BY T. E. BECK
In the passing away of Hon. Thomas P. Braidwood, of Beaver County, a few weeks ago calls to mind some of the early day history of old Beaver County, better known as "No Man’s Land" in that day, and so called because the strip of land was not attached to any state or territory, in extent this strip of land was 34 miles north and south and 168 miles east and west. This strip of land formerly belonged to the Republic of Texas, which extended north along the 100 meridian to the Arkansas River, but when Texas became a state the land north of 36:30 (Missouri Compromise Law) was refused admission in the new state. In 1861 Kansas was made a state with the southern boundary on the 37° parallel so this strip of land was left out of any state.
This portion of country was without law of any kind, and the only inhabitants were a few cattlemen, who for mutual protection organized a form of territorial government in 1886, although without an enabling act from Congress. It was called the Territory of Cimarron and an election was, held in November 1887 and a full quota of territorial officers elected, also a delegate to Congress. This delegate was Dr. Chase, but he was turned down when he presented his certificate to Congress. Braidwood was elected as one of the territorial Councilmen among others who met and carved out five counties. The legislative assembly enacted laws, providing penalties for all crimes. Only two crimes were punishable by death; cattle stealing and murder. The greatest of these was cattle stealing. All lesser crimes were punishable by banishment from the territory. The culprits were given so long to leave, and if they lingered after the time they were assisted by the officers to move out. A story is told of one who was given time to leave and relates that he was given ten minutes to get out of the town of Beaver and ought to be allowed to go back as he had a rebate of seven minutes coming to him.
This territorial government lasted for a little over two years when Oklahoma was opened for settlement, Beaver
County was attached to Oklahoma as one of the original counties, seven in number.
Prior to the organization of Cimarron Territory the only government was by the Vigilance Committee organized by the cattlemen and brings to mind the execution by hanging of three cattle thieves at old Sod Town in southeast Beaver County. Three cattle rustlers were caught, tried by the Vigilance Committee and condemned to death. There being no trees on which to hang the condemned prisoners the tongues of the wagons were used by propping them up with the neck-yokes and running the lariat ropes through the loop at the end of the tongue. After the hanging the bodies were taken down and buried. There never were any appeals from the judgment of the frontier courts in that day.
Another story was told of how a homesteader was taken out and hanged by a number of cowboys when they suspected that he was a cattle rustler when they found some of their cattle in a little pasture he had fenced. The cowboys went to his dugout that night and called him out, he pleaded for his life asserting his innocence but to no avail. He was taken down to the creek and hanged to a limb on an elm tree. As the cowboys were returning to their headquarters they met the rustler putting in another bunch of cattle in the little pasture of the man whom they had just hanged. They promptly strung up the real thief and then went back to the dugout the home of their first victim where the widow thought her time had also come began to plead with them but their reply was that she had the laugh on them as they had hanged the wrong man.
In 1882 when the writer first went to that western country we worked for the Comanche Pool Cattle Company in what is now Comanche County, Kansas and Harper County, Oklahoma. At that time there was plenty of wild game, such as, antelope, turkeys, prairie chickens, also a few black bear and along the streams there were some quail and cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits on the upland. The cowhands were required to carry Colt’s 45’s but the company furnished the ammunition and paid a bounty for each coyote, grey wolf, mountain lion or bobcat that we killed. Arms were not carried for protection for ourselves which gave rise to the belief that all cowboys were wild and woolly.