Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Would the Real Edward Byrd Please Stand Up

Our search for D. Harold Byrd's father's history has been time consuming, if not actually enlightening. Quite possibly not even Harold himself could have provided answers about his father's past.

Edward Byrd's obituary in 1943 stated:
Midlothian, TX--HEART STROKE TAKES PIONEER ON DALLAS VISIT--Funeral Services Set for Edward Byrd, 88, Oilman's Father. Edward Byrd, 88, Midlothian, long-time resident of Texas and father of D. Harold Byrd, Dallas Oilman and Texas wing commander of the Civil Air Patrol, died of a heart attack here Thursday.

Mr. Byrd was stricken as he walked along St. Paul in front of the Federal Building shortly before noon Thursday and was dead on arrival at Parkland Hospital. A native of Missouri, Mr. Byrd was the grandson of pioneers who had pushed westward in 1799 into Missouri while it still was part of the Louisiana Territory. He was born at the Old Stone House, still standing on Byrd's Creek, Byrd Township, Cape Girardeau County, Mo.


Covered Wagon Traveler.
As a youth of 19, he came to Texas for the first time in 1873 in a covered wagon and stayed at Starkville [sic], Lamar County, two months before returning to Missouri by pony, a trip that required a month. His next trip to Texas was by rail, and he settled at Blossom, Lamar County. There in 1877 he joined the Presbyterian Church, became a ruling elder three weeks later, and since then had represented the church at various times from the assemblies of the Red River Presbytery to the General Assembly.


Owned Early Day Store.

He married, in 1879, Mollie Easley, daughter of a farmer in the community. There he built a small home, and later added a gin and mill, then several houses and finally a store. The community was named Byrd Town [Byrdtown?]. Later he moved his family to Detroit [Texas] where he engaged in the mercantile business for a time, and then in 1901 moved to Ardmore, Oklahoma where he lived until 1913, moving to Midlothian. He and his wife celebrated their golden wedding anniversary there in 1929. In Midlothian he was active in the Presbyterian Church and was chairman of its board of elders, a position he had held for nearly thirty years.


He is survived by his wife, three sons, D. Harold Byrd; R. J. Byrd, Irving; and B. E. Byrd, Midlothian; two daughters, Mrs. R. T. Gidley and Mrs. R. B. McDonald, both of Dallas; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.


Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Midlothian Presbyterian Church, with Dr. Jasper Manton, pastor of the Trinity Presbyterian Church of Dallas, officiating. Years ago while Dr. Manton's father was pastor of a Presbyterian Church at Paris, Dr. Manton was ordained there and later became pastor of the same church. Mr. Byrd attended Dr. Manton's ordination service and many years ago requested that he conduct his funeral.


Burial will be at 4:30 p.m. in the family burial plot at Blossom. Pallbearers will be Tom H. Dees [for many years
chairman of the board of directors of Republic National Bank, Dallas], W.H. Price, J.P. Sewell, J.G. Oliver, R R. McElroy and Dr. H.G. Williams, all of Midlothian. (Source: Dallas Morning News, January 8, 1943)
D.H. Byrd suggested in his 1978 autobiography  (with research assistance from Mickey Herskowitz, among others) that his father was "likely" the same "Edward Byrd" involved in the discovery of an oil well in the Indian Territory near Chelsea. It is the attempt to either verify or refute that claim which has led this blogger into a study of Oklahoma history and the Indian Territory, despite which effort a question still remains. After revealing the results of my research, I leave it to the reader to form his or her own conclusion.


Oil Prospector Edward Byrd

One Byrd genealogist posted specific details about the Edward Byrd who found oil near Chelsea in northeast Oklahoma in a public family tree at Ancestry.com:


Clues in the above story help to establish the following facts:
  1. Edward Byrd incorporated a company in Kansas, and in 1891 he began to prospect for oil on Cochran property
  2. United States Oil Company ultimately drilled eleven wells in the area, the output of which was carried from the well through a pipeline running downhill to the Frisco side track in Chelsea. 
  3. In 1893 this drilling company was reorganized as Cherokee Oil & Gas Company (CO&G), which drilled 14 wells before passage of the Curtis Bill in 1898. 
  4. Oil production ceased at that point until treaties with the Indian nations could be put in place. CO&G first applied in June 1901 for a drilling lease covering 98,000 acres through the Department of the Interior, an action opposed by the Cherokee Nation because, according to the attorney for the Cherokees in documents filed with the court in October 1901, CO&G was "alleged to be a branch of the Standard Oil Company."
  5. "Ed. Byrd" had been the fourth mayor of Chelsea in the days prior to statehood, according to a "condensed history" of the "thriving town" set out in Chelsea Commercial newspaper in Oklahoma, possibly the same politically minded Edward Byrd who in 1906 announced as candidate for delegate to Oklahoma's Constitutional Convention. The agreement dissolving the Creek Nation became law on June 25, 1901, and tribe members were granted U.S. citizenship. Within a few years, the Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were combined into one state and admitted to statehood. Ed Byrd was an alternate delegate to the Statehood Convention held in 1903.
  6. 1900 and 1910 census records show an Edward Byrd, born in about 1845, living in Chelsea but conflict concerning his birthplace: 1900 census gives Indiana; 1910 census gives Missouri. 
  7. In 1910 Byrd's name appeared on the same census page with widow Elizabeth Byrd's large family, all of whom worked in an oil production company. Elizabeth's deceased husband, Lafayette Byrd, had been the brother of an Edward Byrd from Roane County, Tennessee.
The oil company founder had married a half-Cherokee Indian named Jane Nelms, who had been born born in the Indian Territory in 1855, and their two children were born in Chelsea: Henry Harrison Byrd in 1877, who died in Abilene, Texas in 1945; and Daisy Dean Byrd in 1879. Jane Byrd died intestate in 1910, and in October of that same year Edward Byrd deeded their Cherokee-allotted land to daughter Daisy Byrd Corah, the wife of 28-year-old Edward Milton Corah, who was listed in 1910 census records as a single man engaged in oil refining in Chelsea, and both he and his brother Edgar Leroy Corah had come west from Warren, Pennsylvania, where they had worked for what would become a division of the Pure Oil Company, controlled by the Dawes family, who were also heavily involved in the commission set up by President Grover Cleveland in 1888 to oversee the Indian lands previously set aside by treaties in what would become Oklahoma. Strangely enough, Edward Corah was in 1913 engaged to be married to a different woman in his hometown.

As part of the Dawes Commission we find in the Memorial of the Delaware Indians (Cherokee Nation) that hearings took place in 1903 relating to segregation of certain lands to members of the Cherokee Nation. Daisy D. Byrd, as a part-Cherokee Indian, was allotted lands she chose (see page 24). Edward Byrd claimed other lands on behalf of his wife Jane, who had asthma as was unable to testify (at page 31). Ed. Byrd (aka Edward H. Byrd) also witnessed a deed executed in 1899 by Henry H. Byrd, Jr. of lands Henry had selected as his allotted acreage (see page 46). As a notary public Edward Byrd also witnessed other deeds (pages 53, 59). Note: The Edward Byrd from Tennessee had a brother named Henry Harrison Byrd, for whom he named his son. Daisy Byrd Corah's husband incorporated a plethora of companies in the area, one of which was Bernice Oil Co. in 1913 with millionaire, John T. Milliken, who lived at 35 Portland Place in St. Louis. A chemist in control of a mouthwash company called Pasteurine, Milliken was more notable as the brother-in-law of Albert Patrick, the Texas attorney who wrote a second will for railroad financier William Marsh Rice, murdered in 1900. Milliken spent much of his fortune attempting to prove Patrick innocent of the crime.

Mrs. E.M. Corah, (Daisy?) in 1913 was present with other "society people" at the wedding of her friend Maude Greer to Harry Swarts. After their marriage the Swarts moved to Tulsa, where Harry worked as an attorney while Maude had her own tea shop/cafe. Also present were several attorneys: William Thomas Rye, who had a probate practice in Vinita, and "Uncle Jack" Kendall, gave away the bride. E.M. had connections to Vinita Refining Co., built in 1910, and his brother Edgar was also in the refining business, and would spend at least the last two decades of his life working in San Antonio, Texas. Edward and Daisy did relocated to Houston around 1920, when he was named manager and vice president of Transatlantic Refining Company's new plant built at Houston Heights Blvd. at Washington Avenue by Hugh Hamilton, a brewing and hotel magnate, who was a client of the Baker & Botts law firm.

Further documentation suggests that the Kansas prospector named Ed. Byrd, referred to in Endangered Species, lived in  Chelsea as early as May 1884, owning a Chelsea boarding house in 1889, the same year he began "boring for oil, coal or something."
Edward Byrd of Ardmore, OK

According to D.H. Byrd, his father moved from Texas to Ardmore, Oklahoma, in 1901 two years before statehood was approved. Ardmore had first opened up to white settlement when the Santa Fe Railroad began building north from Gainesville, Texas in 1885 across the Indian country, establishing towns as it went.

In his autobiography at page 6, Harold Byrd bragged that his father in Texas had established a town called "Byrd Town," south of Blossom in Lamar County, which was totally destroyed by a "raging fire." It was the fire, Byrd says, that prompted Ed to move the family to Ardmore, Oklahoma, probably in 1901. However, we have not been able to verify that a fire occurred or that Ed Byrd was founder of such a town, which was actually called Byrdtown.

It can be confirmed, however, that in Ardmore Ed did temporarily agree to operate the Crown Bottling corporation and a candy factory after the owner, Morgan J. Hays, died in 1910. (See clipping to the left.)

That year's Ardmore city directory showed Ed Byrd having a real estate office, involved with farm and  "mining" lands, located at 17-1/2 N. Washington, while he resided at 439 H Street, N.W., a less than impressive neighborhood. We know from the Ardmoreite news that Ed in 1906 had an interest in rock asphalt mines in nearby Overbrook, OK, which he used to make asphalt bricks for paving roads.

The same year Ed Byrd acquired his asphalt mines, he sent son Ruddell Jones Byrd (called "Leo," for unapparent reasons) to San Antonio's Peacock Military Academy, where he received awards along with fellow student Dolph Briscoe, Sr. , a man whose son would later become a most unassuming Governor of the State of Texas.

After graduation, Leo began working in Missouri, overseeing properties owned by an uncle, one of Ed's brothers pictured at the top of this page. While young Ed Byrd had been off in Texas and the Indian Territory, his brothers had continued their farming and other enterprises in Missouri, though both eventually followed his lead, relocating to Texas. As we saw in a previous post, A.R. Byrd took his flour milling process to San Antonio and settled for a time in the King William district of that city, while William C. Byrd moved to southwest Texas. Their  move only occurred, however, at the instigation of their sons, who had reached adulthood and took their fathers into investments in what was then believed to be the transportation technology of the future.

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