Three Forks History: Editor preserved important history

Because of a fire, many records associated with the Sequoyah State Convention were destroyed. The efforts of the Five Tribes to form a state separate from Oklahoma Territory were well-documented, however, by the Muskogee Phoenix newspaper. Its editor at the time the convention was held in Muskogee in 1905 was Clarence B. Douglas.

Douglas purchased the Phoenix from Dr. Leo Bennett in 1904. At the time, the daily newspaper was the most influential in the Creek Nation. Under Douglas’ guidance the paper grew to spread its influence throughout Indian Territory. When the Phoenix printed the call for delegates to meet in Muskogee to discuss statehood, men such as Charles Haskell learned of the separate statehood efforts from its pages.

Though Douglas himself favored single statehood, he recognized the significance of the Indian’s efforts to create a separate state. He covered the Sequoyah Convention in great depth, and his coverage was picked up by other newspapers across the country. It is an often forgotten part of Oklahoma’s history today, but at the time, the idea of an Indian state was of great interest across the nation.

For much of 1904 and 1905, Congress wrestled with the issue of statehood for the western territories. Editor Douglas reported on the action, or rather inaction, of Congress in trying to force Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory to form a single state. The matter passed in the House but died in the Senate. Douglas editorialized his ire at this by stating, “Physicians in New York have discovered a man entirely without brains. They ought to send him to the United States senate.”

It was this failure of Congress to act that ramped up determination in the Twin Territories for individuals to take matters into their own hands. Thus, in the summer of 1905, W.C. Rogers, Cherokee chief, and Green McCurtain, Choctaw chief, called for a convention to be held in Muskogee. The Phoenix published the call, which had been crafted so masterfully that even Douglas had a hard time in dismissing it.

The editor provided nearly exhaustive coverage of every aspect of the Sequoyah Convention. But Douglas stated quite openly that the efforts of the Indians to form a state would simply clear the way for Congress to finally act and require single statehood.

President of the convention, Creek Chief Pleasant Porter, recognized this possibility as well. But he stated that if single statehood was to be forced upon the Indians, he wanted their work in Muskogee to provide them with an equal position at the table. And that is exactly what happened. Nearly 75 precent of the Oklahoma Constitution was written by the Indians at their convention for statehood.

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