Don's Research Notebook
Don House, Bixby Historical Society Research, has located information for individual family history research. Below is the compilation of some of his findings. Information is presented in random order. The submitter's name is withheld.
JAMES "CHAMP" JOHNSON, 1897 - 1971
Does Bixby Historical Society have any information about Champ Johnson ?
Submitted to Bixby Historical Society by Vergie and Qianna Johnson, daughter and great-granddaughter of James "Champ" Johnson.
James "Champ" Johnson was born in 1897 to Houston and Ida Johnson in Waco, TX. Champ came to OK in a covered wagon in the early 1900s. He was raised among Creek Indians in Seminole, OK where he learned to speak their language and lead stomp dances. Lula M. Pettie was born in 1902 to James and Emmeline Pettie in
Lindell, TX. She moved with her family to the Snake Creek community, south of Bixby, as a small child. Champ moved to Snake Creek and married Lula on December 22, 1920. They had 18 children.
Champ served in the US Army during World War I. He actually served under his step father's name, Jack Hawkins. After he settled in Snake Creek, he received his Army bonus. The community had just been hit by flooding and most had lost their crops. Some people had left and the community as a whole was discouraged. There was not enough money to help everyone on an individual basis, so Champ took his bonus money and threw a party for the community. Spirits were lifted and the community soon got back to the unpredictable business of farming.
Champ, a man of character with a great sense of humor, was well loved and respected throughout the community. As a realtor, he sold land in Snake Creek for the Jenkins family. He also promoted entertainments such as ball games, dances, boxing matches, drag races, card games and cooked and sold barbecue and refreshments all at "Champ's Place." All races of people were welcomed to Champ's and they came from far an near but all were expected to behave. Champ was referred to as the "Mayor of Snake Creek" and was well known in black communities throughout the State and as far away as Chicago and San Francisco.
Champ, who had many God-given talents was a musician at heart. He played the fiddle, guitar, harmonica, and piano by ear. He often played for many of the community's social occasions.
He was a man who never met a stranger and treated all men as equals. When Champ died in 1971, his funeral was held in the United Methodist Church of Bixby to accommodate the large number of people, black, white and native american, who came to pay their respects to a special man. Champ was later honored when a new road, "Champ Johnson Road," south of Bixby in Tulsa County was named after him.
Lula Johnson Hawkins died in January 1984 and was laid to rest with Champ in the Snake Creek Cemetery.
THE OLD TRAFFIC LIGHT AT DAWES AND MEMORIAL
I am looking for information and stories about Bixby's first stoplight, which was formerly at the corner of Memorial and Dawes. Today the old stoplight has been restored and is displayed in a youth worship center in a large church in Oklahoma City. Any information you have about the light would be useful because I am writing a story about the light for the church. All I know is that the light was in use for about 20 years beginning in the late 1950's. One person in Bixby has told me that it was the only stoplight between Tulsa and Muskogee for years. Is there any other information available?
I believe everything you mentioned about the stop light is true. When the light was removed, a stop sign was installed on Dawes to control traffic entering Memorial Drive. If you are familiar with Bixby, you probably know Dawes does not continue past Memorial Drive to the West. Of course Memorial Dr. is Route 64. The removal of the traffic light gave Memorial Drive traffic right-of-way with only a speed limit control.
Armstrong and Dawes in Downtown Bixby (about three blocks East of Memorial Drive) was a busy area in the 50's, especially on Saturday. The traffic light may have been justified. However, the downtown area does not have the traffic it had in the past. Most of the commercial activity has moved to Memorial Drive and North toward Tulsa.
A traffic light was eventually installed at 151st St. South on Memorial. A second light was installed at 161st St South and Memorial (justified by school traffic entering Memorial from the East) and a third at 148th and Memorial. From there North toward Tulsa, there are traffic lights at every section line, i.e. 131st, 121st, 111th etc. all the way to Tulsa.
Bixby City limits extends to 111th St. South on the West side of Memorial. However, on the East side of Memorial, Bixby City limits extends to as far as 101st Street South.
JOHN MIMS COMPTON
I am looking for an obit. for John Mims Compton who died Aug. 15, 1936. . . . . John Mims Compton came from Pikeville, KY. . . . . Do you have any 1936 or earlier city directories? Maybe John and his wife would be listed in them. . . . .
The local paper, the Bixby Bulletin, lost their morgue for issues over many years including most of the 1930s. The loss was incurred before they were microfilmed, (and for that matter, before the Historical Society was organized) resulting in a very limited number of issues available to us. . . . . There were a couple of other funeral homes in Bixby in the teens and 20's, but they ceased operating in Bixby before 1936.
The population of Bixby, back in 1936, was less than 1,000....hardly enough to rate a City Directory. We had a telephone system, but it was the manual switchboard/partyline variety. The earliest phone directory in our file is 1956, just a year or two before the system became dial.
Records in our archives, for that time period, show information about two Comptons. Irene M. Compton, born July 1909, died September 1987 and buried at Prairie Garden Cemetery (also known as Duck Creek Cemetery). According to our Prairie Garden survey, Irene Compton is the only Compton buried there. We have an obituary for Ruben H. Compton who was not a Bixby resident. However, his son was a resident of Bixby at the time of Ruben's death in 1964. Rueben died April 30, 1964 in Newport Arkansas and is buried there.
Bixby Cemetery records were kept by Eb Key, a local merchant who also sold and installed tombstones. Most of the records were destroyed when Eb's business was flooded in the 1950's. When he eventually closed his business, the record keeping responsibility was transferred to the Bixby Municipal Government who in recent years has completed a visual survey of tombstones.
I visited Mike Marker, at Leonard and Marker Funeral Home. He showed me the information sheet for John Mims Compton. However, it does not contain information concerning Block, Row, and Lot....just "Bixby Cemetery." I contacted the City about the location of the grave for John Mims Compton." However, he was not shown in the visual survey database. I have concluded his grave is among the many without a tombstone, and that's understandable....given the economic conditions of that era.
Examination of Bixby Public School Yearbooks for several years during the 20's and 30's did not reveal any Comptons. However, during that era most rural children in grades one through eight attended country schools such as Shellenbarger, Central, Liberty, Leonard, Haikey, McCollough, and Stancliff. We have no information about the name Compton in any of those schools.
Other Comptons in the area.....David and Birdie Alby Compton, both deceased, whose children still live in the Bixby area. David was born in AR and died at Bixby. His parents were Ruben and Corena Compton, who remained in AR.
OLDEST BUILDINGS IN BIXBY
I am a cub scout leader and we are working on a requirement in our 3rd grade book. We need to visit a historic building in our area. Would you have some suggestions for us?
One of the oldest buildings still standing in Bixby is at 1 West Dawes. It is about 100 years old, but you might find a cornerstone with the exact date on it. The building was originally the home of The Bank of Bixby, an institution which failed during the great depression.
It currently is home to the Bixby Antique Mall and Junk Shop. The owners, Cash and Noreena Stevenson, live in the space above the shop. Between the time of the bank and the antique shop, the building provided space for doctors, dentists, jewelry stores, chiropractors, and possibly other businesses.