In the Cherokee Nation, an area located in the northeastern part of the present-day Oklahoma, the people were torn apart by a bitter factional dispute that had raged for over a half century. Into this land came George William Talbot and his bride, the little Cherokee lady, Annie Caroline Smith Talbot. When George and Annie set up housekeeping in the Nation in the late Summer of 1876, he was no stranger to the country.
By the time he was married, George was well acquainted with Aaron "Head" Beck, operator of the Hildebrand Mill on Flint Creek. George acquired the skill of dressing stone mill buhrs, a skill few men knew, even among the milling profession.
With few trading posts in the Cherokee Nation, Arkansas border towns were quite popular. Evansville, Cincinnati, Hico, Cherokee City, Maysville and Bloomfield were busy places.
Life in the Cherokee Nation was simple and sometimes harsh. In fact, electric and telephone service did not come to some areas of the Nation until 75 years later. Horse or oxen were used to plow, pull wagons and other chores requiring "horsepower".
A milk cow was a necessity. If you were well-to-do, you made butter in a churn. If not, you made it by shaking the cream in a jar until the gobbets of butter formed. The annual calf was a treasured possession, either for replacement or addition to the herd, or to sell for cash to buy staple goods.
Hogs were another money crop. Allowed to run on the free range, they grazed on weeds and grass during the summer and fattened on acorns in the fall. Some were butchered for the winter supply of salt-cured pork. The rest were sold. Every spring an old hen or two were set with eggs. The hatching of eggs and baby chicks were watched carefully, for a varmint or black snake could wipe out a whole season of chicken dinners in a matter of minutes.
Farming was the principal occupation. Corn was the main crop with perhaps some wheat or oats and sometimes a patch of tobacco, for home use and for a cash crop.
Corn was gathered by hand, shelled and taken to the mill in a flour sack thrown across the back of a horse.
Wild game meant meat on the table and money in the pocket. Citizens of the Cherokee Nation killed pigeons, squirrels, rabbit, duck, quail, turkey and deer, and dressed them and sold them to buyers for the Eastern markets. Timber was a cash crop.
Coal oil was a necessity for the home. "Running water" was a stream that flowed nearby. Hot water was heated in a black iron teakettle. The bathtub was the galvanized wash tub. The bathroom was the little building that stood a respectable distance from the house.
School was a one room building, erected by the community. The Cherokees were interested in education for their children, and had been since before the 19th century. The local school board was run by a board of directors.
Death could come swiftly and with little warning...or could linger with growing pain. In any case, it was a time when neighbors gathered at the home, to sit up through the night and to dig the grave and build the coffin.
The Good Old Days! There was much good about them. And a lot of bad. Sometimes they could be downright cruel.
--Excerpts from "Life in the Cherokee Nation" which appears in the book The Talbots: Centuries of Service and in the book A Bit of History. Both books are by Virgil Talbot. Both books are available at the Talbot Library and Museum in Colcord, Oklahoma or you may order them at our online bookstore by clicking the link for each book.