The new year is a great opportunity for those such as Bob Blackburn to think about anniversaries.
Blackburn, the executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, recently sat at a table in his office at the Oklahoma History Center with a pen in hand and a yellow notepad before him.
His intent was to jot down dates and thoughts as he used 2013 for a starting point and traveled back in history.
He journeyed back about 150 years to the Battle of Honey Springs, a climactic engagement of the Civil War in Indian Territory that was fought on July 17, 1863, in what is now Checotah, about 120 miles east of Oklahoma City.
Blackburn traveled back 100 years to the January 1913 release from Fort Sill of Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apaches as prisoners of war. The Fort Sill Apache Tribal members are descended from former prisoners of war who received allotments in Oklahoma after their release. Blackburn focused on one of those families.
And then, the historian went back 65 years to when the Federal Communications Commission granted a construction permit for WKY-TV. The television station, Oklahoma's first, went on the air with programming in 1949. It broadcast for about two hours each evening, Sundays through Fridays.
The Civil War
“One of the most significant eras in the history of Oklahoma was the Civil War and the reconstruction from Civil War,” Blackburn said.
The battle at Honey Springs was the largest of the documented Civil War encounters in the Indian Territory, Blackburn said. The engagement took place between the 1st Division, Army of the Frontier, commanded by Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt, and the Confederate Indian Brigade, led by Brig. Gen. Douglas H. Cooper. Cherokee and Creek regiments were fighting on both sides, Blackburn said. About 9,000 men were involved, including other American Indians, veteran Texas regiments, and the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers, one of the first black regiments in the Union Army, he said.
The state of Oklahoma today owns about 1,200 acres of the land where the engagement took place.
“We are now building a new museum to tell the story of those brave men on both sides who fought there, the impact, the consequences and connecting that with history today in Oklahoma,” Blackburn said. “Hopefully, the museum will include murals by Chickasaw artist Mike Larsen to tell the Honey Springs story visually.”
LeRoy H. Fischer wrote in “The Battle of Honey Springs,” that the incident “was in both size and importance the Gettysburg of the Civil War in Indian Territory, for it marked the climax of massed Confederate military resistance and opened the way for the capture of Fort Smith and much of Arkansas. Perhaps, in terms of results, Honey Springs was the Gettysburg of the Trans-Mississippi West.”
Visitors to the Oklahoma History Center will notice a monumental bronze east of the front doors. It is called “Unconquered.”
In an oral interview in 1956, Sam Haozous, said in referring to Geronimo's highly effective strategy of sending warriors two at a time to engage the enemy, “Two men, fast men, quick men rather fight and not be afraid at all.” Haozous in 1910, while at Fort Sill as a prisoner of war, married Blossom Wratten. Their son, Allan Houser, Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache, was born June 30, 1914. “Unconquered” was the last monumental sculpture created by Houser before his death in 1994.
W. Jackson Rushing III was the author of “Allan Houser, An American Master (Chiricahua Apache, 1914-1994).” He wrote, “When they were finally freed in 1913, the Chiricahuas had to choose between returning to the Southwest to share a reservation with the Mescalero Apache or accepting plots of land in severalty and becoming farmers in Oklahoma.”
“Sam did not give up being an Apache, and he would pass those stories on to his son who was born on that allotment,” Blackburn said. “His son would take the name Allan Houser — he was one of the greatest Indian artists of the 20th century.”
The Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kan., commissioned Houser to create a memorial to American Indian soldiers killed in World War II. Completed and dedicated in 1948, this work titled “Comrade in Mourning” was his first major marble carving.
Houser cast his first bronze in 1968.
Then 20 years ago, Houser received what is now called the Prix de West Purchase Award from the National Academy of Western Art at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
In June 1948, The Oklahoman carried a story titled, “Permit Granted For Television.”
That story, 65 years ago, noted that commercial television broadcasts within the next year were a possibility because the FCC granted a construction permit to WKY.
With World War II over and the country ready for adventure, E.K. Gaylord determined that Oklahoma City needed its own television station. So in 1948, he applied to the FCC for a license to broadcast on Channel 4.
“The next year, television arrived in Oklahoma as WKY-TV began broadcasting,” Blackburn said. “The fact that he brought it here so quickly is amazing.”
News Research Editor Linda Lynn