MARTIN J. MUELLER
Vol. 3, p. 1039-1040
Simon PETER is a Choctaw Indian of good breeding and an English education who lives in McCurtain County. His chief claim to distinction among his people and really to more than ordinary mention in the annals of Oklahoma history, lies in the work he did as guide and interpreter for surveying crews sent into this nation by the Dowes Commission to prepare the nation for the allotment of lands. The wooded region of the nation, covering practically all of McCurtain and Choctaw counties, because of the scarcity of settlements or other means of guide, presented the greatest problem that confronted the surveying crews. In many sections of the region it was necessary for them to have that at hand always one or more persons familiar with the country to save them from getting lost.
Simon Peter was guide to the party to which belonged Martin J. MUELLER, then entering the third year of his service for the United States Government in Indian Territory, and who later as Indian agent wrestled for five years with a thousand complex problems relating to the welfare and progress of the 4,000 Choctaws under his care in McCurtain County. During a part of the surveying work in this section the party was camped near old Fort Towson and Doaksville, one of the historic old places of the Choctaw Nation, and here Simon Peter joined them. He showed them the old Cemetery at Doaksville, pointed out the tombs of many men of note and recounted at the campfire the tales of bad men of earlier years. One of these tales related to an Indian who boasted as he was dying that there were twelve notches on his gun, and who was buried in the midst of the men he had killed.
It may not be inappropriate here to give something more in regard to Simon Peter. Two surveying parties of three each camped jointly near Doaksville. A Tremendous rain fell one day while the parties were out and when they sought to return to camp the streams were swollen so that it was impossible to cross them. This necessitated a long journey around the heads of the streams, but this journey did not do away with the necessity of crossing a larger stream that flowed in wild torrents from the mountains between them and the camp. An Indian, reared where mountain streams go mad every year, towed them over with his horse in a fashion most expertly done by the Choctaws.
The Indian was Simon Peter, without whom the unsophisticated young men from the states might have been lost indefinitely in a wild country. Simon Peter's name and deeds were being praised next day in camp when a youth from Chicago, by prearrangement with a friend in the party, became one of them for an excursion at hunting. Deer and turkeys were plentiful in the hills and the season was on for satisfying and successful sport. The Chicago man wanted a guide but Simon Peter was not available, and a teamster with a camp on Wild Horse Creek went instead. They set out the next morning into the forest and hills of the game country to the north. After traveling several miles they decided to separate and return to camp, the Chicago man on one side of a swollen stream and the teamster on the other. They called back and forth to one another for a long time and then the voice of neither could [no] longer be heard by the other. The Chicago man was lost. It was nearing evening, clouds covered the sky and memory of directions left him. Finally he discovered fresh deer tracks and followed them until darkness made them no longer visible, and he then turned back and began search for the stream he had left, but could not find it. The surveying party returned to camp at five o'clock and heard the story of the teamster who had just come in, after which they built a great log fire in the hope that the lost visitor might hereby find the camp, but when morning came and he did not return, searching parties were organized each of which returned to report an unsuccessful hunt. Later in the afternoon, Simon Peter came tramping into camp with the stranger in custody. The city-bred huntsman told of striking all his matches in the darkness for find a corner the surveyors had marked, of shooting his gun for a signal until all his ammunition was gone, of wandering again until he found a dilapidated, deserted cabin from which he took the door for a bed, of the wind rocking the cabin until he was forced to seek a quiet place by a tree for further rest, of hearing a cowbell and finding a horse early next morning, of hearing the crow of a rooster and finding a human being, a red man who understood no English but pointed the direction of the home of Simon Peter, of his persuading Simon Peter to take him to the camp, and of a constant prayer upon his lips that Simon Peter would not lose the way. The young Chicagoan left for home next day.
The activities for two years of United States Government inspectors and marshals in removing nestors and other trespassers from the marketable timber lands of the Choctaw Nation constitute the most exciting and highly dramatic period of the last fifty years of Indian history. After allotments had been made and Congress had segregated the unallotted lands, the Government began its first serious effort to eject men from these lands who had no right there. In a section of the nation assigned to Martin J. Mueller there were forty-seven sawmills and all but two of them were located on unallotted lands. The squatters were not easily moved, many of them openly defying the officials, and it required two years to fully complete the task of their ejection. One entire town capitulated under order of the Government and from the tract on which it was located nearly 200 people moved their houses and personal belongings, and two sawmills and a planing mill were taken to other territory. This town was located three miles south of Kosoma and among other things boasted of a post office. One sawmill was large and the other small and several million feet of lumber were stacked about them. The owners in the original order to vacate were given sixty days to complete the task but later the Government saw the time was too short and granted them six months. At the end of the time not a mill or a house was left on the site. Within a radius of ten to fifteen miles there were other mills belong to the owners of these at this town and they were also made to vacate.
Among the first investigations made by Mr. Mueller, in 1908, was one regarding the rights of the INGRAM Lumber Company. This company had for twenty years operated sawmills on the Indian lands unmolested and the Choctaw Nation received very little revenue from their business. Mr. Mueller found that the company had cut commercial lumber off of 500 to 600 acres of land in the region of their mill and that the land was Government or unallotted land. Five million feet of logs, most of which had been cut from unallotted lands, were then in Buck Creek and in possession of the company, and they were continually cutting and hauling fresh timber from this class of lands. The manager of the company at Kosoma was asked who was president of the concern, to which he replied that he did not know. Mr. Mueller told him that the company's depredations had been reported to the commission to the Five Civilized Tribes and that the commission had decided to replevin the limber and the timber. Mr. Mueller was to advise the United States marshal to meet him at Antlers and accompany him to Kosoma to serve the papers on the local manager, but when he went to Antlers he found that the manager had departed for Muskogee to surrender himself. In the meantime, the replevin suit had been instituted in the United States Court. Mr. Mueller's charges that timber and lumber were being moved in contempt of the court order was proven next day when he and his Indian police met six wagons and teams bearing lumber that was covered by the replevin order.
Another mill, owned by Zach CLAY, that had been in operation for thirty years, was abandoned by Clay during this investigation. It was estimated that Clay had cut enough black walnut from Indian lands to make ties for the Frisco Railroad for trackage from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Paris, Texas. Other mill owners also left the country, some going to Canada and some to Mexico, while others made settlement with the department in sums ranging as high as $15,000. Sawmill men had gone on Indian lands before the allotment period by permission of governors of the Choctaw Nation, agreeing to pay the nation a royalty of fifty cents per 1,000 feet. The nation, however, received but a small percentage of that to which it was entitled.
The case which follows is an example of the problems which Agent Mueller had to face when he was placed in charge of the McCurtain County office in 1910. Simon WAKAYA was a Choctaw Indian, possessed of forty-five head of cattle and a little money supposed to be hid in his small cabin near Kulli Tuklo, where he lived alone, having no relatives of near blood save cousins. One day report was made to United States Indian Agent Mueller at Idabel that the house in which Wakaya lived had been burned and that his body lay in a crisp in the ruins. An investigation was instituted by the Indian agent which revealed a gunshot in the Indian's skull. A few days later the county records showed that a bill of sale for the cattle owned by Wakaya had been filed there; also there appeared of record a will that Wakaya was supposed to have made. Agent Mueller and his interpreter proceeded to interview those whose names appeared as witnesses of the will and this convinced Mr. Mueller that the instrument was a forgery. In due time the will came on for probate and was not approved by the county judge. Attorneys for the beneficiary appealed to the District Court. Three days later trial of the case was called, but it progressed only a part of the way through the taking of testimony when the district judge halted proceedings and ordered the arrest of three men on the charge of perjury, murder and arson.
When Mr. Mueller became United States Indian agent, inherited lands were being sold promiscuously and officials were said to have approved deeds of sale in and out of office and in and out of the state. Heirs were not consulted in some cases and did not know their lands were to be sold; blank deeds bearing notary seals and signatures were liberally circulated, and some Indians after receiving money for their lands were robbed on the way home. Such conditions, however, have not obtained in recent years.
Martin J. Mueller, United States Indian agent at Idabel, McCurtain County, was born in Germany in 1862 and came with his parents to the United States in 1870, the family settling first in Minnesota. His education was acquired in the public and high school of that state and in 1889 he began life for himself in the employ of an express company. He subsequently filled various positions from driver to agent until 1900 and was in the employ of the United States, Adams and American express companies, and in the year mentioned entered the service of the United States Government, being assigned to appraising work in the Indian Territory under the Dawes Commission. He remained in the Government service until April 4, 1915, when he entered the real estate and insurance business at Idabel. From 1900 to 1902 he continued in appraisement work in the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations and them spent one year in the Creek Nation, and in April, 1903, entered the Indian office at Atoka where for five years he was engaged in the alloting [sic] of lands of lands to Indians. In 1908 he became timber inspector and continued in that position until 1910 when he was appointed Indian agent at Idabel.
Mr. Mueller was married in 1885, while a resident of Minnesota, to Miss Louise CHERRY, and they have two children: Mrs. Hazel Mueller RONE, who is the wife of a railroad man at Idabel; and Martin E., who is a resident of the State of New Jersey. Mr. Mueller is a member of the Episcopal Church and of the Knights of Pythias Lodge. His activities as a private citizen at Idabel are those of a progressive man, looking to the upbuilding of the community and the greater development of a section of the state where so many of his official activities have been centered. He knows personally nearly every Indian in McCurtain County and takes a special interest in promoting the welfare of that race.
Transcribed by Charmaine Keith, December 5, 1998