was a good man and it saddens me today to think that Jess Sunday and Tom Baggett both left wives and families with young children. But they were definitely not alone. The people in that area would within a matter of twenty five years experience multiple killings, hangings, statehood, a World War, a nation wide flu epidemic that would leave entire families dead, and a tornado that is still considered to be one of the state's worst. There are many headstones in the area that have the same year of death inscribed.

These were the times and the people that my Grandfather knew. He wrote at a time when Jess Sunday, Dave Ridge, and Tom Baggett were still loved and missed.  I believe with all my heart that he is responsible for preserving some of our local heritage and that without his work, much about those people and events would have been lost Without his work, Jess and his half brother Dave Ridge would be laying together in a single unmarked grave. Because of his work, their grave now has a stone (put there by my uncle, Jack Morgan). A few years ago, I purchased a commemorative brick for the Cherokee Courthouse in Tahlequah and had Jess Sunday's name inscribed. I know about my great great grandfather Jess and his family, mainly because of the writings of my grandfather Omer. Here we are at the 50th anniversary of his writings and they are, in my mind at least, still the definitive account of those events.

 

John Morgan

June 6, 2005