I spent some time reading the Oklahoma Star today. Remember, Caddo’s first known paper began January 14, 1874 and was the first to use the word Oklahoma in its title. The editor was W.J Hemby, a practical printer. He employed Granville McPherson. His motto, “Progress and a Higher Civilization”. McPherson bought the paper in 1876, but in 1877 consolidated it with the Star-Vindicator, Rev. J.S. Morrow, joint-owner. It was then moved to McAlester.
Here is an interesting item from 1875:
“A little over two years ago and Caddo had no existence. The place where it now stands was then but a wild and unbroken solitude. The romantic hills lying off to the south which give the town its name, were wrapt(sic) in superstitions and the benighted traveler, with bated breath, urged his weary pony away from the “haunted” ground. At last the whistle of the locomotive resounded through the wilderness and the spell was broken, the phantoms died.
The Railroad company selected this as a site for a Depot and the town of Caddo had its birth. The company went to work and put up the most extensive warehouse of any on the whole line of road between Sedalia and Denison; showing the importance they attached to the station. They have done their part, and laid the foundation for a town, and it but remains for us to complete it. We have it in our power to make Caddo the leading city in the Indian Territory or we can kill it so dead that a few months would see the grass growing in our deserted streets and the deer and wolf return to resume possession of their old haunts.
In the first place we should manifest the greatest liberality towards the Railroad company, and allow them to set apart for their own use and benefit as much ground as they may ask. Our lands are not so valuable that we must needs be so sparing of a few feet, and even if they were, no better disposition could be made of them than a voluntary contribution to this company of all they may require. Self interest, if nothing else, would dictate the policy for us to pursue in this respect.
And in the second place no obstacles should be thrown in the way of those who desire to build here. Every eligible building spot should be left open and free to the first who may wish to erect either a business house or residence. We have plenty of land for fields and stock yards without encroaching upon desirable building sites.
Of course every citizen has the right to fence in as much ground as he can, but then is this not a serious drawback to the growth and prosperity of our town?
These remarks are made through the very purest motives. We are wedded to Caddo and are doing all we can to further its interest and believe that every one of our citizens feel an equal pride in the welfare of the town, and would not willfully do anything to injure it; but think some of them have unthoughtedly (sic) made a mistake, and hope, upon mature consideration, they will recognize the correctness of our views, and at least five us credit for honesty of purpose.”
Mr. Hemby was great at tucking little tidbits of good cheer into the paper. In between news about the price of eggs and the local happenings are these:
“Let us all go to work and make Caddo what it should be, the first and most important town in the Indian Territory. We can do it if we will.”
“The healthful location of Caddo will always make it the most desirable place in the territory, without taking into consideration any other advantages.”
“While we hear of more or less sickness throughout the country, Caddo continues blessed with good health.”
Now listen to the change of tone and message in July of 1876:
“The editor of a newspaper in the Territory is situated in rather an awkward position. Anywhere else on God’s green earth he would consider it his duty as it certainly would be to his interest, to portray the beauties of his country in glowing colors so as to induce immigration, but here this is exactly what he must guard against. He must not only studiously avoid saying anything that would excite the cupidity of the pale face “land grabbers” hovering on our borders, ready to pounce upon us and drive us into the Pacific ocean, at the very first intimation that there is anything here worth having, but he must every now and then paint it as a poor, barren, God forsaken land, fit only for the habitation of an Indian…”
Apparently, once the citizens decided they had something worthwhile, they decided not to be quite so generous in sharing it! More later…