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The Peter Conser House is a testament to how a man came to prosper after years of adversity as a child. The house is now a museum and offers a glimpse back in time to see how a once orphaned boy prospered through determination and perseverance to become one of the greatest men in the Choctaw Nation.
After a successful life as a farmer, businessman, Captain of the Lighthorse, and Representative and Senator to the Choctaw Council, Peter Conser died in 1934. The two-story 19th century home that he lived in for the last half of his life still stands today. His home remained in the Conser family until his granddaughter, Mrs. Lewis Barnes, donated the house to the Oklahoma Historical Society. The house has since been renovated. The interior of the home is furnished with items reflective of the Conser family’s wealth and social position during the Indian Territory period.
On the National Register of Historical Places since 1971, the home is open for tours. Guided tours help to bring history to life with tales of his life, family, career and life in the Choctaw Nation.
Peter Conser was born Peter Coinson in 1852 near Eagletown in present-day McCurtain County. He was born to a full-blood Choctaw mother, Adeline, and a Swiss immigrant father, T.X. Coinson. Typical during those years, white businessmen would marry Indian women to obtain full citizenship rights within the tribe. This was important because only Indians were legally allowed to own land and operate businesses in the Indian Territory.
T.X. left the family when Peter was very young, leaving his mother to struggle to take care of him. His mother soon remarried but succumbed to smallpox, leaving Peter to his uninterested stepfather. Soon, Peter was sent on his way to fend for himself.
Peter became transient and moved from one home to another working for room and board. He seemed to meet circumstance and adversity more than a young boy should before the age of ten.
In 1862, the Choctaws joined the Confederate side. Soon after, Union forces began to invade the Choctaw Nation. Those who were not involved in the fighting fled south to the Red River. After several days of hard travel, Peter was invited to stay at the plantation of the wealthy Choctaw, Robert M. Jones. During the years of Peter’s stay, he would learn skills that would prove invaluable throughout his life. It was also during this time that Peter changed his name from Peter Coinson to Peter Conser to shed the remains of his old life.
After the Civil War, Peter returned to Hodges and reestablished himself and prospered on an abandoned farm. He soon married and had a child with his first wife Amy Bacon, a Choctaw.
At age 25 Conser aligned himself politically with the very prominent McCurtain brothers. He was soon appointed deputy sheriff of Sugarloaf County in the Choctaw Nation. He quickly established himself as a respected leader among the Choctaw.
In 1881, Peter Conser was appointed captain of the Choctaw Lighthorse in the Moshulatubbee district. The Lighthorse were the mounted police of the Five Civilized Tribes. Early on in the 1820’s the Lighthorse had absolute control over law enforcement in Indian Territory. The Lighthorse was stripped of their judicial power in the 1870’s thus becoming a peacekeeping force in the Indian Territory.
Soon after the appointment, Conser married Martha Jane Smith after his first wife passed on. Over the next few years they had eight children together. And if life weren’t seemingly busy enough as a Lighthorseman, farmer, father and husband, he soon served as a Representative and then a Senator in the Choctaw Council.
As his influence grew, so did his need for more land and a larger home. The need for stabling space for the Lighthorse mounts and a larger home for his family led Conser to build a new home near Heavener. He built a two-story home with eight rooms. This area is known today as the town of Conser.
In addition to farming, Conser expanded his business dealings by opening a general store, gristmill, sawmill, a blacksmith shop and a small schoolhouse for his children to attend. Within the general store, the U.S. government had authorized a small post office. Conser’s wife, Martha, was the postmistress of the Conser post office.
When Peter was 42, Martha died in childbirth. He soon married Mary Ann Holson. Mary was named postmistress and held the position until the general store and post office were destroyed in the 1920’s.
Peter and Mary Ann lived out their days rather uneventfully. Peter died in 1934.