Ninety Years Ago, a Homestead

Originally published on Dec. 6, 1984, in The Perkins Journal

By Zola Sample

When my father landed in Oklahoma Territory in 1894, it was the fall of the year. The new, wild country was in full autumn dress. The cottonwoods along the Cimarron River were fluttering in gold color, trembling in a cool breeze. The willows and tamarack added to the decorative scene. I know the entire landscape must have given him a thrill.

His overland trip from Perry across the new land was probably beyond his idea of the opinion he had formed before leaving Iowa. His young life promised much for the future and he was realizing his earlier dreams.

The two young men — Bill Bellis (my father) and his brother Hank had chartered a freight car loaded with everything necessary to start life on a tract of land in the Cherokee Outlet. They would be typical homesteaders as were their own father and grandfather. Both young men were thrilled to death.

Hank’s young wifew Eva and their two teenagers Clara and Edward had accompanied him. Their eyes were large and wonder-stricken with all this new country. Eva was somewhat aroused, but fatigued, for she was pregnant and had been compelled to rest on the cook stove on the long trip from Essex, Iowa, to Perry.

The route they mapped out across the country was a rough one. There were no railroads, just two wagon wheel ruts, or rutty paths leading along the river banks, through underbrush and over rocky areas. Some of the pats were barely more than animal paths.

They were headed toward the settlement they had some knowledge of … Tulsa. They would each use their own best judgement in their selection of the land they wanted to file on. Hank located near what used to be the small village of Dixie. Bill was less fortunate and had to lease his land from a man named Wilson. Wilson had killed a man over his staked claim and had to skip the country for a time. The land was located on the Arkansas River near a small settlement known in the early days as Sennitt.

Bill thought himself fortunate to have a small log cabin to unload his meager wares into even if it did have a dirt floor. He would make out. His big mule team seemed happy to be unharnessed at the end of the long trek across country, and Frank Wilson was happy to close the deal witht eh “sawed off Dutchman” and be on his way. He rode away on his fast steed, not to be seen in the area for almost two years.

Bill was soon heeled in. He began his preparation for the winter. His thoughts were many, mostly of what his young wife would think of her new dwelling, their first home of their own since their marriage. They had lived with his widowed mother and now had three children — Arthur, Eva and Bessie, a babe in arms.

His thoughts trembled over each other as he worked about the placce to make it look as good as he could for his wife and children. It was hard work, but he tried to have a good spirit. His wife would arrive in the spring and land in Tulsa on the train that traveled south as far as Sapulpa and turned around to return north.

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