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Guthrie Pioneer Recalls Early Day Sites

Guthrie Pioneer Recalls Early Day Sites

Submitted by: Bob Chada

© Guthrie Register-News, Sunday, April 17, 1955

Guthrie Pioneer Recalls Early Day Sites in city; Many Business Named.
The following true narrative is the story told by J. Wilbur Brown, --- Maple, Guthrie who came to Guthrie as a lad of 10 in March 1890, a year after the historic run. His father, Henry B. Brown, staked a claim about 14 miles southeast of Guthrie, south of Evansville.
In March, 1890, the 2 o'clock train from the north rolled up to the little red depot under a hill. The wind was blustery and the air was filled with sand and pebbles.
Mrs. Henry B. Brown, a tired mother, carefully came down the depot steps followed by four small children. As she scaned the crowd of hurrying and bustling strangers, an expression of anxiety and hope fitted over her face.
Wilbur, her eldest child, ten years old, was standing by her side when a kindly old man stepped up and asked, "Lady are you looking for some one?"

Went to Ball's Grocery

"Yes," she said. "My husband was supposed to meet us. He came down several months ago to improve the claim, and must have failed to receive my letter. If you can please direct me to Mr. Ball's grocery store, I will certainly be grateful to you. My husband trades there and he might have some information."
The old gentleman took the little daughter by the hand and said, "I'll show you where the store is. We go on Harrison-av to Second-st, and the Ball grocery is just a block south on the corner of Second-st and Vilas-av."
Arriving at the grocery store, Mrs. Brown introduced herself and asked to be directed to a nice, home-like hotel where she and the children might remain until her husband came for her.

Looked at the Sights

Mr. Ball leading the way across the street, introduced Mrs. Brown to Mr. and Mrs. Brewer, who operated the hotel.
Arriving in their room, Wilbur became excited about being in a new town and decided to stroll around and see the sights. First he stopped at the Guthrie Daily Democrat, the first printing plant he had seen. This plant was located on the corner of Vilas-av and Second-st.
All type was set by hand and the presses were operated by foot power.
Along his way he inquired how he might find "Capitol Hill," about which he had often heard his father speak. One man pointed east and told him that if he would look real carefully, about a mile up the hill, he would see a tower. On the top were three large electric litghts, which at night could be seen for a great distance.
Surrounding this tract of land, which contained about ten acres, was a white board fence and near the tower was a band stand. The man also explained to Wilbur that this land was reserved, when the townsite was surveyed, for a site on which to erect a capitol building.
Wilbur walked on down the street and noticed a crowd of rough looking men standing in front of a building. A passerby told him it was the "famous Reeves Brothers" saloon and greatest gambling house in the Territory.
Wilbur figured this was not a good place for anyone who wanted to hold on to his skin, so he departed. Passing "Coyle and Smith's" retail and wholesale grocery he stopped at the corner of Harrison-av and First-st at the stock exchange and auction corner and watched the sale of a pony.

Saw Electric Plant

Strolling along he noticed a large number of men and teams digging for the Herrlot bulding. Finally on east he passed Olsmith's Gun shop and stopped watch the engines and machinery of the electric light plant which was located on the southeast corner of Harrison-av and Vine-st.
Hurrying along he noticed a large stone building, which he was told was "Oklahoma university," operated by W. A. Buxton. Courses in the school consisted of business, normal and professional.
Across on the northwest corner was Adam Traband's cigar factory. Just west was Barrett and Sons' grocery. Next was Miller's Candy shop.
A few steps west was the English Kitchen owned and operated by C. F. Smith who served first class meals and furnished lodging.

Came To Springer Hotel

Going on a block west at the southeast corner of Oklahoma-av and Division-st, Wilbur came to the Springer hotel a large two story corrugated iron building, on the west side of which were planted shade trees and with seats placed along between the trees.
Wilbur sat down to rest and watch the crowds. Noticing a pump in the backyard of the hotel, which was surrounded by a high board fence, and being thirsty he went through an open gate to the pump. Just as he was getting ready to take a long deep drink of well water a large Negro woman told him to get away from "dat pump" as it wasn't a public well.
Still thirsty, Wilbur went west to First-st and stopped at the Model Bakery operated by Liebhart and Webster, where he had to buy a lemonade. On the corner west was the government land office on the government acre.

First Brick Building

Across the street on the northeast corner was the Capitol National bank building, first brick building to be erected in Oklahoma. Officials of this bank were George Metcalf, president, and M. L. Turner, cashier.
Just east of the bank building was the postoffice and Wilbur was interested in watching the long line of people waiting to receive mail. Of course, there being no free delivery, those who had no lock boxes had to stand in line. At times this line reached from forty to fifty feet.
As Wilbur walked down to Second-st he noticed about fifty loads of wood backed up to the curb, reaching as far north as Cleveland-av. He was told that was the public wood market where farmers brought their wood. A load of wood would sell from 75 cents to $1.25 per load.
Wilbur noticed it was growing late and started on west, passing L. G. Poland's grocery store on the northwest corner of Oklahoma-av and Second-st. West about a block was the New York hardware then owned by A. O. Farquharson.

Saw Wholesale Grocer

On west, adjoining the Santa Fe right-of-way, was the Starr grocery operated by Steve Starr, the bighearted grocer.
Going west across the tracks Wilbur noticed a two story brick building on which was a sign, Nix and Haisell Wholesale grocery. This was the first wholesale grocery in Oklahoma.
Hearing a chugging sound just north on the banks of the Cottonwood, he walked over and found a man stoking coal into an upright engine. The man explained that this was Guthrie's only water supply which pumped water through a two inch pipe up to the business section.
Residential sections of the town had wells and those who did not had purchased it from Bates and Son who had a large well on south Second-st and delivered water in a tank wagon. Water was sold at 5 cents a buckfull.

Visited Lillie's Drug

Going back to the hotel he passed Wally Ongs' restaurant on Second-st. After a good night's sleep Wilbur was ready to do some more exploring.
On the southeast corner of Harrison-av and Second-st Wilbur went into F. B. Lillies' drug store.
Then Wilbur saw his father driving up to a hitch rack. His father was surprized to see him and they both jumped into the wagon and drive to the hotel.
Going down division-st. in the wagon on the way to their new home, the family crossed the small creek saw a brick yard and Mr. Brown told the children how the brick were made.
They also passed the Guthrie cemetery which was on a beautiful hill, where Mr. Brown told them stood a few native oak trees.

Log Cabin Was Home

After a drive of about fourteen miles they arrived at their new home which consisted of a log cabin about fourteen by sixteen feet in size, plastered with clay between the logs and covered with clap-boards.
As the years rolled by new homes were built, fields were cleared, pastures fenced, roads and bridges made, schools established, post offices with star routes were established and mail twice a week was made possible. Later, rural free delivery brought mail to the door every day. Then rural telephones were put in and many other improvements were made.
As Wilbur, now a resident of Guthrie, looks back over the years he sometimes wonders if folks were not more happy then, in spite of the pioneer hardships and crude manner of living, than they are now.

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