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Oklahoma Memories

Statehood

2011-11-12

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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 oath of office on the day that Oklahoma became a state.

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

At just after 9 the morning of November 16, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the proclamation making Oklahoma the 46th state. Thousands of people had been gathering in the territorial capital Guthrie beginning the day before to be present for what was then called Admission Day. The ceremony was set to begin two hours after President Roosevelt signed that proclamation at about 11 a.m.

"And 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 in there expect by wagon or carriage or horseback and by special trains, and they had special trains that they had 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."

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. She borrowed a friend's wedding dress for the inauguration ceremony.

"...a nationally-known dressmaker up there to have a dress made, and Ms. Bennett borrowed. 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."

Following the ceremony 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.

"And it was the first time I had ever tasted barbeque beef."

The grand ball at the convention hall that night capped off an incredible day in Oklahoma history.

"Everybody was well-dressed and looked nice. The state militia band at one end of 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 arms full of American Beauty roses, and they had punch and cake and everything. Of course there was no alcohol in the punch, because Oklahoma was a dry state, had to be 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 to witness all of the events that day, November 16, 1907, when Oklahoma became the 46th state. Haskell returned to private business then in the summer of 1933 suffered a stroke and died at the age of 71.

The interview with Francis Haskell is a part of the oral history collection in the research library of the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma history center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.