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'Marriage' merges two territories Symbolic ceremony part of Statehood Day

Max Nichols Published: October 27, 2002

IT all started at 9 a.m. Nov. 16, 1907, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed the proclamation that made Oklahoma a state. The news was flashed by telegram to Charles N. Haskell, who received it at 9:20 a.m. and privately took his oath as Oklahoma's first governor in his room at the Royal Hotel in Guthrie.

Bells rang, whistles blew and guns were fired as a crowd estimated at 25,000 to 35,000 people gathered in warm weather at the Carnegie Library in Guthrie for the inauguration ceremony that featured a symbolic wedding of Indian and Oklahoma territories.

Anna Trainor Bennett, a Cherokee descendent and wife of former U.S. Marshal Leo Bennett of Muskogee, said "I do" as Miss Indian Territory. Charles G. "Gristmill" Jones of Oklahoma City played Mr. Oklahoma Territory.

Guthrie Leader newspaper editor Leslie G. Niblack administered a public oath of office to Haskell, who delivered his inaugural address. Haskell and state officials then led a milelong inaugural parade from the library to Island Park for a barbecue wedding feast.

That historical scene will be recalled Nov. 16, when Gov. Frank Keating will dedicate the dome on the state Capitol in a Statehood Day celebration. Beyond that, plans for a giant, yearlong celebration are under way for Oklahoma's Centennial in 2007, but the Oklahoma Historical Society has been re-enacting the territorial "marriage" and state inauguration for years in Guthrie.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students from homeschools in central parts of the state will stage the ceremony eight times for the 14th consecutive year at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Nov. 14-15.

"As in the past, we will present the ceremony on the steps of the Carnegie Library, where that historic 'wedding' took place," said Michael Bruce, who manages the Guthrie Complex for the Historical Society. The complex includes the Carnegie Library, Oklahoma Territorial Museum and the State Capital Publishing Museum.

"This annual re-enactment is just the beginning of our plans for the Oklahoma Centennial in 2007," said Historical Society Executive Director Dr. Bob Blackburn. "By that time, we expect to have a daily living history program at the State Capital Publishing Museum and programs on the early politics of Oklahoma in Guthrie."

The publishing museum is in the former home of the State Capitol Co., 301 W Harrison, where owner Frank Greer published the State Capitol newspaper and established a printing operation.

"We will have printers hand-setting type and operating the Lineotype and other equipment of the early 20th century," Blackburn said. "At the same time, the statehood ceremony provides a strong foundation at the Carnegie Library and Territorial Museum for programs on the early politics of Oklahoma. We will demonstrate how the leadership of Oklahoma and Indian territories led to the State Constitutional Convention, statehood, the early organization of administrations and the Legislature and moving the capital to Oklahoma City in 1910."

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