Family Stories

Texas County Family Stories

First Families of Texas County

Tales and Tidbits about Texas County

The pioneer and his family encountered many joys and hardships
breaking out this land and making a home in Texas County.

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A year before Oklahoma's statehood, in the winter of 1906, the 50-year-old widow of a Texas Ranger and her teen-age son loaded up a one-horse buggy in Edmond and left on a trip to the panhandle to claim a homestead in what once was "No Man's Land." The woman was Mary Ollie Tucker. The boy's name was Van. Traveling 265 miles through Oklahoma Territory, they arrived at Hooker 12 days after leaving Edmond. A few days later Mrs. Tucker wrote her daughter Audrey, then a kindergarten teacher in Oklahoma City, to tell of their journey. Recently Mrs. Tucker's grandson, Bob Griffin, and Mrs. Griffin of Waco, Texas, retraced much of the route the pioneering duo took. They were guided by details in the letter, the original of which is in the custody of another grandson, Jack Griffin of Norman. In their trip to Hooker a few weeks ago, the Griffins located the original homestead and legal records to his grandmother's ownership. He has provided a copy of the letter which, he said, "reflects the spirit of the pioneers of Oklahoma and the determination required to overcome the hardships of travel encountered." Griffin calls it "An Odyssey in Oklahoma Before Statehood" and dedicates it to "Buster Brown, a Noble Pony." Hooker, Okla. Feb. 26, 1906 Dear Audrey: I received your letter and mailed to you yesterday, telling you we arrived here last Sunday. We had our house moved yesterday and got lumber today to build a chicken house. Van has dug quite a hole in the ground where we are going to build it, so it won't take so much lumber and will be nice and warm. There are so many dugouts here, and half dugouts, dug down about half the depth of the house then built up with lumber. I have two turkey hens but no gobbler yet. Only have the chickens I brought. I have sent for an incubator (120 egg size). Van has gone to work like he meant business. Has done more work in the three days we have been here than he ever did in that time. I would like to give you a description of our trip, but there's too much to tell to write it all. I wish I could be with you a while. I could talk a whole lot. The First night we stayed three miles this side of Cassion (sic). The people had killed hogs and invited us to eat with them. The lady was not well, and I helped her, and Van helped grind the sausage; and they didn't charge us for lodging and horse fee.

The next day we passed through Kingfisher, came on to Kiel; put our horse and buggy in a livery barn, and we stayed at a hotel. The man at the barn thought it was awful that I would underake such a trip with that poor little pony and such a load and no top to the buggy. I told him he didn't know what a woman could do. He told me to sell the chickens but I didn't. The next day we came through Okeene and on three miles this side of Homestead. Stayed at a farm house. The people were very kind, would take no pay. The lady was so interested in us she gave me her address and asked me to write when we got here. Well, we left there on Saturday morning and our troubles began.

Three miles ahead of us was what they called a sand hill; but I called it a sand mountain. We met some men who told us we could go around it, but whichever way we went, we would wish we had gone the other way. We decided to go around it. It was probably not more than two miles, but it seemed a lot further, and the awfulest road any poor mortal ever tried to pull over. The sand was so deep we could hardly wade through, and up one hill after another. We walked, or waded. The sand was so deep the pony would go till he thought it time to rest, and stop. At last we got to where it seemed the top and nothing in sight but brush and sand.

We came to another road and didn't know which to follow. Van walked on - he said a about a mile - to see which was the right one. While he was gone, I pulled grass and fed the pony so he would be able to pull up the next mountain. While I was there feeding him, I laughed and thought if you could see me you would wish for a Kodak more than ever.

When we were coming up that hill, our lunch basket fell out of the buggy, bottom side up, so you can imagine better than I can tell what plight it was in. Broke a glass and one handle of the basket. Van didn't get discouraged, he and the pony were faithful as could be, and I just kept smilling like the dentist told his patients to do while he was pulling their teeth.

We were up the worst of the hill by noon, but pulled through sand until the middle of the afternoon. Finally we came to a house so we could inquire the way. Then the rest of the day we didn't pass a house till near sundown. We came to a house inside a pasture where a man lived. He told us we would have to go 3 1/2 miles and ford a river before we could stay all night. That strip belongs to the Indians, is why there are no more settlements.

We went on and passed groups of Indian tents. When we came to the river, it was wide but not deep, so the pony waded right through. We drove on until almost dark and came to a store and house nearby, where they kept weary pilgrims, and stayed all night. They were very nice and kind to us Outside were five wagons en route for Beaver, thirty miles west (sic) of Hooker.

Next day was Sunday. There was a chilly south wind but fortunately we had our backs to it. We drove about thirty-four miles and thought we were not going to find a place to stay. At last we went off the road a short distance to a big square house and found the folks all ready to go to church, but one boy. They took us in and were very kind but awfully dirty. Van slept on the floor in the kitchen with our bed covers, and I slept in another room with the daughter and the old man and woman. We had two beds but they were awfull close together. They had four grown boys upstairs. We ate breakfast with them, and they fed our horse and gave us an armful of corn for the chickens, and didn't charge us a cent.

The next day was Monday. We had only gone a mile or two when it began a slow drizzing rain. We kept going, watching for a barn where we could get shelter for the pony and buggy, until we, and everything in the buggy, were wet. We topped at a dugout, and the lady of the house let us in. We ate dinner there, and it kept up the slow rain.

The middle of the afternoon I saw that the woman was tired of our wet lap robe and the rest of us, so I told Van we had better drive on. About the middle of the afternoon we started on, watching at every house for a shed to put the buggy in. A while before night we saw a vacant shed. I went to the door and talked to the woman. She said they had company and a sick girl, but after talking a little while she said come on in out of the rain. I told here we had bedding and could sleep on the floor, and sleep on the floor we did. But the people were real nice, and we rather enjoyed our stay.

It turned cold that night and snowed some. The man where (we) stayed killed hogs the next day. About three in the afternoon we started for Woodward, 8 miles against a fierce north wind. The roads were awfull sandy, but the rain and freeze had improved them. By whipping and driving up, we got to Woodward without freezing. We put our horse and buggy in a livery barn and rented a room for the night in a hotel nearby, with a stove and bed, and cooked and ate our supper there. We were too dirty and tackey (sic)to go to the table.

On Wednesday by noonthe weather had moderated. We went to the barn and sked the man if he thought we could cross the river. He said there was a mail route through tere and the mail carrier would have the ice broken, so about noon we started, expecting to drive to Ft. Supply 8 miles ahead.

When we got within 2 miles of town, we came to Wolf River. It was quite wide, but there had been teams ahead of us and broken the ice. There were pieces of ice that looked to be a yard square, but there were no houses for miles back, and we didn't know when anyone else would come along, so we started in.

We had not gone far when the big pieces of ice blocked the wheels, and the pony couldn't pull it. We got out on the step and pulled the ice out the best we cold; the pony got contrary and wouldn't try to pull. We coaxed and shipped quite a while, but not an inch would he budge. There we were, the water and ice up over the hubs on both sides of us, and no prospect of getting out. I told Van the only thing to do was to pull of our shoes, roll up our pants and wade out. I don't know how long we were in there, but it seemed like a long time. At last Van pulled off his shoes and socks and jumped in the water. He shook all over and said he was freezing. He went and tired to lead the ony out, but no, he wouldn't budge.

Van waw a fire out on the bank and went to it; said he was freezing to death, I persuaded awhile, then whipped awhile, but to no avail; so I pulled off my shoes and stockings, put on my rubbers, rolled up my pants and jumped in. I tell you, it was a cold jump. I took the rope and tied (1st) around the pony's neck and tried to lead him. Still he persisted in standing in the river. I stood and pulled my best for several minutes. At last he had to step forward a step or two. That loosened the buggy and he followed me out. The water was over my knees.

When I got out to the fire, my feet and legs had no more feeling than if they had been a rock. Van gathered some sticks and put on the fire, which had been built by some campers. I rubed my legs with the blanket and warmed by the fire, but they didn't feel natural for a long time. I thought sure they were frozen, but they didn't hurt after they got warm - did't even ache - and I didn't take a bit of cold. I didn't know till that night when my legs began to smart that I had cut a great gashes clear to my knees on the ice.

We drove on to Ft. Supply before night. We went to the livery barn to leave our horse. I said to the man, "I hate to go to a hotel looking as I do", and he said if we wanted to we could cook supper on his monkey stove and sleep in the barn loft. So Van went out and bought some steak, we cooked it on his stove, and had a very good supper. We took our bedding to the hayloft and spent a very pleasant night.

Next day we drove to Shearmore. Had no trouble worthy of mention. Next day we passed through Custer and stopped on a hill this side for dinner, or lunch.

While there, a boy came along and said we could only go 1 1/2 miles farther. Said they had quarrantined against smallpox 21 days. I went on to a house. There was no one to stop us, but I was aftaid if we went into the strip they might not let us out. So I stopped and ask the man. He said the health officer had been there just a short time before and quarrantined for six miles for 21 days. Said one went south and one west. Said we might get through and advised us to go on. So we went through the six miles west. We just made the little pony (june)(?) through there and got through without being molested.

All that evening we didn't pass anything but sod houses and cabins that people had built to hold their claims, and some were vacated.

About sundown we stopped at a little one-room house and told them we were hunting for a place to stay all night. They didn't know of any place ahead. They wouldn't turn us away but said they had two extra men, and had to make down one bed. I didn't see any place for us to sleep unless it was on the table. I saw a good-sized house half a mile off the road and we went down there. They had a three room sod house and a big barn. They took us in and were nice to us. Were old ranchers and had been there 20 years. They fed us and pony and didn't charge us.

We left there Sat. morning. Were 7 miles from Beaver City. We started late and had a good deal of sand to pull through, so we got there a little before noon. Just after leaving Beaver, we had to cross the Canadian River again. It was wide and rather deep, but "Buster Brown" waded right through. We named the pony Buster Brown because he is such a noble little fellow, we thought he ought to have a big name.

We came across the river and up the hill before we stopped for lunch. The hill or hills this side of the river are terrible. It was up one sand hill and down another for a mile and a half or more. Van was sick from eating too much canned chili a day or two before but managed to walk up the hills, and Buster got the buggy up. These were the last hills of any consequence we had.

I guess it was well for us that we had such a poor pony and such pitiful objects, for everyone we have met were so kind to us and wanted to help us. If I met a man in a wagon where it was a little hard for me to turn out, he would say, "Stay in the road. I'll go around you." And if I met one on a hill, he would wait and see if I got up all right.

We came 20 miles this side of Beaver and stayed all night with a young Mr. Smith of Edmond. We were then 25 miles from Hooker. We left there early Sunday morning for home. It seemed so nice that we would not have to hunt for a place to stay another night. Buster was nearly worn out and so was I. Van would have trotted Buster to death that day if I had let him. We got home at 1:30. Van is delighted and has gone right to work. Well, I guess I have told all that is worth telling, except that we were brown as a side of bacon. My nose and forehead are peeling off.


Apparently the "homestead" in Hooker didn't work out. Mrs. Tucker spent most of the rest of her life in Oklahoma City and Edmond, where she died in 1954 at the age of 99 while Van, a World War I veteran, owned and operated a nursery and greenhouse in Oklahoma City for many years and now, over 90, lives in a retirement home in Lawton.

There is no record of what became of Buster Brown.


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This page was last updated on
Sunday, 29-Mar-2009 16:13:11 MDT