Photo above: William D. Mills, Sarah (Harper) Mills and Robert (Bob) Mills
Personal Recollections of Episodes by Sarah F. (Harper) Mills to her son Ernest Cleo Mills
The stories below were recounted by Ernest Cleo Mills to his nephew Irvin W. Mills and his great-nephew Gary W. Mills
on June 29, 1977 in Blackwell
Sarah's parents Haywood Lewis and Hannah Elizabeth Harper lived north of Springfield Missouri near the site of one of the battles of the Civil War. This battle lasted for more than one day and on one of these days the Union soldiers were loosing the battle when a tribe of Indians were recruited to help the Union side. This tribe of Indians went right by the Harper home with their war paint on walking in single file with some on horses. When they went by the house they were very quiet but once they hit the battle field their fury and noise helped the Union soldiers to route the Confederate that day. Then when Hannah went to the battlefield that evening to help with wounded she found her husband Haywood, who was a Union soldier, had been wounded in the leg during the battle that day. Haywood was crippled in that leg from that time forward.
Later when Sarah was a little girl the Jesse James gang used to come by this same house sometimes in the morning and get her mother, Hannah, to fix them breakfast. While her mother fixed their breakfast the gang would play with Sarah and her brothers and sisters who were small children at the time. After they had eaten breakfast they would pay Hannah then get on their horses and go on.
After Sarah Francis Harper was married to William David Mills in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 1893, they spent some time collecting quail to sell. W. D. had a covered wagon that was loaded with nothing but cages to put the quail in. So with Sarah making the nets to trap the quail in they set out and traveled all through the Indian Territory in Oklahoma trapping. They would set these large nets out and then drive the quail into the net and catch them. When the wagon was full they would head for Tulsa, Oklahoma where the quail would be sold, then shipped to restaurants back on the East coast. This happened sometime between 1893 and 1900, he was not sure of the exact years.
Soon after they gave up the quail catching, William David went to work for the 101 Ranch, where he worked for two years. The 101 Ranch is a famous Ranch over near Ponca City, Oklahoma. During the two years at the 101 Ranch Sara and W. D. lived in what was called either a cave, dugout, or soddy. It was a house made in the side of a hill with the sod and dirt they dug out off the side of the hill used to make the front of the one room house. W. D. was signed on as a ranch hand during this time.
One time while they were living in this soddy on the 101 Ranch Sara heard a panther scream. She said it sounds a lot like a woman screaming. Not realizing at the time, she thought it was a woman without a horse who might have been treed by the cattle. Needing water she took her bucket and a rifle figuring she would walk down to the spring thinking maybe she might see where this woman was and help her. On the way down to the spring the panther screamed a couple more times, getting closer each time. She then realized what it was a lit out at a run back to the soddy. Since the soddy didn't have a regular door she propped a chair in front of the opening and set down inside with rifle and waited. The panther came right up the the door and screamed again, at which time shot at it. Even though she missed it, the shot was enough to scare it off.
William David then worked in later years as a blacksmith in Miami, Oklahoma. For a time the shop he worked in outfitted cook wagons for ranchers to use. She said they were the front runners of the mobile home with kitchen space and room for the ranch hands to sleep while on the trail. Building these cook wagons entailed both blacksmith skills as well as carpenter skills to make all the cabinets in the wagon. So it can be seen that William David Mills was good with his hands and used them in his job.
William David also ran a shingle mill up on the Horseshoe Lake near Miami, Oklahoma. They cut mostly shake shingles which are thicker and of a rougher texture than normal wood shingles. These shingles were cut from the cottonwood trees that grew around the lake. They would go out and cut down the trees and cut the logs up into the length they wanted the shingles then throw them in a vat to be boiled. Afer the logs had become soft from being boiled they were taken out of the vat and placed on a big table where they were cut up. The machine that sliced the shingles out of the log worked like a guillotine in that a log was moved into place then the large blade came down and sliced off a shingle. The finished shingles were hauled to Joplin, Missouri and sold to be shipped all over the country. William ran this mill for quite some time evidently; between the time he worked at the 101 Ranch and the time he went to work as a blacksmith and carpenter.
Sarah Francis (Harper) Mills lived with her son during the last seven years of her life. Ernest Cleo moved her from Miami to Blackwell, Oklahoma so she could live in the apartment over the garage behind his house. She moved to Blackwell sometime around 1950 and lived there until 1957.
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