Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 2, No. 4
December, 1924

C. A. McNabb

Page 395

One of the noteworthy incidents occurring in the early day history of Oklahoma City was a battle with the Cheyenne Indians one night in the late fall of 1890—noteworthy because of the fact that the battle never was fought notwithstanding it was momentarily expected for a period of several hours on that eventful night.

Shortly after midnight the writer was awakened by a thunderous pounding on his front door, accompanied by a call in an excited tone "Mack, get up and come to the door and please hurry." I recognized it as the voice of a near neighbor, Judge Stanley, a man more than 300 pounds avoir-dupois, of a somewhat nervous disposition and easily excited. On inquiry I learned that several messengers had arrived in town a few minutes before, with the report that the Cheyenne Indians, who had been dancing the ghost dance, over near El Reno, had suddenly gone on the war-path, eluded the vigilance of the troops at Fort Reno and were headed for Oklahoma City for the massacre of the population.

At this time the then very young city boasted of about five thousand inhabitants, for the most part peaceable souls, and just why a bunch of savages should decide to annihilate a lot of peaceloving folks who had never even wished them harm, we did not even stop to consider. It was enough to know that our lives were in danger and that decidedly prompt action was necessary if we were to drive back the oncharging redskins. That thought impelled me to act on Stanley’s suggestion to repair at once to the center of the city, where all sorts of ammunition was being doled out by our enterprising hardware merchants, W. J. Pettee and Gilpin & Frick.

After hastily apprising my wife of the dangerous situation and before getting under way to join other defense troops down town, another neighbor, C. G. Jones, called to advise us that all women and children of that part of the city were to take refuge in the basement of Jones’ Mill at Choctaw and Robinson streets. Instructing my wife to remain at home until the reports of rifle shots were heard, I hastened down town

Page 396

where I found practically every ablebodied man and boy in the city under arms or getting under as rapidly as ammunition could be secured. If a boy had a gun and no funds, some public spirited citizen provided him with such ammunition as seemed necessary at that tense moment. As fast as recruits were equipped they were assigned to certain "companies," "squads," and "divisions," as the impromptu chosen captains, colonels and generals might decide.

I wish I could recall the names of all those on whom official honors were thrust that night. I recall the names of but a few, such as Jim McCartney, Ed Dunn, "Posey" Violet, John A. Blackburn, Major D. D. Leach, C. G. Jones, and Captain A. B. Hammer. I do not recall at this writing who was supposed to be in command, but the truth of the matter is, all officers and many of the privates seemed to be in command. However, as rapidly as a company was organized, it was assigned to the end of some street on the western edge of the city, which at that time was Walker street. All avenues entering the city from north, west and south were securely guarded by at least one company of brave home guards.

During all this time, a constant stream of farm wagons (no automobiles then) was pouring into the city from the west, laden with farmer families and some household equipment. It was reported at the time that several farmers brought the family cow and the pigs. I did not see them. The excited farmers all reported that they could plainly hear the Indians coming, accompanied by the usual noises indulged in by Indians who were on the warpath. The racket created by the farm wagons bumping over the rough roads made such an impression on my mind that it requires but a slight stretch of the imagination to hear it as I write this narrative. It was thunderous, hair-raising, gore-inspiring to those who were called upon to defend the city and its precious populace. Everybody was on tiptoe, awaiting the arrival of the Indian advance guard. Orders had been issued to all guards, except those at the Mill, to hasten to where the battle was finally to be staged, upon the sound of the first half-dozen rifle shots, to re-enforce those composing the first engagement. With all pockets bulging with ammunition, ready for duty at a moment’s call, the guard did duty until about four o’clock in the morning.

Page 397

About that hour a wagon arrived from the west, bearing a load of a dozen or more young folks who, on inquiring, learned why the whole populace was awake and on guard duty and to the dismay and I might say disappointment of the guards in particular, it was learned that the real cause of all the excitement and commotion was a charivari party, some ten miles west of the city, indulged in by a hundred, more or less, young people. The noises were such as only young minds, charivari bent, can devise. The variety and number on this particular occasion convinced the neighbors that it could be nothing short of a Cheyenne uprising. Acting on that impulse, a hasty exit was set up. The charivari by that time was getting into good action, which in turn convinced the excited neighbors that the Indians were approaching nearer and nearer. Fearing the massacre of neighbors, the word was passed along to all settlers that grave danger threatened them and that safety lay only in a hasty departure for the city. Thus all comers had one and only one story to tell on their arrival—"The Cheyenne Indians were on the warpath and were headed for Oklahoma City, bent on its total destruction."

Most of us remained up for the balance of the night, hoping, perhaps, that some savage redskins might show up. There has never existed in my mind the least doubt of the successful termination of that battle. Had it been fought as anticipated, the Cheyenne Indian tribe would today have been extinct.

C. A. McNabb.

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