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Oklahoma Family Tree Stories

This beautiful sculpture of three redbud trees with gold and silver leaves by artist Robin Starke is located just outside the Eleanor & John Kirkpatrick Research Center in the Oklahoma History Center. Each leaf of the "Oklahoma Family Tree" memorializes an Oklahoma family with the family surname, first name(s), and the town or county where they lived. In addition, a short family history will be preserved in the digital family history book at the base of the tree. This is a great way for your family to make history and benefit future generations at the same time. To find out how to honor your own family with a leaf visit the Oklahoma Family Tree Project page.

Bugher Family

The 1890 U.S. Census listed Lewis Bugher, born 1816 in Ohio, as a resident of Indian Territory in 1862. Before he had made his way westward, Lewis visited young Annie Rinehart at her home and promised, "I am going way out West, but when I come back, I'm going to have you for my wife." He kept his word, and on March 7, 1871, they were married in Tuscarawas County, Ohio.

Annie and Lewis settled in Kansas and had three sons, Lewis Bartlett, Robert Edward, and Benjamin Franklin, and two daughters, Eva May and Lula Dell. In 1880 Lewis and his brother Peter prospected for silver and gold in Idaho in an area they christened the Little Frank mine along the Wood River. In May 1882, Lewis wrote Annie from Belleview, Idaho: "Two parties are here to buy me out and I think it will go in a few days…a good friend told me to stand firm on my price…one hundred and sixty thousand."

By 1884 Lewis had returned home to Kansas. He joined David Payne's Oklahoma Colony on April 28 as the excitement intensified for the opening of the Unassigned Lands in Indian Territory. Lewis sold his 1,200 acres of Kansas wheat land and settled with his family Douglass, Kansas, just a few miles north of the Indian Territory border. He was preparing for a new life in the grand territory. A daughter, Gracie Pearl, was born later in 1884. By springtime, Lewis was still waiting for the opening of the land for settlement. He added his signature to a March 21 petition that asked President Grover Cleveland to open the area.

By 1887 Lewis could no longer stand the wait. He loaded his family into covered wagons and set off to settle in the Unassigned Lands. They pitched a tent near Oklahoma Station, but soldiers from Fort Reno ordered them to leave. However, as Annie expected to give birth any day, the soldiers agreed that the family could stay until the baby was born. In a tent near the North Canadian River, a blue-eyed daughter was born on April 10, 1887. The military guard told Lewis, "You must name her Oklahoma. She is the first white child born in this territory."

The family moved into the Chickasaw Nation near Purcell, where they lived for two years. Sadly, their son Robert Edward died in a hunting accident in late 1887.

When the Unassigned Lands were opened to settlement on April 22, 1889, Lewis dashed across the South Canadian River to drive his stake on a160-acre section near Lexington. A daughter, Lavina, was born there in 1891. With the home and farm well-established, Lewis left the daily work to his sons and traveled to Paoli in search of gold.

In 1901, the adventuresome Lewis Bugher passed away. Annie died in 1928, shortly after she leased the farm for drilling. The Dulaney No. 1 roared to life in 1937 and is regarded as the first oil well in Cleveland County.

The Bugher family legacy remains strong. Governor Henry Bellmon awarded their historic farm a certificate as an Oklahoma Centennial Farm. In 1989, Vinita Bugher Southern and her daughter and Lewis' great granddaughter, Regina Southern, received the Oklahoma Genealogical Society's First Families of the Twin Territories certificate.

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