Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 7, No. 3
September, 1929

Page 266

While I have often thought I would write of Captain Payne I have never formulated a description of his character. When I read the Daily Oklahoman of January 28, 1928 I says, "That’s it to a dot."

Captain Payne was not only a likeable man but also an aristocratic man. He was of that class that you believed in and followed in spite of every thing and, while with him you would do as he desired. He could borrow the last dollar a man had, let it be one or a hundred.

To illustrate, one day, while in the office in Wichita preparing for his last invasion of Oklahoma, there were some five or six of us there. Mr. W. H. Miller, one of Payne’s first and best men, who no doubt had helped him financially ofttimes, being one of our number said:

"Now when Payne wants to borrow any more money some one else will have to furnish him. I’ve let him have money for the last time. I just cannot afford it any more."

Another said, "Oh yes you will."

"No! No! I won’t."

"Yes, you will."

"I bet you $5.00 I won’t, and he threw a five on my desk. The other fellow then threw his bill down, saying:

"Osburn take care of that until we call for it."

Hearing Payne’s footsteps I said, "It won’t take long."

Just then Payne opened the door with his regular greeting "Good morning." How do you do fellows? A few Words went around and turning to me, said

"Osburn how much money have you?"

Alluding to colony funds, I answered that there were seventeen dollars.

"Pretty good!" he exclaimed.

As I was authorized to pay over any money I might have when he called for it, I just counted out the cash and he handed me a receipt. He talked a minute or two and as he went out stopped, turned around and said:

"Captain Miller can I see you privately a minute."


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Mr. Miller followed him out but returned in a short time disgustedly waving a five dollar bill and said:

"There is a five on the table and here is another for any of you that will kick me all over town for loaning Payne another five!"

To allude to the Doctor from Missouri that I met in Texas on our second raid: The evening before I left them for the North Canadian he came to me and said:

"Osburn, Payne owes me $600.00 and he promised me that he would have plenty when he met his secretary in Texas and would pay me. I met him up home on his way to Washington, broke, and he talked so nice I loaned him $300.00. On his way back he stopped off as promised but had been disappointed in getting what he expected and you fellows were here on expense. He was so anxious to come on that I let him have $300.00 more, fool like, but he was so certain he would have it waiting here that I just couldn’t refuse him. When you did not have it for him I was going to make it hot for him and he said it would just ruin him and the Oklahoma movement if I did, that he had friends in Wichita and he would send there for it and he would wait for it so I let him off. Now he said to-day if he doesn’t hear from it in a day or two we will just go on to Oklahoma and meet the colony there and he thinks he can get it there. If not we will go right to Wichita and get it. Now you know Payne. Will it pay me to follow him up or not? I have a good practice that needs my attention. Which way would you go?"

I said, "Doctor I have enjoyed your society very much and will be sorry to have you leave but as you have asked me a question I will say I would go where I knew the money was sure. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush."

"Thank you," and he was gone.

Captain Payne was just as willing and ready to loan as to borrow and just as slow to ask for its return. He was a better manager in camp by far than any man I ever met in that capacity. He invariably did his part always satisfied with anything for himself but let some one impose upon another and Payne was right there to see fair play.

When his cousin, John R. Payne, of Texas, came, he had a very fine bird dog when he came to the Colony camp.

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We had had a splendid watch dog for years. He always laid just inside the Captain’s door and woe be to the dog that came sniffing around our grub boxes. But the cousin from Texas had not learned camp life around Captain Payne as yet. When his dog went anywhere in the tent to lay down, it was all right but, when he saw our dog inside, he very roughly kicked him out, whereupon, Captain Payne got up from the supper table as his cousin sat down, went into the tent and raised the bird dog on his boot toe without ceremony. His cousin resented it loudly, but Captain Payne said to him:

"It makes a hell of a difference whose dog is kicked. The only mistake I made was in not kicking you instead of the dog, but I thought you would ’catch on’ quicker that way. I want you to know that we are all on equal footing in this camp."

Let an old Boomer start out carrying his gun carelessly and he was reprimanded sharply but if it was a newcomer, Payne would call to him and say:

"We want no sad happenings on this trip allow me to show you how to carry your gun." He would then show him by taking the gun in his right hand and throwing the stock up under his arm with the muzzle pointing to the ground saying if one would observe this rule he will never shoot anyone accidentally. I will state here that in all the time Payne was out on his invasions, I never heard of an accident with a gun.

Payne often interested us with his experiences in camp life.

I remember well that he claimed the Custer Massacre was uncalled for. He said that Custer ought to have waited until he knew help was at hand and second the command he was in had been purposely delayed getting there to help him out. Not that the commander wanted him massacred but he wanted him whipped for Custer was coming to the front so fast that his commander was jealous of him.

The description he gave of the battle when they arrived was wonderful. He described it as being a canyon abut 200 feet wide with almost perpendicular walls in three places on one side overhanging cliffs and one on the

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other side where the soldiers tried to go for shelter but the gorge being so narrow the Indians from the opposite side could reach them and there they laid in piles and men and horses lay in every possible position and direction. He said "Fellows I just pitied Comanche there alone among the dead scared within an inch of his life and looking like he had lost his last friend." (Comanche was the mount of Captain Myles Keo, of the 7th Cavalry and was the only being, human or brute, connected with Custer’s immediate command, that was found alive when relief arrived several days after the battle. Although badly wounded, he eventually recovered and was always paraded under special guard with the colors at the head of the regiment.)

The families now enjoying their homes in Oklahoma should look upon Captain D. L. Payne as a really great man, especially in the effect of his influence in forcing the opening of Oklahoma to settlement for had it not been for him, it is possible it would have remained the Indian Territory many years longer than it did. He was instrumental in hastening its opening at least ten years sooner than it otherwise would have been done. I have always mourned that his death came before the opening.


Early in the year of 1880, I heard of Oklahoma, and Captain Payne; and, by August of that year, I was enough interested to make a trip to Wichita, Kansas, to learn what I could about the movement. As soon as I arrived I located the Oklahoma Colony office, only to find that Captain Payne was not in. A courier was sent to hunt him up. He soon returned and I was introduced as a man from Burrton, Kansas, who wanted a home in Oklahoma. I found the Captain very sociable and running over with enthusiasm about Oklahoma. Needless to say, that, after hearing the Captain’s description of the country and the certainty of success, I was ready to go at a minute’s notice. I took out a membership in the Oklahoma Colony organization and returned home satisfied that I soon would be on a, homestead in Oklahoma, with all the advantages of the Colony around me. After waiting patiently for the Colony movement, which to my delight came in the following Octo-

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ber, I was on my way within twenty-four hours with my wife and child to my Uncle Peter Packard’s who lived on the road to Wichita. I was to leave them there for a little while until I could make a location and return, supposedly in about three or four weeks. Just to show my appreciation of Uncle Peter caring for my family while I was gone, I intended to find a place where he could make a good homestead location.

One more day and the Colony was to start from Wichita, fourteen miles away. I made a good early start in the morning, so that I might secure provisions and be ready to fall in line on time. To my astonishment upon calling at the Oklahoma Colony office, no "Boomers" were in sight. Upon inquiry I learned that others had the fever even worse than I. They had been arriving since the day before and becoming restless, had started for the Territory line. I was informed that others would no doubt be ready for the regular time, and just at that moment there came a Boomer, wanting to know where the crowd was and upon being told some had gone, left the office swearing they couldn’t beat him there. I looked longingly after him but, after hearing one of the old Boomers say he would get over his hurry before he was located, I concluded to wait for the "band wagon." By bed time, there were six more arrivals and when ready to start at the time appointed, ten of us filed out together, happy on the road to overtake those who had gone on ahead as they were to await our arrival on the line before entering the coveted land.

The weather and roads were good and we reached the Territory line at Hunnewell, the second day at noon, to find a goodly number and, by night, quite a few, who had been belated, came into camp. At this time we were informed that Captain Payne had gone to Washington to intercede in our behalf, as Congress was in session at the time; and he was waiting a report as to how many had assembled on the line so that he might have a leverage to work on in showing that body the imperative and immediate necessity of action to allow us to go in and take our claims without molestation and thereby avoid trouble.

The bit of news was not enjoyed by all I assure you, but as it was explained to us it seemed quite a plausible

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course to pursue. But the idea of us waiting there on the line for an indefinite length of time was more or less irritating as we had expected to drive right in and take our claims and return long before the Holidays. None but the old timers could adjust themselves at once and feel that we had been fairly dealt with. But, as we were assured that without a doubt all would be well in the end and be much better for all of us than to be arrested and brought out, we soon quieted down and awaited Captain Payne’s return or orders to go in and that all was clear, which was expected by many within a few days. Meanwhile, we had organized our forces. We were grouped into four companies. W. H. Miller was elected as captain of Company A, with 11 wagons; C. W. Echelberger, Captain of Company B, with 11 wagons; W. H. Osburn, Captain of Company C, with 10 wagons; and Captain Dad (?) Captain of Company D, with 11. wagons. The men numbered ninety-seven. But days passed with no word from Washington. Then a week passed, still all was silent. Something had to be done, so we moved to Caldwell, Kansas. Two weeks passed and a letter came from Captain Payne. All were anxious. It was read aloud and brought encouraging news. He would be with us in a week or ten days.

The weather had gotten cold and it was unpleasant camping for "tenderfeet."’ Some had stayed their limit and pulled out for home. I was sick to see my wife and baby and saddled a mule and left camp at four P. M. for the north. About dark I learned that I could save some five miles by continuing my course north instead of following the road to a bridge across the Ninnesca, so I went straight, but when I came to the river no crossing was to be found. My mule was "ferninst" to making one, but I finally persuaded him to try. At my urgent request he made a break. Tinder he went and I to my waist. A few strokes and he struck bottom and was soon out on a good road. I arrived at my Uncle’s at 1:30 A. M., made a little visit, then hurried back; (by way of the bridge) for fear I would get left. I found all well in camp with the expected arrival of our leader the next day. However three days passed before his arrival. After relating his experiences in Washington and laying plans for the future, he advised us

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to return to our homes, and get ready for a drive in the following summer or fall. Senator Plumb, of Kansas, and others had promised him faithfully that something would be done before the close of the session. So we submitted. Some of us however got his consent to slip down and see what we could.

In the meantime, an old Boomer had learned the Government freighter was badly behind with his contract and would be glad to furnish us loads to be delivered to the North Canadian Soldier Camp which proved to be just above the point afterwards christened Camp Alice and just where we were most anxious to go. Six of us loaded with hay and provisions for the soldiers at the Canadian next day and, when ready to go, the contractor told us to pull out to Pond Creek, a distance of fifteen miles south of Caldwell, Kansas. This contractor had 100 head of oxen for his 30 wagons, three yoke to the team to draw a wagon with a trailer hitched on, taking forty-five yoke for the fifteen teams and five yoke in reserve for emergencies such as cripples and sick ones.

Having arrived at Pond Creek, we found the trees full of prairie chickens. A small stream with high steep banks skirted with timber. There was a Government bridge for the accommodation of the Mail Route. The bridge had a heavy chain across it. While we were there, the mail hack came along with its six horses, the driver unlocking the chain, driving across, then locking the bridge and leaving for Caldwell. After a time the contractor’s teams came and commenced crossing the creek into our camp. By dark five wagons had pulled over. Early next morning they were at work getting the rest of the train over, which took until 10:30. We had been told to wait until they had packed the sand across the Salt Fork which was only a mile farther on. At first they could pull a wagon with its trailer through the ford at Pond Creek with six yoke of oxen but at the last it took forty yoke of cattle to pull one wagon or trailer. How I did pity the yoke of oxen that carried the wagon tongue! They were always pulled to their knees and sometimes literally dragged over the top of the bank. Two of those negro drivers would handle all those 80 oxen when hitched to one wagon and

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start them as evenly as a well trained team of horses. Just one "WO-HAW" and a crack of the whip from each driver and every ox was onto his job.

We fed our teams and dined before leaving camp, to give time for the ox teams to get out of the way, and then overtook the last wagons in the ford across Salt Fork. We found the sand packed so well that our wagons bumped along while in the water like over frozen ground. Having crossed the first two streams successfully and nothing to hinder our going on we bade farewell to our new acquaintances and pulled on down the Chisholm Trail, going into camp for the night at Wild Horse. Early next morning we were on our journey to make the next camp on the Skeleton. Late in the evening we were over taken by a "northwester," cold and windy, with a spit of snow. Crossing the creek we found a nice camp in a little bottom under a high bank on the north of us which sheltered us from the wind. There was no water in the bed at crossing but we soon found plenty about one-half mile below camp and a little wood to cook supper. The storm was raging and it had the appearance of a bad night. We took our teams down into the creek bed that was heavily skirted with willows, making an ideal place for them. Every thing done and ready for the night we turned in to our several abodes. My partner (Mr. H. A. Stade—one of the best of camping prtners) and I made our resting place by spreading a wagon cover under the wagon tongue, then making our bed, having the end of the tongue propped up a little higher than the wagon end. We drew the cover over and staked the edges together. Then we tied the ends together under the wagon, crawled in and tied the front end together. We were ready for the night. Others slept in their wagons, some had tents.

Next morning Mr. Miller (who was always looking after our welfare in general) was out reconnoitering around and spied a horse down that refused to get up. He thought it was dead, and although it was scarcely four o’clock, long, long before day, he called out at the top of his voice "Some bodies horse dead"! "Some bodies horse dead"! Just about that time there was a general resurrection in that camp. Upon opening our door we found we were cov-

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ered in snow that had drifted off the prairie and found a resting place in the little bottom under the high bank. Although it was two feet deep we hastened to see whether or not it was our horse. Upon investigation it was found to be Mr. Miller’s horse not dead, but lying with its back down in the ravine and its feet up on the bank and was unable to get up without help, which was abundant by that time. Up and steadied a little way it could walk alone and three cheers went up for the dead horse. While the rest of us made ready for breakfast, Miller continued to exercise his horse.

Breakfast over and wagons greased, each of us took a part of our unfortunate brother’s load, so we could all go on our way rejoicing to our next camp where the older Boomers assured us there was plenty of wood. It was still snowing and a brisk wind from the north prevailed. We were now well across the Cherokee Strip, looking at Oklahoma soils and nothing seemed to stay our going. Noon found us on the open prairie with no wood except what we brought along and but little water. Consequently our dinner hour was a short one. To our delight the dead horse was going along fine and we pulled into the Cimarron camp, at sundown. Here we found wood in abundance and water plentiful. This was about one-half mile from the U. S. Main ranch (Red Fork Ranch) which made us feel a little safer and at home. In corralling our wagons in a circle for the night, the front wheel of one of the wagons came near running off, the nut having been lost. A search was made but no find. While some were on the search others had collected a lot of "black jack" wood and started a fire and in a little while we were all enjoying its warmth. Even the horses that had been given their liberty to forage came and stood around. We soon prepared supper and enjoyed the evening hugely. The next morning, first thing after breakfast, a search was made for the lost nut off the wagon. The loser with his partner (we were paired off in twos) started on the back track, expecting to pick it up in a little ways. However two others volunteered to help and overtook them. When it came to their minds that in oiling the wagons the morning before, they had laid the nut on a stump nearby and had no

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recollection of picking it up again. The volunteers returned to report and the whole train laid over for a day, while some of us went hunting game and homestead locations. At 9:30 P. M. the parties returned with the lost wagon nut, declaring they found it on the stump where it had been laid when they had oiled their wagon in the morning, thirty-five miles up the back track.

Early the next morning, we were on our drive for the coveted North Canadian. At the Cimarron stage ranch, we left the main freighting trail for Ft. Reno, keeping to the old Chisholm cattle trail, turning to the left in a southeasterly direction. By this time the weather had moderated and we were contemplating going into camp before reaching the Canadian, when we met some hunters who told us we could cross on the ice that night, but by morning it would be thawed too much if it kept moderating. So we pulled on. Crossing the first ford nicely and the second one a mile or so farther down until four wagons were safely over. The fifth and sixth wagons broke the ice. However we only had to double-team and were in camp before dark. This last crossing was just west of what was known as the Johnson Grove and, even with the south side of it, this belt of timber, consisting of Black Jacks and postoaks, with thousands of Prairie chickens in the branches of the trees, is now known as Council Grove, west of Oklahoma City.

The bottom we were camped on just filled our ideas for a location on which to make our homes in the near future, but we were informed by our old Boomer friends it had been taken by Payne and his early followers; however, they said, that there were many more locations, just as good, which remained unclaimed.

The soldiers we were to deliver our loads to were in camp at the lower end of the bottom on which we were camped, and if I got Oklahoma City rightly located while there in 1826, we were in the bottom just above the city and just a little way above Camp Alice. We were all in great glee next morning as we drove across the fertile bottom lands to unload. The man with the unfortunate horse had taken his load the day before so each man had his full

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quota to deliver. After unloading we got a permit from the commanding officer to camp at the same place we were the night before and we were back by a little after noon.

After dinner, each one taking his gun went his way, to report back early in the evening. I do not remember what the others saw, or got, but remember well I had not gone more than a mile when I spied two wild hogs feeding in the leaves with their bristles up ready I thought for a fight. I hesitated a little before deciding whether to make myself known or not, but after lodging myself in the top of a fallen tree a goodly distance away and getting good aim I pulled the trigger. To my great relief I saw the one I aimed at fall dead and the other made one leap that took it to the middle of the Canadian, and the next one put it out on the opposite bank. After assuring myself the one I shot was really dead and the other was surely gone I climbed out of my hiding and proceeded to pull my game to safety until I could get help. On returning to camp and relating my experience, to my surprise, no one volunteered to help me bring my trophy to camp but our guide said if I had given the location right it would be on our road next morning and we would pick it up. Next morning we soon came to the location given and to the surprise of some and delight of all there was the hog. It was soon loaded and taken to our noon camp where we skinned it by strips and then divided it among the crowd, each having an abundance of fresh mast-fed pork for the return home.

We were now on the Cottonwood, just above the present site of Guthrie. That afternoon and the next day was spent looking over the country between the Cimarron and Deep Fork, which thoroughly convinced us that it was well worth working for. All were ready to start home which we did the next morning, getting back to the old trail at the crossing of the Cimarron.

I have nothing more on record of interest until we came in sight of Caldwell and civilization, some fellow cried out "Hurrah for a sight of God’s country again." And I thought to say "Amen". No wonder, for it was the first

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time for some of us to be out of sight of a house for twelve days. Each one pulled for his home with a high fever for a trip in the fall.

So end my experiences on my first trip to Oklahoma.

(Continued in December number.)

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