David Riley Carpenter, during a residence of fifteen years in Oklahoma, has become most widely known as a newspaper man and several years ago he made a very vigorous campaign for election as congressman at large. Most of these years have been spent at Dacoma, where he has been an aggressive worker for law and order and a force to be reckoned with in politics and affairs.
A son of Jacob and Elizabeth (Burton) Carpenter, he was born on the old Burton farm near Orleans, Indiana, January 12, 1854. Both parents were born in Ashe County, North Carolina, and the Burtons, numbering many thousands, are the largest family of record in the State of Indiana. Jacob Carpenter was of pure German descent, while Elizabeth Burton was of English and Scotch origin.
Largely due to the circumstances of time and place, Mr. Carpenter had poor school advantages as a boy, but eventually worked his way into the State University of Indiana, which he attended for a time in the early ’70s, though not completing the college course. At the age of twenty he was in Central Nebraska, then an unsettled country, and was a pioneer farmer there.
On January 1, 1877, he married Miss Emma Augusta Peak, who was then seventeen years of age. Among other accomplishments Mr. Carpenter may well be proud of the large family of children which he has reared or is rearing. They are twelve in number, and names and dates of birth are as follows: Albert M., December 3, 1877; Mary E., March 12, 1880; Roy A., August 28, 1882; John S. and Belva L., December 12, 1884; Anna B., July 25, 1888; David Orrill, July 23, 1891; Robert B., October 9, 1893; George B., July 16, 1895; Merle A., July 5, 1897; Marguerite, November 13, 1898; Guy E., June 14, 1903.
Though a part of his earlier years were spent in teaching school, most of that portion of his life was devoted to farming. Mr. Carpenter is also a mechanic, followed his trade as carpenter for a time, and at various periods, aggregating about ten years, has been engaged in newspaper work. In 1886 he was admitted to the bar in Chase County, Nebraska, but after a brief practice gave up the law for newspaper work.
Few men have a better acquaintance with the course of political sentiment in the West than Mr. Carpenter. He became active in the anti-monopoly movement in the early 70s, took a prominent part in the Alliance uprising and in the organization of the populist party in 1890. In 1888 he first met W. J. Bryan, then hardly known beyond the boundaries of his home district in Nebraska. They both spoke at a political meeting at Beaver City, Nebraska, and since that time Mr. Carpenter has been an admirer and supporter of the silver tongued orator in all the latter’s political adventures. For more than twenty-five years Mr. Carpenter has been on the political stump, and his clear and forceful manner of delivery has made him a place among the political orators of Oklahoma. He served as under-clerk in the upper house of the Nebraska Legislature in 1891, and was bill clerk in the Nebraska Legislature in 1893. In 1890 he was the farmers’ candidate for Congress on the populist ticket for the Fifth Nebraska District, and only a few votes stood between him and the nomination at the convention.
It was in 1901 that his life became identified with Oklahoma, when he settled in old Woods County. He was chosen to preside over the last big fusion convention of the populist and democratic parties ever held in old Woods County at Old Augusta, in 1902. When in 1912 Oklahoma elected three congressmen at large, Mr. Carpenter was one with twenty-seven others to make the race on the democratic ticket for one of the seats. In a number of counties where he was known he had a liberal margin of votes, but his statewide acquaintance was too limited to give him an equal chance with those who have made for themselves a name in the affairs of the state.
Not only in practical politics but to educational and other public affairs Mr. Carpenter has given a loyal support for many years. For one term he served as president of the "Commercial Club of Old Augusta, and there has been no undertaking for the improvement and welfare of the little town of Dacoma, Woods County, where he has lived for the past eleven years, in which he has not been one of the leading spirits and often prime mover. He has always stood for law and order, and his activities in the suppression of crime in his own town made him the target of the lawless element, and as a result, on the night of April 17, 1910, he was clubbed on the streets of Dacoma within a short distance of his own door. Fortunately for him, the culprit who attacked him was too drunk to accomplish his design, and Mr. Carpenter escaped with his life, but he still carries the scars of the murderous act on his head.
In 1912 Mr. Carpenter established the Dacoma Enterprise, and was its editor for three years until he sold the plant. He is a student of social and political economy, spends some time in historical research, and is now engaged in writing a book.