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Thomas J. Dyer. Possessing the distinction of having been a member of the first colony to attempt settlement in the territory which now comprises the State of Oklahoma, Thomas Jefferson Dyer may be numbered among the pioneers of this commonwealth. During his career he has participated in several events which form interesting periods in Oklahoma’s history, and has assisted to develop the agricultural resources of the state both in the earliest pioneer days and later as a resident of his present property, located ten miles north of Alva, in Woods County, where he has made his home since 1893.
Mr. Dyer was born August 20, 1857, at Des Moines, Iowa, and is a son of Samuel M. and Mary Elizabeth (Gilbrech) Dyer. His father,was born in North Carolina, September 5, 1814, and was a lad of seven years when, in 1821, he removed with his parents to Terre Haute, Indiana. There he grew up and learned the tinner’s trade, which he followed at different points in Indiana until 1851, at that time removing to Des Moines, Iowa, then only a military post, where he purchased a large tract of municipal property. During his residence of eighteen years at that place, Mr. Dyer became one of the prominent and influential citizens of the community, serving four years as county treasurer and two years as county clerk of Polk County. In 1869 Mr. Dyer sold his Iowa holdings and removed to Jasper County, Missouri, but in 1870 left that community for the Osage Indian Reservation, where he bought a “ squatter’s” rights to a claim. After two years of residence there, he learned that the Government contemplated the removal of the 300 “squatters” in the Osage Reservation, among whom were Samuel M. Dyer and his son Thomas J. He immediately wired to Carl Schurz, at that time secretary of the interior, asking his aid and influence in allowing them to remain, but was answered by wire that they would be compelled to vacate the Indian lands, and they were subsequently removed by the military. Thomas J. Dyer still retains the correspondence which shows that he and his father were members of the first colony to attempt settlement in the territory comprising the present State of Oklahoma, a body of men who antedated the Payne Colony by seven years. He also owns a bill which was introduced in the Forty-second Congress by Isaac C. Parker, M. C., of Missouri, proposing the organization of the Territory of Oklahoma, dated February 5, 1872, which is supposed to have been the first bill in Congress which pertained to this state.
When it was necessary to make room for the Indians who were being removed from Kansas, Mr. Dyer, along with some of his fellow “squatters,” moved just over the line into Kansas, and for several years leased land from the Indians for farming and grazing purposes. In 1885 he removed to Barber County, Kansas, and there continued to reside on a ranch until his death, which occurred June 22, 1886, in the faith of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Samuel M. Dyer was married in 1839 to Miss Mary Elizabeth Gilbrech, who was born February 14, 1821, in Germany, and came to the United States in 1824 with her parents, John A. and Mary (Lemer) Gilbrech. She died at the “ Tarrapin Ranch” in Harper County, Kansas, December 6, 1897. She was a faithful member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the movements of which she always supported. Nine sons and four daughters were born to Samuel M. and Mary Elizabeth Dyer, as follows (all lived to maturity and reared families, with the exception of two): John Van Buren, born August 19, 1841, who is now a retired farmer of Sedan, Kansas; Ezekiel Benton, born January 20, 1843, died December 25, 1905; William Franklin, born June 8, 1844, met his death in a mine accident, May 30, 1906, was a veteran of the Civil war, having been a member of the Twenty-third Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry; Samuel Meredith, born May 20, 1846, now a retired farmer and resident of California; Hiram Jennings, born September 17, 1848, died April 27, 1904; Viretta Harris, born July 18, 1853, now the wife of Joseph Pitt, a farmer of Elgin, Kansas; James Madison, born September 20, 1850, who died May 5, 1853; Oscar Franklin, born May 3, 1855, now postmaster and a hotel man of Gazelle, California; Thomas Jefferson, of this review; Thompson Bird, born January 6, 1859, and now a railroad man of Provo, Utah; Mary Elizabeth, born September 5, 1861, who died March 15, 1862; Rebecca Jane, born October 8, 1862, who is now the wife of George Maroney, a retired farmer of Attica, Kansas; and Sarah Ellen, born February 1, 1865, who is now the wife of William Granger, a farmer of Shandon, California.
Thomas Jefferson Dyer received his education in the public schools of Polk County, Iowa, Jasper County, Missouri, and Chautauqua County, Kansas, and in 1878 went to the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, where for five years he worked as a cowboy on the old ranges, now passed away. Later he followed the same line of work in Kansas, and finally settled on Government land in Barber County, Kansas, where he remained until 1893. In that year he made the run at the time of the opening of the Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma, and located on a homestead ten miles north of Alva, in the cultivation of which he has since been engaged. He carries on general farming and the raising of stock and has been very successful in his efforts, his industry, perseverance and good business management having brought him satisfying rewards. In business circles he bears an excellent reputation as a man of integrity and fidelity to agreements, and his citizenship has at various times brought him preferment at the hands of his fellow-townsmen. A stalwart democrat, in 1907 he was elected as the first county treasurer of Woods County after the admission of Oklahoma to the Union, and was re-elected in 1910, continuing to hold the office in all for five years, seven months, seven days. In 1914 he was the nominee of his party for the office of county clerk, but the county has become heavily republican, and he met with defeat.
Mr. Dyer has been twice married, his first union being celebrated November 28, 1878, when he wedded Miss Lucretia Burnett, who was born in Trigg County, Kentucky, May 20, 1859, a daughter of Cornelius Burnett. She died in Carroll County, Arkansas, December 12, 1879, leaving two children: Lulie Ellen, born August 20, 1879, and now the wife of A. V. Martin, a farmer of Woods County, Oklahoma: and Thomas Frederick, who died in infancy. Mr. Dyer was married the second time, December 31, 1884, in Barber County, Kansas, to Miss Nina C. Cummins, who was born January 18, 1867, in Appanoose County, Iowa, daughter of Scott Cummins, the Oklahoma author and poet widely known as the “Pilgrim Bard.” To this union there have been born four children: Lillian Eldred, born December 20, 1886, a graduate of the Oklahoma Northwestern Normal School, class of 1910, and now a teacher in the city schools of Alva; Thomas Lafayette, born April 17, 1889, in Barber County, Kansas, a graduate of the Oklahoma Northwestern Normal School, class of 1910, and of Leland Stanford University, class of 1914; Ethel Byrdie, born July 31, 1894, in Barber County, Kansas, a graduate of Oklahoma Northwestern Normal School, class of 1915; and Sarah Mabel, born in Woods County, Oklahoma, November 5, 1896, and now the wife of John Nelson Cameron, of Capron, Oklahoma.