Search billions of records on


Chapter 1
Historical Background

Being of a curious nature, I like to know what took place before I arrived. This chapter is devoted to summarizing many of the events of the past which have been recorded by historians. Quite often the reference books do not agree in every detail of their reporting of the same event but, since we were not here, we must rely on these reports to form our own opinions. Since the history of the United States is already well documented in many readily available publications, I will attempt to bring out some of those early events which bring us to the beginning of my story.

It is generally believed that our first inhabitants migrated here by way of a land bridge between Asia and the North American continent during the last Ice Age, perhaps some 40,000 years ago. At that time, a thick layer of ice covered the northern parts of what are now called Asia and North America.

During this time a land bridge some 1,000 miles wide joined Asia and the North American continent. Some of these people may have come by way of small boats along the coast but most of them probably came on foot, following large herds of animals. These people lived by hunting. They ate the meat and used the fur skins for clothing and shelter. Therefore we may assume that the American Indians are descendants of these original migrants from Asia.

It is said that when Columbus arrived in what we call America, there were some 800 tribes speaking some 300 languages here. The natives were called Indians because Columbus mistakenly thought he had discovered a new route to India. This was, of course, in 1492. During the 1600's, France was expanding and had established fishing and fur trading in the St. Lawrence River area. 

The Frenchman LaSalle sailed down the Mississippi River in 1682 and planted the French flag and cross at the mouth of the river and claimed for France all territory of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. This included the Arkansas River so that this area became a French territory. LaSalle called this territory Louisiana after King Louis the XIV of France. During the French-Indian wars of 1763, the territory was ceded to Spain.

The first permanent white settlement in what we know as Oklahoma was established by Major Jean Pierre Chouteau in 1796 at Salina. French traders had been here for many years. Spain relinquished its claim to the territory in 1800 so that it again belonged to the French. President Thomas Jefferson signed the papers with France to purchase the territory for the United States in 1803. This was the Louisiana Purchase. Shortly thereafter, by order of Thomas Jefferson, a group of white men began exploring the wilderness of the Arkansas river basin. This was the Lewis and Clark expedition.

In 1812, Thomas Jefferson decided to move the five civilized tribes from their homes in the southern states to Oklahoma. These tribes were the Creek, the Cherokee, the Seminole, the Chickasaw, and the Choctaw. 

Federal soldiers force-marched these people from their homes in Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and other states in the South to their new homes in Oklahoma. Many died along the way but the moves continued until 1837. These moves were to become known as the Trail of Tears. During this same period of time, 1817, Fort Smith had become a trading post and French traders, pushing their flat bottom boats with poles, came up the Arkansas and Illinois rivers to Fort Gibson to trade their trinkets for furs.

In 1832, traveling with the U. S. Rangers, a documentary writer and artist named Washington Irving passed through Tulsa. He is believed to be the first white American civilian in this area.

By the year 1837, the movement of the Indians was essentially complete. These five tribes had been well established in their homes in the Southeast. They knew farming, knew the White Man's laws, had schools and churches, and were educated. Although 2,000 Creek Indians had come earlier, the Creeks from Lochapoka, Alabama, made a mass move to Oklahoma from 1834 to 1836. In coming up the Arkansas River, they passed Fort Smith and continued up river until they spotted a large oak tree near a bend of the river. 

A brave carrying ashes from the council fires of Lochapoka, a sort of sub-division of Tullasai in Alabama, made a huge fire under the oak tree. There seems to be a variety of opinions as to what the brave said, but it sounded like "Tulsey" and "Tulsey Town" was born. It is believed that the word spoken came from a contraction of Tullahassee, meaning "old town," as was their old town in Alabama. Thus the Creeks gave us the name which later would become Tulsa.

The Creeks laid out their ceremonial square and left the oak tree standing in one corner as was the ancient Creek custom. They cut trees surrounding the square and built public buildings. Dwellings were built around the public square and the council fire under the oak tree was the place for their religious and government meetings. This oak tree still stands near what is now 18th and Cheyenne Streets.

The Choctaw language is supposedly the source of the name "Oklahoma." The references differ on the meanings of the two Choctaw words "okla" and "humme." One source gives the meaning of "okla" as "people" and the meaning of "humme" as "red," but another gives the reverse meanings -- "okla" as "red" and "humme" as "people". In spite of the differences, the general consensus is that the two words together mean "red man" or "red people."

In 1848, a mixed blood Creek Indian named Lewis Perryman opened his trading post for farm machinery and food goods near what is now 31st Street and Riverside Drive. His home was located near what is now 33rd and South Rockford Streets. By 1856, the Lochapoka Creek Indians were well settled in their new homes. They had built homes, had farms, and were working together with the other four tribes to establish schools and develop commerce for the betterment of all. 

Then, in 1861, the five civilized tribes were dragged into the Civil War. Being from the southern states they sided with the South and a Creek regiment joined the South. After the war, in 1865, the Indians had a very hard time. They had no treaties with the confederates and when the United States military troops withdrew from Oklahoma, they were left to the renegades of both sides who stole their stock and burned their buildings. Many fled to Kansas, including Lewis Perryman who died there.

In 1871, the Atlantic and Pacific railroads extended their lines into Vinita and Muskogee. Chancy Owen, having married an Indian woman, was allowed to own property and had a large cattle ranch in the vicinity of Broken Arrow in 1874. George Perryman, son of Lewis Perryman, moved back to Tulsa. All that was left of their property was a log cabin and a few outbuildings. He succeeded in rebuilding and had the largest ranch in the Creek Nation.

He opened the first post office in his home in 1878 and Tulsey Town became Tulsa in 1879 when the Perryman post office was designated Tulsa. The route was the Star Route from Vinita to Las Vegas, New Mexico. The United States mail was delivered by pony or wagon by a man named Green Yeargain. The post office served an area of about fifty miles around Tulsa and it is said that it was a beautiful home known as the White House. Josiah Perryman, George's brother, was the postmaster.

1882 was an active year. George and John Bullette established a general store at First Street and Boston Avenue which was the first of its kind in Tulsa. Supplies were hauled by ox cart from Coffeyville, Kansas. Bullette's farm later became the Bullette Addition which was the area northeast of First and Main Streets. (Our house at 602 North Detroit was in this addition.) Outlaws and cowboys alike came to Tulsa to get supplies.

The Frisco Railroad acquired the Atlantic and Pacific Rail Company and extended the line into Tulsa. The first train crossed the Arkansas River. The Perryman brothers opened a store downtown near the railroad tracks. Chauncy Owen put up a tent on a hill near the Arkansas River and sold beef and supplies from his ranch while his wife cooked meals for the railroad workmen. Other tents were set to sell whiskey, play cards, and the like. A small railroad station was built along the tracks and sold supplies to the railroad workers.

The founding of Tulsa is generally credited to the Hall brothers. The Hall's came to Tulsa in 1882 and were associated with the extension of the Frisco Railroad into Tulsa. The contributions to the growth of Tulsa by the Hall's, the Owen's, the Perryman's, and others are documented in many publications, such as "Tulsa's Magic Roots" by Nina Lane Dunn. There are numerous documents and books on file in the Tulsa City-County Library.

Tulsa was beginning to look like a developing young city. The first train had crossed the Arkansas; a post office had been established; stores had sprung up near the railroad. By 1884, Tulsa had its first newspaper, "The Indian Chief", and Tulsa's first school had been established at 4th and Boston by Presbyterian missionaries. This was to be Tulsa's only school until 1900.

There were five land runs into Oklahoma Prior to 1900. Those were the land runs of 1889, 1891, 1892, 1893, and 1895. The largest of these was the run of 1893 when the Cherokee outlet was opened. This brings us to the time when our family made its entry. At this point, it may be well to introduce a cast of characters and to illustrate their relative positions on the family tree.

The Glasscock family is known to have owned land in Virginia as early as 1635. They were of English descent. Michael Kern came from Holland and is known to have been in Morgantown, West Virginia in 1772. He built a stockade fort in the wilderness where Morgantown now stands. The first grain mill in the district was also built by Michael Kern. My father, Charles Wesley Kern, was born in Ridgefarm, Illinois. His father, Aaron Kern, had a blacksmith shop and was also a Methodist preacher. As a young man, my father worked in a drug store and at various other jobs, but he was a building contractor by trade. 

He met Emma Harrison while visiting his sister, Rachel Kern Phelps, in Yutan, Nebraska. They met at a dance and were later married in Fremont, Nebraska, in 1884. They homesteaded in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Because of a drought and the death of their son Herman in a diphtheria epidemic, they returned to Weston, Nebraska and Dad set up a wagon shop.

The Schad, Dietrich, Pfrang, and Hinz families all came to America during the Carl Schurz Rebellion in Germany in 1848. The Schad and Dietrich families came from Bavaria and settled on a farm near Valders, Wisconsin. The Pfrang and Hinz families came from Saxony and settled on a farm near Plymouth, Wisconsin. Peter Schad grew up on the family farm in Valders but became a blacksmith and moved to Plymouth where he met and married Kathryn Pfrang.

Now that we have our characters identified and in their proper places, we can continue with our story. The Land Run of 1893 opened more than six million acres for settlement and was the largest of the land runs. The following map shows the approximate major sectionilization of the state at that time. From this point on the material in this book is based upon data found in my father's files, what he has told me, and what I have actually seen, heard, done, or felt in growing up with Tulsa.

Reproduced by 
Kathie Harrison
Ancestral Whispers 
Copyright 2012 
All rights reserved.