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Oklahoma Memories

Statehood

2009-11-16

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"When the telegram arrived, my father had the notary public there and took the oath of office in his suite there at the Royal Hotel."

That's the voice of Francis Haskell, daughter of Oklahoma's first governor Charles Haskell, explaining when her father actually took the first oath of office on the day Oklahoma became a state.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

At just after 9:00am the morning of November 16, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the proclamation making Oklahoma the 46th State. Thousands of people had been gathering in Guthrie beginning the day before to be present for what was then called Admission Day.

"At 11 o'clock he went up to the Carnegie Library on the steps, and there gathered were over 10,000 people who had been coming into Guthrie all night and the afternoon before from all over the state because there was no way, no automobiles, any way for them to get into there except by wagon or carriage or horseback and by special train, and they had special trains they pulled on to the side tracks and they slept there all night in those coaches. Not accommodation, there were no hotels, not enough for that many people." (40 sec)

A part of the ceremony included the symbolic wedding of Miss Indian Territory and Mr. Oklahoma Territory. Mrs. Leo Bennett was selected to be the bride. Francis Haskell recalls that she borrowed a friend's wedding dress for that inauguration ceremony.

"...a nationally known dressmaker up there to have a dress made, and Ms. Bennett borrowed it. It was a lavender and lace dress with a lavender hat with a long lavender plume, ostrich feather, and she wore that as the bride." (17 sec)

Following the inauguration the public and dignitaries went to what was then called Island Park on the banks of the Cottonwood Creek for a barbeque lunch.

"They didn't have hamburger joints and everything else in those days, and they had to have gone without food or brought it the day before, so they had this barbeque, and they had bread and all the things that go with a barbeque."

And for Francis Haskell that lunch held a special memory.

"This is the first time I had ever tasted barbeque beef."

A ball that evening at Convention Hall capped off an incredible day in Oklahoma history.

"Everybody was well-dressed and looked nice. The state militia band had went into the room, and the local orchestra at the other, and one would play for the dance and the other would play. They'd alternate. The ladies all had armfuls of American Beauty roses, and they had punch and cakes and everything. Of course, there was no alcohol in the punch because Oklahoma was a dry state, had to be dry for 21 years because the Enabling Act provided that."

Francis Haskell was there to witness her father taking the oath of office as our first governor and all of the events that occurred that day, November 16, 1907, when Oklahoma became the 46th state.

The interview with Francis Haskell is a part of the oral history collection in the Research Library at the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. The politics in Oklahoma exhibit features a number of artifacts from Governor Haskell and other prominent politicians in Oklahoma. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.