Submitted by:Kim Hopkins Rock
The Chronicles of Oklahoma Vol. 9, No. 2, page 216, June, 1931Philip B. Hopkins of Muskogee was the only member of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention to be elected to that historical body independent of any party affiliation.
He was drafted by Muskogee business interests to become one of the two Muskogee representatives in the Convention, the other being Charles N. Haskell, later to become first governor of the State.
Mr. Hopkins represented the 75th District, lying South of Okmulgee Avenue in Muskogee, while Mr. Haskell represented the 76th district. The two men had been very active in civic affairs in Muskogee in the years just preceding the Convention, and the ballots of business men were chiefly responsible for the election of both.
Mr. Hopkins had been president of the Muskogee Commercial Club through 1904 and 1905, the period of Muskogee's greatest strides toward commercial supremacy in Eastern Oklahoma. He had made the solution of the city's transportation problem his personal concern, with the result that Muskogee is the only city in the Oklahoma of today which possesses a made-to-order rail network serving its trade territory in all directions.
Although giving freely of his time, means and leadership in sponsoring Muskogees early-day building program, Mr. Hopkins had no political ambitions, and refused to become a partisan candidate for Constitutional Convention. The nomination of his own party, the Republican, was won by C. W. Raymon, former United States District judge. Convinced that "Phil" Hopkins was sincere in his refusal to become a partisan candidate for the convention, his associates in the Commercial Club and other friends named him as an independent candidate, campaigned for him, and elected him.
Once in the Convention, Mr. Hopkins was classified as an "independent" in politics. Since he belonged neither to the Democratic nor Republican representation, he was not eligible to the caucuses of either party. In recognition of his leadership, the convention created an office for him, designating him as "minority leader." Thus he became eligible to caucuses, executive group meetings and other deliberations incident to the organization of the body. He never took part in party affairs, confining his work in the convention to assisting in the preparation and passage of constructive legislation from whatever source.
Because of his non-partisan attitude toward Convention business, he enjoyed the confidence of both parties and all factions. Frequently, he was called upon to sponsor legislation requiring the support of conflicting interests. His outstanding service to the constituency which elected him was his delineation of the boundaries of Muskogee County to include more square miles of fertile river-bottom land than any other county in the state. Realizing that Muskogee, because of its geographical location and railroad facilities, would require more general revenue from taxation than most other counties, he contended for and won the generous allotment of territory to his home county which is represented on the map of Oklahoma by an irregular empire including within its borders the watersheds of four great rivers.
He supported general legislation for the public good without fear or favor. While a Republican and a former Government official, he fearlessly supported the Oklahoma "Jim Crow" law. He also supported the state school land program, the fish and game code, and many other majority measures of no political significance to himself, but of great future value to the State which he chose to call his homeland. Many of his staunchest friends of later years were his associates of both major parties in the Constitutional Convention.
"Phil" Hopkins, as he was known to intimates, was born June 1, 1862, in Binghamton, N. Y. His lineage was the same Colonial American family which produced Stephen Hopkins, Esek Hopkins, and other great American patriots of the Revolutionary period. His father, Philip A. Hopkins, was a business associate of Prof. S. F. B. Morse, and established his residence in Binghamton in order to assume personal direction of the building of the old Morse telegraph lines from New York City to upstate points such as Albany and Buffalo. Previously, he had made his home in Massachusetts and in Vermont.
The marriage of Philip A. Hopkins to Mary Kelly, born in County Mayo, Ireland, and an immigrant with her parents to America, marked the first departure from the Colonial American in the marital relationships of the Hopkins family in many generations. To her influence was due the acceptance by "Phil" Hopkins of the Roman Catholic religion, of which he was a staunch communicant.
Upon his graduation from the parochial schools in Binghamton, Mr. Hopkins elected to serve an apprenticeship in business administration rather than to attend college. He went to Wyandotte County, Kansas, where an uncle had established large lumber mill interests, and took a place in the mill organization. One of the periodic floods in the Kaw River eventually destroyed the mill, releasing "Phil" Hopkins to the pursuit of a career which he felt would lie better suited to his talents than manufacturing.
During this period he had married Rosa Theresa Hains, daughter of Charles Hains, Wyandotte County pioneer and capitalist. Three sons were born to them—Francis Joseph, on November 14, 1886; Philip
Anthony, on March 3, 1889; and Charles Hains, on September 21, 1893. Philip Anthony died in infancy. Frank and Charles Hopkins were associated with their father in his later career as an independent oil producer, and are well known in the industry.
The career upon which Mr. Hopkins decided was that of the law. Having assumed the responsibilities of married life at the age of 23, he chose to read law in the office of a Wyandotte County attorney, meanwhile acting as associate editor of The Kansas City Times in charge of Kansas news and politics. He took up newspaper work at the instance of the owners of the Times, who were personal friends, accepting it as the means to producing an income while he worked for his legal education. He assumed militant leadership of many civic and political crusades in Kansas City and in the state of Kansas during his association with The Times, and almost abandoned his legal aspirations as a result of the lure of a journalistic career.
His friends sold the paper, however, to new owners of more conservative tendencies, and "Phil" Hopkins turned again to his law books with a determination not to be further distracted from his ambition.
In 1896, with several years of legal experience behind him, he felt qualified to seek new fields of greater opportunity for a young lawyer. He was 34 years old when, early in 1896, he went to Fort Smith, Ark., lured there by the tremendous vloume of business that had been transacted in the historical Federal court of Judge Isaac Parker. By this time, however, the establishment of the United States courts in Indian Territory had robbed the Arkansas courts of much of their legal grist, and so the budding barrister followed in the wake of justice into the land of the Five Civilized Tribes.
He went first to Tahlequah, the old capital of the Cherokees, and then on to Fort Gibson. Here he met an influential member of the Dawes Commission, just then beginning its preliminary surveys l ooking toward actual consummation of its alloted task of individualizing the lands of the Five Tribes. He made a favorable impression upon the representatives of the Commission, and this chance meeting played an important part in shaping his later life.
From Fort Gibson he went to Muskogee, on the "big railroad," where he formed a law partnership with Jesse H. Hill, now chief counsel for The Texas Company, in Tulsa. The new partnership had barely begun to function when he received an offer to become chief attorney for the Dawes Commission, the offer growing out of his chance meeting with the Commission personnel at Fort Gibson.
He entered into his new duties with energy, and soon won the confidence of all factions of the various tribal governments. He is credited with principal authorship of the final Creek treaty. He was the friend of Isparechar, Porter and all other leaders of the Creek tribe—even of Chitto Harjo, or "Crazy Snake," whose clan of the Creek Nation had bitterly opposed individual allotment, and who eventually died in exile as a result of the "Smoked Meat Rebellion" of later years. He had the confidence of the Cherokee Kee-too-wahs also, and acted as peacemaker in many controversies between the government agents and the tribal authorities.
He accepted personal responsibility for the field work of the Commission in enrolling the Creeks, in the affairs of which nation he had specialized. As chief of the Enrollment Division, he personally signed about four-fifths of the enrollment cards of the members of that tribe. His personal signature attested the correctness of the allotments granted
Tommy Atkins, Barney Thlocco, and other Creeks whose allotments became fabulously valuable through the discovery of oil.
In later years, when many Oklahoma attorneys trained in Five Tribes procedure were receiving huge fees for their services in allotment and heirship cases, "Phil" Hopkins consistently refused to be retained to assist counsel in any case attacking the conclusiveness of the rolls. He had borne the brunt of the long legal battle to establish the conclusiveness of the tribal rolls in allotment contests, often at his own expense. In 1906, three years after his retirement from Federal service, he went to Washington at his own expense and enlisted the aid of his friend, the then President Roosevelt, in blocking legislation in Congress aimed at the destruction of the Government's protectorate over restricted Indians. While millions of dollars in legal fees have been expended in the attempt to set aside the Five Tribes rolls in allotment contests, the accuracy of the work of enrollment performed by the Dawes Commission under the direction of "Phil" Hopkins has never been successfully controverted. In 1903, with the major work of the Dawes Commission accomplished, Mr. Hopkins resigned to return to private practice. He soon found, however, that his health had been impaired by overwork in connection with his dual duties for the Commission, his eyes having been seriously weakened. His physicians forbade further research work. By this time thoroughly in love with the new country he had helped build from the foundation of an Indian reservation, "Phil" Hopkins elected to remain in Muskogee, and accepted the job of executive vice-president of the Canadian Valley Trust Company, a banking institution organized at Muskogee along up-to-date lines.
The institution under the management of Mr. Hopkins was very successful in the first few years of its existence, but it was caught in the money panic of 1907, and closed its doors. "Phil" Hopkins later voluntarily discharged his moral obligation of double indemnity to the depositors of the institution, even to building up an overpayment to his credit on the books of the receiver.
It was while associated with the Canadian Valley Trust Company that Mr. Hopkins was thrust by Fate into the business to which he was to devote the remainder of his life. A syndicate of five Muskogee men were drilling a test well southwest of Muskogee, and several miles from the old "townsite pool" that had been developed near the Free State Fair grounds several years before. The syndicate had sought a loan from the bank, but Mr. Hopkins had refused to make the loan except on a personal basis. The oil business, in those days, was known as a "game," and oil paper had no standing of itself at any bank.
On Good Friday of 1907, one of the members of the syndicate approached Mr. Hopkins and told him that the test well was a failure.
"We're down half-way to China, there's no coal at the rig, and there's no use of the night driller going on 'tower'," the faint-hearted wildcatter said. The well was actually about 1600 feet deep.
"Do you have to quit?" asked Mr. Hopkins.
"No, we could go on; the hole's all right. But what's the use?"
"Well, I want a showdown for my money," was "Phil" Hopkins' reply.
He picked up the telephone, called a coal dealer, and ordered a load of fuel, sent to the well, pledging his personal credit for the bill.
Six hours later, in the thick of a terrific electrical storm, the well blew in as one of the gushers of the early-day Muskogee development
which produced the highest-grade crude west of Pennsylvania. The second well on this lease, famous as "Number Two," which filled two tank farms and was still producing after twenty years of life, made history in the oil business in Oklahoma.
Later in the year, "Phil" Hopkins sacrificed his holdings in the original syndicate for the benefit of creditors of the trust company. But he had found a career to which he could apply his ability and energy, and which would entail the least possible use of his eyes. Chronic headaches were a constant affliction in his later years. He remained active in the Muskogee field until 1912, developing paying properties in the Timber Ridge and Prindle Pool districts.
In 1912, the price depression caused by the Cushing glut came on. There was no money in the oil industry except in big play. "Phil" Hopkins extended his activities to Healdton, and specialized in Southern Oklahoma production for four years. Then he crossed the state line into Texas, two years ahead of the "big push" in the Lone Star state which still marks the highwater mark of prosperity in the oil industry in America.
"Phil" Hopkins, in the last four years of his life, assumed a position of leadership in the industry through his operations in the Texas 'lime belt." In partnership with J. F. Darby, successful Muskogee operator and a close personal friend, he checker-boarded vast areas ahead of the big play, and then developed his acreage under the press of the extensive drilling campaigns during and immediately following the war years. In spite of the wasteful drilling and producing methods in vogue in those days, he operated his properties at a handsome profit while major oil companies, developing acreage in the same areas, lost millions of dollars. His success was due to his organizational ability and his energy. He drilled more than his share of dry holes, principally because he chose to drill more wells than the other fellow.
He was stricken with a fatal heart malady in 1919, and died two years later in the Muskogee home which he had maintained as his permanent residence from 1896. The date of his death was December 14, 1921. He was buried, by his own wish, in Green Hill Cemetery, Muskogee, which is close by the border line of the old Cherokee and Creek nations. While all others of his family sleep in the shelter of the New York and New England hills, "Phil" Hopkins chose to remain an Oklahoman in death, as he had chosen to consider himself in life.
(The above was prepared by Mrs. Rosa Theresa (Hains) Hopkins and sons Francis Joseph and Charles Hains Hopkins.)
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