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Lilly Darnel Interview
Submitted by: Sue Hearon

Interview with Lillie Darneal
From The Poteau News And Sun
Lilly Darneal was the wife of Adam Darneal
Lilly Darneal doesn't remember much about Skullyville for it was already practically a ghost town when the 92-year-old Spiro woman was just a girl.
About all Mrs. Darneal can remember of the town, which once was the location for the Choctaw Indian Agency and was where the Choctaws were paid their annuities, is a store and the New Hope School for Girls, both of which are long departed from the rural countryside.
Skullyville came into being when the site for it was selected in 1831 by Major Francis W. Armstrong, an Indian Agent, after being instructed to "establish an agency in the new country near Fort Smith, Arkansas."
Armstrong chose a site about 14 miles southwest of Fort Smith or five miles from the Swallow Rock boat landing on the Arkansas River. The town was established in 1832 when the Choctaw Indians began arriving from Alabama and Mississippi.
Since Skullyville was to serve as the center where annuities due to the Choctaws were to be paid, its name was derived from the Choctaw word "iskuli" meaning "money".
All that remains of Skullyville today is a cemetery one mile north and two and a half miles east of Spiro and a marker erected in recent years. Some of the headstones in the cemetery reveal that some of the one-time Skullyville residents buried there died as early as the 1860's.
The site selected for Skullyville was, according to an account of the town in "Ghost Towns of Oklahoma," by John W. Morris, copyright 1977 by the University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, an attractive and healthful location with a number of perennial springs. The agency building was located on a hill near one of the largest springs. It was built with a stone foundation and with less than 12 inches in diameter when cut.
The main building had three large rooms, a wide hallway, and a full-length porch. The Choctaws built log houses chinked with small pieces of wood and plastered with mud. The roofs were made of river oak shingles. The houses were strong and warm in winter, and durable.
Government activities attracted commercial interests to the town Stores with extensive stocks from eastern markets were established by licensed traders.
Gold was the chief medium of exchange, but the traders bartered for Indian blankets, handcrafts and pelts and furs. Livestock was frequently taken to exchange.
Payments to the Indians were in gold coins shipped by boat in wood kegs. It has been related that these kegs "were often left in the yard or on the front porch of the Agency, day and night, without guard."
Although the Choctaws apparently were known for their honesty and this was a satisfactory arrangement most of the time, outlaws -- apparently outsiders -- rode into town at one time and stole one of the kegs of money, according to Mrs. Darneal, a small girl at the time.
She recalls a story about the money being buried somewhere in the vicinity and of people searching over the years for it, telling how "They tore up Tom Ainsworth's yard looking for it." Even modern day treasure hunters, using metal detectors, have searched for it, apparently without success.
Although happening before her time, Mrs. Darneal tells how her father-in-law, the late James Darneal. have orders for the execution of Indians who broke tribal laws.
"They were set on a coffin, blindfolded and a mark placed on their chest where they were to be shot or whipped," Mrs. Darneal told the Rural News. "But I never did see that."
Indians ordered executed were released so they could go home and attend to their affairs before returning on a given day for the execution, she explained.
"They would come back with a feather in their hat, whooping and a hollering."
The New Hope School was still in use when Mrs. Darneal was a small girl. She tells about attending it. In addition to the New Hope School, there was the Fort Coffee Academy for Boys located near the Arkansas River. Both schools were opened in 1845 and remained open until the Civil War. New Hope opened again in 1971, but closed permanently in 1896.
The Skullyville Constitution was written during a convention there in 1857. The different factions of the Choctaws were united as a result of this constitution and a stable of this constitution and a stable government for the Choctaw Nation was established.
Serving as an early gateway to the west for both Indians and white migrants, a large number of Chickasaw Indians passed through the town in 1838 on their way to new western homes. A few Seminole groups used the Fort Smith-Boggy Depot road, which passed through Skullyville, about 1848 and large numbers of forty-niners used the same road on their way to California. The Butterfield Overland Mail Route, established in 1858, made Skullyville the first stage stop out of Fort Smith.
The town grew in importance until the Civil War. During the last part of this conflict, the town was a outpost for the Confederates. Union forces captured the town and destroyed many of the buildings and homes.
Skullyville never fully recovered from the ravages of war, but did continue as a stage stop for a number of years.
The post office was listed as Choctaw Agency when established in 1833, but was changed to Skullyville in 1860 and was then renamed Oak Lodge in 1871. The Oak Lodge post office was closed in 1917 and when the Kansas City Southern Railroad was built through the area, it passed to the west of Oak Lodge with Skullyville-Oak Lodge becoming a ghost town.

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