Anna Womack, Watonga
interviewed by Frank Beneda
You can hear all of Frank Beneda’s interview with
Anna Womack at the Watonga Public Library or you can buy the tape at the Oklahoma Historical Society
by calling (405) 522-0689.
These recordings are part of an oral history program called Living Legends sponsored by the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Mrs. Anna Womack moved to Watonga with her parents who came by train in 1892. She was born in 1883 in Cleveland, Ohio. Her family moved to Iowa after she was born and then to Oklahoma when they were able to buy a relinquishment near Watonga. Her parents were originally from Czechoslovakia.
One of Anna’s brothers and her father traveled to Watonga before the rest of the family in order to build a house. Anna had 3 sisters; one sister stayed in Ohio because she had already married. Anna attended school at the Brewster School House which was a one-room log building. She says that she remembers being pretty lonely as a nine-year-old living in the country with few neighbors.
Anna talks on the recording about seeing Charlie Black and Dick Yeager; they were outlaws of early Watonga days. She tells about them riding up to their house and asking about their watermelons. She told them that they were not ripe and not ready to be sold. She knew right away that they were ‘rascals’ because they looked like pictures of outlaws that she had seen with the gun belts full of ammunition. She described Charlie Black as a tall man; but she said that she might have just thought that since she was only nine. She described Dick Yeager as a tall man with black hair.
This recording about Yeager and Black is 4 minutes 12 seconds long.
Anna said that Yeager did most of the talking. She found out later that Yeager was a career outlaw but Charlie Black had lived somewhere in Oklahoma with a family and Yeager had convinced Black to join him. There were neighbors to the north of Anna’s house who would let Yeager and Black stay at their house.
Anna was over there one day and saw the two outlaws sitting on the bed looking over their guns as if to make sure their guns were ready to shoot somebody. She said that it did not look good to her at all.
This recording about the
neighbors is 3 minutes, 20 seconds long
Frank Beneda: “You were in Oklahoma then before there was even a Hitchcock, weren’t you?”
Anna: “Yes, I saw Hitchcock grow up and it never did get very large!”
Anna talks about seeing the railroad built. First railroad built was the Rock Island and then the Choctaw Railroad. She remarked that the old-timers said ‘it couldn’t be done’, to build tracks along the gypsum; but it didn’t take long at all. The railroaders’ camp was just across the road west of where she lived. There was a young lady who would ask Anna to get her mail for her because the young lady was receiving mail from a guy that she didn’t want her parents to know about.
|This recording about the
diphtheria outbreak is 1 minute, 42 seconds long
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Anna: "Anybody that moved here in a covered wagon, I thought they were gypsies because I had never seen anybody in a covered wagon except gypsies."
Anna talks about the board sidewalks in Watonga when there were just a couple of stores in town. There was a wood building used for the courthouse before the brick building we have now.
Anna Womack also talks about the Bridgeford Cemetery. It was started on the farm owned by a man named Root. His wife passed away and she was the first one buried there. Then he donated the land for the Bridgeford Cemetery.
Anna: "We would have church picnics along the river near Cedar Mountain. We would carve our initials in the rock pieces there and also around the cave on the Wynn Place. We would all hang together and go places together and we surely had more fun than people do now."