Skip to main content

Mary Jane Perryman

 

Mary Jane Perryman Plummer

Over the course of her life, Mary Jane Perryman would know four husbands, give birth to seven children, bury two of them, relinquish all her land allotment and bear witness in a sensational murder trial. She would live to see the full development of her home and farm into a neighborhood dotted with 1920’s and ‘30’s brick cottages, all in a relatively short lifetime of sixty-five years.  Let’s get into it.

*****

Mary Jane Perryman was born to Clarissa Hodge and Lewis W. Perryman on June 3rd, 1894. Mary Jane was the third of five children Clarissa and Lewis had together. Clarissa’s mother and sister were both named Mary Jane, so certainly she was named after one or both. Clarissa’s father was Alvin T. Hodge, a prominent Muscogee man, Tulsa judge and benefactor of land for Oaklawn Cemetery. Mary Jane’s father, Lewis W. Perryman, was a direct descendant of Benjamin Perryman who removed from Alabama to Oklahoma in the 1820’s and was an important Muscogee tribal leader and chief.

Though we don’t know exactly where Addie and Mary Jane grew up, we do know they spent time with their prominent relatives George and Rachel Perryman. Sometimes known as the first family of Tulsa, George and Rachel lived in a big house at Sixth and Boulder. They had many children of their own and took in dozens of orphans. The house still stands today, moved from the original location to Elwood between 13th and 14th in 1911.  Tulsa's very first county court house was build on the original home site.  Today, Sixth and Boulder has a plaque marking the spot of that first court house and is the home to a Bank of America Tower.

All of Clarissa and Lewis’ children were assigned land by right of their Muscogee Creek heritage, 160 acres each. Addie was the first-born daughter and her allotment made up what is now the west side of our neighborhood and Mary Jane’s land is now the east side of our neighborhood with Delaware Avenue being the dividing line.  

The Haishtain platts show the allotments of all five of the Perryman children- Nathaniel, Addie, Mary Jane, Flossie and John W. Perryman.
Neither Addie nor Mary Jane benefited from education beyond elementary school. Addie’s daughter, Wavel, shared that Addie could not read or write and, the same may have been true for her younger sister. The 1940 US Census states Mary Jane’s education was only through the 4th grade.

On a Friday in late March 1908, the two Perryman sisters, with their respective beaus, secured marriage licenses. Addie was 17 and Oliver Davis was 18 years old. Mary Jane’s age was recorded as 16, (she was likely closer to 14 if her given birth year is correct) and her beau was 23 year old John Harkness. Both couples were married in short order and probably in a double ceremony as was not uncommon at the time.

The Tulsa Democrat: March 20th, 1908

Mary Jane and John Harkness settled down on Mary’s allotment and farmed. The Tulsa Polk Directories and US Census records from that time show their home located on the Southeast corner of Tenth Street and S. College Avenue. The street names were shifted in the early 1920’s and Tenth Street became Eleventh Street. Today a Quik Trip sits on the land that was once their home and farm.

Mary Jane and John had two children together. David Harkness was born and died in 1908. He has a small, sweet grave in Oaklawn Cemetery. Their daughter, Juanita Lee, was born in 1909.
Oaklawn Cemetery, Tulsa, Oklahoma
David N. Harkness Born & Died November 20, 1908.

Unlike the numerous subdivisions we see with Addie’s land, Mary Jane only had four divisions or additions made from her 160 acres.


The first division of her land was the Rosemont Addition established in May of 1911. This area is present day S. Delaware Avenue to S. Florence Avenue and 15th Street to 13th Street. This might mean that some of the oldest homes built in our neighborhood may be found in this area. I wrote about one of them HERE. That post also shares a bit more about the Rosemont Addition.

The East Lawn Addition was developed next in 1919. It is a larger area, a backwards L shape that includes the land from present day S. Florence to Harvard Avenue and 15th to 13th Streets and then north of 13th the area jogs east and includes S. Gary to Harvard Avenue and 13th to 11th Streets.

In February of 1921, the Pilcher Summit Addition was developed. This addition encompasses the area starting in the middle of block between S Evanston and S. College Avenue to S. Gary Avenue and 13th to 11th Streets. Dan and Mollie Pilcher were early settlers, and you can read a little about them in THIS post. 

The last addition developed on Mary Jane’s land was the Signal Addition in 1923. This addition stretched from S Delaware to the middle of the block between S Evanston and S. College Avenue and 13th to 11th Streets.

What we can extrapolate from these subdivisions, is that, by 1923, she did not have any land remaining.
*****

In 1912, Tulsa was riveted by a murder trial of most the scandalous proportions. In the early morning hours of May 5th, two pistol shots rang out in the upstairs, front bedroom of 625 N. Cheyenne Avenue in The Heights Neighborhood of Tulsa. (Some news reports mistakenly give the address as being 625 N. Denver, but it is most certainly Cheyenne Avenue. The house still stands today.) The gun fire took the life of 43-year-old Charles Reuter, a prominent attorney. Soon, his wife and her lover would be accused of plotting a murder for hire scheme.

Charles and Laura Reuter had moved to Tulsa with their two children for a fresh start following a scandal in Peoria, Illinois. Laura was 17 years younger than Charles and had been his stenographer. She was named as the cause for divorce between Charles and his first wife.

Mr. Reuter hired a neighbor, Mr. Guy McKenzie to dig a well on their property and soon, “all the love went out of their marriage.” Laura and her “ruggedly handsome” lover, Guy McKenzie, had been seen about town taking automobile rides together and it just so happened that Mary Jane had been a witness to this. The prosecution alleged Laura and Guy hatched a plan and hired trigger man and a getaway driver, Bud Ballew, for about $500. The crime was staged to look like a robbery and reports of the day mentioned a gruesome detail that a pool of blood from Reuter’s head wound soaked through the rug and floor and was dripping into a downstairs room.

Since Mary Jane had seen the couple out on one of their drives, she became a witness during the trial. 
Tulsa Weekly Democrat: October 16th, 1913

Mary Jane testified that in April of 1912 she saw her former brother-in-law, Bud Ballew with a woman and another couple in an automobile near Kendall College (Current day University of Tulsa and very near her home). The other couple was deducted to have been Laura Reuter and Guy McKenzie. During her testimony Mary Jane mentions that she is divorced from John Harkness and her younger sister (Flossie Perryman) was divorced from Bud Ballew, the driver of the automobile.

One article reported “The testimony of the Perryman girl tended to again corroborate ... that Mrs. Reuter and McKenzie were in the back seat together and to refute that of McKenzie that they were not. In cross examination, Attorney Charleton was unable to mix Miss Perryman or to make her lose her composure. He questioned her of Bedford Godwin, who, she says, brings her to town every morning. The girl says that Godwin is hired by her to look after the family horses." [Authors note: Notice the language of the day calling an 18 year old, land holding, working, divorced woman a “girl”]

John Harkness also took the stand, corroborating Mary Jane’s testimony about the occupants of the automobile.

In the end, Laura Reuter, Guy McKenzie, the trigger man and getaway driver were convicted. However, Laura eventually got a new trial, a change of venue, was acquitted and never again seen in Tulsa. McKenzie served 25 years as did the trigger man, Ballew received immunity for testimony.

As for Mary Jane, romance must have been growing with Bedford Godwin, who “looks after the family horses”, because in April of 1913 they had a daughter together, Cleopatra Mabel. On May 30th, 1914, they married. Two years later, their three-month-old son, Bedford Godwin, Jr died of pneumonia. A newspaper clipping mentions the family still lived just south of Kendall College and tells that the little boy was buried in Oaklawn Cemetery- the second of Mary Jane’s children to be laid to rest there. Mary Jane and Godwin had two more children together. Another son also named Bedford (1917) who served in the US Navy during WWII and Virginia Ila (1919).

Tulsa Democrat:  May 1, 1916

Godwin’s 1917 World War I draft card gave his occupation as a laborer and his employer as Dan Pilcher. Recall that Dan Pilcher acquired a portion of Mary Jane’s land to create the Pilcher Summit Addition in 1921. This addition was where Mary Jane’s home and farm were located. It is possible that this transfer of land displaced the family.

At some point Mary Jane and Godwin divorced and she briefly married Mr. Ovid Pope in 1924. Not too much is known about Mr. Pope or their union except that his 1917 draft card lists his occupation as a famer and that he is “crippled” and will not be considered for service because he is “paralyzed.”

In 1930, Mary Jane married Chester Merle Plummer. She was 17 years his senior. They had a son together, Merlyn Douglas Plummer. Mr. Plummer worked as a plasterer and helper to the city incinerator. The 1950 US Census shows the family as including her daughter “Cleo” and her two children, and Merlyn in the household. The family was in a rented a home at 312 S. Norfolk Avenue which is in the current day Pearl District and very close the East Village area. The home no longer stands.

Mary Jane Plummer died in 1959 at age 65. She is entombed alone in the mausoleum at Rose Hill Memorial Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All her children and even her grandchildren have passed away.  Certainly, real life is much richer and more complex than the facts left behind, we aren't privy to her private life.  I only hope the facts we have gathered and about her help honor and preserve her memory and the history of her land, now our land.

Mary Jane Perryman Plummer Tomb at Rosehill Memorial Cemetery
Tulsa, Oklahoma 

Thank you for editing to P. Casey Morgan and Perryman family consultation from JD Colbert.


References

Ancestry.com & Newspapers.com are used extensively for this research

https://voicesofoklahoma.com/interviews/ashbaugh-wavel/

Reuter Murder references:  

https://okielegacy.net/journal/tabloid/?ID=7128&vol=15&iss=36

https://tulsaworld.com/news/local/history/throwback-tulsa-press-fixated-on-scandalous-murder-in-1912/article_de494f54-6ed5-5c5f-bbd5-635b1cdcbbe8.html

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/205487924/charles-t.-reuter

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Emma Adeline "Addie" Perryman

The Renaissance Neighborhood History project originally set out to learn about the homes built here.  We have a range of classic bungalows, adorable gingerbread brick cottages and some magnificent Tudors and four squares.  However, a long the way I found that our neighborhood was the original land allotment two Muscogee woman. Sisters.   I then set out to learn as much as I could about both of them. One question I had was, did they live on their land?   If so where?    This post is about  one of them.   Her name is Addie Perryman. Her land made up the West side our neighborhood.  You can read about her sister, Mary Jane, here .  Addie Perryman About 1899, Age 14 In my search to learn about Addie and her land I discovered bits and pieces about her life.   Newspaper articles, documents tucked into property abstracts and a few surviving court records tell of tragedies, trauma and trials.   Trials as in ordeals but also literal coverage of trials!   The newspaper clippings share more than

One Family- One House- One Hundred Years

  Part I:   Rosemont Heights Rosemont Heights was one of the earliest divisions or ‘additions’ of land that was graded, platted with lots for sale in what is now as the Renaissance Neighborhood.   It was platted in 1911.   Originally Muscogee Creek land, it was allotted to Mary Jane Perryman in the early 1900's.   Mary Jane  would have been about 17 years old in 1911.  She  had married young and by 1911 she and her first husband, John Robert Harkness, already had three children.   It would be very interesting to know how much she was paid for the property when purchased by a Mr. John P. Given.  According to her niece, Wavel Ashbaugh, interviewed in 2015 by Voices of Oklahoma, Native people were often taken advantage of with complex land contracts and white settlers"...didn't pay very much for it...".   The present-day boundaries of Rosemont Heights are Delaware Avenue to South Florence Avenue and Thirteenth Street to Fifteenth Street.   Note:   The original plats

East Dial Building

  East Dial Building Telephone technology has evolved exponentially such that, chances are, you may even be reading this on your phone.  A concept that would have been inconceivable for those living and working in 1929 when Southwestern Bell Telephone Company designed and built the East Dial Building in what we now call the Renaissance Neighborhood.   The elegant two-story building at 1204 S. Harvard Avenue features buff brick with ivory terracotta trim.   T he double front doors facing Harvard on the south end of the building are flanked by large lighted sconces and a large ornate awning above.    The motif lining the awning is of small robed human figures, hands connected, heads tilting down as if gazing on those who pass below.    Above the awning the ornate terracotta decoration continues consisting of more human figures, scrollwork, flowers, and a pair of shield wielding lions.    These are all classic art deco designs which are true to the period of the building.    East Dial Bui