Pauls Valley is a little town in south central Oklahoma. It was born as a farming community, and later there was a little oil boom there, but for the last 30 or 40 years it's been getting smaller instead of larger. When you drive down Paul Avenue, the main drag, you don't see any new buildings. If people stop there, it's usually just to get gas or a snack on their way to Dallas.
Pauls Valley is still a pretty little town though. It's one of those towns where the tree branches form an arch over the streets which are still paved with bricks in some areas. I never lived in Pauls Valley, but I visited my grandmother there every other weekend for most of my childhood, so I feel at home there. The other reason it's special to me is because it was named after my great great grandfather, Smith Paul.
I think I've told the story of Smith Paul before, how he ran away from home and joined the Chickasaws, and then came with them from their homeland in what is now Mississippi on their "Trail of Tears" in 1837. In about 1844 he married my great great grandmother, a full blood Indian woman named Ela-teecha.
The Chickasaw settlers were threatened by the "wild" Plains Indian tribes who thought of them as invaders, so they lived close to forts for protection. In 1845 they moved next to Fort Washita, and when Fort Arbuckle was built in 1851 they moved close to it. It was in about 1858 or 9 when Smith and Ellen - that's how Ela-teecha was known in the family - moved to the present location of Pauls Valley.
Pauls Valley is located where Rush Creek flows into the Washita River, which was large enough in Smith Paul's day to float a pretty large boat. Smith Paul had always wanted to farm on a large scale, and the land in the Valley was the best he had ever seen. The grass on the prairie was so tall it could hide a man on horseback, and Smith's farm yielded 30 to 40 bushels of corn per acre without cultivation. More recent studies have shown that the topsoil there is 17 to 20 feet thick.
Smith and Ellen spent the Civil War years in the valley, without much company other than the friendly Indian tribes who would supply them with meat in exchange for corn. After the War others came to the valley and formed a settlement there which became known as Smith Paul's Valley. The main road west went through the town and carried supplies to Fort Cobb and Fort Sill.
Ellen Paul had been married before, to a man named Jason McClure who had died in 1843 of hydrophobia, or rabies, and she had two children by McClure: a boy, Tecumseh, and a girl, Kathrine. She and Smith Paul had three children together: a boy Jesse, who died as a young man; a girl, Mississippia, and my great grandfather, Sam. They all remained in the valley after they married and raised their families there.
In the early days Smith Pauls Valley was part of the Chickasaw Nation, which had its own government and its own laws. The main issue of the time was over whether or not to allow intermarried white settlers the right to vote. Many of the Chickasaws were not happy with the changes that the whites had brought. They preferred to live as they had always lived, in small family groups, using only what they needed. They saw the desire of the white man for wealth and possessions as a threat to their way of life.
Smith and Ellen's children were split over the issue. Sam Paul was a Progressive, in favor of welcoming the white man, and working toward eventual statehood for the territory with a joint Indian - white government. His older half-brother Tecumseh, on the other hand, was a member of the "Pull-back" Party, and was dead set against allowing whites any more influence.
The issue came to a head with the coming of the railroad. Most Indians were against building a railroad across the Territory, because it represented more whites, more businesses, and more towns. They were already outnumbered seven to one by whites in their own country. After the Civil War, the U.S. Government used the fact that most of the Indians had supported the Confederacy as an excuse to demand reparations. It didn't make any difference that the Indians were more or less forced into the War by being occupied by Confederate Troops. One of the concessions demanded of the Chickasaws and Choctaws was that railroad lines be built across their Nations. One line would cross east to west and the other north to south.
Footnote: The Chickasaws, Arrell Gibson, P 276 describes the post Civil War treaty , and p 284 gives the dates, names, and locations of the railroads.
The first line, the M.K. & T. was built in 1872. It crossed the southern part of the Nation, and although it brought with it more settlers, laborers, gamblers, prostitutes, and liquor, just as the Indians had feared, it was a long way from Smith Pauls Valley. The real problem came in 1887 when the north - south line was built by the Santa Fe Company. It was to come right through the Valley.
Naturally the railroad wanted to locate a depot in Smith Paul's Valley, now a major settlement, but Tecumseh McClure refused to release the land. According to Chickasaw law, a person could not own land, but he could use all the land that he needed, and the place selected for the depot was on land that Tecumseh controlled.
When Tecumseh's brother Sam found out about the dilemma, he contacted the railroad and offered to let them use his land for the depot, so the Santa Fe engineers took him up on his offer. Sam Paul's land was three miles south of the town so locating the depot there meant that the town had to be moved. Sam Paul, a true businessmen, immediately began selling town lots. By the time the depot was built, he owned the town. They say that it was the railroad that was responsible for shortening the town's name to Pauls Valley. The name Smith Pauls Valley was too long to go on the sign.
Sam Paul's vision of the future eventually came to pass, even though the rift between him and his brother eventually led to Sam's death. Pauls Valley was a thriving and prosperous town for the next fifty years.
Footnote: Uncle Haskell's notes tell about the conflict between Sam Paul and Tecumseh McClure.
Santa Fe locomotive - Pauls Valley