In August of 1905, the chiefs of the Five Tribes called for a statehood convention to be held in Muskogee. In seven months, March 1906, the federal government would require the dissolution of their tribal governments and would press the Indians to join the Union as a state. The question at that time was whether Indian Territory would be a separate state from Oklahoma Territory or if they would join together to form one state.
The goal of the Muskogee Constitution Convention was to create an Indian state to be called Sequoyah. Around 150 delegates – Indians, blacks and whites – were selected and sent to the convention. They met at the Hinton Theater located at the corner of Third and Court streets.
During the days that the convention was meeting, hundreds of others flocked to the theater to watch the proceedings. This included newspaper reporters from all over the region. Everyone wanted to see and be seen.
Many of the delegates stayed at the Turner Hotel, which sat right across the street from the Hinton. But it is likely that many other hotels and rooming houses in downtown Muskogee were full while the convention delegates were in town.
The delegates were assigned to committees to do such work as mapping out counties and writing a constitution. After the first two days of general session, the work was passed to the committees who would meet in various locations around town to discuss, debate and decide how to create a new state.
One of the delegates to the convention was Dennis Cyrus, a Seminole Freedman who served as a Lighthorseman and as a U.S. deputy marshal. Cyrus stayed at a rooming house on Second Street during the convention.
According to newspaper accounts, Cyrus was involved in a shooting during his stay. Apparently in quarters nearby, a prominent black businessman named O.J. (some sources say J.O.) Mitchell roomed with his wife. Mitchell owned the Elite Café, which sat next door to the rooming house.
Mitchell and his wife got into a heated and loud argument. It might be that Cyrus knocked on their adjoining wall to try to quiet the couple. Whatever the reason, Mitchell came bursting into Cyrus’s room, obviously not aware it was occupied by one of the most respected lawmen in the territory.
Mitchell was brandishing a gun, and Cyrus quickly drew his own and ordered the businessman to drop his weapon. When Mitchell didn’t comply, Cyrus shot him in the shoulder. The gunfire, no doubt, caused quite a stir in the rooming house and the city at large. The Muskogee newspapers carried the story in the coming days.
The café owner recovered from his shoulder wound and the lawman was exonerated in the incident. It just served to add a little more drama and excitement at a historic time in Indian Territory history.