http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgThe historic Saline Courthouse near Rose, Okla., is the last remaining district courthouse built by the Cherokee Nation in the 1800s. In 2003, the Saline Preservation Association was formed to restore the courthouse and the grounds around it. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The historic Saline Courthouse near Rose, Okla., is the last remaining district courthouse built by the Cherokee Nation in the 1800s. In 2003, the Saline Preservation Association was formed to restore the courthouse and the grounds around it. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Saline Courthouse: A Place of Beauty and Mystery

03/02/2016 12:00 PM
ROSE, Okla. (AP) – On the border between Mayes and Delaware counties sits a property that is one of the best-kept secrets in Oklahoma. The Saline Courthouse site is a magical natural wonderland in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by empty meadows, a chicken farm or two, pasture and woods, the courthouse is a spring creek-fed idyll full of beauty and mystery and…death.

People in the know visit this place to take photos along the rock-lined creek and watch tadpoles and crawdads scoot around. In the summer, it is a great place to sit on the grassy bank and dip your feet in the cold water. The courthouse doors have been closed for many years, but the old white building serves as a good backdrop while lounging.

In 2003, the Saline Preservation Association was formed to restore the courthouse and the grounds around it. The courthouse is the only remaining one of nine that were built in the 1880s by the Cherokee Nation. Though it only operated as a courthouse for 14 years, it has a rich history.

Mayes County Assessor and SPA President Lisa Melchior said, “The first time I visited Saline was with my mother in 2002. The door was locked but the windows were busted out, and you could just step right in. It was in a dilapidated state with rotten wood, paint peeling, etc.”

Melchior was intrigued and went home and began searching for information about it. She discovered it was on Preservation Oklahoma’s Most Endangered List.

“Here was the last remaining structure of nine rural courthouses in the Cherokee Nation from the 1800s and it seemed to be forgotten,” said Melchior.

After she and others worked to form the SPA, they began working with the CN on a master plan to restore, renovate and renew the property, which is now designated as the Saline National Park.

When the courthouse closed in 1898, it passed through a succession of private ownerships, including being the property and residence of John Teehee, John and Poca Phillips, Coon Phillips, Stanley Perkins and finally Lee and Florine Ransom. The Ransoms sold the house in 1970 to the Oklahoma parks department. The CN eventually took ownership of the property in the 1980s.

The springhouse was the first building to be restored, and the courthouse has had major improvements made, and a plan for the original 14 acres around it is being carried out, piece by piece.

In addition, said Melchior, “The Teehee Cemetery had the stones repaired and a fence placed around it. A split-rail fence was put along the roadway. The courthouse structure has been stabilized with the lead paint abated, porch, chimneys, fireplace and foundation restored.”

“Broken windows have been replaced, rotten siding replaced and a new roof put on. It has come a long way and is now one of Preservation Oklahoma’s success stories,” said Melchior.

Travis Owens, Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism manager, said the organization is continuing to work on a master plan for the property.

“We hope to have the plan complete by fall and will consider site access, walking trails, parking, public restrooms and options for the permanent use of the courthouse,” Owens told the Pryor Daily Times.

“The master plan focuses on exterior grounds and our first priority was preserving the building’s structural integrity,” said Owens. “We have successfully completed an exterior restoration, which included the stabilization of the building and a new roof.

“At this time a future use for the property has not been determined but we look forward to developing plans for the interior restoration,” he added.

Melchior noted that the CN had bought 50 additional acres for a Memorial Trail and other trails around the courthouse.

“I envision hiking trails and historical markers telling the story of the Saline District and the Cherokee Nation, a place that families can spend time visiting nature at its best and learning the history of the Cherokee Nation,” said Melchior. “The Cherokee Nation has not determined the future use of the courthouse structure, but I personally would like to see it used in a way to tell the judicial story of the Cherokee Nation.”

Melchior envisions the site being an interpretive one that “brings the past to life though pictures and stories.”

“People are drawn to the site and have been for hundreds of years. It’s a special place with a unique and special story,” she said.

Stories of the courthouse abound, many of which involve some not-so-savory characters and happenings.

In the cemetery located on the grounds is a gravestone for A.J. Colvard. The thing about this stone was it read “Born April 12, 1958, Murdered . . . “ The date is illegible. It’s not many gravestones one sees that have “murdered” on them.

Colvard was a store owner who was apparently killed by Stand Rowe, with John Hicks as an accomplice, in February 1892. Rowe was killed running from the law, and Hicks was tried and convicted but acquitted in a second trial.

Five years after Colvard’s murder, “The Saline Courthouse Massacre” occurred. Omer Morgan describes this incident in a 1955 article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma. According to Morgan, on Sept. 20, 1897, three people were shot and killed at the courthouse, one of them the outgoing sheriff Jesse Sunday and the other the current sheriff Dave Ridge. Also killed was Saline community store owner Thomas Baggett.

Stories conflict surrounding the murders, but what is known is that Dave Ridge showed up at Baggett’s store after it closed and stood on the porch trying to get in. Baggett appeared at an upstairs window and talked to him, and as he did, he was shot.

Most reports blame the murder on Sampson Rogers, who was hiding out nearby with a friend of his. Rogers apparently had a feud with Baggett and supposedly was going to pin the murder on Ridge. Rogers then allegedly killed Ridge.

The outgoing sheriff Jesse Sunday deputized some men and then came to the Saline Courthouse to see what anyone knew about the murders. Martin Rowe, who lived there, and John Colvard, his friend, were sitting on the porch. Sunday apparently took a shotgun from Colvard and then began searching the area around the courthouse. During his search he was shot and murdered.

Rowe was convicted of Sunday’s death, but the sentence was commuted to 10 years in prison, since the evidence was not strong. Rowe, however, escaped three months later, fled to Texas, joined the army, was discharged and eventually ended up in Stilwell, where he lived the rest of a long life.

Rogers was tried and found not guilty of Ridge’s murder.

Despite some unsavory stories involving it, the Saline Courthouse continues to be a place where people can learn about the past and soak in the beauty of the natural scenery.

For more information about the SPA, visit


Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
06/19/2018 08:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH – After waiving his Cherokee Nation rights to employee privacy, John Ross Baker publicly admitted on June 18 that he was the nurse responsible for a lapse in protocol by incorrectly administering medications and potentially exposing patients to blood borne pathogens. “I, John Baker, RN, am deeply sorry that my actions have caused such anxiety to these families. When I understood that I may not have been following proper procedures, I immediately began working with health care professionals to identify any mistakes that may have been made and cooperated in every possible way and then I resigned,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s 34-year-old son said in a written statement. “I love caring for patients and would never knowingly put anyone at risk. My late mother was a nurse and I feel as though I inherited her passion for caring for others. I believe I was called to the nursing profession and I hope to serve patients with the same concern and compassionate care as she did, and I’ve always hoped she would be proud of the man I am. She and my father always taught me to take responsibility for my actions.” According to a CN press release, Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail was informed on April 29 of a protocol lapse involving the administration of medication for surgical patients. Health Services officials said the lapse occured from January to April and involved using the same vial of medication and syringe to inject more than one IV bag, potentially exposing patients to blood borne pathogens. However, Health Services officials said patients were never directly in contact with any needle. “In all instances, medication was administered into an IV bag, or tubing. The likelihood of blood borne pathogens traveling up the lines into an IV bag or IV tubing to cause cross contamination from using the same syringe is extremely remote,” officials said. Health Services officials said all 186 patients had been contacted and that 118 had returned for testing. They also said no patients had shown any signs of exposure. In a June 11 Health Committee meeting, Hail said the CN’s medication diversion prevention program discovered the protocol lapse and reported it to Health Services in late April. Hail also told Tribal Councilors he couldn’t reveal the nurse’s name at that time because of employee privacy rights but did say the nurse was no longer employed with the tribe. Hail said the incident was also not limited to the dental department, confirming there was a “cross” into other departments and areas, including the operating room. When asked by Tribal Councilors if any disciplinary action had been taken against the nurse, Hail declined to comment, citing “employment matters.” He also told legislators that it wasn’t the Health Services’ responsibility to report any potential incidents to revoke a medical license. According to a press releasse, John Baker resigned from Hastings Hospital on May 1 and isn’t employed at the CN or its entities in any capacity. According to a June 8 screenshot of his Facebook account, he was a RN at Hastings Hospital from Sept. 25, 2017, to May 2018 and was hired on May 14 by Traditions Home Care as a registered nurse case manager. However, Traditions Home Care’s human resources department on June 19 told the Cherokee Phoenix that John Baker is not employed with the company and declined to comment further. A CN press release also states the protocol lapse incident was reported to the Oklahoma Board of Nursing. According to a report, the OBN issued John Baker his registered nurse’s license on June 26, 2017, and that the licence is still active. An OBN official told the Cherokee Phoenix that she could neither confirm nor deny whether the board is conducting an investigation of the protocol lapse and that there were no public records available concerning the issue. Chief Baker also issued a written statement on June 18 regarding the situation. “I am deeply saddened by these events and my hear aches for everyone involved. As a father, it is difficult to witness my son experiencing the pain caused by his actions. His decision to pursue a career in service to others continue to fill me with pride to this day,” Chief Baker said. “John’s honesty, cooperation and acceptance of responsibility is representative of his values and the quality of man that he is. As Chief of this great nation I know that no one is exempt from the rules. Rules and procedures throughout our nation apply to everyone equally. That is most certainly the case here. I want to strongly encourage anyone who sees wrongdoing of any kind throughout our nation to know their voice will be heard and their concerns will be properly addressed. I’m grateful for the health care workers who helped identify this lapse and their continued service to the Cherokee Nation Health Services and the patients they care for.” According to a press release, Chief Baker requested that Health Services Executive Director Dr. Charles Grim lead a four-person panel to “review the events, evaluate best practices and improve medication administration procedures.” It also states the panel is to report its findings in August to Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden because Chief Baker has recused himself to ensure the review’s independence. The protocol lapse came to light after CN citizen John Wagnon, of Grove, spoke publicly about being identified as a potentially exposed patient following a dental procedure in January. Wagnon said Health Services called him on June 4 asking him to come in for blood tests, nearly five months after his procedure. Wagnon said his tests came back negative but that he would need to return in three months for more testing. <strong>Timeline</strong> <strong>Sept. 25, 2017:</strong> John Ross Baker begins a residency at W.W. Hastings Hospital as a registered nurse, according to his Facebook account on June 8. <strong>January:</strong> Health Services officials say Baker begins the lapse in protocol regarding how medication is administered to surgical patients. Officials say 186 patients are potentially exposed to HIV and hepatitis C stemming from Baker’s practice of using the same vial of medication and syringe to inject more than one IV bag from January to April. <strong>April:</strong> The Cherokee Nation’s medication diversion prevention program discovers the protocol lapse and reports it to Health Services. <strong>April 29:</strong> Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail is informed of the protocol lapse. <strong>May 1:</strong> Baker resigns from Hastings Hospital. <strong>May 14:</strong> Baker is hired by Traditions Home Care as a registered nurse case manager, according to his Facebook account on June 8. <strong>June 7:</strong> The protocol lapse becomes public after a Tulsa-area television news show airs a story with Cherokee Nation citizen John Wagnon saying Hastings Hospital officials asked him to return for HIV and hepatitis C testing months after his dental surgery. <strong>June 11:</strong> Tribal Councilors of the Health Committee ask Hail questions regarding the protocol lapse. Hail cites employee privacy rules when declining to reveal the name of the nurse. <strong>June 18:</strong> Baker issues a written statement acknowleding he was the registered nurse involved in the protocol lapse and apologizes. His father, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, calls for a panel to to investigate the incident and recuses himself from the matter to ensure the review’s independence. <strong>June 19:</strong>Oklahoma Board of Nursing officials decline to confirm or deny that they are investigating the protocol lapse. Traditions Home Care officials say Baker is not employed with them and decline further comment.
06/18/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH –The applications for the Cherokee Nation’s Miss Cherokee, Junior Miss Cherokee and Little Cherokee Ambassadors are now available for download. To download an application, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. The deadline for all competition applications is July 16. For more information, call Lisa Trice-Turtle at 918-453-5000, ext. 4991.
06/16/2018 02:00 PM
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm have deeded a plot of their land over to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project. Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe on Sunday. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe. The land has been used as a planting space for sacred Ponca corn for the last five years, and it was chosen in part because it sits on the $8 billion pipeline's proposed route. It's also part of the historic route that Ponca tribe members were forced to take when the U.S. government relocated them to present-day Oklahoma in 1877.
06/16/2018 10:00 AM
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota's Supreme Court this week dismissed an appeal from opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying a lower court lacked jurisdiction to hear their cases. But an attorney battling the project says the "fight is not over." Groups fighting TransCanada Corp.'s pipeline appealed a judge's decision last year upholding regulators' approval for the pipeline to cross the state. But the high court said in a Wednesday ruling that justices didn't "reach the merits of the case" because the lower court didn't have jurisdiction to weigh the appeal of the Public Utilities Commission's decision. Robin Martinez, an attorney for conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action, on Thursday called the high court's decision "disappointing," but said "this fight is not over." Martinez said the organization, one of the appellants, is regrouping and evaluating its options. "That's really disappointing that the court didn't reach the merits, because the risk to South Dakota's land and water resources is clearly there," Martinez said. "It's a shame that that did not get a closer look by the court." TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an email that the pipeline developer is pleased with the court's decision. Keystone XL would cost an estimated $8 billion. The 1,179-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries. TransCanada announced in April it was meeting with landowners and starting aerial surveillance of the proposed route. The company hopes to begin construction in early 2019. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe and conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action appealed to the South Dakota high court after a judge had affirmed state regulators' approval for the pipeline. The Public Utilities Commission initially authorized TransCanada's project in 2010, but the permit had to be revisited because construction didn't start within the required four years. The panel voted in 2016 to accept TransCanada's guarantee that it would meet all conditions laid out by the commission when it first approved that state's portion of the project. Cunha said the company is working to get needed land easements for the pipeline in Nebraska. But Nebraska landowners have filed a lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission's decision to approve a route through the state. Separately in Nebraska, a husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm this week deeded a plot of their land to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project. Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe on Sunday. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe. The land has been used as a planting space for sacred Ponca corn for the last five years, and it was chosen in part because it sits on the $8 billion pipeline's proposed route. It's also part of the historic Ponca route that tribe members were forced to take when the U.S. government relocated them to present-day Oklahoma in 1877. "What the impact will be, I don't know," Tanderup said. "But now, they'll have a voice in this issue. They will be a player at the table." It's not clear whether deeding the land to the tribe would hinder the company or create a new legal argument for the Ponca, given their status as a federally recognized Indian tribe. Brad Jolly, an attorney for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, said he was focusing more on overturning state regulators' approval of the pipeline in a case pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court. "I haven't gotten to all the what-ifs yet," Jolly said. The Keystone pipeline also faces a potential obstacle in a federal lawsuit brought by Montana landowners and environmental groups seeks to overturn President Donald Trump's decision to grant a presidential permit for the project.
06/15/2018 04:00 PM
CALHOUN, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association is set for 10:30 a.m. on July 14 at the Gordon County Historical Society at 345 S. Wall St. This is part three of the chapter’s remembrance of the 180th anniversary of the Cherokee removal. “The Journey To Indian Country” will be presented by past chapter president W. Jeff Bishop. The meeting is free and open to the public. The Trail of Tears Association was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. The TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The Georgia TOTA chapter is one of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). People need not have Native American ancestry to attend GATOTA meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this tragic period in this country’s history. For more information about the May GCTOTA meeting, email Walter Knapp at <a href="mailto:"></a>.
06/15/2018 08:15 AM
OOLOGAH – The Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In starts at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 11 at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch. Planes will begin landing at 7:30 a.m. on a 2,000-foot grass airstrip next to the ranch located at 9501 E. 380 Road. Admission is free, and there is ample parking. The annual event celebrates aviation and marks the anniversary of Will and Wiley’s Aug. 15, 1935, deaths in Alaska due to a plane crash. A moment of remembrance will be observed at 10 a.m. honoring those who have died in small plane crashes and lapel pins will be presented especially designed in tribute to crash victims Vintage aircraft, World War I fighters, experimental planes, bi-planes, helicopters and fly-overs are all part of the event as well as food and concessions, antique and classic cars, a Cherokee storyteller and kids’ activities. Special tribute will be paid to Dr. Bill Kinsinger, who departed Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City in January on an animal rescue mission for Pilots N Paws to Georgetown, Texas, but never reached his destination. After being spotted on radar headed into the Gulf of Mexico, it was reported by searchers, “the pilot was slouched over and appeared unconscious.” Members of Dr. Kinsinger’s family will be on hand to receive a lapel pin. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or call 918-341-0719.