Tulsa South Unit in field service - 1940's

Tulsa South Unit in field service - 1940's

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More about the Tulsa West Unit

Here's a picture of Brother Arthur Claus and his wife, Wilma, taken in front of the Rosedale Kingdom Hall, formerly the West Unit.  I remember them well.  Brother Claus had a pink Cadilac with lots of chrome and tail fins.  One time, we went to pick up Wilma at the Warehouse Market at 11th and Elgin (now Mazzios) were she had been doing street work.  Brother Claus went inside the store for a minute and brought me out a candy bar and a Coca Cola. Usually, I had to split everything with my sister, but not that day.  I was thrilled.

The Beginnings of the West Unit Congregation

Old Tulsa County Court House 1941
As the small group of Bible Students continued to grow, (see blog on "who was first JW") the Stroud home became too small and a larger meeting place was needed.  According to a Tulsa World article dated June 30, 1974, "a more central location was found in the basement of the old Tulsa County Court House.  Impetus was given at that time to more house-to-house ministerial activity, and the growth continued.

With a thriving congregation in Tulsa, the Watchtower Society assigned it nearly all of north-central and northeast Oklahoma, stretching from Tahlequah to Blackwell.  It was encouraged that every house holder be contacted in this huge area twice a year.  'Each week, a program was worked out for the towns to be covered," Claus* said.  "All the members of the congregation would meet on the court house steps with bookbags packed with Bible literature, a good lunch and a water jug.  They were ready to leave at 8 a.m. sharp and would get into six or eight automobiles and head into the territory.

It was nothing uncommon for the entire car group to come back without a single piece of literature left.  I recall one trip when a group was on a two-day preaching trip and covered Hominy, Fairfax, Burbank and Shidler.  Every car had placed every piece of literature they brought with them, and the count revealed an average of 30 Bibles, books and booklets.

By the 1940's, the Tulsa Congregation (West Unit) was responsible only for the city and its surrounding area.  A Kingdom Hall was built at 440 N. Boston Ave. and used until taken for right-of-way needed for the Crosstown Expressway in 1966. "

This is where my mother first started attending the meetings in 1957.  I was 4 years old. I don't think the building was air-conditioned, but we probably had heat.  There was a baptismal pool behind the stage where I was privileged to see new brothers and sisters get baptized.  

*Brother Arthur Claus - He was  interviewed for the article in the Tulsa World, June 30, 1977

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who was the First JW in Tulsa?

Grand Opera House, Tulsa, OK  1906-1941

According to a Tulsa World article dated June 30, 1974, it was a woman named Mrs. O.R. (Beulah) Covey.

This article goes on to say:..."While living in Oklahoma City, she had heard Charles T. Russell, the first president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, speak in 1912.  Convinced it was the truth of the Bible she began to study diligently.  In 1913, she and her husband moved to Tulsa, and shortly after both were active as Bible Students. 

The Covey's arranged to have the Watchtower Society's famous 'Photo-Drama of Creation' brought to Tulsa in 1914.  . . . There were two showings a day for eight days at the old Grand Opera House located in the 100 block on East 2nd Street, and each drew a packed house. 

'The Watchtower Society sent four full-time ministers to  Tulsa with the 'Photo-Drama' to follow up interest,' recalled Claus*  "These were able to bring together eight or nine persons to study the Bible.  They met at the Stroud* home located at the edge of town near Orcutt Lake (now the Swan Lake area).  The house was down a crooked, sandy road full of sand burrs, which made walking very difficult, but this was the first Kingdom Hall for the city of Tulsa in 1914.'"

*Brother Arthur Claus - Tulsa West Unit
*The "Tulsa City Directory" shows the Stroud home to be located at  E. 17th.   The house is no longer there, but it would have been a few blocks from Swan Lake.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Richard J. Hill, International Bible Student

This dear brother was the son of a slave.  He was born in Indian Territory in 1872.  Sometime in the early part of the 20th Century, he moved from Beggs, OK to Tulsa with his family.  In 1918 he began writing articles for the Tulsa Star newspaper for the black community.  He held Sunday meetings every other week at the Masonic Hall at 618 E. Archer.  In 1920, he rented or purchased a building next to his house on Easton Street and advertised meetings 5 nights a week including Sunday.  All meetings were free.  No collections taken.

Brother Hill was a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association and the U.S. Supreme Court.  

He was a Creek Freedman and his wife was a Choctaw Freedwoman.  They had a daughter born in 1920 named Suntalia.  The 1930 Census shows her name had been changed to Cedar Point! Did the 1922 convention in Cedarpoint, Ohio have anything to do with the name change?

Richard Hill also held two large debates at the Convention Hall (a/k/a Old Lady on Brady, Brady Theater).  More about these debates on a future blog.

What happened to Richard Hill and his family after the Race Riot?  The City Directory shows that they lived in Tulsa through 1954.  My research continues.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Is that a poster of Judge Rutherford? What's up?

Black folks taken to Convention Hall (a/k/a Brady Theater)
Tulsa Race Riot, May 31/June 1, 1921
Is that a picture of Judge Rutherford? 
Yes, it is. Brother Rutherford gave the talk "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" on Monday, May 30, 1921.  The Tulsa Race riot began Tuesday night, May 31st.  There is a full page ad in the Tulsa World and Tulsa Tribune advertising the talk and a small reminder ad in both papers the day of the talk.  It's advertised as free to the public to be held at the Convention Hall (a/k/a Brady Theater) at 8 p.m.

Did Richard J. Hill attend this talk?  No.  At this time, Jim Crow laws prohibited black and white folks meeting together. (See his comments in the Tulsa Race Riot blog)

May/June 1921 Race Riot

Were there any Jehovah Witnesses living in the area of the Tulsa Race Riot?  Yes, there were.  At that time they were known as the International Bible Students.  Please note the following personal experience from Mrs. Mary E. Jones Parrish's book, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, pages 25 and 26, as published in 1923.

                          "Tulsa, Okla., June 22, 1921.
     On the night of the Riot we had our class of Bible study, as usual.  After the class was over, and far into the night, we heard shooting down town, which we could only interpret to mean that there was trouble of some kind.  We went into the house and went to bed listening to the spasmodic shooting, which clearly convinced us that there was trouble of some kind.  
     In the morning the shooting was more severe in front of our house.  The Whites were firing on Colored, who, seemingly unaware of the trouble, were on their way to work, and in passing were met with vollies of shot.  We remained in the house until some folks came and stated that if we wanted protection we had better go to Convention Hall at once.  This we promptly did, leaving our house partly open.  About two o'clock we were called for by some White friends and brought back to our home to find everything considerable tumbled around, but no serious damage done.
     We found a White gentleman in charge of the house, who related to us that himself and son and a few neighboring White friends had prevented any further molestation of our home.  The stated that they were ready to stay with us all night if we thought it necessary to insure that we would not be molested.
     My principal loss was a two-story brick building on Greenwood Street.  (Of course, we lost some clothes, shoes, money and other things in the house that we did not consider worth while.)
     As to preventing such mob violence, I refer you to my statements in the Oklahoma Sun, Tulsa, Okla., the Black Dispatch, Oklahoma city, The Muskogee Scemiter, Muskogee, Okla.  That is the best solution I know of for race riots and mob violence.
                                     RICHARD J. HILL, Atty.,
                                                    International Bible Student."

Were the "White friends" who came to Richard Hill's assistance fellow believers?  Very possible. What a fine show of love for the Christian brotherhood.  UPDATE! According to a June 30, 1974 article in the Tulsa World, Brother Arthur Claus went to Convention Hall to get Brother Hill and his family released.  This article also stated that Brother Claus gave talks at Brother Hill's home in north Tulsa despite Jim Crow laws*. "This favorable impressed many and added to the growth of Tulsa's second congregation."

R.J. Hill's balanced view of a horrific tragedy wherein many lost their lives and 34 to 35 square blocks were looted and burned is impressive.  He shows no vindictive feelings but endeavored to give an witness of hope to those who had suffered loss as noted below. 

Mrs. Jones Parrish's book included a section on pages 69 through 75 subtitled "WHERE ARE THE DEAD".  This was also written by Richard J. Hill and is an amazing witness regarding the hellfire doctrine, the condition of the dead and the resurrection.  He quotes many scriptures from the King James Bible and reasons on them simply, but effectively. More to come about Richard J. Hill in future blogs.           

*The Jim Crow laws forbid blacks and whites to congregate together anywhere... in schools, restaurants, churches, etc.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tulsa South Unit going in field service sometime in the 1940's. Back then, the South Unit's territory went all the way to Bixby!  Mildred McGuire and Wilma Clauss are identified on the photo.  Jeannie Koch (2nd row, 2nd from the right, and Mildred McGuire's mother (front row, 3rd from the right) are also in the photo.  Do you recognize anyone?