My grandmother's sister, Martha Banta, wrote a thirty-two page letter about her childhood and from time to time I will copy some passages from it. Today I'm going to relate her arrival in Oklahoma.
Let me start this collection of memories beginning in 1908 when I was six years old. We lived somewhere in East Texas and for some reason my daddy decided to move to Oklahoma. I may be mistaken about the date but this can easily be ascertained by history. It was almost immediately after Indian Territory became a state and I do remember getting ready to make the trip. Daddy worked long and hard to prepare the wagon in which we were to travel.
There were high sideboards and what was called an overfit which was just a flat bed that fitted on top of the sideboards and made it secure. On this was placed a mattress and that was where we three children slept during the trip. In the bed of the wagon was another bed on which daddy and mother and the baby slept. In addition to the two beds there were dishes, cooking utensils, clothes for the family, and provisions for the journey. Besides feed for the horses and a few essential tools for daddy's trade, that being a carpenter, a farmer, and a woodsman all rolled into one. I do seem to remember too a box of books. Daddy was always a bookish kind of man. I took it all as a matter of course then, but I've often wondered how they managed to pack so much into one wagon. Over it all were the wagon bows and the tarpaulin, "wagon sheet" we called it, which kept out the rain and gave a measure of protection from the wind and sun. This was how we started the trek into Oklahoma.
There were six of us (Ira, Clarissa, Pryor, Martha, Calvin, Della). My older sister who was 14 years of age was considered then to be a grown up. I was about 6 and there were two younger than me, my brother Calvin and the baby, Della. I think we children walked a lot of the distance. I don't remember how many days we were on that trip. I do recall spending some nights in wagon yards and other nights camped alongside of the road. And how we did enjoy the meals mama cooked on the camp fires!
Finally we came to the Red River and just across was Oklahoma. My most vivid memory of Oklahoma was of being scared almost to the point of panic. There, to my child's mind, was that MIGHTY river, and only a barge to ferry us across. When daddy drove the horses onto that barge I remember clinging to mama's skirts and waiting for the "end of the world". We made it across okay and I felt blessed relief when we were once more on solid ground.
I don't think we lingered long at that place. Daddy pressed on. I cannot recall very much about the trip into Oklahoma. I do remember the dense forest of trees. They are all gone now. I do not recall passing through Durant. In fact I think daddy purposefully avoided the big cities.
I do remember Caddo. And as I recall Caddo looked then very much as it looks today. At least main street did. There may have been a wagon yard there, and we may have spent the night. I am rather vague on that point. I do know we stayed there a while, made some purchases, and Daddy talked to some of the men about locations and working opportunities. Then we went on the Caney.