5.1 Indian Territory, about 1884

William T. Booker, his brother George and their cousin Julian Hickel arrived in Salisaw, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory.  They were driving teams pulling a horse-powered carnival.  Will was about 23, George 20 and Julian 24 years old.  They had driven the teams hard, probably southward from Howell County, Missouri through the hill country of northern Arkansas, to the Arkansas River Valley, then up the valley, through Fort Smith.
The details of what caused their sudden departure from Missouri are missing.  The stories told by Will and remembered by Ray L. Booker, Geneva Booker and D. Ray Booker tell part of the story.

Three young men had become involved in a fight with what Will later described as carpetbaggers.  He never told the details of the fight, but Ray L.’s recollection is that some sort of gun play was involved.  In any case, one result of the fight was that they somehow “confiscated” a horse powered carnival.  They had made a hasty departure from Missouri with their carnival and outran the law to the Indian Territory.  A search of Howell County court records, did not revel any mention of the carpetbagger fight.

The three young men sold the carnival at Salisaw.  They used the proceeds to buy some cattle.  They would continue their partnership in the cattle business for several years.  They ran their cattle on open leased Indian northwest of Wagoner.  Will got a job at the new cotton gin at Wagoner.  Each of the young men shared their time between jobs and taking care of their cattle.  Will was able to use the cotton seed from the gin for feed for their cattle.

For a time, Will worked as an agent for a wealthy Cherokee somewhere near the Arkansas River south of Telequah.  He ran the Indian’s ranch.

One night in 1886, Will was standing on the front porch of a house just south of the present day bridge at Briartown.  He was one of a large crowd at a party.  A buggy with a couple drove up to the front of the house.  As Sam Starr stepped out of the buggy, he was shot and killed.  Bell Starr grabbed a gun and a fierce gunfight broke out.  The battle raged through the night.  By morning, there were several dead people around the house and barn.

Ray L. Booker remembers that Will and another old timer were remembering territory days one day when the other man told about a gunfight that broke out when some men stepped off a train at Salisaw.  After listening patiently, Will remarked, “That’s just about how I remember it”.  Will had been standing on the depot landing when the shooting started.

Will was apparently an eyewitness to much of the violent history of the Indian Territory.  He told many, many colorful stories of those days, but they were not recorded, and are now forgotten and gone forever.

At some point during this period, Will left George and Julian and went to Indiana.  The reasons for going there and the location in Indiana are unknown.  Apparently that stay was about a year in length.

About 1887, Will took a job riding shotgun on a stage line between Muskogee and Fort Smith.  His main duty was guarding the money belonging to the Indians, which was shipped by stagecoach.  He later said it was not a very dangerous job.  Even though the Territory was overrun with thieves and crooks, he said it would take a pure fool to steal money belonging to the Indians.

5.2 September 30, 1888, Fort Smith, Arkansas

William Thornburgh Booker and Susan Vermell Fry were married.  They met while Will was riding shotgun on the stagecoach run between Muskogee and Fort Smith.  Susan was an orphan and had been raised by relatives at nearby Van Buren, Arkansas.  They had quite different backgrounds.  Susan had been raised in a strong Christian family, and lived strictly by the teachings of the Baptist Church her whole life.  Will had been a little on the wild side, and Susan later told Geneva that Will had much to make up for during his younger days.
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