Biography of Nelson F. Carr

It is more than six decades since Nelson F. Carr became a resident of Oklahoma and he is known to the people of Bartlesville and Washington county as the “Pioneer of Big Caney.” A native of New York, he was born in Wilton, Saratoga county, September 2, 1844, a son of William Henry and Sarah M. (Clancy) Carr, the former also a native of the Empire state, while the mother’s birth occurred in Vermont. He has a very faint recollection of his father, who died in September, 1848, at the age of thirty-one years. In 1859 the widowed mother, with her son and two daughters, removed to the western frontier, settling in Fort Scott, Kansas.

They traveled by rail as far as Pleasant Hill, Missouri, then the terminus of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and thence they journeyed by stage as far as the present Kansas City. Nelson F. Carr was but fifteen years of age at this time, his active business life covering the entire period of railroad development in the country west of Missouri, the first railroad being put into operation in the United States sixteen years prior to his birth, or in 1828. Mrs. Carr remained a widow for sixty years, dying in California at the age of eighty-nine years. Her two daughters were : Anna Bridgman, deceased; and Jennie Bent of Colorado, who has two sons and a daughter.

Nelson F. Carr was reared on his mother’s farm at Fort Scott, Kansas, where both entered a quarter section of land and according to the land laws of that time he entered his section as head of a family, although, a youth of only fifteen years. At the age of sixteen he enlisted for service during the Civil war at Fort Scott, in July, 1861, joining Company B, of the Sixth Kansas Regiment. In March of the following year, this regiment became the Sixth Kansas Cavalry, in command of Colonel W. R. Judson. Mr. Carr is one of the last survivors of this noted Kansas regiment.

When his active military duties were over he was employed in a store at Fort Scott, while in 1865 he left his home to attend school, going to New York state, where he was a pupil in the common schools for a period of six months. In September of that year he returned to Kansas, where he again entered a store in Fort Scott, being thus employed until February, 1866.

Some time afterward he became one of the first settlers at Oswego, Kansas, building the first log house in the town and putting in a stock of goods. He owned a half interest in this trading post and still has in his possession a copy of the original document signed by the postmaster general, recording his appointment on October 4, 1866, as postmaster of Oswego. This position only paid him a nominal salary and a year later he resigned the office.

Mr. Carr’s store was the social center of the town and surrounding country and among the many customers and traders that came was a Cherokee Indian, named Hillard Rogers. They became very stanch friends.

In 1868 during a raid from the Arapahoes, Mr. Carr’s store was robbed, after which he turned his attention to farming. In addition to his original claim he bought twelve hundred acres under fence and in course of time he had eight hundred acres of this tract under cultivation. At that time he paid two dollars and fifty cents a bushel for seed Indian corn. His energetic example was followed by many and in this way he promoted greatly the agricultural development of this section of the country.

At about this time he also built his first grist mill on the Caney just across the river opposite the present site of Bartlesville. He dug a tunnel across a neck of land around which the river flowed, thus securing a fall of eight feet, which proved sufficient to turn his grist mill. Some time later he sold this mill to J. H. Bartles, who replaced it with a modern flour mill.

After that Mr. Carr gave his entire time and attention to farming and stock raising until 1907, when he retired from active business life and removed to Bartlesville. He still owns more than two hundred acres of land, including the tract on which he first settled when coming to Washington county. This tract is located three miles northwest of Bartlesville.

During the many visits of Mr. Rogers to Mr. Carr’s store the latter accepted an invitation from Mr. Rogers to visit his home and in September, 1866, Mr. Carr met Mr. Rogers’ daughter, Annie Rogers, of whom he had heard much. She had unusual accomplishments, even for an Indian girl.

Her father, Hillard Rogers, was a native of Georgia, a quarter blood Cherokee, was well educated and a descendant of one of the greatest Cherokee chieftains. The death of Mr. Rogers occurred in September, 1870, at the age of fifty years, at his home in Timber Hill, eight miles south of Chetopah and about seventy miles from Bartlesville. His wife passed away in January, 1870, at the age of forty-two years. A native of Tennessee, she was only sixteen years of age when she married Mr. Rogers. When only seventeen years old Hillard Rogers acted as Indian interpreter for Generals Scott and Taylor in Florida, during the Seminole Indian war He was one of the most prominent members of the tribe and of fine character.

On the 25th of August, 1867, Mr. Carr was married to Miss Annie Rogers, removing after their marriage from Oswego to Rig Cane. They were among the first to settle in that locality after the war, making their home for almost forty years on a farm three miles north of Bartlesville.

In those early days Mr. Carr traded supplies to the Indians for furs and buffalo robes, selling the latter at Leavenworth, Kansas. Thus he was frequently away from home for long periods and Mrs. Carr was left alone with her young children and orphan brother, William Rogers, who is now living at Dewey, remaining in the lonely cabin for eight days at a time and becoming a pioneer in the dangers and discomforts of frontier life, as well as her husband. Mr. and Mrs. Carr became the parents of the following children: Edward R., who passed away at the age of nine years; Ida J., the wife of John Johnson, who is living on the old Carr farm near Bartlesville : Grace Maude, who died at the age of seventeen; William A., who is making his home at Mound Valley, Kansas ; Frank Marvin, who is a resident of Washington county; Sarah Louise, the wife of William Keeler, who also makes her home in Washington county ; Jose May, who was married to L. J. Brower of Washington county; and Beulah Mabel, the wife of S. C. Brady of Bartlesville. Mr. and Mrs. Carr have twelve grandchildren.

Inasmuch as Mr. Carr married prior to the year 1874 he was placed on the roll as an Indian. Thus he and his family have received the usual allotments of land and money, with the other members of the Cherokee tribe.

Mrs. Carr is proud of the Indian blood flowing through her veins. A contemporary writer published a little story relating to the time when she came as a bride to Big Caney, which will prove of interest here: “The young bride took possession of the home prepared for her with as happy a laugh, as if the rude logs had been blocks of stone and the dirt floor a carpet of plush. All the hardships endured in the little cabin did not conquer the laugh that bubbled forth from the brave spirit of the Indian maid. One fourth of the blood in her veins came from a race keen in intellect as well as strong in body. From her Cherokee father she brought to the lonely plains a spirit of never-failing courage and cheerfulness. Her own father, descended from the great chief Sequoyah, who invented a wonderful Cherokee Indian alphabet of eighty-six letters, was a prominent man of his tribe and had been United States interpreter for General Harvey.

The life of the pioneer is ever lonely, but to have been the first in a country so rich in natural resources and in future possibilities is recompense for many hardships. Mr. Carr’s trading post drew other white people to settle in the vicinity, and the homes that soon dotted the river bank made life seem almost gay to the young trader and his wife. Thus it was that Mrs. Carr was instrumental in the foundation of one of Oklahoma’s industrial centers.

His business prospered, too, and more comforts crept into the little cabin. Lumber for a floor was brought from the Spavinaw hills east of Grand river and later a new home was built. For almost forty years the devoted woman lived on the site of the log trading station and reared her splendid family. Hardships gradually became but a memory to her and so broad and noble her nature that they are a pleasant memory.

About 1907 Mr. Carr built a comfortable home in Bartlesville and the ideal home life begun in the rude cabin shed a broader influence. Still more recently a handsomer home was purchased. There Mrs. Carr, still strong in all her faculties, with her happy, vivacious personality permeating her household, surrounded by noble sons, beautiful daughters, and lovely grandchildren, occupies a position that queens might envy, her throne a home on the spot that she watched grow from a lonely plain into a thriving county seat, with magnificent business blocks, churches, schools and homes. The achievements of a woman of Mrs. Carr’s nature cannot be measured in material things. She was placed in a hard situation and her strength was sufficient to meet it and to make of the hardships a joy. To be’ able to make a home in a cabin as well as in a mansion, to fill it with laughter, to rear children to honor the humble home and her who made it-this is the greatest work of woman’s life. ”

Mr. Carr belongs to the Baptist church and also to the Grand Army of the Republic. He has been a Mason since 1866; belonging to Keystone Lodge, No. 102, A. F. & A. M., at Coffeyville, Kansas. Mrs. Carr and her daughters belong to the Order of the Eastern Star. Mr. and Mrs. Carr have traveled extensively, but with all the attractions of other countries and states they remain loyal to Oklahoma, which they consider as being the most beautiful portion of this land of ours, preferring to live within the site of the rude cabin in which they began their married life almost fifty-four years ago and which they have seen transformed from a lonely frontier town to a beautiful city.


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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1 thought on “Biography of Nelson F. Carr”

  1. I am the great granddaughter of Nelson F. and Sarah Ann Rogers Carr. Both of them were deceased before I was born, so I never knew them, but my grandmother, Mrs. Ida Jane “Jennie” Carr Johnson, told many stories of growing up in the early days of Oklahoma, where her parents had settled on the Caney River, just northwest of Bartlesville. Jennie Carr was the second child born to the Carrs, on 31 December, 1869. Even today, I recall many of the stories that Grandmother mentioned to us as we grew up. I am now ninety and still enjoying an active life. I was born and raised on my Father’s Cherokee Allotment that had been cultivated by N. F. Carr prior to the land Allotments, his grandchildren received through right of their grandmother Sarah Rogers Carr. I am especially grateful to the Bartlesville Area Museum in Bartlesville, Oklahoma for acquiring and preserving the wonderful collection of History of Washington County of years gone by. Marjorie Johnson Lowe 6/24/2021

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