Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 3, No. 1
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE CHEYENNE INDIANS
Address by Henry C. Keeling, of Caldwell, Kansas, before the thirty fourth annual meeting of the Kansas State Historical Society,
December 7, 1909.
(Republished by permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.)
In the winter of 1879 I was appointed post trader at Cantonment, in what was then known as the Indian Territory. The post
is described in the official records as "Cantonment on the west side of the North Fork of the Canadian River." This post was
established a short time after the raid of Dull Knife, through western Kansas, in 1878. The site preferred for the post by
General Sheridan was at what was known as Sheridan’s Roost, where he had been very successful in killing wild turkeys during
the winter of 1868-9, although he finally selected a location in the hills at what is known as Barrel Springs. Col. Richard
I. Dodge was in command of the Twenty-third Infantry at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, at the time the post was establishsed [sic].
He with a detachment of his regiment, left the cars at Dodge City and marched in by way of Fort Supply. When he reached Barrel
Springs he was not satisfied with the location, it being in the sand hills, and he considered the place unhealthy. Colonel
Dodge therefore located the cantonment about eight miles south, on the North Fork of the Canadian.
A great many Indians were camped in the vicinity of this post shortly after its establishment. Little Raven, an Arapahoe,
was chief of quite a large band, as was also Stone Calf, a noted Southern Cheyenne Indian, whose band had massacred the Germaine
family, in the fall of 1874, excepting four girls, whom he had kept as prisoners. They were afterward recaptured by Lieut.
Frank D. Baldwin, of the Fifth Infantry, a detachment of Gen. Nelson A. Miles command.
In July, 1876, after the Custer massacre, I had left Fort Leavenworth, where I had been with my brother, Maj. Wm. H. Keeling,
to go to the mouth of Tongue River, Montana, where Gen. Nelson A. Miles was building Fort Keogh, in the winter of 1876-7.
My brother, in 1879, resigned his position as
quartermaster of the second battalion Thirteenth U. S. Infantry, to take the position of post trader at Cantonment, I. T.,
at the request of Generals Sherman and Sheridan, having been Sherman’s quartermaster during his march to the sea. During my
stay at Fort Keogh I first met the Cheyenne Indians, General Miles having captured Crazy Horse’s band of Northern Cheyennes
during the spring of 1877. As my duties as quartermaster’s clerk brought me in contact with the Indians continually in issuing
their rations, I learned their language, a very difficult thing to do. I am referring back to the time of 1876-7, to draw
the attention more particularly to the friendship of the Cheyennes when they once take a liking to any person. I became quite
friendly here with Black Wolf, a noted Cheyenne who was afterward killed at or near the Standing Rock Agency by Capt. Henry
W. Wessells, of the third Cavalry, and another, by the name of Stone. At the time of my appointment as post trader at Cantonment,
in 1879, I was erecting a tent and it was raining very hard, when this old man Stone came to my assisstance [sic]. I did not
recognize him, although he kept calling me "Arkeese," a name which the Indians had given me at Fort Keogh. After having a
conversation with him I remembered having met the old; gentleman, and he was with me continually thereafter while I was at
Cantonment, some four years.
In 1880 we had a great deal of trouble with the Cheyennes because the Interior Department had cut down their rations, although
game was very scarce. Many of these Indians had recently came in from the warpath in the North, and in August, 1877, had,
been brought to the Agency of the Southern Cheyennes, in the Territory. They had lived upon buffalo and were really starving
on the short rations furnished by the Government. They would not eat wild turkey, which was plentiful at that time, as they
claimed it would make cowards of them, nor would they eat fish; nothing but beef or buffalo.
About this time, I became personally acquainted with Young White Horse, a chief of the "Dog Soldiers," they, as you know,
being a secret military organization, and he afterwards proved to be one of my best friends, of which I will tell you later.
Black Wolf I first met at Fort Keogh, Montana, in a fight which he had with a party known there as a "wolfer"—a
white man living the life of a trapper only so far as poisoning wolf and coyote is concerned. In this fight, one of Black
Wolf’s eyes was destroyed by the wolfer. I happened to be present and took him to the hospital and looked after his welfare.
At the time of the trouble with rations in the territory, Black Wolf came to Cantonment with his band of Northern Cheyennes
who were all young warriors anxious to go on the warpath, not realizing that, should they do so, it would be but a short time
before they would be wiped out. The young warriors came into the store and were very saucy, demanding that I give them this
and that; in fact, the best, goods that I had. I tried to intimidate the Indians by telling them that two regiments of troops
were then on the way from the end of the railroad at Caldwell, Kan., and should they insist on taking my goods they would
have trouble. They paid no attention to that and quite a number took some of my best goods. About that time Black, Wolf came
in, and looking, at me for a few minutes, said, in Cheyenne, "Did I not meet you at the Big Wapowats?" meaning a camp at the
mouth of the Tongue River. I said, "Yes, I used to live there," and I recognized him and remembered the fight he had with
wolfer. He at once called the attention of all the young warriors, and stated to them that I was a friend of his, and had
assisted him when he was in difficulty, and that if any of them should in any way cause me trouble he would kill the offender.
They stopped right there, as Black Wolf had a reputation for doing exactly what he said he would do. Our position at Cantonment
was dangerous, although we did not realize it.
A few days after this transaction a number of old warriors and Dog Soldiers were in the quartermaster’s office awaiting a
courier whom they had sent to Darlington Indian agency to ascertain if the agent, John D. Miles, intended to increase their
rations. While there, each of the old men got up and counted his queues; that is, told the number of white men he had killed
and where he had killed them. I do not know what possessed me at this time, but being young and not having the right sense
of our situation, as a person should, I pinned a newspaper to the blanket of an old fellow named Bark and set it afire. When
he felt the heat from the burning paper he became very angry. It was extinguished by Young White Horse. Bark stated before
the old warriors that he
would kill me before evening. It was then about twelve o’clock. After taking me to the back of the building, Young White Horse
asked me "Are you masoney ?" interpreted as, meaning "crazy." I told him that I realized what I had done. He had a very fast
horse tied to a post back of the store, and said to me, "I will know when I see the courier coming whether we get the rations
or not. If we do not, you take the, horse and go. Pay no attention to anyone else, because our young men mean to, kill all
the white men at the post." About an hour afterward, I noticed an Indian riding a horse on quite a prominent hill which overlooked
the valley of the Canadian River, and Young White Horse said to me, "There’s the courier. If he makes a circle three times
and gets off his horse we are to have the rations; if he makes four circles and rides south, we’re to go, on the warpath."
He made a circle three times and go off his horse and pointed south, and we knew then that the rations were to be issued.
The young warriors seemed to go wild in being defeated in their plan of going on the warpath During the entire summer the
Indians were very bold, stopping freight teams from Caldwell, and taking provisions; even cattlemen could not protect themselves
against the depredations committed by these young fellows. Maj. George M. Randall was then in command at Fort Reno, and only
through him did we receive any protection at all, as he was fearless, and having the noted scout, Ben Clark, a brave man also,
with him, he did not hesitate in telling the Indians just what they had to do.
Another instance of an Indian’s gratitude was the case of a young fellow by the name of Abseney, or Bad Face. I was asked
by the quartermaster if I would take $7000, which he had on hand from the sale of commissaries, to Fort Leavenworth, as I
was going to that post. The stage company did not carry a cash box, and sending by me was the only way he had of getting the
money to the chief quartermaster. I told our quartermaster that I would leave the post about sundown, as I intended to make
Pond Creek stage station the next morning, thereby escaping, as I thought, the rustlers (white men with renegade Indians)
who were holding up freighters and other parties. After crossing what is known as the Hog Back, a range of hills on the Cimarron,
Bad Face and I were following down a long draw to the Cimarron, when he said to me,
"Arkeese, some one is following us." I hardly believed it until we rode to the top of the hill, when I saw four men riding
toward us very rapidly, but who stopped as soon as they saw they were observed by us. Bad Face said, "We will fool them. We
will go into camp early and slip out at night". This we did, leaving a bright camp fire, and reached Pond Creek in safety.
The spring of 1881 the Twenty-fourth Infantry, under command of Maj. Richard F. O’Beirne, was stationed at Cantonment to take
the place of the Twenty-third Infantry, which was stationed in the Uncompahgre Valley, Colo. These troops had served on the
Rio Grande, in Texas, from the close of the Civil War and had never had any experience with Indians. A short time after reaching
the post, a number of young officers asked me if I would accompany them to the Indian encampment about two miles from the
cantonment, for the purpose of seeing an Indian dance. I agreed to do so and we walked over that evening. The tepee [sic]
entered by us belonged to one of the squaws of old man Bark, who had threatened to kill me. I did not know it at the time
or I should not have gone in, but on seeing my mistake decided that it would not do for me to hesitate or show fear. Old Bark
was sitting in the tepee with a number of other Indians, and among them was Stone, my friend from Tongue river, Montana. As
soon as Bark saw who it was he lit his pipe and passed it among the Indians who were sitting along the side of the tepee,
and I being at the extreme end was the last to receive the pipe. I refused to take it on the ground that Bark had threatened
to kill me and I did not propose to make friends with him in that way. As soon as I had refused he jumped up and commenced
counting his queue and said he would kill men as soon as he could go to his own tepee and secure his gun. Stone was standing
next to me and said to me in Cheyenne, "Arkeese, I am going to give you my six-shooter and you must return to the post as
fast as you possibly can, but should Bark overtake you, you must use this to defend yourself." I told the officers that I
had business at the post and was going to make a run for it. They asked me my hurry and stated that they wanted to see the
Indian dance. I said, "Not this evening; we will see that later on." And I believe that we three men never made a better run
than we did that evening. Bark afterward became
a very warm friend of mine, for I found him on the South Canadian with a broken leg, where he had been thrown from a horse,
and carried him to the post, where it was set by the post surgeon.
I overlooked one experience with old Bark before I found him with the broken limb. Amos Chapman, a noted scout, and I were
attending an Indian dance on the North Fork of the Canadian River about ten miles from our post, about eight or nine o’clock
in the evening. We were going through some timber on the river when a shot was fired and my horse stumbled. I said to Chapman,
"Old Bark has got my horse; he intended that for me." When we came to the Indian lodges where I could have a light, I found
that the ball had taken the leather off the pommel of my saddle, so that he gave me a close call that time.
White Horse, as I have stated before, was the chief of the Dog Soldiers in our vicinity. Through him I ascertained one day
that an initiation of one of the Dog Soldiers was to take place at what is known as Red Hill, north of Fort Reno about eight
or ten miles. This initiation is usually held in the spring and the Indians from all through the lower country attend in a
body, even the Kiowa, Comanche and all other Indians whose young men are members of the Dog Soldiers. They make it a great
holiday of a week or ten days. The candidate to be initiated on this ocasion[sic] was Bad Face, a young warrior friend of
mine. For three days and nights prior to the initiation the candidate does not eat or drink anything, and must be kept awake
by some member of the association. The Indians make a very large tepee, from four to five times the size of the smaller ones,
seating probably from 250 to 300 Indians, to witness the ceremonies. The chief of the Dog Soldiers, Young White Horse, first
cut two places in each breast of the candidate with a knife, and made similar incisions on his shoulders. He then ran a rawhide
lariat through the places in his breast, and fastened it to the main centerpole[sic] of the tepee. Two dry buffalo heads were
then attached to the victim’s shoulder blades by a cord run through the shoulder incisions. The candidate is expected to dance
and shake off the buffalo heads from his shoulders and tear loose the lariat from his breast without fainting. If hey faints
he is carried out by the men, and the squaws, who are not allowed in the tepee, at once take clubs and beat him to death.
In some instances the candidate
is saved by some member of his family. I have been told by good authority, white men who have been among the Indians for a
great many years, that I was the only white man that had ever witnessed the initiation of the Dog Soldiers.
Afterwards, when I removed to Caldwell, Kan., in 1885, the Indians were freighting their goods, as well as soldiers’ supplies,
to the different posts, and at times had from 75 to 125 teams in one train. Once while I was sick at home quite a number of
Indians came to see me, and my neighbors thought it very strange to see the Indians sitting on the fence while the chief was
in the house visiting with me.
In the spring roundup of 1881, I was with a party of cattlemen who were gathering cattle belonging to Robert Bent, a brother
of George and Charlie Bent, and in some way a dispute arose between George Jones, foreman of the Dickey Brothers’ ranch, and
an old Indian by the name of Gray Wolf, as to the branding of a cow. Jones was cutting out this cow for the Dickey brand when
Gray Wolf claimed that it was his. The majority of the cattlemen at that time were not armed, and an Indian who had an old
rifle handed it to Gray Wolf for the purpose of shooting Jones. We expected trouble right there, but through Bob Bent, who
was a very cool-headed halfbreed , trouble was averted. It was a very tight place while it lasted, as Indians in the surrounding
camps mounted their horses and came toward us with the intention of mixing in the fight should there be one.
Speaking of Bob Bent, he was a son of Col. William Bent, of old Fort Bent, on the Arkansas River, and was educated in St.
Louis. At one time he was at the Cantonment when quite a number of cowboys who were returning to Texas after delivering beef
herds to the raliroad at Caldwell had stopped at the post and were telling what bad men they were, and more particularly as
to their prowess in killing Indians. One party whom they had nicknamed "Milliner Bill," was very loud in his talk as to his
being such a bad man. Bob Bent, speaking to Lieut. M. C. Wessells, of the Twenty-fourth Infantry, who was quartermaster at
the post at the time, and myself, said that it would be a good joke on the cowboys to make a charge into the room and give
the Cheyenne war whoop at the same time. He believed he could make it very interesting for them. So Lieutenant Wessells and
myself, with Bent, mounted out horses and rode up the river, possibly half a mile. We then
came back, riding very rapidly, and rode on into the room in which the cowboys were, Bob Bent and Lieutenant Wessells shooting
and giving the Indian war whoop. These brave Indian killers; did not wait to go through the door but jumped through the windows,
taking the sash and all with them. The last we saw of them they were on their way to Texas, not waiting to say "Good-bye."
In 1881, at the time we had a small garrison at Cantonment, the Twenty-third Regiment being in the Uncompahgre Valley (leaving
us temporarily with about twenty mere of Company G), old Stone Calf, a Southern Cheyenne chief, whom l have referred to before,
put up his tepee within five feet of my door, and ornamented it with a string of scalps hung on a rawhide lariat. He had a
number of white men’s, two white women’s and a number of Indian scalps. I said to him, "What are you doing this for, to try
and scare some one?" He said, "Oh, I am just putting them out there to dry." I knew better. He wanted to show us few white
men that he was, not afraid of what we told him about a large number of soldiers being, then on their way to the Cantonment.
He stated to Capt. Charles Wheaton, who was then in command of the post, that unless the Government issued rations he would
go on the warpath. That he would rather die fighting than to starve to death.
We had a great deal of trouble that summer and fall with renegade Indians, as they invariably demanded a gift of cattle from
every herd that came up from Texas on the way to Caldwell across their reservation. The demand of these Indians became so
notorious that the post commander instructed the Indian scouts to go to the South Canadian at the regular cattle crossing
and tell the cattlemen that if they wanted any protection to send to the post. As the regular interpreter, whose name was
Chapman, was away at the time, I did the interpreting for the post, and of course was sent to relieve these cattlemen. I stated
to Buffalo, who was the leader of the band of Indians demanding toll, that these cattle belonged to me; and the first four
or five herds went through without question. After a while Buffalo said to me, "You seem to own a great many cattle, and you
say they are yours. But I believe you are a coyote, and not telling us the truth." Thereafter I had to have the cattlemen
give the Indians two or three head from each herd that crossed, and it seemed to satisfy them.
In the fall of 1882 a cattleman by the name of Johnson had started 1000 beef cattle from Fort Cobb, then Indian Territory,
to Hunnewell, Kan., to be shipped to Kansas City. The cattle were held across the river from the Cantonment, and the foreman
and one of the hands came to the post and became intoxicated. Getting very saucy, he rode through the Indian scouts’ camp,
and firing through some the tepees killed the dog of one of the scouts, besides shooting up the trader’s store. Capt. Charles
C. Hood, of the Twenty-fourth Infantry, had been ordered to the post and was then in command. He also had been stationed on
the Rio Grande for twenty years. He started after these two cowboys, but they got away from him. He then ordered out twenty-five
mounted men of Troop K, Ninth Cavalry, which was then stationed there, and they surrounded the cowboys and took them prisoners
into the post. When first brought before, Major Hood they were very saucy, telling of all the fights they had had in Texas,
one party stating that he had built the courthouse in the county where he was born with fines he had paid. Major Hood told
him that he was a pretty bad man; himself, and that he was going to send them to Fort Smith, Ark., which was the seat of justice
for the Indian Territory. When the ambulance and escort came up to the adjutant’s office, these two wild and woolly cowboys
commenced to beg, the foreman stating that the cattle were left in his charge by the owner, and were worth from $50,000 to
$75,000, and that if he should be sent to Fort Smith the owner would incur a great loss. Major Hood, knowing the owner and
not wanting him to sustain, any loss, agreed that if they would pay, the Indians for the damage they had done, or whatever
agreement that I as interpretor [sic] had made with them, he would let them go. They paid twenty dollars for the dog and gave the Indians five head of beeves,
and were very fortunate to get out of it so easily.
During the summer of 1880, I was a guest at the quarters of Major Geo. M. Randall, who was then commanding Fort Reno. John
D. Miles was agent of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes at Darlington, just across the river from that post. This was the time of
the short rations, when the Indians were demanding an increase which the agent could not give without instructions from the
Indian Department. During my visit some young Indians quirted the agent and then made a break for the sand hills south and
east of Fort Reno. Major
Randall ordered out his mounted company of the Twentyfourth Infantry, three troops of the Fourth Cavalry and one company of
the Sixteenth Infantry, but, after reaching the Indian intrenchment [sic] made up his mind that it would not do to attack them, as there were at least 1500 to 2000 Indians, while his command
would not exceed 300 soldiers as the companies were only 50 to 55 men strong. Returning to the post he ordered Ben Clark,
scout and interpreter at the post, to bring his horse, White Stockings, as he wished to go to the Indian Agency. He also told
Ben to get his own horse and accompany him, which he did. With a field-glass belonging to Major Randall I saw all that happened
at the Agency, and was told by Ben Clark upon his return that, when they reached the Agency, Major Randall ordered him to
mount a box, which he did, and to tell the Indians that he then had on march from the end of the railroad at Caldwell, Kan.,
more soldiers than there were blades of grass on the hills and that if the Indians should make a fight they would be wiped
off of the earth. I could see the Major with his cigar in his mouth standing up before those Indians seemingly as unconcerned
as if, he were in his own quarters, while surrounding him and Ben Clark were from 1500 to 2000 Indians with their guns leveled
on them. The least thing would have started the Indians to massacre these men, and possibly all the white men at the post,
but the coolness and determination of the Major and Ben Clark averted a fight. Captain Clapp, of the Sixteenth Infantry, who
was left in charge at Fort Reno, had ordered what Gatling guns and Rodmans they had in camp to be taken down on the river
bank to cover the retreat of Major Randall and Ben Clark in case they had to make a run for the post. It was a very exciting
I could continue to cite instances of my experiences with these Indians, but my paper has become lengthy and I do not want
to consume more time than has been allotted to me. I hope at the next meeting to be able to give you a better description
of my experiences with these people.
THE STORY OF CANTONMENT
The immediate cause of the establishment of the military post known as "the Cantonment on the North Fork of the Canadian"
was the hostile outbreak of a band of Northern Cheyenne Indians, which, under the leadership of Dull Knife
and Wild Hog, raided northward across Kansas and Nebraska during the late summer of 1878, leaving a trail of death and destruction
behind them. The Cheyenne tribe had divided, about 1885, the major portion moving from the region north of the Platte River
southward to the valley of the upper Arkansas, in Colorado and western Kansas, while the remainder of the tribe stayed in
the north, ranging the region west of the Black Hills and between the Platte and the Yellowstone. Although thenceforth living
and operating as separate tribes, the two divisions always maintained friendly relations and not infrequently were allied
in their wars against the white people. During the Sioux wars, from 1865 to 1877, the Northern Cheyennes were allied with
At the close of that conflict, in 1877, the policy of transporting the Northern Cheyennes to the Indian Territory for the
purpose of reuniting them with their kinsmen of the Southern Cheyenne division was inaugurated. During the years 1877 and
1878, most of the people of the Northern Cheyenne division were brought to Darlington and placed under the charge of the tribal
agent, Col. John D. Miles. The Northern Cheyennes were a high-spirited people who had refused to move even as far south as
the Arkansas with their kinsmen of the southern division of the tribe, more than forty years before, and they bitterly resented
this governmental attempt to force a reunion of the two divisions thus long separated. They remained not only dissatisfied
but sullen, utterly refusing to associate with the Southern Cheyennes. Finally, a band of irreconcilables , led by the chiefs
before mentioned, evaded the vigilance of the Agency officials and of the troops at Fort Reno and started for their old ranges
in Dakota, Montana and Wyoming-nearly a thousand miles distant. Encumbered by their families and their movable belongings
and with the garrisons of more than half a dozen military posts engaged in chasing them or in trying to arrest their progress,
they dodged and doubled and fought their way to northwestern Nebraska before they were finally brought to bay and recaptured.
Although the survivors were returned to the reservation in the Indian Territory, this experiment of the military authorities
and the Indian Service was ultimately conceded to be a failure and
all of the Northern Cheyennes were permitted to return to North, two or three years after the establishment of the Cantonment
Kansas suffered greatly as the result of the Dull Knife raid, many people being killed and much property being destroyed in
the settlements in the western part of that state. A company of state troops was kept stationed on the southwestern border
on patrol duty. Political influence was also brought to bear at Washington, one of the results of which was the establishment
of a new military post or station, on the North Canadian River, about midway between Fort Reno and Fort Supply. The new post
was established March 6, 1879, when six companies of the 23d U. S. Infantry, under the command of Lieut. Col. Richard I. Dodge,
went into camp on its site. In his next annual report, the secretary of War made the following statement :5
"During the last winter, it became necessary, for the protection of the Kansas frontier, to establish a cantonment in the
Indian Territory on the North Fork of the Canadian, between Fort Supply and Fort Reno. It is now occupied by six companies
of infantry (one mounted) and has served and will serve as an almost complete check to any movements of the Indians of that
region toward the north. The troops have hutted themselves aid will get along without suffering this winter, but, as this
cantonment will be needed and more needed every year, as well for the protection of the Indian Territory against white invasion
as for the security of the Kansas frontier against the Indians,6 I ask that an appropriation of $50,000 be requested this winter to build a permanent post. Whatever may be the condition
of the Indian tribes in the future, it is quite certain that this post will be needed to maintain them in possession of their
lands and to protect them against broils and difficulties with the whites, both respectable persons and outlaws."
When the soldiers first arrived, they lived in tents. Barracks were built of what was known as the "picket-house" type, that
is, trenches were excavated and pickets or large hosts were set vertically therein, as closely as possible, the sides of the
trench being filled in and tamped. The interstices were filled by plastering with mortar made of a mixture of clay and grass,
cleated in. The roofs did not have any ridge. The rafters were laid directly on the upper end of the pickets, with no slope
whatever. These were covered with brush which, in turn, was covered with a layer of course grass. Over this a heavy layer
of earth was laid. The inside walls were covered with canvas and the canvas was
whitewashed. Later on, a sawmill and engine and a shingle machine were brought to a Cantonment from Leavenworth, Kansas, and
the barracks were improved by adding shingle roofs, without removing the earth roofs.
Some of the old barracks were still standing as late as twenty years ago. The last of them are said to have been torn down
about 1906, when the pickets were used in building the present hogpens of the Cantonment School and for fence posts. The old
Indian trader’s store, which was originally the post trader’s store while there was a garrison at Cantonment, was also a picket
house. It was still occupied as a store, postoffice [sic] and residence until its destruction by fire, in July, 1917.
The records in the office of the adjutant general, at the headquarters of the Army, do not give evidence that there was a
permanent post at Cantonment, but the fact there are three permanent buildings of stone masonry construction still standing
seems to abundantly attest the presumption that the recommendations for an appropriation, for such purposes was granted. The
three buildings erected were a hospital, a commissary and a building which was used for officers’ quarters. The erection of
such permanent buildings for a post that was not even officially named was almost if not quite without precedent. These buildings
are still standing, unimpaired and in use at the present time. The Agency office occupies the building which was used as officers’
quarters. The old post bakery and commissary is now used by the blacksmith. The building near the river bank was the post
hospital. The windows, doors and casings of all of these buildings, together with the finishing lumber, were hauled from one
of the railway stations in Kansas—either Wellington or Wichita—as also were the bricks for the chimneys and the fire-brick
for the bakery ovens.
The last return of the post at Cantonment on file in the archives of the War Department is the one for the month of June,
1882. The last company of the 23d Infantry (Company G) left the post January 3, 1881. Detachments of the 24th Infantry, of
the 4th Cavalry and of the 9th Cavalry were stationed there until the abandonment of tile post. The successive commanding
officers were Lieut. Col. Richard I. Dodge,7 23d Infantry; up to December, 1880; Capt. Charles
C. Hood, 24th Infantry, to March, 1881; Maj. R. F. 0’Bierne, 24th Infantry, to November, 1881, and Capt. Charles C. Hood again
until the final abandonment by Companies B and F of the 24th Infantry, June 14, 1882.
On the map of the Indian Territory, in Colton’s Atlas, edition of 1882, this post was designated as "New Cantonment," near
the south bank of the North Fork of the Canadian River and about five or six miles south of Barrel Spring. With regard to
its location in the present day geography of Oklahoma, it may be stated that it is in the northwestern part of Blaine County
and about four miles west and a mile north of the town of Canton, which is a station on the Orient Railway. It is understood
that name of the town is a derivitive [sic] from and a contraction of the name of the military station.
When the post was abandoned, the buildings were turned over to the Interior Department. A year or two afterward, they were
occupied by a mission and school which was organized and maintained for many years by the Mennonite Church, for the benefit
of the Indians of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, of which several bands lived in the vicinity. Many of the Indians of middle
life who hold allotments and live in that vicinity, received their first schooling and learned to speak English at the mission
at Cantonment. Rev. Rudolph Petter, who compiled a dictionary of the Cheyenne language (which, as yet, exists only in manuscript
form) was stationed at this mission for many years. Eventually, the Mission erected a new building a quarter of a mile west
of the present school building. After this building was burned, another was erected. This last building was subsequently torn
down, the material being used in the erection of other mission buildings at Fonda and south of Canton.
When the lands of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Reservation were alloted [sic] and the surplus lands were thrown open to settlement under the homestead laws, five sections of land around Cantonment
were reserved for Government use, mainly, it seems, for receiving cattle from beef contractors and pasturing the same until
issued to the Indians. About 1897, the present Cantonment School was projected and organized by the Department of the Interior.
The school building was completed and the school was opened in 1898.
When the Agency of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, so long maintained at Darlington, was subdivided into three agencies,
in 1903, Cantonment was selected as one of these for the convenience of Indians living in northern Blaine, Dewey and Roger
On May 4, 1884, a Cheyenne Indian named White Buffalo was killed by a white man who was engaged in driving a herd of horses
northward from Texas. Other Indians threatened revenge. The owner of the horses and two of his men took refuge in an oven
of the post bakery until a troop of cavalry came up from Fort Reno and rescued them. At that time, there was a Government
telegraph line from Fort Reno to Fort Supply, with a station at Cantonment, so that the appeal for help from the troops at
Fort Reno was sent by wire. The poles of this telegraph line were sections of iron pipe. When the line was abandoned, the
poles were pulled down and carried off, many of them, badly rusted at the surface, being broken off. Up to a few years ago,
settlers and lessees of Indian lands on the route of the old Fort Reno-Fort Supply military road, along which the telegraph
line was strung, would occasionally run their plowshares against the broken stumps of iron poles and wonder how such obstacles
came to be there.
When the Cantonment Agency was established, it had jurisdiction over 905 Indian allotments of 160 acres each, with an Indian
population of approximately 800. This population was practically stationary until the "flu" epidemic in 1918, when it was
materially reduced. At the present time the Indian population under this agency is about 725. The Cantonment school has an
attendance of about 100 pupils, mostly Cheyenne and Arapaho, though with a number of children of the Ponca and Oto tribes
also in attendance. The Cheyenne and Arapaho languages both being of Algonquian origin, have many words in common, while the
Ponca and Oto languages are of Sioux or Dakotah origin, with no words in common with those of either of the other two languages,
hence the necessity of resorting to English as a means of communication common to all tribes.8
—Joseph B. Thoburn.
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