Vance Trimble, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Sam Walton, tells the story of the Locke family of Antlers in Indian Territory - later Oklahoma. A Confederate soldier from Tennessee running from the law, Victor M. Locke, Sr. was originally trying to reach Mexico. He decided instead to stay in Indian Territory and try to make a go of it there. Locke had killed men during the Civil War; he also murdered two others afterward but was never arrested for these and other crimes.
Victor Sr. married Susan Priscilla McKinney, who was part Choctaw, and had many children with her. One, Victor M. Locke, Jr., would become a chief of the Choctaws. Another son, Alex, would attend Sacred Heart College near present-day Konawa, Oklahoma, a school ran by Benedictine monks from France. Alex Locke joined the monks and became known as Brother Ambrose, but he did not stay with the monastic life. Susan Locke was a Catholic and raised her children as Catholics, and although Victor Sr. never converted to Catholicism, he did support the Catholic Church.
After the Civil War, the Choctaw Nation and the other of the Five Civilized Tribes lost land because they had joined the Confederacy. White settlers began to come to Indian Territory, some marrying into the tribe. The Choctaws began to be outnumbered; the Lockes tried to help mostly poor Indians who were being robbed of their land or tricked into signing away their rights. While Victor Sr. could not become chief or governor of the Choctaws, he did help those who could. His support of one group against another ended with a gun battle between the two factions.
Victor Jr. did become chief and, like his father, was a champion for his people, especially those who did not have anyone to speak for them. Unfortunately, he could not sustain a happy family life, marrying several times and ending up alone. He was involved not only in Choctaw tribal politics but also Oklahoma state and national politics as a Republican. His involvement in the Bureau of Indian Affairs led to his appointment as superintendent for the Five Civilized Tribes. As such, he played a part in naming the first woman chief of the Seminoles in Oklahoma.
The Locke family suffered many problems within and from without. Two of Victor Sr.ís sons died suspiciously, possibly killed by another brother. Alex, who left the monastic life for Europe to study for the priesthood, changed his mind about that when he met a woman and married her. They had one son. Alex ended his days in poverty and probably with mental illness. The Locke family fought among themselves - some reconciled later in life, others did not.
Trimbleís narrative of the Locke family story is intriguing, telling not only their story but also some of Choctaw history before and after Oklahoma statehood. He was aided by the work of Francine Locke Bray, who has extensively researched the genealogy of the Locke family.
Trimble provides many footnotes, a bibliography, black-and-white photos, and a map. The many photos of the Lockes and of various events are interesting. Despite some typographical mistakes, which do not cause a major distraction for the reader, this book is highly recommended to those interested in Choctaw history, Indian Territory history, and early Oklahoma history.
Vance H. Trimble is the author of Sam Walton (1990) and several other books, including Alice & J.F.B.: The Hundred-Year Saga of Two Seminole Chiefs (2006), An Empire Undone (1995), The Astonishing Mr. Scripps (1992), and Reagan, the Man from Main Street USA (1980).