Corporal James Farrall

Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry

James T. Farrall was born in Iowa and resided in Bellevue when he enlisted in the Union army on December 12, 1863 at the age of eighteen. Little did anyone know that the young man would eventually play a major role in the creation of a thriving city in what would eventually become the State of Oklahoma.

Farrall was a member of Company D for the duration of his service, mustering out with the rest of the regiment on August 8, 1864 at Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to the end of his service, he was promoted to the rank of Sixth Corporal, on July 1, 1865.

Details about his role in the founding of Shawnee, Oklahoma are found in the articles below which are taken from the online edition of the Shawnee News-Star. They reveal some very interesting facts about this veteran of the Fifth Iowa Cavalry who continued to serve his fellow citizens long after his sacrifices in uniform were a glorious memory.

Town Owes Much to Founders

When the starting gun was fired on Sept.22, 1891, to open County B in Oklahoma Territory, hundreds of people raced forward to stake their claims.

One such hopeful was James T. Farrall. He was one of the lucky ones who received a land grant signed by President Benjamin Harrison for his quarter section claim.

Farrall was one of four whose claims became the city of Shawnee. The other three were John Beard, Etta Ray and Elijah Alley. Farrall's section was the southwest quarter which extended down to the South Canadian River.

The other three borders of his property were Kickapoo Street to the west, Union Street to the east and the Rock Island rail lines to the north.

Influential in the city's growth, Farrell had his land surveyed into streets and public lands and lots to help establish the town.

Shawnee's original Main Street was renamed Farrall Avenue in his honor. He also donated the land for Farrall Park which surrounds Washington School.

Farrall also gave land to the MKT Railway to build a station in Shawnee in 1904. It was Farrall's idea to name the new town Shawnee after the original Indian Agency office of Shawneetown.

Other names suggested were "Rayville," "Broadway" and "Beardville." After an all night debate in the city council, he proposed the compromise of "Shawnee."

Much of Farrall's early life is unknown. It was thought that he was born in Iowa. During the Civil War he served in the fifth cavalry as a corporal.

After helping to establish Shawnee, Farrall bought a small farm outside of Tecumseh. Here he established a fruit farm specializing in apples which he would ship to the east coast as well as sell locally.

Farrall was the mayor of Shawnee from 1897 to 1899, and he was in the fourth Oklahoma legislator from 1913 to 1915. Shortly after leaving the legislature, James T. Farrall died on April 10, 1917.

The town of Shawnee owes much to its founders, among those most active in its establishment and growth was John T. Farrall.

Staking a Future Claim
Town names street after early settler

When James T. Farrall staked his claim to the area now bounded by Kickapoo, the railroad tracks, Union, and Bluff on Sept. 22, 1891, he apparently already had "townhood" in mind.

Less than a year later, on Aug. 23, 1892, Farrall and Etta B. Ray, the owner of the claim to the north, signed the original patent for the town site. By December of that year, the land was surveyed and platted into streets, blocks and public lands -- including Farrall Park, donated by Farrall and his wife, Louisa, and Woodland Park, donated by Ray and her husband, Henry G. Beard. And lots owned jointly and separately by Farrall and his wife were for sale to newcomers and those who did not stake claims during the run. The land run into the eastern half of Pottawatomie County, then known as County B, took place about a month after the U.S. government granted land allotments to the American Indians living there. The land where Farrall staked his claim had belonged to the Sac and Fox.

The Sac and Fox, originally separate tribes from southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, began losing tribal lands to the federal government as early as 1804. By the time the tribal people arrived in Oklahoma in 1869, it was their fourth removal in about two generations.

The Sac and Fox were awarded about 480,000 acres in the Pottawatomie County area. About 10 percent of the land was arable, but the tribal people preferred to maintain their traditional hunting culture.

However, by 1876, records show the last buffalo had been killed by William W. Chisholm. And the Sac and Fox had already allowed some white farmers and some cattle companies access to their tribal lands.

The U.S. government's allotment records show that in, 1891, 549 members of the Sac and Fox Nation each received an allotment of 160 acres. Each tribal member also received $250 for the sale of the unallotted lands, calculated at $1.50 per acre.

And that was the amount that homesteaders were expected to pay the U.S. government: $1.50 per acre. The law also required the homesteaders to live on their claim for 5 years and make improvements before receiving a patent deed from the government.

The laws were slightly different for town sites, however.

According to Ray, in a speech given to the Pottawatomie County Historical Society years later, the money to "prove up" the land under the town site law, paying so much per acre, was loaned to Farrall and Ray.

"Mr. Mills and Mr. Hayes, who were from Kansas and who looked more like get-rich-quick promoters, were willing to loan us the money to prove up on," Ray said. "Then it was a waiting game for the patent to come, which it did in a few months, but during the time we were quite busy getting the main street cleared, getting a sawmill started, which we did. Then some buildings were erected out of native lumber. A few stores came in." Within 3 years of the run, Shawnee boasted a population of about 300.

According to Farrall's granddaughter, Lucy Vandeveer, who also spoke to the historical society, Farrall Street was the main avenue through the village, with a store, saloon, blacksmith shop, print shop, hotel and meat market. Warranty deed records reveal that Farrall and other real estate speculators were selling town lots at this time at about $100 per lot.

In 1894, Farrall, in conjunction with Ray and her husband, sold part of the land used to bring the first railroad to Shawnee to the St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad for $1. The first passenger train arrived on July 4, 1895.

Businesses began to build north of Farrall Street, and the street which was originally Eighth Street became Main Street.

In 1897, Farrall was elected the mayor of Shawnee, serving a two-year term. Farrall also was active in civic organizations, including Shawnee's Masonic Lodge. The first telephones were installed in the town in 1898. By 1900, Shawnee's population had swollen to about 3,500. The Santa Fe Railroad had come to Shawnee from Arkansas City, Kan., and the Santa Fe Depot was built in 1903.

The Santa Fe was followed by the MK&T, or "Katy," Railroad in 1904 -- also supported by a donation of land from Farrall.

By 1908, Shawnee had 27 factories with 1,502 employees and an annual payroll of $1.526 million. There were 42 passenger train arrivals and departures each day, and 65 regular or special freight trains passed through the town daily.

A 1908 Shawnee Chamber of Commerce brochure promised free factory sites to manufacturers and bragged of the cheap natural gas and large beds of coal available for manufacturing purposes. Furthermore, the brochure said, "For manufacturing concerns using women and boys the field is very attractive, owing to the large number of men employed in the plants already established here."

More than 10,000 people lived in Shawnee before 1910. In 1912, several citizens donated a half-section of land for the construction of St. Gregory's College, which opened its doors to students in September 1915.

Farrall served a two-year term in the Oklahoma Legislature from 1913 to 1915. He then retired from public life, buying a farm 7 miles west of Tecumseh to grow fruit. He shipped his produce to east coast markets as well as selling it from a storefront in Tecumseh.

Farrall died on April 10, 1917. He is buried in Fairview Cemetery, Shawnee, and his stone is inscribed with information about his service in the Civil War: Corporal, Company D, 5th Iowa Calvary.

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