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July 16, 1996

Digging through boxes of old articles retrieved from the attic, the storeroom or some other forgotten niche frequently leads to the discovery of a treasure trove of wonderful memorabilia. Most of us have experienced that, and a couple of friends recently told me about their serendipitous sojourns into the past, thanks to the location of aging relics of another age.

Zella Aigner opened a box that had belonged to Phillip Aigner, the brother of her late husband, John. Inside, among other things, was a book inscribed with the name of another Aigner brother, Joe, and the year "1913" inked alongside. Although the pages are fragile and the contents are largely illegible, Zella made out enough to know that it was an English literature textbook. Poets and writers from the 18th and 19th century are included. The book was purchased at the E. E. Howendobler Drug Store which was located on the south side of the square years ago.

This was especially interesting to me because, as I have mentioned previously, Mr. Howendobler ran a school of pharmacy in Wichita until coming to Perry at the time of the Cherokee Strip land run on Sept. 16, 1893. My dad, Fred W. Beers, graduated from the Howendobler School of Pharmacy and in 1895 came here to work for his former mentor. Sebastian Aigner, a native of Germany, was the father of the Aigner brothers. Mr. Aigner staked a claim in Noble county in the 1893 run, and that property is now owned by Zella's grandson, Darren Huddleston, who lives in Stillwater.

Shirley Williams has loaned me a copy of a little book which she recently came across. It is entitled "A History of Noble County, Oklahoma," written in 1958 by Mrs. Fannie L. Eisele of Covington. The book is probably long out of print and it is one that I had not seen before. In it Mrs. Eisele focused primarily on Perry and the surrounding community. An alphabetically arranged list of "old timers and others" leads off, and the legal description of the property held by each also is given. The list fills the first 58 pages of the little book, and the names range from "Joseph Abbett, SE 35-23-2W," to W. Zoung, SE 25-20-2W."

Mrs. Eisele fills the rest of the book (159 pages) with facts and anecdotes from the early days right on through the 1950s. One of the most interesting to me was a list of all our county agents, from W. L. English, who started in October 1908, to James Nelson Robinson, who came here in July 1955 and was still on the job when she wrote her book. The list of home demonstration agents ranges from the first one, Mrs. L. B. Whitney (February 1, 1913, to December 15, 1915) to Gladys C. Umwake, who came August 1, 1955, and was still on the job when the book was written. Our first assistant county agent was W. D. Daily (December 1, 1917, to May 31, 1918); the first assistant home demonstration agent was Garnett McNally (July 1, 1949, to December 31, 1950).

On page 88 she mentions Jesse James, whose name has appeared in this column several times lately, dealing with speculation as to whether or not he ever set foot in Noble county. Mrs. Eisele's item about Jesse was garbled in composition and it is impossible to figure out what she was attempting to convey. It starts out this way: "Jesse James of Bandit fame had an extensive hogxxxx" and the rest of the sentence is lost. At the bottom of that page it seems to begin again with a line that pops up in the middle of an unrelated paragraph. It reads: "xxxxrun from Orlando. He later had a store on the eastxxxx". Once again a line seems to be missing, but then it begins: "xxxxwas fenced with wire. Some of this wire was still up on the evening of the opening. It was now know that James came to the hog range occasionally, supposedly after pulling some outlaw stunt and to hide awhile." Unfortunately, that's all that appears on the subject, and Mrs. Eisele did not identify her source of information. Like most of the other local Jesse James lore, it is incomplete and a little bit incomprehensible.

Nevertheless, the little book is interesting in its collection of tales about the early days of this great country. Thanks to Shirley, Williams for letting me borrow it.