W. H. Jackson


Judge William Harrison Jackson. The careers of few individuals furnish more instructive and interesting commentary upon the history and life of that section of Oklahoma originally known as the Chickasaw Nation than that of Judge Jackson, a splendid type of the pioneer white man in the Indian country, and who is tho recognized founder and developer of that beautiful resort and industrial town known as Bromide, where he has his attractive home, and is now engaged largely in looking after his real estate, mining and other extensive interests.
Until the adoption of an amendment to their constitution that placed the government exclusively in the hands of men of Indian blood, the Chickasaw Indians probably never conferred as many distinguished honors upon a person out-side the tribe as upon Judge Jackson. And in view of the fact that no tribe of Indians in America ever had a more perfect system of government or conducted it with more regularity and regard for the interests of their people, the honors Judge Jackson received differ materially from and are of far more interest than those given by any other nation of red men to their white citizens. He came among those Indians forty-five years ago, a stripling of eighteen, lured into the virgin West through association with a young Chickasaw who was living in Lebanon, Wilson County, Tennessee. The place of Judge Jackson’s birth was Ray County, Tennessee. The Chickasaws all but adopted him into the tribe, and after his marriage to a maiden of Indian blood, whose antecedents were the notable family of Maytubbys, he became as near one of the tribe as a white man could possibly be.
After coming into the Indian country forty-five years ago, Judge Jackson’s first experience was as a cowboy on the old ranch of David A. Folsom on Blue River at Nail Crossing, a point of historic interest because of its being a station on the military stage coach line between Fort Smith. Arkansas, and El Paso, Texas. Judge Jackson’s father was James Madison Jackson, a native of Virginia, and a veteran of both the Mexican and Civil wars. His mother is now living in Tennessee at the age of eighty. Judge Jackson has a brother and a sister living: Andrew Perry Jackson, of Sycamore, Tennessee; and Mrs. Katherine Shaw, wife of a physician at Ashland, Tennessee. Judge Jackson acquired his early education as a pupil under Prof. J. E. Scoby, one of the best-known educators in Tennessee half a century ago.
At the age of twenty-three Judge Jackson was elected county judge of Pontotoc County, then one of the most progressive counties of the Chickasaw Nation. That position he held for two years, after which he served two terms as a member of the Lower House of the Chickasaw Legislature. It was during the first of these terms that Capt. David L. Payne, Captain Couch and others of the type known as “Oklahoma boomers,” by making expeditions into the western part of the territory, since Oklahoma, caused the Chickasaws much perturbation since these movements foretold the ultimate division of the country, the opening of Oklahoma Territory to white settlement, and eventually the creation of a state that would bring about the dissolution of the tribal government. Thus the session of which Judge Jackson was a member was marked with much Indian oratory in opposition to any probable action by Congress that would bring about these results.
After his term in the legislature Judge Jackson was elected attorney general of the Chickasaw Nation. During this period the question of citizenship was the most important that came before the nation’s legal adviser. Hundreds of applications were filed, and they came from Mississippi.and various other states to the east. Many of those who applied made the most absurd and ridiculous claims. Judge Jackson relates that some sent photographs accompanied by locks of hair that always were coal black, and never a blue eye was shown in a picture, whereas there are many persons of Indian blood who have blue eyes and light hair. And it is significant that no witness ever came in person to assist in establishing the professed right of a claimant. So varied were these claims and so preposterous some of them that Judge Jackson declined to consider them at all. He made an extended report to the Legislature regarding them, asking that body to pass a law defining the grounds on which a claimant should be considered. The Legislature did so, and provided that each claimant should thereafter give the family and “house” name. As a result applications became fewer, though the new law brought out many applications from persons claiming to be descendants from Pocahontas.
During his term as attorney general Judge B. W. Carter, father of Congressman Charles Carter of Ardmore, was district judge of the Chickasaw Nation. Judge Carter was one of the most advanced men of the nation in educational matters, and the Legislature requested that he resign to become the head of the National Academy at Tishomingo, the capital. Judge Carter replied that he would be pleased to accept the place if Judge Jackson were elected to succeed him on the bench. Carter resigned and Governor Guy appointed Jackson as his successor, and for two years Judge Jack son was incumbent of that judicial position.
Though his early education in Tennessee had been somewhat limited, Judge Jackson all his life had been a student, many years ago gained admission to the bar of the Chickasaw Nation, and was considered one of the best educated men in his part of the territory. Having filled the various places above enumerated so satisfactorily, the Indian people picked him for an educational post, and he was made superintendent of Rock Academy, afterwards known as Wapanucka Institute, in which a number of the state’s most prominent men of Indian blood have been educated. The school during his administration had sixty students, and was conducted at the expense of and under the supervision of the nation. Judge Jackson remained at its head five years, resigning to become superintendent of Collins Institute, a Chickasaw school for girls that was located near old Stonewall, now known as Frisco. Here forty girls were under his tuition, and he continued as superintendent there five years. Then came the disfranchisement act of the Legislature, excluding all intermarried citizens from official positions. Thereupon Judge Jackson took charge of his ranch, located four miles west of the present Town of Bromide.
Important though his public service has been, Judge Jackson has probably contributed his greatest work through his share in the industrial development of the Chickasaw country, He became familiar with the mineral resources of the nation, but for many years was unable to develop them because of an act of the Legislature that prohibited mineral development. This act was an expression of the Indian feeling that a source of sacredness resided in minerals, and that their development would fill the nation with white speculators who eventually would take possession of the land and thereby deprive the Indians of their freedom and incidentally of their hunting grounds and game. As is well known at the present time, the old Chickasaw country abounded in deposits of manganese, oolitic stone, glass sand, limestone and other minerals. At length through the influence of Col. M. Lem Reynolds, a member of the Chickasaw Senate and one of the most influential men of the nation, Judge Jackson persuaded the Legislature to pass a law permitting prospecting for coal. This was already being done in the Choctaw Nation, where large deposits of coal were found. Meantime, the manganese deposits were discovered in great quantities in the region of the bromide and sulphur springs about Wapanucka. Judge Jackson, Douglas H. Johnston, afterwards governor of the nation. Governor R. M. Harris and Richard McLish formed a company for the development of this mineral. They went before the Legislature, presented their charter, and procured the passage of an act giving them the right to prospect for all kinds of minerals.
It was eighteen years ago that manganese development was begun, and the first shipment of ore, consisting of 210 tons, was sent to the Illinois Steel Company, being hauled with ox teams to Lehigh, the nearest railroad station, a distance of twenty miles. Afterwards 800 tons were shipped from Wapanucka, a distance of nine miles from the mines, to the American Car Foundry Company at St. Louis. A few years later, Robert Galbreath of Tulsa, one of the state’s leading oil operators and capitalists, purchased a half interest in 150 acres of land containing manganese deposits, from Judge Jackson, and still later Galbreath contracted for the other half interest, Judge Jackson holding a one-third interest in the company that was formed. Mr. Galbreath has since been developing this property.
In the vicinity of the present Town of Bromide explorations were undertaken some years ago by B. A. Ludgate, a Canadian geologist, who was the first to ascertain the medicinal properties of the springs. About this time the Dawes Commission had begun its inquiry into the nature of the land and was preparing to set aside into a special class those of mineral value. These activities led to* the establishment of Platt National Park at Sulphur, where mineral waters similar to those at Bromide were found. Judge Jackson, who had already done some development work and had the report of the geologist above named before him, covered up his springs and withheld from the commission and from the public the true nature of the waters. Some suspicion was attached to his acts, however, and it required two years for him to get a patent to the land on which the springs are located. When the patent was finally obtained his activities were renewed, and eventually the Town of Bromide was established, and owing to its picturesque situation, the presence of the springs and the abundance of minerals in that section, it has become one of the leading health and pleasure resorts of the state.
The spirit of enterprise which has been exemplified by Judge Jackson is well illustrated in one of his earlier and less successful undertakings. In 1886 he built one of the first mills operated by water power in the Chickasaw Nation. At Viola he found a waterfall of fifty-two feet, and the overshot wheel which he installed was forty feet in diameter. This made the plant one of the largest in the Southwest, and the power was used for the operation of a sawmill, a grist mill and a cotton gin. Though the plant cost $9,000, it was never successful, and Judge Jackson soon discovered that he was about twenty-five years ahead of the development of the country.
Tip history of the Bromide community might be entirely told in the record of Judge Jackson, but it will suffice to merely mention some of his more important activities in recent years. One of these was in procuring the construction of a branch of the Missouri, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad to Bromide, a project that cost him personally $7,500. He was also instrumental in the opening of the extensive deposits of limestone near his home; the establishment of the oolitic stone plant, which turns out some of the finest building material found in the United States; the establishment of a rock crushing plant by the Missouri, Oklahoma & Gulf Company, which is furnishing ballast material for railroads and paving material to cities all over the Southwest; and the opening of high grade glass sand deposits near Bromide.
Many years ago during his activities as a cowboy along Blue River, Judge Jackson married Annie Donovan, who is of one-half Chickasaw blood. She is a niece of Peter Maytubby, one of the foremost men of the Chickasaw Nation thirty or forty years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson have four sons and three daughters: Mrs. H. H. Burris, wife of a prominent Indian citizen of Tishomingo; C. W. Jackson, a civil engineer now employed by the M. O. & G. Company at their rock crusher at Bromide; Thomas P. Jackson, who looks after his land interests at Bromide; William Byrd Jackson, engaged in the oil business at Thrall, Texas; Othello Jackson, a cattle dealer at Bromide; Mrs. J. C. Gunter, wife of a ranchman at Bromide; Mrs. Gerald Galbreath, wife of the manager of the Galbreath Hotel at Bromide; and Miss Zenobia Jackson, an invalid living at home with her parents.
As already stated, Judge Jackson now spends much of his time in looking after his real estate interests, and is president of the Jackson Land Company of Bromide. He is devoted to his home and his children, and everywhere in that section of the Chickasaw country is known as the Grand Obi Man of Bromide. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church, and has fraternal affiliations with the Masonic order, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias and the Woodmen of the World. He was a delegate to the last territorial meeting of the Indian Territory A. F. & A. M., during which the domain was dissolved and united with that of Oklahoma Territory.