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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Kansasmap
Surnames/tags: wheeler bewley Kansas Homesteading
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This story was provided to me by Lou Geschwinder, a cousin. Ora Lester Wheeler tells the story first hand of homesteading in Kansas.

With notes/references by Louis Fred Geschwindner, June 2012

This story involves:

THE BEWLEY-WHEELER BRANCH Phillip D. Wheeler shifted slightly on the seat of his wag on and spoke soothingly to quiet his horses. They had been standing there for more than an hour and were impatiently waiting to get underway. The officials were still riding up and down the line of wagons, making sure that everyone who had registered were still there in line and waiting.

The year was 1890[1] arid great grandfather Phillip and great grandmother Sarah Wheeler were making a new start in life. Other than this incident[2] in Oklahoma territory we know little about them. If my aunt Bonnie was correct and my grandfather, Henry David Wheeler, was their oldest child, then Phillip and Sarah Wheeler (nee Martin) were in their mid forties. On the other hand, if my father was correct when he said his aunts, Etta and Mary were 114 and 111 years of age when they died, a year or so before dad died, then Phillip and Sarah were in their fifties at the time of the above incident. In either case, they were well past middle age when they pulled up their roots in Kansas and set out on an adventurous new start in life in the relatively wild and lawless Oklahoma Territory.

Unfortunately, we know nothing of the circumstances that caused them to take this drastic action.Great grandmother Sarah must have been tired after being awaken from her sleep in their wagon. Probably she talked quietly to Grandmother Martha Wheeler in the next wagon as the latter nursed my father, Ora Lester Wheeler, who was then less than a year old[3].

Grandfather, Henry David Wheeler, also tried to quiet his team while waiting for the signal to dash into the authorized region of Oklahoma Territory and stake out his claim to a quarter section of virgin farm land. Perhaps there are records which show where this race for land was started and how far they had to go to get to their claim[4]. However, all I know is that Phillip and Henry Wheeler were successful in reaching the land they had selected before anyone else and of guarding it until they could register their claim.

Henry David Wheeler was born in Holton, Kansas on 15 July 1864 and he married Martha Eleanor I on 12 March 1888. They[5], with their infant son, my father, waited in their wagon beside that of Henry’s parents. Just as the sun touched the horizon[6] a shot was fired and the long line of wagons and buggies set out on their dash into the land set aside for homesteading.

This land rush was far more organized than earlier land rushes in other areas. The land had been completely surveyed and each square mile, one section, was staked out. The head of each family that had registered and lined up at the starting area was entitled to one quarter section of land. Almost everyone had explored the available land and had picked out the parcel or Parcels (in case their first choice was taken before they got there) that they wanted.

My father did not know exactly where the lineup occurred but it wasn’t very far from the area that had been opened up for settlement. Since it was a race to the land, with failure an unthinkable disaster since all ties with their past had been unalterably severed, the wagons were lightly loaded; some grain for the horses, some food, cooking and eating utensils, bedding and a tarpaulin that had been waterproofed by smearing it with lard.

Granddad and his father were very fortunate. They got to the land of their first choice before anyone else and staked their claims. Their homesteads consisted primarily of rolling grasslands with very little brush. There were a number of blackwalnut trees in one area and some brush and trees along a small stream that meandered through their property. The stream constituted a major reason for selecting that piece of land. It not only provided water for themselves and their livestock before they could get their well dug but it also provided large boulders which they could use as building material.Dad wasn’t sure of the season of the year but, since he was born in November and he was told that he was nearly a year old at the time, it seems likely that it was in the fall.

The fall would have been an ideal time for the homesteaders and the authorities would have considered this fact. By early fall the farmers would all have harvested their current years corps and would have several months free to prepare their new farms for planting.

Actually, having established the claims to their land was just the start of their problems. There was the major problem of transporting their household goods, farming equipment and sup plies, and their livestock from their old homes to the new home stead. Also they had to build shelters for their families and their livestock before winter and get a well dug. This last chore was something they didn’t have to do for themselves. Drilled wells were necessary in most of that area so they simply had to wait until a well driller, all of whom were very busy at that time, got around to them.

They lived in their wagons and used camp fires for cooking while they built temporary shelters for their livestock. Their first home was a dugout. Dad had this to say. “First memories are of the little one room stone house which my father built after a couple of crops on the quarter section of land he had made a run for when the strip was opened for settlement in 1890[7]. The first two years were spent in a dugout, a semi cave dug into a side hill and covered over with sod and hay. This farm was located 5 miles south and 1 mile west of the town of Cushing.[8]

The farm was also located a mile or so west of Indian Territory hut dad never could enlighten me on just what was meant by that[9].

While dad could not remember living in the dugout, he clearly remembers it because it was used as a storehouse for vegetables and other items of food. Actually, the dugout was to the plains states what the log cabin was to the wooded states. It was a shelter that could be made with simple tools from materials available on the land. Although its construction required a lot of labor, it took considerably less time and energy to build than a Log cabin. It had one other major advantage; it could withstand the tornados which so frequently swept through that region.

We will find a much more detailed description of dugouts in my mothers notes. She was about twelve when they built theirs and so remembered it very well.

The rest of great granddad’s and granddad’ belongings were probably shipped by rail from Kansas to the nearest railroad town, Guthrie, Oklahoma. The railroads at that time had special rates and special provisions for homesteaders. They used their oldest cars and gave very reasonable rates for both freight and demurage. Even so, it was a major expense and the settlers made every effort to move their belongings out of the railcars as soon as they could.

However, transporting their goods to the farm from Guthrie was in itself a major operation. Dad describes a trip to Guthrie which his father, and dad himself, made on several occasions. “During the early years the only way the storekeeper at Cushing had of getting supplies was to have some farmer, who had a good enough team and wagon, go to Guthrie and bring back a wagon load. This trip took three days. One day to a creek east of Guthrie, second day to Guthrie load up and back to the creek that night and to Cushing the third day. Had to watch out for horse thieves all the time and keep common thieves from stealing the loaded wagon. One particular trip my father came home late at night still shaking and white. He told us he was pretty nearly scared to death that trip. The very rough roads had shaken a box of dynamite from his wagon and it had landed on rocks and broken up but for some reason it did not explode. He remembered that close call for many years.”

Since the goods for all the homesteaders would have arrived at Guthrie at about the same time, that sleepy little town must have experienced a brief but very hectic period of activity. Dozens of teams and wagons must have thronged its streets, and the railroad must have built acres of corrals for livestock.

The trip back from Guthrie with their livestock must have taken longer than any day and a half. Further, it must have taken several trips to get all their stuff. On the first trip, the wives, as well as the men must have gone. Their first priority would have been given to their livestock. On the first trip, the precious seeds that they had collected from their last harvest would have been loaded first on their wagons. Then would have come the salt meat, dried vegetables, and any preserved foods that they might have. Canned fruit and jams and jellies would have been far too valuable to have been left behind. On top of this load would have come the crates of chickens. Any farm machinery with wheels would have been tied on behind the wagons or, if there were enough horses, driven by the women. The cows and hogs would either have been tied on behind or herded by someone on horseback. Anyone who has tried to herd hogs has a fair idea of the difficulties they faced.

They would have left Guthrie as early in the morning as they could in order to get the slow moving cattle to the creek. The early arrivals would have camped as far upstream as they could. Late arrivals would walk a good distance for clean water or from the drums on their wagons. The trip to the farm from the creek would have taken at least two days.

After this first trip, the women would have had to stay home to take care of the livestock. The second trip would have been for farm equipment and tools that had to be brought by wagon. Any additional wheeled equipment would also have been picked up at this time. The last trip would have been for what little household goods they possessed. A table or two, some straight chairs, a couple of rocking chairs, a dresser, a wooden bed frame and a wood/corncob burning range which was used for both heating and cooking.

Just getting their possessions home didn’t constitute the end of trips to Guthrie that first year. It was there that they had to go to get the lumber to build their barn and other out houses. This alone took several trips. Building the barn was the major project for that first fall and early winter. After the dugout was completed and their possessions had been collected from the railroad, almost all of their time was devoted to building the barn.

Even then some additions to the barn were delayed until the succeeding fall. Once the main section of the barn was complete, all attention had to be focused on getting the land ready for planting. Small brush could be removed by wrapping a chain around it and hooking the chain to a team of horses. This brush, the first year was dragged to the dugout for use as firewood. Large bushes and trees were left for succeeding years and were gradually re moved. The actual plowing itself started in the dead of winter and required four horses hitched to the plow to break the prairie sod.

This not only broke up the deep roots of the coarse prairie grass but also the roots of the brush that was thinly scattered all over the land. Much of this plowing had to be done over again before they could plant but this was done easily with the conventional two horse team.

Despite these efforts, only about half of their farm could be planted that first year. This was no real hardship since they were able to raise plenty of food but it did drastically limit the size of their cash crop. This limited the cash purchases they could make at the store in Cushing and the amount of new machinery they could buy. Small retailers get paid on a daily basis, wage earners get paid weekly and salaried people get paid monthly.

However, the farmer gets paid on an annual basis. He has to be far sighted and able to have a lot of self control.Apparently my grandmother, Martha, was more interested than my grandfather in getting the stone house built. Perhaps there was some justification in this desire. When my father was born, 27 November 1889, Martha and Henry had been married just twenty and a half months. The first year of their marriage they had a daughter, Viva, who died just a few months later from whooping cough. At the time they were lined up for the dash to their homestead, she was carrying my uncle Howard who was born shortly thereafter.[10] She was living in a dirt floored, dirt walled and dirt roofed one room dugout. The fact that the walls and ceiling were lined with boards did not help much. She had to cook in a shed just outside the dugout.

When grandpa was away for three days on a trip to Guthrie, she was alone and had to feed the horses, cows, pigs and chickens. She also had to milk the cows, morning and night, collect the eggs, and take care of two small children as well as the normal household chores of a woman. She rarely could leave the farm and then only for a short time. It is a fact of farm life that the care of livestock is more demanding than the care of children. You might take your kids to a dance but no one wants you to show up with a cow.

Actually, the stones for the house were collected gradually over the first two years whenever the team and wagon was in the vicinity of the river and there was a little time to pick up a wagon load of stones. Granddad wasn’t insensitive to grandmother’s desire for a house, there was simply limits to what he could do.

There was not even the comfort of a privy. This necessary chore was handled in the vegetable garden where any type of fertilizer was considered welcome. This arrangement must have been rather uncomfortable during one of the winter blizzards that sometimes swept the area.

Dad described the farm and an incident that occurred there as follows: “Our house was about 100 yards from the south boundary of our farm and set back from (the) road about 40 yards and the barn and other outbuildings and pens were back about 75 yards from the house. One night we were awakened by a horse running from the barn along the lane leading to the road and along the North end of our house. Not until the next morning did we find out what horse did the running.

Our nicest mare was missing and we could not find her anywhere and none of the neighbors could help us either until about a week later a Mr. Tom Hopkins who lived one mile east of us came over and told us there was a dead horse lying in his creek just at his east line. Father went down and sure nuff it was our mare. We never did learn what spooked her or caused her to leave the barn running and to run a mile (and) then jump into a creek. Needless to say this seriously handicapped the farm work.”

I can recall a number of incidents which dad related about this farm. On one very cold morning dad tried to lick the frost off the handle of the water pump. However, the metal was so cold that his tongue stuck to it. His screams brought my grand father running from the barn. Fortunately, he was carrying a bucket of warm milk. He poured this over my father’s face until the tongue was released.

My father also had this to say about his early schooling. “I very well remember the building of the first school house in our neighborhood. It was placed on a corner of my grandfather’s farm just one mile north of our house. At first we had 3 months school and after a couple of years the term was increased to 5 months per year. Gosh, what a long time to spend in school.[11]

Dad’s notes also related a couple of stories told to him by grandfather. One of these was as follows: “When I (Ora Lester) was an infant my folks were visiting near Oklahoma city and I slipped out and when I was found, I was setting near the spring, Where the folks got their water supply, pointing my finger at a rattle snake and cooing at it and it was weaving its head back and forth and apparently trying to make up its mind about wasting a charge of venom on such a little wart.”

Still another story in dad’s words: “Dad (Henry David) told me about one of the family was disposed of by the Quantrel gang. Called him out one night and he completely disappeared.[12]

Another incident from dad’s notes to me stated: “I very well remember the day when he (Henry David) drove home early and carefully climbed down from the high seat on the old lumber wagon and kept repeating ‘Mat. (his nickname for my grandmother) ‘I’m all done up.’ ‘Mat. I’m all done up. ‘ ‘I’ve got exactly the same kind of cut that killed my father (Phillip). ‘ He (Henry David) was helping a neighbor clear land of black jacks and bring the stuff home for firewood and the axe slipped off a knot and cut him very badly thru the ankle. He did have a close call but they kept blood poison out and This told me how great grandfather Phillip died but dad never told me exactly where he was when that happened. I suspect that it happened while dad still lived on the homestead in Oklahoma but I can’t be sure[13].

Dad provided a fairly clear description of the inside of the stone house. The one room contained the kitchen range, a table and some chairs for their meals, a couple of rocking chairs, a box—like closet for their clothes, a chest of drawers, a chest, his parents bed and a trundle bed for his brother and himself. The trundle bed was pushed under his parents bed during the daytime. It must have been a fairly large room. Other children arrived while they still lived in that house[14] but I don’t know the sleeping accommodations for them.

They raised corn and wheat as their major plant crops and cows and hogs as their major animal crops. Of these, wheat and hogs were considered to be cash crops while the corn was raised to feed the hogs. The cows were raised primarily for their own use. They provided all the normal dairy products for the family as well as an occasional steer for slaughter. “Butter and egg money”, i.e., the cash raised by selling these items, was considered the property of the farm wife by every one in that region. These were sold to townspeople in small quantities and provided the few luxuries that a farmer’s wife could expect.

Their diet was pretty good even by today’s standards. They had flour and corn meal from their own grain. The former could be made into bread and biscuits while the latter could be made into cornbread, cornmeal mush and fried mush. Dad was still eating cornmeal mush and fried mush when I left home. Both were eaten with milk and a little salt.

Slabs of fried mush could also be eaten with molasses. Fried mush was made by pouring freshly boiled cornmeal into a shallow bowl until it had cooled and set. It was then cut into slabs about half an inch thick which were fried until brown and crisp. In addition to the usual dairy products, they had eggs, chickens, and vegetables of almost all types. Some of these vegetables could be kept during the winter in the dugout. Others, along with fruit and berries, were canned or preserved as jams and jellies. They planted a few fruit trees which were just beginning to bear fruit when they sold the farm. Before that, they picked the wild berries, fruit and nuts that abounded in that region.

The corn that they used for their corn meal and for roasting ears was a white variety that they grew in their garden. The yellow corn that they grew for their hogs was considered unsuited for human consumption. Aside from the fresh meat from the slaughter of a young steer or pig, they lived largely on salt cured meats of their own preparation.

Although food was plentiful, it was obtained by very hard work and was not to be wasted. You could take all you wanted but anything on your plate had to be consumed. This got my father into an embarrassing situation on one occasion. He was staying over night with the son of a neighboring farmer and was eating breakfast which consisted of milk, biscuits and sorghum molasses. He started to pour some molasses on his plate but the swing lid was stuck and suddenly released. Before he could check the flow, his plate was filled with several times the amount of molasses he could consume. He tried his best but finally had to apologize to the farm wife for his error.

One morning my grandfather and father discovered that some one had broken into their dugout one night. After checking, they found that two large slabs of salt pork and some other items had been stolen. Among these latter items was a bag of a material which dad called “shorts”. These shorts came from wheat and may have been wheat germ but of this I am not sure. Fortunately, the bag of shorts had a small hole in it and the thieves left a clearly defined trail behind them. They didn’t notice this trail because it was dark at the time of the theft. Dad and grandfather followed this trail all the way to a neigh boring farmhouse. At one point the earth was soft enough to disclose the tracks of a man and a small boy. After making sure where the trail led, dad and grandfather returned home and for got the whole incident.

These neighbors moved there at the same time as my grand father, their farm was the same size as my grandfather’s, the soil was the same and they experienced the same sort of weather. Still, they had all sorts of bad luck. They could never get their entire farm planted in time. What they did plant could never get harvested before part of the crop spoiled. Their livestock was always getting ill and dying. They had time to plant only a very small truck garden.

When my father was older, he frequently went with my grand father on his trips to the railroad at Guthrie. This started his life—long association with railroads. He couldn’t understand how the wheels stayed on the track. He thought that there should have been flanges on both sides of the wheels. Grandfather finally was able to explain that the flange on one wheel stopped the wheels from leaving the rails in one direction and the flange on the other wheel did the same for the other direction.

My grandmother apparently wasn’t too happy about living on the farm in Oklahoma. She wanted to move back to civilization which, apparently, existed in Kansas. Therefore when my grand father received the handsome offer of $9,000.00 for the farm he took it. Just prior to this sale he had sold the black walnut trees to a lumberman but they were still standing when the farm was sold. Grandfather made it a condition of the sale that the price for the farm did not include the black walnut trees. Unfortunately, this clause was omitted from the contract and grand- clad lost the price paid. for the trees. It was some years after this sale in 1899 that one of the richest oil fields in Oklahoma was discovered beneath granddad’s homestead[15].

Dad was just ten years old when granddad moved his family back to Kansas and bought a farm there[16]. It was on this farm that I first met him. He once took me on a hunt for arrow heads in one of his fields. They were always turning up when he plowed but he left them there for his grandchildren to find. Since we always did our visiting in the summer, we were there when the gardens were at their peak. I loved taking a salt shaker out in his garden and eating tomatos right off the vine. The melon patch was another place that was particularly nice to visit. We would cut open a forty or fifty pound watermelon and eat just the heart. The rest was given to the cows who liked watermelon too.

Later, they found gas on granddad’s farm which netted him about a quarter million dollars. This farm was located near Neodesha, a small Kansas town. Grandmother still had a hankering for more civilized living which, this time, apparently existed in a slightly larger Kansas town called Cherryvale. Grand father bought a house there that they lived in until grandmother’s death. However, grandfather never lost his desire to get back on the farm. He had a very large garden and spent most of his time there. He just wasn’t made for the leisurely life.

From my standpoint, it wasn’t nearly as much fun visiting them in their “city” home as it was on their farm. There were no hogs to call, no cows to milk and no chickens to feed. Altogether, grandmother and grandfather Wheeler had eight children. All of them except Viva lived, to grow to adulthood. In addition to Howard, Clarence and Beth were born during the nine years[17] they were on the Oklahoma homestead. Joe may have been born just before they left there or shortly after they moved back to Kansas[18]. Bonnie was born in Kansas on 13 July 1904. Pauline was born there a few years later.

Howard and Clarence were farmers in that area all their lives. Beth married a man named Orval Cox. At one time Orval was a wrestler with a small carnival. He would take on all corners with the offer of a prize to any one who could throw him. Apparently this was a pretty good money making racket because when he retired from that business he was able to pay cash for a large farm. He was probably the most successful farmer of the three.

They all had a difficult time during the depression but Orval managed to come out of it with a much bigger farm than he had when it started. There was some talk that he helped Clarence and Howard save their farms. During the depression the farmers had plenty of food. The problem was raising enough cash to pay their taxes so they wouldn’t lose their farms. Those with debts for machinery and the like were in even worse shape.

Howard was injured late in life and spent his last few years as an invalid. I believe that Clarence, and possibly Beth, died before my father did but of this I am not sure. Dad’s notes did not mention this and I don’t recall exactly what he said during our last visit with each other[19].

My uncle Joe moved to Colorado and bought a sugarbeet farm near Grand Junction. I remember visiting it when I was quite young. Uncle Joe died shortly after that[20]. He was only in his thirties but his appendix ruptured while they were taking him to a hospital and the subsequent infection killed him.

Bonnie married G. C. Hartenbower and they ran a business selling antiques in Springdale, Arkansas. They were away most of the time on buying trips. They also dealt in crockery which was stored on their front lawn with price tags attached. People would come while they were away and select the pottery they wanted and leave the money for it under one of the pots. When Bonnie or her husband wanted some cash, they would go out and start turning over pots. Apparently, the system worked but I have known societies in which it wouldn’t have.

Pauline married Dale Miller. Pauline was only a few years older than my sister, Velta, and seemed more like a cousin than an aunt. After World War II, Pauline, Dale and their son, who were all qualified teachers, were hired by the Navy to travel the world and teach the ABC’s to children of naval personnel. They would stay one or two years in one place and then move on. They literally worked their way around the world but the only specific places that I remember were Formosa, Guam and Japan.

I have had no word on any of Dad’s family since his death.

Grandmother Wheeler died as the result of injuries suffered when she was thrown from a horse. She was sixty five at the time and grandfather was inconsolable. After the funeral he stayed at Pauline’s house and told his relatives to go into his home and pick out anything they wanted as a memento of their mother. Apparently it started out all right but someone got a little greedy and grabbed something which the others thought a little out of line. From then on it built into a grabbing match. They brought their trucks and started loading anything they could lay their hands on. They literally stripped the house.

Grandfather was stunned when he entered the empty house and never lived there again.Since grandmother died in the depths of the depression, my father couldn’t attend the funeral. We didn’t hear about this outburst of greed until years later when grandfather visited us in Washington State. Inheritances have a way of highlighting peoples characters.

Grandfather decided to spend his money on travel and did so for several years until World War II broke out. He was in California at the time and took a job as security guard at an airplane factory for the duration. After the war he took a train home for Kansas. On the way he developed a severe stomach ache and was in bad shape when he reached Cherryvale. Pauline rushed him to a hospital where they said he had appendicitis. They never really found out for sure because he wouldn’t let them operate. “No damn doc is going to mess around in my guts.” They shot him full of penicillin and he recovered. He was eighty one at the time and lived for another ten years. He spent his last few years living with uncle Howard and his wife.

Howard was bed ridden by this time and helping take care of his son gave some purpose to grandfather’s life. He died a short time after Howard’s death. The local newspaper had this to say about him. “Henry David Wheeler died in Cherryvale, Kansas, at 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon, on Tuesday, 8 November 1955, of a sudden heart attack that awakened him that morning before 7 o’clock- it was the heart attack that awakened him and his groaning awakened Mrs. Howard T. Wheeler, his widowed daughter-in-law with whom he made his home.

She phoned her son Don Wheeler and his wife, Vena; She also phoned his other children in Neodesha and Fredonia, Kansas. Gladys Wheeler, wife of Clarence Wheeler, immediately came to Cherryvale; and she and Vena worked with him until his death; he died in the arms of his daughter-in-law Gladys (Mrs. L. Clarence Wheeler). He was in his 92nd year.”

Oklahoma was putting on some sort of pioneer celebration at which grandfather was going to he honored. Unfortunately, grandfather died just a short time before this celebration was to take place. Grandfather was survived by his two sisters; Etta (Mrs. Shirley Ward) and Mary (Mrs. Will Milihorn). They were both widowed and living together in Cushing, Oklahoma in 1960. I believe they continued living there until their death. Dad spoke of them during my last visit with him early in 1972.

Apparently they had died just a short time before my visit and I remember Dad saying that one was ill and the other 114 years old at the time of their death[21]. This doesn’t jibe with Bonnie’s information that Grandfather was the oldest child in his family[22]. It is quite possible that Bonnie could have gotten the wrong in formation. During some of Dad’s earlier correspondence with her she didn’t even know her grandfather’s first name. If these two ladies were actually that age around 1970, then dad’s paternal grandparents would have had to have been in their fifties when they went in on the Oklahoma land rush. Undoubtedly, some of the records that Bonnie listed could straighten this out but I don’t feel interested enough to rush down to the Library of Congress and find out. We know what kind of people they were, the numbers don’t seem to matter.

Dad left home when he was sixteen. This would have been late in 1905 or early in 1906. I don’t know how long his plans to leave had been in the making or how much he had discussed them with his father. The facts were that his father gave him a hundred dollars and wished him luck.

A hundred dollars was a lot more money then than it is to day but still dad must have been very careful with it to do what he did. He went to a school and learned telegraphy and typing. This enabled him to take a job as a telegraph operator when he was seventeen. This must have been late in 1906 or early in 1907.

Dad’s first job was in Abilene, Kansas with the Frisco Rail road I-1i salary was $40.00 per month which seemed like a for tune to him. One of his first purchases was a Waltham “Rail roader’s” watch. This was a pocket watch of exceptional accuracy. It had a glass back so that you could watch the works in action. Dad kept the watch the rest of his life.

When it was new, a local youngster named Ike Eisenhower held it in his hand and admired it. I inherited it and kept it in a glass display case on our mantel. Unfortunately, some hopheads broke into our house and stole it along with a number of other items. Our heirloom went so that some subhuman slob could enjoy his erotic dreams for a day or so.

Dad made another major purchase shortly after arriving in Abilene. The modern bicycle had not been long invented at that time and it was inevitable that dad should buy one. There were several young men of dad’s age in Abilene who also owned bicycles and they started hanging around together. They wore corduroy trousers with peg tops and choke ankles, removed the handle bars from their bikes and thought of themselves as gay young blades. They whistled at the girls and hung around the barber shop in the evenings. Ike Eisenhowers seventeen year old brother was a member of this “gang” but Ike was only sixteen and was considered too young by these sophisticated young gentlemen.

Dad’s conversations on his career jumped around a bit and he never got around to telling a connected story. The next information I have on his activities was about three years later when he was still with the Frisco Railroad but in Wayonka, Oklahoma. The telephone system was gradually spreading throughout the area and the railroad had installed a telephone so that the agents and operators at the depot could conduct local business more effectively.

Dad continued his career as a gay young blade by flirting with every young lady that he met. This was helped by the motor cycle which he then owned. One of these young ladies was a telephone operator in waynoka who countered his banter with a bit more than she received.[23]


  1. The land run actually took place on September 22, 1891. The new settlers were not permitted to enter the land before noon.
  2. Henry was the oldest child of Phillip and Sarah. Phillip was 52 or 53 years and Sarah was 42 or 43 years at the time of the run.
  3. Ora Lester Wheeler was born November 27, 1889, thus he was almost 2 years old at the time of the run. He was Martha’s second child, her first, Viva, died as a baby in about 1889. It is unlikely that Martha participated in the run. It is more likely that she remained home in Kansas since her second child, Howard Tolton Wheeler, was born on October 3, 1891 in Kansas, less than 2 weeks after the run.
  4. A conservative estimate places the number of settlers at about 20,000 surrounding the three reservations awaiting the signal to rush to claim one of the 6,097 160-acre homesteads that were available.
  5. See footnote 3 above regarding Martha’s presence during the run.
  6. The run actually was started at noon.
  7. 1891
  8. The land is actually 4 miles south and 1 mile west of the center of Cushing. It is along N3490 Rd and the two ¼ sections are between E0750 Rd and E0760 Rd. These were the north east and south east quarters of Section 29 in Township 17N in Range 5E. It became a part of Pawnee Township, Lincoln County, Oklahoma.
  9. All of the area had been home to various Indian Tribes prior to the run. The land the Wheelers claimed was part of the Sac and Fox Reservation. This area was part of what was known as Oklahoma Territory. I believe what is referred to here as Indian Territory was actually what was called the Indian Territory. Its western edge was 10 miles to the east of the Wheeler claims. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, along with the Neutral Strip (today’s panhandle) combined to form the State of Oklahoma in 1907.
  10. Howard Tolton Wheeler was born October 2, 1891 in Kansas. Thus, it is unlikely that Martha was even at the homestead in the early days.
  11. This was Lone Oak School District No. 9. “Lone Oak School was organized soon after the opening of the Sac and Fox Country, in 1891. The school was located in what was called County “A”, which later became Lincoln County. This portion of land for the school was donated by the Phillip D. Wheeler family. The Wheeler family had homesteaded the Northeast Quarter of Section 29-17N-5E. The first school house was constructed from logs and was used until a stone building was constructed by the Hopkins brothers, who lived in the district. Some of the families who had children in this early school were, Tom Hopkins, John Hopkins, Bonebrake, Shotwell, Grother, Lindley, McLaury, Smith, Tanner, Dungan, Waller, Corbin, Schnack, Beall, and Morris.” Source: Lincoln County Oklahoma History, Lincoln County Historical Society.
  12. If this happened, it is likely it happened in Missouri or Kansas. Quantrill died at the hands of Union forces in Kentucky in May 1865.
  13. Phillip died on March 21, 1892 while living on the claim. Henry maintained his claim, and I would assume lived there, until March 1, 1899 at 10:05 am when he cancelled his claim.
  14. Two children were born on the claim, Beth in November 1893 and Clarence in February 1897.
  15. Although this is a possibility, I believe what is being referred to here is the striking of oil in March, 1912 on the Frank M. Wheeler farm about 10 miles east of Cushing in what is now the town of Drumright. This started the greatest oilfield in the world at that time. However, this oilfield did not extend as far west as the subject claim in Lincoln County.
  16. On March 1, 1899 Henry released his claim on the land.
  17. Harold was born in Kansas. They lived on the claim from September 22, 1891 to March 1, 1899. A period of 7 years 5 months.
  18. Joe was born April 28, 1899 in New Albany, Kansas.
  19. Howard died September 29, 1955 in Cherryvale, Kansas.
  20. Joe died July 16, 1933 in Independence, Kansas.
  21. 21 Mary was born in 1874 and Etta in 1879.
  22. Henry was the oldest child in the family.
  23. Some additional notes gleaned from the actual Land Office records. Both Henry and David filed their claims on October 1, 1891 in Guthrie, O.T. Henry with Application No. 8516 and Phillip with Application No. 8520. They each claimed that they were “of Stillwater, O.T.” but just what this means I am not sure since all we have implies they were from Kansas. Phillip died on March 12, 1892. Sarah then moved to the claim and continued their settlement. She was married to John Millhorn on July 3, 1894. He died before August 17, 1900 according to the testimony of John A, Campbell.