The darkest page in the history of Tahlequah was that of the Civil war period. For more than twenty years the Cherokees had busied themselves with the task of clearing land, building houses and fences and developing farms. Many of them were slaveholders and with their cheap labor they had been able to produce abundant crops and accumulate herds of cattle, horses and hogs, in short, many of them lived in affluence, but the war, with its bitter animosities, left the majority of, them penniless. Their homes were burned, their crops destroyed and their livestock confiscated and driven away. It would be difficult to find a section of the South which suffered more severely from the ravages of war than the vicinity of Tahlequah and Cherokee County. Neighbor was arraved against neighbor and friend against friend, until finally, nearly all. of them were compelled to abandon their homes and flee to the North or South, as their sympathies inclined them. The fact that one army would gain control of this section, only to be driven out by the opposing army, doubtless caused far greater suffering than would have resulted if either army had been able to retain possession of the town and surrounding country throughout the entire war. Their return to their dismantled homes so soon after the close of the war, their mutual agreement to forget the cruel dissensions engendered by the war, and the fortitude which they displayed in undertaking the task of rebuilding their devastated homes, were unmistakable evidence of the possession of a high standard of character.
During the war many of their stores were looted, their churches defaced and their schools abandoned, some of their school buildings being used as barracks by the soldiers, but soon after the warwhoops were stilled their stores were reopened, their churches repaired and their schools reorganized. Their remodeled female seminary, located in a beautiful natural grove in the northern suburbs of the village, was soon again filled with Cherokee girls and continued to be the pride of the nation. It has been stated elsewhere that this seminary was undoubtedly the finest school building ever erected by an Indian tribe, and for many years it was the most imposing structure of any kind in the Indian Territory. During the spring of 1909 it was sold to the state and became the home of the Northeastern State Normal School.
Tahlequah has entertained many interesting and important conventions and celebrations among the last of which was known as the “Rodman Wanamaker” expedition. Rodman Wanamaker of Philadelphia had formulated a plan of presenting to every prominent Indian tribe an American flag, accompanied with patriotic addresses. This expedition, led by Dr. Joseph K. Dixon, arrived at Tahlequah in its special car on the morning of June 11, 1913, near the date upon which the final steps were being taken toward winding up the tribal affairs of the Cherokee Nation.
The celebration was attended by several hundred Cherokees and the exercises of the day were very impressive. The flag was unfurled to the breeze on the old capitol grounds by Cherokee volunteers, while the whole assembly joined in singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” Phonographic speeches by President Wilson, Secretary of the Interor Lane and other Washington officials were reproduced for the entertainment of the audience, followed, by a patriotic address by Dr. Dixon. Responses were made by W. W. Hastings and R. M. Wolfe representative Cherokees pledging loyalty to the Government and the flog. After a day pleasantly spent with the Cherokees the Wanamaker expedition moved on to Okmulgee where a similar program was carried out on the following day in the presence of a large concourse of Creeks.
Tahlequah is now a modern little city of 2,500 inhabitants, and is one of the best home towns in Oklahoma. Its natural surroundings are picturesque, its supply-of water is of the purest quality, it is sanitary and healthful, and it has numerous comfortable and well-shaded homes. It has an excellent public school system in which fourteen teachers are employed, and its advanced pupils have access to the Northeastern State Normal School.
All of the leading denominations maintain churches and the Sunday schools are well patronized. A very large percentage of the Cherokees are church members and some of them are very earnest, conscientious Christian workers.
Tahlequah has three newspapers, a city hall, a fire department of twenty men, a telephone system, an electric system, a good water and sewage plant, two substantial banks, a Carnegie library, about ten. good stores and the usual number of shops and restaurants found in any town of its size.
Source: Benedict, John D. Muskogee and northeastern Oklahoma, including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. 3 v. illus., ports., facsims. 28 cm. Chicago, S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.