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Humble Beginnings

June 27, 2001

Historian's Notes

Today it seems like we just take the mail for granted. We love mail carriers because they brings us nice cards, letters and birthday presents. We also strongly dislike mail carriers because they bring us bills and foreclosure statements. But I think that few of us ever really sit down and say, "What a great thing is this dependable, regular mail service!" For the people of Skullyville, the arrival of a post office and mail service must have been like someone today getting a new computer.

Resources

The Angie Debo Papers are held at OSU's Special Collections & University Archives.

Almanac Transcript

Humble beginnings this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Kite.

The town of Spiro is a small but thriving center of commercial activity for southeastern Oklahoma perhaps known best for the near by Indian Mounds. Less well known, but equally important in Oklahoma history, is the development of the Choctaw Agency at Skullyville. When the Choctaws were forcibly removed from their Mississippi lands and settled in southeastern Indian Territory, the only structure in their new world was a log building consisting of two large rooms connected by a breeze-way. This was the Choctaw Agency. The agency, for the first few years of Choctaw inhabitance, proved to be the center of tribal business and social activity. The agency buildings were where the tribal funds were allotted and so received the name Skullyville from the Choctaw word "iskuli," meaning money.

In 1832 a road was laid out from the agency connecting other smaller settlements. With the improvement in transportation Skullyville began to thrive and grow into a city. Shortly after the road was put in, Fort Coffee was established a short distance to the northwest overlooking the Arkansas River. Skullyville became known as the center for Native American life in the southern part of the state and attracted the attention of scholars and celebrities of the period.

In the early 1830s the famous artist, George Catlin, visited Skullyville sketching and painting some of his most well known pieces during his stay. It was at Skullyville that Catlin witnessed a game of Indian Ball between two Choctaw teams providing for him inspiration and sketches for dozens of later paintings. Agreements between tribal and U.S. government officials led to a relocation of the Choctaw agency away from Skullyville, but the area continued to thrive and grow. The original agency was remodeled into a personal residence and later became a stop on the Butterfield Overland Stage Coach route.

Just before the turn of the century white immigration began to change the character of the area. The Kansas City Southern rail line bypassed Skullyville stopping instead instead at the settlement now known as Spiro. Most of Skullyvilleís businesses and population moved to the new Railroad stop, and the old town began to die out. The old original agency constructed in 1827 was used as a residence until it burned in 1947. At that time being the oldest building in Oklahoma. It was in this week in 1833 that Choctaw residents for the first time in Indian Territory could count on regular mail service. June 27th, 1833 marked the first mail delivery at the agency and the establishment of a post office there.

The mailman delivers Choctaw style this week on the Almanac.

I'm Steve Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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