Frederick B. Severs


Capt. Frederick Ballard Severs. On April 23, 1912, death closed a life of great and useful activities and one whose record should be an inspiration to the living. Captain Severs was one of the men of Oklahoma who built on solid foundations, and what he built still stands as a testimonial to his life. For almost sixty years he had been closely identified with the old Creek Nation of Indian Territory and Oklahoma.
The scope and influence of his life are well illustrated in a series of resolutions which were drawn up by the city council of Muskogee, and made a permanent part of the city records and requesting the suspension of business during his funeral, which was attended by thousands of his fellow citizens and friends, including many of the men most prominent in Oklahoma affairs. From these resolutions some sentences deserve to be quoted:
“Captain Frederick B. Severs for sixty years has pursued an active, progressive and honorable business career in this immediate vicinity; his integrity of character, breadth of view, and patriotic devotion to public duty, as well as his blameless private life, constituted one of the chief cornerstones upon which our present prosperous and beautiful city is budded. He was not only intimately associated with the social and business life of this community from the very planting of Muskogee to the day of his death, but also had an intimate part in laying the foundations of its civic structure, having been a member of the first board of aldermen, elected without opposition and by the practically unanimous consensus of the people of the incorporated town of Muskogee. We feel, in common with every citizen of this city and vicinity who had the privilege and honor of personal acquaintance with Captain Severs, a deep, personal bereavement and recognize also, in full measure, the loss to any community of a man at once so generous, so brave, so upright, so far reaching in his activities, and, withal so kindly and helpful to his fellow man, and know that it is impossible to fully set forth in this brief memorial any adequate expression of the loss we have sustained, yet we do desire by this public action to honor his memory both as a citizen and as a man. Muskogee has lost one of its most valuable citizens and one not only beloved by all who knew him, but entitled to the sincerest respect and profoundest admiration of every citizen.”
Born in Washington County, Arkansas, August 13, lo35, Frederick Ballard Severs was a son of Charles J. and Besima T. (Ballard) Severs, early settlers in Washington County, where they established their home on a plantation near the line of the Cherokee Nation. The father was born in Tennessee and his wife in South Carolina, and they were both members of well known Southern families. He was a kind and generous father and gave to his children excellent educational advantages, and his home before the war was famous as a place for good living and hospitality.
Frederick B. Severs spent his boyhood days on this old Southern homestead, receiving his education at Cane Hill College. In 1852 he came to the Creek Nation to teach school. From that time until his death he was connected with members of the Creek tribe. After leaving school work he went into the pecan business and at one time shipped from the pecan groves of the Creek Nation more than 60,000 pounds of pecans. In return he received their value in merchandise and this was sold to the Indians.
Later when the war broke out he enlisted under the stars and the bars and in command of a troop of full blood Indians did much work for the lost cause. At the outbreak of the war Capt. Samuel Checote, a Creek Indian, organized a company of his own people for service in the Confederate army and young Severs was made second lieutenant of the command, which rendezvoused at Blue Creek. Later, these troops were organized into a regiment, known as the First Creek Regiment, of which Captain Checote was made lieutenant colonel and Mr. Severs was advanced to the rank of a first lieutenant. Jack Burgess was made captain of the company, but his death occurred late in 1861 and Mr. Severs succeeded him to the captaincy and commanded the company throughout the remainder of the war. His services were in Indian Territory and portions of Arkansas and Missouri.
After peace was declared Captain Severs went to Fannin County, Texas, where he lived with his uncle Tom Ballard near Bonham for a few months, working for his uncle and also teaching in the schools of that county. About this time, however, his old home in Arkansas, which had been sorely devastated by both armies, required his assistance, and he returned to Washington County. The only fortunate feature of that year for the old home place was a generous crop of apples, and procuring a large wagon and four mules Mr. Severs started for Texas with as large a load of this fruit as he could haul, disposing of it there at from $5.00 to $6.00 a bushel. He worked his way on to Navasota, and even as far as San Antonio, on a trading business, and in this way earning money enough to render substantial aid to his folks at home, particularly in supplying them with bacon, which was very scarce and high priced just after the war.
After making further trips to Sedalia, Missouri, and to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, Mr. Severs in 1868 returned to the Creek Nation and established a store three miles west of Okmulgee. Soon afterward he moved the business into the town and was one of the first to erect a building there. Okmulgee has since honored Captain Severs as foremost among its founders, and he has frequently been called the “father of the city.” He started in business on a small scale, buying hides, pecans, etc., and selling goods, but from year to year his trade gradually grew and prospered, and it was not long until he had become a merchant of ample financial resources and with a large general trade, extending for many miles in all directions. He was a friend of the poor Indian whose land was governed by Federal officials from Washington, and in countless instances he proved his true friendship for the Indian by giving them supplies which he needed for himself. In 1878 Captain Severs erected the first two-story building in Okmulgee, a large stone structure on the corner of Sixth Street and Grand Avenue, the west and south walls of which subsequently became part of the Severs Block, which was the finest in the city when constructed in 1907. To Captain Severs belongs the distinction of being the pioneer and the largest individual merchant in Okmulgee and the surrounding country, and his residence there was continuous from the beginning of the town.
In 1911 Captain Severs began the building of a $500,000 hotel at Muskogee. It was finished and opened in September, 1912, and it must remain a matter of deep regret that Captain Severs did not live a few months longer in order to realize the ambition of his life when the Severs Hotel should be completed. This is now one of the finest hotels in the State of Oklahoma.
For many years Captain Severs was also one of the leading cattle men of Indian Territory. His work in this field was equally successful. It is said that his cattle were the first to fatten and they always seemed to demand the highest market prices. His fortune, which had been started with a bushel of pecans, grew and flourished, and at the time of his death his estate was valued at more than $1,000,000.
His relations with the Indians of the Creek tribe were peculiarly intimate. He was one of the only three white men ever adopted into the Creek Nation, and in the land allotment he drew all the rights, privileges and rewards which any full blooded Indian enjoyed. He served at one time as secretary to the noted Chief Samuel Checote.
When thirty-five years of age Captain Severs married at Concharty in the Creek Nation, Miss Annie Anderson. Two years before his marriage Captain Severs had been adopted as a member of the Creek tribe. Captain Severs was survived by his wife and three daughters: Mrs. Bessie E. English, Mrs. Mary S. Owen and Mrs. Annie S. Cook, all of whom live in Muskogee. Captain Severs was also survived by four sisters: Mrs. A. W. Robb, Mrs. W. C. Trent, Mrs. Shields and Mrs. Stark, the first three being residents of Oklahoma. In 1856 Captain Severs joined Lodge No. 1, A. F. & A. M. of Indian Territory. In politics he was a democrat.