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Ben Tillery


Tillery, Ben

Field Worker:  John F. Daugherty 

Date:  June 19, 1937
Interview # 4515
Address: Sulphur, OK
Born: May 7, 1884
Place of Birth: Longview, Texas
Father: Buck Tillery, born in the Tennessee, Farmer
Mother: Sally McKinley, born in Texas

My father was Buck Tillery, born in Tennessee and Mother was Salley McKinley Tillery, born in Texas.  We had four children in our family.  Father was a farmer. I was born May 7, 1884, in Longview, Texas. 

We came to the Indian Territory in 1887.  We settled on Mat Wolf's place on Chigley Sandy Creek, north of Davis.  We came in a covered wagon, crossing Red River at Yellow Hill.  We lived in a one-room log cabin with rough boards for a floor and a cat chimney.

I went to school in a tent for three months out of the year.  We paid a tuition of 5 cents a day.  The school was not graded.  Everybody used his or her own books consisting mostly of the Blue Back Speller, McGuffey's Reader and Ray's Arithmetic.   I later attended a neighborhood school at Mill CreekGovernor Harris boarded the Indian children.  Their tuition was paid by the Chickasaw Government and white children paid their own tuition of $1.00 per month.

I used to attend the Chickasaw Indian Pashofa dances and have danced with the Chickasaws many times, wearing terrapin shells around my knees. We danced around a pot of pashofa which cooked for hours and about midnight we feasted upon it.  The Chickasaw Indian women wrapped their babies in blankets and tied the blankets to their saddle horns when they rode on horseback.

I remember the first time I saw the Indian Militia  (Lighthorsemen).  One of our neighbors had refused to pay his permit of $5.00 a year and this militia, headed by Claude Rainey, came to collect.  There were about fifty Indians, some painted, and all having Winchesters and bows and arrows.  They were a serious, sober looking bunch of men.  Needless to say the neighbor handed them his $5.00.  He knew that if he didn't, they would round up his cattle, and load his household goods and family in a wagon and deport them across Red River.  I was just a small boy and I certainly thought there was going to be a war.

We drank water out of the creek.  We had our corn ground at Palmer at a steam grist mill.  We hauled our wheat to Byrd's Mill.  The mill was built about a half mile down the creek from the spring.  There was a race built from the springs to this mill with falls in it, and this gave power to run the wheel which was an overshot.   When the mill was not running, this race was closed and the water went down the creek.

There was a flour and grist mill and cotton gin, located near old Stonewall, southeast of Ada in the Chickasaw Nation, in Pontotoc County.  It was owned and operated by Frank Byrd, brother of Governor Byrd.

When I was a boy, we thought it was great fun to drive to the old look out post at Turkey Springs, northeast of Wynnewood, in Pontotoc County.  This was a platform built of logs and lumber, about twenty feet high with a ladder leading to the platform.   The outlaws used this for a lookout.

On my first hunting trip with Father, we swam Boggy Creek in Pontotoc County and got our bedding and matches wet.  We had no way of making a fire, so Father got a piece of cotton and fastened it to a tree.  He took the bullet out of a cartridge and shot the cartridge into the cotton.  This set the cotton afire and from this we made a fire. 

We used to tie up the wagon sheet in the middle of the wagon and shoot prairie chickens as we drive along, they were so numerous.

I was married to Mattie Albright in 1906.  I have lived in Murray County since coming to the Territory.

Transcribed by Brenda Choate  & Dennis Muncrief, March, 2001