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Telling the History of Claremore…one story at a time

As published in the February 1960 Ranchman magazine, by Myron A. Hurd. 

“Your father never felt fully dressed until he had a six-shooter in his holster and a quart bottle in his pocket,” Stacy Ann Simpson’s mother told her.  Naturally, that was back in the days when you wore a gun to survive…if you were fast enough on the draw.  Her father was Perd Taylor, 1/16 Cherokee, born at Andrews, North Carolina in 1873, and educated in schools at Asheville, North Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee.

The Taylors immigrated to the Western Cherokee Nation in the 1870’s and settled near Pryor Creek.  Her given name of Stacy Ann comes from Stacy Ann Whitaker, who married her father’s brother, Will Taylor.  The Whitaker home at Pryor is on part of the Whitaker allotment.

One of the three voting precincts in Cooweescoowee District, Indian Territory, was located at Rabbit Springs, which is 1/8 mile east of Ann Simpson’s house, and about one mile west of Waller school and five miles west of Chelsea.  The springs were named for a Cherokee named Bunny.

The Simpson family has owned the Springs for years.  In 1938, George and Ann built an eight room, stone mansion so they could pipe water from the springs to the house, and it never failed them through the years until after an oil company did some blasting and drilling near the springs a few years back, she says. “When we built the house we paid carpenters 75 cents an hour and stone masons $3.00 per day, she recalls.”

It was at Rabbit Springs that Ann’s father and mother met during an Indian picnic.  Besides gathering there for elections and picnics, the Indians held camp meetings, stomp dances and council meetings. It was on Ann’s grandmother’s place (Laura Elizabeth Welch Taylor) that Colonel Drake drilled the first oil well in Rogers County and some say the first in the State.  It is in the Cherokee Central community.

The old “Drumgool” school which Will Rogers attended as a boy, while living with his sister, Sallie McSpadden, was on land used by Ned Taylor, brother of Perd Taylor, Ann’s father.  The Ned Taylor story is one of the most tragic among the old timers I have learned about.  Almost the whole family was wiped out by tuberculosis.

The Perd Taylors were among the pioneers of Pryor Creek and helped organize the Presbyterian Church there.  Born at Pryor, Stacy Ann (Taylor) Simpson attended school there, then attended Northeastern at Tahlequah during 1921 and 1922.  She began teaching at Love School where she met George Simpson at a pie supper and they were married in 1923.

It was George’s father, T. J. Simpson, who accumulated enough land to form the basic holding of Ann Simpson’s present 410 acre farm.  The elder, T. B. Slick leased Simpson’s land for oil in 1904 and it was he who developed the wells on the 10 acres where Rabbit Springs ran unfailingly until recently.

It was about a quarter mile southwest of this spring where Watt Mayes of Pryor taught an Indian school long before statehood and had to ride horseback to Tahlequah to collect his pay.

It was always a pleasure to stop for a chat with Ann Simpson.  She speaks in the vernacular and with the relaxed charm of old-timers.  On one occasion her son, Bob, and I drove over the farm to work out plans for soil conservation practices.  When we returned she had about the biggest bait of “vittles” cooked up for three persons that I ever saw.  Naturally, this old corn-fed, country boy just about had to be helped away from the table.

Ann Simpson can tell you all about the woes of being a widow.  Like most women, it had never occurred to her that she might one day have to take over, and she was unprepared when her husband, George, passed away in 1951.  While there were many faithful friends ready to help her over the rough spots, there were also friends and neighbors who tried to take advantage of her.  But she weathered the difficulties without having to plaster the place with mortgages.

They usually butchered 8 to 10 head of hogs, a beef or two, and canned their surplus vegetables and fruits.  They were too busy to do much visiting but always had lots of company.

It is easy to see why folks visited the Simpsons.  At the time it was built they probably had the largest, most modern country home in Rogers County, with a basement, and a fireplace for cozy comfortable living, and hospitality to go with it. The Simpsons have two children.  Marjorie Burnett lives at Ponca City, and her son, Bob and his wife, Anita Streeter, live in North Carolina.  He is employed by the National Park Service as Biological Aid in communicable diseases.

It always gives me satisfaction to see the old-timers holding on to their land.  While Stacy Ann Simpson admits that there are a lot of difficulties, she is determined to keep this historic old place.  I hope she holds to her determination. While Yellow Springs southeast of Bushyhead and Kephart Springs north of Claremore equal Rabbit Springs in historic significance and colorful history, only Rabbit Springs is still owned by a member of the pioneer families who settled and developed this area. Perhaps the historic background will appear of greater importance in years to come when historians have more time to weigh the importance of these Indian Council sites.

NOTE: Photo, courtesy of the Claremore Museum of History, is of the old Simpson house, which still stands today northwest of Chelsea. 

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