Francis D. Taffe


Francis D. Taaffe. When, in 1901, the news spread over the southern part of the Choctaw Nation that a railroad was about to be constructed into the beloved land of the full-bloods, these Indians and others of lesser Indian blood organized for the purpose of making a determined effort to forestall the accomplishment of this enterprise. They armed themselves and divided into squads that were scattered over the timber country that skirts Red River and extends north toward the Kiamichi Mountains. Surveyors for the Arkansas & Choctaw Railway Company already had entered the Indian Nation and their lines ran over the fields and pastures of the red man, penetrating what for two or three generations had been favorite and prolific hunting grounds.
Serious trouble was averted by the surveying party having as a member a young man of Choctaw descent, a descendant in fact of one of the most beloved chiefs of that race, who dissuaded the enraged Indians from their purpose of firing upon the party. This is an important fact in Choctaw history, for the man that finally made possible the building of the railroad also was responsible for the development of a rich timber and agricultural region which already was being rapidly settled by white people. The young surveyor was Francis D. Taaffe, the son of a New Yorker who long before the Civil war was a factor in the education of the Indian and in his full preparation for the forthcoming duties of citizenship. An account of the activities of George Taaffe is an interesting chapter of Choctaw Nation history, and although it is known but briefly at this time, additional data is being accumulated. When George Taaffe was but a child, his father settled at the historic old Village of Rocky Comfort, Arkansas, which is situated near the eastern boundary of the Choctaw Nation. When he grew to manhood he began the development of the country and so prospered in agriculture and in the cattle industry that at the time of his death, which occurred in 1887, it was said that he was the wealthiest man of that region. Mr. Taaffe fought in the ranks of the Confederacy throughout the period of the war between the states, and was orderly sergeant under Captain Lester, who now lives at Nashville, Arkansas, and who declares that Taaffe was a brave and dependable soldier. Mr. Taaffe married a daughter of Frank Harris, who was of Choctaw blood and who was a cousin of Justice Henry Harris of the Choctaw Supreme Court. This gave him a “right” in the Choctaw country and he held several offices of importance under the tribal government in Red River County. For several years Mr. Taaffe was superintendent of the large plantation operated by Col. R. M. Jones,-who was one of the most picturesque characters of the Choctaw Nation. In 1887 Mr. Taaffe was murdered in the Red River bottom by a party of negroes, one of whom was subsequently executed under the order of Judge Parker, at Fort Smith, and during the administration of Judge Clayton as district attorney for that part of Arkansas which embodied that part of the Indian Territory embracing the Choctaw Nation. One of them was wounded and died on his way to Fort Smith, and two others, who were implicated by confession in the tragedy, were killed while scouting in the Red River bottom.
George Taaffe was the father of the following children: Francis D.; Mrs. A. J. Arnote, who is the wife of an attorney at Antlers, Oklahoma; Mrs. B. F. Rainey, who is the wife of a farmer at Ardmore, Oklahoma; Mrs. May Sauls, who is the wife of a mechanical engineer at Broken Bow, Oklahoma; Mrs. Maude Knight, the wife of a contractor at Atoka, Oklahoma; Mrs. John William Kale, of Chicago; and J. W. Taaffe, who is engaged in farming in McCurtain County.
Francis D. Taaffe was born in what is now McCurtain County, Oklahoma, near the Village of Janis. in May, 1877. The first school he attended was a neighborhood institution on Pine Creek, the schoolhouse having been built by his father, while the first class there was taught by Mrs. Wilson, his father’s sister. At that time the nearest postoffice was twelve miles distant and the nearest doctor’s office an equal distance away. The first family physician was Doctor Sagar, a practitioner who in later years gained considerable professional reputation in the line of surgery. The next family physician was Dr. C. A. Denison, who is now president of the First National Bank of Idabel. Few white people lived here at that time. From 1892 to 1895 Mr. Taaffe was a student in Jones Academy, under the administrations of Simon Dwight, who was the first superintendent of the academy; William A. Durant, who is now a member of the Oklahoma State Legislature; and Samuel Adams. After leaving Jones Academy he entered the service of the United States Geological Survey and for one year assisted in running section lines over the Choctaw country. Thereafter he was in the Government service for several years as deputy United States marshal, serving first under Maj. B. F. Hackett, of McAlester. From field deputy he was removed to the post of special deputy and retained a commission in that capacity until statehood, in the meantime being also in the service of the Central Coal & Coke Company and the Arkansas &Choctaw Railway Company, as well as the Red River Timber Company, of St. Louis, Missouri. While with the latter concern, in 1904, he was united in marriage with Miss Lulu Alice Spaulding, daughter of Judge G. A. Spaulding, who was United States commissioner in the Choctaw country for a number of years., Mr. and Mrs. Taaffe have three children living: Alyee Claire, aged nine years; George Spaulding, who is seven years of age; and Harry Irvin, aged two years. Another child, Mark DeSales, died at the age of two years. In 1912 Mr. Taaffe was appointed deputy county surveyor under A. W. Felker and in that same year was elected to the office of county surveyor. He was re-elected without opposition in 1914. The wife of Samuel Garland, one of the early chiefs of the Choctaws, was an aunt of the mother of Mr. Taaffe, and Mrs. Garland was a sister of Rhody Pytchlin and Peter Pytchlin, the latter another of the prominent early-day chiefs of the Choctaws.
Mr. Taaffe is a member of the Masons, the Knights of Pythias and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and in a professional way is identified with the Oklahoma Society of Engineers. He made the surveys and plans and specifications for the Idabel water system and for the McCurtain County Fair Association, the latter of which was permanently established in 1915. During the administration of Col. Sidney Suggs in the capacity of state highway commissioner, Mr. Taaffe was appointed assistant state highway engineer. With his family he resides in his comfortable and attractive home at Idabel.