September 14, 1999
Hotel Moran, an early-day Perry hostelry, is shown clearly in this photograph which was made on October 3, 1893, only a few days after the Cherokee Strip land run. A pioneer of that period, John Knox, described an era in a colorful 1948 letter to friends.
John Knox was an authentic pioneer of the Cherokee Strip land rush on September 16th, 1893. He was not yet 20 years old at the time and therefore not legally eligible to homestead, but his father, Bethuel Knox, did stake a claim. Unfortunately, it was on Santa Fe Railroad right of way, so he was unable to hang on to it very long. The Knox family played an important part in the early development of Perry, so today is an appropriate time to hear about them as we prepare to celebrate the 106th anniversary of that great event.
In 1948, John Knox was living in Santa Ana, California. He moved there from Perry in 1918 but his thoughts returned to Perry each September. That annual wave of nostalgia motivated him in 1948 to address a letter "to the 241 pioneers and descendants (of the run)" who had registered at the previous year's celebration here. His letter is rich in colorful details with his recollections of Perry as it was shortly after the run, and I thought you would enjoy reading them. Jo Wollard Garten of Ponca City furnished the letter to me. She is the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. G.C. Wollard, two of Perry's distinguished early day citizens.
From this point, today's column is in the words of John Knox as they appeared in his letter to other pioneers of the 1893 land run. Here's a portion of what Mr. Knox had too say:
To the best of my recollection, and to begin with, I made the run from Kansas on the Santa Fe train, accompanied by my father, B. (Bethuel) Knox. Upon our arrival (in Perry) we located near where the Santa Fe station now stands on what turned out to be land owned by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company. Upon this site we built a shack which was called home. Prior to building that, we were forced to spend the first few nights on the bank of Cow Creek, along with hundreds of others who were without shelter and very little water for necessary purposes of life.
At that time I was under 20 years of age, and therefore, not eligible to take up a homestead. With approximately $5.00 between my father and myself, the thought of a capital investment in a business was somewhat remote. However, my father, in his younger days, was an auctioneer. Through our connection with folks who had ventured the same as we and who, rather than stay, desired to return to their women folks, allowed my father to pick up a little business by buying and selling various items. (These were things) which these folks had in their possession but were required to relinquish, so that some cash would be realized, allowing them to return to their homes.
With the thought of making my way in life, I called at a place where the Moran family was setting up some tents for the purpose of starting a hotel. This site was on the public square near where the present courthouse now stands. Without asking questions from anyone I immediately pitched in and helped set up the tents. Upon completion Mrs. Moran said to me: "Young man, you seem to want a job." To which I replied: "I surely do." With that expression she said: "All right, young man, I can afford to pay you fifty cents a day and board, providing you find your own place to sleep. I immediately went to work doing everything necessary in hotel work. This included being janitor, dish washer, second cook and night clerk. The greatest difficulty encountered was the handling of various characters of houseguests, which included drunks and outlaws. To mention one group, we housed and fed some of the Jennings gang. Fortunately, most of our guests were the better class of people of many walks of life.
Watch for the next Northwest Corner with more fascinating information from Mr. Knox's letter to Perry pioneers.