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March 20, 2001

A few more interesting notes have come along regarding the pioneer Will Little, who is credited with planting the first elm trees in the Noble county courthouse park. He apparently performed the same act with hardy pine trees in Perry’s Grace Hill Cemetery. Don Stoddard writes that his uncle, Roy Stoddard, was one of a crew employed by Mr. Little when the cemetery pines were planted. Roy Stoddard’s story doesn’t end there, however. In an accident totally unrelated to the tree planting, he met a bizarre death on December 5, 1915. Details were contained in a Perry newspaper story bearing this headline: ”Roy Stoddard Meets Death; Young Perry Man Whirled to Death by Fly Wheel of Oil Pumping Machinery”.

The headline states that he was “whirled to death,” but the story does not specifically confirm that fact because there were no witnesses. The reporter’s account states: “How Roy was killed will never be known,” but it speculates thus: “Indications were that (Mr. Stoddard) had been caught by the fly wheel of the engine (on an oil rig where he worked) and carried over and crashed to death upon the floor.” The mishap apparently occurred after 1 a.m. when no other workers were on the site. The unfortunate Mr. Stoddard was found with a fractured skull, left arm broken in two places, the body and legs badly bruised.

Still, that’s not the end of the story. Don Stoddard adds that Roy Stoddard was married to a “Goldy Hart,” who had the same last name as the original owners of the cemetery land. Don feels certain that his uncle was part of the team when those original pine trees were planted at Grace Hill.

On a separate occasion, Bob Edgar called my attention to the excellent master’s thesis written by the late Ethel Knox in 1937. The title of her scholarly work is “The Beginning of Perry, Oklahoma,” and it is among the reference books on Oklahoma history at Perry Carnegie Library. I also have a copy and it has been used on numerous occasions. The book contains considerable information about Mr. Little. Miss Knox called him “perhaps Noble county’s greatest patriot and public benefactor.”

Bob came across the thesis at the library while searching for information about the Hemsworth Hardware Store, which apparently was in business here in the early days. Bob found that name imprinted on a wooden yardstick that he extracted from between the walls of a house he owns near the corner of Fifth and Holly streets. My 1910-1911 city directory does not list that store name, but three members of a Hemsworth family are named. If you have any information about the hardware store, contact Bob.

Here’s one more followup to an earlier column regarding the possibility of a filial relationship between CBS news anchor Dan Rather and the late Adie Mae Rathers Cook of Perry. Carolyn Chopp has been following this discussion and she sends along a copy of a portion of the weekly Tonkawa News, dated March 1 this year. It contains a death notice for a lady named Marvel Mae Duarte, identified in the story as the daughter of John and Adie Mae (Francis) Rathers of Perry. The account relates that Mrs. Duarte was born in Perry on Nov. 15, 1938. Thanks to Carolyn and others for their contributions to this speculation.