Gilbert G. Merry


Gilbert G. Merry. A section of the old Military Highway, which was the route of United States Government officials, explorers, adventurers, prospectors and others into Indian Territory as early as 1835, is to be restored by the county commissioners of McCurtain County in the building of a state highway from east to west across the country. Practically all of the old highway will be traversed between Broken Bow and the Arkansas line, touching Eagletown, which was one of the first settlements made by the Choctaws when they entered Indian Territory in the early 1830s. The road will also pass through Valliant, Bismark and Glover, the latter of which is the site of an early Indian settlement. Surveys have already been made of this highway, under the direction of the county commissioners.
Pioneer explorers who selected the route for the military highway east of Eagletown were not possessed always of compass and chart, but when the sun shone they were able to travel in a general direction toward a point of destination. Part of the advance crew carried a bugle and the blasts of this instrument were followed by men with axes who blazed the trees. Calvin Merry, who died about twenty years ago. at Goodland, Oklahoma, and who was reared in Arkansas near the old military highway, accompanied some of the pathfinders on their early explorations, a fact which makes of especial interest the fact that his son. Gilbert G. Merry, of Valliant, who is a member of the board of county commissioners of McCurtain County, is taking an active part in the work of restoring sections of this famous old road.
Gilbert G. Merry is himself somewhat of a pioneer, having been born at Chapel Hill, Arkansas, seven miles from the Indian Territory line, in 1879, and has been reared principally in the Indian country. His mother was Eliza McGregory, and her parents were among the early settlers of the border of Indian Territory. Mr. Merry entered the Indian Territory as a permanent citizen at the age of thirteen years, locating at Eagletown. Later he lived at Lukfada, another of the pioneer settlements of the Choctaws, and while living there, in 1903, witnessed the first net proceeds payment to the Indians by the United States Government. This payment was accompanied and followed by an era of lawlessness the like of which had never before occurred in the history of the Choctaw Nation. Each Indian drew $103 and the men of the tribe proceeded to make investments in horses, saddles, guns and whiskey. The drunken ones terrorized the country, many were killed or wounded, and a number of large trees were stripped of their bark in sections by bullets from revolvers. Near Tonika one night, shortly after Mr. Merry had left the place, drunken Indians engaged in a fight with axes that resulted in the death of six of their number. Mr. Merry lived also at Garvin where he was employed first by J. W. Kirk, pioneer merchant of that section, as manager of his general store, and later by Dr. Ben Denison, one of the town’s pioneer citizens and druggists. In 1906 he located at Valliant, where he has since been engaged in business as a pharmacist. He was a member of the town board of trustees before statehood and is now a member of the board of school trustees. As an influential citizen of the town of his adoption, he has contributed much to its development.
The first democratic club in what is now McCurtain County was organized at Garvin, in 1904, by Gilbert G. Merry, Thomas Carr and Colonel Adair. This organization was in preparation for the election of delegates to the territorial convention at Durant that year, which elected Robert L. Williams, now governor of Oklahoma, democratic national committeeman, the last before the granting of statehood. Mr. Merry took an active part in democratic politics in 1906 and 1907 when delegates were elected to the constitutional convention and the constitution was adopted and the first state officers elected. Until he was elected county commissioner, in 1914, he served continuously from the time of statehood in the capacity of state committeeman from McCurtain County. The board of commissioners now has under way plans for proposing a bond issue of approximately $60,000, out of the proceeds of which it intends to build modern bridges in various parts of the county.
The father of Mr. Merry was a poor man, and this discouragement to a lad with ambition was accentuated by the lack of educational facilities. At the age of seventeen years, when he went to school in the State of Arkansas, Mr. Merry read in the second reader. He was studious and industrious, however, made rapid progress in his studies, and later materially assisted in the education of his younger brother. There are four of these, namely: F. L., who is engaged in farming in Cherokee County, Oklahoma; B. F., who is a land owner and county commissioner of Hemphill County, Texas; J. L., who is a general merchant at Golden, Oklahoma; and Reverend Robert, who is a minister of the Baptist Church, at Garvin.
Mr. Merry was married April 4, 1906, to Miss Annie Oaks, of Grant, Oklahoma, who was of one-fourth Choctaw blood and whose ancestors were prominent in tribal affairs. She died in April, 1915, and was the mother of two children: Gilbert Roy, aged nine years; and Mildred, who is seven years of age. Mr. Merry is a member of the Baptist Church. His fraternal connections are with the local lodges of the Masons, in which he has attained the Royal Arch degree, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias and the Woodmen of the World, and he holds membership also in the Oklahoma Pharmaceutical Association. Mr. Merry is the owner of some valuable agricultural land along Red River, in McCurtain County, as well as town property at Valliant, having expressed his confidence in the future prosperity and development of this section of the state by wise investments in real estate.