As Checotah began to assume the appearance
of a real town it turned its attention to the building of churches and
schools. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was the first to
organize a church. In 1889 Rev. James A. Trickey started the first
church of that denomination in a little schoolhouse. After remaining two
years, he was succeeded by Rev. W. M. Baldwin, who had the misfortune of
seeing the little church house, which he had just completed, carried
away by a wind storm. This misfortune did not seem to dishearten the
parishioners, however, for they soon got busy and erected a better and
more commodious building.
The Christian denomination was the next to organize a church.
Rev. J. W. Towry came to Checotah in 1896 and at the close of a series
of meetings, gathered a little flock of converts together and
established the Christian Church. The little congregation grew and
prospered and within three years had erected and paid for a substantial
The Baptist denomination soon afterward determined to
organize a church. Rev. D. S. Cromer, a Baptist minister visited
Checotah in 1898 and found five members of his denomination in the
village. The use of the Christian Church was kindly tendered to him
temporarily. Two years later Rev. Charles S. Leonard was called as
pastor of this church, and with a membership of twenty-five, encouraged
by his energy and earnestness, another very creditable church building
was soon erected.
Later on the Presbyterians, Episcopalians and other
denominations organized churches, and it may be well said that the
religious welfare of the inhabitants of Checotah and vicinity has not
Checotah, like every other Indian Territory
town which was established prior to 1898, was hindered and delayed in
the matter of organizing a good school system, but a school was started
as soon as the town began to grow and for several years was maintained
by subscription or voluntary taxation. Soon after Congress passed the
law permitting towns to tax themselves for public purposes, a school
district was organized, good teachers secured, modern buildings erected,
and today Checotah has a first class school system, with an accredited
As soon as Checotah began to contemplate the building
of a real town, a wide awake commercial club was organized for the
purpose of promoting the town's interests, with J. B. Morrow as
president, K. W. Whitmore as secretary and R. B. Hutchinson as
Among the pioneers of Checotah, the name, of Mr. R. Y.
Audd is worthy of mention. He came to this neighborhood from Kentucky
about forty years ago, and taught school for a while at the old Asbury
Mission School. He married a niece of the noted Cherokee chief, John
Ross, and became so fascinated with the agricultural possibilities of
this section of the country that he began to develop a farm near
Checotah. He moved into Checotah soon after the town started, but
continued his farming operations. He became interested in fruit culture
and was soon the proprietor of the largest peach orchard in this part of
the country. He built several houses in Checotah and in other ways
demonstrated his interest in the growth of the town.
Mr. H. D. Knisely was the first druggist to locate in Checotah. From a
small beginning his business gradually increased, until he became
recognized as one of the leading druggists of the Indian Territory.
The First National Bank of Checotah was its
first substantial financial institution. It was organized in 1898, Mr.
J. S. Todd being its first president and R. D. Martin, cashier. This
bank has paid its stockholders good dividends from the date of its
organization, and its officers have been closely identified with the
growth of the city.
William E. Gentry has, perhaps, done as much for Checotah as
any other man. He is a Creek by birth and had possession of a fine body
of land in this vicinity prior to the individual allotment of lauds. His
cattle ranch, for many years, was one of the prominent institutions of
the neighborhood. He interested himself in various ways in the
development of the town and from its beginning, has been recognized as
one of Checotah's most useful citizens.
Source: Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma, 1922
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