❝ The evolution of Thlopthlocco
In 1936, the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act provided for the establishment of the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town’s constitution. . . .
The constitution states the Thlopthlocco Methodist Episcopal Church would serve as headquarters of the town. The members met at the church until a community building was built during the years of 1939-41 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. The building was built of native hand-hewed sandstone on the North Canadian River, three miles northeast of the church, said Curtis Canard, former town king, treasurer and business manager.
The building housed the tribal offices, had a big lodge room, bedrooms for overnight visitors as well as a fully equipped kitchen.
Canard, whose father Roley Canard was the first chartered tribal town king as well as Principal Chief of Creek Nation, said the town had its own natural gas to fire up the center’s standing pressure cookers.
It also had a drilled water well and water tower for the community building and two nearby homes. The tribal town owned a granary and a storage garage that housed a tractor and farm tools. A gas-fired hot bed also was utilized to raise young onion and sweet potato sprouts, he said.
Lucille Cook Dunson, 75, great-niece of Thlopthlocco’s last ceremonial ground medicine man, Reuben Cook, recalls some of the center’s activities. She and her husband, Earl, remember the many sewing machines tribal town members used to make garments for their family as well as the kitchen in which they could cook.
Mrs. Dunson also recalls the time her family, as well as other town families, gathered at the center to make mattresses.
Around the same time the community building was being built the tribal town received Congressionally appropriated funds to purchase land, small homes, farm equipment, horses, cattle, chickens and hogs.
The tribal town leased “mini-farms” to 12 tribal town members who no longer possessed allotments, Canard said.
Each farm, which consisted of 40 acres and was located on the banks of the North Canadian River, had one home, a dug well and orchard. In turn, the town’s families were required to make certain improvements on their farms as well as pay rent from money made on their harvests, said Charlie McGertt, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town King. The situation was comparable to a housing authority, Canard said.
Tribal-town living at that time was ideal and almost comparable to the tribal town way of life prior to removal from the old Georgia and Alabama homelands, Canard said.
“Those (who) had their own farms raised their own gardens, but everyone pitched in on the communal (garden) plot,” which was harvested and put in storage, he said.
A portion of the harvest also was canned in the community kitchen and distributed among the members.
“We had a community fair at the end of the harvest. The women would bring quilts, canned goods, watermelons and squash to be judged, just like a county fair today,” he said.
But in 1942 the river flooded, washing out three of the mini-farms as well as a bridge in front of the community building, making transportation along the river impossible.
The flood also changed the channel of the river. That year most of the tribal town farmers abandoned the land and the remaining few eventually left, around 1946-47, after realizing they would have to leave to work and make money. ❞