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Updated: Friday, 26 November 2004


Story of Our Oklahoma Life
Pappa and I storry of our trip to
Oklahoma
by Matilda Artnecie NIMROD-DRIGGS

When we come to Oklahoma - May 1893

This land was opened for settlement in 1891. Bert run with his father. both got on this 160A. Father Driggs on the N. and Bert on the S. so thats why we only had 80.
We were married in 1892, Sept. 25.
We did not come down here till the next May (1893).
We left Father's house in Burden, Kansas on a Monday
(May 3) and we did not get here till May 10 (1893).
Mr. Walters tells of the longest night he spent.
Well, I can say the longest night I ever spent was the first night on the road. I slept in the tub of dishes, or sit up most of the time.
Bert slept in the spring seat. He said he didn't sleep very good either. We had everything we owned in the wagon, except 3 ponies and a little colt and dog.
I don't think it ever rained and stormed before that or after either as it did that week. We got stuck so many times, and had to ferry across Saltfork (sic) And had to be pulled across Black Bear by another team. That was a good man. I believe his name was Williams, he was going to Perkins driving his cattle.
It sure stormed (severe thunderstorm & tornado) the night we were over in the pasture on the Stripp.  It was then an old Indian wanted us to come to his wigwam but I told Bert I believed I preferred the wagon. Bert unhitched the team and tied them to the side of the wagon.
It got dark at 4 O'clock. We could not see anything. It rained and hailed and the wind blew so hard we had to stand up and lean against the bows we were afraid they would break.
I was scared so bad I think that is the reason I have been so afraid of storms ever since.
When we come through Perkins on Saturday we could see what a cyclone did to that town, when we were over in the Stripp. We had to go to Perkins to cross the bridge. 1
(one) house was standing on one side of the roof. I think several were killed.
Well we camped the last night over here in Big Creek Next morning we were going on East. I said "When will we see Cushing?" And Bert said "In a little while now." Pretty soon we got up on a noel
(knoll), and Bert pointed to a little tall house and said "There's Cushing." I don't remember what I said.
Well, I never saw a drunk man or heard a woman swear till we come down here. Another Driggs told me I would get use to both, but I sure did not. But one thing sure People were sociably and neighborly. I guess the reason they were that way was they didn't have anything to do anything with.
So we left my father's house west of Burden, Kansas on Monday morning
(May 3, 1892) and come here to Father Driggs' Monday May 10.

Mother gave me a dog which I didn't want but she said a lady gave it to her and she couldn't refuse to take it. So they tied it behind the wagon with a pony that had a little colt, so When we got to Arkansas City, Kansas, Bert turned him loose. But we didn't loose him. His name was Joe and he was grey and had whiskers and hair over his eyes.
When we got to Oklahoma to our claim, the dog would go down in the pasture and lay down with the little colt.

Storm
The night of the storm on the road Bert got out as it got light and he said "Till, do you know where the little colt is?" I said " I forgot about the little colt", and he said "It is under the wagon laying down with Joe."
To say we had a hard time the first 3 years is putting it mildly. I said I wouldn't write home for money and Bert said he didn't want me to. But if I would write here how we lived our children wouldn't believe us.

Father Driggs
(
John Hamilton DRIGGS) had a man that had oxen (possibly Jim Redburn of East Tryon, OK.) to plow some of the ground on our 80A. The Spring before we come down to Oklahoma (March or April 1892) so that ground had become fallow (meaning it would grow whatever was planted) so Bert planted corn and I guess that is what kept us alive. We would grate the corn for bread Now if we had milk and meat and grease to cause the bread to come out of the pan it would have been fine, but we didn't have milk, and no butter. Now you will say that is not so. But it is the truth. Bert had some ground broke close to our log house. We chopped into the sod with an ax and planted sweet potatoes, I mean the slips. It just rained so much that they grew and we had the nicest sweet potatoes I ever saw. Bert also planted (sugar) cane seed as everyone else did and when it was grown, we stripped the leaves off and took the cane stalks to a neighbor. And they made sorghum. We planted peanuts and they did so well and after the 3rd year we had a plenty.
Well, it would not have been so bad but in 1893 our first boy was born the 19th of September. We carried him on a pillow all the winter he was so small. He didn't open his eyes or wouldn't nurse till he was a month old. No Dr. No anything a person would think they ought to have. Well at 8 months old he was sitting alone on the bed and was trying to sing "Precious Jewel". You might say that is not so, but it really is the truth. I sang all the time when I was at work and I could tell he was listening. When he was 3 he could play a small violin his daddy got him.
Then in 1897 our second boy was born, March 25. When he was 7 months old we had a man to haul logs to the saw mill and had them sawed into lumber. The logs came from our own farm. We builded a house over by the main road, or where the main road would be, but we lived there several years before the road was made so it could be traveled. You see there was no fence, and no road when we landed there. So mutch work had to be done. We had to haul the water nearly 1/2 mile to cook and wash with. The first cow we had was when Claud was 4. I and Claud went down to the stable to watch Bert milk. We were so glad we had a cow. Then Bert traded the colt we brought down from Kansas with us to a well driller. We had a well drilled over the east side by where the highway would be. Where the road would be when it was made so it could be traveled.
When our second son, Willie was 6 months old we put up a one room house on the east side of our 80 out of native lumber from trees on our 80. It was 14 ft. wide and 18 ft long. Then in a year or too added a shed kitchen on the west side and a small pantry. Then in 2 or 3 years we builded a room and bedroom on the north end of our house so had more room as our family grew.
At this time we had a little girl baby. Born the 27th day of August, 1900
(1899), the day before my birthday. We named her Stella Lucinda. The middle name was Mother Driggs' name.
Then when she was 5 years old we had our last baby which was a boy named Thomas Clairmont
(1904). The first name for my father. We lived sutch a happy life Our children were good children.
At this time we had 3 apple orchards a peach orchard, 2 apricot trees and 2 yellow plum trees. We had all the fruit we could make use of. And Bert was really a farmer. he knew what to plant and where to plant it. We, as a rule had corn when none of the neighbors had none. About 2/3 of our farm was timber which furnished building material for our 2 first houses. We first had a log house 1 room. Then we had an old gentleman, Mr. (Bob) Keller to haul logs to the saw mill across the Simaron (Cimarron) river. Everyone called him Uncle Bob Listen. Then with this lumber we builded a long 1 room house over east where the main highway would be. Our youngest son was 13
(1918) when they blasted out the rocks and made a nice road. Then we builded a front room and bedroom onto the house we lived in. then when the children were all married we tore this house down and builded a 5 room Bungalo this made 4 houses we built on our farm. I have the pictures of this house and smoke house we had the nicest home of anyone around there at that time but I had to sell it when Bert passed away which broke my heart.
4 children
Claud of Cushing
William of Cushing
Stella Waldron of Colorado Springs, Colorado
Thomas Clairmont of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
14 grandchildren, 28 great grandchildren
11 great-great grandchildren Father died 3/11/37
(Bert)
Mother's name was Maud Pansys
*see Notes
~the end

(Written Bet. 1960-63)

* Notes: this is incorrect- her mother's name was Nancy CRAWN Nimrod

Great-Grampa Driggs had wells drilled on their land with the resulting of Natural Gas & Petroleum being found on their claim. The royalties provided them with a good income. Indeed they were considered quite affluent in those days. The raw gas was (at some time) also used to heat the house, by means of a line that ran into the house. A filter was placed at the point of entry which had to be periodically cleaned to remove the solids that otherwise might collect in the lines under the house. If this was not done, it could cause a fire or even an explosion. They lived a comfortable life after that.

After Bert died, Till sold the farm to her 2nd son, Willie, my Grampa, William Walter Driggs. Matilda bought a little house in town (Cushing) on 7th street where she lived the remainder of her life. She died in April of 1963, at the grand old age of 90 years. Great-Grandma Matilda Driggs left her house in town to Aunt Tish, Uncle Claude's wife, because she said she knew that Tish wouldn't sell it. The house was later given to Marlin Driggs, their son. Uncle Claude bought a house across the street on the west side, near his mother. Some years later, my Grampa, later known as Bill Driggs, sold the family farm to a Mrs. Jeffries and he removed to Fallbrook, California, where he lived for number of years until his youngest son graduated from High School. Afterward, Bill retired and returned to live out his life in Cushing, Oklahoma.

Mrs. Jeffries later sold the property to a Mr. Glen Cates, who had also acquired Uncle Walter's 160 acre homestead north of his father's 80-acres and Bert's 80. Mr. Cates built a grand new home in view of the Cimarron river just south of the Dunkin Bridge on the east side of the river, near the site of Uncle Walter's original home. It sits high on the prairie hill above the dangers of flooding overlooking the Cimarron river and flood plain to the northwest.

When I was a very little girl, we moved to Oklahoma from California in the summer of 1959. At that time, my Father's cousin, Faye Driggs was renting the house from Mrs. Jeffries. Faye Driggs was Claude Driggs' daughter. I remember on one occasion, at least, Pappa drove us all out to the old house when Faye was living there. Along the way, he explained that it had belonged to his grandparents and told us many stories of his summers visiting his grandparents there. When we turned off the main road and started up the driveway for the first time, I was struck by the simplistic beauty of the little white two story house that stood at the top of the hill at the end of the drive. The drive was lined with ancient cedar trees that perfectly framed the view of the house from the county road. Pappa told us the trees were planted by his Grampa Driggs, William Albert Driggs ~"Bert". These trees stood like sentinels along the steep dirt grade up to the house. It was a beautiful place. The trees still stand; the road still leads up to where the old home once stood. All that remains today is part of the foundation and part of an outbuilding that was next to the house. Great Gramma's Lilac bushes & Bridal's Wreath shrubs still grow along the remains of the retaining wall and steps up to where the front door once welcomed visitors to their Oklahoma Homestead. Tree roots and the shifting ground have done their part as well to remove the last bits of evidence that their home once stood there. I see the Old Cedars as a living memorial to the once proud but humble farmer who long ago risked his life in a race for free land.

(<- Wild Multi-flora white roses - Great-Gramma's roses! )
 

Bert and Matilda's beautiful little home would still be there today, had it not been destroyed in a fire in about 1979. Some people who were renting the house from Mrs. Jeffries at that time, were responsible for the fire. Evidently, the renters had not changed or cleaned the filter for the raw gas lines coming into the house, and the liquid collected in the house lines and caused an explosion and the little white house burned to the ground. Nothing remains but the concrete foundation and the steps up to where the front door had been. Some of great Gramma's Lilacs and Bridlewreath Spirea shrubs are still there and perhaps some of Great-Gramma's roses - tiny multi-floral clusters of white wild roses with yellow centers. Part of her old wash house that was built on the West side of the house was left standing, but I suppose it is gone now too.   

When my four children were small, Mr. Cates would allow us to go out to Great Grandpa Driggs' old home site every year to cut our Christmas tree.  (Multi-flora rosehips ->)
We would walk
 about the wooded hills and marvel at its beauty and I taught them about their Great-Great grandparents and their lives on that farm - stories of fond memories that my father had of days he spent as a child visiting his grandparents there. We dug some starts from Great Grandma's old lilac bushes. Part of her old "smoke house" was still standing the last time I was there and the remnants of their "cyclone" shelter which doubled as a root cellar for storing their fruits and vegetables through the winter. The last time we went there to cut a Christmas tree, as we walked back up the hill into the woods looking for just the right one, we came to a clearing that opened out onto a little meadow above the house. There was a little spring at the edge of the clearing, situated just at the edge of the hill where it immediately dropped away down into a thick stand of Black Jack Oak, Red Cedars and creek willows. I walked over to it for closer examination and found a little spring bubbling out of the outcropping of rocks and trickling over the embankment, where it flowed down the hill into the bigger creek far below. The creek at the bottom was the same one where Great-Grampa used to have to go to get their daily supply of water, hauling it back up the steep hill in barrels on the back of his wagon. And then I spied two little dark colored rocks laying on the red rock outcropping next to the little spring. The little rocks were blackish and almost volcanic looking and did not seem to belong there. I was curious about them so bent down to pick them up to get a better look at them. To my surprise, I discovered that they were very heavy. I surmised that they must contain iron, but where had they came from? There were no other rocks like it anywhere around there. The rocks from there North were red sandstone and from there South they were white or gray shale. A few years later I had a Geologist at OSU tell me that they were actually pieces of meteor...I had found 2 little pieces of a Falling Star! Truely, Great-Grampa's place had an strange enchantment to me and still does.

My Pappa gave me the old metal well-canister that was used to haul the water up out of that very deep well that Great-Grandpa had drilled in trade for the little colt. It is a long piece of tin pipe resembling a section of stove pipe about 3 feet long, with a trap on the bottom. When the water was retrieved from the well, it could be swung about on an arm and emptied into a bucket upon releasing the trap at the bottom. Every time I look at it, I think of them. I can envision the story that Great-Grandma wrote in her memoirs of the little colt that hid from the Tornado under the spring-board wagon with the little shaggy dog named "Joe". I have seen the rivers in flood stage and cannot imagine how they ever got across such as that. When the wind moves upon the prairie grasses, like waves on the ocean, and the damp, earthy smell of rain hangs in the air when there is an approaching storm, I get a glimmer of what it must have been like for them camped out on the prairie so long ago on the "Simaron Stripp" ... and her story becomes alive in my mind's eye.

More recently, Pappa gave me Matilda's "Sunday go to meetin'" shoes, the same ones seen in the photo above. They are remarkably like new. She only wore them on special occasions. Grampa Driggs gave them to my Pappa and he gave them to me. These things, simple and humble as they are, help me see them as real people, since I have no memories of them, instead of just names on a tombstone or a family pedigree sheet - And they keep the memories alive in minds and hearts of those who did know them.

My father was the only child of Ida & Bill Driggs who was born on the old Driggs farm. They moved around quite a bit in those early years (1920s-1930s), as Grampa worked for one of the Big Oil Companies in Cushing and they went wherever the Company sent them. Most of the time, the family lived on "The Company Lease". I believe that some of the children were born while they lived on the Lease. One year after my Pappa was born, when he was about 2 years old, they moved up near Guthrie where the Company had sent Grampa to work. It was too far for him to travel home even once a week in those days, and he couldn't afford it, so the family moved up there. Pappa says that even though he was only two years old, he can still remember riding the Trolley car to and from Edmond. It cost a whole dime...ten cents...a lot of money in those days! Ida Driggs's father, David BAILEY, had become ill and senile and they were taking care of him at that time, so they had a lot of mouths to feed. David Bailey quit farming and had worked for awhile as a Teamster for the Oil Companies before he retired due to illness. Using his team of farm mules, he would drag or haul the heavy pipes and timbers used in the construction of the tall drilling rigs wherever they were needed...hence the name "Teamster", because he used a team of mules to do the job. When the job was done in Edmund, Bill Driggs & the family moved back home to Cushing.

When my Father was born, my grandparents were living in Bert & Till's house. I guess there were no utilities at that time hooked into the place. Maybe electricity. Grannie told me that when they lived there many years ago, she had been using an old woodstove to cook on and to heat the water for bathing and dishes and laundry. Grampa bought here a new gas cookstove, and they just threw the old woodstove down into the creek. She said they didn't know the value of old things in those days. When something was old, it got thrown out for the new. She said later looking back on it, how foolish they had been to throw that old antique stove away like that. They only lived there for one year or so. It was even too primitive for those days, Grannie told me with a laugh.

About a half mile north up the road from Bert & Till's old home, there was a little white house on the top of a little knoll. My dad had fond childhood memories of that place - I think they must have lived there at one time. When I was a little girl, we went there to look around. Pappa even thought about us living there one summer. After closer scrutiny, he & Momma changed their minds. It had electricity, but no running water. The well was over 180 feet deep and water had to be hauled up by hand in a bucket. Behind the house to the south, a little dirt road wound down the steep hill to the Cimarron River to a place known locally as "Big Rocks". It was a favorite spot for picnics and swimming in the olden days. Grampa taught all his kids to swim there. He said it was where his father, Bert Driggs, had taught him and his siblings to swim, too. Grannie said that Grampa just grabbed them up and tossed them over the rocky cliff down into the churning, red water and told them to sink or swim! None of them drowned, so I guess they swam.

It was still a favorite local camp place and picnic area when I was a kid, too, in the early 1960s. We went there many times with cousins to camp for the Holidays, like on the Fourth of July or Memorial Day - Generally the men folk fished, the women rounded up kids and kept them out of trouble and prepared the food, and we kids swam in that red, murky water and got caked with slimy red mud. I remember sometimes how bad the mosquitos were in late summer when the water level in the river would drop and nearly dry up. One Spring, after it had rained quite a bit that particular year, Pappa took us seining for Crawdads. In a little depression up on the hill above Big Rocks, the rains had formed a little pool. Pappa said there would be crawdads in it. The crawdads were to be used for fishing bait to catch Catfish. The water was filled with silt from the bright red clay and it was slimy, looking rather like Tomato soup. They would not be able to see what else might be lurking in water like that. I was afraid of the poisonous snakes that infested Oklahoma waters, so did not join in, but watched from the safety of the nearby roadway as they waded in with Gunny sacks. I don't remember if they caught any or not.

Bert & Till's first home, their Sod House, has probably all returned to the earth by now. I have never been able to find it on the property, anyway. There is probably no one alive who knows exactly where it once stood. The well-worn path down to the creek where Bert hauled up water until they got a well drilled, long ago became overgrown with trees and brambles. It would be very difficult to even hike down there to the creek nowadays. You would have to chop out a path. Gone too, is their little 2-story wood-framed house that Bert built for Till after their oil wells came in and began to pay. Only the foundation of it still exists and the old cedars that lined the road up to it, but nothing else much to show that it was once a lovely little farm - No fruit trees, no barn, no well. The road has been washing away the past few years and now is closed off with a gate and locked to keep out trespassers. Mr. Cates is now gone too and the new owners know nothing of Bert and Till Driggs. Mother and I drove up the new driveway this Spring, to see if we could get in to walk around, but it too is under lock and key. I picked up a few of the gray shale rocks out along the road front. That Shale in Oklahoma means oil. I told Momma," These aren't just any old rocks...these are special Driggs Rocks.", and she laughed, but they came home with me just the same.

We could see one of the Oil pumps still pumping from the driveway. It is called a 'Grasshopper', and looks very much like one, too. At least some of the oil and gas pumps are still going on the property. Back when Bert and Till had the first wells drilled, they made enough money that they lived quite comfortably...not rich, mind you, but they were affluent. Bert and his brother, Walter, even invested some of that money, buying shares in the Cushing Hotel and buying up houses and other Real Estate in Cushing. The little house on Third Street next to the Cushing Memorial Park was one piece that Bert had purchased. He left it to my Grandma Ida, cause he knew that Willie would only sell it. He was right too. Ida kept that little house for many, many years. Bert also became a partner in a Hair Tonic company. the Tonic and Shampoo was produced right in Cushing. It was for restoring gray hair to it's former youthful color. I have a bottle of the shampoo and Tonic and a flyer about the company and product, showing Great-Grampa's name on it as the co-owner. Boxes of it were discovered in the back of Hall's Moving and Storage Company in Cushing, Mr. Hall called me Father about what he had found. We knew nothing of this business venture before that. And so we have discovered that Bert had invested at least some of the money he made from the Oil and Gas wells he drilled on the Homestead place.

After a few years, the Oil Boom went Bust. So many wells had been sunk that the market was literally flooded with unlimited amounts of crude oil. There was more oil than there was a demand for it, so the bottom dropped out of the market and the cost of crude per barrel dropped to an all-time low. Bert had the gas and oil wells capped because it didn't even pay to run the pumps. After Mrs. Jeffries bought the property from my Grampa, she had the wells re-opened and my father thinks she also probably had a few others drilled too. The "grasshopper" pump is cranking and spinning and chugging away, as it pumps that stuff up out of the ground. If you drive north on the Battle Ridge road and you look back behind where the Driggs house used to stand to the West, you can barely make it out. Apparently, Grampa sold the mineral rights to Mrs. Jeffries, as well, so no one in our family has since received any royalties from the wells that Bert and Till had drilled so long ago. Another bit of our lost inheritance.

And I suppose it saddens me to think that no one will never know anything of the sacrifices made and hardships endured by the Pioneer people who came there so long ago and raced across the prairie lands to claim a piece for themselves. No one will know how Bert Driggs swam across the treacherous Cimarron near the present-day Dunkin bridge, risking his life and hacking out his farm and building a little HOME to call his own...to live his dream and ultimately have it be as an inheritance for his children. But now that inheritance is lost and no one remembers or cares about those first Cushing, Oklahoma pioneers.

I wonder if my ancestors had known what the future would bring, would they have risked their lives & made the sacrifices they did for that piece of dirt? I wonder if they would have crossed the prairies and endured all the hardships they did if they knew it would all be for nothing someday? I wonder, would they have struggled so hard to carve out a better life for themselves and their children on that Prairie sod, living and working and praying for a better life during those wild & lawless times of Territorial Oklahoma? I wonder...

by - Teddie Anne "Annie" DRIGGS (January 30, 1999)

 

Just a Little Bunch of Roses

Rosa carolina (Oklahoma Prairie rose) - Carolina (Cherokee) Rose
This Spring in May 2001, these roses were found blooming along the roadside on Battle Ridge Road in front of Bert & Till's old Homestead property - Pappa said that his Grampa Bert Driggs had planted them over a hundred years ago. So, on Memorial Day morning, Momma drove out there & dug me up some "starts" from that Carolina Rose - It is like getting a little part of my Driggs Inheritance, DRIGGS ROSES , if you will, to grow and bloom on my very own little piece of dirt...where I live today in a little white frame-house on a hill surrounded by cedars...on land that formerly belonged to the Iowa Tribe...in the Red Sandstone Hills of Oklahoma.

 

To read more about "Willie" - my Grampa
William Walter DRIGGS Family

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"Just a Little Bunch of Roses"

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Updated: 11/26/04