The Century Chest Collection

Wetzel Family Package - Letter to descendants of J. C. Chrisney

(Transcribed from the original)

Dear Otto:
Your good mother says you are writing a history of early days in Oklahoma. If you wish you can use what I say below, fix it up to suit space and to suit yourself. When you speak of me, say Joseph C. Chrisney of Chrisney, Indiana. That is, as coming from there. I began thinking about coming to Oklahoma in the early eighties. My first trip that way was in 1885. I went to Ponca Indian Agency, then the Indian Territory, in a hack from Arkansas City stopping there while intending to go down into the old Oklahoma proper. You will find by investigation that old Oklahoma proper was surrounded by Indian Territory. But when I saw so many Indians around Ponca Agency I concluded I better get back to civilization: to Arkansas City and the railroads. Your Dear Uncle, Henry Kramer, called to see me at Ponca City in 1888 while I was temporarily the telegraph operator there for the Santa Fe railroad, they having built south from Arkansas City since I had been there in 1885. While on a trip investigation Oklahoma I went with other parties in a wagon to Ford and Clark counties in Western Kansas, from Wichita. I staked a claim (160 acres of land) in Ford County. I started a well and dug down four feet when I got discouraged and traded my prospects for a chance on a mule and saddle that had been left back in Sumner County, Kansas. The owner though the mule was going to die and left him. I did not want a mule and sold my chance for $15 cash and started home. The man who paid me the $15 found a good, live mule and a fine saddle; he got the best of the deal.

In 1888 after working for the Santa Fe at Ponca City I went to Oklahoma Station, now Oklahoma City. There were but few buildings in sight. The soldiers had their barracks on the hill east of the Santa Fe track. Mr. S. H. Radebaugh, the postmaster, had a small frame building not far from the Santa Fe station and kept strangers overnight and longer if they so desired. As I had past experience in making out Post Office reports I assisted Mr. Radebaugh in making out his monthly report to the Post Office Department for which he gave me one week free board and lodging. After making the report and getting my week board and bed I took a wagon trip to Fort Reno going on the divide between the South and North Canadian rivers. As there were no wagon bridges over the North Canadian at Oklahoma Station we had to walk to the south side of that river to the wagon. We got lost and landed at our near a place on the South Canadian river that had been known as Silver City, but there was no town there then. We found an old cow stuck in the quick sand in the river where the cowboys had left her, not being able to extricate her from the treacherous sands. We changed our course and landed at Fort Reno late in the evening. We camped near the soldier[']s barracks. The sentinel kept us awake by repeating the words every fifteen minutes: "All is well." This was the most enjoyable wagon trip of my life because of the fact that the prairies were covered with luxuriant grasses and sweet scented flowers. The air was perfumed with the aroma from the lovely prairie flowers. From there my wagon friend went north and I had to get back to the railroad as best as I could. I got in with some soldiers who were going to Council Grove with an ambulance. On the way some good hearted cowboys gave me a good dinner and a wood hauler [and] took me to the Station as it was called then. Not wanting to be a sooner I went out of the country back to my home in Indiana but came in with the rush on April 22, 1889, from the south of the first train. I remained there a year and then went to Hartshorne, Indiana Territory, to accept a position as an agent for the Choctaw Railway Co.

Your Father knowns the rest and can tell you more if you want it. I better ad that I wrote to the Chrisney Sun, my home paper, while at Oklahoma Station in 1888 and told about the beautiful location there for a city. I said the business could be done on the flat; the residences on the slopes and the capital on the top of the hill, all of which has come true, but I did not expect to see a great city there during my life time as we now witness.

You can write what suits and correct errors. I had to write fast as I am not at work for a real estate company and must put in my time for them. I hope you will get in the main points of this so my future generations can see how I went to Oklahoma. You can add that while sick in my home in Chrisney, Indiana, before coming west I cut clippings from the newspapers and pasted them in a book. I prize the book highly and want to leave it to my heirs as a memento of my early Oklahoma experience.

I hope Otto you will get up a fine history and hand your name down to the future posterity.
Your devoted uncle,
J. C. Chrisney

This letter to be handed to the oldest grandchild or oldest great grandchild of the descendent of Joseph C. Chrisney. His birth place [was] in Chrisney Indiana but at present [he is] located in Los Angeles California.
His sister-in-law Mary Kramer Wetzel

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