WITH INTRODUCTION AND FOOTNOTES BY GRANT FOREMAN
In the early part of 1858, the Seventh Infantry, was ordered from Fort Arbuckle, Fort Washita,1 and Fort Smith to Utah. The important post of Fort Arbuckle was left from April until the last of June entirely unprotected. A large amount of public stores, both commissary and ordnance, were thus exposed to the hostile depredations of the marauding Comanche.2 Incensed by unwarranted attacks on them by the Rangers of Texas, several thousand Comanche were encamped on the Canadian where they planned an attack on Fort Arbuckle to obtain the arms, ammunition and provisions there. Some were hovering around the post and had driven off horses from the homes of citizens
1.Fort Washita was established on the east side of Washita River within what is now Bryan County, Oklahoma, to comply with the promise to the Chickasaw Indians of protection against hostile tribes. They had been annoyed by incursions of people from Texas; and roving bands of Delaware, Kickapoo, Shawnee and Caddo from that Republic, who had visited and occupied the Blue, Boggy and Washita valleys as their common hunting grounds, infested the country, stealing the live stock of the Chickasaw. Temporary visits of troops sent from Fort Gibson to drive them out being ineffectual, Captain B. D. Moore was directed to examine the country and recommend a site on which troops could be stationed for a time. In September 1841, General Zachary Taylor examined and approved the site recommended by Moore and during the winter directed one company of dragoons from Fort Towson under Captain T. A. H. Blake to occupy it. Temporary huts were constructed to house the troops and the corn sent from Fort Gibson; further work was not attempted until the following autumn when the place was occupied by additional troops of the Second Dragoons under Major Fontleroy. In May, 1842, General Taylor named the post "Fort Washita." The next year the government proposed to vacate the post, but General Taylor added his remonstrance to those of the Chickasaw and Choctaw and the plan was abandoned—Letters from General Zachary Taylor to Adjutant General, War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, Old Files Division, April 17, 1842, 127 5. ’42; May 31, 1842, 166 T. ’42; March 29, 1843, 97 T. ’43; April 12, 1843, 114 T. ’43. Ibid, Old Records Division, Letter Book, Second Military Department.
2.Jones and Brown to Commissioner of Indian Affairs, September 14, 1858, Office of Indian Affairs, Retired Classified Files, Southern Superintendency, J 902.
in the neighborhood including Smith Paul who lived two miles from Fort Arbuckle.
A small force of three companies of the Second Dragoons under Captain Enoch Steen had been ordered to Fort Washita; but as this force was much reduced by sickness it was unable to give adequate protection to the Chickasaw country. The leading men of that tribe had met in council to devise measures to protect them from the Comanche and had appealed to their agent Douglas Cooper for protection; he organized the expedition detailed in the following journal.
Agency for the Choctaws & Chickasaws Fort Washita
Sir. For the information of the Department of the Interior I have to report—That in consequence of information received here on the 22nd of June ulto to the effect that the Comanches had commenced depredations to a very considerable extent in the immediate vicinity of Fort Arbuckle and that the Fort itself was entirely at the mercy of the savages I felt it my duty and strictly in conformity with verbal instructions from the Hon Jacob Thompson secretary of Interior, to call upon the Chicasaws and Choctaws for volunteers to defend the frontiers. This was accordingly done and accompanied by a few Chickasaws some half a dozen I proceeded to Fort Arbuckle where I arrived on the 24th day of June and was soon after joined by a considerable number of Chickasaws volunteers in charge of James Gamble U. S. Interpreter. Volunteers continued to arrive for several days, and the whole were finally organized into two bands under Captains Holktiche and Capt George James. Having learned that a company of U. S. Infantry had crossed Red river on the way to Fort Arbuckle I dispatched a messenger to prevent any further levies of men being made and to dismiss such as might arrive here and assembled at Boggy Depot I did not feel at liberty to leave the Fort defenceless until the arrival of the U. S. Troops to protect the public property there And inasmuch as the two bands of Indians numbering only Seventy two aggregate exclusive of the Cherokees and none were willing to be left behind I determined to await the arrival of Lieut. Powell commanding Co E 1st Infantry. It will be remembered that nearly all the horses stolen from the neighborhood of Arbuckle had been recovered so there was
not the necessity for much haste in persuing as would have existed but for the recapture of the horses.
Lieut Powell with his command arrived on the 30th of June and the Chickasaw volunteers marched out and encamped two miles west of Arbuckle. The 31st was consumed in making the necessary preparations for a scout to the Wichita mountains which I determined to undertake in order to ascertain, with certainty wether there were any considerable bodies of Comanches within the Choctaw and Chickasaw country. Accordingly on the 1st day of July we commenced the march following the trace3 in the direction of Fort Belknap and encamped near the head of Cedar Creek4 about 18 miles from Fort Arbuckle Here I regret to say Col Edmund Pickens was taken dangerously ill. Leaving a guard with him on the 2nd of July & sending back for a wagon to convey him to Arbuckle we continued the march in a South Westerly direction about 20 miles and encamped at Mud Creek.5 Here we were met by Gov Harris William
3.Cooper is following a road already laid out, which his guide Black Beaver helped to locate. In March, 1851, Brigadier-General Belknap at Fort Gibson was ordered to send a force of men from Fort Smith to Donna Anna to select sites for military posts, for the protection of immigrants to California. The force was to be furnished with a piece of artillery and a traveling forge; twenty-one teamsters and men to drive their beef cattle were to be employed, and they were to secure the services of Black Beaver and other guides. (war Department, Adjutant General’s office, Old Records Division, Fort Smith Letter Book. 23, page 39. The undertaking was committed to Captain R. B. Marcy, who located the site April 19, 1851, on wild Horse Creek near Washita River, which was named for General Matthew Arbuckle who died on June eleventh. Fort Arbuckle was intended also to give security to the Chickasaw Indians in whose country it was located. Camp Arbuckle had been located the year before on the Canadian River, but the War Department did not approve the location and the next year the command was removed to Washita River. From Fort Arbuckle Marcy continued southwest and crossed Red River at the mouth of Beaver Creek. At the crossing of Brazos River in Texas, Fort Belknap was established. Marcy called the road the "Fort Arbuckle road." (U. S. Senate, Executive Documents, 32d Congress, Second Session, No. 54, Explorations of the Red River of Louisiana in the year 1852, by Randolph B. Marcy, P. 5), but on government maps it was laid down as "Marcy’s Road to Fort Belknap." In part this road followed a trail used by the Shawnee, Delaware, and Kickapoo Indians traveling from the Colorado in Texas to Edwards’s trading house on the Canadian at the mouth of Little River. They crossed Red River at the same point and from there to Fort Arbuckle were identical or close together.
Moncrief and others from whome we learned that the U. S. surveyors6 had reached Red river the line of the 98th Meridian crossing said river a few miles above the mouth of Beaver creek. The Cherokees deserted at Mud creek and returned with Wm. Moncrief July 3rd continued the march the course now being a little north of west and crossed Beaver7 creek three miles from Red river where we found a good rocky ford a very unusual thing on this creek distanced marched on the 3rd estimated at twenty miles. Crossed a small trial between Mid & Beaver going toward Red river but several days old. Afterwards learned that the party of Comanches released by the Wichita’s said they were ashamed to go back to their people and were determined to go to Texas and either make reprisals or lose their lives. This party belonged to the Band with whom Capt Ford and agent Ross had the fight on the Canadian and it is probable their trail we crossed.
July 4th Remained encamped on Beaver Creek visited the 98th Meridian west longitude about one mile west of camp and traced the monuments to Red river where the line passes through a fine Plum orchard. Found near the place where the U. S. Surveyors had encamped, a very good spring of water some ½ miles, East of the 98th meridian. Also found a paper tied to a stake stating that the party had left Red river for the initial point July 3rd. In the evening received a note from Mr. Jones stating that he would be at the initial point (42 ¼ miles) due west from Fort Arbuckle on Wednesday the 8th of July ready to commence running the line to the Canadian.
July 5th— Marched about 16 miles North west and en-
6.A. H. Jones and H. M. C. Brown, Surveyors, and Daniel G. Major, Astronomer, were then engaged in surveying the ninety-eighth meridian, the newly established western limits of the Chickasaw Nation. By the treaty of 1855 between the Chickasaw and Choctaw, and the United States, the region lying between the ninety-eighth and one hundreth meridians was to be used for the location of other Indians and became known as the "Leased District."
7.They are crossing Beaver Creek just north of Ryan; and within less than a mile they cross the ninety-eighth meridian into what in later years became Oklahoma Territory. Cooper’s statement that they are traveling north of west is evidently an inadvertence for they must have traveled almost due southwest all the way from Fort Arbuckle to the mouth of Beaver Creek.
camped on the western branch of Beaver Creek8 weather excessively hot. Horses much jaded backs, getting sore water good.
July 6th Crossed branch of Beaver creek having its source west about 15 miles and encamped at the head of a Branch of Beaver Creek9 Water bad. Wichita mountains in sight North West. Today we crossed a well beaten wagon road running North and South supposed to be the route of troops from Fort Belknap to Fort Laramie also the route pursued a few years ago by a mormon10 emigrant train. This road crosses Red river between the Little and the Big Wichita and runs nearly north to the hills on the Washita. Land on Beaver Creek very fine also large timber.
July 6. Saw today a large smoke North east of the Wichita mountains supposed to be on the Washita. Also a smoke east of camp probably the U. S. Surveyors on the 98th Meridian distant some 15 or 20 miles. Today we saw the first Buffalo. Three large smokes South and South West supposed to be on the Big Wichita Texas, and made either by the Rangers or the Comanches. No other Indians in that quarter.
July 7. Today marched about 15 miles and encamped on a branch of Cache creek about five miles south of the old Kechi and Wichita Village near the South Eastern termini of the Wichita Mountain on Cache creek.11 Some of the men killed a buffalo today also several deer surveying party’s smoke in sight today also one in the direction of the Kechi village on Washita. Bottom lands on Cache Creek (Known
9.Cooper is in the eastern part of Cotton County, traveling northwest approximately on a road later marked, called the Jacksboro Road.
10.In the early part of 1846, a body of Mormons removed to the "Cross Timbers" the region in which Cooper is traveling, "and then returned to the Creek Nation, and are endeavoring to excite the Indians of that tribe against the citizens of Missouri.," Arkansas Intelligencer, (van Buren) March 28, 1846, P. 2, Col. 1. Cooper had reported earlier in the year ". . . some Cherokee traders had recently found the Camanchees, the Kioways, Wichitas and other Indians of the plains in Council, and that the object of the conference was a proposition to them by the Mormons to enlist them against the United states, looking no doubt to attacks upon the supply trains sent out to Utah." Douglas Cooper to Commissioner of Indian Affairs, April 5, 1858. Office of Indian Affairs, Southern Superintendency, C 1416.
among the Indians as Witchita Creek) rich and gras fine but all seem subject to overflow. Today we passed through a Prairie Dog town of several hundred acres area. We found the Owls standing sentry at the holes many of which had been recently dug occasionally one of the Dogs would show above the mouth of his den. One of the little animals was killed it resembled a Fox squirrel except the tail which is short. It is said that the rattlesnake inhabit the same hole with the Dogs and Owls. Supposed to prey on them yet all seem to be on the best of terms. The little dogs take to their holes on the slighest alarm but the Owls sit bravely at their posts A singular community this composed of Dogs, Owls and Rattlesnakes.
July 8. Arrived at the old Kechi or Wichita Village on Cache creek and encamped to recruit the men and horses. And examine the Mountains. No trail of Indians as yet more recent than two or three weeks. This place was last occupied by the Wichitas and the remaining of their fortifications are easily traced. Tradition says the spot was first the site of the Kechi village but afterwards occupied by the Wichitas who abandoned the old town about 15 miles North west in the mountains for that purpose. The place is how ever now known as the old Wichita village. It is naturally a very strong position and eligible situated for a Fort or the Wichita Agency. It is puculiarly well adapted for the latter being near the centre of the Leased District and near the sources of the Cache and Beaver Creeks upon whose numerous branches the Indians to be settled can be advantageously located. It is also not very distance from the Washita and Canadian and, commands the mountain passes through the Wichita Mountains to the Antelope hills to the north branch of Red River and also the road on the South side of the Wichita mountains up Red river A military Post at this place12 and one at the western slope of the mountains on Red river would cover all North and North Eastern Texas and render it almost impossible for the Indians to commit depredations in that state. These Posts would render Fort Belknap and Camp Cooper entirely useless and enable the Wichita agent to control and protect the Indians of the Leased Districts.
July 9th Visited the old Waco village about 5 miles
from camp also the ancient Wichita village13 say 10 miles higher up Cache creek Here we found the traces of the same kind of fortifications as found at the village lower down The Caddoes formerly lived on the South East side of Cache creek just below the mouth of the North East or Muddy fork of Cache Creek. Another Buffalo killed today meat fat and delicious. This place (Camp) seems to be situated at a point accessable from all quarters Here the Buffalo and Indians trails converge and crops from every direction North South East & west. There could not well be a more desirable place for the Wichita Agency It is on a beautiful & large creek high bluff good springs pouring out with several hundred acres of fine bottom land
July 10th Still encamped on Cache creek near the old village Parties out in all directions exploring the mountains No recent trace of Indians discovered.
July 11th The weather threatening rain and apprehension of a sudden rise in Cache creek which is a large and rapid mountain stream we left the encampment recrossed Cache creek and marched about 20 miles north east and encamped on Little Washita14 where the Comanches had some time back camped in large numbers Today we recrossed the wagon road which we had crossed on the 6th inst direction still about the same viz nearly north. It is supposed to cross Washita at or near the Sugar mountains so called from the Maple trees found there. Soon after crossing the Military road we came upon a large & fresh trail of Indians going up Washita. Capt Beaver15 pronounced it a Wichita trail which it proved to be and about twenty four hours old. A deer and an antelope killed.
July 12th Marched south eastwardly about 15 or 20 miles to a spring at the head of Rush creek some 5 miles North west from the present Wichita village. The water
15.Black Beaver who acted as guide for Cooper’s party was a celebrated Delaware Indian and was known far and wide as a famous guide and scout. His services were always in demand and were relied upon by military leaders in all the important expeditions for twenty-five or thirty years prior to the Civil War. In that war he served the Union cause by acting as guide and pilot for the troops who fled from Forts Washita, Cobb and Arbuckle to Kansas.
abundant and good. Finding the surveying party had not gone north, I sent Black Beaver to find them which he did about 15 miles south at the old encampment on Beaver Creek near the initial point.
July 13th Encamped at Rush creek spring. Reclaimed a horse from the Wichitas which had been stolen five years from old Mr. Gardner on Blue river. The horse had been traded to the Wichitas by the Comanches who had obtained it at Brazos Texas. Had a long talk with Toshoquash and the 2nd chief of the Wichitas. They recognized the obligation to deliver up stolen property when proven The Principal Chief had gone out with a party of his warriors on the Washita north of us His smoke plainly visible. Black Beaver says the Wichita’s are in Constant dread of the Comanches on one side and the Texans on the other of the Comanches in consequence of having aided the Arbuckle party under P Linney in capturing the stolen horses And of the Texans who they hear contemplate visiting them and the Kechis in search of stolen horses. These people annually trade with the Comanches exchanging Bows and arrows Corn and Pumpkin16 in plaits for horses In this way they no doubt frequently come into possession of stolen property And are naturally fearfull if the Texans should find other horses among them that they will consider the Wichita’s and Kechii’s the thieves and murderers, who have been committing depredations and killing women and children in Texas. The Agent for these week and defenceless Indians ought to be with them so as to see justice done between them and the Whites and to protect them against wrong and oppression. Toshoquash informed me there were no Cimanches south of the Canadian at present that some of his people had just returned from a visit to the Osages and report the main body of the
16.The Wichita Indians were distinguished as agriculturists. The Indians for many miles came to their settlement to buy corn and other produce from them. Being devoted to agriculture (Hodge F. w. Handbook o f American Indians, vol. ii, P. 949; Catlin, George, Letters and Notes on the manner, customs and condition of the North American Indians, vol. ii, P. 503), they were not so renowned warriors as their neighbors. The pumpkins were cut in strips and when dried these strips were conveniently worked into plaits which were rolled up and in that form easily adapted to the movements of the Indians.
Comanches on North Fork near the Salt plains.17 They also report that seven bands of Comanches have leagued together to make war on Texans in revenge for Capt Ford and Agent Ross attack upon them. Capt Beaver returned from the surveying party having been absent nearly 24 hours bringing a note from Mr. Jones saying he would move his; camp north some 8 miles that day. The 98th meridian is five or six miles west of the Wichita village consequently these people are in the Chickasaw District.
July 14th Having become satisfied from examination of the country and from information derived from the Wichita’s that there were no considerable bands of Comanches in the country except as above stated high up on the North Fork I determined to return to Fort Arbuckle and disband the Indians under my command. I accordingly marched by the Wichita village which is a collection of some 150 conical mud and straw lodges resembling hay stacks for Arbuckle following the old military road in a southeasterly direction known as Lieut Gardners road or as trail until it crossed the road cut by the surveying party west from Arbuckle to the initial point on the 98th Meridian west longitude. The Gardner trace cuts the surveyors road at the 28th mile stake west of Arbuckle. The bottom lands on Rush creek near the Wichita village is very fine and they have over 100 acres cultivated corn. Night of the 14th camped on a branch of Wild Horse Creek one mile above the surveying road. A large panther killed at sunset.
July 15th Continued march toward Arbuckle and encamped at six mile on Cow Pen creek.
July 16th Arrived at Fort Arbuckle and disbanded the Chickasaw volunteers together with the Delawares and Caddoes who had volunteered who had volunteered to go out with them. Men and horses much jaded Although we were unable to discover any Comanches I think the effect of the expedition upon the Indians of the plains will be good.
It will disabuse their minds of the idea that the Chickasaws and Choctaws or "Wood Indians" as they are called,
17. From the earliest known accounts of the Indians, members of the different tribes resorted to the Salt Plains in what is now Woodward County, Oklahoma, to secure salt; and they frequently gathered there In large numbers sometimes to hold councils.
are afraid to go out on the plains and convinced them that no depredations on the frontier will be allowed to pass unpunished.
Maj’r Elias Rector
18.This journal is to be found in the following file: Elias Rector, Superintendent, Fort Smith, August 4, 1858, to Commissioner of Indian Affairs (enclosing copy of Agent Cooper’s Report), Office of Indian Affairs, Retired Classified Files, Southern Superintendency, R. 812.