One hundred and thirty years ago this very year, Albert Hammer was one of the thousands lined up along the border of the Cherokee Strip to stake a claim on one of the available 37,000 160-acre homesteads.

Shortly after noon on Sept. 16, 1893, the starting gun was fired, and the mad rush began.

Enid’s Marquis James in his book, “The Cherokee Strip,” wrote: “Pat Wilcox was on hand ... to give you the stirring picture of little Walter on that little horse tearing down South Hill, across the square claim the square’s north boundary ... a good two minutes ahead of Albert Hammer, the second comer. Walter Cook, undisputed winner of the Run.”

Little did Albert Hammer, No. 2, realize he would be No. 1 in a way he could never have envisioned.

By the end of the day, 300 people became squatters claiming Cook’s homestead. Albert Hammer was second, B.F. Clampitt, in a buckboard wagon, was third, and Wm. Coyle was fourth, according to the Enid-Wave Democrat of Nov. 14, 1895.

Legal disputes

Walter Cook built a small house to live on his claim. Legal contests began. Albert Hammer plaintiff, along with several others vs. William Coyle, defendant, alleged that Coyle entered the land claimed prior to 12 noon on Sept. 16, according to The Enid Weekly Wave of March 17, 1894.

To complicate matters more, the “squatters” split the claim into town lots and called it Jonesville, even with Cook homesteading his claim. Peter Bowers, C.M. Hobbs, and Eugene Kenyon were elected as trustees of Jonesville read the Enid Weekly Wave of Feb. 23, 1895. The Enid Wave-Democrat on Nov. 14, 1895, announced “The Decision” regarding the long and hotly contested Jonesville case vs. Walter Cook: “Cook The Lucky Man.”

The decision gave the land to Walter Cook. The rights of the townsite people could not be considered seriously. However, Walter Cook put his house up for mortgage to pay legal fees and went to the Chickasaw Nation to work. He became very ill with pneumonia and was gone for longer than six months. The Jonesville group appealed to the Department of Interior, stating Cook had abandoned his claim. They agreed and gave the land to Jonesville. On March 6, 1895, the Jonesville citizens requested to be annexed by Enid.

Enid City Ordinance No. 57, passed on April 3, 1895, allowed Enid to annex Jonesville, which abutted Enid on the northeast corner of the square in downtown Enid, and from Grand Avenue, it ran east to 7th Street. Walnut Street was the north boundary of Jonesville. It was the first addition to Enid.

Albert Hammer had a home in Enid that stood in the center of the street at the intersection of Pine and 2nd streets. He still claimed the Jonesville area as his ranch. He began a legal challenge against Jonesville, even though it was a part of Enid.

The Enid Events article of July 27, 1905, read that Hammer had lost his first attempt and was attempting to reopen the case. It is just “a little bug-a-boo — that’s all. Hammer’s game is to force the townspeople to purchase quit-claim Jonesville deeds from him. The people ... are not scared a bit and will never give him a cent.”

The Enid Events of July 9, 1903, stated: “Hammer has never been interested a cent’s worth in Enid, never did anything for the town, … his suit was pushed by lawyers who have nothing else to do, in the hopes of a bonus … and mix a little trouble for the residents of our city. They engender fruitless litigation.”

Hammer kept appealing all the way to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Hammer vs. Hermann, July 6, 1901, which failed also. The Enid Events of Oct. 1, 1908, read that there was a suit pending in The U.S. Supreme Court brought by Albert Hammer to invalidate the title to Jonesville addition lots. He claimed ownership through a claim that he had settled on the property at the opening of the Cherokee Strip.

Of course, the Oklahoma court had given ownership to Walter Cook as he did stake the claim. The Enid Wave-Democrat of Nov. 26, 1903, summed it up best: “Hammer has been lawing for the (Cook/Jonesville) claim for 10 years, through all the courts of the territory and in the Supreme Court of the United States, and he lost out in each and every case.”

Hammer moves on

Hammer was active in the Enid Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, where he served as secretary and was in charge of programs according to the Enid Wave- Democrat of May 16, 1895. He was a guard at the federal jail for several months in 1898.

The Norman Transcript of Oct. 7, 1898, recorded he was a good businessman and a very pleasant fellow to meet socially. The Enid Wave- Democrat of July 17, 1902, stated “After Hammer concluded that his claim was forever lost to him, he went right down to Washington ... sat there until he secured a good job. He is in the land department of the Interior Department ... receives a salary of $2,500 a year and has very little to do ... There is nothing ... Like having pluck, and Hammer has lots of it.”

The Enid Weekly Wave of August 15, 1906, reported that Hammer was back and reappointed to a clerical position in the general land office.

“…. he does not cause bad visions to disturb the slumbers of residents of Jonesville anymore.” The Enid Weekly Wave of Aug. 30, 1906, was “thankful to Albert Hammer for an up-to-date map of the new state of Oklahoma. The map shows every town in Oklahoma and is absolutely accurate.”

“On Sept. 17, 1907, the people of the Twin Territories voted favorably on Oklahoma statehood. The vote was certified and delivered to President Theodore Roosevelt. The Enid Events of September 19, 1907, revealed that the federal census showed 718,766 people in Oklahoma Territory and 689,967 natives in Indian Territory for a total of 1,408,732 in the future state of Oklahoma.

Enid had a population of 10,879. Congress passed the Oklahoma Enabling Act to allow the Oklahoma and Indian Territories to join together as the state of Oklahoma upon writing and ratifying a constitution, which was adopted by election on Sept. 17, 1907. The western politicians wanted to admit one more western state, not two.

Charlie Hunter, appointed clerk of the district court in Oklahoma City, was told that President Roosevelt would make him a present of the pen used in signing the statehood bill. He had a quill pen made in Oklahoma City, taken from a bald eagle caught in Oklahoma, and presented to him by Senator D.P. Marum of Woodward.

Statehood proclamation — Hammer reappears

November 16, 1907, at 9 a.m., the United States State Department sent to the president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, the finished draft of the Oklahoma Statehood Proclamation. At 10 a.m., visitors were invited into the cabinet room at the White House where the signing would take place.

First came newspaper correspondents J.C. Gilbert and Joseph Saunders, both from Guthrie, Judge Jenkins of Oklahoma City, Jake Bodovitz of Ardmore, an Oklahoma representative of the Land Office Clerks, Senator Warner of Missouri, Senator Tom Carte, Senator Joseph Dickerson of Montana, and Representative Houston of Tennessee.

President Roosevelt was popularly called “A steam locomotive in pants” because of his high energy and ability to accomplish so much in a short time. So, the ceremony was not expected to take long. At 10:15 a.m., the sliding doors parted, and Secretary Loeb came in carrying the official proclamation and an eagle quill pen. Then President Roosevelt entered.

“Good morning,” the president said as he sat down and picked up the eagle quill pen and dipped it in ink. He signed with heavy marks Presidential Proclamation 780 officially granting the 46th statehood to Oklahoma at 10:16 a.m. He then picked up one of the new blotters which lay on the cabinet table to dry his signature. It would contain a distinct impression of the president’s signature reversed.

“Oklahoma is a state,” President Roosevelt said. At that moment, the clerk from the land office stepped forward from the assembled group and onto the national stage. He said: “Mr. President, my name is Albert Hammer of Enid, Oklahoma. May I have your ink blotter?”

The president smiled his big smile and gave the blotter to Hammer saying, “There were more requests for me to use particular pens than there are letters in my name.”

The president bowed and returned back to his private office. The ceremony was over. Assistant Secretary Foster of the White House staff announced the eagle plume was provided by Governor Frank Frantz of Oklahoma and will be donated to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The White House telegraph rooms were directly connected both with Oklahoma City and Guthrie. The second the president signed the proclamation, the information was flashed to the new state by the Chief Telegraph Operator James Smithers. The press release sent out to thousands of papers across the nation included the presentation of the blotter to Albert Hammer of Enid. Albert Hammer had staked his claim.

Back in Enid, Frank L. Hamilton, county register of deeds, stated: “The town went wild! Everybody got out on the streets and marched around while bands were playing. Farmers came into town for miles around and camped all around. The celebration lasted several days. People were pretty proud and glad not to be a territory anymore.”

Albert Hammer gave the blotter to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The Franklin Repository paper of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 6, 1915, reported that Miss Lallie L. Sollenberger and Albert Hammer were married in the Lutheran Parsonage by the Rev. Dr. S.W. Owens. They will go to Fort Myers, Florida, to make their home. Albert Hammer was No. 2 in the Cherokee Strip Land Run and never staked a claim even with years of legal contests. But, he was No. 1 as the first new citizen of the brand new state of Oklahoma to personally thank the President of the United States.

A tip of the hat to Sarah Cariker of the Public Library of Enid and Garfield County and to Jeff Briley, Deputy Director of the Oklahoma History Center.

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Cummings is a freelance writer who provides copy to the News & Eagle.
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