“Few of the thousands of persons who daily traverse Harvey avenue, one of Oklahoma City’s principal thoroughfares, have knowledge that the street was named in honor of Oklahoma’s first congressman, David Archibald Harvey, congressional delegate from Oklahoma territory, 1891-93.” This statement was written by Alvin Rucker, a writer for The Oklahoman in an in-depth article published on Dec. 15, 1929.
David A. Harvey was born a British subject in Nova Scotia in 1845 and moved with his family to Ohio when he was 6. After college in Ohio, he moved to Kansas and worked as a civil engineer and entered the practice of law in 1874. In Kansas, he met David Payne and William Couch, leaders of the Oklahoma “boomer movement,” advocates of the settlement of Indian Territory, and he became a staunch supporter.
When Oklahoma was opened for settlement April 22, 1889, Harvey was already here. He was a “Sooner.” While it cost him his claim, when he was challenged and he admitted he entered before the official opening, it didn’t harm him politically.
He received a commission, as a federal district court commissioner and was an active participant of the Board of Trade, the predecessor of the Chamber of Commerce. In 1890, an election was held, and, while he was not the popular candidate, (that was Dennis Flynn, who was too closely aligned with Guthrie at the time) Harvey won.
While in Congress, “he introduced the first joint statehood bill for Oklahoma and Indian territories; he aided materially in passage of the bill under which the government bought the Cherokee Strip and threw it open to settlement; he introduced the “free home” idea …”
“Among the bills introduced by Harvey during his congressional services were:
Eight bills to reimburse settlers for losses sustained through depredations committed by Indians.
A bill to appropriate money to erect a building for the U.S. experiment station at Stillwater.
A bill granting to the Atlantic, Guthrie and Pacific railroad, right-of-way through the Sac and Fox, Iowa, Creek, Cheyenne and Arapaho reserves.
A bill extending over Oklahoma townsites certain Kansas laws.
A bill to approve and legalize Oklahoma legislative acts extending probate court jurisdiction.
A bill to authorize the purchase of school land for cemetery purposes.
A bill to ratify agreement with the Wichita and affiliated Indians and for an appropriation to make the agreement effective.
A bill authorizing the Middle Valley railroad to build through Indian Territory.
A bill to grant the Rock Island rights to buy land at Chickasha, Indian Territory, for station purposes.
A bill authorizing the Santa Fe railroad to purchase land in the Chickasha Nation.
A bill extending the Oklahoma legislative session 30 days.”
Harvey returned to Oklahoma City in 1893, at the end of his congressional service practiced law until 1896, when he moved to Wyandotte, in what is now Ottawa County, Oklahoma, where he became an attorney for Indians.
He died in 1916 and is buried in Seneca, Missouri.
A drive north on Harvey Avenue provides a glimpse of our city’s history in the form of buildings and structures: the OG&E building, ONG building, the new Federal Courthouse and the 9:03 gate of the Oklahoma City Memorial are all on Harvey. Fitting monuments to a forgotten man.
– Mary Phillips
A short trip downtown on a hot Sunday afternoon confirmed that the preservation of the memory of a bit of Oklahoma City history was still in place.
A story from The Oklahoman on Feb. 9, 1938, tells the story about Oklahoma City’s first canal. It tells of a grand idea and a grand failure.
The story was being retold, because a historical marker, a small bronze tablet, was being placed to mark the location of the old canal by the ’89er organization. The canal itself was well on its way to disappearing altogether.
The tablet read: “This tablet marks the location of the canal built in 1889 by the Oklahoma Ditch and Power Co. Charles Price, Pres. and C.P. Walker, Secy. The canal head was four miles west. The power plant was located at Broadway and Canal streets. It furnished power to operate an electric light plant for a brief period.”
I doubted, given the address, that 72 years later it would still be there. Oklahoma City, south of the present Crosstown Expressway, is changing due to the rerouting of Interstate 35.
The address was 819 SW 3 St., formerly known as Noble Street. It was here the Oklahoma Operating Company in 1930 built their new office/plant building. The company was the owner of several laundries in town. The story said that the tablet was located on the wall to the right of the door to the office.
The building is now deserted and for sale, but the tablet was right where the story said it would be.
As I stood and looked around, I doubted that those stalwart pioneers would recognize the area. Buildings have been built, and the North Canadian River itself is nowhere to be seen as it was moved south, straightened for flood control and now renamed The Oklahoma River. But because of those ’89ers, a small group of Land Run participants, who wanted those who followed to remember the past, a memorial exists today for those who will seek it out.
Stories abound in The Oklahoman about how the investors were so sure the canal would work that one of them, Charles “Gristmill” Jones built a gristmill to ground flour, and other investors built a power plant to produce electricity.
On Christmas Eve 1890, when water was sent down the canal and it worked for a short time, Oklahoma Citians were so excited. But blame for the failure that followed was put on gophers that damaged the banks and quicksand that clogged the turbines. In less than two years, the canal was abandoned and began its disappearing act.
So, if you are ever downtown visiting Oklahoma City’s successful canal, give a thought to the one that didn’t work.
– Mary Phillips
If you have driven north along Interstate 235 at night and looked east after passing the Harrison Avenue exit, you might have seen a green light reaching towards the sky.
It is the Beacon of Hope, and sits in the Founders Plaza in Stiles Park. While the plaza honors the visionaries responsible for the Oklahoma Health Center, the man for whom the park , one of the city’s oldest, is named seems to be one of Oklahoma City’s forgotten pioneers.
Capt. Daniel Frazier Stiles was born in Massachussetts in 1841 and entered the Army in 1861. After a long career in the Army, in 1889 he was ordered to Oklahoma with a battalion of men to provide law and order during and after the Land Run.
A story from the April 16, 1989, Land Run Centennial special section of The Oklahoman said:
“Until Oklahoma became a U.S. territory in 1890, no civil law existed within the Unassigned Lands except that which the residents themselves established.
“The federal government, however, did dispatch army troops to keep peace during the run and through the early days of the settlement. They were not to interfere in political affairs, but merely to offer support to the settlers and to intervene in local disturbances.
“When the 10th Infantry got off the train in Oklahoma City on April 19, Capt. Daniel F. Stiles was in command.”
Capt. Stiles, described in his obituary published in The Oklahoman Sept. 12, 1900, the day after he died, gives an excellent description of the man and his importance.
”Capt. Stiles was one of the prominent figures in the early opening and settlement of Oklahoma. He was the Provost Marshal at the time of the settlement of Oklahoma City and the faithfulness with which he discharged his duties won him the praise of all law abiding citizens. He was retired from the army on half pay in ’93. Since that time until his death he has been an energetic, enterprising and public spirited citizen…”
The Honorable Sidney Clarke said in his tribute to Stiles in the Sept. 12 article: “The death of Capt. Stiles will be deeply lamented, not only by the people of Oklahoma City and Oklahoma Territory, where he is so favorably known, and with which he has been intimately identified from the first settlement, but by his many friends throughout the country, as an officer of the regular army retired after an honorable service of over thirty years, and as a citizen always ready and willing to promote the good and the true, the memory of Capt. Stiles will be highly cherished by all who had the honor of his acquaintance.
”In all his long career there was no man in the army more popular and more highly respected than Capt. Stiles. He was a strict disciplinarian but at the same time careful of the welfare of his men, kind in his intercourse with all, and just and human in all his acts. While in command at Oklahoma City at the opening of the Territory to settlement in 1889 and during th ensuing year previous to the organisation of the Territorial government, his duties were extremely delicate because of the neglect of Congress to provide civil government contemporanious with the opening of the country. But he performed those duties with such uniform good judgement, that he always received the approval of his superiors.
“No words I can write can express my regret at the sudden death of Capt. Stiles. He was my friend. Hew was the friend of Oklahoma City and of our people. He took a great pride in the growth of this young city, and by his activity, enterprise, comprehensive views and wide experience, contributed largely to its marvelous prosperity. He will be missed as few men are missed, as they step over to the other side. A brave officer, a Christian gentleman, a noble citizen, a kind-hearted neighbor, a faithful husband and father and friend, he has left behind him a record of duty done– of an honorable and useful life.”
After his retirement, Stiles, joined with James Geary, another pioneer, developed the area north of what is now Stiles Park, as the Maywood Addition, Oklahoma City’s first “Nichols Hills.”
Again, from the April 16, 1989, story: “Stiles’ contributions to his new home included organizing Oklahoma National Bank, construction of the Masonic Temple, the luring of the Choctaw Railroad and true to his military colors the formation of the Oklahoma National Guard, which he served as colonel.”
So the next time you drive near the hospital complex and you happen to see the “Beacon of Hope,” I hope you think of Stiles Park and the man it was named for: Capt. Daniel Frazier Stiles.
One hundred years ago this was a tumultuous and historic week.
It began Saturday, June 11, when the state held an election to determine whether Oklahoma City, Guthrie or Shawnee would become the permanent state capital.
On June 12, the Sunday Oklahoman announced Oklahoma City as the winner of the election by a
landslide vote of 70,004 to 39, 642 with several precincts still waiting to report. It also mentioned the filing of a temporary injunction by Guthrie to prevent the removal of state records and property.
Monday’s newspaper announced, “STATE CAPITAL IN OKLAHOMA CITY TODAY,” and included a letter from Gov. Charles M. Haskell declaring Oklahoma City the official state capitol and inviting anyone who felt the need to come to the Lee-Huckins Hotel, which was serving as the temporary capitol building, and talk to him.
Wednesday’s paper carried a story on Page 5 about the thrilling automobile drive taken to Guthrie on Saturday and “theft” of the state seal on the governor’s orders by his secretary, W. B. Anthony, and several other accomplices.
On Thursday, the newspaper reported a celebration at the state fairgrounds and the automobile parade through the streets of more than 200 cars filled with dignitaries and celebrants.
In Friday’s paper, Gov. Haskell issued an official proclamation, proclaiming the election results official and Oklahoma City the winner.
By Saturday, the only mention was of the injunction before the state Supreme Court that was expected to be and was nullified. The big stories on the front page were about Theodore Roosevelt taking a vacation to Oyster Bay, N.Y., after touring Africa and Europe and California’s governor preparing to declare martial law to prevent a boxing match.
So a busy and controversial week ended, and Oklahoma City has been our capital ever since.
Recently I had dinner at Cattleman’s restaurant in Stockyards City.
I noticed a sign touting a centennial event for Stockyards City. I hadn’t realized that the Oklahoma National Stock Yards were celebrating 100 years in existance.
Earlier this year, I had driven along S May Avenue, where many of the old packing plants were located. The livestock holding pens are gone and the enormous meat processing buildings are empty and gathering graffitti.
I can remember, as a child, being driven past the pens, full of animals, and not realizing then what I was smelling was the odor of success. At that time, the packing plants and the adjoining Stock Yards had been in business for at least 50 years and the area was originally known as Packingtown.
In May of 1909, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce was celebrating its success in enticing the Thomas Morris Company to build a massive plant in south Oklahoma City.
From an advertisement published in The Oklahoman Oct. 4, 1910, Morris & Company announced it was in operation as of Oct. 3 and invited the public to come “inspect our Packing Houses …”
The advertisement included an invitation from the The Oklahoma National Stock Yards Company to “visit and inspect the most perfectly arranged and modern stock yards …”
While the packing plants are abandoned or nearly so, and the Oklahoma National Stock Yards may no longer be the “worlds largest,” Stockyards City, the unique area along S Agnew still has much to offer – shops, restaurants and atomosphere galore
Join them in their centennial celebration year. As they would say, “Ya’ll come now!”
– Mary Phillips