Sunday, October 16, 2011

Diane Davis White: A Log Cabin History

by Diane Davis White

RTW Note:  There's history, a listing of facts, battles, and dates -- then there's real history, families, people who eked a hard living day to day, building good lives for themselves and their children.  Romancing The West is pleased that Diane Davis White shared her own history with us, and it starts with a log cabin in Oklahoma. 

Because of length, the article will be published at Romancing The West in two parts, the second part will be published Thursday. It was first published in the Payne County Historical Society Booklet and reprinted in the Oklahoma State Historical Society. 

This log cabin was originally located on the corner of Hwy 51 & Hwy 18 and was built by a man named Pawnee Rice, who is no relation to our family as far as we know.

In May of 1949 William Sherman Kerby gave an interview to John Melton wherein he stated:
“That I, Sherman T Kerby of age 84 and a citizen of Payne County Oklahoma do hereby state and verify that: I first came to what is now Payne County in January 1893 into what was then Pawnee lands, having special permission of the Pawnee Indian Agency to do work for the Indians, building houses, cultivating, digging water wells, building fences, during which time I made acquaintance with many old Pawnee Indians, including Nelson [Pawnee] Rice, Chief Curly-Chief, John Brown, Little Chief, Spotted Horse, Walking-Sun, Robert Taylor, Setten Bull, of whom the last four were union soldiers during the civil war.”

Pawnee Rice lived like a white man and traded among the local tribes as well as the white population that came with the 1889 land run. He was killed—some say by Red Buck Wakeman—in 1897 and the property was eventually purchased by Sherman, whose relations and descendents have used the log cabin at various times down through the years.

In his interview, Mr. Kerby stated further that:
“Pawnee Rice was shot by Red Buck in the fall of about 1894. Buck reportedly boasted of the shooting before witnesses. Rice had walked out on his porch early in the morning where Buck waylaid him. I helped bury Rice on top of the west mound of the Twin Mounds. His pearl-handled revolvers were buried with him. The government reserved 10 acres on top of the mound for an Indian cemetery.
Mrs. Macie Myatt wrote the following list of persons that she knew of who had used the cabin, and also mentioned the condition and furnishings of the dwelling in the early days. According to the list, the first family to use the cabin—after it was purchased in 1920 by Sherman Kerby—was Oscar Boyd, along with his wife and a son named Cleo. It is not known how long they stayed, but their tenancy was followed by that of a gentleman by the name of Sam Turner and his wife, and again, we do not know the length of the tenancy.

The third known occupant was a Mr. Williams, whose name was listed by Ms. as Negro Williams. It is not known if this was his name or if it referred to his race, as it was not uncommon during that era for blacks to be referred to as ‘Negroes’. Mr. Williams may well have been a farm worker whose pay included board, which would have been tenancy in the cabin—although this is not known for certain.

As in the case of Mr. Williams, the first two occupants—the Boyd & Turner families—may have been farm workers hired by Sherman T, and who used the cabin as the only dwelling available that was convenient to their jobs. The other possible scenario would be simply that each family rented the property for a brief time, but it is more likely that they earned their livelihood on the farm, transportation being a scarcity during those difficult times.

Next came Sherman and Mary Nancy’s daughter, Verna, and her husband, Vannah Harris. Their occupancy was probably a matter of expediency for a newly married couple wanting privacy, but this is only a matter of speculation, of course, as there is no written record to prove or disprove such a claim. While living in the log cabin, Mrs. Harris gave birth to a son, Sherman Wayne Harris, on February 27th, 1922. The approximate length of the prior tenancies being very short is proven by the birth of this child, a mere two years after the property was purchased.

NC and his brother Dewey ‘batched’ it there for awhile after their sister, Mrs. Harris, and her small family departed. The brothers no doubt wanted some freedom from living under their father’s watchful eye in the main house and the cabin provided them with the independence they were craving. There are no wild stories, however, of that period in the cabin’s history—or none that we’ve heard, at any rate.

Sherman’s mother-in-law, Mary Jane Rice Davis was the last occupant of the cabin and as far as we can determine, moved in there around 1935 or 36. She remained as occupant of the cabin—which had been renovated and made comfortable for her by Sherman—until just before her death in 1944.

Mary Jane came to Oklahoma as a pioneer, traveling with her husband James Washington Davis, and six of their eleven children. They came from Iowa in a covered wagon and homesteaded about three miles east of Ingalls next to the first Kerby Homestead on what is now 19th avenue, once the Ingalls Road. Mr. Davis died in 1923, leaving his widow with only a small pension and their homestead, and a bank account which was worth about $1500 according the probate records.

He was a veteran of the Union Army, having served during the Civil War with the Iowa 6th Infantry, Company H, and he was discharged honorably just before they reached Atlanta, for an undisclosed disability sustained on that long and treacherous forced march to the sea. After his death, Mary Jane rented out the farm and went to live with various of her children, until in about 1935 Sherman decided to renovate the cabin and did so, with the object of moving his mother-in-law there. This was a decidedly good move, for it brought her close by, where her oldest daughter, Mary Nancy, could look after her and this kept her in a permanent home where she could be independent, as well.

Read the rest of this intriguing log cabin that chronicles the history of its inhabitants in Part 2, coming next at Romancing The West!

When Lakota warrior Thunder Heart, who is destined to be a leader of his people, saves the lives of two white women during Red Cloud's War, he places his family and his village at risk.

Can he keep these women safe? Will his act of compassion cause the death of his people? Will his people demand he  abandon or kill these women in order to avoid the wrath of the Bluecoats or even Red Cloud?

Uncertain of the outcome, he knows only one thing: He desires the pale-haired beauty, Victoria Abernathy, and will do anything to insure her safety.

Read an excerpt

Available on
Kindle and Nook
Available in print at
Amazon and Barnes & Noble

A historical love story you won't want to miss!


  1. very interesting....I cannot wait to read part 2


  2. love indian romances



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