The Caddo Herald
September 6, 1929
33 Years Ago, Sept. 4
Thirty-three years ago Tuesday there landed in Caddo from St. Louis a shy Jewish youth in his teens. He had a small stock of nice dry goods with him, about $200 worth. He rented a small wooden shack next to the old W. P. Wood Drug Store and there displayed his wares for sale. He then had one small counter and one small showcase. He improvised some shelves and put himself to work to make friends with the people. From the first he realized that he must make friends with the people if he would sell them goods and supplies.
And he did it.
Soon the name of Ben Siegel was known far and wide about Caddo. At that time Caddo was a better town than Durant, more stores, more business. Caddo had been a good town since 1871 and many cattlemen and traders made Caddo their headquarters.
Ben Siegel had a small beginning. But he grew. He attended to business, studied styles and the needs of the people and little (by little) added to his stock until he had one of the biggest in the Territory. But all the time he was making friends. He bought the produce of the folks. He acted as banker as well as merchant. With the advent of statehood he became a citizen the same as others, and always did his part in building the town, city and state.
Ben Siegel was born in Russia, near Memel, near Riga. He was ten years old when he came to America and had some schooling in St. Louis, then came to Caddo at the age of eighteen.
Several years ago Ben Siegel moved to Durant for a larger outlet of his mercantile abilities and he has prospered there.
But Ben has a warm spot in his heart for Caddo. He brought his wife, a young bride, to Caddo; his two children were born here. They attended Caddo schools, they grew up with Caddo boys and girls and so he feels like Caddo is really his home.
As the older citizens look back to the time that Ben Siegel came to Caddo they see many changes. There were no brick buildings here then, no sidewalks, no schools, only small struggling churches, no roads, no highway, no waterworks, no sewers. There were no radios and no county fairs. Looking at it this way it seems we had nothing then worthwhile, but we did. We had honest, eager energetic citizens, a rich soil and a will to win and to work. People loved and wed then as now. We ate the same foods and enjoyed the same sleep.
With the passage of time these modern conveniences were added unto us until Caddo is as modern as any town, having all the attributes of a city except a large population.
Furthermore, if all the people who ever at any time had lived in Caddo were here now we should have a town larger than Durant. “You can hardly find a town in the southwest but has someone living in it who once lived in Caddo. This town has contributed largely to the population of Durant, Oklahoma City, and Altus, especially.”
It is well for us to look back as well as forward. Most everyone is like Ben. We love best the scenes of our struggles, achievements, and youth.
“From Prairie Peddler to Merchant King- The Early Life of Ben Siegel” is available at Craighead’s in Caddo, and from the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives. The cost is $15. If you order from the library please add $3.50 for shipping and handling. The library address is P. O. Box 153, Calera, OK 34730-0153 or you may call them at 580-434-5848. Remember that although this book is primarily about Mr. Siegel and his business it also mentions many of his customers, neighbors, and friends. There is also specific information about Jake Amsel, Sam Joels, Nathan Damie, Raphael Wilkowisky, Sam Jed, I. Engelberg, and Louis Rothbaum. I hope you enjoy reading more about this remarkable man.