Biography of Judge Napoleon Bonaparte Moore

A life of great usefulness and far-reaching influence ended when on the 10th of October, 1911, Judge Napoleon Bonaparte Moore was called to his final rest, after a long illness, at the venerable age of eighty-four years. Long a leader of public thought and action, he left his impress in notable measure upon the history of Oklahoma along agricultural, legislative, political and moral lines. A native of Alabama, he was born on the 8th of January, 1827, of the marriage of William and Lucy (Chemathla) Moore, who were also natives of that state, in which the father spent his life, devoting his time and attention to milling and blacksmithing.

Napoleon Bonaparte Moore was the eldest of five children. William died of pneumonia while a student at Tullahassee Mission. Ephraim was one of the many who lost their lives in the “gold fever” days of California. Elizabeth was twice married and left an only daughter, Maria Elizabeth Smith, nee McGann. Her mother lived in northern Kansas and died there during the Civil war. In 1883, on the death of her father, she came to Oklahoma to look up her mother’s brothers. She lived for many years in Okmulgee, where she accumulated considerable property and where her deep interest in her Church (the Methodist), the public library and the hospital made her a well known and prominent character. She died of cancer after many months of intense suffering, within a year after the demise of Judge Moore. John Moore, youngest son of William and Lucy (Chemathla) Moore, was twice Married. He possessed the same stern integrity and sense of honor which all the Moores inherited from their Irish and Indian parents. He was “town king” of Kussehta town for many years and as such, a member of the upper house of the Creek council, where his influence was a power for good. He was elected Treasurer of the Creek Nation in the fall of 1887 and died just before the completion of his first year in office. Of his eight children, John, William N., Ella, Elizabeth, Grace, H. Right, John and Winnie, only three are living. William N., who is a graduate of Bacone University and was for a number of years Vice President of the First National Bank of Morris, follows agricultural pursuits near Morris. His wife, who was Leona Matlock, has borne him nine sons. The eldest is not living. The youngest are twins. John Moore is also engaged in farming near Morris. Elizabeth Moore, deceased sister of William N. Moore, became the wife of Ferdinand Kelly and passed away two weeks prior to the death of Judge Moore, leaving a son and a daughter, namely: Roland Ephraim, who has just completed his second year at Oklahoma University and is making electrical studies his specialty; and Elizabeth, who is a junior in the Haskell high school. H. Right Moore, one of the three surviving sons of John Moore, brother of Judge Moore of this review, pursued a four years’ course in Hanover College and following his return to Oklahoma was graduated from the Henry Kendall College. He made a splendid record as full-back in football and pitcher in baseball on the Hanover teams and frequently was carried off the grounds on the shoulders of his college mates. He has three daughters and one son and lives on his farm near Haskell.

Napoleon Bonaparte Moore acquired his education in Alabama, the nearest schoolhouse being five miles distant from his home, and he was obliged to have an interpreter, as he was unable to speak a word of English, being familiar only with the Creek language. In 1843, when sixteen years of age, he came to Indian Territory and when he reached here he had forgotten his native tongue, while the interpreter could no longer converse in English. The mother of Napoleon Bonaparte Moore accompanied him on his removal to the territory, and her demise occurred in Muskogee County. For some time the son engaged in teaching school and later he was called to public office, serving first as light horseman, or policeman, and filling every public position within the gift of the Creek Nation, except that of chief. For eight years he was judge of the Supreme Court and as a jurist he was learned, fearless, honest and courageous. His course upon the bench received high endorsement, for his opinions were strictly fair and impartial, based upon a comprehensive knowledge of the law and the equity of the case. For nearly thirteen years he acted as Treasurer of the Creek Nation, proving a very capable incumbent in that office, and he also clerked for James Patterson, a pioneer merchant of Muskogee, continuing a resident of that locality until about 1880.

After returning to private life he devoted all of his attention to farming and stock raising, in which he was very successful, owning and operating over a square mile of land three miles south-east of Haskell, using the present site of the town as pasture for his cows. Through close study and practical experience he acquired a comprehensive knowledge of stock raising, in which he was recognized as an authority, specializing in the breeding of Berkshire and Poland China hogs and shorthorn cattle, all being of high grade. He carried on his labors scientifically, keeping himself well informed on all modern developments relating to his line of work, and he was numbered among the foremost agriculturists and stock raisers of Oklahoma.

During the Civil war Judge Moore went to the south, serving as a quartermaster in the Confederate army, and when he returned to his home in Oklahoma in 1866 all of his property had been confiscated by the government and he was obliged to begin life anew. He was a man of marked force of character, whose persistency of purpose and tireless energy enabled him to overcome all obstacles and difficulties in his path and press steadily forward to the goal of success.

In Kansas, on the 20th of November, 1882, Judge Moore was united in marriage to Mrs. Augusta (Robertson) Craig, a daughter of William S. and Ann Eliza (Worcester) Robertson, the former a native of Huntington, Long Island, and the latter of Georgia. Dr. S. A. Worcester, the maternal grandfather of Mrs. Moore, was a man of high intellectual attainments and translated the Bible into the Cherokee language. His daughter, Mrs. Robertson, was also highly educated, being the first woman in the United States to receive the Ph. D. degree, and she translated from Greek and Latin into the Creek language all of the New Testament and a portion of the Old. Her husband, William S. Robertson, was a successful educator, devoting his life to that profession. He taught school in New York State until 1849, when he was sent to Indian Territory as principal of the Tullahassee Mission and, finding the mission building unfinished, assisted in completing it. He continued to retain that position until the outbreak of the Civil war, when he went to his father’s home in Wisconsin, where he taught a public school. Being very nearsighted, he was unable to enter the army, but his influence was very great in leading young men to volunteer. After the close of the war he returned to the territory and resumed his work at the mission, with which he was connected until his death, being ably assisted by his wife. He passed away on the 26th of June, 1880, at the age of sixty-one, while her demise occurred on the 19th of November, 1905, when she was seventy-nine years of age. Mr. and Mrs. Robertson became the parents of seven children, of whom four survive, namely: Mrs. Moore; Alice M., who is serving as representative from Oklahoma in the national halls of legislation at Washington, D. C.; Mrs. Grace L. Merriman of Santa Barbara, California; and Samuel W., also a resident of that city. By her marriage to J. H. Craig, now deceased, Mrs. Moore had a daughter, Alice, who was born June 26, 1879, and died February 17, 1880. At the death of his brother, John, Judge Moore became guardian for his brother’s younger children and brought them to his own home, where he engaged an excellent teacher as governess, fitting up an outside building as schoolroom. To this school several white children were admitted, their parents being farming people of the neighborhood and there being no other school in the locality. Not only was Mr. Moore guardian for his nephews but for a large number of other orphan children who were members of his family at different times.

Judge Moore was an earnest member of the Presbyterian Church, whose teachings found expression in his daily life. He did all in his power to promote its growth and extend its influence and it was chiefly because of his efforts that the Presbyterian Church at Haskell was erected. He served as its first elder, continuing to fill that office until his death, and he also acted as one of its trustees, exerting a strong force for good in his community. For many years he was a trustee of Tullahassee Mission, where his wise counsel and delightful personality made him always a most welcome and valued friend. Later, after the burning of Tullahassee school and the relinquishment of the site to the Negroes, Nuyaka Mission was founded by Judge Moore, who was a member of the first board of trustees and held that position as long as his wife was at the head of the school and until elected to fill his brother’s place as Treasurer of the Creek Nation. His political allegiance was given to the Democratic Party, and fraternally he was identified with the Masonic order, being a charter member of his lodge. He long held a position of leadership in the Creek Nation. At a time when there had been poor crops and there was great suffering among the Creeks, Judge Moore, who was then Treasurer, and two other leading members of the tribe, were sent to Washington to try to get an appropriation out of the Indian (Creek) funds, at interest in the hands of the United States government. It has been customary in cases like this to pay a percentage to the person or persons who got o a claim put through congress, but in this case a claim for four hundred thousand dollars to relieve the suffering was successfully put through with no fee except one to the lawyer who helped them make their application in proper shape. Ex-Governor Crawford of Kansas was the lawyer. Judge Moore was a man who would have been an acquisition to any community, his irreproachable character, no less than his achievements, giving him a commanding position and compelling his recognition as one destined to lead in anything he undertook. He enjoyed to the fullest extent the confidence and high regard of his fellow citizens, and his name is written high on the roll of the honored dead who were among the builders and promoters of the state. Mr. Moore was always held in the highest esteem by the members of Muskogee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and they never rested until they were able to obtain the data that secured the Confederate cross of honor for him. When he died the present member of congress from the Second district of Oklahoma pinned this cross over his breast and Dr. Thompson, who preached his funeral sermon in the First Presbyterian Church of Muskogee, of which he was a devoted member for many years, alluded to his faithful service represented by two crosses-the cross of Christ and the army decoration. His pallbearers were fellow Masons and fellow elders of the two Churches at Muskogee and Haskell. Years afterward the member of congress, in a speech, spoke of her pinning that Confederate cross over the heart of the best man, next to her father, whom she had ever known. Mr. Moore died after a long illness at Battle Creek, Michigan, and his body was brought home to Haskell for interment.

Mrs. Moore is a capable business woman and since her husband’s death she has successfully managed the farm, also continuing to raise both hogs and cattle, and she is likewise interested in horticulture, having twenty-five acres devoted to the raising of fruit. She is deeply interested in all that pertains to the progress and development of her community and as a member of one of the pioneer families of the state she enjoys the respect and esteem of an extensive circle of friends.


Benedict, John Downing. Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma: including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

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