Harvey Russell Winn


Harvey Russell Winn, one of the most capable lawyers practicing at the Oklahoma bar, was born at Ozark, Arkansas, February 16, 1849, and is a son of Robert Minor and Tabitha (Bates) Winn, natives respectively, of Fauquier County, Virginia, and Cane Hill, Arkansas. His grandparents removed from Virginia to Trimble County, Kentucky, in 1819, from which locality Robert Minor Winn migrated to Franklin County, Arkansas, in young manhood, and entered the practice of medicine, later becoming a surgeon in the Confederate army during the Civil war. Of his family of eight children, Harvey R. was the fourth in order of birth.
Harvey Russell Winn attended the country schools until large enough to enter the Presbyterian Seminary at Clarksville, Arkansas, where he completed the course with the class of 1870. Two years later he began reading law, and also engaged in teaching school until 1889, when he was admitted to the bar, and soon thereafter came to Oklahoma City to enter upon the practice of his profession. He made the run with the rush, coming to Oklahoma City from Purcell on the noon train over the Santa Fe Railroad, and staked as his claim the two lots on the corner of Third and Broadway, immediately south of the present Masonic Temple. One of these lots he sold later during a depression to C. F. Colcord, for $500, and the other still later to J. L. Brown for $450.
On his arrival in Oklahoma City, Mr. Winn immediately was recognized as one of the aggressive, levelheaded, fair-minded men of the new community, and was consulted as a lawyer by the leading men of that day. During the turbulent conflicts between the “sooners” and the “regulars,” almost equally matched in numbers, Mr. Winn took the stand that the law against “sooners” was as much to be obeyed as any other law, although it was doubtless an, unfair law. He, however, recognized that there were many good men among the “sooners” and counseled fair treatment of men on all sides. In the fall of 1889, during the fight between these two factions, then designated as the “ Seminoles” and “ Kickapoos,” when the issues reached the point of anarchy; when each side was ejecting members of the other side from lots and burning down each other’s houses; after one house had been dragged into Main Street just west of where the Pettee Building stands and burned in broad daylight in open view of thousands of people, it was Mr. Winn who went to Mayor Beale and insisted that the chief executive join him in sending a telegram to Washington asking for the protection of the Federal Government. The telegram was sent to Hon. John H. Rodgers, a member of Congress from Arkansas, and a personal acquaintance of Mr. Winn. Mr. Rodgers acted at once and the Washington authorities issued an order to the army to take charge of the peace in Oklahoma City, and from that day on all the differences between the two factions were adjusted in the courts and order reigned.
While Mr. Winn stood for the enforcement of the “sooner” law and regulation because it was the law of the land, when Senator Plumb of Kansas, introduced a bill to compromise all contests between “ sooners” and “ regulars” by dividing the land under contest, Mr. Winn was an active factor in prevailing upon congressmen from other states to join Senator Plumb in his move. Through personal letters written to members of Congress in Arkansas, his native state, he secured the support of all the congressmen and both senators of that state for the Plumb bill, which, however, was defeated because on the eve of its last reading those in Oklahoma City and throughout the state who had won the first decision before the land office for their contentions, “ Burned up the wires” urging Congress not to interfere. Many who had felt themselves secure and thus stopped the passage of the Plumb bill later were reversed in the higher courts and lost all their land.
From those earliest days in Oklahoma City, Mr. Winn has been regarded as a safe lawyer, a good citizen, and a man of resource to be reckoned with by his opponents. he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States at Washington, D. C., on November 8, 1915, and is now engaged in preparing a case for appeal–Adams against Higgins–in the United States Supreme Court. It is one of the largest title cases ever filed in the Oklahoma courts, the famous John C. Adams case against 643 defendants occupying that part of the city embracing the quarter-section of land upon which the courthouse stands, covering a half mile of West Main Street. This claim of 160 acres was in contest between John C. Adams, Capt. W. L. Couch, Robert W. Higgins, John Dawson and others. Couch and Adams both built on the claim, as did some of the others, and after being hounded and badgered about by soldiers and friends of the others until he was crazed to madness, Adams, in April, 1890, shot and killed Couch. He was arrested and tried for murder twice, finally being sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. Couch being dead and Adams in prison, the land office officials decided the contest in favor of Higgins, upon whose entry all the present 643 occupants now hold title.
Mr. Winn, as chief counsel for Adams’ guardian and heirs, instituted suit to set aside the Higgins title and to quiet the title in Adams and his heirs. The case is now pending and will doubtless be fought out in all the courts of the state before a final decision is reached. It may last for years. Under the estimate of expert judges of value, this property now in controversy represents over $9,000,000 in land and improvement values.
At Ozark, Arkansas, September 27, 1874, Mr. Winn was married to Miss Mattie J. Stutesman, daughter of Jacob and Eliza (Barnhill) Stutesman. Mr. Stutesman was a native of Indiana and Mrs. Stutesman of Arkansas. He was a large plantation and slave owner in Arkansas prior to the Civil war, but when that conflict came on moved to the North with his family. Seven children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Winn, namely: Della, born July 5, 1876; Luke R., born February 10, 1878, engaged as head pressman in a large daily newspaper office at Portland, Oregon; Oula, born July 2, 1881, and now the wife of J. C. Hinds, of El Paso. Texas; Mabel, born June 12, 1883, who met her death by drowning, while with Miss Morris, at Wheeler Park, Oklahoma, May 19, 1907; William Harold, born October 20, 1885, now a lawyer in the office of Ames, Chambers, Lowe & Richardson, of Oklahoma City; Champ, born August 20, 1887, who died at Oklahoma City, August 10, 1889; and Frederick Minor, born May 17, 1892, now with an advertising agency at Oklahoma City. Mrs. Winn is a member of St. Luke’s Methodist Episcopal Church. The family home is located at No. 629 West Tenth Street, Oklahoma City.