Grove Beginnings — More on Mayors
By Rose Stauber
We have established that the first Grove mayor was James Caleb Starr, elected when the town was incorporated in 1897. The next known mayor was John H. Gibson in 1899. The county history lists the mayor in 1900 as Simps Melton. He apparently was mayor at some point and perhaps 1900 was the correct year.
First, let's get his name correct. It was Simpson Foster Melton. Sounds much better than Simps. Like his two predecessors named above, he was a Cherokee. He was born in the Cherokee Nation in 1851. His father was Samuel N. Melton, a white from Bates County, Mo., who had come to the Cherokee Nation where he married Narcissa Monroe. She had first married John M. Ward. One of the children of that marriage was George M. (Monroe) Ward. So Simpson and George M. Ward were half-brothers.
Simpson married Isabelle Graham, daughter of William and Nancy Matoy Graham formerly of Georgia. She had married Thomas Murphy who died leaving two daughters, both married. The marriage of Simpson and Isabelle resulted in five children: Narcissus, George A., Rosa B., Maud M., and Simpson Jr. The family was enrolled by the Dawes Commission.
According to a biography in Gideon's History of Indian Territory, Simpson had been prominent in agricultural circles and operated a farm west of Grove. In 1899, he sold that property and moved to Grove while retaining 600 acres of good land south of Vinita. Simpson reportedly did not take part in business in Grove, but supported improvements for the town. He fitted right into Grove; he was a Democrat and his wife a Methodist.
The family seems to have gone West in later years. According to David Hampton's Cherokee Mixed-Bloods, Isabelle died in Denver and is buried at Vinita, and Simpson died at Boise, Idaho, at age 79.
The next identified mayor was William A. Walton who is said to have served in 1902-1903. Not much is known about Walton but he apparently was prominent in public affairs. He served as chair of the school board in 1906. In the sale of town lots, Walton had lots 3 and 4 in Block 19 which was on the north side of Third Street. The frame house on one lot was valued at $500 and two barns on the other lot were valued at $100.
The 1910 census shows a William A. Walton, age 76, widowed, with a nephew and a daughter-in-law and four grandsons. The adults were born in Virginia and West Virginia.
James P. Butler is said to have served as mayor in 1903-1904. A classmate and friend of John H. Gibson at the Cherokee Male Seminary, Butler was active in affairs in Grove. He had lots 1, 2, and 3, in Block 31 on the corner of Cherokee and 4th Streets. A barn and a large frame house worth $800 occupied the lots. The county history gives Butler's middle name as Proctor; in other places the middle initial is "E".
Butler's obituary in the Grove Sun of Feb. 8, 1945, offers the most information found on this man. His parents were Rev. Elisha Butler and Dorcas Landrum. He had three brothers and five sisters, one of whom, Elizabeth, married James Crittenden, subject of a previous column. James married Nancy Muskrat. One son, James, survived of this marriage. Butler was survived by his second wife, Laura Inlow Paden.
In his early life he had served as a Cherokee Nation policeman. Later he was elected to serve two terms as representative from Delaware County to the Oklahoma Legislature. In early Grove, Butler was one of those who worked to build the Methodist Church in 1899 and 1900.
He had joined the Methodist Church as a young man. Later he become so interested in religion that he began preaching and continued as a minister until his death. The family home of the Butlers is on Honey Creek. Today the Butler Cemetery is the resting place for many including the Butlers.
W.H. Morgan was listed as mayor when the Grove Sun of April 14, 1905, gave the list of new city officials. The Grove Sun of April 20, 1906, announced that a new council was sworn in by the retiring mayor, W.H. Morgan. The paper explained that due to installing a new steam press the Sun was unable to get full particulars.
William Thomas took office as mayor April 20, 1906. Thomas and his family had come to Grove since the 1900 census when they were in Arkansas. Thomas was born in Kentucky in 1841, the son of Isaac and Elizabeth Thomas. He and his wife Susan had been married about 40 years and raised a family of nine children. On an 1885 census of Colorado, the family is found in Weld County.
Public service was something Thomas seemed to like. He had been elected to two terms as county judge in Kentucky and was elected and served as sheriff for a term. Thomas bought Lot 4 in Block 35, the lot on the west side of the Christian Church. It had a frame house valued at $145. The Thomases, husband and wife, died within four days of each other in late January, early February, 1919, and are buried in Olympus Cemetery. William's obituary says he had 40 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren.
Tom Witty, who grew up on Cowskin Prairie and spent his working years away from Grove, retired here some years ago. He is a grandson of the Thomases.
In May 1907, John H. Gibson again became mayor and served for the beginning of statehood. The council was concerned enough to inquire how statehood might affect the incorporated towns. They were told just to continue the march. Nothing changed their governments or ordinances.
© 2007 Rose Stauber
P.S. The man pictured with last week's column on the elections, is Lee B. Smith, the first representative from Delaware County to the state legislature.