The Howle Home in Oklahoma Territory

B H Howle family and home in Walters, Oklahoma Territory, ca 1906.

A favorite family photo

One of my treasured heirlooms is a photo of my Howle family grandparents standing in front of their home.[1] I had never seen this picture until after my grandmother Lillian Florence Howle (1902-1994) passed away in 1994. Not long after she died, we found an old trunk tucked away in the hall closet of her home. It was filled with letters, legal papers, and lots of photos. As I began going through things, I discovered this incredible picture. At first glance, it appears to be a simple scene of a family standing in the front yard of their home. But as I looked at it more closely, the picture revealed much about my family and our connection to a significant event in Oklahoma history.

Who’s in the picture?

The woman on the left is my great-grandmother, Emma Calhoun Carleton (1863-1945). She was born in Columbus, Muskogee County, Georgia, on 07 March 1863, to William James Henry Carleton (abt 1823-bef 1900) and Ava Augusta George (1836-1901).[2] My grandmother, Lillian Florence Howle (1902-1994), is standing between her mother and father. Grandmother was born in Dadeville, Tallapoosa County, Alabama on 04 June 1902.[3] Her father, my great-grandfather, Blount Hampton Howle (1853-1863) was born in Selma, Dallas County, Alabama in May 1853 to Thomas E L Howle (1828-1864) and Mary “Malissa” Moore (1837-1889).[4] Emma married Blount in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, on 01 September 1895.[5] She was his second wife and my grandmother was their second and youngest child.

Family Life in Oklahoma Territory

There are many reasons why I love this photo. One is because it captured my grandmother as a little girl. Although Lillian was born in Alabama, she moved with her family to a newly opened area of southwestern Oklahoma Territory “as a small baby.”[6] In this photo, Grandmother appears to be about four years old which means it was taken circa 1906. She’s just so cute standing between her parents in her straw hat, braided hair, little coat, and button-up shoes.

As I look at my great-grandmother, Emma, I am always troubled that she isn’t smiling. In fact, she is glancing away from the camera and appears tired, somewhat unhappy, and rather wistful. It makes me wonder if she was homesick for her family and friends because she never suspected that she would leave Alabama behind and become a pioneer. Then I look at her apron and imagine all the meals she prepared, the tedious hours of sweeping that pesky Oklahoma dust out of the house, and the never-ending job of washing clothes and hanging everything out to dry. No wonder, the poor lady looks tired!

And then, there’s my great-grandfather, standing a step behind and to the right of his daughter and wife. He’s physically separated from them and I wonder why. Hopefully, the photographer posed him there for lighting purposes or to frame his big black hat perfectly with the sign on the house that says, “For Sale or Rent – City Property – Deeded Farms – B H Howle.” Grandmother had told me that her father had built their house and others in Walters. It was a pretty fancy house for the early 1900s in Oklahoma Territory.

Snapshot of historic Oklahoma Territory

So why did this family leave Alabama to become pioneers in Oklahoma Territory? Because there was land available and lots of it.

The land that makes up present-day Oklahoma was where more than three dozen Native American tribes had been forced onto reservations by 1889.[7] Over the next 15 years, the Federal government took most of these reservation lands and opened them to white settlers through a series of land runs and lotteries.[8] My great-grandfather Blount Howle played a prominent role in the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache land lottery opening of 06 August 1901.[9],[10] According to information posted online by the Cotton County Museum, “Judge Geo. D. Latham, Judge Childers, and Col. B. H. Howle” had filed a petition with the U.S. Government to set aside land for a townsite to be named McKnight[11]. By securing this townsite, the men were then able to buy and sell lots to incoming settlers and start building a community.[12] However, when town officials applied for a post office in October 1901, they discovered that there was already a town in Oklahoma called McKnight. Since their post office couldn’t have the same name, they had to officially change the town’s name to Walters.[13] That’s how the house in the picture and my Howle grandparents got their start in Walters, Oklahoma.

Oh… I discovered one more reason why the photo has become a favorite. When I was enhancing the digital scan of the picture, I noticed a trunk sitting on the porch. After looking at it more closely, I’m pretty certain that it is the same trunk that we found in my grandmother’s closet. The trunk inside which I found this photo.


[1] Howle Family Home in Walters, Oklahoma, photograph, ca. 1906; digital image 2019, privately held by Jacqueline Marshall Menasco, [Address for Private Use], Peoria, Arizona. The current owner inherited this original 5” x 7” photo from Lillian Howle Marshall (1902-1994), her grandmother, in 1994. The photo is somewhat worn and faded, but in reasonably good condition.

[2] “Howle Funeral Here Sunday,” obituary, clipping hand dated 29 November 1945, from Walters (Okla.) Herald; Howle Family Papers, privately held by Jacqueline (Marshall) Menasco, [Address for Private Use], Peoria, Arizona, 2019. Inherited in 1994 by the current owner from her grandmother Lillian (Howle) Marshall, daughter of Emma (Carleton) Howle of Walters, Oklahoma.

[3] Alabama State Department of Health – Bureau of Vital Statistics, delayed certificate of birth (1965), Lillian Florence Howle; Alabama Department of Health, Montgomery, Alabama.

[4] “Colonel B. H. Howle Dies,” obituary, The Cotton County Enterprise (Walters, Oklahoma), 22 April 1921, p. 1, col. 2, digital scan, Oklahoma Historical Society (https://www.okhistory.org : received by email 20 November 2019).

[5] “Alabama, Select Marriages, 1816-1957,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 March 2016), entry for B. H. Howle and Emma Carleton, 01 September 1895, FHL File Number 1302448.

[6] Lillian Florence (Howle) Marshall, “Life Story” (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, ca 1984); handwritten personal narrative, privately held by Jacqueline Marshall Menasco [Address for Private Use], Peoria, Arizona, 2019. Ms. Menasco inherited these original pages from her grandmother Lillian Howle Marshall (1902-1994) in 1994.

[7] Dianna Everett, “Indian Territory,” at Oklahoma Historical Society (https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entryname=INDIAN%20TERRITORY : accessed 24 November 2019), “The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.”

[8] Dianna Everett, “Land Openings,” at Oklahoma Historical Society (https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entryname=LAND%20OPENINGS : accessed 24 November 2019), “The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.”

[9] Unknown author, “History of Walters,” at Cotton County [Oklahoma] Museum (http://www.sirinet.net/~lgarris/cottoncountymuseum/history.html : accessed 24 November 2019), “History.”

[10] Kracht, Benjamin R., “Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Opening,” at Oklahoma Historical Society (https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=KI020 : accessed 24 November 2019), “The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.”

[11] Unknown author, “History of Walters,” at Cotton County Museum.

[12] Nita E., transcribed and posted by, “The McKnight Leader August 23 1901,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/boards/localities.northam.usa.states.oklahoma.unknown/10273/mb.ashx : accessed 24 November 2019), Message Board entry citing Latham, George D., The McKnight Leader, McKnight, Oklahoma, vol 1, no. 1, 23 August 1901.

[13] Unknown author, “History of Walters,” at Cotton County Museum.

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