Lake Texoma

Because Life is Better at the Lake

William Murray of Toadsuck, Whitesboro, and Tishomingo, and the Almost State of Sequoyah

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Kendall Davis is well-versed in the English language. She has 20 years experience as a published author and writing for clients. Her published works include historical articles in museums, magazines, newspaper articles, columns, content marketing, advertising copy, blogging, and academic papers. Kendall also makes her way in the literary world as a copyeditor. Writing about history is her first love interest. If you have editing or content needs on your website or for your books, articles, blogs, or columns, please visit her website to see details and more examples of her work, the services she offers, and contact information. http://kdavis1836.wixsite.com/luminiwrites




William Henry David Murray, familiarly known as Alfalfa Bill, left his father’s farm in Montague, Texas, at age 12 to attend school. Bill was born in Toadsuck (Collinsville), Texas. In 1869, Bill’s mother, Bertha Elizabeth Jones, the daughter of one of the first settlers in Grayson County, Texas, died when Bill was age two in childbirth with her sixth child. Only Bill, two older brothers, John Shade and George Thomas, and one half-sister from his father’s second wife, Martha Marenda, grew to maturity.

Bill’s father, Uriah Dow Thomas Murray, operated a freighting business with five yoke of oxen after the Civil War and then worked with Bill’s maternal grandfather operating a grain mill in Whitesboro, Texas. It took 16 oxen or 32 steers to produce the mill’s power. Bill’s Grandfather earned the name “Old Honest John Jones” from the townsfolk because he always asked his customers to watch his measure when he sold them grain.

When young Bill took sick with pneumonia in Whitesboro, the doctors gave no hope to Uriah. An elderly man showed up at the mill and told Uriah to harvest some green hackberry bark, brew a strong tea with ginger, add a little whiskey with the bark, and let the child sweat it out. Bill still used that remedy for colds when he was writing his memoirs in his 70s, but advised not to go out into cold weather because you will take more cold.

Uriah remarried and moved his family to Montague, Texas. Uriah served as a Texas Ranger before Bill's mother died. Bill recounted in his memoirs that his father was 80-years-old and visited Bill in Tishomingo. Bill took him to visit the Murray State School. When they arrived, Bill said, “I used to think you were the finest shot in the world. Let’s see what you can do now.” Bill paced off 100 yards, placed an oyster can on a brick, handed Uriah his rifle, and said, “Let me see you shoot that.” Without spectacles, Uriah knocked that tiny oyster can off the brick at his first shot.*

Uriah explained that Bill’s mother used to entertain Bill and his brothers by shooting a shotgun while Uriah was absent on freighting trips. One day, a circus train pulled through a region of farms where Bill’s Uncle Billie lived. The train threw off a cage containing a lion. The lion escaped. A farmer’s wife came across the lion attacking a cow while on her way to carry out her morning chores at dawn and screamed. Neighbors came running. The lion was killing cows by piercing their necks. A crowd gathered. At that same moment, Bill’s Uncle Billie was hauling a load of wood. He dropped his team, grabbed his 22 shotgun, ran across the fields to where the lion was draining its third cow of blood by the neck and shot the lion through the heart. This account is remarkable because a .22 caliber bullet could not have killed a lion anywhere else but by a shot in the heart.

Bill’s father remarried and moved the family to Montague County, Texas. Bill ran away from home and went to stay with his grandfather in Toadsuck because he wanted to go to school. Bill worked on farms in the summer and attended public schools in the winter. He was admitted to College Hill Institute in Springtown, Texas, and graduated with a teaching degree in 1889. Bill founded a newspaper in Corsicana, ran for the Texas state senate and lost twice, read the law in Ft. Worth, wrote for the Ft. Worth Gazette, and passed the bar exam in 1897. Bill moved to Tishomingo, Oklahoma, in 1898 and opened a law practice. Chickasaw Governor Douglas Johnson appointed him as his legal counsel, and Bill began farming along with reading law. Bill married Governor Johnson’s niece, Mary Alice Hearrell in 1899 and they had five children.

These anecdotes are a minuscule sample of Alfalfa Bill’s memoirs from his childhood. Alfalfa Bill Murray is the father of the Oklahoma Constitution. Alfalfa Bill toured frequently giving talks and campaigning for the Democratic Party. In 1902, Arthur Sinclair heard one of Bill’s speeches and reported to the editor of the Tishomingo Capital-Democrat that he had just seen "Alfalfa Bill" deliver one of his finest speeches. The name stuck with Murray for the rest of his life.

Sequoyah: Ripe for Statehood, Unfavorable for Indian-Controlled Statehood

1899—the era when the legal question of Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory’s future began to bubble and boil in Washington D.C. The Five Civilized Tribes removed from the southeastern U.S. states each signed treaties which guaranteed to the Indians that their lands would never be included in any state or territory without their consent. However, the Dawes Act and the Curtis Act formally abridged those treaties.

The Dawes Act approved by U.S. Congress on February 8, 1887: An Act to Provide for the Allotment of Lands in Severalty to Indians on the Various Reservations. This act meant the U.S. would recognize Native Americans as individual citizens instead of tribes in the contiguous U.S. This act left out the Five Civilized Tribes because of the terms of their treaties with the U.S. The Curtis Act fixed that “oversight” and called for the abolition of tribal governments in Indian Territory on March 4, 1906.

Although the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muskogee, and Seminole tribes historically held off statehood, they knew action by the U.S. Congress was inevitable through the past attempts of the U.S. government on several levels that would not die. In 1870, Senator Benjamin F. Rice of Arkansas introduced a bill to create the Territory of Oklahoma out of Indian Territory. The Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek Nations protested in memorials. One memorial read:

“It is folly to tell us that those who are engaged in these schemes urging territorial status for Indian Territory are our friends, seeking to promote our welfare. They mean no such thing as friendship—friends never act as they do. They believe with and act upon the principle…’that the only good Indians are the dead Indians’, and we would be deluding ourselves and false to our people, if we did not proclaim the fact now and here."

The drive for Oklahoma to become a state pushed on until the U.S. finally forced the tribes into an “individualized” society by passing the Dawes and Curtis Acts. By 1903, the Five Civilized Tribes were talking about Oklahoma statehood as an independent, Indian-controlled state. Cherokee James Norman began a movement for a separate statehood for Indians. It is called the Sequoyah Movement after Sequoyah who invented the Cherokee alphabet. It was hoped by most of the Tribes that they could succeed in procuring a separate state named Sequoyah in Oklahoma Territory in the southeastern quarter of Indian Territory.

The purpose of the Sequoyah Convention was to give Indian Territory equal representation with factions in western Oklahoma vying for the statehood of Oklahoma and to write the Constitution of the State of Sequoyah. Four years before the Sequoyah Convention, Alfalfa Bill closed his law practice and moved to his farm outside of Tishomingo. He was doing quite well for a small-town lawyer. His books for his last year of practice in Tishomingo show fees collected in the amounts of $3,200, $1,000, and $750. He moved to his farm and studied every state constitution in the U.S. and the government of every republic in existence. He never told his wife what he was doing. He took extensive notes and made thousands of references.

By the time of the Sequoyah Convention, Alfalfa Bill had no equal when it came to constructive statesmanship, the ability to present facts and figures, and show the inevitable results of actions undertaken in failed constitutions. The delegates appointed Bill president of the Sequoyah Convention due to his experience in constitutional convention and law in both United States and Indian politics.

Four of the tribes sent their chiefs as delegates to the Sequoyah Convention on September 5, 1905. Chiefs of other Indian Nations attended along with leading intellectuals of the day. Chickasaw Governor Johnson thought the tribal actions were too late to make any difference, and he sent future Oklahoma Governor Bill Murray as the Chickasaw’s delegate. Only two European-Americans were appointed as delegates, Bill Murray, and Charles Haskell, who became the first Governor of the State of Oklahoma.

The Sequoyah Convention met for a total of six days in August and September of 1905. During the beginning of the Sequoyah Convention, most of the delegates did not understand Alfalfa Bill’s presentations of what the State of Sequoyah’s constitution should become. Politicians across America regarded Bill’s propositions as nonsense and foolhardy, and he became an object of satire across the U.S. The outside criticism affected the delegate’s opinions. Alfalfa Bill remained undaunted.

One popular but radical provision introduced at this convention, the Recall, stated that any man in any office can be recalled from office at any time and for any purpose justified in the minds of the electors who placed him in office and without recourse when the vote has been counted against him. Alfalfa Bill patiently and thoroughly pointed out the dangers of this referendum and managed to steer the convention into defeating the Recall. A revolutionary ideal of Bill’s was to write into the constitution the provision for teaching farming in the state’s public schools.

Newspaper editors did not risk heavy condemnation of the Sequoyah Convention in op-ed columns. The question of if the U.S. Congress did create two states out of Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory overshadowed the current day's op-eds. After the Sequoyah Convention, Alfalfa Bill was recorded as saying:

“Personally, I cared little whether we had single or double statehood. The point was the Great United States had made the Indians a solemn promise that if they would abandon their homes and establish themselves in the western wilderness, never should territorial or state government include their domain without their consent. Sixteen thousand dead lie buried by the wayside, enroute to their western homes, silent sad witnesses to that compact made by our government. Certainly neither government, states, man, or politician should wantonly violate such a pledge.”

Alfalfa Bill also correctly reasoned that the eastern U.S. would fear two additional western states and congress would push for only one state. Ultimately, after all of the hard work of the delegates attending the Sequoyah Convention and political wrangling of the tribes to came to a consensus with the Sequoyah Constitution, one state was the inevitable outcome. Early in the Fifty-Ninth U.S. Congress, Rep. Arthur Phillips Murphy of Missouri, who acted as attorney for the Creek Nation, and Sen. Porter James McCumber of North Dakota filed Sequoyah statehood bills. The U.S. Congress refused to consider the statehood bills filed for Sequoyah statehood.

In The Ever After

What came out of the Sequoyah Convention was a leader of formidable honesty in Alfalfa Bill. He became the most respected and honest politician that Oklahoma has ever seen. The State of Oklahoma’s constitution is heavily based on Alfalfa Bill’s work at the Sequoyah Convention at the Hinton Theater in Muskogee, Creek Nation. In 1932, Alfalfa Bill Murray ran against Franklin Roosevelt for President of the U.S. Alfalfa Bill is considered the most influential politician of Oklahoma even today.

“An illustration of Murray’s work was evidenced when the politicians of the state tried to elect to the presidency of the Stillwater school an ordinary politician in payment of a political debt and were defeated by Murray joining hands with Ewers White in selecting the biggest and best-known teacher of practical farming and farm methods in the Southwest. Oklahoma has always been and is today in the hands of a bunch of politicians who are more interested in the perpetuation of their jobs than in serving people…the point I want to make is that Murray has shown more independence of politicians and more desire to render service than anyone I have observed in an equally important role in this state. Not that I would imply that he does not play politics…Men like measures, are largely the product of environment, and this is quite true of William H. Murray. Born of poverty, and reared close to nature, it is not unnatural that you find him today living out in one of the great forests of Oklahoma.” September 1909, O.P. Sturm.

If you want to read more about what made Alfalfa Bill's character exceptionally honest and an opinion of the Sequoyah Convention only four years after the event, you may read O. P. Sturm’s article in his magazine, Sturm’s Oklahoma Magazine. In this article, you feel what was really happening and how the importance of the political atmosphere affected citizens in the first years of Oklahoma Statehood:

https://dc.library.okstate.edu/digital/collection/EOS/id/7584/rec/65

If you want to read an excellent book full of historical accounts of our Texomaland’s Red River region for over 70 years beginning in the last third of the 19th century through the first half of the twentieth century, check out Memoirs of Governor Murray and True history of Oklahoma by Bill Murray. There are four volumes. This is Volume I:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015027812950&view=1up&seq=117

Besides copies of the Sequoyah Convention’s activities in the Muskogee Phoenix, there were no known records of the convention in 1948. Possible reasons are that several tribal languages were used throughout the convention, and the only set of minutes was accidentally destroyed in a fire after the convention. Amos DeZell Maxwell comprehensively put together the history of the Sequoyah Convention in his MA thesis in 1948. Mr. Maxwell preserved an important part of the democratic process for all Americans by his work, “The Sequoyah Constitutional Convention”:

https://shareok.org/bitstream/handle/11244/301007/Thesis-1950-M465s.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=SE021

http://www.waterburyobserver.org/wod7/node/4346

https://www.facebook.com/Alfalfabillbikeride/

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6806816/william-henry-murray#view-photo=161840780

* I think this was in Whitesboro because Bill was writing about his uncles and grandfather when he was living with his grandfather. 

Pictures

1. Proposed map of the State of Sequoyah,
2. Alfalfa Bill’s family before his mother died. I do not know which one is Bill.
3. Alfalfa Bill’s farmhouse.
4. Alfalfa Bill and his stenographer, probably before and in preparation for the Sequoyah Convention.
5. 1909 Chickasaw Capitol at Tishomingo where Alfalfa Bill was one of the principal speakers at its dedication.
6. Cover of Time Magazine, February 29, 1932, Presidential Candidate.
7. Chelsea Murray holding up a chalk bust of her great-great-great uncle, Alfalfa Bill Murray, running for president in 1932.
8, Alfalfa Bill’s historical marker next to his grave in Tishomingo City Cemetary, side 1.
9. Alfalfa Bill’s historical marker next to his grave in Tishomingo City Cemetary, side 2.
10. Alfalfa Bill still kickin’.




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