“My mother, Carolina Jones, was born in the state of Tennessee and is buried there. My grandmother on my mother’s side, Nancy Jones, was born in the state of Mississippi and is buried in White County, Tennessee. I was born April 3, 1849, at Stagestand, White County, Tennessee… “(1)
This paragraph begins a 14 page interview of William Perry Earles of Ringling, Oklahoma, 1938, as part of a project called “The Indian Pioneer Papers.” When I stumbled on this resource several years ago, I felt like I had rediscovered gold in California! I was able to find two biographies on the ancestors of a friend of mine and the accounts were filled with stories of adventure and color from their lives.
The “Indian Pioneer Papers” project began 1936 when the Oklahoma Historical Society and the history department of the University of Oklahoma set out to obtain a writer’s project grant through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). This grant allowed employment of more than 100 writers with the charge to “call upon early settlers and (record) the story of the migration to Oklahoma and their early life here.”(2) By the time the project was completed, there were more than 11,000 interviews mostly of the early “white” settlers, but also over sixty interviews of Indians. The interviews were edited and typed and finally collected into 112 volumes.
The University of Oklahoma Western History Collection has now digitized the Indian Pioneer Papers. Here are three links that can help you access this collection:
- The collection of approximately 80,000 indexed entries arranged alphabetically by personal name can be found at: http://digital.libraries.ou.edu/whc/pioneer/.
- An index to the Indian Pioneer Papers may also be found at http://www.okgenweb.org/pioneer/.
- A separate index of the “Indians in the Indian Pioneer Papers” is located at: http://goodoowah.50megs.com/indpio/
This collection is worth searching for anyone with ancestors who were early settlers of Oklahoma. Perhaps you will find another “gold strike.”
1 University of Oklahoma Libraries Western History Collection “Interview with William Perry Earles of Ringling, Oklahoma.” University of Oklahoma, 1938. Interviewer: Ethel V. Elder. Interviewee: William Perry Earles. Interview ID – 10654
2 Blackburn, Bob L. “Battle Cry for History: The First Century of the Oklahoma Historical Society.” n.d. Oklahoma Historical Society. 5 Oct. 1998.