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Cupidís Arrow Replaced by Bullets

February 13, 2002

Almanac Transcript

Cupidís arrow replaced by bullets this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.

Hildebrandís Mill in Delaware County, Oklahoma played an important part in the local economy of the region. Located in the Cherokee Nation near the town of Flint the gristmill began operations in 1845. Powered by water, the mill utilized two sets of grinding stones or burs one to grind wheat and the other corn. The mill was not a shabby fly by night operation. Constructed by expert mill operators from Arkansas, the millís grindstones were four feet in diameter and made of marble quarried and shaped in France. The stones were then shipped to New Orleans and up the Mississippi and finally by wagon and oxen carried to the mill site.

The mill operated for nearly fifty years in its original location before fire destroyed much of the structure in 1892. The mill was quickly rebuilt but this time sixty feet closer to Flint Creek, its power source. The mill was an integral feature of the economy for the Cherokee Nation and many people depended on it for their food and livelihood, but those factors aren't what most people recall when they think of the old Hildebrand mill. Valentineís Day is associated usually with hearts, candy and love, but this was not the case at Hildebrandís Mill in 1872.

It was in this week of 1872 at the mill on Valentineís Day that a deadly gunfight occurred. Enraged that free-range cattle were destroying his crops, Ezekiel Proctor approached the owner of the livestock one James Kesterson. Guns were drawn and angry words shouted. Proctor fired several rounds at Kesterson but missing his target he killed instead Kestersonís wife who was running to break up the fight. This event known as "The Gunfight at Hildebrand's Mill," lasted physically only a few seconds but proved to have long lasting effects for the citizens of the Cherokee Nation. Proctor, the murderer, turned himself in to the Cherokee officials and was held in a local jail. Afraid that the murderer of his wife would be acquitted, Kesterson along with enraged family members attacked the jailhouse causing a gun battle eventually resulting in eleven deaths and numerous severe injuries.

Officials blamed the original and subsequent gunfights on confusion between tribal and federal law and the absence of a federal court in the area. The gunfight at Hildebrandís Mill took place in this week of 1872, and as a direct result of that action a US District Court was established in Muskogee forever changing the nature of law enforcement in the Cherokee Nation. Valentineís Day vindication and its long-term results this week on the Almanac.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

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