About Vinita – by Fannie Keys LeForce

Newspaper records before statehood boast that Vinita was the most law-abiding town in Indian territory.

“It may have been”, relates Mrs. James A. LeForce who knew the town 79 years ago, “but the hills around Vinita were certainly full of desperadoes. Sometimes officers just shot them down & left them lying where they fell.”

Born north of Tahlequah in 1862, Mrs. LeForce first came to this area in 1870 when her parents, Mr. & Mrs. M. A. Keys moved to the Pleasant Hill area.

“We lived in a log house then”, she recalls. “I had six sisters & two brothers. All of them are dead now.”

“My mother always taught us that we were related to Sequoyah, who invented the Cherokee alphabet”, Mrs. LeForce said. “Our favorite mystery tale was the story of Sequoyah’s death…how, after his death, the body was put on a ledge in a cave, & how the body disappeared & was never found.”

After a period spent in Moody school, Northfield, Mass., Mrs. LeForce returned to Vinita in 1862, when she married James LeForce. The couple moved to a home on 4th street.

“James was in the real estate business & traveled a good bit”, she said. “He carried money with him in a valise for his transactions. Once while he was crossing a flooded river, the valise was torn from him by the current. He jumped in the water & swam downstream until he got the money, but he almost drowned.”

Mr. & Mrs. LeForce have four children: James Lowry, Flossie May, Sarah Lottie, & Charles William.

“I stayed at home, & I took care of the house & children,” she emphasized. “It’s beyond me how some of these modern parents can enjoy leaving their children & homes so much of the time.”

The LeForce family moved in 1901 to a home at 805 S Brewer Street where Mrs. LeForce still lives. Her husband died 12/3/1945.

“There was nothing out in this south part of Vinita in 1901 except prairie & one or two buildings,” she said. “Ed Chouteau had a broom factory nearby & that was about all there was.”

Story told by Mrs. James A. LeForce, date unknown. She was Fannie Myrtle Keys, born 11/5/1862, daughter of Monroe Calvin & Lucy Lowrey Hoyt Keys & granddaughter of Rev. Ard Hoyt. Ms. Keys, a 1/8th Cherokee, married James A. LeForce in 1892.


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