Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tulsa Pioneer: T. J. Archer

Thomas Jefferson Archer came to Tulsa in 1882. An orphan child, he had worked hard and had saved enough money to buy a tent. He followed the railroad workers, pitching his tent along the right of way when they were building the Frisco railroad from Vinita to Tulsa. He sold work gloves, work shoes, tobacco and quinine (which everybody had to take for malaria), and a few groceries- staples like coffee, beans and rice. When the railroad team moved on, so did he. But when the railroad people got to Tulsa, they stopped. So T.J. got a bill of sale for half a block of property. It started at the railway line and First Street.

In this map of Tulsa as a tent town in 1882 or 1883 Mr. Archer's tent is number 4
click to enlarge:
He pitched his tent right there, selling gingerbread cookies and coffee as that was all he had left until the next train came in. Another family by the name of Hall moved in across the street and opened a general store.

T.J. quit selling groceries and put in some hardware and furniture stock. This was his first store- Archer is in the center with his hand in his vest:
In a memoir told by Mabel Archer Curry (daughter) in 1978 she says:
“My father (Thomas Jefferson Archer) had a little store where he sold dry goods, and later farm equipment."
Archer is again in the middle, wearing the buttoned jacket; to the right is the town Marshall. Gentleman on the left is unknown. The store, at this time, had been upgraded:
“Farmers would come in and buy things from him, sometimes on credit. When they gathered their crops, they would either pay him, or if they didn’t have the money, they would pay him with livestock. When he received livestock from people, he would put them in a feed lot. At the end of the year, he would ship a carload of cattle to market and take the money from the sale and buy stock for the store. In that way he was able to buy some land and build a house.”
Livestock out behind the store:
Interior shot of the store. In it we see buckets, lanterns, wagons parts:

In this next interior shot....:
...we see horse collars (hanging from the ceiling on the right), rifles, pistols, ammunition, and black powder (kegs on the right), cook stoves (center), oil lamps and other household goods (on the left). A soda fountain can be seen in the left background. Mr. Archer is leaning on the counter.
Archer also sold furniture. This is the interior of his furniture store around 1892:
This is looking south on Main Street, Tulsa Indian Territory 1892. Thomas Jefferson Archer's 2nd Tulsa store building located on left:
The house that Archer was able to buy was very nice, indeed. Daughter Mabel: "The house had 5 rooms and a picket fence. The house was always painted green and had flagstone walks from the street to the house.”

Next up: The family and an untimely death.


Unknown said...

Who would not be proud of a house with a picket fence and a bathtub? Pretty good for a poor orphan boy.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Wow, great post. I love this kind of stuff.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bob said...

As it turns out my Great Grandfather was John Wesley Archer. I believe he is T.J. Archers brother. Any Info John?

I enjoy this kind of history


Nancy said...

Bob, email me and I will send you what I have on Archer.


Anonymous said...

John Wesley Archer was Thomas Jefferson Archer's brother. John Wesley was my Great Grandfather. My Grandfather was LeRoy Archer who married Roberta Hedges. I have many stories from my Mother on them. You can email me at if you need more information.

Anonymous said...

Erin - I also am a great grandson of John Wesley Archer. My grandfather was Robert Van Archer and my dad was Howard Thomas Archer. I would really like to share family history with you. You can email me at:

Mickey Archer

Anonymous said...

Nancy where did you get information that TJ was an orphan? Just checking all sources. I've not heard that before. John Wesley was his brother and their father and grandfather were doctors. The Archer boys were a wild bunch! My grandmother was the youngest of JWs children.

Eric Cockrell

Nancy said...

Hi Eric,
Email me and I will send you what I have. I'm currently away from home and won't be able to send it until next Tuesday.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Nancy. I was thinking of the other side of the family when I said the Archer boys were a wild bunch. Though they too had their fair share of stories to tell.


Jim & Desi Curry said...

My Grandmother was Mabel Archer Curry. Daughter of Thomas Jefferson Archer. Would love to hear more about Jeff Archer. Thanks Jim Curry

John said...

I have just come across your website after seeking 'lost' Meltonians, (citizens of Melton Mowbray). Its a great little blog. I am gathering a synopsis of George W Mowbray's life in the back history of Tulsa to present to my modern-day readers. Im sure that no one here has ever heard of the man. I will contact you by e-mail.

Anonymous said...

I am a descended from Mattie Mowbray and Heck Thomas, love to hear from you! Audrey Gough