W. Robert Kirby. When surveyors of the United States Government party accompanying the Choctaw Indians to the new land of promise, early in the ’30s, discovered that they were approaching the eastern boundary line of that section, their announcement to the Indians was greeted with mild expressions of joy, and the missionaries recommended that the band stop for a season of thanksgiving. The party went into camp, pitching its tents and putting its horses and oxen out to graze. This spot was then christened Ultimathule, the word meaning “the last stop.” A little later, just over the line in Indian Territory, another camp was made which developed into a settlement, and the Indians and missionaries gave to it the same name as that which had been borne by the first camp, which had been in Arkansas. Save for the rotting logs of a few pioneer huts, there is nothing left at this day to mark the site of the last Indian camp, which, in reality, was the first camp of the Indian in the Choctaw Nation.
The population of Ultimathule was never large and only a few men and women living today were born there. Among these is found W. Robert Kirby, of Haworth, whose father’s home was established on Rock Creek. Wyatt T. Kirby was a white man. a native of Tennessee and a Confederate veteran of the Civil war, who settled among the Indians several years after the close of the struggle between the North and the South, taking his place among the well known citizens of the community. He married a daughter of William Harris, a white man who accompanied the Choctaws on their migration from Mississippi and married a member of the tribe with whom he had probably fallen in love before they started on their long journey. Judge Henry Harris, one of the last members of the Supreme Court of the Choctaw Nation, who filled many offices in the tribal government and was the establisher of the somewhat noted Harris Ferry on Red River, was a son of William Harris.
The recollections of W. Robert Kirby cover a dramatic period in the history of the government which his father helped to found in the virgin country known as Indian Territory. It was an era during which the increase in white population was due principally to fear of punishment for crimes committed in nearby states. During a period of twenty years from the early ’70s, it was a safe guess that fully two-thirds of the men who settled in that part of Indian Territory were seeking refuge from the law in Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, or other states. Unfortunately, a generation of young Indians were compelled to grow up in communities where white blood of this kind was getting its root in the domination of public affairs. Thus it was that missionary activity became a public necessity.
Among the early tribal schools established in the Choctaw Nation was one at what was called Pleasant Hill, located six miles south of the present site of Haworth, and this was where W. Robert Kirby began the study of Webster’s blue-backed spelling book and McGuffey’s readers, taught in a log schoolhouse, devoid of desks and seated with split logs. Mr. Kirby’s first teacher in this school was Rev. James I. Irvin, a Methodist preacher, and his next, Alexander Williams, a fullblooded Choctaw Indian, who was also a preacher. Later he attended Spencer Academy, which was situated ten miles west of the present site of the Town of Antlers. This academy was then under the able superintendency of Prof. Alfred G. Docking, and among the students attending at that time were Solomon Homer, who later was said to be the most brilliant and learned lawyer the Choctaw Nation ever produced; Henry Sexton, who became a prominent party leader and legislator in tribal government; and Thomas Hunter, now a member of the Oklahoma Legislature and once governor-elect of the Choctaw Nation.
Mr. Kirby was one of the first settlers of Haworth when that town was established in 1905 and his was the second store here. He was a member of the first school board, which employed Miss Lucy Johnson as teacher, and helped to build the first schoolhouse. Mr. Kirby was likewise the first justice of the peace of Haworth after statehood, and was a member of the town board of trustees which installed a municipal water and electric light system, in 1915. an undertaking that cost $25,000.
At the time he left school Mr. Kirby engaged in farming on his own account in McCurtain County, and agricultural pursuits have continued to interest him throughout his career, he being at present the owner of a large and valuable property with modern improvements and good buildings. In recent years he has given a part of his time and activities also to mercantile ventures, being now the proprietor of a grocery establishment at Haworth, where he has built up a good trade through honorable dealing and energetic business methods. Every good movement has his stanch and generous support. In his religious connection he belongs to the Methodist Church, while fraternally he is identified with the local lodges of the Masons and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Mr. Kirby was married to Miss Pearl Maynor, formerly a teacher in the federal schools before the attainment of Oklahoma’s statehood, and they have three children, namely: Kate, who graduated from the Choctaw Female Academy at Tuskahoma in 1915, and who is now pursuing a special course in music, for which she has undoubted talent; W. Robert, Jr., who is seven years of age; and Winifred, who is five years old. Mr. Kirby has one brother, Edward Kirby, who is successfully engaged in agricultural pursuits in the vicinity of Haworth, McCurtain County. His sisters are Mrs. Anna Randolph, the wife of a farmer of Bokhoma, this county; and Mrs. Sallie Stanford, whose husband is a business man of Idabel, the county seat of McCurtain County.