Mary Olive Leas 1 2
- Born: 18 Oct 1856, Fulton County, Illinois, USA
- Marriage (1): William Latimer Tucker
- Died: 1954 at age 98
Mary O Lease b 1856 d 1956 m William Latimer Tucker b 1839 d 1897
Letter: Mary Ollie Tucker to Audrey Tucker in Edmond, Oklahoma 1906
Alva, Oklahoma 73717 October, 1982
MOTHER, SON CHALLENGED WEATHER, ROADS IN 1906 BUGGY TRIP
A year before Oklahoma's statehood, in the winter of 1906, the 50-year-old
widow of a Texas Ranger and her teen-age son loaded up a one-horse buggy
in Edmond and left on a trip to the panhandle to claim a homestead in
what once was "No Man's Land."
The woman was Mary Ollie TUCKER.
The boy's name was Van.
Travelling 265 miles through Oklahoma Territory, they arrived at Hooker 12 days after leaving Edmond. A few days later Mrs.Tucker wrote her
daughter Audrey, then a kindergarten teacher in Oklahoma City, to tell
of their journey. Recently Mrs. Tucker's grandson, Bob GRIFFIN, and
Mrs. Griffin of Waco, Texas retraced much of the route the pioneering
duo took. They were guided by details in the letter, the original of which
is in the custody of another grandson, Jack Griffin of Norman.
In their trip to Hooker a few weeks ago, the Griffins located the original
homestead and legal records to his grandmother's ownership. He has
provided a copy of the letter which, he said,"reflects the spirit of the
pioneers of Oklahoma and the determination required to overcome the
hardships of travel encountered." Griffin calls it "An Odyssey in Oklahoma
Before Statehood" and dedicates it to "Buster Brown, a Noble Pony."
Feb. 26, 1906
I received your letter and mailed to you yesterday, telling you we arrived here
last Sunday. We had our house moved yesterday and got lumber today to build a chicken
house. Van has dug quite a hole in the ground where we are going to build it,
so it won't take so much lumber and will be nice and warm. There are so many
dugouts here, and half dugouts, dug down about half the depth of the house then
built up with lumber.
I have two turkey hens but no gobbler yet. Only have the chickens I brought.
I have sent for an incubator (120 egg size). Van has gone to work like he meant
business. Has done more work in the three days we have been here than he
ever did in that time.
I would like to give you a description of our trip, but there's too much to tell to
write it all. I wish I could be with you a while. I could talk a whole lot.
The first night we stayed three miles this side of Cassion (sic). The people had
killed hogs and
invited us to eat with them. The lady was not well, and
I helped her, and Van helped grind the sausage; and they didn't charge us for
lodging and horse feed.
The next day we passed through Kingfisher, came on to Kiel; put our horse
and buggy in a livery barn, and we stayed at a hotel. The man at the barn
thought it was awful that I would undertake such a trip with that poor little
pony and such a load and no top to the buggy. I told him he didn't know what
a woman could do. He told me to sell the chickens but I didn't.
The next day we came through Okeene and on three miles this side of
Homestead. Stayed at a farm house. The people were very kind, would
take no pay. The lady was so interested in us she gave me her address
and asked me to write when we got here. Well, we left there on
Saturday morning and ourtroubles began.
Three miles ahead of us was what they called a sand hill; but I called it a
sand mountain. We met some men who told us we could go around it, but
whichever way we went, we would wish we had gone the other way. We
decided to go around it. It was probably not more than two miles, but it
seemed a lot further, and the awfulest road any poor mortal ever tried to
pull over. The sand was so deep we could hardly wade through, and up
one hill after another. We walked, or waded. The sand was so deep
the pony couldn't pull up the hill. When we came to a real bad place,
I would drive and Van would push. A good part of the way the blackjacks
were so close to the road there was no room for me to walk so I would
turn the pony lines loose, and the pony would go till he thought it time
to rest, and stop. At last we got to where it seemed the top in the brush
and nothing in sight but brush and sand.
We came to another road and didn't know which to follow. Van walked
on the said mile-to see which was the right one. While he was gone, I
pulled grass and fed the pony so he would be able to pull up the next
mountain. While I was there feeding him, I laughed and thought if you
could see me you would wish for a Kodak more than ever.
When we were coming up that hill, our lunch basket fell out of the
buggy, bottom side up, so you can imagine better than I can tell what
plight it was in. Broke a glass and one handle of the basket. Van didn't
get discouraged; he and the pony were faithful as could be, and I just kept
smiling like the dentist told his patients to do while he was pulling their teeth.
We were up the worst of the hill by noon, but pulled through sand until the
middle of the afternoon. Finally we came to a house so we could inquire the
way. Then the rest of the day we didn't pass a house till near sundown.
We came to a house inside a pasture where a man lived. He told us we
would have to go 3 1/2 miles and ford a river before we could stay all
night. That strip belongs to the Indians, is why there are no more settlements.
We went on and passed groups of Indian tents. When we came to the river,
it was wide but not
deep, so the pony waded right through. We drove on until almost dark and
came to a store and house nearby, where they kept weary pilgrims, and
stayed all night. They were very nice and kind to us. Outside were five
wagons en route for Beaver, thirty miles west (sic) of Hooker.
Next day was Sunday. There was a chilly south wind, but fortunately we
had our backs to it. We drove about thirty-four miles and thought we
were not going to find a place to stay. At last we went off the road a
short distance to a big square house and found the folks all ready to go
to church, but one boy. They took us in and were very kind but awfully
dirty. Van slept on the floor in the kitchen with our bed covers, and I
slept in another room with the daughter and the old man and woman.
We had two beds but they were awfully close together. They had four
grown boys upstairs. We ate breakfast with them, and they fed our horse
and gave us an armful of corn for the chickens, and didn't charge us a cent.
The next day was Monday. We had only gone a mile or two when it began
a slow drizzling rain. We kept going, watching for a barn where we could
get shelter for the pony and buggy, until we and everything in the buggy,
were wet. We stopped at a dugout, and the lady of the house let us in. We
ate dinner there, and it kept up the slow rain.
The middle of the afternoon I saw that the woman was tired of our wet lap
robe and the rest of us, so I told Van we had better drive on. About the
middle of the afternoon we started on, watching at every house for a
shed to put the buggy in. A while before night we saw a vacant shed.
I went to the door and talked to the woman. She said they had company
and a sick girl, but after talking a little while she said come on in out of
the rain. I told her we had bedding and could sleep on the floor, and
sleep on the floor we did. But the people were real nice, and we rather
enjoyed our stay.
It turned cold that night and snowed some. The man where (we) stayed
killed hogs the next day. About three in the afternoon we started for
Woodward, 8 miles against a fierce north wind. The roads were
awfully sandy, but the rain and freeze had improved them. By
whipping and driving up, we got to Woodward without freezing.
We put our horse and buggy in a livery barn and rented a room
for the night in a hotel nearby, with a stove and bed, and cooked
and ate our supper there. We were too dirty and tackey (sic) to
go to the table.
On Wednesday by noon the weather had moderated. We went to
the barn and asked the man if he thought we could cross the river.
He said there was a mail route through there and the mail
carrier would have the ice broken, so about noon we started,
expecting to drive to Ft. Supply 8 miles ahead. When we got
within 2 miles of town, we came to Wolf River. It was quite
wide, but there had been teams ahead of us and broken the ice.
There were pieces of ice that looked to be a yard square, but
there were no houses for miles back, and we didn't know when
anyone else would come along, so we started in.
We had not gone far when the big pieces of ice blocked the wheels,
and the pony couldn't pull it. We got out on the step and pulled the
ice out the best we could; the pony got contrary and wouldn't try to
pull. We coaxed and whipped quite a while, but not an inch would
he budge. There we were the water and ice up over the hubs on both
sides of us, and no prospect of getting out. I told Van the only thing
to do was to pull off our shoes, roll up our pants and wade out. I
don't know how long we were in there, but it seemed like a long time.
At last Van pulled off his shoes and socks and jumped in the water.
He shook all over and said he was freezing. He went and tried to
lead the pony out, but no, he wouldn't budge.
Van saw a fire out on the bank and went to it; said he was freezing to
death, I persuaded a while, then whipped a while, but to no avail; so
I pulled off my shoes and stockings, put on my rubbers, rolled up
my pants and jumped in. I tell you, it was a cold jump. I took the rope
and tied (it) around the pony's neck and tried to lead him. Still he
persisted in standing in the river. I stood and pulled my best for
At last he had to step forward a step or two. That loosened the buggy
and he followed me out. The water was over my knees. When I got
out to the fire, my feet and legs had no more feeling than if they had
been a rock. Van gathered some sticks and put on the fire, which had
been built by some campers. I rubbed my legs with the blanket and
warmed by the fire, but they didn't feel natural for a long time. I
thought sure they were frozen, but they didn't hurt after they
got warm-didn't even ache-and I didn't take a bit of cold. I didn't
know till that night when my legs began to smart that I had cut
great gashes clear to my knees on the ice.
We drove on to Ft. Supply before night. We went to the livery barn to
leave our horse. I said to the man, "I hate to go to a hotel looking as I do,"
and he said if we wanted to we could cook
supper on his monkey
stove and sleep in the barn loft. So Van went out and bought some steak,
we cooked it on his stove, and had a very good supper. We took out
bedding to the hayloft and spent a very pleasant night.
Next day we drove to Shearmore. Had no trouble worthy of mention.
Next day we passed through Custer and stopped on a hill this side for
dinner, or lunch. While there, a boy came along and said we could
only go 1 1/2 miles farther. Said they had quarantined against
smallpox 21 days. I went on to a house. There was no one to stop us,
but I was afraid if we went into the strip they might not let us out.
So I stopped and asked the man. He said the health officer had
been there just a short time before and quarantined for six miles
for 21 days. Said one went south and one west. Said we might get
through and advised us to go on. So we went through the six miles
west. We just made the little pony June through there and got
through without being molested.
All that evening we didn't pass anything but sod houses and cabins
that people had built to hold their claims, and some were vacated.
About sundown we stopped at a little one-room house and told
them we were hunting for a place to stay all night. They didn't
know of any place ahead. They wouldn't turn us away but said
they had two extra men, and had to make down one bed. I didn't
see any place for us to sleep unless it was on the table. I saw a
good-sized house half a mile off the road and we went down
there.They had a three room sod house and a big barn. They
took us in and were very nice to us. Were old ranchers and
had been there 20 years. They fed us and pony and didn't
charge us. We left there Sat morning. Were 7 miles from
Beaver City. We started late and had a good deal of sand
to pull through, so we got there a little before noon. Just
after leaving Beaver, we had to cross the Canadian River again.
It was wide and rather deep, but "Buster Brown" waded right
through. We named the pony Buster Brown because he is such a
noble little fellow, we thought he ought to have a big name.
We came across the river and up the hill before we stopped
for lunch. The hill or hills this side of the river are terrible.
It was up one sand hill and down another for a mile and
a half or more. Van was sick from eating too much canned
chili a day or two before but managed to walk up the hills,
and Buster got the buggy up. These were the lasthills of any
consequence we had.
I guess it was well for us that we had such a poor pony and
such pitiful objects, for everyone we have met were so kind
to us and wanted to help us. If I met a man in a wagon where
it was a little hard for me to turn out, he would say, "Stay in
the road. I'll go around you." And if I met one on a hill, he
would wait and see if I got up all right.
We came 20 miles this side of Beaver and stayed all night with
a young Mr. SMITH of Edmond. We were then 25 miles from
Hooker. We left there early Sunday morning for home.
It seemed so nice that we would not have to hunt for a place
to stay another night. Buster was nearly worn out and so was
I. Van would have trotted Buster to death that day if I had let him.
We got home at 1:30. Van is delighted and has gone right to work.
Well, I guess I have told all that is worth telling, except that we
were brown as a side of bacon. My nose and forehead are peeling off.
Apparently the "homestead" in Hooker didn't work out. Mrs. Tucker
spent most of the rest of her life in Oklahoma City and Edmond,
where she died in 1954 at the age of 99 while living at the home
of her daughter and son-in-law, Audrey and Ira Griffin.
Van, a World War I veteran, owned and operated a nursery
and greenhouse in Oklahoma City for many years and now, over 90, lives in a retirement home in Lawton.
There is no record of what became of Buster Brown.
Mary married William Latimer Tucker. (William Latimer Tucker was born in 1839 and died in 1897.)