Haskell County Historical Society

McGuire, Bass - Interview by Kevin Crammer

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BELLE STARR Rides in Haskell County, Oklahoma

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By Kevin Crammer

Stigler High School
March 11, 1984

KEVIN CRAMMER: What is your full name?

BASS McGUIRE: Bass Little McGuire.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Where were you born?

BASS McGUIRE: I was born just about 3 miles east, and 2 miles north of Stigler.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Can you give me the names of your parents?

BASS McGUIRE: George McGuire and Pearlie McGuire.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Do you know when you parents came to Stigler, or were they born here?

BASS McGUIRE: No, my father was born in Rockcastle, Kentucky, and my mother was born in Harrison, Arkansas. They came here in the Indian Territory days, I was born here in the Indian Territory days. When I was 8 years old, I'm 83 now, and when I was 8 years old, this was called the stretch. Whenever you left this little old town going east, it was 5 miles before you came to anybody's house. It was 1870's, just open country, no roads, no nothing. And my father blazed out the first section lines in Haskell County when it came into statehood. And do you know how they measured them off.


BASS McGUIRE: A wagon wheel. They took and marked a wagon wheel with a white spot on it, and measured it so many yards around. And they ran a spoke through there and one on one side and the other rolled that right down through the woods and everywhere, and every time that would come around so many yards, a fellow followed (ding) him with a pencil and paper and he would put down that. It would take so many yards to make a mile section.

KEVIN CRAMMER: And that';s how they marked off their land?

BASS McGUIRE: And then just take an axe and cleared the trees off. Cooked the bark off some of them.

KEVIN CRAMMER: So they came out here in a wagon, didn't they?


KEVIN CRAMMER: What kind of work did your father do?

BASS McGUIRE: Well, he ran the cotton gin a while, and he was, well, what they call them days a veterinarian.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Do you have any stories your parents used to tell you when you were little, growing up back in them days?

BASS McGUIRE: Well, in them days there wasn't no bridges to cross the rivers or nothing and they traveled in the covered wagons, and they would always have 4 or 5 wagons. There weren't any wells in them days, they didn't know what a drilled well was. I don't know how they found out where a spring was or where a creek would be, but they would put a 50 gallon barrel of water on the side of the wagon. That a way it fastened on, and they would take their grub in one wagon and then they had feed and corn and hay and horses and colts and young stuff followed them. And when they got to a river, if it was up, why they would just wait until it went down, sometimes they would swim if it wasn't too deep. And it would take days and days and days and they would always try to get to a hole of water or where was a spring. And if they couldn't , they had enough water to last them till they got to it the next day. And whenever they got ready to settle somewhere, they had to build log houses, there wasn't no saw mills and no lumber, they built them out of logs. And they had dirt floors, for years, just dirt floors.

KEVIN CRAMMER: And all they had to work with was their axe?

BASS McGUIRE: Axe. My daddy told me about one time they was leaving here, going to Cherokee country. My daddy is part Cherokee. I guess I am too. They had 5 or 6 wagons and they would always have a big bell on one cow, it was gentle. And the other cattle followed that old cow with the bell on it, they called the old bell cow. And they would push her out in the river and swim her across and they would all just follow her. And it was awful muddy, it was the winter time, and they were going north down here by Tamaha and they crossed a river, and all the wagons was in front of him, and every time they would go up that river bank they would cut a rut. And when he went up, it cut so deep, why he stuck and broke his double tree, and I just wondered what he was going to do. Of course they had some chains and put them on the end of the tongue and got the other team and pulled him up. I said, what did you do? And he said, we just rounded the wagons up in a circle and the women got the pots and pans out and went to cooking and got some logs there and set them on fire, built a brush pile. And I said, what did you do about a double tree? And he said, I went out and cut a post, a tree, down small, and hued that out. I just wondered how he was going to get three holes, one in the middle, and one in each end. You've seen a double tree.


BASS McGUIRE: And I said, when you got it made. He said, it would take me about three days. And I said, well, where did you sleep? And he said, well he'd pull a wagon sheet out of the wagon and put hay in there and put the wagon sheet over him and cover up with quilts, and the next morning he would get up and kick the snow off of him. And I said, how did you get them holes in it there, I'm frustrated. And he said he'd take a handmade rod out of the wagon and stick in that fire and get red hot, and press it down on it, and it would burn through a little ways.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Just keep on doing that?

BASS McGUIRE: It took him a whole day to bore three holes. Now we can jump in a car and go to Fort Smith and get one and be back in thirty minutes. In them days you just pretty near lived off the face of the earth. Everything was wild, there wasn't no roads, only just they called them Indian trails. This was Indian Territory. If you wanted to go this way, why you just went that way. If it was near back east, you just went east. Maybe you would drive all day and never see nobody. Of course again you would saddle up. And then whenever my daddy and them, Sam Stigler, came up here and his name was Sam Stigler. And he put in a little store, then the post office, then they named it Stigler. Down there at Garland, where I lived a long time, well that was first named Longtown. Had a blacksmith shop there and one little store. A fellow by the name of Jim Long and two boys, their mother died, and they called it Longtown. And then Will Garland, he come in there and bought all that stuff out, and he had a lot of land there and put in a big store and cotton gin and grist mill, and he called it Garland and it's went by the name of Garland every since.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Did you ever have any run ins with any Indians in them days?

BASS McGUIRE: No, not say any. There was people that did have. My daddy said on time that there was a bunch come by and shooting guns and you could hear the bullets hit the wagon spokes. That's about the only time he said. Of course he's part Cherokee, and his daddy was, and his mother was a full blood, and she talked Cherokee, and if there was a bunch of Cherokee, she could talk Cherokee to them. They wouldn't bother them.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Can you tell me a little about back in the depression?

BASS McGUIRE: Well, it was an awful time back in the depression days. I was talking about we lived off the face of the earth when I was a kid, there was wild grapes, and there was wild grain, wild mustard, and wild lettuce, and wild onions, and wild plums. And there was a lot of bee trees, and there was a lot of deer and turkey and pheasants in this country. It was just wild like a wilderness. And that is what we lived on. And then they got to where they would go to Fort Smith every year and get a load of groceries. They brought flour back in a fifty gallon wooden barrel. Salt in a fifty water gallon barrel to kill hogs, to salt the meat down. Take about two days and nights, and there wasn't no hotels, motels, or nothing. They would stay in a wagon yard. And they would build a fire out there in this yard and there would be five or six families there. And they would fry meat and cook biscuits and stuff right there on the fire and make coffee.

KEVIN CRAMMER: What kind of guns did you have to hunt with back then?

BASS McGUIRE: Well my daddy had a 30-30 Winchester, and everybody carried a pistol, 45 Colts. And every morning when the people got up, a man, that's the first thing when they put their trousers on, they would put that gun on. And they carried that, that's all the protection they had, there wasn't no law here, in them days. A man who jerked a gun and could shoot it the quickest, lived the longest. They would have square dances, that was the only entertainment they had. When they went to build a house, they called it a house raisin' or raisin' a barn. They would cut logs and all the neighbors from miles and miles around would come in and they would put them logs out. And then when they got them up they would have a big supper and a big square dance. That was the only entertainment they had.

KEVIN CRAMMER: You were sheriff here a while back weren't you?

BASS McGUIRE: I was sheriff, six years under-sheriff, and two years sheriff, and I was chief of police and I worked at the state prison three years. I put in about 18 years for the law.

KEVIN CRAMMER: When were you sheriff?


KEVIN CRAMMER: Did you have any run ins with any criminals?

BASS McGUIRE: A few, but not nothing to brag about. I helped a, caught two men down here been killed on the curve, on Keota, below Keota there. They called it the dead man's curve, and one fellow hit his daddy on the head with a coke bottle, they were drunk and fighting, by the name of Ben Martin. I caught him and sent him to the penitentiary for fifteen years. Then there is another one, of course, he just wrecked a car, and they named it the dead man's corner. Then there was man that shot himself up here one time and I had to go in the house and get him.

KEVIN CRAMMER: We were talking to a Mrs. Campbell about the depression and she was talking about WPA and how it was hard to find work, did you have any work back then?

BASS McGUIRE: The only work that I had in them days was digging coal, they had a steel shovel come in here and they were stripping coal. That was way back in 36. And there wasn't no jobs, eggs was five cents a dozen, and they would milk cows and run a separator and get the cream, it was six cents a pound, and two and a quarter cents a pound for hogs, and a cow and a calf, a good one would give four and one-half gallons a day, would bring 18 dollars. Now then they bring about 800.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Were you ever in the service?

BASS McGUIRE: No, I never was in the service. I had to register for the eighteen year old in the first war. I was supposed to go to the first one, but then they whupped them out and before then the war was over before I had to go.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Who all was in your family, did you have any brothers and sisters?

BASS McGUIRE: I had six sisters and two brothers. There were nine of us in the family. All living but two girls. My oldest sister is 95 years old, and she lives down here at Garland. And my younger sister lives in Winchester, Virginia. And my two brothers lives around here.

KEVIN CRAMMER: You all lived together in a log cabin?

BASS McGUIRE: Yes, I was born in a log cabin. Yeah, I'll show you a picture. Here is where I was born 83 years ago. It's not so dilapidated, it's an old house where I was born. And that's my daughter's picture and my wife's picture.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Where is this cabin at?

BASS McGUIRE: It's three miles north and two miles east. On what they called Judge Garland's place, he was Choctaw chief judge when I was born out there then. Then when they got statehood, why they went hiring officers. Governor Haskell was first in statehood. That's two, that's the Indian sheriff, two of them, Gene England and Dan Folsom and that's me, I was the youngest sheriff at that time anywhere in Haskell County. They had me to get them and take pictures for them, they are both dead and gone. I'm almost.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Well, it looks like you're still going pretty strong. You mentioned statehood, it has one here about statehood days celebrations. Do you remember much about that?

BASS McGUIRE: Oh, they had big suppers, you know political rallies is all. Big dance, square dance, you know we had them. That was the main thing, square dance in them days.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Do you remember anything about the civil war?

BASS McGUIRE: No, I remember my daddy and both my granddaddies fought in the civil war. My granddaddy in the was got shot in the belly with a lead bullet, but it didn't go to the hollow. And he was a brick layer, he was a brick molder. He molded brick in them days with his hands, and he built that jail at Tahlequah, him and my daddy and my daddy's brother. It's down there, it's big and made out of rock.


BASS McGUIRE: Yeah, it's still standing. In them days whenever a fellow murdered somebody, well they would run off to Missouri or Arkansas, or they would come up here to Indian Territory cause it was wild, there wasn't no officers. Then at statehood they got an old fellow by the name of Judge Parker. He was judge down there and they had U.S. Marshals well he was head Marshall, and he had a couple of deputy marshals and give them a dollar a day to come up here and camp in a wagon. And then when they had them dances around there once every two months, them outlaws scouted and would find out who they were. They would arrest them and take and put them in the wagon and put a chain lock around their leg and tie it around the wagon wheel. They had hay in there in the covered wagon in the winter time and when they got a load of them they took them back to Fort Smith. One dollar a day for all that. Old judge would hang them. He hung six men at one time. Had them all on the same step.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Do you remember anything about any lynch mobs where people get together and go out and hang somebody?

BASS McGUIRE: Well, they had them, but I didn't know anything about them. They used to, they didn't have no law so they would just gang up on a man who raped some woman or murdered somebody, civilians and neighbors would just go get him and hang him. Put him on a horse and get him under a tree and tie a rope around his neck, tie it to a limb, and then slap the horse on the hip and it runs out form under him and leaves him hanging there. Pretty tough living back in them days. Course I was too young to remember back that far. But I can remember when they had board sidewalks up here at Stigler and one cotton gin and one grist mill and one post office. And then they put in two wagon yards. They had horses and buggies to rent to people, trains run, you know then. The would come in here, their drummers they called them, were selling dry goods and things and they would go down and stay all night in the wagon yard and they had an old traveler's hotel they called it, and Levi Munci was the one who run that big wagon yard. They would give him two and one half or three dollars to hook up a team to a buggy and hauled their goods in a trunk. They would take it down there and let them look at it, and that's the way they done them days. Come in on a train, and then he'd bring them back. That's the only transportation they had, was wagons and buggies. Very few buggies them days.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Where did these trains run to?

BASS McGUIRE: Well, they would, one of them run from Muskogee to Fort Smith, the Midland Valley they called it. Go down in the morning and one would come up from Fort Smith to Muskogee. One would come down in the morning going to Fort Smith. And then in the evening he would come back to Fort Smith and the other one would go back to Muskogee. And I don't know where they went from there on.

KEVIN CRAMMER: Do you remember anything about dust bowl Oklahoma? We were talking to one lady and she said they used to have terrible droughts back then.

BASS McGUIRE: Dust Bowl? Oh yes. That was back in the depression days along about '36 when they had that awful drought. This western country just blowed pretty near away. And that dust would get up as far in the air and it would settle down here. Some mornings it would come a little shower rain, and the next morning that red dirt would be all over your porch and house and everything. It would come that far. It blowed that land away up there. Cattle died and one year there was a drought and there wasn' no crops you couldn't raise them. Shipped shucks, bailed shucks in here from Kansas. 20 dollars a ton. That's all the stuff you had to feed your horses, bailed shucks. Burnt up all the hay and corn and everything. It was pitiful.

KEVIN CRAMMER: So all you really had was your bare necessities, you couldn't have anything else?

BASS McGUIRE: Then the government came down here and killed a lot of cattle, at the droughts, and they would pay more for them than you could get anywhere else. Three or four maybe five dollars more. All the fat ones, well the neighbors had cookers and would sit up all night and can beef. They come down here and killed seven head for me. Just one truck in Stigler then, it was a little flat bed A model, bull of as many people as they could stick on it. As quick as that fellow would shoot one I would stick it and they would run in and drag it off and skin it. Take that meat back up here and can it. Cooked it in a wash pot till the bones come off of it. And then can that meat. And that's about all I know about old times.

(This concludes the interview of Bass McGuire, by Kevin Crammer.)

Bass McGuire - Interview by David Phillips

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