Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

November 13, 2013

Massacre descendants relive tragedy

TAHLEQUAH — Descendants of the 1872 Goingsnake Massacre and other visitors gathered Friday morning at the Cherokee Nation complex for a presentation in conjunction with the tribe’s partnering with the U.S. Marshal museum in Van Buren.

A story from 1872 could well have been from 2013.

Angry family members glared at one another in the packed one-room Whitmore School, considered more secure than the Goingsnake Courtroom because it had fewer windows and doors. They were awaiting for the trial of Zeke Proctor to begin.

People from both sides knew trouble was brewing, as Judge Blackhawk Sixkiller began the trial. Suddenly, someone opened fire, leaving 11 men dead. To this day, no one is certain who began shooting first, said historian Robert Ernst as he painted a picture of the history of the Goingsnake Massacre.

“There are two versions of why the first shot was fired: one from inside the courtroom at the marshals, and the second that one of the Becks charged in with shotguns aiming at Zeke,” Ernst said. “His brother, James Proctor, was killed, but pellets went into Zeke’s leg.”

What ended in wholesale bloodshed began in with an instance of domestic violence, Ernst said.

“Three people started it,” said Ernst. “Ezekial Proctor had a problem with James Kesterson, a white man married to his sister, Elizabeth, who abandoned her and three kids after he went to work at the Beck Mill.”

When Proctor went to have it out with Kesterson, Mary Beck Downing Crittenden Hildebrand Kesterson, also known as Polly, threw herself between Proctor and her husband, just as Proctor pulled the trigger. He missed the first shot, which hit Polly, but wounded him with the second as he was running away.

“Zeke was faster than most. When he realized what he’d done, he turned himself in,” Ernst said.

Kesterson got away, and after signing a warrant for Proctor’s arrest, he was never seen again. He also wrote to the Becks in Van Buren, Ark., who came to be with him at the trial.

Because Kesterson was white, it gave jurisdiction to the federal government, so commissioners dispatched U.S. Marshal Jacob G. Owens. It was known that if Proctor was found guilty, he would hang, and if not guilty, the marshal would arrest him and take him to Van Buren.

Eventually, all charges against Proctor were dismissed. In later years before he died, Owens said the first shot came from inside the school.

“Nobody answered for this mess and nobody found out who was responsible,” Ernst said.

Diane White, one of the visitors Friday morning, volunteers with several historic sites in Fort Smith, Ark., and is getting a master’s degree in museum studies from The University of Oklahoma. A Sapulpa native, she grew up visiting Lake Tenkiller and said she’s very interested in Cherokee history.

“I didn’t know about this incident before today, it’s very interesting hearing both sides of the story,” White said. “I’m very partial to Oklahoma history.”

One man who said he was a descendant of Art Scraper, said he’d seen a document at an uncle’s home in the 1960s – a treaty with Zeke Proctor, dismissing the charges. But he didn’t know what happened to that document.

Goingsnake is most significant for its loss of marshals and Cherokees, said Catherine Foreman-Gray, Cherokee Nation Historic Preservation officer.

“This partnership is important for our story to be told correctly,” Foreman-Gray said. “Eight marshals and three Cherokees died, along with Polly.”

Many relatives – including Ronald Harris, of New York City, a great-great-grandson of Owens – came to learn family history and meet relatives.

Barbara Cecil, of Houston, came to the weekend event out of respect for her great-great-grandfather, Owens.

“I’ve met half a dozen cousins. I’m glad this is happening; it’s very informative,” Cecil said.

Bruce Barr, a history buff  from Lee’s Summit, Mo., is a great-great-great-grandson of Owens. He was enjoying meeting family for the first time.

“So in 1966, a man named Scraper saw a treaty. How much more history is lost because people don’t know what they’ve found when a relative dies?” Barr said. “My grandpa is part of the basis for ‘True Grit’ and arrested Wyatt Earp.”

Lionel Owens, retired U.S. Army from San Antonio, is a great-great-great-nephew of Owens.

“I was so intrigued when I learned about my relative being a U.S. marshal, I moved to Oklahoma,” Owens said. “I really enjoyed Ernst’s talk; I didn’t know Owens was an officer in the Confederate Army.”

1
Text Only
Features
  • Dream, Brewdog’s to host music festivals

    One sign of spring’s arrival is the scheduling of music festivals, and 10 bands will visit a Tahlequah venue May 24, the Saturday before Memorial Day.

    April 17, 2014

  • rf-Zoe-thing.jpg Conference attendees get words of encouragement

    Words of encouragement and door prizes were bountiful Saturday morning at the annual Zoë Institute’s Women’s Conference.
    Ten women shared words of wisdom in areas from happiness to health, and 100 gifts were given out, including the grand prize of gasoline for a year.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • sp-symposium-art-panel.jpg Panelists discuss impact of Southeastern art

    Until recently, most people had a certain expectation of American Indian art – and it didn’t include images familiar to people in and around Cherokee County.
    “A lot of times, when people think about Native art, they immediately think of Plains art or Southwestern art,” said Roy Boney (Cherokee), Tahlequah artist and moderator of the panel discussion “Southeastern Indian Art: Building Community and Raising Awareness,” held Friday, April 11, at the NSU Symposium on the American Indian.
    Boney and the other panelists are frustrated by the divide between mainstream expectations of Native American art and their need for genuine self-expression.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-Teacher.jpg Dickerson believes in putting the student first

    As a child growing up in Elk City, Cherokee Elementary teacher Debra Dickerson lined up the neighborhood children and animals to play school.
    “I’ve been a teacher ever since I could talk. My mother always said she knew where I was because she could hear me bossing everyone,” she said.
    The classroom then was a blanket tossed over limbs of her big cherry tree on Eisenhower Street. Recess was spent tree-climbing, running, riding in the bus (her red wagon) and being creative.
    “Those were the days before video games and TV,” she said.
    Dickerson, 2013-’14 Cherokee Elementary Teacher of the Year, believes a classroom should be a safe haven for children, because school is often the best part of their day.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • kh-trash-pickup.jpg Cleaning things up

    Lowrey was part of the Cherokee Nation’s Career Service Center contingency of 11 volunteers. Other volunteers cleaned up trash along the roadway from the Cherokee Casino to the NSU campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-NinthAmendment.jpg Right to privacy leans partly on Article 9

    While the other articles of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights are straightforward – at least, enough for Americans to bicker over in court – the Ninth Amendment might cause a bit of confusion.
    It reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
    There are no rights enumerated, and it might be difficult to argue one’s Ninth Amendment rights in court, though it has been done successfully.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • stickball-2.jpg Stickball

    The American Indian Science and Engineering Society and Native American Student Associationat Northeastern State University hosted a traditional stickball game as part of closing cultural activities during the 42nd annual Symposium on the American Indian Friday. Participants included, from left: Nathan Wolf, Disosdi Elk and Chris Smith.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • green-bldng.jpg City council to discuss ‘green building’

    Tahlequah City Council will hold a special meeting Friday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss, among other items, applying grant money to renovate the city’s “green building” at the corner of Water and Morgan, near Norris Park.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • alcohol-info.jpg Alcohol screening can be critical

    It has been decades since Prohibition brought Americans gangsters, flappers and speakeasies, but statistics for alcohol addiction are staggering.
    Millions of Americans suffer from alcohol addiction and abuse, which affects families and friends.
    Today, April 10, is the annual National Alcohol Screening Day, and raising awareness through education, outreach and screening programs is the goal, according to the website at www.mentalhealthscreening.org.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • jn-CCSO-2.jpg Law enforcement agencies to get new facility

    Area law enforcement agencies will soon have a new training facility in Cherokee County.
    The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office is building the new training room near its gun range, located north of the detention center. Sheriff Norman Fisher said tax dollars were not used for the building.
    “This is something we’ve been trying to work on, and it was built with no money from the taxpayers,” said Fisher. “It was paid for with drug forfeitures and gun sales.”

    April 9, 2014 2 Photos

Poll

What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Stocks