This piece is from my research of Judge John Lucian Rappolee. He was a young attorney in Caddo and later moved to Durant. His brother was Dr. Harvey Edwin Rappolee who served Caddo for many years. I like this article because it not only gives an account of one of the problems of the times, but some insight into the character of Judge Rappolee.
The Daily Oklahoman
January 15, 1911
Guardian Probe in Bryan County
New County Judge Will Make Effort to
Investigate Indian Affairs
Much Land is Sold
A Full Accounting Will Be Required of All
Who Have Acted in Past
Durant, Okla., Jan 12- (Special)-With one guardian before the district court on a charge of embezzlement and a new order established by the recently inaugurated probate judge, a more careful administration of the affairs of Indian minors in the this county is anticipated. A wholesale investigation is one of the possibilities.
Such a course was favored by Judge James Armstrong, who retired for the bench of the Sixth Judicial District last week to assume his position in the criminal court of appeals. Judge Armstrong declares the conduct of the guardians of Indian children is one of the most serious questions now confronting the officers of this part of the state and expresses the belief that many of them should be vigorously prosecuted. Miss Kate Barnard, state commissioner of charities and corrections, also is advocating the investigation of the administration of the affairs of Indian minors, particularly orphan children.
Much Land Sold
Much of the land of the Indian minors in Bryan County has been sold. In many instances not only has the surplus been disposed of, but also the 320-acre homestead, which it was intended, should be retained. Not many of the children have realized a great deal of benefit from the sale of their lands, which often were sacrificed. It is even charged that some of the land brought such a small figure that the buyer was able to borrow enough money on the land to pay for it.
In other cases it is charged that the cost of improving the lands, the guardians’ fees and other expenses have amounted to practically the entire amount the property brought when finally sold under the court’s order. One case was cited recently where an Indian minor, after all his land was sold, found himself actually indebted to his guardian, notwithstanding the fact that each Indian inherited $1,040.28 worth of property, besides in many cases, an interest in the allotment of some deceased relative.
New Judge Determined
County Judge J. L. Rappolee, the new probate judge, is determined that hereafter the affairs of Indian minors shall received close attention. He is opposed to the sale of any land belonging to an Indian child, believing that the property should be retained as a homestead, and has announced that hereafter orders to sell Indian minors’ lands will be the exception rather than the rule.
A strict accounting will be required in all guardianship matters regarding which the court is not fully informed. Restatement of such accounts will be asked, instead of a report of the transactions of the current years. A full report also will be required of the scores of guardians who now are resigning their positions of trust. Suits will be brought against the bonds of all guardians who are found to have squandered the estates of their wards. A suit of this character was tried at the recent session of the district court, wherein the guardian was an intermarried citizen and father of the Indian children whose estates he is alleged to have mismanaged. An eastern bonding company supplied his bond and judgment for the full amount of his alleged shortage was rendered against the company.
The guardian has absconded, thus escaping prosecution. Another guardian is not so fortunate, and is now out on bond awaiting trial at the present session of district court.