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Chapter 2
The Kern Family Arrives in Oklahoma

“ A classic photograph of Tulsa in the year 1893 has been beautifully recreated by Tulsa’s own Clarence Canning Allen in a painting he calls “Tulsey Town”. The picture, looking north down Main Street, was taken from about the intersection of Second Street and Main. The three men standing on the upstairs porch are Doctor Kennedy, his brother and his bookkeeper. Doctor Kennedy’s white horse and buggy can be seen standing by.

In 1893, my family lived in Weston, Nebraska, where Dad had a wagon and cabinet shop and was a building contractor. My grandfather, William B. Harrison, decided he wanted to see the opening of the Cherokee Outlet in Oklahoma Territory. He was eighty years old at the time and Mother tried to discourage him. Dad was working at the shop cutting lumber for door frames, window frames, and other items that could be precut or fabricated before hauling to the job site. 

He always did this and would say that anyone not knowing how would ruin more material than he would use. Mother sent my eight-year old brother Harry to get Dad to see whether he could talk my grandfather out of wanting to make the trip – a trip that was not a small undertaking in those days. Dad could not talk Grandfather out of going to see the opening, so Dad told him that if he would wait a few days to give Dad time to close up the shop and get a wagon fixed up and equipped for traveling, Dad would take him to see the run.

Making the trip from Weston, Nebraska to the Kansas – Oklahoma Line took them quite a spell. My Dad and Grandpa Harrison were traveling in a covered wagon and did their own cooking along the way. They passed through some orchards and helped themselves to some peaches. Grandpa kept eating the fresh peaches and Dad was afraid he would get sick, but Dad didn’t want to hurt Grandpa’s feelings by asking him to stop. Finally Dad said, “ Don’t you think those peaches would be good cooked?” To his surprise Grandpa agreed. This solved the problem of possible sickness delaying their trip and added to the enjoyment of eating fresh – cooked peaches.

Dad and my grandfather reached the Oklahoma – Kansas border several days before the run was to begin. People were camping and waiting for the opening of the territory. Since the water supply was very scarce, Dad got some barrels and filled them with water. He drove through the crowd saying, “Water! For five cents a drink and, if you don’t have a nickel, you can drink anyway!” 

He must have made many trips a day because he told me that some of the people he had given free drinks to often gave him a dime for their next drink. Dad put the horses and wagon up at a livery stable and he and Grandpa boarded a crowded train that ran from the border to Ponca City. They watched the crowds of people racing their horses to try to get to a place to stake out their claims. They watched the towns pop up overnight. Dad being a building contractor decided that Oklahoma was going to be a growing and prosperous place to live even though it was still Indian Territory.

The following year, 1894, my father moved the family to Oklahoma. Grandfather Harrison stayed in Nebraska with his daughter, my Aunt Clysta. The family consisted of my father, Charles Wesley Kern, my mother Emma Justine Harrison Kern, my brother, Harry L. Kern (1885), and my sister, Princess Marie Kern (1893). They stayed in Ponca City in Oklahoma Territory for a few months and then moved to Tulsa, Indian Territory.

Dad built a window frame and cabinet shop on the north side of the Frisco depot facing the depot to the south. There were no power tools in those days. All woodwork was done with hand tools, such as saws, hammers, chisels, bit and brace. He did rig up some treadle-powered tools, which were considered rather ingenious for the times. The family home was above the shop.

In 1898, my father bought the east half of the block extending from Cameron on North Frisco to the Katy Railroad tracks. He donated the north fifty feet of this property to the Katy Railroad for their tracks. He built three houses on the remainder of this property. The frame home on the northwest corner of Frisco and Cameron is where I was born on October 19, 1900. This six room frame house is still standing and in use at 302 North Frisco. This was my family’s first home in Tulsa (except for about four years that they lived above Dad’s shop).

In 1898, Tulsa, by counting the close-in farmers, reached a population of 1,000. This permitted incorporation of a charter for a council government. The year that I was born, 1900, the town had an election of aldermen. I have an old newspaper clipping describing their first meeting, which says: “The city council – our new city fathers make a good beginning. The city council met in regular session Monday night with Mayor L. M. Poe presiding. The following committees were appointed:

Streets and Alleys – C. W. Kern, A. T. Hodge and Dr. J. E. Webb

Sanitary Regulations – Dr. S. G. Kennedy, Dr. J. E. Webb and C. W. Kern

Public Improvements – A. T. Hodge, C. W. Kern and W. T. Brady.”

Dr. J. E. Webb and my father were hunting and fishing enthusiasts and A. T. Hodge also enjoyed these trips. Dr. Webb was to be my mother’s doctor when I was born, but he was attending a doctor’s convention in Kansas City at the time, so Dr. Sam Kennedy delivered me. My brother Harry also enjoyed fishing and hunting as the next two pictures show. In both photographs, Harry is the one in the middle of the groups. 

By the time of my birth, my family, the Charles Wesley Kerns, had indeed arrived in Oklahoma. We had a fine home, Dad was gainfully self-employed as a building contractor, the family had a good circle of friends, and Dad was an alderman on the City Council.

Mother and I spent most of that summer of 1910 in Beemer, Nebraska. We had traveled there to be with her brother, my Uncle Dick, as his wife, my Aunt Liz, had died suddenly of a heart attack and Uncle Dick was having a hard time adjusting to the loss. 

My mother was a practical nurse, so we stayed with him as long as we could that summer. The doctor told mother that Uncle Dick would not last long after she left. He was right. Uncle Dick died of grief less than a month after we had gone.

Reproduced by 
Kathie Harrison
Ancestral Whispers
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