Sunday, 18 May 2008

Blown Away

As a child when visiting my grandfather's home in Oklahoma, I often heard about the town that blew away. Elders would vaguely point to the southeast and tell me that Council Hill used to be out there and blew away in a tornado. It was just one of many stories I remember from that time in the 1950's. I was much more interested in seldom seen cousins, nephews and firecrackers.

The last time I visited Oklahoma was with my mother in the early 1970's about a decade before her death. She was visiting places in her memory and so was I. She wanted to see if we could find the grave of Kitty Banta at Council Hill. I drove to where my mother remembered Council Hill was. We found some foundations but couldn't locate the cemetery. She told me that she had come there with my Father to Kitty's grave before I was born in 1941. I knew that Kitty was a relative (Kitty's photo seen here) and was related to some famous Texas Ranger. We continued our memory journey and visited other places in Oklahoma and Arkansas where her family was from and found them all.

Recently my last surviving uncle (my father's youngest brother) sent a packet of very old photos and other material to my younger brother. (In photo, my father is on the right with his younger brother on other side of my grandmother Rose in 1933.) Included was a letter written by L.G. Park, son of Kitty Banta and older brother of my grandmother Rose. L.G. Park described a wagon trip he and his father (Robert Park) took into Indian Territory in 1897 when L.G. was 17. They were living at that time in Terral, Indian Territory. The letter says they started north to “see what the rest of Oklahoma looked like and to see if we could find country that suited us better than the place we're living.” I find his letter fascinating and marvel at how little I know about the lives of my ancestors. The bits I remember seem so casual.

Everyone apparently referred to Kitty Banta by her maiden name. Her father, Captain William Banta, was a famous Texas Ranger in the 1840s-1850s. Kitty's son, L.G. Park, lived in Council Hill in 1933 (according to internet research) and Kitty was buried there in 1936. Council Hill must not have “blown away” yet. My grandmother Rose was one of Kitty Banta's (Park) daughters. I remember Rose well. I lived with her during the summer of 1958. I see my past growing ever longer. What a wonderful feeling to have a sense of my place on a path extending in both directions.

Searching the internet, I've discovered that the town of Council Hill seems to have been reborn, it had a population of 129 in the 2000 census. My searches also discovered that the original seat of the Creek (American Indian) government (after removal to Indian Territories) was located at Council Hill, but the site was west of the present-day Council Hill. The Indian Territories became the State of Oklahoma in first years of the twentieth century.

That's me between Mom and Dad in 1943 in front of grandad's house in Oklahoma. The house I remember from those summer family reunions and all those fireworks!

Which Council Hill site did my mother want to find? Why was L.G Park and his mother living in Council Hill? Did L.G. and his father come here on the 1897 wagon trip? What blew away? My past is still a bit misty like my memory.

J of JaM

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