Joseph S. Dillingham


Joseph S. Dillingham. When the Chickasaw Nation was young and white men were few within its borders, the natives gave names of their own choosing and suiting their own fancies to many spots that since have become of historic interest. The region was dotted with prairies, some but a few miles in circumference, while others were of much greater area, but timbered lands covered the major portion of the Nation and the prairies were but breathing places and lookout points. Each prairie, therefore, was of some consequence in the scheme of development and each was given a name. It is an interesting thing in this day, as one travels over the old Nation, to hear men say that such and such a man lives on, near or beyond some particular prairie. Prairies are the guide-posts to travelers and, being numerous, they are an excellent substitute, to pioneers, for section lines’and range and township numbers. Thirty to forty years ago, when white immigration to the Indian country began in earnest, cattlemen contracted as rapidly as possible for leases on prairie lands, and these became centers of the cattle industry.
Between Madill and Lebanon, both of which are now in Marshall County, there lay one of the most picturesque and fertile prairie spots of the Chickasaw Nation. On the edge of this prairie flowed some sparkling perennial springs of water, and in the rocky hills near them the Indians for a generation had killed innumerable rattlesnakes, so that the name of Rattlesnake Springs was given to the watering-place, and by that name it is known today and by that name the prairie is designated. At these springs in 1886, Joseph S. Dillingham, a young man from Grayson County, Texas, seeking a location for a cattle ranch in the Indian country, built a ranch house and for many years thereafter conducted the Rattlesnake Springs Ranch. Since he has retired from the cattle business the property has passed into the hands of Samuel McKenzie, who was a pioneer settler of Cooke County, Texas, and of the Chickasaw country, and it is now known as the Sam McKenzie Ranch. But the pretty legends and fascinating tales of the Indian period that marked the springs with interest are not forgotten, and neither has the name been erased from the memory of the men who here planted the seeds of progress.
The year of the establishment of this ranch by Mr. Dillingham, Sam and Ed Noble also embarked in the cattle business here, establishing a ranch on another section of the prairie, and these two ranches rank among the pioneers of this section of the prairie. Other ranchmen of the same prairie have been Holmes Willis, in his day one of the wealthiest and most influential men of the Chickasaw Nation; George Holford, whose name is almost a household word in the homes of hundreds of early settlers, and E. H. and J. H. Bounds, brothers, ambitious young Texans who early migrated to the Indian country.
At the time of the settlement of Joseph S. Dillingham, there were two stores at the Town of Lebanon, one conducted by Mack Dorchester, who came to the Chickasaw Nation from Sherman, Texas, and one by Sam Evans, who probably was the pioneer merchant of the town. The principal trading and shipping point for this region was Sherman, Texas, forty-five miles away, although a postoffice and log schoolhouse had been established at Oakland, a few miles north, and Tishomingo, the Chickasaw capital, then an inland town, was twenty-five miles to the east. That year the Santa Fe Railroad was being built through the Chickasaw country and the towns of Marietta and Ardmore came into being. Settlements were widely scattered, cattle ranges reached to the horizon beyond the prairies, and the days of roundups and long trail drives were in their greatest era of prosperity. Before that the Chisholm Trail had been established and over it tens of thousands of cattle were driven to the Kansas and Missouri markets. Men of desperate character were to be found in every part of the country, thieving, plundering and killing, and this was the period of the United States marshal, who, operating out of the famous court of Judge Parker, at Fort Smith, was in the heyday of his usefulness. It was the year, in fact, when Andy Roff, a ranchman, well known all over the Southwest, was killed by the notorious Lee boys, rival cattlemen, and this murder and the subsequent death of the Lee boys after a long and rigorous chase gave the late Heck Thomas, a noted United States marshal, a reputation which extended to the farthest habitations of keepers of the peace in this country.
Joseph S. Dillingham was born at Kentuckytown, Grayson County, Texas, in 1865, a son of James H. Dillingham, a native of Kentucky, who with other men of his state settled in Grayson County, Texas, in 1855, was one of the first to engage in agricultural pursuits in that county, and was one of the founders of Keutuckytown, which was located near his home. Mr. Dillingham is a veteran of the Civil war, in which he fought as a Confederate soldier, and is now living in peaceful retirement at Oakland, Oklahoma, aged eighty-four years. There were five children in the family: Joseph S., of this notice; J. E., who is engaged in the general merchandise business at Madill; Mrs. Nina Cornelison, who is the wife of a cotton gin operator at Oakland; Fay, who is engaged in the decorating business at Fort Worth, Texas; and Leo, who is a resident of Manila, Philippine Islands.
Joseph S. Dillingham followed ranching until the establishment of the Town of Madill, in 1901, shortly after which he became engaged in the real estate and farm loan business. In this line he has continued to be engaged with well-merited success, and has various other connections, one being with the Juanita Oil and Gas Company of Madill, of which he is president, and which has a flowing well in what is known as the Arbuckle field of Marshall County. Mr. Dillingham is a member of the Christian Church and of the Masonic lodge. He was one of the early members of the Blue Lodge at Oakland and has several times been master of the lodge. His Consistory membership is at McAlester. In politics a democrat, Mr. Dillingham has accepted two offices at the hands of his party, those of city clerk and city treasurer of Madill.
Mr. Dillingham was married in 1888 in Cooke County, Texas, to Miss Novia Blount, and they have eight children, among whom are: Monte, who is engaged in the gentlemen’s furnishing business at Ardmore, Oklahoma; Cecil, who is employed in the First National Bank of Madill; and Mrs. Charles Lynn, who is the wife of a stockman and farmer of Oakland.