CORNATZER, KATE G. INTERVIEW 12627
(transcribers note: The Chambers boys, Joe, Blackie, & Claude, were ggg-grandsons of Cabin Smith)
Journalist, James R. Carselowey,† January 10, 1938
Interview with Kate G. Cornatzer
Corner Fourth & Canadian Ave.† Vinita, Oklahoma.
My name is Kate G. Cornatzer.† I was born at Secar, Illinois, on August 17, 1865.† I first came to the Indian Territory in 1902 as a teacher in the Indian Territory schools.† I received my education at the Female Orphan School at Camden Point, Missouri.† I graduated from the school in 1887, and began teaching school in Missouri where I taught until I came to the Territory.
My sister, Elizabeth Zimmerman, was a milliner and was sent to the Indian Territory by one of the St. Joseph Millinery Companies.† She was working at Tahlequah when she met J.C. (Cale) Starr and married him.† They made their home in the town of Grove.
I came to Grove in 1902 and began teaching in the Grove School.† Here I taught until Mr. Starr moved to Vinita.† I then came to Vinita and taught for several years in the Carselowey and Longview schools.† When Mr. Starr went into the oil business I quit teaching and worked in his office.
On October 17, 1911, I was married to Cyrus G. Cornatzer, a Shawnee Indian, whose Indian name was See-tah-way-see-cah.† He was the son of Samuel M. and Caroline Cornatzer, and came to the Indian Territory from Kansas with the Shawnee tribe of Indians.
Mr. Cornatzer was educated in the Johnson County, Kansas schools.† He was at one time Chief of the Shawnee Indians, and after moving to the Indian Territory was elected as solicitor or prosecuting attorney of Delaware district, serving for a number of years.† He also served as a member of the Cherokee council from Cooweescoowee district in 1895.† He was a great lover of fine horses and was well known all over the middle west for his running horses and attendance at the big racing circuits.† He was on his way to Hot Springs, Arkansas, with a car of race horses when the train was wrecked and he was badly injured.† He was taken to a hospital at Hot Springs, and it was there I married him.† I had planned to be married as soon as he returned from this trip and, as I wanted to be with him we were married at the hospital.† When he recovered we came back to Vinita and made our home on his farm, a few miles south of Vinita.
Mr. Cornatzer died at Vinita, January 5, 1925, at the age of 73 years.† On January 1, 1925, I was appointed as deputy under county assessor Mack Carselowey, who served eight years and was again appointed under ?.F. Bell who is now serving his fourth year in this year of 1938.
The Founding of Claremore
My brother-in-law, J.C. Starr, had a half sister by the name of Minnie Evans, who in 1883 married Teesey Chambers.† At the time of the marriage Miss Evans was teaching school at the West Point Cherokee School, located one mile south of the old fair grounds near Claremore.† She, like her husband, Teesey, was a member of the Cherokee tribe.† They settled on the homestead on the hill now occupied by the U.S. Military Academy.† It was there their three children, Joe, Evans (Blackie) and Claude, were born.† Blackie was
destined to become the champion trick roper of the world in 1906 and held this honor for three years.† Claude became well-known physician and Joe became a very fine lawyer now located in the city of Tulsa.
It was Joe Chambers, Tulsa lawyer, and a descendant of one of those pioneer builders of the city of Claremore, who viewed his own and his father's life in those early days of the Indian Territory.† He gave authentic dates, and from his historical knowledge painted a word picture of the days of 66 and later days when deer and buffalo still could be seen scurrying through the tall blue stem grass of the prairie and the thick underbrush of the forest; of the time when mail was carried on horseback by hard riding men, who feared neither outlaw nor weather; of the first Frisco train to push its way southwestward across a new land to Red Fort and of the founding of Claremore.
His grandmotherís diary, which reveals the opening for business of the first store, is one of his most cherished possessions.† To W.H. Fry, 13 South Utica, Tulsa, a distant relative of Joe Chambers, goes the credit of possessing the original townsite map of Claremore.† This plat made by J.W. Scroggs in 1883 is still in a good state of preservation.† Fry also owns what is perhaps the only complete copy of the record of real estate transactions from the first public auction sale of lots in that town in 1883, until the Curtis Act changed the regime of Indian affairs in 1898.
Fry was born September 13, 1878, about 6 miles southeast of Claremore.† He moved to the little town in 1887.† He served as the last clerk of Cooweescoowee district, his term ending with the Curtis Act and it was while serving in this capacity that the valuable copy was made.
In the year 1866 the Chambers family settled in this sparsely inhabited section of the Indian Territory on Dog Creek, at a point three and a half miles south of the present site of Claremore. †Joe Chambers, the father, with Teesey and Willey, his sons, owned and operated from then on for sixteen years the Ponlas post office in connection with their store.† This little store on the bank of Dog Creek prospered under their management.† These sturdy men knew toil and hardship but in diligently plying their trade, they never lost sight of the great factor of life, honest friendship.† They hauled their articles of trade over-land from Fort Gibson to the store, and hauled furs and skins back to be shipped to market.
People came from miles around to trade at Ponlas to get their mail, for it was the only distributing point between Big Cabin on the north and Perryman's on the southwest.† Ponlas post office was on a Star Route which at that time extended from Chetopa, Kansas, southwest to the Sac and Fox agency, south of Stroud and the hardy mail carrier rode horses, the only quick mode of conveyance through this thinly populated district.
The Coming of the Atlantic and Pacific
In 1881 the dull grey rails of the Atlantic and Pacific line (now the Frisco) stretched like two long ribbons across the flat unfenced plains.† At the present site of Claremore a switch was built that trains might pass at that point.† There at the switch, Joe Chambers and his sons had a vision of a city. †About that time John Bullette moved a store from near Claremore mound and located it in the new settlement of Claremore station.† It was in this store that the post office was placed. Other people seeing the facilities offered, started moving in to be near the new railroad.
It should be known that this settlement was building on public domain of the Cherokee Nation.† Wishing to plan and build a well ordered town the pioneers obtained a grant of one square mile from the Indian Commissioner, with the understanding that, the proceeds from the sale of lots should go into the Cherokee treasury.† The site was surveyed and a plat made by J.W. Scroggs in 1883.† Three commissioners were appointed: W.E. Sanders, James M. Keys and Hooley Bell, and the first auction sale of lots was held on August 11th of the same year.† It is interesting to know that the record of sales shows that the first six purchases were made in the name of the Chambers family.† It is also interesting to know that these six lots were bought for the grand total of $90.00, the price of the lowest being $5.00 and the highest being $31.00.† Forty-four lots were sold under the hammer, the purchaser having the right to pay for his purchase in three yearly installments. †Among the lots sold were those on which buildings had been previously built and it was necessary for the builders of these structures to buy the lots to protect their interests.† Similar sales were conducted in the fall of each succeeding year until the year of 1898.
The Coming of Another Railroad
In the meantime; about the year of 1889, the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railroad (now the Missouri Pacific) crossed the territory from the north to the south, and opened up a new trade territory for the rapidly little growing town of Claremore.† The depot to serve the passengers of the new road was built almost a half mile east of the Frisco depot, and immediately new buildings sprang up along the connecting street.† Later, the health giving properties of Radius water was discovered and hundreds of people poured into the new Mecca of health to take the famous baths.
On November 16, 1907, statehood swallowed the old Indian Territory.† Making laws for a new state was a tremendous task, and into that ordeal Joe Chambers was hurled to serve his first term in the stormy session when the state capitol was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City.† During the World War, he held two major positions at the same tine.† He was probate attorney for Rogers, Nowata and Washington counties, as well as chairman of the local Board. †Twelve hundred and six men were sent to the training camps under his orders.† He served in the thirteenth and fourteenth state legislatures and then was given an appointment with the Home Loan Corporation of Tulsa.† Because his legal practice demanded a greater part of his time in Tulsa, and because Tulsa offered larger opportunities, Joe Chambers moved from the thriving city of Claremore to Tulsa in 1920.† His greatest sorrows came with the deaths of his father in 1921, and his mother in 1927.
He married Eunice Knowland in 1912, and today they reside at 219 East Twenty-seventh Place, Tulsa.†
A Note from Grandmotherís Diary
A note from the diary of Joe Chamber's grandmother, Nancy Jane Chambers, which notes in a paragraph the birth of the town of Claremore reads as follows:
†Old Ponlas, September 14, 1882:
Willie and Teesey commenced moving the store yesterday.† Will finish today, perhaps, up to Claremore station.† May they do well is my wish in all of their undertakings.