Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

1 Comment

Along the Dusty Mainstreet

More from Opal Bailey Crowell’s book “Cleveland, Oklahoma. In the Triangle Country.”

This sweet woman remembers first hand about the birthing pains of C-Town, and what she wasn’t there for, she reports from the things her family and friends experienced. I’m so enjoying her words!

Most people who live in C-Town know it for a friendly, loving place. We reach out and help those who need it and many of us never meet a stranger.

It’s a C-Town tradition!

On the second page, Mrs. Crowell tells us the run into the Cherokee Strip was made in 1893. If you’ve ever seen the movie, “Cimarron,” you’ve seen a “run.” The movie shows how dramatic it was, but from what I’ve read (while prego with #3, I took some classes at OSU, I went to the old part of the library and looked up actual accounts of The Run.)  they didn’t touch the true explosive excitement of the day.

In the next paragraph, she says,

With more grocery stores and other business houses coming in, a Main Street was planned. At first, tents were set up as a place of business. J. P. Martin’s Dry Goods Store was the first business set up in a tent.

 The store on the left side of this picture (the sign says “Gents Furnishings”) was Martin’s building. It still stands today.

After a (swinging) bridge was built across the river, Mr. Martin and other traveled to Tulsa and areas where lumber could be bought. Then wooden buildings were all up and down Mainstreet.

This was about 1890.

1890 was before the land run of 1893. How did that happen, since “Indian Territory” meant Indian land. Anyone know?

At that time apparently, C-Town could be a dangerous place. One woman said when she was in the lumber yard office, she “put her feet up to miss the bullets.”

BUT any time there was a holiday or a day off, C-Town would have a party.

Large community dinners were served on makeshift tables of barrels and boards, set up on dusty main street, on the side under a tree or wherever space could be found for a table.

Everyone brought a contribution. Fresh butter or meat was not always available, but no matter how much or how little each family brought, there was always a yellow soda cake.

Everyone was invited, no one left out. If you were a newcomer or alone, someone made sure you were invited and had plenty to eat. Everyone was neighborly, enjoyed being together and most of the time they were entertained by a Band, or sometimes by a Pow Wow.

I think that’s where C-Town’s legacy of hospitality started. C-Townites are still a welcoming, giving, nice bunch of people.

Mrs. Crowell goes on to say,

The hardy pioneers considered wheat bread a luxury. They preferred Corn Pone over Kaffercorn bread but would eat either. A spoonful of “long sweetener” (sorghum molasses) smoothed the tartness of the boiled wild plum. Most folks ate wild meat, yet they might have a dozen hens and a milch cow.

In 1897 a loaf of bread cost 5 cents, a pound of coffee cost from 19 to 29 cents. Of course there was salt pork, dry beans and flour, or you could go to the Cafe and get a big meal for 25 cent.

Goods didn’t cost much back then, but people didn’t get paid much either. Work at the feed mill paid $7 a week. Grocery clerks made $7.50 a week, and carpenters or other workers received 75 cents a day.


  1. Anybody know the difference between Corn Pone and cornbread? (Is it the shape or a difference in the recipe?)
  2. What’s yellow soda cake? Anyone have a recipe?
  3. What’s Kaffercorn bread?

For such a short book–10 or 11 pages–there’s so much to learn about C-Town. And so many questions to ask. 🙂


I’ve Got the Fever

I’m reading a new book. Actually, it’s not a new book. It was published in 1976, and the inside cover looks as if it sold for $14.95.

I paid nearly twice that, and so far it’s worth every penny!

To be honest, I’ve scanned it before. I didn’t own it and wanted to get it back to the owner. But this one is mine, so I’m going to take my time and squeeze every drop of goodness out of it.

“Cherokee Strip Fever” by Zola Sample.

From the jacket flap:

Young, terrified but resolute, Charity Bellis, with three small children, leaves the security of her Iowa home in March 1895 to join her husband in Indian Territory in their search for a new homestead. The long train trip ends at “Tulsey Town,” where a hectic night is spent in a clapboard hotel. The next day, Charity and the children arrive a the inland village of Sinnett, which they reach only after a near disastrous fording of the flood-swollen Arkansas River aboard the only conveyance available, a mail hack.

I’m at the part where they’re going on the mail wagon with Jim Sinnett. We haven’t forded the river yet (I’m on page 35. This is my downstairs book so I don’t have a lot of time to read it) but already I’ve read about several very exciting things.

The town of Sinnett, which was just down the road from C-Town on the Cimarron River (I think) was named for that mailman. The Dalton Boys’ cave is near Sinnett.

I wonder if I haven’t seen pictures and heard something about it on the Spit and Whittle site on Facebook. 😉

I learned from Zola (who was a teacher, you know) that the town of Chouteau, just south of Pryor Creek where the Shay crew used to live, was named for Jean Pierre Chouteau. In 1796, he established a fur trade industry that stretched across the entire state. He even got 3000 Osage Indians to move their permanent villages from west of St. Louis in 1802 to this post. (I met more Cherokee Indians than Osage when we lived there, so they must have moved on.)

Jean Pierre brought a paradise tree from France–the first tree ever planted in Oklahoma. It grew to be a historical marker at the home of Col. A. P. Chouteau, and I’ve never heard of it before this book.

I thought I hated history when I was in school. Having to memorize dates made me crazy! Still would if someone tried to make me do it. But I love knowing about the people who lived and loved back then. I enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations they suffered and learning how they made it through.

Because they did. They did everything that had to be done and still found time to be good friends and good neighbors.

Back when they had no electricity, no running water, no bathroom and, often, not even an outhouse, these people were happy. Joyful and spirit filled! How in the world did they do it?

I have no idea.

I get cranky if the air conditioner isn’t cool enough. Was the weather cooler back then? Was less expected of people? Was it easier to fit everything in that needed to be done?

I’ll keep reading and let you know if I find out.